FUNNY HOW IT NEVER RAINS IN BEIJING WHEN AMERICAN presidents arrive for high-profile visits. It's no coincidence. Military meteorologists in China seed the clouds and empty them of their moisture in advance. The weather is tailor-made for the occasion. That's why the skies were picture-perfect for the opening ceremonies of Beijing summer Olympics in 2008. Using an arsenal of rockets, artillery, and aircraft, Chinese scientists blasted the clouds right out of the sky. "We can turn a cloudy day into a dry and sunny one," boasted Miam Donglian of the Beijing weather bureau.
That's nothing to what's coming. Weather modification is a rapidly developing technology, spurred on by billion-dollar investments in climate change and global warming. It's the new science, and its ramifications aren't lost on military planners. Secret laboratories in military installations around the globe are developing what may be the most underreported arms race on earth: weather warfare.
Many military and environmental scientists believe we can learn to use powerful chemicals and electromagnetic scalar waves to manipulate and control short-term weather patterns in ways that can alter the world's balance of power. According to some reports, the US Air Force is determined to "own the weather" by 2025; but other nations and terrorist states have timetables of their own.
Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen warned that military manipulation of the biosphere is a frightening threat, saying that some countries are engaging "in an eco-type terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes and volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves." He said, "There are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations. It's real ..."
I don't know if it's real or not; but if some doomsdayers are right, technology is being developed that could trigger earthquakes by well-placed underground nuclear explosions, or by earth-penetrating electromagnetic waves, or by injecting superfluids into major fault zones. Blizzards could be pulled down. Volcanoes could be cooked up. Typhoons and tsunamis could be triggered and aimed against unfriendly coasts. Communications could be disrupted by heated plumes of supercharged particles altering the atmosphere.
Writing in The Ecologist, Michel Chossudovsky of the University of Ottawa warned that "the world's weather can now be modified as part of a new generation of sophisticated electromagnet weapons. Both the US and Russia have developed capabilities to manipulate the climate for military use ... Weather manipulation is the pre-emptive weapon par excellence. It can be directed against enemy countries or 'friendly nations' without their knowledge, used to destabilize economies, ecosystems and agriculture. It can also trigger havoc in financial and commodity markets."
When we read what's coming, we feel like we're either hurtling into the age of science fiction or stepping into the pages of the book of Revelation. The last book of the Bible indicates that catastrophic disruptions in earth's meteorological patterns will wreak havoc on the world during the Great Tribulation.
But here's what I want you to know: as we await the Lord's return, the atmospherics of your heart and mine should be calm. The Bible says we have a God who calms the storm and a Savior who rebukes the wind and waves so they are calm (Psalm 107:29; Luke 8:24). The writer of Psalm 131 said, "Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul." Proverbs 17:27 tells us that a person of understanding has a calm spirit; and in Isaiah 7:4 (NIV), the Lord tells us, "Be careful, keep calm, and don't be afraid. Do not lose heart."
Calm is an interesting word that is known more for what it is not: agitation, fear, or turbulence. But "calm" does require some kind of storm or we would never notice it. The weather world gave us the word in the first place. It means wind that is moving one mile per hour or less. The Beaufort Scale has "Calm" at one end and "Hurricane" at the other-extreme opposites.
Take a moment and evaluate your own life. As you attempt to move through these chaotic days, where would the Beaufort Scale register the winds of your soul?
A September 2008 American Psychological Association poll indicated that 80 percent of us were under significant stress because of the economic mess. That figure represented a rise of fourteen percentage points in only five months. And we don't even have the numbers for early 2009, when the unemployment epidemic really cut a swathe through the American workplace. If you haven't lost your job, your home, or your savings, you're probably worried that it could happen, and you're concerned for those of your friends who have been so devastated.
One industry is actually doing very well: pharmaceutical medicines for anxiety. I've read claims that fifteen million Americans suffer from enough anxiety to need medication. While this may represent a wise option in cases of clinical stress, there are deeper causes for panic attacks and anxiety that medication will never penetrate.
Perhaps this is a good time to remember why I wrote this book and why you have chosen to read it. We are trying to determine what on earth we should be doing in these stressful times. And we have discovered that God has given us solid answers to our questions in the very passages that tell us of His Son's return to earth.
In this chapter, and in every chapter that follows it, I have identified instruction for living life while we are looking for the Savior. I can find no better resource for our troubled days. Jesus, for example, spoke to His disciples about His purposes after leaving earth. Here is how He began: "Let not your heart be troubled" (John 14:1). He would not have said these calming words unless His followers needed them. Their hearts were troubled; He knows that ours are too. Each one of us has a different "anxiety quotient."
Some people believe that when they accept Christ, they will receive a Get Out of Stress Free card and live a life of uninterrupted bliss. To be honest, when I became a believer, I picked up a few new problems I hadn't had before. Jesus never offered a false promise. At every point, He warned us that troubles would follow our path and that obedience to Him would actually increase our persecution. But He is also the one who said, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, emphasis added).
Jesus Himself felt pressure. He was distressed as He watched Mary weep over the death of her brother Lazarus. He "groaned in the spirit and was troubled" (John 11:33). As He contemplated the cross, He felt genuine anxiety (John 12:27). As He waited for Judas to betray Him, He was troubled (John 13:21). He is a high priest who can "sympathize with our weaknesses" (Hebrews 4:15).
As the death of our Lord Jesus nears, His disciples begin to be anxious about their life situations, and Jesus comforts them with these words:
"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know." Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:1-6)
The Ultimate in Comfort
We need to return to this passage whenever we are besieged by worry. Remember, Jesus didn't say these words as He stood beside a Galilean stream on a sunny day, without a care in the world. He said them as He stood near the jaws of hell itself. He didn't speak from the all-protective shelter of His Father's arms. He sat with His frightened disciples in the Upper Room, preparing for the worst of humanity and the silence of heaven. His words were, "Let not your heart be troubled."
It encourages me to realize that He faced what He did, felt the worst of what we would feel, and still drew enough strength to comfort others. He looked at His friends and felt compassion for them. These were men He had asked to follow Him. For three years He had been their life. Then He had begun to speak of leaving them. In John 13, He had told them that the time was drawing near for Him to leave, and that this time they would not be able to follow Him. Peter asked Him exactly where He was going. Jesus told him again that it was a place to which he could not come until sometime in the future (John 13:36).
This conversation would have been terribly upsetting for the disciples who had depended upon Jesus for everything. Our Lord's words of encouragement to His close friends were preserved by the apostle John, so that they are available to give comfort to us as well. Jesus gave His disciples some things to believe, things to hold onto. He asked them to put their trust in four things that He promised would provide courage and renewed strength for their troubled hearts. I think you will discover as you read the following pages that these timeless truths are just what you and I need in these chaotic days.
Jesus Asks Us to Believe in a Person
When a child is afraid during the night, who but a parent can provide comfort? The child will cling to Mommy or Daddy and begin to feel calm. That's how it is with Jesus. His comfort begins with His very identity. "Let not your heart be troubled," He tells us. "You believe in God, believe also in Me" (John 14:1).
The people of Judea believed in one God. The center of their faith was expressed in the Shema: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). These Jewish followers of Jesus had been trained since infancy to love God exclusively. Now Jesus was telling them something shocking; He wanted them to believe in Him in the exact same way-because He was God's Son. If the divine nature of Jesus is difficult for us to understand, you can imagine how the disciples would have struggled to wrap their minds around such an idea. In fact, it wasn't until after His resurrection that they began to process what He was telling them.
Jesus was asking men who had been schooled in the Hebrew Scripture to expand their faith in their heavenly Father to include His Son, their earthly teacher. Calling upon His full authority as the Lord of heaven and earth, He said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30 NIV). To believe in what I say, you must believe in who I am.
Jesus Asks Us to Believe in a Place
Now Jesus tells His disciples, "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2).
A man takes a new job in another city. He is in the process of moving his family to a brand new home there, but he must travel ahead of them and start his work earlier. His child cries because he will be gone for a week, but the father stoops, pulls him into an embrace, and says, "I'll be there getting your new room ready. You're going to have a place to ride your bicycle, and I'll be starting on that tree house we're going to build." The tears dry as the child sees all this in his mind. That's a picture of what Jesus is doing here. He encourages His disciples to think of the wonderful future He is planning for them.
The Scriptures include many synonyms for heaven. We know it is vast, we know it is beautiful and wonderful beyond all imagining. We know it is a country, one about which our most gorgeous earthly landscapes are only rough drafts. It is, in another way, a magnificent city, built and perfected by the architect of this universe. Then we can think of it is as a kingdom, the realm of the powerful king. Heaven is also called paradise, a word suggesting its supreme beauty.
Those metaphors are beautiful pictures of our future home, but Jesus' description of heaven is my favorite: "My Father's house." We know what that means. Many of us had favorite grandparents we visited. We think, "This is where Dad was a little boy. This is my father's house!" It holds a special charm and wonder for us, associated with Christmas, joy, and laughter. I like to think of heaven that way.
There was a special house where I grew up. My parents, as they grew older, finally moved away from it, and that was hard for me to take. I hadn't lived there for some time, but the house symbolized my whole past, my first memories, my childlike innocence and security. It was part of me. Praise God, He never decides to move to a smaller home. There is ultimate security in the eternal nature of heaven. Author Thomas Wolfe wrote a book called You Can't Go Home Again, but there is one home we can never lose or leave. Christ has gone there to prepare it for us, and that gives us comfort.
Heaven is real. Cloud-and-golden-gate-laden cartoons, movies, and jokes have reduced heaven to a stereotype. We need to realize just what is being stolen from the sanctified imagination when this precious image is made trivial to us. We are not yet in heaven, but it has power for us right now. It extends its hope to us. It guides our aspirations. It soothes our hearts when we lose a loved one. And when we think of its eventuality, we realize there is nothing mundane or insignificant about any of us-we are children of the kingdom; we are bound for heaven! It is real, and it is home.
About Those Mansions
Many of us are familiar with the phrase "many mansions," as we learned it in our King James Bibles. Newer translations substitute something like "many rooms" or "many dwelling places." The explanation is that this word, now associated with the homes of millionaires, originally meant a simple dwelling place. Jesus is actually saying, "In my Father's house are many rooms." But please don't think we'll all be tenants of a large boarding house, with cramped quarters and a shared bathroom down the hall. Heaven is the infinite expanse of God's glory; it is perfection, and the idea of a mansion is more than appropriate.
This language of an ultimate home is a powerful balm to the heart. Home means something different to every person, but it's a longing we all share. Home, no matter how humble, is the place where we begin life. It is the place we must inevitably leave to build an adult life. And the yearning to recapture that basic security and sense of belonging remains in us. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has set eternity in our hearts, and that's heaven, our ultimate home.
On one occasion, Dr. Paul Tournier, the brilliant Swiss Christian medical doctor, counseled a young man from a troubled home situation. "Basically, I'm always looking for a place-for somewhere to be," said the man. Tournier explained that each of us long for a true home.
You can see this longing through history. The first thing men do upon becoming substantially wealthy is to build the "dream home." In some cases they've become consumed by this quest. In the nineteenth century, King Ludwig II of Bavaria nearly bankrupted his German nation by building palace after palace. He had to be removed from power, and his greatest castle remained incomplete.
In the United States, two palatial houses qualify as "castles." North Carolina has the Biltmore House while California has its Hearst Mansion. The Biltmore House has over 250 rooms, including 35 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms. George Washington Vanderbilt nearly depleted his incredible fortune in completing the estate, then died after only a few years of enjoying it. The home of William Randolph Hearst has a mere 165 rooms, with 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways. Again, a heart attack took the founder before he could enjoy the fruit of his labor. In both cases, tourists have come out as the true winners.