January 22, 2019

These are the words of Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open. “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” Revelation 3:7-8

So…as of today, much of our federal government remains shut down. That includes many of the national parks. Here’s how the alert on the National Park Service’s website reads:

“During the federal government shutdown, this website will not be updated and may not reflect current conditions. Some national parks may remain accessible to visitors; however, access may change without notice. Some parks are closed completely. Some visitor services may be available when provided by concessionaires or other entities. For most parks, there will be no National Park Service-provided visitor services, such as restrooms, trash collection, facilities, or road maintenance. For more information, see www.doi.gov/shutdown and the park website.”

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you might have read of the destruction, trash pile ups and other messes made at some sites. Fortunately, volunteers are banding together to hand out garbage bags, clean up and help keep parts of parks open. In Florida, a coalition of concessionaires and associations are keeping Everglades, Biscayne and Dry Tortugas National Parks, and Big Cypress National Preserve at least partially accessible. Yosemite’s local community is pitching in. Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park is using other funds and donations to allow more access.

Vandalism and litter are bad enough, but the biggest problem within the parks is safety. “Enter at your own risk” is the phrase that comes to mind. Park visitors are pretty much on their own right now. Those that become lost or injured can’t expect much help. And food and garbage left behind attract animals who are best not encountered up close and personal.

The National Park Foundation has a webpage that suggests ways to help the parks right now, and what to do if you’re planning a visit in the near future. It also updates information about the shutdown from the Park Service.

The largest share of the burden, though, is being borne not by the parks, but by all the federal employees who are without a paycheck. I can only imagine how frustrating and worrisome it must be for them.

My novella, The Christmas Child, just came out in December. It’s takes place in 1890s New York City, and evangelist Dwight L. Moody is featured in one chapter. I have Moody give a speech that is taken from a book he wrote, The Overcoming Life. It wasn’t published until later in the decade in which my story is set, but that’s what’s fun about fiction—you can manipulate some things! Even better, the book is in the public domain, so there’s no problem with copyright. Here are the excerpts I used:

“Some years ago a gentleman came to me and asked which I thought was the most precious promise of all those that Christ left. I took some time to look them over, but I gave it up. I found that I could not answer the question. It is like a man with a large family of children, he cannot tell which he likes best; he loves them all. But if not the best, this is one of the sweetest promises of all: ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’” [Matthew 11:28-30]

“If I wanted to find a person who had rest I would not go among the very wealthy. The man that we read of in the twelfth chapter of Luke, thought he was going to get rest by multiplying his goods, but he was disappointed. ‘Soul, take thine ease.’ I venture to say that there is not a person in this wide world who has tried to find rest in that way and found it.

“Money cannot buy it. Many a millionaire would gladly give millions if he could purchase it as he does his stocks and shares. God has made the soul a little too large for this world. Roll the whole world in, and still there is room. There is care in getting wealth, and more care in keeping it.

“Nor would I go among the pleasure seekers. They have a few hours’ enjoyment, but the next day there is enough sorrow to counterbalance. They may drink a cup of pleasure today, but the cup of pain comes on tomorrow.

“To find rest I would never go among the politicians, or among the so-called great. Congress is the last place on earth that I would go. In the Lower House they want to go to the Senate; in the Senate they want to go to the Cabinet; and then they want to go to the White House; and rest has never been found there.” [some things never change!]

“Nor would I go among the halls of learning. ‘Much study is a weariness to the flesh.’ [Ecclesiastes 12:12] I would not go among the upper ten, the ‘bon ton,’ for they are constantly chasing after fashion. Have you not noticed their troubled faces on our streets? And the face is index to the soul. They have no hopeful look. Their worship of pleasure is slavery. Solomon tried pleasure and found bitter disappointment, and down the ages has come the bitter cry, ‘All is vanity.’” [quoted many times in Ecclesiastes]

“Now for something positive. I would go successfully to someone who has heard the sweet voice of Jesus and has laid his burden down at the cross. There is rest, sweet rest. Thousands could certify to this blessed fact. “

“Among all his writings, St. Augustine has nothing sweeter than this: ‘Thou has made us for Thyself, O God, and our heart is restless till it rests in Thee.’”

“I like to have a text like this because it takes us all in. ‘Come unto me all ye that labor.’ That doesn’t mean a select few—refined ladies and cultured men. It doesn’t mean good people only. It applies to saint and sinner. Hospitals are for the sick, not for healthy people. Do you think that Christ would shut the door in anyone’s face and say, ‘I did not mean all; I only meant certain ones?’”

“Now, there are a good many believers who think this text applies only to sinners.  It is just the thing for them too. What do we see today? The Church, Christian people, all loaded down with cares and troubles. ‘Come unto me all ye that labor.’ All! I believe that includes the Christian whose heart is burdened with some great sorrow.”

“If you cannot come to Christ as a saint, come as a sinner. But if you are a saint with some trouble or care, bring it to Him. Saint and sinner, come!”

Much of the federal government and many parks may be shut down, but there is one door that is always open, and that is the way to God through Jesus (John 10:7-10, 14:6). “Come,” He entreats us many times in the Scriptures (for example, Isaiah 55:1-7, Matthew 4:19, Revelation 22:17). He assures us that “the one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

Saint and sinner, come!





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