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Scriptures – Acts 5:27-32 Psalm 118:14-29 Revelation 1:4-8 John 20:19-31
“If the people are silent, the stones will shout the news!” Remember these words from the Palm Sunday scripture. Now we have disciples who will not be silent even though being arrested was the result. In fact, this good news was directed at the arresters. This good news is for everyone!
However, such good news – the idea that our sins are forgiven by grace, not works, is a revolutionary idea. The point is that we don’t need to earn our forgiveness. We don’t need to feel that we have failed to reach our self-made goal. The goal has been reached already. We personally did not reach the goal but Jesus met the goal for us.
Should we not have a personal goal for our spiritual growth? I think having a goal gives our lives structure, something like disciplining ourselves to rise from our beds in the morning or whatever our schedule requires. Having a personal spiritual goal keeps us aligned with the person who did the work for our salvation. Jesus did not just die for us and then fly to heaven to become a statue at the right hand of God. Jesus was lifted into heaven to be the mainstay of our lives.
It may be interesting to think about the clouds mentioned in Revelation 1(CEV). In Revelation 1, John declares, “Look! He is coming with the clouds. Everyone will see him, even the ones who stuck a sword through him. All people on earth will weep because of him. Yes, it will happen! Amen.”
It is easy to think of the cloud which has become common terminology with our cyber space technology. Instead of storing our precious information only inside a computer or in an attached device, our information is now being stored for safe-keeping in something called “a cloud.” Imagine trusting our confidential information, or our work data and writings, even our rather nonsense communication to a “cloud.” How much trust does this take? How safe is it? Who knows if this cloud, or clouds, will come crashing down around us with the confidential and seemingly important information flowing in all directions like confetti in a windstorm with no control over who receives it or how our lives will be changed because of this failure in the cloud.
If we compare the technology cloud with the clouds in which Jesus dwells or in which Jesus will approach us for the second coming, what is the same, what is the difference? Well, Jesus does receive and keep our personal information. How safe is our information with Jesus? Will Jesus crash? Will Jesus be attacked? Will someone learn the password to the information which is stored in Jesus?
I read, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God, who is and was and who is to come, the Almighty. Because Jesus Christ is one of the persons of God, what God proclaims applies to Jesus, our Savior, who always was, and is, and always will be.
Because Jesus is forever, will he need to release information every now and again, because he has a space limit? My understanding, from reading and studying and experiencing, is that Jesus has an endless capacity for receiving and holding communication. We can’t give too much information to him. It will be held securely forever.
I am troubled with the part of Revelation 1:7 that says, “All people on earth will weep because of him.” I thought the weeping was done with the resurrection. I was depending on the words from Isaiah and Revelation that we heard on Easter Day: “God’s home is now with his people. He will live with them, and they will be his own. Yes, God will make his home among his people. He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain. These things of the past are gone forever.” These words are from Revelation 21. That must be the clue.
In Revelation 1 things are not yet ready for this “no tears” idea. People must still suffer for spreading the word of the resurrection. In fact, that is why John found himself on the island of Patmos. He did not go there as a vacation. In the Roman world in the second half of the 1st century, emperor worship was a growing cult. Satan was still trying to win the battle. Civil authorities were operating more in Satan’s realm than in the realm of Jesus.
The book of Revelation has three basic parts: 1) There are evil forces still at work in the world, and Christians may have to suffer and die; 2) Jesus is Lord, and he will conquer all people and powers who oppose God; and 3) God has wonderful rewards in store for his faithful people, who remain faithful to him, especially for those who lose their lives in his service. (CEV, p 1294)
Apparently, we are still in that first part. It is time to look at the world in our 21st Century. Are we falling into the trap of emperor worship or is our wandering in a different direction? How involved are we personally in the wayward straying? Where are we placing our energy? Where are we using our talents? How do our present beliefs match the scripture? It is true that we can interpret the scripture to match our pre-conceived notions or beliefs. So basing our present-day actions on scripture is tricky. Yes it is.
We can check our checkbooks. Where is our money going? That will be a revelation to us if this is the first time we are checking our checkbooks. Next, we need to check our datebooks or e-calendars. Where is our time going? Based on Genesis 1, we need some recreation time. In fact, literally we should be re-creating during 1/7th of our week. How many hours is 1/7th of the total hours in a week? Let us calculate. This is important. You are way ahead of me. Twenty-four hours a week needs to be in re-creation for the sake of our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Can we count sleep time? Aha! I could do that. Six hours a day times seven days equals 42 hours a week of re-creation. I am okay!
However, I have the feeling that perhaps God did not want us to calculate in that manner. The people, who try to steer me in the right direction, claim that twenty-four hours of waking time should be spent in a change of thinking, of acting, in a feeling of freedom.
A feeling of freedom! That must be the point. So therefore, unless cleaning gives me a feeling of freedom, the hours I might spend cleaning do not count. Shucks! Even if I am re-creating 1/7 of the week, is my recreating activity leading me toward God or away from God? How did I get myself in this corner with this thinking. Oh, yes, I was checking my date book to learn where my devotion is placed. Which king am I worshiping? King Jesus, my Savior, or king clock and king datebook and king checkbook. Which king is your king?
So we are stuck in the first part of Revelation. What about the culture? Are we swayed by the thinking of the masses, or are we standing firm on what seems right to us according to the scripture? Are we coming to God as part of the masses or are we coming to God to be part of the kingdom as an individual? Hmmm. What a question! Will the group be accountable or will each individual be accountable? I know, we say that we will not receive grace based on our works but is accountability different than works?
Think. Can being accountable refer to where our heart is rather than what our actions were? Are we allowing Satan to rationalize our liberal thinking? Or is God trying to tell us something new that is valid – that we just didn’t understand earlier?
Remember Thomas. His thinking doubted until he saw. Will God be kind enough to appear again and again until we get the picture, until we fully understand and trust and believe? Where can we find the answers? Shall we find a coach whom we trust? Maybe that is a good idea. Can we read Godly books and magazine articles to learn the truth and how to live into it? Perhaps all of these suggestions are good.
You may notice that we have not brought the Holy Spirit into this picture. The Holy Spirit does not just exist to make a threesome in the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is absolutely vital in our spiritual growth, in our coming closer to God in all God’s fullness. When Jesus appeared to the disciples in the locked room after his resurrection, he breathed the Holy Spirit upon them. (John 20:22) The Holy Spirit can make things clear to us if we are open to this revelation.
The Holy Spirit will help us to bring our date book, the clock, and our checkbook into balance. The focus will become God-oriented. The ways of the world will fade. We will find ourselves walking toward Part 2 of Revelation. Do we need a group of walkers? Is it a marathon? Is it a race? I believe that we need to be accountable for ourselves after inviting other persons, after being the best model we can be. If someone passes us on this path, is it a cause for consternation?
I believe that we can be content with being passed on this walk. After all, we need models also. We are models for each other. We help each other in this walk. Are we walking with the shepherd or walking toward the shepherd? Both. Since we believe that the shepherd is always with us, he is helping us in our walk toward himself so that Revelation Part 2 will come into being.
Psalm 100 helps me in my journey toward this closeness, the journey of blessed intention.
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness.
Come before his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that has made us and not we ourselves.
We are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.
Be thankful unto him and bless his name.
For the Lord is good. His mercy is everlasting and his truth endures onto all generations.”