Revelation 7:13-17 – Your Tears Will Not Last Forever

One of the elders asked me, “Do you know who these people are that are dressed in white robes? Do you know where they come from?”

“Sir,” I answered, “you must know.”

Then he told me:

“These are the ones
who have gone through
    the great suffering.
They have washed their robes
in the blood of the Lamb
    and have made them white.
And so they stand
    before the throne of God
and worship him in his temple
    day and night.
The one who sits on the throne
will spread his tent
    over them.
They will never hunger
    or thirst again,
and they won’t be troubled
by the sun
    or any scorching heat.

The Lamb in the center
of the throne
    will be their shepherd.
He will lead them to streams
    of life-giving water,
and God will wipe all tears
    from their eyes.” (Contemporary English Version)

Suffering Before Glory

There is a day coming when followers of Jesus will come before the throne of God, serving the Lord day and night. And he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. It will be a glorious time of unending peace, harmony, and rest.

But first, before this permanent Sabbath rest, there will be trouble, hardship, trial, and even martyrdom.  There will be suffering before glory.  Sometimes the difficult circumstances of life seem to have no end.  Yet, they will eventually pass, and we must continually keep this in mind.  There is a day coming when God’s pastoral presence will forever guard and keep our lives if we endure to the end.

Running Before Finishing

Perseverance, endurance, and pushing through hard situations are necessary to realizing the finish line.  We cannot just sit here on earth in some sort of holding pattern waiting for the end.  Just as an athlete must go into strict training to run the race well, finish strong, and cross the line, so we as Christians are to be in training. Believers possess at their disposal an array of spiritual practices that will fortify their souls to keep going and finish the race. 

The book of Revelation was a vision of the Apostle John given to suffering Christians in grinding hardship. Those ancient followers of Jesus had a great need of patience and perseverance. God graciously gave the believers a glimpse of the glorious ending to come. It was one way of helping them endure their present adversity and live for Jesus Christ.

Indeed, it is future hope which gives shape to the Christian’s life in the immediate here and now. Hope is what sustains us and helps us move through the difficulties of our current existence. Knowing there is a time coming when our tears will be personally wiped away by a loving God enables us to endure our griefs and sorrows.

Partial Before Total

God is with us. What we must continually keep in mind is that our salvation is assured – yet will not come in its fullness until the end of the age. So, we read Scripture portions like Psalm 91 with the understanding that ultimate safety and security is not found in this life but in the life to come…

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.

If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.” (New Living Translation)

May God’s peace and hope fill you with inexpressible joy at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Patient God, you tediously work until your plans and purposes are accomplished.  As you are slowly bringing your kingdom to the world, strengthen me so that I do not give up.  Help me to persevere, living and loving like Jesus, to his glory.  Amen.

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 – The Steadfast Love of God

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south….

Some were sick through their sinful ways,
    and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress;
he sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wonderful works to humankind.
And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
    and tell of his deeds with songs of joy. (NRSV)

I’ve always found it a bit curious that there are people who continually equate the God of the Old Testament as nothing but a vengeful and wrathful God, continually perturbed and upset, exasperated with us stupid little sinful people. Certainly, there are sections in Scripture dealing with God’s wrath and the divine action spurred from not being okay with injustice running amok on the earth. 

Everything God does comes from a place of love.

The Lord has never been okay with sin because it damages and destroys people who are meant for better things. Which is why, when people are in need and cry out to the Lord, God is there for them. 

Far more prevalent is the reality that the Old Testament is thickly populated with references to God’s “steadfast love.”  This is God’s covenant-keeping love. It is the kind of love that holds on and doesn’t let go. It’s the type of love that is tirelessly gracious, merciful, and kind. It is the love that has compassion on the needy and mercifully does something about their plight.

In today’s psalm, even when there were people sick and in distress because of their own doing, their own sin, and their own fault, God saved them from their mess. That, my friend, is precisely what God does – expertly delivers people with care and precision. 

So then, we truly need to get some robust theology to overwhelm and break those old nasty ideas about a fickle God who shakes his finger at us when we screw up and gives a big disappointed *sigh* over our dumb decisions. Just as the psalms steadily and persistently portray to us a God of abiding love, they also equally tell us of a God who is “slow to anger,” not going off the handle quickly. (Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8)

Know deep in your soul that God shows steadfast love. 

God doesn’t tell us “I told you so” or “that’s what you get for sinning,” like some obnoxious and overzealous schoolgirl. Nope. God delivers and does it because of steadfast love. It flat out gives God pleasure to save and redeem wayward folk.

That’s why I believe people all over the world have learned to sing the praises of the God of the Bible. It’s why persons from every walk of life and every culture have found God as the great lover of humanity. Their overflowing response to such a loving God is singing, praising, thanking, and offering their lives to the great Lover of their souls.

If you or someone you know struggles with seeing God as capricious, indifferent, or angry, then I strongly urge a steady and daily diet of the psalms over the course of the next month. Call it an intervention of psalms. Reading just five psalms per day gets you through all one-hundred fifty of them in a month. More than that, pray the psalms. Allow them to give you a new perspective on the world, relationships, and self.

“God’s love is like when you sit in front of a fire in winter — you are just there in front of the fire. You don’t have to be smart or anything. The fire warms you.”

Desmond Tutu

This prolific reading of the psalms is not some new or weird thing. It has been around for an awfully long time. The daily recitation of the entire Book of Psalms was an early monastic custom, especially among the Desert Fathers of the 3rd and 4th centuries. By the time Saint Benedict came along with his Rule for monks (c.515 C.E.) many communities had settled on the weekly praying of the entire Psalter. As good old Benedict said, praying less than a full psalter a week betrays “extreme indolence and lack of devotion.”

That might seem over the top to modern readers, yet the big idea is that once the steadfast love of God from the psalms gets into your spiritual bloodstream, the praying and singing of the psalms becomes a delight. I can testify to that. Seems I cannot ever get enough of the psalms. Which really means I love the steadfast love of God!

The Psalms are, I believe, the fulcrum of the Holy Scriptures. They recite and reflect upon the historical acts of God in the Old Testament. They tell of the Lord’s continuing covenantal care for people. The Psalms express the full gamut of human emotion and spiritual devotion of the people of God. Reciting the Psalms aloud frequently puts us in good company with our spiritual ancestors in the faith.

So, what the heck are you waiting for? Go ahead. Read and recite today’s psalm over again and again. Let them do their gracious work in your spirit.

God of all that is good, your steadfast love has been shown to millions who find in you the desire of their hearts.  May I see your overflowing goodness, your steadfast love, and your infinite mercy operating in this broken world and in my needy heart; through your Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns forever.  Amen.

Ephesians 2:1-10 – Saved for a Reason

At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else.

However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead because of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.

You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It is not something you possessed. It is not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives. (CEB)

Christians are not saved so that they can just sit in a worldly holding tank until Jesus comes back. Deliverance is only one side of the salvation coin. We are saved so that we will engage in good works for in the here-and-now.

Christians know they are saved from sin through the forgiving work of Jesus Christ. It is an act of sheer grace on God’s part. A believer is not born again through personal effort any more than a baby is birthed because of her own doing. Salvation is thoroughly the work of God. Even the faith needed to believe is a gift graciously provided by God.

There is more. The Lord also has some plans and purposes in mind for the people of God. Christians were birthed into a new spiritual community with new commitments to do all kinds of good deeds. It is as if sin were a weight or an obstacle that has been removed so that living a life full of goodness can now move ahead and do its work. To be saved is to be freed for a vigorous moral life.

The great problems of our world are, at their core, spiritual problems which are an opportunity for believers in Jesus to take the lead in agitating for change. Expecting human governments or corporate systems to take the lead in moral transformation is like asking the fox to guard the hen house.

Christians, churches, and faith communities can and ought to storm the gates of hell for the lives of women caught in sex trafficking; provide uplift and the tools to a better life for those in grinding poverty and hunger; challenge the idolatry of the American gun culture; speak up and step out for equality and an egalitarian culture; care for the sick and dying; reform morals; hold the world ethically accountable for its actions; and, hundreds of other realities of living in a fallen broken world.

In essence, when stripped to the center of the issue, these problems are not political, social, or cultural concerns – they are spiritual. Mass murder violates God’s command to not kill. Hunger and poverty too often result from greedy leaders in power who covet resources for themselves, violating God’s commands to provide for the poor and needy. Sexual slavery treats persons as chattel property and not as image-bearers of God. 

God has delivered us from the vice grip of sin so that we are free to tackle the immorality of the world around us. Perhaps you have a boss who is nothing more than a master of a small world and bullies and manipulates his employees. Maybe your local municipal authorities turn a blind eye to moral evil and cannot see they are public servants. It could be that within your own family there are problems of addiction which need to be graciously confronted and dealt with. 

Whatever the issues are in your sphere of influence, God has providentially placed us in the places we inhabit for just such a time as this so that we can do good works, both big and small, taking on immoral establishments as well as little acts of kindness. Doing good comes in all sizes, and all of us are to share our lives for the betterment of others.

Saving God, you have only good plans for your world and your people. Use me today and every day to be an agent of blessing and goodness, working for the benefit of others who need the freedom of Christ’s redemption and the power of his resurrection in their lives. Amen.

Mark 9:2-9 – The Transfiguration of Jesus

Welcome, friends! On this Transfiguration Sunday for Christians everywhere around the world, let us celebrate the good changes which come from our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our ultimate Deliverer and Revivalist to new hope and new life. Click the videos below to worship Christ and listen to Jesus…

Mark 9:2-9, Pastor Tim Ehrhardt
“Transfiguration” by Hillsong Worship. From the album “Open Heaven / River Wild”. Written by Scott Ligertwood, Aodhan King, Brooke Ligertwood, and Taya Smith. Worship leader is Taya Smith.

Not all is as it seems. There is glory hidden in everything, waiting to be revealed to the eyes of those who believe, beyond what seems inevitable, who do not want to live in the status quo but in the promises of God.

Hold onto this vision as we turn towards Lent and walk the more difficult path. There is yet a greater glory still to be revealed. Go in peace. Go in hope. Go in love, to serve the Lord Jesus, who is love incarnate. Amen.