The Next Triumphal Gathering

part 1

Monday, April 6, 2020

Yesterday we celebrated Palm Sunday. In many ways, it just didn’t feel the same, though. (I trust you were able to get tuned into our service yesterday and that you worshiped with the worship team and found something of value in our ongoing series of “Purposes for the Cross.”)

 

I have always liked Palm Sunday. It signifies the beginning of Holy Week. Over the years, I have tried to look at that historic entry into Jerusalem from every angle that I can think of. We’ve considered the people in the crowd: the skeptics, the faithful, the antagonists. We’ve looked at the expectations of the people who cheered. We’ve considered Jesus’ tears over Jerusalem. We’ve looked at the irony or tragedy of the fact that less than a week following this grand celebration, some of the same people who shouted, “Hosanna!” were yelling, “Crucify! Crucify!” I’m sure, somewhere along the way, we’ve even looked at the donkey. This year, God showed me something different. This year, He showed me that this entry into Jerusalem should not only remind us of what was but that it should also point us to what will be.

In order to make this point, I was prompted to consider Revelation 7. My first response was to run. The book of Revelation can be a very intimidating Book. Many so-called “end-time experts” are quick to tell us what every symbol in that Book means. I don’t think it’s that easy. All week long, I have struggled with various interpretations until I began to feel I was simply getting more confused. Then it seemed like the Lord whispered, “Forget the theories. Just tell them what it says.”

Look with me as we read Revelation 7:9-15:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12  saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence” ESV. 

Do you see why I call this The Next Triumphal Gathering? There are Palm branches, cheers, and Jesus is in the center of it all, once again. But there are some differences too. The first crowd was a mixture of people, the future group will be made up of only believers and the angels. The first group looked forward to what might be, the second looks at what is. The first group focused on the hope of temporal deliverance, the second group will look at eternal and spiritual deliverance.

I would suggest that the reason the second triumphal gathering will be far superior to the first Triumphal Entry can be summarized in three statements.

First: We will Understand the Greatness of God and His Grace Toward Us.
Perhaps you have talked about how great it will be to hold your child in your hands for the very first time. But I’ll tell you this from my own experience: talking about it and experiencing it are two very different things.

 

In the past, we may have talked to people who have experienced deep grief. We have been compassionate and sensitive. But when we experience a grief like that ourselves, our tone suddenly changes. We become softer, our empathy becomes greater, now we truly understand.  

 

Continued tomorrow    

The Next Triumphal Gathering

Part 2

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

It’s like that with sin and grace: we use the words but we don’t really understand. On that day, we will.

There are two reasons this is true. First, we will see our sin in light of God’s Holiness. At the present time, we know there are things that we do that are wrong. We can measure our lives by the Scriptures and see that we often fail to meet the standard God has set. We love the Lord, we want to please Him, and when we don’t, it pains us. But we really don’t have any idea how offensive our sin is to our Holy God. We have not yet begun to comprehend just how far we have really fallen from God’s standard.

You see, there is a part of us that sees the wrong we do and draws some comfort from the fact that others do the same thing. We even feel good that we are not “as bad as others.” But in that, we are totally missing the point. We are not called to measure our lives by other people; we are called to measure our lives by the standard of the Lord.

You can play baseball on a High School team or in a community league (like the Waseca Legion team) and think you are really a very good ballplayer. Your friends look up to you, other people marvel at you, and you may even dream of how you are going to spend all your money. Then you go to college and all of sudden, everyone is as good or better than you are. You go from superstar to average in a very big a hurry. It is an eye-opening experience.

Heaven, too, will be an eye-opening experience for everyone who gets there. When we see God in ALL His holiness, we will suddenly realize our true nature. When we see the real greatness of His character,r then we will understand the depth of our need. This has been the experience of everyone who has encountered God.

 

Isaiah described it best. When he saw God, he felt for sure he would die. He said, “Woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips and serve a people of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5) Isaiah was known to be a righteous and holy man. Yet when he encountered God, he saw the very depth of the sin in his life.

 

When you and I see God, there will be no excuses. Comparisons then will be futile. We will know that we fully deserve God’s wrath.

But, secondly, we will also see God’s grace in light of our sin. When we understand the depth of our need, we will appreciate His mercy and grace in a way we have not appreciated them before. We are told that the people before the throne were “wearing white robes.” “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14)

On that day, we will realize that we stand before the Lord in Heaven ONLY by the blood of the precious Son of God. We will realize that it is not due to our efforts, but ONLY by His grace. We will understand that we have received a mercy that is so wonderful that our hearts could never, ever begin to repay Him. Only then will we realize the price that was paid. Only then will we see what our Savior set aside so that He could save us. Only then will we see the ways God has worked in our lives to draw us to Himself. We will see then, and we will be overwhelmed.

Because we finally see, we will spend the rest of eternity expressing our gratitude and worship. Not because we have to but because it is the only response. No arrogance, no sense of superiority, no ranking ourselves against others, only worship.  

 

Continued tomorrow

The Next Triumphal Gathering

Part 3

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

And even the angelic host, those that have been observers of this great act of salvation and see the multitude of those the Lord has redeemed, also cry out, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

On that day, we will see the greatness of our God. On that day, we will understand not only our sin, but we will see, for the first time, the depth of His love. It will be a spectacular day!

I would suggest that the reason the second triumphal gathering will be far superior to the first Triumphal Entry can be summarized in three statements:


1. We will understand the greatness of God and His grace toward us.


2. We will be on the Other Side of Our Struggles.  

It may just be my imagination, but it sure seems like the struggle has become more intense lately. Everywhere I turn, it seems there are people going through very difficult times. In my own life, it’s sometimes a real effort to keep putting one foot in front of the other. That is why this passage is such an encouragement to me. It reminds me that the struggle will not go on forever, even though it may seem like it in the heat of the battle.

In our passage for today, John asks who these white-robed people are. He is told, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14). These are the ones who have survived the trials of tribulation life. These are the ones who have remained faithful even though life was painful and hard. These are the believers who kept the faith.

This picture gives us strength. It keeps us focused and will help us keep going. It is tough to keep running if you don’t see a purpose. In fact, I have heard that one of the most devastating punishments in a concentration camp is when the captors make their prisoners do meaningless labor. They might have them move a pile of rock from one spot to the next, and then back just because they said so. It is labor without purpose and it eventually eats away at a person’s willingness to go on.

Life can be like that:

We face obstacle after obstacle.
We get through one operation and another is waiting.
We pay off one debt and another makes its claim on our life.
We get one child healthy and the other gets sick.
We cross off one item from our “To Do” list and add three others.
We survive one crisis and another wave of trouble washes over us.
 
I’ll have to admit: I have always wondered why people run in marathons. Most of the runners know full well they have no chance of winning. During the race they encounter cramps, battle exhaustion, and, at times, dehydration. They spend months punishing themselves, and depriving themselves in preparation for this long, exhausting journey. Why? The ones I’ve talked to tell me that it is because of the joy and satisfaction that comes when you cross that finish line. It is not the winning; it is the surviving and conquering that brings joy.

That does not inspire me in any fashion to take up running, not in the least bit. But it does help me understand what it will be like in Heaven. We run now for the glory of finishing the race. Paul understood this when he wrote 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” ESV.

Paul does not say it had been easy. What he does says is, it was a fight - but he’s still standing. The thing that kept him going, the thing that keeps us going, is knowing that someday we will stand before the Throne of Grace. Then, it will be worth it all. On that day, the race will be over and we will have crossed the finish line.

 

As we run the race of life, we need to keep that day in our minds. 

 

Continued tomorrow

The Next Triumphal Gathering

Part 4

Thursday, April 9, 2020

I would suggest that the reason the second triumphal gathering will be far superior to the first Triumphal Entry can be summarized in three statements:

 

1: We will Understand the Greatness of God and His Grace Toward Us.

2: We will be on the Other Side of Our Struggles.

3: We will begin to experience the Life We Never Dared to Imagine.
Listen to these incredible words, picking up in Revelation 7:15 and reading through verse 17: “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” ESV.

In Revelation 21, we read similar words, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” ESV. (21:3,4)

Do you hear what is being said? There is coming a day when we will no longer hunger or thirst for more, in our belly, stuff in our home, resources at our disposal, prices for our crops, knowledge in our head, depth to our love, an end to our loneliness. Those longings will have been satisfied, in Christ. 

We will no longer battle the forces of nature. No more mud, no more tornadoes, no more sun burn, no more winter storms, no more mosquitoes, or flies, or pandemics? Nature will yield only joy. We will no longer have reason to cry, except for joy. No more sorrow, no more disappointment, no more devastating losses. No more bullies. We will never have to bury someone we love again, we will know forgiveness – not only being set free from punishment.

I think we will also be set free in our memories. The scars will be healed, the guilt will be silenced, the stain will be gone. Oh, what a day that will be; there will be no more cancer, no more arthritis, no more flu; no more covid-19; there will be no need for glasses, none of the limitations of getting older. No more frustration, disappointment, or failure. There will be no more using people to get ahead, no more hurtful words, no more hatred.

We haven’t even begun to build an exhaustive list. But the point is simple: in that coming day, we will be granted the life we have always longed for. It is a life we didn’t think possible. It was God who placed that hunger in our heart, and some day - I believe very soon - He will satisfy it.

So what do we do in light of these facts? Who cares? So what? How does this affect me now?

First, we need to ask if this will be our destination. After hearing these great promises, I need to ask you a direct question? Will you be in the crowd that day? Will you be among those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb?

The Bible says this will be a large group, but it will also be an exclusive group. There will be people who knew the right words, who will be absent. There will be those who went to church every Sunday, who won’t be there. There will even be some who were baptized who are missing. There will be those who have done great works, even miracles, who will not be included in that day.  

So, who will be present? Only those who tied their future to what Jesus has done for them. Only those who recognized their need for a Savior and responded by anchoring their life to Jesus. In short, the only ones who will be there are the ones who really – TRUSTED Jesus. They weren’t playing at religion, they trusted Him for salvation, for guidance, for wisdom, for grace; they trusted Him in the trials and in the times of blessing.

 

Continued tomorrow    

Dealing with Disappointments with God

Part 1

Monday, MArch 30, 2020

This week we are going to be continuing with our series of studies, “Journeying with Jesus through the Book of Luke.” Today we will begin looking into a passage in Luke 7 as we consider what I am calling, “Dealing with Disappointments with God.”

Have you ever been upset with God? Sometimes, when our expectations are not met by the Lord, we can become frustrated, confused or even angry. I can think of a few examples in the Bible:

 

  • Job, in his grief and misery, developed a bit of a chip on his shoulder toward God.
  • I think about the people of Israel as Moses led them: whenever God didn’t meet their expectations the way they wanted Him to or thought He should, they would grumble and complain and threaten to go back to Egypt. (Have you ever done that? “God, I had it better when I wasn’t even a Christian! I should just go back to my old life!”)
  • King David got mad at God in 1 Chronicles 13:5-14 when God struck Uzzah dead, when Uzzah reached out and touched the Ark of the Covenant. David became afraid of the Lord and decided to leave the ark somewhere else and not bring it to Jerusalem.
  • How about Jonah? He got angry at God when God showed mercy to Nineveh. 

 

It seems that God often misses our deadlines, doesn’t it?

 

  • We don’t read about his struggle: but, what do you think Joseph was feeling when he was falsely accused and thrown in prison for a few years? And that, after being rejected and sold out by his brothers as a slave in Egypt. Why did God allow him to be put in such a dark situation making him wait day after day, week after week, month after month, wanting nothing more than freedom? God had given Joseph some amazing dreams and promises; why drag him through all the difficulties?

 

And there are others, both in the Bible and in our life-time, who struggled with God’s timing and understanding His process.

 

Let’s turn and look at our Scripture for today…

Luke 7:18-23 “Then John’s disciples told him about all these things. So John summoned two of his disciples 19 and sent them to the Lord, asking, ‘Are You the One who is to come, or should we look for someone else?’ 20 When the men reached Jesus, they said, ‘John the Baptist sent us to ask You, ‘Are You the One who is to come, or should we look for someone else?’’

21 At that time Jesus healed many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and He granted sight to many blind people. 22 He replied to them, ‘Go and report to John the things you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news preached to them. 23 And anyone who is not offended because of Me is blessed’” CSB.

As we can see in the Scripture we just read, John the Baptist is wondering, questioning, when Jesus is going to start taking care of business and cleaning up the riff raff, like King Herod Antipas, who stole his brother’s wife. John, like Jesus’ own disciples and so many others, was expecting the Messiah to sweep in, set up His kingdom, and overthrow the Roman government.

 

Continued tomorrow

Dealing with Disappointments with God

Part 2

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

In our text, John the Baptist isn’t seeing any strategic actions by his cousin, Jesus, so he sends a message to Him, “Are You the Messiah or should we be looking for someone else?” John’s expectations of a Messiah are not being met: surely the Messiah would get him out of prison and bring true justice to the world!

Over the next few minutes we are going to look at a few perspectives that I believe will help us deal with our Disappointments with God. When we are less than thrilled about how, or when, God is working, or seemingly not working, what are we to think and do? Let’s take a look.
 

Realize that God knows more about our situation than we do

I know I don’t have to tell you this, but let me remind myself and you that God sees the big picture and He is working to accomplish His Will in your life and mine. We see such a small slice, even if we live into our 80’s or 90’s, compared to all of human history and eternity. But God has seen and sees it ALL. 

I will never forget the flat tire we had while I was in Afghanistan: it was inconvenient, it happened in a difficult place on the highway, it cost us over an hour of travel time. Those were our thoughts as we saw this incident from our limited perspective. However, when God saw it from His perspective, He saw the IED planted in the road ahead of us. He saw the “clock” in a way we could not, and He knew what we didn’t. We “needed” an inconvenient flat tire, one that would cost us over an hour of travel time, giving the right people, the right amount of time to discover the bomb before we drove any further on that highway.

Once we were out of that situation and had the time, to do the clock math, and the timing math, we understood what God had known all along. We were destined to dive over that bomb. Except: God knows more about our situation than we do and He wants us to trust Him, even when we cannot understand what He is doing or why.

Romans 8:28-29 “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” CSB.

I think of the account of Joseph’s life back in the Book of Genesis. I think of everything he went through. Much of it was far from comfortable, or even enjoyable, yet those un-enjoyable, uncomfortable times were the times God was developing Joseph’s character.

 

Continued tomorrow

Dealing with Disappointments with God

Part 3

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

God was preparing Joseph for what He could see in Joseph’s future, that he could not see himself.

 

That leads us to the next perspective. We must…
 

Understand that God is far more interested in our character than He is in our comfort

By that I do not mean, God doesn’t care about your comfort. He certainly does. I am confident, He wants us to be comfortable, but, not at the expense of our character. Character is who you are, how you live and treat others; it will have an impact on your eternity. And your comfort will not. Therefore, God will do, or allow, what is necessary to develop our character, even at the expense of our comfort.
 
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” CSB. 

I always consider my grandpa Tackett - he was an incredible man of God. He was one of the men who helped start the church I grew up attending, and helped purchase the land the church building was built on. He was always reading his Bible. He was always teaching a Sunday school class. He was a Church Council member. He was always telling people, especially his family and those he knew, about Jesus and His soon return.

 

When I was 16, it was discovered that Grandpa’s kidneys had failed and he would need to be on dialysis. I remember how everyone at church was praying and believing for his healing. I remember Grandpa getting weaker as time went by. I remember sitting in his living room playing “mastermind” or “checkers” with him when he was too weak to do anything else. And I remember asking this mighty man of God why God hadn’t healed him.

 

I’ll never forget that conversation we had just a few days after my graduation from High school. He had been on dialysis for a couple years and it seemed as though that, unless God intervened, the end was near. He said, “Bradley, over these last couple years God has been teaching me many things from His Word. He has been preparing me to meet Him. My life was too easy and too full to learn this without being in that dialysis chair. He has me ready now for what I have desired nearly all my adult life: to meet Him.”

I learned that day that God is far more concerned about our character, than He is our comfort. I couldn’t imagine a character flaw of any kind in my grandpa, but I guess I’m not God.

 

Through that, I learned you can…
 

Give God your burdens because He cares for you

Do not be afraid of honest brokenness before God. God already knows you feel disappointed, but in His eyes, you are appointed! You are chosen by God to walk the path He leads you on. Pour out your heart to Him as often as you need to. He does not grow weary of your tears. Receive the strength and encouragement He has just for you! He cares!

1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your cares and anxiety on Him because He cares about you” CSB.

I am always amazed at those who tell me how they are disappointed with God or feel hurt by Him, that they are angry at Him. I get this - in many of the Psalms, David and others express these feelings - but I have heard many say: “I am going to punish God by not going to church” They aren’t even talking to Him about their feelings. They are just angry, looking for a way to punish the one they are angry with. I will tell you this, that just never works; the only one being punished in those cases; is the one who is already hurting, disappointed, carrying a huge burden, and now it is all getting heavier.

 

Continued tomorrow

Dealing with Disappointments with God

Part 4

Thursday, April 2, 2020

If we could only humble ourselves and cast our burdens, disappointments, frustrations, anger on God as He invites us to. Part of the answer to this is, we must…
 

Stop looking at what God’s not doing, so we can see what He IS doing!

Luke 7:22-23 “He replied to them, ‘Go and report to John the things you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news preached to them. 23 And anyone who is not offended because of Me is blessed’”

We must learn to ask God to help us begin to see what He is doing rather than fixating on what we think He is failing to do for us. After we had that flat tire in Afghanistan, that night as we settled in, while eating dinner we were told about an issue that was happening in the village were supposed to be in where we were now planning to go in morning. On the surface, we saw what God was not doing: He was not keeping us on schedule keeping the vehicle running well and getting us to the village so we could share the Gospel. But as we lay on the mats in the darkness of the building we were hidden in, we began seeing how the flat tire kept us from the IED, how the delay kept us from being in the village where there was currently a struggle, and we began seeing and focusing on what He was doing.

It is so vitally important that we do not inventory what we asked for and didn’t receive. This will undermine our faith and can make us pray with offense toward God. “God, I’m only talking to You because I have to, not because I want to! You’ve already let me down this many times before. Let’s see if You can do it right this time.”  Of course, we don’t actually say those words. That would be irreverent. But what’s in our heart? Our outward reverence may still be intact but have you lost faith in God? Do you feel somehow that He has failed you? 

When we pray with an offended spirit it can feel and look like humility to us. But it is false humility. Or maybe you even shut down with God… and give Him the silent treatment kind of like spouses will do each other sometimes. This happens when we fix our eyes on our problem and focus on what looks like no answer from God.

We cannot afford to be impressed with the size of our problem. When Moses sent 12 spies into the Promised Land to check it out 10 of those spies came back overly impressed with the size of their problem. Numbers 13:33, “We even saw the Nephilim there – the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim! To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them” CSB. 

Friends, when we focus on the size of our problem, we tend to forget the size of our God! We forget who we are in Christ, favored by God, chosen, blessed, and called to know Him and to make Him known!

 

Continued tomorrow

Dealing with Disappointments with God

Part 5

Friday, April 3, 2020

We must remember who God is! Stop looking at what God is not doing and open our eyes to see what He is doing! Make this declaration: God is at work in my life! God is at work in my family! No prayer I pray is lost! Lord, help me to see what You are doing!”
 
1. God knows more about your situation than you do.
2. God is more interested in your character than your comfort.
3. Give God your burdens because He cares for you
4. Stop looking at what God’s not doing so you can see what He is doing!

God is calling us to trust Him in everything with everything! He is up to something great and is calling us to step up in faith! Our opportunities to trust Him and be useful to Him are great if we will look to Him instead of getting angry when He doesn’t do things our way or on our schedule. 

Disappointments may well be divine appointments in disguise. Don’t fixate on what God hasn’t done for you and don’t be impressed with your problems!  Jesus is way bigger than your biggest obstacle! 

Got a sin problem? Jesus nailed it! Got an addiction? He’s got you covered and recovered! Relationship problems? Jesus offers grace and forgiveness and changes us from the inside out! Are you sick? Jesus took care of that too and He says to call for the elders/leaders of the church to pray the prayer of faith for you and the Lord will raise you up!

The best way I know of to deal with disappointments with God is to come to humbly to Him, to trust Him and cast your cares, hurts, disappointments, frustrations, anger, all of it, on Him – tell Him about it, leave them with Him.

Jesus invites us this way in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.”

Talk to Him today, share (cast) the “stuff,” the burdens with Him – cast it all on Him, be honest with Him and yourself, allow Him to begin bringing clarity, understanding and healing.  END