Sunday, May 3, 2015

Spoiler Alert RUMC The Story Chapter 31 May 3, 2015

Spoiler Alert
RUMC The Story Chapter 31
May 3, 2015
  The story is told about a time when God the Father, Jesus, and Moses were out playing golf. Moses stepped up to the tee and hit the ball. It went sailing down the fairway and landed in the water hazard. Not a problem for Moses. Moses raised his club, the water parted and Moses chipped the ball onto the green.
Next, Jesus strolled up to the tee and hit a nice long one directly toward the same water hazard. It landed right in the center of the pond on a lily pad. Not a problem for Jesus. Jesus casually walked out on the water and chipped the ball onto the green.
Finally, it was God the Father’s turn. God took a big swing and His ball went sailing down the fairway and headed for the same water hazard. But, just before it fell into the water,
•           a fish jumped up and grabbed the ball in its mouth. As the fish was falling back down into the water,
•           an eagle swooped down and grabbed the fish in its claws. The eagle flew over the green,
•           when a lightning bolt shot from the sky and barely missed it.
•           Startled, the eagle dropped the fish and
•           when the fish hit the ground, the ball popped out of its mouth and rolled into the hole for a hole-in-one. Moses turned to Jesus and said, “I hate playing golf with your Dad!”

SPOILER ALERT HERE… If you don’t want to know how history turns out, or how the Bible ends, you might want to step out for a few minutes… It doesn’t matter if it is a golf game, the Bible, or the consummation of God’s vision for the world, IN THE END GOD ALWAYS WINS.

  The book of revelation is, for many people, a strange and mysterious thing. Let me tell you some preachers and Bible teachers make it even stranger than it really is. Although there is a great deal of interesting detail we could talk about, as we come to the conclusion of 19 months of off and on working our way through THE STORY, my message to you today is pretty simple… IN THE END, GOD WINS.
•           If you believe that, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.”  Then you have to believe that IN THE END GOD WINS.
•           If you believe that, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”  You have to believe that IN THE END GOD WINS.
•           If you believe Jesus when he says, “God will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”  Then you have to believe that IN THE END GOD WINS.
•           If you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and he is going to prepare a place for you,”  You have to believe that IN THE END GOD WINS.
•           If you believe Paul when he writes, “In the end every knee shall bow on heaven and on earth and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the Glory of God the father.”  You have to believe that IN THE END GOD WINS.
•           If you believe that, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain”  Then you have to believe that IN THE END GOD WINS.

  I know.
•           I know. In a residential neighborhood in Baghdad, a little girl plays in her front yard. Suddenly a car bomb explodes and a family is shattered.
•           I know, the foundations shook and 6000 people died in Nepal last week (maybe as many as 15,000 by time they are done).
•           I know, there is Isis, and Boca Haran, and evil dictators, and Christians being persecuted around the world.
•           I know, that just a few weeks ago 4 children from one family and one from another were wiped out in the blink of an eye between Urbana and Vinton.
•           I know that we have people who have struggled mightily with Cancer, Diabetes, heart disease, strokes, addictions, brain injuries, schizophrenia, bipolar, depression, anxiety, and 1000 other terrible diseases.
•           I know loved ones die too young, parents do terrible things to their kids, kids are bullied, children break their parents hearts, seniors skimp on food and medicine because they can’t really afford either, marriages blow up, families are divided, jobs are lost, bills are due, cars break down, friends betray us.
•           I know, sometimes life in this world just stinks, and it hurts. Sometimes we just want to curl up and die, at least one has to wonder whether it is worth getting up in the morning.

  But let me tell you something… the same thing has been true ever since Adam and Eve were evicted the Garden of Eden. We’ve read the stories in the Bible… heartbreaking stories of murder, and incest, and wars, and failures, and rejection, and idols, and sin.
  The center part of the book of revelation, chapters 3-19, is the worst. It tells of famines, and wars, and pestilence, and betrayal, and death and suffering, and evil way beyond anything I hope any of us ever experience. The book of revelation is acknowledging that things get really bad in the lower story and God help us, they may even get worse. We live that every day. We don’t have to delve into all the details.
In chapter 19, the story takes a turn- We get a glimpse of the upper story. A great multitude in heaven shouts, “Hallelujah, Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.”
 I have told you before that the upper story crashes into the lower story, for instance in the birth of Jesus. In Chapter 20, the lower story is judged by God’s upper story vision. The whole world of the lower story to is held accountable to the upper story vision.- “ Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also, another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” 
There is judgment. There is the sorting out based on the lives we lived and the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. There is no escaping that. We had better make sure we know very clearly the side with which we align ourselves.

But then… FINALLY… GLORIOUSLY… SPLENDIDLY… MAGNIFICENTLY… WONDERFULLY BEYOND ANYTHING WE CAN IMAGINE OR ANY WORDS CAN DESCRIBE, John starts to describe the new creation in beautiful poetic imagery. The new creation completely transforms the old creation. THE LOWER STORY IS OVER, taken over by GOD'S UPPER STORY. Let me say that again. THE LOWER STORY IS OVER, taken over by GOD'S UPPER STORY. God’s original vision is brought back into focus.
•           Genesis says “in the beginning.” -- Revelation says “I am the beginning and the end” 
•           Genesis says God created the heavens and the earth. --Revelation says there is a new heaven and a new earth.
•           Genesis says let there be light.-- In revelation, God is all the light that is needed.
•           In Genesis God names the darkness “night.”-- In Revelation, there will be no more night.
•           The tree of life from the Garden of Eden is back; “with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
•           Adam and Eve were told don’t eat or you will die. Revelation says there is no more death.
•           In Genesis, God walked with Adam and Eve in the coolness of the garden. In the new creation, “the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;”
The upper story vision that was obscured by sin in Genesis, is rediscovered in glory in the new heaven and the new earth. Do you believe that? I have to or I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.
  This is why we pray THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. We are praying for the glorious coming of the new creation. We are praying for that time when IN THE END GOD WINS.

Can you imagine how this promise must have encouraged the original readers and listeners in AD 95. They knew firsthand what it was like to be persecuted. They had witnessed crucifixions, beheadings, and saw loved ones put into the ring with wild animals- all because of their faith. They were always under the threat of persecution. John, the writer of this book, had been exiled to the island of Patmos. And it seemed like the devil was winning the war. It seemed like the dragon of Rome was winning, the monster coming out of the abyss was winning. It seemed like they were about to be defeated, but the big message from the book of Revelation is things are not what they seem.  The big news of the Revelation to John is that IN THE END GOD WINS

 It has been a long journey through THE STORY. From those first days off and running through Genesis and Exodus, to the months of stumbling through kings and prophets and wars. Then there was the strange celebration of the nativity when we started back up in September. 2015 will be known as the year with two Easters. One in February for THE STORY and one in April with the rest of the world. Then there was the early church, Paul’s life and now the end.
I hope you have each learned a great deal over these 19 months, but here is the take away.
No matter what…
            No Matter What…
No matter what… God wins.
It’s tough today. It’s hard today. There are challenges today. It’s not fair today. There’s inequity today. There’s hunger today. There’s poverty today. There’s joblessness today. There’s loneliness today. There’s sin today. BUT IN THE END, GOD WINS. That’s the promise of the book of Revelation. That is the promise from God.
Ultimately, all of this “stuff” will pass away and the God who walked with Adam and Eve in the garden will walk among us in the new creation.

Do you all remember the show “Extreme makeover” I don’t even know if it is still on.
At the end, they would park the bus between the family and the new house and they would say… “Bus driver. Move that bus.”
Right now, we stand with a big old ugly bus of a sinful, hurtful, difficult world between us and our new home in the new creation. Someday we are going to pray, “Thy kingdom come they will be done”; and God is going to shout MARANATHA, MOVE THAT BUS!
 And I can’t wait to see the look your face! I can’t wait to see the glory of God reflected in your eyes. I can’t wait to see the no more tears, no more suffering, no more pain, no more…just no more…
I can’t wait to see God’s arms open- not on a cross to die this time… but arms open wide to welcome you and me to be part of his new creation.


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