The Thread

Day 27 » The End Nears

  Today's blog was written by James Kim. 

Today's blog was written by James Kim. 

The end is the beginning of something new. If you feel like you haven’t lived enough of life to know this from experience, you can look to history and read about lives of others to see that this statement is true. Graduation means a new academic or vocational career. Ending a relationship means a new one can start. In baptism, we declare that we die to our old selves and begin a new life in Christ. So it is with Life. When we finally breathe our last and our hearts stop beating, the end of our lives on earth begins something beyond it.

Christ and his followers spoke of an eternal life. The life we live – going to school, developing a career, finding a spouse to grow a family, giving back to people we love, making an impact in the world – in proportion to the eternity we have is like a grain of sand on the beach. Yet, what we do and believe in such a short period of time will determine whether we live in God’s light or in eternal darkness separated from the glory of God.

Then, I think the biggest bet you can make in your life is to not live for Christ. Attending a church or a mission trip for the first time seems like a big risk. But, once you start believing in an eternal God, it is not hard to realize that not getting involved in a church or not living a mission-oriented life is more risky.

God made it possible for us to understand in our lifetime enough about the eternity and make a decision about it. He also invited us to be honored guests of His kingdom.

So what can we do about it? Are we able to live today as we would in God’s kingdom? We can start by reading about God and marveling in His majesty. Share a meal with those you love. Run from sin. If it is the Sabbath, go to church, find rest, and reflect on God. The fullness of God’s kingdom won’t take place until Christ’s return. But, there is no need to wait until death to enjoy it.

Emulating God’s kingdom is like living as if we are in God’s home. When there is a need or something we can’t figure out easily, we should pray! Ask God! Why not? When we feel peace and joy from God’s presence, we can sing a song to Him. The angels sang “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.” Too boring for you? You can sing to Him your own song. Lastly, we can ask, “God, what is something I can do for Your kingdom?” 

Day 28 » Revelation

  Today's post is written by Jon Rice. 

Today's post is written by Jon Rice. 

Today's Reading » Revelation 21-22

Almost exactly a year ago I finished writing my first screenplay. It was a dream I had wanted to see come true for years, and it finally happened. One of the things I learned while reading how to write a screenplay is that the final image of the film is often a mirror image of the opening frame, but slightly different.  Whether it's the characters or a place, the opening image and closing image are identical, except they reflect the change that the story made. By this standard, the ending of the Bible is a masterpiece.

I'm not going to pretend to understand most of the book of Revelation. It's vivid imagery can blow the mind and create more questions than it answers. The last two chapters however, tie in the rest of scripture in a beautiful closing image that reflects the opening image in the garden.

The story of the Bible starts with a garden of innocence, and ends with a city of virtue. It begins with God creating light and dark, and ends with God being the light for all things. We meet the mysterious character of God in Genesis, and see him fully in three parts- as Father, Son, and Spirit in the end. God invites people into relationship in the beginning, and people reject that relationship for sin, but in the end, God finds a way to restore that perfect relationship and even put an end to the pain and suffering caused by sin.

One of my favorite images that can be overlooked is the return of the tree of life. There were two trees in the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. When people were forced to leave the garden, we were no longer allowed access to the tree of life because of sin. At the end of the book of Revelation, for the first time since the garden, God graciously gives us access to that tree from which eternal life is possible.

It spans 1,500 years, is written in three different languages, on different continents, and is written by everyone from kings to the destitute. Yet this wonderful masterpiece we call the Bible comes to a close tying up the loose ends, and bringing us back to what we lost in the beginning, only very different. 

Day 23 » The Holy Spirit

  This post is written by Jon Rice. 

This post is written by Jon Rice. 

Today's Reading » Acts 1-3

The hard thing about doing a sermon series based on a book of the Bible is that you are forced to talk about things you may not feel like preaching on that week. That, I’m sure from God’s perspective, is the benefit to such a series.

Why, for example was I forced to discuss the miraculous healing of a man the same week that my wife had one of the worst migraines she has had in months? Why that week? I mean, I’m glad the guy was healed in Acts, but what about my wife who wasn’t?  What about all of the people who ask and aren’t healed?

If the book of Acts was made into a movie, it would have to be an action film. On almost every page a person is healed, a miracle takes place, or someone faces persecution for their faith. At times when reading it can seem like a story of a completely different world. From the believers in the upper room speaking in tongues and having fire placed on their heads, to the dramatic story of Saul becoming Paul and sharing the gospel with the known world, the book stands apart as uniquely filled with power. Observing the work of God seemed like an everyday occurrence and it begs the question, why don't we see that now?

Of course I’m not the first to feel this way or ask these questions, and I’m certain I haven’t found the best answers, but I have found some comfort. I realized in these questions I unknowingly revealed my own questions about God and his character. Of course it’s normal to wonder why someone I love is in pain, but the frustration I felt when I read this passage was bigger than that.

Her migraines, along with other suffering I see, forces me to grapple with the idea of a God who is loving, able, and yet sometimes unwilling to remove suffering. Of course on paper I unquestionably trust this God, but my frustration reveals the truth. I either allow myself to believe in an active God who heals, or a passive God who shouldn’t be bothered. Revered yes, but I find myself less and less asking God to heal or do miracles the longer I follow him.

That should be the opposite, and it is embarrassing, but it is true.

My quest for rationale has left me empty, and my attempt to predict God have been a bust. I have realized however, that to trust that he both has the power to heal and simultaneously has the wisdom to know the right moments for such interventions, is a profoundly liberating experience.

A friend of mine told me the Yiddish phrase you’re supposed to say when someone passes away in the Jewish faith. I wouldn’t even try to say the actual phrase, nor to type it out, but the translation revealed something powerful. The phrase is “Blessed is the true judge”. When a person dies, the first thing they affirm is God’s authority and wisdom. What a challenge. When God chooses not to do what we would like, are we willing to believe he knows better?

I’m supposed to trust God with everything, even my own struggles and pain. If I truly trust him, I will start to see over time that he will “work all things together for my good”, even if it’s not what I would like. I’m not saying this type of trust is easy, nor that I have it now even after preaching this sermon, but I do know that it’s what I need.

 

Day 19 » Healing

 Today's post is written by Jon Rice. 

Today's post is written by Jon Rice. 

Today’s Reading » John 10-13

Within the last few months, both of my remaining living grandparents past away. They had both lived long lives, and had served Jesus in faithful and even sacrificial ways. Of course we celebrated their lives, but at the funerals, I still felt deep grief. I wished I could have spoken to them one more time, or just spent more time with them in general.

When I first read the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, I was jealous of those who witnessed that amazing event. Could you imagine? It would have been as if at the end of funeral, the person in the casket came back to life. Certainly it was what Mary and Martha had hoped for deep down. Before they had asked him to heal Lazarus, yet Jesus never came. They had seen Jesus heal people time and again, why couldn't he do it now? They had personally experienced power of Jesus and had no doubts, yet their brother still died.

Knowing the end of the story can make it seem less miraculous. Jesus was up to something bigger than just the healing of Lazarus, he was ready to demonstrate his power over even death. He had to let them go through the grief that was natural in order to do something bigger than what they could imagine.

Recently I heard Father Brian McDermot speaking about Jesus and in his talk he said something that blew my mind. It was something so simple yet something I had never considered. He said every one of the miracles of Jesus was temporary. Every healing he did was a temporary fix. Every person Jesus healed eventually died. Even Lazarus died...again. This time however, he stayed in the tomb.

Jesus intention in his ministry was not to stop all suffering, it wasn't to keep his followers immune from the pain of this world, it was rather to remind them that he truly was more powerful than anything, even death. He demonstrated his power on several occasions, and in doing such he was foreshadowing a place beyond this world, a time beyond time, when all suffering will cease and he will wipe away every tear, but we aren't there yet.

As much as I wished I had another conversation with those I've lost, I know I would always wish for one more. If Jesus had raised the one I loved, I would have been thrilled, but just as heartbroken when inevitably, they faced the pain of this world once again.

Jesus doesn't take away all our pain, make everything make sense, or even heal every disease we ask him to. Jesus simply reminds us that "in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart, because he overcame this world"  (John 16:33).