Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of May 8, 2016

An Unalterable Conclusion

When I was in elementary school I came to really love the Choose Your Own Adventure book series. 

These books were originally created for 10 to 14 year-olds and written in the second person. In the books the reader takes on a role relevant to the adventure; for example, a private investigator, mountain climber, race car driver, doctor, or spy, just to name a few.

The stories were constructed so that, after a couple of pages of reading, the reader faced two or three options, each of which leads to more options, and then to one of many endings.  By making a few different choices along the way, the reader could experience a totally different story with an altogether different ending. 

I loved these books and tried to experience each permutation of the storyline.  It was unpredictable and led to many hours of joy for my young mind. 

It seems that even today we like the idea of alternative endings.  There are a few movies that, when released to the home market on DVD, Blue-Ray, or digital download contain alternative endings to the movies in the extras. 

There is even a whole world of videos on the internet with titles like, “How The Avengers Should Have Ended” or “How Frozen Should Have Ended” or “How The Force Awakens Should Have Ended”.

There seems to be something in the psyche of humanity that is always looking for the best possible ending, for something better than reality. 

Humanity has a desire to know what the future holds, and often we do not have the patience to wait for God’s timing to be made clear.

How many of you have peaked at the end of the book you are reading?  Be honest!  I have, and every time I have regretted it. 

How many of you, when you are nearing the conclusion, not wanted the story to end?  I have!  It’s the power of a great story.

Our text for today comes from the last page in the Bible, from John’s Revelation.  Now, we don’t have time to go into the details of the book, but there is an unalterable conclusion to the story, a conclusion and culmination of God’s plan to save humanity. 

Spoiler alert!  Jesus says, “I am coming soon!”  (Revelation 22:12) This section both begins and ends with Jesus words, “I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:20)

We can’t keep it from happening, nor can we make it happen any sooner.  It is an unalterable conclusion.

The Bible is not a “choose your own adventure” book.  It does not describe one of many possible alternative endings to this world or this life.

In the Bible we see that we are chosen by God, that we go from Him into the world to tell others and one day we will go to Him into heaven to be with Him forever. 

The book of Revelation powerfully confirms what we already fear—our world and everyone in it is doomed. 
More profoundly however, this book, and the entire Bible is about transcendent hope.  It shows how infinitely greater God is than evil.  How in His great love for us He sent Jesus to the cross to defeat death. 

The story of the Bible has an unalterable conclusion that draws us toward Jesus in the hopeful expectation of His imminent return in glory.  

Your story as well has an unalterable conclusion, as does everyone else.  Death will come to us all.
But for those who have faith in Jesus as their Savior, that conclusion is filled with hope and the eternal reality of paradise. 

Now, your journey here on this side of heaven may have had its share of ups and downs, twists and turns.  You may feel that your story has been an adventure to say the least, but your story is wrapped up in His story.  Your story is intertwined with the story of salvation. 

For in Christ, you were chosen.  The Holy Spirit worked in your life, through those who have influenced you and through the Word of scripture and the sacraments of the church to bring you where you are today. 

I know that you may wish that parts of your story could be re-written, to edit out the heartache and the pain, but those things are a part of you.  They are as unalterable as the ending. 

We must also remember that life is not a “choose your own adventure.”  You were born in this time, to your family for a reason. Many things that are part of your story were not a direct result of anything you have done.

On this Mother’s Day, I think about my own mother, who had a profound influence in my life. 

I didn’t choose her to be my mom that was God’s doing and even though our last conversation was more than 25 years ago, she laid the foundation for my faith. 

Do I wish she didn’t get sick and lose the ability to communicate and even take care of herself? Do I wish she didn’t spend more than 20 years in a nursing home?  Sure, but no matter the story, I am confident that she is experiencing the joy of heaven because she knew the words and work of Jesus, who said I am coming.  Jesus came for my mom, it was an unalterable conclusion and here is another one…He will come for you as well. 

In His first coming Jesus took the sin of the world upon Himself and destroyed in on the cross.  His resurrection three days later secured the ending for all of us.  It is the unalterable conclusion that our generous God pours out His grace upon us and will be with us forever.

Florence Hamilton was born in 1862, the daughter of a clergyman from the Church of Ireland in Belfast.  In 1894 she married Albert, an attorney.  Their second son, Jack was born in 1898. 

In addition to the stories of the Bible, Florence also introduced her sons to the books of Beatrix Potter, author of the Tale of Peter Rabbit. 

Inspired, Jack began to write stories about his own land of talking animals.  Writing these stories was one of the great joys of his childhood. 

Tragically, when Jack was nine, Florence was diagnosed with cancer.  He later wrote, “With my mother’s death, all settled happiness…disappeared from my life.”  Significantly, his Christian faith was shaken.  By the age of 15, Jack was an atheist. 

During World War I, at age 19, Jack enlisted in the British army.  There he made a pact with a friend—if one died in the war, the other would take care of his family.  When his friend was killed, Jack helped to support his friend’s mother.  For Jack, the return of a mother figure to his life began to bring back feelings from his childhood. 

Over the next decade, Jack felt drawn back toward faith—first thinking constantly of religion, the adopting theism when he believed in one God, and finally embracing Christianity when he knew God in the flesh was Jesus Christ.

Incredibly, Jack would go on to become the most influential Christian writer of his time.  His most celebrated books feature a combination of two childhood influences: the Bible and Beatrix Potter.  These were the chronicles of a land called Narnia, and a talking lion named Aslan. 

Yet, his adoring readers did not know him as Jack, the name his family gave him.  Neither did they know him as Clive Staples, the name his mother Florence gave him.  They knew him by his initials C.S.

C.S. Lewis: the prodigal son who became the famous author of the Chronicles of Narnia when he returned to the faith in which he was raised by his mother.  (Mothers of Faith, p. 17)

The unalterable conclusion for C.S. Lewis was that Jesus was the Savior of the world.  The life of Jesus, His defeat of sin, death and the power of the devil were realities for Lewis even when his life became filled with grief and pain.

Jesus knows your pain too.  He knows the temptations that come at you every day.  He promises to be with you.  He has given you everything you need to through the twists and turns of your life. 

When soon doesn’t seem to come soon enough we have the promises of sure victory for all the saints. 

Jesus’ words offer a perspective for us to view our daily struggles. 
Jesus, through His Holy Spirit promises to create faith and faith produces patience.  Such patience views trials the same way as the apostle Paul did.

He wrote this to the believers in Rome, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

This is the perspective we gain when we hear Jesus words that He is coming soon.  Through this lens we, along with John and the whole Christian Church can with confidence pray, “Amen! Come Lord Jesus!”  It is an unalterable conclusion and it is the best possible ending!

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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