Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of November 6, 2016

“Face Down”

When I was young my siblings and I would spend a good part of our summers with our grandparents.  My dad’s parents lived in Southern Indiana in a mostly agrarian community.  Our days were spent walking through the cow pastures, skipping rocks in the pond, helping out in the garden and the chicken coop. 

My mom’s parents lived a very urban lifestyle in the city of St. Louis.  Our time in the Lou was spent taking the bus downtown to see the sights going to Busch Stadium to watch the Cardinals or just staying at my grandparent’s two-story brick house playing with the train set in the basement or what was even better…playing cards.

We played a lot of cards during our time in St Louis.  Sometimes it was gin or rummy, hearts or euchre, but pinochle was the game that took most of our time.  When we played it was always the boys vs. the girls and my grandpa and I would team up on my sister and grandma most evenings. 

Little did the girls know, but my grandpa would spend countless hours with me in the basement during the day teaching me the intricacies of the games, how to count the cards, how valuable the Jack, King and Queen… the royal cards are, and how to be successful against the girls later that evening.   

One of the first things I remember learning was making sure no one saw the hand that I was dealt. Revealing my cards too soon was not a good thing.  In most card games the cards are dealt face down for a reason.  The cards are to be hidden from others until they are to be played. Be it poker or blackjack, pinochle or hearts, being face down is to be hidden. 

It was not cards that the apostle John was thinking about when he wrote the last book of the New Testament, but in the book of Revelation we see individuals who are face down. 

Let’s jump into our text from the book of Revelation the seventh chapter, starting in verse 9:
“After these things I saw a large crowd from every nation, tribe, people, and language. No one was able to count how many people there were. They were standing in front of the throne and the lamb. They were wearing white robes, holding palm branches in their hands, and crying out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the lamb!”

All the angels stood around the throne with the leaders and the four living creatures. They bowed in front of the throne with their faces touching the ground, worshiped God, and said, “Amen! Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power, and strength be to our God forever and ever! Amen!”

John describes the glimpse of heaven in the last days and describes the scene of a great multitude; so large they could not be counted who were in the presence of the throne of God and the Lamb, who is Christ Himself. 

The multitudes are face down!  Unlike a game of cards they are not in this posture to be hidden from others.  It is an act of worship and reverence as they prostrate themselves face down.

It is not to conceal their humanity but to reveal it.  They are not downcast or cast down but are royally lifted up. They have experienced firsthand what the Lamb has done as he has trumped sin, death and the power of the devil. 

It is a magnificent scene, filled with power and providing hope to us today, especially on this All Saints Sunday. 

All four of my biological grandparents have joined that multitude in heaven, along with my mother and many other family members.

This past Sunday, we remembered those who joined the heavenly multitude and we are blessed by the words of Scripture that gives us strength and hope even when we feel like we are traversing the valley of the shadow of death. 

Sometimes in life we feel like we have been given a raw deal.  The cards in our hands are no good, worthless, not going to get us anywhere.

You may want to keep those cards close to the vest, not wanting anyone to see the pain you hide, the secret you don’t want anyone to know about. 

Often, we feel the hand we are dealt is our own to worry about, our own to take care of, our own to play.  I’m sure at times you feel down cast or living life face down in the dumps.

What cards are you holding so close that have you down?
  • Is it the guilt of that sin that you just can’t seem to stop? 
  • Is it the pain of that broken relationship? 
  • Is it the anger you harbor because of what someone else has done to you? 
  • Is it the fear you have that your health may never return to you? 
  • Is it the anxiety of what the future holds for you personally or that of our country? 
  • Is it the remorse you feel for your actions in the past that haunt you now? 
  • Is it the sting of death that brings up all those emotions again as you grieve the death of your spouse, your parent, your loved one, your friend?

Do you feel cast down, flat on your face, at your wits end? Do you want to keep your hand hidden?

After all of creation was shuffled up from sin, God set a plan in motion.  He sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law and to royally lift us up as children of the King.

For all those times we want to keep our hand hidden, Jesus didn’t.

Jesus gave His hands over to be pierced; He showed His hands to those who would take his life so that He might redeem yours. 

On the cross Jesus took all of your sin and pain, anger and fear, anxiety and remorse, and He even took on death itself and died in your place.  Three days later He rose again to defeat sin and death.

To those who doubted, He showed them His hands, and today He offers His hands to you, to raise your spirits, to remind you that in Christ you will be raised on the last day to a royal reality where sin has been cast down…discarded, and forever separated from us.

This is a present tense reality for the saints who have gone before us and is ours by faith today.

If you are thinking about a loved one who has joined the church triumphant let me show you a few things John says about the multitude of saints gathered in heaven.

Those who are face down reveal three things according to the text: 
  1. Salvation is God’s gift. Verse 10 could be translated “All the salvation is with our God.”  Salvation is His to grant, His to give to us His redeemed children and He does so freely and graciously. We are thankful for this amazing gift.  
  2. Eternal blessings are His to bestow. Again another way to translate verse 12 is, “All the Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power, and strength be to our God forever and ever.”  He is the author of all blessings.  We give thanks to our God for the blessings he imparts. 
  3. Shelter, honor, and restoration are theirs.  John tells us that God spreads his tent over us to protect us, to bring us honor on account of Christ and restore us to Himself.  His shelter comes to us in this place, where we hear the forgiveness of sins, where we encounter the Word proclaimed and found in water and wafer and wine.  Eternal shelter will be ours one day as well.

All the saints who have gone before us reveal these truths which are ours today, by faith but will be ours when we too are called home to heaven. 

No matter what hand you feel you have been dealt, for all the times you feel face down in the dumps, we are all given the perfect hands of Jesus that forgive us, that lift us up and give us eternal value as children of the king.  They also remind us that one day, we too will join with the multitude praising God and saying, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the lamb!”  Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power, and strength be to our God forever and ever!”

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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