Revelation 21 People in a Genesis 3 World

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might,
He increases strength.

– Isaiah 40:29 (NKJV)

Life rarely, if ever, makes sense or goes as planned. So much is out of our hands. Beyond our control. We can do all the right things, follow God as closely as we know how, and yet find ourselves smack in the middle of a great storm. The waters rise and the winds rage. We bow our heads in confusion, sorrow, even anger.

It is difficult to read the promises of Scripture during these times. We know we should feel comforted. Encouraged. Strengthened. We know our faith should grow and words of praise should fall from our lips. After all, we know that joy is not dependent upon circumstances. We know that God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

But when the diagnosis comes or the relationship ends or the job changes or we suffer for no apparent reason at all – how can the promises of God be true?

Isaiah recorded these words, spoken to him by the Lord, within the context of warnings about oncoming destruction. God’s people had turned away from Him and they would suffer the consequences of so doing. They could not claim surprise. Deuteronomy 28 outlines exactly what would happen if they chose to follow Him and what would happen if they didn’t.

Still, He did not abandon them.

Seven decades of exile would pass, but they would come home. The city and Temple would be rebuilt. God would even be with them during that exile, as shown in the book of Ezekiel, though not in the way they were accustomed. Not in the way they expected.

Though God was faithful to His people, He removed His glory, the tangible manifestation of His presence, from the Temple. There would be four centuries of silence. Not until a young woman pushed one last time and the cry of a baby pierced the air would the voice of God be heard again.

Not at all what they expected.

That’s all well and good, we think. People get punished when they do something wrong. But what about when they don’t do anything wrong? How come they suffer? How can God be good and true when bad things happen?

These are questions that humanity has wrestled with for so long. We forget that, right now, today, in this moment, we live in a Genesis 3 world. So while it is true that,

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

– Colossians 1:13-14 (NKJV)

It is also true that,

Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”

– Genesis 3:17b-19 (NKJV)

Or, as Jesus put it,

In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties.

– John 16:33 (MSG)

Submitting to the Lord does not guarantee health, wealth or a trouble-free life. Anyone who teaches thus is nothing more than a snake-oil salesman, a deceiver. The death and resurrection of Christ destroyed the power of sin and darkness, so that anyone who receives the awesome gift of salvation through Him can be restored to right relationship with God. We are released from the terrible yoke of slavery that was pulling us toward death and Hell.

But we continue live in a world that is not fully set to rights.

In John 9, the disciples asked Jesus who had sinned and therefore caused a man to be born blind. This is one of my favorite scenes in the Gospels, and I always wonder if Jesus shook His head a little when He answered, “Nobody did.” Just as a life of bliss is not the result of obedience, so a life of suffering is not automatically the result of disobedience.

In this Genesis 3 world, every atom, and all the crazy little pieces tucked inside those atoms, is distorted. Warped. Not functioning properly. Nothing that we can see, feel, hear, taste or touch, including our own bodies, escaped the Curse. There is no horizon upon which you can cast your gaze and think, “Yes, that place is perfect and I shall go there to be free.”

Suffering happens because, despite life-jackets being securely in place and every nerve ready to jump, we remain on a sinking ship. We can see the shore, safe and pleasant. We know we’ll end up on the shore. But we’re not there just yet.

How do we live in that tension? How can we cling to the promises of God, even when unspeakable agony strikes?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].

Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

– Hebrews 12:2-3 (AMP)

Brothers and sisters, Jesus knows our pain. He knows exactly what it is to be struck down, abandoned, wrecked – for no reason at all. He never sinned. He never put a foot wrong. Yet He took that beating and hung on that cross.

The anguish you feel – He felt it.

Ours is not an aloof God, removed from humanity, judging us with coldness. He entered in. He continues to enter in through the loving activity of the Holy Spirit, drawing the lost and comforting the found. When you face difficulties, He will give you power. We you must endure, He will give you strength. These things may not come in the way you expect or desire, but they are sure promises, straight from the heart of the Lord who never fails.

In the mystery, the questioning, of being among the rescued who nevertheless find themselves going down with the ship – hold tight to the hand of the One who slipped that life-jacket over your head.

He will see you safe to shore.

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Photo credit: Nikko Macaspac

Linking up with God-Sized Dreams and Barbie Swihart today.

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You Can Trust God

Trust in the Lord with all your (9)

Gentle Reader,

I had a different post in mind for today, something about basic logic and the insanity of our world. These words may yet come at a later time, but right now I simply don’t have the energy or the brain power for them. As the meme says, “I can’t brain today. I has the dumb.”

Truth is, I feel pretty awful. Chris and I went out to celebrate our anniversary on Saturday, which was cut short by my sudden desire to either faint or vomit. Both seemed like viable options. (As of today, I have done neither and I really wish I would. I think I’d feel better). My liver or at least the space around my liver is swollen and painful. Can’t really eat. There’s pressure behind my eyes; not quite a headache but enough to be irritating. Yesterday afternoon I fell asleep on the couch and didn’t realize it. Didn’t even hear my husband moving around or the dogs barking, which is unheard of for a light sleeper like me.

I don’t know what’s going on. Since I had a CT scan to check on all this stuff last Friday morning, I’m hoping that the timing of that test and this attack/flare-up/whatever has been orchestrated by God so that my doctor can easily diagnose and treat the problem. I’ll be seeing him on Wednesday.

So, instead of some sarcasm, I give you this:

You can trust God.

You can.

It would be easy for me to stop trusting God. It would be easy for me to become furious with Him. Why won’t He heal me? Why won’t He release me from this? Why do I have to suffer? All legitimate questions, really. All questions that I suspect each one of us will have to wrestle with before shedding these tents of flesh.

I don’t know the answers to those questions. Well, I know about things like the effects of sin. I know how genetic mutations arise and how they are never a good thing (so much for naturalistic evolution). What I don’t know is why this is happening to me. I don’t know why this has been allowed or why it’s part of the plan.

But I do know that I can trust God. It’s the hard choice. Sometimes excruciatingly hard. Yet when I want to let go of the cliff-face and drop into the sea of despair below, the beauty of His dear face above arrests me. His voice urges me on. His hand grips mine, no matter my weakness. He grants me eyes to see something good, something eternal, in the midst of the battering storm.

When the tsunami comes, He covers my body with His.

When the winds howl, He pulls the hood tight over my head.

When the pain stabs at my side, He holds me close.

He has not abandoned me. He never will.

Be encouraged today. Whatever you face, however bleak it seems, you can trust God.

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute Friday: Tomorrow

Gentle Reader,

I really look forward to Thursday evenings. Face-to-face connection is vital, of course, but God does something cool on the internet. He draws all kinds of people together on the Twitters for some real sharing and lots of laughter. On days like today, when I’ve been confined to my house because my body hates me and is falling apart, I am so grateful for the #FMFParty. If I sit just so, the dizziness settles a little and I can enjoy the chat.

Kate. My people.

We contemplate: tomorrow.

Go.

My mom has suffered with chronic migraines for as long as I’ve known her (almost 31 years). My brother has had 4 foot surgeries, back surgery and a hernia repair. My dad has pain in his hands. My hubby’s got high blood pressure. I have Chronic Fatigue…scratch that, Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (whatever that grand re-name means). And the possibility of growing another tumor.

A coworker suffers with Fibromyalgia. I’m part of a Facebook group just for women with chronic illness. A friend at church has an eye problem. Another friend lives with MS. Another with constant stomach trouble.

That’s just the physical stuff.

Suffering is everywhere. Personally, I think that illness will only become more widespread as the clock winds down and we move toward the end. (No, I don’t know when that will be. Nobody does. But I do know that we are one day closer today than we were yesterday). The earth and all its inhabitants groan under the curse. Our bodies cannot hold up under the weight of it.

So I look forward to tomorrow. I look forward to this, a passage I turn to time and time again:

I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. – Revelation 21:3-7 (NKJV)

No more pounding heads, aching feet, swollen hands. No more strain on the heart. No more loss of sight, nerves on fire. No more crushing fatigue. No more tumors, no more fevers, no more stomach trouble. No more stress, no more worry, no more bottles of pills, no more chemotherapy, no more surgeries.

No more sickness.

Tomorrow.

Stop.

Five Minute Friday: Turn

Gentle Reader,

‘Tis that five minute time with Kate and the gang. We: turn.

Go.

Ugh. Down with a cold, the second one in three weeks. Got my tissues, my soup, my orange juice, my cough medicine – the cough medicine I’m not really supposed to take but I’m so desperate for sleep that I’ll take it anyway. It’s not good for my liver. My liver who’s playing host to a guest.

It’s a tumor.

Or a tumah.

Depends on your accent.

It’s really bizarre to be told that you’ve got this bubble-like thing growing on one of your organs. You’re happy when they say it’s almost surely benign, but still. It’s a thing. A thing that shouldn’t be there. And now you’ve got a consultation scheduled with an oncologist who specializes in hepatobilliary tumors.

At least he’s a dog person, according to the information your mom found.

I don’t know if I’m overwhelmed or just smack in the center of that peace that doesn’t make any sense. Either way, this is the truth to which I turn:

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This is one of those “God said it so I believe it” times. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Surgery and recovery and tests. Long words I can’t pronounce. The possibility of being force-fed Jell-O.

Whatever comes, God will save me.

And you.

Stop.

Let us turn to Him.

My journey to faith. (15)