God wins

We are currently working through Revelation in our evening services at Trinity CRC. Revelation is the last book of the Bible, penned by the apostle John as he received a remarkable vision from Jesus himself. For many people it is a “closed” book, very difficult to read and understand. That’s both sad and ironic, considering how the word revelation itself comes from the word revealGraphic found at crosswalk.comand God very much wants to reveal things to us as we read Revelation!

I admit that Revelation is not always the easiest part of the Bible to read. But it’s not as terribly complicated as you might think. The message of Revelation can be summarized in two hope-filled words: “God wins!” Knowing that God currently reigns and will reign forever, his people confidently follow him and serve others. Granted, this is not easy, and Revelation acknowledges that in its vivid descriptions of the forces that distract us from purposeful living grounded in Christ and guided by the Bible. Thankfully, Revelation also shows how God is stronger than all those bad influences combined. What’s more, he is always present with his people, even in the toughest times.

One author who’s helped me understand Revelation a bit better is theologian and preacher Fleming Rutledge. I love this part from her book The Bible and The New York Times:

The book of Revelation has taken a bad rap. Once you get the hang of it, it really isn’t all that difficult. It shouldn’t be left to the David Koresh’s of the world. Almost all reputable interpreters today recognize that Revelation is poetry and liturgy. It is not a Rand McNally map of heaven. It is not a timetable for the end of the world. It is not a “Bible Code.” It is by no means as weird as we have been led to believe. It is full of encouragement, hope, and comfort, especially for oppressed people. When Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa was fighting the good fight against apartheid all those decades, he used to say, “Don’t give up! Don’t get discouraged! I’ve read the end of the book! We win!” The celestial vision arises out of the Revelation of Jesus Christ himself, the Son of God who reigns in heaven and who has drawn back the curtain just for a moment to allow us a glimpse of God’s future. (page 17)

In Christ, we win in the end, no matter how bleak things might sometimes look. My mistakes, brokenness, and sin – even my death – will not have the last word. God will. Personally, that fills me with a lot of hope and gives me purpose today. The next time you have an open Bible in front of you, find some of that hope and purpose for yourself in Revelation.

I wrote this column for this week’s Rock Valley Bee.
I’ve shared the quote from Fleming Rutledge
before.

Advertisements

Two thanksgivings

This year our family will celebrate Thanksgiving Day twice. Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada: We spent the morning worshipping and Thanksgivingthe afternoon enjoying dinner together with friends. Next month we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November.

That we get to celebrate Thanksgiving Day twice this year connects with how I have two specific things I’m currently thankful for, things that may seem contradictory at first.

If you haven’t heard the news yet, we finally received our immigration papers! Finally we can move to Iowa to begin our life and work with the people of Trinity Christian Reformed Church and the community of Rock Valley. You perhaps heard the hooting and hollering for joy from our house when we heard the news last week! (We thought we’d be there by August.) I am very thankful that we can move at last.

Yet part of me is thankful for the delay. It gave us the gift of extra time with family – the four of us, as well as our parents and some of our siblings. And we were able to connect with friends in the Bulkley Valley once (or twice or thrice) more. But I think it gave me another gift, too: The opportunity to learn a bit more to trust God when things don’t go my way. …And to learn that He is indeed trustworthy and that His timing is best. In addition, I learned that asking “Why, Lord, are things not going as we hoped?” is okay. But it’s also good (necessary, even) to ask, “What, Lord, would you have us do while things are not going as we hoped?” Instead of complaining (not that there wasn’t any of that!), I was given more occasions to be a blessing (and hopefully not an annoyance!) in the Bulkley Valley. There are always opportunities to choose to love and serve God and others regardless of circumstances.

::

One other thing comes to mind about Thanksgiving Day(s):

I sometimes wonder whether we get too excited about Thanksgiving Day. It’s not that we shouldn’t stop to be thankful; it’s just that giving thanks ought to be a daily part of anyone’s life who has been touched by the grace of Jesus. This morning I was reminded by Neil & Virginia Lettinga, interim transitional pastors at Telkwa Christian Reformed Church, that “thanksgiving is our dialect” all year long. On the other hand, perhaps our “concentrated” times of thanksgiving every fall is what propels us to make thankful living more of a daily habit. We need the intentional reminder that we have much to be thankful for. …At least I need the reminder, and more than one, so after today I’m also looking forward to November 22 in Iowa!

What is still to come

Last week, Monica and I made a life-changing decision: We accepted Trinity CRCthe call we received from Trinity Christian Reformed Church in Rock Valley, Iowa, for me to become their new worship pastor.  In addition to preaching and working with gifted leaders in crafting worship services, I also get to assist the really cool shepherding and ministry pastors with visiting and teaching.  Pending the successful completion of immigration paperwork, we hope to arrive there this summer.

Such a flood of thoughts and feelings has washed over us through this process!  We are sad about uprooting and saying ‘good bye’ to the church family we love here in Telkwa.  On the other hand, our excitement to see what God has in store for us at Trinity grows steadily as we’re already being blessed by new friendships.  We are thankful to God for 7½ good years of life and work in Telkwa.  We are also humbled and honoured (“honored,” actually!) by the warmth with which we’ve been embraced by the people of Rock Valley.

A meaningful song our family rediscovered as we find ourselves at this crossroads is “Lead Us, Lord” by Brian Doerksen.  We look back and “recall the blessing and the pain” as “we turn our hearts towards what is still to come.”  We invite the people of Telkwa and of Rock Valley to once again say to our loving Lord: “Lead us.”  …No matter where He brings us.