Keeping Time with Jesus: Chronos, Kairos and the Second Coming – Part 6

http://theworldofmore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/world-of-more-time.jpegIf the primary way of being ready for Jesus is to be known by Him, what does that mean for all the commands to work for the Kingdom, to do good things for God?

All of these flow from relationship.  They are not hurdles to jump through before God will love us.  They are an overflow of being loved, a natural response to knowing who God really is.  This is what we see in the second story from Matthew 25 – the story of the talents.

Again, in order to teach his disciples how to be ready for His return, Jesus told them a story about a master and three servants.  The master went away, but before he did he gave one servant 5 talents, another 2 talents, and another 1 talent.  A talent was a large sum of money and the master asked them to look after this for Him until He returned.

http://jeramiesweet.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Buried-Talents.jpgNow, the first two servants both invested their money and put it to use, and doubled it.  The servant with only one talent hid his in the ground.  When the master returned he called his servants to account.  The first two he was incredibly pleased with.  He said to them ‘Well done good and faithful servant!’ and he gave them 10 cities and 4 cities to look after in return.  The last servant told him that he hid the money and did nothing with it because he knew that his master was a harsh man who ‘reaped where he did not sow’.  The master was angry and threw this servant out giving his talent to the servant who had 10.

What is this all about?

At first glance it can seem that the master really is harsh.  He didn’t give equal amounts to the servants and he gave them different rewards, not to mention throwing the one who had the least out!

Yet a closer look, and understanding the parable of the bridesmaids before, tells us the real issue.  The excuse of the final servant points us to the critical issue the master was looking for.  The value of the servants’ actions wasn’t in how much money they made, but on whether they reflected a right understanding of who He was.  Did His servants know Him?

The servant who hid everything did so because he saw his master as harsh, unjust, not to be trusted.  His one desire was to not upset him.  He took no risks thinking that any mistake would earn punishment, as if that is all the master was interested in.

Truth be told we can often view God like that.  He is the headmaster and waiting for the second coming is like sitting outside his office not knowing when we’ll be called in.  If only we can keep our noses clean and our socks pulled up then we’ll be alright.  If I can think good thoughts and be a nice person without messing up too much, then I’ll be fine.  We completely miss His true character and in doing so we miss who we were really made to be.

Yet the truth is so much better.  Those other servants understood who their master was.  He was a Giver of good gifts, generous, willing to trust, and possessing abundant resources.  If he could spare that kind of money for them to deal with as they pleased, how much more must he have had?

For them to take such great risks of investing everything the master had given them, holding nothing back, they must have known something about his character.  They must have had confidence that, no matter what mistakes they made or how much they lost, He would still love them, trust them, and be able to provide for them.  Knowing this, they gave everything they had.

Our God is not a harsh master looking for a reason to punish us.  He is a bridegroom who loves us and is coming to marry us, to bring us into a feast, to bring us into unbroken relationship with Him.  He calls us ‘good and faithful’.  That is all He longs for from us: that we would recognise His goodness, abundance and love enough to entrust all of ourselves to Him.  Like those talents, everything we have, our very lives, are gifts from Him.  He has more than enough, His heart is to reward our simple faithfulness extravagantly (a city for every talent!), all He wants to see is: do we know Him?  If we do, then we’ll live like it.

Our life right now is often one of chronos.  We’re called to work and to wait.  We get glimpses of encounters with God and seeing Him move.  Every time we do it reminds us of who He is, of His character, His goodness, His love.  It prepares us, excites us, reminds us to be ready for when He finally comes again.  We get ready by keeping our lamps filled with oil.  Even our chronos – our work time – is spent in relationship with Him through the Spirit – our work is to keep connected to Him – to be with Him every moment.  When we know Him we see the gifts He’s given us and we’ll throw our whole selves into living for Him.  In that place we’ll live the lives He’s made us for – lives of working and waiting yes, but also lives of abundance, of expectation, of seeing Him move, of knowing Him.

Take heart my friends.  We’re not called to achieve for God but to be faithful to Him; not to earn His love, but to receive it and live from that place of relationship. 

The ultimate kairos moment is coming: our lover is coming back – our we ready? Do we know Him?

Keeping Time with Jesus: Chronos, Kairos and the Second Coming – Part 4

http://theworldofmore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/world-of-more-time.jpegWhat happens when Jesus comes back?

First, there will be a judgement. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12 or Revelation 20:11-15.

The Revelation passage gives an image I find incredibly valuable.  Here John speaks of Jesus on his throne with many books that record the entirety of our lives.  We will be judged on what is in our book – every thought, action and word.  Yet he has another book: the Book of Life.  Anyone who has accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour has their name written in this book.  Anyone with their name in this book will pass through into life with God, anyone without will go into ‘the second death, the lake of fire’ (v14).

Jesus used similar images of separating sheep and goats or wheat and weeds.  There will be a judgement and those who know Jesus will be with Him forever in life, those who do not will pass into Hell.

Now, a brief word is needed here.  In our modern enlightened age we hate talking about judgement, heaven and hell. It makes us uncomfortable.  Firstly, it should.  Even God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell.  If we share even an iota of His compassion then we shouldn’t find it an easy concept!

But we often wonder whether a loving and just God is compatible with the notion of hell.  Here’s the thing.  Sin is not a problem that can be controlled, it has to be removed permanently – destroyed.  Just look at how peacekeeping missions exacerbate terrorism or corporeal punishment accentuates criminality and you get a sense of how sin cannot be controlled.  More than that, justice requires that misdeeds are punished – our own consciences reflect that truth.

God is fully just and has acted to fully deal with sin.  Yet because he is also fully loving He came as Jesus, took all our sin on Himself, and died in our place.  Jesus took our punishment so that we don’t have to.  Moreover, because God made us for genuine love, He gave us free will – forced love is not love.  We have a choice: we can accept the free gift of what Jesus has done for us and so live in relationship with Him, or we can not.  Hell is God’s honouring the choice we make in this life in the next.  As is heaven.  And here it gets good….

http://secondcomingherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/rapture.jpgSecond, when Jesus comes there will be a new heaven and a new earthRevelation 21.

People often talk about ‘going to heaven’.  It is far more like heaven comes to us.  ‘Heaven’, as understood in the Bible, is the spiritual realm where God lives.  It interacts with the natural world even though we can’t see it.  It’s like there is a veil between us and heaven.

Yet John describes in Revelation how the New Jerusalem (an image of heaven) will come down and be on the earth.  There will be no need for Sun or stars because God himself will be our light.  In other words, when Jesus returns, all creation – heaven and earth – will be made new.  All the mess, rubbish, decay and sin will be removed and there will  be a new unity between spiritual and natural – between heaven and earth.  We will live with God face to face.

This is no airy fairy playing harps on clouds.  This will be a creation like the original but perfect, not marred.  We’ll continue with creativity, exploration, discovery, relationship and above all worship and unity with God.  This will be life in all it’s fullness, this will be the ultimate kairos moment. 

This is the hope that stirred the early Church even in the midst of persecution.  It is the hope Jesus proclaimed and called us to stand on.  It is the hope we need to keep our eyes fixed on every moment.

Just as we get the odd day of sunshine before the summer really kicks in, the kairos moments we experience now are like foreshadows of that great day that is to come.  We don’t know when, but we know it will.  We work and wait, paddling to where the wave should break, ready for when it comes.

But how do we get ready?  That is the question for next time, but for now go and read Revelation 21.  Remind yourself of the hope we have.  Check out what I’ve been saying.  Ask me questions and study for yourself.  There is nothing more important to understand.

Death – a poem

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Zv3AyaO7DNc/UTt-aeaowaI/AAAAAAAAWEI/PZdtVjHmo7w/s1600/doorway.jpg

A doorway, or a thief?

Pain or relief?

At last.Farewell.

Above, beneath.

See you later,

Finality.

Gratitude.

Grief.

Endless descriptions, yet one truth is needed:

That oppressive sovereignty, once firm, has been ceded.

For when Jesus Christ rose, death was defeated.

Our hearts feel the pain of this temporary separation,

but Spirit brings comfort of guaranteed celebration.

For those who know him, by Christ are well known,

and presented to Father at the glorious throne.

Death is defeated, life is assured,

Love won the victory,

‘Welcome’ the final word.

Asking Questions

Question MarkI remember during theological college being told over and over again about the importance of asking questions.  It is the central component of any genuine listening, it is core to forming authentic relationships, it is a key avenue for finding out how you can genuinely help or love anyone.  Questions, I was told, are important.  I agree.

I’m an extrovert by nature and I talk a lot (those who know me will verify!).  Learning to ask questions has, for me, meant learning to not jump to assumptions about what people are saying and to hold back on my responses until I’ve given them plenty of time to speak.  It has meant learning to own up to my ignorance or confusion about things people are saying so that I actually find the truth, rather than pretending to know what they’re talking about.  It has meant learning patience, humility and love.  These lessons have been learnt the most thoroughly, and led to the greatest benefit, in my most intimate relationships.  Right up there among them being my marriage.  Asking questions and (very importantly!) waiting to answers, even ones I don’t like, has deepened my relationships across the board.

So, what about in our most important relationship, the relationship that (for those who believe at least) defines all the others?  What about in our relationship with God?  Do we ask Him questions?  Do we wait for answers?

It was maybe 8 years ago that I remember first being struck by the idea that I could actually ask God questions and He might answer.  I’m not just talking about musing to myself over theological concepts or conundrums of life, but asking specific questions about everything from ‘who have you made me to be?’ to ‘what do you think about this person?’ to ‘what can I do to bless you today?’ or ‘what are you up to in this place today?’  If God is a distant being known only through words on a page then any questions we have we need to deal with amongst ourselves.  But if God is our Father who relates to us even so intimately as filling us with His Spirit – His very presence – then we’re in a two-way relationship and communication is open.  For me, this radically changed my faith.  A new life came into it along with a joy and dynamism because it no longer became simply about following precepts in a book, but about being aware every moment of the presence of my Father with me, speaking, loving and moving.

So why did it take so long?  I think because, probably like many others, I wondered whether God could really actually speak to me.  Would he?  How would I know if he did?  Understanding a few key things helped me with all this….

1. Jesus told us He would speak.  John 10:27: “My sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me.”  If you’re a sheep you can hear.  From the first

Logo for the excellent pre-school at St Mary’s, Loughton

Word at creation through to Jesus answering his disciples’ questions away from the crowds, the Bible is full of God coming and speaking to His people.  Jesus’ promise was that if we’re a sheep we would hear – we can listen, be known (in relationship) and follow.  Not only can we hear God, but we can know that it is Him.

2. How do we know?  A major question for me was ‘How do I know it is not just me?  It feels too natural.’  Sometimes we’re waiting for a bolt out of the blue, an audible voice or writing in the sky.  Yet if we’re made for relationship with God then we are designed to hear His voice – it is natural.  God often speaks to me with words and phrases that pop in my mind because I’m a words person.  I know others who hear God through pictures because they think pictorially.  The imagination God has given us is a huge means by which He speaks and often it will seem like the most natural thing in the world.  So we don’t discount it from the outset….but how do we know?

3. Community, obedience and intimacy.  Not an exhaustive list, but three key parts of discerning God’s voice.  Intimacy – like any person, the better you know them the better you know their voice.  You get to know them by spending time with them and listening to them.  Give time to being with God, waiting for Him to speak, getting to know His character, what He’s like.  Obedience – listen and do it.  I learnt to recognise God’s voice as I began to try and follow it.  I made a choice to stop waiting until all my doubt was removed and what He may have said sufficiently analysed before acting on it – I began to act.  As I followed gentle promptings I began to discern more easily what was me and what was Him – it becomes fairly obvious as you walk it out!  Community – we don’t walk alone.  Talk to others who know Him well – ask them how they hear God speak – ask them to weigh up with you what you believe God is saying.  Look to Scripture.  The Bible is written by our community – God will say nothing that contradicts Scripture, though He may speak about things not explicitly in there (like who to marry, where to work, etc).

So, what do you think? Does God speak today?  Ask me any questions, let me know any thoughts, tell me how God speaks to you and what this means for you….I’d love to hear, so why not leave a comment or answer the poll and continue the conversation?