“The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know” (Acts 1:7, NLT).
Having lived in Southern California for 26 years, I have experienced a few earthquakes, some small and some big, including the Northridge quake which really shook us up. After each one, it seems we’re reminded the Big One could happen at any time—the big earthquake that will wreak havoc all across this part of the state. We’re given tips for being ready and lists of items to have on hand to be prepared. We carry on normally but it’s always in the back of our minds.
The return of Christ could be called the Really Big One. Many have obsessed about it, setting dates, selling their possessions to prepare for it and persuading others to do the same. As with several topics in the Bible, there are at least four views on when it will happen (or when it already happened). The Bible isn’t crystal clear about his return, for a reason. God, who lives outside of time and space, is the Timekeeper here on earth and he is the only one who knows. We can trust him in this and be prepared for whatever happens by holding on to our faith as the Holy Spirit helps and strengthens us. And then we can rest in Christ, knowing the Timekeeper has it all under control.
“But when the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) comes, Whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth Who comes (proceeds) from the Father, He [Himself] will testify regarding Me” (John 15:26, AMP).
Jesus’ life on earth was a short one. Only a few people saw him, touched him and got to know him. As he prepared his disciples for his death, he told them the Holy Spirit would come, not to take his place, but to be the Paraclete who is “called to one’s side.” He knew they would feel deserted and alone and would need a lot of help. The Holy Spirit was to “make vital and actual Christ’s spiritual presence” (bibleencyclopedia.com).
Because we can’t experience Jesus’ physical presence, we sometimes have difficulty understanding, relating, even believing (“I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24). God as the Paraclete is the one who makes Jesus known to us, helps us come to the truth about him and is always by our side, ministering to us as we make our way through the maze of our lives. He is our Helper, but this designation and all other words used to describe what he does are inadequate as he does so much more than we know. He truly is our everything!
“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3b, NLT).
With all the billions of people in the world, we sometimes feel we’re one among many, a number or a statistic. Everything seems impersonal and we can feel lost in the crowd, so when someone takes the time to remember our name, the world becomes more friendly. After needing both tires replaced and several adjustments, the guy at the bike repair shop knows my name. I wouldn’t expect him to remember it, but it’s nice that he does. Being on a first name basis with people makes doing business more pleasant and helps build a relationship.
Jesus knows each of us by name, knows us intimately and cares about every detail of our lives. We don’t have to worry he’ll one day look at us and say, now what was your name again? No matter how bad a day you’ve had or how impersonally you’ve been treated, you can always trust Jesus to treat you as a loved friend—because you are!
“I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!” (John 8:58, NLT).
If you’re on Facebook, you know they made everyone switch to a format called timeline. I don’t like it, but I guess since human beings live on a timeline, the Facebook people thought it was appropriate. We have a starting point and an ending point, and everything in between is what makes a life.
When Jesus told the Jews he knew Abraham, they thought he was crazy. And then when he called himself “I AM” just as God had done in Moses’ day, they got mad. They could see he was a man the same as them and to put himself on the same level as God was just too much. But Jesus doesn’t have a timeline. He really did know Abraham. He wasn’t just a man—he was God and was with God (John 1). And he still is! He is the glorified man who returned to the Father, who is now with God and is still God. As the great I AM, he is the only one who can fix our timeline so it doesn’t have to end.
“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’ So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last” (Matthew 20:13-16, NLT).
For societies to run well, a system of law and punishment for breaking those laws must be in place. It’s normal and expected to pay the consequences although people do what they can to get away with anything and everything. On the flip side, we seem to have a problem when we perceive someone receives more benefits than we think they deserve. How fickle and childish we can be!
When the workers who arrived early to work in the vineyard saw the owner give the latecomers the same wage, they protested, saying it wasn’t fair they worked all day in the hot sun for the same amount as those who worked for only a short time. Our idea of fairness is most often me-centered, not other-centered, which is why his idea of fairness can seem so foreign to us. God is free to lavish his love and grace upon anyone he chooses. And who are we to protest? As undeserving recipients, we can only be thankful he isn’t like us.
“So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9, NLT).
God gave the Sabbath to Israel as a sign to show them and the world they were his chosen people. I spent many years trying to keep the Sabbath. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of it, but over time realized several things: I didn’t really know how, I couldn’t do it perfectly and something seemed to be missing. I did everything we were supposed to do—stop working, read the Bible, pray, go to church—but after all that, I was still relieved when it was over. In reality it was more work than rest.
It turns out something was missing. Just as with everything else in the Old Testament, the Sabbath pointed to Jesus. He is our special rest and our Sabbath, the sign of the New Covenant. He is the one in whom we daily rest—in his grace, mercy and love. Everyone who believes in him has their rest now and will continue in it forever. In his generosity, all of humanity is invited into his rest, included in his plan and can enjoy the peace and comfort of his blanket of mercy. Jesus is the true rest, with no worries and no rules, just him.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT).
On a TV game show called The Weakest Link, contestants had to quickly answer trivia questions in a round robin setting. At the end of each round, the one the other players felt was the weakest link got voted out. Sometimes those who answered the questions correctly were eliminated to give the others a better chance. It was fast and high pressure and there was no mercy for those who couldn’t think on their feet.
Sometimes Christians are considered the weak links by those who believe God is just a crutch. Perhaps that’s true as 1 Corinthians 1:27 says God chose the weak, despised and powerless things to show the weakness of everyone. All of humanity lives in weakness and fear, but God’s spirit gives us his power, his love and his self-discipline or calm and well balanced mind (Amplified). Christians don’t use God as a crutch, but do rely on his power and love, trusting that not even the weakest will be eliminated from his loving embrace.