Yesterday, Today…Forever

Keith McFarren

November 22, 2020

Revelation 1: 4-8


 


     I want to read to you this morning from Genesis 5: 21-27.


“When Enoch was 65 years old, his son Methuselah was born.  After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived another 300 years in close fellowship with God, and he had other sons and daughters.  Enoch lived 365 years in all and enjoyed a close relationship with God throughout his life.  Then suddenly, he disappeared because God took him.  When Methuselah was 187 years old, his son Lamech was born.  After the birth of Lamech, Methuselah lived another 782 years and he had other sons and daughters.  He died at the age of 969.”


     Talk about some people that had some good genes in their family! 


Enoch lived 365 years…365 years.  But that’s nothing compared to his son Methuselah.  Methuselah lived to be 969 years old; the oldest person ever recorded in the bible.  He was quite a man – a “stud” we might call him today…fathered a child at 187…and then lived another 782 years.  Imagine the patience this man must have had?  Almost 200 years old and still changing diapers…almost 200 years old with kids running around the house?  I wonder how he would have fared if he had to stay at home in today’s world and struggle with keeping a job and trying educate his kids through virtual learning or e-learning?


    


     No one seems to know why people lived so long back then. 


  • Some scholars think it was because the human race was more “genetically pure,” that there was less disease around to shorten one’s life.

  • Others believe that God allowed people to live longer so that they could multiply and fill the earth as he told them to do back in Genesis 1:28.

         But as time went on people began to live much shorter lives.  I read somewhere that the average life span for someone back in New Testament times was about 27 years so any time anyone lived to be 30 or more it was looked upon as a real gift or a real blessing from God. 

         So, we’ve gone from living hundreds and hundreds of years in the Old Testament, to not living so long in the New Testament and now, in modern times, with all of the continual medical breakthroughs we’re trying to work our way back to living longer again.

     

         It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday and in another month Christmas will be here.  With all that’s been going on in the world, between the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus and all the political turmoil caused by the elections, it just doesn’t seem possible that the holiday season is right around the corner. 

         Time seems to go so quickly.  But that’s part of life, I think.  It was James who wrote, “Life is like the morning fog.  It’s here for just a little while, and then it’s gone.”  What I’ve learned as I get older is that yes, time does go quickly – the clock never stops spinning.  It always has and it always will…and you and I are only along for the ride.

          Life is a generational process.  It’s a replacement process.  It’s like the changing of the guard.  Your generation is here for a while…and then it’s gone.  And then my generation is here for a while…and we’ll be gone.  And then my children and then my grandchildren and on and on…one generation after another.


     While time does go quickly and while each generation comes and goes…one continually replacing another, one thing remains constant…one thing never changes…one thing remains timeless…and that is God – “the Alpha and the Omega…the one who is…the one who was…and the one who is to come.”


     The salutation or the beginning of John’s letter in the first chapter of Revelation points out that it was written specifically to the seven churches in the Roman province of Asia.  But what I want you to notice is that the number “seven” has a special meaning.  The number “seven” was thought of as a very special number because “seven” symbolized completeness or perfection…all of which points back to when “God created the heavens and the earth in six days, and, upon completion, God rested on the seventh day.” 


     So, the seven particular churches being addressed in John’s letter, are actually meant to be representative of all of God’s churches not only throughout all time but throughout the world as well.


     But more importantly, the salutation of the letter stresses the “grace” and the “peace” that comes from God and is used to remind us of the favor and of the acceptance that God has extended to anyone who believes in him.  Because of God’s grace, all people everywhere and all people forever, can enjoy peace – peace with God and the peace of God which comes to us through Jesus Christ (Bruce M. Metzler, Breaking the Code; Understanding the Book of Revelation, Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1993, 22, 23).


     God is timeless, and yet he’s related to every single moment in time…to everything we’ve ever done or to anything we’ll ever do…be it the past…the present…or the future…that is where we’ll find God. 


     From the very beginning of time…from the time God created the earth…to the very end of time…John’s vision in the Book of Revelation shows us that no matter what happens here on earth…God is ultimately in control and despite all that goes on in the world and in our lives, God will ultimately win the battle of good versus evil.


     The God of the past, the God that “was” begins way back; even before, “God created the heavens and the earth.”  The truth about God begins when, “The earth was empty; a formless mass cloaked in darkness.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface” Genesis 1:2, NLT).


     Did he need to create the universe?  Certainly not.  But because God is love and love is always best expressed towards someone else…he created the world and all its people for no other reason than to express his love for all of mankind.


     We find the truth of God’s love in the Old Testament and we can read about it in the New Testament…and we can see his mighty acts of truth and love through his Son, Jesus.  But we know also that this same God, the God who created the world, the God who has watched generation after generation come and go, the God who said, “I am the Alpha, I am the beginning,” is still the same God.  He was the same God then…and he’s the same God now.


 


     Our God, the God who created the heavens and the earth, the God who sent his son Jesus to show us how to live, is not only a God of the past…but he is also a God of the future.  He is not only the “Alpha,” which is the first letter in the Greek alphabet, but he is also “Omega,” the last letter in the Greek alphabet as well.  No matter how far into the future we look, a week, a month, a year, 10,000 years…and no matter what’s going on in our lives at any particular point in time, we will find God.  And here’s the neat part, especially when it comes to the times we’re living in now.  Where we find God…we will find hope and encouragement.  Where we find God… we will find grace and compassion.  Where we find God, we will see a light in the darkness that surrounds us.


     We can’t predict the future.  We don’t know what’s out there waiting for us.  But if we believe that God is there waiting for us, then we really don’t need to be too overly concerned about anything else.  Because if God is with us, and there is hope, then we can handle anything that comes our way.


     That’s why Paul wrote that “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).


     The Alpha and the Omega.  The first letter in the Greek alphabet and the last letter in the Greek alphabet.  To say that God is the Alpha and the Omega is to affirm total completeness…from beginning…to end…and everything in between.


     So, if God says he was with us from the beginning of time and that he will be with us to the end of time…don’t you think that he would be with us “in between” time too?  If God was…and God will be…do you believe that God “is?”


     God is.  If God promises to be with us in the beginning and he promises to be with us in the end – then my faith also tells me that God is also with me in the present time as well.       


     This will probably be the strangest Thanksgiving many of us will have ever see.  It’s going to be different for Karen and I and it may be different for you as well…and then again, maybe not.  As you sit down for Thanksgiving Dinner this coming Thursday, if you even have a meal at all, there may not be as many people in your family gathering as they have in the past…and then again, there may be, and that’s okay.   


     But no matter what goes on this Thanksgiving, I’d like for you to take a moment and look around the room and then take a moment and think about where you’re at.  You might be alone.  You might be among 20-30 people.  It might be raining or it might be snowing and the temperature may be freezing outside…but you are safe and secure in a nice warm room, out of harm’s way.


     With that in mind I’d like to read an article called “Thanksgiving in America” by May Lowe that was published in a book called “Thanksgiving.”    


     We remember the Pilgrims' journey that had begun so full of hope for a new life of religious freedom.  They landed at Plymouth Rock on December 21, 1620, not the best time of year in Massachusetts. Until such time as they could build houses and establish themselves on the land, they made their home on board the Mayflower, the vessel in which they had sailed.  The men went ashore every morning to work, returning to the little ship at night.  They built a "common house" to which the sick and dying were transferred, and placed four small cannons in a fort which they built on a hill close by.  They built two rows of houses with a wide street between and built stores and filled them with provisions. Then the whole company came ashore toward the last of March, and in April the Mayflower sailed away.       The ensuing winter was hard and bitter. At one time all but six or seven of the pilgrims were sick. Eighteen women denied themselves food so that their children could eat. Thirteen of the women died. Half of the 102 pilgrims died of malnourishment, disease, and exposure. Only about 30 of those who survived were over the age of 16.  Those who died were buried in unmarked graves because the pilgrims did not want the natives to know how small their numbers had become.


     In the spring they planted three crops; English Peas, Barley, and Indian Corn.  But only the corn survived. Of course, not the corn we are used to with big, plump yellow kernels; this was "Indian Corn" with ears only two to three inches long and kernels of different colors. The pilgrims harvested only twenty acres. And to top it all off, a second shipload of thirty-five settlers arrived without any provisions at all because they expected to live off the crops the first settlers had raised. By the end of their second winter in Plymouth, food had to be rationed again: five kernels of corn for each person per day.


     A hard life. In fact, some proposed a Day of Mourning to honor all those who had perished. But the others said no, a Day of Thanksgiving would be more appropriate.  After all, even though half the people had died, half of them were still alive.  A good reason to give thanks to the God who had seen the Pilgrims through their difficult times.  The God of the past and the God of the future became the God of the present and never abandoned them.        My hope this morning is that you may believe that “God is.”  That God is with us.  That God is present.  May you realize that the God who was with the Pilgrims’ almost 400 years ago is the same God who is with us now…in a world that is changing so fast.  Despite the COVID pandemic, despite the politics, despite the racial tension, despite all the hunger and homelessness…despite all of our own personal problems whatever they may be…God is still with us, he has not left us behind.


     God was…God is…and God will be.  God is with us today.


     He is the Alpha and the Omega…the beginning and the end…and everything in between…and for that we need to give thanks.  


Yesterday, Today…Forever

Keith McFarren

November 22, 2020

Revelation 1: 4-8


 


     I want to read to you this morning from Genesis 5: 21-27.


“When Enoch was 65 years old, his son Methuselah was born.  After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived another 300 years in close fellowship with God, and he had other sons and daughters.  Enoch lived 365 years in all and enjoyed a close relationship with God throughout his life.  Then suddenly, he disappeared because God took him.  When Methuselah was 187 years old, his son Lamech was born.  After the birth of Lamech, Methuselah lived another 782 years and he had other sons and daughters.  He died at the age of 969.”


     Talk about some people that had some good genes in their family! 


Enoch lived 365 years…365 years.  But that’s nothing compared to his son Methuselah.  Methuselah lived to be 969 years old; the oldest person ever recorded in the bible.  He was quite a man – a “stud” we might call him today…fathered a child at 187…and then lived another 782 years.  Imagine the patience this man must have had?  Almost 200 years old and still changing diapers…almost 200 years old with kids running around the house?  I wonder how he would have fared if he had to stay at home in today’s world and struggle with keeping a job and trying educate his kids through virtual learning or e-learning?


    


     No one seems to know why people lived so long back then. 


  • Some scholars think it was because the human race was more “genetically pure,” that there was less disease around to shorten one’s life.

  • Others believe that God allowed people to live longer so that they could multiply and fill the earth as he told them to do back in Genesis 1:28.

         But as time went on people began to live much shorter lives.  I read somewhere that the average life span for someone back in New Testament times was about 27 years so any time anyone lived to be 30 or more it was looked upon as a real gift or a real blessing from God. 

         So, we’ve gone from living hundreds and hundreds of years in the Old Testament, to not living so long in the New Testament and now, in modern times, with all of the continual medical breakthroughs we’re trying to work our way back to living longer again.

     

         It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday and in another month Christmas will be here.  With all that’s been going on in the world, between the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus and all the political turmoil caused by the elections, it just doesn’t seem possible that the holiday season is right around the corner. 

         Time seems to go so quickly.  But that’s part of life, I think.  It was James who wrote, “Life is like the morning fog.  It’s here for just a little while, and then it’s gone.”  What I’ve learned as I get older is that yes, time does go quickly – the clock never stops spinning.  It always has and it always will…and you and I are only along for the ride.

          Life is a generational process.  It’s a replacement process.  It’s like the changing of the guard.  Your generation is here for a while…and then it’s gone.  And then my generation is here for a while…and we’ll be gone.  And then my children and then my grandchildren and on and on…one generation after another.


     While time does go quickly and while each generation comes and goes…one continually replacing another, one thing remains constant…one thing never changes…one thing remains timeless…and that is God – “the Alpha and the Omega…the one who is…the one who was…and the one who is to come.”


     The salutation or the beginning of John’s letter in the first chapter of Revelation points out that it was written specifically to the seven churches in the Roman province of Asia.  But what I want you to notice is that the number “seven” has a special meaning.  The number “seven” was thought of as a very special number because “seven” symbolized completeness or perfection…all of which points back to when “God created the heavens and the earth in six days, and, upon completion, God rested on the seventh day.” 


     So, the seven particular churches being addressed in John’s letter, are actually meant to be representative of all of God’s churches not only throughout all time but throughout the world as well.


     But more importantly, the salutation of the letter stresses the “grace” and the “peace” that comes from God and is used to remind us of the favor and of the acceptance that God has extended to anyone who believes in him.  Because of God’s grace, all people everywhere and all people forever, can enjoy peace – peace with God and the peace of God which comes to us through Jesus Christ (Bruce M. Metzler, Breaking the Code; Understanding the Book of Revelation, Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1993, 22, 23).


     God is timeless, and yet he’s related to every single moment in time…to everything we’ve ever done or to anything we’ll ever do…be it the past…the present…or the future…that is where we’ll find God. 


     From the very beginning of time…from the time God created the earth…to the very end of time…John’s vision in the Book of Revelation shows us that no matter what happens here on earth…God is ultimately in control and despite all that goes on in the world and in our lives, God will ultimately win the battle of good versus evil.


     The God of the past, the God that “was” begins way back; even before, “God created the heavens and the earth.”  The truth about God begins when, “The earth was empty; a formless mass cloaked in darkness.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface” Genesis 1:2, NLT).


     Did he need to create the universe?  Certainly not.  But because God is love and love is always best expressed towards someone else…he created the world and all its people for no other reason than to express his love for all of mankind.


     We find the truth of God’s love in the Old Testament and we can read about it in the New Testament…and we can see his mighty acts of truth and love through his Son, Jesus.  But we know also that this same God, the God who created the world, the God who has watched generation after generation come and go, the God who said, “I am the Alpha, I am the beginning,” is still the same God.  He was the same God then…and he’s the same God now.


 


     Our God, the God who created the heavens and the earth, the God who sent his son Jesus to show us how to live, is not only a God of the past…but he is also a God of the future.  He is not only the “Alpha,” which is the first letter in the Greek alphabet, but he is also “Omega,” the last letter in the Greek alphabet as well.  No matter how far into the future we look, a week, a month, a year, 10,000 years…and no matter what’s going on in our lives at any particular point in time, we will find God.  And here’s the neat part, especially when it comes to the times we’re living in now.  Where we find God…we will find hope and encouragement.  Where we find God… we will find grace and compassion.  Where we find God, we will see a light in the darkness that surrounds us.


     We can’t predict the future.  We don’t know what’s out there waiting for us.  But if we believe that God is there waiting for us, then we really don’t need to be too overly concerned about anything else.  Because if God is with us, and there is hope, then we can handle anything that comes our way.


     That’s why Paul wrote that “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).


     The Alpha and the Omega.  The first letter in the Greek alphabet and the last letter in the Greek alphabet.  To say that God is the Alpha and the Omega is to affirm total completeness…from beginning…to end…and everything in between.


     So, if God says he was with us from the beginning of time and that he will be with us to the end of time…don’t you think that he would be with us “in between” time too?  If God was…and God will be…do you believe that God “is?”


     God is.  If God promises to be with us in the beginning and he promises to be with us in the end – then my faith also tells me that God is also with me in the present time as well.       


     This will probably be the strangest Thanksgiving many of us will have ever see.  It’s going to be different for Karen and I and it may be different for you as well…and then again, maybe not.  As you sit down for Thanksgiving Dinner this coming Thursday, if you even have a meal at all, there may not be as many people in your family gathering as they have in the past…and then again, there may be, and that’s okay.   


     But no matter what goes on this Thanksgiving, I’d like for you to take a moment and look around the room and then take a moment and think about where you’re at.  You might be alone.  You might be among 20-30 people.  It might be raining or it might be snowing and the temperature may be freezing outside…but you are safe and secure in a nice warm room, out of harm’s way.


     With that in mind I’d like to read an article called “Thanksgiving in America” by May Lowe that was published in a book called “Thanksgiving.”    


     We remember the Pilgrims' journey that had begun so full of hope for a new life of religious freedom.  They landed at Plymouth Rock on December 21, 1620, not the best time of year in Massachusetts. Until such time as they could build houses and establish themselves on the land, they made their home on board the Mayflower, the vessel in which they had sailed.  The men went ashore every morning to work, returning to the little ship at night.  They built a "common house" to which the sick and dying were transferred, and placed four small cannons in a fort which they built on a hill close by.  They built two rows of houses with a wide street between and built stores and filled them with provisions. Then the whole company came ashore toward the last of March, and in April the Mayflower sailed away.       The ensuing winter was hard and bitter. At one time all but six or seven of the pilgrims were sick. Eighteen women denied themselves food so that their children could eat. Thirteen of the women died. Half of the 102 pilgrims died of malnourishment, disease, and exposure. Only about 30 of those who survived were over the age of 16.  Those who died were buried in unmarked graves because the pilgrims did not want the natives to know how small their numbers had become.


     In the spring they planted three crops; English Peas, Barley, and Indian Corn.  But only the corn survived. Of course, not the corn we are used to with big, plump yellow kernels; this was "Indian Corn" with ears only two to three inches long and kernels of different colors. The pilgrims harvested only twenty acres. And to top it all off, a second shipload of thirty-five settlers arrived without any provisions at all because they expected to live off the crops the first settlers had raised. By the end of their second winter in Plymouth, food had to be rationed again: five kernels of corn for each person per day.


     A hard life. In fact, some proposed a Day of Mourning to honor all those who had perished. But the others said no, a Day of Thanksgiving would be more appropriate.  After all, even though half the people had died, half of them were still alive.  A good reason to give thanks to the God who had seen the Pilgrims through their difficult times.  The God of the past and the God of the future became the God of the present and never abandoned them.        My hope this morning is that you may believe that “God is.”  That God is with us.  That God is present.  May you realize that the God who was with the Pilgrims’ almost 400 years ago is the same God who is with us now…in a world that is changing so fast.  Despite the COVID pandemic, despite the politics, despite the racial tension, despite all the hunger and homelessness…despite all of our own personal problems whatever they may be…God is still with us, he has not left us behind.


     God was…God is…and God will be.  God is with us today.


     He is the Alpha and the Omega…the beginning and the end…and everything in between…and for that we need to give thanks.