“Longing For the Past”
Hello and welcome to "Key to the Kingdom." My name is Bret McCasland. Do you ever long for the way things used to be? Or, maybe you wish to go back to simpler times when life was not so complicated or confusing. Or, perhaps, you long for a world where there is peace, justice and morality, like it seemed to be in the past. Yes, we might even say we long for the "good old days." In today's lesson on "Key to the Kingdom," we will notice that God continues to work in His world, just as He has always done. Oh, it may not be as dramatic as it was in Bible times, but God has never stopped working. That is some good news for us. Whether we realize it or not, God is at work in our lives. He has always been and He always will be. I invite you to open your heart and your Bible as we study the lesson entitled "Longing For the Past."
While growing up, I had the opportunity to attend Bible school at our local church. And that was very important, not only for me but for our entire family. We would go each and every Sunday to our church and we would go to Bible class, or Sunday school, and then take part in the worship assembly. There, we were able to fellowship with other believers. We were able to learn more about the Lord and our relationship with Him. And, all of those times were very important, meaningful and significant to all of our family members. And while I was there, I remember my Sunday school teachers sharing with me the stories of the Bible. Oh, those stories made a lasting impression upon me. And I would sit and listen with great interest to the stories about God working in the past, working in people's lives, working throughout the course of history in order to accomplish His will and His purposes. I think about the story that we find in the book of Genesis, in the Old Testament, about God becoming very upset because of the sin and rebellion of all of the people. And so, He decided to destroy everything He had created with a flood of water. Noah and his family were saved in that ark of safety, along with the various kinds of animals that were living at that time. And then the water came and wiped out everything. Then, after those floodwaters went down the ark landed on dry ground. The animals got out. Noah and his family got out and continued on with life, under the direction and guidance of the Lord. I also think about the story I remember my Sunday school teacher telling me about Joshua, in Joshua chapter 1, leading the Israelites, God's people, into the Promised Land. They encountered the city of Jericho. Jericho was a walled city, a mighty city with powerful people. But, God instructed the army to march around that city one time every day for six days, and to blow their horns and trumpets; and then, on the seventh day, to march around the city seven times and continue to blow their horns and trumpets. When they did, the walls of that city came crashing down and Joshua and the people went into Jericho and they conquered the city in the name of the Lord. All of that was a result of the power, the majesty of God. I go on to the New Testament: I think about those stories that involve Jesus, the Son of God. In John chapter 6, I'm impressed with the story of Jesus feeding hungry people. Some 5000 men, along with women and children, out in the middle of nowhere, had nothing to eat. And so, Jesus commanded them to sit down on the ground; and then, He took 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish, He offered a prayer to His Father in heaven and He broke that, and the disciples gave it to all of the people, thousands of people, and they all had plenty to eat. There were even 12 baskets of leftovers that were collected at the end. Then, Jesus did that again with some 4000 men plus the women and children, and there we find that He used 7 loaves of bread and just a few small fish. But again, after everyone had their fill, baskets of leftovers were collected. There's another story I remember from my days as a youth. It's found in Luke chapter 8. A man who is possessed by demons approaches Jesus. He is naked. He lives out in the cemeteries, away from everybody else, but he is tired of the demon possession that lives within him. He is worn out. He is frustrated. He longs to be relieved of all of that. And so, Jesus calls those demons out of the man. He casts them into a herd of swine and those pigs run down a steep hill into the lake and they drown. And that man is left there sitting at the feet of Jesus in his right mind, and Jesus tells him to go and to share what has happened to him with other people. Yes, those are fascinating stories that we find in the Bible. And I sometimes wish God would do those same types of things in this world, once again. I sometimes wish to see God's display of power and deliverance. I sometimes wish that He would demonstrate His majesty and control over nature in ways that I could visibly see and be reminded again that God is powerful and almighty. Yes, I want to see God's work carried out in dramatic ways. And, perhaps you do, too. Perhaps, at times, you wonder if God really sees what's happening in this world and you long for Him to show up again and to make a big difference. One of God's prophets named Habakkuk, in the Old Testament, was called upon to prophesy to the people of Judah. And Habakkuk went and he saw the bad condition of what was going on there in the land. The leaders of Judah were oppressing those who were poor and neglected and overlooked. And Habakkuk did not know for sure where to start or what to do and so he has an ongoing dialogue, or discussion, with God; and, that's what makes up the entire book of Habakkuk, in 3 chapters. And God basically tells Habakkuk, "Here's what I'm going to do. I am going to punish My people by using the Babylonians." Oh, that greatly upset Habakkuk because the Babylonians were an evil and rebellious people, far worse than the people of Judah. That did not make sense to Habakkuk. How can You use people who are worse than Your very own to punish Your very own? And God basically tells him, "Just watch what I'm going to do." And, Habakkuk decides to do just that. He waits and he watches the powerful hand of God. And as he does, he makes this statement, according to chapter 3 and verse 2, <"Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy."> Habakkuk, perhaps, had heard the stories of the past, like the flood and Noah, and Joshua and the conquering of Jericho, and other things that God did in very powerful and dramatic ways. And Habakkuk says, "I remember those things. I want you to show up, God, and do those things again, here in the land of Judah and with Your people." Oh, at times we too want God to do something that might seem impossible. We want Him to do things that remind us of what He has done in the past. We want Him to do things that help renew and strengthen our faith in the powerful Lord God Almighty, greater than all other gods in this world. And when we see things that are not right we want the Lord simply to show up. We long for His healing touch on this broken world. We cry out for solutions that we cannot find on our own to the problems that seem too great for us to handle. We seek His tender compassion upon our broken lives and the problems that we experience every day. And when God doesn't answer our cries for help and when it seems that things only get worse instead of better, we might even ask the question, "God, where are You? God, don't You see what's going on in my life? Don't You recognize the pain and the problems with which I have to deal on a regular basis?" And we basically ask what Habakkuk asked, "Aren't You going to show up? Aren't You going to do something that I will see and I will notice that indeed You love me and that You will solve the problems of my life?" Yes, sometimes we indeed wonder where God is, or if He sees our situation, or if He really cares. Oh, God did not forget about His prophet Habakkuk. Indeed, He used the Babylonians to accomplish His purposes by punishing the people of Judah, but then He came back and He punished the Babylonians. They suffered consequences for the sin and rebellion in their life. And God doesn't forget us, either! Oh, He may not work in the ways that we want Him to work, or on the timetable that we think is necessary, but He continually is at work in His world and in our lives. Another prophet, named Isaiah, lets us know that God is going to send someone that will make a difference in this world and a difference in our lives. And these are the words of Isaiah, in chapter 9 verse 2, as he prophesies the coming of God's son, Jesus Christ. <"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned."> Yes, there is coming a day when God will send forth His son Jesus Christ to represent Him. And, indeed, that day has already come as Jesus came into the world to demonstrate the power and the glory of God. Yes, Isaiah foresaw a time when God would send His own Son, and through Him He would remind us that He knows what is happening in this world, and indeed there is no longer any need for us to sit in darkness. There is no longer a need for us to live in the shadow of death because Jesus has come and there is a new life made available to us through Him. Oh today, we don't have to wonder if God will show up. He already has in the form of His Son who brings us out of darkness and into the light. Perhaps a good illustration of Isaiah chapter 9 and verse 2 is found in the gospel of John. In John chapter 11 we find the amazing story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus. They spent time together. They enjoyed each other's company. And, Lazarus had two sisters by the name of Mary and Martha. They lived in a village called Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. And Jesus would go there to escape from the crowds, and to enjoy the fellowship of His friends, and to share some good meals and times together. One day, news came to Jesus that His friend Lazarus was sick, about to die. But Jesus did not do anything and the people asked Him, "Why? Should not we go to help Lazarus or to minister to the family?" And He said, "No, because the glory of God is about to be revealed through His Son." Well a little while later, news came to Jesus again that indeed Lazarus had passed away, he had died. And it was then that He went to Bethany to be with Mary and Martha. And when He arrived, the two sisters confronted Jesus and basically said, "If You had been here, if You had showed up and done something then Lazarus would not be dead today." And Jesus shared these words with Martha, in chapter 11 of John in verse 25, <"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" "Yes, Lord," she told Him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."> Martha realized Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 9, that He is the resurrection and the life and believing in Him provides a resurrection in life for people. Well with that, Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb and he comes out alive, and everybody rejoices and praises the name of God. And then Jesus makes this statement, in verse 40, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" Oh, an empty tomb, some 2000 years ago, broke all the rules. It went against tradition. It went against the culture. An empty tomb was very uncommon. And, it also, perhaps, would contaminate the priest or the people associated with the person who had passed away. Yet, Jesus was not concerned about any of those things. Jesus was concerned about loving people who were hurting. Jesus was concerned about loving Mary and Martha and letting them see the glory of God as their brother was brought back to life. Yes, Jesus showed up because He loved His friends. He showed up in order to demonstrate the compassion and the mercies of God. When I think about that story, I realize that God still does big things in our lives today; that, God's mercy extends to people who are in need of it. He answers prayers of those who passionately cry out to Him for the solutions to the problems in their life. He opens up doors when they appear to be closed. God brings hope to people who seem to think there is no hope anywhere in this world. Yes, God works behind the scenes and in ways that we may never fully know or understand this side of eternity. He does that in order to bring glory to Himself and to bless people. Yes, Jesus shows up in our life when there seems to be no hope, just like He did at Lazarus' tomb. And when Jesus was born into the world, do you remember what the angel announced to those shepherds out in the field? The angel said these words, "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." For the last 2000 years or so, that is what Jesus has done. He brings good news that allows us to have great joy. Yes, Jesus shows up at just the right time, when we need Him the most, and He changes our life. He gives us a new life, He gives us hope, He opens up those doors, and He represents the glory of God. Jesus never stops doing big things in our world and in our lives. Yet the problem is we oftentimes don't see it. Oftentimes, we are so busy with our own lives we don't recognize that God is at work behind the scenes. Sometimes we might think that we understand and know God and so we have a limit as to what He can do in this world. It has been described as putting God into a box. We limit Him and His activities, saying you can go only this far and no farther. Yet, that is not the best approach to take with the Lord because we know that God is all-powerful and almighty and He is able to do amazing things in His world and in our lives. And perhaps we see that when we go to the ocean and we see the vast expanse of water, or when we look up into the starry night and we see the host of stars and we think about and look upon His creation. And we know that if God has done all of those things in the past then certainly He can do something powerful in our lives, still today. When I think about the power of God and what He is able to do, I reflect back on the story of Ezekiel chapter 37. Ezekiel is prophesying to God's people who are living in captivity in Babylon. The people believe that God has forgotten them and there seems to be no hope for their future, but Ezekiel goes to give them that message of hope that God will restore them once again. And part of the process includes God painting a picture for Ezekiel through the Valley of Dry Bones. We read these words in chapter 37 beginning with verse 4. <Then He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.'"> And that is exactly what happened. Those dry bones began to shake and rattle and they came to life, tendons and flesh and skin were put upon them and then God breathed life into them. And all of that simply represented how the people appeared to be dead but yet God brought them back to life once again. That might even represent our life. We may feel as if we are spiritually dead, we have no hope, and yet God, through His son Jesus Christ, breathes new life into us. Take a look at this video clip that hopefully illustrates that very point.
From time to time, I see a program or a documentary on television that grabs and keeps my attention, and it usually has something to do with an event that happened a long time ago and it revolves around something that is unexplained, a mystery, something that has yet to be solved. It might even involve a story about people that are a little bit different or unusual. And, I watch it because I want to know what happens. It reminds me of the time, years ago, when I lived in a city that claimed to have been visited by aliens many years back. Kind of like walking around in a field like this one and uncovering something that I didn't know was there. And I think, how did that get there? What is the event that led to this being left behind so many years ago? And that's the way it is with God. He works in strange and unusual ways, oftentimes we can not even explain. But what's the point of all of that? The point is, very simply, to pay attention to what is going on throughout this world and to recognize that God is always at work in this world and in our lives. And yes, there may be some things that we cannot readily explain, some things that are hard to understand, some people that we encounter we have never seen or met before and we have an unusual experience with them. Perhaps God is trying to tell us something. Perhaps He wants us to be wide awake and to be aware of all of His work in this world, and to learn the lessons that He wants to teach us. Yes, when we encounter strange and unusual things, let us ask our self the question: is there something God wants me to learn from this experience?
Oh, God not only worked in the past but He continues to work in our lives, still today. And through His son Jesus Christ, He brings us out of desperate situations and He gives us a brand-new start. Today, we may long for God to do some "big" things, like He did in the past, but let us realize, He has never stopped doing them. He is powerfully at work in ways that we may not fully know about or understand. And perhaps that is why Paul wrote, in Ephesians chapter 3 in verse 20, that <"God is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ever ask for or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us. To Him be glory in the church and in His son Christ Jesus, both now and forever more."> Yes, when all hope seems to be lost and when things seem to be falling apart, let us remember that God can do big things, even in the midst of overwhelming circumstances. Believing that God can do the impossible is perhaps the best thing we can do when everything seems to be impossible! Oh, believing in Jesus Christ, believing that there is hope for tomorrow, gives us a new lease on life. It gives us a new opportunity to experience what God can do for us. And so in response, we die to ourselves. We don't pursue our own agenda for our own life but we pursue what God has in store for us. We are wide awake as to what is happening in our life as we have the opportunity to experience a new life in Him. We are then baptized into Jesus Christ. And by doing so, we put our trust in Him, that He in fact will give us a brand-new life. And then, like God did with those dry bones, Jesus breathes new life into us through the Holy Spirit and we now have a brand-new life. Today, if you are longing for God to do something "big" in your life, be aware that He has never stopped doing it; that He is continually working in your life behind the scenes, in ways that you may not even know, to bring about good in your life. It all happens through His son Jesus Christ. My prayer, my encouragement for you today, is that you will find that new life in Jesus and experience the hope that God has in store for you.
Thank you for taking a few minutes to watch this program. I hope it encouraged you to allow the Lord to do something "big" in your life. We would love for you to visit our website where you can view this message, or others that might be of interest. On the site you will also find some helpful information. The lessons and videos there can be downloaded without any cost or obligation. Also, feel free to call the number on the screen to request a free Bible study. It will help lead you into a better understanding of how God changes your life through His son Jesus. Again, thank you for tuning in to today's broadcast. I hope you will join us again next time as we study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."