Ancient God, But Not a Has-Been
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My grandmother on my mother’s side passed away a couple years ago at the ripe old age of 100. A person with so many years is quite a treasure to have, with lots of stories about the old days. However, old stories of days gone by is not what I remember about my grandmother.

When I was little I remember playing  the rummy game with her. But as I got older, even until the end, I would go to see her and ask if she wanted to play a game of rummy like we used to. Every time her answer was, “No, I have learned a new game. Let’s play it instead.” I got tired of having to learn the rules to new games all the time, but every time I turned around, she had learned a new game. She loved talking about current events. She was always open to trying new restaurants. While she was a centenarian, she simply did not live in the past. You had to probe her to talk about the past. Oh, she did not mind talking about the old days once you asked her about them, but she was so caught up in the here and now that those things did not come to mind unless you asked. She was not a has-been. She was always living in the present.

This is how I picture God when I read this week’s SS lesson key verse, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 God is not a has-been either. Sure the Bible is full of rich history, but the Bible and God are also very much in the present and future.

When the Israelites entered Canaan they were to take all of the land. However Judges 1 tells us, “And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.” Really? Those chariots of iron were just too much for God, huh? I don’t think so. That was no excuse, and God knew it.

Earlier in Joshua 17:8 God Commanded, “for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.” So what was the problem? Zephaniah wrote about the church, “And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees.” Those who are settled on their lees, are riding on their past experience. I imagine this was true of the Israelites when they entered Canaan. They had crossed through the Red Sea and the Jordan River. God had seen them through a lot. Let’s stop now and just rest. Why go further? The iron chariots were just the excuse they used to stop where they were, content to rest. They became a bunch of has-beens, relying on past experiences.

That is not my God! That is not the God of the Bible. God is not a has-been. God is not just a historical figure. He is in the here and now! He is always looking forward to the accomplishment of his great plans for the future!

In reviewing our past history, I can say, Praise God! As I see what God has done, I am filled with confidence in Christ as leader. “We have nothing to fear for the future except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us.” (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, page 31)

There are many lessons in Bible history to strengthen our faith. As we learn those lessons, we can be satisfied with past experience like the tribe of Judah did in Canaan, or we can be like my grandmother who, even at a hundred years, was ready for the next new thing.

I believe that some of the greatest stories of victory and triumph in the Christian era have yet to be written. I don’t believe God wants a church that sits around and talks about the good old days, when our sanctuary used to be filled and our programs used to be strong. I think God is well capable of driving out the iron chariots and making it so that each new day we can say “We have never tasted success as wonderful as the success God had given us today!”

My grandmother could tell you a lot of wonderful stories about how God had led her in the past, yet she was always excited about the present. Even in the nursing home where she stayed briefly, she was making new friends that she dearly loved. She never compared her current friends with her friends from years gone by. She was happy where she was and with whom she was. She loved life to the very end.

But her life hasn’t really ended. She has fallen asleep. She needs her rest, because when she wakes up, she has a big day ahead of her!

That’s how my God and my Grandmother are. Always ready for the next big thing. And, with God, we can be like that too!

 

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Ancient God, But Not a Has-Been — 16 Comments

  1. Just as God led his people from Egypt to Canaan, each step of the way guiding, providing, conquering and always doing a new thing for them, then surely He will lead His people in this era. He will do new things as His people continue to honor, worship and exalt His name. He is definitely our Alpha and Omega,

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  2. On my job every few quarters we are forced to set new goals. In order for us to stay relevant we have to always have a new plan in place and some set ways to achieve the success we desire. Proverbs 29:18 says "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." As a church and denomination we need to constantly set new goals. Our actions and methods for evangelism need to reflect the times we are in. In many ways, I feel that this blog & twitter is one way that we are trying to share our testimonies in a modern way that can be understood and shared with many; however I am a little concerned that a lot of our efforts as Adventist reach out to other Adventist. Sure we do a get job sending missionaries throughout world and aid through ADRA, but here in America how are we making radical changes to share with our neighbors?

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    • I can relate to your question. But for me the question becomes more basic. It is not so much how are we (the church) but how am I (personally) sharing with my neighbors? Evangelism is the work of individuals much more than that of the church. When we chose to assign a pastor for every church and delegated that responsibility to them, we began to die as a people. It is only as we accept the personal responsibility that comes with following Jesus that we will live again.

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      • I concur Steve, I sometimes struggle with being comfortable enough to share with my neighbors. I usually take the approach that by the life I live they will know, but that is only part of it.

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    • Elle, you have some very practical ways to keep current instead of becoming a has-been. I don't know about all of America, but at the Tampa First Seventh-day Advenitst Church, evangelism is taking a whole new look. We have Bible studies in restuarants where we can connect with the people where they are at. We have a small golf group where we golf with unbelievers and form friendships that lead to Bible studies. We have a vespers and game night where the members are asked to bring their friends so we can connect with them and share Jesus with them. We have small growth groups that meet in peoples homes. We are focusing more on being wholistic. We are focusing on long term relationships instead of just quick baptisms. Gone are the days where we just sit people in front of a big projecter screen and tell them "We're right you're wrong!" We want to be right but we also want to be relational. Jesus was always right, but He was also always relational. I believe one of the reasons small groups, and growth groups don't work as well in North America as they do in Latin countries is because we are more concerned about being right than we are about being relational. We have wanted the quick baptism because that's what was best for us and our records, instead of thinking of the people themselves, and what was best for them, and helping them find a relationship with Jesus in God's timing instead of our own deadlines and timing. Our evangelism at Tampa First is more focused on the needs of the people than our need to get them baptized and fill out our reports. We have grief recovery groups and divorce recover groups as well as parenting etc. Don't get me wrong, we have baptisms right along. The most we have had since I have been here is 48 in one year. But by being wholistic, we want to have sound relationships as well as sound doctrines. I can tell you this, I have been a Bible Worker for over 20 years now, and a typical workday today is nothing like a typical workday 20 years ago.

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      • That is great to hear. I loved hearing about what the Tampa First Church is doing. Small groups that build relationships is phenomenal, getting to know people through love and meeting their tangible needs, and then share your message just as Jesus did. Bravo!

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  3. Steve you are so right on with your comment. Just tonight I was teaching a group at church how to chain reference their Bibles to give Bible studies and get decisions for Christ. As a Bible worker and pastor, my job is not to give the Bible studies for the church, but to equip the church to give the studies and to share Jesus themselves instead of relying on a pastor or Bible Worker. I have also been teaching a class at Tampa Adventist Academy, and 5th and 6th graders are giving Bible studies now too.

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  4. Willliam, Do you pair the 5th and 6th graders up with other kids or adults? How do you find the people for them to give the studies to? I think it is wonderful to start young people out at an early age giving Bible studies.

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  5. Hi Laura,

    The kids give Bible studies to their nieghbor friends (kids) and non christian family members. A few of the kids have reported doing Bible studies with cousins, and one child has reported studying with a much older step brother. I also let them assist me in doing baptism studies with other kids at school.

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  6. How very true. We have been attending church for a long time now. I had not known the word fear or experienced it , especially when we are discussing the word of God. When we came to South Africa, we realised that our witnessing visits became fewer and fewer. We were getting accustomed to the culture here.(due to the high rate of crime, People are afraid and unsure what to do in the case of door to door witnessing.) The more I think of it, I realise that a witnessing church is likely to flourish and grow like a flowing stream. The less people witness they become like a filthy, stagnant pool that becomes muddy and eventually dries up. with time the fear grew less and as we got to know the communities here and started talking to them, it became easier to talk about God to them (they have become our neighbours and friends.) We need strategies that help us to reach people no matter how difficult any situation may seem. God was with poeple in South Africa then (during Apartheid) and he is with us now. in a society that is recovering from the ruins. He certainly is not a has been for he knew the country and people then and knows the situation now.

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  7. Jeremia, I see the same struggles everywhere. We still do door to door evangelism here, even though there is crime here too, but we also try a variety of methods. Like Solomon said, try a lot of things because you never know which one will work. God bless your ministry in South Africa.

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  8. You know I wish you blessing from the throne of God and wish I could do the same. I would like you to pray for me because I want to do this but my own family does not like to do it especially my husband who I had thought we could visit together. However it is my responsibility alone to see what to do as it is said there are many ways to do it.

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