Beth Moore — The God Who Is, Was and Is to Come
Would you turn with me to Revelation chapter 1, Revelation, the very first chapter. I'd love to read verses 1 through 9 to you out of Revelation chapter 1. This is the Word of the Lord: "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the Word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy," is that a beautiful promise? So even as I read it to you tonight, there is a blessing that goes with it. "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near".
Verse 4: "John," this is John, the beloved disciple, "to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen".
Verse 8 and our key verse: "'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'" One more verse, verse 9: "I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus".
You and I throughout this lesson are gonna fixate on that title, "The one who is, the one who was, and the one who is to come," but what I wanna do before we get there is let's just go ahead and touch on the other titles that are in that particular verse so that we can set it and encase it just the way that God said it. "I am the Alpha and the Omega". That's the beginning and final letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and omega. Now in all likelihood, when Jesus was speaking through the revelation and as God is speaking this particular wording to the Apostle John on the island of Patmos, in all likelihood it was in Hebrew and then it was given to us then in Greek which is what this word in the New Testament is originally written in. And then we have it in our English language.
So alpha and omega, beginning and the end of the Greek alphabet, but it's hearkening back to what would be the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet that is gonna be aleph and tav, the beginning and the end. And when that was said among the Hebrew people, it always meant not just the beginning and the end but everything that was in between. In our terminology for our alphabet that would be, he is the "A" and the "Z" and he is "B" through "Y". Anybody know what I'm talking about? There's nothing. He hasn't just begun it and he's going to come in and end it. He is ever doing it in between.
There's something that we hear said often in our Christian terminology and culture, and I get it in every way and it's talking about the power of the cross to save. But so often, we hear people say, "Listen, he's done all he's going to do. Now just believe it and receive it". That is not biblically correct. He is ever-working. Jesus said, "My Father is ever at his work and I too am working with him". He didn't just start the thing and gonna finish the thing. He's doing it all in between. He's ever-living to make intercession for us. At work in us constantly. I don't know about you but I gotta know that it's not just about how I began and how I'm gonna end but that there's something going on from "B" to "Y" in my life. Anybody? Somebody say, "I've gotta have my 'B' to 'Y.'" I've gotta have my "B" to "Y". It's not just my "A" to "Z". Somebody tell me somewhere that there's gonna be "B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K". I got to know he's there all along from the beginning to the end.
It begins with the alpha and the omega and then it goes, "Who is, who was, and who is to come," and then he ends with "The Almighty". That particular title of God is said over and over and over and over in the Old Testament but it is only in the New Testament about 12 times. Nine of those occurrences are in the book of Revelation. Over and over again he is the Almighty, the Almighty, the Almighty, the Almighty. He is reminding us again and again in Revelation, "I am the one who began it, I planned it, I will carry it, and I will bring it all to pass. I know my will, I know my agenda. My purposes shall stand. Nothing can thwart what I have planned to do, and my plans are good and right and holy and light. Nothing can stop them". The Almighty, the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of Angel Armies.
Now, I want you to leave something right here in Revelation 1 because this is our primary text. But we're gonna do a little looking back and forth between Exodus 3 and Revelation 1, so go with me there, if you wouldn't mind, please. "Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed".
Now, I don't wanna keep getting off on something every other verse, but I do wanna tell you that this verse means something in particular to me because what made it so odd is that the bush did not go up into flames and disintegrate over the fire. It would be a natural sight anywhere near a mountain to see something catch fire from lightning. There are all sorts of things that he could have seen in that part of the wilderness but what made it odd is that the bush was on fire but it was not consumed. I'm gonna tell you something. I'm a passionate person. Some of you are, too. And one of the things that was so important for me to learn in the course of my life with all sorts of unholy passions is that a passion that is holy, that is driven by Christ Jesus, is the kind of passion that will not destroy you. Anybody getting that with me tonight? There's a holy passion that if that is what is driving us, if that is what is at the center of our being, that's what drives our hearts, that is a passion that can totally consume us without ever destroying us.
It says in verse 4: "When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, 'Moses, Moses!' And he said, 'Here I am.' Then he said, 'Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.' And he said, 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, 'I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. And I know their suffering, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land.'"
I want you to go down with me in verse 10: "'Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.' But Moses said to God, 'Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?' But he said, 'I will be with you, and this shall be a sign for you, that I have sent you: when you've brought out the people from Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.' Then Moses said to God, 'If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name'? what shall I say to them?' God said to Moses, 'I am who I am.' And he said, 'Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.' God also said to Moses, 'Say this to the people of Israel: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.'"
In order to understand the title in Revelation chapter 1 and to see the intentional wrap-up, the full circle of the Word of God, we've gotta come back to where God says to Moses, "You tell them what my name is. My name is 'I Am who I Am.' "'You tell them that my name is the Lord, the one who is, and that this is the name by which I will be known throughout all generations". I want you to lock in on that with me for a moment before we get into what the meaning of that word "Lord" is and I want you to just hear with me, just for a moment, how the King James wording is on Exodus 3:1: "Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert".
Anybody feel like you are presently in the backside of a desert? You have known you were on the backside of something but you have not been able to quite define what backside you are on. You may be on your backside, on the backside. But the picture of these two men, pursued and sought by God, would you just think for a moment with me. Here's what I want you do. You should have something in Revelation 1 and you're open to Exodus 3 where I want you to stay for just a moment, but I need you to have 'em both ready. Here, I just want you to take your hand like this and put it right where Revelation 1 is and put it right where Exodus 3 is and I just want you to hold it just like this. Just like this, because all this time God is just revealing himself, one person after another, one person after another.
Thousands of years are taking place between these two occurrences when God came to reveal himself as the Lord, the I Am, and we're gonna see how it has a major connection to the one who is, the one who was, and the one who is to come, the Almighty. And I want you to understand that this one right here in Exodus is in the backside of the desert. This one, on a small volcanic island out in the Aegean Sea, rocky, treeless, desolate. Do you know what both of those men had in common? Both of them were meant to be reachless, unreachable. Moses ran for his life because he'd killed a man back in Egypt. He is hiding. John has done nothing wrong except broken the law by refusing to proclaim that anyone besides Jesus Christ is King over all.
One on the run, one a prisoner, reachless, and God found them. God sought them out, has done it for thousands of years between them, and is doing it now. In fact, the reason that you are in an environment of faith is because God has drawn you here. He is the initiator of all things faith. We don't come up with this on our own. If you are drawn to him, if you're drawn to the Word, if you're drawn into worship, you have not drawn yourself there. It's so important to know because you need to know you, yourself, have been chased. You have been fought for. You are wanted. You are desired. He comes and pursues you in full knowledge of you.
And so I want you to notice with me, so I'm going back over to Exodus because I want you to notice this 'cause we've gotta see where this all begins with this title we see in Revelation chapter 1. I want you to look back with me and see that Moses's first question to God after God reveals himself to him, it is in verse 11: "Moses says to God, 'Who am I?'" But I want you to notice the question that God considers important enough to really answer. When Moses says, "Who are you"? See, this doesn't have anything to do... you need not worry. I mean, like, "Lord, who am I"? All you need to know is "Who is he". Because once you know who is he, then you just get absorbed in that. He's gonna have you doing what you've been called to do and not because of who you are but because of who he is.
If you will set your mind and I'll set my mind and set my heart, to know who he is, oh, he will show us our identity. Because we will become lost and found in him. "I'll tell you who I am. I AM WHO I AM. You say this to the people of Israel: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" And God said this is very important. If you wanna circle the name. It says, "God said to Moses, 'Say this to the people of Israel: 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, has sent me to you. This will be my name forever,'" the LORD. If you write in your Bible, take your pen and circle "the LORD". If you see a formal translation, you're going to notice that it is in all capital letters instead of a big "L," a little "o" and a little "r" and a little "d," and I want tell you about that and you may already know this but I love this kind of stuff.
So I'm hoping somebody that really has a student heart in the room is gonna lean into this and really, really let this light up something in her. I want you to see a term. This is not a term you would find sitting on the page of Scripture; it's something that the Hebrew people would term what we're going to be talking about. I want you to see it on the board. It's called a tetragrammaton. Tetragrammaton. When you see the word "Lord" in all capital letters and I'm gonna show it to you again in just a moment, it is a transliteration. The Hebrew word that's being translated there are four letters. It's made up of four letters. Tetragrammaton means four letters: YHWH or we'll see it sometimes, JHVH, Yahweh or Jehovah. And it forms this proper biblical name, LORD, LORD.
So this word "LORD," it is believed to be from a verb that means "to be," hayah in Hebrew, and it means to be. And so when he is gonna use a one-word name for himself and it appears over and over and over and over in Scripture, the designation "LORD," with all caps, is found 5321 times in the Old Testament. That is how set he was on that name. It is the covenant name of God and it is the name of God that means, "I am the one ever being". So when we call him by that name, he is the self-existent one who has always been, who is now and will always be.
I wanna show you how to recognize it. If this is new to you and you like this kind of thing, I wanna show you how to recognize it in your Old Testament when you see it. I'm just gonna bring up a verse that has both of them in it. So look at this verse on the screen, Psalm 8:1, this is out of the ESV: "O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens". Would you look carefully in those very first four words and I think in the NIV it just starts with, "LORD," but it's "O LORD," in several of your versions. It doesn't make any difference because what we're after is comparing the way both of those names, Lord, look on the page because that first occasion of it is the tetragrammaton.
Do you see that it's got four capital letters? That is the word "LORD" that means to be, the one that is, I am that I am, I am the self-existent one, I need nothing from anyone or anything in order to exist. I always have been, I always will be. The other word, "L," little "o," little "r," little "d," is Adonai, Adonai. It means master. It means what we would see over and over again in the New Testament when the disciples call Jesus, "Lord, are you going to do this? Lord, are you going to do that"? It could even be used at times in the Old Testament for someone who was in an authority situation, that a commander of an army might be called, addressed, as lord. It would be a little "l," little "o," little "r," little "d," that would be the occasion you could use it. Often used for God.
Here, both times, it's used for God, but you can see the difference between the two. So it's saying, you who are the self-existent one, who is, who was, and is to come, are my Lord. "O LORD, my Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth"! You see the difference? The proclamation of this one, it's calling the one. Why is that so important? Because he's introducing himself to Moses as, "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob". He said, "I want you to understand I am the same God". The book of Hebrews tells us Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and this is our God. Everything that is in his is-ness and his being, all the way back in Exodus chapter 3, and then all the way forward to Revelation chapter 1, when John was on that island when he was exiled there, everything about their God is our same God.
If he has revealed himself in any way to you, if you have sensed the power of him through his Word, if you know him, if you've responded to him in salvation, you need to know, same exact God. No less powerful, no less willing, that is your God. And until we get that straight and our awe of him begins to be raised up and exalted to see him as Lord over all things mighty, holy, and flawless, we will never adapt our own lives to that. You see, it doesn't change God what anybody thinks about him. He's unchanged. If most of the world confesses it as mockery and scorn and uses his name to profane things, it doesn't make him one bit less but who we see him to be changes everything for us. We are a direct result of who we believe our God to be.
So, here's what I want you to see. So, you've got Exodus open. You've got Revelation ready to go, and I want you to think this through with me. I'm gonna have you in Revelation 1 for right now. So, what he's telling us in verse 8, let me repeat it again: "'I am the Alpha and the Omega,'" so he's the Beginning and the End, "says the Lord God, 'the one who is, the one who was, and the one who is to come, the Almighty.'" So, the beautiful thing about this is the God of timelessness is revealing himself through time.
Now, stay with me here for a second because do you know that the very first thing God created was time? It was time because if you look at Genesis 1:1, it says: "In the beginning". This was the eternal realm. It takes time for there to be a beginning. It takes the tick of a clock. In other words, I want you to picture with me that when he opened his mouth to say, "Let there be light," and there was, at that moment, a clock went, "Tick," and time began. And time has a beginning, and time has an ending, and then all time will be complete. There will be a new heavens and a new earth, and the eternal realm will be where we will dwell for all of time.
Eternal dwelling is so hard for us to wrap our minds around because we don't understand that time won't exist there. So, we won't be sitting around going, "Man, we've been here such a long time". You know, like, "How many years has it been now"? There won't be this thought of, "What time is it"? Be no night. Now, I'm hopin' there's sleep. I don't know, just 'cause we haven't had any in so long. But no night. This timeless God who created time and revealed himself in time and reveals himself in our time.
Now, there are two extremes of Bible interpretation. There are all sorts of things in between, thank God. But two extremes, and extremes are usually trouble and out of kilter somehow. But Bible interpretation explanation is called in academic terms, "Bible exegesis," Bible exegesis. "To exegete" a passage would be "to interpret or explain" that passage. And so, there are two extremes for it. One extreme makes it all about us, and it's what a lot of people will call, "Narcigesis," and that means, "Everything I study, I make it about my narcissistic self". That one way that the Bible gets preached and it gets taught is that it is egocentric to man. It is human-centered. It is that everything about it is about us instead of starting with God. The opposite extreme, though, is something I also want on your radar. I hope we get that first one, but there is another extreme that then doesn't even connect the Word of God to what we're living with our little bare feet on the hot pavement of planet Earth.
I wanna prove to you scripturally that this title that we're fixating on, this God who is, and was, and is to come, I wanna prove to you it is meant to directly affect the lives of people to know him by that name. How do I know that? Because he comes to reveal himself to the Apostle John. He calls himself by these names. And then it goes directly into verse 9: "I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos on account of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus".
Do you notice that? Do you notice what we're living in right now? We are partners, you and me, all of us who are in Christ, we are partners in a couple of different things. We are partners in tribulation, tribulation. Listen, I don't know where we got it in our heads that this was all just going to go beautifully and painlessly if we had enough faith, because that is not the New Testament. It's not, it's not. It's what theologians would call, "Over-realized eschatology". Let me say that again: "Over-realized eschatology". In other words, we're already thinking that we're supposed to be living now like it will ultimately be when there is no more crying and there's no more pain and no more sorrow.
But for now, when Jesus sent the disciples out, he said, "I need you to know something. I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Some of you will get arrested in my name. Some of you will give your lives for my name". I mean, he said, "You cannot believe how rough it's gonna be out there, but I'm gonna empower you to do things you cannot even believe you are capable of doing".
See, did you notice that it says, "Partners in the tribulation"? It's the word "thlibo" in the Greek transliteration, and it means "to crush, to press, to compress, to squeezes. It's tribulation, trouble, and affliction. Anybody had any recently? Then, you know, you're just, like, right on target. But it says, "In the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance". Here, is this fascinating composite that you and I are called in because you and I are kingdom people. We don't even belong to the things of this world. We have been delivered out of darkness and into he kingdom of God's dear Son. We are of a different kingdom.
So, here we are, kingdom royal people, and we're still living down here with all this tribulation. No wonder it gets confusing, because we're called to do things that people really cannot do, and we do them, in Jesus's name, because we're empowered by his Spirit. But we're down here in all this rat race and in all these rat droppings, on the backside of something, and takes patient endurance. It takes patient endurance.
So, verse 8 is supposed to have a titanic impact on verse 9: "'I, John, am the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is, the one who was, and the one who is to come. I am the Almighty.'" And he says, "I, John, was on the island of Patmos, your partner in tribulation in the kingdom and in patient endurance". What I want us to really lock in on for the rest of our lesson is the time element that is given in each part of that middle title in verse 8: "Who is, who was, and who is to come". And so, as we talk about these, here's what you've gotta promise me, that you'll understand that we are not being narcissistic to think that this has a whole lot to do with us because he said, "I want you to understand, this is who I am. And as you're down here on this planet, dealing with the desolation, dealing with the tribulation, as my kingdom people, I want you to remember my name. Remember who I am. I am the Lord, the ever-being one".
And he begins in with a certain order that is very significant. Look back at it, and I want you to see it. In another place, it's gonna switch the order, and I'll get to that in just a moment. But notice that he says, "I am the one who is," before he ever says, "Was". It seems to us he would go, "No, I am the one who was, and I'm the one who is, and I am the one who is to come". But in Revelation chapter 1, he switches that order and he begins with, "Is," because you know what John needs in that treeless desolation in exile with very little water to drink, hardly any company, if we know of any at all, exiled on that island? You know what he needs? A God for his is. He needs a God right then that is powerful in all ways because it still is talking about the things of planet Earth.
Now, here is what is so cool, and we'll not look for now because we just won't be able to use the time to do it, but Revelation 4:8, if you wanna jot it down somewhere in some notes, do it. Revelation 4:8, he calls himself there, Revelation 4:8, as: "The one who was, who is, and who is to come". He switches the order there in verse 8: "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come". Why would that be? Well, probably... don't take this down in ink. Take it down in very light erasable pencil just in your brain. But in all likelihood, the difference there is that John, at the very beginning of Revelation 4, has been, I mean, like, raptured up and shown the things which would be thereafter. He is shown the literal throne room of God.
It says in verse 1 of chapter 4: "After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice which I heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, 'Come up here.'" So, in the throne room of God, in the eternal realm, I mean, it's like goes right in order: "Was, is, is to come". But for us on earth, you know what we gotta know? We gotta know he's right here because my need is present. Anybody else's? My need is present. Anybody just got any present problem? I'm not asking you about last week's problem. I'm saying, "Did any new one come up today"? Anybody? Anybody just like, "A new one popped up out of nowhere"? Like, you didn't even know it this morning. You had no idea it was a problem this morning. You were doing fine this morning. By 10 am, you've gotta brand-new problem, a brand-new problem.
Now, I want you to notice this. So, we got, "Is," right here, and I want you to take down three different points with me, and it begins right here. And each one will go with a time segment. Number one is this: "God is Almighty over my present IS". Because notice that it says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, "I'm the one who is, I am the one who was, and I am the one who is to come, the Almighty". So, the implication of the verse is that "I am Almighty over is, I am Almighty over was, and I am Almighty over is to come, I am the Almighty in time as the timeless one". "God is Almighty over my present is".
Now, here's what I wanna suggest to you, that of all three of the time components... so, I'll bring them up. We've got what? What does he say next? What do we have then? What I would like to suggest to you is that of all three time elements, we have the biggest struggle with this one right here. Our minds are so on what happened back there and wondering what will happen up here that the present moment, the present presence... anybody gettin' that with me? We will miss the presence in our present. Anybody tracking in that with me tonight? Because we are so worried about what was and what is to come, we can't even think about what is, to be present in this moment and what God is doing and what he's up to and what he wants.
And so, what I'm just gonna tell you, I just jotted this down. I know this is a very simple, very basic visual. It's just a word. What is that word? "Missing". And so, I'm just gonna tell you what really came to me is that, in so many of our lives, we just think, "Oh, man, something is missing. I don't know, but something is just missing". Is there any chance it's your IS? Because it's like, of all three, it's what is he doin' right now? How is he revealing himself to you right now? Somebody's come tonight to just, like, claim your is back. I mean, just tell somebody when you leave here, when they say, "What was your lesson"? "I can tell you what I did. I claimed my is back because I've realized I'm so obsessed with what was and what is to come that my whole is is missing out of my life. And I've come to get my is". Because that's so much of the meaning of the name "Lord": "I am presently happening. I am presently happening".
We are least present in the present, missing his presence, so woeful about the past and so worried about the future that we miss the wonder of God in the present. Your God is wonderful now. And what I mean by that is, "Full of wonder now". What is he about now in your life? Because there's something about now. You keep wondering, I keep wondering, "Why am I so stuck here"? 'Cause he's going, "You know, I am gonna really, really need you to attend to what I'm doing now because what I'm doing now is getting you ready for what is to come. But you're over here and you're so staring at what is to come, I can't get you prepared in your is, because you are fixated on is to come".
It's always the next thing. Like, I mean, we like, "I just, I want so much. I really, really want this". We think, "Oh, God, I just want. I really wanna have a love in my life". And then there's, "I really want to get engaged," like, "I wanna get married. I wanna have a baby. I wanna buy a house". It's constantly, constantly, never about just like, "What is God doing in the moment"?
Hebrews 12:15 says in the original NIV, I love the wording: "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many". See to it that you don't miss it. There's grace here. There's grace here, right here, right here. There's grace right here. So the necessary there to humans in the midst of a world full of tribulation, where kingdom subjects are called to patient endurance, the emphasis begins with the first one, "IS".
Ephesians 1:19 and 20 have meant so much to me for so many years. It's what ever sparked the writing of the book and the Bible study "Breaking Free". And it says this: "And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places". He said, "Listen to me. I have power that I will put within your very being that is the same power I used to raise Christ from the dead". It begs the question, do we need anything more from God than raising us from the dead? Because anything within that, we are good to go.But the important part of it, it says, "For those who believe". That verb tense in the Greek is present active participle, so I wanna put the verb tense back in it. And if you like to write in your Bible, you can write that one down on Ephesians 1:19 because here's what it would say: "And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who continue believing".
Now, I don't know. I don't know how you were raised to think in the faith. I was raised in so many wonderful ways in my tradition and in my stream. I was raised from the time I was knee-high to love missions. To this day, our tradition taught us to love and have fervor for the Great Commission. I knew what it meant to be saved. I was very, very clear on that, mainly because I come from such an evangelical tradition that we heard the same salvation invitation every single week, almost to the same word and syllable. Anybody know what I'm talking about? So, I knew, I knew what it took to be saved, but I don't think that I understood that that resurrection power took an ongoing, that day-to-day, when I need to live beyond what I am able.
When life's bigger than I can handle, and I need to be and do what I can neither be nor do, and I need resurrection life in my bones, if I do not have active faith, then that pipe is not open. It's not just faith to receive him in the beginning. Yes, there is that. That begins our journey. But it's active faith. He is the one who is Almighty over our present is. "God is still Almighty over my WAS". This hit me about 15 years ago. There are things that we learn in the Scriptures along the way that are such spiritual markers for us, they change us forever. You know what a few of those if you have any miles of tread on your feet with Jesus, things that have happened along the way that were just like, "I never forgot that".
And this concept that I wanna talk about for the next couple of minutes I have never forgotten. I have said it from memory at any point. I probably could have said it in my sleep. I probably could have dreamed it: "God is still Almighty over my WAS". "'I am the Alpha and the Omega,'" Revelation 1:8, "says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'" How do we know it's supposed to connect with us? Because the next thing we know, we are told that it was given as revelation to John on the island of Patmos where he was there as a partner in tribulation and kingdom and patient endurance. He needed that revelation of God in the worst way, and God started with, "I am right here, God over your IS, but I want you to know I am God Almighty over your WAS". And we have got to know that in the worst way, that your God is still the God of your was.
This was me, and what I want you to see is that it says my aspirations are part of the caption in the yearbook. It says this, "She is in band and plans to become drum majorette". Did any of you become what you planned to? Any of you? I mean, some of you, maybe a handful of you, when you were a little girl, you had this idea in your mind of how this thing was gonna go down, and maybe that did happen for you. I wanna tell you why I wanted to be a drum majorette, because I had older brothers and sisters who were drum major and drum majorette. And I come from a musical family, so of course I've got to be musical. I've got to be. And so, they were drum major and drum majorette. I have got to be drum majorette as well. Only when I went to try out, you know how you do, I came in second to last chair in the flute of twelve flautists. And the only reason there was anyone below me is because she never, ever came to class, never.
Here it was, down in print, in black and white, and I never became the drum majorette. I was supposed to be musical. But the only thing I ever could do was talk. That was it. That was it. That was it. I talked during class. I talked before class. I talked after class. It was all I could do. He still is the God of your "was". Hey, I want you to go with me here just a sec. The God of our "really was". Anybody getting that with me? Because you know, our perceptions are not always completely accurate because we have a perception of what our childhoods were like. Have you ever gone back, if you've moved away from your hometown, and your house, or your church, or the theatre, or the bank, these were just huge. And you go look at 'em and, I mean, they're the size of a convenience store.
And our perceptions, because memory is not just perfect. It's not always completely accurate. Sometimes we remember things larger than they were and sometimes we remember things as smaller than they really were. In fact, for some of us, we don't know why it is that such a thing happened and bothered us so much, because we look back on it now and think, "Well, it really wasn't that big a deal," because it's our perception of it. It shouldn't have been that big. But here's what I've come to tell you tonight, your God is the God over what really was. He knows the "was" that you don't even know. He knows the "was" while you were sleeping. He knows the "was" in your infancy.
And here's where I need you to really stay with me because this is what so transfixed me and transformed me 15 years ago about this truth, because I have a really rough past. I don't know if anybody in this room just has a lot of bad memories back there and the kind of things that are fundamental, things that happened in years where you're putting together who you are and what your identity is. If it's a matter like mine was of sexual abuse, that you're being assaulted before you even know what the word "sex" means. And we get here to our now, and from our "is," and we think there's nothing I can do about my "was".
Listen carefully to me, God is not limited to time. Somebody stay with me. God is still completely present over what was and over what is to come. Is anybody getting that with me? No, we can't just move back there and stay. I mean, by all means, let's get the counsel that we need to. Let's seek godly advice, and healing, and restoration for our souls. But sometimes even then, we don't have the ability with our memory to even put all the pieces together. How many of you, just like, you don't even know why something bothered you as much as it did? Your God is timeless. He is still as present a God over your life back then as he is in your now. Can anybody stretch their mind with me and understand that with me? He is not limited to now. He is God over it all.
Now, I don't know if this is going too far for you, but when I began to have this kinda dawn on me 15 years ago, I was kinda like, "Since I'm limited to now and you're not, go back after it". I need to know if anybody's listening to what I'm saying tonight. Go back after it. Redeem every single second of it. Make the devil sorry he messed with me. Get him back for everything he did for me, every bit of instability, every bit of insecurity, every temptation, way before the time should have come in an adolescent life. Go back after it, and get it, and bring it to full redemption.
You know, nostalgia, I was thinking about it today, because even it is not completely based on accuracy and truth. Don't you agree, when you're nostalgic about something? I love to bake a buttermilk pie. Well, I don't just bake one buttermilk pie, I bake several buttermilk pies every single Thanksgiving, because my mother and my grandmother did. It was our way. It was an Arkansas dessert. I still love it. I love the way it smells. I don't save it 'til Christmas because I'm too busy at Christmas. I want to think back. I don't want to be worried about presents. I don't want any of that. I mean to put those buttermilk pies in the oven. I mean to taste the batter. I mean to smell the aroma that is better than any candle you have ever had in your entire life. And I mean to let the tears stream down my cheeks, thinking of my grandmother and my mother.
Something about nostalgia, it's memory washed clean by sentimentality, isn't it? It's just washed clean. We do this to mothers of infants all the time. "These are the best days of your life". And they have not slept in three nights, and they have not bathed in three days, and they're going, "I'm gonna need someone to come get me in a white coat. I really am". Because to us, to we who were in that same situation, it's been wiped clean of all of that, and what we remember is how good they smell. Not like, "You did that again? You blew out the third sleeper in an hour. The third blowout in an..." we don't remember that. Sentimentality is a beautiful thing.
Yesterday when I was looking for an old file... I'll tell you what I was looking for. I knew I had taught on the God who is, who was, and is to come at some point in the past and I wanted to just check those notes and make sure there was nothing that I wanted to remember that I would have overlooked. And so, I went in... I have a little storage closet that has fireproof cabinet, after cabinet, after cabinet, after cabinet with years marked on 'em with all of these files of all 35 years of lessons, weekend events, retreats, "Living Proof Live" events, everything you can imagine, everything that we still had our hands on. Everything has been filed in years in all of these drawers. And I do at times open those and feel a little bit stirred by it, but I'm usually busy enough going in there to look at something that I don't have a moment like I had yesterday.
So, my file cabinets are here, and here, and here. It's just a small, little closet, but it is walk-in. But I turned like this, because I was looking for a notebook. I'm a notebook freak. I don't know how to explain it, but every single book... this is what I'm presently writing right now. So, I'm about, oh, a little over a third of my way into writing the project. So, this is research. These are all my chapters, chapter titles, all right here, all my research. I just live, this notebook goes everywhere with me. Well, I needed to look in an old notebook so that I could see about these notes. By the way, I never found 'em. And I just love how the Lord does that because he's like, "You know what? You can get this ready from scratch. You ain't baking no old bread. Bake it fresh. You don't need to microwave this. You can have it brand fresh".
So, I loved it and I was at peace with it immediately. But all of these notebooks are right here and I'm seeing all the backs of 'em, shelf after shelf. And I thought about all that had transpired, raising kids, all sorts of pain, all sorts of loss. I have no idea how many funerals I've been to in the course of the time those binders were all put together. Buried both of my parents, all sorts of illness, crises, pain. And there I was. It was overwhelming to me. I was like, "Lord, that's our 'we' chronicles". By "we," I mean, well, we, but also me and him, Jesus and me, we.
Now, maybe you're not a notebook freak, but maybe you journal. Or maybe you don't journal, but you have photo albums. And you realize they're chronicles of this whole thing you have walked out with God. And you might say to me tonight, "But Beth, you know, really, I just got to know him within the last couple of years, and I was 25, Beth, before I met him". No, you don't understand. He is the God who is, who was, and who is to come. The Apostle Paul tells us very, very clearly, as we would also hear in the Old Testament, Paul tells us in Galatians, "When he who set me apart before I was born and who called me by his grace was pleased to reveal his Son to me, dot, dot, dot". He held you. It says in the book of Isaiah, "I am the one who bore you up in your mother's womb. I am the one who carried you and will carry you into your old age". He was carrying you before you even knew to call him Savior and were ever saved by him. He knew and he carried you. The God of our "is," the God of our "was," flooring, and fascinating, and frightful, and flummoxing, adventure we're on where we are citizens of a kingdom here and a whole lot of tribulation.
Well, I don't even have to tell you what the third one is because you know what's coming. Number three is this. God is already almighty over your "is to come". Oh, somebody do amen that one, please. God is almighty over my present "is". And you and I know that we're going after our "is," because we know good and well somehow we've lost what IS worrying over what WILL BE and being woeful over what HAS BEEN. We're going back over our "IS". And then number two was what? God is still almighty over my "WAS". I need to see anybody's hand tonight that can just say, "Listen, that was my Word. That was my Word". Anybody?
I want you to understand with me, he's timeless. He's timeless. He's timeless. With all of our concern... Listen, the enemy is just relentless, isn't he? Just relentless, and he bullies us. He bullies us with anxiety, with dread, and with terror. And I wanna tell you why I think he does it, because he — listen carefully. The devil cannot change the fact that your God will be faithful to you. Let me say that again. The devil cannot change the fact that your God will be faithful to you, so here's what he has to settle for. Can he make you unfaithful to him? Can he make you not believe he'll be faithful?
I want you to understand something about the timeless God. He's already there. He's already there. We're like, "I don't know what I'm gonna do when I..." he's already there. He's back here, he's here, and he's there. He's completely timeless. He is not bound by time in any way. He is already there. He who is with us now is already there and he's already almighty by the time we get to our future and it becomes fulfilled and is our "is". He's already been faithful in it. Does somebody just wanna say amen to that? Somebody, somebody. 'Cause I wanna tell you something, we have got it in our bones. This is the work of the enemy to come after our faith. We've got it in our bones that our prophecy is gonna read like our history, because this is how I always was. It is the way I will always have to be.
And then we just dread constantly... anybody just dreading something right now? Just dreading something. You're already dreading tomorrow morning at work. You're already thinking, "Oh, honestly, I'm gonna get five hours of sleep". Just dread, dread, dread, dread. Got a weekend of games to be at, already dreading it. It's gonna be so hot. Dread, dread, dread. Do you know how much of our "is" we spend in dread? Dread in operation, dread of treatment, things that are so understandable, but what if we got it in our head he's already been almighty over it? 'Cause you know what dread is doing? What dread is saying - dread is a false prophet that says that the one who is will not be faithful in our "is to come". The reason why we panic over dread is because we're trying to feel it and live the thing before we have the grace that is assigned to it when it comes.
When I project... he didn't say, "I will give you grace according to your projections". So, when we project all this, what this is all gonna be, and we just dread it, dread it, dread it, because right now we don't have the grace for it. When we get there, when what was to come is our "is," our God's gonna be faithful. Our God's gonna be faithful and our God is gonna carry us. I want you to stand to your feet.
One of my very favorite verses just gives me peace, just gives me peace, is in Isaiah 46:10. And it's God speaking and he says, "I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place, and I will do all my will". Listen to that again. God knows the end from the beginning. He knows what he wants the end of our lives to look like, and therefore he permits some difficult things because it's gonna have to do with the end result of what would make our lives mean something on planet earth.
I was telling the girls, I said, "Were we ever after trying to be some kind of icons of the spiritual culture of our day or were we just trying to do people some good in the name of Jesus"? So, well, our hardships, the things that we've gone through, and endured, and found God faithful. And so, okay, it has not gone easy for us, but we know... we don't just believe in Jesus, we know him, because we could not have made it without him. Listen, I don't just believe Jesus is real and is the Son of God. I know he is because I would not be in one piece if he were not. Does anybody know what I'm talking about?
He knows the end from the beginning. He knows how it's gonna turn out. He knows. He knows that you're gonna say to him and I'm gonna say to him when we see him face-to-face, "You were right"! "Beth, did you want your life to mean something"? Yes, sir, I did. "Beth, did you want there to be a natural explanation for your life or did you want there to be absolutely no explanation for your life whatsoever except that I had to be God"? Lord, I want the supernatural. And you have signed up for life beyond yourself. So be it, because I want to know his presence, and I wanna know his glory, and I want him to hide me in the cleft of the rock and pass by, pass by with all his goodness, and I wanna see his face. And after all my sin, and all my weakness, and all my disasters, I wanna be able to look at him and go, "That is my God and I believed him. I believed him".