The Summer Is Near

summer is near

Matthew 24

We are in the middle of the winter right now. I live in Minnesota and we are supposed to see the coldest air temperatures since the year that I was born. We have a predicted high of -13F and a low of -29F. I think I’m just going to throw away all of my shorts and short-sleeved shirts. I’m going to get rid of my swimsuits and sunglasses, too. It will probably be winter for the rest of my life, after all.

Can you imagine how ridiculous it would be for me to do that? Of course, summer is coming, and I’m ready for it. The second coming of Jesus is the same.

Prophecy

“Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another.” Jesus tells this to his disciples when they point out the buildings to him. They were probably trying to say how beautiful the architecture is with its gates, porticos and cupolas. Jesus had just said in Chapter 23 that Jerusalem is abandoned and desolate, so his disciples were trying to prove him wrong. Imagine that. Jesus had just gone through the tests and traps of the pharisees. He proceeded to tear them apart and use their behavior as a lesson for everyone else. And then His disciples decided to question Him too. He had to set them straight. He said “I tell you the truth.” He knew that Jerusalem was beautiful but he also knew that it would be destroyed. About 40 years later, the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem and that city was razed in the process. Josephus, a first-century Jewish scholar, said that over 1 million Jews were killed in that siege. Jerusalem truly did become abandoned and desolate. After this, Jesus’ disciples make another error; they assume that the temple will be destroyed at the end of the world and the return of Jesus. Jesus didn’t go back to the discussion of Jerusalem, but rather discussed the signs of the end of the age, as his disciples asked rather than as they intended.

Signs

There will be many false messiahs. There will be wars, famines and earthquakes. This is the beginning. We can see all of these things already. Just google “man claims to be Jesus.” You’ll find countless examples. There have been many wars, famines and earthquakes even in my short lifetime, but Jesus said that this is just the beginning of birth pains.

Christians will be persecuted, arrested, killed and hated all over the world. Sin will be rampant. We are starting to see this too. In some places more than others, Christians are being persecuted. According to Open Door USA, the worst countries to live in for Christians are North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Pakistan. In North Korea, if it is discovered that you are a Christian, you can be deported to a labor camp or even killed on the spot. In China, if churches become too large, the government will raid the church and arrest member and leaders alike. In December 2018, a house church was raided by the Chinese police and pastor Wang Yi was arrested. He is a well-known pastor of the Early Rain Convent Church. Thank God that the United States is still largely free of Christian persecution.

But certainly, we are not in the worst of it yet. Jesus says that the anguish seen at the end will be greater than any the world has ever seen. We can think of many times when the world was in anguish greater than now. In the previous century there were multiple wars covering the surface of the Earth, causing widespread anguish.

The final sign will signify Jesus return. People all over the world will be able to see it and then Jesus will gather his people.

Exhortation

This final sign will be so obvious that you don’t need to believe in any of the false prophets coming before Jesus. It will be seen in the east and the west. But you must not be caught off Guard. Jesus uses multiple examples here to try to get that point across. No one expected the sky to open up and to flood the world. Neither will most expect the coming of Jesus. Live righteous lives. Love your neighbor. Repent. Await his return.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Jesus is Coming! Jesus is Coming!

Luke 19

luke 19 38

Jesus is Coming!  What preparations do we need to make before Jesus comes?  Climb a tree to get a good vantage point?  Put his money to work?  Spread your cloak on the road?  These were all mentioned in Luke 19 as ways people prepared for Jesus’ coming.

The wealthy, though short, tax collector Zacchaeus was curious about this Jesus who was coming into town.  Not wanting to miss out he climbed a tree to make sure he could see Jesus.

In the Parable of the Ten Minas, during the master’s absence most of the servants took what had been entrusted to them (a mina – about three months wages) and put it to work to earn more – and were rewarded for their work.

When the crowd heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem they gathered to pay him honor as they spread their cloaks in the road in front of the colt carrying Jesus.  And with loud voices they joyfully praised God for the miracles they had witnessed Jesus perform: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest”. (Luke 19:38)

This greeting reminds me of the words spoken by the great company of the heavenly host about 33 years earlier when the angels were telling the shepherds of the birth of Christ.  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14).

No doubt, today, Christmas Eve, many many preparations will be made – supposedly in preparation to celebrate the birth of a King.  In the midst of our busyness how will we actually prepare for Jesus?   What will we do and say and give and pray TODAY to celebrate his FIRST Coming in a way that will honor him?  Perhaps there will be some things that we decide we will NOT do, in order to better celebrate Jesus’ coming.

And, EVERY day – how will we prepare for his SECOND coming?

Will we take the time and effort to seek out Jesus as Zacchaeus did?  Will we joyfully accept his invitation to meet together and then find ourselves changed – repentant and obedient – because of the time we spend in his presence?

Will we take the talents, time, possessions and minas/money  we have been given and diligently be trustworthy in using them to prepare for the coming return of our Savior – spreading the word, growing the church, and caring for the lost?  Or will we be like the scared servant who just hid away the treasure that he was responsible for – and even what he had was taken from him?

Will we work at honoring Jesus, the Son of God who is indeed coming to be crowned king in a kingdom like no other.   Will we give of ourselves, not afraid to get our clothes a little dirty, not ashamed to speak boldly, not persuaded to keep quiet by the Pharisees in our midst?  For if we don’t speak – even the stones will tell of his greatness (Luke 19:40).

I pray we celebrate his first coming well while we wisely and diligently prepare for his even greater second coming!

Jesus is Coming!

Marcia Railton

 

 

Be on the Alert!

Mark 13 & 14 (Thursday)

Mark 13 33

The thirteenth chapter of Mark finds Jesus teaching his disciples on the Mount of Olives outside of Jerusalem.  Jesus is teaching his disciples about the tribulations that are to come and his second coming.  He ends with this admonition in 13:35-37…

“Therefore, be on the alert – for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning – in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep.  What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’”

Jesus begins and ends his command with “be on the alert.”  In fact, Jesus says “be on the alert” in verses 33, 34, 35, and 37.  For Mark’s audience, this is like shining the spotlight on the words while fading everything else to black.  Like we covered earlier this week, the gospel was meant to be heard and hearing the same phrase back to back like this is a sign that it should be held onto.

Now, let’s jump just ahead a bit to Mark 14:32.  We’ve been through the Last Supper and Jesus has taken his disciples to Gethsemane.  He picks his three favorites (Peter, James, & John) and takes them a bit further than the rest.  He says to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.”

You ready for this?  Jesus is using the exact same word as he did back in chapter 13.  It’s even in the same tense!  The word is gregoreo by the way (like gregarious).  It’s a command directed directly at his listener.  Jesus was asking his disciples to do something much more than just stay awake.  He was pointing them back to what they had heard the night before: to be alert because the end is approaching.

In fact, when Jesus returns to find his disciples sleeping the first and second time, he repeats this same command to them, gregoreo!  Stay alert!  But upon his third visit he says it is enough, the time is now here.  In Mark 13, Jesus commands his disciples to be alert so that they may be prepared for the (ultimate) end, but in Mark 14, when the (immediate) end comes, they are asleep at their post and ultimately all leave him and flee (14:50).

This is not just a word by Jesus for his disciples but a word for us today as well.  Like the chorus in a Greek play, Mark’s words in 13:37, “What I say to you I say to all…” is a clear calling out to us here today.  Be on the alert for the end is coming and we must be prepared.  We must be prepared to face our own crucifixion – to die each day as a living sacrifice – as our own immediate ends in service, love, and sacrifice for others.  It is the cup we are called to bear as followers of the one who showed us the way.

OK – tomorrow is the big finale!  Mark’s last words to the earliest followers of Christ.  It’s a shocking, amazing, inspiring vision of Jesus’ ministry.

-Graysen Pack

Death Swallowed Up

Isaiah 22-25

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Saturday, February 11

I am writing to you guys now, after I took a 6 hour class with Sir Anthony Buzzard on the Kingdom of God as the Gospel.  Therefore, I can’t help but write about the Kingdom today.  One thing that has really shed light for me is that the gospel of the Kingdom is throughout the whole Bible.  It is not just a New Testament idea.  In fact, the gospel was even preached to Abraham from God (Gal 3:8).  It is evident that the gospel of the Kingdom was important to Jesus as he preached about the Kingdom his whole ministry (Matt 4:17).  I knew that Jesus did not come up with the idea of the Kingdom on his own, but I was not aware of how prevalent it was in the Old Testament.  The Kingdom is found all throughout the Old and New Testament.  In our reading today in Isaiah, there indeed is scripture on the coming Kingdom.

Isaiah 24:23 is prophecy about the Kingdom.  The talk about the moon and the sun is similar to the passage in Matthew 24:29 when it talks about signs of the second coming.  Then actually in the Kingdom, the LORD along with Jesus will reign.  There is some dispute as to whether this verse is referring to God reigning on Mount Zion or Jesus.  In my opinion, it does not matter too much.  What matters is that God through Jesus will reign.

Isaiah 25:6-12 is then a beautiful passage on the Kingdom.  One of my favorite verses in the whole Bible is Revelation 21:4.  Isaiah 25:8 is very similar to that verse in Revelation.  In the Kingdom, there will be no more death or tears.  What a comfort that is.  This idea helped comfort me through the loss of my grandpa.  I was devastated to lose him as he was my biggest role model in my life.  I greatly looked up to him.  He inspired (and continues to inspire) me to pursue pastoral ministry like him.  We all experience similar losses to this.  Let Isaiah 25:8 and Revelation 21:4 be a comfort to you.

The Kingdom should be the focus of our lives.  It was surely the focus of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Most people perceive the gospel to be the death and resurrection of Christ.  That is only a part of it.  Christ didn’t even speak of his death and resurrection until Matthew 16:21.  That is about two thirds of his way through his ministry.  What was Jesus preaching before then?  That answer is found in Matthew 4:17, the Kingdom.

-Kyle McClain

(photo credit: http://www.spiritradio.ie/word-for-advent-isaiah-258/)