The second most important thing about the return of Jesus (a meditation on a life lived in expectancy)

“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware like a trap.” ~ Jesus, Luke 21:34

A good way to start a debate or even an argument among Christians: bring up Jesus’ return. For centuries many godly people have disagreed about the details of Jesus’ second coming. You find people from all types of Christian backgrounds who are post-, pre-, mid-, or a- when it comes to topics like the millennial reign of Jesus and the church’s place in the “great tribulation.” And a lot of it has to do with how people view the relationship between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church, which brings out more debates.

endtimes_01Some will say about these things, “See, Christians can’t even agree about what they believe so how can we accept it as true?” That misses the point that these things are secondary matters (which does mean we should spend less time arguing about them) and other than the fact that Jesus will indeed return, they are not central to the gospel message and the reality of our salvation in Jesus. There are some things we can agree to disagree about because none of us are perfect people with perfect understandings.

In Luke 21 Jesus told his followers a bit about his return as well as the destruction of Jerusalem which took place in 70 A.D. The most important thing about Jesus’ teaching is the fact that Jesus is indeed coming back. Though we might disagree about certain details of his return, the future hope of his return has been a doctrine that defines the core of Christianity. His return means we have hope that things will not always be like they are now. Our “redemption is drawing near” (21:28). Jesus will fully rescue us from sin and death and make all things right.

If I were to pinpoint a second most important thing about Jesus’ return it wouldn’t be about when these things will take place or where the antichrist will be born and what government he will control or when the tribulation and rapture and all of that occurs.

Rather it would be what Jesus says in Luke 21:34-36 which echoes what he taught in 17:20-37. The day of his return will come upon the world in a surprise moment like a thief breaking into a home under the cover of darkness. The world will be going on business-as-usual since they don’t have much of a concern for Jesus or his coming, and then suddenly the day will be upon them.

But for us who are his followers, we are to keep watch on our own lives. We are to be different and be expectant. We are to pursue righteousness, fleeing sin because we anticipate his return.

It still will be a surprise to us in a way, after all Jesus said, “No one knows the day or hour but the Father” (Matthew 24:36). It might not even happen in our lifetimes. But we should expect it to occur and our expectancy of it should drive us to follow Jesus and represent his love, grace, and holy character our every waking moment.

That is what matters most, second to the return of Jesus itself: that we as his people live for him in eager expectation and show the world through our words, attitudes, and actions that Jesus is better and his way is eternally more joyful. Our lives should be witnesses and examples to the reality of salvation including salvation’s completeness found when he comes back. Our witness and example should encourage others to long for Jesus and hope for that day as well.

So pursue Jesus, long for his return, and live for him. He’ll take care of all the other details.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

Sunday 08.30.15 (even prophets get depressed, 1 Kings 19)

This Sunday we’ll talk about the darkness of depression and how even Elijah, the great man of God, suffered from it. Yet Jesus gives a greater hope!

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Adult Bible Study in church library

Sermon Notes
Even Prophets Get Depressed ~1 Kings 19

  • Depression is a period or prolonged state of sadness and/or disinterest that can affect relationships, actions, and attitudes
    • Everyone has periods of sadness, some people suffer clinical depression
    • There are multiple potential causes: spiritual, physical, circumstantial, chemical, or a combination of these
  • Elijah faced depression at the threat of his life, though he had seen God do many great things
  • We battle depression and dark times by:
    • Treating the things that need to be treated (19:5-8)
    • Realizing you cannot depend on the spiritual highs of the past to carry you (19:1-4, 9)
    • Remembering that God doesn’t always work the way we expect but he is always at work (19:9-18)
    • Setting our hope on Jesus, the better Prophet

1 kings 19

A prayer for every day (a meditation on growing in faith)

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” ~ Luke 17:5

The Christian life is built on the foundation of faith. It is by faith we are saved and it is by faith we are to live each day as followers of Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-10, Hebrews 10:36-39). Faith starts with belief, specifically a belief that Jesus is the crucified and resurrected Savior-King who gives us life from death, but faith is more than mere belief. Faith is a life-altering trust.

Because we have faith in Jesus, we trust that he is the greatest treasure and hope we can have, and we trust that his way is better. So, we follow him.

Faith in Jesus is to define the lives of people who claim to be his followers. And Jesus said about faith, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6).

mustardseedsThe fact is that I have never met a single person who spoke to a tree and saw it move (let alone a mountain, as Jesus said elsewhere in a similar situation). Mustard seeds aren’t that big. This means we have a lot of room to grow in our trust in Jesus.

Jesus’ words were in reply to a request by his followers. Jesus had just warned them about the dangers of sin but also called them to a life of constant forgiveness (17:1-4). The first thing Luke recorded they said was, “Increase our faith!” They recognized that for them to obey what Jesus had called them to they would need more trust.

Hebrews 11 defines faith as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, which begins with the reality that “we understand the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews goes on to describe men and women, imperfect and flawed and at sometimes faithful while at other times faithless, who nonetheless trusted God when everything was on the line. God gave them promises and they believed these promises would come true, even if it happened after their lifetimes.

Their faith was based in the past: God spoke and things became; but they kept looking forward to the future, desiring “a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” So by faith, many did great and wonderful things: they left home to live in tents and wander in wait of God’s promises; they stood nose to nose with Pharaoh and declared God’s greatness; they walked across dry land in a seabed as walls of water stood tall beside them; they “through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight, [and] received back their dead by resurrection.”

And then others, nameless in Hebrews 11, through their faith remained true to God even though they were tortured, mocked, beaten, imprisoned, sawn in half, destitute, homeless, and murdered. These were men and women who instead of receiving great rewards and riches in this life received the commendation of God. They were those “of whom the world was not worthy.”

Jesus said we can do great things in faith. The Bible confirms this over and over again. Sometimes the great thing is remaining fixed on Christ, joyful and hopeful, when the world around us is crashing down. Even this with faith as small as a mustard seed.

As we are to be people of faith, so we should each day echo the apostles in our prayers. It is a simple prayer as we seek the great and awesome God and say, “Lord, increase our faith!”

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

Good Reads 08.26.15 (on: prayer, enjoying God, finding joy in the ordinary, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week:

On prayer: 3 Tips for a Healthier Prayer Life by Joel Lindsey

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar: You decide it’s time to pray, so you close your eyes. Fifteen seconds in, out of nowhere, tomorrow’s to-do list pops up and your thoughts are off on a tangent. Before long, you realize what’s happening, and by sheer force of the will, you get back to business. Before you know it, it has happened again. Now you’re definitely not praying, but doing a confused mix of worrying and problem solving. (click here to read more)

On craving and enjoying the glory of God: Chasing Sunsets by Becky Wilson

Oh, that I might treat the glory of God like a sunset! That I might crave its brilliance and long for its majestic beauty! That I might make every effort to move closer and closer to it, leaving behind every hindrance between us. That I might set aside every other task before me to chase after it, to bask in it and soak it in, to study every nuance and gaze past every distraction into its radiance. That I might long with all of my heart for others to experience it with me. And that I might carry in the very depths of my soul this constant desire:  I wanna see the rest of it… (click here to read more)

On ways that we can glorify God: There Is No Better Life by Tim Challies

God does all things for his glory. If you can get this in your mind and into your heart, it will transform the way you look at the world and the way you live in the world. It will change everything. It will allow you to give up pride and position as long as God is glorified. It will allow you to give up lifelong dreams and treasured sins as long as God is glorified. It will even allow you to joyfully give up your life, firmly believing that God will be glorified. There is no better life than the life lived for the sake and the glory of God. (click here to read more)

On finding extraordinary joy in the ordinary things of life: Stop and Enjoy the Ordinary by Tom Schreiner

We give thanks to God for what he has called us to do. We thank him for the jobs we have. We don’t master life, and we don’t know what the days ahead will bring. But we put our trust in God, and eat and drink every day with joy. We give thanks for our daily bread. We find joy in the ordinary things of life: in taking walks, in exercising, in regularly attending church, and in meeting with friends. (click here to read more)

On avoiding the trap of constantly comparing ourselves to others: The Danger of Comparison by Trish Hedger

Recently I was sitting in the back of my mini-van with my 5 month-old after a 10-hour road trip. The truth is, I wasn’t thinking about my unwashed hair or the spit up (and coffee) on my clothes or the fact that I honestly couldn’t remember if I had put on makeup that morning. That is, I wasn’t thinking about it until I saw my beautiful friend walking up to say hello. For a half a second I wondered how tinted our windows were and if I should throw myself on the floor-board out of sight. Then I decided I was actually very happy to see my friend and I chuckled at life and myself as I watched her walk up with her washed hair blowing in the wind. I told my comparisons to hush and enjoyed a chat with a dear friend. (click here to read more)

Holy Celebrations (a meditation on the joy of salvation)

Sometimes in popular culture Christians get the reputation of being like sticks in the mud. We’re not all that fun. While cultural (especially Hollywood) stereotypes of faithful followers of Jesus are drastically overblown (most of the time), sometimes they also bubble up with hints of truth.

In contrast to the stuffy and stoic fun-hating image that some have developed, Christians are to be the most joyful and fun-loving people on earth. Yes, there are proper times of serious contemplation; yes, we are to weep with those who weep; and yes, our sins we commit dishonoring our Savior-King should grieve us. But we should also have a great sense of joy, wonder, and awe as part of our light shining in the darkness, and especially in response to the awesome grace of God in salvation.

In Luke 15 Jesus launched into a quick series of three parables. Each spoke in response to some grumbling and whiney religious types. Jesus hung out with sinners and tax collectors (a tax collector for the Roman government, and especially a Jew who worked as a tax collector for Rome, was essentially the scum of the earth in that first century Jewish culture), people the Pharisees and scribes thought weren’t worth the time of day. So they “grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’” (15:2).

The three parables with which Jesus replied each spoke to something that had been lost: a lost coin, sheep, and son. The lost were the sinners and tax collectors. They were far from God. Like the younger son in the last parable, they had gone out, lived recklessly, and squandered everything. Yet, these things did not remain lost. The shepherd left his other 99 sheep safe in the pen to go find that one missing, the woman cleaned house until she found her coin, and the father ran to embrace his son once the son realized his desperation and started home.

And each time the lost became the found, there was joy and a call for a community celebration—it was time to party.

So Jesus said, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (15:7).

Salvation is a reason to cut loose in holy celebration. With the lost son, Jesus described a party with music and dancing and cuts of the choicest meat. That is as far from a stick in the mud as one can get.

joyNow to be sure there are still differences between a holy celebration and many parties of the world. A holy celebration commemorates freedom from sin and therefore refuses to revel in it. So the drunkenness and sexuality that are realities of many parties would not have a place; but the joy, fun, and energy very much do. And all of this flows from the fact that God is a God of celebration. In the Old Testament he laid out the details of several feasts the people were to enjoy throughout the year to remember him, his goodness, and his love for them. In Revelation 19 eternity kicks off for God’s people with a massive marriage supper—a feast and a celebration.

Salvation is a joyous thing because it is about the lost being found, the dead coming to life. It is about the grace of God extending to those who are unworthy of it because we have spurned him and rebelled against him time and time again. Yet, he brings us into his Family and makes us his own. It is something to rejoice in and to celebrate over and over and over.

In Jesus’ story of the lost son there was also the other son, the older brother who got mad at the father for throwing the party and refused to take part. He was one who didn’t see the need for such festivities, especially to celebrate the return of the son who had squandered and wasted everything. After all, unlike his little brother, he stayed home and worked hard and did everything the father asked. He represents the religious types—the Pharisees and the scribes, the ones who thought all their devotion and rule following earned them high honor.

But they missed the point. They needed the Father just as much, and if their hearts were truly dedicated to his will and ways they would understand his love, grace, and joy. They would long to celebrate the great event of salvation.

Let us not be like those who take little joy in God and the amazing grace of his salvation of lost sinners through Jesus. Let us be people who revel in happiness and amazement at the awesomeness of God and his great love towards us. Let us join in the holy celebrations.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

Sunday 08.23.15

This Sunday we will have Keith Vawter from the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home speaking during our worship gathering. You can read more about Dr. Vawter by clicking here and more about the MBCH by clicking here. Evening activities will be dismissed for a community Christian bluegrass concert at 630pm at Adrian Christian Church.

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@630pm Bluegrass Concert at ACC

mbch logo

Yeah, God’s that big… (a meditation on the God who cannot be contained)

All humans have these ceaseless yearnings…not simply because we are incomplete but because God is infinite. God’s wonder and beauty become overwhelmingly attractive because they are infinite and inexhaustible. ~ Os Guinness, Fool’s Talk

But will God really live on earth? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! ~ King Solomon, 1 Kings 8:27

Have you ever just sat back and stared up at the night sky? Away from cities, towns and lights the sky takes on a breathtaking beauty with thousands of pinpoints of light flooding in from millions upon millions of miles away.

On a clear night, I’m able to stand in my driveway with much of the ambient light blocked by two large oak trees, look straight up, and see the hazy band of the Milky Way stretched across the dark canvas. But perhaps nowhere have I seen the sky so filled as while standing in the bush of Zambia, an hour or so away from the nearest city.

It’s one of those moments where you realize the universe is a big place. Bigger than we can really even begin to comprehend. Billions of galaxies filled with millions if not billions of stars, and we are but one tiny speck.

The bigness and beauty of the universe are signposts pointing to the infinite bigness and unmatched beauty of God.

Solomon captured this when he dedicated Israel’s first temple. Up until that point, the Ark of the Covenant, where God at times manifested his glory in blinding light and thick smoke, had moved along with the people and rested in a tent. King David desired to build a permanent home, a temple for the Ark to rest, but God told him no. Instead his son would build it. So Solomon, after the people had received rest from their enemies, built a temple grand and magnificent. Yet in dedicating it, Solomon realized that even with all the pomp and grandeur the temple at best was a tiny symbol. The universe itself could not contain God, how much less this temple?

osguin01In his book Fool’s Talk, Os Guinness argues that each person has a restless longing within their hearts—a longing for greater meaning, greater purpose, greater joy, and greater experience; a longing for something more. This restlessness is our longing for God whether we realize it or not.

On the one hand, a barrier exists because of mankind’s fall into sin. We chose to replace God with something much smaller, most prominently our own desire to be self-defining and in charge. Yet rebellion against our Creator did not bring a lasting happiness or satisfaction. Rather, it left us with a void we could not fill. So God gave us Jesus to rescue us from our rebellion and to reunite us to his goodness.

Yet even then, we still crave—another barrier: God is infinite, large beyond imagination; we are finite, small. When we receive of his grace, our hearts begin to long to know him fully; yet him being infinite there is always more to know, discover, and explore. This craving is good because it pushes us to plumb the depths of God more and more.

It is as we dive deeper into God we find that he is, as Jesus said, the bread that calms hunger and the water that quenches thirst (John 6:33-35). And so we want more, not because we are unsatisfied but because we find true satisfaction in the overwhelming greatness and unending beauty of God.

God is that big and he calls us to learn to delight in him through the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit within. God is that big and he calls us to help others see the joy of true delight in him.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.