The Loud, Visible Return of Jesus

“The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you won’t see it. They will say to you, ‘See there!’ or ‘See here!’ Don’t follow or run after them. For as the lightening flashes from horizon to horizon and lights up the sky, so the Son of Man will be in his day.” – Jesus, Luke 17:22-24 (CSB)

Something that distinguishes many cults is secrecy. They don’t want their true beliefs or inner workings to be publicly known. Some have even twisted views of Christianity, setting up secret sects or compounds, claiming that Jesus has returned and is among them.

But Jesus, himself, gives us a different picture of his return. Though in the Son of God’s incarnation into the world, he was born without much fanfare to a young couple from the lower end of the social spectrum, when he returns it will be anything but unspectacular.

There won’t be secret appearances or compounds in which to gather in the wilderness. There won’t be people disappearing and the world wondering what had happened. No, Jesus’ return is going to be visible and public. There will not be a person on the earth who will miss it.

Lightning, in it’s brief moment of existence, can make the darkest hour of night seem like day. You can’t not notice when lightning strikes. The same will be true with Jesus’ return.

The church at Thessalonica encountered some false teaching that said otherwise. Someone, pretending to be Paul, wrote telling them that they had missed the return of Jesus, and this upset them greatly. So, Paul reminded them not to be troubled. They knew what he had originally taught them and it was still true. Jesus wasn’t coming back in secret but he’d be revealed “from heaven with his powerful angels” (2 Thessalonians 1:6).

So, we can rest in what Jesus said. We don’t have to worry about missing his return or having to find him in some hidden gathering. When he comes back, the whole world will know.

Good Reads 01.18.18 (on anger, heaven, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On heaven’s impact on life today: 3 Things Heaven Changes by Jared Wilson

Many of us are tempted to simply treat our days like punching a clock for that paycheck, something to keep us warm and well-fed. If we dare to dream big, we think along the lines of the American Dream, of investing for our financial future, or putting the kids through school or leaving them a good inheritance. But the immediacy of heaven transforms the way I view work.

If in fact my daily work is a part of God’s mandate to His people to take dominion and subdue the earth, then my workday becomes brimming with heavenly possibility! Through my work, I am laying up treasures in heaven.

I work now “as unto the Lord,” trusting that even the mundane things I do are being stewarded by Him to accomplish His purposes on earth—and in the earth to come. (click here to read more)

On anger: The Easiest Sin to Justify by Tim Challies

But I think anger is often different. When we sin in anger, we tend to absolve ourselves of blame by pleading the circumstances around the anger. So we blow up at our child, we raise our voice, we fling an insult. But when we’re challenged by our spouse or child or even our own conscience we point to the circumstances. “If she hadn’t been disobedient, this never would have happened.” So really, you see, it’s her fault. We scream an insult at the driver who cut us off in traffic. We use one of those four-letter words that surprises us (not to mention the rest of our family) as we hear it coming from our mouths. But in the silence that follows, or over the gasps from the back of the van, we insist, “He cut me off! He could have killed us!” It’s not our fault, but his.

When it comes to the sin of anger, we can always find an explanation that exists outside of us. We can always dump this sin in the lap of a husband or wife, a child or stranger. Failing that, we can plead fatigue or hormones or waking up on the wrong side of the bed or something—anything!—else. (click here to read more)

On knowing that you’re saved: How a Fish Can Help You Answer the Question of Whether or Not You Know Jesus by Mike Leake

But what separates a live fish from a dead fish? It isn’t that on occasion they are being tossed about by the stream or even swimming with the current of the stream. Both living fish and dead fish can go with the current. But there is one thing a dead fish can never do—swim up stream. They cannot go against the current.

The same is true of believers. There are times when we go along with the current of the world. We look just like the dead fish—being carried about by the cultural stream. We look like unbelievers being tossed to and for by every wind and wave. In such a season we’ll likely question our salvation because we aren’t reflecting our new life in Christ, we’re just going downstream like nothing has changed. (click here to read more)

On reading the Old Testament: The Joy of the Old Testament by Patrick Meador

God is introduced in power! He is introduced by what He has done. This is the power of biblical history. By reading what God has done, we gain insights into the character of God. When we read of God’s deliverance of the Israelites, we see the love, compassion, and power of God. In the recounting of His dealings with King David and Bathsheba, we see that even a man after God’s own heart can be broken and redeemed. It is in Isaiah 53 that we see the prophecy of the suffering servant, Jesus Christ. We read of God not only making promises but delivering on them!

Since discovering the value of the Old Testament, I have done sermon series through Joshua and Nehemiah as well as spent many times on sermons through the Old Testament, pouring over the text. (click here to read more)

Generosity

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Jesus, Luke 12:32-34 (ESV)

The Bible regularly calls us to generosity. In the Old Testament, the attitude is pictured with a wide-open hand. Instead of holding back for yourself, you open up to share with others.

Jesus gives us the foundational cause for our generosity in Luke 12–when God is our Father, we already have everything.

With this, there will be a disconnect that we feel between this life and eternity. When we live on budgets, balance our bank accounts, and try not to spend more than we bring in, it might seem like we don’t have much. But, our share in everything is coming. This is why the Bible describes our eternal gain through Jesus as an “inheritance.” An inheritance is something that is becoming ours but not yet in our hands.

The problem with earthly inheritances is that they are never guaranteed. Even if a parent or grandparent promises us a large sum of money, something could always happen that results in a far reduced share. Our eternal inheritance, however, will be ours without question. Jesus already gained it on the cross, and the God who never lies has promised that will we receive our full share through Christ.

This reality shapes what we do with our money now. Do we want to be wise with it? Of course. Is there still room for investing and saving? Yes, as we are able. But, we should not let gain in this life be a driving motive. What we do with our treasure reflects our hearts.

If we live as children of the Kingdom, we’ll be interested in helping out, as much as we can, those who are in need. We can be generous because we don’t live for the money in the account, but rather because we live for Jesus and he has promised us a treasure that will never fade.

Truly Blessed

We’ve been on a break from updating the website for a couple of weeks. We hope to be back regularly starting today. Our Bible reading plan for 2018 is a slower plan (typically a chapter a day) designed to take us through most of the New Testament and half the psalms at a pace to allow for more thought and reflection. Online devotional thoughts will draw from that day’s passage in the Bible Reading Calendar (you can download the calendar by clicking here).

Truly Blessed

As Jesus said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” – Luke 11:27-28 (ESV)

People talk all the time about being blessed. When athletes and entertainers win games or awards, they might speak of how blessed they feel. We even find on social media the hashtag #blessed used to describe something good that has happened.

To be blessed is to have an experience of goodness. The word essentially means to be made happy or to be in a happy state of being. This is more than a general sense of happiness that comes in day to day life. To be blessed typically involves and even greater cause for joy.

This is what the woman intended who called out to Jesus. She knew that Jesus was someone special, so his mother should be happy in a special way. And, indeed, Mary may have been. However, Jesus turned around the idea of blessing upon this woman. He replied to her that those truly blessed are those who hear and do God’s word.

Why is this so?

First, it’s because the Bible is God’s word about himself. God is great joy and he is the giver of great joy (Psalm 16:11, 1 Timothy 1:11, John 17:13). Therefore, to know God and experience his presence through his word is to be greatly blessed.

Second, it’s because the Bible is God’s word about our need for Jesus. The Bible is a book of “good news,” but we need the good news because of the bad news. The bad is that we all rebel against God and deserve death and hell. The good is that even though we had no way to rescue ourselves, Jesus came to rescue us from our rebellion. It is a great blessing to move from being enemies of God on a path toward hell to being children of God on a path toward eternal joys.

Third, it’s because the Bible tells us how to live “blessed” lives. As Jesus said in John 10:10—“The thief” (that is, sin, Satan, and death) “comes only to steal, to kill, and to destroy, but I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” When we turn to Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit, we have power to live different lives—lives that daily please God. Such lives rest in and reflect the goodness of Jesus who came to give us abundant life. The commands of Scripture steer us away from the way of the thief and into the way of Jesus, the way that is blessed.

So, cling to Jesus, hear the word of God, and do what it says. There you will find true blessing.

Sunday 12.17.17 (a life of faith, love, and hope)

This week, we’ll finish up our Faith. Love. Hope. series through 1 Thessalonians by taking a look at 5:12-28 where we will see Paul’s summary of a life of faith, love, and hope. Then tonight we’ll continue our video study by David Platt on Scripture and Authority in an Age of Skepticism. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 ~ Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 ~ Worship Gathering
@6pm ~ Video Study in youth room

Sermon Notes
A Life of Faith, Love, and Hope ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

  • Love and show care toward your spiritual leaders (5:12-13)
  • Love God and others with a vibrant faith (5:14-24)
  • Fellowship with your spiritual family (5:25-27)
  • You do this all because of grace (5:28)

1 thessalonians

Image used and modified with permission from pixabay.com.

Songs for Worship
Angels from the Realms of Glory
Give Thanks to God
Emmanuel
Grace Alone
Speak, O Lord
Rejoice, the Lord is King

Out of Egypt (an advent devotion)

So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called my Son. ~ Matthew 2:14-15 (CSB), quoting Hosea 11:1

The book of Exodus details how God rescued his people, Israel, from their slavery and started them on the journey to the Promised Land. God had told Abraham that he would give a strip of land in the Middle East to his descendants, but first they would spend 400 years in a foreign country because God wasn’t yet ready to bring judgment against sin on the other peoples of the land (Genesis 15).

Israel’s time in Egypt started well, with Joseph (Israel/Jacob’s second youngest son) ascending to prominence and rescuing his family from famine. But Exodus begins by telling us that with the passing of time a new Pharaoh over Egypt arose who didn’t remember Joseph and enslaved and imposed harsh conditions upon the Israelites to keep them from becoming too large a people to control.

In response, once the 400 years were passed, God raised up Moses to deliver Israel and show judgment against Egypt. Through an array of miraculous displays of power, God crushed the Egyptian armies and safely led the people away.

Reflecting back on this, the prophet Hosea recorded God’s words, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.”

Several hundred years later, Matthew would apply these words not simply to his fellow Jews, but specifically to one Israelite—the child born to Mary to save the world. Jesus came to lead a new Exodus. Instead of calling a nation out of physical enslavement, he would call and enable his people to come out of their spiritual enslavement. He would defeat sin and death to pave the way. And he would lay the path for us to enter into the Promised Land of eternal joy—the new heavens and new earth to come at Jesus’ return.

Jesus could do this as the new and better Moses and the new and better Israel. Where both the leader and the people failed in various ways in the Old Testament and strayed from God, Jesus would never fail. And though he was a child, his life story took him into Egypt only to then come forth and deliver his people. Out of Egypt I have called my Son.

The Exodus, then, also serves as a reminder of the advent of Jesus and the hope that we have through him.

The Serpent Crusher (an advent devotion)

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “…I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel.” ~ Genesis 3:14-15 (CSB)

As we enter into the Christmas season, we will take a look at a few of the Old Testament prophecies about the advent, or coming of Christ. At many times and in many ways, the Old Testament foretold the birth of Jesus into the world to rescue his people from our sins and show us how to live lives of love. These began in Genesis 3.

After Satan had successfully tempted Adam and Eve into disobeying God and eating from the one tree out of many that God had said to avoid, God pronounced words of judgment upon the participants. In his words denouncing Satan, who appeared as a serpent, we also see a flash of hope for humanity. The woman, Eve, would have a child. The serpent would injure the child, striking at his heel, but the child would crush the serpent, striking at his head.

As with many prophecies in the Bible, this looked beyond the immediate time frame. It would not be Able or Cain or Seth or any of the other sons born directly to Eve who would deal the fatal blow to Satan. Instead, it would be a child born thousands of years later to a young woman who, on the surface, appeared insignificant. It would be a young woman named Mary from a tiny community who would give birth to the world’s Savior-King.

Then, as Jesus grew, Satan would strike at him in many ways from temptations to sufferings on the cross. Yet, by being the perfect man who could take his people’s sins as the perfect sacrifice, and then by kicking down the door of the grave that would not hold him, Jesus struck back at Satan.

In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, we see Jesus return again to forever condemn Satan to the fires of hell, and he does so with the power of his words. The heel was struck, but the head is crushed. Now we celebrate the salvation that came through our Lord.