Saturday, November 30, 2013

2 things to know first Matthew 24:36-44

Jesus spoke of the end times with two distinct lines of thought:

  1. only the Father knows the hour of the end Matthew 24:36
  2. the end will come like thief catching people unexpectedly Matthew 22:42-44
Any faithful conversation about the end of times will include the unresolved tension between these 2 equally valid teachings of our Lord. 2 millennia later Jesus' Words remain held in tension by believers. These 2 teachings both remain equally valid and equally essential to Christian faith and life. In short you can't have one without the other if you take Jesus' Word seriously.
Over the past 2000 years some have loudly insisted they knew the hour when the end was coming. Almost universally those who "know" the hour have insisted it is near by, almost at hand. Some have even gone so far done the road of error and confusion that they have published dates and timelines announcing the end. They have convinced others of their error; and those who are confused by them believe with them that this one interpretation of the signs and times is right.
For 20 centuries of Christian history this same confusion has existed and it still exists today. People believe they can crack the code hidden deep in prophecy and know the day. They will say that Jesus spoke of signs and the end coming quick. They will rightly say that our Lord Jesus called people to be prepared. And some will read the signs and believe they can see the end. But if they will be honest for even a second with Jesus they will say they can't know for certain. Unless they have access to the inner council of God the Father that the angels and the only begotten Son of the Father don't have they are just guessing. And they are at best only sharing their guesses and confusion with others.
The centuries are full of examples of teachers who believed they had decoded God's Word and read all the signs so that they knew that the hour was at hand. And Jesus Word remains true and good. The Father knows and we don't. Even as teachers come and go announcing that a particular economic or geo-political development is a sign Jesus Word remains good and true: only the Father knows.
Anytime you meet someone who wishes to speak of the end of times bring them back from their speculations about current events and their interpretation prophecy to the solid Word of Jesus Christ.
No one knows when that day or time will be, not the angels in heaven, not even the Son. Only the Father knows Mt 24:36 NCV
Anytime you meet someone who insists they know bring them back out of their speculation to the solid Word. Instead of preparing for a particular day Jesus is inviting us to live everyday as a day at the end of time.
"“So always be ready, because you don’t know the day your Lord will come. Remember this: If the owner of the house knew what time of night a thief was coming, the owner would watch and not let the thief break in. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at a time you don’t expect him." (Matthew 24:42-44, NCV)
The Kingdom of Heaven is coming. When Jesus walked on earth he said that the Kingdom of Heaven drew near to those who heard him 2000 years ago. The truth is his kingdom comes close when we live at the Father's direction. The kingdom comes when we place the love of God and the love of our neighbors above self love.
Maybe we forget what we are asking God to do When we pray, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done..." We are asking to be part of the Kingdom coming not far away but here in our church, homes, and work. When we pray we asking for Our Father to hear us. That means we are stepping into a relationship of trust in the Father that God wants to share with us from here until the end of time.
Today I give thanks that God the Father is near, and that all things and all time are in His care,
Peace and thanks for reading, John

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

God the Father of Christmas: Part 1 of an Advent Conversation

God the Father and Christmas? Most people can name 3 people in the Christmas story. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. But there was a fourth individual who was part of the story long before Joseph and Mary: God the Father. Think back to the first chapter's of Genesis. God made the world and after finishing making people God said the creation—but especially people were more than good—they were very good. Women and men had been made in God's own image and likeness. 

But the story twists. A snake enticed Eve and Adam. They ignored God's directions and ate food God had forbidden them to even touch. Soon after Adam's and Eve's son Cain killed their other boy Abel. The creation that was very good changed: sin, death, and evil are present in our lives even though the Father hadn't planned the world to work that way.
Talk it over: How do people experience sin, death, and evil in our world today?

DIGGING DEEPER: The Father's reaching for us. Christmas is part God the Father's plan to rewrite the human story sending his Son straight into our world. God the Father eliminated any distance between us and Him. Jesus was God's son—his direct and personal way back into our our lives.

The prophet Malachi spoke on God's behalf to his people. God understood their questions and sent Jesus as the answer.
Malachi wrote: The Lord said, “I have loved you.”
But you ask, “How have you loved us?
Malachi 1:2a NCV

Talk it over: In what ways do experience God's love?
Why might some people think God is distant and doesn't love them?

Malachi wrote: The Lord All-Powerful says, “A child honors his father, and a servant honors his master. I am a father, so why don’t you honor me? I am a master, so why don’t you respect me? You priests do not respect me.
But you ask, ‘How have we shown you disrespect?
Malachi 1:6-7 NCV
Talk it over: In what ways do people disrespect God?

Malachi Wrote: You have tired the Lord with your words.
You ask, “How have we tired him?”
You did it by saying,
The Lord thinks anyone who does evil is good, and he is pleased with them.”
Or you asked, “Where is the God who is fair?

The Lord All-Powerful says, “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way for me. Suddenly, the Lord you are looking for will come to his Temple; the messenger of the agreement, whom you want, will come.
Malachi 2:17-3:1 NCV.
Talk it over: What does God's “messenger” have to do with Christmas?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

3 Advent Conversations

A writing project waits on this pastors to do list.
It's a fun project: write 3 conversation sheets for young people and mentors. These are more than sheets of questions. The goal: start 3 significant conversations about God's coming to earth in the person we call Jesus. One mentor asked to have all this available with time to think things through in advance. So over the next 7 days my goal is to create a starting point for 3 Advent Conversations.

  1. God the Father's plan for us at Christmas
  2. Why God's plan meant a turned over life for Joseph
  3. Mary's whole self participation in God's plan
Please check back in and let me know what you think.
thanks, John

Monday, November 11, 2013

fearless in Christ Luke 21:5-29?

Jesus and his friends stood at the heart of the temple Luke 21. Someone, maybe one of His friends, marveled at the size of the blocks and the wall of the great temple Luke 21:5. And Jesus said plainly—not one stone will be left on another. Every stone will be thrown down Luke 21:6-. Wow the temple, the very center of their faith and national life would be destroyed.
Jesus friend wanted to know what signs they would have of the coming destruction Luke 21:7. But that wasn't Jesus only challenging prediction. He spoke of liars who would come claiming to be the Messiah warning his friend do not be fooled. Luke 21:8. He spoke of riots and wars between nations Luke 21:9-10. He warned of famine and trial before synagogues and governors Luke 21:11-12. And this Jesus says will give his followers a chance to tell the world of him Luke 21:13.
Many people run from such struggles in fear—but Jesus told his friends to step forward knowing that in Christ they would have the right words to share Luke 21:14-15. And here is the promise. Everyone on earth might hate Jesus followers. But they can't really harm a believer Luke 21:16-18. Because in faith a believer will life on Luke 21:19.
Be honest. Will anything or anybody in life besides Christ and those who are found last?

  • a house—one terrible storm or fire could wipe that out
  • k2
  • a relationship—one dread disease or trust breaking act could end it
  • a place in a church building—as hard as believers might try even their building used for worship aren't guaranteed to last.
The Lord Jesus spoke of the end of all things as a coming reality. It was part of his basic teaching and it is an essential part of Christian faith. Jesus followers know they we will be in Christ in all circumstances and His promise is a source of joy. No matter what comes even suffering, grief, and death believers have a forever place in Christ Jesus. Christian faith is no escape hatch from suffering and pain and death. Faith is trust that God walks with believers faithful in every circumstance. When all things pass away the eternal God, and those who are found in him, will remain.
Peace to you and thanks for reading, John