Tag Archives: end times

In such a fragile world, let’s focus on eternal life Jude First St Johns Nov 22, 2015

[for the audio please click on the above Sound Cloud link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are ready to be used to truly save lives, to eternity said … AMEN!

We are again talking about eschatology, end times, I seem to run into different people over and over who have this fascination with eschatology. But there are “end times” when God will decide that the world will come to an end. And there are end times when someone dies now and dies to eternity, who does not have a saving relationship with God and is forever lost and condemned, they have had their “end time”. You can talk about the end times that Jesus tells us in the Gospels and in the Book of Revelation, but for those who die without being saved in Jesus, their end time happened when they died. I don’t understand this fascination, to me, the end of time, the final judgment, Armageddon, are all about the fragility of life. We just do not appreciate how much of a miracle it is for us to be here, to be what we are, to do what we do. The human body is so fragile, relatively slight changes around us can limit us, cripple us and even kill us. Yet we survive pretty well, considering how much could go wrong with us, the vast majority of people are healthy, death is unusual. But when we talk about end times, I think back to how very fragile we are and also to the fact that despite all my physical limitations, as complicated as the human body is, how easy it would be for something to go wrong, that our Creator, Glorious God keeps us strong, in body, mind and spirit and if it wasn’t for Him, we would be living day to day, in terror of the evil in the world. The Holy Spirit protects us from that evil.

St Jude writes: “But you beloved, building your selves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire;”

While serving in the Coast Guard I had a number of times when I was reminded of the fragility of life. One time started out as a foggy, cool, quiet Sunday morning and the Search and Rescue buzzer going off. It was really foggy, you couldn’t see more than ten – fifteen feet ahead. There is a lot of low water around the station and you just can’t go flying out of there even in a serious emergency, because there’s just too many areas that you can ground the boat. When there’s only about fifteen feet of visibility, it’s even more difficult and we had to pick our way out of the harbor. A small commuter airplane, the husband was the pilot and the wife was a stewardess missed the runway at Logan Airport. The airplane went right into Boston Harbor. The husband was very lucky. He was ejected out of the cockpit and a lobsterman, who just happened to be working on a Sunday morning, which they don’t usually, heard him calling out and the lobsterman picked his way over to the man and pulled him out of the water. Even in the middle of the summer, the water north of Cape Cod, of the Gulf Stream is cold, you don’t want to all of a sudden find yourself thrown out of a plane and into the water. While it was tough on the husband, the wife was trapped in the fuselage and at the bottom of Boston Harbor. I was driving the boat, while two other crewmen were in the back tending to the husband, he had been pretty battered. I had already dealt with a lot of death and injury, but for some reason this one hit me hard. I’m concentrating on trying to pick my way back into Boston Harbor, to the base in Boston to transport the man to the hospital as quickly as possible, but I also became preoccupied with the wife in the cold water, at the bottom of the harbor. I remember at one point having to choke back tears to focus on driving the boat and avoid hitting anything in the fog. It really hit me, this is a couple that just wanted to be back in Boston in the morning, enjoy the city, had no other expectations than to have Sunday brunch and enjoy a day off. The husband did survive, but the wife didn’t make it.

If I could have articulated the passage in Jude at the time, it would have really hit me. I didn’t know if this woman was saved, if she knew Jesus as her Lord, if she knew that Jesus died for the sins of the world, her sins included, in order to restore us to the Father and save us to eternity. St Jude’s quote really hits home and is convicting to me and should be convicting to all of us who are in Jesus: “…save others by snatching them out of the fire…” I had the privilege of serving for 29 years, full-time and part-time Coast Guard, I had many opportunities to “snatch people out of the fire”. I participated in saving many lives. But I and all of you here today, have an opportunity to “save lives” in a much more significant way. Anyone that I was involved in “snatching from the fire”, may have been saved that day, but will, eventually, die. We all will. But the issue is will any of us die and then be in the presence of the Lord? Or will we die for eternity? You have the opportunity with so many of those around you; family, friends, those you work with, your neighbors, to genuinely save lives. It might sound more exciting to plod through the fog to pull someone out of the water and save them from physical death. But it means so much more to save someone from eternal death and all of you here, young, old, strong, not so strong, regardless of education level, work status, marital status, you can save people to eternal life in Jesus. Someone can be saved now, will grow old, sick, infirm, and die without Jesus and be lost eternally. Or they can be saved now, and have the promise of the eternal resurrection. Eternal life in the perfect world, to life that God intended for us at the beginning of creation. We have the promise in today’s Gospel lesson, that at the end of time, when we see the stars falling from heaven and the powers on earth and in heaven be shaken, that the Son of Man, Jesus will come in the clouds with great power and glory, that He will send His angels to gather His elect. Who are His “elect”? You and me, those who Jesus chose from the beginning of time to be saved in Him. We don’t know who those elect are. How do we know that we are elect? We are baptized in the all powerful Name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are confirmed to be members of His Body, His church. We take His Body and Blood to strengthen us in our relationship as new creations, sons and daughters of God the Father. That we are forgiven saints, restored in our relationship with the Father. We hear His preached Word as we are doing right now, that reminds us of that relationship and our responsibility to live our lives in the world, right now, to reach those who the Holy Spirit is guiding us to reach. We can be the greatest life-savers, that even if someone’s physical life ends tomorrow, what we did to witness to Jesus and show them salvation and eternal life in Him, that their lives will be saved to eternity and to true life in the resurrection. That is true life-saving and we get to do that every day we are in this world to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus. Isaiah writes: “My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples…” (Isaiah 51: 5) God comes nearer to us every day and His righteousness will triumph over the evil of the world. The Father has promised us salvation in Jesus, He who died to pay for our sins. But He also promises there will be a judgement. For those in Jesus the verdict will be true life eternal. For those not in Jesus, the judgment will be eternal separation from God in Hell. Take some time this week to think and write about the lives you could be saving to eternity.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

Our Strength is in Jesus, now and until the end Hebrews 10 First St Johns Church Nov 15, 2015

[for the audio version, please click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who welcome the end times and look forward to eternal life in the resurrection said… AMEN!

I just do not understand the fascination with eschatology. I certainly welcome Jesus’ second coming, regardless of the inevitable furor, we have Jesus’ promise that the tribulation will precede His coming. This is when He will judge the nations. “ESV Matthew 25:33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.” For those who are in Jesus, they will be on His left, they will hear Jesus: “ESV Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” No one wants to experience the terror of the Tribulation, but we also know that in order to reach a desirable outcome, we often have to endure pain, hardship, loss. I remember when Marge was giving birth to Timothy, I have never experienced such emotional churning in my life. At one point Margie says “make them stop…” I’m actually thinking about how I’m going to do that, until I snapped out of it. I would have readily taken her pain, but there was nothing I could do but encourage and support. If you haven’t noticed, Margie has these tiny little doll hands, which I actually think are just so nice. I have fairly big hands, at least average for a man. Let me tell you, Margie got hold of my right hand with her tiny little hand and didn’t let go through the whole process. I couldn’t write for a week, it took that long for my hand to untwist. Birth was difficult and painful, but the result of those few minutes of pain was our son Timothy, certainly worth the pain and anguish.

I don’t need to know the end time, when it happens there’s nothing I can do about it, further more there’s nothing more to worry about, it’s all in the hands of the Holy Spirit, it has been all along. If Jesus returns then I want Him to see me doing His work, not sitting around “dwelling” on the fact that He’s coming. What’s the point? If I’m a non-believer, I better give in to the Spirit’s leading, and not resist when He moves me to Jesus. If Jesus comes and I don’t know Him as Savior, then it’s not going to be good for me, at all, I will be condemned, I will be sent to Hell, game, set and match.

As a Christian Jesus is going to come when He comes, and we want Jesus to see us in the world serving Him and those around us. When Jesus returns and those who don’t know Him are condemned, I should be doing whatever I can to show them Jesus. A non-believer needs to yield to the Holy Spirit, I pray for those who don’t know Jesus that the Holy Spirit brings them to Christ and salvation. The end times according to Jesus, John and Luke, in Acts, will be a horrible time, for non-Christians and if we aren’t in the pre-trib rapture, for we Christians too.

I really do subscribe to what the writer of Hebrews suggests in our reading today: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together … but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Notice where he writes “…not neglecting to meet together…”. For those who like to make it up, one of the things they love to camp on is “it doesn’t say anything in the Bible about worshipping together.” Ah yea, it does, right here. Paul talks about coming together as the church. One good reason why we come together in worship with pastor’s who are trained is that we don’t listen to those who are making it up, and there’s a lot of them out there.

The writer of Hebrews is telling us, let’s focus on what we can control. There is nothing, we can do to control or anticipate the end times, nothing. It will happen in the Father’s own time. Jesus said that He didn’t know when the end time would be. Why? In the military unless you have a “need to know”, you are not going to be told. I think it’s the same way with Jesus. He has told us plainly that when the Father decides, it will happen. In the meantime, Jesus is our Lord, the Holy Spirit moves where He will go and the Father will make the final decision. The entire Trinity will be involved at that point. But until then, no one else needs to know.

For those who like to make it about gentle, meek and mild Jesus, I’d strongly suggest you reread our Gospel passage. It is not gentle, it is a promise that there will be tremendous trauma. For those who like to camp on the end times, do you have some idea that you’re going to be able to run away and hide? Bad news, everyone alive will experience the trauma and tragedy of the end times, even that “cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews 12:1. How much will this affect those who have grown accustomed to being in the peace, bliss and strength of the Father? There is no where to hide.

Jesus talks about the temple being destroyed. You saw in the “order of worship” a rendering of what we think Herod’s Temple looked like in Jesus’ time. Our minister of music Ken Sanders led a study of the temple, from the time when Israel was wandering in the desert, up into the future, where prophecy says that the Temple will be rebuilt. When we discussed Herod’s Temple, it struck me how closely the rebuilt Temple shadowed Jesus’ life.

When the Jews returned to Israel they put together a Temple to the best of their ability. They didn’t have anything when they returned from Babylon, but the temple was so vitally important to them, that they did what they could. About 500 years later, Herod the Great embarked on an ambitious program to restore some of the glory of Solomon’s Temple. About the time Jesus was born, the temple had been restored, when Mary and Joseph brought Him to be presented at the Temple. The temple was a point of pride to the Jewish nation. About forty years after Jesus was crucified, the Temple was destroyed, as Jesus prophesies: “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Mark 13: 1-13) This is a devastating prophecy to His disciples! It would be like someone telling us that the White House, Capital Building, First Saint Johns would be knocked down. The Temple was the center of everything in Israel; government, religion, commerce. Everything had its source in the Temple.

Could we be at the start of the Tribulation? Look at what Jesus says. “See that no one leads you astray.” We have plenty of those people today. He tells us to not be alarmed when there are wars and rumors of war. As bad as war is now, war back then often meant there would not be enough food, people killed. Many of you remember World War II, and how people had to eat food that was less than desirable, there were shortages of a lot of material that people had to cope with. War then and in the future will be much worse. Jesus describes many alarming events that will occur, even saying: “And you will be hated by all for my Name’s sake.” Being a Christian puts you right in the middle of much persecution. Also compelling is Jesus telling us that before the end of the tribulation that “the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.” To us who don’t even want to proclaim the Gospel in our own neighborhood? That has to be distressing to hear.  It will happen, we can’t stop it, we do need to endure. The Greek word Jesus used, u`pome,nw means “to endure, bear bravely and calmly:” We are not called to run away and hunker down, but to persevere in the midst of the tribulation around us, to continue to witness and serve. Our only hope and promise, then as now, is in the hope and promise that Jesus has given us. Take time to journal about how you might “endure”. We certainly would want to recall our baptism, that we are baptized in His Name and given new life. That we are cleansed of our sins because of His sacrifice on the Cross and that while the labors of the tribulation will be awful, we have His promise it will end in His glorious return and the beginning of our true life in the resurrection for those who are saved in Christ. We are reminded, those “who endure to the end will be saved.” There is no other way we can be saved. Because of the faith that God gives us to endure, we will, but it will not be easy and is not avoidable. Really consider how, if you had to live through the end times, that you would be able to live according to the directions of the writer of Hebrews to hold fast to our confession, stirring one another to love and good works, not neglecting meeting together, encouraging one another.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

NFL’s Benjamin Watson Urges ISIS Victims, Christians to ‘Stand Firm’ With Jesus in the Face of Death; Says Rise of Persecution Indicates Christ’s ‘Imminent Return’

The following is from christianpost.com dated March 4, 2015

NFL’s Benjamin Watson Urges ISIS Victims, Christians to ‘Stand Firm’ With Jesus in the Face of Death; Says Rise of Persecution Indicates Christ’s ‘Imminent Return’

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BY SAMUEL SMITH , CP REPORTER
March 4, 2015|4:49 pm
Benjamin Watson is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints.(PHOTO: EAG SPORTS MANAGEMENT)

Benjamin Watson is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints.

Outspoken Christian NFL player Benjamin Watson recently issued a powerful Facebook post writing about the Islamic State and the rise of Christian persecution throughout the world, asserting that all Christians should be ready to die for upholding their faith in Jesus Christ.

“The images keep flooding our timelines and news feeds. Men being burned alive or beheaded by masked assassins. Stories of families on the run, fleeing their homes while they are pillaged and burned,” Watson’s Saturday Facebook post explained. “Their testimonies hold a familiar chord: ‘Convert, Pay or Die!'”

Watson, an 11-year NFL veteran who’s a tight end for the New Orleans Saints, wrote that although extremist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram in Nigeria have risen to prominence and are out to destroy Christianity, believers should never deny Christ in order to save their lives.

Watson cited Luke 12:8 and further explained that Jesus specifically told his followers that those who deny Him in in the face of death will be punished.

“‘And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God’ Luke 12:8,” Watson wrote.

Although Watson admits that the idea of being killed over his faith in Jesus is a frightening thought, he wrote that it’s important to remember that some of the bravest followers of Christ were killed for refusing to denounce Jesus.

“The persecution of Christians is not a new concept. As early as the first century we read about the Spirit-filled boldness of Christians, like Stephen and Paul, who proclaimed the Gospel through beatings and imprisonment, torture and death,” Watson wrote. “We remember Christ’s disciples, most of whom were killed just like their master. Roman emperors like Nero executed Christians in the most ghastly ways, using them as torches to light the evening sky.”

Although Christians have been beaten, killed and tortured for thousands of years over their faith, Watson further emphasized that the light of Christ continued to spread because of the brave followers who stood firm in their faith.

“In spite of all this adversity, Christianity continued to spread because men and woman, empowered by the Holy Spirit, stood strong in the face of certain death; some being delivered and others falling,” Watson wrote. “As I sit here in a 21st century United States, I can’t help but wonder when we, too, will face martyrdom for our faith. On this very day nearly 50 countries have laws that restrict or outlaw Christianity, leading to the harassment, imprisonment and death of those who follow Christ.”

The post continued by listing the number of countries today that prevent Christians from practicing their faith, such as North Korea and China.

“On this day, in countries like North Korea and China, Christians gather for church underground to avoid being arrested by police. On this day, in Nigeria thousands mourn the deaths of their loved ones killed by Boko Haram in their quest to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. On this day, in Cuba, Christian ministries continue to risk their freedom as the country continues to feel the effects of Communist rule,” Watson continued. “BUT, on this day, Jesus’ words in Luke still ring true.”

Although many Christians live safe, well-protected lives in America and other countries that protect religious freedoms, Watson contends that persecution of Christians in America will come sooner or later.

“Rest assured, fellow Americans, if it hasn’t already, our day WILL COME,” Watson asserted. “My only hope in such trying times is the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the X factor. He will give us the strength, words, and vision when our backs are against the wall. Jesus promised the believer many things. Eternal life, abundant life, peace, purpose and forgiveness to name a few. He also promises that they, like him, WILL be betrayed, hated and persecuted, even to death. (Luke 21:12-19).”

When that day arrives, Watson encourages Christians not to tremble in fear when in the face of persecution because it’s a sign of the nearing return of the Messiah.

“[W]e must WAKE UP from our slumber, be on guard and stand firm. A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Watson added. “Spiritual unity in the body will help us weather the coming storms. We must REMEMBER that as terrible as things are and will become, they are simply signs pointing to one thing; His imminent return.”