Tag Archives: Matthew 25

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

Acting Audaciously

Audacity will usually be rewarded. We started here at First St Johns at what was probably its lowest point in a history that dated back to 1875. We still have a long way to go and it’s certainly all about God’s will. The question remains as to how we may or may not end up, we could still very well not make it, but this church would be missed.
There is no doubt that we have made a mark, the test is, will the church be missed if it closes tomorrow? Without qualification I would say yes, that FSJ would be missed. Jim McClure the editor of the York Daily Record identified FSJ as a community outreach church, we have made a mark with the Food bank, employment group, Grief Share, NA, AA, prayer breakfast, workout area and of course the radio station has garnered an immense amount of attention.
Regardless, God has used us for His purposes, but it doesn’t mean He has to keep us here. I have learned that acting audaciously, doing things that appear to be over your capacity does get attention and does generate support. When things are happening, people will notice. They’re not going to notice a church that is just hiding behind its walls. When I started at FSJ I started walking around the neighborhood. When I told our neighbors who I was, they told me they thought FSJs had closed. Who is going to respond to a place they think is closed? But if they see activity, they see involvement, there’s at least a chance they will respond with physical and financial support. We’ve seen that happen at FSJs. If you are doing things to serve, to be a Christian disciple, people will provide money when they see that things are happening, that there is a level of excitement and we’ve seen that happening at FSJ.

It does make me wonder what so many churches are thinking when they seem to chose to passively conduct Christian ministry. Remember the “Parable of the Talents”? (Matthew 25:15-28 ESV) The “Master”, clearly God; Father, Son and or Holy Spirit (Matthew Henry says the Master was Jesus). The Master gives His servants 5, 2, and 1 talents to be used to enrich Him. A “talent” was about a 100 pounds of silver, in today’s value that would be about $2,000., certainly not an inconsequential amount, especially for the first servant who is given about $10,000. The first servant takes the $10,000, entrusted to him and what does he do? Brings another $10,000. Good job! Right? “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'” (Matt 25:21)
The second servant takes the two talents he’s given, brings back $4,000. Not too shabby, I’d sure like to find out what they invested in. But the third servant just returns the one talent he was entrusted with???? Wha…. What’s the point? What good is that? And yet there are plenty of churches out there who somehow think that they are serving the Lord. They’re not, they’re just serving each other. Matthew quotes Jesus as saying: “You wicked and slothful servant!” Pretty strong! But was the servant there just to hide the money and return it to his Master? Anyone can do that, he was there to serve his Master and he was “afraid” and chose to just run away from his responsibility. So it is with so many of these dying churches.
There are the churches that are dying, the churches that aren’t going to burn out, but rust out. They sit around bemoan their fate, maybe do some bake sales, or find a few children to have a VBS for, then they go back, carefully count their pennies, agree that if they’re careful and no serious problems they may make it another year and then go and do the same uninspired, unexciting things they’ve been doing and only that. They sit around and wonder why no one else is interested in being a part of their church. How do they really expect that God is calling to call them “good and faithful servants”? Why on earth would God send someone there to be discipled? Discipled to what? Sitting around with a lack of faith and service and hope that you can hide from reality?  How are they really serving, except, maybe, each other, just returning to God what He gave them, in fact if anything, not even what they were given. Why on earth would anyone think that God is going to bless and encourage that kind of attitude?
The flip side, so it appears to me now, is that you do things that do attract attention, you get people involved in things. Sure they may not work out or are as successful as they should be. Servant 3 would take that as a reason not to do that activity, or anything else for the duration. FSJ takes that and says, “ok, how do we make it better? What should we have done before…” and we start again.
Now, the radio station thing? Pure nuts, right? But it has generated attention and even given us entree to people and groups that we would never have had any opportunity to go to otherwise. People have seen what’s happened, they have moved on faith to support us, encouragement, prayers, financially etc. They have been a part of something they’re proud of, that their neighbors see in the newspaper, hear about in other places, they hear exciting plans and opportunities. Hopefully they get involved and of course it generates more interest, support and activity in the church.
You know what? We may not be around in another year, wouldn’t be the first, won’t be the last organization not to make it. But if we don’t make it, there will be a lot of people who will say; “what a shame, they did a lot of good stuff… hmmm, what could we do to help them get back into the game?…”
Conversely Servant 3 closes the door and not with a bang, but with a whimper and nary a person notices. No one was served, no one grew or was encouraged. Nothing was done to get people excited or involved, just poof, no one showed up for worship the next Sunday and really no one else noticed or cared.
Could be compared to a human, the one who slowly kills themselves through selfishness and bad habits and the bad habits; cancer, obesity, cardio, pulmonary, diabetes, liver disease on and on and they finally die. And the person who pushes themselves in one more triathlon and gloriously just drops right there on the course. Both knew they had a chance to die and one chose to just keep to himself and die a lonely, miserable death. The other one decided, one quick blaze of glory. Who wouldn’t want the blaze of glory? You’ve served others, you’ve made yourself a better person for your spouse, children, family, friends and they will remember you and may even live by your example. You’ve lived and served as a true disciple of Jesus. There are plenty of Christian servants who maybe didn’t “succeed”, but the results of their service will be, is, known by God and will be rewarded. The other? Doesn’t inspire in the least, is really seen as just miserable and even pathetic and no one misses them for an instant.
When we are being Servant 1 and are doing great things for the Kingdom, being faithful, being audacious, faithful to God’s will but crazy to the world, we may not be around next year, but we will be missed. Yea I’d rather do it the FSJ’s way.