Tag Archives: Tribulation

A sense of urgency in Jesus Luke 12, August 14, 2016 First Saint Johns

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 have a sense of urgency in Jesus said … AMEN!

In the OT and NT passages today, there is an obvious sense of urgency. This idea that “everything is beautiful” that we just mosey on down the easy path, always tomorrow, just chill, the world’s perspective on things is not the Biblical perspective. In Jeremiah, Yahweh is telling Jeremiah to push on His people. “Behold the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked…” Does that sound like a nice mellow, just take life easy attitude? For most of us, life here in our insulated part of the United States is easy compared to pretty much the rest of the entire world. But that certainly doesn’t give us any guarantee that it will always be that way, for us individually or for all of us. The things we take for granted, kid ourselves into believing that the world is all just nice and placid and no need for me to get all spun up about it. We are incredibly blessed, living as we do and where we are. So many right around us are not, not just in terms of their soci- economic status, but many are confronting death, dealing with serious illness, many are facing the day to day hopelessness of being lost. They don’t know Jesus, they simply struggle on from day to day, thinking that something is going to happen to just spill all over them, make their life oh so different, and it’s just not going to happen. The drugs, alcohol, murders, sexual, greed, sin of pretty much anything you can think of, the compulsion to want and want, take and take, any of this is supposed to give people some sort of hope or long-lasting pleasure, and it doesn’t. All the things that are going on in the inner city between the residents and police. We have been blessed right here in York because we aren’t seeing a lot of that turbulence, maybe our leaders, our police, our residents, a combination thereof are all able to keep it a little real and not feel entitled to or justified in perpetuating the violence here, although there certainly is violence. Jesus told us there would be division, that the world would hate Christians because the world hates Him. Clearly there is division, there is no “god” according to too many people right around us, so the only thing to do in the world is to contribute as little as possible and to take as much as possible, and it doesn’t matter one bit who it hurts; spouses, children, parents, siblings, neighbors, so long as, of course, it doesn’t hurt me. The division that Jesus talks about is quite plain, for those who trust in Jesus and look to Him to provide, as we talked about last week, for those who are in Jesus not to worry, not to take what isn’t theirs, that is the Christian perspective, it is not the world’s perspective. Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 24: 9-10: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” How many times a day now do we hear how someone is heavens to Betsy “offended”, it’s use is so juvenile and pervasive that it’s become trivial and not even worth the time to talk to someone, they are simply not intellectually able to discuss something and they hide behind phoney clichés. The division is quite obvious, those who have the hope, who want to talk to others with hope, passion, an agape servanthood, the desire to genuinely give hope and promise to so many in the world, and those on the other side who only see hope in the next check, in the next meal, sexual partner, in the next home, vehicle, job, and after years and years of their pointless pursuits wonder why they are so lacking in hope, why they are further away than ever of achieving any true hope, peace and feeling of true love and assurance in their life. Therein lies the division, those who have that hope and promise in Jesus and those that don’t. We know there are all sorts of people who just can’t stand to see someone else be happy or achieve, just be content to be where they are. It drives them really crazy when they see Christians serving and trying to take a genuine interest in someone else. How can they do that? Don’t they know they’re supposed to be grasping and grubbing for everything they can, that is supposed to be miserable and wracked with envy and greed. Yet they will look you in the face and try to tell you how Christians don’t know how to have fun. They have no clue how destructive and just really nasty their “fun” is, and what the difference is between fun and “joy”. Paul tells the Galatians: “ESV Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” the world would read that in terms of grasping, self-love, greed, impatience, happy. For too many of the world who have so much and have decided that they’re uninformed world view is superior to God’s Word in Scripture, they have chosen what C.S. Lewis describes as; “…the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones without signposts.” What so many in the world let themselves get lulled into, the idea that it will all work out and they can live in their evil and that will be OK with God, despite Jesus’ clear words and warnings. Robert Schmalzle who wrote the 7 Habits of Jesus, wrote: “Some of [Jesus’] teaching on forgiveness and peace may have given the impression that he was spreading a soft gospel. Jesus assures his listeners that Christian discipleship is costly, even causing division in the family. The Gospel challenge is clear.”[1]
So when Jesus says: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on the earth? No, I tell you rather division,…” You can hear the incredulity in Jesus’ voice; “You all hear what you wanted to hear, you haven’t heard what I’ve said” and we have that to this very day. These men were Jesus’ disciples, but they were not mature in their faith, we see them arguing and scrabbling with each other right up to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. They were trying to make Jesus into a nice little fairy tale, the Davidic King who comes in and wipes away the Romans and the Pharisees, scribes, lawyers, Sadducees, all the bad people. All the good people, at least themselves and some of the other disciples, along with Jesus, would then roll right in and take over, the new heavenly kingdom would be there with each disciple, no doubt, thinking that Jesus will be wise enough to pick him to be at his right hand and things in the world will be all straightened out. Jesus is telling them: “oh no, there is so much more to happen, so much strife and difficulty, so much more that you are going to have to contend with and you better get over this idea right now that it’s going to be just a nice easy slide into the heavenly kingdom. No way? Things are going to get much more difficult before everything is destroyed and then the world restored to the way my Father and I had intended it at creation.

Jesus is very unhappy, I’d dare say angry. He simply cannot believe how clueless his disciples are. Do you honestly think that Jesus would be any happier with His church today? There certainly is division in the church today, much of which is created by people who simply want their fairy tale Christianity and ignore Jesus’ words in Luke 12, Matthew 24, and so many other passages. Yes He does love us, He does want what is best for us, but for too many in the world, they decide what is best for them. They don’t really know, but they’re pretty sure that it has something to do with more and more, give me what I want, indulge my definition of happy, because after all I really am my own idol and I know far better than anyone else and just provide me, with my poorly informed ideas of “happy”, and we will all be happy in our denial of what real joy and contentment is in Jesus. Yes we all have those times when we slip into the world’s idea of “happy”, but we grow in knowing what true joy is in Jesus and not delude ourselves in the world’s paradigm. That we can even as brothers and sisters in Jesus, begin to grasp what is true joy in Jesus. The division is that we know our eternal life in the resurrection, the perfect world is in Jesus. The world believes that their life and happiness is here in the world as it is now, a world full of sin, evil, death, destruction, greed, envy. There has never been true joy in the world and it will never be realized in the world unless it is in Jesus and that joy will not be perfected until we are all resurrected into the new world, the world that God had always intended us to live in. There are plenty who call themselves “Christians”, churches that claim to be “Christian”, who have divided Christianity, who have caused conflict and dissension in the church. They ignore God’s word in the Bible, decide that they know better than God, because He is just so vengeful, so mean and they teach things contrary to His word, because they have that fairy tale idea of Jesus. They ignore Jesus’ clear teachings and then accuse others of hate and ignorance who are faithful to Jesus’ clear words. There is an undivided church of Jesus, it is made up of Christians from many different denominations, it is the invisible church that Dr Luther taught. That church does not try to make the Bible just one of many teachings, that church does not try to make evil good, that church has a very clear understanding of the evil in the world and that in the end those who make up their own world paradigm, “Christian” or not, will be condemned along with the rest of the world, regardless of their opinion or what they call themselves. Is our dependence, trust and faith in Jesus, or is it in other teachings that try to “rationalize” His Word and turn it into a self-serving attempt to justify our sins and evil life style so that we can be happy according to our word?

The writer of Hebrews tells of so many who ignored the lies of the world and accomplished so much through the strength and insight God gave them, many of them who served God’s will in the world. Many who died because of their faithfulness to God: “Others suffered mocking and flogging and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated, of whom the world was not worthy – wandering about in deserts and mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Heb 11: 36- 38) So many today who are persecuted and martyred because they faithfully follow God’s Word and not the world’s or those who presume to be Christian.

We know that the Holy Spirit is with us and if we get out of His way guides us 24/7. The writer of Hebrews goes on to give us the hope and promise in Jesus: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12: 1-3) We have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have an entire cheering section of the great, cloud of witnesses, we have our life in Jesus Christ, we have no need of the opinion of a dying and lost world and we need to run the race that has been set before us by our Lord who did all that was necessary to save us. There has to be a sense of urgency to run a race, Jesus’s words urge as to remember what we will be facing and in the faith He gives us we have our strength to continue to deal with the division in the world and continue to confront the world. The writers of Hebrews tells us that we will have all the support we need in the support of that cloud of witnesses and keeping our eye on Jesus, but we can’t be cavalier about it, we need to reach out to the world in hope, promise and with a sense of urgency.

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

[1] Robert Schmalzle 7 Habits of Jesus email  Aug 8, 2016

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