Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jesus’ Second Coming

As most people, we are vulnerable to impressions. The disciples were greatly impressed with the temple. It was, no doubt, a magnificent building that had taken 46 years to complete. It rose high on Mt Moriah and overlooked Jerusalem. Jesus, nonetheless, was not impressed, and in fact, he said the day was fast approaching when the temple would be completely destroyed and every stone thrown down (Luke 21:6-7). That happened when the Roman General Titus unleashed his legions on Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

This was Jesus’ final address to his disciples before he entered his journey to the cross.  He warned his disciples to be aware that bad things would continue to happen in this broken world as they always have. There would be false teachers claiming to be Christ, there would be wars, natural disasters and even strange happenings in the heavens. However, the most important thing for these disciples would be to remain faithful to the Lord. Our obedience to Christ is the most important thing in this Christian life.

John Newton wrote about obedience and faithfulness to Christ: “If two angels were to receive at the same moment a commission from God. One to go down and rule earth’s grandest empire and the other to go and sweep the streets of its meanest village. It would be a matter of entire indifference to each, which service fell to his lot, the post of ruler or the post of scavenger. For the joy of the angels lies only in obedience to God’s will.”[i] If only we understood the importance of obedience to the will of God.

Jesus also pointed his disciples to the one great event of all history, and that is his second coming. He said to them that there will be incredibly strange and powerful signs in the heavens and the seas would roar and toss in Tsunami like ways. When we see these things happening, we should look up because our redemption is near: “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27).

Jesus will come again but not as a babe in a manger. He will appear a second time but not on a lowly donkey. This time he will come in the clouds. There will be no mistaking his power and glory, for all will know who he is. The question for us is, can we remain faithful to the Lord during the time we are waiting for the Lord to return.

During World War II, the production demand of war materials required an ever increasing production of coal. During one critical time, Winston Churchill called together the labor leaders to enlist their support. This was no speech to Parliament that was carried on the airwaves, but rather a few simple words spoken in a private meeting. Churchill asked them to picture in their minds a parade, which he knew would be held in Piccadilly Circus after the war. First, he said, would come the sailors who had kept the vital sea lanes open. Then would come the soldiers who had come home from Dunkirk and then gone on to defeat Rommel in Africa. Then would come the pilots who had driven the Luftwaffe from the sky. “Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner’s caps. Someone would cry from the crowd, ‘And where were you during the critical days of our struggle?’ And from ten thousand throats would come the answer, ‘We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.” May we keep our faces to the coal as we serve God in our places of obscurity. One day we will see the big picture. Jesus said life would be filled with trouble, but he said, "By standing firm you will gain life" (Luke 21:19).

[i] Joe Allen, Dark Days, CDR-SCC1099, March 12, 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Lessons From a Poor Widow

Luke describes for us an interesting scene from Jesus’ perspective. Jesus was watching as the rich and influential deposited their money into the brass chests at the temple. Some of the offerings were no doubt impressive with more than one person carrying them because they were so heavy. You could hear the loud noise as the heavy coins hit the bottom of the brass chests shaped like trumpets. It may have been impressionable for those watching, but it wasn’t for Jesus because he saw their hearts. Luke says that, “As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury, but he also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.” Jesus’ conclusion about the widow’s offering is absolutely amazing. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:1-4).

Jesus said that she had put in more than all the others combined but not because her offering was more money. In fact, it was worth less than a penny. It was more because she brought her offering to God, not to men. It was more because it was all that she had. It was more because she gave it to God out of love.

Motive does matter to the Lord. The motive doesn’t matter to the electric company. They just want you to pay your bill on time. The motive, however, does matter to the Lord. Her offering, though small, cost her and therefore was meaningful to God. King David refused to make a sacrifice to God that cost him nothing. The amount means nothing to God, but the heart means everything. With God, less is more. Little does not mean the same thing to God as it does to us. A little boy’s lunch is enough to feed thousands to God. Miraculously, a handful of flour and a little oil was enough to sustain the widow’s household in Elijah’s day. As it was in Elisha’s day when God used the widows’ few drops of oil to fill all the vessels in her house and pay her debts.  

Giving is part of our sincere worship. I remember when we started the Argentine Missions Department in the 1980’s. We started taking offerings from some very poor congregations to send as missions offerings. I explained to the people that it was a biblical principle not a question of amount. I remember one woman in particular, whose name was Juanita, who wanted to give but didn’t have anything to give. Then God spoke to her to not buy bell peppers and instead save that money. She did, and God used her offering in the same way he did the widows’ two mites.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Fight for Freedom

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the world saw an end to World War I. More than 9 million soldiers died in this terrible war along with 5 million civilians, and 21 million were injured. Then there were 2 million Armenians slaughtered in Turkey and an influenza that killed 50 million, all during the war. From 1914 to 1918 the world was a very dark place.

In every war the beginnings are always complicated, but you will always fight someone trying to take someone’s freedom away. Those who start wars look for pretenses, and they found one when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. He was the heir to the kingdom of Austria and Hungary. A Serb in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo killed him and his wife. Quickly, Austria declared war on Serbia even though there was no evidence that the Serbian government had anything to do with the assassination.

Winston Churchill wrote to his wife on learning of the Austrian declaration of war, “I wondered whether those stupid Kings and Emperors could not assemble together and revivify kingship by saving the nations from hell but we all drift on in a kind of dull cataleptic trance. As if it was somebody else’s operation.”[i]

In April 1917, almost three years after the war began, the United States joined the war to fight for freedom. A year and half later the war was over. We lost 53,000 men fighting in a war for others, but had we not, the world would have been terribly different. This war, like so many of our wars, was fought far from home for our freedom and the freedom of the world. Then twenty years later, we would go back to the same places and fight another war for freedom. That war would claim over 416,000 American lives.

Sometimes we forget about the long span of history and what it means. Our 241 years of history is really a short span, but we have ample evidence of how much we owe to God’s providence and blessing for preserving us as a nation. We are grateful for our freedom and the price that has been paid to preserve it from those who would take it from us. We are a blessed nation, and we acknowledge God’s hand of mercy upon us.

[i] Gilbert, Martin. The First World War: A Complete History (p. 25). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.