2 Peter 3:1-10

            The Lord Jesus will return.  He is coming.  A Second Advent shall occur.  Yes, I know we Christians have been babbling on about Christ’s Second Coming for centuries.  It’s been two-thousand years since the incarnation, and here we are still talking about Jesus’ return.  No, followers of Christ are not deluded or unusually weird (well, maybe a little weird).  God is not on vacation.  He isn’t aloof or unconcerned.  He exists, and he is up to something.  “The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is.  In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.”  Like a watching and concerned parent, God is waiting for all kinds of people to turn from empty wayward lives and return to him.  Yes, God has not yet returned because he is waiting for us to return.
 
            What some people often interpret as not caring is simply a cold misinterpretation of reality.  God cares.  God is infinitely patient.  God carefully and adroitly graces individuals with repentance full of faith that leads to a new life of peace, joy, and righteousness.  If we can admit that our perspective on things is typically puny and very limited, then we can begin to entertain a larger notion that God doesn’t operate like we do and his timetable is quite different than ours.
 
            There is no better time than now to participate with God by praying that your prodigal son or daughter, your wayward friend, and your clueless neighbor will come to know Jesus in this Advent season.  If God is waiting for folks to repent and believe the good news of forgiveness and new life in Christ, then he is also waiting for us to have some focused, sustained, and passionate prayer for those in need of Jesus.  May the angels in heaven rejoice on Christmas Day that salvation has come to your world.
 

 

            Saving Lord, your grace and compassion know no bounds.  Let the finished work of Jesus be applied to the homes of my friends, neighbors, and relatives so that they can know the incredible joy of new life through the incarnation, cross, and resurrection of Christ.  Amen.

Matthew 24:23-35

            I live in the upper Midwest of the United States.  The summers can be brutally hot and humid.  The winters can be incredibly frigid and full of snow.  Having worked with college students for many years, every Fall there was always one of those international students, or a student from the South, that had never experienced a Midwest winter and snow.  I could tell them over and over again that they needed a sturdy winter coat before the snow flies.  But, having never known sub-freezing, let alone sub-zero, temperatures it was difficult to imagine such cold when the weather was currently so warm.  Well, you know where this is going.  I, or someone else, usually had to hook them up with a suitable coat.  Even then, they just shook all winter and never took their scarves off.
 
            It might be difficult to imagine that someday Jesus is coming back to judge the living and the dead.  That’s why Jesus told his disciples to learn a lesson from the fig tree.  When you see the tree beginning to change, know that something is about to happen.  The tree will become altogether different than how you see it now.  Sometimes, even for myself who has lived through so many hard winters, it is incredible to know that the landscape as it is right now will be completely different come January.
 
            The sky and the earth won’t last forever.  But Christ’s words will endure for all time.  It’s hard to believe that seeing everything as it is right now is not how it is going to be forever.  Yet, a time is coming when it will change.  And if we are attentive and alert we will be ready.  We won’t be left out in the cold with no warm winter coat.  We are to be ready for Christ’s return.  That means taking off the old clothes of fear, insecurity, hopelessness, and hate, and putting on the new clothes of righteousness, peace, and love in the Holy Spirit.  Winter is nearly here.  Are you ready?
 

 

            Holy God, your promises are sure and altogether just.  Help me to always do your will and follow the ways of Jesus so that I am suitably prepared for eternity.  Amen.

Are You Ready?


Satan once called to him some demons of hell and said he wanted to send one of them to earth to aid women and men in the ruination of their souls. He asked which one would want to go. One creature came forward and said, “I will go.” Satan said, “If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?” He said, “I will tell the children of men that there is no heaven.” Satan said, “They will not believe you, for there is a bit of heaven in every human heart. In the end everyone knows that right and good must have the victory. You may not go.”  Then another came forward, darker and fouler than the first. Satan said, “If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?” He said, “I will tell them there is no hell.” Satan looked at him and said, “Oh, no; they will not believe you, for in every human heart there’s a thing called conscience, an inner voice which testifies to the truth that not only will good be triumphant, but that evil will be defeated. You may not go.”  Then one last creature came forward, this one from the darkest place of all. Satan said to him, “And if I send you, what will you say to women and men to aid them in the destruction of their souls?” He said, “I will tell them there is no hurry.” Satan said, “Go!”
Most people’s crime in not gross sin, but just indifference without much thought to a coming judgment.  After all, why do today what we can put off till tomorrow?  We need to be deeply concerned for the Day of the Lord which may come sooner than we think.  The question for us is not “when will Christ return?” because no one knows the answer to that question (Matthew 24:36).  Rather, the question for us is:  “are you ready for Christ’s return?”  We are to remain constantly vigilant.  We are to live every moment of our lives in light of the promise of Christ’s coming.  We are to be faithful because we don’t know the day or hour it will occur.
            We are to be faithful and busy, like Noah, building the ark of the church instead of being just like the world and indulging in our lives as if Jesus weren’t coming, nor wasting our time trying to connect current events to signs in scripture as if making prophecy charts is God’s will for us.  We are to be faithful by being servants in God’s household (Matthew 24:45-51).  We are not to be like the unfaithful teenager who, when given the responsibility of watching over the house while the parents are gone for the weekend, has a big party and trashes the house.  But the parents will come home at a time when the teenager does not expect, and then there will certainly be weeping and gnashing of teeth!  
            The faithful and wise steward should be busy doing the master’s business – the often mundane work of taking care of the master’s house.  Are we being faithful to our household responsibilities?  How are we caring for the people in our lives?  Preparing for Christ’s return leads to down-to-earth acts of love and care, and not just sitting around and waiting passively.  
            As we wait for the Lord’s return we are not to become impatient and simply get caught up in our petty day to day problems to the point of losing sight of what is really important.  One day a man named Denis Waitley was trying to catch a flight but was running late so he literally ran through the airport terminal.  He got to the gate the split second the gate agent closed the door.  Denis explained his situation that he had a speaking engagement to get to, but the agent didn’t budge.  That’s when his frustration turned into fuming.  Denis stormed out of the boarding area and back to the ticket counter to register a complaint and reschedule his flight.  The anger intensified as he waited for more than twenty minutes in a line that barely moved.  Just before he got to the counter an announcement over the intercom changed his life.  The flight he missed, flight 191 from Chicago to Los Angeles, crashed on takeoff and killed every person on board the plane.  Denis Waitley never registered his complaint.  In fact, he never returned his invalidated ticket.  He took it home and pinned it on a bulletin board in his office to remind him whenever he got frustrated or upset that life is more than day to day impatience and worry and complaints.  It is about serving a lost world destined to slide away from God apart from the grace that can turn judgment into blessing.
            We are to keep watch because the Lord’s return could be today.  In the meantime, we are to be faithful servants of God by serving a world that is in tremendous need of getting on the ark and being saved from the judgment that will come.  What does God want you to do?  How does he want you to be a faithful servant in his world?  The best way to overcome our own chronic unhappiness and struggles is to serve the world and be the servant God’s wants us to be.
            So, live with the end in mind.  Live without regret and without procrastinating.  Jesus himself has said, “Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20).  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.