Reality Sets In

Please read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 21-23 in your favorite Bible.  I used the NIV to prepare these remarks.

Our common life is founded on the reality of God.

The Internet search company Google is probably the world’s biggest data collector.  No surprise there.  It may surprise you to hear they have spent millions of dollars measuring their own employees, attempting to learn how to compile “the perfect team.”

They assumed building good teams required combining the best people, but it wasn’t that simple.  In 2012 Google started Project Aristotle.  Abeer Dubey, a manager in Google’s People Analytics division “We looked at 180 teams from all over the company. We had lots of data, but there was nothing showing that a mix of specific personality types or skills or backgrounds made any difference. The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.’’

The study concluded that in good teams, members show sensitivity, listening to one another.   This lead to a concept called “psychological safety;” a belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.  That feeling of safety allows all members to contribute to the conversation knowing that their ideas and emotions will be respected.  Putting together a successful team has less to do with who is on the team, more with how the members interact.

(Adapted from https://www.scoro.com/blog/teamwork-stories-importance-of-teamwork/ on 11/3/17.)

Once again, this is a case of science affirming what was already revealed to the writers of Scripture.  We see affirmation of the fact that being a church requires an agreement to love one another.

Love forbears, forgives, and forgets.  Love welcomes the practice of trial and error as a means of discovering God’s will and is never guilty of putting someone on trial for making an error.

In Christian families and churches we are called to create the kind of safe environment that Google’s data revealed as the most productive type of environment.  Psychological Safety will exist among people who emphasize grace and gentleness.  People who follow Jesus and who want their church to grow begin with love, which is manifest in purpose tempered by positivity, success achieved by means of interpersonal support.

REVIEW:

Realistic Identity = Who are we?

a. We must not be worldly (vs. 1-4, 18-20).

NEW:

b. We must be godly (vs. 16-17, 21-23).

First, godliness involves knowing who you are.  According to this passage, you are GOD’S TEMPLE (16) and YOU TOGETHER ARE THAT TEMPLE (17).  The Gk word for TEMPLE (naos) refers specifically to the building itself; the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, not the whole temple campus.  This gives the analogy a depth of meaning.

Here in 1 Corinthians 3, believers joined together in a church form GOD’S TEMPLE.  (See Ephesians 2:21-22 and 1 Peter 2:5.)  Later, in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul’s emphasis seems a bit more centered on individual believers as God’s dwelling-place:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Individual believers being “little temples” (God’s “mobile homes,”) going about the world is a thought that follows Jesus’ description of Himself.  He said His earthly body was a TEMPLE (JHN 2:19-21).

Whether together or apart, believers are God’s dwelling-place.  That fact alone makes us responsible to behave like a believer everywhere we go.

How do we know we’re His temple?  We know it is true because God the Father has given God the Spirit to us.  This is what Paul meant when he wrote: GOD’S SPIRIT DWELLS IN YOUR MIDST.  In 2 Corinthians 1:22 & 5:5, Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit is our GUARANTEE that all God’s promises are true; they will be kept.

Part of God’s guarantee is His promise to protect us.  GOD’S TEMPLE is SACRED as indicated by His promise to avenge us against all who DESTROY us.  The word SACRED means “holy” and “set apart.”  It is a state of moral/spiritual purity and a state of separation from sin and worldliness, as we saw last week.  DESTROY also means “to defile or corrupt,” so it doesn’t only mean persecution in the form of acts of physical violence.  It includes spiritual corruption.  This warning is not limited to persons outside the church.  People inside the fellow-ship who are divisive or in any way impede the ministry of the church are in trouble.

Paul was concerned this is what was happening at Corinth.  He didn’t exaggerate the situation: they were dividing over flagrant

immorality, idolatry, relationships between WEAK and STRONG members, Spiritual Gifts, mis-practiced communion and the resurrection, just to hit the highlights.  Competitiveness and false doctrine had created separate parties in the church and anyone who pushed the success of their party over obedience to Christ was destroying the church.  God Himself opposed them.

People of faith should be encouraged to know that God will defend His own.  Justice will be served.

YOU ARE OF CHRIST AND CHRIST IS OF GOD explains how it is that ALL THINGS belong to God’s people.  This is a theological statement that reveals the fact that God the Son and God the Father are one, just as Jesus said (see John 10:30).

– It is through our faith-relationship with Jesus Christ that the unlimited resources of God the Father are made available to us.

– In His death and resurrection, Jesus redeemed us.  That is, He paid the price for our sins; He bought us out of slavery to sin.

– Through Jesus Christ – God the Son – we have access to God the Father, and that is the life-giving chain by which all this is possible.

Second, godliness involves knowing what is in store for you (21-23).  Good things are in store for those who wait upon the Lord.  Paul’s words ALL THINGS ARE YOURS (22) and ALL ARE YOURS (23) leave nothing to worry about.  Because we have God’s unlimited provision in the PRESENT and FUTURE, we can obey God’s command in Philippians 4:6 = Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Your future does not depend on any of your leaders; WHETHER PAUL OR APOLLOS OR CEPHAS.  This should be obvious; God is in charge.  Church leaders have their roles to play, but God decides whether a church will be fruitful or not (as we’ll see in v. 7).

Your future does not depend on the WORLD’s approval or support.  That’s good news because we can generally depend on the WORLD’s disapproval and, in some places, outright persecution.

Everything – LIFE and DEATH, PRESENT and FUTURE – is in God’s hands.  God is going to work in favor of His family.  He is going to work for the betterment of His children.

Our common life is founded on the reality of God.

Last week we observed that one of the appeals of the Christian faith is that we offer the world something real.  We hold forth words of assurance that there is more to life than what the world offers.  We can make such claims until we run out of breath, but when our actions are merely worldly, then the claim is denied.

We need to work at having a culture of safety in our church.  Competition and condemnation shut down imagination and  experimentation, which forbids the innovation we need to succeed.

Churches tend to fall into one of two extremes just because it’s easier to think in extreme terms.  The one extreme exalts innovation.  With an evolutionary point of view, the assumption is that newer is always better.

The other extreme is imitation.  People in these churches have an opposing view that older is always better.  They assume that if we better imitate the way we’ve always done things, recreating the good old days, they better off we will be.

A more biblically realistic view, but one that is more difficult to achieve, puts imitation and innovation on an equal level, understanding these are both merely tools to achieve what is our true goal: pointing people to God.

Philosophies and programs are not goals; they are means to the real goal, which is making Jesus Christ apparent in our lives, whether we are together in this building or apart from it.  Good builders know how to use a variety of tools to complete their job.  If all you have in your toolbox is a hammer, then hanging pictures is easy, but sawing wood is practically impossible.

What we see here in 1 Corinthians 3 is that God’s people use God’s methods and His tools to faithfully build more of Jesus in their own lives and in the lives of those around them.

Realistic Expectations = What can we do?

a. We must build on a good foundation (vs. 10-15).

b. We must be faithful builders (vs. 5-9).

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Why’d He Do It? To End Division.

(Please read HEBREWS 10:19-25.  I have cited the NIV below.)

Jesus’ sacrifice brought to an end division between humanity & God and between one another.

During a wedding rehearsal, the groom approached the pastor with an unusual offer. “Look, I’ll give you $100 if you’ll change the wedding vows. When you get to the part where I’m supposed to promise to ‘love, honor, and obey’ and ‘be faithful to her forever,’ I’d appreciate it if you’d just leave that out.” He passes the minister a $100 bill and walks away satisfied.

On the day of the wedding, when it came time for the groom’s vows, the pastor looked the young man in the eye and said, “Will you promise to bow down before her, obey her every command and wish, serve her breakfast in bed every morning of your life, and swear eternally before God and your lovely wife that you will not ever even look at another woman, as long as you both shall live?”

The groom gulps, looks around, and says in a tiny voice, “Yes.”  Then he leaned toward the pastor and hissed, “I thought we had a deal.”

The pastor puts a $100 bill into the groom’s hand and whispers, “She made me a better offer.”

<Retrieved from http://www.laughfactory.com/jokes/relationship-jokes/5 on 3/11/16.>

The roadblocks in relationships are the ones we put up.  The barriers to love are walls we create because of ignorance and sin.

Today we’re going to see that one of the reasons Jesus gave His life on the cross was to tear down those barriers.  At His death, something supernatural happened that gave us access to God and to His love.

  1. THE CURTAIN is a symbol of division. (HBS 10:19-21).

This curtain hung in the tabernacle and later in the temple; it divided the Holy and Most Holy parts of the temple.  The instructions for this CURTAIN are found in Exodus 26.  It was to be made of fine linen and decorated with blue, purple, and scarlet threads which depicted angelic beings called “cherubim.”  I’ll tell you why that’s important a little later on.

The most important CURTAIN in all Judah was the one that covered the Most Holy Place and the Ark of the Covenant within.  Only the high priest stepped around that CURTAIN and then only once a year to cover the sins of the people.

Part of holiness is separation; that is a virtue.  When the Bible uses the word HOLY, it refers to something that is set apart for God’s glory and His exclusive use.  It has no everyday usage.

All this was done at God’s command.  The Ark was referred to as the “seat” of God and was the physical symbol of God’s presence with His people.  In this way, God was seen as present and distant at the same time.  He was to be approached by the priests, who acted as mediators for the people.

But taken too far, even well-intentioned separation becomes division.  The worst division is that between God and His people. There must be some separation because God is holy in the sense of being pure.  We are not yet perfected, so full fellowship is not possible in this life.

But people who make excuses say God is so separate from us He doesn’t see what we do or care; that He doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter.  In cases like that, separation from God is self-inflicted and shows a lack of faith.

Divisions between people are also serious.  Divisions arise between people when our desires are in competition.  Divisions arise when we emphasize our differences and ignore our similarities.  Divisions arise when one or more of us refuse to heed the voice of God and love each other. (Sin creates divisions, love repairs them.)

  1. At Jesus’ crucifixion, THE CURTAIN was torn in half

(see Matthew 27:45-46, 50-51 and Mark 15:38).

His crucifixion was a supernatural event with symbolic meaning.  Both Matthew and Mark’s Gospels report that at the moment of Jesus’ death, the CURTAIN at the center of the temple – the most significant piece of cloth in the land – was suddenly torn from top to bottom.

It was not done by any hand of man – no one would dare to do such a thing.  Instead, it was done by the hand of God and designed to send this message – the Old Covenant, the former agreement, is nullified; TOP TO BOTTOM!  This detail is included to convey to us that the old system of separation was made obsolete and a new system, a new means of access to God, was provided.

It provided access to God, removing the barrier.  The CURTAIN that had once signified separation was now torn and a new way opened.  This symbolized an access to God for all people.  Instead of a CURTAIN separating us, the text informs us that Jesus opened up a NEW AND LIVING WAY into the presence of God.

  1. The tearing of THE CURTAIN represents removal of divisions (HBS 10:22-25).

The torn curtain is a potent symbol we might miss because it is given scant attention in the Gospels.  Here in Hebrews its significance is explained to us. Regarding our relationship with God, the passage indicates three different ways the death of Jesus on the cross was God’s plan to end this most essential division.

First, we DRAW NEAR TO GOD with sincere faith.  You can be sure God knows a sincere heart when He sees one.  One of the ways in which we can gauge our sincerity is to note whether or not we feel FULL ASSURANCE that our faith is not in vain; our trust in God will be vindicated.  We can be emotionally secure about this.

Second, we can be forgiven; cleansed from all guilt.  A benefit to faith is being morally cleansed; our GUILTY CONSCIENCE is removed by God’s complete forgiveness.  It is written, OUR BODIES WASHED WITH PURE WATER as a symbol of baptism and also of the totality of God’s forgiveness from our selfish heads to our wayward feet, sin and guilt are wiped away!

Third, our restored relationship with God gives us reason to HOPE and HOPE steadies us in life’s storms.  Elsewhere in Hebrews (6:19), the author describes hope as AN ANCHOR FOR OUR SOULS.  The purpose of an anchor is to steady a boat and hold it in position.  Hope does the same thing.  If we hold UNSWERVINGLY to our faith we are anchored and we will avoid the wandering that adversity can cause.

The passage does not end here, it gives us direction regarding our relationships with each other, how they are restored by the cross.  We must realize all creation has been affected by Jesus’ victory.

Firstly, loving one another sometimes requires some assertive action; taking responsibility for one another may require us to CONSIDER how we might SPUR each other on to LOVE & GOOD DEEDS.  SPUR is an interesting word in the original language. Paroxsysmos means to “stir up, provoke, irritate.”  It is generally used in the New Testament in a negative sense.  (See 1 Corinthians 13:5.)

Even though the experience may be bitter, our motive in using the spurs is not to irritate, but to initiate an experience that leads to spiritual maturity: to LOVE AND GOOD DEEDS.  This is very difficult.  It requires love and maturity to do the right thing at the right time in the right way with the right motive.

We have to confess that we’re more likely to pamper or procrastinate when we need to provoke, or we attempt to SPUR one another from wrong motives to do the wrong thing.  The best kind of love knows the difference.

Secondly, we meet together for encouragement.  This is the opposite kind of experience from the “spurs.”  Christian, if you don’t generally leave somebody smiling, you need to take a sincere inventory of your spiritual life.  The maturing Christian can be characterized as positive, optimistic, and gracious.

We can’t resort to the “spurs” or give encouragement if we don’t meet together and regularly.  Being in church doesn’t make anyone a Christian, but no one can be a Christian without being in church.  What’s more, we can’t know one another well enough to SPUR or ENCOURAGE each other unless we spent enough time together to have got to know one another.  You should quote this verse to the person who claims they can worship God as effectively holding a fishing pole or at the mall.  But be gentle.

Our efforts at this love need to be intensifying, not slackening.  ALL THE MORE AS YOU SEE THE DAY APPROACHING.  The word DAY in that sentence is capitalized because it refers to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

In a sermon entitled “The Message Sewn into the Veil,” Pastor James Groce made an inspired insight into the matter of the torn curtain. He drew a line back to the book of Genesis to find a wonderful coincidence:

“What is the message in Cherubims embroidered in the veil that ripped when Christ died?

“We saw so much in the Word of God about the Tabernacle, how it ties in with the Garden of Eden. And how the whole plan of salvation is getting back into the Garden again.

“Notice that Cherubims were sewn into the veil, the barrier, that stood before the Holiest of Holies. And we find that this veil ripped open when Jesus Christ died. The barrier was removed.

“And of course this lines up with access to the tree of Life as found in Genesis. Genesis 3:24: So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

<Retrieved from http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-message-sewn-into-the-veil-james-groce-sermon-on-gods-forgiveness-37960.asp on 3/11/16.>

Do you see? From virtually the beginning of the creation of our race, sin has kept us from full fellowship with God.  Angelic beings stood guard at the garden and before the Most Holy Place.  But when Jesus died on the cross, the guards were dismissed.  The gate was thrown open, and access to God was made possible.

That’s one reason Jesus died on the cross.  He gave up His life so we could be reunited with God the Father.  The effect of sin that distances us from Him has been nullified.

In our relationships with each other and our relationship with God, there is no longer any need for division.  Any barriers we find are the ones we put there.

That Was Nice – What’s Next?

(Please read  Luke 2:21-40, NLT.)

One of the ways you can test someone’s patience is to note how quickly after a big event they say, “That was nice – what’s next?”  If something like that comes out of their mouth the moment after you finish your Christmas feast, you know you’ve got a real problem!

We’re in a similar situation here at church, right?  We’ve got Advent and the Christmas Eve service behind us, the new year ahead of us, and so this is an appropriate time to say, “That was nice – what’s next?”  As an offering to start our thinking about that question, allow me to offer the following Internet gleaning from Pastor Perry Noble’s blog.

“Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of New Spring Church in South Carolina. The church averages 26,000 people during weekend services at multiple campuses throughout the state. Perry is a gifted communicator and teacher, convicted about speaking the truth as plainly as possible.”

I’m adapting his blog to offer Eight Ways to Occasion Growth in a church:

Clarify the Vision.

Focus on Trying to Please God, not Everyone Else.

Passionate Leadership.

Meaningful Ministry.

Making Plentiful Prayer a Priority.

Willingness to Take Risks.

Obedience to the Scriptures.

Unselfish Attitudes.

We’ll also take a cue from what we read in Luke 2:21-40; three examples of the next steps.

Thesis = Jesus’ parents, along with Simeon & Anna, are examples to us of what the next step of faith can be.

Joseph & Mary: Obey the word of God (21-24).

Joseph and Mary obeyed God’s commands in three faithful actions.  First, as the Law commanded (see Genesis 17:10-14), eight days after birth, Jesus was named and circumcised.

Second, the PURIFICATION ritual Mary undertook.  Forty days after giving birth, a wife was declared to be pure (Leviticus 12:2-6).  Verse 24 indicates Joseph and Mary gave the alternative offering, the one allowed in the Law to parents too poor to afford 5 shekels (Leviticus 5:11; 12:8).

The third refers to Jesus as the first-born son (sorry to you later-borns).  This ceremony was called “Redemption of the First Born,” and was commanded in Exodus 13:2 and Numbers 18:16.  The first-born was considered to belong to the Lord and parents were required to give 5 shekels to the priests in order to “buy him back” from God.

How you and I obey God’s commands.  Thankfully, we don’t have to obey the civil and religious laws of the Old Testament.  The moral law is affirmed in the New Testament, but it is not a means of salvation; instead, it is a consequence of salvation.  Jesus simplified things a lot for us when He affirmed t/t entire Law of God is summarized in two commands; Love God & love your neighbor as yourself.

Simeon: Praise the works of God (25-35).

How Simeon expected God to do great things and praised God when they came to pass.  Here’s how Luke described Simeon.

RIGHTEOUS = didn’t violate God’s Law.

DEVOUT = “God-fearing;” respectful.

EAGERLY WAITING FOR THE MESSIAH TO COME AND RESCUE ISRAEL (see Isaiah 40:1; 61:2).

THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS UPON HIM:

The Spirit REVEALED TO HIM THAT HE WOULD NOT DIE UNTIL HE HAD SEEN THE LORD’S MESSIAH = this kind of revelation comes from God (see Jeremiah 33:2).  In Simeon’s case, God had made a personal promise to him that had national and international ramifications.

THAT DAY THE SPIRIT HAD LED HIM TO THE TEMPLE = unlike Anna, Simeon was not there every day, but God had directed His steps there at the right time.

Revealed to him that Jesus was the Messiah.

Predicted the effect of Jesus’ life on the world and upon His mother.

We all like to look at babies and think about the potential they have, but Simeon goes beyond that, with spiritual insight.  Here’s how Simeon described Jesus.

YOUR SALVATION = As we’ve learned, this is the purpose of the Incarnation.

A LIGHT TO REVEAL GOD TO ALL THE NATIONS = Notice that the promise of extending salvation to the non-Jews is mentioned before the parts pertaining to Israel.  God wants all people to be saved (see 1 Timothy 2:4).  This was hinted at in the Old Testament and made plain here.

THE GLORY OF YOUR PEOPLE ISRAEL = the fulfillment of the Old Covenant.  This is the reflected glory of God, made evident in His people.

DESTINED TO CAUSE MANY IN ISRAEL TO FALL, BUT…A JOY TO MANY OTHERS.

The cross is also a dividing line; an offense to those who refuse to believe, a source of joy for those who do.

Note there is no middle ground here; no moderate position.  People will either collapse or be lifted up.

SENT AS A SIGN FROM GOD, BUT MANY WILL OPPOSE HIM = Jesus revealed the will of God and worldly-minded people were opposed to hearing the truth.  Their opposition ran so deep, they killed Him.

THE DEEPEST THOUGHTS OF MANY WILL BE REVEALED Two things:

Jesus knew the thoughts of all the people around Him and He sometimes exposed their hypocrisy.

Their reaction to Jesus revealed their thoughts @ God.

AND A SWORD WILL PIERCE YOUR VERY SOUL = A warning of the grief Mary would feel while she stood at the base of the cross, watching Jesus die.

How you and I can expect great things of God. As was the case with Simeon, expecting great things begins with having the Holy Spirit within, and that only happens as we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  As Simeon did, we put all our hope in Jesus.

Anna: Witness to the wonders of God (36-40).

How Anna witnessed to others about God’s wonderful answer to their waiting.  Here’s what Luke revealed about Anna.

She was a PROPHET: the religious folk recognized her gift for bringing God’s messages.

THE DAUGHTER OF PAHANUEL FROM THE TRIBE OF ASHER

The notation of her heritage is meant to reinforce her Jewish heritage.  Anna was a well-known & recognized part of the community as well as a fixture in the temple.

ASHER was one of the ten tribes that belonged to the Northern kingdom.  She was something like a Samaritan.

She was a WIDOW and had been for a long time.  One of the distinguishing features of Anna’s life was that she had managed so long to take care of herself in a very male-oriented culture.

SHE NEVER LEFT THE TEMPLE BUT STAYED THERE DAY AND NIGHT, WORSHIPING GOD WITH FASTING AND PRAYER = Anna may have been such a familiar sight, people tended to overlook her.

Here is what Anna revealed about Jesus.  The text implies that she affirmed what Simeon had said about the baby.  SHE TALKED ABOUT THE CHILD TO EVERYONE WHO HAD BEEN WAITING EXPECTANTLY FOR GOD TO RESCUE JERUSALEM = this language is similar to that used for Simeon.

You and I are waiting for the Second Coming and we need to witness to others about it in similar fashion.  The subject of the Second Coming can seem too good to be true, too supernatural, that we feel a little sheepish talking about it. However, we want that day to see as many people saved as possible, so we need to talk about it, especially with those who are unsaved.

Jesse C. Long, Jr. preached a message on Luke 2:21-40 entitled “Jesus’ Dedication: Holding God’s Baby”at Lubbock Christian University in January, 1998.  Here’s how he described the birth announcement of his child.

“The birth of my oldest daughter was announced on February 28, 1983. JoAnn invited me out to a new French restaurant in town. After we placed our order, the waitress presented me with two carnations, one pink and the other blue. A note said: “Honey, you are going to be a wonderful father.” I was taken back. I didn’t know this lady. Was she trying to frame me, or what? When I was finally able to put two and two together, I bent over the table and gave her a big kiss — JoAnn, not the waitress. The other patrons in the restaurant clapped. They got it before I did. A waitress announced the birth of our first child. The archangel Gabriel visited Mary and announced the birth of God’s own Son. Mary broke out in song and glorified God. My daughter Laurel was announced and I couldn’t eat my dinner.”

According to the traditional Church calendar, we are now in “Christmastide,” the twelve days of Christmas about which people have sung.  It’s actually officially Christmas until Jan. 6, when we observe Epiphany, the appearance of the wise men.  So, if Advent flew by you and you didn’t make any announcements about the birth of Jesus, you now have more than a week to catch up.  Don’t be shy; let the world know what you know – we can be saved from sin because Jesus became one of us!

Hugh Otter B. Fruitful

(Read Acts 2:42-47.)

        A woman in Alabama was to bake a cake for her Baptist Church ladies’ bake sale, but entirely forgot about it until she awoke on the morning of the sale.  Rifling through her cupboards, she found an old angel food cake mix and threw it together.  While it baked, she dressed for work.

        When she took the cake from the oven, the center had dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured.  There was no time nor resource to bake another.  Not wanting to lose face among the church ladies, she hurriedly looked around for something she could use to build up the center of the cake.

        She settled on a roll of toilet paper which she put in the droopy center of the cake and then covered the whole thing over with icing.  Standing back to admire her handiwork, she pronounced it “Beautiful!”

        Before leaving the house to drop the cake off at the church on the way to work, she woke her teenage daughter and told her to be at the bake sale precisely when it opened at 9 am, buy t cake & bring it home.

        You may be surprised to find that the drowsy daughter didn’t make it to the church exactly at 9 am.  When she did arrive, she found that her mother’s cake had already been sold!  She called her mother to deliver the horrifying news.  The woman spent the entire day and a sleepless night worrying about who had purchased the faux cake.

        The next day an elegant bridal shower was being held at the home of a fellow church member.  While she wasn’t particularly friendly toward the hostess – she considered her a snob – the woman felt obligated to go.

        She was horrified when her cake was presented as dessert!

        She was about to take the hostess aside and confess when one of the other guest exclaimed, “What a beautiful cake!”

        The snobbish hostess grinned with pride and said, “Thank you, I baked it myself!”

        The woman thought to herself, “God is good.”  She sat back and watched as her hostess grabbed the cake knife…

        We naturally think god is good when the other person gets their “just desserts,” but are less likely to think that way when it’s us.  Getting what we deserve is what Jesus called the “fruit” of our character.  Decisions made repeatedly become character and the outcome of all that reveals the character within each of us.

        What’s true on an individual level is also true on a church level.  What we look like on the outside does not determine what fruits we bear, it’s what really exists under the icing. We must choose Christ to bear Christian fruit.

(George Goldtrap, as quoted in The Joyful Noiseletter, Vol. 27, No. 4, July-August 2012.)

THESIS = The First Church enjoyed fruitful ministry because they were faithful followers.

Vs. 46-47 (NIV) = Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

WHERE they met reveals a lot about the First Church.

        They met publicly in the TEMPLE.  Because the temple courtyards provided a large open space where their mega-church could gather.  The courtyards were accessible to Gentiles and frequented by Jews.

        Originally they saw themselves as practicing the Jewish faith completed by Jesus.  Therefore the temple was still God’s house; it was still sacred in their lives, their faith and practice.  They shared the pride godly Jews felt about the Temple and all it represented.

        It was a familiar place and a physical focus of their faith. When in Jerusalem, a godly Jew went to the Temple three times a day to pray.  Living elsewhere, a godly Jew faced the direction of the Temple to pray.

        The courtyards of the Temple were the customary place to meet for teaching.  Later, as the Church was dispersed from Jerusalem, they took this practice with them and met in the local synagogues.

        They also met privately in their HOMES.  They held services in courtyards  of private homes (see Philemon 2; Colossians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 16:19).  This was a practical solution and good stewardship.  Buildings require resources.  the practice kept the local churches smaller & more personal, like our “cell groups” today.  It was customary for Jewish feasts (i.e., the Passover) to be observed in homes.

        This “multi-site plan” is a comprehensive approach to ministry we can find useful and worth copying.  The temple gatherings were primarily evangelistic in nature, but also met worship and service goals.  The “living room” gatherings in private homes had a primary purpose of discipleship, but also met worship and fellowship goals.  Of course, the extraordinary stewardship exhibited in the First Church empowered both.

WHAT they did AS they met reveals more.

        The text informs us they BROKE BREAD and ATE TOGETHER.  BROKE BREAD refers to both a meal and the Lord’s Supper: the eucharisto.  This Love Feast was THE means of worship and service, & feeding the underclass.

        They were PRAISING GOD daily.  Every activity of the church should be a service of worship, celebrating God before all people.  If not for God we wouldn’t be here!

        They enjoyed THE FAVOR OF ALL PEOPLE.  I wonder what that feels like.  It might mean that people know where we’re located, at least!  This was a church full of joy: because they spread it about, they enjoyed wide favor.

HOW they did it sets an example for us to follow.

        They met EVERY DAY.  Any mention I make of daily worship falls on blank stares and deaf ears.  “Not realistic,” people inform me gravely.  Both clergy and lay people alike think the notion of daily worship is as quaint as togas.

        Let me provoke your thinking on this subject with two questions.  Is it possible that we are over-invested in our personal, private lives?  If we restore balance by investing more in God will it result in a better blessing?  If the answer to either of those questions is “Yes,” we’ve got to re-prioritize.

        They had GLAD and SINCERE HEARTS.  Every Christian ought to have a GLAD heart.  When done right, the Christian faith is fun.  Joy is an inevitable result of true discipleship.  If church is boring, uneventful, or unfulfilling, the fault is not with God.  In the original language, the word  SINCERE means “without stones to trip on.”  With nothing false in their character, they gave no excuse to trip others up.

WHY did God do this?  Simple: to build His Church.

        The phrase THE LORD ADDED TO THEIR NUMBER is a needed reminder that it is God who saves.  Our part is to create a space where God is made known.  If we are faithful, God will make us fruitful.

        This is also a way God shows His approval of a church.  If a church is worthy of His trust, He will place new believers in their care.

        It also reinforces the necessity of true faith being the qualification for membership. This phrase summarizes New Testament teaching that makes a distinction between those who are converts in appearance only & those who are a new creation.  Human eyes can’t always telling the difference, but God knows.

        I hope I’ve clearly placed an emphasis on the sovereignty of God.  That doctrine is no excuse of inactivity or even passivity, however.  God calls us to be more than consumers.  We are to be producers as well.  One part of discipleship is producing fruit.  The outcomes of a faithful life are two-fold:

  • See Matthew 28:19, where Jesus identifies disciple-making as our mission. That includes producing new converts and maturing existing ones.
  • See John 15, where Jesus teaches that LOVE is both a means and an end to discipleship. Real disciples love more often and more deeply. 

        OK, I admit to being guilty of making this word my soap box.  Don’t miss the word DAILY in the text. Does anyone really think it is a coincidence that they met daily and the Lord added to their number daily?  I’d suggest we are seeing a spiritual principle at work: “Whatever you sow, you shall reap.  If you sow sparingly, you shall reap sparingly.”  The greater sacrifice opens the door to greater blessing.  That’s biblical.

        Who was the Lord adding to the First Church?  THOSE WHO WERE BEING SAVED.  “Being saved” is a curious phrase.  What’s that imply?  A Greek word for “church” means “the called-out ones.”  Who is doing the calling?  God.  We don’t  call ourselves.  So again we are reminded that salvation is 99.9% an act of God.  It is not by any work that we are saved, but only by a faithful acceptance of the work of God.

        I believe that phrase is also meant to throw us back upon our dependence on the Holy Spirit.  It is God’s Spirit who empowers everything we do that is godly.  For a wonderful and unique description of this, see Judges 6:34, where it is written, THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD CLOTHED HIMSELF WITH GIDEON.  The Bible also says that the Spirit is within us, but I prefer this reading because it places the emphasis squarely on the Holy Spirit.

        While we may be assuming too much from a single portion of a sentence, I believe this oddly passive-voiced verb without a clear temporal reference is also meant to remind us that salvation is a life-long process.  BEING SAVED is like saying, “Under Construction.”  Kind of like the streets and highways of our land during the summer months…

        “A wealthy lawyer walked along a crowded sidewalk in London when he felt a hand slip into his pocket.  He whirled around and seized the thief by the wrist.  ‘Why did you try to rob me?’ James Henderson demanded sternly.

        “‘Because, sir,’ the would-be pickpocket said, ‘I am out of work and hungry.’

        “‘Come along with me,’ Henderson said.  He took the penniless man to a restaurant and ordered two meals.

        “When they had finished eating, the man told how he had been in prison and found it difficult to obtain a job because of his bad name.  ‘I have no name,’ he said.  There is nothing left to return but to return to the old life of crime.  What can a man do without a name?’

        “The man’s story and question greatly impressed the lawyer.  After some thought, he said, ‘For forty years I have borne the name of James Henderson unsullied.  You say you have no name?  I’ll give you my name.  Take your new name out into the world and keep it clean and honorable.’

        “‘Do you really mean it?’ cried the thief brokenly.

        “‘Of course I mean it,’ said the lawyer.  ‘And to prove it, I’ll recommend you, in the name of James Henderson, to a manufacturing firm with whom I have some influence.’

        “The lawyer found a job for the former thief and kept in touch with him for many months.  However, through travel and a change of residence, he lost contact with his namesake.

        “Fifteen years later he was told a visitor awaited him in the reception room of his office.  He was startled to read the name ‘James Henderson’ on the man’s business card.  Entering the reception room, he met a tall, strikingly handsome man dressed like a gentleman. 

        “As they shook hands, the visitor said, ‘Sir, I have called to tell you today I have been made partner in the firm to which you recommended me fifteen years ago.  All that you see me to be, I owe to your noble generosity; and above all, to the gift of your name.  The name of James Henderson is still unsullied.  God bless you, sir, and reward you!’

        “The thief was offered a new name and made a new start in life.  We, too, have been offered a new name – Christian.  And it is the plan of the One who has given us this new name that we make a new start in life.”

(Desmond Hills, Signs of the Times, June, 2004.)

Be Brave Until the End

(Please read Matthew 24.)

           Imagine the General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches in the USA, Roy Medley calling a meeting of all the regional Executive Ministers. When they have all assembled at the national office, Dr. Medley begins the meeting with, “I have some really fantastic news and some very terrible news.” 

          Of course, all the executive ministers want to hear the good news first, so Dr. Medley tells them, “Jesus Christ has returned to the world. The time of judgment is at hand, and our faith in his existence is justified.” 

          There are happy cheers all around the room – the moment we’ve been waiting for!  After the commotion dies down a bit, one of the executive ministers speaks up; “After that, how can there be any terrible news?” 

          Dr. Medley replies, “He was calling from Salt Lake City.”

          That would be a nightmare, wouldn’t it?  Fortunately, it’s not going to go down that way.  When He comes again, Jesus is going to appear to all people, all around the world, all at once.  And He won’t be using the ‘phone to call.

          But His appearing will vindicate our faith following a time of judgment. so that much was not hard to imagine.

          Here we are, our last Sunday to take a look at what may be the most significant passage in the Gospels about the last things, Matthew 24.  As we conclude, my prayer is that this series has helped you get a handle on a difficult chapter and has also replaced all your doubts and fears with confidence and faith so we look expectantly for the Second Coming.

REVIEW:       1. The End is near but unclear. (1-3, 32-34)

                      2. Sign #1: False Christs will appear. (4-5, 23-28)

                      3. Sign #2: The world will be in turmoil. (6-8, 29)

                      4. Sign #3: The Church will be persecuted, but will be triumphant. (9-14)

5. Sign #4: The Holy Land will be attacked.(15-22)

          In this passage, Jesus switches back and forth between predictions about the temple and predictions about His Second Coming.  With verse 15, He turned His attention to the temple.  As this prophecy concerns the temple, this section was fulfilled by the Jewish followers of Jesus who escaped when the Romans took Jerusalem.

         What is “THE ABOMINATION THAT CAUSES DESOLATION” to which Jesus refers? It is a phrase that came from the Old Testament prophet Daniel. The point is, this phrase refers an abomination (an awful, evil event) that results in desolation (God’s abandonment of the temple). This is the sign that God has judged Israel & His plans will now be centered on the Church.

          Daniel 9:27 = AND ON A WING OF THE TEMPLE HE WILL SET UP AN ABOMINATION

          THAT CAUSES DESOLATION UNTIL THE END THAT IS DECREED IS POURED OUT ON HIM.

          Daniel 12:11 = “FROM THE TIME THAT THE DAILY SACRIFICE IS ABOLISHED AND THE

          ABOMINATION THAT CAUSES DESOLATION IS SET UP, THERE WILL BE 1,290 DAYS.”

          In history there were at least three occasions when the temple was desecrated. In 168 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes erected an altar to the Greek god Zeus in the temple. Or this may refer to the time members of the Zealot party took over (November 67 or spring of AD 68). They allowed crime and criminals in the temple, – even in the holy of holies.  Or this may refer to the desecration done by Emperor Titus when the temple was taken and Roman flags – with their pagan symbols – were brought into the temple courts.

          “LET THE READER UNDERSTAND” is a phrase that is difficult for us to understand because we do not have the inside information Matthew assumed his readers possessed.  However, what is clear is that this is a warning.  Jesus is saying, “When the sacrilege happens, the faithful are to flee Judea, for its destruction is imminent.” Since it is that serious, in verses 17+18 Jesus warns against making any worldly preparations, just run away. Jesus foresaw that time will be worse for the most vulnerable and immobile people; pregnant women and those who have newborns (v. 19).

          They are to pray it doesn’t happen in winter (v. 20) is because of the rainy weather; also because in winter the streams were swollen and hard to cross.  Jesus also warns them to pray that it doesn’t happen on a Sabbath because fleeing while carrying anything  would be work and that’s forbidden on the Sabbath.

          Verse 21 speaks of a previously unknown severity of suffering and persecution.  Even so, the Greek grammar in v. 22 makes something plain that doesn’t translate into English.  It implies that what Jesus is describing here an unreal condition. The people of God are not really in danger because God will cut short those days of distress.

          In spite of all these troubles, Jesus wants His followers to keep their minds on their witness for Him. God will not allow His people to be harmed by persecution or deceived by false messiahs. The purpose of this chapter is to warn Jesus’ followers about all these things so they’ll be prepared & understand t significance of these events.

6. We have nothing to fear. (30-31, 34-51)

          Starting in vs. 30+31, Jesus further develops His teaching about His Second Coming.  The cosmic signs Jesus gleaned from OT prophets will appear in the sky to indicate the end of reality as we know it & the coming of the Son of Man. This image of the Son of Man riding on a cloud with POWER AND GREAT GLORY is like various OT descriptions of God’s coming. The Son will come to judge all people, which, as is developed in chapter 25, will have 2 outcomes:

– He will recognize His faithful ones and gather them from all parts of the earth.

– He will not recognize those who have refused Him, condemning them to the Second Death.

          As the angels are God’s messengers, they will collect God’s people from the four corners of the earth and from one end of heaven to the other (see Deuteronomy 30:4-5;  Isaiah 60:4ff; Micah 4:1ff.). No one will be overlooked in God’s search for the faithful.

          Verse 35 is Jesus’ assurance that the world will fail before Jesus fails to fulfill all these promises.  His word is more reliable than the seemingly unending universe in which we live.

          Some people have a problem with verse 36 because it asserts that there is something Jesus didn’t know. They shouldn’t think that way because the point of verse 36 is the same point Jesus made throughout His ministry; to direct attention to God. If the master does not know the timing of His Second Coming, neither do His disciples and they should not speculate on when it will happen.

          Verses 37-39 illustrate the suddenness of the Second Coming with the way in which Noah’s neighbors were overwhelmed by the flood (Genesis 6:5-24; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:6).  Prior to the flood, people carried on with all normal activity, right up to the point Noah entered the ark. They were unprepared for what happened. Similarly, nonbelievers will be unprepared for the Second Coming.

          The phrase “took them all away” in verse 39 is the context that clarifies the language about one “taken” and one left in verses 40-41. Contrary to our usual understanding of the passage, the “taken” ones are the unfortunate ones because they are swept away by judgment. The ones left standing are the fortunate ones, like Noah.

          The parable in verses 42-43 is the story of an unexpected break-in and how it might’ve been prevented.

          Verse 44 makes plain what v. 32 made implied—Jesus is talking about being alert and prepared when the crucial moment arrives.  Similarly, the parable that concludes the chapter (verses 45-51) is about a wise servant who is prepared for the return of his owner.  The servant who is found doing his job wisely will be blessed when the master returns. The reward is greater service and more responsibility. The foolish servant goofs off and is wicked because he thinks the master will gone for a long time, and so he has time to misbehave. The punishment of the wicked servant will be swift and unsparing—he’ll be dismembered and assigned a place with the hypocrites, where there is weeping & gnashing of teeth.  The unknown timing of the return motivates wise behavior. The issue here is not knowing the timing of the master’s return, but faithfulness & preparedness whenever it happens.

          From the following website http://www.nowtheendbegins.com/pages/israel/the-coming-third-jewish-temple.htm I learned that rumors I’d heard about preparations being made to rebuild the Jewish temple in Jerusalem have been underway for over two decades!

          “It Will Be Built In Time For The Fulfillment Of Daniel’s 70th Week!  Dare To Dream – Dare To Build. The 3rd Jewish Temple is fast becoming a reality in Jerusalem.

          “Daniel was given a vision far into the future, pointing to a time when the Jewish Temple would be rebuilt. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and for nearly 2,000 years now it has laid in ruins, with just parts of the Temple walls and some of the foundations remaining.           “Watchers of end times bible prophecy have long speculated as to whether or not the Temple would be built for a third time. But Daniel, verse 27, clearly sees that there is a rebuilt Temple.  How can you have sacrifice and oblations ceasing if there is no Temple from which to have sacrifices and oblations? Clearly there needs to be a working, functioning, rebuilt Temple, and the only place where God would allow a Temple to be built is exactly where the ruins of the last 0ne stand.

          “People have said that since all the various items need to stock the Temple would take so long to recreate according to the Bible’s exacting standards, that 7 years is just not enough time to complete that mission. And they are correct. It would take years, decades, to rightly create all items needed for proper Temple worship. Items like these:

Oil Pitcher for Replenishing the Menorah

Small Golden Flask

Silver Libation Vessels

Menorah Cleaner

Gold-Plated Shofar

Silver-Plated Shofar

The Crown for the Copper Laver

Modeling the Priestly Garments

The Golden Tzitz

Golden Frankincense Vessels

          “The Temple Institute, in Jerusalem, has been working since 1987, recreating the items that will be needed and used in the about-to-be-built Third Temple. Now, you can argue all you like about what will happen to the Muslim mosque that’s there now, and all the other points.”

          These are NOT the kind of end-times preparations Jesus called us to make.  Based on verses 17+18 especially, material preparations are useless.  The material world as we know it will soon end.  What counts is spiritual preparedness, a vigilant holiness that looks forward to the literal, physical return of Christ, but realizes that loving God and others as self is the best state of preparedness.

Begin with the End

Please read Matthew 24.

 Image

(Artist’s concept of Herod’s Temple, image retreieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/archaeology_illustrated/6894285675/ on 5/16/14.)

          A picture – it is said – is worth a thousand words, but let’s take a moment to experience the temple in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day by exercising our imaginations.  Imagine a temple complex that covered one-sixth of the entire city.

          The temple itself is like  mountain of marble, decorated with gold.  Some of the STONES to which Jesus referred were 37.5 feet by 12 feet by 18 feet in size!

          Craftsmen have labored on the temple complex for the last 46 years and they’re still not finished.

          This temple is the third and most ornate they’ve had.  It is the center of their faith, the source of much pride, and the direction in which they offered their daily prayers.  The temple is literally the earthly shelter of God Himself.

          And Jesus gestures to all of it and says, “NOT ONE STONE WILL BE LEFT ON ANOTHER.”  Put yourself in the place of the disciples.  How would you feel after He said that?  Would you be stunned?  Angry?  Defensive?

          If you were showing someone around our beautiful facility – which is 45 years old this year – and they concluded the tour saying, “Yeah, but this thing is gonna get knocked to the ground!”  How would you feel about that?  What would you say to such a person?

          Now perhaps you can begin to appreciate the trauma Jesus’ sudden declaration must’ve caused the disciples.

1. The end is near but unclear. (1-3, 32-34).

          The disciples’ purpose in drawing Jesus attention to the temple mount is in response to what He said in 23:37-39.  Jesus used it as a “teachable moment” to warn His disciples about the end.

          I doubt they anticipated His next statement!

          He unambiguously foretells the destruction of the temple in language familiar to those who knew their Old Testament prophets (i.e., Jeremiah 26:6+18; Micah 3:12). This was not the first or last time Jesus had said this (Matthew 23:38; 26:61). Given the high opinion the Jews had of the temple, this must have sounded like treason!

          How did Jesus’ disciples react to His pronouncement?

          They pursued a private discussion.  Jesus made His statements in a very public place, but the disciples wisely asked Him to elaborate in a private place.  No doubt Jesus’ statements had an inflammatory effect on those who heard them; to talk further on this line would invite public rebuke.

          They asked a lot of questions.

          “WHEN WILL THIS HAPPEN?” refers to Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of the temple. The disciples saw this as a catastrophic event and a sure sign the end was near, but that doesn’t prove Jesus did. In fact, His answer deals with both the destruction of the temple and His Second coming separately, but considers them all of a piece in that they’re all part of a set of events associated with the End.  Though many years separate the destruction of the temple (72 AD) and the Second Coming (? AD), they’re a set.

          “WHAT WILL BE THE SIGN OF YOUR COMING AND THE END OF THE AGE?” Notice they’re asking for THE SIGN.  As if the answer would be that simple.  The signs He gives them are not of the very end, but the beginning of the end, events one generation or less removed from the end.

          A “SIGN” is, by definition of the Greek word,  a “distinguishing mark by which something is known, a token, indication or landmark.”  It is a private communication between parties who alone understand it’s message. Biblically, a SIGN is a miracle that verifies that a person who claims to speak for God really is doing so.

          “YOUR COMING:” in spite of the way it may sound to us, the Twelve are not talking about the Second Coming.  They’re more likely referring to Jesus coming into His kingdom in a more earthly sense.

          Likewise, the expression “THE END OF THE AGE” is not a reference to the Second Coming.  The Jews expected that the coming of the Messiah would begin a new age, renewing all creation. This phrase is found five times in Matthew and just once more in the remainder of the New Testament.  It is not used again in this passage. That makes me think that Jesus did not directly answer their question, but provide the answer He knew they needed. That is not an uncommon occurrence in the Gospels.

          Jesus used the fig tree (vs. 32-33) as an example of how we can rely on His promise that the End is coming without knowing how soon it will be coming. The Mount of Olives was a natural spot for this illustration, as it was covered with fig trees. A trained eye could spot changes in the fig trees and this let them know that summer was approaching, but it would not warn them when the first hot day would be. Jesus want us to feel the nearness of His Second Coming and be prepared without setting a date and time.  It’s about preparation, not guessing right.

          He warned us that though there will be terrible times, all these things must happen before the end of the age arrives.  As He said, we have been warned.

          “THIS GENERATION” refers to those living when these signal calamities occur. It does not refer to the disciples but to those who actually experience the calamities about which Jesus is warning us.  All four signs will come to pass in a single generation & then the End will occur. The Jews reckoned a “generation” to be about 40 years (average life span).  Even so, Jesus is not talking about a length of time as much as a set of experiences.

          Hence the title of this message.

2. Sign #1: False Christs will appear. (4-5, 23-28)

          Our waiting for Jesus’ return is not passive; our main activity is to be prepared and Jesus commands us to “WATCH OUT.” What we’re watching out for are those who falsely claim to be the Second Coming of Jesus.  In v. 5, Jesus is trying to impress us with the fact that this will be a significant problem. “MANY WILL COME” = This will be a widespread problem. “IN MY NAME” = Claiming to be the true representative of Jesus’ teaching and/or the real bearer of His authority. “CLAIMING, ‘I AM THE CHRIST’,” = This sounds outlandish, but the next phrase shows that it will be effectively deceptive. The Gk is pseudochrist, an equivalent term to “antichrist” & “false prophet.” “WILL DECEIVE MANY” = There’s that word MANY again. Many “pseudochrists” will appear and many people will be tricked into following them.

          Part of watching out is not accepting every claim of His appearing. Verses 23+26 expand on verse 5; deceived persons will attempt to recruit others. Preying on the mistaken notion that the Messiah will show up in secret first, the deceivers will pretend they have seen Him. Jesus warns His disciples not to be taken in by such lies, because His return will be a world-wide event, obvious to all and unmistakable.

          Their falsehoods will be backed up by SIGNS and MIRACLES, a typical biblical test for truth. However, 2 John 10 is the New Covenant standard for validation: conformity to the word of God.

          The purpose of these misleading MIRACLES is to deceive God’s people, though, of course, such a thing is not possible, for we have been warned and are able to WATCH OUT for them. Jesus’ reference to the “DESERT” contrasts with the “INNER ROOMS” in the same way that “in the middle of nowhere” contrasts with “in the seats of power.”  Don’t look for Him there.

          Jesus offers two illustrations of how a watchful person will see what’s coming. The visibility of the Second Coming will be like a lightning strike that flashes from one side of the sky to the other. The Second Coming will be as obvious as the presence of vultures circling overhead a corpse.

          In all the ages of the Church, believers who have suffered have turned to passages like Matthew 24 to seek the comfort of knowing that their suffering is a prelude to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  The truth is, Jesus did not offer these words for that reason, but for the opposite.

          He’s effectively saying to us, “As much as it feels like the end of the world, it is not coming yet.  Be perceptive, prepared, and patient.  When you see all four of these signs, then start the countdown, for that generation will live to see the coming of the Son of God.”  What we are given is an assurance that there will BE an end, and most importantly, that it rests safely in the hands of God.  So we can trust Him that it will all work out in favor of His people.

          When we get desperate enough, we become more likely to accept a lie as true.  Jesus is cautioning us against that kind of desperation and credulity.  Instead, we’re to be smarter, more faithful, and more patient, understanding that when Jesus comes again, there will be no question that it is Him.

          Did you hear about the teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put his boots on? He asked for help and she could see why. With her pulling and him pushing, the boots still didn’t want to go on. By the time she got the second boot on, she had worked up a sweat.

          She almost whimpered when the little boy said, “Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.” She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as they worked together to get the boots back on — this time on the right feet.

He then announced, “These aren’t my boots.” She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, “Why didn’t you say so?” like she wanted to. Once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off.

          He then said, “They’re my brother’s boots. My Mom made me wear them.” She didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up the grace to wrestle the boots on his feet again.

          She said, “Now, where are your mittens?” He said, “I stuffed them in the toes of my boots …”

          Ever have one of those days?

Research based on:

Smith & Helwys Bible Commentary, Ben Witherington III

Word Biblical Commentary, Hagner.

NEXT WEEK

3. Sign #2: The world will be in turmoil. (6-8, 29)

4. Sign #3: The Church will be persecuted, but will be triumphant. (9-14)

IN TWO WEEKS

5. Sign #4: The Holy Land will be under attack. (15-22)

6. We have nothing to fear. (13, 35)