Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Are you ready for Jesus to come again?

In case you missed church this past Sunday, let me summarize four indisputable truths we covered concerning the second coming of Jesus. And here’s why I believe this doctrine is important to remember – it’s easy for Christians to grow weary as we live this life of faith. The promises of greater things to come can sometimes seem so distant we wonder if they’ll ever come true. When evil seems to be gaining an upper hand in our world, and while many of the cherished values we hold dear are now mocked and sin is celebrated, we can begin to question whether we’re on the right side of history or not. 

Friend, let me assure you that God is not aloof or indifferent to the situation. He hasn’t been caught off guard nor does He need to decide what to do. His plan has not failed, nor is He silent. Rather, His voice resounds clearly through His Word, urging us to take heart, for Christ has overcome the world, and pleading for us to keep holding unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 

So, here are four indisputable truths about the second coming of Jesus that ought to fuel our faith as we keep walking in the way of the Lord. 

One – Jesus really is coming again! Let us not overlook or miss this truth. The Lord will keep His promise. He always has and always will. Throughout the gospels Jesus speaks matter-of-factly about His return. The Old Testament prophets foretell it. The New Testament writers anticipate it. Jesus reveals it in Revelation in no uncertain terms, including three times in the very last chapter of the Bible: “Behold, I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20). Be encouraged, dear Christian! Jesus is coming again! 

Two – We don’t know when He will come, but we know it will be soon. In Matthew 24:36 Jesus says, “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” How foolish for people to speculate on dates and times of the end! When He comes it will be like a thief in the night. But we do know that the signs that point to Jesus’ return are unfolding before us. They are the beginning of birth pains (Matthew 24:8), meaning that the hour is drawing near. 

Three – Jesus’ coming means salvation for the righteous; and judgment for the wicked. In Matthew 25 we read of the final judgment: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne…and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats…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.’…Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’…And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” When He comes, it will be for salvation and judgment. 

Four – Jesus’ coming means that we need to stay awake and be ready. The only way to be ready for that day is to know Jesus as Savior and Lord, faithfully obeying Him in doing the work He has called us to do. “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” (Matthew 24:46). Paul writes it this way: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession, who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14). 

The only question is: Are you ready for Jesus to come again? Don’t get caught on the wrong side of history. Walk in the way of the Lord, for He is faithful.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Teaching children to trust in Jesus for life

This week in Vacation Bible School the children are learning how to trust in Jesus for life. I’d say that’s a pretty important subject, wouldn’t you? In a messed up world where wrong seems right and right seems wrong, and where you don’t always know who to trust, we unapologetically want to anchor children to the solid rock of Christ Jesus.

And we are giving our absolute best effort to teach Jesus according to the Bible. We want the children to not only know who Jesus is, but to lead them to love, trust and obey Him here and now, even as they look forward to His promise of greater things yet to come. And hopefully, we are also demonstrating what living by faith in Jesus looks like.

Parents and grandparents, thank you for seeing the value of bringing your children to church. Thank you for entrusting them to us, if even for a few days of VBS. Your children are a delight, a joy, brimming with energy, excitement and potential. I want you to know how much we love them and care for them.

And if you’re not actively involved in church elsewhere, please know you are encouraged to come and join us for Sunday School every Sunday morning at 9:30, followed by our Worship Celebration at 10:45. We’ll also be starting Kids Klub back up on Wednesday nights in September, as well as Children’s Church and Children’s Choir.

The Bible tells us how important children were to Jesus, and our desire is to show that same love to your children. “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God,” Jesus said. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of a God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10:14-16)

As a church, however, our time with your children is limited, and our influence in their lives is nothing compared to the influence in their homes. Parents and grandparents, I want to encourage you – plead with you – to raise your children in the ways of the Lord. If you’re already doing so, I applaud you! If not, now’s the perfect time to begin.

What in the world does that look like, you may be wondering? If you will, allow me to give a few brief thoughts, in classic three-point preaching outline.

First, start seeing the vision of what your family life would look like when Jesus rules your home. Where love for one another characterizes your relationships. Where respect and honor, encouragement and comfort, and mercy and grace flow freely. Where kindness, patience, joy, peace, faithfulness, gentleness, humility and forgiveness set the tone of your home. That’s a pretty compelling picture for any household!

Next, be intentional about how to make this vision come to life. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul writes: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Could you say that to your children? You need to be an intentional follower of Jesus yourself if you want your children to follow Jesus. That will then mean at least teaching them the word of Christ – how to walk in faith and obedience to the Lord, loving the Lord wholeheartedly, loving one another, worshiping and serving in the local church, seeking to reach the lost with the gospel of Christ Jesus and making disciples of all nations. For starters, anyway.

Third, pray and believe. By pray, I mean, pray without ceasing. Don’t ever quit praying. Pray for your children, and pray with your children. And believe that God will do the part that only God can do – the work of making them into new creations in Christ and transforming them more and more into His image. In other words, you be diligent to do what you’re supposed to do, and trust God for the results.

We live in perilous times. We need an anchor to keep our souls “steadfast and sure while the billows roll.” For this, we have Jesus – for life. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Walking in the Way at VBS

You remember going to Vacation Bible School, don’t you? VBS seems to be one of those childhood experiences that most of us recall with fondness. I bet some of you could go back 50, 60 or 70 years and pull out some snapshots of friends, craft projects, memory verses or Bible songs that have found a home in your heart all this time.

For me it’s been more than 35 years since my early VBS days at Trimble Bible Church, but it sure doesn’t seem like it.

This coming week we will host VBS at the First Baptist Church. And my prayer is that your children and/or grandchildren will have such a joyful experience that it will lodge in their hearts and minds for the rest of their lives. 

Our theme this year is “Journey off the Map,” where our aim is to lead children to know that Jesus is our ultimate Guide and life and can be trusted to take us into the uncharted territories of obedience to God. The journey begins this Sunday, July 19, and runs through Thursday, July 23, from 6:00-9:00 each evening. All children who have just finished Pre-K up through those who have just finished 6th grade are invited to come. 

I don’t have to tell you that times aren’t what they used to be. I’m not just talking about the fact that today’s country music shouldn’t even qualify as country music. 

Let’s face it. Your children and/or grandchildren are growing up in a world that’s completely foreign to the one in which most of us were raised. Our culture now has a different set of values, different priorities, different languages, different technologies, different social demographics, different educational systems, different governmental influence, and a different definition of marriage and family. It’s just not the same. 

Change can be good or bad, and there have been some of both. But one of my big concerns for the younger generation is that many of the cultural lines between right and wrong have not only been blurred – they’ve been erased. 

There are myriad voices speaking enticingly into their headphones every day trying to lure them away from the path you’ve taught them to walk, and those voices are getting louder and louder every day. Our children face pressures and temptations and opportunities to sin that you and I would never have even known existed. We have unwittingly made it easy for immorality to flourish, and have created a culture where doing so doesn’t seem so bad. 

Can I tell you that we as a church are praying for your children? Personally, I’m not ashamed to say that I’m praying that God will save your children from the way of sin and death. I’m praying that they will put their faith wholeheartedly in Jesus – in His death on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins and in His victorious resurrection from the dead. I’m praying that they will know Him, worship Him and follow Him as Lord and King of their lives. 

I’m praying that they will love Him more than anyone or anything else. I’m praying that they will choose to keep obeying His Word no matter what the cost. I’m praying that their lives will shine brightly with the holiness and light of Christ Jesus as a witness for all the world to see, and that God will use them to advance the work of His Kingdom in their homes, their schools, their neighborhoods, communities and world. 

I’m praying that the words of Isaiah 30:21 which they’ll learn in VBS next week will be one of the snapshots they’ll keep hidden in their hearts for the rest of their lives: “And whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: This is the way. Walk in it.”