Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: Christ's return

The Christian life, in 3 steps. Seriously. (part 3)

The author of Hebrews gave his readers a three step description of what Christian living looks like.  Each step begins with the phrase “let us”.  After drawing near to God and then holding on to our reliance on Him, the next step is this:

Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.

We can’t do this alone.  We need to be watching out for one another.

How many times have you heard (…or said) the following:

I don’t need to go to church.  I can be with God just fine by myself out in nature.
I don’t need to go to church.  Everyone there is a judgmental hypocrite.
I don’t need to go to church.  I don’t really get much out of it.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it is very, very self-centered.

What if we viewed our weekly gatherings as an opportunity to help others in God’s family?  Try this line of thinking instead:

I need to go to church because a little boy needs to know that God loves him.
I need to go to church because a teenage girl needs to know that God accepts her, just as she is.
I need to go to church because a struggling mom needs a smile and someone to talk to.
I need to go to church because a man doubting his marriage needs reassured in order to keep at it.

I need to go to church because we will all encourage each other while we wait for Jesus to return.

We must watch out for and encourage each other.  The perspective we develop when we give Godly encouragement is just as important as the perspective we develop when we receive Godly encouragement.

The rest of the Scriptures certainly bear this out, too:

Acts 20:35
…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, because He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Proverbs 11:25
A generous person will be enriched, and the one who gives a drink of water will receive water.

Mark 10:45
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.


If we’re going to live the Christian life…If we’re going to live the Christ-like life…then we need to take the focus off of ourselves.  Encouraging each other is a great way to put our focus on others.

Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Warnings and Preparedness

Natural disasters have dominated the headlines lately – from Harvey to Irma to the fires out West.  If you are not directly affected, there is a good chance you know someone who is.  The hurricanes, especially Irma, have left me marveling at how well prepared we can be when it comes to natural disasters.  Not that long ago, we would have had no clue about the impending danger.  But in our lifetime, the state of Florida just performed the largest mass-exodus in US history, and those that couldn’t leave were given ample warning to prepare themselves for the impending storm.

But why was everyone on high alert?  Because they were warned by someone who had a better vantage point then those on the ground.  Satellite images and projections dominated the news broadcasts.  Prominent politicians repeatedly warned their constituents.  Local police and fire fighters went door-to-door, warning people of the danger.  No one knew the exact hour the hurricane would hit, but those who had seen the satellite images knew that without a doubt, the hurricane was coming.

Even still, some did not heed the warnings.  In the hours leading up to Irma’s landfall, I remember watching one live-on-scene news reporter discussing the worsening conditions – and in the background, you could see people out surfing the increasingly angry waves.  ‘Foolish’ would be a mild descriptive term for these people.

The concept of ‘preparedness’ also got me thinking about our lives, in general.  Jesus promised that He would return for us.  However, when He described His impending return to His disciples, it was as much a promise as it also was a warning.  Jesus was constantly telling them, ”Be prepared for my return”.  Here’s just one example:

Matthew 24:36-39, 42
Now concerning that day and hour no one knows – neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son – except the Father only.  As the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be.  For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah boarded the ark.  They didn’t know until the flood came and swept them all away.  So this is the way the coming of the Son of Man will be…Therefore be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.

We’re going to spend some time looking at what Jesus had to say about how He expected His disciples to be alert and ready to see Him again.  While we may not know the exact time for Him to return, we can certainly take steps now to be prepared for it.  We don’t want to be one of the ones who continue to drift through life as if there is always going to be a ‘tomorrow’ just like every day that has come before it…because at some point, there won’t be.

Jesus is coming back, that much is certain.  Our journey through the implications of His return is not meant to scare anyone into ‘proper’ behavior; rather, we will make sure that the promise – and warning – of His return is fully understood.  So as we start this journey, I ask for both me and you:

If Christ’s return was today, what would the face to face introduction be like?  Are we prepared to meet Him, or would we be ashamed at His coming?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Unfulfilled promises (part 2)

After being asked when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus informed His disciples that life would go on for some time before days of the Son of Man would arrive.  He used several examples of what life would be like in the meantime, with an emphasis on the suddenness of the Son of Man’s arrival:

Luke 17:26-30 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man: people went on eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day Noah boarded the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

It will be the same as it was in the days of Lot: people went on eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building.  But on the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all.  It will be like that on the day the Son of Man is revealed.

The Jews were anticipating the Kingdom of God within their lifetime.  Jesus knew that this new information would be disappointing for his disciples to hear.

Luke 18:1 He then told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not become discouraged.

After telling the disciples the parable, Jesus concluded with a couple of questions:

Luke 18:7-8 “Will not God grant justice to His elect who cry out to Him day and night?  Will He delay to help them?  I tell you that He will swiftly grant them justice. 

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find that faith on earth?”

When Jesus returns, will He find those that are expectantly praying and living in preparation for His arrival?  Since Jesus pointed out that His return will come suddenly, are we preparing ourselves for the possibility that our generation will be the one He returns to?

Our instructions for preparation are the same that Jesus gave to His disciples – that no matter how normal, mundane, or disheartening the circumstances around us become, we need to pray always and not become discouraged.  God will follow through on His promises…but do our choices show that we believe Him when He says that Christ will return?

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find that faith on earth?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Looking forward

As believers, how do we manage the battle that goes on inside us?  Paul made the perceptive observation in his letter to the Christians living in Rome:

Romans 7:19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.

It wasn’t just the Christians in Rome who struggled with this.  Paul also addressed how to deal with this inner turmoil in his letter to Titus:

Titus 2:12-13 [The grace of God] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age

I think we all want to say “No” to the things we know aren’t good for us.  Living a life that is self-controlled, upright, and godly certainly seems like an attractive alternative…but we also have some doubts about that kind of life.  We wonder things like “Can I really live like that?” and “Is a godly life truly fulfilling?” and “What if it’s hard, or even boring?”

It’s at this point that many of us just try a little bit, lose the fight a few times, and then check out.  We entertain thoughts that sound a lot like “I gave it my best shot” or “I’m too much of a mess to have any significant change” or “Maybe I’m not cut out for this Christian life like other people seem to be”.

When we have discouraging times like these, we’ll find us glaring at ourselves in the moment.  We have a very limited perspective because we are narrowly focusing on a particular failure, or even characterizing our past as “bad” due to our present failures.  Instead of looking back, we need to look forward.  We need to broaden our view to include God’s future plan for us, both individually and for all of us who trust him as our Savior. 

But if I should look forward, then what I should look forward to?  What event am I waiting for, what am I hoping will someday happen that will actually be “good”?

Titus 2:12-13 [The grace of God] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,

When we fail, when we say “Yes” to the ungodliness and worldly passions within us, the last thing we need to do is wallow in our sin and self-pity.  Instead, look forward to Christ’s coming.  God’s grace – the gift of Christ himself – continues to work in you even after accepting him as Savior.  In the very next verse, Paul reminds Titus that it was Jesus

Titus 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. 

Jesus has not abandoned us to figure out this Christian life all on our own.  His mission is twofold – redemption of sinners and purification of his people.  Today’s failures do not negate his purpose toward you.

So, what do we look forward to, what event are we waiting for?  Keeping our eyes on his coming keeps us focused on Jesus, remembering that we are a people that are his very own, and that he is actively training us to be eager to do what is good.

Keep Pressing,
Ken