August 8, 2017

Troubling times

Many people have told us that they no longer read a newspaper or watch the news on television. They are unaware of local and world events. While I use the news to pray, it overwhelms me at times as well. I’d like to hide in my own little world and merrily go about my life without the concerns of the headlines.

For instance, last night an email from a Christian in Kenya who feared he and others probably could be fleeing for their lives because of today’s elections. He wants to be wrong, but is preparing for the worst. Crime and senseless events happen closer to home. A woman kills her children because they were disobedient. Fires build and rage out of control just over the mountains to the west of us. Another stabbing occurs in our city. Even closer, a family member may have cancer and another is living in la-la land while her children are neglected. These bring pressing helplessness and my desire to hide becomes stronger.

If placed on the front page of any newspaper, many would consider today’s devotional verses as pie-in-the-sky. They are about the second-coming of Jesus Christ, certainly scoffed by those who do not believe in His first coming, but even many who profess to be Christians are skeptical. We have waited so long.

However, Jesus told His anxious disciples that He would return:

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2–3)

After His resurrection, this promise was repeated, likely by two angels:

“And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:9–11)

Paul also wrote about it in even greater detail:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18)

These verses stir and encourage me. Life was not peaceful in the first century for Christians. They were persecuted and mocked, chased from place to place, yet they pressed on to follow Him in great hope; He was coming back for them.

Peter told them to “remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’” (2 Peter 3:2–4)

The scoffers are here, and they are wrong on both counts. All things are not as they were at the beginning of creation. Back then, the people had the promise of a coming Messiah who had not yet arrived. Now we look back at that arrival and those who rejoice in it now also have the promise of His second appearance. Should we be like those who denied the first and missed it to their peril? Or like those who believed and lived in great joy and hope?

The last book of the Bible has John writing to the seven churches that are in Asia. He says:

“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” (Revelation 1:4–8)

Jesus, today Your return is a sweeter expectation because I’m focused on the mess in this world. That should not be my primary motivation for being eager. Instead, it ought to be because I long to see Your face. . . and I do. Yet I am also weary of the evil, the injustice, the violence and long for the peace of eternity and the beauty of Your smile.

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