Archive for the ‘Second Coming’ Category

Where is the Kingdom?

The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.  Luke 17:20-21

I know a lot of Christians who spend loads of time identifying the signs of the coming Kingdom. They have charts and time lines and all of the signs clearly delineated. They know what signs have been fulfilled and what signs are yet to come. In fact, many people I know believe that if you don’t have a firm grasp on the prophetic time line for the return of Jesus, then your eternal salvation is at risk. But this is anything new. The Pharisees, of all people, were asking the very same question. They wanted to know the visible signs that could be seen & verified of the Kingdom of God. 

But Jesus disappoints them with His answer in Luke 17:20-21. What I get from His answer is that I need to be worried about what is IN me, not what is happening around me. Why? Because what is in me will determine how I respond to the circumstances around me. When Jesus is in me, it doesn’t matter what is happening around me. When Jesus is in me, I have peace, wisdom, insight, and strength to overcome any temptation, any battle, and any foe. When Jesus is in me, I know His voice. When Jesus is in me, I am certain I will recognize His presence when He returns. 

It was in May 2011 that I competed in a triathlon. The water was cold and I could never catch my breath to swim effectively. I had to keep my head above water the entire time as I swam the side stroke for one mile. It was painful as I felt a severe shortness of breath the entire mile. I was overwhelmed, but I regrouped to be able to bike and then finally struggle to complete the run. It was a painful experience. And yet I took pride in completing the race. It wasn’t until February 2012 that I realized the cause of those symptoms was severe coronary artery disease. You see, what is in us will always affect how we respond to the circumstances around us. Internal health always determines external fitness. It may take a while for the heart disease to slow us down, but it will. 

And yet we continue to focus on the externals of life. We want power and fame and money and possessions that make us look great, but mean nothing if our hearts are not occupied by Jesus and His love. We focus on what we can DO in His church and forget that we need to BE with Him. When we look for the signs of His coming tomorrow to the neglect of His presence today it’s like competing in a triathlon with severe heart disease. Jesus, the Master Physician, will heal your heart and bind your wounds so that you will not be overwhelmed in life. Sometimes we simply need to slow down, focus on God, and follow the advice we read in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God…” Then you will be living in the Kingdom of God today!

God Is Willing to Wait

Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it?  Luke 15:8

Jesus told three stories in Luke 15 to describe God’s love for humanity. We are like sheep in one story and like sons in another story. But in this story we are like a single insignificant coin except for the fact that this coin belonged to a woman who only has 10 of them. That would be the equivalent of wages for 10 days. According to US government statistics, the average daily wage in America today is $170.00. So let’s say that you have $1700.00 to your name. Nothing more. You don’t have a job. You don’t have a family. You are alone in the world. If you lost 10% of your income, would you look for it? It is your life’s savings. It is all you have to survive.

I have lost my wallet several times in my life. But the one that stands out is when I lost it after filling my car up with gas. When I arrived home I didn’t have my wallet. I was panicked because I had $300.00 in it and all of my credit cards. I immediately drove back to the gas station. But the wallet was not there. So I went back home and searched every corner, every closet, every trash can, every place in the entire house. But the wallet was not there. I couldn’t think about anything else. Where could it be? I was extremely anxious even though I was a physician making a good wage. Losing $300.00 wouldn’t affect my lifestyle in the least.

In the story Jesus tells us about His Father, we see that His lifestyle is impacted by the loss of even one person. When it comes to you and me, God puts all of His efforts into finding us. Imagine God being anxious, even panicked, over losing you. Imagine God feeling this way since the day Adam & Eve ate of the fruit and hid from Him when He went to the Garden to have a chat with them. Yes, since that very day the God of the universe became anxious and single-minded in His efforts to find His lost coins – you and me. 

A few hours after I lost my wallet, I received a phone call from the man who had found it. I went to his home and he asked for a reward as he handed my the wallet to me. I gave the man $100.00. God gave us His Son. Obviously, my relief at finding my wallet was not near as important to me as God’s relief in finding you or me. In this parable, Jesus gives us a picture of God that is truly remarkable. He is anxious every time we hide from Him.

The truly amazing thing is that God is still lighting lamps today to find His lost coins. Anyone who accepts the Light of Jesus in her or his life becomes a light to find others. God is constantly seeking, constantly looking, constantly lighting the lives of men and women to find every last person who can possibly be found. I think this is what God is waiting for. He is more anxious about those who are still lost than He is about the delay in reuniting with those who have been found. God is willing to wait… for you.

Seeing Dimly Can Bring Life Into Focus!

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.    I Corinthians 13:12

I was in high school when my grandfather was dying with Parkinson’s disease. I waited with the rest of the family in the ICU waiting room. We sat there for hours on end waiting for a word from the doctor as to the condition of grandpa. When the doctor came to us, everyone stopped to listen. He seemed to have all the answers. He had grandpa’s life in his hands. He was actively combatting disease. He was “the man!”

Meanwhile, the pastor sat with us through the ordeal. He prayed with us, but from my perspective didn’t have much to offer. It was the doctor who was in charge. It was the doctor we were waiting to hear from, not the pastor. This, of course, was from the perspective of a kid who had wanted to be a doctor since five years of age. I wanted nothing else in life. There couldn’t possibly be anything more exciting, more rewarding, more stimulating than being a doctor. Doctors had a perfect life with no problems and not struggles.

My perspective changed when I became a physician. Don’t get me wrong. I loved practicing medicine. There were things I experienced and witnessed that I would not trade for anything. But the reality of being a doctor was quite different from what I had seen as a kid in high school. The reality was sleepless nights, interrupted dinners, and missed school plays. There were the constant phone calls in the middle of the night and the stress of having someone’s life in my hands. There were the patients that I had no answer for their disease. Being a doctor was much more difficult than the picture I had as a kid.

Just like I could not see the true nature of being a doctor before I had arrived in the halls of a hospital as a physician, I cannot see the true nature of my pain, suffering, loss, and struggles before I have arrived on the streets of gold as a child of God who has put on immortality in the twinkling of an eye. Until we get there, our only choice to know the true nature of all the issues we face today is to talk with the One who has been here and is now there – Jesus! Jesus is our physician we can talk to understand the real purpose of life.

So when you’re discouraged, tell Jesus. Open His Word, read His experiences, learn from His life. When you don’t think you can go on another day because of the struggles you face, listen to Jesus. Take a hike in nature, talk with a Godly friend, listen to Christian music, meditate on His Word, let Him speak to you. Argue with Him if you must. Share your frustrations and doubts. He wants to hear what you have to say.

One day when Jesus comes to gather us home, we will understand our pain, suffering, loss, and struggles from a new perspective. We will see the real purpose of our struggles that today we can only see dimly. But dimly is better than not at all. I am still thankful for the years I was a physician that only happened because I had seen dimly what a physician’s life is all about by talking and observing physicians as a kid. We can only see partially now. Jesus walks by our side and explains all that we can possibly understand. But we will never fully understand until we arrive in our heavenly home. 

And so we walk by faith. Those of us who trust in God do so because of the reality of how His perspective actually does change our lives. And I do understand just enough to keep me going forward in His loving arms. I have talked with Jesus enough to see, though dimly as it may be, that He loves me and is always there for me. When I focus on Jesus, my issues come into the perspective of His love, His plan, His vision for my life. Seeing dimly brings life into focus.

 

Living in the Kingdom of God

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.  1 Corinthians 15:58

My daughter, Sally, has been competing in Ironman events since 2010 with the dream of qualifying for Kona. The Kona Ironman is the Holy Grail of the sport. The only way to compete in Kona is by qualifying at a sanctioned Ironman race, or by invitation. It is very difficult to earn a spot at Kona as evidenced by the fact that were only 50 spots available at the Ironman Wisconsin on September 7, 2014 for over 2,200 athletes. 

Sally hired a coach after her second Ironman when she realized there would be little chance of training adequately to qualify for Kona without help. And so she has been on a tireless journey since that time to achieve her goal. There have been many weeks and even months when it seemed impossible to keep training. She had some successes in reaching milestones along the way. But there were plenty of failures as well. But on September 7, she reached her goal by running her race, trusting her coach’s plan, and staying focused for the entire 10 hours, 51 minutes, and 54 seconds that it took her to complete the race. This was quite an improvement from her Ironman time of 12 hours, 56 minutes, and 55 seconds in 2011.

Making it to Kona is all about the training and sticking with the coach’s plan. The same is true with God’s Kingdom. The only difference is that there are as many spots for God’s Kingdom as there are people. God wants EVERYONE! He does not want to exclude anyone. We are all called to the Kingdom of God. But what does it look like for us to live in His Kingdom? Paul tells us to “be strong and immovable.” This is easier than making it to Kona because our Coach is the Rock. He is strong. He is immovable. And when you allow Him access to your heart, He gives you all the strength and stability necessary to live in His Kingdom.

The amazing thing about God’s Kingdom is that we are invited to live in it today! We don’t have to wait for the prize. But we do need to submit to Jesus. When we listen to His voice, hear His plan for our lives, and allow Him to lead us every step of the way, we are living the dream! I have found that as I keep my eyes on Jesus, He supplies everything I need to make it through the race of life. Making it to Kona is pretty cool. But living in the Kingdom of God is absolutely out of this world even as we live in this world. 

* Homecoming – 1/17/09 Sermon

As I look forward to Pastor Lee Venden’s sermon this Sabbath entitled, “Homecoming”, I can’t help but think of our return home after three years in the Philippines.  When asked by the US Navy what duty station we desired, the Philippines didn’t even make our list.  And yet that’s exactly where we were sent – for three years!  While we learned to appreciate our new surroundings and the many valuable lessons it held for us, we faced many trials.  During our three Oxygen Volume 23years in the Philippines, Pam had two cousins, one aunt, one uncle, and her father all pass away unexpectedly.  There were many days we missed home so badly that we couldn’t see beyond the three years we had been assigned.  Intellectually we knew that three years was not all that long, and yet it felt like an eternity.  I will never forget the day we boarded the plane for home.  I had anticipated that day for months and worried about it for weeks.  As that day grew closer, I was certain that something would happen to prevent us from making our flight.  To my great relief, nothing delayed our homecoming as we arrived in Chicago on July 17, 1989.

Today, I experience the same pain of separation from home most when I stray from my Father’s side.  The times I feel most rushed by the deadlines life presents to all of us are the times I am most tempted to stray from His side.  These are the times I cut short my time with Him or avoid Him altogether.  And before I know it, I’m not seeking His advice or watching for the road signs He posts along my path.  It’s times like these that I can identify with the prodigal son in Luke 15.  I don’t leave my Father quite so boldly as the prodigal did in Jesus’ parable.  I tend to wander off step by step, almost unaware of my distance from Him.  But I end up in the same place, nonetheless – far away from His protective care.  And then I long to be home with my Father because I have found there is no place like home!  What’s so exciting to me is that my Father waits for me and longs for me, just like Jesus described in His story… “So he got up and went to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassioin for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”  (Luke 15:20)  What a picture of love and acceptance!  God longs for me to be home with Him more than I want to be home.  And so the homecoming is always sweet.  And the homecoming we can experience today is but a foretaste of that glorious homecoming Jesus has promised.

I look forward to the eternal homecoming more and more each day as I have learned to stay at home with Jesus on this earth.  So the questions worth asking ourselves today are:  Am I home?  What causes me to ever leave my Father’s side?  What practices or habits can I incorporate into my life that will keep me home with Jesus today so I will be ready for His glorious homecoming in the near future?  What homecoming experiences do you have to share with us?

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