Throughout The New Testament the return of Christ and the consequent readiness of his followers jump off the page. It's been over 2000 years since his ascension into heaven. We have become slothful, no doubt! When Christianity becomes the dominant cultural force that shapes most of Europe throughout The Middle Ages, it is not too far of a stretch to say that The Church basically goes to sleep. Many adult Christians today who have children in their 30s and 40s likely remember a time, when most people they grew up with went to church. It's a comforting memory–that's about it!
Those days are long gone. In his book From Dawn to Decadence, Jacques Barzun argues that every "empire" or "dominant culture" reaches a summit that is not sustained. People reach the summit and start to enjoy it too much, setting aside the will and motivation that helped the empire or culture reach its summit in the first place.
This phenomenon clearly has played itself out within Christendom. Christianity became a club of "fat and happys," thinking the church would simply self-sustain. The result is that Western Christendom has succumbed to similar cultural forces that have impacted other empires throughout history.
Jesus knows us too well. He knows that sinful human creatures cannot sustain by themselves the resiliency to wait for the Lord. We think he is taking too long, so we soothe ourselves with other gods–gods of comfort that appear to assuage the deadly problem of sin. We only hasten our demise with this approach.
One of the best anticipation metaphors from sports in this regard is that of a nose guard over a center in football. The nose guard knows the play will happen–eventually–but cannot jump offsides. He cannot let the quarterback's cadence fool him. He has to remain totally locked-in on watching the ball, just inches from his face. The intense focus on the ball becomes the key to anticipate the snap on the ball. Even though the center knows the snap-count, perfect anticipation by the nose guard can give him a significant advantage over the center.
Let us have intense focus not on a football inches before us but on the coming of Jesus–His Second Advent. When Jesus comes again to make all things new, all of creation will be remade perfectly. With such focus, the craziness of the world around us becomes like the background noise of a roaring crowd–undecipherable and, ultimately, meaningless.
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
" … cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." … " … Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more." Genesis 3:17b-19 and Revelation 21:1.
In light of the worst mass-shooting in The United States of America, I have nothing beyond the words of Holy Scripture.
I'll end with this prayer, since I began with the one in the image above:
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."
Psalm 127:3-5–3 Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.
My mornings are usually harried: getting four boys under the age of 14 where they need to go makes for some unexpected starts to each new day. At some point in the process of getting them ready (a lot of times, after I get the two on the bus and have 2 minutes in the car by myself), I literally throw a prayer to God: Lord, please be with boys today at school. Keep them safe. Give them good hearts and sound minds. Bring them home safely.
Sometimes, that last petition bites back. I think, "What about all the parents who have prayed that prayer, and their kids did not come home:" the kids at Columbine, the kids at Virginia Tech, the thousands who have disappeared at the hands of weirdos who abducted them and killed them. I think to myself, "How dare I be so presumptuous!"
Many times, The LORD says no. It's that straightforward; it's never that simple. Many balk at The LORD's "no," reversing the roles of Creator and creature. It usually comes in a response like, "A loving God would never do that–"take a child away from a parent.
It doesn't have to be a dramatic and tragic taking-away, either. Sometimes the taking-away is long and drawn-out, like through addiction to drugs, pornography, apostasy, etc. What to do?
Derivatively, this is another form of the "why" question that haunts and hunts us. We ask, "Why God?" The answer is blunt: we are the creatures–not The Creator. The LORD's response to Job in chapters 38-42 is helpful. The opening verses of chapter 38 make the essential point:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 4“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Job 38:2-5
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:21
I just woke up to do a HIIT workout some physical therapist recommended in The Philadelphia Inquirer: a High Intensity Interval Training workout. I did 4 sets of the following: 25 push-ups, 25 jumping jacks, 25 squats, rest 1 minute. HIIT workouts seem to be the latest workout for the greatest impact.
There are certainly many reasons to workout. For me, Paul's encouragement has always been the deepest reason. My body is The Temple of Christ. Paul uses this metaphor to encourage Christians in Corinth to refrain from sexual immorality. It's principle applies to general good health, nonetheless: we should take care of our bodies because they are the dwelling places of God. Moreover, our bodies are the means by which we serve our neighbor. Making bad health choices impedes us from loving our neighbors and hinders our purpose in life.
Jesus redeems us--brings us back from death--for a purpose: to redeem our body, soul, and spirit! Let us cherish that redemption by taking care of our bodies!
Psalm 19:1–The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Romans 1:20–For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
The hype of the eclipse has stirred people to travel great distances and camp next to strangers. That's cool. I'm not in the eclipse's path, so it just seemed like a big cloud came over north Wilmington. Still, I recognize its a once-in-a-lifetime event!
The Bible starts with creation, which God calls good. The Bible ends with the creation being made new–free from the curse. The creation works like it does in Genesis 1 and 2, after Jesus makes it new. The creation matters and God loves it–he died for it and people!
Yet, both David and Paul in the passages above make clear that the creation as we know it under the curse is not what's really important. What's really important is that even the cursed creation points us (our entire beings) to our Creator–God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The heavens are NOT the glory of God but they declare it. From what has been made (like the eclipse), we get a sense of God's eternal power and divine nature. That ought to make us soil our pants!
But wait, don't do that. For Paul goes on to say in Romans that if we stand in awe and wonder at an eclipse, how much more should we stand in awe and wonder at Jesus on the Cross. There is the true spectacle, for in his death Jesus puts an end to the curse and begins the new creation that is coming!
It's no wonder that John ends Revelation, "Come, Lord Jesus!"
Martin Luther King, Jr. is a famous preacher. One of his most well-known secular speeches is the I Have a Dream Speech from 1963 in Washington, DC. His speech, of course, is about Civil Rights for African-Americans and all minorities. His dream, sadly, is still wanting in 2017! Undergirding all that his life still stands for is Jesus. After all, he was a PREACHER!
So are you! The New Bible Dictionary defines preaching as 'the public proclamation of Christianity to the non-Christian world.' My dream is that every Christian would get that and embrace its truth. We lament the state of our post-Christian society, but few of us see the solution clearly. The Apostle Paul does! It's preaching (cf. Romans 10:5-17)! Every Christian is a preacher. If preaching as defined above is left to official preachers, then it likely will get worse. If every baptized child of God sees themself as a preacher in the sense above, Jesus's Word will change hearts from stone to flesh!
Its time for for a long nap and the best dream ever! 🍻
Isaiah 40:8-The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever
If the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus are the sails of our life, The Word of God is the energy that The Holy Spirit uses to move us forward one day at a time!