How do you respond when someone says, “I have good news and I have bad news”? Several times in today’s Bible reading, Jesus does just that.
He talks about the Last Days and His return. In the way He describes things, it would be very easy to be anxious. But that’s not why He tells His Disciples about the end times. Instead, He gives them this information so they would be encouraged. As they see things happen in the future, instead of being anxious, they should be encouraged, knowing that the end and Jesus’ return is coming soon.
Note: The “End Times” isn’t something that will happen sometime in the future only. When Bible teachers talk about “the End Times”, they’re talking about the time that began when Jesus arrived preaching His good news. In other words, we are in the “End Times” now. Yes, we are closer to the end than when the church was birthed in Acts 2, but we have been in the “End Times” for almost two thousand years. We are in an overlap of this Present Age and the Age to Come. A time of “already, but not yet”. Some of the things Jesus prophesied have already been fulfilled, such as the fall of Jerusalem that occurred in AD 70 and prophesied in today’s reading. (Mark 13:2) But Jesus hasn’t yet returned in all of His glory to take His bride — Believers — to her eternal home with Him. 26-27)
Are you ready for Jesus’ return? What does it mean to be ready? It means to live with an expectancy that Jesus will come soon. It means to live an obedient life, telling other people how they, too can have an eternal hope.
Several times in the Gospels, Jesus tells His Disciples — and us — that we should always be ready because no one knows when He will return. Even He doesn’t know when His Father tells Him to bring His children home. If you’re one of His children, He will come for you, so you want to make sure that you’re always ready.
As we continue reading through the Gospels and Revelation during this year, it’s important to see Jesus’ warnings as both good news and bad news.
Spend some time today thanking God that He has a plan to bring His chidren home to live with Him for eternity.
In today’s Bible reading, Peter reminds us that God’s promise is sure: Jesus will return. He says that scoffers will come, trying to discourage God’s children by pointing out that Jesus has yet to return. “Where is the promise of His coming He predicted?” (2 Peter 3:4)
There will always be nay-sayers. There will always be scoffers. There will always be haters. But Peter reminds us to be vigilant and to actively wait for Jesus’ return. “Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found without spot or blemish in his sight, at peace.” 2 Peter 3:14 (CSB)
In Peter’s mind, there’s no such thing as expressing a belief in Christ and then living an unchanged life. Coming to faith in Christ will cause life change. Those who repent of their sin and turn to Jesus (in other words, actually becoming a Christian) have a job to do: stay close and stay clean. (2 Peter 3:14)
OK, so how do you stay close and stay clean? Maintain a close relationship with God. And one of the best ways to do this is to practice the Spiritual Disciplines: Bible reading, Bible study, Bible verse memory, prayer, worship, evangelism, fasting, giving thanks, giving, and fellowshiping with other Believers. (These are a few and they are in no particular order)
One great book on the Spiritual Disciplines is Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. Please take a couple of minutes to listen to John Piper talk about Dave Mathis’ book Habits of Grace. I think it really catches the idea behind practicing the Spiritual Disciplines. Spoiler alert: It isn’t about doing the disciplines. It’s about loving Jesus more.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul says that those who are unwilling to work shouldn’t eat. In other words, Believers aren’t to be freeloaders. Now, is that a cut-and-dried statement? Or is it a principle?
I think Paul intended this to be a principle. It comes down to a person’s heart, his/her motivations. If a person is able to work, but chooses not to, that’s a problem. If a person goes around constantly mooching off others, that’s a problem.
But what about someone who is “called to do God’s work”? It’s no different! If someone is called to do God’s work he/she shouldn’t wait until a paycheck comes along before doing the work. If God has called someone to do ministry, they should do ministry! If someone is genuinely called to do God’s work of sharing the gospel, Paul says they should be paid for doing the work if they so choose. If they want to work voluntarily, that’s fine. But no one should be shamed for accepting money for doing ministry. In fact, elsewhere, Paul says that laborers are worthy of their hire. (1 Timothy 5:18)
Taking on a second job in order to put food on the table is commendable; it can open up ministry opportunities as well. And a missionary or pastor shouldn’t be shamed if he does take on a second job. Neither should he be shamed for asking for financial support as his income source. Depending on the ministry, sometimes taking on a second job is impractical or impossible. And oftentimes, the people receiving ministry are unable to cover the expenses of a pastor or missionary.
Airline tickets cost money. Visas cost money. Passport processing costs money. Insurance costs money. Gas costs money. Food costs money. Ministry costs money! Fortunately, many ministries are very lean and are very good stewards. Unfortunately, not all are. And not all of the “big name” ministries are the most efficient. Beware of wolves that fleece their flocks and siphon large salaries away from those in need.
In the past, I have mentioned uniting our church with a neighboring church. This is a good thing. This is a God thing. Combining our efforts under one roof and one fellowship body will bring down the operating costs of the two churches and will free up monies to do more of God’s work. This is good stewardship! And quite frankly, I wish more churches would prayerfully consider doing the same! With the changing face of society and the declining nickels and noses in local churches, it might be the best thing to close the doors on a few dead/plateaued churches and unite the members under a new body with a new vision and new energy.
Important note: I say this having closed the doors of the first church I pastored. God was in that and He brought new life to an old building. Now, a newer, younger church is absolutely flourishing where we once floundered. God is good!
Unfortunately, churches have turf wars and partnering with other churches is often difficult. It takes a lot of humility and repentance to set aside your own church and ministry preferences. We don’t like change. But oftentimes, God calls us to “suck it up” and follow Him, taking on His preferences in order to accomplish His work.
Doing God’s work requires God’s people to give. And those who work are worthy of the support of God’s people to accomplish the work.
I read today’s Bible reading a few hours after I read a Facebook post from friends, Billy and Cindy Foote. In Billy’s new song, he has set the Prosperity Gospel peddlers in his crosshairs and fired his shot.
Billy begins his song, “All the Wolves”, with, “I know some preacher men, men with some business plans. And I think this must be said. They’re making millions selling Jesus. They take but they never give.”
Billy’s description could not be further than the reality of Paul’s description of the preaching to and the reception of the Gospel by the Thessalonians.
For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our visit with you was not without result. On the contrary, after we had previously suffered and were treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, we were emboldened by our God to speak the gospel of God to you in spite of great opposition. For our exhortation didn’t come from error or impurity or an intent to deceive. Instead, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please people, but rather God, who examines our hearts. For we never used flattering speech, as you know, or had greedy motives—God is our witness— and we didn’t seek glory from people, either from you or from others. 1 Thessalonians 2:1–6 (CSB)
The ideas of difficulty and suffering are foreign to the wolves. The wolves come only to take and never give.
The wolves are everywhere. They dress well and they sound good. They may also look like sheep. But beware the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Be careful who you listen to. Be careful who you watch. Be careful who you read. Even the most popular Bible teachers and preachers can be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Look at the fruit of their work. Stay connected to the Word. Examine everything you hear, everything you see, everything you read. Run it through the filter of all of God’s Word. Does it fit with what you see in your Bible?
 Please take a few moments to listen and read the lyrics to Billy’s latest song, “All the Wolves“. Prepare
Peter continues addressing his persecuted, exiled readers (1 Peter 2:11) in today’s Bible reading. Last month, I commented on the historical context around the middle of the First Century. I mentioned Nero was the Roman Emporer at the time. Under Nero’s reign, Christians were persecuted far beyond what many of us can imagine today. “Pure evil” is the only way I can describe it without going into the ugly details.
And yet… Peter tells his readers to submit to every human authority. And lest there be any confusion, Peter says clearly that his command includes the “emperor [Nero] as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good.” (1 Peter 2:13–14 CSB)
So what does “submit” mean? Submit was a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.
Submission is not a bad word. In fact, no military unit can properly function without it. No marriage can properly function without it. No church can properly function without it. And no country can properly function without it. There has to be a chain of command. The pastor who married Amy and me said, “Anything with more than one head is a monster.”
Peter gives his rationale for his command in verses 12 and 15. “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.” 1 Peter 2:12, 15 (CSB)
Did you catch that? Peter says the reason Believers should submit even to the evil Emperor Nero was so that God would be glorified. He adds that silencing foolish ignorance by doing good is God’s will. Well, you can’t argue with that!
Most of my readers live in the United States and do not have first-hand knowledge of real religious persecution. However, readers in countries ruled by authoritarian regimes may know people who have experienced persecution. They may have even had to alter their way of doing life — especially church life — in order to coexist in a restrictive environment. I have friends who live in one of those restrictive countries and they have to be very careful in the way they communicate prayer needs back to churches in the US. In fact, they don’t even use the words “pray”, “church”, or “Jesus Christ” in their email correspondence.
But regardless of where you live, Peter’s instructions are clear: Submit to every human authority. Every human authority. You may or may not like your President. You may or may not like your Chancellor. You may or may not like your Prime Minister. But regardless of how you feel about your leaders, if you are a Believer, you are obligated to submit to those authorities (1 Peter 2:13-14) and to pray for them. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
 Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 1995 : n. pag. Print.