media

 

Sermon Series

 

October 25, 2015 A.D., by Pastor Ben Willis

Introduction

As our reading from the Book of Acts begins, the apostles Peter and John, empowered by Jesus, have just miraculously healed a man who had been lame from birth so that he could walk. But when Peter and John begin crediting the man’s miraculous healing to Jesus, proclaiming that God had brought Jesus back from the dead and that through Jesus’ powerful name the man had been healed, they attract the attention of the Sadducees.

The Sadducees were a denomination of Judaism that did not believe in resurrection, that is, the teaching that at the end of time God would raise everyone who’d ever lived back to life and judge each one for their faith and deeds: Those who were believed and lived doing good would be rewarded with eternal life; those who did not believe and lived accordingly would be punished forever.

So Peter and John were arrested for preaching and teaching about the resurrection in general and about Jesus’ resurrection in particular. But after questioning Peter and John and threatening them not to speak or teach about Jesus and His resurrection any longer, the Sadducee leaders let them go…

The Acts of the Apostles 4:23-35 [NLTse]

23 As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. 24 When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of Heaven and Earth, the sea, and everything in them— 25 You spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, Your servant, saying,

‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? 26 The kings of the Earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord and against His Messiah.’

27 “In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, Your holy servant, Whom You anointed. 28 But everything they did was determined beforehand according to Your will. 29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, Your servants, great boldness in preaching Your Word. 30 Stretch out Your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”

31 After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the Word of God with boldness.

32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.

Sermon

I’d like to share with all of you something that happened to me that is very personal to me and also very holy to me: The day my younger brother was killed I saw Jesus.

It happened the very day that I arrived on the campus of my seminary.

Here’s u a picture me and my wife in those days. I had no belly and no gray hair. Amy, of course, looks exactly the same… We had no kids in those days, but we did have a minivan full of stuff that we had just started to unload into our campus apartment in Richmond, Virginia. Upon arrival I found a note on our door that said, “Call your mom and dad.” Well, it had been a long drive and there was a lot of work to do unpacking and getting settled, and I thought that my beloved parents could wait to hear how we were doing until the work was done and we were better squared away.

It was a hot day and we were sweating and meeting neighbors and fellow students as we unpacked and hung pictures and found places for things, when some neighbors from upstairs came to our door and told me that the seminary administration had just called them asking me to call home.

I never had a clue. All the way upstairs to their apartment (because our phone was not set up yet, and cell phones were the size of brief cases in those days J) I remember feeling so embarrassed that my folks were hounding me like this. I was twenty-seven years old! I didn’t need them calling my neighbors to make sure we were okay! But when I called our pastor picked up the phone and I knew something was terribly wrong. The first thought that came into my head was that my dad had died, but I quickly found out it was not my dad but my younger brother, Charley. (We’d just celebrated his twenty-first birthday a couple weeks before.) And I cried: I sat there in a stranger’s study – they’d closed the door when I went to make the call, so the administration must have known and told them what had happened – and I balled. These kinds of horrors happened to other people. I couldn’t believe it had happened to us, to me!

The rest of the afternoon was a blur: I told my wife, Amy, the news and then she and I cried together. And we talked. And though we wanted to leave for my parents’ house right away, we couldn’t because our minivan was still mostly filled with all our stuff, and so we got to work emptying it out: No more hanging up anything or looking for just that right spot; we wanted to get the van unpacked and get back home.

As a part of it all, I remember sitting in the driver’s seat. I’d just moved the van because a better parking space had opened up closer to our building. I had just turned off the car and I was crying with my head down on the steering wheel. And then Jesus was kneeling next to me.

(New minivans have those consoles built in-between the front driver’s and passenger’s seats, but back in the early 90’s there was open space in-between the seats so that you could turn and walk – hunched over, of course – from the front seats to among those sitting in the back. [Perhaps so that moms could discipline the kids in person without having to pull the car over. J] And in that space between the two front seats Jesus was kneeling beside me.)

And He spoke to me.

He said, “I’m sorry.”

And then He was gone…

I’ve often looked back on that occasion and wondered why the Lord came to me. I mean, others have experienced much greater losses; and still others have been far more faithful Christians, and loved Jesus far better and far more than me, I’m sure…

At other times I’ve looked back and questioned the experience altogether: Maybe it was all just in my head, a product of my grief; or maybe I just wanted it to happen so badly that I made the whole thing up…

And yet, it happened. And why the Lord came to me, I have no idea: An act of kindness on His part. Surely not because I deserved it or had earned it. Just a miraculous expression of His amazing grace, I guess…

And what did He mean by telling me He was sorry? But all of that is for another time…

Today I’d like to focus us on the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Jesus is not dead. He is alive!

And remember, I’m not telling you this because it is right doctrine. I am not telling you this because someone told me it was true and I’m now passing it on to you. I’m telling you that Jesus, the son of (it was thought) Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, Who lived and was killed almost 2,000 years ago, is alive because I’ve seen Him with my own eyes and heard Him speak with my own ears!

Historical records verify that on April 7, AD30 a man named Jesus of Nazareth was sentenced to death by the high court of all Judaism – the Sanhedrin – and then crucified to death for treason by the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate. And we know that the Bible testifies, and that other historical records confirm, that this same Jesus rose from the dead two days later. And we know that He was seen and heard and touched to be alive by His followers almost 2,000 years ago. Well, it’s in-line with all that that I am here to tell you that that same Jesus is alive today and with us – His followers – today!

I’ve heard different ones of you tell me that you’ve seen Jesus, too. One of you told me that once, when you were sitting back [pointing] there, where you, NAME, are sitting today, that you saw Jesus sitting over [pointing] there, where you, NAME, are; sitting, worshiping among us. Another one of you told me, just this week, that you’ve seen Jesus several times, here in the Sanctuary, walking up and down the aisles, in and out of the pews, radiant and glorious as we’ve worshiped..!

I’m sharing all this today because, in our reading from Acts 4, we can see that central to the apostles’ ministry in those first months and years of the church was their testifying to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Christianity is not a faith based upon some god’s private revelation to someone, like the way Muslims believe that Allah spoke to their founder, Mohammed, or like the way Mormons believe that God spoke to their founder, Joseph Smith. Christianity is not a faith based merely upon reason or wisdom, like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Confucianism, or based upon the promise of power or good feelings, like Wicca or other New Age faiths.

The Christian faith lives or dies on the reality of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. As the apostle Paul once wrote, “Since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God. (For we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead.) And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

For those of you who’ve gotten caught up in the worldliness around us and begun putting your hope in politics and presidents, I tell you that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead! For those of you who’ve found yourselves worn down by pain into putting your trust in doctors and diagnoses, I tell you that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead! For those of you who’ve been out of work or who’ve just been making ends meet, who think you need a job (or a better job), not Jesus, I tell you that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead! For those of you who’ve been let down, betrayed, and abandoned your whole life long, who’ve gotten used to putting your faith in you, yourself, and what you can get done, I tell you that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead!

He even came to a wretch like me to tell me He was sorry. Surely He’ll come to you and provide all that you need. Your part is to trust Him. Your part is to seek Him. Your part is to let every word you speak be what He would speak, and every thing you do to be what you know He would do. Your part is to live your life His Way: To watch for Him and listen for Him, following as His Holy Spirit guides you and provides for you as you call out to Him each day.

I’ve seen the Lord. He’s alive.



October 11, 2015 A.D., by Pastor Ben Willis

The Prophet Isaiah 58:1-14 [NLTse]

“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell My people Israel of their sins! 2 Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about Me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask Me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near Me. 3 ‘We have fasted before You!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t You impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’

“I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. 4 What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with Me. 5 You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?

6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. 7 Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ He will quickly reply.

“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! 10 Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.

13 “Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. 14 Then the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Today we’re continuing our new series called I Love Sundays.

Just for fun, I made a list this week of things I love. I love my wife: Amy. I love my kids: Noah, Eden, and Caleb. I love swimming in the ocean at the beach. I love our family vacations in Maine. I love reading a good book. I love superheroes. (Crazy, I know. But when their characters are portrayed well the whole idea of them just makes me smile.) (By the way, Jesus is my favorite superhero. And, of course, He’s real!) I love reading a good book…

Now, do me a favor, turn to somebody next to you in your pew and, in thirty seconds or less, tell them three things you love. Ready? Go!

If you worked at it awhile, I’ll bet we all could come up with a long, long list of things that we love. Did anyone here think to include Sundays on your list?

Let’s get into the habit. Practice with me now, will you? I’ll say it, then you say it: I Love Sundays! (“I Love Sundays!”) I Love Sundays!! (“I Love Sundays!!”)

Let’s pray before we dive in together…

Father in Heaven: You made us, and we’re grateful. You designed us, and You know how we best work. We came this morning hoping that you would speak to us in life-changing ways. And that’s our prayer right now: Lord, in these next few minutes, please speak to us and change us. We are listening. In Jesus’s name. Amen?

I want to propose to you today that Sunday was meant to be the best day of your week. During Jesus’ day, the Jews had all sorts of laws about what you could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath. One Sabbath day, Jesus was hanging out with His disciples, and they were debating which things applied to them and which things didn’t. In a show-stopping statement, Jesus clarified God’s purpose for the Sabbath once and for all when He said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

What Jesus was saying was, of all the days of the week, God knew we would need a day to break from everything else we were doing and refuel, re-fresh, and re-focus. So, when God was arranging the rhythm of the world, He set one day apart: The Sabbath.

Study the history of Christianity and I think you’ll see that whenever people have taken the time to set aside a day for rest and re-focus with God, their lives have gone better. They’ve felt better about themselves, enjoyed their families more, and experienced the smile of God.

The problem is, in 2015, we live in a never-stopping culture where 24/7 we never have enough time because we never stop worrying about deadlines and never feel like we’re making enough money to guarantee our happiness. Day in and day out we live with pressure: Pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure…

[Take out a balloon and blow it up.] There are two ways to get rid of the pressure in a balloon. [Take out a pin.] You can pop it. [Pop it pretty close to the microphone.] Or [blow up a second balloon], you can let the air release from it slowly. Let the air escape from the neck of the balloon, again, fairly close to the microphone.] Human beings aren’t all that different. Of course, we all pop in different ways: Some have nervous breakdowns; others leave their families and run away; still others begin having affairs or go out and buy expensive cars or quit their jobs, etc…

But for Christians, popping isn’t the only option.

Do this with me. (It’s going to seem weird, but do it anyway.) Put your teeth together and just go “Sssss.” One, two, three: Sssss.

You know what you were just doing? Letting off pressure. Try it again: Sssss. Doesn’t that feel good? (Silly maybe, but it still feels good, doesn’t it?)

I don’t want you to relax so much this morning that you go to sleep, but I do want you to relax enough to lower your blood pressure, listen well, and leave here in a little while feeling a weight lifted off your shoulders…

Set the clock back in our country a hundred years, two hundred years, or three hundred years and there was a lot less pressure. Nobody worked on Sundays. Businesses were closed for the day. There were no kids’ traveling all-star teams. People used Sunday for a rest day. Which seems very old-fashioned. But doesn’t something about that old-fashioned lifestyle call to you?

In prior generations Americans got a lot less done on Sundays. But as a result, they got a lot more done on Mondays! After a day of rest, they attacked the week eagerly. Work was considered a noble thing.

Athletes have found they perform better by working hard and then resting, working hard and then resting, instead of working hard all the time. Our muscles were designed for stress, and then release. Our souls were, too.

Imagine this for a minute: what if we took a step backward in order to go forward?

Way back in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was about to enter the Promised Land. For forty years they had lived in the desert, without houses or jobs or responsibilities. As they got ready to enter the Promised Land, where they would occupy homes and lead working lives, God visited their leader, Joshua, and talked to him about his priorities. He said [hold up a Bible], “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” (Joshua 1:8)

God was saying, “Joshua, once you and your people settle in, you are going to be very tempted to work, work, work to get ahead. But if you work, work, work, to get ahead, you won’t get ahead. You’ll fall behind.”

“Joshua, the secret to getting ahead is to spend time in this Book. Because if you get into this Book, this Book will get into you. And if this Book gets into you, you will become the kind of person who is prosperous and successful.”

And that’s been proven true. In eighteenth-century England, John and Charles Wesley started a movement that resulted in 100,000 weekly Bible studies by 1798. And for the next one hundred years, England was the most prosperous nation in the world.

In 1857, Jeremiah Lanphier started a noontime prayer meeting in the Dutch Reformed Church in downtown New York City that sparked a movement of Bible reading throughout our country. As a result, the history of America’s westward expansion was marked by households huddled around their kitchen tables at night. Mom would do some sewing while the kids played quietly and dad read the Bible to them all, out loud, for an hour. Once that Bible-reading habit was ingrained in our families, over the next one hundred years, the United States became the most prosperous nation on earth.

People today say they’re too busy to read the Bible because they have to work more hours to get ahead. But the Bible says that if you’ll read it regularly, you’ll become the sort of person who gets ahead.

The same is true with the Sabbath. We think we can get ahead by working more. But sometimes the best way to be productive is to rest and refuel for a while. That’s the concept of the Sabbath, and God invented it. The way to make your Mondays better is to start with Sundays.

In the Bible, God prescribes fifty-two Sabbaths a year as part of our health-maintenance plan. That’s seven and a half weeks of spiritual vacation! God did this because when He wired us up, He constructed us to run best on a rhythm of engagement and withdrawl; exertion, and then release.

Do this once again: Sssss! No pressure today, just release.

Open or turn on your Bible to Isaiah 58. Let’s look together at  verse 13. God says:

“Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. Then the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Repeat line three after me: Enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight. (“Enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight.”) And line eight: I will give you great honor and satisfy you. (“I will give you great honor and satisfy you.”)

God’s secret for our being greatly honored and satisfied is enjoying the Sabbath and calling it a delight! Which means that Sunday ought to be the best day of your week!

How can you make that happen? What would it look like to make Sunday the best day of your week?

There are two steps we need to take to make Sundays great. The first is to make a conscious decision to honor God’s rhythm for your life.

A few years ago, a pastor was at the Western Wall in Jerusalem as the Jews there brought in the Sabbath together. He wrote, “It was a raucous celebration. Jewish men, dressed in their finest, were bobbing back and forth. Israeli soldiers, Uzis in hand, were singing Sabbath songs together. One little boy ran up to me with a huge smile on his face and shouted ‘Shabbat Shalom’ (‘Sabbath peace’) to me like I was a long lost relative. It was one of the most festive celebrations I’ve ever seen.”

Sabbath celebration is so sacred to the Jewish people that the entire nation of Israel puts their elevators on automatic during the Sabbath. To avoid even the slightest amount of work, like pushing an elevator button, Israeli elevators are programmed to stop and open on every floor from the beginning of the Sabbath to its end. This might seem extreme to us because we live in a country where everyone can do whatever they want to. But imagine if you lived in a high-rise and every Sunday your elevator stopped on every floor whether you wanted it to or not?

Board an elevator in Israel on the Sabbath, and every stop will remind you that there is a God who created the world and He wants you to release and enjoy Him. That would be a great reminder, wouldn’t it, a great reminder of God’s rhythm for our lives?

If step one in making Sunday the best day of your week is to honor God’s rhythm for your life, step two takes it a little further. Step two is…

2. Prepare for Sunday as if it’s the highlight of your week.

Think of it this way. Guys, when you ask a girl out on a date, don’t you usually take a shower ahead of time, comb your hair, and put on some clean clothes? (Let’s hope so.)

How about when you ask a girl to the prom? It’s a lot more special, right? You would buy her flowers. You probably rent a tuxedo. Maybe you wash your car. You make special plans or reservations for dinner. Now, the regular date and your prom date might even be with the same girl, but what makes one good and the other extra-good is in the planning ahead and the extra-preparations, right?

So, think about this: On a normal weekend, the Smith family goes out and does something fun on Saturday night, sleeps until the last minute Sunday morning, rushes to get ready for church, and bickers all the way to the parking lot. (I know that never happens to your family. J)

How hard is it to have a great experience at church if you’ve had a miserable experience getting to church, hmm? Pretty hard!

So let’s rewind the Smith family’s weekend for a minute. What if, instead of whooping it up on Saturday night, they changed their “whoop night” to Friday? What if Mr. and Mrs. Smith developed a plan for preparing for Sunday like Sunday morning was the prom?

If the Smiths have small children, imagine this: It’s Saturday morning and Mrs. Smith is asking each member of the family what they want to wear to church tomorrow. Armed with this information, she does laundry or irons clothes to make sure the chosen clothes are ready by morning. On Saturday evening, Mr. Smith helps the kids to an early or normal bedtime. What kind of difference would it make in your church experience if every member of your family woke up rested on Sunday morning and everything they wanted to wear was already set out for them?

If you’re the Smiths and you have teens, you might not want to kill your kids’ social life every weekend by insisting on an early Saturday night curfew. But what if you worked together to come up with a mutually acceptable plan for Sunday mornings? What if you held a family huddle to talk about how long each member of the family will need to shower, dress, and eat breakfast so that you’re not all yelling at each other for the bathroom, falling over each other in the kitchen, and then running for the car at the last minute?

If you’re a single parent, you’re huddling with your kids and developing your own family game plan. The U.S. Marines have a saying, “Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.” Plan for church like you’d plan for the prom!

Now, replay Sunday morning. This might never happen, but imagine if it did: If it takes your family fifteen minutes to get to church, what if you all got in the car twenty-five minutes before church started and drove over here at or under the speed limit? No honking. No bickering. You could even sing a verse of “Kum-ba-ya” together on the way! When you get out of the car, you could actually walk across the parking lot leisurely. You could stop and have a conversation in the Narthex and still arrive in Sunday School or Worship with a few minutes to spare!

Now, this might seem like a fantasy, but does it have to be?

Like prom versus date, the difference in a good Sunday and a great Sunday just might be in planning ahead and the extra-preparations!

Let’s pray…

Father: Thank You for creating us for rhythm and for rest. It’s great to be Your church together! Help us to live the kind of lives you intended for us and to make the Sabbath a delight. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen?



September 20, 2015 A.D., by Pastor Ben Willis

The Gospel According to Matthew 24:37-51 [NLTse]

37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

40 “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.

42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into.44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.

45 “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 48 But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ 49 and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 50 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, 51 and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Sermon

The title of this sermon is: u

“IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD! ARE YOU READY? How We Can Let It Be the End Of Our World and Start Living In Total Surrender To Christ.”

As many of you may have heard, this coming Monday, September 28th, there will be a lunar eclipse, a “blood moon”, so-called because of the “Raleigh Scattering” process that gives the moon a reddish tint when it’s in eclipse. This will be the fourth in what are thought to be a special series of lunar eclipses because they have coincided with Jewish holy-day festivals. The first of these “blood moons” appeared on April 15, 2014, the first day of Passover last year. The second occurred on October 8, 2014, the Eve of Tabernacles. The third took place April 4th earlier this year, the first day of Passover. And now this fourth lunar eclipse expected next Monday, September 28th, the first day of Tabernacles.

Although there have been 8 previous occurrences of blood moons like these four (falling on Passover and Tabernacles) since the Lord Jesus ascended into Heaven, Pastor John Hagee of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas and founder of John Hagee Ministries has championed the prophetic importance of these recent blood moons. In his best-selling book titled Four Blood Moons, Pastor Hagee wrote that, for the past 500 years, during every series of four blood moons falling on Passovers and Tabernacles like these, that a significant event occurred in Jewish or Israeli history that, while beginning as tragic, ended up as triumphant.

Although Reverend Hagee has not proclaimed that the world will come to an end as the result of these “blood moons”, other pastors, teachers, and end-of-the-world prophets have promoted that possibility, even as u Joel 2:31 and Revelation 6:12 associate “blood moons” with the end of days.

And so, here we are with some Christian folks stock-piling food and water, wondering if the end is truly near, and other Christian folks considering it all to be rather silly, even while looking forward to the lunar eclipse that is coming. How are we, as Christ’s people, to live in face of such uncertainties?

First, I want to remind us, or to show us, if we haven’t been aware of such things before, that folks have been predicting the end of the world since Jesus first ascended. An Essene revolutionary, Simon son of Giora, saw the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66-70AD as the final end-time battle before Messiah came (he was not a Christian) and predicted the end of all things to come about during that war.

Martin of Tours (in what we now call France) predicted the end of the world to happen in 400AD, saying, “There is no doubt that the Antichrist has already been born. Firmly established already in his early years, he will, after reaching maturity, achieve supreme power.” The early church fathers Hippolytus of Rome, Sextus Julius Africanus, and Saint Irenaeus himself, all predicted that the end of the world would take place in 500AD, Julius later changing his date to 800AD. Many Christian leaders predicted Jesus’ return and the end of the world during 1000AD, and when that didn’t happen, 1033AD – moving it from one thousand years after Jesus’ birth to one thousand years after His death, resurrection, and ascension.

Many thought the different occurrences of the Black Plague across Europe were the beginnings of the end. Reformer Martin Luther believed that Jesus would return no later than 1600AD. Christopher Columbus believed it would happen in 1656 or 1658. The General Assembly of the State of Connecticut proclaimed May 19, 1780 to be the end of the world. Methodist-founder John Wesley believed that 1836 would be the beginning of the Millenium. Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted the end to take place in 1941. Astrologist Jean Dixon called it for February 4, 1962. Jehovah’s Witnesses tried it again, predicting the final battle of Armageddon to be finished by 1975. Pat Robertson predicted 1982. Louis Farrakhan declared the first Gulf War to be Armaggedon. Many may remember Harold Camping’s predictions of first September 6, then September 29, and then October 2 of 1994 to be the Last Days, and then March 31, 1995, and then that the Rapture would occur on May 21, 2011 and the end occur October 21st of that year. And there have been many more and there are still many more predictions to come.

So, we are not the first generation to be hearing of these things, nor the first to wonder how to faithfully respond.

But Jesus told us what to do. He told us, “Be ready.”

Just as His proclamation of the Greatest Commandment breaks down into three parts (love the Lord with all your heart and mind, soul, and strength) the parables Jesus told about being ready break down into the same groupings: Heart and mind; soul; and strength.

As I’ve shared before, a good paraphrase of “loving God with all our heart and mind” is “loving God with all our thoughts and desires.” The Lord Jesus’ parable about the Ten Bridesmaids paints a picture for us of ten young ladies on the front porch of their friend, the bride’s, house, watching and waiting for the groom and his men to arrive. But some of them didn’t bring extra oil for their oil lamps (or extra batteries for their flashlights, we might think of it today).

Jesus paints that picture for us to show us how we are to be thinking about His return, planning for His return, using our time wisely, desiring His coming. Loving Him and not the people or the things of this world with all our thoughts and desires.

So let me ask you: What do you spend your time thinking about? What do you really desire in this life? Let me ask you something else: What would it be like if Jesus was a part of all your thoughts? If, as you thought about your girlfriend or your boyfriend and the test you have coming up, if Jesus was a part of those thoughts, as well, and you got thinking about what He wants for your relationships and how He wants you to prepare for, and be worried or not be worried, about the test… If, as you consider your hopes and dreams, your plans, or as you look forward to retirement, if Jesus was a part of those plans and desires, letting Him shape your hopes, letting Him give you rest from your fears, letting Him give you great purpose in your last days… In the parable, Jesus says that those who do not love Him with all their thoughts and desires will find themselves knocking on Heaven’s door and will hear Him replying from inside, “Go away! I don’t know you.”

A good paraphrase of “loving God with all your soul” is “loving God with all your time and talents.” Jesus’ parable of the Three Servants speaks to this, that is, how we use our time and our abilities. One servant was given five bags of silver to invest for his master. A second was given two. And a third was given one bag of silver to invest. The first invested fully and well and doubled his master’s money and bringing him ten bags of silver. The second did likewise, doubling the two into four. But the third servant was lazy and didn’t do anything special with his, giving the master back his one bag. And, concerning this servant, Jesus said, the master threw this slave into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth!

So, I ask you, is Jesus really a part of everything you do? Do you work for Jesus, doing your schoolwork, doing your chores, doing your 9 to 5 (or whatever your hours) for Him and not merely for your teacher or parents or boss? Do you decide upon the things you are going to do and the things you are not going to do depending on whether or not Jesus would want you to do or not do those things? Are you in the Word enough to be able to know what Jesus would want or not want? Are you in prayer enough to recognize His voice directing you across your days?

This love that Jesus calls us to is pretty pervasive, isn’t it? When He tells us to be ready, He has a lot in mind, doesn’t He?

A faithful paraphrase for “loving God with all our strength” is “loving God with all our stuff” (believe it or not). “Strength” and “stuff” include everything we have authority over, so it includes our kids, our possessions, our employees, and all that we are able to affect or influence. Jesus says that when He returns that one will be taken but that the one with them might not be. He says that when He returns that we should not go back to get this or that favorite possession…

Let me ask you, “Do you love your kids, or your grandkids, or your parents, or your husband or wife or girlfriend or boyfriend more than you love Jesus?” If Jesus came to you and told you that so-and-so was going to Hell, would you be sad about that but trust Jesus and continue to love Him the same?

Do you love your possessions – your house, your clothes, your cars, your checking account, your collections of this or that – do you love your stuff more than you love Jesus? If it was all taken from you would you still love Him the same?

Jesus is coming back for us. And although at the end of every Worship Service I say, “The grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God our Father, and the communion and fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us, within us, and among us until the Lord Jesus does come to bring us all home,” some of us may not get to be a part of that “homecoming”, not if we’re not ready.

In the Adult Sunday School class we are looking at our lives – our thoughts our desires, our time and our talents, our stuff and all that we influence – with Jesus as a part of it all. We’re doing this in the context of ways the Holy Spirit might be moving us to be Jesus’ witnesses and to share our love for Him and all He’s done for us with others. I invite you all to join as we consider how to love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind, soul, and strength, especially as that love applies to sharing our faith – the great news of Jesus Christ – with those around us whom He so fiercely loves.

It is the end of the world. Let it be the end of your world. Are you ready?