Waiting on you, Lord

Last night had some of the most impressive lightning I’ve seen in awhile.

When I was a kid, storms like that scared me, especially when there was a particularly loud clap of thunder. I’d often think that maybe this was the trumpet that signaled the Lord’s return and the end of the world, though I doubt thunder and God’s trumpet sound much like each other.

I’d wonder: Am I ready? Am I going to heaven? What if I’m not?

The Bible has a much different emphasis, though, at least for believers.

Notice the thread running through these verses:

And be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks (Luke 12:36).

So that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:7).

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God . . . (2 Peter 3:11-12)

Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

Did you notice how often the word “wait” appears in connection with the Lord’s final return?

It’s about anticipation, not dread.

Excitement, not fear.

Hopefulness, not apprehension.

Jesus will come back to make everything right again, to fix a world gone wrong.

He’ll come to give us our final home, to create his new “heaven and earth.”

He’ll change this getting-older body into one that doesn’t creak, moan, or break.

He’ll rid the world of sin, throw out the old enemy call “death,” and usher us into the presence of Perfection, Holiness, Righteousness.

How?

Because of the cross.

Because he wiped out our sins there, gave us his righteousness, and promised us eternity.

We certainly need to make sure unbelievers know that one day Jesus will come to bring “vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

But for those of us who follow Christ, there’s a more appropriate verse.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20).

That’s a prayer you and I can pray today with confidence.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

He’s coming back

I’m not sure why, but we don’t talk a lot about Jesus’ second coming anymore.

It might be because it’s often associated with some radical versions of Christianity—long-haired, unkempt men on street corners holding big “Turn or Burn!”signs.

Or it could be because we’re pretty comfortable with life the way it is, and comfortable people don’t really long for this world to end.

But there’s a reason it’s mentioned over 300 times in the New Testament . . . I think God wants us to think about it.

There’s much we don’t know, of course, but we do know a few things.

We know that God never revealed when Jesus would come back, so it’s pointless to speculate.

And we know a lot about the kind of convictions the second coming should inspire in us.

Here’s what Peter wrote:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace (2 Peter 3:10-14).

Thinking about the Lord’s return ought to make us circumspective, Peter says.

The bed I slept in last night will one day be consumed with fire.

My house will go up in flames.

So will my car, my gadgets, my golf clubs, and my 401(k),

Nothing will escape it, not even the stuff that’s FDIC insured or locked in a safe deposit box.

Your clothes, home decorations, flat screen TV?

All gone.

It ought to make us think. We spend so much time working for and stressing over all the stuff that’s got a pretty short shelf life.

Peter says to invest in what really lasts.

Holiness, godliness, peacefulness.

A heavily invested 401(k) won’t bring any of that.

One day Jesus will return to this earth, and only one thing will matter: Will he find us “without spot or blemish”?

Will we be in Christ?

Think about it today. Ask God to help you see the difference between the stuff that lasts and the stuff that’ll go up in flames in a few years.

Jesus will come back one day, and we should live every day looking forward to that final day.

Why I can see your sin so clearly

I’m not sure if we hate sin as much as we should.

Well, we do hate some sin, and we hate it with a passion. It makes our blood boil.

Like pedophilia.

We hate that, and we should. It’s been all over the news lately, and I’m glad to see the moral outrage. Maybe America still has a conscience.

And we hate other sins too.

We hate adultery when it breaks up a good friend’s marriage.

We hate drunkenness when it destroys someone’s life.

We hate gossip when people are spreading stuff about us or our kids.

In fact, I’m really good at hating sin in other people. For some reason my moral vision is so clear when I look at your life.

But mine?

Not so much.

My gossip is justified because I’m telling only a couple of folks, and my intentions are good, of course.

Anger? I find it quite silly when I see people getting angry over the most ridiculous things, but mine is almost always justified.

Self-pity? Impatience? Selfishness?

It’s so sad to see these sins in others, isn’t it? I wish I could help them take their eyes off of themselves and put them on the Lord.

But my own self-pity? Justified.

My impatience? Excusable.

My selfishness? Quite reasonable.

I think this is one of the most dangerous things about sin. It’s self-deluding.

Satan doesn’t care if we hate sin, as long as we don’t hate it in ourselves.

He loves self-righteousness, and he’s thrilled when I shake my head at the sins of people I know.

These familiar words from Jesus need to fill our hearts every day:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

When you pray today, ask God something like this:

Father, show me my sins, and help me despise them. Help me to see them as you see them. Stir up within me an intense hatred for everything that’s contrary to your will, especially the sins in my own heart. Please forgive me of self-righteousness, of hypercriticism, of speck-hunting, and take this log out of my eye. In the name of the One who died for my sins, Amen.

When you can’t sleep

Some of you couldn’t sleep last night, could you?

You were mulling over an argument you had with a co-worker, perhaps, or maybe with your spouse or child.

Or maybe you’re worried about your health, your debt, your job, or your bills.

We’ve all been there at some point, maybe more than we’d like to admit.

We’re not alone.

During one of David’s sleepless nights he wrote this: “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God” (Psalm 3:1-2).

Satan loves sleeplessness, I think.

He uses the wee hours of the morning to whisper lies into our ears.

God doesn’t care about you.

Everybody’s against you.

You’re not saved.

There’s no way you’ll get past these problems.

But look at what David wrote in the next two verses: “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill” (Psalm 3:3-4).

Somewhere—from a cave, perhaps, or in the home of a loyal friend—David got tired of worrying. He grew weary of carrying all of his burdens alone.

So he cried out to the Lord and begged for his help.

I love what he wrote next: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Psalm 3:5-6).

He finally got some peace and some sleep.

This may not be a cure-all for your insomnia, but it’s not a bad place to start.

Was something eating at you during the night?

Whatever it was, whatever it is, cry out to the Lord.

Claim him as your shield and glory and sustainer.

Tell him you can’t carry these burdens alone—he already knows it, but he wants you to acknowledge it, to confess it.

If you’re God’s child, he’ll hear your prayer, and he’ll answer from his holy hill.

And I think sometime soon—if you keep trusting in him—your fear will wane, and your anxiety will decrease.

And then you’ll lie down and sleep again.

Mud pies or beach vacations?

I took my kids to the store one day to pick up a few things. I’m pretty sure that by the time we left, one of them had asked for everything the store sold.

At some point I said, “Look, I’d like for you not to ask for anything else today. You’ve got everything you could possibly need, and you don’t need everything you see.”

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably had a similar experience.

I wonder if God ever gets tired of our requests?

I doubt it. Or at least I doubt if he’s ever disappointed with our asking for too much.

Instead, I think he probably wonders why we ask for so little.

C.S. Lewis put it like this:

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”

Mud pies in a slum?

Are we making mud pies when we could be at the beach?

Maybe sometimes we are. We ask for the trivial when God wants to give us the sublime.

We ask for temporal things when we ought to think about the eternal.

We ask for physical healing when our spirit needs it more.

Today, in your prayer time, make sure your requests are consistent with how big your God is.

Paul wrote: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

I don’t think God gets frustrated with “mud pie” requests, but I’m sure he would rather take us to the beach.

Here’s what makes God’s headlines

Have you checked this morning’s headlines yet?

Several college students got drunk and started a fight, two of everyone’s favorite celebrities filed for divorce, and the coach is “very excited” about the upcoming season. “We should be quite competitive,” he said.

There was a murder downtown, a meth lab exploded, and police are looking for a suspect in a string of convenience store robberies.

A professional athlete is refusing to go to training camp until he gets a better contract. He feels disrespected and unappreciated by the $8 million-per-year offer.

Oh, and by the way, the celebrities’ divorce trial looks like it’ll be messy.

The sort of thing that dominates headlines in America never ceases to intrigue me. In our more honest moments, most of us would admit that much of what captures our attention is of no great significance. Coaching changes, political maneuvering, fashion choices, and the latest diet fad—though temporarily engaging—ultimately matter little.

What does matter?

It’s usually the stuff that nobody reads about. A sinner is saved. A believer prays and meditates on God’s word. A grieving widow is comforted by a note or hug. A child is encouraged. A Sunday School teacher shares a Bible story with twelve squirmy three-year-olds.

It won’t be on Entertainment Tonight or Sportscenter, but this past week there was a missionary somewhere in South America who sat down in a one-room shack and shared the good news about Jesus with a single mom. There was a dad in a local church who worked long hours to earn a living for his family and then came home every night to try to show his kids how to walk with Christ. There was a quiet Christian who volunteered at a soup kitchen in the name of Jesus and visited a cancer patient in the hospital.

MTV didn’t follow him around with a camera crew, but last night a Christian teenager stood up to enormous pressure from his friends and remained true to his faith. There was another teen whose picture won’t be splashed on the cover of Seventeen, but the Lord has been smiling this week as he watched her try to live like one of his.

Good stuff is happening all around us, but it’s too bad all the news outlets focus on the glamorous, the well-paid, the famous.

Don’t let that discourage you, though. God is watching, and he knows about every little thing that his children do. It may never cross the newswire, but you can be sure that God notices every cup of water given in his name.

“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).

Keep up the good work. You’re the kind of influence this world needs to hear more about.

Does God scare you?

Should we be scared of God?

The quick and easy answer is no, of course we shouldn’t. He’s a God of love and grace and compassion.

But that answer would be too quick and superficial.

What are we supposed to do with passages like this one?

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him (Psalm 2:10-12).

And it’s not just an Old Testament thing.

“So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you” (Romans 11:20-21).

“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (2 Corinthians 5:11).

“Therefore, . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

The New Testament seems to say quite a bit about fearing God.

But then you’ve got thoughts like this: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15).

So . . . should we, or should we not?

I think the answer is both, and there’s probably a fine line somewhere.

As God’s children we shouldn’t draw back in terror from him, cowering before him as we would before an enemy who wants to hurt us. We should feel confident in his love, mercy, and grace.

But I think sometimes we don’t respect God as we should. We’re too flippant with his name, too casual with his word, too frivolous with holy things.

Our attitude toward God should be characterized by reverence and awe.

He’s a holy and awesome and powerful God who deserves our complete respect.

Should he scare us?

If we don’t follow his Son, then absolutely. There’s no worse place to be than outside of Christ.

If we’re believers, though, we don’t cower in fear.

But we always stand in awe of him.

God is laughing

It makes me sick to see Jerry Sandusky’s image on television.

It’s unthinkable that he did what he did, and that people who could’ve stopped it just looked the other way.

Though it takes a little edge off to know that some of these folks will be punished, it does nothing for all the people who have been scarred.

But then again, the whole situation reminds us that evil pervades our world, and if we’re not careful we can develop a jaded attitude.

We might even lose confidence in the power and sovereignty of the God we serve.

But that shouldn’t ever happen.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Psalm 2:1-6).

Christians took that psalm and applied it to the events surrounding the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus (cf. Acts 4:25-26). Jewish leaders and Roman officials conspired to kill God’s Son.

But look at what God was doing.

Laughing.

Not the kind of laugh that a couple of friends might share over a funny joke.

He “holds them in derision.”

This is a laugh you don’t want to hear, not when it’s directed at you.

This is the laugh of an Almighty God toward feeble human beings who think they can flaunt his ways with impunity.

Toward governments who ignore God’s moral code for the sake of political correctness.

Toward societal structures that ignore the cries of the poor and marginalized and privilege the rich.

God laughs.

He laughs because he knows their resistance is futile.

He laughs because his justice will be realized.

I think God probably looks down now and sees the feeble resistance that so many people offer to his kingdom, and he laughs.

Not because it pleases him, because it certainly breaks his heart.

He laughs because he’s reigning from his throne, and the whole world will soon see it.

He laughs so that we can look past the evil around us to a day when his ways will once again rule the world.

He laughs so we can smile.

Let me spoil the ending

I don’t like for someone to tell me how a movie ends before I watch it, and I would never read the last chapter of a book before I’ve read the rest.

So I hope I’m not spoiling the end for you when I let you in on a Bible secret.

We win.

Big.

Or maybe I should say, “God wins . . . so we do too.”

He’s dropped some huge hints along the way . . . here’s one of the first ones:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15).

That’s part of the curse that God pronounced on the serpent shortly after the fall of Adam and Eve. He describes conflict that will exist between Satan and Eve, and then between humanity in general and Satan and his followers.

But the last part of the verse is the best part: “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Notice what God is saying. He’s referring to a specific descendant of Eve’s and a time when God’s victory over evil would be realized.

Shortly after the fall God looks into the distance and tells us what will happen.

There will be constant conflict between humanity and Satan, and sometimes it’ll seem like Satan will win.

Satan would “bruise the heel” of Christ by nailing him to the cross.

But early Sunday morning, Jesus would walk out of the tomb alive and “bruise the head” of the serpent through this resurrection.

In other words, Jesus stomped Satan’s head at Calvary and the empty tomb. Crushed him, defeated him.

God wins.

Because of that, we win.

Maybe sometimes we look around us and wonder.

Is good really going to triumph? There’s bad stuff everywhere . . .

But those are just the dying thrashes of a defeated snake.

He’s been whipped, and he knows it, but he’ll do as much damage as he can while he can.

But sometime soon that offspring of Eve is going to announce his return with a great shout, and the snake’s thrashing will stop.

We win.

I hope telling you the end of the story, in this case at least, brightens your day.

The enemy’s strategy

What’s your weak spot?

You’ve got one, of course, as we all do, and Satan knows exactly where it is.

He’s lurking around, watching, waiting, looking for us to let our guards down, then he attacks.

One thing that makes it so difficult is that he often uses something in us that’s harmless. He takes a good desire and makes it bad.

Notice what Eve was thinking as she took that tragic taste . . .

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:6).

We often think of the forbidden fruit as an apple, but we have no idea what it was.

Whatever it was, though, it looked good. Tasty. Delicious. Satisfying.

And there was nothing wrong with Eve’s hunger . . . God had given her the perfectly nature desire to eat.

Satan took that desire and used it against her. Her hunger, at least in part, led to her fall.

That old serpent’s still using the same tactic.

Think about it.

There’s nothing wrong with our desire for things—clothes to wear, houses to live in, life’s necessities. But when that desire runs amok—which it often does—it’s called greed and materialism, and it’s ruined millions of lives.

God gave us a sexual desire—it’s blessed husbands and wives since creation. But when we forget the parameters God established, we engage in sexual immorality. Chances are you know some folks right now whose lives have been turned upside down by sex outside of marriage.

We have an innate sense of self-protection and self-love—it motivates us to eat, to protect and provide for ourselves and our families. But misguided self-love leads to selfishnessself-centeredness, and pride.

Do you see how Satan works?

He takes something completely natural, totally innocent, and uses it to undermine your relationship to God.

Watch for it today. Identify the desire in you that Satan is using to cause you to sin.

Often the best defense against your enemy is to be aware of what he’s doing.