MATTHEW 24 – PROPHECIES SHOW FUTURE PLANS

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Every year, governments, business, churches, and many organizations, make plans; some even go on to make 5-year, 10-year, and 20-year plans. They announce this to their citizens, workers, members, and to society. If we trust the leaders of these organizations, we are happy to listen to their plans; the plans give us hope; the plans give us direction; the plans make us work together united as one.

Prophecy reveals God’s plans for the world he created. When we make future plans, we consider our past and current situation; we consider our resources; and we ensure that the plans will convince our members to work together united as one. The prophecies in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, follow these principles.

Last week, I introduced the prophecies in Matthew 24. They were given during Jesus last trip to Jerusalem; you can read all that happened on this trip starting from Matthew 21. The people thought Jesus was coming to use his powers to throw out the Roman colonizers; but instead Jesus went to the temple, threw out hundreds of business people, preached to thousands who had come to celebrate the feast of Passover, and healed all the blind and lame that came to him in the temple.

The Apostles were confused by Jesus preaching and actions; so he sat them down to teach them and give them clarity about God’s future plans – this is what we see in Matthew 24 and 25. He taught them that the temple will be destroyed; many other powerful nations will rise after Rome; many natural disasters will happen; and many false prophets will come; but these do not determine the end.

Put yourself in the shoes of these Apostles; they were stunned listening to Jesus. They were being told the future history of the world in big brushstrokes. Have these great events been happening – a very big yes, we can trust the teachings of Jesus! These great and disturbing events do not determine the end of things. It is the globalization of the gospel that determines when the end comes (Matthew 24:14). 

Matthew 24: 45-51 (NIV) (shortened) thus says: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household… will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so… suppose that servant is wicked and says… ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants… The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect… cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites…” 

Jesus advises the Apostles to focus on being sincere patient servants. The prophecies assure us that there is a plan; we are not told the day or the hour of the end of this present age, but we know the trigger. Jesus will stay away for a long time; catastrophes will happen in the world; the gospel will be globalized; then he comes. Let’s not get overwhelmed chasing after every little detail of prophecy. Prophecies are assurance that God has future plans; stay sincere with God, and you are safe!

Thank you Lord for your good future plans, Amen! 

MATTHEW 24 – THE MOST IMPORTANT PROPHECY

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More people are presently asking if the coronavirus signals the end of the world. How well we understand Bible prophecy will determine the clarity of our response. Prophecies about the fate of humanity are many in the Bible, but are probably more elaborate in the books of Isaiah, Daniel, Matthew and Revelation.

Matthew is the easiest to understand; prophecies about the future are in Jesus fifth and last sermon in Matthew Chapters 23 to 25. Jesus other sermons in Matthew are: first, the godly life (Chapters 5-7); Christian missions (Chapter 10); Church growth (Chapter 13); and the fourth about servant leadership (Chapter 18).

Matthew was writing to the Jews, showing them how their leaders rejected Jesus, and were cast aside by Jesus (see the alarming 7 woes and judgement in Matthew 23). The Apostles were shocked and wanted to know more about the judgement against Israel; this led to the discussion of future things in Matthew 24.

In Matthew 24, Jesus tells them that there is a soon coming judgement against Israel where the Temple will be completely destroyed – this happened in the year AD 70, about 40 years after Jesus spoke about it. He told them this would be a terrible time for Israel, but the world would not end; he referred them to the prophecies of Daniel; he talked about Christian persecution, countless wars, and disease pandemics.

Jesus states in Matthew 24:14 (NIV): “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” The end comes when the gospel goes global. We live in an age when the gospel is global, and when the wealth of the Church plus technology means the preaching of the gospel is at an accelerated speed. This is the most important prophecy in the Bible.

Lord, the end comes not because of coronavirus, but due to the accelerated speed of preaching the gospel; help us stay faithful to the end, Amen!

1 PETER – UPLIFTING IN TESTING TIMES

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While governments are now responding better to the Coronavirus pandemic, many individuals and families are still hurting; many have lost loved ones, jobs, and peace of mind. My wife and I have to work on the challenge of staying mentally healthy everyday; homeschooling our young kids has been real tough!

My go to place for strength in the last month has been First Peter. I have learnt that testing times for Christians will involve a test of faith if it is sincere and genuine.  Peter elevated my thinking, showing me that even in testing times, I remain a part of God’s kingdom masterplan; and in response I should put my best foot forward in my relationships with government, employers, family, and everyone else.

Peter, writing to suffering Christians, explains how Jesus handled suffering with a tenderheart, and a focus on his godly mission, such that even in death, Jesus went on preaching, to the spirits who were in prison; in response, Jesus has been lifted up to a place of supreme authority. We too, as we stay with God, and call on him for strength during this coronatimes, he will respond with grace and mercy.

At the end of the letter, Peter says in 1 Peter 5:5b-6 (The Living Bible): “And all of you serve each other with humble spirits, for God gives special blessings to those who are humble, but sets himself against those who are proud. If you will humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, in his good time he will lift you up.” 

We should be humble in testing times; Peter states clearly “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, in his good time he will lift you up”. Humility is the key to divine uplifting in our lives even in testing times. In this coronatimes, lets not be hasty, angry, bitter with God; let’s stay humble and God will lift us up!

Dear God, thank you for Peter’s wise counsel; let this counsel make a difference in my life in this coronatimes, Amen!

 

1 PETER – PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD IN TESTING TIMES

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My mother drummed “no fighting with other kids” into my ears growing up. So, I passed through elementary and high school avoiding conflicts of all kinds as much as I could. In my late teens, a couple of hard knocks I experienced, made me conclude that I needed to be super-aggressive to achieve my life goals.

In reaction to testing times, I swung from a “peace first” person to a “war against everyone” person. The super-aggressive person may win lots of prizes, but this comes at a very high cost of hurting too many people – family, friends, colleagues – and losing out on enjoying the warmth of love, kindness, and heavenly approval.

Peter counsels against this swing from “niceness” to “meanness” in testing times. In the book of First Peter Chapter 1 he informs the suffering Christians that their suffering is a test of their sincerity and commitment to the faith; in Chapter 2 he shows them that God is at work in their lives even in testing times – he elevates their thinking by showing them how they fit into God’s masterplan for the world.

At the end of Chapter 2 and continuing into Chapter 3, Peter counsels the Christians to put their best foot forward in all their relationships, that is to be exemplary in their behavior first towards political leaders and workplace leaders who are making life difficult for them; then be exemplary in their marriages – hard times can place incredible stress on marriages and make couples mean to one another.

1 Peter 3:8-9 then says (New Living Translation): “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.”

Peter ends Chapter 3 by showing how Jesus handled the incredible suffering he passed through to save us; Jesus is tenderhearted; Jesus did not lose focus, even in death he went and preached to spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19); and at the end Jesus now has absolute power including power over those who made him suffer.

As hardship and stress threaten to overwhelm us in this COVID-19 season, let’s draw strength from First Peter that God is with us even in this season; Christians are a chosen people in God’s hands (1 Peter 2:4-12); let’s not be mean-spirited in testing times – but remain sympathetic, tenderhearted, humble, and kind.

Lord, often the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, help us to put our best foot forward one day at a time, in these testing times, Amen!  

 

1 PETER – ELEVATED THINKING IN TESTING TIMES

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My daughter in elementary school, fourth grade, loves basketball. I would often go with her to the court and help her practice her shooting. When she is tired and bored, I motivate her by telling her stories of great male and female basketball players, and how much they trained and persevered on their way to greatness.

To enable my daughter overcome the pain of practice, I elevate her thinking by showing her a bigger picture of what it takes to be a great basketball player. Apostle Peter is doing something similar in the book of First Peter.

Peter is writing to suffering Christians who feel like outcasts in society. In Chapter 1, he tells them that our faith is tested to examine if it is sincere. Testing hurts but it helps us stay focused and to support one another in sincere love. In testing times we should draw closer to God through Bible study so we can grow in faith.

Peter elevates their thinking by stating in 1 Peter 2:5-7 (Living Bible):  And now you have become living building-stones for God’s use in building his house… you are his holy priests; so come to him – you who are acceptable to him because of Jesus Christ – and offer to God those things that please him. As the Scriptures express it, “See, I am sending Christ to be the carefully chosen, precious Cornerstone of my church, and I will never disappoint those who trust in him.”  

If the suffering Christians felt abandoned, Peter elevates their thinking, by saying no, you are not abandoned – “you have become living building-stones for God’s use in building his house… you who are acceptable to him because of Jesus Christ… and [God] will never disappoint those who trust in [Jesus].”  

In testing times, we should remember that God is building a “house”, also referred to as a “kingdom”, and in other parts of the Bible as a “nation”; and we are the members of that house or citizens of that kingdom. Our present life with its joys and testings, is a school of godliness to prepare us for the kingdom.

Lord, in testing times, show us the big picture, show us the end result, show us the glory, to inspire us to overcome, Amen! 

1 PETER – UPLIFTING ANSWERS IN TESTING TIMES

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In the past month, a childhood friend lost the father, a colleague lost the mother, I lost two mothers in my extended family, received news of family members who were ill and worried if they would make it, and also received news of family in financial distress worsened by the global coronavirus pandemic.

It has been challenging and nerve wracking processing all of this; some days its been downright depressing and overwhelming. My response when overwhelmed is to pray and study the Bible for wisdom and strength. In such moments, many turn to the book of Job and to the Psalms; recently I have drawn strength from 1 Peter.

The book of 1 Peter is written: “To God’s chosen people who live as refugees scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1 Good News Translation). These were Christians under painful persecution; some fled from Rome and were refugees in Turkey. These lost family, jobs, and homes; life was overwhelming, and they urgently needed answers.

Thus Peter starts his letter to them by stating in 1 Peter 1:3-7 (shortened) (Good News Translation): “Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus… he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death… Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine…”

Who is testing their faith? The book of Job in the Bible shows us that Satan is the agent that seeks to test our faith. In the midst of testing, we have this assurance from David in Psalm 23:4 – “Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, LORD, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.”

In these overwhelming worrying times, our faith will be tested severely; the purpose is to prove if our faith is genuine, sincere, and true; notwithstanding how dark the test might seem, do not be afraid, the LORD is with you, call on him!

Lord, let your light shine on us even in testing times, Amen!   

THE RESURRECTION – THE GREAT GIFT TO HUMANITY

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He is Risen –  the empty tomb (Image source: EnduringWord)

 

Life is such a beautiful thing, I want to live forever! What about you? Are you satisfied to live to be 70, 80, 90, a 100 years? Is this truly enough? Would you have done all you could do in this life? I don’t think so, I don’t believe so; but then death spares no one, rich or poor, we succumbed to its grip, and this terrifies everyone.

Thankfully, on resurrection Sunday, 2000 years ago, Jesus shredded death. On that day, after being dead for 3 days and 3 nights, Jesus rose from the dead, with a body that can no longer die – an incredibly awesome moment in history!!!

Matthew 28:5-6 (NIV) testifies to that moment: The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay…” 

Furthermore John 11:25 (NIV) readsJesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” – all who follow Jesus have been promised a bodily resurrection to live forever, I want this!

CS Lewis, the great writer, in his book ‘Mere Christianity’ says: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic… or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman…”

Either you believe that Jesus uniquely resurrected from the dead, and will do this for you, or you view Jesus as a madman and the greatest fraud in history. I want to live forever, and the only man who has defeated death has promised me eternal life. I accept this great gift to humanity, graciously – what about you?

Lord Jesus, thank you for the great gift of resurrection, Amen!