LIVING IN THE END TIMES

Establish Your HeartsThe time is near when all things will end. So think clearly and control yourselves so you will be able to pray. Most importantly, love each other deeply, because love will cause people to forgive each other for many sins. Open your homes to each other, without complaining.” (1 Peter 4:7–9, NCV)

Last night at our annual Thanksgiving Service was an expression of gratitude for God’s manifestation of grace in witness, ministries and stewardship of our congregation. In my quiet time  this morning this passage reminded again of God’s work in Woodland. I love this church!

Living with an awareness of Christ’s return encourages us to live wisely. Living out the good, pleasing and perfect will of God is to think clearly, earnestly (sophroneo) so that we may be disciplined in our prayers. Living in the end times does not mean we live as pessimists or prophets of doom. Living with integrity in our faith to God and with one another increases our anticipation of the Lord’s Coming. We welcome His return!

“1 Pet. 4:7 warns the community not to give way to eschatological frenzy in face of the imminent end of things. To do so is to fall victim to the world. The required moderation is sustained by faith and issues in prayer and love (v. 8).” (Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 1151.)

Prayer is our lifestyle as passionate followers of Christ. “Never stop praying.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17, NLT

Prayer is communion with God, conversation. Allowing the Holy Spirit in quietness and stillness of heart and mind to speak to us. Then checking to be sure those impressions line up with the Bible. Then can we be confident that our thinking will be clear and disciplined.

Too often I have struggled with anxiety when the power of God was available to me by simply trusting His Word and submitting to its counsel. By grace over the years I’ve grown in this confidence as the Holy Spirit and prayer partners have helped me. Be at peace though if you struggle with this growth process, God understands us and He will change us. “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:15–16, NLT)

Secondly, love, loyalty and trust are essential to the life of a healthy, prevailing church. Let’s be bold expressers of God’s love. Deeply loving one another. Jesus expressed that love to us in his life, death and resurrection. He taught us to love one another. He even said this is the way the world would know that are His followers. “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35, NLT) “Most important of all, you must sincerely love each other…” (1 Peter 4:8, CEV) This is the will of God!

The love of our Savior, leads one to remember that love stretches us! Sometimes loving means caring for the other over a long period of time. Then there are those who are just not easy to love. And I’m one of those people for some. I’d like to think not but thinking clearly reminds me that it is so. Therefore reminding me to stretch and love those difficult for me to love.

Think of all the problems that could be solved in our families, churches, businesses and communities if we kept our love for God and one another at a stretch and full strength! This love covers all kinds of sins. “Hatred stirs up trouble, but love forgives all wrongs.” (Proverbs 10:12, NCV) Verses like this do not teach that we ignore the reality of sin or condone sin. The Bible teaches equally clearly the need of forgiveness and restoration.

Living at all times and especially in the end times we must recognize that the only solution to sin is forgiveness. God’s holiness and love gave Christ to atone for our sins. It is love for God and one another that motivates us to forgive. We focus on building up one another and not criticizing or tearing down one another. Love focuses on the strengths and not the weakness of others. In so doing we fulfill the law of Christ. “Help to carry one another’s burdens, and this way you obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, GN)

The enemy seeks to weaken trust in every marriage, family, congregation and community. Even nations! As I’m writing this, I think of the increased danger Edward Snowden brought to the world through his breach trust and confidentiality. One of the painful lessons we have learned from him happened at the Paris Massacre on November 13.

“To some people the whistleblower Edward Snowden is a hero; not to me. It is pretty clear that his bean-spilling has taught some of the nastiest people on the planet how to avoid being caught; and when the story of the Paris massacre is explained, I would like a better understanding of how so many operatives were able to conspire, and attack multiple locations, without some of their electronic chatter reaching the ears of the police.” (Boris Johnson, Mayor of London), http://goo.gl/yA5429

Thirdly, living in the end times means we cheerfully share what God has blessed us with and practice hospitality. The early church didn’t own any buildings. When you think of the church in the New Testament, we have to think people and not buildings. Therefore to meet for worship or fellowship someone had to open their home. This was one of the hallmarks of the early church in Acts meeting in one another’s homes. (Acts 2:42-47) If this all fell upon one person or family, imagine what a problem that would have been. So sharing the responsibility cheerfully as well as meals was demanding but rewarding. Pastors were expected to have the gift of hospitality. (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8)

Selfishness, hoarding, a scarcity mentality is abhorrent to the passionate follower of Christ. When self will battles against the desires of the Spirit within us this is a typical struggle. It becomes difficult to share or practice hospitality because we are worried there won’t be enough. When the Spirit is at work in our lives generosity is a joy!

I love the fact that the Scripture tells us to cheerfully share. To grumble about it is hypocritical. To do it with a begrudging attitude is to block the flow of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives. When we freely share, cheerfully share we can expect the Holy Spirit to flow through us with delight and power. We can expect to have an harvest or increase in our lives. In light of this hospitality, I want to say thank-you to all our small group leaders who open their homes. I want to say thanks to all of you who have opened your homes and lives to my family over the years.

Let’s strengthen these virtues in our personal lives, families, churches and communities in light of our prayer. “Maranatha!” (1 Corinthians 16.22) “Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

Peace!

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