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The Return of Jesus Christ

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“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  –  Matthew 24:44

One of the highlights of this study on the book of Revelation for me will remain last Sunday’s Children’s Message at the 8:30 service, when I asked the children the question, “What can you do to get ready for Jesus to come back to earth?”  I expected the kids to say things like “pray.” “go to church.” “read the Bible.” “be good.” … or to just be confused and not know what to do to be ready.  That’s when little Maggie (who just turned 5!) raised her hand. After hemming and hawing a bit, she cautiously offered this response, “we could have a party?”

And I immediately thought, “what a great response!” So often we are encouraged to look for that day when Jesus returns with either fear or at least delay.  One time when I was a child, a preacher asked the congregation, “who wants Jesus to return?” And everybody’s hand went up! … Then he asked, “who wants Him to return tomorrow?” … and almost nobody raised their hand.  Why?  If we know that Jesus is going to come to bring us home with Him.  If we realize that once Jesus returns there will be no more sadness, evil, pain or brokenness.  If we realize that when Jesus returns we will spend forever content in the new heavens and new earth.  And if we realize that we are made ready for the coming judgment, not by how good we have been, but because God declares us righteous through our baptisms and our faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross … then why would we want to delay that reply?  Why wouldn’t we do just what Maggie suggested, and throw a party?

I hope and pray that in your heart, you are looking forward to Jesus return with the joy and anticipation you would look forward to a party.  And I hope and pray that when Jesus returns, He will feel received by us as the guest of honor at a party just for Him!  May it be so, for the sake of Christ!

Ready for Christ’s return with you,

Pastor Augie

Start New to Reach New

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“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22, NIV)

Have you heard the definition of insanity? … It’s keeping doing the same things you’ve always done, and expecting different results than you’ve always gotten. That’s insane! And yet, so often churches keep trying to use the same programs and structures and then wonder why they can’t reach people of a different demographic than they’re accustomed to reaching.   Even Jesus addressed this with His disciples when He said not to pour new wine into old wineskins – it’s destructive to both the wineskins and the wine! No, if you want to gather new wine, you need new wineskins.

It’s wonderful that we in the church have a heart for those who are on the “outside.” We long to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus, and bring them into the fold. We know that there is so much love, goodness, hope and peace for them in the Body of Christ – if they could only experience it! And yet, often when first contact is made, the church comes across as cold, uncaring, and disinterested in the lost person themselves. We seem to the unchurched only to be concerned with filling our seats, paying our bills, and keeping our buildings and programs going. It’s all about us. Sometimes that’s an unfair assessment, but sometimes it is true – if we’re honest with ourselves. New wine comes into contact with old wineskins, and the new wine is lost.

What’s the solution? One thing is for sure – however we reach new people, we must not ever sacrifice the life-saving Gospel of Jesus Christ! Because if we do, then there’s no point in reaching them at all. No, the only thing that we truly have to offer the lost, hurting and marginalized is Jesus Christ. That presents a problem and a challenge for us:

The problem: The Name of Jesus is a stumbling block. Jesus warned us that the world will reject Him. And it is sad, but true, that many people will reject Jesus. However we cannot allow that to discourage us. We must recognize that as we carry out our God-given mission of being a “lighthouse to the community and the world” that some people will prefer the dark. Jesus said that this will happen. And that leads us to …

The challenge: We are each very comfortable with our own favorite Gospel “images.” Maybe for you, the idea of being forgiven the debt of your sin is very consoling. Or perhaps being freed from the penalty of hell causes you to cling to Jesus. And yet, there are many who aren’t looking for someone to pay their debt or suffer their penalty because they haven’t yet come to grips with the severity and consequence of their sin. It wasn’t that long ago that our culture almost universally accepted the idea of sin and hell. Today, however, fewer and fewer do. It is no longer a cultural norm. So our challenge is to keep the same gospel of Jesus, but to express it in a way that the lost and hurting receive His grace and goodness. How do we do that?

I believe we do this by sharing the age-old Gospel in new ways … new wineskins to gather new wine! But this means that we are going to have to do some things differently – if we don’t, we’d be insane to expect to reach new people, right? So what will we do differently? That’s where you come in – in fact we all do. We must continually ask ourselves if what we are doing will communicate the Gospel with a new generation? If it won’t then we have to get uncomfortable. The “problem” expressed above, means that we’ll have to be uncomfortable sometimes if people reject us because they reject Jesus. That’s ok, Jesus was uncomfortable on the cross – we will need to get uncomfortable at times to share in His work. The “challenge” above means that we will need to get uncomfortable at times when we do things in new ways in the hopes of reaching new people. But, with these possibilities for rejection and discomfort, what, then will cause us to get out of our comfort zones for the sake of others? Only one thing will – love. “For Christ’s love compels us!” (2 Cor. 5:14). Because we are convinced that the world needs Jesus, and that we no longer live our lives for our own comfort, but for the sake of those for whom Jesus died (2 Cor. 5:15), we are moved.

In what new ways is Christ’s love compelling you to move? What new things might you do to reach new people? What might we do at Redeemer? Start the conversation… and then start something new to reach someone new!

Proclaiming Christ with you,

Pastor Augie