26 November 2018

Good morning… welcome to Monday… today’s reading is Matthew 24:1-35. It’s a long passage in which Jesus addresses the ‘signs of the end of the age.’ Or “what will happen before the end of the world and Jesus returns.” I do not have time to even begin to do this passage justice, just to say that the overriding message in a time of chaos is “trust God, stay faithful.” If you stay tuned to the end you can hear the reading in full.

REFLECTION:

In light of the message “trust God and stay faithful” let’s read v12-13 together.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

The truth is that we live in a world that is not the way God intended it to be. It is broken, it is dysfunctional, it is hard and often cruel.

Jesus says that even though he came, he lived, he died, rose again, went back to heaven and poured out the holy spirit on his people… it is not going to get better… in fact it is going to get worse! Wickedness will increase…

Well thanks Jesus! and thanks Alan for your podcast this morning! Very encouraging!!

But here’s where the rubber hits the road. In life there will be battles… but “the one who stands firm until the end will be saved.” This raises one question… how do I stand firm? Do I head out into the street after breakfast, place my hands on my hips, feet shoulder width apart, chest out, stomach in… and stay that way until dinner, standing firm?

No, of course not! So how do I take my stand? Well, v.12 gives us a big hint: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…”

Jesus is talking about our hearts. Will we let the cold wind of this life slowly turn our hearts to stone or will we stand firm and refuse to let that happen? Will we daily trust God and stay faithful?

You see, God has given us instruction to keep our hearts warm and to stop them growing cold. It’s a simple instruction but it is hard to do and keep on doing… We are to FORGIVE.

When we get bumped, knocked, scolded and bruised, the one thing that stops us from growing cold is FORGIVENESS.

We must FORGIVE. There is no other option, there is no other action or remedy, we forgive.

BUT WHAT ABOUT…

Stop right there kiddo… all of our arguments… all of our objections are answered by Jesus asking one simple question, “do you trust me?” If the answer is ‘yes’ then we will do what he asks us to do having faith that he knows a little bit about what’s best for us.

Let me remind us of the story of Corrie Ten Boom. Her family had hidden Jews in the attic of their family home to save them from the Nazis in WW2. They were discovered and the family sent to a concentration and then a death camp. Miraculously she survived but her father and sister died. After the war she returned to Germany where she spoke powerfully of the need to forgive. And then, one day she came face to face with an extremely mean and brutal member of the SS. After she had spoken he came forward, stretched out his hand and asked for forgiveness… here is her account:

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

Today I ask that God would search our hearts, to show us where our hearts have grown cold. I ask God that he would unlock the pain and hurt and he would enable us to make the conscious choice to forgive. I leave the final words to Corrie Ten Boom:

“Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”

PRAYER:

Father, we know that you want us to forgive others, it is right in the heart of the Prayer that Jesus taught us. we know that we are to forgive those who have sinned against us. But it is hard to do. Help us to remember the times and places that we have been wronged and help us… O Lord, help us to forgive. Heal our hearts Lord. Amen.

READING: Matthew 24:1-35

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’

Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Messiah,” and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth-pains.

‘Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 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.

‘So when you see standing in the holy place “the abomination that causes desolation,” spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again.

‘If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Messiah!” or, “There he is!” do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you in advance.

‘So if anyone tells you, “There he is, out in the desert,” do not go out; or, “Here he is, in the inner rooms,” do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

‘Immediately after the distress of those days

‘“the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”

‘Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs become tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.