Sunday, January 28, 2007


Intro.: I have a couple of small classes this semester.

  1. Not too unusual – we are a small department.

  2. But it is interesting, that those two students almost always come into the classroom in exactly the same order. One will come 10 to 15 minutes early. The other will come right on time or up to 5 minutes late.

  3. I can tell you exactly who will be present when the class is scheduled to begin.

  4. Paul gives us a picture of what we are to expect as we come to the end of time as we know it.

Read: I Thessalonians 4:16-18


Trans: The letters to the Thessalonians are considered to be among the first of Paul's letters.

  1. Paul first met the Thessalonians in 49 AD on his second missionary journey.

  2. But Paul found himself at odds with the Jews of the area because he saw a many non Jews come to faith during his ministry.

  3. Paul had to flee from Thessalonica and left Timothy and Silas to minister. Eventually Timothy and Silas let Paul know aobut the church's continued growth. And Paul's excitement about this fact led to his writing this first letter.

T.S. I want to look at four events that will signal the return of Christ.

  1. Return of Christ I Th 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, ...

    1. I don't want to spend a great deal of time focusing on the return of Christ – not because it is not important, but because we spent most of last Sunday on the Christ's return.

    2. Our point last week was that Christ will return – it is not a fairy story, it is not an imaginary story. It is truth.

(Ill.) Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with promises of the second coming of Christ. Someone has reported that there are 1,845 references in the Old Testament alone and a total of 17 books that give it prominence.

Of the 260 chapters in the entire New Testament, there are 318 references to Christ's second coming. That averages one out of every 30 verses. Furthermore, 23 of the 27 New Testament books refer to this great event. That leaves only four books that do not refer directly to the Second Coming. Interestingly, three of these four books are single-chapter letters which were written to specific persons on a particular subject.1

    1. I do want to make one more observation – Christ's return is a spiritual event. Look at Paul' description: ... the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, ...

    2. Christ's return is in God's hands – he not only knows the time, he also is responsible for announcing it.

  1. Resurrection of the dead I Th 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

(Ill.) Sir Walter Raleigh is one of the great poets of Shakespeare's time. But because he was also a friend of the throne, his life was on the line when others attempted to install their own king in England. Though it appeared that his life might be spared, he was eventually beheaded. As he lay ready for the ax to fall, his final words were, "Strike man, strike."2 These might seems like strange words from a man about to die, yet they make more sense when we listen to the words of Sir Walter Raleigh's final poem, written the night before his death:

Even such is time, that takes in trust

Our youth, our joys, our all we have,

And pays us but with age and dust;

Who in the dark and silent grave,

When we have wandered all our ways,

Shuts up the story of our days.

But from this earth, this grave, this dust,

My God shall raise me up, I trust!

    1. Christ's return will be followed by the resurrection of the dead.

    2. Though this passage focuses on the dead in Christ, there will also be a resurrection of those who have never placed their faith in Christ.

    3. Christ, in His words to the thief on the cross makes it clear that we will enter God's presence at the time we die, but God is not finished with us at that point. At the resurrection believers finish the transformation that he began when we came to faith.

    4. God is remaking us – for those who have died that process will be finished at the resurrection.

  1. Rapture of the church I Th 4:17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

    1. But there is more – you see the dead will rise first. But Paul makes it clear that those believers who are still left will go to meet the Lord after those who are dead.

    2. Theologians call this "the rapture."

    3. Though they know what to call it, they don't always agree as to when it will occur.

      1. The most vocal group will tell you that the rapture will occur shortly after the resurrection of the dead. This group are pre-tribulation theologians.

      2. Another group will say it will come later – after a great deal of tough time – they call it the tribulation. These theologians fall into two categories – some who will tell you that the rapture will come part way through the tribulation. These are the mid-tribulationist. Or they will tell you that believers, as a group, will need to go through it all the tribulation. These are the post tribulationist.

(Appl.) Will we have to face the extreme hardship that is associated with the tribulation? I don't know – and you know I don't care. Because it my intention to be ready regardless of God has in mind. You see, if I, if we, remain obedient, if I choose to continue to listen to the scriptures – then I will be ready to meet Jesus, you can be ready to meet Jesus.

  1. Rest for eternity I Th 4:18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

    1. Paul sees this discussion as good news.

(Ill.) The early church had a wonderful expression that they shared with each other – "Maranatha" What it means is "Come now, Lord." The early church had two known uses for the word. The first was part of the communion service – asking for Jesus' presence as they gathered to remember his sacrifice. The other time that the word was used was when the church talks about Christ's return for His church. It was a way for the church to remind themselves that they needed Christ's presence day by day, but they also were never to forget his promise to return.

    1. The truth that we will spend eternity with Christ is not just a theological fact to Paul, but it was to be a point of encouragement for the Church.

    2. I was pleased last night when Rev. Merley closed her prayer with the words, "come, Lord Jesus, come." She was echoing the words of the early church – it is a prayer we still need to say.


12000+ Bible Illustrations. Accessed through E-Sword Bible Software on January 26, 2007.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Christ Returns

Intro.: I heard an amazing story this week.

Cat found hungry after 3 weeks in cargo hold

Pumpkin’ treated for starvation, dehydration, could return home in days. United Airlines plans to fly 12-year-old "Pumpkin" back home — on the lap of an employee.

DENVER - A 12-year-old orange tabby cat named "Pumpkin" is said to be doing well, after going three weeks without food or water in the cargo hold of a passenger jet that flew from England to Germany.

After the United Airlines flight to Munich last month, Pumpkin was supposed to board a connecting flight to Washington, D.C. but never made it.

Andrea Barlow says she found the cat's carrier broken and empty when she tried to retrieve it in Munich on December 28th. United Airlines crews searched for the cat, who was nowhere to be found.

Story continues below ↓ advertisement

On Wednesday United cargo workers found the tired, hungry animal at Denver International Airport. She was taken to a veterinary clinic for treatment of starvation and extreme dehydration. Vets say Pumpkin could be well enough to return to Washington by this weekend. United plans to fly the cat home — in the passenger cabin — on the lap of a United employee.1

  1. The church has waited a long time for Christ's return

  2. We start a four-week series examining the key events at the end of this world.

Read: II Thessalonians 1:6-10


Trans:I will not answer all the questions – I really do not have all the answers.

  1. There are six major answers to the question about the end of world rooted strongly in scripture

  2. If one is willing to be a bit less faithful to scripture, then we can add another half dozen answer to the question, what will happen at the end of the world.

  3. What I do think is neat is this – Wesley got it right. He was not as concerned with the details as he was concerned at making sure people were ready for that event.

  4. That is a question we must must ask ourselves.

T.S. As we begin our study of the end of time, we must note that Christ's return has two characteristics:

  1. Christ's return will be personal

    1. As children we lived for the make believe.

    2. Cartoons, superheroes, Saturday matinees, story books we read or we read to our children – all were or are parts of a children's imagination.

    3. But the return of Christ is never pictured as imaginary.

    4. It is central to Jesus' own teaching. In Matthew 26:64 Jesus tells those who seek his arrest, "In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."

    5. The angels attending the disciples as Jesus returns to heaven tell them, "'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.'"

    6. Paul said it too. He talks about the Lord Jesus being revealed "from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels."

    7. Sadly, we live in a world that has lost sight of this fact – those we live with, those we spend time with don't believe he will return.

    8. Even the church has lost sight of Christ's return. There are many who think that his return will be merely metaphorical – a picture of what will happen to those who know Christ.

(Ill.) It would be like me telling Sandra that she should plan on having dinner ready at 6:00 in the evening even though my plan was to stop for a meal at the local restaurant and then call her at 6:00 to say "Hope you are enjoying your dinner." Yes would have dinner ready, yes I was eating at 6:00, but I would not really be there.

(Appl.) Chirst has told us he will return – it may difficult to wait, but if he had come much earlier, we would not have met him. His delay allowed us to join the family. And he will return for the greates homecoming this world has ever seen.

  1. Christ's return will be imminent

    1. Christ will be coming, of that there is no doubt. But there is a catch – I don't know when He will return..

    2. Christ does not know when He will return.

    3. Christ makes it clear that He will return, but He also makes it clear that only the Father knows when it will occur.

    4. The most common name for the timing of Christ's return is that it is imminent. Peter says it best, "The end of all things is near." He could return at any time.

    5. Pete wrote that 2000 years ago, but he knew that there was nothing that had to occur before he would return.

(Appl.) So what? Let me suggest two steps that would seem to derive themselves from the fact that Christ could return at any time:
a. Be ready – that means be sure that you know Christ as your savior, be sure that know that Christ died for your sins.
b. Live your lives without forgetting that Christ could return at any time..

(Ill.) Several years ago, there was a massive volcanic explosion in the state of Washington when Mount St. Helens erupted. Sheriff Bill Closner said, “People were in the danger areas around the mountain because they refused to obey roadblocks. The bottom line is that nobody would listen.” As a result, there were needless deaths and injuries.2

Even though danger was physically imminent, people still refused to obey the regulations. Christ's return is imminent – yet people still refuse to be ready.

    1. Are you ready for His return?



1© 2007 The Associated Press.

2Green, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Bilical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file.). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Focus on Jesus

The idea of this sermon came from a message heard at the 2007 United Methodist Congress on Evangelism.

Intro.: I get excited about preaching.

  1. I get excited about studying scripture.

  2. This is nothing new – I remember in the first few years as a Christian. Each day I would have breakfast with my prayer partner, Steve Wong, who was also the best man in my wedding. I leave breakfast and walk over to the library. finding a corner seat. I had my favorite corner – it was on the first floor right next to the Bible reference section of the library. I would sit with a blank sheet of paper and begin to study the scriptures.

  3. It opened my eyes – it made me appreciative of God's word – a time that I still remember with great joy.

  4. I had learned that Jesus had to be first.

  5. But it was a lesson that early believers found hard to learn. Let's look at a passage that describes one example.

Read: John 3:22-36


Trans: Most of us are familiar with the first part of John 3

  1. The late night visit Nichodemus made to Jesus.

  2. It was during that visit that Jesus tells us that "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

  3. And it is to Nicodemus that Jesus gives that wonderful verse that we all have memorized - For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,f that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  4. But Jesus leaves Jerusalem and that is where we find him in today's passage.

T.S. During the next few minutes I want to look at three players in this incident in Jesus' life.

  1. John's Disciples are jealous

    1. This was not the first time that Jesus had crossed John's path.

    2. Most of the first two chapters of John help us to understand that John had the task to introduce Jesus to the world - "There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light."

    3. John knew his role, but his disciples did not quite understand.

    4. Jesus is now preaching along the Jordan river. The exact location is not known. But John is there is as well and we are told that the place is called Aenon. The name itself is from a Greek word meaning "Double Spring" and John tells us that it is a place where "the water was abundant". Many people think it was located at a spot along the Jordan River about 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee.

    5. Do you get the picture, Jesus is baptizing on one side an John on the other.

    6. And John's disciples get jealous - “Rabbi, you know the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan? The one you authorized with your witness? Well, he’s now competing with us. He’s baptizing, too, and everyone’s going to him instead of us.

    7. Their leader was no longer the center of attention. Their leader was no longer being followed – they were jealous.

(Ill.) Erwin Lutzer, the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, once said, "Envy is rebellion against God’s leading in the lives of his children. It’s saying that God has no right to bless someone else more than you."1

    1. Ultimately God is in control – and if we are able to leave our lives in His hands, then jealousy is not an option. It is only wen we are not trusting God, that Jealousy begins to sneak in.

  1. John is the best man

    1. Though his disciples were bothered by Jesus' activities, John was not.

(Ill.) You see, John understands the Messiah's coming as being a part of a wedding – a holy, a heavenly, an eternal wedding. In the American wedding the best man has the responsibility to help and assist the groom in his preparations. In the first century during which the Jesus lived, there was on additional responsibility. When the groom is in place, it is the best man's responsibility to go and get the bride and present her to the groom.

    1. John was not the focus – his role was to be best man. It was his job to bring the bride to the groom. It was his job to bring the people of God to God, to Jesus, the groom.

    2. The brides responsibility is focus her attention on the groom. The church, today, is the bride, and we must focus our attention on the groom.

  1. But we need to focus on the groom - Jesus

    1. And that is the point. We must focus our attention

    2. And I am sometimes at fault here. I really enjoy the fact that you appreciate my ministry of the last five years.

    3. But it becomes easy to relax in the fact that you appreciate me – and to forget that our attention must ever be on Jesus.

    4. The church is not about its pastor (regardless of how good), the church is not about its building (regardless of how beautiful), the church is not about me or you. The church is about Jesus.

    5. John understands this – listen: The One who comes from above is head and shoulders over other messengers from God. The earthborn is earthbound and speaks earth language; the heavenborn is in a league of his own. He sets out the evidence of what he saw and heard in heaven. No one wants to deal with these facts. But anyone who examines this evidence will come to stake his life on this: that God himself is the truth. The One that God sent speaks God’s words.

    6. So how does this work out in practice? How do we know when we have lost sight of Jesus? Let me suggest two tests that can help us evaluate our priorities::

      1. When we fail to put people before the the things we do, we have taken our eyes off of Jesus' priorities.

      2. When we become more concerned about how we look to people than by how people look at Jesus.

(Ill.) Elisha Hoffman helps us put this into perspective. Elisha was born in Pennsylvania and spent his life as pastor there. Once while visiting one who had been through deep trial, she cried: “Oh, what shall I do? I don’t know what to do!” Then her face brightened and she said, “I must tell Jesus!” On his way home, the words of the woman came to the pastor’s mind, and that night he wrote the comforting him, "I Must Tell Jesus"2.

I Must Tell Jesus

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;

I cannot bear these burdens alone;

In my distress He kindly will help me;

He ever loves and cares for His own.

I must tell Jesus all of my troubles;

He is a kind, compassionate Friend;

If I but ask Him, He will deliver,

Make of my troubles quickly an end.

Tempted and tried I need a great Saviour,

One who can help my burdens to bear;

I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus;

He all my cares and sorrows will share.

O how the world to evil allures me!

O how my heart is tempted to sin!

I must tell Jesus, and He will help me

Over the world the vict’ry to win.

Chorus I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!

I cannot bear my burdens alone;

I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!

Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.3

Conclusion: Are you willing to tell Jesus all of your trials?
Are you willing to put your focus on the groom?

Are you willing to follow Jesus?


1Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (270). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

2Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

3Eckert, P. (1998). Steve Green's MIDI hymnal : A complete toolkit for personal devotions and corporate worship. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.