We enjoyed another good Sunday this past week. What a bright, sunny day it was ! Just the kind you would imagine at the start of June. I had some personal time in the afternoon and came across this verse from Psalm 104 :
“O Lord my God, You are very great ! You are wrapped in light like a garment, stretching out the sky like a curtain” (Psalm 104:2).
As looked out the window into the bright June sky, I thought to myself how incredibly bright God must really be ! If the sky is in some way a curtain He wraps around Himself – as if, perhaps, to protect us from His brilliance – even that curtain doesn’t seem to be able to hold back His glory. Truly, He is great and sovereign, the ruler of the universe and of our lives ! We owe Him everything !
In our sermon last Sunday on the Lord’s Return as a focal point for our lives (2 Peter 3), one of the thoughts we didn’t touch on is in 2 Peter 3:12, “… looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” What does it mean to “hasten” the coming of the day of God ?
For one thing, we are invited to pray “Thy Kingdom come,” as Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 6:10. “Maranatha !” is a prayer Paul prayed in 1 Corinthians 16:22 and is translated in Revelation 22:20 as “Come, Lord Jesus !” The book of Revelation gives other indications that the prayers of God’s people may somehow be related to the day in which God intervenes openly in the world for judgment and blessing (Revelation 5:8 ; 6:10 ; 8:3-4). How awesome to yearn for the Lord’s coming, and to have the freedom to express that yearning to the Lord. I’ll bet He delights in that.
Perhaps more importantly, though, we hasten the day of the Lord’s return as we cooperate with His program for us (the Church). We remember that in the Old Testament the Israelites were on their way into the Promised Land (God’s goal for them) when they suddenly fell into a state of disbelief and rebellion. God gave them over to their wrong choices and allowed them, instead, to spend another forty years wandering in the wilderness where an entire generation passed away.
Similarly, when Jonah was preaching to the city of Nineveh, it was God’s plan to destroy that city : “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown !” (Jonah 3:4). But when the people repented in response to Jonah’s preaching, … God adjusted His plans. As one writer puts it, “God’s principles didn’t change, but the application of His principles changed.”
If God’s work for the Church is to make disciples, it would seem that the more we cooperate with Him in that work, the sooner will be the Lord’s return. “The same God who ordains the end also ordains the means to the end, … and we are a part of that means. Our task is not to speculate (about dates, etc) but to serve” (Warren W. Wiersbe). Let’s hasten the accomplishment of God’s work on Earth through obedient lives.
If, at Emmanuel, we are focused on His return and are diligently serving Him, we will be excited to meet Him when He does come ! We will be at peace when we meet Him (2 Peter 3:14) and will have nothing of which to be ashamed (1 John 2:28).
Would you pray with me ?
There are several things on my mind and on the prayer and action agendas of ministry teams at the church right now :
1. Adult Study Curriculum : Some are expressing interest in more Bible study, and it’s thrilling to be part of a church with an appetite for more of God’s Word. The Monday evening ladies Bible study meets a great need during the school year, but currently there is not such an opportunity for men. We continue to have men and women in the church join the “10 Steps” one-on-one discipleship program, and I personally still believe that to be one of the foundational, life-changing studies we do at Emmanuel. (Let me know if you’re interested – it’s a great study no matter where you’re at in your spiritual journey.) In the meantime, our Elder Board is attempting to map out a more thorough curriculum of study for adults.
What should be included in those classes ? When should they take place ? Sunday mornings at 9:00 ? Wednesday evenings seem also to be more and more a gathering time for our church, not only for children but also for adults. What about small-group studies for some of the parents and grandparents of those young people visiting our youth activities on Wednesday evenings ? Might they benefit from a small class on parenting (Grace-Based Parenting, for example) or marriage or some similar theme presented from a Biblical point of view ? How do we piece these things together in the best way so that we continue to foster spiritual growth and see lives turning to the Lord ?
2. Reaching the “Unchurched” : Pastor Jeff and I, along with the Essence Team, are pondering what to do with the fifth Sunday of those months in the year that have a fifth Sunday. Since we currently have two worship teams serving regularly – each team taking two Sundays per month – there was already a question for how to organize the fifth Sunday. The thought has occurred to me : Would that fifth Sunday (four times per year) be an occasion for organizing a different kind of worship service, perhaps one similar to the “Zoe” service we held at Easter, … geared toward newcomers, parents of youth, and led in part by our young people, … a different kind of service that would be more accessible to folks not presently in the habit of attending church regularly. Could we, on those Sundays, follow up, as at Easter, with a breakfast, making that a special day to connect and bless new people from the community. Think about it honestly : Currently, we have very little at Emmanuel – in terms of study groups or worship services – where the questions and searches of the “unchurched” (for lack of a better word) are addressed. We are blessed by newcomers attending Sunday morning worship, but not everyone can necessarily connect at a worship service where the message comes from 2 Peter 3 !
Can we be more proactive in finding a space (time, service, study, activity) in the coming school year, … not just for unchurched young people (for whom we’re doing a pretty good job) … but also for their parents ?
Thanks. Many times you ask how you can help or serve me. You would bless my socks off if you would pray with me about these two things and be open to God giving us a united vision for them. Let’s remember our Emmanuel commitments :
We are committed to a relationship with Jesus Christ and with a local church.
We are committed to the habits that foster spiritual growth.
We are committed to using our God-given gifts and abilities to serve God and other people.
We are committed to sharing the Good News of the Gospel with other people.
Finally, there were seven of us in our 101 class this past Sunday. We had a great time, and I’m excited about new people who are excited about an abundant spiritual life. I hope you will pray for that good group of people. Don’t forget, too, that the Gospel of John study for adults is currently meeting at 9:00 on Sunday mornings.
See you Sunday ! It’s going to be a great message and worship time at 10:15. I hope you’ll be there, … and bring a friend. God will be at work !