Month: August 2013

Lessons from a True Man of Steel Part 3: Dedication

BOP in sunlightA couple of days ago I began a series of posts in honor of my dad and all of the men and women who worked in the Steel mills of America over the years.  The steel industry in America is only a small shadow of what it used to be but there was a day when hundreds of mills across this country turned out millions of tons of steel every month.  These were hard places to work and the men who operated the blast furnaces, casters, tandem mills, blooming and a host of other exotically named operations were a unique breed.  My dad entered the Weirton Steel in 1948 and worked there until he retired in 1990.  That is 42 years of working in the same place in case your counting.  Dad was not the longest tenured employee to ever work at Weirton, many others worked as many and some even more years than he did, but his long tenure is one of the best evidences of his dedication to the mill.  He and thousands of men like him showed a dedication to Weirton Steel that is almost unheard of today.

Part of the reason that dad was dedicated to Weirton Steel was that he was deeply grateful for the job the mill provided and the fact that it allowed him to provide for his family.  As I mentioned yesterday, my dad dropped out of high school before going into the army.  When he came out of the Army he worked for a short period of time at a paper bag factory before getting hired into the mill.  My mom has told me about how in 1968 when they opened the Basic Oxygen Plant my dad was scared that he would lose his job because he didn’t have a formal education.  The BOP was a great advance in the steel industry but it was far more technical than the old “open hearths” where dad had been “melting” for a couple of years.  Dad had been working in the mill for 20 years at that point but was still afraid of losing his job. So when he was chosen as one of the original melters for the BOP he was greatly relieved and it only served to increase his gratitude and dedication to Weirton steel.  He worked in the mill for another 22 years after going over to the BOP and during those years I can honestly say that I never heard him complain about the mill.  Anytime he heard one of us complain about how bad the mill smelled or how dirty it made the town, Dad would say, “That mill has given us everything we have so stop complaining.”

A second reason that dad was dedicated to Weirton Steel was that he knew that the work that he did

English: White-hot steel pours like water from...
English: White-hot steel pours like water from a 35-ton electric furnace, Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corp., Brackenridge, Pa. Français : De l’acier liquide, blanc de chaleur, coule comme de l’eau d’un four électrique de capacité 35 tonnes, Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corp., Brackenridge, Pa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

affected other people’s lives.  When he was “melting” he knew that if he messed up it would cost production time all the way down the line.  He understood that the mill was like a tremendously large organism— what happened in one part of the mill affected all of the other parts.  Because of his he took his job seriously and those who worked with him tell me that he was a real stickler for doing things right.  One of the men who worked as a “melter” when dad was a “turn foreman” told me that a lot of guys didn’t like that about my Dad but that they all actually benefitted from it.  Because of this dedication to “doing it right”  the men of Weirton Steel in those days set and then broke their own records for production over and over again.  It saddens me now because I have forgotten the specifics of many of these records but my mom has a box full of awards that were given to my dad and the other “melters” of Weirton steel for the achievements they accomplished during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

The dedication that my dad showed to the mill and the men who he worked with paid off in the later years of his life.  Dad had a condition known as hemochromatosis that went undiagnosed for most of his life.  Ironically, hemochromatosis is a genetic condition that causes the body not to be able to process iron properly.  After dad was diagnosed and started treatments his health began to fail land he lost the strength and endurance that he counted on for doing his job he found it very difficult to do his job.  I can remember dad telling me that if it were not for two men that he worked with, Rick Soley and JIm King, that he would not have been able to make it during the final years of his career.  They picked up the slack for him and helped him to finish out his last few years in the mill.  To those men I would like to say “thank you” on behalf of my dad and our family.  You meant the world to him and some of his greatest joys came from working with you.

When I was younger I didn’t really understand or appreciate dad’s dedication to his job.  My generation and those younger than us have not demonstrated the same kind of dedication to our work and I’m afraid that our country is starting to pay the price for it.  In dad’s day it was the norm for guys to work for the same company for 30, 40 and even 50 years but that is rare today.  We’ve lost the sense of loyalty, dedication, and commitment to our jobs that in the past helped to make our country great.  Wh
en things got hard or difficult for my dad’s generation they just kept on working, now we start looking for another job or career.  I think that one of the most important steps that we need to take in returning America to greatness is to regain our sense of dedication to the work that we do. We need to remember  the admonition of the Apostle Paul who said, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

If you would like to read the previous posts in this series click on the links below:

Part 1: Lessons I learned from a True Man of Steel

Part 2: Hard Work

Lessons from A True Man of Steel Part 2: Work Hard

Yesterday I began a series of posts entitled “Lessons I Learned from a True Man of Steel.”

 

Town has a long tradition in steel production
Town has a long tradition in steel production (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

This series is intended to be a tribute to my dad and all of the men and women who worked in the steel mills across America.  Whenever I think of steel-workers the first characteristic that comes to my mind is — Hard Work.  Steel mills by nature are hot, dirty, loud, and have the distinct smell of fire and brimestone.  The men who work in them are a unique breed, who daily do some of the most back breaking work imaginable.

 

Like just about all of the men who worked at Weirton Steel during it’s heyday, my dad started out in the “open hearth” on the “labor gang.”  Part of his job in the early days was to called “slagging.”  As best I can describe it, a “slagger” shoveled “slag” (by products of steel making that look like rocks) on to the top of molten steel to help maintain it’s temperature.

 

This is back breaking, hard, physical labor that is nearly foreign to us today, but dad and men like him did this kind of work every day.  If you want to get an idea of what the conditions and work was like when my dad started in the mill, click here to check out a Youtube video about the Steel mills in Youngstown, Ohio made in 1944.

 

My dad was living proof that by working hard you can overcome a great number of disadvantages.  Dad was a high school drop who didn’t have any family connections within the mill.  Both of these were huge disadvantages in his day, but he overcame them both through sheer hard work and determination.  Dad started out on the bottom of the heap in the mill and worked his way up to become a “turn foreman” before he retired.  No one gave him this position.  He worked for it and earned it through hard work and dedication over a 40 plus year career in the mill.

 

Growing up as his son, this was not always an easy lesson for me to learn. During the summer months, when my brother and I were off from school, Dad would give us a list of chores to finish up and when he got home from work that afternoon he expected the jobs to be done.  If he told me to “cut the grass” before he left for work then the grass better be cut when he got home.  He encouraged me to go to college and to get a good education but he always stressed that to succeed you needed to work hard because education alone was not enough.

 

I remember when I got my first job working in a grocery store.  This work must have seemed rather tame to my dad who was used to working in a place filled with constant danger, but he still stressed the importance of working hard.  On my first day of work, dad told me to “that man has given you a job and he expects you to give him a full days work, so don’t let me find out you go out there and goof off all day.”  Honestly, I don’t think that I have ever worked as hard as men like dad and others who worked in the steel-mills but I am thankful that he instilled in me a strong work-ethic.

 

Blast furnaces of Třinec Iron and Steel Works.
Blast furnaces of Třinec Iron and Steel Works. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

One of the Bible verses that dad used to teach me this lesson was Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”  In the early days of his work in the mill, Dad worked primarily out of necessity and was motivated somewhat by a sense of fear.  The Steel mills were the best jobs available where we lived during that time and dad knew that without his job we couldn’t survive, therefore, he worked hard to make sure that he kept his job.  Somewhere in the middle he fell in love with the process of making steel and I am genuinely convinced that he worked hard because he actually enjoyed making steel.  But towards  the end of his career, as failing health and the natural process of aging took its course, his work took on a different meaning.

 

As I will share in a later post, the most important thing that ever happened to my dad was becoming a follower of Jesus Christ and this event changed the way that he viewed his work.  Hard work for my dad was just as much a part of worshipping God as was going to church on Sunday.  When I went off to work for the first time, dad was careful to remind me that in addition to owing it to my boss to do a good job, I also needed to keep in mind that no matter my job was I needed to do it like I was doing it for Jesus.

 

It makes me sad to think that somewhere along the way we’ve lost the work ethic that men like my dad possessed. Too many of my generation today think that simply having an education should be enough to get them ahead and sadly many are not even willing to work hard in order to get the education.  Now days kids no more about “twerking” than working and this could very well prove to be the downfall of our nation. The closest many people get to hard work today is watching someone else do it on the Discovery channel.

 

The other day I was looking at a picture of an old abandoned steel mill and I was BOP 1wondering what would happen if we decided to reopen the steel mills and factories across the country.  Sadly, I’m afraid that we wouldn’t be able to find the workers who would be willing to do the jobs that our fathers and grandfathers did every day of their lives.  America was built on ingenuity and hard work.  Our forefathers knew that one without the other couldn’t move us forward.  If we want America to be great again we need to rediscover our “work ethic” and start doing our jobs with a sense of pride and dedication.  We need men and women who are both well educated and hard working!

 

Lessons I Learned From A True Man of Steel

I live in Metropolis, IL which is the official home of Superman and everyday I drive past a giant statue of the man of steel but growing up I had the opportunity to actually learn life lessons from a true man of steel — my dad, Lawrence “Bucky” Buchanan.  A couple of days ago I got a reminder of just how much my dad taught me when I was surfing the internet looking for some pictures of the steel mill where he worked.  During the search I came across a video on YouTube entitled “High Speed Steel, 1969” and to my surprise at the 5:57 and then the 6:07 mark of the movie caught sight of my dad.  Click here to check out this interesting movie about the Basic Oxygen Plant at Weirton Steel.

The image of my dad in a movie that I didn’t even know existed was a thrill but even more touching BOP 1for me was what he was doing in the movie.  If you click on the above link and watch the movie you will see him with a group of other steel workers drawing a sample of steel out of the blast furnace so that they can send it to the lab.  (My dad is on the far right side bending forward to look into the furnace)  This is a crucial moment in the steel making process because if the test doesn’t come “back on spec” they will not be able to “pour the heat.”  If these terms aren’t familiar you really need to watch the film.

DETAIL OF U.S. STEEL BLAST FURNACE. U.S. STEEL...
DETAIL OF U.S. STEEL BLAST FURNACE. U.S. STEEL IS DISCONTINUING USE OF SUCH FURNACES TO MAKE WAY FOR THE NEW Q-BOP… – NARA – 545536 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nearly every day of my life growing up, I heard my dad talk about this moment.  As a “melter” he loved to make steel and from those who worked with him I’ve heard that he was exceptionally good at it.  In fact, at his funeral one of his co-workers shared with my brother Dick that at one time dad had an unparalleled string of “heats” that all met “specs.”  The exact number escapes me now but when my brother asked if this was good, dad’s co-worker simply replied, “that is better than good, it is nearly impossible.”  Up until this past Sunday I had never actually seen my dad at work in the steel mill.  To see him bent over in front of that mighty furnace, doing what I had heard him describe a million times was one of the greatest gifts that I’ve ever received.

Like every other steel-worker, the mill was more than just a place where my dad worked.  Like many of the men who worked at Weirton Steel, my dad spent the majority of his adult life inside the confines of the mill.  Like all “melters” Dad took great pride in the steel he helped to produce and when he came home his thoughts were often still on the mill.  I can remember many nights waiting up for him to come home from afternoon shift and listening to him talk about the “heat” that they had just finished pouring.  If the “caster” or the “de-gasser” was broke down, dad wouldn’t get home on time and we would hear about every step of what it took to fix it.  So it should be no surprise that nearly every life lesson my dad taught me had something to do with the process of making steel.

Gazing at the image of my dad on a computer screen was an amazing experience.  That film was made in 1969, the same year that I was born and it captures a part of my dad’s life that I had never actually gotten to see before.  Over the past couple of days, as I’ve been thinking about dad and the lessons that he taught me, I decided to write this series of posts to share with you the lessons that I’ve learned from a true man of steel.  This series is dedicated to the memory of dad but I also hope that it will be a tribute to all the men and women who worked at Weirton Steel and mills just like it across the country.

The story of the steel industry in America is one of both triumphant and tragedy. The steel made at Weirton Steel and other mills like it built the cars, buildings and bridges that built America.  During World War II, they made artillery shells and upped their production capacity to contribute to the war effort.  These mills made the steel that built America but were then betrayed by their own government who refused to protect them from the flood of cheap foreign imports.  These once proud mills now sit idle, abandoned and empty, serving only as reminders of the ingenuity and hard work that built the American dream.

Over the next several days I will be posting some of the lessons that dad taught my from the steel-mill.  If you grew up with family members who worked in the mills, I hope that you will take a few moments to share some of your thoughts in the comments section.

The Significance of Jesus’ Return

You will remember that this entire discourse on the Second coming was begun in Matthew 24:3 when Jesus’ disciples asked about the timing of the second coming.  Throughout these two

 

Second Coming Jesus 16

 

chapters, Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus has been emphasizing that the timing of His return is not the most important issue.  Far more important than understanding when Jesus will return is the need to understand the significance of His return and to be adequately prepared for when it occurs.  In this post I want to show you

 

 

 

1. At His Return Jesus Will Be Revealed in All of His Glory (v.31)  The word “glory” refers to Jesus splendor, might, and wort

 

 

 

In the OT there are 25 Hebrews words that are translated by this single Greek word “doxa.”  Briefly these words can be used to refer to:

 

  • Wealth = Genesis 45:13 Joseph tells his brothers to tell their father about all of his splendor – referring to the wealth and material blessings he has acquired in Egypt.
  • Armies = Sometimes a Kings armies were referred to as his glory, for instance in Isaiah 8:7 the Bible talks about the King of Assyria in “all of his glory.”Armies represented power in those days.So in this instance, the word glory is used to refer to Assyria’s army and its enormous military power.
  • Population = Another measure of a King’s success is the size of his country.  Therefore, Proverbs 14:28 “In a multitude of people is the glory of the King…”

 

All of these idea and more are captured in the use of the word glory here in Matthew 25.  But for our purposes we need to see what the Bible has to say about the glory of Jesus.  What we find in the Bible is that the glory of Christ is displayed in every phase of his ministry

 

Pre-incarnation –  Jesus shared the full glory of God.

 

  • John 17:5 “And now Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
  • 2 Corinthians 8:9 ” For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. “

 

Incarnation– after Jesus came to earth He continued to reveal the glory of God.

 

  • John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. “
  • The primary ways that Jesus accomplished was by:
  • By Declaring the truth about God – John 1:18 “ No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. “
  • By Accomplishing the work that God the Father sent Him to do- John 17:4-5 “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. “
  • By His death on the cross- Philippians 2:5-8 ” Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

 

After Ascension– in Jesus exalted state in heaven He continues to glorify God

 

  • John 14:12-14 “  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. “

 

Return– at His return Jesus will be revealed in all of His glory. 

 

  • Daniel 7:13-14 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
  • That which had been veiled in mystery and the incarnation in the past, will be fully revealed and made visible someday in the future

 

 

 

2.  At His Return Jesus Will Sort Everyone Into Two Groups (v.32-33) 

 

The Scope of this judgement

 

 

 

  All of the nations are going to be gathered before Him

 

  • The judgement of Christ is universal in its scope: 2 Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. “
  • The question is not will I stand before God, but when will I stand before God
  • The even bigger question is not ” will I stand before God,” but “what will happen when I do?”

 

 

 

The decisiveness of this judgement v.32b. “and he will separate people one from another.”

 

  • The word “separate” here carries with it the idea of sorting and separating one thing from another.
  • In this case the “separation” involves the separating of all of the people who make up the “nations” or ethic groups of the world into two categories: Sheep – representing the save or Goats – representing the unsaved
  • There is no confusion here — sheep and goats are clearly different animals and one is not mistaken for another. This points us to the fact that Jesus is decisive in making a distinction between the peoples of the earth.
  • This is decisive:- You are either saved or your lost.  You have either been made righteous through faith in the gospel or you have not.  You are either in or you are out! There is no third option, no third category, no alternate plan— the judgement seat of Christ is decisive and clear.
  • The only question is, which one are you?  But before you make a choice, let’s look at what happens to each group.

 

 

 

3. At His Return Jesus Will Judge the Unrighteous and Reward the Righteous (v. 33-46) 

 

 

 

Once again, notice the two groups that are talked about here:

 

 

 

v.34-40 tells us about the Sheep, or the righteous.

 

  • These are the ones who have turned away from their sin and trusted Christ as their savior.
  • As a result they have been declared righteous by God and their actions reflect the condition of their hearts.
    • When they see someone in need (thirsty, naked, sick, or lonely) they reach out with love and compassion to minister.
    • Their actions do not make them right with God but instead flow out of a life that has been redeemed by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
  • Notice that this group is rewarded:
    • v.33 Seated at the right hand of God
    • v.34 Given the Kingdom as an inheritance
      • notice the wording here — he doesn’t just give a place in the Kingdom, or a piece of the Kingdom, HE GIVES US THE KINGDOM.
      • This is what Paul means when he refers to us a “co-heirs” with Christ.
      • Everything that is encompassed by the concept of the Kingdom is given to you as an inheritance when Jesus comes back.
      • ALL HIS POWER, ALL OF HIS AUTHORITY, ALL OF HIS SPLENDOR, ALL OF HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, ALL OF HIS LOVE, ALL OF HIS MERCY, ALL OF EVERYTHING THAT HE IS, IS GIVEN TO YOU AND TO ME AND TO EVERYONE WHO TURNS AWAY FROM THEIR SIN AND TRUSTS IN HIS DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION FOR THEIR SALVATION.

 

v.41-46 Jesus turns His attention to those on His left hand — the goats.

 

  • Everyone who has ever lived but not turned from sin and trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior is included in this group.
    • Their sin has never been dealt with and their actions demonstrate their unrighteousness:
    • They see the same suffering and problems in the world but don’t do anything about it.
    • Core of the problem is that they are selfish and shortsighted.
  • When Jesus returns the unrighteous will be punished. (v.41-46)
    • Separated from God
    • – v.41 “Depart from me”
      • This is the worst thing that can possibly happen to a person because we are created in the Image of God.
      • We were created for the purpose of knowing God and enjoying His presence.
      • Being cast out of God’s presence for eternity is the worst possible scenario for anyone.
      • It represents the loss of all hope, all purpose, all meaning,
    • Punished for Eternity – v.41b and v.46
      • The unrighteous will be treated to the same fate as the devil and his angels.
      • The BIble is clear that Hell is a real place and that people who go there will:
        • Be conscious
        • Be punished
        • Be hopeless

 

 

 

Preparing for Jesus’ Return

 

The other day we looked at the “sign of Christ’s return,” learning that many of the so-called signs of the times that people

 

Second Coming Jesus 16
Second Coming Jesus 16 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

 

look at are really just products of the age we live in.  The truth of the matter is that no one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return and that the only clear sign of His return given to us in Matthew 24 is that the gospel will be preached to all of the nations on the earth before His coming.  But this does not mean that we should not be prepared for His return at any minute.  With this in mind, I would like to turn our attention to the second message in this series entitled “Preparing for His Return.” Please take a moment right now to read Matthew 24:15-44 in your Bible:

 

 

 

1. Jesus prepares us for the trying times that they were going to live through. (v.15-26) 

 

In order to understand this passage you really need to keep two things in mind. First, you need to remember that that the end times span the period from Jesus ascension until His second coming. Second, Keep in mind that there is a telescoping nature to Biblical prophecy meaning that there is often an immediate partial fulfillment followed by a later greater fulfillment. We see this telescoping nature in the case of some of the prophecies concerning the birth of Christ and we also see it here in this passage. Jesus begins by saying that the end times will be marked by erection of something called the “abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel.”— there is a threefold reference in this phrase.

 
It reaches back into the past — In Daniel 11:31 and 12:11 this term is used to refer to Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid King entering into the Temple in 164 B.C. , erecting an altar dedicated to the Greek God Zeus and offering a pig as a sacrifice.

 

It looks to the near future — in 70 AD the Roman General Titus entered into the Holy of Holies and erected the image of the Roman emperor.  Jesus is telling his disciples who lived in that day to watch for this event because when they see it they know to get out of the city of Jerusalem.  Early church writers tells us that when the war between the Jews and the Romans in 66 AD, that the Christians in the city fled to wilderness, most of them going to the city of Pella.

 

It reaches deep into the future to refer to an event that is yet to happen.  Look at what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4:

 

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”

 
In this passage Paul tells us that before Jesus comes back there is going to be a repeat of these events and the anti-Christ is going to set Himself up as God in the Jewish Temple.

 
There are several things that we should note about this teaching:

 

  • This future event requires the temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt — which is obviously a point of major contrition because presently the third most holy site in Islam is sitting on top of the temple mount.

 

  • There is some debate among Christians about when this event will occur and several different prophetic timetables have been suggested.  Let me just mention three of them:

 

Pretribulation rapture of the church, followed by a 7 year period of tribulation/persecution.
Some Bible teachers argue that this period is going to be broken into two halves each 3 1/2 years long.
The first period referred to as the tribulation and the second portion called the Great tribulation.
The dividing point between these two periods will be the emergence of the antichrist and the setting up of His image in the temple. This view seems to be the best when we combine all of the Biblical evidence together.

Midtribulational view
Church will go through the first 3 1/2 years of tribulation and then be raptured
Once church is gone the anti-christ will be revealed and set up his image in the Temple.
This view has the least Biblical support.

Tribulational view— church will not be raptured until the end of the tribulation:
Tribulation period refers to the entire church age.

 
Basically Jesus is telling us that throughout the church age we will face times of trouble, persecution and tribulation. Tribulation is a special period at the end of the church age.  That is way oversimplifying this debate but you get the idea of what I am talking about — all of these views have some Scriptural support and none are conclusive. Ithink that this is by divine design, if Jesus wanted us to know He would have clearly told us the fact that He didn’t should be a clue that the timing and sequence of events isn’t really important.

 
REMEMBER: Jesus primary purpose in this section is not to give us signs of the time but to encourage us to be prepared.
Better to be a panmillenialist- “It will all pan out in the end”
Let me paraphrase Billy Graham – I hope that Jesus raptures the church before the tribulation but I would suggest being prepared just in case he doesn’t.

 
BUT THERE IS SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT that I want you to notice —  even during this period of great tribulation God shows HIs grace.  Let me show you three examples of His grace in this passage:

 

  • He is going to cut these days short- v.22 “And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.”
  • He warns us ahead of time about what is to come- v.23-25.
  • Then he describes for us what His Return is going to be like.

 
2. Jesus teaches us four key truths about what His second coming will be like. (v.27-31) 

 

There are several characteristics of His return mentioned in this passage:

 

  • Sudden (v.27)
  • Visible (v.27)  – Lightning flashed and lights up the entire sky. V.28 people from far away can look up in the sky and see the vultures circling in the sky above a carcass. This may be a reference to the wide scale death and destruction that will accompany the return of Christ. v.30 “Then in will appear heaven the sign of the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”  This not a sign of the times but rather an mistakable visible marker that He is arriving. Other passages in the Bible attest to the fact that Christ’s return will be visible:

 

Acts 1:10-11 “And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Luke 21:27 “They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

One reason that this is important is that sometimes cults will claim that Christ has already returned spiritually The Jehovah’s Witnesses, for instance, predicted that Christ would return visibly in 1914 and when he failed to show up, they reinterpreted their earlier prediction saying that Christ has returned spiritually and that Christ had actually returned but it was invisible.  This is a direct contradiction of the Scripture, which clearly teaches that His return will be visible.

 

  • Accompanied by a great upheaval and reordering of the world (v.29) This is figurative language referring to the cosmic order being overthrown and reordered by the Second coming. Satan and his minions may have their sway in this age, but the second coming of Christ will usher in a new age.  Satan will be overthrown, defeated and locked in the abyss forever.
  • Display both God’s grace and His wrath. (v.30-31)
  • God’s wrath is shown in the overthrow of the spiritual and earthly authorities v.29.  This will cause the nations of the earth to mourn.  God’s mercy is shown by the fact that he gathers His elect from every corner of the earth.  It is interesting to note that the Bible teaches us that Christ will not return until the gospel has been preached to all of the nations (people groups) on the earth (v.14) but that his return will be looked upon with mourning by all of the nations of the earth. The preaching of the gospel serves a two-edged purpose: 1.) it offers salvation to all who will repent of their sin and trust Chris and it 2.) it becomesbasis by which those who reject God’s grace will be judged.

 

Revelation 20:11-14 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. “

 

 

 

  • Jesus encourages us to always be prepared for HIs return (v.36-44)  No one knows when Jesus is coming back (v.36)Even He didn’t know during the time that He was on earth, so he encourages us to always be prepared.His return will be swift and sudden like the flood of Noah — it will take many people off guard.Therefore we need to stay awake. If you knew that tonight someone was going to break into your house, you would be prepared for it.  You would be up waiting for them.

 

Jesus has promised that He is coming back, we don’t know what day, we don’t know what hour, but we know He is coming, so we need to be ready.

 
3. Are you ready?

 

  • Have you repented of your sin and put your trust in Christ alone for your salvation?
  • Have you joined a local church where you can worship God and actively participate in the mission of spreading the gospel to every tribe, nation and tongue?
  • Have you become part of a Sunday School class or small group where you can study the BIble with other Christians and be encouraged in your walk with the Lord?
  • Have you surrendered your time, your talents, and you resources to God to be used in the work of His Kingdom?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sign of Christ’s Return

Over the past several weeks I have been preaching a series of message on the Second Coming

Second Coming Jesus 35
Second Coming Jesus 35 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

of Christ so I thought that I would share the sermon outlines with you.  If you would like to listen to the audio for this messagclick here.  

Introduction:
Throughout the centuries there have been many predictions about when Christ would return:
The turn of the millennium’s in both 1000 and 2000 AD were accompanied by a number of predictions that Christ would return on January 1, 1000 and 2000. During the Reformation Thomas Muntzer announced that the return of Christ was near and lead his followers to launch an armed revolt against the government.  In 1914 Charles Taze Russel the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted that Christ would return in that year.  JW’s went on to predict that Christ would return in 1914, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994. In 1981 Hal Lindsey predicted that Christ would return before December 31, 1981.  More recently, Edgar Whiseant published “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988” and Harold Camping famously published a book predicting that Christ would return on September 6, 1994 and then when it did not happen adjusted his calculations to May 21, 2011These are just a few of the thousands of predictions that have made about the 2nd coming of Christ.  None of them, of course, came true. All of them resulted in confusion in the minds of those who earnestly believed the predictions were true and created scorn among the skeptics who laugh at the very notion of Christ’s second coming. Yet the second coming has been a constant source of interest and speculation for God’s people.

Years ago when I was Pastoring in West Virginia we used to do a monthly question and answer night.  The most frequently asked questions that I received concerned the 2nd coming.

So what are Bible believing Christians to believe about the second coming of Christ.  Please open your Bibles with me to Matthew 24-25 and let’s discover what Jesus said about the sign of His coming.

 Believers must not be led astray by false signs of His coming

  • The text gives us a List of seven things that do not point to the second coming of Christ
  1. False messiahs – Acts 5:26 mentions a man named Theudas “who claimed to be something” raised an army of 400 men, claimed to be the messiah and tried to start a revolt. According to Josephus n 44 AD, he led his army of followers to the Jordan river promising to divide it but ended up getting caught by the Romans and beheaded. Theudas was just one in a long list of people over the centuries who have claimed to by the Messiah. In 4 BC Simon of Perea was killed by the Romans after leading a revolt. In 2nd century AD bar Kochba claimed to be the Messiah and started the 2nd Jewish War with the Romans. Down through the years there have seen literally dozens of people who claimed to be the messiah.
  2. Wars and rumors of wars– Within just a few decades after the death of Christ, the Romans went to war with the Jews as a result of the growing Zealot movement.It was during that war the Jerusalem was besieged and the Temple destroyed. Over the centuries dozens even hundreds more wars have been fought. In many cases Christians thought that these wars were indicators that Christ was soon to return.
  3. Famines and earthquake
  4. Persecution
  5. Apostasy– We tend to think that we live in the worst era of apostasy but history shows that apostasy is an age ole problem. The NT books of 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, 2 Peter and Jude were all written to combat apostasy.
  6. False prophets
  7. Increase in lawlessness to the point that the love of most will grow cold.

All of these things were taking place in the days of the Apostles and have continued right down to this very day.These are products of the age we live in.

  • They may grow in intensity and number but we should not be alarmed by them (v.6)
  • Don’t allow the so-called signs of the times unnerve or rattle you.
  • Jesus tells us that these things are going to happen and that we should not get too concerned about them but does that not mean that we should ignore them.
JESUS TELLS US THAT THESE THINGS WILL HAPPEN SO THAT WE WILL BE PREPARED AND ENDURE.
2. Believers must endure until the end (v.13)
Notice the promise that Jesus makes in this verse. This is not a command exclusively for those who will go through the great-tribulation but to all Christians in all times. From the time that Jesus ascended into heaven until He comes back we are living in the end times.  Throughout the ages, Christians have endured hardships, trials and tribulations. These things not only help us to grow closer to Jesus but they also help to demonstrate the genuineness of our faith.
How do we endure in the midst of the end times?
  • Keep your focus on Jesus – Hebrews 12:1-3 ” Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
  • Remember that God always has a purpose for your suffering and trials- Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
  • Understand that you are not home yet– Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present age are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

I am convinced that one of the reasons that Jesus has allowed this world to be so difficult and why he allows us to grow through hard times is so that we will not become too attached to this world.   Let me share with you the words of a Switchfoot song, entitled “I don’t belong here.” – ” It was a beautiful letdown when I crashed and burned. When I found myself alone, unknown, and hurt.  It was a beautiful letdown, the day I knew that all the riches this world had to offer me would never do.  In a world full of bitter pain and bitter doubt, I was trying so hard to fit it, until I found out that I don’t belong here…”

  • Focus on the primary task that God has given us to do in this age — PREACH THE GOSPEL

3.  Believers must be obedient in spreading of the gospel. (v.14)

  • The key word in this verse is the word “nations”
  • Ethnos= people groups, ethnic groups
  • Matthew 28:18-20
  • Revelation 5:9-10

 The gospel must be preached to every people group on the face of the earth before Christ will return.

  • According to the Joshua project there are 7,266 unreached people groups in the world, representing 2.91 billion people.

This is the primary indicator that we have concerning the timing of the end times:
When will Jesus come back?— When the gospel has been preached to every tribe, nation and tongue.That gives us our marching orders.  As Christians who believe in the Word of God and that Christ is coming back, we need to dedicate ourselves to the task of taking the Gospel to the nations.

Ministering from the Overflow of Your Life

fresh bread picOne of the most frequent mistakes that Pastors make is trying to minister from the reserves of

their lives rather than from the overflow.  The way this happens is so subtle that we rarely recognize when it starts to happen.  Looking back at my own meltdown, it is easy now for me to see that I had ceased ministering from the overflow of my life for nearly a year before my actual breakdown.  In my case, the problem started when we added the stresses of a $5 million building program to an already over-taxed schedule.  For others, the cause may be varied but the pattern and end results are almost always the same.  At some point we add one too many irons into the fire and suddenly a switch gets thrown in our lives and we shift from ministering from the overflow to drawing on our spiritual reserves to get us through the day.  Unfortunately, these reserves rarely last very long, just ask Roger.

Roger is one of the most effective Pastors that you will ever meet.  He has been serving New Hope Baptist Church for the past eleven years and during that time they have experienced tremendous growth.  Over the past three years the church has more than doubled in attendance and the church has been forced to look into creative ways to expand their capacity.  The church is located on one of the busiest intersections in town but it is land-locked between a shopping center on one side and rapidly growing sub-divisions on the the other three.  The church has literally used every square inch of their property but due to high property values and the fabulous growth occurring in the neighborhoods surrounding the church they have ruled out relocating their facilities.  After a season of prayer and discussion the church leaders decided to open a satellite location in a rented store-front on the North side of town.  This decision was the tipping point in Pastor Roger’s life.

Up to this point Roger had been busy but was able to juggle all of his responsibilities and still maintain his spiritual life.  But the addition of the new satellite turned everything upside down.  “When we were making the plans for North campus,” says Roger, “I had no idea that it would occupy so much of my time.”  In reality an examination of Roger’s schedule shows that the North Campus only added about three to four extra hours worth of meetings and appointments per week to his calendar, but that was more than enough to upset the delicate balance of his life.

“North campus opened up, I suddenly began to feel overwhelmed and exhausted.  At night I couldn’t sleep and in the mornings it was all I could do to get to the office by 9 am.” says Roger, “Most days I found myself rushing to get to the office without ever taking the time to read my Bible or pray.”  Although he didn’t realize it at the time, Roger was beginning to experience one of the tell tale signs a ministry meltdown.  Rather than ministering from the overflow of his life, Roger started to operate on the fumes and the leftovers.  “With nothing coming into my life,” says Roger, “my spiritual and emotional reserves quickly began to run out and I started to experience the physical and psychological signs of a burnout.”  Sadly, Roger’s story has been repeated countless times in the church but the solution is actually quite simple— we need to lear to minister from the overflow of our lives.  Let me briefly explain what I mean by this and then outline some steps that every minister of the gospel should take in order to maintain the spiritual inflow in their lives.

The Relationship Between Inflow and Outflow

The principles that I am about to share with you may seem so obvious that you will wonder why I am even bothering to tell you about them.  But bear with me for a moment because I promise you that in the midst of ministry we are all guilty of ignoring these three simple rules that govern the relationship between the overflow and the outflow of our lives.  I know that in my own personal experience, sitting down and thinking about these three principles was not only humbling but also healing.  Over the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to remind several Pastors whom I’ve counseled through ministry struggles about these three basic principles and in every case they have responded as if a light had been turned on in the darkness.  So even if these see rather simplistic, just bear with me for a few moments.

1. What Comes Out Is Determined By What Goes In

Here is the simplest, most basic principles of all — what comes out of your life is determined by

English: The source of the Ohio River at “The ...
English: The source of the Ohio River at “The Point” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. The Allegheny River (left) and the Monongahela River (right) join to form the Ohio here. The West End Bridge crosses the Ohio in the foreground. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

what goes into your life.  Let me illustrate what I mean with an example from my childhood. When I was a kid my dad and I used to fish in the Ohio River near my hometown of Steubenville, OH.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with that area, the Ohio River is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monogahela river at Pittsburgh, PA, initially flowing north until it takes a sharp left turn, reserving it’s direction and flowing south.  This change in the course of the river forms the northern panhandle of the state of West Virginia.  Back in the 1960’s and 70’s the banks of this river from Pittsburgh to my hometown and even further south down to Wheeling, WV was dotted with giant steel mills.  Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve floating down the Ohio River in my dads boat catching large mouth bass, catfish, carp, and even the occasional walleye.  In spite, of what you might think the fishing was actually pretty good back then but there was one key rule that we always observed.  We never ate any of the fish that came out of that river!  The reason was that many of those steel mills and the other industrial plants that lined the banks of that river dumped polluted waste into the waters of the river.  Due to that fact, the fish that came out of the river were dangerous, perhaps even deadly to eat.  What went into the river determined what was coming out of it.  The simple truth of the matter is that whatever is going into your life as a Pastor is going to determine what comes out. Let me flesh that out a little bit for you.

If there is nothing coming into your life, nothing is going to be able to flow out.  The Ohio river is a massive river but it depends on the flow from the Monogahela, the Allegheny, and hundreds of other smaller streams and creeks for its water supply.  If we were to suddenly cut off the waters from these sources from flowing into the Ohio, the river would quickly dry up and cease to flow.  That is the way it is with your life.  If you don’t maintain a constant inflow of spiritual resources into your life you will quickly dry up.   It would be shocking to most Pastors to realize  how quickly this process can occur if the inflow was immediately cut off.  But what usually happens is that the problems of ministry and concerns of life simply mount up and slowly cut off the inflow from our lives.  Like cholesterol slowly and imperceptibly building up in our arteries over the course of years, so to will the problem of ministry clog up the spiritual arteries of our hearts if we are not careful.

If we are going to fix this fundamental problem we must focus on the inflow of our lives.  A couple of months ago the doctor told me that I have high cholesterol, in addition to putting me on Lipitor, he also told me to go on a low fat, high fiber diet that will help to reduce the inflow of bad cholesterol into my blood stream.  The same basic principle holds true in the Pastors life.  If we want to have a healthy spiritual life we need to cut down on the fat and increase the healthy spiritual food that we take in.  Simple, right? So why don’t we do it?  That brings me to the second point that I want to make.

2. Nothing Good Can Come Out of Unhealthy Vessel

The next couple of paragraphs may be hard to read and I promise you that they are equally hard for me to write but we have to admit that a major reason the church is so unhealthy is because its Pastors are sick.  Even as I write those words my heart is broken because I love Pastors and I am one myself and I know how hard of a task we have in this day and age.  But I also know my own heart and I have talked with enough Pastors to know that we have a serious crisis occurring across the church.  The reason that so many of our churches are unhealthy is because the Pastor is unhealthy and we need to address this issue because we can ever hope to help our congregations.

Not long ago I was having coffee with a Pastor friend of mine who showed me a picture of himself and three of his friends from seminary.  He then went on to tell me that out all three of those friends ended up having to leave the ministry as the result of moral failures.  We both sat there for the next hour sharing with each other the stories of men that we knew who had one time had heard the call of God on their lives to preach the gospel but at some point had ended up falling into sin.   It would be easy to try to say that these men had never been converted or that they were simply wolves in sheep’s clothing, but the truth is much harder to deal with. In each case, we agreed that these were genuine believers, who loved God and wanted to serve the church but ended up falling into sin and lost their ministries.  What happened to them is actually much simple and much scarier— they simply didn’t take care of their own spiritual heath and they slowly drifted into a heinous sin that ruined their family, cost them their ministry and destroyed the church they Pastored.   But what is even scarier is that this is not the worst thing that can happen.

Sometimes I have seen Pastors who neglect their spiritual lives but instead of falling into some heinous sin they simply grow cold, uncaring, and cynical.  They don’t wash out of the ministry, but instead keep on showing up week after week, with no life, no vitality, and no passion.   Rather than minister of life, they  become carriers of the deadly spiritual pathogen known as lethargy.  These are Pastors who have not been caught up in such blatant and gross sins as sexual immorality or greed, but instead are plagued by a host of seemingly smaller, easier to disguise sins, that are equally as appalling to God as their more grandiose cousins, but far easier to justify and rationalize in the mind of the Pastor.  Rather than ruining their life and ministry in one quick moment, this situation leads to a slow wasting away or rotting of ones life and ministry.

An unhealthy vessel will either bring rot or ruin to the local church, but there is another option— we could turn around and take the necessary steps to return to Spiritual health.  Over the past couple of years, I have talked to many former Pastors whose lives and ministries were ruined by sin, but there have been others who upon recognizing their condition repented of their sin and came back to God.  It wasn’t an easy path, but their lives have been turned around and they are now examples of God’s grace and mercy rather than of another Pastor who washed out of the ministry because of a moral failure.  The question is, which one are you going to be?

3. The More That You Put In the More That Can Come Out

Up to this point we have been mostly looking at the negative aspects of this principle, but now I want to to focus on a positive.  The more good things that we put into our lives, the more good things will come out.  We’ve already established that if we neglect our spiritual lives bad things happen, but we also need to embrace that the reverse is also true— the more time we spend with God the more Spiritual energy and power we will have available to do ministry.

We will look at this more in tomorrow’s post.