He is Coming

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. (Matthew 25:31)

Spring is officially here. Grass is turning green and the pollen has coated every flat surface. The sun is shining.

Jesus is coming.

Our joy ebbs and flows. We get fired, then hired. We lose a loved one and shortly after we celebrate the birth of a baby. Marriages go through hard times and honeymoon times. We get busy with distractions, amusing ourselves to numbness.

Jesus is coming.

We search and grasp for meaning, and we lean towards that next best thing that might satisfy us a little more. It could be a new iPhone or a promotion. We hunger for something that will soothe the core of our souls. We become frantic in our search.


If you aren’t dead, you’re dying. You will soon approach the throne of God. He might just show up before you do. Jesus is not a sniper waiting to pick you off, he’s a Savior ready to pick you up. When he comes back, make no mistake, it will be terror for some. He will judge according to the hearts of men. Not their statements, bank accounts, or moral records. He will judge them according to whether or not their hearts fully trust in him.

The choice is so painfully obvious, but we walk past it like a beggar passing up a feast. We want something else, not the ancient way of God. It’s not shiny enough. But it is enough, and very soon it will be made shockingly clear that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life.

He is coming soon.

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What Remains

You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down. (Matthew 24:2)

Look around you. Everything you can see will eventually rust, rot, and decay.

Whether we are young or old, fit or out-of-shape, our bodies too are wasting away. I’m only 33 but my injuries seem to linger a week longer than they used to. It happens, and it’s happening.

When Jesus explained to his disciples that the temple was going to be destroyed, they couldn’t believe it. The temple was built like a bunker with hulking, heavy stones. It was beautiful. When Jesus explained that it would all be destroyed, it rattled them. They begin to ask more questions about his second coming and the close of this age.

They are seeking something permanent to hold on to.

We too seek permanence. We want something that will last, whether it is our kid’s childhood or our favorite show. But if we place our hope in things that are passing away, we place our joy upon an altar built with straw. It’ll all come down.

Jesus was before. He is here now. And he will remain after. He is past, present, and future. His redeeming work on Calvary spans the test of time – forward and back – and his kingdom endures forever. He is worthy of our hope. He will never pass away.

We have the choice to orient our lives around that which will pass away or that which will endure. Put your hope in Jesus, our indestructible Savior.

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Our Insurrection, His Faithfulness

Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ (Matthew 21:37-38)

Jesus’ parables were not just good stories meant to convey a point. No, he used parables as swords. I imagine that many within earshot of his parables would nod in agreement until Jesus reached the end of the parable. You see, it is tempting to see yourself as the good guy in the parable – the loving father, the one using his talents for God’s glory – but Jesus didn’t tell parables so we could improve our self-esteem by relating to the hero of his story. By the time Jesus reaches the end of his parables, most of them bring the bitter truth of conviction for the audience.

So it goes with the Parable of the Tenants. Jesus tells this story to a group of religious upper-crusters. These were the pious, educated, ceremonially clean guys – the chief priests and Pharisees. In the Parable of the Tenants, there was a farmer who leased his vineyard to some tenants. This was common in Jesus’ day. Wealthy farmers would lease their land to tenants so the farmer could run multiple operations at one time. The farmer owns the place, the tenant stays and works it. The fruit belongs to the farmer.

At harvest time, the farmer sends his servants to get the fruit of the vineyard – and the tenants assault them. The farmer sends more – surely the first time was a mistake – and the tenants attack these servants, too.

The farmer sends his son.

The tenants are not only jealous of the son’s claim to the fruit, they are jealous of his status as the farmer’s son. He is a privileged man, the heir to the fortune of the farmer. Their jealousy ignites and they murder him.

As the upper-crusters hear this parable, they imagine the rage of the farmer. Jesus asks them what the farmer would do to the murderous tenants in this scenario. The upper-crusters respond:

He will put those wretches to a miserable death…” (Matthew 21:41)

Of course, the upper-crusters are like the wretches in the story. Though they don’t realize it just yet, they are condemning themselves as they speak. They intend to do to Jesus what the tenants did to the farmer’s son – and for the same reasons.

Be careful – don’t condemn the upper-crusters, because Jesus is also talking about you.

We are tenants of the earth. We don’t own a molecule of it. We don’t own our lives, either. But we want to claim them. When God comes after our lives, we are all too prone to reject him. We are prone to start an insurrection against his reign over our lives. Don’t believe me?

Do you surrender your will to God’s on a daily basis?

Have you ever read Scripture and decided a command was for someone else because you didn’t want to obey?

Have you ever done something in God’s name to make yourself look good?

My answers to these questions convict me. I am guilty. Too often I seek my own will, explain away commandments, and do the right thing for the wrong reason. I join the insurrection.

If you too have joined the insurrection and assembled among the ranks of wretches, Jesus offers a way out. His parables are intended to instruct and convict, but not condemn. By getting to the gritty, painful truth Jesus unearths our need for a savior. And of course, he offers himself as that savior.

Jesus is king. He owns this place and he owns us. He wants the best for our lives. When we stop our rebellion and repent of our insurrection against his reign, we will taste more of his fruit. We may rebel, but God is faithful and longsuffering. He made a way, and his name is Jesus.

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You Do Not Know What You’re Asking

And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” (Matthew 20:21-22)

Years ago I had to fire a guy. It was a volatile situation and he had nearly come to blows with one of his colleagues. As I sat him down, I began to explain that things were not working out. To my surprise, he nodded and affirmed everything I was saying – that is, until I explained that we were letting him go.

“You’re letting me go? I thought you were letting him go?”

He thought we were firing someone else. He was shocked. His behavior which led to his dismissal was completely excusable to him. To paraphrase Stephen M.R. Covey, he judged himself by his best intentions and others by their behavior. He was completely unaware of his wrongdoing.

We all do this. We self-justify and compare our intentions against the faulty behavior of others. This is how marriages crumble, business partnerships dissolve, and churches split. When we ignore our own sinfulness yet see sin in others, we are delusional destroyers. We will hurt those around us and in so doing, we will starve our souls of grace.

When the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus, she brought this delusional mindset with her. She expects that her sons should sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in his kingdom. She wants Jesus to confirm that this will happen. This is not unlike the dad who yells at his son’s t-ball coach because his son isn’t batting cleanup. Nevermind that little Timmy can’t even hit a stationary ball – he should be in the best position just because.

The funny thing is, we all approach Jesus like this to some degree. We may show up proud and we may show up ashamed, but we all show up entitled. And you know what, Jesus died so we could be entitled. Let me say that again: Jesus died so we could be entitled.

If our salvation was based on the net result of our good and bad, none of us would be saved. We do not want a merit-based salvation because we come with no merit. With empty hands we approach the throne of grace. But it does not matter, at least not to Jesus. He knew we’d need help. He knew we’d be so blind as to think we might somehow measure up to the standard of a holy and righteous God. So, because of Jesus’ work on the cross, we are now entitled to his love, acceptance, and eternal salvation. We didn’t earn it, but he freely gives it to us.

As Pastor Scott said last weekend, “Grace isn’t fair.” If grace was fair and only those who deserve it would receive it, we’d all be out of luck. No, grace is not fair – it is benevolent. The grace of Christ is generous. It is merciful. It is not a reward for good behavior, it is a surprise party for failures.

We cannot earn grace, but we can accept it. Praise God that grace isn’t fair.

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The Suffering and Blessing of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is hard. It is not as simple as opening the jail cell of a prisoner and saying, “go free – you are forgiven.” Forgiveness is more complicated and more costly than that – and it’s designed to be. We do benefit when we forgive others, as giving others the grace we have been given by God is a joyous thing – but it’s painful.

To forgive is to absorb something. It does not go away. If I slight you and you forgive me, you don’t un-remember my offense; you merely accept it for what it was and you choose to absolve me. That hurts. The offense still happened and if you choose to forgive, you get to internalize it in your memory.

God is an exception, however:

“…For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34 ESV)

God is an exception because of the work of Jesus on the cross – he remembers our sins no more. When our debt was paid by Jesus’ crucifixion, God not only forgave – he forgot. On purpose. It would be helpful if we shared this ability with God, but it appears not to be the case because I can remember nearly every harsh word someone has said to me. Our memories are sticky with other people’s sins and very loose with our own.

When we give the grace of forgiveness, we also taste the grace of forgiveness. It’s like sharing a meal with someone. When we forgive, we remind ourselves of Jesus’ ultimate forgiveness – and this should refresh our spirits. The grace Jesus pours into our hearts is bigger than the bitterness of past hurts.

In Matthew 18, Peter asks Jesus how often he should forgive someone who sins against him, likely searching on the outer limits of forgiveness. Jesus offers no such answer. Jesus tells Peter he should forgive seventy seven times. Seventy seven times. Jesus isn’t being technical here; the point is that you cannot reach the end of your need to forgive others. You cannot stop absorbing the sins of others as you free them from their bondage of their wrong against you. You pay, they go free.

Jesus knows how this feels. He knows what he is asking. He has absorbed your sins already, suffering to the point of death for your transgressions. May that immeasurable grace be our portion as we forgive – and suffer – the sins of others.

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