Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Alaskans know about an “inevitable coming.” Each autumn the days grow shorter. Leaves turn yellow and then drop from the trees. Temperatures decline . . . and then plunge. Winter is coming. I have learned that we never know exactly when the signs of winter will arrive. But we do know that sometime during the dark days of the season temperatures will drop below freezing and we are very likely to see snow.
Knowing that winter approaches it is wise to make certain preparations for its coming. Personally, I bring in my hoses, my sprinklers, and my garden tools. I store the lawn furniture in our shed. I remove the batteries from the boat and lawnmower, and change from summer tires to snow tires on our vehicles. My plan is to be prepared and to get all this preparation done before the arrival of winter. At least I intend to prepare. Yet, whether I am prepared or not, winter will come.
We are in the church season of Advent and week after week in our Scripture readings we hear the voice of our Lord and His messengers call us to preparation. In our Gospel the first week of Advent Jesus Himself warns us, 32 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. . . 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'" (Mark 13:33, 37). Next week the voice of John will cry out, echoing the words of the great prophet Isaiah, “'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" (Mark 1:3).
Why this need for preparation? It is sort of like winter. We know that the coming of the Lord at the end of time is inevitable. We do not know when He will appear. But He will come, not only as Savior but as Judge. Jesus will come and make Himself visibly known to all. Jesus comes to usher in God’s victorious, heavenly kingdom.
So, when the holy and righteous Judge does come, how do you want to be prepared? Peter answers this question in his second letter. “11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives . . . 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Peter 3:11, 14)
Are you feeling holy and godly? On our own we are weak and sinful. We fail our Lord and we fail ourselves with our selfishness and sin. We fail our Lord and ourselves by giving in to the desires of the flesh. Such sinful behavior may be obvious, or our sin can be hidden. But, because of our sin none of us can face our judge on our own.
However, there is good news! Jesus is not only inevitably coming again, He has already come! Born as a man, submitting Himself to torture and death, rising from the dead, Jesus came to pay for our weakness and sin. He came to defeat sin and death. Jesus came to save weak and sinful people like us. The way we “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” is when we receive Jesus as Savior and when He forgives us and gives us peace with Himself.
Therefore, I encourage you to spend time in preparation again this Advent, and throughout the year, preparing yourself to receive our Lord. Here are some of the suggestions of our Lord himself on how His children should prepare for His inevitable coming.
Humble yourself – Admit your shortcomings and your weaknesses. Confess your sins. Don’t trust in yourself. Turn to our Lord. He loves you and will forgive you through faith in Jesus. God will make you clean in His sight.
Spend time with our Lord – We have the command, but even more we have the encouragement and the example of our Lord to worship. God intends for His people to be in His presence and to encourage one another in faith and preparation. How is your worship life at this time?
Watch and Pray – As life brings blessings and challenges consider how God may be acting to touch you. Be in regular times of prayer. But, be ready to pray whenever you see a blessing or a challenge to your faith. And being ready, actually go in prayer to the Lord with praise and requests. He hears and He answers!
Winter is not only coming, in many ways it has come and is here. (Though, personally I am a man who likes snow . . . and LOTS OF IT.) There are consequences, however, if we do not prepare for winter. Jesus is surely coming again. But thankfully, He has come Himself to prepare us. Strengthen your relationship with Him so that when He comes again you have let Him make you holy and at peace with Him.
A Child of God, Watching and Praying and Waiting for My Lord,
P.S. THANKS- Thanks for a good and a short Voters’ Meeting this past Sunday. The meeting was well attended with 60 people signing the attendance list. We had people volunteer to serve for all boards and positions. And we passed the proposed budget. Thanks to all for the unity, the fellowship, and the commitment to God’s work at St. John as we conducted our Voters’ meeting in . . . only 1 hour!!
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.