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Pastor Ray Peters

IS THE END NEAR?

Over the years there have been comic strips and even movies and television shows with the old man and the placard announcing that “The end is near.”  It is the end of the world as we know it according to the placard and whether you believe in God or not it makes you stop and think.  In our world today the question might be asked by you or someone you know, “Is the end of the world near?”  And the answer is – I/we don’t really know.

Jesus said it pretty clearly in Matthew 24:14 when He was being asked by His disciples if the end of the world as they knew it was ending.  He told them and us when the end will come: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (ESV).  There it is.  The end of the world will come when all nations have had the gospel of Jesus Christ preached in them.  Apparently this has not happened yet so the world has not ended.

The Son of God told us that “no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son (in His human nature), but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36 ESV).  Later Jesus says; “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44 ESV).  Followers of Jesus must be ready at all times for the imminent return of Jesus Christ!

How do we, as followers of Jesus, get ready for His return?  We can take one major clue from what Jesus reference in the three verses.  His gospel is to be proclaimed throughout the whole world and then the end will come; we are to carry out the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20 in making disciples of all nations.  We must be telling people about Jesus every opportunity that confronts us and that is on a daily basis.  Whether it is by working extremely hard and well at our job or treating people with kindness or sharing what Jesus did on our behalf we have an opportunity each day to carry out the most important mission ever given to mankind.  It is the church, which is the Bride of Christ that carries out this mission and in many parts of the world it is taking place.

We must also be praying that God will send out workers into that Great Commission, which is also called the Harvest by Jesus in the Scripture.  Matthew 9:35-38 tells us: “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.  When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest’” (ESV).  Jesus is going to all the cities and villages that His Father wanted Him to enter and preach His good news and He was backing His teaching up with miracle upon miracle.  But it was what He said to His disciples that really stand out in this passage.  In essence He said that the harvest field is huge and there is not enough workers to enter into the harvest so ask, plead, beg the Master of the harvest to send out more workers that the job might get finished sooner rather than later.

Jesus sets the example by going to all the places He did and then He invites us along with Him to proclaim the good news of His coming.  If we really believed what Jesus said here all His followers would pray this.  The conclusion is that if all prayed this way then it could be that all of us would be candidates for going into the harvest.  But wait, we are all in the harvest and if we are all in the harvest then we best be working as if the field is ripe for harvest.  We are the fulfillment of our own prayers about the harvest and all followers of Jesus live in the harvest field and thus we ought to be harvesting right here and right now.  Not one follower of Jesus is exempt from this Great Commission that Jesus laid out for us prior to ascending back to the Father.

Maybe my first step, your first step is to get alone before the Father and allow Him to change our hearts to be in line with His.  We need to have our heart broken with that which breaks the heart of God.  The world desperately needs hope and that hope is in Jesus of whom we are to take His message to the harvest which is before us and we are in the midst of right now.  The most useful you can be right away is to be broken before Him so that you can be of use to the Master for His great and eternal work.

Thanks to our Guest Contributor:

Pastor Ray Peters

Harvest Alliance Church

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PRAY UNCEASINGLY?

Three simple words that can change personal situations and even the world are found in 1 Thessalonians 5:17; “Pray without ceasing.”  This seems pretty extreme to most people but when Paul the apostle wrote these words, he meant them.  But what did he mean by them?

In the bullet points that Paul makes in verses 16-22 we find out that each action is an imperative, which rightly understood is a command.  So in verse 17 we are commanded to pray without ceasing.  Look at the whole passage and see again how Paul writes: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ for you.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil.”  He is relentless telling the church to take what they know and put it into action.

Paul took seriously the words of his Savior from the Sermon on the Mount.  “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites.  For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:5-7).

Jesus expects that His followers would pray by saying the word “when.”  Paul practiced this expectation as we see from Colossians 1:3; “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.”  And again in verse nine, “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you…”  We see the same pattern in 2 Thessalonians 1:11, so Paul practiced what Jesus taught.

And now at the end of his first letter to the church at Thessalonica he is teaching what he was taught and practiced.  So the churches of today especially in the west need to revisit this fundamental doctrine and act upon Scriptural directives.  But you cannot do what you are not.

Jesus also taught later in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:7-11: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  The focus here is persistence until you get the answer or hear from God.  One must keep after prayer until something happens; keep at it and don’t stop until you get the answer that you know is to your prayer.

One point to remember here is that we do not have to pray a certain number of times per day or week or year or lifetime, but that we have access to God at all times and He loves to hear from His children.  God not only expects us to pray but wants us to pray for He desires to be with us more than we desire to be with Him.  The first words of the model prayer in Matthew 6 tell us this, “Our Father…”  Prayer is first and foremost an intimate relationship towards God and He towards the pray-er.

At its most basic level prayer is asking for things.  But who asks for things?  When we think of prayer we begin with the needy to the one who is able to supply the requested need.  Dr. John Piper in a sermon on prayer shares a story of D. L. Moody: What is prayer? To his amazement, hundreds of children’s hands went up. So he decided to call on a lad near the front, who promptly stood up and said, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” This is the answer to question #98 in the Westminster Catechism. To this Moody responded by saying, “Be thankful, son, that you were born in Scotland.”

We offer ourselves and our requests up to God along with thanksgiving.  In prayer we are saying that we need Him desperately and once we realize how desperately we will follow the command of Paul – “Pray without ceasing.”  This does not mean that we are upon our knees at all times or bowed in prayer but that our attitude or heart is in a constant state of prayer.  We can pray “at the drop of a hat.”  When we hear a prayer request or see something that must be prayed about we go immediately to prayer, we do not have to wait until a certain time of day or night.

Followers of Jesus have open and constant access to God.  This is understood when we remember that the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom and Jesus was crucified, those who belonged to God had immediate access into His presence.  The book of Psalms is full of prayers accessing God at different times of day and seasons of life.  Psalm 119 tells us that the author rose at midnight and found God listening.  Coming to God at any time is not a new concept or idea that God put into play at some time in history but has always been present.

Jesus’ followers may be commanded to pray but it stems from relationship and not from fear.  Keep praying and do not give up because God promises to answer.  And be honest in your prayers because before a word is on your tongue God knows what you are going to say.  He not only knows your heart He desires to hear your heart for He loves you with an everlasting love.

Praying unceasingly is not that extreme as we begin to understand the heart of God for His children.  It is based upon a relationship that He began with you through Jesus with whom He is well-pleased.  And with you also He is well-pleased so talk to Him for He would love to hear from you.

Thanks to our Guest Contributor:

Pastor Ray Peters

Harvest Alliance Church

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