Take Time with Our Neighbors

Do you watch a lot of news? Are you up on health care reform and cap and trade, or do you find all that stuff just too depressing? Actually the list of depressing things in the news goes on and on. As a result, maybe some of you are at the point where you don’t watch the news much anymore. I can understand that. Still, I’m not sure being uninformed is the best solution to our nation’s problems. On the other hand, if we do try to stay informed, how much can we really do about anything anyway? This morning we’re continuing our sermon series on time. Our time here is important. Our mission is to let the light of our faith shine through us so that many more may be drawn to Christ, and be saved. However, with the world the way it is, how can we be realistically joyful, so that we can attract others to Christ? Our text this morning answers that.

As we Take Time with Our Neighbors:

  1. Watch with Thanksgiving
  2. Pray with Commitment
  3. Speak with grace.

Our text reads, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Through God’s Word we have the privilege of seeing the true picture of what’s going on in our world. Jesus warned that as we get closer to His return there will be an increase in the number and severity of wars, natural disasters, lovelessness, and false doctrine. In addition, very near the end, every institution of society – government, science, education, the arts, even organized religion – will unite to stamp out Christianity.

St. Peter writes, “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed – II Peter 3:3-6.” When Peter wrote this, no one questioned that the world was created. And no one, claiming to be a Christian, doubted the Flood. It’s not that way anymore. Our Synod’s pastor/teacher training college is Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota. The head of their science department is Prof. Sponholz. He told us at a pastors’ conference that he had been a meteorologist for the US government. In fact he was so highly respected for his research, that a mountain was named after him in Antarctica. Anyway he only had to do one more thing before getting a Phd. He had to sign a paper stating his faith in evolution. He refused. He was fired. And that’s when Martin Luther College picked him up.

There is such a thing as adaptation within a kind of plant or animal, but evolution is a lie. When you read about carbon dating in text books – it’s all made up. For example here is a picture of a hammer that was imbedded in crustaceous rock. It’s called Crustaceous rock, because when it was still mud, crustaceous dinosaurs left their footprints in it, and then it turned to rock. All this was supposedly 100 million years ago. However, the problem for evolutionists is in Texas they found human footprints alongside dinosaur footprints, but man supposedly hadn’t evolved yet. The evolutionists’ other problem is this hammer. They did an analysis of it. It’s stainless steel! How can anyone see this hammer alongside dinosaur footprints and still believe in evolution? Here’s my point – when government, science, education, the arts, and even most churches say that the world evolved, this is an attack against the Bible. It’s also fulfills another of the signs of Jesus’ coming.

One other sign we should especially watch for is these united forces of the world will all but succeed in shutting down the public preaching of Law and Gospel. When on any given Sunday only 17% of Americans go to church, and that’s average right now, Jesus’ return is getting closer!

So, then, how can we watch all these things going on and yet be thankful? We can be thankful, because nothing is happening that God didn’t tell us would happen. This means that all of His Word is true – including that He Himself paid for our sins, and that when we stand before Him to be judged, He will receive our souls into His heavenly Kingdom. Also, on the last day, He will gather up our dust and ashes, and He will restore the body we’re living in right now, so that body and soul we may live together with all believers on the new earth He will create.

So, how can we be watchful and thankful at the same time? Pay attention to everything that’s going on. Be alert to how Satan is working to destroy faith in Christ. At the same time, stay focused on what Jesus did for us and on the eternal joys He promised us. As we do, the signs of the end, as bad as they are, will just make us more eager to see Him. But the signs will also make us more concerned for those who aren’t ready.

We read in our text, “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should – Colossians 4:3-4.” Have you ever desperately prayed for something only to see it all go from bad to worse? Well, here’s the deal. Prayer is never a waste of time. However, at the top of your prayer list, put that your pastor and teachers may have the strength and the opportunity to speak the Word clearly. Now, sometimes bad things have to happen in order to make that happen. In Paul’s case, he was put in prison. When he wrote these words, he had Roman guards on either side of him, and was waiting to be tried before the cruelest man ever – Nero. What an opportunity to proclaim the Word! Yet if Paul needed his members’ prayers in order to do that well, I really need your prayers! So, maybe your health is bad or you need a job. Keep praying for those things, just as Paul, I’m sure, prayed to get out his prison. But especially, keep praying for God’s blessings upon His Word, because if we make that our number one concern, God will make all our lesser concerns work out for good.

In addition to praying for pastors and teachers, Paul also urged us to pray for our government. He wrote, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth – I Timothy 2:1-4.” Notice the purpose of this prayer. We want a good, fair, and stable government, not so that we can “have a car in every garage and chicken in every pot.” We work for and pray for good government, so that we may freely share the Word, and so that our children’s faith isn’t undermined every time they walk out the door. However, someone might argue why bother working and praying for a better world, when the Bible warns us the world is going to keep getting worse? We work and pray for the sake of people, children, souls redeemed by the blood of Christ! Because the signs tell us that we’re getting closer to the end, we can’t let up now! And even if we and our families are the only ones left still spreading the Gospel, we’re going to keep on doing that, till we see Jesus!

However, why should only pastors and teachers do the speaking and the members just do the praying? Rather, may every Christian be speaking God’s Word with grace! Our text reads, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone – Colossians 4:5-6.” To speak God’s Word with grace is to say things in such a way that the other person wants to listen. This isn’t easy. It takes a lot of prayer and time in God’s Word. It also takes spending time with that other person. For example in March, Missionary Ried and his wife Marlyss will be speaking at a mission rally in Deltona. Now, the Rieds had been in Indonesia, living and working among the Muslims. As a result there is now a growing Christian church in Indonesia, even though the Rieds are not allowed to live there anymore – they can only go for short visits. Nevertheless many are coming to faith through the work of those the Rieds had brought to faith.

But we might wonder how could the Rieds get things started? Again, they lived and worked among the Muslims. In their daily life they lived their faith and then in answer to prayer, God brought people to them with questions, which the Rieds could legally answer one-on-one. We can do the same here in “Christian” America. It’s good to spend time with our neighbors. Go with them to the movies – at least some! Go to their parties. Invite them to yours. Live your faith and be ready to answer their questions.

However, speaking the Word with grace doesn’t mean never making someone feel guilty. We make people feel guilty just by the things we don’t do. But that’s alright, because unless a person feels his sin, he will not feel his need for a Savior. And so, speaking the word with grace means that even when we have to tell someone that what they’re doing is bad stuff, our ultimate goal is to tell them about Jesus. This will “color” the way we put things. For example Paul urged Timothy to talk to people his own age like he was talking to his brothers and sisters. Or, he was to talk to people older than himself, like he would to his parents.

I know sometimes families aren’t very respectful of each other’s feelings. Deep down every family wants that. Every family member wishes everyone else in the family would say what has to be said, and yet at the same time, be as sensitive to each other’s feelings as they are of their own. We can still make this world a better place, at least the world right around us. We can also still make our country a better country. However, what that will take is each Christian watching with thanksgiving, praying with commitment, and speaking God’s Word with grace. If we are on that side, will we really start seeing more good news? Can our society become again like it was when some of us, older people, were growing up? Possibly! Corruption and tyranny have been turned back before! But if these are the very last days, then at least through our hard work and prayer, there’ll be more people in heaven someday. So, don’t stay depressed because of the news. Have some fun in your life too. Stay current and have fun with your neighbors. And may God bless your time together. Amen.

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