IVP - Online Pulpit - Come, Lord Jesus!

February 1, 2006

Come, Lord Jesus!

We have been talking about what it means to be a kingdom church. I hope that wherever you are, whenever you are surrounded by church people, issues of the kingdom and kingdom language roll off your tongues as naturally as you know your name. However, as we look at kingdom issues this morning, I have some good news and some bad news. In case you hadn’t heard, Georgia beat Kentucky yesterday. Now, that is the bad news. The good news is we won’t remember that in eternity; Jesus is coming soon!

The good news is, there are things more important than football games; there are things more important than basketball games; and there are things more important than the list of things you brought with you this morning that you thought were important. Jesus is coming soon!

Get Excited About Waiting

In December 1970, I arrived back in the United States after being stationed in Thailand for a year with the US Air Force. Upon arriving home, I began the process of applying for Aunchalee’s visa so she could enter the country and we could be married sometime later in December. And I remember waiting. I arrived on December 10th. And then it seemed like the calendar stood still—like time was standing still. Christmas came and went, and still the paperwork had not cleared immigration. Then January 1st of 1971 came and went, and still we had no approval. It felt like months and months had passed since I returned home, but it had really only been about three weeks. Finally, on the 5th of January, we were told that Aunchalee’s visa had been approved. All she had to do was go to the American Embassy in Bangkok and collect the visa, which she did. On January 10th she called and said, “I’ve got the visa and my plane reservations lined up. I’ll arrive January 14th.”

Well, I can’t tell you how elated I was. I became as excited as a child at Christmas. On the day of her arrival, a cold January morning, my parents and I drove to the Philadelphia International Airport. I just couldn’t wait to see Aunchalee. There was such unbelievable anticipation in knowing that she had already flown across the Pacific, was already on her way in from Los Angeles, and was ready to land in Philadelphia. The expectation and everything we had done to get ready for that moment had almost been fulfilled.

The plane rolled up to the terminal and parked on the tarmac. The ground crew pushed the stairs into place. In just a few minutes, I saw Aunchalee walk down the stairway and make her way to the gate. There she came. It was just like in the movies—you know, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Casa Blanca and all that. The wait had been so unbelievably anxiety-provoking, but with her arrival, the anxiety was gone. She was there; the waiting was over.

That’s how we should experience these moments of anticipation as we wait for Jesus to return. Now the interesting thing was, it wasn’t as though it was an unbelievable surprise—Aunchalee’s arrival. Aunchalee and I had talked frequently on the phone. (The phone bill provided ample evidence of that!) She told me, “I’ll be arriving on January 14th.” I knew it, and I believed it. What she meant was, “It’s time for you to get ready for me to arrive on the 14th. Don’t let this be one of those surprises. When I get there, you’d better be waiting for me.” Now, of course, Aunchalee would never say it that way. But, that’s certainly what she meant.

There should be a sense of anticipation that you and I and the church should experience. Yet, somehow we forget that the in-between time—the time between when Jesus left us here to be the church and when he will return to claim the church—is coming to a close. We don’t need to get into all the millennial hype that’s already floating around about the year 2000. And, we are not going to try to set dates. We don’t have to do that. We just have to remember what Jesus, the Lord, said in Revelation 22: “I am coming.” That’s all we really need. You and I don’t have to wonder if he’s coming. We don’t have to debate whether or not he is coming. It seems to be a matter of faith. Jesus said, “I am coming.” What we have to do is prepare.

Get Prepared in Waiting

Have you ever gotten a telephone call, maybe on a Saturday morning, maybe on a Friday night? Unexpectedly a friend or family member says, “Doing anything tonight? Why don’t we come over?” Now, you’re not ready for company, so what do you do as soon as you hang up the phone? You fly through the house to straighten up the place. You know they’re coming soon, and you don’t want them to see your home like this. They might think you’re normal! So, you’ve got to do something, and quickly. Pick up everything, move all the magazines, and put away the videos you’re not supposed to have out. We all have done this before. We have all experienced the feeling that if somebody’s coming, we have to get ready. And we’ve got to get ready now because they said they were coming soon. We don’t have that much time.

Friends and family don’t usually give us the kind of advance warning Jesus did. My goodness, we’ve had 2,000 years! How come we’re not ready? Jesus is coming soon. Let’s not be caught surprised. Let’s begin now to do whatever it is that you have to do, to do whatever it is that I have to do, to get ready—to get this place overwhelmingly ready for the coming of the King. Jesus said, “I am coming soon. My reward is with me. I’m bringing my reward with me to repay according to everyone’s work.”

In the book of Revelation, John wrote to Christians who were facing terrible predicaments. The prophesy talks about the church facing unbelievable hardships. But, in all of that, He says, “I am going to repay everyone according to their work.” This sounds like a theme from the book of James. It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t say, “When I come, I’m going to make sure that you all believe correctly.” Oh, I think the orthodoxy issue is there, but it’s a matter of whether or not orthodoxy has played itself out in how you and I are living as the church. Jesus says, “I am coming soon.”

Remember How Christ Is Waiting

I have this feeling that Jesus is excited about his coming, excited about meeting his bride, the church. We usually think about Jesus coming from our standpoint, but take a moment to think about it from his standpoint. Think about him getting ready to make the trip to meet the church. Think about what he must be feeling. What’s going through his mind as the one who is arriving, rather than as those who are waiting for his arrival?

Again, the year was 1972. Our daughter was born in June. Unfortunately, my military base was mobilized and I was redeployed just weeks before the birth. I was not there when Aunchalee Junior was born. I was back in Thailand.

Some people ask why we picked the name Aunchalee for our daughter. Well, I was mobilized on a Wednesday morning and left that night to go all of the way around the world. Aunchalee was eight month’s pregnant. We hadn’t picked any names yet. So, as I climbed on the bus tearfully waving to her, and as she was tearfully waving back to me, we just yelled to each other. I said, “Well, if it’s boy, call him Craig.” She said, “If it’s a girl, I’ll call her Aunchalee.” And that’s what happened. No great mystery. Pragmatism strikes again.

That was in May 1972. Aunchalee our daughter was born June 12th. I received the news through the American Red Cross. When I returned to the United States in October, just before my 22nd birthday, I flew on a commercial airliner from Los Angeles to Philadelphia to see my parents, my wife, and a daughter I had not seen before—except for some poor Polaroid photographs that were mangled in the mail. I couldn’t wait for my coming home. There was such an overwhelming sense of anticipation. I couldn’t wait to see my family. I hadn’t seen Aunchalee my wife in months, and I hadn’t ever seen Aunchalee our daughter. She was already four months old. I just couldn’t wait to see what she looked like. I couldn’t wait to see the smiles on all their faces. I couldn’t wait to hold my child. I couldn’t wait to experience those moments of excitement that had been playing over in my mind for all those months.

Well, coming off the airplane and walking into the terminal, my feet never hit the floor. Standing there was my Mom and my Dad and Aunchalee my wife standing behind a stroller. And, inside the stroller was little Aunchalee Elaine asleep. There I was in military fatigues, just back from Southeast Asia. I broke down and cried like a baby. I had been waiting for that moment. I had longed for that moment. And it was everything I expected and more. All the waiting and getting ready for that moment to happen was fulfilled. To experience the love of my family that I had been dreaming about for months made the wait worthwhile.

Jesus longs to return to meet his family. He longs to see the smiles on our faces. He longs to see us gathered together, brothers and sisters in Christ, in one accord, in wonderful, joyful harmony. He longs to meet his church. He longs to see us. He longs to love us. He will cry with tears of joy. It could be written, “And Jesus wept when he returned to see his church ready and waiting and longing for his coming.” Jesus said, “I am coming soon.”

Gifts for Waiting

In later years, whenever I come back home after a trip, little Aunchalee and her brother Michael were always there waiting for me. And, they always said those famous words that are pre-programmed into every child’s vocabulary, “What did you bring me?”

Hello! Is it nice to see me? “What did you bring me?” Now, why do they ask that? What is the matter with these kids? Why aren’t they just happy to see me? “Yeah, what’d you bring us?” I think that when a parent comes home, bringing a package says to a child, “I want you to know that I’ve been thinking about you.” In my case, I could say, “I’ve done the one thing that I most despise in life; I’ve gone shopping. And I did it for you.” And when you give children a gift, sometimes they just look at it for a second, then put it down and climb into your lap. They want to know you brought something for them. They want to know you were thinking of them even while you were away from them. And, Jesus said, “I am coming soon, and I’m bringing something for you.” God will reward us as we have been faithful in doing his kingdom work while we wait for his return.

And, so what are we going to do? I think it’s time to get ready. You may not be ready right now, but let’s get ready. So what is it that we need to be about? One of the things that we can be about is making sure that we are expanding his church. Remember that the church’s purpose in life is to proclaim Christ’s gospel to the world—to draw people in and to equip them to be fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. That’s our goal. When Jesus comes back, I want him to find us out in our community, making friends of everyone and finding ways to bring them into the family of Jesus Christ. Let’s make sure Jesus finds us caring for one another, loving one another, ministering in his love in our city. Being out there in our communities doing what Jesus has called us to do and be in the world—his church.

One of the great stories I heard at a recent leadership conference was about a member of Willow Creek Church who couldn’t sing, who couldn’t teach. He was a mechanic. He came to Bill Hybels and said, “You know, I can’t sing; I don’t think I would be much of a teacher. I can’t do a lot of things, but what I can do is spin a wrench.” And he said, “I believe there are some single moms in this church. I’ve seen them driving up. I believe there are some people in this church that if somebody could take care of their automobiles and not charge them anything, it would be a great ministry.”

So right thereon the spot, Willow Creek’s CARS ministry began. Not because a minister had a brilliant idea, but because somebody from the pew who had a gift said I can’t sing, and I can’t teach, but I can spin a wrench. Now, I don’t know what you can do; I don’t know what you can’t do. But, God has given you a gift to do something. And, if he has given you a gift, I suppose when he comes, he’s going to want to see how you are using it.

God longs to see us using the gifts he has given us. Are you using your gifts for God’s kingdom? Do you have the gift of evangelism? If you do, then evangelize. Do you have the gift of hospitality? Then open up your doors and invite those who are unchurched into your home. Do you have the gift of discernment? Then start discerning what God would have you be and become. Do you have the gift of administration? Are you using it? Do you have the gift of teaching? Do you have the gift of compassion? Jesus is coming back soon. Are you ready?

Posted by Craig Loscalzo at February 1, 2006 10:56 AM Bookmark and Share

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