1As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
3When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4“Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Reflection: Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray.”
In the faith tradition in which I grew up, preachers and teachers were always on the lookout for “the signs of the times.” For instance, I don’t know how many times I heard people try to interpret the book of Revelation through contemporary events. They were sure that the end was near and we were fulfilling biblical prophecy in our own time. My mother told me about how, during the presidential election of 1980, people she worked were convinced that Ronald Reagan was the antichrist – all because his name was Ronald Wilson Reagan (six letters in each name – for 666)! One time in college, my roommates and I had a little fun with this kind of thinking. One of the “Christian” television networks predicted that the world would end at the end of that week. So we taped up a sign on our apartment door, informing people that there were only 7 days until the world ended. Then we tore off one number from the sign every day until we got to zero. Of course, the world went on.
Now to be clear, we are waiting for the return of Christ. And it might happen in our lifetime. But it also might not. Christians have been waiting for the return of the triumphant Christ for 2000 years. In the early days of the Church, the first generation of Christians was convinced this would happen in their lifetime. In fact, some of our New Testament Scriptures (such as Paul’s writings to the Thessalonians) deal with the disappointment and confusion within the Church that resulted from faithful people dying before Christ returned. We must remember that Christ will come when the Father deems the time to be right and fulfilled, not when we want it. Christ’s delay is mercy to the world. After all, Peter wrote that “the Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God is intentionally at work, and so Peter encourages us to be all the more faithful and diligent as we wait for the gracious Lord.
Our focus should never be on when Christ is coming back. Our focus, instead, should be on the One who is coming back – always working for God’s purposes and the glory of Christ no matter the season. Those who focus on the times and “signs” get distracted from the main goal of kingdom work. Also, they oftentimes get more worried about their “eternal security” and less about the ministries of mercy and compassion we are called to participate in for the sake of others. So do not worry when people either doubt Christ’s coming or try to prove its imminence. Keep your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and the work of the kingdom and let God handle the times and the signs. That way, whether Jesus comes now or in ten thousand years, you will be ready no matter what.
Journaling Focus: This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.
God is creating so much goodness even in the middle of a fallen world. God’s intention is to restore all of creation under the shalom rule of God. As you write this week, reflect on those elements of our world that do and do not reflect God’s purposes. How might God be moving within those ungodly contexts to redeem and restore? How is God working to promote goodness? How might you join in this work? Examine the world around you and ask God to identify the goodness that is just starting to be born within the world. As you reflect, take comfort in knowing that the goodness of God, that is about to spring forth, is eternal and will win over evil.
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Read and sing the hymn My Hope Is Built. By following the link, you can access the text and audio files for the hymn at Hymnary.org. Pay special attention to what this hymn says about our complete dependence on God. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed.
There is much violence in our world. Pray for those who are victims of violence, that they might know the peace and presence of the Holy Spirit. Pray for those who perpetrate violence, that their hearts might be changed. And pray for those who let violence around the world overwhelm them and cause them to despair, that they might know that violence is not God’s will and that God will one day fully overcome evil with good.
Meditation Focus: Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
What are you building in your life that will not last? Imagine our Lord coming to you and examining your life. Within you are the things you are building in your life, all represented by some kind of structure. For instance, you have a building called Family, a statue called faith, a wall called Work, and so on. Jesus looks at these structures brick by brick and stone by stone. Does Jesus remove any brick or stone? Does Jesus throw down any structures in their entirety? What are Jesus’s thoughts about what you are constructing with your life? What about these structures will stand and remain for all eternity? Use Jesus’s evaluation to lead you in your future work of building. Build what will last. Tear down that which is not of God.
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- What eternal work have you participated in?
- How have you kept your focus on Christ?
- What distractions have you faced from the world?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Fast from negative information, even for just a day. Perhaps that will mean not watching the news or reading it on the internet. Maybe that will mean avoiding social media or talking to a negative acquaintance. It will definitely mean not participating in gossip. How does surrounding yourself with positivity feel? This is not a call to ignore the real social and humanitarian crises of our age, but an invitation to find your source and foundation in the good news of God. How can you foster a positive, God-centered outlook, even in the midst of worldwide chaos?
Breath Prayer: LORD God, prepare us for your kingdom.