Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Keep Looking Up! 11/17/2013
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God Our Father and from His Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

As the disciples of Jesus pointed out to Him of the grandeur of the temple in Jerusalem, the place of their worship of the Living God, they heard Jesus tell them that beautiful temple was going to be destroyed. Hearing this, they must have been surprised, confused as well as dumbfounded. So they did what all should do when not able to understand what is being said:: Ask questions. They asked two questions.

1. When is the temple going to be destroyed?

2. What signs will precede the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem?

Part of the answer that Jesus gave referred to the fall of Jerusalem, which took place a.d. 70. The directions given by our Lord were of the greatest service to the Christian church, the members of which in large numbers, fled to Pella, across the Jordan, and so escaped the horrors of the siege. But beyond this each great event, He is always “coming in a cloud” so far as the eyes of men are concerned; but with the growing glory of clearer revelation and increased spiritual power. And all these stages are leading up to His final unveiling at His second advent.

Life has never been without struggle for those in the Christian Church to follow her Lord. No easier path than His has the Christian Church been called to choose. Where there is no outward suffering there may be the inner cross and the death to all that the soul had once prized. Jesus has always stood beside His own wherever they have been called to witness for the truth; and the testimony given by His witnesses has reached the great ones of the earth and reverberated through courts and palaces. In suffering our souls become tried as by fire. Through these trials we grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ as we experience His provision in our great time of trial.

KJV Luke 21:1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
2 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:
4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.

5 And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said,
6 As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
7 And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?
8 And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.
9 But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.
10 Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:
11 And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
12 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake.
13 And it shall turn to you for a testimony.
14 Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:
15 For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
16 And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
17 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.
18 But there shall not an hair of your head perish.
19 In your patience possess ye your souls.
20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.
22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;
30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.
31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.

Jesus has been challenged increasingly more and more as He nears Jerusalem, He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, He enters the temple to clean it out, He then teaches in the temple, in our text today He tells His disciples that even the temple is going to be destroyed, and then he speaks to them about the hard times that are coming for them as His followers after He is gone.

Today in the first of our two scripture readings we heard David speaking to our God in humility as he came to recognize that rather than himself building a house for God, God told David that He would build a house for David. It is important to always view our current text in the light of the entire revelation of Christ as recorded in the Holy Scriptures. I only place the specific verses here for brevity's sake, recognizing that to get the entire picture one should read the surrounding verses of each reference listed below.

2 Saumuel 7:27 For thou, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee.

In our second reading, we heard Jesus refer to Himself as the Temple which would replace the physical structure which had been the central focus of God ordained worship for the Jewish people since Solomon had built it 900+ years before Christ was born.

John 2:19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
21 But he spake of the temple of his body.

The physical structure that Jesus was referring to was being built by Herod, it had been being built for 46 years and would not be finished until 63 A D and it would be destroyed in the 70 AD by the Romans.

“The group of buildings belonging to the temple as it was rebuilt by Herod occupied a much larger area than that of Solomon, and the whole of the temple-mount was surrounded by a high, strong wall with towers on the northern side. On the other sides there were no towers, because the steepness of those sides of the hill on which the temple was built and the height of the wall made it impregnable on those sides. On the temple square there were beautiful colonnades, stairs and gates by which the various temple buildings … were combined to form a whole. The actual temple … was built on an elevation of white marble blocks with golden ornaments. So it dominated all the buildings on the temple site. The Jewish historian Josephus … gives the following description of the temple: The whole of the outer works of the temple was in the highest degree worthy of admiration; for it was completely covered with gold plates, which when the sun was shining on them, glittered so dazzlingly that they blinded the eyes of the beholders not less than when one gazed at the sun’s rays themselves. And on the other sides, where there was no gold, the blocks of marble were of such a pure white the to strangers who had never previously seen them (from a distance they looked like a mountain of snow’

During these times it was required that three times a year the adult males would journey to Jerusalem to observe three feasts and celebrations. During these journeys it is recorded that since the temple in Jerusalem was such a place of significance in their understanding and relationship to God that at the first sight of the beautiful towering temple on the Jerusalem hill, the worshippers feel face down towards Jerusalem.

People in Russia relate to this connection of outward majestic beauty and worship of God as was witnessed by ourselves having been in Russia. The Russian culture goes back many years and they have a rich traditiion of beautiful houses of worship to the point that it was difficult for many to see how God could be worshipped independent of a beautiful building. Our resident missionary shared with me on one occasion that when people are invited to gather with other believers for worship they accept the invitation. But when they come to the door of the rented modest room, open the door to peer in, some will say, "God cannot live here," shut the door and leave.

Our forefathers (Finnish) came over from the Old Country with the clothes on their back and began to build their lives in this country. Since they were members of the body of Christ, they built houses of worship which were very modest and simple since money was very scarce. Over the years there has been a tendency for us in our tradition to not appreciate fully the beauty and majesty of the outward building of worship, perhaps because that is all we have ever known. But regardless of whether we have great beauty and magnificence or whether we have simplicity and modesty in our houses of worship, there has always been a direct link between outward things and the inward things.

In our text today we see the prediction of the temple's (the outward) destruction by Jesus. He had been teaching in the temple for quite some time now, had gone in to drive out those who had made it a den of thieves and now it was time to point to Himself as the True Temple, the One who had been prophesied throughout the Old Testament. The old must be taken away so that the New Temple may be seen.

This was no small statement for the apostles to hear, for what would they be left with when the temple was gone? That is the same question the the Roman church asked Martin Luther when he told them that they do not need all the outward practices that had been elevated to a place of being required. In response to the question of "What will we give the people if we take all those things away?" Martin Luther said" Give them Christ."

It is the same question that some had when we razed our old church as they were upset that we had destroyed God by taking the building down. Just as Jesus pointed to the taking away of the external, so likewise we all must come to the place where we realize that it is Christ alone who is the True Temple that will be revealed on the Cross of His crucifixion, of His death. All must be taken away so that we may receive that which God has always intended us to receive: The forgiveness of our sins through the Promise that was made in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) and which He has progressively brought forth through the years until the fullness of time arrived:

Galatians 4: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

In our text today, Jesus is not so much interested in answering their questions, but is more interested in teaching them how to navigate through the tough times that are coming as they will be in harm's way because of the inability of the Jewish leaders to see and understand Who Jesus was and of the nature of His kingdom. They, the Jewish leaders, would in the end be the ones who delivered Him up to be tortured, crucified unto death. And the great irony of all that is that in doing so, they would be providing means for the forgiveness of their sins through faith in His Name.

He warns them to not be deceived by those who claim to be Christ or to represent Christ, to not be afraid of the disorder in the world, and that there will be earthquakes, famines, pestilences; fearful sights and great signs from heaven before the end comes, but above all to "Keep looking Up."

He tells them that they are going to be given opportunity to give their testimony of faith before the leaders, that they should be confident that they will be given words to speak by Him, they will be betrayed by family and friends, and even some of them will become a martyr for His cause. They will be hated by all men, but if they persevere to the end, they will in losing their life gain it. In other words, "Keep Looking Up."

He then recounts the fall of Jerusalem that He sees in the future, detailing those horrible events and the terrible suffering that was in the future due to the judgment of God as verse 22 implies. One only need to read the historian Josephus to get a sense of the horrific suffering that came upon the city at that time.

Whether it is for a first century Christian or for us today, there have been and are those who are saying that I am Christ by their teaching and preaching as being representative of the truths of the Scripture. There are plenty of wars and fightings among the nations and among all people, and there are plenty of hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, typhoons, etc. There are plenty of people who have predicted, are predicting and will in the future predict the end times events based on their knowledge of Scripture. Through these so called prophets many have been, are being and will be deceived into false beliefs. We must "Keep Looking Up" to the Christ of the Scriptures.

Luke 21:25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

Christ came first to buy us back, to restore us to God our Father, our rightful Father, the One who decided for us in Christ Jesus. As we have looked up to the cross to rightly understand and know both our guilt and of His forgiveness of our sins because of love, we often look up during our lives here on this decaying earth. We look up in thankfulness and in supplication as we recognize that life is lived through Him, in Him and for Him. We look up at the empty cross, which reminds us that He arose, but we do not skip the necessity and the meaning of the cross.

Yes, we look up daily for all our needs as a child looks to their father, but much more so, we look up awaiting the final coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Our entire being is lived because of His saving work of grace for us and toward us. He richly forgives us each day because of His love and kindness towards us, and because of this experienced reality, we live in peace and joy.

He knowing that we often have need of assurance has left us with means by which we can experience anew His grace toward us through physical signs, which we call sacraments: A visible means of invisible grace. Today we partake of Holy Communion with Him, as He draws near to us to assure us of the forgiveness of our sins in His Name and in His Blood. He comes to us with these gifts of grace and desires that we would rejoice in Him and celebrate with Him and with one another of this indescribable gift of salvation through Him.
It is in the renewing of this gift in our mind, heart and soul that we are quickened to look up, knowing that our redemption draws near, a day of which the Father alone knows the day and the hour.

May we not be deceived, may we not be fearful, may we be patient, may we perservere, and may we grow in our longing and desire to be with Him forever and forever.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and until that day when faith becomes sight.....

May we keep looking up!

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 17 Nov 2013 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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The Cross of Christ 2.25.2018
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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*Wendy and Dan Salo: Strength & courage to trust Him w/her health concerns