Dear Church Family,
I always find it interesting how personal experiences shed new light on Bible passages we’ve read our entire lives. I’ve been in the Adventist church my whole life. This means that I’ve had opportunity to study Matthew 25 at least a hundred times. In Bible class in elementary school. At youth group. At the Mark Finley meetings. At the Dwight Nelson meetings. For family worship. For church. It seems like I’ve studied Matthew 25 in just about every context there is. You know how it goes:
Matthew 24:6-8 “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”
If I’m being honest, I’ll admit that as I have grown up with these verses, I haven’t been particularly anxious to see them come to ilfe. I mean, on the list of things I want to experience in life, labor pains don’t even make the cut. For 30 years, I’ve been hopeful that these “labor pains” that the Bible speaks of are still far beyond the horizon.
Imagine my surprise this week when I found myself in conversation with my wife this week, openly pining for the moment when labor pains begin to take over and we can get that precious little bundle of joy out of her and into our arms. I admire my dear, sweet wife for the grace and dignity with which she has handled pregnancy. She handles all of it far better than I ever could. But you get to a point when enough is enough. This week, we arrived there. With 24 days until Due-day, we still have a bit to go, and we invite your prayers as we navigate these last few weeks of uncomfortable nights and Oreo Blizzards. (If you really want to get on Jaci’s good side, just randomly bring her an Oreo Blizzard. You’ll be friends for life.)
This week has also challenged my thinking on Matthew 24. The labor pains are not something to be avoided, but to be invited. In the last week, we’ve lost two of our church members to somewhat unexpected illnesses. Within our church family, there are people struggling to find work, people challenged by health troubles, people in painful family situations. And I’m about to the point where I say enough is enough. I can’t wait for that day when Jesus appears to take us out of this mess and into eternity. And if there’s some labor pains along the way, so be it.
I hope that your courage is strong. I’m reminded of 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” He’s coming. We don’t know when. But He’s coming. Don’t lose heart.
Happenings at Sunnyside:
For worship services tomorrow, I’ll be preaching a message entitled “Sabbath Morning Mission.” As Adventists, we’ve grown accustomed to the fact that Mission happens out there, somewhere. And it happens “in here” when we meet together on Sabbath mornings. I hope that you’ll be there as we take a few minutes to look at our Sabbath Morning Mission.
This week, our second crop of foreign missionaries will be returning from Belize. If you have a chance, let them know they were missed and maybe learn a thing or two about their experience.
Tuesday Night, we will be hosting a concert by Canadian University College. The music should be first rate. You would do well to be here. We’re also looking for a few more places for the musicians to stay after the concert. If you have an empty bed and a warm meal to offer, please contact Jim Newell.
Because of our mission trips, The Church Board and Elders’ Meetings will be this week on Wednesday. If you are a part of either of those groups, please make plans to join us.
May the Lord bless each of you as we enter God’s Sabbath together.
Pastor Jonathan Russell
Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church