Will Jesus Return on Glorious Fiery Clouds?
Will Jesus’ physical presence simply overwhelm every outdoor and indoor space, making all instantly aware of him at the same moment?
No matter how it happens—and whether it happens in our lifetimes or not—we will all know. Immediately.
One of my favorite memories of high school is of ending our Bible study lesson from The Uniqueness of Jesus. That day one of the girls in our new-believer group had an excited question: “Lisa, when it happens–when Jesus returns–promise to call me right away! Okay?”
I assured her that she would know as soon as I would, because Jesus was her savior too.
But I was amused. The thought had never occurred to me. I knew no one would need to call anyone else to alert them that Jesus had returned. But this new believer, only 14 years old, thought it logical. Since I had first told her about Jesus, she thought I would have the news before she did.
Her passionate enthusiasm for the day of Jesus’ return was contagious. She was excited and wanted it to happen soon.
I wanted to want that too. But I didn’t always live with that thought in mind.
In fact, a couple years later I remember asking my mom if it was bad that I didn’t want Jesus to come back yet. She gave me a comforting answer.
She told me that at my young age it made sense that I wanted to be able to live a while to experience so much of what life promised me. There were good things in life that God wanted me to enjoy and to look forward to.
Yet . . . I think we often fail to focus on what a greater reality we have to look forward to in spending the rest of eternity with God.
Do we need to tell our children they need to spend their time longing for Jesus’ return and for heaven? I don’t think so.
When my eleven-year-old confessed mournfully that she didn’t really want to go to heaven, I comforted her, as my mom had comforted me.
I asked her why. She told me that it did not sound appealing to sing all the time. I laughed and told her how normal she was. I said heaven would absolutely not require constant singing. It would better than the best things we can imagine.
Most of us can relate to not wanting to do anything all the time.
But we also do not want to be like the Laodiceans in Revelation 3: 16-17: “I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other. So because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of My mouth.”
How can we cultivate in ourselves the excitement of my young friend? Can we help our children see Jesus as real? And that living face to face with God is going to be unimaginably wonderful?
How can we regain our first excitement and help our children capture it also?
“Fartie Artie!” taunted Arthur’s classmates countless times a day after his tragic mistake.
The story was that one day when home alone after school, he had been playing with matches and accidentally caught the curtains on fire. He had burned his home down. And now the bullies taunting him would not stop.
Arthur was two or three years older than I was, so I had been unaware of his existence before this event. But now I continued to notice taunting classmates evacuating whatever table he sat down at for lunch.
My second-grade self felt horrible for Arthur in his shunning. I worried to my mom about it. I was afraid Arthur would never feel he belonged again.
She asked me a question I had never thought about: “What do you think Jesus would do if he were a student at your school?”
I grudgingly said, “He would probably go sit with him.”
But Jesus would have been a boy and would have probably known Arthur.
“But I don’t even know him.”
Mom agreed and was quiet.
Then a bit later, “Do you think it would be okay with Jesus if I took my little sister with me?”
Mom assured me that she thought Jesus would approve. Fortunately, my first-grade sister was good-natured and very willing to accompany me on this mission.
The next day when we sat down across from Arthur and said, “Hi,” he ignored us except to move as far away from us as possible. This was NOT part of our plan.
My mom assured me that it did not mean our joining him was the wrong thing to do. She encouraged us to give him time. So we did.
I’m not actually sure that Arthur ever spoke to us. After all, girls our age definitely had cooties. Everyone knew that.
But after several days of our odd lunches, a couple of my friends joined me and my sister. Later a couple of his friends joined him.
After a few days of our segregated groups eating at the same table, I decided our task was finished. I never noticed bullies taunting or isolating him again.
Maybe that would have happened naturally in the same number of days—just because kids would have gotten sick of teasing him. We will never know.
I certainly never had a chance to tell Arthur or anyone else that the reason we were joining him is that we were trying to be like Jesus. They will never know.
But my mom’s question for me and her quiet encouragement of me and my sister in our mission taught us a lot about the character of Jesus.
She taught us that Jesus does not shun people who feel like losers. Jesus does not taunt people who really mess up. He loves us all and wants us to show his love to those around us—especially when they mess up.
One day my dad used a silly conversation to teach me about God’s love for me. I had often wondered to my dad how much sense it made to pray to God about everything. What if God didn’t want to do what I asked? If my prayer wasn’t something he thought was a good idea, he wouldn’t do it, right? Would I make him mad by asking?
As an example, Dad asked me what I thought he would say if I begged him for pet chickens. I thought that was silly and told him so.
He suggested that I think of myself as a small child living in a big-city apartment building with my family. Suppose I desperately wanted pet chickens and begged for that. Would he get mad at me for asking him for them?
“No,” said my dad. “I might laugh at the idea, but I wouldn’t get angry. I would explain to you all the reasons it’s an impossible idea. I might have to tell you no many times, but it wouldn’t make me mad.
“He doesn’t want you to be disappointed. He doesn’t want to have to tell you no. But he also knows that some ideas just don’t make sense. Other things you want and pray for could be bad for you if you got them.
“God’s love means he will always answer your prayers in the best way for you—even though it won’t always feel like it. But he always, always, always wants you to come to him with your prayers of whatever you are longing for.
“Just like I love having you come talk to me in my study when you get home from school, God loves having us talk to him about whatever we are thinking.”
As a child, my prayer requests were fairly simple. As I got older, of course, that changed. Then my dad helped me to understand that God also wanted me to come to him and vent when I was angry. Even when God was the person I was mad at.
When I felt abandoned by God because he let me go through traumatic events he could have spared me, God wanted me to vent at him about it. He wanted me to beat my fists onto his chest and ask him why he had let me or those I loved suffer in ways he could have prevented.
My dad didn’t have answers for me when my fiancé left me on my wedding day. But he had taught me clearly that God loved me and wanted to hear from me in my pain.
I didn’t learn the answers as to why God let me experience that traumatic period until years later, but I had learned the most important lesson about it from my dad years before.
What is the best thing you’ve done for your children so far? How about for their knowledge of Jesus?
Many people know that James Dobson famously told fathers the best thing they can do for their children is to love their children’s mothers well. I’ve often wondered why he didn’t give the matching advice to mothers.
But do you know that one simple, regular action is reportedly 99% effective in keeping that marriage love alive? That marriage love is just as important for our children as for ourselves. And their understanding of the love of God for them is greatly aided by seeing godly love in family members.
General estimates put chances of divorce in general as about 50%. Unfortunately, other studies show that married people in the church do only slightly better.
Various studies indicate the staying power of marriages where people pray together as between 95 and 99%. Staggering data.
Simply going to church together seems to have little impact on the duration of marriages—according to surveys. Though my own experience is that attending church together strengthens marriages.
But prayer together out loud makes a dramatic difference in protecting marriages against the enemy.
That may seem impossible.
But what happens when we pray together? If we are sincere as we turn to God, we find the Holy Spirit working in us as we pray. I’ve had many times when I was irritated with a friend, yet praying for her caused me to see life from her perspective in unexpected ways. Even when I was not praying about the conflict.
It is true with our spouses as well. Often it may be too awkward to express all that we are feeling in our prayer. That’s okay. Any effort to go to God together unites us. God draws us closer to himself and closer to the person we are praying with.
My husband and I started praying together before bed for an embarrassing reason. Someone my age had brought up casually something about their prayer time as a couple before bed. I immediately got defensive and thought, “She’s not closer to God than I am! We should do that too!”
Obviously, that was totally the wrong motivation. A sinful motivation. But because my husband and I did come to God sincerely, he blessed us and our marriage tremendously.
For most people praying out loud with children feels less intimidating than with other adults. So if praying as a couple scares you, start with your kids. But remember how our marriages are strengthened when we pray out loud together regularly.
Maybe the easiest way to start praying out loud together is by praying with your children together.
When we think about wanting our children to experience the power of prayer in their daily lives, isn’t the best thing seeing it modeled by parents who talk to God regularly together?
What are some of the things that motivate or stand in the way of prayer with our spouses?
I felt disoriented, almost dizzied by my parents’ indecision.
Parents are supposed to know what’s happening in life and be in charge, right? At ten, my world felt flipped over because of my parents’ not knowing what to do. It disoriented me. First, they believed God was calling my dad to a different ministry. Then they weren’t sure. My mom and dad needed to pray about it more.
For what felt like a long time—probably only a few weeks—my sisters and I didn’t know whether we were going to continue living in Tri-Cities, Washington, or move to Portland, Oregon. The memorable thing is that while my parents were praying and waiting for God’s answer, my sisters and I felt disoriented–unmoored. As children, we obviously found our security not in God but in our parents—and in their knowing what to do.
Our family had moved from California to Washington the year before, which had disoriented us in different ways.
Initially I had experienced great homesickness, believing I’d never again find wonderful friends like the ones I was leaving. But by this time my sisters and I had all adjusted. I think we were not so much scared of the potential move as freaked out that our parents didn’t know what to do. One clear memory is of the three older girls gathered in a closet for a meeting and having a secret “vote.” It was probably my crazy idea. We each gave all the evidence we had on either side and then “voted” by “secret ballot” on whether we thought we were going to be moving or staying.
We were looking for some sort of certainty in ourselves, since we were not seeing it in our parents.
Ironically, the sister vote was unanimous for Portland, but we ended up staying in Tri-Cities. We later learned my parents had also initially believed God wanted to move them into a new ministry. But then God showed them otherwise. During those weeks of their indecision a number of people committed themselves to the Lord and to our local church, giving evidence to my parents that the elders were correct: God had been using their gifts of evangelism. And he wanted them to stay and continue to work there.
God continued to bless their ministry in the church abundantly over the next decade.
Clearly my parents had heard God correctly. What I remember most powerfully, though, is my parents’ waiting to hear what God wanted them to do. I never heard them discuss either the advantages of friends in Washington or the culture and beauty of Portland.
It was simply “What does God want us to do? Where does he want us to serve him?”
As a child, it amazed me that adults would make major decisions simply because of what they understood Jesus wanted them to do.
I wish I could say I began then to instantly trust Jesus for daily decisions in my life. I didn’t. But I did perceive for the first time this important practice.
How do we show others that we trust Jesus for major decisions?