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My Dear Shepherds,

Christians are meant to be restless people, like battle-weary soldiers awaiting their flight home or a bride a week before her wedding. It’s our job as pastors not to let them get too settled in their tents here. For that matter, not to let ourselves get too comfortable here either.

Dr. Joe Stowell tells about a conversation he had once with his friend, Ben Wood, who founded Shepherds Home in Wisconsin for boys and girls with developmental disabilities.

I remember Bud asking me one time, “Hey, Joe, do you know what our biggest maintenance problem at Shepherds is?”

“I have no idea,” I replied.

“Dirty windows. Our kids press their hands and faces against the windows because they’re looking to the sky to see if today might be the day that Jesus will return for them and take them to His home where they will be healed and complete.”

So let us run to the window lest we lose heart.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

At the signal of the Father, Jesus Christ will rise from his sapphire throne and pass through the arches of glory, past the altar of sacrifice stained by his own blood, past the altar of incense fragrant with the pleading prayers of the saints, past the awesome living creatures who worship him night and day, and, summoning a great archangel and the angel hosts to accompany him, he will cross once again the great gulf fixed between heaven and earth, and step through the curtain of the sky.

No need for a star to point him out this time. No need for shepherds or wise men to spread the word this time. No disguises this time of baby flesh or swaddling clothes. This time there will be no missing his coming!

Perhaps he will shout as he did when he summoned Lazarus, “Beloved! Come out!” The shout of the archangel and the trumpet call will be enough to wake the dead!

Those who sleep in Christ will burst forth from their robing rooms in the earth (that’s how I imagine it), rising instantly through the sky to Jesus as exultant victors to their champion. Those still alive will likewise be re-clothed and we will all be together, finally and forever.

We will be caught up and away from the heavy gravity here that draws tears from our eyes and bends our souls beneath the weight of sin and sorrow, away from crippling memories and sorrows, from habits that have hobbled us and weaknesses that have hindered us.

In that moment we shall see him in his glory, his eyes ablaze, his face like the sun shining in all its brilliance, and we shall contribute to that glory more than all the angels of heaven for we are those whom he has redeemed. We are the trophies and treasures of his grace!

Philip Yancey writes, “I know a woman whose grandmother lies buried under 150-year-old live oak trees in the cemetery of an Episcopal church in rural Louisiana. In accordance with the grandmother’s instructions, only one word is carved on the tombstone: ‘Waiting.’”

Be ye restless!

Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He writes a weekly devotional for preachers on Preaching Today.

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