I was on my way home this evening, listening to the local radio station, when the Casting Crowns’ song “Thrive” came on. As I listened to the chorus I thought to myself, “Yeah, that’s what we sing out loud, but inside we’re actually saying, ‘We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives. But just for now we’re glad to just survive. We’ll wait for Heaven to thrive.'” I follow a blog called “Fire Breathing Christian”. While I don’t agree with everything he says (he seems to have a bent towards Dominion Theology — the teaching that Church will grow and grow and overcome the powers of darkness here on earth and take dominion. Then Christ will return.), but he’s been talking recently about how the Church in America has wimped out on the Great Commission. We seem to limit it to just missions and we don’t realize that we are supposed to have an impact on not just “foreign fields”, but we should be fighting for our own culture as well; the arts, entertainment, politics, social welfare, etc… In my last posting I know I sounded like I was just throwing up my hands and saying, “There is no hope. We’re doomed.” And, if you look at the parallels between the United States today and the Roman Empire nearly 2000 years ago then, yeah…it doesn’t look good for us. But the song on the radio just jarred something in my brain. We don’t have to be like that! We don’t have to fade into the annals of history for generations to come to read about and say, “Wow, wish I’d been there.” In fact, I think we’re going to have a LOT to answer for if we do. I’ve heard that the Church in China is actually praying for the collapse of the United States and the persecution of Christians. NOT because they think we deserve to suffer because they’ve had to. No! They are hoping that maybe that is what it will take to get us to get out of our Western Religious stupor and stand up and say, “We’re mad at Hell and we’re NOT gonna take it anymore!” That we’ll stand up to our culture and say, “Not one more inch! You will not force us to stay silent! We will stand on the truth of the Word of God and we will NOT back down and kowtow to your political correctness! We will not sit in front of your electronic Colosseums and watch you destroy our children with the crap you broadcast! We will not attend your endless of orgies of ‘do whatever is right for you — your truth is your truth’ and applaud the ‘bravery’ of ‘Doogie’ and Ellen and Whoopi! We will bow to the false gods of Rob Bell and Oprah and Universalism! Your Caesars will not legislate us into accepting sin and removing us from the Public Square! Your Siren’s songs by Beyonce and Jay-Z and their ilk, who encourage our kids to dishonor their own bodies and kill cops and treat each other like objects rather than human beings will be called out for what they are…garbage! We don’t demand you believe what we do, but we will not let you be the only voice! And, the firmer we stand the quieter your voice will become!” There are millions of Christians in the world living under oppression and poverty and the threat of death! How dare we, here in America — the freest, most prosperous country in the world — cower in our closets with our copies of “Left Behind” just praying the Jesus returns soon to take us out of this horribly corrupt world! How dare we wring our hands and say, “There’s nothing we can do! ‘Be in the world not of the world.’ You can’t show the love and power of Christ in politics or in the work place or in Hollywood. You can only do small things!'” There is a whole world out there depending on us to stand up, even if it is just one last time, and live out the Great Commission. The Apostles didn’t stay in their churches and just let the world go on it’s merry way! They stood before the Religious and Political and Cultural establishment and said, “There is only ONE Way, ONE Truth, and ONE Life and NO ONE comes to the Father but through Him.” They risked ridicule and beatings and the loss of everything, including their lives, to fulfill their calling. The early Christians did the same thing! What makes us think we can do any less? This country may be heading for disaster, but will we give up in silence or go down swinging? When Christ returns for His Church will it a noticeable loss or great relief to the rest of the world? This world may be fading away, but will pass with a whimper or go out with a bang? It’s time to get off our collective duffs Church in America and start living more than ordinary lives! It’s time to Stand and to Thrive!
Despite what you think, this is not a post encouraging you to stockpile barrels of wheat and weapons. I’m not gonna suggest you start that bomb shelter project you’ve been meaning to get to since 1980. Nor should you run out and enroll in a course teaching self defense and tactical ground-fighting techniques. Unless you really want to, of course.
I’m talking about a whole other sort of prepping all together.
Here we are already at the end of the January. One twelfth of the year has past already. Maybe it’s me, but it does seem the older I get the faster the time goes. Events around the globe seem to be propelling us even faster to either some sort of historical transformation (or perhaps a sort of regression into an all too familiar pattern we’ve yet to learn how to avoid) or an ultimate conclusion.
Oh I know, every generation thinks theirs is either the last or on the precipice of a global metamorphosis that will bring the world to greater harmony. Why should we be any different.
Maybe we aren’t. But what if we are?
“This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. I want you to remember and understand what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles. First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. This will be their argument: ‘Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created.’ They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth up from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the world with a mighty flood. And God has also commanded that the heavens and the earth will be consumed by fire on the day of judgment, when ungodly people will perish. But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and everything in them will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be exposed to judgment. Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living! You should look forward to that day and hurry it along — the day when God will set the heavens on fire and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world where everyone is right with God. And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to live a pure and blameless life. And be at peace with God. And remember, the Lord is waiting so that people have time to be saved. This is just as our beloved brother Paul wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him — speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters around to mean something quite different from what he meant, just as they do the other parts of Scripture — and the result is disaster for them. I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends, so that you can watch out and not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people. I don’t want you to lose your own secure footing. But grow in the special favor and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.To him be all glory and honor, both now and forevermore. Amen.” (2 Peter 3 NLT)
Corrie Ten Boom in her book “The Hiding Place” said, “This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”
What have you been prepared for? Do you even know? Chances are we won’t fully understand till a challenge arises and we are forced to draw from our past to deal with the present.
Perhaps you look at your past as misspent waste of life. Yes, now you’re redeemed and you have a glorious eternity ahead of you with Christ, but your past? What could God possibly do with the mess you made? You’re not a speaker who travels around from Megachurch to Megachurch giving your testimony, watching hundreds stream forward at the altar call. There’s no blockbuster movie coming out in February staring Angelina Jolie or Bradley Cooper about your life. People aren’t attending your seminars, telling you what an inspiration you are.
Maybe you’ve had such a normal past that the most exciting thing that ever happened to you was the night you won the Spa Weekend Getaway at the Ramada Inn or you got Employee of the Month when you worked at Tony’s Big Burger.
But God sees what you don’t.
He sees how you’ve learned to manage to get your teenager to basketball practice with ALL her gear, dropped off your ten year old at his best friends birthday party after wrapping the gift he forgot to get but you remembered in the car in front of the house, took the dog to the vet for it’s ear infection, picked up the box of ladies devotionals ordered from the Christian book store, stopped at the hospital to visit your neighbor who’s in for a hip replacement, and made it home in time to put the coffee on for your couples Bible Study group that evening. God is going to need your organizational skills pretty soon and you’re prepped for that task.
He saw when you went on the camping weekend with your Boy Scout troop when you were 16. You were hiking along a narrow ridge line with a couple of other scouts when one of the older boys lost his footing and went tumbling 50 feet, breaking his ankle and possibly suffering a concussion. Immediately you ordered one boy to go back and get the scout leader. You organized the remaining boys to rappel down to the injured youth. You used the tools in your backpack to stabilize his ankle, wrapped him in the space blanket you had to keep him warm and stave off shock, and waited for help to arrive. God saw how calmly and deliberately you dealt with a crisis and He has a plan for those “nerves of steel”.
Maybe you’re a good listener and can calm people’s fears, or at least let them know they’re not alone. God has a plan for your sensitive heart in the days to come.
You know how to sew. You can garden. You are strong. You know carpentry. You’ve been canning since you were a little girl. You know what mushrooms are edible and which aren’t. You know the Word of God.
Throughout your life God has been quietly and diligently preparing you for “such a time as this”. Your personality, your hobbies, your skills…all have been preparation for His use and to His glory. The people you’ve had to deal with, both the gracious and the irritating, have helped to hone your talents and abilities. God is asking you to offer them to Him for the time to come. The bad you’ve endured, the joy you’ve experienced, the evil you’ve seen, and the peace you’ve known…all have brought you to this point in time.
Ebola. ISIS. Nuclear Iran. National debt. Earthquakes. Tsunamis. The Russian Bear comes out of hibernation. Europe is seeing a resurgence in Neo-Fascism. You can be arrested in Canada and England for taking a Biblical stance on homosexuality (it’s considered hate speech). Antisemitism is on the rise. Hackers in Russia break into the computers of Chase Bank. Child sex trafficking. Sharia Law. Islamic terrorism.
The mayor of Houston demands Pastors turn over their sermons to see if they’ve spoken out against local government policies. A woman in Oregon has decided the day she will die by doctor assisted suicide. Partial birth abortions. Kids sucker punch strangers as part of a sick game. Threats of race riots. Sexting. Selfies. A bakery closes because they won’t bake a wedding cake for a gay couple due to their religious convictions.
Ruth Graham, wife of Evangelist Billy Graham, once said, “If God doesn’t judge America, He will need to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!”
It seems every day there’s another reason to wonder if “this is it”.
Matthew 24: 3-14. “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, ‘ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.“
In 1970 Zondervan first published Hal Lindsey’s (with Carole C. Carlson) best seller “The Late Great Planet Earth”, (later published by Bantam) followed by “Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth” and “The 1980’s: Countdown to Armaggedon”. It was the height of the Cold War. Tensions in the Middle East were at the boiling point just 3 years after the 6-Day War and in 1973 Egypt and Syria launched another attack during Yom Kippur. The sexual revolution was on. It was the “Me” decade. Cocaine and disco. Watergate. Soweto. Pol Pot. The Iranian Revolution. The “Munich Massacre” at the summer Olympics. Hijackings and Skyjackings. Jonestown. The Oil Crisis and gas lines. “Future Shock”. Christians everywhere wondered if the 80s would be our last decade.
Matthew 16: 2-3 “ He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”
The World held it’s breath at the beginning of the 80s, but let out a collective sigh with the “end” of the Cold War. Many still held that the end was still soon, just not as soon as we had thought. Mount St. Helens and the Loma Prieta earthquake kept many a pensive eye on the sky and listening for the call to “Come up”, but still a foot on the ground.
The Challenger Disaster. KAL. John Lennon assassinated. Nintendo and VHS. The fall of the Berlin Wall. Tiananmen Square. The First Intifada. Pan Am flight 103. AIDS. Commodore 64s and Macintosh. And the world turned.
2 Peter 3: 3-4 “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
Every decade, every century, has had those who claimed “This is it! Surely He’s not going to let this go on much longer.” And every decade, every century has had the naysayers, “You’ve been saying that forever and it hasn’t happened. Why should now be any different?”
We’ve seen famines, floods, pestilence, wars, murders, massacres…every decade that passes seems to be a bit seemier than the previous. Man increasing finds more and more creative ways to lust, to kill, to self-harm, to harm others, to steal, to lie, and to excuse himself from any consequences. Atrocities are committed in the name of freedom, in the name of personal rights, in the name of the “greater good”, and in the name of religion.
History has been a succession of rises and falls. One empire succeeds another. Nations are birthed and ripped apart. Like chess pieces armies and societies are maneuvered by the whims of politicians and despots. People as pawns.
The god of the age is the same throughout, simply taking on a new outward persona; a god to fit into whatever image you prefer.
Romans 8:19-25 “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
So we turn on the evening news and we open the morning paper and the headlines scream of another death, another catastrophe, another plague, another scandal, another broken promise, another disappointment. Everyday the world seems a little meaner, a little more ambivalent, a little bit more out of control, a little more narcissistic. And as Christians we wonder, “Surely God won’t let this go on much longer.” We look up, we listen, we wait.
I believe in the soon return of Christ. But when that will be I don’t know. It could be tomorrow, it could be 20 years from now. I have waited these 54 years for His return. And I will continue to wait and watch.
But the point of this post is not that we have been waiting and we are still waiting.
I believe in the soon return of Christ. Let me say that again…I BELIEVE IN THE SOON RETURN OF CHRIST. Jesus talked about the signs of those times. And while we didn’t give us the date of His return and the signs have been there century after century, He told us to look for the signs and to be prepared.
He told us there would be wars and rumors of wars. He told us there would be disasters and diseases. He told us there would be persecution and danger. And He told us to be prepared for it.
Matthew 24: 36-39 “ “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
Noah prepared an Ark in anticipation of a flood. Joseph stockpiled grain in anticipation of a famine. Esther fasted and prepared herself in anticipation of an audience with the king. David collected precious metals, iron, and wood in anticipation of a Temple. The disciples prepared an upper room in anticipation of a Passover meal.
In the Pacific NW we know that there will be earthquakes. We are told we should always be prepared, to have a “grab and go” kit for when the inevitable happens. Yet so many of us, though we know that earthquakes happen here — sometimes very powerful ones — are ill prepared for when disaster will strike. We live life as if it will never happen. Or, we know it will happen one day, but today is not that day so why worry about it. Though geologist and seismologist tell us that the Juan de Fuca Plate that sits right off the coast is capable of a catastrophic megathrust quake that would register a 9 on the Richter scale most people have no contingency for such an event. And when, not if, it happens many will panic and many will not survive the aftermath.
Luke 21:25-28 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Many Western Christians read the “signs” and understand the times. But there is always this thought that “it won’t happen to me.” Though we are warned of what is to come we think, “Persecution will come, but not here — not to me. There will be plagues and famines, but not here — not to me. There will be disasters, but not here — not to me.” It’s as if we believe we’re exempt from the warnings; as if God has given us some sort of cosmic “Pass”. We have it in our head and in our conversations with each other that it’s silly to worry about those things.
Ebola may come to the U.S., but it won’t spread. ISIS may kill Christians in Iraq and Syria, but they’ll never kill anyone here. 10s and hundreds of thousands may have died from a tsunami in Japan or Southeast Asia, but it will never happen here. Terrorist hit us once, but it won’t happen again to me or my loved ones. Christians may have to fear imprisonment for their faith in China or North Korea, but that will never happen here — not to me. To suggest that it might — to say we should prepare for the possibility — why, you’re as silly as Chicken Little running about yelling, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
Now don’t get me wrong! I’m not suggesting running out and buying razor wire and guns and building a compound out in the middle of nowhere in preparation for the coming apocalypse. Having a grab and go bag is good in case of disaster. Having extra food and water on hand (and don’t forget the pets) is just plain wisdom. But I’m talking about something much deeper.
If a plague comes are you prepared to minister prayer and comfort to the sick and dying, including members of your own family and circle of friends? If an earthquake strikes will you be one of those helping those who have lost everything, who are injured, who have no food or warmth? If terrorist strike will you be one those who cries out “let’s roll”? When persecution comes because of your faith will you say like Martin Luther, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.“
I believe in the soon return of Christ. And I suggest that before His return we will endure the signs He foretold. I do NOT believe that we are exempt here in America. But here in America, we are woefully unprepared. Physically, I’m not as prepared as I should be and I hope to change that. I will make a conscious effort to have my grab and go bag ready and to have extra food and water for myself, my pets, and others. I will work to be one of those who will help others, not have to seek help for myself.
Spiritually I will prepare myself as best I can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to stand on the Truth of the Word of God, though it would easier not to. I need to be prepared to lose my job, my friends, my family…my life. I need acknowledge that compromise only prolongs my life, it will not preserve it. I need to affirm constantly and consistently that “The Lord is my Helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” It needs to be settled within me that there is no need to panic, because nothing is outside of God’s control. And I must be ready to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.“ (2 Timothy 4:2) and “…if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. “ (1 Peter 3:14-17).
Maybe I am Chicken Little. Perhaps we are exempt from all danger and disaster. Perhaps we’ll always enjoy the freedoms we currently have. Perhaps the occasion will never arise where we’re forced to either compromise our faith or stand firm and risk the loss of everything.Perhaps things will continue on as they always have since the beginning of creation and, like so many say, it looks worse than it really is. Perhaps, but I’d rather be Chicken Little and be prepared for nothing than to end up like………..>