While my intentions were to write regularly, the end of the year caught up with me and flew past without even leaving me a DeLorean (for you "Back to the Future" fans) to get back and re-do the parts I would like to repeat!!
So here is another year almost over, and the promise of a new year around the corner. What does one say as they look back over another year that went by much too quickly? Words of Wisdom seem to be in short supply. Lessons Learned seem out-of-date. But would it not be a shame to end a year without reflecting on what has passed?
Hard to believe this passage was written 2,000 years ago, huh?
So here are a few thoughts from a year that was fraught with too much to do and not enough time to accomplish it all.
One, politics aside (I said I would stay out of that!), the Church is increasingly under attack from all side, including within its own ranks. Some of the wounds are self-inflicted, of course. And as I look back at the mishaps and misstatements I am struck with one great, and obvious, truth: men and women are flawed. Even though the believer is seated at the right hand of the Father in Christ, the battle against the World, the flesh and the devil is real. That brings me back to the Bible, which is always my "go-to" answer for any problem. I read this passage in my devotions this week in the new Passion translation and it struck me in its powerful message. I think you will understand when you read it.
"Don't be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God's wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things." Philippians 4:8-9 (POWERFUL, HUH???)
Two, the Gospel is under attack and I believe the message of Christ' redemptive sacrifice is getting lost in the fog of technology and social media. Of course, Jesus said the World will hate believers because it hates Him. It seems the Western Church (predominantly America) has been lulled into a sense of entitlement, believing that persecution and anger toward Christians means the Church is doing something wrong; when in fact it means the Church is doing something right! By that I mean the Apostle James' words come to mind whenever a believer complains about persecution (again, in the Passion translation):
"What is the cause of your conflicts and quarrels with each other? Doesn't the battle begin inside of you as you fight to have your own way and fulfill your own desires? You jealously want what others have so you begin to see yourself as better than others. You scheme with envy and harm others to selfishly obtain what you crave - that's why you quarrel and fight. And all the time you don't obtain what you want because you won't ask God for it! And if you ask, you won't receive it for you're asking with corrupt motives, seeking only to fulfill your own selfish desires. You have become spiritual adulterers who are having an affair; an unholy relationship with the world. Don't you know that flirting with the world's values place you at odds with God? Whoever chooses to be the world's friend makes himself God's enemy!" [emphasis added] James 4:1-4
So this passage begs the question: "Whose side are you on?" Unfortunately I believe there are many self-identified Christians who believe they are on God's side when, in fact, they are not. Their lives do not reflect the Gospel or God's calling; their words certainly do not reflect Christ living in them, and their relationship with the World is just as James says - they are in love with the World and at odds with God's values.
Finally, while there are many Christian leaders who would disagree with my view of end-time events and the prophetic Scriptures, I believe the signs of the times are pointing to the soon return of Jesus Christ for the Church, known by many as the Rapture. I do not apologize for being a "pre-millenialist". It is a belief that I came to after many years of study and prayer. All arguments aside, the important messages for those who believe in the Rapture of the Church before the 7-year Tribulation are: 1) The Gospel MUST BE PREACHED AND LIVED among those without Christ. 2) Let nothing in our lives, by word or deed, compromise the Gospel or Christ' love for humankind. 3) Do not love the World or the things in the World above your love for God and Christ. 4) The BIBLE is God's answer to the problems our loved ones face - Your understanding and knowledge of God's Word is the most powerful tool available to you in changing your world. GET WITH IT!!