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 Lessons Learned seem out-of-date.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!!
These quotes are taken from Woodrow Kroll's book: Back to the Bible: Turning Your Life Around with God's Word.
Preachers and Popes:
St. Augustine (354-430): "The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home."
Pope Gregory the Great (540-604): "The Bible is a stream wherein the elephant may swim and the lamb may wade."
Martin Luther (1483-1546): "The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me."
George Mueller (1805-1898): "The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts."
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892): "Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years."
Presidents and Patriots:
Robert E. Lee (1807-1870): "In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength."
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885): "Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet-anchor of your liberties; write its precepts in your hearts, and practice them in your lives. To the influence of this book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this we must look as our guide in the future."
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924): "I am sorry for the men who do not read the Bible every day; I wonder why they deprive themselves of the strength and of the pleasure."
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969): "The Bible is endorsed by the ages. Our civilization is built upon its words. In no other book is there such a collection of inspired wisdom, reality, and hope."
Ronald Reagan (1911-2004): "I never had any doubt about it being of divine origin...Point out to me any similar collection of writings that has lasted for as may thousands of years and is still a bestseller, worldwide. It had to be of divine origin."
Poets and Philosophers:
John Bunyan (1628-1688): I never knew all there was in the Bible until I spent those years in jail. I was constantly finding new treasures."
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): "A single line in the Bible has consoled me more than all the books I ever read besides."
Johann Walfgang Goethe (1749-1832): "The Bible grows more beautiful, we we grow in our understanding of it."
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832): "The most learned, acutes, and diligent student cannot, in the longest, obtain an entire knowledge of the Bible. The more deeply he works the mine, the richer and more abundant he finds the ore."
Charles Dickens (1812-1870): The New Testament is the best book the world has ever known or will know."