Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

When bad news has to happen

It feels like I can’t turn on the television or the radio without hearing bad news. Is it just me? Or has the world suddenly gotten darker in the last few weeks? Because it seems to me like more is wrong in today’s world than has ever been wrong before.

People dying. Churches fighting. Towns rioting. Leaders whining. Countries invading. No place feels safe. No person can be trusted. Innocents murdered. Children slaughtered. People starving and frightened and lost.

I try to stay positive. I try to remember that God is in control, but it’s hard to look on the bright side when everything I see is pitch black dark. And then–more bad news. Death. And the worst kind–the kind that could have been prevented but wasn’t because someone was careless.

Breaks my heart. And there’s nothing I can do to fix it. You can’t fix things like that. And you can ask why till you’re blue in the face, and the only answer you’ll get: “Trust me.”

Welcome to the life of a Christ-follower. It’s not all sunshine and daisies. It’s frustrating. Heart wrenching. Because you know the world wasn’t supposed to be this way. You know how things were designed to work. And all you can do is watch the world fall apart and wait for the end to come.

Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

And then, I read Mark 13:5-9.

 Jesus replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately.  Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. When these things begin to happen, watch out!

It’s easy to lose hope when so much bad is happening. It easy to give up when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel or the climb has gotten too steep. But there’s something we all need to remember.

No matter how bad the news is, no matter what dark, horrible things happen, we can’t forget that God really is in control.

Yes, these things must take place.

Did you catch that in the passage above? Jesus is talking about a host of really horrible things, explaining to the Disciples what is coming for Israel, and He tells them that all of it must happen.

Why? Why must it happen?

I don’t presume to know why. And nobody–not even Christ–knows when. But we can know for sure that it’s soon. It’s right at the door, as the passage says above.

There has always been bad stuff happening. There has always been bad news. But the news seems worse now than it’s ever been. But don’t you find it at all comforting that it has to happen? No matter how bad the news gets, it’s not a surprise to God. And even though it may be bad news to us–even though it might break our hearts and tear us up inside–that doesn’t mean God can’t turn it around and transform it into good news.

God’s in the business of transformation.

So don’t be afraid of bad news. Hold on when you get the phone call no one ever wants, when it feels like you’ve done everything right and nothing is working. Don’t lose it when you realize just what a horrible state the world is in. It has to happen. It has to get worse before it can get better.

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Stairwell in Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

We’ve missed the point

I saw a story on Yahoo! about the Doomsday Clock yesterday, just in passing. I didn’t really read it because the Doomsday Clock isn’t a “real” clock; it’s just a symbolic representation of how close the world is to a global catastrophe, whether it’s nuclear war or environmental issues. Admittedly, it made me smile because if it’s not the Mayan calendar telling us the world is going to end, it’s the Doomsday Clock. And the real irony is that you don’t need either of those, or any of the other symbols of impending doom, to know that our world is in a lot of trouble.

Nobody knows the day that doom is going to come, but it’s going to come. And we need to be ready for it.

Stairwell in Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Stairwell in Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Acts 17:30-31.

God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.

If you have a second, you should read the portion of Acts where these verses are from, Acts 17:16-34. It’s a part of the early Church history where Paul is on a missionary journey, and he ends up in Athens, preaching to the people there. This is his famous message about the Unknown God. What Paul said to the people of Athens is true for us today: We may be very religious, but we’ve missed the point.

What it comes down to is our choice. We can choose to change our minds about God and about what God says is wrong, but we don’t have to. God hasn’t forced anyone to do anything–ever. There’s no point to that anyway. God has told us we need to change our minds about sin. God has said it loud and clear for everyone to know.

He has told us what sin is. He has told us how to have eternal life. He has told us how to have a relationship with Him. The rest is up to us to decide if that’s the path we want to take.

But the truth of Paul’s statement is chilling because whether you choose to follow Christ or not, judgment is still coming. Nothing will stop the end of the world. The world has been dying since our first parents turned against God. It’s been winding down, slowly but surely, getting worse every day, getting darker every hour. And like a clock with batteries that are nearly drained, the day is going to come when it stops keeping time altogether. And when that day gets here, are we going to be ready? Are we going to have an answer for the charges laid against us?

Our culture now is practically free of real consequences. We can do whatever we want with no one to check us. The United States was founded with a checks and balances system, three branches of government designed to keep each other in order. In recent years, it’s become pretty obvious that even they aren’t interested in keeping each other honest; they’re just covering their own backsides now, doing what they want. And the People don’t know enough about what the United States was intended to be to hold them accountable for it.

But a day is coming when all of us will have to face the consequences for our choices, and there won’t be second chances. You’ll have two options. Either you chose to follow Christ in this life or you didn’t. Either you trusted Christ to pay the price for your sins or you chose to cover the debt yourself.

So what does that mean for us today? I’ve already accepted Christ. I trust Him with my life and my future, but that doesn’t mean I know what’s going to happen tomorrow. That doesn’t mean God is required to pull me out of trouble. It just means He won’t abandon me when trouble starts.

I look at the world and the state of this country, and I’m tempted to despair because I know what it used to be. I know what it was meant to be, and we’ve fallen so far from that place today. But I trust God. He knows what He’s doing, and nothing surprises Him.

I used to be afraid when I read scriptures about the end of the world. I used to be scared of the word judgment. But the older I get and the worse the world gets, the more I find comfort in that word. Because for those who know Christ, judgment isn’t something to be scared of. For those who know Christ, our slates are clean. Christ has taken our sins and put them far away from us, and when God looks at our record, all He sees is Christ.

Judgment is coming. The world won’t last forever. So get busy. Talk to people. Build relationships with people. And don’t give up. And if you need to change your mind about sin in your life, do it now rather than later. It won’t speed the end up or slow it down, of course, but it will get in the way of what you need to accomplish.

Living holy, godly lives at the end of the world

If you knew that the end of the world would come tomorrow, how would you live today? What would you do that you’d been putting off? What would you tell people around you?

I know I’m a horrible procrastinator. Many times I have things that I need to do, but I don’t do them until I absolutely have to. But the end of the world is going to come so quickly that procrastinators are just going to be out of luck.

Today’s verse is 2 Peter 3:10-11.

10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. 11 Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live,

Verse 11 caught my eye today.

Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live.

Really?

The human inclination is to say, since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, it doesn’t matter how you live. Or you should live however makes you happy. Or you should live for yourself and forget everyone else.

But that’s not what it says. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live.

Holy and godly lives. What does that even mean? The Amplified version translates it as “holy behavior and devout and godly qualities.”

We don’t know when the end will come, but we can be sure it’s coming. The Bible says it is. And the state of the world is evidence enough that something big is coming.

But just knowing that the end is coming doesn’t do a whole lot for helping us deal with the world in the interim. What we need to remember is that the world will be destroyed. It must be. There’s no discussion.

So we shouldn’t get too attached to it. And we should live our lives like Jesus did, focused on serving God, focused on helping people, loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should be different than people who don’t believe. We should show Christ in every aspect of our lives, from our work to our home to the stores on Black Friday.

We need to live a holy and godly life because the end is coming, and it’s coming soon. And for the procrastinators, that means today. Not tomorrow. Because you aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. None of us are.

So don’t try to fit everything in at the last moment because you won’t have time. And don’t let yourself believe that you are all that matters or that the world revolves around you. And don’t delude yourself that being happy is the most important thing in life.

The lives we live here are proving grounds for eternity. The bad things that happen in our lives aren’t punishment, they’re tests. This world isn’t our home. It’s just a temporary place we have to be for now, but that doesn’t mean our time here doesn’t matter.

While we’re here for however brief a time that is, we need to keep in mind that the things we see and the life we live now is temporary. It’s not going to last. And it’s all going to end much sooner than we think.

What’s taking so long?

Do you ever wonder why God is taking so long to keep His last promise to us? It’s frustrating too because that last promise of His (the one where He says He’ll come back for us) is the one that makes us all sound like we’re one fry short of a Happy Meal. But it’s in the Bible. So I believe it. And I don’t subscribe to the crazies who have the day picked out (I think it’s October 21 now) because no one but God knows when He’s returning. Not even Jesus knows . . . and He is God . . . He’s just not God the Father (just try to wrap your brain around that one) . . . . so if Jesus doesn’t know, I guarantee nobody on Earth has a clue.

But do you ever wonder why God is taking His sweet time?

There are days when I get so tired of waiting on Him to come back. I am so weary of this world, of dealing with fake Christians, of struggling with this dark nature inside me that makes me want to do things I know are wrong. I want to go home where none of that will exist and where I’ll be able to hang with Jesus face to face every day, where we’ll be able to approach God and thank Him for all He’s done for us — no longer separated by this wall of fallen humanity I’m stuck in. And it’ll never be night. And time won’t matter. And we’ll be able to do the things we love to do every day without having to worry about paying bills or having something to eat or making people angry.

Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? =)

So what’s taking Him so long? People have been talking about God’s returning for us for thousands of years. There are days when I feel like Noah building the ark, and all my neighbors pass by laughing at me. If you haven’t ever listened to the Bill Cosby routines about Noah and the Neighbor, click on the video below.

But on those days when I start getting frustrated, I think about today’s verse, 2 Peter 3:9.

9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

We humans are always moving so fast. We never like to slow down, and it’s hard for us to remember that God is patient. He loves this world so much that He doesn’t want to just snatch everyone up and forget the rest. No! That would contradict everything God is.

And while most prophecy has been fulfilled, there is still one outstanding. And that is that every nation will have the opportunity to come to know Christ. And that hasn’t happened yet. There are still nations of people who haven’t heard the truth yet. Like that tribe of folks they just discovered in the Amazon.

Everyone in the world needs to have the chance to make a choice. That’s why World Missions are so important. Bringing the Gospel to peoples who’ve never heard it before is something we’re commanded to do. But on that same note, I’d like to hope that He’s being patient for the U.S. too. Because while the rest of the world seems to be coming to Christ by the truckload, the U.S. is stuck in a rut. But can a country that was founded with a Christian heritage (it was; do your research and go read all the monuments in DC and you’ll see) who has fallen away from their roots ever go back to them again? Everyone in the U.S. has heard the truth, and the vast majority of people have chosen to ignore it, opting either to follow their own hearts or to follow some man’s teaching.

I’m glad God is patient. Because if He can be patient with all the people who are left in the world who don’t know His name, that means He can be patient with me when I forget who He is. And while I don’t think His patience will ever end, there is a day when He will have to move. And while I selfishly look forward to the day I can go home, I hope when that day comes that everyone I know is ready.