Not Fair-Weather Followers

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

I had a friend in my seminary days named Dave, who was a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan. In case you have never heard of the Browns, they are an NFL football team, and according to the Bench Report, they are in the top 10 worst football teams in NFL history. But Dave was willing to endure friendly ribbing and a bit of ridicule because, for whatever reason, he loved his team.

This sort of faithfulness through good and bad times can be recounted over and over in more important ways–in marriage, in business relationships, and in friendships. But it is especially critical when we are talking about our faith in the Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.” (2 Timothy 3:1, ESV). This can be expected because the unrighteous people of this world will rebel against those that they perceive to be lovers of God and His Word.

Jesus himself said, ““If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:18–21, ESV)

Today is Election Day here in the USA. I don’t know the results, but I do know that somebody has to lose. I am hopeful that those who love liberty and justice will rise up and vote to protect our freedoms as they vote. But there is no guarantee that this will happen. On the evening of the last presidential election, I went to bed while the votes were still being tallied and the pundits were making their predictions. I awoke to hear the news in the morning.

No matter the results, I am not a fair-weather follower of Jesus. Even if this country flips over into anarchy and chaos, so that the economy tanks, the banks are emptied, and the streets are filled with hatred and violence. I will mourn, and pray, and resist–but I will not stop looking to Jesus Christ as my hope because I am not a fair-weather follower. …”I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

The Warm Light of Hope

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Right now, the world seems very dark. In the US, elections are looming like a dark cloud and whispers of revolution after the election tell us that disruptions will not be over once the election is decided.

The threats of the Coronavirus are once again being touted on the media and communities all over the world are beginning to close again.

Hurricanes have struck the southern Gulf states and wildfires have decimated the West.

Rioting has continued in some areas, and will most likely begin again following the elections on Tuesday. Other parts of the world are feeling the tightening fist of control take advantage of these uncertain days.

Add to these the personal struggles with sickness, joblessness, depression, hunger and poverty, heartbreak, wayward children and those who have run headlong to embrace the darkness, and these days are long and heavy.

A dark, cold winter is coming upon us–something that has nothing to do with the weather outside. A spiritual darkness is over our world and it has settled over the US.

My daily readings in the Bible have brought me to the minor prophets and the book of Revelation. The book of Micah speaks about the fact that most of the prophets were unfaithful, speaking lies to appease the people and to gain a benefit for themselves. And Revelation 10 (my reading today) speaks of the unthinkable judgment that is still in the future for the world.

While the darkness of the world can have an anxiety inducing effect upon those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, it should not have this effect upon the children of God. As Jesus said in Matthew 5 above, we are a light in this dark world, like a city upon a hill that glows with life. We are like a lamp in a dark house that gives light and hope and joy to the home.

Jesus is our hope. The prophets of the Bible didn’t only speak about judgment that was coming for sin, they also spoke of the hope and restoration of a new world for God’s people. This world is not our home. We all need to keep saying this to ourselves as we think about what is happening–This world is not my home!

I’m not speaking about running away, or about an ejection button that allows me to disengage from the world and its darkness and fears. I am saying that this broken world can never give us hope or safety or comfort the way that Jesus Christ does. And while we are here, for as long as Jesus holds off on his return, we ought to be holding out that light to those still in the darkness, longing for hope and seeking desperately for peace.

Hold out your lamp. Call your lost neighbors to the warm glow of knowing Christ. Shine brightly with the hope of the New Jerusalem even amidst the broken misery of the city of man. It is coming and we shall soon see our King. Don’t dwell in fear and don’t lose hope.

Shine the light.

Doomsday Preppers

For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.

(1 Thessalonians 3:4, ESV)

Over the last several decades, many within the American Church have moved from an attitude of expectancy for the imminent return of Christ, to one where the world isn’t so bad and, since we kinda like it here, we should make our stay more comfortable. After all, the world was much more accepting and tolerant of Christian ideals and the gospel message (so long as we modified it a bit and kept all those judgy parts out).

What too many evangelicals forgot was that embedded in the Christian message of Christ is a subversive element that demands that rebellious sinners must bow the knee to Christ and come to him as King and Savior. Somehow evangelicals thought that they could woo and attract the world to like us, then maybe our softer, gentler message, and before they caught on, they’d be loving Jesus. There are still many churches that continue on believing this fantasy.

But as Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, the church should have maintained its course to proclaim an uncompromising message that would eventually result in a head-on confrontation between Christ’s servants and the servant of the ruler of this world.

Instead of settling in for a long, delightful stay here in this world system that rejects our God, the Church and her ministers should never have capitulated to the spirit of the age, and should have stayed the course. And instead of a watered-down gospel message to the world, the Church should have been proclaiming the message of faith in our God who will carry us through the fire and the water, and will lead us home, even amidst a world that is burning with rage against the King.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”” (Psalm 2:1–3, ESV)

Now, in 2020, the climate has changed, and in many churches where the softer, kinder message of cultural sensitivity has ruled and where being buddies with Jesus was the goal, the people of God are largely left unarmed to defend against an openly hostile public. They have failed to become battle hardened and ready. Many are filled with fear instead of faith. Some are placing their trust elsewhere, like when Israel called upon the pagan nations to save her.

And it’s not as if these things should have surprised Christians. The world has never really been favorable to our faith. They have been more tolerant at times. They have let us speak, and meet and even testify of the Lord. But we have been tolerated, not embraced. Why should we be surprised? Did not our Lord warn us? ““Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26, ESV)

It is still not too late to be prepared. If those who have bought into the softer-gentler form of Chrisitanity will faithfully return to the Word of God, we will find that it contains all we need to refocus upon the truth and find our greatest comfort and hope. When we once again place our hope in Christ, our eyes on heaven as our true home, our needs satisfied in Him alone, we will no longer love nor need this world. When we see sin and wickedness more clearly, we will long to be free from this world that drags us down. We will long for our resurrection, for our glorification, for our eyes to see Him face to face, as He is.

We must suffer in this world. We must face persecution. We must be reviled because of Christ. We must be ready. It is coming.

But we must not be afraid. We must not shrink back or compromise. We must not fear man who can only kill the body. We must cling to the One who has saved our souls. We must cling to the promises. We must cling to the cross.

Are your prepared? Are you ready? Jesus is coming soon. Until he comes, may we be engaged in the good warfare, taking as many with us to heaven as we can.