It's a rare thing when words fail me. I love words. For goodness sake, my favorite translation of the Bible is the Amplified Version, the wordiest translation possible! But with all that is happening in our world right now, it's been hard to put my words together, hard to know what to say or how to say it. What I don't want to do is make this about me by comparing my bout with depression some years ago with the darkness that took Robin William's life, by comparing some small amount of suffering I may have gone through as a Christian with the horrific persecution going on in Iraq, by hopping into the conversation about what's going on in Ferguson, Missouri like I've got some inside track, some wisdom about what's going on there, and you all are just dying to read what I have to say.
What I've wanted to do is to just be quiet for a while and try to hear what Jesus is saying about this whole mess. What I'm hearing in my heart is a deep awareness that the American church is not ready for the days ahead. We have watered down the gospel and made it so self-centered that we haven't told people the truth. We've told them that Jesus will make them healthy and wealthy and haven't prepared them for the possibility of suffering and persecution. We've promised them heaven on earth and haven't taught them that they may have to lose their life to gain it, literally.
Until the recent news, it was relatively easy for me to say I would willingly lay down my life rather than to deny Jesus. When I read the current news coming out of Iraq, it was the first time I was faced with the horrible possibility of having to chose between denying Christ or watching one of my children or grandchildren be abused or killed. This is the reality Iraqi Christians are facing and it sickens me and makes me ashamed of my spoiled American Christian life.
I know that blogging about home decor and thrifting and cooking isn't wrong, and in fact, it is a modern day way of encouraging other women in homemaking. But, the past couple of days I just didn't have any desire to share such a post when Iraqi children are being beheaded, west Africans are facing the threat of ebola, alarming numbers of nations, businesses and individuals are embracing an anti-Semitic point of view, and here in America unrest, disunity and strife seems to be at an all time high.
What I do want to say is, won't you take the time to read, re-read, then read again the words of Jesus in Matthew 24? We often get focused on trying to understand the book of Revelation, then get overwhelmed, frustrated and give up, thinking we'll never figure out all of this end time stuff. Or we embrace one verse in first Thessalonians and pin our whole end time doctrine on it. What if we started by focusing on the spoken words of the Lord Himself? Perhaps that's the place to start. Perhaps it would put some perspective on what we are seeing on the evening news.
A quick overview of Matthew 24 reveals that...
-there will be great deception and many false christs
-there will be wars and rumors of wars
but the end is not yet
-nation will rise against nation
-there will be famine and pestilence and earthquakes
all these are the beginning of sorrows
-they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you and you will be hated for His name's sake
-many will be offended, will betray one another, and hate one another
-many false prophets will rise up and deceive many
-lawlessness will abound and the love of many will grown cold
-the gospel will be preached to all the world (that's good news!)
-a great abomination will happen in God's temple in the holy place
-there will be great tribulation
-false christs and prophets will do signs and wonders to deceive
immediately after the tribulation of those days the Son of Man will come on the clouds with power and great glory and gather the elect
I don't want to be one of the offended ones, one whose love for God grows cold when these things begin to happen. I think the American church has, by and large, set up our people for that to happen. If famine, pestilence, earthquakes, tribulation, persecution, or even martyrdom happened in America, would we still burn with love for God, or would we deny Him because He didn't rapture us before we had to go through things that many in the rest of the world are already going through? Would we fall for some "promise us the moon false christ" because he promises us the self-centered prosperity preached in many American churches? I propose we start training ourselves, and those of us in leadership who teach, train, mentor and disciple others, start training them, to stand strong in the face of the worst case scenario. How do you do that without being the most depressing person or the most depressing church in town? First of all we teach them the truth about the steadfast, unshakeable love of God for them. We must all become so deeply rooted in the love of God, that no trial or test can separate us from our confidence in His love for us. Secondly, we have got to stay in the Word of God, and get the Word of God in us and those under our influence. Truth implanted firmly in our minds and hearts is the only way we will stand strong in the midst of deception. Third, we must keep our eyes on the prize. Our focus is Jesus and our prize is eternal life with Him. Nothing that could be done to us in this life, is worse than missing out on that.
Well, friends, that is what has been on my mind and heart. That is why my blog has been quiet the past couple of days. My heart's desire is that each one of us will be faithful, that we will all endure, strong and victorious, to the end. And please, please, let's all agree to pray for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ, for all of the suffering, hurting ones in our hurting world.
*to be clear, I absolutely believe that God is our Healer and Provider. I believe that He meets all of our needs and blesses us abundantly, even supplying many of our wants. What I don't believe is that He promises we will all be rich, live trouble free lives, and never experience suffering. His own words were, "in this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33
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