Saturday, September 27, 2014

Storm Warning

It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak.

-- Luke 12:38 

A recent Insurance Journal article makes the case that our nation spends an exorbitant amount of money responding to natural disasters, but comparatively little toward mitigating them. Indeed, the federal government has paid out about $1 trillion since 1983 on recovery and rebuilding efforts for hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and other catastrophes. 

Senior-level insurance executives say Storm Warningthat we've now reached a fiscal tipping point on this matter and are now calling for a much greater emphasis on preparation. For example, they recommend better construction practices and stronger building materials so that homes and businesses can better withstand storm damage. Their logic is that we should invest now to avoid spending much more later.

It's a good argument. But no matter what preventive measures we take, disasters--whether natural or man-made--are bound to happen. They're often unpredictable. And there's no guarantee that we can actually save ourselves, our families or our belongings from the resulting devastation, even if we recognized the danger beforehand. Although that's true, there are warning signs of a much greater world-changing event that could strike in 100 years. Or it might happen tonight.

God promises us that one day, a Savior (Jesus) will return to right all the wrongs of this world, save and reward those who believe in Him, and send all others to an eternity of torment. No one knows the exact time or day of Christ's return. But many of the Bible's prophesies about the matter have already been fulfilled, such as the relatively recent one about the rebirth of Israel.

Yes, Jesus could return at any time. And whether that's in five minutes or five centuries, we must be prepared for His arrival. What's more, nobody knows when their own time on Earth will be over. Check the news on the Internet, television or in the paper, and you're bound to find stories about people killed suddenly in accidents, during crimes or by illness (such as a stroke or heart attack). As with the victims of the horrendous 2004 tsunami that struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the end could (literally) come out of the blue.

So this brings us to the obvious question: Are you prepared to meet your Maker? Your answer has eternal consequences.

"So you also must be ready," Jesus warns us, "because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Rookie

But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD,
I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

-- Micah 7:7

The 2002 movie The Rookie tells the story of Jim Morris--one of the oldest rookies in Major League Baseball history. Morris was a skilled pitcher in his youth, but his father disapproved of his Big League dreams and he was unable to play high school ball. Later, it looked like Morris had finally made it when he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers. But it wasn't long before his aspirations were dashed by a severe shoulder injury.

Years passed, and Morris remained Baseballin the game through his role as head coach of a high school baseball team. He was married by now with a family of three children. And he still had his impressive 98-mph fastball. Morris' high school players recognized his potential and urged him to try out for the majors. And he did--but only after they lived up to their end of the bargain and won the district title. Morris proceeded to impress the scouts, sign a minor league contract and near season's end was called up to join the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Of course, as we should expect from any good sports movie, the rookie struck out the first batter he faced in three pitches.

Jim Morris' decades-long wait paid off with huge dividends. Such patience, however, is a rare commodity in today's age of modern conveniences. We live in a 24/7 world of instant communications, Walmart Supercenters and microwave popcorn. And just about anything we want is literally available at the tap of a smartphone or the click of a mouse. Meanwhile, multitasking to make the most of our down-time has become a valued life-skill. 

But waiting isn't always a waste. It's instead an essential part of God's plan for our lives: that process that enables us to become. This concept might be hard to grasp because the human viewpoint of time differs greatly from that of our Creator. The Apostle Peter puts it into perspective with these words to ponder: 

"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends. To the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day."

As Christ-followers, we must understand that what happens while we're waiting is often more important than what we're waiting for. Ask anyone who has spent grueling hours in a hospital waiting room contemplating the health and future of a loved one. Did their soul-searching experience bring a closer dependence on God? It's when we're so humbled and powerless that we realize we can do nothing on our own.

So maybe our never-stop, 24/7 world actually revolves around waiting. Let's therefore make the most of our time when we're called to be patient by seeking opportunities to say yes to Him with a sense of expectancy and hope.

"Be still, and know that I am God," He tells us through Psalm 46:10. "I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Smoke and Mirrors

Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.

-- 2 Thessalonians 2:3

Slot machines and stage shows may draw big crowds in Las Vegas, but magic acts like David Copperfield and Penn and Teller can be the hottest tickets in town. Their clever illusions and sleight of hand are designed to trick the eye--and all while convincing the audience that it's possible to make an elephant disappear. The crowd knows that there must be a trick, yet they still want to believe the incredible. Meanwhile, the magician never reveals the A-HA: the secret behind their hocus-pocus.

A different kind of A-HA is that split Magiciansecond when one's eyes are opened to a spiritual truth that changes everything. As Christ-followers, we can have A-HAs when God shows us that we're going down the wrong path in some area of our life. Then there's the ultimate A-HA: when non-believers finally awaken to their need for Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That's not just life changing--it's literally eternal.

When God's light breaks through, the truth is revealed and we can finally see. Unfortunately, the world still chooses to remain deceived and enjoy the utter darkness of its existence. Meanwhile, Christ-followers who are open about their faith are accused of intolerance, bigotry or worse. Just watch TV, surf the Web or read a newspaper. You don't have to look hard to find articles or videos featuring "progressive" celebrities or journalists who point their fingers at "narrow-minded" Christians.

But depending on its context, is intolerance always a bad thing? And is tolerance of evil a virtue? After all, Jesus hates sin and declares Himself to be the exclusive pathway to God. "I am the way, the truth and the life," He proclaims. "No one comes to the Father except through me."

That's not very tolerant of God's Son. And His bold statement defies today's inclusive, politically correct environment. After all, it hurts feelings and suggests that some faiths are better than others. But society's demands for so-called open-mindedness and equality are irrelevant. Jesus has no tolerance for its false gods and deceptions.

Although our modern world may question the mere concept of right versus wrong, God's truth is near for those who truly seek it. Christ-followers have open access to this living water through the Bible, prayer and even wise counsel from fellow believers. We should therefore have less trouble than others with discerning good from bad. But actually living it out is another matter. And that opens us up--and often rightfully so--to accusations of self-righteousness and hypocrisy. 
So let's look in the mirror. Does the Biblical truth that we learn on Sundays transform us for the better on the other six days?

Let's not be deceived.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Can I Get a Witness?

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

-- 1 John 4:14

Meteorologists say that this summer was one of the coolest in recent memory. And with a volcano threatening to erupt in Iceland and spew sun-darkening ash into the atmosphere, some experts are predicting one of the coldest winters ever in Great Britain.

If that happens, the temperatures still Washington Prayingmight not compare to the brutally cold conditions endured in December 1777. They're what General George Washington's Continental Army faced as it set up camp in Valley Forge, PA, after a year of fighting the British during the Revolutionary War. 

The situation was grim for the 12,000-man rag-tag force. What's more, Washington was under attack by members of Congress, who criticized his strategic choices and lack of success on the battlefield. Some even advocated his removal from command. With food, clothing and ammunition in extremely short supply, Washington wrote, "that unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place...this Army must inevitably...starve, dissolve, or disperse..."

And a great change would indeed take place. According to the eyewitness testimony of a Valley Forge resident, Washington was alone and on his knees in prayer in the woods. The tired general called aloud for God's help--and not just with his army's dire plight--but also for all of humanity and the world. The witness recalled that he was astonished at the power and earnestness of Washington's petition. 

"We never thought a man could be a soldier and a Christian," he said. "But if there is one in the world, it is Washington."

The rest, as they say, is history. In the darkness of Christmas night, Washington and his army crossed the ice-choked Delaware River to defeat the Hessian mercenary soldiers hired by the British. The news of the Americans' surprise victory spread quickly and revived the fading war effort.

Although he didn't know it at the time, the eyes of a nation were on George Washington that snowy evening in the woods of eastern Pennsylvania. He hadn't sought an audience--except for One. But his sincere and humble prayer testified volumes about his fervent faith in his Creator's ability to protect and to save.

How about you and me? As Christ-followers, the world is watching us, too. Do our words and deeds each day testify to our faith in God's abilities to change the world? When we practice what we preach, it's faith in action that honors God. And when we seek to honor God, He seeks to honor us.