Saturday, July 4, 2015

Stability For Our Times

It would be a joy to be able to write on this American Independence Day, which is the two hundred and thirty-ninth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence,  that all is well in America and in the world.

Unfortunately, it is anything but the case.

As we look around us, the world seems to be unraveling before our eyes…
1. The international situation has not been as perilous as this in many decades, perhaps since the 1930’s, during the ascendancy of Hitler in Germany and the Japan aggressions that would preface their attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
2. The Islamic State (or ISIS), which is now “celebrating” it’s one year anniversary, may be the most diabolical party to rise up in the world since the Nazis.  We hear reports daily of atrocities, including even the crucifixion of children, that we couldn’t even have imagined a short year ago.
3. Vladimir Putin of Russia is making noise in Ukraine as he continues to slowly gobble up this former Soviet satellite while the world watches passively by.
4. The maniacal regime in Iran is well on its way to developing a nuclear weapon, perhaps even abetted by the deal that President Obama and John Kerry are frantically trying to make….a deal columnist Charles Krauthammer describes as “The Worse Agreement In U.S. Diplomatic History.
5. Here in the United States, race relations seem to be at its lowest point in decades, with riots in Baltimore, New York, and Ferguson, Missouri in the last year.  Add to this the horrible mass murder of nine congregants of a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina last month by a white racist, and more fuel is added to the fire.
6. The Supreme Court has done what would have been unthinkable just a few years ago in arbitrarily decreeing “gay marriage” legal in all fifty states, striking down multiple laws enacted by the people in an act of breathtaking judicial overreach.  
7.  As a result of the Supreme Court ruling and other similar rulings, the religious liberties of Bible-believing Christians in America are threatened as never before in our history.  Within forty-eight hours of the Supreme Court ruling on "gay marriage," Mark Oppenheimer wrote a column in Time Magazine stating, "Now's the Time to End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions." This is only the first salvo.  Pastors and churches who hold to the Biblical definition of marriage have been put on notice that they will be treated as bigots and homophobes by the press and eventually by their own government.

This list could go on for pages….

So as we Christians look around us, it would not take much effort to give in to despair.

Instead, I find great reason to hope

I came across a scripture recently that has given me much hope in these unstable times that I’d like to share with you.  It was written 2800 years ago by the prophet Isaiah, but it could have been written yesterday:

And He will be the stability of your times,
A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge;
...the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.
(Isaiah 33:6 NASB/NIV)
In this increasingly unstable world, Isaiah points us to God (and, in prefigure, to Jesus Christ) as the source of all stability in a fractured universe.

Isaiah too lived in a time of great upheaval.  He watched (and warned) as the northern kingdom of Israel was gobbled up by Assyria.  The Lord revealed to him prophetically that the southern Jewish kingdom of Judah would soon be conquered by Babylon and suffer unspeakable atrocities because of the unfaithfulness of God’s people.  Yet, Isaiah found stability in the midst of instability.

I believe that we as Christians can do the same today.

It is indeed a dark world that we live in…one that seems to grow increasingly dark with each passing day.  However, as John would state in his gospel, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5 NIV) The darker the night, the more obvious the light becomes.  As we live our lives out in faithful commitment to Christ in an increasingly chaotic world, I believe that the opportunity to share our faith…our differentness…will grow rather than decrease.  When everything is going well, people don’t generally look for answers.  It is when chaos ensues that people began to look for a source of stability.  That is when we can point people to Christ, who is our source of stability.

In a future article (which I have since can read here), I hope to share with you some suggestions on how we as Christians can be “salt and light” in this increasingly dark world.  Suffice it to say today that this is certainly no time to panic or to lose hope.  Time and again in scripture we are told “Do not fear” or “Don’t be afraid” when we are faced with difficult circumstances. 

God gave a message to Jeremiah almost 2600 years ago that is also relevant to us today:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.
(Jeremiah 17:11, 12 NASB)

The difficult times of heat and drought will come.  However, we are called to be like “a tree planted by the water” that, because its roots go deep into the stream, doesn’t quit bearing fruit. 

As Paul predicted near the end of his life, “in the last days difficult times will come.” (II Timothy 3:1 NASB).  I believe that it is very possible that we are indeed in the last days.  Yes, the world is spinning into chaos.  We always knew that it would.  However, now is not the time to fold.  It is not the time to be in despair.  It is a time to be strong, sturdy, and stable…as we look to Him who is indeed “the stability for our times.”

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