Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012-What's Going On Here?

 Consider the following headlines concerning 2012 events in America:

  • According to USA Today, 2012 may be known as "The Year of The Cheater," with such high-profile figures like Lance Armstrong and Gen. David Petraeus being caught up in cheating scandals.    "Dishonesty Was On Display Everywhere In 2012"
  • The U.S. is about to hit the debt ceiling limit on Monday, Dec. 31.  The national debt at the end of the year stands at a staggering 16.4 trillion dollars.
  • Unless Congress acts by the end of the year, we are poised to go off a "fiscal cliff" to begin 2013. According "it could lead to recession, a big jump in unemployment and financial market turmoil..."
  • 2011 and 2012 now rank as the two costliest years for natural disasters in U.S. history.  While 2011 included 14 billion-dollar weather events, 2012 followed in close behind with 11 billion-dollar events.   According to The Guardian newspaper, "The 11 billion-dollar events of 2012 include seven severe thunderstorm outbreaks, two hurricanes, the drought and wildfires. NOAA put the death toll from these events at 349."  The clean-up from Superstorm Sandy could easily reach over 100 billion, and the bill for the 2012 drought could be far bigger.
  • According to an AP poll, mass shootings in America was the top 2012 story on the minds of Americans.  After twelve people were killed in a theater in Aurora, CO on July 20, the second-worst school shooting in American history took place in Newtown, CT on December 14, when a deranged gunman broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School and massacred 26 people, including 20 school children.
  • Americans went to the polls in November and re-elected Barack Obama for a second term, re-installing the most pro-abortion, anti-family, and fiscally irresponsible administration in U.S. history (see this link to my post in October-
This list doesn't even include the possible pending implosion of European markets due to the Greek debt crisis, which could have dire repercussions on an already weak American economy.  Nor does it include the disasters in Syria and Benghazi, Libya, or the increasing likelihood of the Middle East exploding into war as Iran seeks to acquire a nuclear weapon.

Even the most optimistic person has to look at 2012 and shake their head.  Scandals, political gridlock, massive natural disasters, mass killings...and on and on.  We have to ask, "What's going on here? While we in America have certainly faced our share of difficulties in the past, it's evident to me that the number and scale of catastrophic events in the past few years has risen dramatically.  You would have to a card-carrying member of Head-In-The-Sand Society to refuse to acknowledge that these are not normal times! But what does it all mean?  And, what, if anything, can we do about it?

Would it surprise you to know that you likely have a book in your house that predicted this very scenario?  If you have a Bible, look at these words of Jesus, which he spoke almost 2,000 years ago:

 "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes."  Matt 24:7

"Because lawlessness is increased,most people’s love will grow cold."Matt 24:12

“Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven." Luke 21:10,11

Jesus spoke often in his ministry of The Last Days, a time of great world-wide tumult right before his return.  He predicted that there would be great wars (the two most costly wars in world history were fought in the last 100 years), earthquakes (six of the top ten earthquakes in world history in terms of deaths have taken place since 1900, famines and plagues.  

Jesus also predicted that the love of many in the church would grow cold in the last days.  Those of us who are part of that church can readily see that prediction is sadly being fulfilled today.  Liberal theology has sapped the strength of many once-great religious institutions, while entertainment-driven megachurches often give a watered-down version of the gospel to those seeking for truth. Even among bible-believing Christians, there is a lack of fervor and a passive indifference to the plight of those around us who need the light that Christ graciously gave to us in the gospel. 

Consider these words from Paul's second letter to Timothy:

"But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power..." II Timothy 3:1-5 (NKJV)

Sounds a lot like the world today, don't you think?

So what should we do in response to these "perilous times?"

First of all, while we acknowledge that these are difficult times and we may very well be headed into much worse times, I believe that there is no reason to despair.  You see, Jesus (and others) gave us these prophecies for a reason, and that reason is so we would be ready and not be taken unaware.

I'd like to outline a few things that we are doing and that you may consider doing as preparation for difficult times:

  1. Be prepared financially-For those dealing with financial debt, this would be an excellent time to work hard at disposing of it.  If we face an economic implosion, I believe those who owe the least may fair much better through the crisis than those who are burdened down with debt.
  2. Stock up on food staples-The pastor of the church which I attend has been encouraging us for months to build up a family food supply, so that if we have a natural disaster or a financial implosion, we will have something to fall back on. I think he's right.  As a Christian, I also want to have enough to give to others in need if we face a time in America when food becomes scarce or expensive.  
  3. Be prepared spiritually-  This one is far more important than any physical preparations we might make.   His church in America is in a very weak and cold condition overall right now, but even now Jesus is calling out those who he wants to bring to himself. It's a time to really get serious with God, imploring Him in brokenness and repentance to send revival to His apostate church. Prayer and fasting are two of the spiritual disciplines that I believe the Lord is calling His true believers to right now.  I'm praying for a Third Great Awakening, not unlike the Great Awakening in America in the 18th century and the Second Great Awakening in the 19th century.  I believe that He wants to bring His church into a state of true spiritual revival before His return.
Jesus said, "...keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."  (Luke 21:36)

It's possible that these things may seem extreme to you.  If so, I understand.  However, would it have been extreme a few months ago if someone had gone through the Northeast telling people to be prepared to be without power not for days, but for weeks or even months?  It might have sounded extreme, but that's exactly what happened when Superstorm Sandy hit.  A month ago, it would have sounded extreme to suggest that schools post armed guards, but it doesn't sound extreme at all to me after the Sandy Hook tragedy.  

I hope I'm wrong.  I hope that we have more time.  However, if I am wrong and people take the advice above, they will still be better off than they were before.  If I'm right, well...

One other piece of advice.  The above is addressed primarily to believers in Christ.  However, if you are not a believer, please consider the claims of Christ and don't blow them off.  I would suggest that you read the Bible---the Book of John is a good place to start.  Another good resource is "The Case For Christ" by Lee Strobel.  ( Strobel was an investigative journalist and an atheist who was honest enough to study the claims for Christ for himself.  He became a believer and wrote this book describing his spiritual quest.  Finally, I would be glad to talk to you myself about the claims of Christ.  I would be delighted to help you in your spiritual journey.

As I stated above, this is no time for despair,  but I believe it is a time to get ready.  Actually, it's kind of exciting, because all these things portend the Second Coming of Christ, a time when he will call all believers home to be with him. Something to look forward to!

Want to read more?  Here's links to some of my more popular posts:
Lincoln & Obama-Two Views of Welfare
TR on Lincoln-The Great Statesman
A Christmas Story-Put It On My Account
Reflections On 30 Years of Marriage-Part 1

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Story

"Put It On My Account"

It was three days before Christmas.

A middle-aged lady came into the tire store where I work to get her free tire rotation, which comes with a vehicle inspection.

The tech gave me the completed ticket so that I could check her out.
"Be sure to notice the inspection report," he said.

The inspection report is very detailed.
This vehicle needs a lot of work.  
Tires and alignment. 
Front brakes and rotors. 
Rear brakes and rotors.

"Your vehicle needs some work," I explained to the lady.

Her eyes got big.  
"What kind of work?"

I started with the wipers, thinking I need to break it to her gently.

As I went through the list with her, I could see her shoulders start to sag.  The more I read, the more she slumped down.

"Can you tell me how much?"  I give her a rough estimate.  She slumped further.

I'm thinking, "Am I going to have to call the paramedics?"  I'm worried.

"Can you print this out for me?" she asked.  I worked up a completed estimate, giving her all the discounts I could think of. Still, it's a big bill.

 When she sees the completed bill, she just broke down and sobbed.

"I just lost my husband."  She has no money.  No way to get the money.

I put my arm around her gently.  I felt almost as down as she was.   Inside I'm crying "Lord, you've got to help this lady!"  Feeling so helpless.

I tried to wish her a Merry Christmas as she left, but it kind of fell flat.  I felt terrible.  "Lord, you've got to help this lady!  It's right before Christmas!"  

A local businessman was standing off to the side.  I didn't realize he had heard the whole thing.  He came up to me. 

"Do you think she's legit?"  he asked me.  "I mean, I know you see a lot of people trying to take advantage."  I explained to him that I have no doubts that she's legitimately in need. She didn't ask me for anything.

He looked up at me...

"Put it on my account."

I looked at him...

"Do you know how much this is?"  I showed him the bill.

"Just put it on my account."

I'm incredulous.
"Don't tell her who its from," he said with a wry smile.  "Secret Santa."

I called the lady and left a message for her to call back.  When returned the call, we gave her the good news.

"Are you sure?"

"Am I hearing you right?"

We assured her that she heard right, and set up an appointment for her to get the work done after Christmas.

Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang.  It’s her again.

"Are you sure?"  

"I don't have to pay anything?"  

No. It's a free gift.  No strings attached...

As I've reflected on this incredible story since then, I've thought about what Christmas is all about.  

You see, you and I had a bill much greater than the lady with the broken-down car.

"Even when you were dead in sins..." 

Every hurtful act.  Every hurtful thought.

"For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost."

You and I couldn't pay.  
Without hope.

That's where the Christmas story comes in.  God came to earth to pay what you and I had no hope of paying.  Thirty-three years after the Babe in the manger, the price was paid on a cross of wood outside the Jerusalem city gates.

"...though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich."

"Put it on my account."

That's what Jesus did for me...and for you.

But what if the lady had said, "Thanks, but no thanks!  I can handle this on my own."

Crazy thought!  Why would she turn down the free gift?   No strings attached.  No way for her to pay on her own.

What about you?

The price has been paid.

"It is by grace you have been saved...through faith."

"Put it on my account."

Jesus paid it all.
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow.

He put it on His account...for you.   No strings attached.  

But you have a decision to make.  
Will you accept the gift that has so freely been given to you? 

Will you accept the free gift...this Christmas?

Wayne Nall Jr.

For another inspirational lift, check out my new book, "Grace In Shoe Leather." It's an amazing story of grace and forgiveness that has made a difference in the lives of so many. You can download it here:   P.S. It's FREE TODAY!!!!

Want to read more?  Here's links to some of my more popular posts:
Lincoln & Obama-Two Views of Welfare
TR on Lincoln-The Great Statesman
Reflections On 30 Years of Marriage-Part 1

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