All right, I have to admit it—I've watched more hours of television in the last week and a half then I have in probably the last three to four months. Between the tragedy in Japan, the strikes on Libya, the almost unreported strikes on Israel from Gaza, and all of the secular speculations and Christian prophetic words and/or feelings that the West Coast of the United States may be in for a major disaster, etc., I have found myself turning on the news over and over in a day, and then sitting in front of it for countless hours hearing the same things said over and over, waiting for some new breaking story or tidbit. It is addicting, and it sucks me in. Before I know it I have spent an entire evening watching news of negative events!
I believe that, as Christians, we are to be aware of the signs of the times, and looking to the return of Jesus. That is a great hope for us that carries us through the present turmoil. But, and I am being careful in how I word this, I also believe that we have to guard our heart and our focus through those times. I remember, as an early Christian, knowing some people who seemed to only talk about the end times and to analyze every event in the news based on that. I actually got "scared away" from looking at the signs of the times because it seemed it had, for them, consumed and overshadowed living, today, right now, for Jesus, in the midst of these times—living as the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
If we think about it, the closer we realize we are to the end, the more it should make us focus on where God has planted us right this minute. We may have the glorious hope and expectancy of His return and Heaven, but for many, many who surround each of us it is not going to be a good day! The proximity of the end should, I believe, increase the urgency of the present. For each and every one of us we are probably the closest representative of Jesus that at least one person knows. Is His light shining through us? Are we bearing His image? Have we surrendered to His Lordship that He might freely live out His will in their life through us? Are they seeing in us a radiant hope, or do we sound as negative and pessimistic and depressed as those who have no living God? Do the words of our mouth express one who is indwelt with a living Savior who is full of love and power and might, or do they sound like the same words coming out of the mouths of those who have no legitimate hope beyond their own capability?
These are the kinds of questions we must ask, I believe, as Christians in these days. When the end comes, will those around us have seen Jesus expressed through us in love, humility, servanthood, and power? Will they have had an encounter with Him? The Kingdom of God is a future reality, and a real place, but it is also a breaking in truth now, today. The Kingdom, or the reign and rule of God, is breaking in everywhere that His children surrender to His Lordship and let Him live through them. It is a Kingdom not just of word, but of power, and God has called us to be His continuing vessels in bearing, and showing, His image to the world. It is only increasingly critical that we show the full picture of Him to the world as the end seems to rush closer.
How can we stay aware of the times, but be His kids in this day? I think that we must guard our hearts. His Word tells us of tremendous, terrible signs that will mark the end, and the news makes sure we know about most of them as they happen. But He also says that in the last days He will pour out His Spirit! I love to measure the coming of the end by reading missionary reports and testimonies of His power being poured out in Muslim countries and across the globe. It is so much more encouraging to see the end coming by the increase of people coming to Him, by the stories of Him healing and delivering people, etc., than it is for me to watch the end approach through the bad news only. When I share the news with my daughters I want them to not fall into fear because all they have heard is news of war and earthquakes, but I want them to feel their faith and excitement rise because they realize that their great God is on the move, that His power is being poured out, and that He is greater than the one who paces about seeking to steal, kill, and destroy!
We must, in these days, be a people of faith! We must be a people of confident hope! We must be a people not afraid to stare darkness in the face in the name of Jesus! We are God's kids, and we must act like it! The world needs to see something different! It cries out for something more—some legitimate hope. That is why, I believe, witchcraft, occultism, and other "religions" hold such a strong appeal . . . because people know there is something more and if they don't find it in Him, through us, they will look elsewhere.
So, last night, I told Mary Ann I wanted to increase her faith and share exciting stuff with her. We stoked up the fire in our wood stove, sat down near it, and I read out loud long into the night an autobiography of a Christian man whose life was filled with amazing stories of how God moved in every dimension of the good news Jesus demonstrated—salvation, healing, the gifts of the Spirit, deliverance, etc. I ended up reading almost the whole book to her, and we went to bed after midnight—uplifted, excited, and ready to brag on God to anyone we encountered!
Philippians 4:8 commands us, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." We must, I believe, be careful that we obey that command and fix our eyes on God and His might in times when fear is invading people. It is the only way we will be different and be a light in the darkness, instead of blending in.