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Monday, July 20, 2015

Hope in the Face of Mayhem

                                     Hope Springs Eternal

     It is amazing to me that hope can spring forth from tragedy.  The recent shootings in Charleston, SC made me more aware than ever that hope does in fact spring eternal. It will defeat darkness in the end. The forgiveness offered by the victims and the coming together to remove the symbol of hate shows the power of good over evil. Jesus himself said in the end time it would be as “in the days of Noah.” If you take the time to read the 6th Chapter of Genesis it is a perfect description of the times we are living in today, just as Jesus warned us it would be.

   We all have unforgettable memories in our lives. The Kennedy assassinations, the Martin Luther King assassination, 9/11 and a couple of personal events have imbedded in my mind the fact that evil exists.  However, the events in Charleston made me realize that sometimes goodness can and will in fact defeat evil.

   The recent act of domestic terrorism that happened in Tennessee is definitely nothing new to America. In the course of my life there has been plenty of that.. Murder and mayhem are nothing new. Over 15,000 people are killed every year in America, 11,000 of them by gun violence.  That is equivalent to a small city every year. The media try to slant one event as more important than another. The only change is we now have people encouraged by outside sources to commit acts of terror. Sometimes people are even convinced to kill themselves in the name of religion. The Jim Jones massacre is a classic example.  Evil comes in many forms.  Serial killers take many lives.  It is America’s own unique contribution to evil, though I am sure it happens elsewhere also.

   Many people point to same sex marriage and homosexuality as the signs of our moral decay and weakness in America, but to me the Bible has several other things that God hates far worse than gays.  When God lists the seven evils he hates, gays and adultery don’t even make the list. In fact three out of the seven deal with issues of the tongue.  Reading Proverbs 6:16-20 is enlightening.  Obedience to our parents can keep us from evil.  That point is reinforced in Joshua 1:8. It makes clear that success and prosperity in life are dependent on knowing God and obeying His Word.

   Another place in the Bible it describes who will be punished in the “Day of the Lord’s sacrifice.”  It says all those who wear strange apparel will be judged. Great now what we wear can get us killed.  The question is what is strange apparel?  The only basis I know to figure that out is to look at the clothes they wore in Biblical times. If that is the standard most of mankind is doomed.  I pondered over this for years.  Then when reading a parable by Jesus in Matthew 22 the light came on for me.  The people bidden to the feast did not come and they were killed.  Then the king sent his servants to gather new guests off the street and bring them to the wedding. They bought both good and bad, that was the key that unlocked it to me. They were all brought off the street.  None had time to change into special apparel.  So what did the king see that upset him?.  The verse states that when the King showed up one of the guests was not wearing a wedding garment. That guest was cast into outer darkness. 

     I always thought that was unfair and then I figured out in my own mind what the wedding attire was.  The first people who did not come were the Jews.  The second group was those who followed and believed on Jesus. Their attire was washed in the blood of the lamb.  To me that meant baptism.  The reason I believe that is because he was cast into the outer darkness, which is hell.

   Later after much reading I found another verse in Revelation 11:18 that said the time of judgment of the nations had come. The last sentence kind of stunned me. It placed judgment on and destroyed those who had destroyed the earth. In this day of global warming it is easy to blame it on mankind.  When I read that verse as a semi-environmentalist I had to wonder if it meant all the roads, cities, canals and changes mankind has made to alter the earth to his needs.  The dams, the stripping of the forests from the land, the oil pollution, nuclear pollution, and oceans stripped of the fish and polluted with trash.

     Having found the solution to one threat of destruction in a parable I took another look at the parables in the Bible and came to the parable of the talents. The issue in that parable was stewardship of what the servant had been given. The final one was a bad steward and was cast into outer darkness.  It made it pretty clear to me that we are responsible to properly use what we are blessed with.

     If we want to keep digging we will find that getting tattoos is not permitted and puncturing our body to wear jewelry is not allowed.  Even trimming our beard is a sin.  How much greater is the sin of not even having a beard. We can get as far out there as we choose to do, but really it is pretty simple.  Micah 6:8 lays out the whole duty of man.  I am sure there were gays and every other form of  degenerate behavior at the time of Christ, but he did not rail on them.

   In James 1:27 it makes pretty clear what God does expect of us,’ Pure religion and undefiled before God  and the Father is this. “To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”  That sounds pretty simple really.  The only problem is that we have fallen so far away from God many do not know what it means to be undefiled.  We have reached a point where if anything feels good we feel entitled to do it.  However many of the things that feel good in the moment, will destroy us and our lives in the end.

    Simply reading the first and second chapters of Romans makes it pretty clear what is wrong with the world today.  It says God will eventually give man over to evil choices and they will come into judgment for their actions.  It does not take a rocket scientist to see that we have reached that point.  A person who does not wish to be judged has only one option and that is to live a good life and pray God delivers us from the evil around us.

      God does not hide what is right and wrong from us.  Anyone who will take the time to read the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy can clearly see what God says he will do for those who follow him and those who don’t. While America may have been on the Blessing side of the page at one point, it is easy and clear to see that we have slid to the cursed side.  The sad part is that judgment is just around the corner and most do not realize it.

     Most of those living lives of corruption admit they are living wrong, but choose to continue doing so.  I have not pity on those people while I do pray for them. The ones I do have pity on and feel for are the children who will be swept up in it all. When a tsunami hits, or a Katrina,  or even a 9/11 situation children are swept up in the destruction,  but it is often because of the bad choices of their elders.  My heart goes out to them and my prayers that God will spare them.  God will do what is just and what is right, regardless of how we see it.  What befalls most of us is by the decisions and choices we make in life.

    My only purpose and hope in writing this is that someone who does not know what they are doing, or someone who does, will open their eyes and see they have the opportunity to make the choice that can change their life. It is solely up to each of us to do so.

     So what makes me think we are near the end?  In Luke 24 Jesus is laying out what will happen after he is gone. In verse 6 he says they will hear of this and that, yet when you get down to verse 33 he changes from hearing to seeing.  I do not think it was a grammatical error.  It was an intentional change that could clearly be seen by those willing to look.  Are you looking up.

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