Christianity 101: Is This The End?

In short: no.

But at the end of another year, some are tempted to ask this. Especially given the state of things in the world at the moment.

People tend to worry about the future. There can be an uncertainty: nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. The Christian faith, however, paints an incredibly hopeful picture of the future we can receive when we put our faith in Jesus:

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death”or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (Revelation 21: 1-4)

This is certainly an image of the future which encourages me and gives me hope at the end of another year.

A sorry state of affairs…

Even as I write this, I realise that it could easily refer to this webpage. I last wrote on here over a year ago, despite this grand promise to myself about writing something every fortnight or so, keeping up to date with my thoughts on particular matters. That didn’t exactly go well…

Yet, here I am, with a resolution that this year will be different, that I actually will attempt to write on here more regularly. It remains to be seen how long that will last!

And, as I begin writing again, with this new resolution, at the start of a new year, I am struck by the state we find ourselves in, collectively. 2013, at present, looks to be no better than the year which has gone before. Even today, as I write this, a video has gone viral, which shows a child bullying another child, while being encouraged by friends in the background. This is a sorry state of affairs indeed.

Yet, I am reminded that we should not be entirely surprised with the path society seems to be taking; a path which emphasises self-seeking, self-gratification and self-satisfaction. The weak and the marginalised are pushed further to the edge of perception, because it is easier to focus on oneself when not having to look at those who are in need of help.

As I say, I am not surprised by all this, because the Bible clearly predicts that this sort of behaviour is the norm. In the letter of 2nd Timothy, Paul writes:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conciet, lovers of pleasurerather than lovers of God (2nd Timothy 3:1-4 ESV)

Its a pretty bleak picture Paul paints, and one which, as I read these verses again, captures where we are at in this present time.

So, what to do? In light of the reality in which we live, what should people be doing? I would, at this point, appeal to my brothers and sisters in Christ, and say we have to live in opposition to the way people live in this day and age. The Christian should be nothing like what these verses describe, and everything which is opposite. A good, simple example of who we are meant to be can be found in my favourite verse of Scripture:

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. (1st Timothy 6:11 ESV)

This is my commitment: that, in the way I live, I will be the man of God who God wants me to be. And, I would encourage my brothers and sisters to do the same.

Lets make a noticeable difference to our culture this year, 2013, for Christ and His Church.

And maybe I can also make a difference…by writing more than one post this year.

On both those point, only God knows, and only time will tell…

Time for Everything

To begin with, I wish to make a confession. When it comes to New Year, I am the kind of person who, quite frankly, cannot wait for the old year to end and the new to begin.  I was quite happy to bid farewell to 2011, and I look to 2012 as a beacon of hope and possibility.

And yet, as I have adopted this attitude over the past few years, I have found myself vexed that my aspirations for the grand new year seem dashed, and after 364 days, I once again hope for a fresh start and a new year. I know I am not the only person who feels this way.

So, I ask the question, why do I seem stuck in this cycle; why is it I start each year hoping for good things, and end with a half-hearted sense of achievement? Not happy with this, I decided to challenge and deal with this not-very-healthy attitude!

As I was reflecting on this, I was came across this passage in Ecclesiastes 3:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot;

a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to mend; a time to keep silent, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

What can we learn from a passage like this? As I have said above, I am challenging the expectation that our fortunes will always improve with time and things will always get better.

Yet, this is not the story in Ecclesiastes. What we read hear is that there is a time for everything; as such we cannot go through our lives expecting good fortune to fall on us at every opportunity.

Instead, we see that everything has a time and season; there is a time to hurt, to tear down, to cast away, to weep or keep silent. Those things which hurt us and upset us are a reality of life which we must face; a reality which we cannot change. But, we can take comfort in two things.

Firstly, Ecclesiastes tells us that, while we must be realistic and know that bad things will happen in our lives, we must also expect good to come. You will no doubt notice the beautiful balance between each of the above statements, with each bad thing comes a good. We are discouraged from expecting only good things will come to us, but are reminded that they do.

But, there is a much more comforting point. This passage tells us that  there is a “time for every matter under heaven”. No matter what happens to us in our lives, it is all under the control of the One True God, who resides in Heaven and watches over us and our lives. He knows the troubles we face and the blessings we enjoy, and He is with us through everything.

And, more than that, there is time for every matter. Every single point of any person’s life is carefully considered and monitored by the Almighty God. He is not some distant and uninterested God; He is close, watching and loving His creation with the utmost care.

You may ask, then, if God is in control why do bad things happen? This is not the place to deal with that question; what this passage in Ecclesiastes does is point out the reality that they do happen, along with good things, and ultimately God is in control and with us throughout.

So, if you reach the end of the year and things have not gone as you had hoped, do not despair, instead rejoice. If all your dreams come true, then be glad. Because, no matter what happens to you this year, in 2012, whatever events happen in you life, whether good or bad: GOD is always with YOU!