Pastor’s Perspective – March 2023
The month of February was a dramatic time to be alive.
A Chinese surveillance balloon crossed the United States from the West Coast to the East Coast, floating slowly over nuclear installations until it was finally shot down off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean. A horrific earthquake that cost over 50,000 lives rocked Turkey and Syria, with aftershocks reaching as far as Buffalo, NY. Russia accelerated their war against Ukraine, massing 500,000 troops along the border and threatened both a nuclear war and an attack on Poland and other NATO allies. A train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio threatened the water supply as toxic materials were burned off and residents experienced strange physical aftereffects. Bird flu has killed thousands of birds, has impacted other wildlife species, and due to the culling of millions of chickens, has dramatically increased the price of eggs.
It is hard to believe that after Covid-19 we could still be shaken by the state of the world, but the dark clouds have yet to recede, and our anxiety seems to have increased. Many in the church believe that these are signs of the end. Church members are asking their local pastors if the seven-year tribulation is near, as we hear of wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, pestilence, skyrocketing inflation and increasing lawlessness in our world.
As the month continued, we heard of the Asbury revival in nearby Lexington, Kentucky where thousands of people flocked to a small Wesleyan Methodist University to experience the presence of a Holy Spirit revival. Simultaneously around the world, revivals broke out in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Are we at last seeing some Good News?
While noting that the movement of the Holy Spirit will not stop the Church from wondering if we are inching closer to the great day of the Lord, it can change our perspective of what that might mean. Many of us have forgotten that even in the End Times, there is good news. And the Good News of the gospel is the same regardless of where we are on the divine timeline.
Many people comb through the scriptures seeking to find answers to when the end is coming. It scratches our Gnostic itch and helps us to believe that we’re smarter and wiser than our peers inside and outside of the Church. I must admit that I chased that gnostic rush for years. It makes me feel like I am special, like perhaps I could earn my way into God’s love by impressing God with my wisdom and knowledge. That mindset gave me a sense of peace, until I realized that the peace was not from God, but from my own smugness.
The Gospel message isn’t about a peaceful knowledge. It’s about a peaceful relationship with God. Jesus lived and died to show us how we can live, day in and day out, in peace regardless of the storms. He showed us that God loved us, and that by His blood we could be saved. When we follow Jesus we discover that God is not only in control of our lives, but that God is working to bless us and not seeking to smite us at every turn.
How many times in the Bible does God call the people of God to not be afraid? Too frequently we respond to God’s work and will with fear, not of the Holy presence of God, but for our own lives and health. We skip the awesome might of God and descend into modes of self-preservation and ways to control the situation. God’s presence calls us instead to bow down and worship. To take off our shoes and recognize the holiness that we are approaching.
Many misunderstand the meaning of taking off your shoes. It is about self-revelation, exposure, the removal of the things which we have created to defend ourselves. We are being called into God’s presence and we must take off our boots, unstrap our sword, and move toward God in peace and without the things that we have created to protect ourselves. It is a sign of faithful obedience and that we enter in peace into the place where God rules all things.
I have always been fascinated by our need to be the heroes of the End Times. So much of our fantasies about the coming of the Lord seek to create Christian superheroes that we can follow through the tribulations. It sparks our need to be the savior of others, but it completely misses the point of the revelation of God in the scripture. Our impulse to be heroic is actually a demonic response to God. God is the hero. Full stop. We are not fit to tie his shoes or hold his sword. We want to be his shining knights, but our true role is as God’s page (those who make sure the blades are sharp and the armor is clean).
We are not called to be Arnold Schwarzenegger seeking to change the world in a B movie. We are not Nostradamus seeking to tell the world exactly what’s going to happen before it does. Instead, the church has a very different role. Our role is to glorify God by showing love and grace to each other and the world.
Our task isn’t to wait until the end, as if we were unveiling a mystery or preparing a product rollout. Our task is to live daily lives that glorify God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Many persecuted people around the world have already experienced their own end times. Pastors in China have been arrested during sermons. People in South America and in Africa have experienced this facing off against communist regimes, industrial tyrants, or Islamic invaders. And what do they do? They preach, they teach, they serve, and they worship until the day comes when they can’t do it anymore.
Do you have lips to speak? Do you have ears to hear? Do you have a heart to love? Then serve God and glorify His Holy name in all that you do. If we’re still here in seven years, you can continue serving. If not, then perhaps we will see the coming of the Lord as He puts his feet on His Holy Hill once again.
It will be a glorious day. A day that I cannot wait to see. But I can’t control it, I won’t predict it, and I can’t do anything to bring it about or to stop it from happening. I’ll simply live in the knowledge that one day Jesus will, once again, walk physically upon this earth. And until that day occurs. I want to stay close to Jesus, walking with Him through the power of the Holy Spirit every day that I can. Let’s worship God together.