Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Why Is God Laughing?

I would like to focus for these few moments upon one of the important psalms for our times. It was written nearly three thousand years ago by David. We know it as Psalm 2. In the first three verses we read: "Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against His Anointed One. 'Let us break their chains,' they say, 'and throw off their fetters.'"

During the time of David's reign, the strongest nation in the world was Israel itself. Yet, as the writers of the books of Kings and Chronicles relate, the surrounding nations constantly rose up against David, God's anointed one. It was as if they were taking a stand against God Himself. David's response was in subduing these nations through acts of war. The results were devastating for those conquered nations. Also, those surrounding nations continued in their idolatrous ways, in spite of the testimony of the one true God that was manifest in Israel. And that idolatry consisted, not just in images of gold, silver, and precious stones, but in accelerated acts of sexual perversions of any kind imaginable, even in public places. The moral structure of those nations was decimated. So, let's see if we can summarize the time of David - the political and military target was Israel; and morality was missing.

Now, let's look at our world today - entering into the second decade of the 21st century. What is the political and military target of the nations of the world? It continues to be Israel. The nation of Israel has almost become isolated from the world, certainly from her neighbors in the Middle East. We know that this will only increase in the coming years. Secondly, morality has been shredded today - little remains. There is the flaunting of homosexuality; the acceptance of the breaking of relational vows - I heard one reporter say of Tiger Woods, "If he had not been married, we might have been in awe at how he could perform so well on the golf course during the day and in the bed in the evenings." There is also the bankruptcy of truth in our hurry to be relevant.

What is God's response? David continues in verses 4 and 5: "The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the LORD scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 'I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.'" How many time in the Bible does it describe God laughing? Three times:

Psalm 37:12-13 - "The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming."

Psalm 59:8 - "Bu you, O LORD, laugh at them; you scoff at all those nations."

Proverbs 1:26 - "I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you."

I find it intriguing that God laughs at the foolishness of the wicked. They think they are intimidating God. They think they can thwart the plans of God. I think that is what God is doing right now: He is laughing, for He knows the lateness of the hour and He knows how the victory will be accomplished.

The ultimate reality is that Jesus Christ is going to come to set up His throne. Again, the words of David: "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill...Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery" (Psalm 2:6, 8-9). When Jesus Christ comes, this will be the climax of history. This will be the fulfillment of God's plans which He has established since the foundations of the world were laid. And, that day IS coming because always honors His Word and His Promise.

And, finally, what will happen to those nations that are presently plotting against God and against the arrival of His Kingdom? Really their destiny is in their own hands. If they persist in rebelling against God, they will be destroyed; or, if they surrender to God's plans, they will be spared. David closes his psalm with these words: "Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him."

Certainly the nations of the world today are plotting a strategy that does not include God at all. No, their plans are the plans of men based upon a failed strategy. Only the plans of God will be successful. This is not a time for us to despair, but to encourage our leaders to consider God's ways before their own. There still is time...but it is evaporating quickly. We don't have a moment to lose.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti: Was It God's Curse or Simply a Tragic Event?

It was a week ago that the ground beneath the nation of Haiti began shaking. In a matter of a few seconds, life for millions of Haitians was unalterably changed. Tens of thousands were buried in the rubble of collapsed homes, schools, and businesses. The cries of the injured and the frightened penetrated the air. Children became orphaned. Parents were left without their children. Husbands lost wives; wives lost husbands. The government of Haiti lost its leaders. Many of the United Nations and other relief agencies who were in country before the earthquake perished along with those Haitians they sought to help. A paralyzing panic gripped the nation.

For the past days we have witnessed the stories - some heartwarming, others gut-wrenching - that have come from Haiti. We have seen the mangled bodies pulled from the rubble. We have seen many with crushed bones and deep lacerations that awaited medical attention - which was slow in coming. Perhaps, more will have died because of their injuries and the failure to gain medical attention than those who died in the quake itself.

Many have been critical of the slow response time of the rescue and relief teams. Why should it take so long to get water, food, and medical supplies? Why do so many aid workers seem to be just walking around when the needs are so critical? There are two reasons for the seemed delay. First, the means of getting supplies to the people have been destroyed. The port of Port-au-Prince was destroyed. This was the chief means of receiving supplies. And the airport had only one runway and planes could get in but few were able to leave because fuel was scarce. And many of the roads were severely damaged. The second reason was probably more costly: there was no one to take charge. Haiti's infrastructure was obliterated; her government paralyzed; and the United Nations severely crippled. The United States military stepped in...but it would take days before it would become fully operational. And so many died, and more will die.

I was asked by one of my students: "Max, was this an act of judgment of God." According to some evangelical leaders the answer would be a resounding yes. Pat Robertson's remark that this was judgment because of a pact the people of Haiti had made with the devil two hundred years ago made everyone's newscast. Although this fact has been proven to be historically accurate, I hesitate to made the statement that this is God's judgment because of that pact.

On the other side can we simply say, "Well, this is just an act because we live in a fallen world?" There are some things that happen because we live in a sin-cursed world: cancer, automobile accidents, homicides, hurricanes, and earthquakes. And the Bible predicts that earthquakes will increase in frequency and magnitude as we get nearer the return of Christ. Recently there was a rather strong earthquake off the northern coast of California; and just this week another in Guatemala.

Whether this was an act of God's judgment or simply another tragic event within a sin-cursed world, I will let others argue. But I believe this is another in a long series of foreshadowings of things to come as we draw closer to the return of Christ. It is another "wake-up" call by God to alert us to the sounding of the trumpet. It is another reminder that our time here is brief; we need to make a more diligent effort to reach others with the Gospel.

So I praise God for those who are in Haiti ministering to the intense physical needs of these suffering people. But I am grateful for those who are there ministering as well to their spiritual suffering pointing them to Jesus.

It is time to wake up, Church, because our Redemption will soon be here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Important Events of the Past Decade: 2000-2009

As we approached the end of 2009, it seemed that many of the news magazines and papers featured a listing of the most important events of the just concluding decade. The lists varied depending upon the particular focus of the magazine or paper.

I, too, have made a list. Perhaps you have as well. I put together my list in the light of those events that I thought had a great prophetic significance. I have identified seven particular events, two of which I have put together in one group.

No. 6: Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. This opened the doors to the eventual control of the Gaza Strip by Hamas and the terrorizing of those Israeli communities that bordered the Gaza Strip. Israel would eventually take action in late December 2008 and early January 2009, with Operation Cast Lead, to try to stop the almost daily rocket assaults. Yet the reality is this: the disengagement proved that the Palestinian leadership does not want peaceful co-existence with Israel, for they turned this area into a terrorist zone.

No. 5: Iran's development of nuclear technology and advancement of nuclear weapons. That development, along with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005 has sent shivers throughout the rest of the Middle East and beyond. It has led to some alignments of biblical proportions: Russia, Turkey, several southern Russian Republics with Iran. It almost reads like the lineup in Ezekiel 38. And the rest of the world still does not know exactly how to combat this threat.

No. 4: Christmas Day Earthquake and Tsunami (2004) and Hurricane Katrina (August 2005). These two cataclysmic natural disasters showed us how fragile the world could be. The magnitude of death and destruction from these two natural disasters is still being assessed years later. It was a reminder to me of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8: that the natural world groans awaiting its redemption. And we know from Revelation 6 and 8 that God will use incredible natural disasters during the later days. Could these be the birth pangs? Since those events there have been increased numbers of natural disasters around the globe.

No. 3: The Collapse of the Housing and Financial Markets in 2008. This has led to an increased call for a one-world currency as Russia, China, India, and Brazil worry about how America will pay off its increasing debt. This, along with the increasing demand for an environmental program, will bring about the one-world government that the Bible talks about.

No. 2: The Election of Barack Hussein Obama in November 2008. The worldwide reaction to this relatively unknown politician, with little experience, produced striking images of how the world will receive the Antichrist. The world today is looking for a leader and ready to yield to his leadership.

No. 1: The Attack of September 11, 2001. This marked the beginning of nearly a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also caused a marked increase in the awareness of radical Islam and what jihad is about. It was a wake-up call to Americans that we would not be immune from this threat to dominate the world. Our lives were forever changed because of 9-11.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. One could mention the continued deterioration in morals. One could mention the famines and civil war that threaten life in Africa. Friends, I would encourage you to write your own list of important events for the past decade. It is good to go back and have our minds and hearts revisit what God has been doing. As you create your list remember this: God is in control! There is a purpose in His plan!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Another Voice on the Christmas Day Terrorist Plan

Here we are six days into a new year and a new decade. The weather is bitterly cold, not only here but elsewhere. I heard this morning that it was the coldest in Great Britain it had been in 30 years, and there was no end in sight. Last week record snowfall closed the airports in Beijing, China. Floridians are worried about severe damage to fruits and vegetables because of the cold. Hey, I thought we were supposed to be having global warming. I could use a good dose of it about now.

Of course the talk of most blogsites and talk shows concerns the breakdown in airport security that allowed a terrorist to board a plane on Christmas Day. Thankfully Mr. Abduhlmutallab was not very skilled at detonating the fuse in his underwear, or a greater tragedy would have occurred. Quickly Administration officials went public to declare that the system worked. And I asked myself the question: How can they say that? This known terrorist - and he was known to authorities because his father, a leading businessman in Nigeria, had reported on his son's activities to American authorities in Nigeria - the very place where he boarded that plane on Christmas Day. Another Administrative official said that there were no "smoking guns," no "red flags." To have known that this man had been in Yemen and had received training from Al-Qaeda personnel there should have raised immediate concerns. This man should not have been allowed on that airplane from Nigeria, and certainly not from Amsterdam. In spite of what our governmental leaders have told us, the system did not work...period. Praise God that He was watching over that flight, otherwise nearly 300 souls would have been ushered into eternity.

I believe in airport security. I don't always enjoy it though, but I know it is necessary. I have been through the screenings in Frankfurt, Germany...tough. I have been through the screenings in Mumbai, India...tough. But none compare to the screenings in Tel Aviv, Israel. Since I am the tour leader, I am given the privilege of being interrogated by the screening officers there. Their questions are direct. You soon learn that they mean no "monkey-business." You give them honest and direct answers. Where have you visited? Whom did you see? What did you purchase? From whom did you purchase those items? Where did you stay? The last time I was leaving Israel, this screening took several minutes. And, of course, having a Jordanian visa stamped into my passport only made the questioning more intense. But, when was the last time you heard of an airplane from Tel Aviv being blown up because a terrorist had gotten on board.

The news media has proclaimed that the Christmas Day event was a terrorist failure. If, by that you mean that no lives were lost and a plane was not blown up, then you would be correct. But I think the event was a success. If I were an Al Qaeda leader, I would look upon our reactions and laugh. A terrorist does not have to necessarily accomplish his or her objectives - in this case the blowing up of a plane. No, a terrorist is successful if he causes his target to react with fear and panic. Did we do this? Absolutely...nothing in a person's lap for the final hour of the blankets or bathroom availability. Was any thought given to the validity of these actions. No! It was an over reaction to the failed plans of Mr. Abduhlmutallab.

Friends, we are in a war with a great evil philosophy and religion. It truly is a spiritual battle. It is imperative that we begin to understand this new war in that light. It is imperative that we clothe ourselves in the armor of God...each piece of it. It is imperative that we close ranks together as believers to encourage each other as the battle intensifies. God has promised us the victory...but the battles may get messy before the final victory is won.

Next week I want to focus on the most significant events of the past decade. Perhaps you will want to make your list and then we can compare.