Given 2023’s events, this may not have been the best year for our Bible study group to take on the Book of Revelation. We know Jesus will return any time, and given the tribulations described in Revelations, people have been predicting his arrival through wars, epidemics, and depression years. But I think today we face a crossroads, and our choices will determine our fate.
I recently watched Leave the World Behind, starring Julia Roberts. It was a doomsday tale where a deadly cyber-attack crippled the United States in one day. Between that terrifying scenario, we face the potential for international nuclear wars on one hand and threatening climate change on the other. I wonder if the tribulation just before Jesus’ return will be by our own hands, with no need of celestial interference. We’ll take ourselves out, thank you very much.
But then, not a prophet, I could be wrong.
Within hours after I post this blog, humankind will celebrate the start of 2024. Considering it will be an election year in a polarized nation, with a Congress I don’t think could agree on the toppings of a pizza order, hate could rule our lives. Will we continue to look on those whose opinions differ from ours as “other?” Will we refuse to give an inch in negotiations because we believe only our solutions have value? “A nation divided against itself cannot stand,” Jesus warned. Will we listen to the Prince of Peace? Will we face each other with love or hate? The paths we choose could make 2024 a horror show, and from the rhetoric I hear, we’re well on our way.
I should be terrified, but I’m not.
You see, my homeland is Christ’s kingdom, where the only thing that matters is his love for me and my love for him. That makes everything else mere commentary. EVERYTHING.
Something’s going to take me out. An acute or chronic illness, sudden accident, or blown apart by a bomb. No matter the cause, dead is dead, and there’s no avoiding it. But eternal death is something else.
If Christ followers obey his commands and love as he taught us to love, we will have eternal life. But more than that, we can defeat evil and perhaps 2024 will be a year of grace instead.
People are suffering. Companies that rake in cash push workers to the limit to save a buck. Barriers surround people desperate for mental health care. Wouldn’t a kind word, a heartfelt “thank you,” or loving words of praise perhaps achieve what the Good Samaritan did? How many times in a day does God provide opportunities to love on people, even people we would normally not relate to?
That’s my working title for the Lou Skalney sequel to The Divine Meddler, and I’m happy to tell you I finished the first draft last week. From a creative point of view, that amounts to having thrown the entire glop of my clay onto the potter’s wheel. Now comes the forming, refining, firing before it turns up in your favorite book outlet.
While The Divine Meddler was about redemption, Sheol Rising takes Lou through tribulations that make his life feel like Sheol, the place of the dead. But Lou has choices, choices that will determine his fate. Will he walk in faith or walk by sight?
In a way, that’s how I look at 2024. To be sure, wars will continue, and there will be threats to our way of life, even threats to our faith. We may face Sheol. Yet we have choices. Will we live according to Christ’s kingdom or the world’s? Where will our souls rest? What roads will we travel and will we ask the Holy Spirit to direct us or rely on ourselves?
I just began reading Jon Meacham’s book, The Soul of America-The Battle for our Better Angels. I’ve heard interviews with Jon, a man of faith, and I’m already finding solace in his book. And I’ve only begun reading it! Maybe it will comfort you, as it’s beginning to comfort me.
I pray 2024 is a year of grace for each of us and that we have eyes to see all the blessings God has in store for us.
Until next year………………..