Brothers and Sisters
I am writing this letter to you on September 11, 2020. As Americans, we all know the significance of that date. The world changed forever after the events in New York unfolded that morning when evil plans descended upon so many innocent victims at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and beyond. I remember where I was when I heard the news (as most of us did, I am sure). I was in the middle of spreading drywall mud on a wall in my office building that I had just purchased for my architectural practice a few weeks before. The contractor working with me asked if I had seen the news, and we quickly switched on the TV (no smartphones back then!). I had a large architectural practice at that time with many employees that depended on a good economy for us to keep busy, so an additional level of anxiety crept in as well. The world was stunned and asked what does this mean? Many of my clients shut down projects due to uncertainty. Somehow though, we managed our way through the chaos, the Lord provided, and we pulled together as Americans. I remember a great sense of unity in that moment and the days that followed. Of course, that unity was regrettably short-lived, as politics and division came in at an even bigger scale.
Four years ago, on September 11, I lay dying in a hospital bed with a congenital heart condition that I wasn't aware I had called Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardio Myopathy. I had been rushed to the emergency room a few days before with a heart rate of 220 and almost no blood pressure. They didn't know what was wrong with me until the right doctor, who knew exactly what was happening, came in. I needed open-heart surgery. I remember hearing the news and thinking-"wait , what? I had never even been in the hospital before! This can't be happening! Thanks to the prayer support that you all provided, I got the best surgeon for this complicated surgery, and today I am so much healthier than I have been in 30+ years. Apparently, the Lord wasn't done with me yet!
Brothers and Sisters, here we are again at a moment in our history in which we wonder what the signs of the times mean. Is the world coming to an end? Many think that the end of the world is very close. There are global pandemics, wildfires, riots and violence, great division and strife in our country; polarization and hate are at an unprecedented level in recent history, and all these things seem to support a belief we are in the last days. I want to encourage all of our members to be prudent at this time and have additional food and supplies on hand as an appropriate precaution to the unexpected. This is only common sense. But What did Jesus say about times like this?
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" And Jesus answered them, "Take heed that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the sufferings. "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love
will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.
Many theologians and prophets have read these words of Jesus over the last few millennia and reached a variety of conclusions and interpretations. The essential elements remain:
It is easy to get bogged down amid the noise and confusion of our modern world and the variety of voices and opinions that scream for our attention. We need to avoid the temptation of reverting to self-reliance and human wisdom that is rooted in fear and control. When I was in the hospital in crisis, there were a variety of opinions about my condition, but there was one voice that cut through with the answers needed, because that one surgeon had the experience that the others didn't about a rare disease.
In the same way, only one voice matters ultimately, right? That small quiet voice Elijah heard in the cave. Not the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but the whisper of the Holy Spirit. Are we attentive? What is that quiet whisper saying to you? It is easy to focus on and react to the wars and famine etc that Jesus mentions in the Gospel passage from Matthew. I believe it is better to focus on the essentials of what Jesus is saying, that I list above. What is our response to the signs of the times? Eternal perspective is what is needed at this moment in history.
At this Sunday's GCG, Dave Knebelsberger will be speaking about and encouraging us in the word Brendan Case brought out at our last gathering from Psalm 61: Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for You are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
As we all prepare for Sundays gathering, mediate of these words as a way of preparing our hearts to receive a new grace that will give us a glimpse of that eternal perspective that is in short supply in our world right now.
Blessings, JeffBACK TO LIST