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There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

November 20, 2013

I have been reading Luke 21 with its powerful, hard hitting calls to discipleship. These come with dire warnings of what is at stake, for all of us and for the world in general. There is so much to speak about but it is the following two verses that hit me the most, “10 Then he said to them: ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.”

I read those words and thought about our world. I thought about all the news reports of wars, but mostly it was the natural disasters that hit me the hardest. I have those images from the Philippines burned into my mind. Images of flattened crops, of homes torn apart, of dead bodies laying like rubbish by the side of the road; survivors grieving and injured and hungry. I close my eyes and I still see them.

I see those images and I can see why anyone would see them and think about the end of the world. If I was one of those people it would feel like the end of the world. When you have lost family, home, food, livelihood – all gone overnight – Then the world for you has ended, the shock and grief must be overwhelming.

When I see those images and read these passages from the Bible the emotions are so strong that I try and avoid both. It can be too much to see such distressing images again and again. Just as it can be too overwhelming to read about horrible events in the Bible.

But I can’t turn away from these realities. Whatever I would like, the world is not always a lovely place and nice things don’t always happen. That is why it is important that this sort of thing is in the Bible. Otherwise, the Bible is incapable of leading anyone to a real-life faith. But still, I prefer to smile and look on the bright side. I want the good things, but then so does God. This world is not right and God isn’t blind to that fact. That is why he sent his Son Jesus.

Jesus came to give hope in the face of disaster. Hope in the face of death, and pain and sickness. Hope even in the face of what has happened in the Philippines or what continues to happen in Syria. Now I can’t say that people in the Philippines should have hope, I can’t demand anything of them. But I don’t have to. In the middle of all of the harrowing sights I have seen their hope.

I have seen real Christian hope and discipleship. I have seen the Christians there acting on their faith and giving time to put together aid parcels. I have seen Christians that have seen the need and got on with helping. I say one person gather food from the depot and get a pick-up truck to drive it across the island to those who really needed it. This is faith in action. This is what Jesus wanted to see from the Pharisees. This is the sort of faith that Jesus wants from me.

I need to turn to God in prayer and worship; have my life changed by the power of God’s Spirit and then go out. That is why at the end of worship I am so glad to hear the words, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”. I have joined with God’s children so that we can build each other up, then I’m told to go out, to ‘clear off’ and live what I have just said and sung. If I don’t act then I shouldn’t be in worship. If I don’t act then I’m an even greater hypocrite than I thought I was. Not that I have to be perfect – no – but I should want to do more for God.

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