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FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
 
 

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

OUR THEME FOR 2011
(Part 21)

THE CROSSROAD: THE LABOR PAINS


“on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.”
(Luke 21:25)

The massive 8.9 earthquake in Japan and the 10-meter high tsunami it triggered caused a disaster. By this momentous event, once again we are reminded that the end of the world will come, sooner or later. Indeed we are already in the end times. We have entered that decisive period in history where the spiritual war in the heavens and on the earth will come to a head, leading to the victorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

No one knows when the end will come, “neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Mt 24:36). And even as we are already in the end times, know that “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” (2 Pet 3:8). Whether the end comes tomorrow (I think that is highly unlikely) or till after some more millennia we do not know. But what we ought to know is that we need to be prepared, and be the faithful servants fruitfully at work in the vineyard, ready when our Master returns (Mt 24:42-46).

Jesus says that there will be signs of the end times. What are these signs that “are the beginning of the labor pains.” (Mt 24:8)?
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” (Lk 21:10-11).

“For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many. You will hear of wars and reports of wars; .... Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. .... Then they will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name. And then many will be led into sin; they will betray and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold.” (Mt 24:5-7,9-12).

What do we see happening in the world today?

  • Powerful earthquakes that cause much loss of life and devastation. 8.9 on the Richter scale is very powerful, awesome, frightening. Haiti is still recovering from its own powerful earthquake. The recent earthquake in New Zealand caused a lot of damage. A 9.1 magnitude earthquake in 2004 off North Sumatra triggered a massive tsunami that left 220,000 people dead or missing in over a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean.
  • Wars and insurrections. There are always many wars happening in the world at any time. Even after World War II ended, there were wars such as the UK against Argentina, the Arab nations against Israel, Russia against Georgia, Israel against Lebanon, etc. But what is worse is war between countrymen. Today there is civil war--in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Palestine, with internal turmoil being experienced in many Arab nations that can explode into truly bloody conflict.
  • Famines. This is happening in Sudan, Ethiopia and many different parts of the world. Hunger is ever present in the lives of billions of people in the world.
    Plagues. There is a great rise in sexually-transmitted diseases which have become resistant to treatment. And of course, there is the scourge of HIV/AIDS, which up to now defies medical cure. STDs and AIDS are still growing in leaps and bounds.
  • False prophets. There is an unprecedented rise in cults and sects, the leaders of whom all claim to speak for God and to proclaim the authentic message of God. There is even one religious figure in the Philippines who claims that he is the Son of God (not in the way we are all sons of God), that he is the messiah, and he is able to deceive very many people.
  • “They will kill you.” Many Christians today are being killed, because they are Christians--in Egypt, India, Pakistan.
  • “They will hand you over to persecution.” Christians throughout the world are being persecuted by the anti-life, anti-family, homosexualist forces, especially in the western world. They are accused of bigotry, brought to court for “hate speech” against homosexuality, doctors and nurses forced to perform abortions, offices and schools forced to remove Christian symbols, parents who home-school arrested, Catholic orphanages forced to give babies for adoption by homosexual couples, pro-lifers fined, imprisoned and their properties confiscated.
  • “You will be hated by all nations because of my name.” Practicing Christians are despised and afflicted by radical Islamists and by secular liberal western powers. Even the United Nations, representing all nations, is moving to have abortion as a universal human right and is pushing the homosexualist, radical feminist agenda. A primary target is the holy Roman Catholic Church, which is the only strong institution standing in the way of the dark forces. The Holy Father is made the object of maligning and hate.
  • “Many will be led into sin.” The darkness of sin in the world today is unprecedented. Many Christian values have been overturned. There is abortion, contraception, divorce, same-sex marriage, incest, sodomy, sexual perversity, greed, corruption, crime, etc. The evil situation in the world is the same as merited the great flood during Noah’s time, or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • “The love of many will grow cold.” Today we see the great Christian nations of old, those that sent out missionaries, such as Spain, Ireland, France, in the name of God’s love, have become secular and liberal. These nations are now at the forefront of pushing the homosexualist agenda and dissent within the Church.

We are indeed in the end times.

But that is cause for joy, because these labor pains point to the imminent return in glory of our Lord Jesus. “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Lk 21:28).

How do we conduct ourselves? We will be challenged and afflicted, so we need to persevere. “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Lk 21:19). We must know that even as we are laid low, there is hope (the lesson of Lamentations). We must know that even when we are severely afflicted, God is working to purify us and deepen our relationship with Him, and we will triumph in His love in the end (the lesson of Job).

We are to plod on, being faithful to our calling. And even those times of great testing, knowing that our salvation is at hand, will be times of great rejoicing. The reality of the final time of tribulation is that “according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Pet 3:13).

Now there are two very important things we need to continue to live out. These have to do with God’s call to us, which we should do in season or out of season. But in relation to the end of time and looking to our Lord’s return in glory, these two things become even more urgent. What are these two? We are to continue in our walking the path of holiness, and we are to continue with our work of evangelization. These are the internal and external dimensions of our faith. We are to grow in the image and likeness of God, and we are to proclaim God’s salvation to the ends of the earth.

When we do these two, we actually prepare the world for the end, and we actually hasten the return of our Lord.

First, we are called to holiness. “Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Pet 3:11-12a). The world needs to be prepared for the Master’s return. We need to become worthy to be with him eternally in heaven. How that happens is by our holiness of life. When people are ready, then Jesus will return. So let us “be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him” (2 Pet 3:14b).

Second, we must do the work of evangelization. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Mt 24:14). Jesus commissioned his disciples to “go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15). Jesus had already won salvation for humanity, but people need to accept that salvation. For them to call on the name of the Lord and be saved, they need to believe, after they have heard the gospel, which is preached by those who are sent (Rom 10:13-15a). Thus Jesus sends his disciples. All those who claim to be Christians are thus sent. But more so those, like us in CFC-FFL, who have been specifically called by God to be evangelizers and missionaries. God wants all people to have the opportunity to hear the gospel, and then they decide for themselves how to respond. “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9). God wants all to be saved, but it depends on their response, and on whether Christ’s disciples will proclaim the gospel. When the gospel is proclaimed throughout the world (and the rapid development of communications media helps make this possible), then our Lord will return.

The great flood in Noah’s time destroyed the population of the world, as “the world that then existed was destroyed, deluged with water.” (2 Pet 3:6). The tsunami we witnessed in Japan is a warning sign. We also saw that fires raged all along the coastline of Japan. This too is a warning. “The present heavens and earth have been reserved by the same word for fire, kept for the day of judgment and of destruction of the godless.” (2 Pet 3:7).

The Lord is indeed coming. We do not know when, but in his goodness Jesus has forewarned us and pointed out the signs to us. Indeed, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire” (2 Pet 3:10a). What just happened to Japan is a small foretaste. There was the mighty roar beneath the sea caused by the massive earthquake, followed by the loud roar of the tsunami assaulting the shore and beyond, and finally igniting the fires that raged all along the coastline.

What have all of these to do with us in CFC-FFL? Well, we have been called by God to be a holy people and to be His evangelizers, and to do it massively throughout the world. Our response has a bearing on the situation of our nation, which itself is at the crossroads, and on the whole world, which now we see is coming so much closer to the ultimate crossroad at the end of time.

Allow the Lord to expand your vision, to see His divine perspective, to see beyond your own selfish circumstances and to know that God is depending on you, together with all disciples, for the salvation of the world.

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan, as well as all the turmoil and evil in the world, should prod us to greater fidelity to God’s call to us. We are not to be afraid but rather, “when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Lk 21:28).

Then the whole world “will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Lk 21:27). By our response, we can make that happen sooner. In the meantime, we work, with the very strength of God (Is 49:5).

Jesus says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Rev 22:20a). May we be able to confidently say, “Come, Lord, we are ready. We have done our work.” May we wholeheartedly proclaim, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20b).

(March 12, 2011)

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