Monday, February 20, 2012

Keeping Our Faith While The Darkness Deepens

Let's admit the obvious. All signs show that the great darkness enveloping the world is deepening. Do not be afraid. This is the fulfillment of prophesy from Isaiah - hundreds of years before Christ - and reiterated by our Lord before He was crucified. 
Nations, economies and institutions are failing everywhere. But the good news is a far better world is approaching. If we keep our faith in God's plan for the earth, and hold fast to our humanity by refusing to fall into the trap of hate, we will witness wonderful things.
We each carry our own light in this world, a light of knowledge, wisdom, and faith. It is very dim in some people, and blazes brightly in others. There's a New Testament parable about this and the Final Days we're living in  from Matthew 25:
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep 
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!: But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

This is a difficult parable to grasp for at least two reasons. First, it asks us to see ourselves as "virgins" with lamps. Imagine how offensive that image was to most of the men of Palestine and Rome, hardened men who dominated their women and looked down on them. These were extremely tradition-bound, patriarchal societies. Men today have a difficult time with that "virgin" image. 
Second, it asks us to see ourselves as entirely dependent on the "bridegroom", which is Christ, and know that the church is His bride. It says our lives have real meaning and purpose only if we are witnesses to that wedding. And if we aren't there with our lamps (souls and spirits) aglow, we're doomed to terrible darkness. This is a critical article of faith in Christianity. 

We must give maximum weight to the words of Jesus. He didn't say a lot, which makes each word significant. This parable warns us to be prepared for the unexpected, and if we aren't prepared, there may be a final and unforgiving judgment.

Sometimes in life we get a second chance to do the right thing. But not always. Occasionally we get only one chance. The hour is late now. Find your light and the fuel to keep it burning all the time, even when you sleep. 

Additionally, the parable says the oil must be purchased, "... go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ The marketplace is a divinely ordained instrument of God's will in the world, and our spiritual growth is also subject to market forces. Therefore, it follows that those who destroy marketplaces are doing the work of the Anti-Christ.

Here is the prophesy of Jesus about the times we're living in:
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,  but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come".  - Matthew 24