Tag Archives: DISASTER. The end of the world

The End Of The World As We Know It

I walked outside our Pasadena apartment to witness billowing smoke rising above the Los Angeles skyline. This can’t be real, I said to myself. We live in America. This doesn’t happen in America.

Moments before, a jury acquitted four white Los Angeles police officers of beating an African-American man named Rodney King—despite capturing the pummeling on video. The African-American community was incensed and began ravaging their neighborhoods, breaking into stores and burning buildings. Not long after that, the color demarcation no longer mattered as people regardless of race began rioting.

Concerned about the safety of my family, we holed ourselves in our apartment and kept the doors locked for several days.

Finally, the disturbance seemed to calm down. I was scheduled to work as a valet in Beverly Hills, which meant I could take one of two routes to get there—through the safer suburban area or through the flashpoint of the riots. I drove to work via the safe route, but curiosity won out on my way home.

I was nearly killed twice.

First, a gang of people who mistakenly assumed I was an off-duty police officer challenged me to arrest them. Then, the front bumper of my Hyundai was torn off by a car that ran a four-way stop.

I drove straight home as quickly as I could.

Reflecting on the events of the riots, I realized the fragile nature of democracy. No matter how safe we feel, nothing is completely secure. The World Trade Center tragedy on September 11, 2001 confirmed this.

If you knew you were going to encounter a lifestyle-altering, culturally devastating tragedy in 2011, how would you live?

TODAY’S READING

Zechariah 10:1-11:17
Revelation 18:1-24
Psalm 146:1-10
Proverbs 30:33

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

“Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!”
Revelation 18:10

As we inch closer to the end of Revelation, we read about the destruction of Babylon. Scholars agree that Babylon is a veiled reference to Rome (see Revelation 7:18). At the time of John’s apocalyptic vision, the thought of Rome being destroyed seemed like an impossibility. No one could envision the greatest empire in the world being brought to its knees. But it happened.

While we could take time to explore the various prophetic interpretations of Revelation 18, I suggest we read the chapter as if it were written into our context.

Are you content with life as you know it? Do you consider your lifestyle to be secure? Deeper still, to what extent do you enjoy the standard of living your country offers you?

It all could change. Actually, the chances are pretty good that it will change.

Safety and security—they’re the American way. Perhaps our readers in South Africa and Australia feel the same way. We relish our lives of privilege. Participating in our society isn’t a sin, but far too often I think their importance is overemphasized.

Ironically, the most predominant Christian music station in our country promises their listeners that they are “safe for the whole family.” But is safety the most important value?

The original Babylon met its destruction, as did Rome, and as it will the United States (hopefully not in my lifetime!).

If you knew that civilization as you know it would one day come to an end, would you live differently? I would, I think. Possessions wouldn’t seem as important. Safety and security wouldn’t, either.

End of the world-themed movies wrestle with this question. One lesson they teach us: looking face-to-face at our eventual destruction changes our priorities. Offenses and possessions become less and less important while relationships become increasingly important. They also motivate us to keep our accounts short with God.

Perhaps wrestling with this question isn’t such a bad idea.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. If the end of the world was going to take place in 2011, how would it affect the way you live?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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Revelation: The Most Misused and Misinterpreted Book in the Bible

The end is near. It’s true. For those of you participating in Daily Bible Conversations with us, we are almost done. Twenty-three days to go. For me it’s been a fabulous journey.

But that’s not what I mean. Today we begin reading the most misused, misunderstood, and misinterpreted book in the Bible: The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Revelation, the last book in the Bible but the first book in the library of those predicting the end of the world.

Predicting the end of the world has always been a popular past-time. But does Revelation actually predict the end of the world or does it have a larger more hopeful message?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Joel 1:1-3:21

Revelation 1:1-20

Psalm 128:1-6

Proverbs 29:18

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

At first disturbing glance, Revelation does seem to predict the end of the world. Near the beginning of the book John of Patmos reports that, “the time is near,” though he doesn’t say exactly what time. Then a few verses later, John continues, “Look he [Jesus] is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him . . . .” From there, as Eugene H. Peterson writes in The Message, a “rush of color and sound, image and energy leaves us reeling.”

We read of scrolls and seals, censers and trumpets, angels and devils, dragons, destruction and doom, judgement and, finally, a new Jerusalem. Many have connected these vague symbols and metaphors to current events and in so doing predict the end is near.

Hal Lindsey became famous (or infamous) doing this. He reported there was a three-story computer (this was 1974) that could give a mark to every human on earth, a code, the equivalent of 666. The computer was supposedly nick-named “The Beast.” It turns out the computer was pure fiction. Using this system of turning symbols into literal events, people, or things, Lindsey predicts, “Within forty years or so of 1948 [when Israel became a nation] all these things could take place.” If he was right, we’ve all been “Left Behind.”

But to be fair, Lindsey was not the only one to read Revelation as a literal prediction of the end of the world. Also the symbolic language of Revelation is complex and confusing. It is easy to get lost trying to interpret them and miss the bigger themes of the book.

The most powerful theme is worship. John is in worship when he receives his vision and from then on every person, nation, and creature in the book ends up bowing down, voluntarily or involuntarily, in worship. Praise, adoration, and servitude fill the book. “Holy, holy, holy,” all heaven sings. Maybe many of these symbols are not to be wrestled into literalism but rather are there to show poetically how all of God’s amazing creation will fall before him in worship.

If so, Revelation is not so much a prediction about how and when the world will end but rather a description that when the end comes, God will be triumphant over all. And our response to that great victory will be to rejoice and worship him.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow captured this truth in his Christmas poem written during the seemingly endless pain and evil of the Civil War. John Gorka musically rearranged this hymn/poem as a more modern Christmas song:

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

 

I thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

 

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth good will to men.

 

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep:

The wrong shall fail,

The right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.”

 

Till ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A Voice, a chime,

A chant sub-lime,

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It may be by God’s design we are reading this difficult book at Christmas when our hopes our supposed to soar. Because, though the world seems to be spiralling toward a horrible and destructive end, Revelation is a vision not of a fearful end of the world, though there are terrifying visions there, but a picture of the culmination God’s powerful redemption that began on Christmas Day. Revelation envisions a hopeful end of pain, fear, death, sin, Satan, and all that opposes God. But it is not the end of the world. Rather Jesus proclaims from his throne, “I am making everything new.” Let’s celebrate.

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)

What would you do if the the world as you know it ended?

In “I Am Legend” Will Smith, playing Dr. Robert Neville, shortly after his world ends, sets up a science lab to reverse the effects of a world destroying disease. In “The Book of Eli” Eli, Denzel Washington, wakes to a demolished world and spends the next thirty years journeying west while protecting the world’s last remaining Bible.

These stories are not as far fetched as they first appear. The world as we know it has ended multiple times.

Worlds collapse in many ways too, not just in apocalyptic, cinematic ways. What would you do or have you done when the world as you know it ended?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Ezra 3:1-4:25

1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4

Psalm 28:1-9

Proverbs 20:24-25

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Ezra 3:1-4:25: Change is hard. Ezra takes his people back from exile to a ruble pile that once was Jerusalem. They begin rebuilding. At one point, they lay the foundation for a new temple, bigger and grander than even Solomon’s. “But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy,” reports Ezra. Despite the fact that Jerusalem and the temple are being rebuilt, some people mourn rather than celebrate because their minds and hearts still reside in the past: on what they once had, what God once did.

Yet, God never rests. God never looks back. God is always dragging us into his future. Unfortunately, when we face these inevitable changes, we just as inevitably look back grasping and weeping for what we had and possibly missing what God plans for us.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

In June of 1965 my family and I stood atop Ruby Hill, a high spot in southwest Denver, and watched the South Platte River sweep cars, mobile homes, trees, bridges, people’s lives, and eventually, a mile wide swath of Denver away. A police car sped down the street below us, lights flashing against the driving rain, as the road collapsed into the raging river behind him. A fifteen to twenty-five foot crest was on its way and every river or creek in the Denver area was in flood stage.

Stunned, we rushed home and prepared to evacuate. We lived just a quarter of a mile north of Bear Creek. Our street was already filled with water. I remember collecting my favorite things–a small metal safe–and sitting in our living room waiting for the word to evacuate. I thought the world as I knew it was about to end.

I still wonder why I so valued the little safe and how I actually intended to use it to rebuild my world. Fortunately I never had to find out. The flood subsided and our house was safe.

For Ezra’s portion of the people of Israel, the world as they knew it had ended. A flood of God’s wrath against them carried them from the promised land, their holy city, Jerusalem, and, seemingly, God himself. But what do they do in this apocalyptic world when the clouds break and they return to Jerusalem and begin to rebuild their broken world?

In the aftermath of the Denver flood, the city first rebuilt bridges, roads, the two power plants, houses, and began talk of building dams. This makes sense.

Why is it then that Ezra and the priests first rebuild the “altar of the God of Israel to offer sacrifices on it”?

Because they understood that at our core humans were created to be in a worshiping, loving, dependent relationship with God. This is not to say they did not erect shelters and rebuild more “practical” things. They did.

Still Ezra seems to know that in order for his people to survive, they must put God–and community worship of God–first. Ezra’s building plan is a direct and practical response to the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me,” not even your own safety and comfort. But it is also a shrewd realization of how the world as God knows it really works.

The world as we know it can come to an end in many ways: divorce, cancer, loss of work, loved ones, even flood and national disaster. But physically and materially rebuilding our lives after the world as we know it has ended without first letting God rebuild our souls leaves us empty shells and ready for another collapse.

It’s a good thing God called Ezra rather than me to rebuild Israel’s world. I’m not sure my little metal safe would have been much help.

  1. Has life as you know it ever ended?
  2. What did you do?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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