American atheists have been holding a “Rapture after party” in Fayetteville, North Carolina to highlight the false prophecy made by Harold Camping, an 89 year old “Christian” broadcaster, who claimed that Jesus would return yesterday, Saturday 21st May 2011, at which time all believers would be taken from the earth (raptured) to escape the coming judgement.
For anyone to make such a prophecy is foolhardy, especially someone who claims to follow Jesus. Jesus Himself said, “No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Of course, there are those who also scoff at the words of Jesus, but someone who accurately predicted his own death and resurrection, and even the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, needs to be taken seriously. Although Harold Camping got it wrong, the fact remains that Jesus promised to return and bring an end to wickedness and suffering in our ailing world. The question is: Will we be ready to meet Him when He comes?
Last Saturday was an important day for the City of Manchester. On the same day that Manchester City won the FA Cup, Manchester United became Premier League champions. In recent years City fans have been those who looked back, particularly to a three year period from 1968 – 1970, when they won four major trophies under the leadership of Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison. Now however, they can look forward with renewed hope for a brighter future.
For those who still look back, wise King Solomon once remarked, “Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10) Why not? Because the more time we spend focussing on the past, the less effort we are putting into preparing for, or even improving, our future.
Looking back isn’t all bad of course. We can learn from the past – that’s something our world needs to do more of. For those who know Yeshua (Jesus), looking back spurs us on as we move forward. As we look back to the death of Yeshua on the cross, we are reminded that we are forgiven, cleansed, made new; we have been freed from a guilty conscience. And as we look back to His resurrection, we realise that we have the power and the permission to live a new life. Our future is not the grave, but a new quality of life in God’s presence. How about you? Are you still holding onto the past or are you making the most of your time to create a brighter tomorrow?
Our Creator certainly wants you to make the most of your future. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Many atheists will agree that being labelled as religious, doesn’t make something beneficial. Zam Zam water is sacred to Muslims, and comes from a spring in Saudi Arabia. It is thought to have health-giving properties, but according to BBC London illegally imported Zam Zam water has recently been found to contain arsenic and other impurities. Tests also show that it came from the same source as its legal counterpart.
Hamas in Gaza recently condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden, describing him as “a modest man and a Muslim warrior.” Yet he was responsible for many Muslim deaths, not least at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Religion can be harmful or beneficial depending on the system of belief behind it, and whether religious people act in accordance to those beliefs.
Although we must never ignore injustice, how refreshing it is to bypass religion for a moment and seek to know our Creator, many of whose attributes such as beauty, intricacy, power and design are clearly seen in nature itself. Yet far greater than these physical qualities is the depth of love and relationship that can be experienced as we draw close to the One who loves us deeply, who has given us guidelines for successful living, and who one day wants us to spend our lives in that place where we can experience His power, beauty and love for all eternity.
However, there is a closing date to God’s offer that will be different for each of us. We don’t know when it will be. All we do know is that we have this present life in which to receive God’s free gift of love, forgiveness and eternal life, as Paul the apostle wrote: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
Millions around the world have come to know their Creator in a personal way, and have discovered, like the psalmist, the sweetness of that relationship. “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)
This has nothing to do with man-made religion; it’s all about going back to the source, and when that source is Jesus, it’s both pure, strong and sweet.