Ebenezer means "stone of help," and was the name of a monument raised by the prophet Samuel, saying, "Thus far has the Lord helped us." (1 Sam. 7:12) The hymn Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing includes the line, "Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I'm come." Through God's grace you and I have made it to today. Our job is to praise God for getting us here and trust him to bring us through tomorrow.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What Next?

Romans 1:16  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes."

It is Sunday, May 22, 2011.  Harold Camping is a disappointed man.  But no less so than his followers, I am sure, who spent life savings, quit jobs, severed family ties, all because they believed what Camping told them to believe: the world was going to end.....yesterday.

Well it didn't happen.  Across the nation this morning Christian preachers will remind their congregations of that simple verse which Camping conveniently ignored: "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."  All very well, but we knew that already.  It's easy to see Camping as either a deluded nut or an ingenious con artist.  In either case, we know he does not represent us.  Or does he?

If you're like me, your Facebook news feed has been full of jokes about the rapture for the past two or three days.  But a lot of my friends are non-Christians, and as I read their jokes, I realize they aren't just making fun of one crazy man; they are making fun of what they see as the latest Christian crazy man.  Let's face it, the media loves to latch on to the most insane and outlandish of what Christians do.  Be it a minister burning a Qur'an, a priest molesting children, a televangelist having an affair, or a wannabe prophet picking the wrong time for the Second Coming, Christianity can easily get a bad rap.  So as we wake up on the day-after-the-rapture-that-wasn't, what do we do about this dilemma?  How do we face non-Christians who think we're a bunch of crazies?

The key, as Paul makes clear, is to remember that we are very, very sane.  We have nothing to be ashamed of.  Indeed, as his one sentence makes clear, we are telling a story that is all about the power of God, and it's a story that brings salvation to those who believe it.  It frees people.  It empowers people.  It saves people.  Harold Camping doesn't speak for us; Jesus Christ does.

Yet even within that sanity, we need to be bold.  Timidity never saved anybody.  And so it was that Paul went to extraordinary lengths to spread his message, risking life, reputation, and career -- and in fact losing all three -- in order to share the Gospel.  He was sane but driven, and while some thought him mad, he was simply on fire for God, a God who had touched him personally, changed his life, made his life worthwhile, and ensured him a life ever-lasting.

So, I'm sorry for Harold Camping and the farce he has created, but don't let that stop you from discussing the real news story here.  It's ancient news, but relevant to every fresh day.  Jesus Christ was crucified, died, and rose again.  He ascended into heaven.  And someday, someday, he's coming back once more.