It's not been a week since the barbarous and frightening massacre of 129 people by ISIS terrorists in Paris. I'd like to share my thoughts about these happenings and how they relate to the work of the United Church of God.
My heart goes out to the families of those who died on Friday, Nov. 13. Terrorists attacked unsuspecting civilians in one of the swankiest districts in Paris. Most of the victims were in a concert where, ironically, the Eagles of Death Metal band played at the Le Bataclan Café—one of Paris' most legendary clubs.
The time is now to personally wake up to what is happening and what has been prophesied to come. The time is now to come to repentance before the God who is offering physical and spiritual salvation.
The terrorists achieved their goal of horrifying the French population and the world. They now bask in the attention they're getting from the media and are certain to continue their attacks on "infidels" in the West. What happened in Paris could happen in any Western city at any time and most likely will. When and where will they strike again? We now hear that Washington D.C. is in ISIS' sights.
The French have vowed a "merciless response" and are striking ISIS strongholds in Eastern Syria. Even if successful, will that bring lasting peace? Is more war only treating the symptoms of a complicated state of affairs in which this world finds itself? Pope Francis called the Paris massacre part of a "piecemeal Third World War." King Abdullah of Jordan also made a similar reference to World War III. World reaction varies from outrage to grief, horror and revenge—even to "Where is God in all this?"
Where was—or is—God?
Actually, that's a very good question and one that we should focus on most. Most people ignore God and do as they please—until a tragedy strikes and then they think about and blame God for what's happened. Our nation has drifted further and further from seeing the existence and sovereignty of God.
There are divine reasons why we see the horrors continually, and will continue to see. As we settle from the shock we must understand the underlying causes that few want to talk about, much less do anything about. The Paris massacre has brought the convoluted Mideast violence closer to home, and we wonder how safe we are. Where will the next promised strike be? How can we be safe?
Syria is a nation that has exploded, spewing its poison across the whole world. Two hundred thousand have died in a complex civil war with strange alliances that involve the most powerful nations of the world, including the United States and Russia. Refugees are pouring out by the hundreds of thousands. The "capital" of this ugly caliphate, calling itself the Islamic State, is in the eastern part of dismembered and dangerous Syria.
At one time our former presidents confidently and reverently sought God's guidance. President Dwight Eisenhower opened his 1953 inaugural address with an open prayer to God. He beseeched for the Almighty to "give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby…so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory." President Ronald Reagan took the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14 as the presidential theme for both of his inaugurals. That verse poignantly reads this way: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
Instead we have thrown God and prayer out from our schools, killed more than 50 million children through abortion and allowed unnatural marriages and lifestyles condemned by the Bible. What is the outcome—the consequence—for nations embracing this deeply unfortunate action? "Your life will constantly hang in the balance. You will live night and day in fear, unsure if you will survive" (Deuteronomy 28:66, New Living Translation).
A spiritual day of reckoning is swiftly coming upon this world. Unless people take action—individually and collectively—terrible things are in store. Paris is but the beginning of sorrows.
The just shall live by faith
The ancient prophet Habakkuk pleaded with God to heal a sick nation. Prophets were sent to talk sense to the nation, but the people would not listen—as it is today. God's response to him was not what Habakkuk wanted to hear. Because of Judah's lifestyle and godlessness the nation had to go through trauma induced by violent neighboring nations that ultimately destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. The nation went into captivity. But Habakkuk stated that survival for the just was by faith in the midst of national calamity: "The just shall live by His faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). The apostle Paul quotes this passage three times in his writings underscoring an important lifestyle for Christians to live and survive by.
Jesus Himself tells us about the chaotic events preceding the end of the present age: "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near" (Luke 21:28). What good news!
God offers us all a solution: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life that you and your descendants may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19). We can choose what we want to do and what course of action we will take. But we cannot choose the consequences of our choices.
The time is now!
We are reaching and will increasingly reach more of the people who read and follow the gospel message of the Church. In our recent public appearance campaigns in Texas our message was "The Time is Now!" The time is now to personally wake up to what is happening and what has been prophesied to come. The time is now to come to repentance before the God of the universe, who is offering physical and spiritual salvation.
As the events of Paris show us, we live in deeply troubling times, and they will not just get better on their own. As God's Church, our mission is to strongly preach a message of repentance from a sinful way of life that is bringing all these calamities on the world.
God promises security and safety for those who follow Him. "Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him" (Psalm 34:8, New International Version).
To help you make sense of what’s happening, and to show you what a loving and all-powerful God has in store for you and me, I invite you to read our free Bible study aid Christ’s Reign on Earth: What It Will Be Like. It will inspire you with hope for the future. This world truly will experience a “dream come true” when Jesus Christ returns to establish His Father’s Kingdom. The hearts and minds of humanity will be changed to the way of peace.