THE SECRET PLACE
Abiding under the shadow of the Almighty
PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE
I have noticed lately how the center of my conversation has been focused around what is coming in the future. It seems that with most every Christian that I speak with either in person or through the computer always ends up talking about what is coming. I personally believe it is normal to be concerned about our economy and the deterioration of our morals even though in reality there is not much we can do about it. I realize that many Christians today are just trying to live day by day (in survivor mode) and at the end of the day just want to find a little peace and quiet before they go to bed. However, I feel that avoiding the issues and turning our thoughts away from the truth can hinder our spiritual development because it is not preparing us to deal with the ever increasing boldness of evil. Ok, so what exactly is coming and WHEN is it coming? Well, that is a very good question and not one that many people want to explain in definite detail. There are many ideas and opinions about what “could” happen if certain things came to pass but there are a few facts that we know is coming because Jesus said it would. As far as “when”, we can look to God’s Word to find a general timeline and realize our highest priority is to be found abiding in Him with being ready to trust His voice.
One of the most thought about and talked about concerns in our daily life involves the probable collapse of the American economy. Some people that are intelligent about finances are literally bracing for the unthinkable. It is a fact that we are borrowing money at an alarming rate and our national debt is going through the ceiling. Those of us who manage our own finances do not need to be a professional economist to know this lack of responsibility spells disaster. The question of the hour is just how long can we continue in this destructive direction? I am sure there are many who choose to ignore this situation and roll their eyes as they believe that no one can be trusted to tell the truth and that most of our economic problems are just the exaggeration of ignorant fear mongers. However, I believe that history provides a clear picture of what other nations have experienced while going through the same patterns that America is going through now. In this light, we can at least put to rest the idea that our troubles are NOT just a religious panic or a figment of our imagination but rather has the potential to drastically change our lives forever.
We have heard much discussion about why other nations and societies have risen to power and then crumbled under their own mistakes, but none is more widely discussed than the fall of the Roman Empire. I would like to share some of what historian Joe Tremblay has written as he has chosen five reasons (among many others) why Rome collapsed and to carefully observe the parallels that it had with our nation today. Tremblay says, “The most important of the five have to do with the breakdown of religion, morality and the family. Secular humanist will disagree but the truth is that everything else ripples from these three major principles.
1. Family disintegration: Bachelors became more highly esteemed than husbands and fathers in society. In the second and third century of the Christian era, it had become a stigma for men to be “tied down” to families. Sexual liberation, especially among men, was lauded.
2. Low birth rate: During the centuries that followed Christ’s ascension into heaven, the Roman Empire had already experienced a precipitous drop in the birth rate. This trend started when Augustus, the Roman emperor, reigned. Even he tried to promulgate incentives for families to have more children; but it was too late. Before Augustus it wasn’t unusual for couples to have up to 12 children. In the decades which followed, couples, much like today, only had one or two children at the most. Eventually the city of Rome went from a million inhabitants to less than 50,000. Depopulation had a devastating effect on both Rome as well as Ancient Greece.
3. Fragmentation of religion: There were so many gods for so many special causes and towns – especially because the Roman religion imported gods from the Hellenistic culture (Greek culture spread throughout the Roman Empire) that the ancient pagans despaired of having any uniformity. Over the years, religion became so chaotic they increasingly found it difficult to find meaning in their rituals or to understand the faith of their own creeds.
4. Centralization and expansion of government: Take for instance the third century A.D. (200s) Ralph Martin Novak, author of “Christianity and the Roman Empire”, provides a sobering statistic of third century Rome which serves as a warning to our U.S. government. He states, “It is estimated that whereas at the start of the third century A.D. the Roman emperors employed only about 300 to 350 full-time individuals in administering the Empire, by 300 A.D. this number had grown to some 30,000 or 35,000 people.” The central government of the Roman Empire had become so bureaucratic and top heavy that in order to sustain it the sources of wealth eventually ran dry through heavy taxation. Caesar and the Roman Senate had ceased to be an instrument of service to the people and instead, they made themselves an end in itself. Of course we all know that our government is an out of control, twisted monster that is wasting all the money and accomplishing nothing except causing the people more suffering.
5. The culture of death was alive and well. Consider the following practices which had political, legal and social sanction:
a. Baby exposure: This practice of infanticide, back then called “baby exposure,” couples would simply throw unwanted babies away. They would either kill them outright or take them out to the garbage. This was widely practiced. Seneca, a Roman philosopher, said this about killing babies: “We drown our innocent children who at birth are weakly and abnormal. Yet it is not anger, but reason that separates the harmful from the sound.” Today abortion is perfectly justified.
b. Gladiator games: Gladiators, slaves and prisoners would be killed in these blood sports for the purpose of entertaining the unemployed masses that became addicted to violence and the shock factor. Seneca, the same Roman philosopher who approved of infanticide and who was later forced to commit suicide by the Emperor Nero, said this about a gladiator game he saw: “I come home more greedy, more cruel and inhuman, because I have been among barbarian human beings. By chance I attended a midday exhibition, expecting some fun, wit, and relaxation…but it was quite the contrary…these noon fighters are sent out with no armor of any kind; they are exposed to blows at all points, and no one ever strikes in vain…in the morning they throw men to the lions; at noon they throw them to the spectators.” Without a conscience there is no spiritual sensitivity.
These five factors made the Roman Empire vulnerable to outside foreign forces starting in 410 A.D. St. Augustine witnessed the beginning of its collapse. Dr. Phil Jenkins, author of “The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia and How it Died,” once wrote the following: “De-Christianization is one of the least studied aspects of Christian history. Partly, the lack of interest in vanishing churches is a matter of practicality, in that dying organizations tend not to produce records of their own extinction.” The fact is that if the Church goes down, the nation goes with it. This has been a recurring reality throughout world history. Dictators know this more than anyone. Joseph Stalin, former dictator of the Soviet Union, had this to say: “America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within.”
Strange to say, that in 1948 Bishop Fulton Sheen warned of a similar fate for America if the Gospel would ever cease to serve as its moral compass. Even then he was concerned about this great nation. He said, “It is characteristic of any decaying civilization that the great masses of the people are unconscious of the tragedy…Men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because it involves too much self-accusation and principally because they have no standards outside of themselves by which to measure their times. The basic reason for this false optimism he attributes to the fact that our civilization is mechanical rather than organic.” In other words our flesh is very easily influenced.
So we see that much of what was happening in the past continues to recycle around and around leaving the same results every time. The consequences of sin are like the laws of gravity and can be counted on for consistency throughout any age and with all types of humans. I was thinking the other day about how the family has been attacked by so many external forces that it would be impossible to shelter children from being exposed to the corruption of sin. However, this has been true since day one and cannot be blamed for the deterioration of our society. We can accuse the devil all day long and his clever influences but the breakdown of the family has come from within the family itself – more bluntly from the parents as a whole. Discipline is one of the key factors in the development and maintenance of a healthy and spiritually strong life. Any nation can be seen as a reflection of the discipline of the family unit. What parents stand for and follow through with will be incorporated into the children’s conscience and will have a powerful impact on the thoughts and actions of that generation. We all can see that our nation began to lose the desire and motivation to remain disciplined in the early nineteen hundreds and shifted into second gear in the nineteen fifties. Discipline is what built strong walls of integrity and compromise was the wrecking ball that tore them down. Selah. Everyone wanted freedom to do whatever they wanted and just like a spoiled child, this nation became as a rebellious juvenile delinquent. Parents refusing to spank their children and putting the Bible on the shelf because they would rather watch television allowed Satan to move in. The church failed because they compromised God’s truth. They just wanted to live like everyone else…and they did. “Father, teach us to not depend on the security of this world, but rather may we develop our faith and learn how to completely trust you even when we cannot see. Open the eyes of our heart that we may know you, amen.”