August 30, 2010

Now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2

America is still struggling through economic woes for sure, but I see some hopeful signs of recovery, both nationally and personally. In the past few months, two people I know have gotten jobs after looking for a long time—one of them is my daughter (yay!).

Friday’s New York Times ran an article about how vacation travel is rebounding, but with an emphasis on frugality. That’s good news for the National Park Service (NPS), which expects about 285 million visitors this year. Already, the number of tourists at big parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and Death Valley exceeds last year’s totals. The Times piece quotes an NPS spokesman as saying, “We usually see an uptick in visitation when times are tough.”

That phrase made me wonder if church attendance had gone up as well, and according to a Gallup poll, it has “inched up” so far in 2010. But the organization adds this caveat:

There has been well-publicized speculation about the possibility that church attendance has risen over the past two years as Americans became more despondent and worried as a result of the economic recession. However, trends in Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index, an ongoing measure of perceived economic confidence, reflect just the opposite pattern, with both church attendance and economic confidence increasing from 2008 to 2009, and now into 2010.

Such correlations do not prove causality, and it is possible that despite the more positive economic confidence, other economic realities such as unemployment could be related to the increase in church attendance. Still, these particular population-level data do little to directly support the theory that people seek out the solace of religion, as measured in religious service participation, when economic times turn tough.

So what does it take for us to turn to God? The first thing is the conviction of the Holy Spirit, that is, as Charles Ryrie explains it in his study Bible, “to set forth the truth of the Gospel in such a clear light that [people] are able to accept or reject it intelligently; i.e., to convince [them] of the truthfulness of the Gospel. The Spirit will help break down the indifference of the typical pagan who has no conviction of sin, who holds a low regard for righteousness, and who pays no heed to warnings of the coming judgment” (from John 16:8-11).

As Ryrie notes, we are free to accept or reject this truth; however, the middle ground—indifference—is a more typical response among unbelievers. The apostle Peter warns of this attitude: “’Where is the promise of His coming? [they say] Everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed [and] by the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of [the] ungodly” (2 Peter 3:4-7). In other words, God’s work in creation is proof enough that He does what He says He will do.

But still there are those who will say, “Okay, okay, I get it. But I’ll think about it later.” Have you ever heard the Winans’ song, “Tomorrow” (not the one from the musical Annie)? If you’re not familiar with it, please listen to them sing it on youtube.

No, tomorrow is not promised, as the song concludes.

What God does promise is today, and eternity (Hebrews 13:6, John 3:16).

If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Savior and as Lord of your life, better choose the Lord today.

For tomorrow very well might be too late.


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