A Look Back, A Look Ahead

This is the final day of 2019.  Tomorrow we initiate a new calendar filled with new opportunities and challenges.  I always find it helpful as one year closes and another begins to take some time just to review what happened and to anticipate what might lie ahead.  I thought I would invite you to sit in with me as I processed 2019 and looked forward to 2020.


This past year was filled with increased international tensions.  Hong Kong became a focal point for those seeking a more democratic voice.  Tensions grew as the demonstrators became more bold with their demands, while the Beijing government made threats, yet often backed away.  The matter of the future of Hong Kong is still unresolved as we enter into 2020.  Question for 2020: Will the Chinese government yield to the demands of the demonstrators or will they come down with an iron fist?  And, if they yield, will this cause others within China itself to demand similar concessions? 


Another flashpoint was the Middle East.  To be brutally honest, the Middle East has been a flashpoint since the days of King David.  The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas appeared to be on the brink of another war.  Tensions still remain high along the Israeli-Gazan border.  I am fully convinced that sometime during 2020 war will break out along that border with results being similar to the war in 2014.  The chief bully in the Middle East continues to be Iran.  The Iranians continue to harass shipping in the Persian Gulf and through the Straits of Hormuz.  They have infiltrated radical Shi'ite militia groups within Iraq that threaten the stability of that fragile government.  Their presence in Syria has been a major focus of Israeli intelligence.  And, just this past week, Iran, Russia, and China conducted joint military exercises in the Straits of Oman - the first time ever these countries conducted such exercises.  Could there be a prophetic significance here?  We know from Ezekiel 38 and 39 about the prophetic connections between Russia and Iran.  But we also read in Revelation 16 about the kings of the East who cross the Euphrates with Israel being their final destination.  It has often been assumed that China would be the leader of this group of nations.  Question for 2020: Will China continue and even strengthened its interest and involvement in the Middle East?  Will the Iranians be able to topple the fragile government now in place in Baghdad?  And will the Iranians continue moving forward, in spite of international opposition, in the development of nuclear capability?


And then there is Israel itself - basically having spent a year without any recognized government.  Two national elections occurred in Israel this past year, both resulting in political stalemates.  Israel, right now, is a nation looking for a leader.  It seems that many have grown weary of Prime Minister Netanyahu and yet have reservations about anyone else.  New elections are called for March 2020, but there is little optimism that those elections will provide any breaking of that stalemate.  I was thinking about this the other day and the thought struck me: Perhaps God is preparing Israel for the entrance of that man who, according to Daniel 9, will come and solve all Israel's political and international problems.   Question for 2020: Will the Israeli elections in March bring political and governmental stability or will it bring us one step closer to the rise of the Antichrist? 


This past year saw an escalation of the attacks upon members of faith communities across the globe.  Anti-Semitism was prevalent both in Europe and in America.  In April a synagogue in California was attacked leaving one person dead and several other injured.  Just this past week, Jews living outside of New York City were assaulted and some brutalized as they celebrated Hannukah.  Churches were not immune from such attacks either.  On Easter Sunday a bomb exploded outside a church in Sri Lanka that killed over 300 people and wounded another 500.  And here in the United States this past Sunday, during a Communion Service in a church outside of Fort Worth, TX, shots were fired with two people being killed before the gunman was killed by parishoners.  And there was the increased pressure upon businesses with a strong faith component to cave to the demands of the politically correct and cultural norms of today.  The attacks upon absolute truth continue to grow in magnitude and frequency.  Question for 2020: Will God bring revival to His Church and grant them holy boldness to stand firm against the spiritual assaults from the Enemy?  Or will the Church continue to slide further into apathy and indifference?  The Bible reminds us that the power of deception will be so great in the last days that even the elect would be led astray. 


During this past year we witnessed political drama as the campaign for the Democratic presidential candidate began.  What a varied field began that race!  And what a varied field still prevails within that race.  Question for 2020: Who will become the Democratic standard-bearer for the election of 2020?  Will that person have an agenda and vision that will excite voters?  Also this past year we watched as President Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives.  It almost seems as if that was the major political story of 2019.  We all have our opinions as to the legitimacy of the process, but now that it has occurred, what will be its impact?  That will be the ultimate political question for 2020.


Friends, as we look back and compare year-to-year, we begin to notice a trend.  Violence is escalating throughout the world.  Human lives seemingly have little value to many - they are merely objects that can be expended.  Absolute truth has become irrelevant, if not totally dismissed.  We now live in the age of personalized truth and opinions often framed within the context of sound bytes.  Homelessness and its attendant maladies is exploding, especially in our major cities, but even "small town America" is not immune from its presence.  Although the unemployment rate is at record lows and the minimum wage is rising dramatically, homelessness continues to be a curse upon our culture.  Question for 2020: Will a solution to at least keep homelessness in check be found?  Will the blame-games cease and responsibilities be taken to begin to correct this problem? 


I am excited to enter into a New Year.  Yes, it will bring both joys and sorrows.  It will bring dreams realized as well as dreams dashed.  It will bring moments of tremendous opportunities, but it will also bring those moments of difficult challenges.  Yet through it all we have this powerful assurance that God is in control.  We are in His hands.  And, friends, this might be the year that the trumpet sounds and we will rise and be with Jesus forever!  That will be one incredible "hallelujah" moment. I close with a verse that I shared with my grandkids via text this past Monday.  I believe it is a verse that speaks loudly to us as we enter into another year.  Psalm 105:4 states, "Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always."  And with that thought I want to wish you a very happy and blessed New Year.


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