Understanding the Signs of the Times

While David hid and waited for God’s timing for him to become king of Israel, he was joined by others from the tribes of Israel who risked their lives standing with him. Among them were the “descendants of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).
As Christians in the 21st Century, we live in rapidly changing times which bring urgency in facing the challenges of these times with the Gospel of Christ. In many ways we need to be like the descendents of Issachar, and understand the times we live in so we can know the best course of action to take.
But understanding the times is not easy. Living in the midst of rapid cultural change we feel threatened and fragile. Our longing for stability tempts us to withdraw, hesitate and avoid risk, when the exact opposite is needed. David’s men, on the other hand, did not seek stability, but sought to be alert, read the times, and be ready. Rather than stability, they endured fluid structures and constant innovation as they hid from Saul and awaited the moment when David would be king.
Jenny and I have just returned from four weeks in Europe. Among the many things we saw, it was interesting to observe the contrast between the obvious position, power and wealth the church had across Europe in the past, with the seeming irrelevance it has today.

SB outside St P's Basilica
That's me on the right walking towards the massive
St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican

Reading the signs of the times, it is clear the church is increasingly moving to the margins rather than the centre of society.  This is not dissimilar to Australia. Whether it is a good or bad thing can be debated. What is not debatable is that it is happening. And because it is happening we need to work out how we can best be witnesses to Christ in the culture in which we are called to live.
It is with both excitement and some trepidation I return to my task as pastor at Hoabrt Baptist. I am excited with the opportunities that lie in front of us, and yet aware of the challenges that are there also.
Let us pray that God may grant to us, wherever you are and whatever ‘brand’ of the church you are part of, to be like the descendents of Issachar who had the ability to understand the times and know what to do.
Stephen L Baxter