Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

By Francis Frangipane

Consumer Confidence Sinks to 16-year-plus Low, so warned the headline of a recent Associated Press article. The article continued, "U.S. consumers are the gloomiest they've been since the tail end of the last prolonged recession. Inflation, sinking home values and soaring gas prices have pushed confidence to the lowest level since 1992."

You can feel the gloom seeping into our culture right now. Look at the stock market. the market is a barometer of the confidence investors have for the future. Nine months ago the stock market had climbed to 14,198. Today, it is down almost 3,000 points to 11,570. Two things control the mood of Wall Street: fear and greed. When times are good, the market climbs, but when people are fearful, their spending becomes conservative causing the market to drop.

But, is gloominess justified? The article said that consumer confidence is at "the lowest level since 1992." Does anyone remember 1992? In December of 1991 the Soviet Union had collapsed. Suddenly, the Cold War was over and America had won. Our values, vision and strength had prevailed against godless communism.  A "new normal" existed with unbelievable potential, yet most Americans were still so conditioned by the threat of nuclear war that six months into 1992 consumer confidence was lower than it is today.

What happened next? Well, in spite of the cloud of gloom over most of civilization, investors began to realize that the world had become a better place. As a result, the longest economic boom in American history began. Christian missionaries also recognized the opportunity and began the greatest surge in evangelism since Christ. Missiologists were amazed! Since 1992 more people have given their lives to Christ than the sum of all those converted since the first century!

So job losses, floods, fires and other disasters seem to be multiplying in our days. Yes, times are rough. Yet, while these are hard times, God still is working all things for good. "Hard" times do not mean "bad" times. It just means we must apply faith, keep listening to God, and for heaven’s sake, not lose our joy. Times of darkness are actually when the leaders of tomorrow are being forged. If you see light while others see gloom, your faith will inspire others to follow you into the future.

A Time of Great Potential
Personally, I believe we are on the brink of many new breakthroughs, both in the natural realm and also in the kingdom of God. Major breakthroughs are about to occur in the next three to five years. I’m not telling you to invest in the stock market, but I am saying, "Don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward" (Heb. 10:35).

Consider technology. New sciences are developing energy sources that have zero emissions and are utilizing resources that are abundantly available. Oil will still be necessary, but the idea we were running out of oil is wrong. Huge oil fields offshore in Brazil and also in the upper Dakotas and Canada offer hope for lower energy costs. New breakthroughs are also emerging in medical research. Health cures for many of mankind’s most devastating diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease, are on the horizon. These discoveries have the potential to be as stunning as Jonas Salk’s vaccine in eliminating polio.

One may ask, what about Muslim extremism? Of course, we cannot relax our guard. The enemy is never more dangerous than when his end is near. However, for all the criticism leveled at President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, I believe the bulk of the terrorist challenge we faced seven years ago has been effectively countered. The fact is, the al Qaeda led jihad against the West has failed. Bin Laden’s dream of leading a worldwide uprising against America has morphed into his own worst nightmare: He is despised both in and out of Islam.

"Al Qaeda has lost considerable popularity because its indiscriminate violence has provoked a backlash among Muslims, who have been its principal victims. Al Qaeda has murdered more Muslims than non-Muslims, more Afghans than Americans. Also more Iraqis than Americans," says James Phillips, Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.

Today, the vast majority of Muslims consider bin Laden a false prophet and a heretic. Additionally, many high profile Muslim clerics are now teaching that the Koran does not call for military jihad, especially against enemies that possess vastly superior military strength. Yes, there is still Iran, and we must finish the job in Iraq and Afghanistan, but generally speaking, nearly every Muslim nation in the world has taken its stand against al Qaeda and radical Islam. Each is arresting radicals and putting them in jail.

People on the Islamic street are quietly realizing the disproportional consequences of their war against the West. They know that when Muslim extremists bomb two buildings in America, America conquers two Muslim nations in the Middle East. Moderate Muslims may not love us, but they have come to fear making America their enemy. We can thank President Bush for his passion to defend America.

Although peace is itself a worthy goal, the real outcome of the defeat of al Qaeda is a Muslim world that is seeking ways to accept the West without importing our wantonness. The shift is from confrontation to understanding the differences in our cultures and respecting them. And, this is good news for the spread of the Gospel.

You say, You don’t understand my problem. No, but I understand my problems. Here in Cedar Rapids we are dealing with the effects of a "500-year" flood. We can succumb to darkness and retreat into gloom, or instead, we can fix our eyes upon God and follow Him into citywide transformation. It may take a couple years, but the river of mud that overflowed the banks of the Cedar River has been countered by a river of life bringing healing, help and hope to the city.

Indeed, the church here was united; thousands of volunteers had truly gird themselves to serve. Even so, we have grown deeper in our unity and compassion. God has been able to export into our city something that, in many ways, is like heaven to those in need.

The testimony of a united, serving church has touched every level of government disaster relief. They have all stated the same thing: They’ve never seen churches working so selflessly or in such unity before. A new realignment has been created between the kingdom of God and our community. So, yes, our immediate circumstances are staggering, yet our eyes are on Christ and the power of His kingdom.

For each of you who has been standing with us, God bless you! Your prayers and gifts have been a great encouragement. For those who have actually come here to physically help, thank you! To all, I say, stay encouraged. Don’t be afraid of the dark! The kingdom of heaven is at hand.


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