According to twice-wrong Harold Camping’s most recent prediction, the world will end on October 21, 2011.

If that isn’t a good day for you, how about October 16? I was recently alerted (by a caring friend who was quite serious about this) to the impending destruction of the earth by a small, nondescript assemblage of ice and dirt that is currently heading for the core of the solar system. That’s right. On October 16, 2011, on its way out to space again, the comet Elenin will pass by Earth at a distance of “only” 21 million miles. (By comparison, Venus is 23.7 million miles away.)

Although the gravitational force Elenin will exert on Earth will be comparable to a mosquito affecting an ocean liner, supposedly this “close” approach will cause us to experience massive seismic disturbances akin to the earthquake/tsunami that hit Japan recently. (Interestingly, the same website is also selling survival kits.) The actual facts are widely available; two good sources are Cal. Tech/NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory website, and “Astro Bob.”

If October 16 isn’t convenient, try listening to the ancient Mayans. According to a widely circulated mis-reading of their calendar, the world will end on December 21, 2012. Think of all the money you can save by not buying anyone Christmas presents next year.

Perhaps apocalyptic astronomical events aren’t your cup of tea. In that case, you might want to worry about the destructive hurricane our government is about to release over the mid-west. (Or was that Russia’s government? The websites are a bit ambiguous.) Supposedly, both the US and Russia have technology that can be used to cause earthquakes, severe weather, volcanic eruptions, you name it. Considering the competency of either government, that should help keep you up at night.

The recent rash of earthquakes has generated all sorts of explanations involving not only governments, but aliens, the “awakening of the earth,” and scantily-clad women. However, if you look at the statistics, the number of earthquakes in the last year is pretty much normal. The difference is that this year many have occurred in populated areas—affecting more people and thus making the news.

Another theory that has resurfaced recently is the decades-old idea that the government is adding chemicals to airplane contrails. Supposedly, the goal here is weather control… or maybe biological or chemical warfare (against our own citizens)… or population control, or a solution for global warming. The fact that the government emphatically denies all this just adds fuel to the debate. (Read more here.)

Conspiracy theories and dire predictions have never been in short supply, and there are always enough natural disasters to feed the panic. Besides, there is money to be made in the business. While the logic behind some explanations is certainly entertaining, in other cases the results of believing these lies are just plain sad.

How many people spent their life savings on survival supplies prior to Y2K? We know of several families who still have decay-proof rations stored in their basements eleven years after the non-event. Others, fearing the destruction of civilization, sold their homes and businesses and moved to rural settings where they could live more self-sufficient lives. There’s nothing wrong with moving, but as Christians our motivation should never be one of fear.

It seems that many of those who subscribe to disaster scenarios do so to avoid more pressing concerns. It’s easier to get all excited about a remote government conspiracy than to face the mundane responsibilities one has at home. Why complete an education or start a career if the world is coming to an end this year? Many of those who bought into Harold Camping’s May 21 rapture date quit their jobs and sold their belongings. I wonder what they’re doing now?

I realize that we’ll never run out of gullible people who thrive on drama and want to believe (and base their lives on) the most unlikely things, but what frustrates me is when some of these people also profess to be Christians. Even if some of the theories turn out to be true, does Jesus really want us living in fear, focused on survival?

Consider the following verses:

  • “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
  • “Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life….” (Matthew 6:25-34 or Luke 12:22-34)

Clearly, fear and worry do not come from trust in God. Instead of finding ourselves distracted by dubious “facts,” we need to focus on what God would have us do with our lives. Paul exhorts, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16)

Yes, the Bible makes it clear that one of these days, Jesus really is going to come back. At some point, the world will end and God will create a new heavens and a new earth. While we can watch for the “signs of the times” and know the season, even Jesus doesn’t know what the date is for His return. Therefore He says, “You … must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:35-40)

So, what should we to be doing in the meantime? We should be spending time with Jesus and doing the will of the Father:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23, italics mine)

And what is the Father’s will? Micah 6:8 says it simply: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

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