Trend Forecasts for 2012

I’ve never been big on making predictions for any particular New Year. I suppose it has something to do with not wanting to be wrong, but 2012 seems different (and it’s not just because the Mayan calendar has the world ending on December 21). Because there are so many significant global trends that seem to be converging in a way that could produce more change and opportunity than any of us have seen in quite some time, I’m very interested in the future.

So, for what they’re worth, here are seven “trend forecasts” for 2012, and why I think they matter:

1. The 2012 U.S. elections will be contentious and bitterly fought (like it takes a genius to predict this one). We’ve all been disheartened at the way the political process has been working in the last few years, and the elections in 2012 may hit a new low point.
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The Wonders of His Love

There is a reason we call this the most wonderful day of the year: Christmas is truly filled with wonder. Or at least it should be. Somehow over the course of 2,000 years our wonder has become somewhat diluted, if not downright negative.

We consider the miracle of the incarnation--God taking on human form--and we pose a question we might ask of an illusionist: "I wonder how he did that?" Or worse, our wonder is more like doubt, mainly because we buy into the notion--on a practical level, at least--that Jesus was a wise teacher and a social justice advocate, but hardly the supernatural being Scripture makes Him out to be.

Neither of these senses of wonder--speculation or doubt--is anywhere near the wonder that Jesus should incite in us. We should be ashamed when we settle for a pedestrian kind of wonder. Our wonder at Jesus and the day He was born should rise far above our normal human emotions to the place where we are literally frightened at the very idea that the most holy God has identified with us in such a personal, self-sacrificial way.

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Sports and Christianity

Sports and Christianity have been linked since New Testament times. The apostle Paul encouraged first century believers to "run in such a way as to get the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:24). In the twenty centuries since then, countless numbers of athletes from various sports have taken Paul's advice quite literally, both on and off the field of play, and many have openly acknowledged their belief in Christ.

In fact, there are an astonishing number of professional atheletes who are publicly professing their faith in one way or another. And two of them--Tim Tebow, quarterback of the Denver Broncos, and Los Angeles Doger pitching ace Clayton Kershaw--are getting a lot of attention from the media, albeit for different reasons. These two 23-year-olds are also demonstrating that there's no "one size fits all" approach to telling the watching world that you're a Christian.

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Inspired by Tozer

I've been a fan of A.W. Tozer for some time. His classic book, Knowledge of the Holy, had a profound influence on my early spiritual formation. And now that I'm the Publishing Director at Regal Books, I am thrilled that I am part of a team that is bringing previously unpublished content by Tozer to a new generaton of readers.

Recently I was asked to contribute to a new Regal book called Inspired by Tozer that features more than 50 artists, writers, and Christian leaders giving their own insights into Tozer's classic writings. It was an assignment I was eager to take on, especially because I share a singular connection with this man who has touched millions with his profound insights into the nature and character of God.

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Going on a quest is one of the most adventurous, important, and significant things any of us could ever do--if not the most important. Some of the greatest and most enduring stories told in books and film are about epic quests: The Odyssey, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia, even the Wizard of Oz--all are stories of a hero in search of the one true thing that brings meaning to life.

Even ordinary people go on quests. They may not call it that, but they are on a search for meaning and something that offers true hope in a world that seems to be running out. Some people look for meaning in material things, while others search in various philosophies and religions. Still others seek after meaning by giving themselves to a cause or a political system they hope will make the world a better place. The problem is that at the end of these searches, no matter good or how worthwhile, is a host of unmet expectations.

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A Time for Humility

"God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble."

If there’s one thing above all others at the root of the ills of the human race, especially in these changing times, it’s pride. Wise King Solomon penned what is undoubtedly the most well known verse on pride in the Bible, and it speaks volumes about the damage pride can do: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Look at that last word: fall. When we read this verse, we usually think of a setback or someone getting knocked off a pedestal because of pride. But the word has a much more cosmic meaning when you think about the fact that pride was at the root of Satan’s rebellion against God and his banishment from heaven. “I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High,” Satan declared (Isaiah 14:14).

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What if today really is the day?

Even kooks can serve a purpose. Take Harold Camping, just the latest in a long line of Christian kooks who have populated the landscape for the past 2000 years. Camping’s prediction that the rapture would take place on May 21, 2011 stirred up all kinds of interest from secular and religious sources alike.

Overwhelmingly there were two reactions. Either people laughed hysterically at yet another weirdo proclaiming doomsday (these were the secular pundits), or they apologized profusely for someone who clearly never read the verse where Jesus says nobody knows the hour or the day when he will return (these would be the Christian apologists).

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Do You Believe in Miracles?

Miracles in the Bible—especially the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead—are a problem for many people. To those who operate within a worldview of naturalism , a miracle is a violation of natural law (naturalism by definition excludes the supernatural). They don’t believe in miracles of any kind, most of all the resurrection.

The historical records of people seeing Jesus after the resurrection are meaningless to naturalists, because the events happened so long ago during a time when people were more prone to believe myths and fables. Of course, naturalists don’t have a problem believing in the existence of Julius Caesar, probably because he never performed any miracles.

Deists don’t go much for miracles either. Thomas Jefferson famously removed all the miracles from the New Testament and published what is known as The Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. His goal was to present Jesus as a great moral teacher, without the miracles or the resurrection.

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God and natural disasters

Of all the types of suffering we see in the world, sometimes the most difficult to comprehend is the tragedy of natural disasters. With the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, we are once again reminded that nature has the power to unleash unimaginable destruction, causing loss of life and suffering on a scale that’s difficult to comprehend.

You can’t help but feel a sense of helplessness when such disasters occur. Because their origin comes from this planet we call home, we all feel the sting when the earth convulses. And we wonder: Can we trust this life-giving sphere that is usually so good to us? It all seems rather capricious, especially when those who are least able to handle the terrestrial smack of earthquakes, typhoons, and floods are often hit the hardest.

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A Time for Mourning

Sorrow is underrated in our culture. We don’t like to be sorrowful and try to avoid it like the plague. When sorrow hits us and we truly feel regret for something we did, or we are grieving because of something that happened to us, our goal is to get past it and move forward as soon as possible. Nobody likes to live with sorrow. We would much rather have joy in our lives.

I've been doing some study in the book of James, and I ran across this startling verse: "Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom" (James 4:9). Talk about a buzzkill. What are we supposed to do with that. Our natural response is probably to ask “Why?”

Why would anybody want to deliberately stop laughing and start mourning? Isn’t laughter the best medicine and the perfect way to deal with our present troubles? Didn’t James himself say in the opening to his letter that we are to “count it all joy” when we encounter trials? Yes he did, but apparently James believes the path to that joy comes not through laughter, but through sorrow. It's taken me a while for this to sink in, but I think I know what he means.

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Stan's entire life has been wrapped in content: selling, writing and publishing books and resources that help ordinary people capture a glimpse of extraordinary things.