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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Coming Storm...

In my part of the world, springtime is violent. Something about the terrain, the plant life, the humidity, and the shifting patterns of the Jet Stream combine to create spectacular storms that boil up seemingly out of nowhere and transform a beautiful day into an evening of sheer terror. I was born in the spring, and my parents spent at least one evening that first week huddled with their newborn daughter in the bathtub as the tornado sirens went off across town. Even though my birthday comes in the spring, it's always been my least favorite season of the year.

I've been trained, so to speak, all my life to recognize a bad storm when it comes. I smell something in the breeze or the wind whips my hair a certain way, and I know it's coming. I know how to be prepared. I have a tornado shelter, and I know what to take with me when I go into it. Still, I'm always concerned for those who aren't prepared, and don't heed the warnings. They get hurt, or worse, killed, this time of year.

I'm writing about this because I've sensed for awhile that a "storm" is boiling up on the horizon for the whole world. It's not just a minor blip in history. This is a major crisis, and I'm not talking about politics or world finance. This "Global Financial Meltdown" they've been talking about on the news is not the real issue. I believe that God punishes people who defy Him, not to be mean or controlling, but to defend the nature of justice, love, and mercy. If God doesn't object to injustice, hate, and cruelty in this world, who will? Who can?

Converging Air Masses

A storm is formed when a hot, moist air mass slams into a cold, drier air mass. Storm clouds boil up along the line where these two air masses meet, called a front.

In the spiritual realm of this world, "storms" occur when evil behavior builds and develops with such force that it attempts to overpower good and smash it completely. Despite how powerful evil may seem at these times, God is more powerful than the forces of evil. He doesn't run from the war horses of this world, because He created them. They are nothing more than ants throwing grains of sand at Him. Jesus even overcame death when He was crucified and rose from the grave, so that not even death is more powerful than God. If you want to survive this storm, you have to throw your lot in with God and stay with Him, no matter what mankind does to you. The front in the Kingdom of God is a battlefield, and the enemy side doesn't plan to take prisoners.

Why This Gloom and Doom?

I can imagine someone asking me, why would you talk gloom and doom now, when everyone is so scared? It's true that the public needs peace and not fear right now, but we can't settle for a false sense of security. The only security is found in God's protection, not in governments, which go into debt and collapse, or in physical things like guns or homes, which are destroyed by time and the elements.

I logged on to Savvy Sheep today and saw two articles in my blogroll that really spoke to me about the atmosphere in the world today. Pastor Eric Smith's blog entry for today, eric smith: Cost Of No Power Is High links to an article about new statistics on church growth and belief in God in America, and Diane at Crossroads posted an article on the latest Barna poll results. Both are terribly disturbing. America is moving away from traditional belief and obedience. We are embracing works religion (the idea that salvation can be earned), tolerance of sects that embrace sinful behavior and rejection of God, and generalized atheism. I've read elsewhere that the statistics for Europe and other areas are even worse.

This comes on the heels of a sermon I attended Sunday while visiting my sister this past weekend. I won't disclose the place or the pastor's name, but I can say that God was definitely there. The pastor preached on Ezekiel Chapters 8, 9, and 10, in which Ezekiel sees multiple visions of the abominable things the people were doing in the presence of God. The elders of Israel pray and offer incense to images of their gods in the temple of God. Women weep for Tammuz, a fertility god who supposedly died every fall and rose again in the springtime. A large group of men turn their backs on God, whose presence rests in the curtained part of the temple called the Holy of Holies, and bow down to the rising sun, which was an important god in the Egyptian pantheon. Israel's focus had completely turned away from God. They had forgotten who they were defying, and God was angry! In the following chapters, God sends out angels to kill everyone in Israel who had not obeyed Him, and then removes His presence from the temple, to show that He is displeased and no longer willing to help and protect Israel from her many enemies.

This is not just a passage about Israel, as the pastor pointed out. God removes His presence and protection from any nation that defies Him with such audacity. As it says in chapter 8,
He [God] said to me, "Have you seen this, son of man? Is it a trivial matter for the house of Judah to do the detestable things they are doing here? Must they also fill the land with violence and continually provoke me to anger? Look at them putting the branch to their nose![thumbing their noses] Therefore I will deal with them in anger; I will not look on them with pity or spare them. Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them." (Ezekiel 8: 17-18 NIV; items in [] are mine, inserted for understanding).

If we thumb our noses at God and then "shout in [His] ears," we should not expect Him to answer. He would be unjust, applying a double standard, if He overlooked our sins this one time and helped us without demanding that we stop sinning, because He has required obedience from everyone else.

Ezekiel sees the angels go out to kill the disobedient among the people in Israel, and cries out "Ah, Sovereign Lord!" In English it is translated "ah" but in Hebrew it is an expression of pain and grief. He was groaning in sympathetic pain at what was going to happen to Israel, and for what God felt when He looked out of His temple and saw what they were doing in His presence. Even with this intercession for Israel, God did not stop what He had decided to do.

Punishment and not mercy was the only thing God had left to do to bring evil back into check. If He did not, He would not be a just God, who upholds what is right. These people weren't just hurting themselves; they were leading an entire nation into false belief that was going to destroy their souls and condemn them to eternal death and suffering.

My parents spanked me when I was young, to keep me from doing things that could potentially kill me or put me in jail. It hurt. It was worth it, because it got my attention and trained my feet to avoid evil paths.

God is about to do that for the whole world. If you are obedient to God, you will be reasonably safe from what is coming, although the evil going on around you will be fierce, and you likely won't escape some effects of it. As I read in my devotional time last night
I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.(Luke 12: 4-7 NIV).
Is it time to be afraid? Yes. However, just like I said at the beginning of this post, you can be prepared, and take shelter from the coming storm.

  • Know Jesus. If you have not submitted your life to God, you are not safe. Going to church and participating in helping the poor cannot save you. Doing good works for others to see does not bend your heart to submit to God's will. He will ask you to face trials with Him, and if you have not submitted to Him, you will not obey Him in such difficult times. If you have been good so far, but you have not submitted your heart to God, the time is now. All you have to do is ask Him to forgive your past sins and to guide you in the future, so you do not sin against Him again. Then, if you want to be safe from wrath, you have to do what He tells you to do. It's not hard. Do it now!

  • Pray and Study God's Word Daily. You are going to need to know what is good--what is God's way. Know not to join with evil people, or to do what God finds detestable. This cannot be learned by osmosis, so sleeping with a Bible under your pillow will not work. I always take my Bible with me into the storm shelter. It's really a symbolic act to remind myself that God's word is my lifeline in times of trouble. It's the most important thing I own.

  • Get Your House in Order. In this world climate, this means paying off your debts and not incurring more of them. It means repairing relationships with others. It means watching the news closely and planning what you are going to do if the unimaginable happens. We're headed that way, so it wouldn't hurt to be prepared.

I've spent many evenings, over the past 5 years or so especially, crying as I watched people insist that there is no God, and that He doesn't see (Ezekiel 8:12). I've wept in anguish as I watched the news, which over the past few years especially has been a parade of sins: Greed, materialism, homosexuality, fornication (sex outside of marriage), adultery and divorce, anarchy, school shootings and terrorist bombings, atheism, humanism, and the list goes on and on. These have become standard tv plots, and they are no longer odious to many churches and church goers in this generation. We have turned our backs on the presence of God, and bowed down to idols!

As I finish writing this, I just looked down and this passage out of Ezekiel chapter 7 just jumped out at me. We are living it as we speak.
"Prepare chains, because the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of violence. I will bring the most wicked of the nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to the pride of the mighty, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none. Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor. They will try to get a vision from the prophet; the teaching of the law by the priest will be lost, as will the counsel of the elders. The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with despair, and the hands of the people of the land will tremble. I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the LORD."( Ezekiel 7: 23-27 NIV).
Ah, Sovereign Lord! Let those of us who obey You have one last chance to warn the ones who are willing to listen!


Anonymous said...

I realize that the "fear" of which you speak is the fear of the Lord. In this economy, it is hard not to fear, but we serve a mighty God who has already overcome the world. We only need to be ready to meet Him when He comes. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Anonymous said...

As someone who also grew up in tornado alley, I can attest to the fact that when you are huddled underground with an ear to the radio, you tend to make clearer assessments of how your priorities in life should be arranged. Let us not slip into complacency just because the storm hasn't hit yet, or because so few are broadcasting the warnings. "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15-16).