2009's Perfect Storm
You may remember the movie "The Perfect Storm" that came out about ten years ago. It was about a New England fisherman and his crew who ran into a storm of unusual severity while fishing off the Grand Banks. All were lost because a set of meterological conditions came together in just the right (or, wrong) way.
We are living in a time just before or just entering a perfect storm in the world and in our country right now. We have a swine flu pandemic that according to the experts is supposed to be in full bloom within two weeks to a month. We still do not have a vaccine, though it is being worked on. The country is in the throes of an economic crisis unrivaled since the 1930s. Unemployment is at its highest in decades. People have lost trillions over houses, savings, and retirements. Over two million Americans are living daily behind bars because they do not know how to live anywhere else. They weren't taught how to live life! We live in a nation divided--not divided over race or over being from the North, the South, the East, or the West--but over what is in essence spiritual matters. The real culture wars are between those who would pay even the slightest amount of attention to God and what He wants for us versus those who don't even want to hear about it. Health care, voting over union matters, and abortion are symptoms of the real culture wars between those who want to live right and those who don't. It has become politically incorrect to try to talk with many people about the root causes of our present perfect storm.
In Moses' time, Pharoah didn't want to hear any more about it, either. Exo 10:27-29 "But Jehovah hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go. And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in the day thou seest my face thou shalt die. And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well. I will see thy face again no more." In essence, Pharoah, told Moses AND God to shut up. You can tell the rest of the story about Pharoah and his army--How did it end? Let the Bible tell its own story. And as you read it, please remember that the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New. He is unchanging in his nature and character.
Exo 14:15-30 "And Jehovah said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto
me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward. And lift thou up
thy rod, and stretch out thy hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children
of Israel shall go into the midst of the sea on dry ground. And I, behold, I
will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall go in after them: and
I will get me honor upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots,
and upon his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am Jehovah, when
I have gotten me honor upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
And the angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind
them; and the pillar of cloud removed from before them, and stood behind them:
and it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was
the cloud and the darkness, yet gave it light by night: and the one came not
near the other all the night. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea;
and Jehovah caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and
made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel
went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall
unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
Exo 14:23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And it came to pass in the morning watch, that Jehovah looked forth upon the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of cloud, and discomfited the host of the Egyptians. And he took off their chariot wheels, and they drove them heavily; so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for Jehovah fighteth for them against the Egyptians. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Stretch out thy hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and Jehovah overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, even all the host of Pharaoh that went in after them into the sea; there remained not so much as one of them. But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. Thus Jehovah saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore."
The book of Nahum says it yet another way in 1: 9--"He (God) will not take vengeance twice on his foes." (RSV). That's because there is nothing left of them after He smites them the first time! So as we see the perfect storm approaching, let us resolve to do several things:
Standing on the Lord's side. We live in a time that has been called post-modern and post-Christian. The morals in our country have gone to Hell in a handbasket. If you are over 30 you can make all kinds of comparisons between life then and life now and how undisciplined and disorderly people live today. But we do not have to live like that. We are the ekklesia, the called-out people. We are called to live above the world. There will be some people around us who will not appreciate what we do and the way we live. John said of that contrast "1Jo 4:4 Ye are of God, my little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they as of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he who is not of God heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."
Evangelizing. But rather than hating them or separating from them, let us teach them. Let us evangelize them. Let us show them by both word and deed about the abundant life to which Christ has called us. We are not the people who are at a disadvantage here. It is the people without Christ who are at the disadvantage. Consider this: In a hospital room there are two men dying. They will die the same day, though they don't know it yet. The Christian can look forward to the passage from this life to the next because he has a destination and he knows who will meet him just on the other side of the portal of death. The Christian knows and has known all of his life that his earthly existence has not been the main show--that a better life awaits him after his soul leaves this body and goes to its maker. The man of the world has to lay there all alone without Jesus Christ by his side, believing that all of the good things of life are about over and (as he supposes) he is about to disappear into blackness. People without Jesus Christ fear death even if they know little about Hell. To the Christian, death is just a portal from this life to the next. We need to tell people about the Christ who made all of this possible. We need to tell them about a Savior who came that we might have life, and that more abundantly (John 10: 10). We are the ones who know Who made us, what we are here for, and where we should be going. The world won't have a clue unless we tell them.
Using good common sense. God has used natural and supernatural events to cleanse the earth from time to time. The flood was but one such event. There have been plagues and wars. If God's people will just stay awake and aware about what is taking place around them, they can make preparations, just as Noah did. Mat 10:16 "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." Jesus said that in some things in Luke 16:8 that "the sons of this world are for their own generation wiser than the sons of the light." Let's use our heads. If we are coming up on a pandemic, don't wait until the last minute to get enough food in the house to shelter in place. If our lawmakers are considering a law that will make it more difficult for people to live righteous lives, write them. When jobs are scarce and people are being laid off, don't make that your time to be late to work or to do a shoddy job. If money is tight, be careful how you spend! There are many examples of wise living that have been placed in the Bible for us to perceive the perfect storm which now approaches us. We're smart enough to do this. Let's read our Bibles and work at preparing for the perfect storm as if it all depended upon us, then let's have faith in God as if it all depended upon him.
Don't follow the crowd. Remember the crowd was outside the ark when it started raining. Remember that the crowd didn't believe that God could take Israel into Canaan and be successful in rooting out those unGodly people, but only Joshua and Caleb got to ever set foot into Canaan. That's not just a clever story; that is a powerful documentary about the nature of God. The Majority is not always right. Mat 23:37-38 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." The Pharisees were the majority, but they weren't right. The Pharisees claimed legitimacy, but the Son of God told them they were wrong. He wept because they wouldn't listen, but he knew what He would do with the ones who wouldn't change.
Blessings in the here and now. To be honest, there is some truth in the stories you may have been hearing about the churchof Christ not having as many members as it once appeared to have. Some of the "shrinkage" comes simply from more careful measurements. The most accurate data say that in the continental United States we have about 1,600,000 people who profess to be members and about 1,300,000 who say they have attended in the past week and/or have taken communion very recently. That's still a lot of people. That's over 12,000 congregations. That's enough to put us into the top ten Christian religious in the country. There are quite a few familiar-sounding names of other religious groups that have fewer members or adherents (real stick-to people) than the church of Christ. Don't let this kind of news spook you. We're a minority but far from a tiny minority. We have a wonderful fellowship in God's earthly kingdom. And if you were the only Christian alive . . . you should still stick to your guns.
[ To return to the Sermon index page, click
on the doorway above]