What If?

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What if all those warnings over the last 40+ years were true –

warnings of a coming darkness?

warnings of God’s wrath?

warnings of judgment because we (Christians) have turned from God?

 

What if you knew those days were here?

How would you live differently? Or would you?

How would it change your prayer life? Or would it?

 

Individually and as a Church,

would we use God’s Word to look within ourselves, to see where we’ve compromised with the world around us?

Because we have compromised.

Would we ask God to reveal our sin; where we’ve strayed?

Because we have strayed.

Would we repent, and pray for God’s mercy?

Because that’s what He wants most of all.

Or would we point our fingers at each other? Or at those outside the Church for bringing this upon us?

 

Each time the Israelites strayed from God’s commands, incorporating pagan lifestyles and beliefs into their own, God sent warnings through His prophets. God gave the people plenty of time to return to Him. Sometimes it was years, sometimes decades, sometimes even centuries. But each time the warnings were ignored. Since the wrath didn’t appear the next day, or the next month, the Israelites believed it wouldn’t happen at all. Instead of turning to God, they turned on the prophets with ridicule, imprisonment, even murder. Until the wrath fell on them.

 

What if we as a Church are no different? What if we have adopted the mind sets and life styles of the world around us? What if we no longer hold God first in our hearts, but  seek after the gods of this world? What if we have been warned repeatedly by courageous modern day prophets, but treated them the same way the Israelite treated the prophets of old? Have we dismissed those who have called out for us to repent? Have we belittled and criticized warning “prophecies”, believing, maybe, that God doesn’t do that anymore? Or that the prophets “got it wrong”? After all, we go to church. We give our money. We try to live good lives. We’re fine, right?

Are we?

 

God told the Israelites to…

worship only Him, and with all their heart,

to follow all His commands which involved their relationship with Him, and with each other,

and to keep His ways, not the ways of the people around them.

 

Didn’t Jesus tell us the same thing?

worship God with all our heart,

love each other, treat each other fairly and justly

obey the Holy Spirit inside us,

and not conform to the world around us

 

God poured out His wrath on the Israelites for straying – wrath that included…

Confusion, frustration

Diseases, afflictions, pestilences, and illnesses

Defeat by their enemies

Oppression and robbery instead of prosperity

Sojourners among them would rise higher and higher while they were brought lower and lower

A nation from far away come against them

Crops consumed by insects

So hungry they end up eating their own children

Be in darkness as if blind

Be left few in number

 

Scary, isn’t it?

What if He did the same with us? What if He’s already doing it? The New Testament warns of a coming wrath. It’s not a matter of IF it will happen, but WHEN it will happen.

 

Yet, God also promised blessings instead of curses if the Israelites turned back to Him…

Set them high among the nations

Defeat their enemies

Establish them as His holy people, causing all other nations to fear them

Prosper them in every way

Send rain in its season

Open to them His good treasury in heaven

They would lend to other nations, and not borrow

 

What if we listened to the prophets this time?

What if we turned back to God with all our hearts?

What if the time was now?

 

 

 


Scriptures:

“For the LORD GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)

“Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention.” (2 Chron 24:19)

 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (Rom 1:18-19)

“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Rom 2:4-6)

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has not inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceived you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”” (Eph 5:1-14)

 “ Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” (Col 3:5-6)

“Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4)

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” (Jude 1:17-19)

list of Blessings for Obedience, and Curses for Disobedience (see Deut 28)

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and all your soul, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you…  and you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today. The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of you cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers… (Deut 30:1-3, 8-9)

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil… therefore choose life that you and your offspring may live…” (Deut 30: 11-15, 19)

“if my people who are called by by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron 7:14)

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your father served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in the land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

 

Fear Buster

Remember Ghost Busters? “I ain’t afraid of no ghost!”

Well, I am. If a ghost appeared to me, I would most definitely be afraid. And that’s not the only thing I’m afraid of.

I’m afraid of being criticized.

I’m afraid of small talk.

I’m afraid of extensive dental work.

I’m afraid of hearing God wrong.

I’m afraid of my house never getting fixed.

I’m afraid of running out of money.

I’m afraid of taking chances.

I’m afraid of making wrong decisions.

I’m afraid of growing really old.

I’m afraid of making phone calls.

I’m afraid of alligators.

I’m afraid of disappointing God.

I’m afraid of confrontation.

I’m afraid of letting go of my fears.

I could go on – the list is endless.

But God’s list for overcoming fear is short. Very short. There’s only two things on His list.

Fear is not of God.

Perfect love casts out fear.

 

I didn’t used to understand that, because I didn’t understand love. Or God. But I’m learning.

He taught me how to use His list as a Fear Buster whenever a fear appeared.

This is how it works:

(name your fear) I’m afraid of making wrong decisions.

(remind yourself) Fear is not of God.

(personalize applicable scriptures) Romans 8:28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good. Psalm 48:14 That this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever. God promises to guide me and to make all things work in my favor. I do not have to worry about which decision I make. Even if I make the wrong one, God will take care of me. He loves me, and is bigger than any mistake I make. He has promised to make everything, even my mistakes, work out in my favor.

(replace the fear with His love) Perfect love casts out fear.

Good-bye fear! I am no longer afraid because I’m trusting God’s Word, and not what I can see, reason, or imagine.

 

Now THAT’S the real, and amazing, Ghost Buster FEAR BUSTER!

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Devastation or Beauty:  Where Does Your Mind Dwell?

As some of you know, my town was hit by Michael, a strong category 4 hurricane, (wind speed just 2 mph less than a category 5) in October. It’s been just over 2 months and devastation is still seen everywhere. Many businesses are still not reopened, and many of those will never reopen leaving many people jobless. Long lines and completely filled parking lots plague the few department and grocery stores that have opened. Contractors and their workers’ vehicles flood the streets so making a quick trip anywhere is no longer possible. Blue tarped roofs are seen everywhere as well as downed and broken trees, debris piles taller than the cars driving past them, and a multitude of damaged buildings. Some areas of town are still without electricity and internet. Many people who lost their homes either had to move away or are living in tents because there is no housing left. Schools have to share facilities since many schools were completely destroyed. There is not one building, one lot, or one person in our town untouched. Instead of concentrating on Christmas, many are exhausted from navigating insurance and contractor paperwork while trying to avoid the many scams that pop up in situations like this, jumping through FEMA hoops, or trying to find a job they can walk to since their cars were damaged along with their homes. Very few Christmas lights can be seen, and parents are desperately trying to seek ways to get some presents to their children. The more fortunate ones compete for the toys still available at Walmart, but many more don’t have the finances and have to stand in lines for many hours to get a chance to pick out some donated toys. Even worse, a good number of people have had to resort to begging strangers for help because they don’t have the transportation or health to even get to the toy distribution sites.

On the other hand…

After most volunteers and relief agencies have left, we are still being surprised with truck loads of toys, blankets, jackets, and other supplies arriving from people living in other towns near and far. More than a few Facebook groups have been created solely for the purpose of providing help to those who need it from insurance and contractor concerns to housing and shopping question. Quite a few people both local and distant have formed networks to ensure every legitimate need is taken care of to the best of their ability. Some people have opened their yards/land to house displaced people living in tents providing them safety, meals and hot showers. Many new friendships have been created and neighbors are watching out for each other now that fences no longer separate them. And the beauty of God’s creation can still be seen from the dazzling night sky (much clearer now since we have fewer street and commercial lights) and the breathtaking sunrises/sunsets (less trees = more view of the sky) to the delicate blooming flowers and the gorgeous beaches.

As I think about the people I’ve met and the people whose Facebook posts I’ve read, I wonder why so many are depressed and angry while many others are hopeful and encouraging. I don’t think in this case the answer can be found solely in their relationship or lack of relationship with God. It’s true that for many Christians, their faith is giving them the strength to keep moving forward. Yet I know just as many strong Christians who are depressed and hurting as non-Christians who are positive and optimistic. No, I think in this situation the answer might lie more in their heads than in their hearts. Where do their minds dwell? The devastation all around that is real and not going away any time soon? Or the beauty that is also real and not going away? Each is just as valid as the other. Yet for some reason it’s way easier to dwell in the devastation than to see past it to the beauty.

Maybe when we pray for people in devastated areas – not just here in Panama City but throughout the world – we could add a short sentence before our amen. It may not seem like much, but it might just make all the difference.

“Father, open their eyes to the beauty that is still around them.”

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Devastated pavilion surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation at St. Andrews State Park, Panama City Beach, FL, taken on 12/24/18 by Linda Schnepel