Caught In a Raging Storm
The letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 offer both timeless encouragement and a warning to churches and individual Christians. While two churches received only encouragement from the Lord Himself, the other five found themselves strongly rebuked.
Jesus’ words to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:5 are instructive to us still today. This beloved church, planted by the Apostle Paul, was the first to be called out by name in Revelation.
The Lord first lauded their deeds, toil, and perseverance. He also noted that they did not tolerate evil men. However, His grievance against that church was that they had abandoned their First Love. Without question, God is justifiably offended when those who know Him—and should know better—turn their backs on Him and violate the relationship into which He has called them. And that is not only true for individuals. When a nation or society that once respected and honored the Lord strays from Him, insult is added to injury, grieving the heart of God.
We tend to see with physical eyes, measuring a nation’s health by its economic vitality or its citizens’ life expectancy. Those indicators have merit, but just as God told Samuel not to look at outward appearance when anointing a king from among Jesse’s sons, “God still sees not as a man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
God’s prophetic Word says that most human hearts will grow darker and colder in the last days—and that society itself will become increasingly evil. We refer to this category of End Times signs portending the Lord’s return as “Signs of Society.” And America is following the tragic trajectory of ancient Judah right now.
Set Apart and Blessed with Grace
Too often, we are deluded into thinking that our nation is blessed because we deserve God’s blessing. With shouts of “USA! USA!” ringing in our ears, we figuratively thump our chests and tout the worthiness of our nation, forgetting that even our national hymn, “America the Beautiful,” repeats the line “God shed His grace on thee” six times. Few reflect today that Katharine Lee Bates’ poem was meant to inspire humility and thanksgiving to Almighty God.
Older Americans were raised to think ours is “the greatest nation on the earth” (if not the greatest nation ever). I would agree with that sentiment when it comes to the ordered liberty that marked the American experiment for its first 200 years or so—not because our “more perfect union” was indeed perfect. Instead, our nation longingly aspired toward perfection, respecting as Bates did the Source of our greatness:
God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law! May God thy gold refine Till all success be nobleness, And every gain divine!
Over the past century, few could dispute the unprecedented prosperity our society has enjoyed. But, sadly, that prosperity morphed into a sense of entitlement, self-importance, and self-sufficiency that has led America grievously astray.
Faith Of Our Fathers
David Barton and other Christian scholars offer clear evidence of the Judeo-Christian foundations of our society. Men such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and yes, even Thomas Jefferson, could not have imagined crafting a nation without underpinning it on Christian faith.
Some would retort that those men were hypocrites when it came to following the law of God. I would agree. All of us are hypocrites to some degree, and the founders were guilty of some glaring oversights and inconsistencies. But that realization still cannot detract from the ideals they collectively agreed to pursue—or the system of government that they established to honor “Nature’s God” and the rights of His most elevated creature.
Over time, our nation endured tremendous growing pains. The most pronounced happened less than fourscore and seven years after the original establishment of the United States. Reflecting on the horrible tragedy of the Civil War and the scourge of slavery itself, Abraham Lincoln observed, “The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!…the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’ ” (Second Inaugural Address).
A Christian Nation?
There is no doubt that America was founded on Christian principles. The Bible was once taught in every public school classroom alongside primers like the McGuffey Readers. Our laws and our collective morality were unapologetically shaped by the Word of God. But no more.
Some Christians still want to maintain that this is a Christian nation. I find this to be an offensive assertion. Would a Christian nation tolerate, let alone encourage:
- Unfettered sexual licentiousness.
- Flagrant homosexuality and a willful appropriation of the rainbow (ordained by God) to convey enthusiasm toward sodomy and sin.
- Confusion over basic creation truths like the biological distinction between men and women.
- An epidemic of family-shattering divorce, though hated by God.
- Rampant mind-numbing drug use—prescribed or “recreational”.
- Millions of babies murdered in their mothers’ wombs.
- Professing churches denigrating Christ’s deity and His Word.
- National leaders flaunting their deceitfulness and sin that impoverishes future generations in violation of biblical principles.
I could go on and on, describing in heart-wrenching detail the transgressions against Heaven that are multiplying every day. Instead of focusing on the litany of transgressions, I’ll simply ask: Would God label our nation as a Christian nation, or would He be offended that such a people co-mingled the Name of His Son with their manifest perversions and celebration of wickedness?
It is not my point to prove here that America was founded as a Christian nation. The question that hangs over our heads today is: how did we get to where we are today?
There Rose Up Another Generation
Scripture plainly describes what happened in ancient Israel. “All that generation [those who had personally witnessed God’s faithfulness through the 40 years of wandering and the initial conquest of Canaan] also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, not yet the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).
What a tragic indictment. Whose fault was it that the next generation did not know the LORD or what He had done for His people?
It is easy to blame “the next generation,” because they will always appear to be softer and less motivated than the ones who came before. But the next generation is raised by the previous generation. God was adamant in commanding His people to pass down their faith; pouring knowledge about the Holy One of Israel into that next generation.
Regarding His revealed words, the LORD commanded, “…you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall ask of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
Writing those words on doorposts and gates and binding them to arms and foreheads was an outward indication of the call to imprint them on their hearts.
The point is that when Joshua uttered his challenge to the people of Israel, they wholeheartedly responded, “We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God” (Joshua 24:18). Yet only a few generations later, that fervent faith gave way to apathetic abandonment of the true and living God.
By the time Elijah was proclaiming the Word of the Lord, God testified that only 7,000 remained who had not bowed to Baal and kissed that detestable idol (1 Kings 19:18). Tellingly, when Elijah called on the sons of Israel to choose who they would serve, the LORD God or Baal (in a prophetic repetition of the choice Joshua posed just a few generations earlier), “the people did not answer him a word” (1 Kings 18:21). The pitiful atrophying of faith in the land was demonstrated by a deafening sound of silence.
Songwriter Neil Peart captured the implications of such apparent indecision: “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” The people of ancient Israel, like today’s so-called “nones,” have indeed made a choice.
Perhaps the only thing worse than silence in the face of such a dramatic option is to falsely claim something that contradicts a person’s living testimony. Jesus called out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes when He said, “…rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the precepts of men’ “ (Matthew 15:7-9).
Caught In a Raging Storm
Where are we today? Our society is caught in a raging storm of violence, chaos, and wickedness. Each month, I choose “signs of the times” to highlight in our bimonthly Lamplighter, realizing that more outrageous examples will manifest themselves before we can even go to print.
The storm analogy offers insight. Mighty and destructive thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes begin as small atmospheric disturbances. What starts as a low-pressure weather event eventually morphs into a monster that cannot be controlled or avoided. The only thing people can do is hunker down and pray or flee to another location.
Over the course of the past century, disdain for moral norms was manifested in seeds of depravity being sown in the 1960s. And we tolerated it all. America’s moral compass was shattered by elected leaders who practiced deception to pursue selfish ambition and bankrupt policies. The spiritual foundations of our nation were undermined by Supreme Court decisions eliminating prayer and relegating Christian faith to the outskirts of society. The fabric of the family was irreparably torn by laws endorsing no-fault divorce and policies encouraging infidelity and single-parent child-raising.
In a headlong rush to push the boundaries of liberation, radicals are now proclaiming all Judeo-Christian values to be patriarchal and oppressive—plainly stating their rejection of the God of Scripture and His laws. In practical fulfillment of Psalm 2:2-3, our own elected leaders attempt to appease the restless masses by rejecting the LORD and His Anointed as they gleefully attempt to “tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!”
Like a fool who sails out of a safe harbor or casts himself adrift from a secure mooring, our nation is now being tossed about on a sea of moral relativity and swamped by waves of crime, anxiety, and despair.
A Light in The Darkness
The only way to escape the self-destructive path we are on is first to recognize our plight. Like the Apollo 13 astronauts, we must grasp the bleak reality that “we have a problem.” Counselors will tell you that is the hardest part of changing the trajectory of someone addicted to alcohol or drugs. In their self-delusion, self-destructive people refuse to accept that they have a problem.
If our society—from our national leaders to everyday citizens—will first recognize our spiritual problem, the next challenge is to understand that self-sufficiency is not an absolute virtue. Our political leaders are quick to tout our ability to overcome any challenge, reaching within and pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But such an attitude is pointedly unbiblical. We need God.
Even if our nation turned from denial, accepted a biblical self-awareness, and recognized its own need, would the overwhelming majority turn back to Christ? The rebellion has become so widespread and the prioritization of ecumenicalism so entrenched that our cultural drivers will embrace any spiritual fad before they revere the true and living God and His revealed Word.
Though I am convinced that America’s self-inflicted wound is incurable (Jeremiah 30:12-13), we faithful Christians strive to act as salt and light—working for the welfare of this pagan land. As Jeremiah told the exiles living in Babylon, “in its welfare [we] will have welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). We seek the welfare of our nation, and the state and city and neighborhood in which we live, in order to support conduits of blessing to people near and far.
As we do that, we must contend with another problem.
Exiles And Strangers in A Strange Land
Peter referred to followers of Jesus Christ as living stones that are rejected by men (1 Peter 2:4). Although we are joined to the Choice Stone—our precious Cornerstone, in this world we live as “aliens and strangers” (2:11).
This language was all too familiar to Peter’s Jewish listeners and readers. Jews identify with Abraham’s wandering as a sojourner in Canaan because as a people they awaited rescue from bondage in Egypt. They lived as exiles in Babylon, longing for their deliverance from captivity. American Christians presume that we are entitled to live in a society that honors God and respects our faith—quite oblivious to the fact that this has seldom been the experience of the saints of God.
On a deeply introspective level, it is time to realize that, like generations of the elect who have gone before us, in this world we also have a problem. Jesus told us as much. He said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). More often than not, we will be persecuted, prosecuted, and put upon. This present darkness will give way to an even more horrific future; during the Tribulation the Antichrist will seek to destroy all who worship the Lamb. Revelation 6:9-11 describes the outcry of all those martyred for maintaining their testimony of faith.
So, brothers and sisters, let us understand that we are not immune from the hostility of the world. That hostility will grow and metastasize as the end draws near, leading to greater ostracization for us as followers of Christ. That is not only our looming and growing problem, it is our great privilege and opportunity.
Be Careful How You Walk
“For this reason the Bible says, ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:14-16).
Seizing this realization is not a defeatist attitude. It is the necessary first step in steeling ourselves for our upward call in Christ in such a time as this. Instead of clinging to a Pollyanna vision of ascendency in the world’s eyes, we can focus on honoring and serving our heavenly Father—even as we advocate for godliness and Christ-honoring policies and laws and institutions. We are called to be a restraining force on evil and beacons of hope until we are collectively Raptured out of the world.
We need to regain the bold confidence of the Apostles and early Christians who saw themselves as privileged to suffer on behalf of Christ. Paul encouraged the Philippian church to “conduct [themselves] in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” in the face of great opposition (Philippians 1:27-28). He said, “for to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (1:29). Likewise, Peter and the other Apostles, after being flogged for teaching in Jesus’ name, went on their way “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).
Consider Your Ways
Speaking of considering, in this twilight hour it is critical that we apply the admonition given to the Jewish people through the prophet Haggai. Twice, the LORD told His people to, “Consider your ways!” The NASB notes that in both instances, the original text emphasizes that people should “set their heart upon” considering their ways. Other translations render this as, “Think carefully about your ways” (i.e., the CSB). The Lord is clearly stressing the importance of His people stepping back from their routine to consider how they should proceed.
In that spirit, we need only weigh Jesus’ words regarding faith and love. He rhetorically asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). He also warned that as apostasy and persecution increase, “many will fall away,” and “because lawlessness is increased, the love of most people will grow cold” (Matthew 24:9-12).
I used to think those verses applied to the unbelieving world, but I now consider them warnings to Christians. Christ’s concern was for His sheep. The danger of our love growing cold in the face of rising anarchy touches on the criticism He leveled at Ephesus — the first church in Revelation 2-3. The key to avoiding those pitfalls is to cling to the third leg of Paul’s three-legged stool: faith, hope, and love.
Peter tells us that the result of active faith is love (2 Peter 1:5-7), while Hebrews 11:1 characterizes faith as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We do not yet see Christ face-to-face; do you hope for Him with such assurance that your heart resonates with anticipation of His coming?
An Admonition to Individuals
It is not enough to just reclaim our society. If you do not know Jesus as Savior and Lord your own eternal destiny is horrific beyond words. Like our society itself, you need to:
- Realize you have a spiritual problem
- Come to the end of yourself and confess your great need (in the spirit of Revelation 3:17)
- Turn to God, and embrace Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord
Time is of the essence. Jesus is at the gates of Heaven, ready for His Father to send Him forth to collect His Bride, the Church. It can happen any day!
However, you are not guaranteed another day—or even another hour. Call upon the Name of the Lord right now and you will be saved. Join all of us who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds. Then, together we can proclaim the Good News that He has come, He has paid the penalty for sin, and He is coming again soon!
Return To Your First Love
So, we end up where we began—with Jesus’ admonition to the church at Ephesus. He lauded their toil and perseverance. He praised the church’s unwillingness to succumb to toleration in order to please the hell-bound world. He commended their discernment and perseverance. But His rebuke poses a challenge to each of us as the days grow longer and darker: will we stay true to our first Love—to Christ our Savior and Lord?
America is manifesting all the heartbreaking Signs of Society that prophetically mark the approaching Day of the Lord. Like Judah of old, our wound appears to be incurable as our nation shuns the God Who blessed us.
The signs of our own society offer a cautionary note to those of us who aspire to follow Christ. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute—choose whether to stay true and follow Him.
The Glory of the Lord is indeed coming, following an unleashing of His terrible swift sword of judgment and wrath. Are you ready?