A Storm Is Coming.
I stopped in for just a few minutes to grab some basic supplies before the storm. We needed cream for our coffee. We can’t ride out a blizzard without coffee! And what seemed like a few things we needed, just to get us by, turned into one of our big shopping trips.
Bebe, my wife, and my 16 year old son, Dawson shopped together. She would give me a couple of things to go get and Dawson and I would run to get them. When we would return, she would give a couple of more things to find. It was crazy in Walmart, everyone else had the same idea we had, stock up on supplies before the storm hit.
It was hard to believe that a storm was really going to hit anyway. It was nearly sixty degrees outside. That is warm for a winter day in Colorado. People start wearing shorts when it hits forty degrees outside! Really! So, I was surprised that people were actually taking the idea of the storm seriously. Coloradans are famous for not heeding the advice of weather forecasters. I think that’s because the weather forecasters get their predictions wrong more often than not. But here they were stocking up on essentials.
The storm predictions were not just local news. I saw the predictions on national news feeds. “Colorado getting slammed by massive storm.” Other predictions read, “this will be the worst storm since 1973.” I doubted that one. I’ve seen some pretty big storms in Colorado.
Later when I got home and we unpacked our groceries, I scrolled through social media. I had to laugh as some of my friends made fun of the storm. “What storm? It’s 60 outside. This storm won’t be bad at all.” Friends laughed at the local schools that had already canceled school for the following day. Coloradans don’t cancel school very often. I remember taking my daughter to school in her seventh grade year and it was more than a foot of fresh snow. That’s a lot of snow for anybody to drive in, especially for a guy that grew up in Texas.
I thought about the people stocking up on groceries and filling their tanks with gas to prepare for the storm. And I thought about the people that seemed to not prepare at all for the coming blizzard. They seemed to think, “Its not coming and if it does we’ll handle it. It can’t be that bad.” It's not hard to listen and prepare. To prepare for a storm that the "experts", the meteorologists told us about. These experts could literally see the storm forming on special radar and tell the exact time of when the storm would hit and what the storm would bring. But few listened. They flashed pictures of the storm coming. And yet people did not prepare, they didn’t believe. Except a few of us.
Well, like the song says, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Storm is raging. Wind is blowing. Snow is deep.
I’m a preacher by trade, a pastor. A pastor is someone who shepherds sheep (Christians) in his flock, the members of his local church. The way we do that is through teaching and preaching the Bible. I guess I could just say that I teach God’s word (the Bible) to people. In that job, I study the Bible daily. I want to know it so well that I can teach what it says. I read through it carefully and completely a few times a year. I study passages and listen to what other pastors are teaching, too.
Here’s what I want you to know; there is a storm coming. It is a spiritual storm. One of great evil. It is a storm that will test you down to your core. I don’t say that to scare you, unless by scaring you I can get you to take action. I write this post, I realize, to mainly a Christian crowd. Or at least people that call themselves Christians. There is a storm coming and it is already raging in some parts of our world. Some Christians in the United States have some vague sense that the storm is coming. They hear that the storm is raging in other parts of the world and they say to themselves, “that’s a bad storm over there, but that could never happen here.”
The storm that’s coming is one that will separate the real Christians from the false ones. The Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 4:7,
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.” (NIV)
The end of all things is the return of Christ to take Christians home to Heaven. And for those who don’t know Jesus as their personal Savior, judgment and Hell. Christians, we have to tell people the truth: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is our mission. But we don’t share; we don’t teach. It’s like it’s sixty degrees outside, the storm is coming and no one is getting ready for it.
For Christians, the storm that is coming will be persecution. Yes, I believe here in the United States. Soon, possibly already, preaching and teaching orthodox Christian doctrine and theology will be outlawed. It is already being called “hate speech” by many. So many churches and pastors are preaching, non-offensive, soft, feel good, motivational talks in hopes of not hurting people’s feelings and more importantly, not hurting their church’s attendance and dollars given. Instead, pastors, through confusing true Gospel grace are leading their pulpits and churches to become affirming, not calling sin, sin. Pastors should be getting people ready for the coming storm! But there seems to be no urgency, or at least very little.
Christians in the United States treat following Christ and being part of a local church as somehow optional. I’ve read recently, that church attendance by Christians that actually go to church, only attended church about once every six weeks on average. Also, Christians who actually study their Bible and spend a focused time in prayer, are even less. My point is that few Christians are getting ready for the storm.
Consider what the Apostle Paul tells the church in Ephesians 4:14-15:
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (NIV)
Do you get the picture. It’s a storm. See the imagery? Infants, tossed back and forth by the wind and waves, and blown here and there. That’s pretty descriptive! Christian, there is a storm coming to the United States and it will whip with the wind of false teaching from within the church and without. But do you see Paul’s prescription to prepare the church for the coming storm? “Speaking the truth in love.” That is how you get the church to mature. Truth sometimes hurts, but speaking the truth in love brings healing
What I find interesting, is that you can’t “speak love” without the truth. Because, if you are not speaking the truth, then you are speaking a lie. A lie is false, even if you believe it to be true. A lie does damage to the one who believes it. To speak in love, you must speak truth. But you can speak truth without speaking in love. Christians are known for that. It’s ugly. Preachers that bash others with truth with no love, do a great disservice to the kingdom of God. Christians have to get people ready for the storm by speaking the truth but it will only work if we do it in love.
I see the storm coming. Do you? My hope, in my preaching, is that through the word of God (The Bible) and by the Holy Spirit of God, we would see people mature into Christians that prepare for the storm. The author of Hebrews says in Hebrews 10:24-25,
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (NIV)
As I write this, I’m sipping coffee, with a little cream in it. Dunkin Donuts cream is my brand of choice at home. This little storm seems big to us here in Colorado right now, but has nothing on the spiritual storm coming. A strange thing about Colorado is this. There may be a blizzard one day and the next day could be up to sixty degrees and sunny again. Storms have hit the church many times.
Early in the life of the church, the book of Acts describes a big storm of persecution. It was horrible. And the effect? The early church was scattered all over the world. That seems bad at first. And I’m sure that those early Christians suffered in that persecution. But look at what Acts 8:4 says:
“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (NIV)
That is amazing. Persecution resulted in the Gospel being spread. What if, just what if, this storm we see coming is a storm that will scatter the real Christians all over the earth? It’s kind of a painful thought and an exciting thought at the same time. Because if we have learned anything about the true Church being persecuted, we have seen throughout history that it bears much spiritual fruit. People quit being soft about following Jesus. Persecution has a way of clearing the mind and giving will to the purposes of Christ in the World.
Several years ago, I sat with Christians that had seen first hand the massacre of students at Tiananmen Square. They told the vivid sight of death and blood spilt that day. Much of the blood spilled that day were of Christians. When I asked them how the other Christians could have gone on after such a terrible persecution, they said: “the persecution was the thing that had made them share the Gospel, all the faster, and in more places.” It was that event that resulted in the crack-down on Christian students but led to the rapid spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout China!
Here’s my hope. Prepare for the storm. Christians get yourself ready. Get your friends ready. Get your church ready. Get your family ready. We know that someday the storm will be over and we will be on the other side, in Heaven. But let’s prepare for the storm while we are still here.