By David Dombrowski
Editor at Lighthouse Trails
For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and the trees of the field shall clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)
Over the last ten years since Lighthouse Trails began, we have been contacted by many who love the Lord and were struggling with great challenges: Some were ostracized by their churches, which had gone Purpose Driven, contemplative, or emerging; some had division in their families; some had financial concerns; and others were worried about health issues – whether their own or that of loved ones. Beyond all of this, many have expressed a sense of uncertainty or foreboding of what the future will bring:
The Bible indicates that in the last days perilous times shall come. And for those of you who have read our review article of The Harbinger, you may remember that our conclusion is that by all indications America is racing toward judgment. Researching for and writing that article quickened to me the realization that something serious or catastrophic could easily come to our country, and we are unprepared. Whether it be nuclear attack, economic collapse, or natural disasters, America appears to be getting only closer to that day.
I know that for the average American (including the American Christian) the idea that mighty America could stumble and fall simply does not register. After all, how could a loving God bring calamity on a nation that has stood so tall for so long? But in considering this, we can see that it is not God who has rejected us but our nation that has continually rejected Him. A case in point is a pastor in a small Oregon town who shared with me how occasionally his church would be permitted to hold an assembly at the local public high school, but one day the mayor approached him and said, “If you even mention God at the assembly, I will have you out of here so fast . . .” But what is a pastor supposed to talk about if he cannot talk about God? Yet, what is even more grievous than our lost freedom is that so many churches have become apostate as they welcome immorality, mystical practices, and false doctrines while often viewing the atonement as outdated and dogmatic.
When judgment comes upon America, it will not be because of a hateful God entertaining Himself with calamity but rather because we, as a nation, have brought judgment upon ourselves. While this nation has a heritage of many who, through great personal sacrifice and a love for God, invited God into the affairs of our nation (and our nation has known prosperity and peace on all our borders) we forget that these blessings all came from God. Now that we have pushed God aside and booted Him out of the country, we have also booted out the blessings and protection we have long known.
None of us really knows what our nation will become if judgment befalls us, but frankly, I feel much more ominous about how corrupt and lawless it will become if God does not judge us. While the call to repentance has been going out for decades now, things have clearly only gotten worse. And while churches are beginning to muster up for national “repentance” and “revival,” God has already moved on to the next step. It is a true saying that those who have sown to the wind will only reap the whirlwind.
Unfortunately, there is much apathy when it comes to warnings of judgment or cataclysmic events. While many prosperity prophets tickle the ears of those who want a soft feel-good gospel, others, in contrast, give warnings of such horrendous proportions (even offering specific dates) of events that could annihilate vast portions of the planet; the net result is that many are being conditioned into indifference.
When perilous events will come, be it judgment or persecution, will we as Christians be ready for it? Such changes can come very rapidly and seemingly overnight; ask Anita Dittman or Diet Eman (Lighthouse Trails’ two Holocaust-survivor authors) if this is not true. They know; they saw it firsthand. Jesus said that men’s hearts would fail from fear of seeing the events happening around them (Luke 21:26). In Luke 21 and Matthew 24, Jesus gives a basic outline of the peril that will precede His return; He did not give specific calendar dates of what will happen, but He did teach us (as do the apostles and prophets) how we can be ready to face the future.
I’m sure we have all seen the ill effects that fear and worry can have on a person’s life, both spiritually and physically. Fear and worry, over an extended period of time, stagnates one spiritually, cripples one emotionally, and breaks one down physically. The enemy (Satan) uses fear whenever possible to thwart the progress of Christians and to promote his agenda. Whole societies have been controlled through fear. When we consider what happened in Nazi Germany, it’s true that great numbers were mesmerized by a charismatic leader with a demonic anointing, but overall he was able to rule the country through fear. Today, we already see the reemergence of fear and intimidation both in our politics and in many churches where fundamental Christianity is marginalized, if not villainized, while immorality and corruption is given special sanctions and promotion.
How can a Christian believer stand under this kind of pressure we see today? Fear is already at work eroding the values we have long held sacred. In many churches, just the pressure to remain popular or contemporary is enough to introduce Yoga and mind-altering meditation (formerly called an occultic practice but today repackaged as “contemplative prayer”) into our churches.
Will the Christians who are still holding back from this landslide of compromised Christianity eventually cower and be absorbed into the system? Will we, like Judas, proceed to give Jesus a kiss while undermining everything He taught? Or, will we like Peter deny that we even know Him? The fact is Jesus is being betrayed and denied on a massive scale today by proclaiming Christians through their embracing of contemplative spirituality and the emerging church, which has an underlying message of rejecting the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. It’s the worst kind of betrayal.
Fear is not something you can merely put the brakes on – like pressing a pedal in your car. Peter, who so adamantly insisted to Jesus that he would never deny Him even unto death did so three times in the course of one night. How then does one stem the tide of fear (and worry) in his own life?
Over a period of three years, Jesus taught His disciples how to live without being overcome by fear and worry. On one occasion, He told them:
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (Matthew 6:28-30)
Jesus said all of this after having just said, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment. . . . Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” (Matthew 6:25, 27).
Now let me explain what I believe Jesus meant and did not mean by these passages. First of all, in saying what He did about taking no thought for our lives, I do not think Jesus was advocating for personal neglect or for unpreparedness. On a personal note, Deborah and I have always been advocates for preparedness. Let me give an example. Back in 1999, we helped organize the Y2K task force in our hometown. During that year, we helped many families in our community learn how to be prepared for disaster (not just Y2K). Then, when nothing significant happened on New Year’s Day, some mocked what we had done. I heard one well-known Christian leader say, after the fact, on his radio program that he had known all along that nothing was going to happen, and that those who had prepared were a bunch of idiots. As I listened to him speak, I wondered why during the year prior, when technical experts and those considered computer savvy were giving out warnings about computer crashes, that this leader with a public forum had not raised a voice to counter the efforts at preparedness. Be it as it may, our involvement with Y2K was not really about a catastrophe happening on a specific calendar date, but for us it was a wake-up call in realizing that our society has become so dependent on the local supermarket and our power grid that most would have scarcely enough food, water, and fuel to last only a few days even in a small-scale crisis. A case in point happened about a year ago in the town I was in when some teenagers were seen playing around the city-water site. The authorities then became concerned that the water could have been tampered with and instructed the townspeople not to drink, cook, or bathe in that water until it was tested. Needless to say, the bottled water in the grocery stores disappeared from the shelves by that afternoon. And this was not even a big scare, and the water proved to be safe.
Jesus’ words about the lilies of the field were a much-needed exhortation to trust God in all aspects of our lives. At the same time, however, Jesus was talking to an agrarian people who knew and practiced preparedness as they utilized their skills in growing and properly storing food for the winter. If this were not true, Solomon would not have praised the ordinary ant in saying, “consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8). Personally, I think it is an embarrassment to our federal government that they would go so far as to vilify people who harvest and store their food for the winter as “hoarders” when this has been common practice in the world practically from the beginning of man until now.
If you have followed our ministry for any length of time then you know that we have never yet talked about preparedness. Yet in by-gone days, it used to be a very normal task for people to cut firewood, tend the livestock, and plant or harvest the fields; so while it is not my intention to get into a lengthy discussion on the practical matters of life, let me say in passing that it would not hurt to consider the situations in which we live. While many of us may be locked into situations or locations that make change nearly impossible, it doesn’t hurt, if you have the opportunity, to consider what would be best for you and your family in the future. Especially if you live in a highly populated city, it does not take much imagination to think of the crime and looting that could ensue after a serious power failure or disaster.
Now, having said all this, let’s return to the words of Jesus when He said that we should take no thought for our lives. The fact is, we are only as safe as the Lord enables us to be. Hence, regardless of our situation in life, our only real option for safety is to place our lives and our futures in the hands of the Lord. While it would be wise to make whatever practical measures we can for the future, none of us are immune from disaster, loss, or theft. To be truly prepared to face the future means above all to be spiritually prepared – and that means having a right relationship with the Lord.
Now is the time for Christians to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). In other words, like the athlete set out to run a race, we need to strip off any excess baggage that would hinder us from giving the Lord our very best. God’s overwhelming desire for us is that we walk with Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30).
I would like to finish with some thoughts about what it means to walk in God’s peace.
First of all, let me say that just as the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16), it is also the avenue to peace with God: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
All of us who have entered into union with God through believing the Gospel – namely that Jesus purchased our salvation fully through His death on the Cross – have God’s peace available to us. Today, it seems that many proclaiming Christians do not really have a sense of God’s peace (which I believe is why so many are turning to contemplative prayer and other mystical practices), and I am fully persuaded it is because they have become removed from the simplicity of the Gospel. The modern-day church leadership has left today’s Christian with a sense of insufficiency of the Gospel and has instead presented an array of substitutes to include such things as relaxation exercises, breath prayers, lectio divina, yoga, and contemplative prayer all with an empty promise of delivering peace and God’s presence when in fact the Gospel is all sufficient for that purpose. Through the Gospel, Jesus opened the door of salvation, promising to live (abide) in us: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you (Colossians 1:27) and “hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24).
As we live by faith, we will enjoy the benefits of God’s peace. And as I mentioned earlier, when Jesus pointed out that we should take no thought for our lives, He indicated that our lives should be free of fear and worry. God wants us to strive for this goal and attain it as well. Jesus then ended His statements with the clause, “O ye of little faith” (Matthew 6:30). In other words, our freedom from fear and worry are only available to us as we allow our faith and trust in the Lord to grow. A perfect example of this is where Jesus, while walking on the water, welcomed Peter to come out and meet Him. Peter, whose life was a mixture of self-confidence and faith, was OK as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, but as he turned his eyes to the wind and the waves, that confidence soon left him. It was the same self-confidence that led him to tell Jesus that he would never deny Him only to be dashed later, causing him to weep bitterly. But it was a good thing for Peter that his self-confidence was so utterly dashed because he was later able to become a great hero of the faith as he found he had abundant and sufficient grace through Christ (even to the point where he was able to go to his death for the sake of Christ) as he put his confidence in Jesus alone. In this one illustration of meeting Jesus on the water, we find the secret of faith that enabled Peter to walk in an abiding peace. Isaiah was inspired by this same kind of faith when he penned the words:
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. (Isaiah 26:3-4)
In closing, if we can make ready for the future in practical ways, it would be good to do so. But, above all, we must not neglect spiritual preparedness. We will all need spiritual strength (that only God can give) to face the future. That means drawing strength from God by reading His Word. Then, it means applying that Word to our lives. My prayer is that the words of Scripture, like that from Isaiah 26 above, will be a reality for you and I; but this can only happen as we forsake the phony comforts of this life and trust the Lord to be our strength. Yes, walking through this life can be heartbreaking and terrifying at times, but as we keep our mind stayed on Him, trusting Him, we can walk forward in His peace.
The Bible says that those who trust the Lord shall not be disappointed (Psalm 34:22). As we watch the world falling apart, there really is no other option than to trust the Lord; thus, may our resolve be to trust Him as fully as we can, even though things will not always go the way we want or hope for; but we can be comforted and assured in knowing that for those who “love God” and are “called according to His purpose,” “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). God has His best intentions in mind for us, and He will not be prevented from accomplishing it. One thing that can give us a sense of stability and peace of mind is knowing that even though God allows evil to happen in the world, when we are “sealed” in Christ, He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5: 1-2