Ben McSpadden: How do you feel about conspiracy theories? Hmmm? I’m sure there’s a spectrum of us in here. Some of us might think they’re insidious facts we have to watch out for, or maybe they are just imaginary fairy tales. I’m going to give you some of the top ten that I found, and some of them, I’m going to, I might laugh at, and others I’ll be like, I’m going to pause there a second and think, maybe...maybe. So let’s take a look at a few of the conspiracy theories that are out there.
Area 51 and the aliens...we’re going to go on vacation here in New Mexico in a couple weeks, and maybe I’ll have an out-of-this-world experience in Area 51. Or there’s Bigfoot; maybe I’ll run across him. There’s secret societies that control the world. Now if you want a combo pack? You have have the aliens that are actually secret societies that rule the world. They’re like an alien/reptilian race; no joke, I ran across that conspiracy idea. Well, that’s kind of interesting; I do believe there’s a big snake that might run in some things, but I don’t think it’s an out-of-this-world sort of thing. Then you’ve got the conspiracy theories...the Holocaust revisionism. You know, there’s probably some people trying to monkey with some of our history. The moon landings were faked. I don’t know about that; I think we really landed on the moon, but maybe? Maybe they were faked? The JFK assassination, maybe there was a cover up. There’s always a conspiracy out there--a different movie or telling of it--or, the 911 cover ups. And then the next slide here--chemtrails. Those are those white, little clouds you see when the jets go by. So the conspiracy theory is that it’s really chemicals that the government is dropping on us to control us; then chemtrails...watch out for them! FDA is withholding the real cure for cancer so that the drug companies can make a lot of money. They already have the cure; they just won’t give it to us. That’s one conspiracy. Or, the military controls the weather, and that’s why it’s so hot in Texas in the summer. They’re doing something over there at the military base. I hear the laughs; I get it.
But what do conspiracy theories do? They can work us up, especially if we find one that is a favorite of ours and make us think maybe there’s something more going on here that’s bigger than we realize. And, it causes us to worry a little bit. So whether it’s a fairy tale or it really is a fact, there’s this concern. But then there are things we don’t see as fairy tales, and they really do worry us. We don’t wonder about them because we see the devastation, the natural disasters that occur. Whether it’s an earthquake, a tornado, a hurricane, a tsunami, we’re scared. Sometimes, even our fear of the real things that happen they’re not always based on facts. In fact, what I was reading was a lot of people are more scared of earthquakes--the earth swallowing them whole--than severe weather, like tornadoes and thunderstorms. And actually, historically, more lives are lost to the severe storms than earthquakes. Yet, people are more scared of earthquakes.
So what do conspiracy theories and natural disasters have to do with the book we’re going to look at today--Joel? Natural disasters...well, there’s a conspiracy theory; there’s a conspiracy going on with a natural disaster in the book of Joel. And that is that a governing agency--THE governing agency--God, Maker and Controller of the universe, is allowing a natural disaster to go on in the lives of these people. Now, the good news is, Joel; his name means salvation--the Lord is salvation. We’re going to learn some about what it means that the Lord is salvation, but you have to be saved from something, and it’s not pretty what’s happening. And, we don’t know exactly what’s happening when this book was written. Some of the prophets, some of the clues they give us, we have a better understanding, but we don’t really know much about when he wrote. But his message is timeless, and it applies to us today.
So we’re going to look at right from the beginning what this natural was. It says in the fourth verse of the book; it says, “What the cutting locust left the swarming locust has eaten. What swarming locust has left the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left the destroying locust has eaten.” And what you’re seeing is it’s not just giving you a science lesson of there’s different kinds of locusts. But there’s wave after wave of destruction that these folks are experiencing. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but we can only imagine what it would be like. But actually, today in our own time across the pond, across the ocean, people have actually experienced in the last couple of months if you Google in the news “locust plague;” there’s been stuff going on in the Middle East and South Asia and even Italy. One article said millions of locusts from Iran have invaded Pakistan, and it’s destroying thousands of acres of crops.
Another article said “locusts destroy crops in the worst invasion in Sardinia…,” which is off the coast of Italy, “...for more than sixty years.” They haven’t seen locusts like this since World War II. So, people are experiencing vast devastation from locusts even today, but since you and I aren’t farmers and we’re not experiencing a locust plague right now, let’s kind of imagine, if you will, that you went to the store to buy something. And, your credit card didn’t work, so you get out the other credit card. And, it doesn’t work, so you’re like, “I’ll just write a check.” So you try to write a check, and you realize the banking industry is completely down. So you’re starting to freak out a little bit, so you go, and you’re gonna’, maybe you’re gonna’ pawn some stuff. But nothing works, and you cannot get groceries tonight for your family because nothing; the whole thing has imploded. Then you hear on the nightly news that, “Oh and by the way, we’re being invaded by terrorists!” I mean, this is...this is what these people are facing. What one locust destroys another...or leaves behind...another locust destroys. What they leave behind another set... it’s just wave after wave. And, that’s what they’re experiencing. And, they’re being hit where it counts for them, where they can get their food and their wealth in their time.
But, Joel goes on to say, “Alas, for the Day of the Lord is near and as destruction from the Almighty, it comes. Is not the food cut off before our eyes, joy and gladness from the house of our God?” There’s one psalm or song that we sing--”Let us rejoice and be glad in today for the Lord has made it.” Right? This is not the one that we rejoice in; this is the Day of the Lord. This is not a happy time. A couple weeks ago, I got to speak on Haggai, the prophet; I said he’s sort of the “party prophet.” There were some good things about what he was talking about, and it was during a festival time. This is no party; this is the Day of the Lord, and this is a time when God’s going to bring judgment. He’s going to bring judgment because the people have rebelled. This is not a new revelation; this is just a reminder.
God had warned them long ago when he had gotten them together. He said I’m going to make you a people, and I’m going to lead you. And, he’s talking to Moses, and he warns them in Deuteronomy in chapter 28. He says, “If you reject me, I’m going to send locusts to eat your harvests…” Fast forward several hundred years later, and boom, it’s happening. So, it wasn’t like a “surprise!” God had been telling them that this was going to happen if they didn’t watch it, and what we see in a very illustrative way is that our sin paves the path to destruction. Our sin paves the path to destruction. There’s a listening guide there in your program to help you follow along, but this is not good.
Joel’s telling us, “Hey, this is a wake up call!” Our rebellion against God brings consequences. Sometimes people say they want a sign from God to know that he’s real, and this is a very big sign that he’s given them. And, he’s warned them several years in advance. It wasn’t like nobody told me. He’d been telling them this for a long time; they’d known this. But when you’re asking the God of the universe who’s created you and me and galaxies far beyond what we can see, the sign that he gives, it doesn’t necessarily always fit just on a bumper sticker or a billboard. It can be a pretty significant sign, and in this case he chose to use the locusts to get their attention. Locusts were often a sign of destruction. He told in Moses’ time that that was going to happen, and it’s happening here. But, it doesn’t end there.
Even after Jesus has come, He’s died on the cross to make a way that we could be right with God again, dying for our sins, for our rebellion. He goes us to heaven; He leaves the disciples to start the church, and the last book of the Bible, Revelation, tells us about some future things, about the end times when everything’s going to be wrapped up. And, this idea of locusts and destruction are right there in the last book of the Bible. This is what it says in chapter nine of in Revelation: “Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions over the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” And then it goes on to say, “They have as a king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abbadon and in Greek he is called Apollyon.” And, both of these names whether it’s in Hebrew or Greek mean destruction or destroyer, so we see the locusts are being led by one whose name means destruction or destroyer. And, all this is a result of our rebellion against God.
So, why does destruction happen? I mean...it happens because we are violating reality that God intended. When we violate the laws of gravity, we tend to fall; we tend to hurt ourselves. You and I have been put in a reality that’s not just physical; it’s also...there’s a spiritual component. You’re a physical being, and you’re also a spiritual being. And when we violate the reality that God’s created, there are physical consequences; there are spiritual consequences. You and I have nerve endings throughout our body so that we can...they can give us a signal when we’re touching something, or if we’re about to harm ourselves because we’re bending our arm back to reach into something or maybe we’re bending our finger back. Before it breaks, it hurts a lot, and that’s to get our attention so that further damage isn’t done. When God allows us to experience pain and troubles, it’s to get our attention. If we still have a pulse, we still have a purpose right now even in the midst of the pain.
So, what I’m not trying to say is that every challenge and trouble that you have is a direct result of your current rebellion. Sometimes our sin is the reason for that, and I don’t want to throw that out. Sometimes, though, our trouble is because of other things that other people have created. Sometimes other people’s sin causes me harm. If you’ve ever been cheated or scammed, you know that other people who are tricking...you might feel stupid, but there was also somebody who was intentionally trying to trick you. So sometimes it’s other people’s sin who causes you harm, and sometimes God is trying to deepen our faith with this challenge that we will trust him more. So, at the risk of being really uncool, I want you to consider that sometimes our trouble really is because we have rebelled against God in some way.
But trouble, whatever the source is, it always gives me pause to ask about the cause. It gives me pause to ask about the cause. I don’t always know why, but if I’m experiencing challenges and trouble, I want to stop and go, “What’s going on here, Lord? Are You trying to get my attention?” Several months this spring, my wife and I walked through a very challenging situation with the birth of our latest child, our number nine. We were so excited, yet there were some big birthing complications that we knew going into it. And, it was a surprise to the doctors; they said this is not normal for you guys and your track record. There wasn’t anything we could have done, and we’re asking the Lord. As far as I could tell, we were clear with the Lord; we hadn’t sinned in any way. Yet, at the same time, it definitely deepened our faith to trust Him. This was life-threatening; we didn’t know how much time we would have together. So, we were thankful for each other and really trying to love each other in those difficult moments. There was trouble; there was calamity.
I mean, this weekend we experienced more trouble; I mean, it doesn’t ever stop, right? I’ve kids right now sick at home. It doesn’t stop. Did one of them sin? Most likely, but is the sickness right then and there because of that? I don’t know that; I can’t say for certain. It’s hard to tell a three year-old, “You’re sick because you’ve rebelled against me.” Now, I don’t know that it works exactly like that always; it’s complicated. We had a tree fall in our backyard this weekend, and it’s like, wow, is that a result of sin? Well, in some ways it is; the earth groans because we broke it. We broke it a long time ago, and the whole earth, creation, is groaning. So, it’s groaning because the trees are old, and they’re dying. And, death is part of sin, so a tree breaks. Was I sinning? I don’t think I was in that moment, but it definitely was a lesson to pause. I told my wife, “Hey, I’m speaking about trouble on Sunday, so hey, maybe that’s why I’m getting this.” It was a reason to pause and ask, “What’s going on here?”
There’s two things you can do when you face trouble. You can either lean in, humble yourself, lean in and trust God. That was one of the things a friend here at Hope was...he’s very kind and understood what we were going through medically...he said, “Yeah, this is a very significant situation.” I said, “Yeah, we’re just trying really hard not to freak out. We’re trying to encourage people along the way, encourage one another.” He said, “Well…” I said, “We’re really trying to honor God and walk in faith.” He said, “Well, that’s really your only play. There’s nothing you can do except walk in faith.” I was like, “Yeah, I think you’re right.” I needed to hear that, but that’s one choice is to humble yourself and trust God.
But, so many times there’s the temptation, and sometimes we choose this one, which is we get angry with God. And, we turn from him, and we rebel even more; this causes more problems. So in the midst of our trouble, we really need to ask, “What is God trying to teach me?” What is God trying to teach me? In the case of God’s people in Joel’s time, he was very clear; their trouble was tied to their sin. No doubt about it, their path of sin was leading them to destruction. Yet even in this message, there is a message of hope. Remember, Joel’s name means “the Lord is salvation.”
And, he reminds us that we have this privilege of choosing. We decided at the crossroads of repentance. It’s an opportunity; there’s two paths coming here, and we can either choose to turn to God and turn from our rebellion. Repentance is a word we don’t use a lot in our everyday language, but basically, when the Bible is talking about it, it’s talking about turning from the way you were going in your rebellion against God and turning to God away from the rebellion, turning to him, walking with him, and doing what pleases him. This is a crossroads; will we choose repentance? It’s a matter we can’t really fake; all throughout history, there’s always been posers--people trying to be what they’re not. Joel warns them this needs to be real. He says, “‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning.’” This “return to me” is this idea, that repentance concept.
Then it says, “And rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and he relents over disaster.” That verse 13 there, “rend your hearts,” --another translation says, “Rip your hearts to pieces in sorrow and contrition and not your garments.” That’s pretty drastic, or a more, a softer paraphrase is, “Change your life not just your clothes.” But, the point is is this is got to be deep down who you are. You know, “rend our hearts”--in that time in the Old Testament when people were in extreme grief and anguish, they would tear their clothes as an outward sign that they were distraught. This was a terrible thing, but God wants them not to just be putting on a show here. He wants true repentance; he wants them to tear their hearts.
Our hearts can get wrapped around things that lead to our destruction that are against what God intended, and they get wrapped around that. And, God is saying, “You need to tear your hearts. You need to do some heart surgery. Quit going toward the things in your current thinking and your current decision making because it’s leading to destruction. You need to tear your hearts away from that path.” It’s not easy; it really disrupts how we’ve been walking.
You might have been at the crossroads of deciding whether or not you want to become a follower of Christ. Maybe you’ve been coming around for awhile, and you’re at that crossroads. You’ve got enough information; you don’t know everything, but you’ve got enough that you realize a decision needs to be made. And, it’s not easy; it never is. Nobody likes change; whether you’re eight or 80, you do not like change. Change means we have to do something different. We got this far without having to be different or do something different because we got this far. But if we’re experiencing pain and trouble and things aren’t adding up and we keep hitting and running into reality that’s painful and we haven’t turned to God, this may be a wake-up call. This may be your opportunity, and the change and the repentance is so worth it, but it’s not easy. So, are you at the crossroads of following Christ?
Maybe you’ve passed that crossroads; maybe you’ve chosen to follow Christ, but then life goes along. And, we get tugged in all kinds of directions, and there’s all kinds of things that would want to pull us away from God. Even though we’ve chosen to follow Christ, there’s all kinds of things that would want to pull us off the path, put us in the ditch.
Maybe you’re at another crossroads of deciding am I going to trust God in this area of my life? Am I going to trust him to help me make a change here? Because I need his help, I’m going to trust him to do me good as I make some changes. Have I gone off road? Am I about to drive into a ditch? Is this a crossroads I need to consider?
But this verse...this verse also speaks of God’s steadfast love, and this is such an important concept; it’s an important characteristic of who God is. In the Hebrew, the word is chesed. But it means...we translate it two words basically, but it’s one word. It’s chesed, and it means “God’s loyal love;” he is fiercely loyal to his people and to who he is. He doesn’t rejoice over the disaster; the disaster is to get our attention because He loves us and doesn’t want a longer-term disaster. He’s getting our attention. But he has steadfast love, if we will turn to him. God, he revealed this about himself even early on when he’s beginning to help the nation of Israel and guide them in his ways. He shows Moses who he is, and he tells him; he says, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.’”
There it is again--his steadfast love. He’s abounding in it. And throughout Scripture, this concept of steadfast love is huge. As I was preparing for this, I’m working in Joel; I’m reading this, but just in my regular routine of getting time with God and reading the Bible and having a quiet time, I’m reading some other sections of the Bible. I’m reading in Chronicles about the kings, and I’m reading in Psalms. And, over and over again, this word “steadfast love” (this chesed) is happening, and it’s proclaiming that God is loyal in his love to his people. So over different parts of history throughout Scripture, we see God is steadfast in love. And in the midst of our troubles and in the midst of our discipline, the God who is steadfast in love, he doesn’t abandon us, and he doesn’t want to abandon us.
When we turn to him, he brings restoration. He brings restoration. God says, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer and the cutter. My great army, which I sent among you…” So, God sent this discipline, and yet he’s going to restore the years that it took away. “...My great army, which I sent among you, you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your God who has dealt wondrously with you.” He’s going to restore to them; he’s going to bless them once again, and it’s not just going to be that he’s going to restore physically, the physical blessing of the crops which is a blessing and it is good and God is going to do that. But, he’s not going to stop there.
He’s going to bless them with his presence. The Creator of all our universe, the Author of life, the Source of life and joy and good, is going to live among them. It says this; it goes on to say, “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” He’s going to pour...he’s going to saturate this place; he’s going to saturate his people. Now, when God’s Spirit came in the Old Testament, it came close to the people, and it was to reveal something about who God was. What he’s talking about here is there is going to come a day when he’s going to...his presence is going to be among his people. He’s going to reveal himself to his people; they’re going to understand more about who he is. They’re going to experience him.
We invite people to discover and experience God’s ways. He pours his Spirit out into the lives of his people, and we know him more through that. And actually, this passage, it’s quoted later on when the early church...Jesus has died and rose again; He died on the cross for our sins and rose again, and He’s gone up to heaven; He’s left the disciples in charge to share this Good News of us being able to come back to God and be in a restored relationship with Him. And, they’re beginning the church, and this is the book of Acts in the New Testament. In chapter two, Peter’s talking, and he’s telling people that this passage is being fulfilled and what had just happened is the Holy Spirit had come down. It says the the people were speaking in different tongues, and what it means is that...since it’s talking about all these people from all over the world; it was a metropolitan area. They could understand; they’re like, “How does this person speak my language?” They’re proclaiming the Good News, and they’re like, “Are these guys drunk?” Peter’s like, “It’s too early in the morning; they’re not drunk, and you can understand them.” They’re proclaiming the Good News of Christ, and they’re fulfilling what Joel said several hundred years before this was going to happen.
And when we think about prophecy, we think about...we often have this idea that it’s like seeing into the future, but Scripture has a broader sense than that. In this sense, it’s proclaiming God’s goodness in our lives. We don’t use the term much, and sometimes it’s misused but in this context, we could say that we can prophesy. It’s saying all flesh...he’s going to pour his Spirit on all flesh…”...your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Old men shall dream dreams. Your young men shall see visions…” Everyone of God’s people will be able to do these things. You and I can speak the good things of God that have happened in our lives. We can do that in our summer groups; we can, in a sense, prophesy this week. When I tell you that God brought my wife through this very difficult thing, and we’re so grateful that he spared her life. I’m prophesying; I’m telling you that these are good things that happened. Or, we could say that we testify; I testify that he is good, right?
When the tree fell this weekend, we’re building this little duck tractor. You can put the ducks in and move it around, mow your grass, and it’s fun. So, the boys...we fixed that up on Friday, and we put it under the shade tree. And we’re putting the tools up; we’re going back and forth. My daughter comes out, one of my daughters, and she says, “Daddy, that tree’s kind of low.” I’m like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about; it’s shading it.” But I’m like, “Yeah, it looks a little lower than when we put it under there. That seems like maybe not the greatest spot, but I’ll come back and maybe deal with it.” So, I’m going back and forth, and then I hear this “crrrr, crrr, crrr,” like a popping sound. I’m like, “Ooh, that doesn’t sound good; that’s probably a tree.” And sure enough, it was, but one of my boys comes around the corner because I couldn’t see it. And one of my younger boys, he’s crying, and I’m like, “Oh my goodness, is he okay?” And, he’s scared; he’s scared. He said, “The tree fell on the ducks!” And, he’s scared for the ducks. Poor guy, but I’m so grateful that he’s okay. And, we had just built this duck tractor. I’m like, “Oh, great! All day’s work, and it’s destroyed.” But, it wasn’t! It wasn’t. God was good, even in the little things. The ducks were saved; the duck tractor was saved. Sure, we had to stop and move some things around, and I had to make a quick trip to Lowes to get the tool to cut it down. We had to do all that, and I wasn’t planning on that. There was trouble, and yet in the midst of trouble, God, he put his hand there, and he held back destruction.
What I’m doing right now is I’m prophesying to you that God is good; even in the little things, he helps us at times. But, there are so many things that could’ve gone wrong, you guys have, you’ve faced different areas of trouble. Maybe it didn’t involve ducks or a fence; I was really worried about the fence. That’s a lot of work to do; none of it fell, even as we cut it down. None of it...it was like I cut the thing, and it falls just past this side of the fence. Then we had to pull another thing, and it falls on the other side, and I’m like...we propped things up to kind of help. But, it didn’t touch any of that, and I was like, “Praise God! God is good!” But you guys...you face your own troubles, and some of you can see all the damage that can be done in this instance and yet God holds some things back. Sure, there was still trouble. Sure, there was still a headache; there was still a challenge to face, but God brought you through it, and he preserved you. Yes, we don’t escape trouble; it keeps coming, but there are so many times God puts his hand there. And, he protects us from far, far worse.
So, maybe some of you can prophesy, you can encourage one another of the good things that God has done in your life because so many times we forget. That’s why the prophets in the Old Testament came to remind because we, as humans, often forget. I forget sometimes, oh yeah, when I get in that financial quandary how God protected me in college. This is why journaling is good sometimes, too, to go back and remember what God has done and if I can trust him then, I can trust him now. And, I can trust him in the future.
So, some of you are in the midst of trouble and you’re not out of it, and maybe you just need a reminder that God is good. We get in our summer groups, and we can do that. We can encourage one another in that. Some of you, you don’t know it yet, but you’re going to walk into a week of trouble. And now you’re thinking, he’s prophesying; he’s telling the future. I don’t know what that is, but I just know human experience. Some of you are about to walk into some stuff, but I can say right now, God is good. I’ve been in the midst of it; I’ve come out the other side of it. There’s still things; I’ve still got sick kids at home, but God is good.
We walk through this trouble, and again, these things, they cause us to pause, but often there’s this crossroads. We need to ask ourselves, “Am I at a crossroads in my life? Is there something I need to turn from, so I can walk more in line with who God is?” Am I at a crossroads? Our choice is significant because our choice leads us into God’s presence or into punishment. We find in chapter three of Joel God working out how blessing and punishment will be distributed. He’s not going to...so many times we wish God would make things right, and he is. He’s going to wrap things up, but as he wraps things up, there’s real choice for us. And, it can lead us into his presence or into punishment. Because it’s a real choice, some of us will choose to turn from the ways that we’ve been living, and we’ll make the hard choice to change and ask God for help and turn to him. But, others will choose to reject God; they’ll get angry with God, and they’ll continue in their rebellion.
Here’s what Joel says, “Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.” If you want to Google or try to get on your maps the Valley of Jehoshaphat, good luck. We don’t know where it is; there’s not a place even in the Scripture time. The meaning here is, the meaning of the name Jehoshaphat; it means that the Lord judges, so this is the valley of where the Lord is going to judge. There was a King Jehoshaphat in the Bible; in Chronicles you can read about him. He had to trust God, and there was this war; and in the midst of this war, he had to trust God. And, God protected, but here, this is the Valley of Jehoshaphat. This is the valley where God is going to judge the nations, all people; this is God wrapping up time.
It says, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision for the Day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. The Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem and the heavens and the earth quake, but the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.” In this last verse we just read here, verse 16. It’s giving us this contrast, because there’s all this destruction that’s going to happen, and yet God is going to bring...he’s going to bring some terrifying things. He’s going to make all things right; he’s going to put a stop to evil, the rebellion that’s been against him, and yet he will also be a stronghold, a refuge for his people. And he continues, and he says this is what’s going to happen to the enemies of God: “Egypt shall become a desolation, and Edom a desolate wilderness for the violence done to the people of Judah because they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall be inhabited forever and Jerusalem to all generations. I will avenge their blood…” God is the first Avenger. “I will avenge their blood, but blood I have not avenged for the Lord dwells in Zion.”
So elsewhere, we’re going to see in the Bible that we have to constantly trust God. There’s all these conspiracy theories out there, and some of them can get us really worked up; and we can get worried. But, there really is a Day of the Lord. Whatever we’re facing or whatever we’re worried about, we have to trust and turn to God because he is a refuge; he is a stronghold for his people whether it’s a natural disasters or terrorists. We see this in the book of Psalms; Psalms is very poetic, and a lot of the songs we sing are based off the book of Psalms. It’s just a great way to capture the human experience and sing praises to God and really be heartfelt and really get at what we experience both in our emotions and just the tough things we go through...and praising God in the midst of that.
In Psalm 46, it says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear for the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea…” It goes on a little further; it says, “...The nations rage; the kingdoms totter. When he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of Hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress…” He’s going to pour out his Spirit among his people; he’s our refuge.
There really is a conspiracy of global proportions that we need to be aware of. The Day of the Lord is coming, and disaster is tied up in it. But, we don’t have to live out of fear. We can live trusting in God in the midst of this. The Day of the Lord, yes, it’s going to be awful, but God’s going to set things right in the midst of that. He’s offering salvation for everyone to be a part of his people. It’s an offer for you and me, if you’re at the crossroads of whether to follow Jesus. You still have a pulse, and you still have an opportunity to make that choice.
You and I have a choice today just like the people of Joel’s time. Will we rend our hearts? Will we do that heart surgery? Maybe you’ve already chosen to follow God, but you’ve got some things that are really tugging you and trying to pull you off the path to not trust God. We shouldn’t be surprised when trouble comes, and when trouble comes, we shouldn’t freak out. We shouldn’t freak out. We need to trust in God; we have a choice to turn to God and trust him.
Now, the band’s going to come up here as I’m wrapping up, and as they come up, there’s some key questions I want you to ask yourself this week. You can write them down; they’re going to be on the screens. One is: What is God trying to teach me whatever I’m going through? What is God trying to teach me? Is there something I need to turn from, so I can walk more in line with God and his ways? And then, do I trust God with…? And, you fill in the blank. You know what you’re dealing with, and really, it’s just helpful to you to be honest with yourself. What am I really wrestling with? What am I struggling to trust God in? Maybe I trust him in some areas, but maybe I’m not trusting him in other areas? Do I trust God with (blank)?
You may be at the crossroads where you need to ask God’s forgiveness and make Him Lord of your life/Boss of your life. This is a great place to do that; there’s folks at the New to Hope Pavilion, we pastors out on Main Street, other folks here, would love to help you walk through that. You may have already made Christ Lord of your life, and you’re a Christ-follower. But, you’re really struggling with some things, and you’re at a crossroads to really need to trust God. Again, we’re here; we can help. We want to encourage you to walk and see His ways. So as we go out this week, I want to encourage you wherever you’re at, lean in and trust the Lord.
Let’s pray. Lord, we’re grateful; we’re grateful that You do get our attention. And, we need that because if you never did, we could be headed on a path that leads to destruction and we not even know it. So even in some of the pain, we’re thankful because it gets our attention. And yet God, we are also grateful of your steadfast love, and the fact that you don’t abandon us. You relent at disaster; you want to turn from it if we would turn to you, if we would trust you. And so, we are grateful that you are a God who’s patient, kind, and steadfast in love. We don’t deserve that, but we are so grateful for it. We ask that you would be with our friends who haven’t made a decision yet to follow you that you’d help them see that even though this message is hard to hear at times. It is a message of hope; it is a message of salvation that you do offer us a way out of our troubles, the troubles that we bring on ourselves. So we just ask that you would, you would help each one of us think and see clearly, that you would pour out your Spirit in our lives, that your Presence would come close, that we could better understand who you are and that we could proclaim the mighty works that you’ve done in each of our lives to those around us to rescue people from the destruction they’re heading into. We love you; we thank you for your patience. As we sing these next few songs, may you be honored and help us understand our next steps with you. We pray these things in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.