The most successful military generals and athletes ruthlessly study the strategy and tactics of their adversaries. In a similar way, effective pastors and ministry leaders have always studied the enemy. The Bible is very clear about evil, and there’s no question the enemy will stop at nothing to destroy God’s people. But in my experience, the vast majority of pastors and leaders aren’t recognizing a new but remarkably effective tool in the enemy’s arsenal: distraction.
Years ago my wife, Jeri, and I were driving on the interstate when we were overcome by a white cloud of windblown snow. “I can’t see a thing!” I shouted. We were experiencing a complete whiteout. I lost all sense of direction. I couldn’t see the road or other cars. Everything had vanished, replaced by this strange, mystical blizzard of white. The only thing I knew to do was to slow down and pray that I was still on the road.
Unprecedented ... historic ... record-setting.
These descriptors have become constants in recent headlines, specifically describing the increase in the frequency and severity of natural and man-made disasters throughout the world. Stories of flooding, wildfires, drought, unrelenting heat waves, earthquakes and tornadoes have filled the media.
As a physician, I have spent 25 years organizing and leading medical teams on trips to a number of major world disasters in more than 100 nations throughout the world. Today I sense an urgency to challenge and prepare individuals and churches to be ready for these natural and man-made disasters. My experience responding to tsunami victims, earthquake survivors, refugees, etc., has shown me that by equipping our churches for disaster response, we can demonstrate the love of Jesus as we become salt and light to our communities.
The Bible instructs us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (see Ps. 122:6). For tens of millions of Christians in America, this admonition means standing for the modern state of Israel and its right to exist in accordance with God’s will and plan.
Yet on a practical level, some Christians find themselves unprepared when confronted by those who cite Israel as an occupying oppressor of the Palestinians or an obstacle to peace due to its failure to return to pre-1967 borders. I often hear believers respond by saying that God gave the land to Abraham’s descendants, not to the Palestinians, and leave it at that.
While this response is certainly accurate, it’s also incomplete. It fails to refute the frequently heard charge that Israel cares more about land than peace, making war inevitable. As Christian leaders, we have the biblical responsibility to respond in full, and the best way to do that is to intentionally educate ourselves on the story of the modern state of Israel. Below, I’ve provided a broad timeline to help us better understand that story.
I try to stay focused on what’s happening in the world as it relates to Bible prophecy—part of my assignment from God. And what’s occurring in the world today all points to the approaching return of Jesus Christ. However, another important part of my assignment is to deal with what God is saying as a warning to His church. Before we talk about a warning to the sinner or to America or to the nations of the world, I believe God wants us to deal with and respond to a sobering warning to the church.
I, and other prophetic preachers, often run into people who scoff at us, calling us “doom and gloomers” and “negative preachers.” When I hear those accusations, my first question is always, “Since when is preaching the return of the Son of God somehow doom and gloom and bad news to the people who are supposed to be looking for Him?”
In 2 Timothy, Paul talks to believers, and especially “last days” believers, who turn away from the truth: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come [a direct reference to the final times] when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:1-4, bracketed notation mine).