It took 10 plagues to shake Pharaoh’s grip on Israel. What 10 plagues will it take to wake up America to repent and pray? Time is running out. Liberties are drying up. We would be better off living six months with a heart aflame from repentance and prayer, devouring sin in high and low places, turning this nation back to God, than die after 90 years loaded with theological degrees and every honor of man.
Joel describes the plague of COVID-19 that we are presently experiencing as locusts. In Joel 1:2 we read, “Give ear you inhabitants of the land: Has anything like this happened in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?”
The United States of America, which has experienced over 550,000 COVID-19 deaths is a nation drunk on its quest for power, money and injustice. In verse 5 of Chapter 1 of Joel, it declares, “Awake, you drunkards and weep.”
God weeps when he sees the destruction that the lust for power has brought. His heart is broken as He sees those He loves going into a Christ-less eternity, as they refuse to accept the redemption that Jesus provides. God’s love causes Him to weep among the homeless, the hungry, and the hurting who are denied help by many who claim to be Christians.
When COVID-19 caused churches to be closed, many complained that the government was interfering with their right to worship. Then, when the churches re-opened, many of those who were complaining didn’t even return to church. When they did, very few in the church cried out to God in repentance. The words of Joel 1:13 have been ignored as COVID-19 has ravished our communities. There it says, “Gird yourselves and lament you priests. Wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, lie all night in sack cloth, you who minister to my God.”
This call to repentance is certainly relevant for a nation that has converted the seven deadly sins into the seven virtues for successful living! The end result has been the idolatry of possessions which has created a system which now molds and shapes our thinking. The sin of gluttony is called “super sizing” until obesity has become a national epidemic. Sexual activities that were once considered perversions and even illegal, now are considered normal by many who even refer to themselves as Christians. Pride is considered a virtue. Anger and aggression have become the way to get ahead and the stimulation of covetousness is the foundation of the advertising system.
Now that churches have re-opened, I have heard preachers discussing politics from the pulpit, but not, one who is following the mandates of Joel 1:14 which declares, “Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.”
Moralistic bullies are not the answer. They are not concerned with sin, only legality and vengeance. The practices they advocate to halt crime are often more criminal then the crime they seek to halt. Moralistic bullies work to lock up those who are least able to get adequate legal defense. Penitentiaries are no longer places were people go to do penance. Instead they have become training schools for bigger crimes once the person is released.
As Americans we have become quite good at incorporating our sins so there is no guilt attached. The homes of the poor and elderly are taken in the name of eminent domain and it’s called “economic progress”. The homeless are driven from the parks and their belongings confiscated in the process and no one seems to care. Laws and fines are given for public urination, but no public restrooms are provided for those who have no home of their own.
Dr. Carl Menninger stated in his book, Whatever became of Sin, “The people of the United States have almost no sense of guilt for the enslavement of blacks, the mass murder of Indians, the dislodging of the Cherokees, the lynching of blacks, the exploitation of labor, or the theft of the Southwest from Mexico. ‘Those were rough, impetuous days,’ we explain. ‘So romantic! Picturesque but rugged. Our individualistic ancestors had to win. Conquer the wilderness, break out the prairie and win the West.’ And dare we mention Hiroshima?”
Joel 2:12-13 tells us how to repent as individuals and as a nation. “‘Even now’, declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.”
Have we learned nothing from COVID-19? Can we not see that God is trying to get us to recognize our sin and selfishness? One of the deceptive illusions about sin is the fact that even the worst sinners are often such “nice people.” It’s the nice people who try to shut down the soup kitchens and keep the shelters and half way houses out of the neighborhood. It’s the nice people who remain silent as their churches heat tables and chairs in the winter time by leaving the heat on in the church basements to keep the pipes from freezing. As they do this the homeless people are left to freeze outside while the poor and elderly are left in their homes without utility service.
“Wherever I move in society,” commented Ronald Simpson in his book The Psychology of Power, “be it among teachers, soldiers, churchmen, criminals, housewives, policemen, workmen, politicians, foreigners, doctors, I have never met anyone who struck me as essentially an evil man. Men who were weak and pompous, who dissembled and were evasive, who were self-important, vain and ambitious, who were self-contradictory, self-deceiving, unreliable, acquisitive—these I have met in plenty at every level of society; but nowhere was it my misfortune to find an unmistakably evil man.”
Most people consider themselves relatively nice people who are never sinners in need of a Savior. Jesus cuts through this mask of nice-ness showing the evil that lurks in the hearts of the indifferent and apathetic for whom life revolves around self. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matt. 7:19-23)
Thank God for His mercy, Romans 3:23-25 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood-to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.”
Sins are often thought of in terms of the bad things we commit rather than the good things we omit and do not do. “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4:17). But there is so much good we know we should be doing but there are just so many hours in the day. The homeless and hurting are crying out for help. Babies are being aborted. Seniors, neglected. The sick and imprisoned need to be visited and helped. We aren’t able to help everyone and the needs keep growing and growing. It’s easy for us to feel frustrated, get depressed and feel like hopeless sinners, Wait! Jesus never intended for His followers to live and feel that way. Knowing that we can’t carry the load ourselves nor can we defeat the cancer of sin, He declared, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt.11:28).
In the midst of COVID-19, God promises those who repent and turn to him, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locusts (COVID-19) has eaten. The crawling locust (COVID 19), the consuming locust (COVID 19), and the chewing locust (COVID-19), 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; and My people shall never be put to shame.”
God has promised that as His children who have repented, we will never be put to shame. Now He is calling each of us to wake up and be prayer warriors. As prayer warriors, we are intercessors, who by the power and the promises of Scripture, visualize an alternative future to one that now seems out of control.
The unexpected will become suddenly possible because prayer warriors like you have prayed in faith. Two or three have agreed together. “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in My name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:19, 20).
It is because I knew Christ is with us when two or three gathers in prayer. I gathered with three members of the New Life Evangelistic Center staff to pray in front of City Hall. The night before inmates at the justice center had rioted for the second time. Gun violence had once again claimed more lives that morning as COVID-19 retained its grip on Mid-America. The homeless in growing numbers were gathering in the park because the rich and powerful were keeping 1411 Locust closed to them. We earnestly prayed for a spiritual awakening knowing that history belongs to the prayer warriors who wake up and believe, agree, and stand on the promises of God. These prayer warriors are people who persevere for a spiritual awakening in spite of the obstacles and the odds. They know what is right according to scripture, and as a result, will engage in prayer that brings forth actions of hope, help, and revival.
We must at this time be prayer warriors who are awakened to the power of prayer. Intercessory prayer is not vocalized worry. It comes from the heart where Christ now reigns supreme. In such a life, inner liberty results where we as prayer warriors are free to act in obedience to God’s Word and not the expectations of others. As a result, the status quo will be rendered obsolete and obedience to Christ will reign supreme.
As we pray, believing for a revival, we will see the fulfillment of Joel 2:28, 29, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”
It is prayer that awakens us to receive this outpouring of the Holy Spirit which Acts 2 describes. As Holy Spirit filled prayer warriors, we will see the new normal following the COVID-19 pandemic as new opportunities to shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, and declare in word and deed there is hope because Christ is risen.
How we must pray that God will raise up for us great leaders like Abraham Lincoln, who called both the north and the south to repentance in his second inaugural address. Today in the midst of social unrest and the COVID-19, we heed Lincoln’s words when he says, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
Daniel expresses this in his intercessory prayer found in Daniel 9:1-19. He begins his prayer by confessing his sins and that of his nation. Then he calls upon God for mercy and forgiveness.
2 Chronicles 7:14 promises, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Jesus makes it clear that earnest intercessory prayer performs a vital role in destroying the citadels of injustice as He asks, “Will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8).
Since 1972 the New Life Evangelistic Center staff have been praying for an awakening in the greater St. Louis – Mid-America area. It is hard to keep praying, believing for Christ to return, or that He will send His Spirit as promised in Joel 2:28, 29. Instead of revival, it seems that in reality, we are experiencing what Habakkuk 1:2-4 expresses, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore, the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.”
Giving up is not an option. The answer is given in Habakkuk 2:3-4, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright – but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.”
It is by faith that we shall live during this time of social unrest in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic. We must repent of our sins and seek God’s will for our lives. Then as men and women of faith, we must wake up and pray earnestly. As we do this, we can know that Christ’s power will work in us in a mighty way. When this happens, we will see Him do exceedingly more than we can ask or think.
Yours in Christ,