GOD USES CATASTROPHES FOR HIS PURPOSES

Just as Covid has caused massive disruption to the world now we have Russia invading Ukraine which has caused an enormous refugee crisis. Just as we see in the Book of Acts, catastrophes are opportunities for the church to innovate and to step in and help.

In Acts 8, a massive disruption upset the Christian world. Led by Saul of Tarsus, massive persecution drove Christians from their home base of Jerusalem. Up to that time the new Christian movement was centered in Jerusalem and was confined to Jews. By the end of the book of Acts, the church was more Gentile than Jewish and the church at Jerusalem was a side note. What made the difference? During the disruption, one church used it as an opportunity to innovate, and innovation changes the world.

Churches in countries neighboring Ukraine have opened their doors to shelter and aid refugees as the United Nations refugee agency estimated Thursday that 1 million people have fled the Eastern European nation since the beginning of Russia’s invasion last week. 

“In just seven days, 1 million people have fled Ukraine, uprooted by this senseless war,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement. “I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one.”

Many of the displaced have fled to neighboring countries such as Poland, Moldova, Slovakia and Hungary, while many more remain in Ukraine. 

Churches in neighboring countries are among community centers and camps sheltering refugees who’ve fled from the violence, with some seeing hundreds of Ukrainians coming and going in recent days. 

Refugees from Ukraine are pictured after crossing the Ukrainian-Polish border in Korczowa on March 02, 2022. – The number of refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine has surged to nearly 875,000, UN figures showed on March 2, as fighting intensified on day seven of Russia’s invasion

As Poland has taken the brunt of the Ukrainian refugees, one church that has served as many as 400 refugees is a Baptist church in Chelm. According to the Baptist Federation of Europe, the church is “filled with life” as it has pushed its pews out of the way to make room for beds. 

“It is not tension that you feel as you enter the building but life, peace, and joy,” a statement from the federation reads. “Children laugh and play while mothers prepare for onward journeys. The church piano plays a variety of tunes, none of the hymns, as the children practice their piano lessons.”

“Pews are in the pulpit and beds fill the sanctuary, the balcony, and every available space,” the statement adds. “Ukrainian and Polish families work side by side, making food, receiving donations, and cleaning the toilets. The laundry vibrates as the three new washing machines continue their endless 24-hour cycle. The supply rooms are full of children excitedly selecting new clothes and discovering new toys that have been donated.”

The church’s kitchen has supplied soup, snacks, and hot meals for the refugees arriving while packing lunches for the refugees that depart. The church receives help from local hotels that provide clean linen for the beds. 

The Polish Baptist Union hopes to house as many as 1,000 refugees. Polish Baptists have established 40 shelter camps. The PBU provides the camps with bedding items, food, and hygiene items, while Send Relief, IMB’s relief arm, provides funds to assist in the relief efforts. 

First Baptist Church of Gdasnk, Poland, will host one of the refugee centers, according to IMB missionary Ken Brownd. “It’s just cool to see Polish Baptists stepping up and taking care of their neighbors. They’ve done that for a long time now, but this is a different level,” Brownd was quoted as saying in an IMB report “Our team is trying to organize the Send Relief help … but really, this is mostly driven by Polish Baptists, so we’re not the main players in this at all. We’re helpers, and so it’s amazing.”

If nothing else Christians all around the world need to be in prayer and look for ways to financially support our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and the surrounding nations that are reaching out to help the refugees.

PROPHESIED END TIMES CATASTROPHES

As chaos reigns in Ukraine, Christians and Jews around the world are turning to God in prayer. History demonstrates God uses catastrophes for His purposes.

Faithwire has reported prayer gatherings between Christians and Jews, of Ukrainians coming together in public squares to seek God’s guidance, and of religious and political leaders invoking the sovereignty of God. Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, the chief rabbi of Kyiv, reportedly invited Christian leaders to join the Jewish community in praying Psalm 31, a hymn of protection, over the evolving situation in Ukraine, according to Eternity News.

Others, still, are calling for a day dedicated to prayer for a nation under assault by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Pro-Ukraine demonstrators carry signs and Ukrainian flags near Russia’s UN Mission, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in New York. World leaders Thursday condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “barbaric” and moved to slap unprecedented economic sanctions on Moscow and those close to President Vladimir Putin.

“In these days of uncertainty and fear, we pray that each of us might again turn to the Lord and receive God’s gift of peace, work for God’s justice, know God’s reconciliation and love, and choose paths, not of hatred or destruction, of violence or retribution, but God’s way of justice, mercy, and peace,” Archbishop of Canterbury, Just Welby wrote in a pastoral letter published Thursday.

CBN News senior international correspondent George Thomas echoed the archbishop’s words, urging Christians to come together to pray for Ukraine this Sunday, Feb. 27. “Will you join them?” Thomas asked from the balcony of his hotel room in Lviv, Ukraine. “And will you join us, the entire world, in this prayer?”

All over the world Christian leaders and politicians are calling for prayer. Sadly, it required a catastrophe of this dimension to get Christians to unite in prayer.

ONE-THIRD OF AUSTRALIANS THINK MORE ABOUT GOD AS A RESULT OF THE PANDEMIC

God uses catastrophes for His purposes. Since the Covid -19 pandemic started, Australians are experiencing a renewed spiritual awakening with three in ten praying more often now. Moreover, Prayer Groups are more active and growing.

Australian Prayer Network
Building prayer across the nation

A new report (McCrindle Research) has revealed that the experience of COVID-19 has caused many Australians to experience a renewed spiritual search. A third of Australians have thought more about God, while 28% have prayed more. During the pandemic, almost half of Australians have thought more about the meaning of life (47%) or their own mortality (47%). The collective experience of the pandemic has ushered in a return to a focus on the local community, with half of Australians (53%) valuing a strong local community more than they did three years ago. The local church is a key element of the local community with three in four Australians (76%) agreeing the churches in their local area are making a positive difference to their community.

The research, which was conducted by McCrindle Research and surveyed 1,000 Australians also found that two-thirds of Australians are likely to attend a church service either online (64%) or in-person (67%) if personally invited by a friend or family member. Far from religion and spirituality being only for older Australians, Gen Z (45%) are twice as likely as Baby Boomers (21%) to be extremely or very likely to attend an online church service if personally invited by a friend or family member. Mark McCrindle, Founder and Principal of McCrindle Research says, “This data is worth reflecting on a little longer: in this seemingly secular era, where the church is perceived by many commentators to be on the decline and culturally outdated, almost half of all young adults invited to a church service by a friend or family member would very likely attend.”

The report also found that Australians are accepting of others’ religious views. Nine in ten (90%) agree that in Australia people should have the freedom to share their religious beliefs if done in a peaceful way, even if those beliefs are different from mainstream community views. There is, however, wavering support for religious symbolism in public life. Almost two in five Australians (39%) agree that Christian practices in public life such as parliament opening in prayer, oaths in court being taken on the Bible, or Christian chaplains in hospitals or jails should be stopped. Three in five (61%), however, disagree and are therefore open to Christian practices in public life continuing.

Interestingly, religious discrimination is a genuine issue in Australia with almost three in ten Australians (29%) having experienced religious discrimination, this equates to about half of those who identify with a religion which is six in ten Australians. Australians who identify with a non-Christian religion are more likely to have experienced discrimination (54%) than Protestants (27%) or Catholics (32%). Religious discrimination is also more likely to be experienced by younger Australians who are four times as likely as their older counterparts to say they have experienced religious discrimination (51% Gen Z cf. 13% Baby Boomers).

Source: McCrindle Research

ARE CHURCHES BEHAVING LIKE MALLS IN THE AGE OF AMAZON?

This quote from church thought leader Carey Nieuwhof sums up the institutional church well. It is obvious that only a major disruption , indeed a catastrophe was needed to bring the church to its knees and consider it may not be serving the purposes of God.

History tells us that God uses disruption even major catastrophes for His purposes. History also tells us that disruption leads to innovation which in turn changes the world.

God forcefully moved Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden. This pattern of forced displacement of people by God is in the whole narrative of Scripture. It is an essential part of His global plan for the redemption of mankind which brings glory and honour to Him.

Does God bring destruction and calamity? Does our loving and gracious God cause disasters to occur in the world?     Read these words God spoke to Noah:

I have determined to make an end of all flesh for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold I will destroy them with the earthGenesis 6:13,

God destroyed that He might save. God saved Noah and His family that He might preserve the line of His coming Redeemer.

What about the TOWER OF BABEL: Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth. Genesis 11:3-4

Once again we see a massive disaster brought about by God, which caused massive migration and displacement of people: the foundation of the nations that exist today. A refugee crisis on a much larger scale than today.

“You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives (eternal life).” Luke 21:17-19

Covid 19 is another of God’s major disrupters. The church needs to recognise that we are in a time when God is doing something new. Therefore, it is a time to get into prayer to seek His leading, just as the church at Antioch did in Paul’s day. Those that read my posts know I believe the church in the prophesied “last days” before Jesus returns to take His Saints to heaven and before He pours out His wrath upon a world which is fast becoming as it was in Noah’s day, will be much like the early church as described in the Book of Acts. It is one of the reasons I am supporting the Kenya House Church Movement (KHC) and I am hoping that some of my followers will join me in that endeavour. None have done so as yet, but that is OK, God’s timing is always perfect. My next post will be an update on KHC.

HOW GOD USES CATASTROPHES

The conflict in Armenia has taken the lives of many soldiers and displaced over 100,000 people. All the while, the world has kept silent and preferred not to know about it. In November a Russia-brokered peace deal was agreed between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It ended six weeks of war in which thousands of people were killed and displaced. In these conditions, the role of the Church has increased. People just have nowhere else to go. The church becomes the only place where people can be helped. The churches have become the beacons of hope for scared and suffering people. They don’t do services on Sundays because of the coronavirus but they continue serving refugees every day sharing their bread and their homes as well as words of comfort and hope. Even before the war, more than 32% of the population lived below the poverty line. Now with the conflict raging on, these alarming rates are growing every day. Asatur Nahapetyan, pastor and general secretary of the Baptist Union of Armenia, anticipates this conflict to linger and asks everyone to get ready for a hard winter. Over 100 families from Karabakh have been placed by Baptists in their homes and 42 people were accommodated in a conference hall in Razdan.

The church with a symbolic name Noah’s Ark (in Ararat) is providing shelter for 40 people. At first, the refugees were really afraid of Christians regarding them as sectarians but now they don’t want to leave. Pastor Araik says that people from Karabakh are not very religious and many of them still retain the Soviet spirit, but there are no atheists in trenches. The church in Ararat has 700 members. They all minister to refugees as one strong united team. “It’s the only place where we are welcomed,” say women refugees, who didn’t want to know anything about God just yesterday. They learned to pray in the church and when their husbands who are on the front lines call their wives many now say, “We didn’t believe in God but it was your prayers that kept us safe” women and children say to their pastor often, “When you pray we sleep well and we stop having nightmares.” Everyone lives on prayers here. It all started on the first day of war when the pastor called the mayor’s office and said that the church was ready to take in refugees. It’s been filled with people since then. It’s important to understand that the church prepared themselves for this ministry even before. The pastor says that successful work with young people changed the way the society viewed the church. “We fed 40 people every Saturday and took hot lunches to 20 families even before the war. Everyone knows us as the ark of hope and salvation. For people, we are not just a religious organization but a charitable organization. Although it’s interesting to see how the state church starts to imitate us. Priest David started doing what we do, preaching the Gospel, visiting people in their homes, meeting them and talking to them. Even the police say to people, ‘contact the church; they’ll help you there.’ Everyone respects us now.” Pastor Vazgen from the church in Abovyan says something similar: “Almost all the refugees that we received in our church have made a decision to follow Jesus.” The church in Artashat is also filled with refugees and it’s also filled with the spirit of hope.

 While evangelical churches of Armenia are serving their people we have an opportunity, even responsibility to pray for this ancient Christian nation.

ISRAEL’S FUTURE FORETOLD

There are many prophecies in the O.T. where God reveals to His prophets the end of the story for the nation He created. The book of Jeremiah is just one where we learn that God is going to restore both Israel and Judah back to their promised land but only after a period of trouble greater than anything they have experienced in the past.

For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.” These are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah:
“Thus says the Lord: we have heard a cry of panic, of terror, and no peace.
Ask now, and see, can a man bear a child? Why then do I see every man
with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor? Why has every face turned pale? Alas! That day is so great there is none like it;
it is a time of distress for Jacob, yet he shall be saved out of it.Jeremiah 30:3-7

Can it be said that any previous times of trouble fulfil the requirements of the prophecy here in Jeremiah 30 and 31 and answer to “the time of Jacob’s trouble”?

It does not seem that they do, for the simple reason that the prophecy before us clearly defines a time of trouble from which Israel is saved by Yahweh. This saving then brings about a spiritual revival. It is because of the saving of the people that they turn to God once again and are acceptable in His sight. This outcome cannot be said to have been accomplished in the past events of Israel’s history.

Could there be a gap in time between the trouble and salvation and the spiritual revival? By simply reading the text it is clear that the troubles from which Israel are saved and the spiritual revival are directly correlated – meaning that they have to occur together.

Consider what the prophecy says about the final outcome of the time of Jacob’s trouble: “For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.” Ezekiel 30:8-9

The two aspects are inextricably linked. Because Yahweh had saved Israel, therefore they serve Him. It is not only Yahweh that is served though – the spiritual revival causes Israel to serve Yahweh and “David their king, whom I will raise up unto them”. This is interesting – who is “David their King”? Is this not a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ? The one who the Lord God shall give “the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). The one who will “restore again the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). “David” means “beloved” and this is a term applied to Jesus in Matthew 3:17 where, after his baptism the Father says “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Therefore, due to these connections it is reasonable to conclude that the outcome of this prophecy is the Kingdom of God being restored again on earth under the rulership of the son of Almighty God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

‘Explosion of the Miraculous’: Thousands Hit the Streets in FL Where Souls Were ‘Running to Get Saved’

Huge crowds of Christians and people hungry for the gospel gathered in several cities across Florida over the past few days to stand together and proclaim the name of Jesus.

The “Let Us Worship” tour led by praise leader Sean Feucht came to Lake Eola Park in Orlando on Saturday. Despite the rainy weather, thousands of worshippers poured their hearts out as they sang, danced, and repented of their sins.

“Last night drug addicts and prostitutes off the streets were running to the altar to get saved!! The harder it rained, the more God kept pouring His Spirit out!!” Feucht wrote on Instagram. Go to the website seanfeucht to be inspired.

EARTHQUAKES AND VOLCANOES ARE NOW ERUPTING WORLDWIDE

The waves of earthquakes are rocking the centre of the U.S. and the sudden awakening of several volcanoes around the world may be a sign of the pre-Messiah shake-up predicted by the prophets. At the same time, several far more mild earthquakes in Israel seem to embody the Biblical concept of God’s mercy being aroused by Man’s actions.

The earth seems to be waking up as seismic activity is being reported around the globe. Last month, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake shook Idaho, generating a multitude of avalanches. The quake was the largest in the region since a 6.9 quake hit in 1983. There have been 238 earthquakes in Idaho in the last week according to the U.S. Geological Survey website. Five of those have been substantial in size rating 4.0 to 6.5. Idaho isn’t new to experiencing earthquakes.

Two weeks before Idaho felt the earth move, Salt Lake City, Utah, approximately 340 miles away from the Idaho epicentre, was hit by a 5.7 magnitude earthquake. Since that earthquake, there have been 886 smaller earthquakes and aftershocks in the Salt Lake area. The belly of the country is clearly rumbling as the University of Utah Seismograph Station mapped a total of 980 tremors throughout Idaho, Utah and Wyoming since March 18

Earthquakes and Volcanoes Are Now Erupting Worldwide

An article in Discover explained the epidemic of earthquakes as being caused by the continent “stretching,” a process described in German as “horst and graben.”

“As North America continues to stretch across the Basin and Range, these faults can generate earthquakes as the valleys continue to drop,” the article explained. “Both of the earthquakes that happened in Nevada and Utah recently were on one of the normal faults that bounded a valley.

VOLCANOES AROUND THE WORLD

But it is not just the central U.S. that is experiencing a seismic awakening. Since January 21, the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland has experienced more than 8,000 earthquakes and about 10 centimetres of land uplift due to magma intrusions underground. Geologists believe the volcanic systems in the region become active about once every thousand years. The last time this region experienced volcanic activity was 800 years ago. Beginning in the tenth century, the volcanically volatile period lasted for 300 years.

The region is about 30 miles southwest of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, but is only nine miles away from Iceland’s international airport. A major eruption could shut down travel for all of Iceland as well as endanger the nearby town of Grindavik as well as the Blue Lagoon, a popular tourist destination. There is also a nearby geothermal power-plant which could be endangered by volcanic activity.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia exploded on Friday. Though two relatively small eruptions were recorded, the volcano is a hotspot and cause for concern. In 188, a Krakatoa eruption had one of the highest death tolls of any volcanic eruption, killing more than 36,000 people. The most recent eruption at the site was in 2018, generating a tsunami and killing 437 people.

Volcanoes are explicitly mentioned in the Bible as one of the “end times” signs as God shakes all that can be shaken as a wake up call that He exists and that He judges unrighteous nations.. The following Scripture reveals how God refines His own people.

And I will bring the third part through the fire and will refine them as silver is refined and will try them as gold is tried; they shall call on My name and I will answer them; I will say: ‘It is My people’ and they shall say: ‘Hashem is my God.’ Zechariah 13:9

LET’S REDEEM THE MOMENT

“As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’” (John 9:1-5)

Please note the Lord didn’t say this man was blind to the glory of God but rather that his blindness would be an occasion for the glory of God to be revealed. The man’s terrible, difficult, lifelong condition was an opportunity for the Lord to be exalted. That is the Jesus mentality. As He said, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

The darkness is the divine setup for the light. The sickness is the divine setup for the healing. The current Corona virus crisis is the divine setup for the church to arise and shine and make a difference. We must seize this moment before it passes (and then, in the aftermath, once it passes). We must milk it to the full for the glory of God. I hope you agree.

Beijing Airport During Coronavirus Outbreak : Stock Photo

The big question for us all should be: What does God want to accomplish through this crisis? We all know the answer to that is: More will come to know their saviour, Jesus Christ and therefore the goodness of God. So, let’s seize the moment and redeem the crisis with our actions to reach out to those God has brought across our path.

ENCOURAGEMENT IN THIS HOUR

Francis Chan recorded a video from his new home in Hong Kong to remind the body of Christ to hold on to their joy, peace and trust in God during this unpredictable COVID-19 crisis. He says it’s amazing that he’s been preaching sermons about small-group church for years, and now that’s reality in many places around the world.

“This is one of the greatest opportunities we’ve ever had as a church where people are open to talking about serious things, life-and-death things, and suddenly we’re no longer in control,” Chan says. “I understand it is crazy, but don’t lose your love. …

It’s kind of crazy that for seven years, we’ve been preaching, ‘Come on, you guys, we’ve got to get ready: There’s going to come a day when we can’t get in these big gatherings.’ … And then two weeks after I leave, you’re living, and the whole country is having to live, that. But I believe it’s God’s grace on us to show us, ‘Am I prepared? Have I lost my love, my joy, my peace?‘”