Pastor Sherry’s message for January 31, 2021
Scriptures: Deuteronomy 18:15-20, Mark 1:21-28
In 1970, a KGB agent (the Russian version of our CIA), named Yuri Bezmenov, defected to the West. There is a 1985 YouTube video of him talking about the communist strategy for taking over the U.S. 35 years ago, he said the strategy had been plotted for years and had already begun to undermine our country. He claimed there are 4 steps to a communist takeover of America:
1.) The 1st is what he called “demoralization.”
He said, “Marxism-Leninism ideology is being pumped into the soft heads of at least three generations of American students, without being challenged or counter-balanced by the basic values of Americanism and American patriotism…The demoralization process in the United States is basically completed already …Most of it is done by Americans to Americans thanks to lack of moral standards.” This process seems to render facts and truth as irrelevant, because, as Bezmenov asserted, a demoralized person is not capable of ascertaining what is true from what is false. Such a person has no standard by which to discern truth. He went so far as to claim, “Even if I take him [a demoralized American] by force to the Soviet Union and show him a concentration camp, he will refuse to believe it until he is going to receive a kick in his fat bottom. When the military boot crashes him, then he will understand, but not before that.” And then it would be too late.
2.) The 2nd stage is a period of “social chaos,” usually lasting 2-5 years. The media, some politicians, and academia join to incite and downplay chaos. Riots, as we saw this past summer, are redefined as “peaceful protests.” But persons who express outrage against this chaos are redefined as “bigots,” “extremists,” and “insurrectionists.” During this time period, the government will promise all kinds of freebies to American citizens as it becomes bigger and more intrusive.
3.) Stage 3 instigates a crisis leading either to “civil war or “foreign invasion.” This stage is said to last from 2-6 months. Bezmenov maintained that the “useful idiots” who helped bring this crisis about will then become disillusioned and will then either be killed off, imprisoned, or exiled by those in authority.
4.) Bezmenov referred to the final stage as “normalization.” The U.S. will have become communist. Based on the experiences of other countries, like Grenada, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and China, it appears to take about 20 years for the country to accept this as the new norm.
I don’t know about you, but I find his experience and his predictions to be chilling. I started my career path as a high school teacher of US History and US Government. Though I later moved on to become a licensed psychologist and then an ordained pastor, I have never really forgotten my interest in American governance and have continued to observe our cultural trends.
As I considered Bezmenov’s descriptions and predictions, it occured to me that–35 years after his interview—his assessment and predictions appear to be accurate. It looks to me as if we are already in Stage 2 Chaos. As a nation, we have sidelined our moral compass, Jesus Christ. And we are watching those in power currently “restructuring” how we see and do things politically, economically, militarily, and governmentally. This can be both overwhelming and distressing to us.
But in these uncertain and rapidly changing times, we need to pray for our nation and to keep our eyes on–and our faith in–Jesus.This is what our lessons teach us today.
Deuteronomy 18:14-20 Moses is prophesying the coming of a prophet greater than he was. 1st he tells the people to obey the prophets. Why would this be his concern? Because authentic prophets convey messages from God (they are essentially God’s mouth-pieces).
The marks of a true prophet are that what he/she says is consistent with Scripture, and that what he/she foretells actually happens. 2nd, he wants them to get into the habit of listening to the prophets—God will send them a number of good ones—so they will then be prepared to hear the Ultimate Prophet when Jesus arrives. Jesus Christ is the Ultimate Word of God. He is God’s fullest revelation of Himself to us. As the Son of God, He has authentic knowledge of God the Father. He represented the Father openly, honestly, and truthfully. In John 5:30, He says, By Myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent Me [totally obedient to the Father]. In John 7:16, He makes a similar point, My teaching is not my own. It comes from Him who sent Me [He says what the Father approves]. As the Son of God, He has authentic authority to speak on the Father’s behalf. In John 5: 36-37, He adds, I have a testimony weightier than that of John [the Baptist]. For the very work that the Father has given Me to finish, and which I am doing testifies that the Father has sent Me. And the Father who sent me has Himself testified concerning Me [The Father voiced His full approval of Jesus at His baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration]. He goes on to say in John 11: 37-38, Do not believe Me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe Me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I in the Father. Finally, He asserts in John 14:10, Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in Me? The words I say to you are not just My own. Rather, it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work.
So Moses is telling the people, before he dies, that Jesus is coming as the greatest of all prophets; and that they need to be prepared to listen to and obey Him. He will be and is our moral authority.
Our Gospel lesson, Mark 1:21-28, focuses on Jesus’ authority.
You may remember that Mark (actually, John Mark) was Peter’s disciple and probably wrote down for Peter what is essentially Peter’s Gospel. Peter wanted to get the Good News out to the Romans, so, this is a Gospel of action. You may notice the words Suddenly and immediately are frequently used in this Gospel. Mark’s (Peter’s) Gospel focuses more on the works of Jesus rather than on the thinking behind Jesus’ works (the Apostles John and Paul tend to focus on the latter). Peter knew he would have to convince Roman soldiers of Jesus’ authority. After all, Caesar called himself, Lord; so, why should they believe Jesus is Lord?
The 1st way a Roman (& we) might come to accept Jesus as Lord is if He has authority over the supernatural. Mark will also go on to demonstrate that Jesus had authority/power over nature (storms at sea; walking on water; feeding 5,000, then 4,000 with next to nothing on hand). Jesus also had authority to heal peoples’ physical bodies (the blind, the deaf, the lame, the palsied, lepers, feverish or hemorrhaging women; even resurrectionsfrom the dead). Finally, He also healed people from dysfunctional emotional conditions.
So, the first miracle Mark reports is of Jesus casting a demon out of a man, in church, on the Sabbath. Jesus teaches at the synagogue in Capernaum because He’s been thrown out of His home town, Nazareth.
He makes Capernaum the base of His operations. The demon(s) in a man in the synagogue call out, What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? [Yes!] I know who you are—the Holy One of God! Notice, the demons recognize Jesus’ true identity as God before the humans do. But Jesus doesn’t want the demons to lead folks to Him. Their agenda is from Satan and is evil. Their agenda is to pull us away from God. He tells the demon(s) to be quiet—the Greek expression He uses is actually, Be muzzled!–and come out of him. He sets the man freefrom demonic oppression. The man may not have known he had a demon in him. He didn’t even ask Jesus for help. By casting the demon(s) out of him, Jesus demonstrates that He both discerns the presence of evil in a person and He has the power to make evil spirits leave. In other words, when He says hush, they have to hush; when He says go, they have to go.
In His first miracle recorded in Mark, Jesus reveals that He has power over the spiritual realm. He is going to tear down the spiritual walls that separate people from God and from each other. He is going to war against and defeat dark forces. The Romans were superstitious, so this would have been astonishing to them. They believed they had to appease/bribe the gods to keep them on their side. But here is Jesus, just speaking a word, and vanquishing a foe that only God could command. This would have stopped most Roman soldiers in their tracks.
Let’s also remember Paul’s teachings in Ephesians 6:12: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Our battles are not with people per se, but rather with the demonic forces that are behind and drive their hateful, seductive, or destructive behavior.
I think we need to be aware of what is going on currently in our country, but we need not be afraid. We worship a Jesus who has authority over all things and all events. The political and social turmoil in our country is not beyond Him.Either He will, through our prayers, subdue it; or He will allow it to continue to play out as a prelude to End Time events. Either way, we can rest in the fact that our Lord is in control.
We also worship a Jesus who is the Voice of Authority, the final authority. He has already defeated the Devil on the Cross. Because of Christ, we can trust that He has things under control, despite how it looks to us. Because of Christ, we can leave fear behind and step out in freedom to do God’s work, in God’s way, in this world. Because of Christ, we can pray with confidence that His will would be done in our country as it is in Heaven. Amen!