Dire Warnings

Pastor Sherry’s message for July 10, 2022

Scriptures: Amos 7:7-17; Psalm 82; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37

Have you ever noticed that sometimes authorities/experts misdirect us? Some examples of this include the following:

1. In my training as a psychologist in the late 1980’s, we were told not to talk to people about their spiritual beliefs. Supposedly, it was none of our business and not germane to emotional or cognitive struggles. But then I came to realize—thru experience—that at the root of most emotional problems is a misperception (or two or three) about God. True healing requires that we talk these through.

2. Consider the Covid advice and the mandates. We were told to close the churches so as not to spread the virus. But the history of the Christian Church in the first and second centuries demonstrates that the Church grew because Christians helped tend the sick through two vicious plagues. Scripture tells us (Hebrews 10:25) Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing. And Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. That’s why we reopened so much sooner than most others around us.

3. You have probably heard the adage, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” This is good advice when raising teenagers. However, my son and I have each written 2 books mostly during the hours from 10pm-2:00 am. As “night owls,” we are most creative then. Additionally, no one else is awake to interrupt or to distract us.

4. I have also heard church authorities tell preachers not to touch on political issues in their sermons. It is often true that if you criticize one party, you run the risk of alienating those who favor it. But you may have noticed that I do criticize what appears to me to be corruption, collusion, and outright fraud and deception—in whichever party—because these behaviors are opposed to, are antithetical to the Christian life. There comes a time when, as a pastor, I have to point out for us how our culture is veering off into directions that are contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ. I don’t want for you to be conned or misled. And I have to please the Lord, even if it “ruffles the feathers” of some.

Consider the current push toward Socialism—and ultimately Communism—by the “Progressives” in our culture today. This week I read a book called The Naked Communist: Exposing Communism and Restoring Freedom. It was written in 1958 by an FBI agent tasked with investigating communist efforts in the U.S., and updated/reprinted 7 more times (most recently in 2017) by W. Cleon Skousen (and his son, Paul). Dr. Ben Carson says it lays out the whole “Progressive” plan for America. I believe Skousen (and Carson) are right.

Skousen reveals 45 goals of Communism designed to take over the US, and asserts that 44 of them have already been at least partially achieved. Consider the following for example:

#15 Capture one or both of the political parties in US;

#17 Get control of the schools, especially through rewriting history;

#20 Infiltrate the press;

#25 & #26 Breakdown cultural standards of sexual morality; promote pornography, alternate forms of sexual expression, and promiscuity as normal, natural, and healthy.

#27 Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social religion;” discredit the Bible.

#28 Eliminate prayer or any type of religious expression in the schools, as a violation of the separation of church and state. I remember when I first arrived in Florida in the mid-1970’s and was teaching in public high school, we began each day with prayer and a Bible verse.

#29 Discredit the American Founding Fathers.

#40 Discredit the American family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity and easy divorce. Florida has “No Fault” divorce, which means a divorce can be granted if only one person wants the marriage to end. Traditional grounds like adultery or cruelty are no longer required.

#42 Create the impression that violence and insurrection are legitimate aspects of the American tradition.

If we examine current trends in the US, we can recognize, with Skousen, how many of these goals have already been achieved in our country.

This brings me to our Old Testament lesson for today: Amos 7:7-17. Amos was a farmer and herdsman, from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, who God ordained as a prophet and sent to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. (His name, Amos, means burden-bearer.) He was a commoner, not of the priestly or political classes. He was an outsider. He prophesized during the reigns of King Ussiah—a good king–in Judah (790-740BC) and of Jeroboam II—a bad king– in Israel (793-753). This was a time of prosperity and security in both kingdoms. Biblical scholars tell us that luxury abounded; that making money had become more important than worshipping God; and that empty “ritual religion” and other forms of spirituality were popular, but belief in and obedience to God was waning. The rich exploited the poor. The judicial system was corrupt, offering one standard for the rich and the influential, and another for the poor. Injustice was rampant, as the peoples’ moral fiber had eroded. Sound familiar?

So God sent Amos to declare His judgment on Israel. He issued a call to repentance. He urged Israelites to seek God sincerely. His job was to warn the Northern Kingdom that God was losing patience with them. The Lord told him to prophesy that that God’s judgment was looming. He was to issue the dire warning that their end was coming. God always gives us plenty of warning before He enacts His judgment. Amos addressed Israel from 760-750BC. The Northern Kingdom was defeated and either killed or carried off by Assyria in 722BC.

In this morning’s reading, we have one of Amos’ warnings. God tells him His judgment is like holding a plumb line to a building or to a strip of wallpaper. If a line is plumb, it hangs vertically and is “straight.” I have hung wall-paper a number of times in my life, and I always snapped a blue chalk-line to ensure the first strip went up plumb. God uses this same image in the prophesies of Isaiah (28:16-19), Jeremiah (31:38-39), and Zechariah (2:1-5) to indicate that He is getting ready to render a judgment. The plumb line is God’s ethical standard, which the people have failed to meet.

Then the passage moves to communications between Amos and Amaziah, the pagan priest of Bethel (King Jeroboam’s Chapel): Amaziah reports Amos to the king, but distorts the prophet’s message (an early example of fake news). He accuses Amos of conspiracy against the King. He misquotes Amos, exaggerating and personalizing the prophet’s predictions. The prophet never says Jeroboam will be killed in battle; instead, Amos predicts Jeroboam’s “house” or dynasty will fall by the sword.

Amaziah brings the King’s message to Amos–>Go back where you belong. Amaziah was no doubt refined, well-educated, perhaps even charismatic and given to flowery speech—we recognize the type, slick and persuasive. He probably considered Amos a country “rube,” a “deplorable,” someone beneath his contempt. He implies Amos is a prophet for hire, being paid to bring bad news—or, worse yet, a fanatic. But Amos answers him, calmly, with modesty and moderation: No, I am not seminary trained nor the son of a prophet. I’m here because the God you no longer worship told me to come. Amos then pronounces God’s judgment against the real false authority, the pagan priest:

1.) Amaziah will die in captivity;

2.) His wife will be reduced to prostitution to survive;

3.) His sons and daughters will be killed (by the blood-thirsty and vicious Assyrians);

4.) His land will be divided (remember, a Levite never had land);

5.) And Israel will be exiled.

Notice that Amaziah had position, wealth, authority, and reputation—but was still dead wrong. Amos lacked these human credentials, but had the true word and the blessing of God Almighty!

If we compare this portion of Scripture with the Communist goals for America cited by Skousen, you can see that, first of all, we (America) are out of plumb with God. Tragically, our culture has wandered far from God’s will. In 2017, polls reported that 32% of US adults under 30 have no religious affiliation. In a recent interview of random strangers on the street in New York, I heard a guy say he did not know who the interviewer meant when he asked him about God. He’d not heard of God. Church attendance is down in most all denominations. Many of those who left with the quarantines/shutdowns have not returned.

Secondly, this means, I believe, that our country is headed toward God’s judgment. Please understand that the Progressive agenda is at best socialist and at worst communist. Both are anti-God and anti-Christianity. This is why we earnestly pray each Sunday for a revival of American faith in Jesus. This is why we pray that the crooks, the dishonest, and the ungodly in both parties in our country would be voted out of office and replaced with Godly persons who love Jesus and love the USA.

This is why we pray for a decline in violence and a rebirth of national respect for life and the rights of others.

Finally, we have to wonder what we can do. Our God issues dire warnings before He brings on His judgment. We need to consider ourselves warned. So, we can…

1. Refuse to be bullied by the progressive culture.

2. Decide, will you obey humans or obey God?

3. Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana humorously says, “Eat your veggies and vote them out of office!”

4. Consider 2 Chronicles 7:14 …if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Ask God to forgive the sins of our country.

The Lord views us both individually and as a national group, so we can take it on ourselves to ask forgiveness for our national sins. Look around, think about it, and you will know what they are. We can also pray diligently and seek His face.

©️2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

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Despite How It Looks Now, Jesus is in Control

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 [1985]…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!