The following is the text of the sermon I delivered Sunday night, September 11th during the “Wake Up Call.” To watch the on-line video of the whole two-hour event, including this message, please click here.
“FOUR REASONS WHY GOD IS SHAKING AMERICA AND THE WORLD”
Joel C. Rosenberg
September 11, 2011
Thank you. It is an honor to be here tonight — especially at this critical moment in American history, and in the history of the world.
Thousands of years ago, through the Hebrew Prophet Haggai, God told us what He was going to do — that He was going to shake us. “For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations…. I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations.’” (Haggai 2:6-7, 21-22)
That’s what Bible prophecy is – an intercept from the mind of the all-knowing, all-seeing God of the universe….a weather report from the future….a storm warning from the future — not so that we will be afraid, but so that we will be awake and ready and faithful and walking close to Jesus when the storms come.
- Do you remember where you were on September 11th, 2001?
- Do you remember how you felt when you saw the Pentagon burning, the smoldering wreckage in Pennsylvania, the two towers imploding?
- Not since Pearl Harbor had so many Americans been killed in a single attack – more than 3,000 that day.
None of us will ever forget that day — nor should we.
God didn’t cause 9/11 to happen….fanatics devoted to the false teachings of Radical Islam caused 9/11 to happen….but the True and Living God — the God of the Bible — let it happen to shake America….to get our attention….to wake us up.
I want to ask you some questions tonight as we reflect on 9/11, as we reflect on the state of our union, and the state of the Church, both here and around the world: On this anniversary of 9/11, are you morally and spiritually better off ten years ago? Is your family? Is your church?
Now is an appropriate time to take a spiritual audit — to assess how you’re doing morally and spiritually, how your family is doing, how your congregation is doing. Ten years ago, God shook us – the question is: Were we listening?
In the Book of Hebrews we read: “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” Hebrews 12:25-26)
Our Lord Jesus Christ — sitting with His disciples on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem — also warned in Matthew 24 that we would be shaken in the last days, those days leading up to Jesus’ return. “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the power of the heavens will be shaken,” Jesus said. And then, when men least expect it, Jesus said, “the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:29-30)
America was shaken on 9/11. Today, God is shaking us again.
- Nine of the ten costliest – most expensive – hurricanes in American history have happened since 9/11. The worst was Hurricane Katrina which nearly wiped out an American city and ended up costing $108 billion.[i]
- Hurricane Irene will likely rank in the top five and has made 2011 the worst year in American history for natural disasters, with ten separate catastrophes costing $1 billion or more.[ii]
- This year, we’ve seen the worst outbreak of tornadoes in nearly half a century.[iii]
- The worst fires in the history of Texas – amidst the worst drought in the history of the state.[iv]
- The biggest earthquake on the East Coast since 1875.[v]
- The biggest earthquake in Colorado since 1882.
At the same time, our economy is being shaken to its core.
- 42,000 American factories have shut down since 9/11.[vi]
- Fourteen million Americans have lost their jobs just in the past few years.
- Millions of families have lost their homes.
- Washington is running up the national credit card to jump start our economy, but it’s not working.
- Our federal debt is now more than $14 trillion – that’s trillion with a “t.” It’s hard to imagine so much money. But put it this way: if we were to pay one dollar per second every hour of every day of every month to pay down our national debt, it would take us more than 32,000 years just to pay off $1 trillion – but we have more than $14 trillion of debt.[vii]
- No wonder nearly eight-in-ten say America is on the “wrong track.”[viii]
- No wonder nearly half of all Americans fear we’re heading for another Great Depression.[ix]
People are beginning to wonder if we can turn this thing around, or whether we’re heading towards an economic collapse, an economic implosion. Sometimes, it feels like we’re out on the middle of a frozen lake and suddenly we begin to hear the ice cracking under our feet. We haven’t plunged down into the icy waters yet, but we’re not sure where to step, or whether we can get back to the safety of the shore.
That’s the economy. But what of the state of our culture?
- Since 1973, more than 53 million abortions. More than 53 million children murdered, and there is no end in sight.[x]
- Pornography revenues today exceed the revenues of ABC, CBS and NBC – combined.[xi]
- Today the pornography industry is larger than the revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink – combined.[xii]
Where are the Christians? What difference are we making? The answer is painful too hear. Too many people who say they are Christians are asleep, or distracted, or intoxicated by the world. Like the old country and western song, “Looking for love in all the wrong places,” too many people who say they are Christians have been looking love and meaning and purpose outside of Christ and His love.
George Barna, the Christian pollster and researcher, has just released a fascinating but sobering book entitled, Futurecast, Which I commend to your attention. In it, he devotes consider time to analyzing the state of Christianity in America today, and it is revealing:
- 85 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians.[xiii]
- “84 percent consider it a holy or sacred book” and “the typical American household owns four Bibles” [xiv]
- Yet only 56 percent believe that “the Bible is accurate and without error.”[xv]
Clearly, there’s a disconnect between who we say we are, and what we say we believe, and how we’re living. Barna offers many examples. Let me share just two.
- First, there is no statistical difference between the percentage of non-Christians who get divorced (33 percent) and the percentage of “born-again Christians” who get divorced (32 percent).[xvi]
- Second, only half of all born again Christians say they even try to share the Gospel with even one unsaved person one time – one time – a year.[xvii]
How is this possible? How can we be salt and light to the lost world around us if we are no different than that lost world? How can possibly hope for a spiritual revival or a Third Great Awakening in this land if we are barely all sharing our faith in Jesus Christ with one person a year? Jesus said in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” This is an important question for us tonight.
Yet God isn’t merely shaking America — the Lord said through the prophet Haggai, “I will shake all the nations.”
- Japan is suffering what her Prime Minister calls the worst disaster since World War II – a devastating earthquake, the resulting tsunami, and multiple nuclear meltdowns all at once.[xviii]
- Australians have faced devastating flooding this year – one headline read: “Australia Faces Biblical Floods”[xix]
- God is shaking the Arab world through revolutions and uprisings. The prophet Haggai said, “I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations.” And sure enough we have see rulers and regimes overthrown and destroyed in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya – and more may be coming.
- Russia is suffering the worst drought in 100 years.[xx]
- China is currently suffering its worst drought in 200 years.[xxi]
- The earthquake in Christchurch last year was the worst in the history of New Zealand and left 1/3 of the city’s buildings facing demolition.[xxii]
- Last year, God shook Haiti – the deadliest earthquake in nearly 500 years, and the second deadliest in all of human history.[xxiii]
The question is: Why is God shaking us?
The Bible teaches us that at this stage in history, God is shaking us not to punish us — though judgment will come.
There are, however, four reasons, I believe.
First, God is shaking us because He loves us and He wants us to repent – What is repentance? Some people think of it as a very heavy religious word. But my wife, Lynn, and I have tried to teach our four sons what repentance means in a very simple way. Our youngest is Noah, and so I’ll bring Noah over to my side and say, “Noah, start running away from me, out of the family room, through the kitchen and to the dinning room. Ready? Go!” So Noah starts running. Then suddenly I say, “Stop, Noah!” And he stops. And I say, “Repent, Noah.” And he turns around. And I say, “Come back to daddy!” And he comes running to me and jumps up in my arms and I hug him and kiss him. That’s repentance. God is telling to stop, because we’re running in the opposite direction, away from Him. He tells us to repent – to turn around – and to come running back to Him so that He can forgive us and dust us off and restore us. And that’s why He shakes us. He is trying to get us to let go of anything and everything we are holding – every form of ideology, or philosophy, or religious beliefs, or political beliefs, or material possessions – whatever we’re holding onto that we think will give us hope and peace and security other than Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son.
Second, God is shaking us because He wants us to realize there is no One else who can satisfy us or give us true peace and security except Jesus Christ – no other water that will quench our spiritual and emotional thirst except His living water, and He wants us to discover Him and draw near to Him and drink the water only Jesus Christ gives us.
Third, God is shaking us because He has a mission for His Church, a mission for each follower of His– good works that He prepared before the world began that we should walk in them – and He doesn’t want us to miss the blessing of serving Him and seeing Him bear fruit through our lives of obedience.
I’ve had the opportunity to travel into Iraq four times in recent years. Last year, we were invited to bring a team of pastors and staff from The Joshua Fund to do a pastors conference in northern Iraq, near the province of Ninevah. We have a son named Jonah, and he really wanted to go with me so he could see Ninevah. Lynn and I weren’t so sure about that, but we prayed, and felt God’s peace, so Jonah came with me. But as we were flying in, a big storm came up and prevented our flight from landing in northern Iraq. We were diverted back to Amman, Jordan. There, I texted Lynn and told her what happened and said Jonah and I were disappointed and weren’t sure what was going to happen next. She texted back to say, “Don’t worry. This would be the first time in history that a Jonah wanted to go to Ninevah and God prevented him from going. But I think God is going to actually let you and Jonah get to Ninevah after all.” And she was right.
Now, in the Bible, the Lord gave the Hebrew prophet Jonah a mission — to take a warning of judgment and the urgency of repentance to the people of Ninevah in modern day northern Iraq, but Jonah refused to listen to the word of the Lord, and tried to run away from the Lord by boarding a ship that was heading for Tarshish, which is modern day southern Spain.
What happened? God began to shake Jonah’s world. We pick up the story in Jonah 1:4-6. “The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep. So the captain approached him and said, ‘How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.’”
Jonah — a man of God, a prophet of God, a teacher of God’s Word — was on the run from God, and asleep to His voice.
How convicting is this: that a pagan ship captain had to shake a teacher of God’s word, and wake him up, and beg him to pray for his salvation?
What about you? What mission has God given you? Are you obeying, or are you on the run from the Lord and asleep to His voice?
There is a fourth reason, too — the Lord is shaking us because Jesus Christ is coming back soon, and the time to get right with the Lord is running out.
How do we know Christ is coming back? Because He said so.
Revelation 22:12 – Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”
John 14:1-6 – Jesus said, “‘Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.’ Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’”
When is Jesus coming back? We don’t know exactly, because He didn’t tell us. “But of that day and hour no one knows,” Christ said, “not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36)
But our Lord Jesus did give us signs to watch for that would tell us when His return was near.
In Matthew 24, and Luke 21, and Mark 13, and throughout the Scriptures we find lists of signs:
- wars and rumors of wars
- uprisings and revolutions
- natural disasters
- false prophets
- false teachers
- false messiahs
- the rise of evil in our cultures previously unimaginable
- persecution of the believers
- …..to name just a few.
Jesus said we will experience “birth pangs.” Are we not experiencing all these today?
But you say, Joel, when in history have we not had wars and revolutions and earthquakes and apostasy? What makes this period of time different from all others?
The answer is Israel. Bible prophecy makes it crystal clear that in the last days before the Second Coming, the world would witness the miraculous, prophetic rebirth of the State of Israel, Jews coming back to the Holy Land after centuries of exile, Jews rebuilding the ancient ruins, Israel becoming the epicenter of international attention, and growing international hostility and isolation — and we have seen all this happen in our lifetime.
The prophetic rebirth of Israel on May 14, 1948 — together with the reunification of Jerusalem under Jewish control in June 1967 — is what Bible scholars call the “super sign,” the definitive sign that we are truly in what the Bible calls the “last day” before the return of Christ. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is symbolized as a “fig tree.” Jesus told us the “parable from the fig tree” in Matthew 24. Jesus said, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree; when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” (Matthew 24:32-33)
- We are seeing the signs that will precede Christ’s return.
- We are experiencing the birth pangs that will come before Christ’s return.
- We are being shaken, as prophecy warned, because Jesus wants to wake us up.
We don’t know the day or the hour, but Jesus said we would know the season, and we should be living as though His hand is on the door, ready to come back.
Matthew 24:42 — “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.”
Matthew 24:43 – Be “on the alert.”
Matthew 24:44 – “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”
Are you ready to see Jesus face to face? Have you given your life to Jesus Christ? Are you absolutely sure that if you were to die tonight that you would go to heaven? Tonight, you can be certain.
Maybe you are already believer — maybe you have given your life to the Lord….but in your heart you know you’re not walking faithfully with Him….you’re drifting….or far away….tonight, God is calling you back to Him….He’s calling you to repent, turn around, come running back into His arms, asking for His forgiveness – for a fresh start, for a righteous and willing spirit. And the Scriptures tell us, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)
But to start, we need to wake up.
The Hebrew Prophet Joel wrote: “Wake up and weep, you drunkards!” Why? “For the Day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near.” (Joel 1:5, 2:1)
The Lord Jesus said in the Book of Revelation to the Church in Sardis: “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:1-3)
Is that you tonight? Is that your family? Is that your church? Perhaps you have a reputation that you’re spiritually alive — but maybe that’s not how Jesus sees you. Maybe He sees you as dead inside. Maybe you’re not obeying Him. Maybe you’re not worshipping Him — not really — not with your heart. Maybe you’re not sharing the gospel with family or friends. Maybe you’re not making any disciples. Maybe you’ve never made a single disciple. Maybe you don’t know what it means to make a disciple, even though Jesus commanded, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
Where are you tonight? Are you awake, or asleep? Are you running with Jesus, or are you running from Him, and from the mission He has for your life — like Jonah?
Ten years ago, Americans got a wake up call. The 9/11 attacks stunned us, and they drove us back to church by the millions. But did it last? George Barna’s research shows that “after the 9/11 attacks, religious activity surged, but within two months, virtually every spiritual indicator available suggested that things were back to pre-attack levels.”[xxiv] In other words, the wake up call came and people jumped out of bed — but before long, they went back to sleep, back to business as usual.
But look at the list of signs that the Bible says we will see in the last days. Then look at what is happening in our world. Wouldn’t you say the list is being checked off, one by one? I would. Which is why I would this: if you consider yourself a follower of Jesus Christ and you’re planning any major sins in your life right now, can I urge you to postpone those plans, or better yet, cancel them outright. This is not a good time to be goofing around. This is not a good time to be doing something, watching something, listening to something, reading something, spending time with someone or something for which you would be ashamed when Jesus comes back.
The Apostle John put it this way: “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.” (1 John 2:28)
Let’s be clear: the Bible tells us that these shakings are going to continue, and get worse, like birth pangs, increasing in frequency and intensity — contraction and release, contraction and release. Our Father is trying to wake us up before it is too late. Our Lord Jesus Christ is giving us time…..
- to rekindle our first love with Him
- to embrace Him
- to eat of the Bread of Life
- to drink of the living water
- to follow Him no matter what the journey
- to serve Him no matter how high the cost
- to discover His mercies afresh every morning
- to discover that when the world is being shaken, you don’t have to be – not in your heart, not in your soul – because your hope and trust is fully in Him.
Hebrews 12:28 — When we give our lives to Christ, the Scriptures say we will “receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken”
The Psalmist wrote: “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)
And, “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22).
Where are you tonight? Are you ready to meet Jesus face to face?
– End –
[i] Eric Blake, et al, “The Deadliest, Costliest, and Most Intense United States Tropical Cyclones From 1851 to 2010,” NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS NHC-6, National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center, August 2011, p. 9, http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf
[ii] “2011 Record Year For Weather Disasters,” UPI, August 19, 2011, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/08/19/2011-record-year-for-weather-disasters/UPI-57581313783153/
[iii] Marty Roney and Carolyn Pesce, “Dozens of Tornadoes Kill At Least 297 People In South,” USA Today, April 29, 2011, http://www.usatoday.com/weather/storms/tornadoes/2011-04-28-deadly-tornado-south_n.htm?loc=interstitialskip.
[iv] See “Worst Fires On Record Ravage Texas,” Voice of America, http://www.voanews.com/english/news/usa/Worst-Fires-on-Record-Ravage-Texas-129366213.html; see also, “Worst Drought In Texas History Ravages Crops, Livestock,” PBS NewsHour, August 31, 2011, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/weather/july-dec11/texasdrought_08-31.html,
[v] Katharine Q. Seeyle, “Above All, Eastern Quake Rattles Nerves,” New York Times, August 23, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/24/us/24quake.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all.
[vi] Richard McCormack, “The Plight of American Manufacturing,” American Prospect, December 29, 2009, http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=the_plight_of_american_manufacturing.
[vii] 1 trillion seconds is 31,688 years; see http://www.defeatthedebt.com/understanding-the-national-debt/millions-billions-trillions/
[viii] A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken in August 2011 found 73 percent of Americans believing the country was on the “wrong track.” See Steve Holland, “Most Americans say U.S. on wrong track: poll,” Reuters, August 10, 2011.
[ix] Specifically, some 48 percent of Americans believe a Great Depression is coming, CNN poll released June 8, 2011.
[x] National Right To Life fact sheet, January 27, 2011, http://www.nrlc.org/Factsheets/FS03_AbortionInTheUS.pdf.
[xi] Jerry Ropelato, “Internet Pornography Statistics,” Internet Filter Software Reviews, http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics-pg2.html.
[xiii] George Barna, Futurecast (Carol Stream, IL: Barna/Tyndale House Publishers, 2011), p. 124.
[xiv] Barna, p. 132-134.
[xv] Barna, p. 132-134.
[xvi] Barna, p. 35.
[xvii] Barna, p. 172.
[xviii] “Japan Quake Worst Crisis Since WWII, Says PM,” BBC, March 13, 2011.
[xix] Nick Meo, “Australia Faces Biblical Floods,” U.K. Telegraph, January 1, 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/8235159/Australia-faces-biblical-floods.html.
[xxi] “East China wheat basket braces for worst drought in 200 years,” Xinhua news service, February 8, 2011.
[xxii] “Christchurch earthquake leaves third of city buildings facing demolition: New Zealand’s PM says quake is country’s worst-ever disaster as death toll climbs to 145 and much of business district in ruins,” The (U.K.) Guardian, February 26, 2011.
[xxiii] The deadliest quake in all of human history occurred in 1556 A.D. in China. See “Earthquakes With 50,000 Or More Deaths,” U.S. Geological Survey, http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/world/most_destructive.php, accessed September 2, 2011.