The Preacher Says....  
  The Gathering Storm  
  Isaiah 59

My office downtown is a tall building on the waterfront, surrounded by an unprotected plaza where at this time of year there is always a quickening breeze and a chill in the air. From experience I know that soon there will be great howling in the elevator shafts. Cold and bitter gales will have old ladies hanging onto whatever they can as they climb the steps to the entrance. Many people like this brutal aspect of nature. To me it's intolerable. I get through those days and months by thinking of the balmy days of spring and summer that will inevitably come. Let me analogize my feelings about the weather to the present world situation. For as long as I can remember others have stood here where I now stand and spoken of the unregenerate nature of man and all its manifestations. The talks would usually follow some new variation of unacceptable social behavior: drugs, hippies, bikinis, sexual immorality. How many times have we heard 2 Timothy 3 read in our midst?

In the last days men will be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God,

and on to other misdeeds catalogued there. The import of this scripture is that immoral conduct portends the time of the end, when following a chain of cataclysmic events, retribution will come. Man will be humbled before God. Christ will return and begin his millenial reign. Over the years the breeze that portended the coming storm was often only faintly stirring. Suddenly the storm seems almost upon us. We feel the breeze quickening. Even the most optimistic would scarcely deny that troubles, the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetime, are now almost upon us. In truth, the storm winds have been blowing a long time, but we know it only intellectually. Hopefully we've been able to isolate ourselves from the moral decay around us. America is now no longer the tower of strength in world affairs. No longer the leader in the economic affairs of the world. In Russia, an ambitious program of military expansion has occurred, notably with the navy. Trouble in the world now affects us directly. People are shot senselessly in the streets. Marauding gangs enter our schools and molest our children. Corruption in politics a given. What brings us up short is the fact that our pocketbooks are being affected. Inflation continues-the dollar buys less and we find ourselves juggling a paradox of depression and inflation. The job market is way down. Savings dwindle. Investments prove ruinous. Essentials we need to maintain life-food and energy-are disappearing. In short, the outstanding qualities of human nature-- greed. gluttony and sloth-- are reaping their harvest. Americans are becoming fearful and uncertain.

Is this just another example of the cyclical nature of human existence which will right itself in time? Maybe, maybe not. What I think most likely is shortages will continue. Our ability to produce a product has diminished. The government, by striving to overcome the effects of depression and unemployment, will pump money into the economy. This will increase the inflationary spiral and keep investors out of the stock market, thus preventing business from receiving the needed infusion of capital to grow and maintain its facilities in the traditional way. Capitalism that produced the middle class is now unable to make products efficiently and economically, and the middle class is being wiped out. We'll see the nationalization of many industries. And so the United States is being reduced rapidly into a crisis ridden Socialist state like Gt. Britain. Now you may say that I am forecasting a change in our way of life-not the end of the world. After all, Democracy like every other form of government, that it has within itself the seeds of its own destruction. But the moral and economic crisis affecting America affects all the developed countries of the world.

At this time (1974) there appears to be a coincidence of crises worldwide: (1) Inflation and recession. Stagflation. Something like the situation that brought Hitler to power in Germany. (2) Oil shortage. Shortages of oil, coal, grain, iron, copper and other essentials, with oil at the top of the list and 70% of the world's resources in the hands of the Arabs. (3) Hatred of Arab for Jew. This underlying hatred is boiling up as never before. American industry found it expedient to develop foreign oil resources and this played into the hands of those who were to become our enemies because of our friendship with Israel. Israel senses a feeling of unrest in this country. They perceive we're torn between lust for oil and loyalty to them. Israel has reason to fear the world, evidenced by two UN resolutions recently passed: (1) The PLO will be given 'observer status' in the UN, and (2) Gives the right to 1.5 million Palestinians to return to their homes from which they have been displaced and uprooted. The UN is becoming another League of Nations. Arafat replaces Sadat. Kissinger is losing his power over the Arabs. Border incidents heighten. It's clear something cataclysmic is about to happen to Israel; it's unclear how America will react. We also know there is no short term substitute for oil available. It now seems that the whole world may be drawn into a struggle in the cradle of mankind by this coincidence of crises. Perhaps we stand on the brink of the future time spoken of by the prophet Joel:

Proclaim this among the gentiles: prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near. . .

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.

The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem;

and the heavens and the earth shall shake; but the Lord will be the hope of the people, and the strength of the children of Israel. ( Joel 3. 9 -16)

While we await the final conclusion, perhaps we should on a worldly level re-order our priorities. Prepare to lose our wealth, our freedoms, and even the safety this country has afforded us. One thing we must not lose is our faith. There is, or ought to be, a longing in us for the strong and simple faith we had at first, but may have gradually lost. When the coming storm beats down upon us, it may be too late to revive a dying faith. When the storm comes, or to use another metaphor, the battle is drawing near, may our thanksgiving be with deeds, not words. We need to become soldiers. Christian soldiers are not drifters, complacent, weak or fearful. Christian soldiers are committed to conquer fear with faith and honor our commitment to God. Is it too melodramatic to say "Die for what we believe?"

The Lord knoweth them that are his