I have watched the storm clouds gather on the horizon
I have listened to the distant thunder roll
I have felt a stronger current in the ocean
I have felt a stronger current in my soul

I have felt the earth tremble beneath my feet
I have heard the breakers crash upon the shore
I have seen a stronger wind begin to gather
I have heard the raindrops pounding on my door
Be my shelter, be my sanctuary
Spread your mighty loving wings and cover me

Be my Savior from the adversary
Be my ever present help in time of need
All the earth is groaning

Waiting for The Day
Find me to be faithful
Lead me in the Way
(Be My Shelter/Through The Flame 1990 Words and Music by Dallas Holm)

Although the lyrics to this song were penned over twenty years ago, the sense of an impending “storm” and need for shelter seems more urgent and real now than ever before. 2020 seemed to be a “perfect storm” of sorts that has left many if not all of us with a sense that things may never be quite the same.

Covid-19 has done great damage to the physical health of many, to the economic health of our nation and due to the political leveraging of this pandemic, on both sides of the aisle and even within the scientific community, it has affected the very integrity of this “One Nation Under God” constitutional republic.

Free and fair elections now take place in a fog of suspicion and beneath a cloud of cynicism. Violence, in ways that would have once been denounced, is now applauded by some as heroic. Censorship, once thought to be only relegated to communist regimes and third world countries, has now reared its ugly head from “sea to shining sea” and in our own backyard.

I could go on and list all the challenges and changes that have occurred in just recent months but I’m sure you’re fully aware and have yourselves been personally impacted by our present plight.

My greatest concern herein is the church, the body of Christ, every true believer and how we discern, prepare and respond.

I believe every true born again follower of Christ discerns that “The Times They are a Changin” as Dylan so poignantly penned decades ago. It is essential that we understand what we are dealing with amidst these present tensions and assaults.

I believe the Apostle Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, clearly instructed the church at Ephesus and clearly instructs us today as to what (or who) we’re up against. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)

If this is true, and it most certainly is, then our discerning, preparation and response must be rooted in the spiritual.

I love what Chuck Colson said some years ago: “The kingdom of God will never arrive on Air Force One!” This does not suggest that we shouldn’t exercise our constitutional rights to seek, by vote and involvement in our political structure, to establish men and women in significant places of leadership who will uphold the very rights and freedoms that have been clearly put forth in our nation’s founding documents.

However, if we put our hope and trust in even the best ideas of men and most noble attainments of their offerings, we will still miss the mark if we don’t discern, prepare and respond in light of the spiritual realities that represent the true issues in all of this.

I have, in this letter, referred to discerning, preparing and responding. I really don’t think much needs to be said about discerning, because I believe every true Christian who is filled with the Spirit of God, grounded in the Word and walking close to Jesus, with eyes wide open, sees and senses the situation we find ourselves in.

In the future, perhaps the next Praiseletter, I’ll talk more about how we respond in the midst of this present environment. For now however, I would like to talk about preparation.

I know there are many “preppers”, Christian and otherwise, who are storing up food and water, gasoline and generators, guns and ammo and much more, preparing for the seemingly likely impending storm.

I think wise and reasonable preparation is always a good plan. My Norwegian grandmother used to say, “Live like you’re going to die tomorrow…plan like you’re going to live forever!”

Wise instruction from a woman who came to America as a teenage girl, not knowing the language or what lay ahead. Thankfully, she came to know Jesus and learned the joy of living for His plans and purposes.

I believe you sense, as I do, an increase in persecution towards Christians and the Church in our country. It’s not new, it’s just becoming more obvious and aggressive, as scripture predicted it would.

Billy Graham wrote in 1957: “The Bible says that all who ‘desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution’ (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus said that as the time of His return draws nigh, ‘They will lay their hands on you and persecute you’ (Luke 21:12). We have no scriptural foundation for believing that we can forever escape being persecuted for Christ’s sake. The normal condition for Christians is that we should suffer persecution.”

Though we don’t know exactly what persecution might look like for us here in America, we are beginning to feel its effects and find ourselves wondering more about what lies ahead. I know this has caused concern, angst and yes, even fear in many.

If all we see happening presently and anticipate “down the road” is spiritual in essence, then shouldn’t our preparation be spiritual in essence?

I believe the answer is a resounding YES!

Paul identifies the rulers, powers and forces in his letter to the church in Ephesus. He then goes on to present a strategy or lay out a “game plan” as we might say.

‘Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17)

In that portion of scripture Paul urges us to “take up, resist, stand firm, gird, put on, shod and extinguish”. All these are purposed and disciplined actions of preparation.

We prepare for a sport, we prepare for a vacation, we prepare our taxes, we prepare a meal and on and on it goes. In so many areas of life we understand clearly the importance and necessity of preparation. We wouldn’t expect to excel or succeed at a sport for which we have not systematically and diligently prepared.

We would not be too excited to eat a meal thrown together at the last minute without thoughtful preparation. Failure to keep track, organize and prepare our taxes properly can have severe consequences.

Failure to prepare day by day, moment by moment and step by step for the coming persecution can and will have severe consequences as well.

I am here reminded of a wonderful (and I believe appropriate) quote I read and committed to memory some thirty years ago, which I believe now serves us well.

“We fancy we could be heroic on some great occasion. We could die for Christ, we think, if called upon to lay down our life for Him. It is questionable, however, if we could, unless we have cultivated the martyr spirit hour by hour, for if our strength and desire to please God have failed in the trifles of our life, how can we be sure of them in the great testing? It is far harder to live for Christ moment by moment than it is to die once for Him; and if we wait for great occasions in which to display our fidelity, we shall find that our life has slipped away, and with it the opportunities which each hour has brought of proving our love to our Lord by being faithful in that which is least.”
(J. Gregory Mantle – Beyond Humiliation)

Therein is the key! Step by step, moment by moment and day by day being faithful in the least, thus assuring the strength, desire and ability to stand for Him when it matters most.

I can almost hear the host of Heaven singing
I can almost feel the power around the throne
While I wait to make that final distant journey
And until I finally make that place my home