Sinking sand, withering grass and fading flowers.
This editorial was written on February 2011 as a follow up to a teaching I gave in England several days earlier. Substantial updates were added as more events unfolded in the months following.
All around us is sinking sand.
Just wait a while, and everything changes.
Trends change. Fashions change. Cultures change.
However it was not always so.
In Peter's day they mocked
'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the father's fell asleep all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation' (2nd Peter 3:4)
That can no longer be said.
The last century saw the collapse of the 4,000 year old Chinese dynasty, the 1,100 year old Japanese Imperial Kingdom and the 400 year old Czarist empire of Russia.
Add to that the fall of the Berlin wall and the eighty years of communism in the U.S.S.R
After 1,900 years of exile Israel has her land back and the deserts are blooming. The gentiles are bringing Israel's sons and daughters back from afar. Their enemies have attacked one way and fled seven ways.
Now that we are into the new millennium the speed of change has gathered momentum.
Nations that were once proud of their Christian heritage are now aggressively distancing themselves from it.
In the United Kingdom a new phrase has been coined. ABC “anything but Christian”
The world's Muslim population will grow twice as fast as non-Muslims over the next 20 years according to a new study, which predicted that Muslims within a generation will make up more than a quarter of the global population.
Likewise, the face of Europe is changing rapidly. The Daily Telegraph (August 8th 2009) carried an article entitled 'Muslim Europe: The demographic time bomb transforming our continent'.
Some demographic trend-watchers predict that Germany may well be on the way to becoming a Muslim state by 2050. This short video on Muslim demographics shows how the USA and Canada, and particularly Europe is rapidly changing in religion and culture.
What issues will arise from this dramatic culture change we can only speculate.
Great Britain was once rightly proud of its international reputation for good manners, integrity and honour.
But no longer.
In November 2006 an article by Frederick Forsythe in the Daily Mail declared
“we are still continent leaders in a whole range of hard to achieve disciplines.
Biggest gambling problems
Most single mothers
Most illegitimate children
Most sexually transmitted diseases
Most people in prison
Highest levels of street violence
Most discredited exams
Most CCTV cameras
Biggest personal debts
Worst binge drinkers
Several days later the same paper carried an article by John Ingham, the Environment editor revealing that the abuse of animals dealt with by the RSPCA had increased by 60% to date.
This in a nation of renowned animal lovers.
These figures are now 5 years out of date, and it is safe to presume that they have not reduced.
Add to that the dramatic increase of human trafficking, the sexualization of young girls, the rapidly growing binge drinking in young children, and the frightening rise of violent binge drinking women, or 'ladettes' as they are commonly termed.
Hospitals are almost over run with binge drinking related admissions. More than a million such people are being brought to hospital, a figure that has doubled since 2002.
Sinking sand, withering grass and fading flowers.
Our society’s moral compass has lost its bearing completely. It might be safe to say that the compass has been lost.
Immorality is pluming new depths on cinema, television, internet and society.
Once there was a moral plum line in the nation so that if one crossed that line one knew that it was an immoral action.
That plum line has gone, so one must now use the term amoral. No moral plum line.
Rather than inspiring a return to sexual morality the media continues to throw fuel on the issue.
Stable family life, the backbone of the nation, has broken down en masse.
Marriage - traditionally the means by which two people could raise the children they created, is being changed out of all recognition. Melanie Phillips, a long standing columnist with the Daily Mail wrote "Truly we are fast reaching the stage where upholding Biblical sexual standards will become the morality that dare not speak its name"
Family Division judge Mr. Justice Coleridge warned the breakdown of the family would, within 20 years, "be as marked and as destructive as global warming".
The judge said that in urban areas family life was "in meltdown or completely unrecognizable".
He said children born into broken homes were increasingly turning to drink, drugs and crime, and the results were affecting the mental health of parents and children across the country.
He added: "In some of the more heavily-populated urban areas of the country family life is, quite frankly, in meltdown or completely unrecognizable.
In some areas of the country, even including the more urban parts of the sleepy west in which I operate, family life in the old sense no longer exists. (Daily Mail April 4 2008)
School discipline in many schools has broken down completely as recent documentaries and reports have shown. The rod was spared and the children have been spoilt and now the teachers bear the rod instead. Four out of ten teachers in the UK quit within two years. In some schools ex-army men are being brought in to help curb 'feral children' On July 11th 2011 the Daily mail newspaper headline reported on 'Britain's broken schools' stating that 1000 pupils are excluded every day, assaults on teachers are are 5 year high and that 1 in 4 staff face false allegations from the pupils. Inside the paper there was a report on the 'rise of violent 'Little Emperors' reporting on the huge rise in violence at home where children as young as ten are beating up their mother when they do not get there way.
Once it was alcohol and gambling addiction that tore family life apart. Now drug addiction on a massive scale is demolishing lives families and communities, and bringing violence and gang wars in its wake.
Christians with long standing foster care records can no longer foster children because they cannot affirm homosexual lifestyle. Good people are being called evil.
Secular wisdom has failed on all fronts.
As Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly stated "our society is broken and we need to fix it"
All around us sinking sand. Withering grass and fading flowers.
When people ponder the eternal questions
Who am I?
Where did I come from?
Why am I here?
Where will I go when I die?
All they get is sinking sand withering grass and fading flowers.
The Sunday Times carried an article by Bill Bryson which stated
“At various periods over the last 3.8 billion years you have absorbed oxygen and then doted on it, grown fins and limbs and jaunty sails, laid eggs, flicked the air with a forked tongue, been furry, lived underground, lived in trees, been as big as a deer and as small as a mouse and a million things more.
The bad news is that atoms are fickle and their time of devotion is fleeting – fleeting indeed. Even a full human life adds up to only 650,000 hours. And when that modest milestone flashes into view, or at some point thereabouts, for reasons unknown, your atoms will close down, then silently disassemble and go off to other things. And that’s it for you”
Meanwhile Richard Dawkins continues to tell any who will listen that,
“the universe has no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference’ (God’s Utility Function Scientific American November 1995)
The paradox is that this media driven society relentlessly tells young people that they are descended from animals and that there is no such thing as accountability to God, yet is shocked and fearful when they behave like animals who believe there is no accountability to God.
Sinking sand, withering grass and faded flowers.
Suddenly other aspects of life, once thought solid, have become sinking sand.
The awful events on 9/11 heralded a new world of invasive security as terrorism left national boundaries, shifted gear, and went global on a major scale.
Like many nations, we don’t wonder if this nation will be hit again, we just wonder when.
The tsunami on boxing day 2004 seemed to signal a dramatic change in levels of dangerous weather patterns. Such was the magnitude of the earthquake (9.1 - 9.3) that it caused the entire planet to vibrate. Some 230,000 people died in fourteen countries.
The following year we had hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans when 1836 people lost their lives. It was category five.
The 2010 Atlantic season had the third largest number of named storms and the second largest number of hurricanes.
Australia suffered floods described by the media as ‘Biblical proportions’ covering an area the size of France and Germany combined. Eighteen people died and many were missing, with dozens missing.
In southern Australia floods hit the state of Victoria and state officials said the flood is set to be one of the worst ever seen in the state.
At the same time floods in Sri Lanka displaced over 300,000 people while in Brazil one month of rain fell in only 24 hours bringing very destructive floods.
Just weeks after the great floods, Australia was hit by ‘Yasi’, the biggest tropical cyclone to hit the country in living memory.
Renowned climatologist Professor Stone said “more cyclones the size and scale witnessed in North Queensland last night is definitely a reality that we must face. Cyclone Yasi is one of the biggest and most intense weather patterns that has ever been seen anywhere in the world and we are in cyclone season so, combined with the intense La Nina, there is the definite risk that more will follow,”
Shortly after the cyclone in eastern Australia bush fires surrounded the city of Perth in western Australia, demolishing dozens of homes. One Australian told me "we have had cyclones before, and floods before and bush fires before, but never all at the same time!"
Earthquakes have increased numerically but experts are not sure whether it is just that sensors are more sensitive, but one definite measuring stick is counting the category seven or greater quakes which need no sensors to reveal their activity.
One earthquake web site shows that the number of major earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater has shown a dramatic upward trend in recent years. In the eleven years between 1986 and 1996 there were 15 earthquakes listed by USGS or greater. This represented only a slight increase above normal patterns for the 20th century.
However in the 11 year period between 1997 and 2007 there was a sixty fold increase in major earthquakes with a total of 99 registering magnitude 7 or greater.
I was in New Zealand’s South Island on September 3rd when the earthquake of magnitude seven hit.
Just five months later, another devastating earthquake hits Christchurch New Zealand, many killed. Prime Minister speaks of New Zealand's darkest day. This was caused by a new fault line in the Earth’s crust that seismologists were previously unaware of.
Then on March 11th an earthquake of 8.9 magnitude, the sixth largest ever recorded occurred some 250 miles off the coast of Japan. This resulted in a tsunami of more than 20 feet in height striking Japan with devastating force. An ITV television news commentary said that the energy released was estimated to be between 8000 - 50,000 atomic bombs. Six immediate aftershocks were all greater or equal to the recent New Zealand earthquake mentioned above. This 8.9 event 8000 times more powerful than the New Zealand earthquake and the final death toll is expected to be in the region of 18-20,000
The last month in 2010 and the first month in 2011, saw something happening on an unprecedented scale.
The mass deaths of animals on land, sea and air around the globe.
In America we had the phenomenon of birds falling dead from the sky in four different states, plus two million fish dying at one time in the Chesapeake Bay area, while another hundred thousand fish lay dead along a twenty mile stretch of the Arkansas River. In Argentina one hundred tons of fish were washed up dead in the waters of Parana. Forty thousand crabs were washed up dead near Kent in the United Kingdom. In Manitoba, Canada, tens of thousands of birds fell to the ground dead while in Italy some eight thousand doves fell to the ground dead. In Sweden a mere one hundred crows fell out of the skies. (Google 'mysterious bird deaths' for more information)
Slowly more and more mysterious December / January animal deaths around the world surfaced. Buffalo, Pelicans, Octopuses, Seals, Penguins, Bats and Cows. (Google ‘mass animal deaths 2011' for more information)
Then on March 9th, 1,000,000 sardines washed up dead in King Harbor, near Los Angeles.
There is a Google map available showing the global scale.
Last May in Kazakhstan between 10-12,000 Saiga antelope, a quarter of the world population of this breed, were found dead.
In the background there is the ongoing mystery of why honey bees continue to disappear or be found dead in many parts of the world, prompting fears of food shortages if orchards cannot be naturally pollinated by this God given army of pollinators. (Google ‘disappearing honey bees’)
Something seems to be changing and changing dramatically.
We can rightly ask "what on earth is going on?"
Solid ground has become sinking sand.
Global warming is having dramatic effects in parts of the world such as Russia and Pakistan. In July 2010 the average Moscow temperature was 14 degrees Fahrenheit above the norm, twice hitting 100 degrees Fahrenheit, a level Muscovites had never before experienced. This resulted in thousands of forest fires over a seven week period. Reports speak of Russia’s 140 million people being in shock, traumatized by what was happening to them and their country.
In Pakistan, May 26, 2010, the official temperature in south-central Pakistan reached 128 degrees Fahrenheit, a record for Asia. Snow and glaciers in the western Himalayas, where the tributaries of the Indus River originate, were melting fast. Combined with heavy rainfall the two extreme effects caused raging waters to cover one fifth of the country. Some 2 million homes were damaged or destroyed. More than 20 million people were affected by the flooding. Nearly 2,000 Pakistanis died. Some 6 million acres of crops were damaged or destroyed. Over a million livestock drowned. Roads and bridges were washed away.
Sea levels are rising but the debate is over how much and how fast. A television documentary (Sky History Channel February 6th 2011) spoke of the possibility of seas rising by 60 to 90 metres if global warming were to melt the polar ice caps.
Even a rise of ten metres would bring global chaos. Over 600 million people live in coastal areas that are less than 10 meters above sea level, and two-thirds of the world’s cities that have populations over five million are located in these at-risk areas.
Record droughts and freak weather around the globe are threatening to destroy harvests from Australia to Argentina, and there are more and more reports of the rapidly increasing levels of world hunger, with serious predictions being made for the coming years. All of which poses a serious risk for world peace and security.
On Tuesday June 21st the Independent headlined the news that the 'Oceans are on the brink of catastrophe' stating that marine life was facing mass extinction within one h
Government chief scientist John Beddington calls it 'the perfect storm'. Soaring world population, coupled with climate change, is set to create a world food crisis and leave billions starving. (The Mail on Sunday February 6th)
Many commentators are predicting that future wars may well be fought over commodities such as water rather than oil.
Everywhere, sinking sand.
Then there are the Banks.
Banks were considered to be ultra safe places. The phrase “as safe as The Bank of England” indicated how solid secure and stable something was.
Now we have almost worldwide economic collapse, where not only have banks had to be rescued from bankruptcy, but countries also. Countries such as Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal. On July 11th it was reported that Italy may well follow the others
Could anyone have ever imagined the state of California at one stage being unable to pay its creditors?
Or the euro itself being in danger?
All around us sinking sands, withering grass and fading flowers.
Last week (this paper is written February 9th 2011) we have seen Egypt follow Tunisia in people rebelling against their dictators. With other Arab countries deeply worried in case the cry for change infects their nation as well.
Christopher Meyer, former British Ambassador to the U.S. wrote,
"Egypt's agony is part of a great contagion that has swept the middle east like a virus" .. The suddenness with which a seemingly stable structure has started to crumble has shocked the world" (Daily Mail February 3rd 2011)
[update - February 22nd. Egypt's dictatorship has fallen, and massive protests taking place in Bahrain, Yemen, Iran and Iraq. In Libya, government troops are shooting hundreds of protestors as the country rebels against the forty-two year dictatorship of Colonel Gaddafi. US President Obama has said "The world is changing,” ]
On the world stage we have the financial and military rise of China set against a weakening America. The increasing possibility of nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran and North Korea, or terrorists. Space missiles being developed.
All around is sinking sand, withering grass and fading flowers.
You get the picture!
In the midst of all this sinking sand, withering grass and fading flowers stands 'The Rock'.
Our God, The Rock.
It is not by accident that God is called 'The Rock'.
Tides come and tides go. Storms come and storm go.
The Rock stands. Limpets have learnt to live on the rock.
Fashions come and fashions go.
Trends come and trends go.
Cultures come and cultures go.
The Rock remains. Immoveable. Unchanging. Immutable.
Those who are fastened to The Rock can declare..
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:12 (emphasis mine)
The Rock does not change like ever shifting shadows.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
Jesus painted a graphic picture of the difference between us, who are cemented to The Rock, and those who call and cajole us to join them on the sinking sand.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:25-27 (emphasis mine)
His word comes under daily attack from those who live on the sinking sand, advising us to abandon our Rock and join them on their sinking sands.
But as all around sinks, withers and fades His word remains unchanged and unchangeable.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord stands forever. Isaiah 40:8 (emphasis mine)
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Proverbs 30:5
God is Immutable.
I confess to not giving much thought in years past to the understanding that God is Immutable, but now I have come to value that term, because it assures me that although the world around me is sinking sand, God changeth not.
I love the old hymn that seems so right for today.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
As the world’s stability is sinking, withering and fading one thing we can be sure of.
The harvest is ripe.
Old gods are falling fast. Security is gone and fear is rising.
Despite the reassuring tones of various experts, people understand all too well that life as they and their parents knew it is changing fast, and not for the better.
Beneath their feet only sinking sand. All around them withering grass and fading flowers.
People will instinctively be looking for a Rock to cling to.
The Rock of Ages stands immutable.
Exclusive, because there is only one way to Him, yet inclusive, because all may come.
The harvest is ripening.
Now comes the challenge.
Will we represent The Rock?
The workers are few.
Worse. The sinking sand has come into the church.
The authentic Christian lifestyle seems to be going, or gone.
A small gate and a narrow way, Jesus said, "and few find it" (Matthew 7:14)
That 'sense' of being anchored to The Rock is for many, only dry theology rather than LIFE.
Throughout history people always recognised the authentic Christian lifestyle.
In the first century plagues and epidemics were common in cities like Rome, Corinth and Philippi.
It is well attested to by historians that the masses would flee to the countryside when such things occurred except for one group of people called Christians, who would stay, careless of their own lives, to help the sick and the dying. Even ones who left turned back.
Many Christians went to the lions for their faith, rather than conform to the ways of the pagan world they lived in and had been saved from. Or they died on long lines of crude wooden crosses outside towns and cities. The persecutions scattered the early church and spread the gospel.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth century many, many men were burnt at the stake for refusing to submit to even one aspect of heresy such as the teaching of transubstantiation. That the bread and the wine actually became, again and again, the flesh and blood of Jesus (since He only died once) No less than 25 were from Cambridge University.
In the seventeenth century thousands of Scottish Christians died rather than confess that the King of England was the head of the church, as only Jesus could hold that honour.
The Covenanters, as they were known, had been fined, tortured, flogged, branded or executed without trial for failing to turn up to hear the "King's Curates" in the pulpit.
Daniel Defoe, the author of "Robinson Crusoe" estimated that 18,000 Covenanters died for their adherence to the Covenant.
In the eighteenth century during the years 1789-92 France boiled over into the French revolution when the monarchy was overthrown and many rich aristocrats were put to death or put to flight.
Across the water in Great Britain the same conditions had been ripe for a similar revolution, but the impact of John Wesley and 'the Christians' converted through his ministry changed the face of the nation.
Christians throughout many nations and over many centuries have stood fast for Christ and for truth and have often suffered, or died for it.
‘Jesus freaks’ volumes 1 and 2 are very inspirational, telling hundreds of stories of those who were tortured or died rather than renounce Christ or Kingdom truth as revealed in scripture.
The Voice of the Martyrs web site is also very challenging.
Tom White, the head of Voice of the Martyrs wrote this, "I was in the highlands in Vietnam when someone remarked about how the Christians suffered there. One Vietnamese Christian remarked, "Suffering is not the worst thing that can happen to us. Disobedience to God is the worst thing"
Even as I write this, a news report has just come through telling of an Afghan Christian about to be hung for converting from Islam.
Said Musa, 45, has been held for eight months in a Kabul prison were he claims he has been tortured and sexually abused by inmates and guards ... He was arrested in May last year as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy following a crackdown on Christians within Afghanistan. He claims he was visited by a judge who told him he would be hanged within days unless he converted back to Islam. But he remains defiant and said he would be willing to die for his faith. He told the Sunday Times: 'My body is theirs to do what they want with.
'Only God can decide if my spirit goes to hell.'
In Acts chapter four we read of where the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem to question Peter and John. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. All avowed enemies of the gospel. When they cross-examined them the Bible says ‘they took note that these men had been with Jesus’.
People knew those who were on The Rock, not because they had a fish on their car, or a Bible under their arm, but because of their behaviour. They were people who served the King of Kings. They had servant hearts. They lived the authentic Christian lifestyle.
External events did not move them.
They were either loved or hated. Mostly hated. Wolves and sheep don't mix. That's why we need shepherds after the Great Shepherd's heart.
Jesus told us that if they hated Him they would hate us. (John 15:18)
We don't like being hated - who does? - and so we are prone to compromise.
The churches’ traditional 'city walls' have broken down and the gates burnt. Instead of influencing the world around us, it has become the other way around.
We need the Nehemiahs to rebuild the walls and re-hang the gates.
God the Father believes every word in scripture.
As does Jesus.
He quoted from Genesis chapter one and two, and spoke of Noah, the ark and the great flood. He spoke of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jonah and the great fish. He is The Word become flesh.
The Holy Spirit believes scripture. He inspired it.
Yet very few Christians now truly believe that every word of God is true.
The media often carries more authority and more influence than scripture.
What an insult to God.
For example most churches are too embarrassed to invite speakers from creation affirming Ministries, because they continually refer to the scriptures in Genesis that the world laughs at. As one church put on their billboard, 'We take the Bible seriously, but not literally'
All surveys show that to be true.
The old Calvary road – the taking up your cross daily – the sacrificial lifestyle, the servant heart is being replaced with the gospel of ME.
Where is my blessing, my net busting boat sinking blessing?
Where are the latest angel feathers and angel footprints to be found?
Where is there uncontrollable laughter and gold dust falling out of people’s hair and gemstones under foot?
God help us!
The sinking sand has come into the church.
God’s immutability runs to His unchanging attitude to sin.
That's why Jesus went to the cross.
As Christians we agree with God in hating sin in all its life destroying shapes and forms, and we war against it daily, and will war against it daily until God calls us home. At rest and yet at war.
When men and women who take the Lord's Name upon their lives as 'Christian' and make friends with sin they take the Lord's Name in vain.
Jesus words to the Laodicea church have never been more relevant than today.
Today, outside of church walls, it can be difficult to tell the difference between Christian and non Christian in society and it is not because the non Christian has become more righteous in thought word or deed.
In some categories the levels of sin within the church is little different from that without. At times I could weep over the blatant levels of wilful sin within the visible church.
We have taken grace and instead of using it to grow we have abused it as a means of keeping our sin and still feeling untroubled by it.
Here's how Paul speaks of grace in his letter to Titus.
For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age. Titus 2:11-12
And here's how Paul speaks of grace in his letter to the church in Rome.
Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, Romans 1:5
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Romans 6:1-3
Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Romans 6:15
One man, a married man, told me that he stopped off on the way home almost every day for extra marital sex. When I asked him how he thought God might feel about this, he raised his hands to heaven and said "Praise God for His grace"
The words of William Cowper's great hymn have never rung as true as now.
Too many, Lord, abuse Thy grace,
In this licentious day;
And while they boast they see Thy face,
They turn their own away.
The sinking sand has come into the church.
And so we grieve The Spirit and we loose our discernment and we are vulnerable to all sorts of nonsense.
Thankfully, God’s immutability also runs to His unchanging attitude to forgiveness for genuine repentance.
Paul called the true church to behave in such a way that we would be lights in the moral and spiritual darkness of this fallen world.
"..that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, Philippians 2:15 (emphasis mine)
So here is the comfort.
In this rapidly changing world that we live in, God is immutable.
Here is the opportunity.
The harvest is ripening.
Here is the challenge.
We have been born for such a time as this.
Will we have that deep desire to ask God to give us the strength to live the authentic Christian lifestyle and be living letters from The Rock of ages in a darkening world that is literally falling apart on every level?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1 - 2
I challenge myself with this question.