A Special Article

      “And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, “Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!
     Then they will begin to say to the mountains ‘Fall on us!’ And to the hills, ‘Cover us!’  For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?” - Luke 23:26-31

I am astonished.  Even as Ezekiel sat by the River Chebar and was “astonished many days” so am I increasingly astonished with each passing day.  Ezekiel was mortified when he saw the full scope of Israel’s apostasy in the light of God’s revelation of His glory and judgment.
     I watch with amazement as the nation I have loved increasingly mocks God and issues decrees which further separate Him from public life, and I watch with equal amazement as the church world blindly parrots society’s new spirituality and fails to hear the words of Jesus.
     I watch in wonder as so many declare the wood to be green, when with each passing day it becomes more obvious that the wood is certainly not green. What do you do when the wood is dry? When do you stop pretending and following popular trends and speak the truth?
     I think of the caliber of men who were instrumental in the founding of this nation, yet whose names are now maligned and whose doctrines have been misrepresented...men who stated that our republic can only function when it governs a people who are already governed by the Word of God.
     I contrast these over against the cacophony of voices clamoring to see who can be the boldest in banning the mention of God in public life.  And I wonder, “When does the church recognize that without a heaven-sent miracle we have passed the point of no return?  Though we always have hope for our nation, when do we take up the cause of preparing God’s people for the dry wood, according to the pattern of Old and New Testament prophets?
   In Jeremiah’s day, there were prophets who refused to speak anything that sounded negative. They preached “peace and safety” when God was clearly saying that they were no longer hearing His heart and had already passed from green wood to dry.
   Oh, how we pray for revival! But if and when it comes, it certainly won’t come by spiritual fads which leave the Body of Christ in confusion and disarray. It won’t come through holy laughter, manifestations of gold dust, or by jerking and shaking. It will only come by heaven-sent repentance rolling over the church like ocean waves and leaving in its wake a people broken and submitted to God.
     While I believe we, as God’s people, should be even more earnest in our prayers for our president and leaders, when do we recognize dry wood and stop pretending that it’s green?
     Do we understand that dry wood is beyond revival?  When I was growing up in Georgia, I loved to walk through the woods during the winter. I remember quite clearly breaking twigs and branches from trees as I hiked. Some, though they appeared lifeless and dead, were green inside and would bend far before breaking. These would certainly be revived when spring rains soaked the ground. But other branches were dry through and through. They snapped and broke easily.  And the point is this: no amount of latter rain could revive this wood. Once it was dry it was dry, and it would be foolish to pretend otherwise. It’s only use could be for kindling a fire.
     I have also seen trees that were apparently quite dead, and yet there was a little wood near the base of the trunk that still had life on the inside.  When spring came, this tree would look most unusual.  Though appearing dead and lifeless, there would be a green shoot coming up from the trunk...a remnant, if you will.
     Isn’t this where we are today?  It’s hard to face these things without being aware that you might be labeled a pessimist, at best. 
     Time reveals which wood is dry and which is green. Ninevah appeared to be dry wood, a nation caught up in idolatry and outside the covenant of God.  Yet when one lone prophet preached, the nation fell to its knees in repentance.  It wasn’t a place of dry wood after all.  But what if Jonah had preached for decades, as many have here, calling the nation to repent, only to find it sinking into further decadence and rebellion?  At what point is the glass no longer half full? 
     Ninevah repented in sackcloth and ashes, and God’s wrath was turned away. Yet we find other instances, even among God’s covenant people, where God sent messenger after messenger and finally pronounced judgment without remedy. In these cases, not even a Jonah could avert what was coming.
     Listen to the word God gave to Ezekiel:

     “Son of man, when a land sins against Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it; I will cut off its supply of bread, send famine on it, and cut off man and beast from it.
     Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness”, says the Lord God.   (Ez. 14:13-14)

     I’ve heard well-meaning pastors preach that God will NOT judge America, if for no other reason than that we still send the most missionaries and compassionate aid of any country on earth.  Well, that sounds good, but that’s not what this passage says. When huge segments of the church are embracing homosexuality and abortion and denying the deity of Christ, God says that there will be a penalty that not even the prophets of old could stop.
     The fact is the “green remnant” would be kept by God’s power, but not the whole nation. Please note also that God is not speaking here of an escape hatch, via rapture, but God’s power to keep His people in the midst of persecution. Many years ago, Chinese Christians were taught by Western missionaries that the rapture would happen before any kind of persecution would come upon them. When they began to suffer at the hands of the communists they were devastated. They were not prepared.
     This article began with Jesus carrying His cross, yet still finding the strength to prophesy of a coming disaster. Only days before, He had wept over Jerusalem with strong cries and tears. Now I ask you, were they cries of intercession? Were they cries for intervention? Or were they the cries of a broken heart for the people of God?
     As Jesus wept over Jerusalem, did He then stand and call for teams of prayer warriors and intercessors? (There’s certainly a time for that.) Did He set up a booth and sell shofars for the “anointed” ones to blow, tearing down principalities and powers? Did He call for a delegation to meet with Roman rulers and work for legislation to prevent the coming disaster? Did He call for Amnesty International to analyze and report the coming persecution?  Why did He not prophesy a coming revival with great signs and wonders? Why did He not quote II Chronicles 7:14, saying “If My people, which are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land?” Certainly, the promise of God had not changed.
     Jesus wasn’t into “positive confession”. Though He was God incarnate, He was saturated with the Word of the prophets. He saw and understood the current situation in light of the Word of the prophets and was willing to speak, no matter the cost. Jesus was well aware of this passage in Ezekiel, as well as numerous other similar passages.  T.A. Sparks wrote a wonderful book on the subject of prophetic ministry. He explains how prophecy involves interpreting the things we see around us in light of what the prophets (Old and New Covenant) have spoken. Jesus said it was a tragedy that the Jews could read the weather but not the signs of the times.  It’s time for us to look at the trends and what is happening around us in light of what the prophets have spoken.
     Instead of giving his disciples false hope, Jesus had just spent hours revealing to them the only real source of hope. He had shared what would happen not only a few years after His departure, but also before His return.  He commanded them to be watchful and wise and His “end-time”-teaching focused on trials and tribulations to come, not a final worldwide revival.
     You see, today there is much talk of watchmen. But what are they watching for?  You rarely hear the “prophets” of contemporary Christianity speaking of dry wood; in their eyes it’s all green. Look through any popular charismatic magazine and you’ll see. Where is the call for righteousness, for repentance?  Instead of increasing, that call is falling out of vogue altogether. For years, there have been movements to unite the church in repentance.  Has the church repented? Or has nonsense in the church increased, and likewise the wickedness of the nation?
     In the natural, I am an optimist. I have always seen the glass half full and been wearied by those who see life otherwise. But I can no longer ignore what is before my eyes. My entire focus of ministry has shifted. Without leaving other important things undone, we (at Faith Harvest Church) now seek to prepare God’s people for persecution. Spiritually, I can no longer look at America and the American church and see the glass half full. I see at least the beginning of dry wood, if not dry wood altogether.
     Jesus knew what was about to befall Jerusalem, and He said, “If they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?” 
     Under such circumstances, how foolish it is to stand in the pulpit and soothe God’s people with nothing but messages of peace and safety. How foolish to see the enemy approaching and not sound the trumpet call.
     What foolishness to teach fluffy, faddish, ideas about new waves of the Spirit when God’s Word says it’s all about the work of the cross in our lives.
     The dry wood has begun, and I am astonished.
     I’m astonished because 20 years ago, the mention of persecution coming to America would have made me scoff. And if you’d ever suggested that the “test case” by which the dominoes would fall, would be the issue of homosexuality, I wouldn’t have believed it. Yet today, we see the rise of coming restrictions on freedom of speech based on the concept of hate speech.  And even Christians are being seduced. 
     At what point do we stop compromising? Television and music are saturated with dry wood. Much of what passes for Christian literature is dry wood. Christian television is filled with dry wood. Anyone with a discerning spirit, who reads and listens to current reporting, can see that there is an outright war on Christianity in America.
     Oh, pastors and leaders...beware of the danger of majority thinking.  The majority (even within Christianity) is seldom right. The majority worshipped the golden calf. The majority rejected the words of Jeremiah in favor of the smooth words of the false prophets. The majority shouted “Crucify Him”. The majority of Christians were silent in Germany as the stench from Hitler’s ovens drifted through the air and into their homes.  A young Mormon girl asked my wife, “If we’re so wrong, why is it that we’re one of the fastest growing religions in the world?” The trouble is, many Christians employ the same reasoning.  Remember that when the flood came, only eight were saved.     
     I believe the Lord is refining and preparing a host of witnesses who will stand for the Lord’s holiness in the dark, closing days ahead…Abraham confessed, “I am a stranger and a pilgrim on this earth...and I desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one...my eyes are on a city whose builder and maker is God”.
Folks, Jesus is coming again! In the midst of the reign of darkness which is descending on the earth…He is coming again. His feet will touch the Mount of Olives and the Word of God says He will separate the wheat from the chaff and the sheep from the goats.
     So what do we do when the wood is dry?   We prepare.  As Jesus prophesied dry wood, which would soon come upon the early church, He also promised the outpouring of His Spirit...an empowering anointing for the “greenwood remnant”. Without this power, how could they survive the coming storm? Yet with this power they could worship Christ in song even as Nero lit the night sky with their burning bodies. As we prepare for hard times and dry wood, we too must avail ourselves of the power of the Holy Spirit that we might stand as bold witnesses before a lost and dying world.
     Pastors and leaders, please think seriously on these things. Will your congregation stand or fall when faced with choices of loyalty to Christ or loyalty to a false system?   Many years ago, as the communists in Romania brought church leaders and pastors to an open forum, they called upon pastors to proclaim their solidarity with the state.  Pastor Richard Wurmbrand’s wife Sabina leaned over and whispered in her husband’s ear, “Are you going to stand up and wipe the spit off of Jesus’ face?” Wurmbrand replied, “If I do, you will no longer have a husband”.  Sabina replied, “I’d rather have a dead husband than a coward”.  Wurmbrand stood and proclaimed the Lordship of Christ and as a result spent years in solitary confinement.  Do you think that cannot happen today?  I once thought it could not, but no more.  A nation that can violently suck the brains from a partially delivered, fully developed baby, and blindly teach that it’s their right, can do just about anything, given the right indoctrination and circumstances.   How will your church fare? Will your sheep follow their shepherd to prison, or will they flee?
   God, open our eyes that we might behold what is dry and what is green.  For “if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”
(based on a sermon delivered by Pastor Mark Hillis
At Faith Harvest Church)