Another hurricane is churning through the Atlantic at break-neck speed. Hurricane Maria brought near total devastation to the island of Dominica. The island's governor declared yesterday that to his knowledge not one roof remained in place on any building on the island. Now the hurricane has Puerto Rico in its crosshairs. This island territory received just a glancing blow from Hurricane Irma just two weeks ago, but it looks like it will take a full-frontal blow from Hurricane Maria.
Resources are being stretched as first responders deal with a third major hurricane to hit the United States or its territories within the past four weeks. Hurricanes Harvey, then Irma, and now Maria have caused untold billions of dollars in property and infrastructure destruction. The suffering of those caught within the wake of those storms has been intense. Yet Americans have pulled together in these moments of crisis to help others in their times of need. America has always been good at this. It is just sort of in America's DNA structure.
And then there is the earthquake, measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale, that hit Mexico yesterday. The number of dead keeps steadily rising as the damage becomes more visible. This is the second major earthquake to hit Mexico in recent weeks.
Friends, I believe that God is sounding a wake-up call. Time to get out of our apathy. Time to clean the rust off the armor of God. Time to get some Holy Spirit anointing and enter into the battle for God's Kingdom. These are not days to be timid. These are days for boldness and courage.
I met this morning with a great group of men for a study in the book of Nehemiah. This study is part of our discipleship-leadership development for men within our church. This morning we were in Nehemiah chapters 2 and 3. We talked about the opposition that Nehemiah received as he began work on his vision of seeing the walls around Jerusalem rebuilt. Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab certainly did their best to cause a disruption of Nehemiah's plan. Their primary weapons - fear and intimidation. Do we not experience those same two threats today? We constantly face the intimidation of Satan. Don't speak out against the gay community because you might go to jail for hate-speech. Don't speak out against evolution in your school because you might be branded a Bible-thumper. And the list goes on and on. And what has the Church done? It has caused its voice to be silenced because of fears and intimidation. As one young man said this morning, this has been going on for a long time.
It is time to stand up for the Truth. I like these final words of David to his son Solomon. His advice to his son was this: "Be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires" (1 Kings 2:2-3). What great advise! "Be a man!" Stand with a firm backbone upon those convictions of your heart. Don't compromise your values. Never back-down on what you know to be right. Always follow the leading of the Lord. How we need this today! We need men, and women for that matter, who will get up in the morning and declare with all the authority of God, "Satan, you can't have me today! I am serving Jesus!" That is boldness inspired by the will of God.
Yesterday our President delivered what, in the eyes of many, was one of the most powerful speeches given by an American President at the United Nations. He was unwavering in his commitment to "America first," but then urged the other national leaders to always put their nations first. Nationalism before globalism. He also addressed the threat from North Korea in no uncertain terms: you fire the first shot, we will totally destroy you. That speech certainly repositioned the role of the United States within the international community: a role of strength and resolve; a role as leader. How we need to keep our President and his team ever in our prayers.
Before I close I want to wish all of you a "shana tova" as we enter into the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. Actually Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown this evening. It marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year - the year 5778. So, to all my Jewish friends I wish you a year that is good. A year of G-d's peace. A year of light in the midst of darkness. Shana tova!