Call to Return

This is the first in a new sermon series titled “Preparations of the Heart.” This series is meant to help us prepare our hearts for Passover and the Spring Feasts and Holy Days.

Home Church Devotional 2/6/2021

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

Then the LORD appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.” 2 Chronicles 7:12-16 (NASB)

The hope that is typically associated with the beginning of a new year was quickly shattered as the calendar page turned to January 2020. The New Year began with wildfires, caused by drought, still burning out of control and intensifying, in Australia. They would continue to burn for a further two months. In February 2020 came the news of a locust attack in North Africa. Local news media and residents alike reported the locust came in “biblical proportions.” Also, in January, the World Health Organization, also known as WHO, sounded the alarm on a virus as an international concern. By March 2020 the coronavirus, named COVID-19, officially became a pandemic.

The convergence of these three events drew our attention away from the earthquakes and severe weather continuing around the world, these events seemingly becoming commonplace and no longer noteworthy. What made these three events so “special?” Why did they garner more attention than other events around the world? These three events – drought, locust and disease – were meant to shake the world – and particularly the United States – and issue a Call to Return to God and His standards and commandments.

As we begin this morning let us keep one question in mind, “What is the purpose of a Call to Return?”

The purpose of the Call to Return is to bring back those who have turned away from God?

1). The Call to Return includes warnings of judgment.

Warnings come through the heavens, through nature and through disease.

Many in this country have either forgotten or never really knew the history of this nation. We all know and celebrate Thanksgiving Day, but we seem to have forgotten or never knew that this country was founded on the pattern of ancient Israel, complete with a covenant made with God and sealed in prayer, including the blessings and curses of a typical covenant. You see, at one time the United States was the most prosperous, powerful and most respected nation in the world. During the 1980’s the United States became the last superpower standing – God has truly blessed this nation and at one time He chose us, the United States, for Himself as a house of sacrifice.

Sadly, the United States has slowly turned away from God and the foundations that made us the greatest nation on earth. God has been trying to get our attention since September 11, 2001 and the terrorist attacks on our soil. That’s another lesson for another time, but we have missed the Call to Return for far too long now. The year 2020 marked the nineteenth year the United States has turned a deaf ear to the calling of God. Through terrorist attacks and economic collapse, we resisted and ignored God’s call, and so came January 2020 and the ante was upped.

In 2020 we witnessed events that have never before been seen together, converging at the same time, around the world. We saw an historic drought, beginning months earlier than normal, leading to historical wildfires that burned millions of acres of land and killed countless animals caught in the fires; we saw swarms of locust in North Africa that were reported to be of “biblical proportions.” It now appears that the locust also left behind a surprise for this year, millions of eggs that will hatch and will be, perhaps worse than last year’s swarm. Then came the outbreak of the coronavirus – named COVID-19 – and a worldwide pandemic. God has shaken the world trying to get the attention of His people.

The three converging events are all signs and warnings of judgment meant to bring people to repentance. The productivity of the land is related to the obedience of people. Drought is sent to bring people to repentance for disobedience. Locusts are a symbol of what God’s judgment will be like – being overwhelmed by a large and powerful army that goes everywhere and cannot be stopped. And disease, or pestilence, is sent as punishment for the failure to fulfill covenant obligations and to bring people to repentance.

The purpose of the Call to Return is to bring back those who have turned away from God?

2). The Call to Return includes instructions for repentance.

Repentance begins with humility, moves to prayer and seeking God and results in a turning away from wicked ways.

2 Chronicles 7:14 is, at this moment in time, one of the most common Scriptures being posted on Facebook. In all of the posts I have seen, the last line is always the same. “God bless America!” My question is always the same, “Why would God bless America?” It’s as if people are thinking, “If I post this, then God will see it and be nice to us.” But the first part of the verse is the most importance part of the verse. It is the first part that tells us what we must do to receive God’s blessings. Four words summarize what we must do to receive God’s blessing, humility, prayer, seek, repent.

Humility is being free from arrogance and pride and having an accurate estimate of ones worth. Sadly, the pride in the United States has turned fully into arrogance. We seem to think that man is the be all and end all of the world. We think far too much of the achievements of humans, great as they may be, to realize we are still just dust. We must return to our dependence on God and stop relying on self.

Prayer is our means of communication with God and it is especially important to those who are covenant partners. Remember our country was founded on the pattern of ancient Israel complete with prayer and a covenant that was accepted by God. This is a call for true prayer, prayers of confession, repentance, intercession, thanksgiving and praise. True prayer will invade all that we do, it will be our way of life rather than simply a part of our life. We pray without ceasing!

These four steps must be taken first, they form the foundation upon which God will build His blessings. Blessings become curses to those who ignore the Call to Return and continue in their fixed ways of pleasing self. This is a radical change meant to shake us out of our slumber and awaken to the danger we have placed ourselves in and is about to come upon us.

The purpose of the Call to Return is to bring back those who have turned away from God?

3). The Call to Return includes details of the promises when the call is obeyed.

Obedience results in our prayers being heard, forgiveness of sin and healing of the land.

Obedience is the key in all things; we must be obedient in keeping the commands of God; we must be obedient in going where God leads us; we must be obedient to do the work God has laid out for us; we must be obedient in all things. The result of our obedience is being heard by God in heaven. God is still on His throne and is sovereign over all things within His created universe. Though we are but dust, He will hear our prayers offered in obedience and confession, the first step of obedience.

As our obedience continues and our repentance seen in word and deed, God forgives our sins and covers them. This is the difference between those who repent and those who do not. A believer has their sins removed, covered and they are not counted against them. Those who do not repent do not have their sins removed and they are counted against them. Forgiveness of sin is important not only in this age but for the age to come. Forgiveness of our sins puts us in right standing with God further allowing Him to bless us more than we can ever imagine.

As our sins are forgiven, God begins to heal our land. Remember, the productivity of the land is linked to our obedience. If we truly want our land to be healed, we must be in obedience to God. This productivity is not limited to just drought and crop production in general; it includes the severity of our weather, including hurricanes; extremes in temperatures all are affected by our obedience or lack thereof! God uses everything at His disposal to issue a Call to Return to Him.

God still loves this country and wants nothing more than to bless us once again. Peter writes a word of encouragement in 2 Peter 3:9 reminding us that God does not want anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance. To bless us we must be in good standing with God, repentant and obedient and then He will once again pour out His blessings upon us. This is true for both the individual and a nation.

God accepted the covenant offered by our founding fathers and He has held to His end of the covenant. He has blessed us richly even in those times when we stumbled. But as we have slowly turned fully away from Him, He has had to send warnings to shake us out of our slumber. God accepted the United States as a house of sacrifice because we were patterned after Israel. And now that we too have fallen into sinfulness as a nation, we too will feel the full impact of the curses felt by Israel in their disobedience and sinfulness.

The purpose of the Call to Return is to bring back those who have turned away from God?

The hope that is associated with the beginning of a new year was shattered in January of 2020 by the convergence of three events – drought, locust and disease – turning our world upside down and forcing the closure of businesses, the loss of jobs and income, the moving of schools to an online platform and those businesses who were able moved to online platforms as well. Our focus was redirected from other events that continued around the world. Still today, we continue to fight through a pandemic of sorts, though not to the extreme we saw at the beginning of 2020. Why were these three events so riveting?

The convergence of these three events were meant to be a wakeup call, particularly to the United States. They were to be a Call to Return to God, to get back to our foundation and the standards that made this country, at one time, the greatest country in the world.

The work we have to do is before us. We must, as individuals and as a church body, repent. First, we repent for our sinfulness. We have an ability, in this country, to label our sin anything but sin. Yes, we all know about murder, theft, adultery and lying but even still many of them are labeled something different. We change the names, so we are not held accountable. Adultery has become an open marriage. Abortion is now a choice. Same sex marriages have become a right, when in reality, marriage is NOT a right for anyone. Drunkenness and drug abuse are addictions, and while this may be true, there is something far deeper happening. The sin of pleasing self is at the center of many of our addictions, choices and actions.

So, if we want healing in our country; if we want God to bless our land once again; if we want things to be back to “normal,” then we must first humble ourselves before a holy God, repent of our sinfulness, both individually and nationally, and do a complete 180 degree turn and run back to God. This must start with us, right here, right now. God will hear from heaven the prayer offered in obedience and repentance.

As we move through the remainder of this year, may we all be found in repentance and obedience to God that He might hear us and bring blessing upon our nation once again.

Amen and Amen.

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