(Recent entry from a blog I’m shutting down)
We as God’s church are to be a prophetic community (among other things). It is quite clear from the words of Jesus that the Holy Spirit will show us things to come. This is by no means the end or limit of the Spirit’s work in the church, but it is important. Paul said he wished we would all speak in tongues, but even more that we would prophecy. However, prophecy is not merely knowledge of future events. Actually, the prophetic word, if it is God’s word, is “living and active.” It is pertinent and effective for the present moment. Anything that claims to be the word of God–any word that is really prophetic–must produce fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity…) in Christ’s Body living in this moment.
Over the past year God has been teaching me about matters of current and future difficulties in our nation and the world and what it means to be a prophetic community in the face of those difficulties. In the past few weeks some have asked me about matters of preparedness–food storage and such. This is my response to what I see as a disturbing trend among Christians to fear hard times and hoard emergency provisions (or worry about the failure to do so when it isn’t possible).
Before going on I should share a few facts about my general view of the situation and my preparations for it. First, I believe we are headed into a new dark age. The barbarians are not coming–they are here, the last vestiges of what was once Christendom will not hold them back much longer. Secondly, efforts at greater simplicity, interest in forgotten skills, and movements towards natural sustainability are good things in themselves and to be commended. Finally, I have made absolutely no material preparation to speak of–this is not an act of faith or presumption, but necessity. At every moment since I have had any sense of bad times to come it has been everything we could do to pay bills and feed children–there has been no extra with which to prepare.
This has led me to the counsel of a wise elder who sent me to Hebrews 12. The whole chapter is important, but at the core are these two passages: vs. 12-14 “lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but be healed. Strive for peace with everyone and for holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” and vs. 28 “therefore let us be thankful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” This is the first and most important preparedness–to submit to the formation of the discipline of our God and live into that unshakeable kingdom he is giving to us. However, while everyone needs to strive in this way, there are some who have the means for more “practical” preparedness who need to be directed prophetically in those efforts. What follows is for those in that situation.
To begin, there is no cause for pride or self congratulations in seeing the approaching troubles. Again, that is not what makes us prophetic. Watching one episode of “Doomsday Preppers” makes it quite clear that some of the strangest people and worst pagans are aware of coming troubles and actively preparing to face the worst possible scenarios. We cannot merely follow their example and call ourselves prophetic or Christian. Hoarding is never a Christian principle. In fact James tells us quite graphically that the rust of our treasure will eat at our flesh like fire because “it is in the last days that you have stored up your treasures” (5:3). In saying this I do not condemn all practical emergency preparedness. Rather, I mention this as the introduction to the principle of enough.
In Luke 22 when the officers came out against Jesus to take him, Jesus said “this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (vs. 53). It was the darkest time. Leading up to it Jesus had said to his disciples that while before he had sent them out without food, money, or extra clothes, during this dark time, “let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell is cloak and buy one” (vs. 36). What is interesting at this point is that the 12 disciples answer by saying we have 2 swords, and Jesus said “it is enough.” (Later still he rebukes Peter for using the very sword he told him to bring.)
The concept of “enough” is the point. We as Christians, to be Christians in the approach to dark times, must understand what is “enough.” Those of us who have nothing are in the simplest place to live. We have nothing but Jesus–and that is enough. However, the “2″ disciples holding the swords need to understand enough–it is far more imperative that they get the point. If they fall into hoarding for fear of what may come, they will fall into judgment. So, I will venture specific advice (the timeframes I have mentioned below are general advice, but I would be very wary of going beyond a year on any point below and strongly advise the shorter timeframe).
Three months supply for your household is good. Don’t be fooled by the notion, “but I need to store enough to help others when things get bad.” If that is the case, then help them now! Help a food pantry. Help a neighbor who is elderly or a single parent or a fellow church member who is just making it by financially to pay bills now or prepare for three months. Do that as many times as God allows. Serve and bless your neighbors and the needy around you now! Proverbs 3:27 says “Do not withhold good…when it is in your power to do it.” If you are not willing to help now while you have plenty, you are deluding yourself to think you will help when times are hard. Furthermore, hoarders will not only face God’s judgment as stated James 5 above and Luke 12:20 (“You fool, this night your soul is required of you and now who will own what you have prepared”) , but also the disdain of neighbors (Proverbs 11:26 “He who withholds grain, the people will curse him”).
As for churches and ministries, we must work while it is day–night is coming when no man can work. A church or ministry needs to lead by example. I would caution against holding aside more than enough money in savings to pay for regular ministry expenses for a set time of shortfall. I would say 3 to 6 months of all expenses as a maximum amount to set aside (because truth be told that would probably stretch out for a year or more–when things get bad we’ll be amazed what costs we can cut). This is an urgent and difficult time for all missions organizations and helps ministries (food pantries, homeless ministries, etc.) A church or foundation or other such ministry sitting on masses of money and supplies in these last times is in serious danger of being judged.
In the end, the knowledge of what is to come is meant to drive us to God our Father. If we allow it to drive us to fear and disobedience, we are not really a prophetic community.