YouVersion bible devotionals on living in the End Times

I am very grateful to my publishers Authentic Media for offering me the opportunity to write a short devotional series for the YouVersion bible app.

The YouVersion bible app is being used by many Christians as a help and inspiration, a place for great spiritual resources, especially suitable for Christians on the go in our mobile culture. It is a place to read, pray, share and connect with others reading the bible.

I have written a five day devotional entitled ‘living our lives in the light of Jesus’ Second Coming’. The themes are on being expectant, keeping watchful, living wisely, staying standing and being one who overcomes. The turbulent times of today are causing many people to wonder about spiritual things, and also to make thoughtful Christians dig deeper into their bibles. The question of how to live our lives ready for Jesus’ return must be one of the most critical personal issues to think through. Hopefully people will find these devotionals helpful and the bible verses really relevant for them in these days.

Maybe you would like to follow this short series through one week leading up to Easter or recommend to a friend to read. For each day there is a reading, a comment, a reflective thought and a prayer.

Check it out and let me know how it has helped you. The link to the devotional series is here:

https://www.bible.com/en-GB/reading-plans/27587-living-our-lives

Thanks for reading. God bless.

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What is God doing in the midst of international conflict and turmoil?

We are all watching the scenes of the conflict in Ukraine with a mix of disbelief and dread. It is hard to tear our eyes away from the images of fleeing refugees and shelled cities. Lots of christians are posting prayers and comments about what might happen on social media. I have nothing to add of wisdom about what might happen in this conflict and whether it will escalate. In our house of prayer we are wrestling daily with how to pray into this unfolding tragedy. As many christians admit, we trust God but we don’t understand his ways very well. We pray for his kingdom to come; sometimes we praise him for clear signs of kingdom presence, and at other times we are more aware of the mystery of his purposes.

Instead I want to offer four brief reminders about what we know of our Trinitarian God when world affairs are very troubling.

Firstly, God is never the author of evil. He doesn’t want us to be mistaken about evil. Our world was created good by a very good Creator. Sin comes from the evil in people’s hearts. Satan is the tempter and the destroyer. Often subtle in his ways, he is always looking to stir up strife, and to empower dark desires. When systems and regimes are involved, that empowerment can be very great. God is always perfectly good in his very being. He never causes dark powers in the world, nor incites people to sin. That is the result of our fallen state and the fallen devil at work. We are children of a good, good Father, whose very goodness infuses the air of the world and underscores creation itself.

Secondly, God is very present in the midst of the mess. He doesn’t want us to feel alone. God is never absent from our world, even if we cannot see or sense where he is or what he is doing. The gospels underline that Jesus’ coming declares categorically that God is ‘Immanuel’ the One who is always with us. This means that he is in the caring for the fleeing refugees, in the strengthening of the resolve of those fighting for the good and the right, in the comforting of the grieving ones, in the outrage against injustice. He is right down in the middle of the mess and confusion, undergirding and profoundly holding a nation in pain and a world bewildered in the turmoil.

Thirdly, God will use even this in his wider purposes. He doesn’t want us to despair in dark times. God is never boxed in, and with God nothing is impossible. What God allows and what he causes are two very different things. He is remarkably able to bring good out of evil, and does so again and again. We of course do pray for miraculous intervention and that does happen; the kingdom does break in with power into our world. We can also pray for the power of love to overcome. That is sometimes a longer process. Yet, if the centre of our faith is our Lord dying on the cross, then we know that suffering love does overcome the worst of evil, and then rises from the ashes on the other side of death. Who knows what is being stirred by the Spirit right now – in faith in God, in the united front of leaders against oppression, in a generation realising what really matters of their freedom and their life meaning, in the countless acts of random kindness in wartime trouble?

God will also use human history and weave it into his salvation story, even his End Times story. We know from scripture that the closer we get to Jesus’ return, the more shaking increases and the more global trouble occurs. This turmoil on the edge of Europe could be leading us further towards tribulation. Yet there is nothing that can occur that is outside God’s ultimate control. He works in ways beyond our understanding; he is involved in both historic judgment of nations and systems that overstep their mark, and in saving and redeeming work amongst every tribe, language, people and nation.

Fourthly, God will not let our world destroy itself. He does not want us to fear the end of the world. The Hollywood fascination with Apocalypse and Armageddon is a skewed picture, it is not a biblical picture. Although the world teeters on the edge of oblivion and overwhelming evil in End Time tribulation, good is not obliterated nor the church downtrodden. In a coming darkest hour, God will step in to save the world from ourselves. Jesus will come on the clouds in great glory, to defeat evil and usher in his perfect kingdom; a King who is always interceding and working to bring light in darkness and to reconcile the world to God. The light of Christ and the love of God win, decisively, in the end.

So in the middle of an unfolding tragedy and conflict happening in front of us, let our confidence in God grow strong, and our ability to pray, serve, love and hope, in our spheres of influence, grow stronger too.

Thanks for reading. God bless you.

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Is it time to read the book of Revelation?

Photo by Yosi Prihantoro on Unsplash

If you are thinking about reading the bible in some focused way this year, I would like to encourage you to read the book of Revelation in 2022. Why? Because God has given us this last book in the bible as a gift to help understand what will happen in the future. Many people shy away from reading this prophetic book because of some confusing and dramatic visions of a future apocalypse. I was like that until I decided to read through Revelation once a week for about three months (about three chapters a day) a few years ago. I found myself both absorbed in the End Time story and excited about what God was saying to us about the closing years of human history.

In particular we see three themes clearly spelled out to encourage our faith. We see the theme of majesty. The overarching picture of Revelation is that God is on his heavenly throne, fully in control of the world and cosmic events. Time and time again, angels are worshipping our Trinitarian God as the glorious king of the universe. Our hearts are caught up in this praise around the throne. Secondly we see the theme of eternity. There are dramatic events depicted on earth as evil and global shaking increase, but there is also an eternal plan revealed, a vision of a new heaven and earth, and a God who is beyond both the beginning and end of history and holding it all together. Our minds are expanded by seeing this greater perspective on history. Thirdly we see the theme of victory. Jesus returns as the rider on a heavenly horse to defeat evil, overturn the horrors of the Antichrist regime, and bring his peaceful and glorious kingdom fully on earth. The author, apostle John, was part of a persecuted church under tyrannical oppression of faith. He saw hope in his vision, hope of a better world and a God whose love overcomes all enemies. For those of us despairing of the suffering and evil in the world, this book strengthens our faith that good not evil has the last word in the story of our world. Jesus wins!

If you would like to understand the book of Revelation better, have a look at the latest X Rhythms discussion vlog I have been part of in ‘The Forerunner Cry’ series. In this 20 minute group chat we uncover some of the core issues and themes about how to read Revelation:

For more in depth understanding, you can buy my book ‘The Forerunner Cry’ and read through the detailed section on the book of Revelation. Buy through the link on this website.

As we continue to live through uncertain and shaking times, should 2022 be the year you get to grips with understanding the book of Revelation?

God bless you at the start of this year.

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New opportunities from my book project this year.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I wrote my book on the End Times, entitled ‘The Forerunner Cry’ back in 2019. For the following ten months I had some great opportunities to share at conferences and events and in media interviews. The last ‘in person’ event I spoke at was the World Prayer Centre conference in March 2020; I share again about the themes of coming global shaking and glory, just ten days before the first national Covid lockdown. Little did I know the prescience of what I was sharing.

During the spring and summer of last year I felt inspired to write a draft of a new book about the marks of the church in the End Times. If it gets published, the themes will look at how the Lord is preparing us as his beautiful bride in the years before his return. I believe the bible foretells that all the turbulent events of crisis and the wonderful happenings of coming revival will aid this transformation in the body of Christ worldwide.

Part of the stirring of this End Time bride of Christ comes from a realisation of the times we are living in. If we think we are living in ordinary times – if we consider this global pandemic to be just a blip on an otherwise steady timeline of calm history unfolding – then we just revert to life as usual or some novel innovations of church and discipleship that continue our assumption of life as usual. If, however, we glimpse that we are living in extraordinary times – that the end of the age is not too far away, that this destabilising of the world is an early indicator of End Time shaking, and that the revealing of God’s glory is on the increase – then we start living in a more focused and prepared way, in a way that is helping to prepare the church and the world for his coming, whether it is a few years or decades away. Maybe this pandemic is a ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ moment, from an eschatological point of view.

I am grateful to have had some fresh opportunities to share about the signs of the times and the End Time message in 2021. I spoke to a group of Methodist Evangelicals, in the middle of their internal church conflict over gay marriage, as they are wrestling with what kind of church God is calling us to be in these days. I have also had the privilege of writing a series of devotional bible studies. The focus of the studies is on being ready for Jesus’ return; it for the You Version bible app which my publishers have helped with. These will hopefully reach a wide audience of christians in the context of their bible devotional reading.

Perhaps most interestingly I have had the opportunity to work with the youth radio platform X Rhythms and its producer Rejoice, in creating a young adult video discussion series about the themes of ‘The Forerunner Cry’. We recorded it in April with a group of five participants, sharing in six sessions of questions and conversation about what we think about the End Times in the light of God’s word and the world around us. The discussion was both lively and deep. The series is being released throughout this autumn on the X Rhythms. I am very excited about this because it brings these issues to a young adult audience, the very audience I felt led to aim my writing at. I will post the links to these new resources on social media, as they come live.

Young or old, I hope there are many opportunities for christians in this season, to think about the state of the world, discern the signs of the times and rise on the wind of the Spirit. In this wrestling about what the Christian faith means in this new normal, I pray that we will be those that Jesus asks us to be in Matthew 24v32 – those who see the fig tree budding and know that the summer is near, and that his coming is not far off. I trust him that he will speak to us and equip us to become his beautiful people who live well in extraordinary times.

Thanks for reading.

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Being pulled into a dry dock place

‘Fishing boat on seashore’ by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

A second lockdown; we are all feeling it, the pain, restriction, worry, strain, uncertainty. I have not posted here these last six months. Not that I haven’t had anything to say into this situation, but there has been so much social media presence – posts, vlogs, links, words, voices, that I have been unsure of the wisdom of adding to the noise.

As a friend wisely said recently, ‘Christians are busy trying to discern what is God saying, what is God doing, is it more helpful to ask what is Jesus, the great intercessor in heaven, praying?’ And so I have spent time praying, watching, thinking and working rather than blogging.

Yet I will share something, a prayer vision that I had two weeks ago. Only because it may be relevant in considering how God is at work in his church and amongst his people in the middle of this strange and restricted time. I was meditating in prayer, and was aware of the Lord sitting quietly with me on a seashore, a place you might imagine from the gospels like the shore of Galilee. Then I sensed Jesus get up and walk down to the water’s edge. He picked up a whole line of ropes lying on the pebbles leading into the water. And He pulled on them hard and persistently. As he did so, I realised that Jesus was pulling a multitude of small boats into shore. He heaved them up and out onto the beach. With helpers, Jesus then turned each boat upside down and started examining the hulls. They were in different states of health, some were good, many were battered and in need of urgent repair. He went along inspecting the underside of every vessel, to see what attention it needed, and whether it could be made seaworthy again. Jesus seemed to talking with these angelic helpers, and proceeded to mark some boats for retirement and to be pulled further onto the beach; others to be reassigned for other duties, and others to be refitted and pushed back for new sailing adventures.

That is what I saw as I watched Jesus in this prayer vision. I sat with this picture for a long while, and felt the interpretation was about the Lord pulling us as churches, ministries and christian organisations into a ‘dry dock’ place. As you may know, a dry dock is a place for holding boats that need inspection and attention. Boats are supported and held in place as water is removed from the dock. The hulls are therefore exposed so that, what is under the water line can be seen and assessed clearly. A dry dock gives time for careful inspection of the vessel, for washing and blasting to see the damage caused by service on the high seas, and then for repairing, refitting and painting for purpose. A clear purpose in a dry dock time is to see if the boat can be made seaworthy again, more fuel efficient and long lasting, and then ready to be commissioned once more for life on the sea.

Life for God’s church is as difficult as it is for the rest of the nation, and I think it is supposed to be that way. We are all living with restriction and challenge, despite many good things taking place in virtual worship engagement, a multitude of good works, and a fresh stirring to pray. Yet I have to wonder if God is doing something deeper amongst us as his people. Is God using this time to force us to look with him at the things that are exposed by being in a dry dock? In the prayer vision, I didn’t get the impression that Jesus was asking for our permission as he hauled us out of the water, turned us ceremonially on our backs and examined the state of our hidden, more submerged life. He didn’t seem to be talking to us as he considered whether we were to be retired, reassigned or recommissioned. It felt as if we were in his hands and under his gaze, not the most comfortable of places to be. Yet the intention of his heart seemed to be to repair, refit and repurpose as many boast as he could, and that was encouraging. To anchor this biblically for a moment, this whole picture is not that dissimilar from the images of the divine potter with his clay, from the great vine and its branches, from the one with eyes of blazing fire who says, ‘I know your deeds’.

So I share this prayerfully, as many churches have a month of prayer this November. We are of course praying for the nation, for mercy and help, for favour and healing, for a future and a hope out of this pandemic. But maybe in our praying, we can also ask for Jesus to have his way with his church, and to prepare us for heaven’s use, to be more ready for the kingdom adventures; that our hearts, congregations and ministries would be more fit for purpose and fresh recommissioning, in a coming season of uncertainty yet possibly also a season of spiritual awakening across the earth.

God bless you.

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Easter resurrection encouragement – Jesus our first fruits

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This weekend I am struck by one passage in the bible I have been reading around the Easter truth of the resurrection of Jesus. It is from 1 Corinthians 15: ‘But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.’ (v20). 
A firstfruit is simply the earliest fruit of the season. It is the promise of the rest of the crop or harvest to follow. We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection as christians not only because of his triumph over sin and death, but because inherent in his resurrection is our promised resurrection too.
There has sadly been a lot of talk about death recently, as we are daily receiving the latest coronavirus mortality figures. As a culture normally cushioned from mass casualties from wars or tragedies, the fragility of life and awareness of our own mortality is suddenly right up in our faces. Christians are not exempt from this virus; there are some lovely stories of people brought through this sickness, and also some sorrow filled ones of those in faith who have died through it.
The Easter hope we have in Jesus, who is risen from the grave, is that his risen glory will one day be ours. More than that, the heavenly inheritance we long for is the other side of death. Death is the necessary pathway Christians must take before they ultimately enter their own resurrection: ‘For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.’ (V22-23).
In this amazing bible passage, Paul goes on to describe death for the Christian like a seed planted in the ground, awaiting the new life that will come from it. He describes our dying as something that is perishable, weak and in dishonour. And that is what we see as a person breathes their last breath. But Paul then contrasts this with our new resurrection body we receive when Jesus returns in glory: a new body that is imperishable, glorious and powerful, just like Jesus’ glorified body. And that is what we struggle to see this side of the curtain.
Like most of us, I don’t like thinking about the issue of death very much, but this current crisis is making us face our mortality afresh. It is hard to hold lightly enough to this life to be able to also reach out for the next. My elderly mother has less inhibitions about facing this. A lady of strong faith and living by herself, she will often tell me on the phone about the new resurrection body she is looking forward to receiving!
If you have put your trust in the Lord, can I encourage you, whenever you are tempted to be anxious about death, firstly to think about Jesus’ risen body, dazzling and fit for heavenly splendour, and then think of what you will one day be like, with a body and a life that ‘reflects the Heavenly Man’ (v49)? And if you have not yet put your trust in Jesus for your eternal salvation please don’t hesitate a moment longer – put your faith in him so you can be sure of your eternal destiny.
As a Christian believer I can’t enter into my heavenly inheritance until I pass through the valley of the shadow of death. I can’t receive my new resurrection body unless my old one is sown like a husk into the ground. Yes we are living fully in this world, but we await a greater, more vibrant and abundant life in eternity.
Christ is alive. Our faith in him is secure, the hope of our resurrection life certain.
Hallelujah for Jesus our firstfruits!
God bless you.
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What a mess this tide is making! – Easter reflection on this crisis season

Low tide at St Brelades Bay, Jersey

I have holidayed on the island of Jersey in summer, for more years than I can remember. First as a boy growing up, and now with my family and all our extended families. We have gone back to the same bay year after year, and enjoyed the same beach. I’d like to think we have got to know it quite well by now.

What I didn’t know as a boy was that the Channel Islands has one of the largest tidal variations in the whole of the UK and, at low tide, Jersey nearly doubles in size. All I remembered was that, if the family afternoon swim was during low tide, we had an awfully long way to walk to the sea!

Moreover, every year that we returned to the island and our beach, we never knew what the bay would look like. The high ‘spring tides’ could reshape the beaches of the island. Sometimes they would throw up massive quantities of sand or seaweed by the sea wall, renewing rock pools, and covering rocks and the lowest steps leading to the prom. At other times the power of the tides would drag the sand back, exposing rocks and shingle and then you would see whole new contours of the beach.

This week I have felt the Lord highlight to me that this huge tidal surge of the coronavirus will profoundly reshape human life on earth. What is being exposed? What are the new global contours being formed? As my wife said when I told her I was blogging this, her comment was ‘do you mean “what a mess this tide is making”?’ Yes I guess I do.

It will undoubtedly take many months before any sense of normality returns to community and national life. Even though most people are sure we will eventually beat this virus, the economic and business fallout, the political implications, and even the way we will reform social interactions after the pandemic may be hugely challenging. Yet God will also use the things that have been exposed and the dramatic shifting of contours to turn people’s hearts to spiritual things and to himself. When you have prayed and watched the news, you may well have sensed with me the powerful natural and supernatural forces that are in play at the moment, like the most devastating of high tides. The good news for people of Christian faith is our trust that the Lord will bring his redemptive purposes through this shaking and reshaping.

God is not the author of this virus; it comes from the one who steals, kills and destroys. Yet He is allowing it, this freak crisis in our 21st century intricately connected global village. There is foretold in the bible an unavoidable process of shaking that increases and accompanies the last generation on earth before Jesus returns. There are things set in motion that, in God’s wisdom, shake us to our core and turn hearts to him, and also prepare the earth for the age to come.

Yet God is not just watching us, like a detached observer. More than anything, I am sure he is weeping over us and with us all in the midst of this virus pandemic. The Lord is holding us, and closely and deeply at work in myriad ways and situations, in every community. Even as the watershed events of Jesus’ life through Good Friday and Easter Sunday profoundly reshaped the way our human story unfolds, and re-drew new contours of grace and hope into our lives, just so God will have bring his sovereign and loving purposes in this shaking and reshaping time. Because of Easter faith, we look for the time when he will come to reshape all of heaven and earth into his perfect creation. One day God will make all things new! And of course, that is the hope of our resurrection faith in Christ.

God bless you in this remarkable and challenging Easter time.

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Bible encouragement in shaking times

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‘Walking on steps up a cliff’ – Joshua Earle – Unsplash

In my last blog I focused on how we are held securely by God even when walking the scary high ropes courses of life. I have been thinking more about how our faith can grow in times of shaking that we all face – especially in an End Time context, when life on earth becomes more turbulent. Two lessons from the bible come to mind.

  1. Keep your heart steady through the shaking. In Luke’s gospel Jesus speaks of the fear people will face and the distractions they will use as coping mechanisms during the Tribulation shaking:

‘Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.’ (Luke 21v34-36).

The phrase ‘to escape’ doesn’t mean to avoid trouble; no it literally means to be kept safe from the worst of the shaking and global turmoil. Jesus calls for a steady and prayerful heart, where we are not sunk or demolished by the shaking of things we trust in life. Jesus wants to hold us steady and strong whatever troubles come in life, and enable us to stand well through End Time turmoil. The presence of Jesus mitigates the worst that life throws at us, because he is with us and his grace strengthens and supports us. The ‘standing before the Son of Man’ refers to a standing to receive a reward for our faith, as one might receive a commendation for work well done or a life well lived.

2. Allow God to refine you in the midst of the shaking. In the last book of the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi speaks of the ‘Day of His Coming’, an eschatological phrase about the ministry of the Messiah. It refers to Jesus’ actions both in his first coming and also in his second coming:

‘But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.’ (Malachi 3v2&3).

Jesus’ earthly ministry acted as a time of refining of faith for the faithful in Israel. In this prophecy which is pregnant with End Time symbolism, there remains yet a more comprehensive time of refining in the days before he returns in glory. No-one knows the precise ways that shaking will increase in coming years. Much of it will be due to human sin and rise of evil. Yet we know that God will use such times of shaking to refine and purify his people. Such refining of faith will be costly but precious.

The image in Malachi here is one a metal worker sitting in front of a fire and refining an impure metal to purify it. In ancient times you would use a process of heating and blowing air across metal to extract the pure and precious silver. An interesting analogy for tests of faith, I think. Sometimes we feel bad about the weakness that rises to the surface of our lives when we undergo suffering or trouble. We wish that fears or bitterness or lack of faith were not revealed, but they are. However the good news is that God is using trouble (akin to heat or strong wind of adversity) to skim off the weak areas of character or emotional issues. His bigger purpose is that the true and precious quality of our faith will emerge from the fire. So when shaking comes, there may well be a godly refining we can yield to, that will purify our faith.

So what is the application for us in the midst of this pandemic crisis? Well, if you read the gospels, this is not the crisis to end all crises. It may feel like that right now, but there is coming a time of Tribulation, which will be multi-layered and more sustained. Yet Jesus tells us that not even the worst turmoil and global shaking needs to shipwreck our faith. We can ask him to keep our hearts steady and strong and be those who receive his commendation for our faith and perseverance at the end. And when we are undergoing trouble or intense pressure on our faith, don’t be discouraged if fears or weakness rise to the surface. Instead ask the Lord to keep purifying you so that your faith emerges as precious silver to present to him. God is extracting something wonderful from you life through all the test that come your way, and even this season of difficulty or illness can be used by him to make your life more beautiful and your testimony more powerful.

God bless you.

 

Posted in Biblical insights, End Times, Life observations | 1 Comment

Harnessed on the high ropes course of life

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Photo by DiEGO MüLLER on Unsplash

One of the crazy activities offered to teenagers these days is to go on a high ropes activity course in one of myriad outward bounds centres. Parents pay to view the entertainment and watch their darling ones get harnessed up to safety rope mechanisms; then to have a fun-filled or fear-filled hour suspended 30 feet above the ground, traversing thin tightropes, shaking bridges, moving stilts and all sorts of unstable walkways! One of the easiest ways of gaining confidence, apparently, is to fall off something, because then you realise the strength of the harness holding you when you really need it.

I think we are all traversing the shaking and unstable course of trying to live through a global pandemic. It is not a nice feeling to have to restrict lifestyle, change patterns of work and socialising, and cope with uncertain symptoms and even serious illness. This is not the only area of shaking in the world of course, and for some people, war, migration, environmental problems and poverty are bigger real time troubles they live with every day. For many of us, however, the viral pandemic is a kind of leveller, bringing us all to an awareness of our mortality, the uncertainty of life and the important things that really matter. How steady are we in the midst of this shaking?

I have been blogging about glory and shaking as a new paradigm for living on planet earth, the closer we move towards Jesus’ return. I want to offer a couple of ways the bible gives us to navigate times of shaking.

Firstly see God’s purposes in it. Romans 8v18-25 speaks of the groaning of creation as in childbirth. It is a groaning of frustration because of the effects of sin upon our world, yet it is also a groaning of longing in all of cosmic creation itself to be liberated and renewed. The key word in this passage is hope; there is a mirroring of our christian hope for redemption and our new bodies, alongside the hope of the created order to know an end to the suffering of the world. Yes there is sin but there are also labour pains that pick up on the hastening times – God’s End Time plan as Jesus return draws nearer.

All shaking is part of the groaning of creation, a wake up call as it were. So many people are stuck head down in the immanent possibilities of what we believe human civilisation can achieve in our strength. Christian hope is about transcendence, looking up and beyond what is our human experience, towards the kingdom life and new world that only God can inspire and bring about. God allows every experience of shaking, not to destroy us, but to shake us free of the smaller things so that we can latch onto the so much bigger things of his plans and loving purposes for all of his creation. Trusting God’s bigger purposes actually motivates us to action and to making a difference in the world; we are literally spurred on by hope.

Secondly find confidence in God despite it. Psalm 46 speaks of having tremendous confidence in the Lord despite troubles and turmoil around us. The psalmist reminds us that troubles are not the whole story of our world: that is the devil’s lie. The bigger story is that God is in our midst, always at work, refreshing his people, working for good, and overturning evil. As people of faith, we can find a refreshing river of God’s presence wherever we are, even if trusted mountains fall away. As prayerful individuals, we can always re-centre ourselves within the profound peace of his unshakeable kingdom, even if everything normal is shaking around us. And that refreshing and that peace is something we can offer people around us who at the current moment struggle to see God or what he is doing.

In the end, confidence in God and hope in his loving purposes becomes a strong harness on the high ropes course of shaky life. We cannot fall beyond his loving reach so we will be okay. We can put our weight on him to steady us when traversing a difficult section of life. We are all held daily by God in his care and grace anyway, it is simply those of Christian faith who realise it best of all.

God bless you.

Posted in End Times, Life observations | 2 Comments

Joel chapter 2 – a ‘mountain peak’ prophecy

z-s-nqVDLh2WLus-unsplashThere are some prophetic passages in the bible which have the power to stir faith and prayer, and the long lasting impact to touch every generation of God’s people. God speaks words of promise and challenge that resonate deeply and unveil visions of the future. Joel 2vv28-32 is one of those:

 

28 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
32 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors
whom the Lord calls.

I believe the power of this prophecy lies in it being an eschatological passage – it refers to the end times. The terms ‘afterwards’, ‘in those days’, the ‘Day of the Lord’, refer to the day of Yahweh, the future time when God steps in with the power of his kingdom. Although christians all know this refers initially to the Day of Pentecost, many believe this passage has been only partially fulfilled – this prophecy also speaks of a future time. In fact, I believe the end of Joel 2 is a prophecy which bookends the life of the church age. It is most relevant for the early church and for the end time church.

This is not surprising for, as in much OT prophecy, there are different peaks of fulfilment. Like looking at distant hills – you have the foothills and much further off the mountain peaks. The early church was the initial foothills fulfilment (Acts 2 was quoted by Peter in his first sermon) but there remains a fuller mountain peak fulfilment just before Jesus comes back.

In fact a bible commentator says about this passage: ‘Pentecost triggers a series of powerful events which begin the the birth of the church, expand in its world-wide mission.. and move on step by step to God’s final judgment of his enemies and his vindication of those who truly trust him.’ (D.A.Hubbard, Tynedale commentary).

It is because of this ‘distant hills’ sense of Joel 2 that cause this to be a powerful future prophetic word for the end times, and very relevant for us as Jesus’ return draws closer. What is in this prophecy that helps us to see ahead?

Joel speaks about times of future glory (v28,29&32), and a longed for sign for his people Israel – the giving of his Spirit. Joel describes what he sees coming: global outpourings of the Spirit, a prophetic witnessing generation of church, his people experiencing great revelation and knowledge of the things of God, and living with great anointing, and about a great harvest of people coming to faith in turbulent times. The glory of God – his manifest presence –  displayed through the early church will again mark the church 
in the end times as they live so vibrantly the exuberant life of the Spirit.

A measure of the anointing of the Spirit has always marked the life of the church in last 2000 years to a smaller degree; I believe this prophecy also refers to the last and greatest fulfilment of what the outpouring of the Spirit could be like. Is this beginning to happen? Do you know that in parts of Asia and Africa – China, India, Nigeria, are experiencing waves of revival, rapid church planting and turning to faith in midst of persecution right now? Do you know that across the Middle East the greatest ever turning of Moslems to Christ is happening right now? Do you know that in Israel and amongst the worldwide Jewish community, the number of Jews finding their Messiah is at an unprecedented level right now? Do you know that the various mission agencies are working towards completing the great commission of reaching every people group with the gospel in this generation right now? Do you know that in parts of Europe God is stirring student and young adult groups in an extraordinary hunger for and encounters with God right now?

Joel also speaks about shaking (v30-31). He describes wonders and signs of shaking – blood, fire and smoke. There is a shaking of things in heaven and on earth. As the giving of the Spirit was a sign for Israel, ‘wonders’ (like the plagues in Egypt at the time of Moses – Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:9) are a warning sign to the nations. These are portents, extraordinary phenomena—natural, or supernatural, as the case might be— which arrest attention.

Joel prophesises a shaking of the natural world – wars (blood), disasters & troubles (fire), and devastation or shaking of aspects of society (billows of smoke of ruined cities). He foresees great anxiety about the constant things in which we trust – a darkening of the sun and moon in the midst of these tribulations  – and an uncertainty of the times in which we live. All this precedes the coming of the day of the Lord.

Global shaking has been intensifying in recent years. Even as I write, the first month of 2020 has caused much concern in the news. The unprecedented fires in South East Australia, the confrontation between the USA and Iran, the outbreak of the coronavirus, the fresh rise in jihadist terror attacks, the doomsday clock turning the closest it ever has towards midnight – all in the first month of a new decade. These things will increase the close we get to Jesus’ return.

We don’t know why God will allow such shaking in future years. But Jesus told the parable of the wheat and weeds; that  both would grow together until the harvest at the end of the age (Matthew 13v30).  The light will get brighter and the darkness darker and when both are at their peak, during the great tribulation, then we will find ourselves in the time frame called the Day of the Lord as described by Joel. The stage is then set for the biblical climax long prophesied, a time for Jesus to return, come for his redeemed people, to restore devastated planet earth, and bring in the age to come.

Can you see why the end of Joel 2 is such a powerful prophetic passage of scripture? Hugely relevant, challenging and exciting in equal measure, I would encourage you to blow the dust of this Old Testament prophecy and pray it through. See what God shows you and helps prepare you for in the days we are coming into.

God bless you.

Posted in Biblical insights, End Times | 2 Comments