Monday, July 27, 2009

Signs of the Times

Americans are always interested in predicting the weather. Major Television stations pay mega bucks to procure the services of skilled and charismatic weather prognosticators. As a young man growing up in Michigan, I remember a weatherman whose popularity was unmatched. His name was Sonny Elliott. So popular was he, that he is now enshrined in the Weatherman's Hall of Fame. To be honest, I don't remember if his weather predictions were at all accurate. Actually, it really didn't matter. Sonny Elliott's popularity was because he was so very funny and entertaining.

In God's economy He has ordained that there be prognosticators. They are called prophets! Unlike Sonny Elliott and despite their accuracy, they have never been very popular with God's people. The truth is that most prophets are neither funny nor entertaining! Beginning with Noah "a preacher of righteousness" prophetic voices have enjoyed little or no popularity! One commonly heard prophetic greeting is "Oh no! Here comes Mr Doom and Gloom!"

For many years prophetic voices have been warning us concerning the coming worldwide depression. From Willard Cantelon's The Day the Dollar Dies and The New World Money System published in the 1970's to David Wilkerson's The Vision (1973) and The coming Economic Collapse, there have been many prophetic voices warning us concerning the times in which we now live.

Although I meet many people who prefer to remain in denial concerning the economic crisis we face, it does not take a prophet to discern the signs of the times. They are readily evident. The headlines in papers like the Wall Street Journal chronicle the growing world wide dilemma. Headlines decry worsening stock markets, real estate markets, the collapse of Wall Street investment banks, bank failures, disappearing jobs, massive layoffs, corporate and personal bankruptcies, record foreclosures, and the clamoring for "Federal Bailouts" by faltering big business. The 2008 Christmas season posted the worst retail sales figures in 30 years. The word recession has faded into oblivion and the word depression is now freely spoken in the media.

Despite the signs of the times (even the New York Times) many choose to listen to the false prophets of peace and prosperity - ease and comfort and bury their heads in the sands of apathy - choosing to pretend that all is well and as it has been. Countless Americans are convinced that some miraculous cure will come from the sacred halls of Washington DC or that the new president and Democratic majority will somehow solve all our problems by borrowing and spending our way into prosperity. Some cling to the hope that God will favor America, intervene in the affairs of men and rescue us with a celestial bailout package. Others I meet seem to think that of course "Christians" will be spared and will continue to live in ease and comfort performing above a safety net of divine protection. "Woe unto those who are at ease in Zion."

Despite the headlines, there are other signs of the times which give me great hope and cause my heart to leap for joy. First and foremost I see a growing spiritual hunger in America.!! I also see many formerly 'marginal believers' searching for a more meaningful relationship with our Lord and with one another. In his book Revolution, George Barna talks of the millions of Christians who have left the "institutional church" - not because they have lost their faith but because they are searching for a deeper, more meaningful and personal faith. Many confess that they are looking for a true encounter with the living God and an experience of true "christian community".

I am also seeing an increased interest in prayer; with new prayer groups springing up daily. I find believers on their knees calling out to the Lord for revival in America and in our world. Recently in Atlanta, Georgia and in Greenock, Scotland there were conferences to which believers came from all over the world, to pray, to repent and seek God for a spiritual awakening! There is indeed a fresh wind beginning to blow in America.

I am thrilled to see the emergence of new Kindgom paradigms that are focused, not just on some new corporate worship experience but which are fixated on justice, preaching the gospel to the poor and going into the highways and byways to demonstrate the love and grace of God to a fallen world. I see young people who are presenting their bodies, their entire lives, 24/7, to God's service as an act of worship! I see God raising up young men of God like Shane Claiborne to inspire the hearts of young Christians to sacrificial loving service, to caring for God's poor and to remindong us old white guys what being a follower of Jesus really looks like!

The greatest sign I see is the one predicted by our Lord Himself - the sign of the prophet Jonas - a cacophany of prophetic voices calling for repentance and a genuine turning of our hearts to God! I am moved and encouraged by the clear clarion call from men like Paul Washer who in brokenness are crying out to the church to return to it's first love, to holiness, to bearing much fruit and to loving each other! Many are responding to that call! Halelleuia!

Although there are indeed signs in the natural of impending disaster, I want to encourage each of you NOT to fix your eyes on the signs of the times - BUT turn your eyes upon JESUS the author and finisher of our faith! Therein lies our only hope! Let us be listening for His sweet voice! Let us seek Him for guidance and direction in these troubled times. Most of all, let us remember that in this dark hour we have GOOD NEWS to share - the Good News of God in Jesus Christ!! Let us also be watching and waiting for His return!

Maranatha! Come soon Lord Jesus!

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