Bethany and I decided to go see my oldest sister and her family in Dallas last weekend. We spent a few days there spending time together, swimming in their pool, going to parks and the zoo. Jeni, Scott and little Elia were a blast and it was great to be with them. They were so encouraging and fun to be with. Bethany and I got to swim a lot and actually got a little tan. One day we went to the zoo with Jeni and Elia and saw all the animals there. They had gorillas, tigers, lions, monkeys and then our favorite part was the area with elephants, deer and giraffes. The giraffe’s were very tall and we got to stand next to their heads and pet them. One of them licked my arms like crazy. His/her tongue was the length and width of my forearm and had a sandpaper texture like cats. Oh ya, they had birds in their house too.
The biblical topic of the end-times has been wrongly relegated to scholars, called fanatical or completely neglected for many centuries because of ignorance or unbelief. The Holy Spirit is going to bring much clarity to the topic in this generation. There are two clear signs that we are living in the generation of the Lord’s return. One, mission leaders agree statistically that every tribe, language and tongue will have the Gospel presented to them (including a Church plant) within the next 10 years. Two, the majority of end-time prophecy can only happen if there is a nation of Israel. Israel did not exist for 1,900 years. It only became a nation again after World War II.
The study of the 2nd coming of Jesus was very foreign to me (Jeff) in college. I assumed there were 7 years of Great Tribulation but that I would be gone in heaven. A speaker at a conference my senior year briefly mentioned that the Church was going to be around during the Great Tribulation. I was shocked at this statement because I had never even heard the idea mentioned. A few months later I went to a conference focused on the end-times. At this point I was still against studying the topic of the end-times. I thought we should study less and evangelize more. I went to the conference and it completely changed my heart and the way I view life. My heart was burning with purpose, clarity, urgency, confidence in the bible and confidence that I could and should know the OT prophets and Revelation. The topic made life make sense for me and I know by the Bible that it will do the same for every believer. Every sincere believer can understand the topic of the end-times
1. The 2nd coming of Jesus is the hope and consummation of the Gospel. 1 Peter 1 says to rest all of our hope on the 2nd coming of the Lord. The first promise about Jesus came in Genesis 3 and it said that He would crush the head of the Devil. Jesus triumphed over the Devil on the Cross but He will manifest His victory at His coming. The resurrection of the dead takes place at His coming. Every demon, Satan Himself and every oppressive person will be removed from the earth at that time. We will see God face to face and we will no longer have sin in our lives. Almost every reference to hope in the New Testament refers to Jesus’ coming. We partially experience the benefits of the Cross now but we will fully experience them at His coming. At His coming, Jesus will reward believers for the way they lived after salvation. This brings hope to our hearts that He sees and cares about the small mundane things of our lives or even the sacrifices and injustices that we’ve endured. He will end every injustice after His coming, big and small. Hope is clarity and confidence in the future. This can be cultivated through prayer and study.
2. Jesus commands us to know the season of His return. Jesus rebuked His generation for not knowing the signs of His 1st coming. He then told us in Matthew 24 that we should know the signs of His 2nd coming. He told us to watch and pray so we would not be caught off guard. Watching speaks of attentiveness in the spirit. Paul corrected the Thessalonians for not knowing the signs that would precede Jesus’ coming. There are over 150 chapters in the Bible that describe the events surrounding Jesus’ 2nd coming. There are only 89 chapters in the Gospels altogether. The 2nd coming of Jesus is the primary theme of the entire Bible.
3. People cast off restraint without a vision. Proverbs 28:19 says people cast off restraint when there is no vision. We must know where God’s plan is going long-term so that we can live in a focused manner now. Every good leader sets a vision before the people so they know where they are going and how to get there. We must know where the Lord is taking the earth otherwise we will live without focus and we will be confused and lost. You can only travel from Point A to Point B on a map if you know where Point B is. You can only endure to Point B if you know how much food, water, energy, time and gas it would take to get there. We need to understand where we are going in History and when we understand where we are going we can begin to rightly prepare for the things to come. The study of the end-times releases godly urgency to our hearts that enables us to live focused lives.
4. Christians need to know the plans of the Lord in order to partner with Him. The book of Revelation reveals Jesus’ end-times leadership plan. The book reveals His wisdom, love, longsuffering and justice. The Church is Jesus’ partner and co-heir. We must know His plans because He is going to use us to fulfill His plans. We cannot partner with Him if we don’t know what He is doing. The book of Revelation reveals a Praying Church that releases God’s judgments on the antichrist empire through prayer and releases a great harvest of souls through prayer.
5. The Lord wants to have clear and anointed messengers in the years just before His coming but that preparation process is long and difficult.
The Lord will have powerful messengers across the earth the last months and years of history to prepare the nations for His coming. John the Baptist was a powerful messenger that God raised up to prepare the people for what God was about to do so that they could respond rightly. This will happen again. There will be many messengers that prepare the nations for the Great Tribulation and Great Revival that is coming just before Jesus’ return. John was only able to live a consecrated life for decades because He understood what was coming and what would be needed of Him in those days. The Church will go through the Great Tribulation. She will be a great light to unbelievers in those days. We must understand the severity of tribulation that is coming to the earth to rightly respond for the decades of preparation ahead of us. We must study the end-time scriptures and ask the Lord what His message is to the last generation.
We wanted to recommend a book to you that is really insightful and has impacted our hearts. The book helps identify God given longings in each of us and gives biblical context on how to rightly satisfy them. It is a free download at this address ( http://mikebickle.org/books/ ). Below is a quote from the introductory chapter on the nature of longing in the human heart.
“Few words in the English language capture such depth of emotion in two short syllables. A longing is not a superficial want that might be satisfied by a simple act of kindness. A longing is not even a genuine need for which we can demand satisfaction. Longing goes deeper than that. A longing is an ache of the heart. It is a cavity of the spirit crying to be filled. In its deepest sense it is neither a true verb nor a true noun, but combines the two, spanning the gap between emotion and genuine need. It is an intangible feeling that ebbs and flows, yet it is a concrete reality. It cannot be reasoned with, negated or dismissed. If not attended to, it will overtake us. One way or another, whether legitimately or illegitimately, a human longing will be filled. It must be. We are made in His image, and He intentionally planted longings deep within our hearts that only He can fill. He hard-wired us to need, to want, and to find our satisfaction in Him and Him alone. It is the epitome of intelligent design. God’s design—both brilliant and diligent—is evidence that He is a jealous God who does not want us to be given over to any lesser pleasure. We were made for Him.
To understand these longings is to better understand both our struggles and the true purpose of life. They are cravings put into us strategically by God and they entice us into His presence. Though the enemy twists these cravings to tempt us into darkness, they are actually amazing counterparts to characteristics in God’s personality and realities in His heart. As with all hunger, these longings have an element of pain, an element of delight and an element of aching as they woo us into God’s presence. When these longings are not fulfilled in God, we are left empty, with pain, mourning and dissatisfaction. We have built into us a God-shaped vacuum, which remains empty until we allow God to fill it by fulfilling our deepest longings. This gnawing hunger is only sated by God’s touch, and never totally fulfilled in this age. Even so, having the merest taste of this satisfaction is to truly live, and having the faintest revelation of that future fulfillment is the pinnacle of what it means to be alive.”
Last weekend, we had one of the women who helped start the house of prayer back in 1999 speaking at our Friday night service. She spoke on the importance of prayer being dialogue with the Man Jesus from Matthew 25.
I know we all go through seasons where our relationship with the Lord suffers because of other cares in our life. I’m not saying that that is ok, because it’s not- we need to never give up on the fight of keeping Him first in our lives. And the way she was preaching to us her fresh exhortation to come back to Jesus like He is a real Man was so impactful to me.I feel the desire in my heart to renew my love for Jesus yet again, turn off my phone again, and come to Him in dialogue yet again.
The parable in Matthew 25 says that there were five virgins who were wise, who kept oil in their lamps, and five virgins who were foolish who did not. This isn’t a parable about unbelievers and believers. These virgins are all believers! They all had a lamp, which represents having a ministry before God and before man (see Revelation2:1-7). What Jesus is emphasizing in this passage is that there is a day when He will return, and what will we be found doing when He comes? And more importantly, what will we have been found doing for the decades of our life that He has given to us?
The oil in this parable represents that which keeps the lamp burning, and here it is our personal history and intimacy that we have cultivated (Buying oil is spending time with the Lord. The wise virgins were not being stingy… they literally could not give their oil to the foolish. In a moment of crisis you cannot give your relationship that you have been cultivating with the Lord to your neighbor. What you have is what you got because you have daily spoken with the Lord. A friendship cannot be bought!!). On that day when we see His face, the most important day ever, will we have the intimacy over years where we deeply know Him?
How do you come to the place of deep intimacy with Jesus? Dialogue with Him over His Word. Receive His love and give love back to Him.
So simple that hardly anyone does it! And this is your inheritance and your portion in this life. Though you haven’t seen Him, still you love Him. He so desires to reveal His deep love for you.
Read Matthew 25 today or tomorrow and ask the Holy Spirit where you are at in your relationship with Jesus. If you need to set things aside to dialogue with Him, do it! It could be just as simple as making time for Him, so put it on your schedule.
Our garden is such a lovely shade of green and many other hues now! Look at the update pictures and praise Jesus with us that He gives life and fruit from our labors! We are so excited to be able to be eating out of our garden. We have been having so far a week long heat wave, so the lettuce has wilted, but we have been watering it consistently so it shouldn’t completely wither away. Hope you are getting to enjoy some summer bounty!