Apocalypse

Chapter 4: Who Are You to Write This?

Note: This is the fourth in a series of letters written for the Bride of Christ who are alive at the end of the age. Once complete, I’ll combine them into a book. You can start with Chapter 1 here. If you are not already subscribed to this blog and want to make sure you don’t miss any, you can add your name here.

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I am asking as a friend, not an adversary. I love that you’re doing this, but I am really curious how you came around to writing this book? It seems a bit out of your norm. I’d love to hear how you decided to tackle this project and why you think you’re qualified to write a book to those who will be alive at the end of the age?

—Trevor, mathematics professor and father of four from Massachusetts

Hi Trevor,

It’s great to hear from you again after so long. The last time we talked we were driving through New Hampshire in the vivid fall color. I’ll never forget those amazing chocolate cupcakes we stumbled upon in that small village.

Thank you for raising this issue; it’s an important one to be sure, especially for people who have no idea who I am. And you’re not asking me anything I have not wrestled out with God before starting this task.

So, I chuckled at your word, ‘qualified.’ Who could possibly qualify for this, or really most anything Father asks of us? But perhaps, knowing I’m not, may be the best quality I have going for me. I claim no credibility beyond being a beloved son of a gracious Father and close friend of Jesus, with whom I’ve walked for over sixty years.

For those who want to know, I grew up on a grape vineyard in Central California, and Jesus was an engaging presence in my life from a young age. I had my faults and struggles like anyone else and doubted him often. It took me decades to sort out the difference between well-intentioned religious activities and what it means to follow Jesus. They are not the same thing. One will wear us out on the proverbial performance treadmill and the other is a life-long adventure of learning to tune to Jesus’s frequency, recognize his voice, and follow him fearlessly.

So, after pastoring for twenty years with two different congregations, I came to conclude that the religious overlay we had put on the Gospel was woefully inadequate to help people discover how to listen to God’s heart and cooperate with his unfolding purpose in them and in the world around them. I still embraced the core beliefs of the Christian faith—namely, that God Created the heavens and the earth, was incarnated in his begotten Son who preached the message of the kingdom, offered himself as an atoning sacrifice to reconnect us to God, and rose from the dead to be the firstborn of a new creation and the head of his Church—those who live as ambassadors of his love until he returns to earth to set things right. Until then we have his Spirit to guide us into the truth that sets us free and the Scriptures, which when rightly interpreted, show us the nature of God and how he works.

Over the past thirty years, I’ve met thousands of people all over the world who had come to similar conclusions through incredibly different paths and have learned to follow Jesus even when it led them beyond their comfort zone. The depth of sharing I have enjoyed with them has fulfilled the deepest hungers that were planted in my heart as a young man.

So, how did I come to write a book preparing the last generation for his coming? It started four years ago with a thought in my head that seemingly came out of nowhere. “Will you speak for me again?” I was taken aback by the thought. It seemed like God’s voice more than my thoughts, though I didn’t know what he was referring to. I took the ‘again’ to refer to my book He Loves Me, which I wrote out of the most profound shift in my spiritual trajectory that came through the most painful season of my life to that point. I still consider it the most valuable words I’ve put into the world.

I promised God a long time ago I would follow him wherever he asked me to go. He gets a global yes to everything, once I conclude he’s the one asking. I thought it would take some time to unfold, so I began working on a sequel to, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, picking up Jake’s journey ten years later. I was well into that project, when the gravity of unforeseen circumstances began to shift the trajectory of my life.

My first indication, though I was oblivious to its meaning at the time, was how my personal engagement with Jesus took a more sober tone. I didn’t know why then, but during times with him, I had a forbidding sense that a crisis was headed my way. I knew that when it did, I would have to follow the wisdom he would give me, rather than react in my own wisdom or anger. I needed to watch and pray, so that I would be prepared when the moment came, even though I had no idea what I was waiting for.

Over the months that followed, I began to recognize random events that made it seem as if our world was coming apart at the seams and read Scriptures that made me wonder if his coming was more imminent than I had supposed. Moreover, I went through a series of intense conflicts that challenged me to my core and Jesus gave me wisdom as to how to lean on him. It wasn’t any one of those things, but the accumulated weight of them all, that formed the idea of this book. Help people find a connection to Jesus that would sustain them through anything, even the end of this age. While this may be for a generation yet unborn, I don’t suspect that it is not.

So, does any of this make me the one to write the definitive book on preparing for the last days? Of course not, and this is not that book. I won’t be identifying potential antichrist candidates, figuring out the mark of the Beast, or arguing over amillennialism or whether Scripture points to pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib.

Instead, I am going to help encourage and equip those who may be in the last generation of Christ-followers who will face the joys and challenges in the days of his appearing, and none of those other things are of first importance in that endeavor. There is a way to live inside of him that will overcome any fear and teach you how to trust him regardless of what circumstances come. I’ve known Jesus to hold me in the deepest darkness and light a path for me to follow him through it more at rest in his love, more confident in the ways in which he works, and more transformed by his grace.

Deciding to actually write this, however, has been an intense struggle. I didn’t think I had the chops to do it, and I know my thoughts on this topic will offend people I love, who would prefer me to stick to my lane. But I am a man who listens to God as best I discern him. That has been the source of some of my most painful experiences and my greatest joys. I love him; I trust him and I am confident that he is bigger than my blind spots and weaknesses.

As I was still processing this project with God, I often wondered, “Why me? Haven’t you got someone better positioned to do this?” His response seemed to be, “Who? Give me a name.” Immediately names begin to come to mind of people I love, speakers and writers I respect. And yet with each one came a twitch in my Yuck Meter. This one is too embedded with a publisher who will distort the message to mass market it. That one is still building a brand or a community to find his identity or income. Others had yet to understand the nature of God’s love and might use these things to manipulate people’s fears or appeal to the flesh’s need of false validation.

So, I came up empty and ended up convinced that for whatever reason, he was asking this of me, not because I’m the best to do it but perhaps because I’m the least encumbered. Even still, I hope I’m not the only one to speak into this space but one of many voices, each fulfilling their part.

Over months, I became convinced that God had put this in my hands. Some of what convinced me provided a template for how I would go about it:

  1. I am going to focus on Jesus and how he works in us to transform our hearts. I’m not going to appeal to anyone’s fear or shame or demand they double-down on trying harder. I remember the days of “radical” discipleship, which was about our own efforts to read, meet, pray, study, and memorize in a flurry of activity that was more illusion that substance. Human power will not take you where the Spirit invites you. This is a work he does in willing hearts, not a plan even the most well-intentioned can implement.
  1. I’m going to help people discover how they can follow Jesus in these days. I’m not going to use the false need of belonging to build a community of last-day followers who are more committed or more special than others. Anything that sets you above others around you has to be suspect from its inception.
  1. I’m going to be free to speak my heart and not have to filter this message through the publishing trade who will shape the message with an eye toward sales and marketing. By the time something wonderful goes through that process it is often less about following Jesus than it is copying someone’s story, which will never yield the fruit we hope for.
  1. I’m not going to monetize the message for my own profit. Every app on my iPhone has gotten worse the more it has been restructured for financial gain. There’s nothing about God’s truth that won’t be twisted by the desire for a good financial return. I’m giving this book away from the very beginning by posting it here on my blog. The book form will most likely sell for a modest fee, but the content will always be free online.
  1. I am not beholden to a congregation or a constituency that I need to please to keep my job or income. I’m in my 70s with an amazing family and wonderful friends; if people want to attack me for what I write, I’ll be fine with that. I don’t need this material to build an audience or to make me popular. I only want to convey in simple and honest words what he has shown me.
  1. I am not writing this alone. I’m the repository of hundreds of thousands of conversations with people all over the world in varying expressions of Christianity who have learned to live in the love of Jesus and follow his voice. It’s the fruit of talking with people instead of speaking at them. I don’t take that lightly; it is a great treasure.Everything I share in these pages has been vetted with others I’ve walked with for a significant season and whose hearts I trust. They have full freedom to speak into my life where they feel like I’m missing it, and yet they would never ask me to follow their thoughts above my conviction of what God wants of me. As these chapters take shape, I will be drawing on those conversations and what I hear throughout the body of Christ by people who have learned to live in his love, rest in his work, and listen to Jesus with humility.
  1. I will write these things in the full light of day, not cloistered in my studio. Each chapter will appear on-line and bear the scrutiny of whoever reads them. Others can comment and where that helps clarify what I’m hoping to convey, I will rewrite the chapters to say it in the most accessible way.
  1. I know part of the gift God has given me is to express his thoughts in ways that help other people recognize what he’s already been saying to them. The greatest compliment I have ever received, and I have heard it often, is this: “You put words to ideas I already know in my heart and did not know how to express them.” My prayer is that this will do the same to help awaken the Bride to her destiny.
  1. My words will be gentle, an invitation to people who already want to see what’s true, not a debate for those I think will disagree. I will write with tender counsel and comfort, not authoritative screeds. Jesus is wooing his Bride into these days, not threatening her and thus I write for friends who are already experiencing the power of love, rather than adversaries who would prefer to debate for a more legalistic path.

I’m also convinced this is the audience Jesus wanted to share these things with. For a long time, I’ve recognized that many people who hang around Lifestream or The God Journey are some high-caliber followers of Jesus whose wisdom and love touch many others. I’m not alone in that conclusion. Whenever I introduce some of the people I know to others, I often hear back, “You have some of the most amazing friends.” I do, and for that I’m grateful. Perhaps many of you are positioned to understand what I’m writing and to help others hear his call as well.

Even so, starting this book has been a challenge. How do I find the tone and format to share these things that burn on my heart? I started it many times and had to discard what I wrote. None of it sounded the way I’d hoped.

On an early morning walk an image came to mind. What if one day a group of young people who were touched by some of my writings invited me to spend a weekend with them. Specifically, they asked, “Wayne, if we would happen to be the generation that’s alive when Jesus returns, what thoughts would you have to help us prepare for those days?”

Now, I could write that book, and those are the people I would long to write it for. This is what I would share with them as the most valuable lessons of my journey. Without a vibrant and active connection to him, the end of the world would not be survivable. You cannot navigate those times by the principles others have taught, only by a Presence who will walk with you.

I realize much of this content will be challenging, especially for people with more religious backgrounds. If it has no meaning to you, or proves hurtful, feel free to disregard those things. I’m not forcing this on you. In these pages, I want you to find that which draws your heart closer to God’s and helps you recognize his tender to his bride to let him prepare your heart. Perhaps you, too, have a sneaking suspicion that the days of our world’s destruction are coming to an end and that Jesus stands at the threshold of human history to complete the redemption that he began with his birth in Bethlehem, then purchased at Calvary, and will finally consummate when he stands on the Mount of Olives once again.

I can almost taste the moment. If it happens in my lifetime, I’ll be thrilled to be part of such days. And if not, I’ll be cheering from the other side those of you for whom the end of the days has come.

Chapter 4: Who Are You to Write This? Read More »

Chapter 3: This Scares Me to Death 

Note: This is the third in a series of letters written for the bride of Christ who are alive at the end of the age. Once complete, I’ll combine them into a book. You can start with Chapter 1 here. If you are not already subscribed to this blog and want to make sure you don’t miss any, you can add your name here.

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Wayne, to be honest, your last two postings have given me quite a fright. I’ve always hated books and sermons about the end of the age, and I don’t ever read Revelation because it terrifies me. There seems to be so much devastation, wrath, and death. I find myself paralyzed to think that these days would possibly come in my lifetime.  

— Sharon, HR director, mother of three and grandmother of one

Hi Sharon, 

I’m so sorry my words have felt paralyzing to you. The last thing I want to do is provoke anyone’s fear, but I knew this book would do that. The end of the age is a terrifying prospect for many. Not only does it confront us with our own mortality but also the catastrophic circumstances that the Scriptures seem to say will surround his coming. 

It speaks of the Day of the Lord in ominous terms. Religious leaders have focused on those since the prophets began to write about it toward the end of the Old Testament. Today books, movies, and preachers who pound on that theme think they can terrify people into right living. Keep in mind, however, most religions trade in fear because it makes it easier to manipulate people. And there are few passages that can be twisted to ramp up people’s fears more than the pages in Revelation about the end of the age.

The end of the age will bring death and destruction, and a new set of challenges to face—an antichrist figure, the mark of the beast, and natural disasters that will take the lives of many. I understand why most would prefer not to think about it, especially if their life on planet earth is pleasant. My daughter has a small dog who doesn’t enjoy the exuberance of our new puppy, Mandy. And yet, Mandy is fascinated with Lola, so she’s always trying to get in her face. Lola’s approach to this is just to turn her head away, pretending Mandy doesn’t exist. If she can’t see her, she’s not there, or so she thinks. 

Of course she is wrong, and so are we if we think ignoring what challenges us won’t eventually catch up to us. The proverbial ostrich’s head-in-the-sand approach to fear won’t serve us well. Neither do we need to give in to fear when the Day of the Lord’s coming, which will be the second greatest day in human history, after his Resurrection. 

Fear never leads us to Father’s wisdom, especially at the end of the age. This is the culmination of every good desire we’ve ever had and what our hearts long for in the frustration of living in the broken Creation. Jesus didn’t tell us his plans to make us cower in the corner, but to prepare ourselves for whatever might come in the joyful anticipation that our salvation draws near. 

Even after all these centuries, I am convinced that Jesus will physically return to this planet as he foretold his followers. Will that be in my lifetime? I hope so. But at some future, yet unknown date, he will appear to complete his work of redemption, not only for his beloved, but for all of Creation.

Corrupt human governments will come to ruin, and Jesus will take his rightful throne as the highest authority over all. On that day the kingdoms of this world will become “the kingdom of our God and of His Christ.” Love and peace will flourish among humanity and the effects of the Fall on Creation will be reversed. Beauty will encompass our hearts as we engage him without the blinders of flesh or fears in the new heaven and new earth.

The only reason to fear is either because we’re afraid we haven’t done enough to be included in his family or because we don’t see that Jesus is strong enough to hold us through whatever difficulties come. That’s how preachers can even twist Jesus’s triumphant return into a terrifying moment of separation between those who are “ready” and those who are not. I remember one sermon that threatened, “If you have even one unconfessed sin between you and Jesus when he comes, you’ll be left behind.” Instead of being free to anticipate his coming with joy, we always had to be careful that we had done enough every day to be included in the Redeemed. There was no safety in his love for us, but only in our performance for him.  

I hear from people all the time who are afraid they might be tricked into taking the mark of the beast and be rejected by God. That’s as old as people getting a Social Security number or a chip on their credit card. And it’s as fresh as those who were afraid it was slipped into the COVID vaccine as a nanobot. To fear such things, you have to be convinced that God is wanting to exclude people from his life and has concocted this as a Gotcha Test. 

That would be like your dad telling you, if you consume alcohol, he will remove you from his will. Then, he sneaks some in the spaghetti sauce, so he can blame you for being disobedient. What kind of God is that? Not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. His desire is not to exclude people from redemption but to include all who will to come to him. Whatever the mark of the beast will be, it will obvious and include a pledge of loyalty to darkness.

If the fear of being left behind is the stick some use to keep people faithful, the carrot is the rapture. Those who pass the Gotcha Tests will be raptured out before any challenging times come. Honest Scriptural interpretation does not naturally lend itself to this point of view. It has been concocted by people living in prosperous Western culture. Many followers of Jesus throughout Christian history and even around the world today suffer life-threatening challenges and persecution as well as great need and deprivation. To think that we get an easy out would have been unthinkable to the early Christians who considered it an honor to bear Jesus’s image and mission even to the risking of their own lives.  

I realize none of this helps with your fears yet, Sharon, but bear with me, because the end of the age was never meant to catch those close to him unawares. Far from being a source of fear, his coming is a cause for anticipation and hope. The pain of those days is the surgery necessary to mend a broken hip or repair a clogged artery. We don’t focus on the process, but the healing.

So, how do you view his return? Many see the vengeful God coming to blast his enemies into oblivion. That’s not how I look at it. Jesus is coming to rescue his bride from all that wars against her and take her to himself. I realize that’s a difficult metaphor for most men. We may prefer the image of a warrior armed for battle to a bride decked out in a white gown. But in this picture, we are that bride; he is our champion, coming to rescue us and the world from darkness. If you can’t get comfortable with that reality, you’ll find yourself trying to do by human effort what only Jesus can do in his authority. 

The catastrophic events of the last day seem to come not because God needs to throw a tantrum. God may not be their primary cause; it’s simply where humanity ends up when they serve their flesh or the god of money. The tragedies that result will give even more people the opportunity to come to the end of themselves and turn to him. 

That may mean days of persecution, particularly for those who live in the truth instead of playing the world’s games. The enemy and the world will react like jealous girlfriends, taking out their anguish on the bride. The bride’s focus, however, is never on her former girlfriends; her focus is steadfastly fixed on her beloved. 

While the book of Revelation lays bare the catastrophic events that will come in the last days, it’s theme is the ultimate triumph of the Lamb and his reunion with his Bride. I’m pretty sure these events will play out very differently from the way our popular books imagine it. Much of Revelation is a mystery still unfolding, a metaphor that people take literally to their peril. 

What Revelation reveals most clearly are the extraordinary promises Jesus makes to the Bride—those who overcome with him. He preserves them in the face of destruction and holds them in his hands even through persecution. Even those who may die in the conflicts of those days will be surrounded and comforted by the presence of the Holy One. He will have complete victory over the powers of darkness and will be enthroned above all powers and the forces of evil will be utterly destroyed. This is not wrath for his children; it’s a rescue. 

Thus, the bride looks at the Day of the Lord quite differently. Even if it comes in chaos, it concludes in beauty and wonder. This is the day of her wedding as Jesus comes to redeem her out of this broken world. He will prepare her so that even in those days she can stand before him without spot or wrinkle. This is not a day to fear, but one to embrace with him. The bridegroom is coming to redeem his bride out of the chaos of this present, evil age. If that doesn’t excite you, you need a better grasp of who your Redeemer is. Any bride terrified of her wedding day is marrying the wrong man.  

Sharon, I will not silence your fears by answering all our questions about the end times but by helping you become so close to Jesus that those questions will no longer matter. Jesus didn’t tell us these things to scare us, but to let his love prepare us for the day of his redemption. That’s as critical for what you face in your life today as it will be at the end of the age. Any fear causes us to slip into self-protection mode, which makes it difficult to recognize how he is at work around us. This is where we make our worst decisions, often with our best intentions. 

Fear shows us where we need to attend to our relationship with him and be more attuned to his love. Whenever you find yourself afraid, take some time to sit in that fear with Jesus. Face it head-on; examine it with him. Ask him why you’re afraid. Let him respond with insight that will invite you closer. I often ask him, “What is it about your love that I don’t yet know, that if I knew it, I wouldn’t be afraid here?”’

John wrote to us, “Perfect love casts out fear,” and he did so not to make us feel guilty when we are afraid but to let us know that there is a place inside Father’s love for you where fear no longer exists. Only he can show you how to live there; and it’s a process involving many facets we’ll look at throughout this book. 

Begin with your smaller fears and ask him to show you how to bring them inside his love. Don’t focus on the fear but on the love and his extravagant care for you. Watching how he guides you through difficult circumstances will make you more aware of his presence. When he doesn’t alleviate your fear the way you want, you’ll have the opportunity to discover that God thinks very differently than you do. Watch how he works, and it will change the way you live in the world. Finding freedom from fear is not convincing ourselves logically that our fears are unfounded, or by hoping that God is greater than our fear (though he certainly is). Your fear will dissipate as he displaces it with his love.

Don’t think you have to be perfect to grow here; it’s a process. When I find myself afraid, I realize there’s a way to grow in him that will consume it. It may take weeks or even months, depending how deep the fear is, but he will teach you so much about yourself and him that you will notice it bearing fruit in many other areas of your life as well.  

So, while those may be painful times, it is only the process that will bring great joy for those on whom the end of the age has come. He is not just coming to finish redemption’s story; he will also hold the redeemed tightly through the whole process. It is the nature of the bride to focus the fullness of her heart on her betrothed who comes to claim her as his own and with her, introduces a new heaven and a new earth. No longer filled with pain and sorrow and sickness and disease and separation and loss and loneliness, it will flood our senses with joy, wonder, beauty, light, and life. And we get to share it with him and each other for all of time.

Over the last three years, I’ve endured the most challenging crises of my life, including the unmerited rejection of people I love dearly. I’ve never traversed such incredible darkness for so long, but in doing so I found a depth of trust in him beyond any unforeseen event or circumstance. That has left me changed in ways I never imagined. 

The reason I’m writing this book is to help those like you discover a similar place in their own hearts for Jesus to develop that trust in them. There is a way through your darkest fears and the chaos of declining civilization. This is what his love was always meant to shape in us, so that we no longer need to be tossed about by our fears, but live at rest in his love. 

Then we can join the chorus where the Spirit and the Bride speak as one voice, “Come!” 

 

–> Continue here to Chapter 4

Chapter 3: This Scares Me to Death  Read More »

Chapter 2: Is This Really Where It Ends? 

NOTE: This is the second in a series of letters written for the bride of Christ who are alive at the end of the age. I don’t know how often they will appear, but once complete, I’ll combine them into a book. If you are not already subscribed to this blog and want to make sure you don’t miss any, you can add your name here. The quotes that begin each chapter are a compilation from the many letters and conversations I receive and are not from the specific person I’ve made up to hold those words. They are designed to express the heart’s cry of those who are yearning to be part of what God is doing in our day and open the door to the content of that chapter.

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Do you really think we could be living in the last days and that Jesus still may come in your lifetime? I’ve heard all that talk for over fifty years, and I’ve got to say I’m a bit jaded at the thought and surprised to hear you joining those ranks.

—Lloyd, 77-year-old retired engineer in Texas

Lloyd,

Even Paul, the Apostle, was concerned that too many expectations of Jesus’s coming by his followers would lead to discouragement if he delayed longer than their hope could last.

Like you, I’ve lived through a lot of false predictions of the Lord’s coming. As a child, I heard there’s no way this planet could survive the anger, drugs, and open sexuality of the 1960s and that Jesus would certainly come by 1970. I hated that talk, because I would turn 17 in 1970 and I hoped for a taste of adulthood before the end of it all.

Hal Lindsay convinced many that The European Common Market would provide the seed of the one-world government as it resisted the power of Communism. Then, of course there was the 88 reasons Jesus would come in 1988, and when that failed, the same author told us he got it wrong, and he now had 89 reasons why he would come in 1989.

Many predicted Y2K at the turn of the century would lead into a worldwide depression out of which the end of the age would come. Various Rosh Hashanah dates in the 1990s and 2000s were identified as dates for his coming, usually tied to some astronomical event to affirm the date. I even had some friends quit jobs and forego their daily responsibilities convinced that his coming was a month or two away.

All those dates turned out to be dead wrong, well-intentioned though they may have been. What I learned from all of that is anyone who sets a date is a fool. They may be wealthy fools with so many buying their books and attending their seminars, but fools, nonetheless.

So, no, I don’t have any aspirations to join those ranks and I am not making any predictions about him coming in my lifetime or the next hundred years. I don’t know if the times we are living through now portend the end, I’m merely asking myself, what if they do? I don’t have a sign. I don’t have a word from Jesus. I’ve not got some new interpretation of Scripture that finally reveals the secret.

So, let me assure you up front that I’ll not be telling anyone to quit their jobs, sell their homes, stop paying taxes, give up their dreams, buy guns, move to a private island with me, or to neglect any of the regular activities your days require. We won’t need to preplan, but simply respond to him as circumstances might unfold.

When the Jewish leaders asked Jesus for a sign, he thought it remarkable that they could so easily predict the weather by the color of the sky at night but couldn’t read the signs of the times. He indicated that spiritual indicators were easier to read than the weather, and yet, Lloyd, our generation has been fooled by so many false predictions and timetables ostensibly given by God or encoded in the Scriptures.

Today, we have apps that track the weather down to the minute with surprising accuracy, and yet we seem less discerning about what Jesus is doing behind the curtain of our daily lives or in world events. And when we lose sight of the Head, we’re only left to extrapolate our interpretation of Scripture or events into conclusions that prove false.

However, it is growing more difficult for me to ignore that many of the indicators Jesus gave us are aligning in some interesting ways. I listened to a podcast called The End of the Earth, which unpacks from a purely scientific perspective the dozen or so existential threats that humanity will have to solve in the next 150 years to survive. Some of those threats come from forces outside our control, such as asteroid impacts, super volcano eruptions, stellar explosions, or the collapse of a vital ecosystem. There are man-made risks such as nuclear war or radiation from a dirty bomb, environmental damage, climate change, an engineered pandemic, or artificial intelligence. Any of these could render humanity extinct or wipe out huge numbers of people in the quantities the book of Revelation attaches to the end of the age.

To be certain, the odds of most of these risks are infinitesimally small and there is always the possibility that some technological advance may reverse or overcome some of them. More concerning, however, are the handful of these that could be unleashed by a singular rogue scientist or desperate despot. And, to overcome some of them would require a level of unselfishness across a broad swath of humanity that we’ve not seen in our history. And yet, so many people I know rarely think about how humanity has plundered the planet with so little care for future generations.

In addition, we are witnessing four significant international conflicts that are more fraught with peril than that which spawned our first two World Wars, and this time nuclear weapons are in play. Two of which are already full-scale wars with mass casualties and two others could easily escalate to that. Furthermore, the international cohesiveness needed to resolve such conflicts is currently at a low ebb.

Of course, if I had been alive in 1940, I might have been convinced that Adolf Hitler was the Antichrist and the armies of good and evil were lined up in battle. Who in history was more set on world domination and committed genocide on such a massive scale? He used people’s religious fervor and feeling inferior after the Great War to seduce a nation into his narcissism and the evils it perpetuated.

But I would have been wrong, so I am reluctant to draw any firm conclusions here, I simply have my eye on what may yet unfold. What if our democracy fails or the current animosity degenerates into civil war? What if China triggers a war over Taiwan or their claims to South Pacific shipping lanes? What if our system of law and order breaks down into the tribal alliances we toy with now or collapses with an onrush of refugees from failed states?

I also can’t ignore other troubling trends in the rise of autocratic governments, terrorist activities, gangs, and cartels as well as increasing mass delusions fed by misinformation campaigns. Leaders focus on amassing power any way they can without regard for morality and goodwill. Our societies are becoming ever-more polarized and hostile with a bent to force others into the “right” way of thinking. Journalism has given way to advocacy and click-seeking content such that there are no longer any resources that enough people trust to even begin to build a common ground.

Many of our societal systems have broken down or been corrupted by the wealthy so that people have little hope of justice. Honesty is at an all-time low since everyone spins to their own desire or profit. Mass shootings continue to proliferate, and world debt is reaching unsustainable highs.

I also find many descriptions of last-days behavior in the Scriptures, to be as current as the morning news, like this from 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV):

“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”

Doesn’t that describe most of our social media, as well as our politicians, celebrities, and Wall Street bankers, as well as those who would be like them?

What’s intriguing to me is not any one of these things but all of them converging in our time. It is difficult to imagine a way out of all these challenges without the intervention of the One to whom all authority belongs. Is Jesus at the doorway to finalize his redemption of the Creation or are these only another set of birth pangs for a distant resolution? If these are not the beginning of those days, someday the beginning will look a lot like this.

Two thousand years ago, the early believers lived with an eye toward the day of redemption of all things, when the earth would be liberated from decay and God’s glory would make all things new. If that was true two thousand years ago, how much more today? That’s the joy growing in my heart, whether it happens in my lifetime or not.

Yet, with all the missed predictions and seemingly endless delays, I understand, Lloyd, how  hard it is not to give in to cynicism, especially when such talk has been filled with the immediacy of fear and threats of what would happen if we are an unworthy follower when he shows. These letters are for the bride, however. These are not days of gloom, but anticipation of joy. The groom just may be at the threshold and his coming is not a day of sorrow or anguish for his beloved; it’s a cause for celebration and unbridled joy. Like the Creation itself, we long for the day of the redemption of all things with expectancy and wonder.

What would it be like if Jesus’s coming comes in the next decade or two? The bride will emerge from all over the world, made ready by his love and dazzling the world with her beauty amid its chaos. That is hard to imagine if you’re thinking of Christianity as the religion it has become—broken and competing institutions trying to make people righteous with their rules and rituals. Instead, think of it as people from around the planet who are learning to live deeply in his love and are being transformed by that love to embrace others around them, both fellow-believers and those lost in the world.

I find world events curious enough to at least ask the question, “What if?” What are world events telling us? Is there a shift in the Spirit’s working to prepare hearts for that day? In the rhythm of the Spirit is there a fearless call for his bride to come closer? I’m holding those possibilities in my heart, but my expectancy is not on his second coming primarily, but how he wants to come now to share his life with me.

It’s time to lean into him more intentionally, listen to his heartbeat more carefully, and follow joyfully whatever he shows us. When I do that in light of his coming, I have greater clarity and make better decisions. I’ll not be writing here about geopolitical politics, identifying the antichrist, or decoding what the mark of the beast might be. These letters will be about who Jesus is for his bride and how we can live deeply in him so that we’re prepared for anything that may come.

I will write as if we are that generation, and if we’re not, perhaps some future generation will find these thoughts helpful. By publishing these letters, I want to put my voice alongside others who may be sensing similar things. My hope is that this spawns a wider conversation in the comment section or through emails that will allow us to look together at that which God is doing in our day and how these times may play into his purpose for the redemption of the whole Creation.

Blessed are they who don’t lose their hope in the Lord’s appearing because of the disappointed hopes of days past. And blessed are those who are not so distracted by what the future may hold that they miss his voice today. Realizing that the future of everything is in his hands, we can with delighted hearts invite him to continue to appear in us until the day he makes himself known to all.

As I’ll discuss in the next letter, this is not a time for fear. Even if the days of humanity’s indulgence are drawing to an end, Jesus will not let the world come to naught and he will not let you be devoured in the chaos. Challenging times will come at the end, but when we trust him, we will have all that we need. Our part is not figuring out the big picture, but responding each day to how he draws us to himself and that will prepare us for when the plan of redemption reaches its final page.

Then, the end will come with shouts of joy from all the beloved who have yearned for his coming.

 

–> Continue here to Chapter 3

Chapter 2: Is This Really Where It Ends?  Read More »

Chapter 1: A Call for the Bride

Wayne, a couple of years ago you posted a video from the remains of a wildfire about something God put on your heart regarding Creation groaning in its futility for the sons and daughters to be revealed. What you heard was, “It’s time.” Do you remember that? I have had the same stirring on my heart. What do you see now looking back?”
— Layna, 25-year-old college student from North Carolina

Layna,

I don’t know how you find time to write me as demanding as your university courses are these days but I’m glad you did. Are you still thinking of starting on your doctorate next year?

Knowing these same words stir in your heart in the midst of your studies encourages me. To find young people with a heart for God’s reality in this ever-darkening age makes me rejoice. You are a treasure and I pray God continues to draw you closer to his heart and reveal to you the mysteries of his love and care for you as the future unfolds.

Few days go by when I don’t contemplate the message behind that video I recorded on March 29, 2021. As I stood in the burn scar of the Creek Wildfire that destroyed 400,000 acres of forested mountains in the Sierra Nevada mountains around Shaver Lake, the devastation and sorrow of Creation disturbed me. That’s when those two words popped into mind: “It’s time!” Like a cool, refreshing breeze on a hot day, they raised the hair on my arms, and caused something deep within to rise.

At that point, I had no idea what they meant even though I felt hope that new life was already at work beneath the ashes surrounding my feet. I knew seeds were already germinating unseen, but in a matter of weeks, they would burst forth out of the charred landscape and over time replenish the forest with trees and wildflowers.

I held the mystery and anticipation of those words overnight. Where did they come from and what was I supposed to take away from them? On a walk the next morning through an unburned part of the forest, I invited God into my musings as I happened upon a small meadow. “It’s time for what?”

Instantly, the words from Romans 8:19 sprang to mind, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” In an instant, I knew what had troubled me the day before was not just the devastated landscape I witnessed, but also holding it as a broader metaphor of how broken humanity has devasted God’s Creation. Not only have we scarred and polluted the physical world, but we have also wounded each other with the jealousy, greed, and hostility that shatter human relationships. Even more, those who claim to follow him are not shining lights in the world as they demonstrate the same anger and arrogance it does.

Do those words still stir my heart today, Layna? They do, and even more deeply than they did at first. I can sense the Creation cheering for people like you who are finding a growing hunger to live deeply connected to him. As I see it now, “It’s time” is a tender invitation from Jesus to his bride to draw closer, to let our love and trust in him deepen so that his glory can once again be revealed on the earth.

So, what have I seen in the almost three years since?

I have watched the darkness expand, working its way into every stratum of our culture. I see it growing in the polarization and animosity of politics as well as in global hostilities. We now have two active wars and two ever-heightening conflicts, any of which could escalate into World War III, or provoke a desperate nation to go nuclear. The planet is convulsing with natural disasters unthinkable a decade ago. The COVID pandemic, possibly escaping from a lab, showed we are only one simple step away from a madman or careless scientist unleashing a virus that cannot be disarmed so easily.

In addition, God’s name continues to be disfigured by many of his self-proclaimed followers who have no idea who he is nor has their inner life been shaped by his nature. They filled their lives with religious busywork, and when it did not satisfy, they became fearful and angry people, desperate to leverage the power of a fallen world to achieve the hope that eludes them. Thus, there has been a great falling away by many who hide behind a religious veneer and by those who deconstructed their spiritual life so completely, they no longer can see God in it. They have gone their own way, having never met a God more engaging than the failures of their religious leaders and institutions.

In contrast, I also see an undeniable hunger growing in others to have an authentic connection to God, unmediated by human convention and ritual. Their religious constructs failed them at the time they needed God most. No longer able to mask their doubts, ignore their discontent, or pretend the false comfort of empty rituals, their hearts still seek to be united with the God who made them.

And I am greatly encouraged by young people like you, Layna, who sense the same breeze blowing. I see more people becoming attuned to God’s whispers and fingerprints in their daily lives as they learn how to trust his love and wisdom above their own. They are discovering that he can guide them through any disaster or hardship they face and, in the process, make them freer as they embrace his ways. They now know that Father’s purpose, and their own, are best served not by changing their circumstances to make life easy but by embracing a love that will stand with them in the darkest places.

The winds of his Spirit are shifting. As I walk the hills where I live, rising amidst the rustling leaves and the quiet of a starlit night or the warm glow of a burgeoning dawn, I hear the refrain of the song the Lamb—Jesus calling to his beloved. You can hear it too in those moments of stillness just before you fall asleep, or sense it in the drawing of your heart to something greater when you’ve put aside your media.

It is a soothing melody with tender words and a restful rhythm. He’s not angry at those who got lost in the world or their religious performance; he’s simply inviting them to return to him. Some hearing that melody don’t even know it’s coming from Jesus. Their hearts are being drawn into the sweetness of his presence, even though they don’t yet know what to call him. They will eventually learn his name, but they are already following him as they yield to the growing revelation inside them.

Listen. Jesus is calling your name, even if you got lost in the world’s amusements and empty promises or the delusion of a religious fury that did not satisfy either. Like the Prodigal, you can return to the God you always hoped was there. You have heard his song too in the hunger you feel that quiet moments expose. He’s wanting to win you back, and when you turn again toward him, you will find healing from the lies of darkness that have shamed, condemned, and accused you.

He is revealing himself, and yes, that is a double-edged sword for those who dare to look. It often comes first with the disillusionment—the painful unmasking of false thinking and selfish motives. But soon, that is followed by the growing awareness of God present with you and a growing appreciation for the way he works, which is so different from our human expectations.

This is the best meaning of the word ‘apocalypse’—the fresh unveiling of God’s hand and purpose in these sons and daughters who are learning the power of love. I know it conjures up end-of-the age imagery for most, which may not be a comforting thought for many. However, the root of the word doesn’t mean judgment, but a “revelation” or “unveiling.” Apocalypse is the lifting of the veil from our eyes that obscures our view of God’s reality. It’s an apocalypse of the willing heart now, and someday soon perhaps, an apocalypse for the whole world.

Only Jesus can hold our tears, resolve our disappointed expectations, and show us how he perfects his love in us through the very circumstances we desperately resist. In years since I heard, “It’s time,”  Sara and I have been drawn into a deeper journey than we would ever have imagined, through the dishonesty and betrayal of people we loved and respected, then in the revelation of her trauma, and finally in the path to healing that only Jesus could have accomplished. We are finding a deeper faith that mere agreement with theological principles could never achieve.

When you find his faithfulness in those places where you had previously thought him faithless, you are on the cusp of seeing the path that love lights. That’s where his glory inhabits our lives in profound and wonderful ways and where that beauty seeps out of our hearts in spontaneous encounters, so others can behold it as well. Like those plants that were growing beneath the ashes of the wildfire-scarred wilderness, the beauty of his transformation will emerge more visibly. Each green shoot brings hope to the creation and as more of them let Father’s glory find a home in their heart, the flow of color from far-flung wildflowers will color the earth.

No, these followers will not be perfect, nor will they need to be. They’ll be fully human, even letting God be revealed in their weaknesses and mistakes because their character and words will reflect God’s kindness, compassion, and redemption instead of judgment, vengeance, and condemnation. They will not seek to gain and use power to advance their own desires but will graciously lay down their lives to serve others, even those who treat them as enemies.

So, yes, we are standing on the precipice of an apocalypse—a revealing of Jesus in the world and an exposing of those illusions that keep people captive from knowing God as he is. I don’t know if this is the final apocalypse John wrote about, but I am convinced that what the Spirit wants to stir in the bride won’t look like anything that has come before.

It’s time . . .

It’s time for the bride to awaken and find the rhythm of Jesus’s heartbeat for these days and learn to follow him fearlessly. The bridegroom is at hand; he is not only with you now but will also soon come in bodily form to reclaim what is his.

And it’s time for her to arise, not in human power and wisdom, drawing attention to herself with bluster and demands on the culture, but in the quiet reality of a love-transformed life sharing his goodness with those we meet.

It’s time for his followers to embrace…

  • a love stronger than anything someone can do to us
  • a light greater than the lies of darkness
  • a resilient faith that is only strengthened in adverse circumstances, and
  • an undeniable hope in a future of God’s choosing rather than chasing our own plans.

Over the course of these letters, I want to share with you how we lean toward him in these days, so the bride is ready to meet her groom. This is the time for you to listen and discern how he is making himself known to you. Don’t grab the old conventions or commit yourself to more Bible reading, church attendance, and prayer. This is about discovering him as he makes himself known to you, not jumping on the performance treadmill that will only wear you out yet again.

I am convinced, after great soul-searching, that Jesus has invited me to share with you the thoughts he has put in my mind about the times we live in. Honestly, I have resisted doing so for reasons I’ll share in the future. But I do want to offer encouragement to those who want to be part of reflecting his glory in the world. Thus, this is the first of a series of “Letters to the Bride at the End of the Age.” I’m calling it, It’s Time!

Subsequent letters will appear on this blog until I can combine them into a book. Each will respond to a different question and focus on what we will need to live in freedom and protection while being an ambassador of his love in these ever-darkening days. I’m going to respond to questions like yours, Layna, so you may want to follow along. Do I really think the end of days is upon us? What about those of you for whom that might provoke fear? How do we live at rest in uncertainty, trusting in Father’s care for us.

What if his coming to redeem the planet is meant to happen in the next 10-15 years? What might we want to know and how might we want to live? I don’t know if the real audience for this book is in this generation or if it will come eighty years from now when someone finds it on a lost corner of the Internet. Either way, I hope this little book encourages someone to respond to his call.

That said, I do know this: If following Jesus with a full heart and a certain faith will serve us well at the end of days, wouldn’t it also serve us even better today?

 

–>  Continue here to Chapter 2.

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This is the first in a series of letters written for the bride of Christ at the end of the age. I don’t’ know how often they will appear, but once complete I’ll combine them into a book. If you are not already subscribed to this blog, and want to make sure you don’t miss any, you can add your name here

The quotes that begin each chapter are a compilation from the many letters and conversations I have experienced, and are not from the specific person I’ve made up to embody those words. They are designed to express the heart’s cry of those who are yearning to be part of what God is doing in our day and open the door to the content of that chapter. For each one, however, I have a specific person in mind who I know or have met recently.

Chapter 1: A Call for the Bride Read More »