IS THIS THE SIGN THAT YOU'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR?
Photo source: Google (Creative Commons).
The following arrived in my inbox at the weekend!
I have incredible good new for you.
My horoscope is extremely powerful, and this concerns you exclusively.
I need to talk to you about things that will happen to you SOON, VERY SOON: things that concern your sentimental situation, as well as everything that is bothering you right away.
Trust your destiny. The right time has arrived for you. Your dreams are about to turn into reality! Do not let it escape!
My best wishes,
I suppose the confusion of the words horoscope and parapsychologist made me realise it probably wasn’t from a church friend. And being given some “incredible good new”, as well my “sentimental situation”, were also warning flags…
Having said that, we are meant to encourage one another with our prophetic gift – to comfort, strengthen and build up. Some prophecies are more focussed on what will happen in the future – and recently even those who hold respect among believers for their gift have been proved quite simply wrong. Some are unhelpful, unthought out warnings against the vaccines that, like previous breakthroughs in Polio, yellow fever and flu, can significantly slow down the spread of disease. Some just want the world to end as soon as possible because it seems too big a job to tend to its wounds. All this doesn’t mean we should not bother with reaching our minds into God’s heart to understand him more, or ignore any sense of destiny, purpose or future for our world. When Paul encouraged the church at Corinth to prophesy, he – and other bible writers – often referred to the times they were living in as being in close proximity to the return of Jesus. This made behaviour, individual calling, holiness and mission all the more imperative. If we have no sense of the coming Kingdom, we are like those wedding attendants who fall asleep, or guests who miss out on the party in the stories of Jesus. Listening to prophets is important; living prophetically ourselves is essential.
Watching the signs around us is actually an important way to live. We look out for injustice, for tremors of chaos, for despairing violence; and we look for the green shoots of kindness, righteousness and God’s inventiveness: and when we see these things, we know that the Kingdom of Heaven is also at hand. The command of Jesus to watch and wait, or from Paul, Peter, and John to press an urgency on us, is to ensure we don’t freeze with fear or hide from reality. When we cry out, like at the end of the book of Revelation “Jesus Come quickly!”, we absolutely do want his final intervention of justice and shalom. But we know, too, that this prayer also joins in with the continual coming of the Kingdom, the making of all things new, through the work of the Spirit on the earth and the prayer and holiness of the saints. Jesus gives us a vision of what life should be like. This spurs us on to believe in a great future for the planet and humanity. And because of the constant reminder in the bible of deposits, firstfruits, seeds and covenants, we look for as much of that beautiful future as we can, in the here and now.
Certainly, a global threat like the virus, a ravaged planet and the health, social and economic inequalities that are in evidence are all signs of an end times broken creation. But we also look to the end times signs of the Kingdom of God breaking through. The spread of the gospel that is faster and broader than at any time in history. The wisdom and expertise that has discovered a remarkable number of vaccines in such a short space of time. Social entrepreneurs bringing clean water and mosquito nets to vulnerable peoples. The church rising up to provide youthwork, foodbanks and debt care.
Therefore, we have an eye on the future, we yearn for the second coming, and we live in the light of it by acting as if Jesus is returning at any moment. Jesus did this well in the days before he was crucified. At the last supper, John records him as knowing prophetically what was going to happen to him.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.
John 13: 3-4
The way to exercise prophecy and to fulfil prophecy is to get on with living like Jesus in the here and now. I don’t need Chris the astrologer to talk to me about “everything that is bothering me right away”. I need those around me to speak truth to me about who I am in Christ, the call of God on my life and to warn and encourage about how to live well. And I need to take the towel and attend to whatever I see around me, as Jesus would.
It’s not quite “Jesus is coming; look busy!”
It’s more, Jesus is coming; speak out and live well. Join in with God’s good plan and go with the flow of the river of life. Read Romans 12 and give it a go.
Martin J Young