With the solar eclipse coming Monday, August 21, 2017, people are talking a lot about this historic event. Some people are mostly interested in getting their glasses to view the spectacle, but we have also seen some interesting conjecture about the end of the world or other cataclysmic events because of the eclipse. It also seems to stir up a lot of questions about the times we live in and there seems to even be anxiety about what this can mean.
We believe this is not only a historic event, but a prophetic one that we should pay attention to. At our recent TRIHOP meeting, our director Skip Cone shared a very helpful explanation of this event. He described two extremes of responses to the total eclipse that will soon be crossing our nation: we can look at it as simply a natural phenomenon and ignore what God may be saying with it OR we can move into prophetic mania.
Skip’s words regarding the eclipse: “At best, it is an opportunity for us to consider our ways and cry out for our nation to return to the Lord. At worst, this could be a final warning for us to repent before God severely chastens our nation.”
You can read his thoughts in their entirety in a document about the eclipse that I thought was helpful. Check it out.
I think more than anything we need to turn to the Lord. He is always interested in getting our attention and leading people into deeper relationship with Himself. He wants us to ask questions of Him and to seek Him in His word. We need to lift up our eyes, not just to see the sun eclipsed by the moon, but to see the Son of God on the throne and to bring our own hearts into agreement with His word.
We should guard against turning to prophetic meanings without turning to the One who is actually speaking. Sometimes, we get more fascinated by the message and we miss the point which is to behold the One with the message.
The fact that we can see something like this in the heavens at all is reason to lift our eyes and consider the One who created these things and it should cause us to heed what God may be communicating to His church through this sign in the heavens. It is worth it to ask if this is a prophetic indicator of what He is already speaking? If You are speaking, Lord, what is our response to be?
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.
If you have not read my recent post on the Wildfires in Gatlinburg, I urge you to read that first. It will give some needed background for the following thoughts.
Since the wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains, I have had an increased burden to pray for Gatlinburg and the surrounding cities. I have had a deep burden to go into the city and walk the streets and pray. It just so happens on the day that the city was re-opened for tourists, I was visiting a friend in Morristown and decided to go down and drive through Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg. I had a mixture of emotions as I drove in. Part of me longed to know and feel the Lord’s heart for the people affected by the tragedy. I can’t imagine the loss of my home, business, even my family members or friends. I wanted the increased burden to pray for them. I was also feeling a desire to just see and be in the area I have come to have affection for after this great tragedy.
I drove thought the region with a desire to be watchful of anything the Lord may show me or highlight to me and to listen carefully for His voice.
Three things I would like to share.
1. Probably the most significant thing I have come away with is a burden for the people of Gatlinburg to really recognize what the Lord is saying in this crisis. As I drove into the beginning of Gatlinburg, I passed a big marquee saying “Welcome Back” then “Mountain Tough” As I pulled over and got out my phone to take a picture, I realized it was the Welcome to Gatlinburg Visitors Center sign that was mostly burned up. This sign along with other signs that said things like “Gatlinburg Strong” were standing out to me. Is this the way God wants us to respond when there is a crisis? Are we to respond with human resilience or humble ourselves and pray? All I kept thinking was Isaiah 9:10,
“The bricks have fallen down,
But we will rebuild with hewn stones;
The sycamores are cut down,
But we will replace them with cedars.”
This is a passage that was actually quoted by several of our governmental leaders after the twin towers had fallen. Yet they were ignorant of the context of the passage. It is actually a message of judgment.
Read the punishment for Samaria in the expanded verses from Isaiah 9:8-12
The Lord sent a word against Jacob,
And it has fallen on Israel.
9 All the people will know--
Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria--
Who say in pride and arrogance of heart:
10 “The bricks have fallen down,
But we will rebuild with hewn stones;
The sycamores are cut down,
But we will replace them with cedars.”
11 Therefore the Lord shall set up
The adversaries of Rezin against him,
And spur his enemies on,
12 The Syrians before and the Philistines behind;
And they shall devour Israel with an open mouth.
For all this His anger is not turned away,
But His hand is stretched out still. (Emphasis Mine)
Even President Obama echoed this passage when he signed a beam of the new One World Trade Center,
“We Remember. We Rebuild. We come back Stronger.”
In any crisis, it is not the Lord’s prescription to respond in pride, arrogance, or our own strength. I believe He is beckoning us to humble ourselves in crisis and seek His face about the next step. (Joel 1 & 2, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, Zephaniah 2:1-3)
My prayer is the church of Gatlinburg would get it and even more so, our whole region. What will we do in a time of crisis?
2. The only sign I saw on my drive about prayer was on the IHOP (the pancake place) sign in Pigeon Forge. “Praying for our County.” I was encouraged by this. I do not think it was a coincidence that it was on the IHOP sign, when IHOP is also the acronym for the International House of Prayer as well as the International House of Pancakes.
3. There is a controversy in the region. That area of the Great Smoky Mountains has deep religious roots but it also has in it many things that are an affront to God. (Compromise, idolatry of pleasure and self-gratification, sexual immorality, witchcraft, etc). God wants the church of the region to turn back to Him.
4. There is a divine destiny for the region of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville. It is to bring glory to God.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Emphasis mine)
I believe God wants the church of the region to fully return to Him and the kingdom of God to increase in the Smokies. That the people of the Smokies would love and glorify the Lord with wholehearted devotion. That it would be an area of real refuge. Even as the people return, the worship would come forth from East Tennessee with anointing and power. Can you imagine?? God anointed musicians and singers, prophesying and proclaiming the glory of God in strength and might on banjos, mandolins, basses, and fiddles?! I believe God has unique designs for the Smokies and all of East Tennessee.
As I have pondered the recent crisis in the beloved Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, I am greatly heartbroken and upset. Businesses damaged, homes destroyed, the mountains scorched and the smoke filling the air. Photos of the tragedy are disturbing and sobering. The night of the fires, the wind blew strong over our little house in the hills and now I can only imagine what some people witnessed: the fire being carried from ridge to ridge and engulfing buildings as people were evacuated and displaced. I don’t have family around there. I don’t have friends who live there. I have visited many times and it is an area I am familiar with and very much enjoy. I think of the Alamo, a restaurant that Julie and I spent a joyful evening of our honeymoon, totally gone. Many family trips to Dollywood, where the fire threatened but is safe and unharmed. Trips to the Aquarium, where it is good to hear the animals are safe.
I feel a particular burden about all of this. I think it is because I live in East Tennessee and consider it my home. And since I have lived here I have grown to love the history, the people, and culture. So, thinking about this fire and the devastation, I sit here crying as I type. Because, as in the words of Dolly Parton, “these are my people.”
I certainly think that this is a time to pray for those affected by the wildfires and to help practically in any way that we can. The practical love of Jesus being shared is vitally necessary for the church. It is a critical time when many are open to the gospel who would not otherwise be open, not to mention just the value in loving our fellow man.
With all this in mind, I am gripped to the heart that there is a specific message that God wants to send us with the fires. I came across a Facebook post shared by a friend of a friend who was helping with the House and Grounds Team at Dollywood Theme Park. It included a picture of two pages of the Bible, he had found under a bench soaked from the rain. It was a passage from Joel 1 and 2.
CLICK HERE for the more info about it.
For those who may not know what the book of Joel is about, it is a message to Israel in a great time of crisis. They were facing economic crisis in their day (new wine, oil, and grain were dried up) and they were facing the threat of an invasion by a foreign army.
The passages that were included on that paper found in Dollywood were. In the King James…
14 Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord.
15 Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
16 Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God?
17 The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.
18 How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.
19 O Lord, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field.
20 The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.
21 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:
In verse 14 it sums up a prescription for what to do in a time of crisis. I believe it is a message that the Lord is speaking and continuing to speak to us. Joel 2:12-17 is very similar.
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
13 So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.
14 Who knows if He will turn and relent,
And leave a blessing behind Him--
A grain offering and a drink offering
For the Lord your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
16 Gather the people,
Sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and nursing babes;
Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber,
And the bride from her dressing room.
17 Let the priests, who minister to the Lord,
Weep between the porch and the altar;
Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord,
And do not give Your heritage to reproach,
That the nations should rule over them.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’
How could these wildfires happen in our region? How could this be? Is it possible that God has lifted His protection because of our idolatry and sin? Because we have walked in disobedience and turned away from Him? Our region is soaked with innocent blood. Thousands of abortions have taken place in our region. We worship idols of self-pleasure, self-gratification, self-will. Immorality is rampant. And the truth is, it is not just the “heathen” or the unchurched. It is in the church of East Tennessee.
If we want to see a change, His protection again, even a great move of the Holy Spirit in our region, we must return to the Lord, with our whole heart. Will we heed the truth in the Scripture? What do we do in a time of crisis? Will we hear the trumpet of warning being blasted yet again to warn us to turn back to Him? Will we see His prophetic message in the edges of a burned Bible page in the middle of great destruction that contain words of warning and hope?
So thinking about the wildfires of the Great Smoky Mountains, I am burdened to pray and intercede for the victims and those working to help. I am burdened to help in practical ways, too. But I believe there is a greater, overarching message that we must hear and respond to.
There is a crisis. The prescription is clear. To gather. Fast. Pray. Humble ourselves. Cry out to Him.
It’s not just an event but a lifestyle change.
So I wanted to post about the election before the election, but that didn't happen and honestly, what I want to say doesn't change at all based on it being after the fact.
This was a difficult election and the wake of it continues to be turbulent. Here are ten thoughts, listed in random order.
1) No man (or woman) can save us. Jesus alone can save us as individuals, and ultimately as a nation as well.
2) God really does rule in the affairs of men. See Daniel 2:20-22 and 4:32. He raises up kings (and presidents) and He brings them down.
3) We had a choice and the fact that these were our choices says something that ought to make us pause and consider where we are as a nation.
4) We, as Christians, really ought to wrestle with the Lord. I intended this to be before the election and say that we needed to ask God for wisdom about who to vote for. I saw many people doing that and I think God certainly was using the difficulty of the choice to cause many to turn to Him and ask, "What should I do?" I think this still applies. We should continue to wrestle with Him and ask, "What are you doing in the midst of this? What is my response supposed to be?"
5) We really did face a difficult election. I've never been so grieved over the choices before me as well as the state of our nation in general. I've never been so undecided up until the final week or so before the election. This means that there wasn't an easy choice for many people and there isn't an easy way forward.
6) Pray. Pray, pray, pray. If it's not time now to do what Joel 2 and Zephaniah 2 prescribe (gather together, repent, and cry out for mercy), when will it be? Our nation is so divided and our leaders (as well as the Church, and the nation in general) need our prayers!
7) Trump, Hillary, and President Obama are real people. They each face so much hate and opposition from various groups, and they really do need our prayers. Also, those who are selected to lead, whether we like them, agree with them, or think they are the worst thing that can happen to the earth, need prayers for wisdom. God commands us in the Word to pray for kings (presidents, yes?) and all those in authority.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. I Timothy 2:1-4
8) It sounds cliché but we saw a sign declaring before the election, “On November 9, God will still be on the throne.” It really isn't cliché and should become a rock for us in these times. Jesus really is King. He's not going to be our President, but He is the forever King. And, that should affect how we think, feel, and act in the midst of a divided and difficult time.
"If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man." Psalm 11:3
9) A little bit of kindness goes a long way. We heard an excellent message that you can find here about a response to the election. In it, Mike Bickle cuts through who we like or dislike and talks about excelling in kindness in these times. This isn’t a trite, Sunday School lesson for kids. This is how we win! We choose to let the fruit of the Holy Spirit grow in us and we practice kindness. That doesn’t mean we agree with all people around us. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t firm or confident in what we believe. But, it does mean that we can treat people who disagree with kindness and be willing to really hear them.
10) Our nation needs healing. Our nation is deeply divided. The only solution for a division so deep is healing. What do you do for a man who has been slashed down the middle with a sword? You sew him up and pray for healing. It feels our nation is in such a critical place. What can truly sew us back together again?
As I was weeping one night over the racial divisions in our nation, the words “heal our land” were ringing in my ears.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
It’s time. It’s time to pray, repent, and truly live as Christ has called us to. If not now, when?
Matthew or Julie Wine