Understanding Biblical Prophecy


I was interested in prophecy even before I encountered the Lord: first, because it was thrilling and a bit frightening, and now because I love the Lord so much I want to know everything about what He’s doing. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned that can make the study of Biblical prophecy more enriching and productive:

1) The heart of all prophecy is the revelation of Jesus the Messiah. While it can be easy to get caught up in solving the riddles and filling out the charts, if we miss what Jesus is saying about Himself, then we’re missing the point. It doesn’t matter how much head knowledge we gain if the relational part is missing.

2) Jesus shares His deep secrets with His friends. Being a “Christian” doesn’t qualify us as being His friend–spending time getting to know Him does.  Understanding prophecy is very easy–it’s a lot of patience and a lot of listening, starting on a foundation of friendship. Jesus will reveal layer after layer of deep wisdom in His timing and as per His priority.

3) The Bible has a lot to say. When God speaks we should listen, yet when it comes to reading the Bible, many assume that it can’t mean what it says.  The truth is, the Bible is straight-forward most of the time. When we don’t understand, we should pray into it, rather than assume it must be saying something else.

4) It doesn’t take brilliance to hear from the Lord, but some study is required. I’ve met intellectual Christians who over-complicate simple spiritual truths and spend more time on the word level of the Bible than the main picture and miss the point; and I’ve met emotionally oriented Christians who trust in verses out of context and can’t rationally defend their faiths. Either extreme is not good, but we can trust that God has called all people, regardless of personality and ‘smarts’, to follow Him. Our relationship with Him takes diligence in both learning and listening.

5) Prophecy can’t be learned through books and commentaries! I’m not saying not to read commentaries, but to read them with care. Even if the author is brilliant and right on, spiritual wisdom must be passed through spiritual methods–it doesn’t help to have rote understanding of what may be if we can’t hear it from the Lord ourselves.  We must all cultivate our own relationships with the Lord.

6) End time prophecy is sealed until the appointed time. I strongly believe that the appointed time is quickly nearing and that we have increasingly more understanding of what the Spirit has been saying to the church since the beginning; but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We learn, and ask, and listen for understanding and are given it one new piece at a time. We need to be careful not to fill in the missing pieces with our own knowledge. It’s okay to admit that we don’t understand everything right now.

7) Prophecy is more than just the “prophetic” passages. To get God’s full message, we study everything He says and everything He does. We study the history of His people the Jews, the history of the church, and we even examine our own lives for clues to what He’s been doing in the past and present that reveal His heart for the future. It’s not just about Revelation and Daniel and so forth; when we know His heart, we know His battle plan.


Questions to Ask Ourselves when God is Silent


1) Where is my focus?  How much have I truly wanted God and how much may I actually be desiring the things of the world (safety, health, physical needs…)?

2) When did I last hear Him and what did He say?  Was I obedient with the last message He gave me?  Did I learn and grow from it?  Was it an encouragement that I need to rest in during this rough time?  An exhortation that I still need to obey?

3) What things am I hearing and who is saying them?  Am I believing deceptive spirits and worldly advice?  Is the Lord speaking in small ways that I’ve brushed off as something else?

4) Am I really listening for Him?  Have I limited His response by assuming He will say something particular?  Am I open to Him speaking whatever He wants through any means?

5) Have I been willing and able to rest in His presence in silence?  Does my faith depend on His affirmation, or can I abide in Him knowing His silence is not an absence?

6) Do I know His voice well or is a personal encounter and relationship with God something I need to put extra focus on?  May it be that His silence is a hint for me to look for Him more thoroughly–an invitation that He’s hiding so that I can find Him?

7) How can I simplify my life to make room for the Lord’s voice?  How can I position myself to receive more of the Holy Spirit?

Have I forgotten anything?  Can you think of other helpful things to reflect on and consider when God seems distant, silent, or absent?


Many Will Be Deceived


Deception is the number one sign Jesus told His believers to look for in recognition of His second coming–deception not in the world, but among believers, even the elite.  Warnings against such deception are also strongly proclaimed by the apostles and appear in almost every book of the New Testament–both as something to come and as a rebuke to those churches in which it had already started.  This isn’t a small thing; it’s something ALL Christians are affected by, whether they are interested in theology or not.  Christians had better be on the alert, asking the Lord to test and refine their hearts, that they may not be deceived.

So in what areas may we have formed a wrong worldview?  What are we sure about that we have never tested?  How much of our faiths are based in personal revelation and knowledge and how much from social or church tradition?

It’s so easy to see problems in other denominations, churches, and peoples; we had better also be praying into the refining of our own faiths.  Those who assume their theology and traditions are solid are often the same who are being mislead.  But the Lord will continue to reveal Himself to those who are hungry for Him and fear His ways.


Verses on Spiritual Warfare (Part Two: Strengthening Before Battle)


Coming from an athletic family, I like to call these the “defensive” verses.  They focus on what to do before the spiritual attack comes–how to “put on the armor of God” so you aren’t shaken when the battle shifts to your home front.  It is not, by any means a ‘complete’ list, but rather a sample of the verses I’ve collected through my experiences.

The themes are:

1. Remain in Christ by connecting deeply with Him

  • Read scripture
  • Test all things and remain only in Truth
  • Pray in the Spirit
  • Be on the alert through watching and praying

2. Stop remaining in that which is not Christ

  • Battle now against your flesh, so you can battle later against the enemy of this world
  • If you know you’re in sin (disobedience to God), do everything you can to get out
  • Sacrifice the things that aren’t beneficial even if they aren’t ‘bad’

Verses on How to Fight the Defensive Battle:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

“Finally, brethren, whatever is truelet your mind dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

“Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth” (Ephesians 6:14).

“The night is almost gone, and the day is near.  Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of  lightput on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:12 & 14).

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His mightPut on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:10-13; continue through verse 17 for specifics).

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).

Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8).

“Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.  No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.  Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:12-14).

Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).

Run in such a way that you may win…I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24, 26-27).


Spring Cleaning and Spiritual Cleaning


I’m on an extended vacation visiting family and have been helping with some ‘Spring’ cleaning now that my youngest brother is off to college and my parents will have a large home to themselves.  It has certainly been interesting to sort through old linens and old memories.

So much of what I’d personally collected and designed over the years is so out of character with who God has re-created me to be.  I was throwing things out left and right, and even chose to destroy a couple pieces of art I’d made while being influenced by the wrong spirits.

I’ve learned that physical cleaning and spiritual cleaning often go hand in hand.  It is not within God’s nature to be cluttered, dirty, and deteriorating, but rather to demonstrate His glory: we are to be good stewards of what He’s given us (whether small or large).  There’s a reason why physically cleaning can be more relaxing and make things look newer and more valuable.  Simply: cleanliness is part of God’s nature, and the other is not.

Of course, both the physical and spiritual realms are important.  If you’ve never spiritually cleaned your home, it’s just as essential.  You keep your home spiritually clean by regularly inviting the presence of the Lord (spending time worshiping God through prayer, song, reading the Bible, talking admiringly about Him, et cetera), and by keeping out that which is detestable to Him.

That second part is especially important: getting rid of the detestable stuff.  If you own anything that isn’t pleasing to Jesus, especially if it’s been involved in a religious ceremony for other ‘gods’, it can be like a beacon to attract spirits who think they can make a home in those who are using the ‘demonically sacred’ item.  This can plateau your spiritual growth (and, in my experience, even invite tormenting demons–in my case, I wasn’t aware of the affect until I was advised to get rid of some things and the torment decreased).

You do this kind of spiritual cleansing by walking through your home and praying that if there is anything you need to get rid of that Jesus would make it clear.  Then be obedient to what you think you’re hearing–even if it’s your favorite book, or a great CD, or the token you bought abroad, or the necklace that’s been in your family for generations.   Nothing in this life can compare to knowing Jesus on a personal level.

There is a promise that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8), and one of the ways we do this is to chose to honor Him over every other thing by (as the verse says) “cleansing our hands”.  We physically and spiritually clean the best we can, and thus, invite His Spirit to come in to renew and strengthen the rest of us.


The Holy Spirit


The Holy Spirit is literally the Spirit of God.  1 Corinthians 2:10-16 tells us that just as we have a spirit in us that knows the depths of our thoughts, so does God have a Spirit that knows the depths of His being–and that’s the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the same Spirit that resides in God the Father and Jesus themselves.  He’s the third person in the trinity God.

Since the Holy Spirit is the inner Spirit of God Himself, He knows all things.  This more than qualifies Him to be the Spirit of truth, the Helper, who Jesus promises will teach us all things (John 14:17 & 26) and guide us into all truth (John 16:13).

This is really exciting!  And it means that when we ask for more of the Holy Spirit, what we’re getting is the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16)!  Even recognizing only the surface level issues of our flesh, we know that the mind of Christ is something we need much more of; we should be diligently pursuing the Holy Spirit so that we can closely partner and connect with God in the way He intended.


Evidence of Repentance


In 2 Corinthians 7:11, Paul tells the church of Corinth what repentance looks like.  True repentance is evidenced by:

  • earnestness (diligence)
  • vindication (some versions say, ‘clearing of ourselves’)
  • indignation (we begin to hate the sin; it becomes disgusting to us)
  • fear of the Lord (reverence to the point of trembling before Him)
  • longing (intense desire)
  • zeal (we pursue, embrace, and defend Him with enthusiasm)
  • avenging of wrong (we move from tolerating our own sin to punishing it; we force sin to depart from us by submitting to God)

When we begin demonstrating these attitudes, we show ourselves to be innocent in the matter–true repentance (repentance means ‘a change of mind’) has taken place.

Remember when God the Father instructs Moses about how the Jewish people should sacrifice to the Lord?  Exodus 29:10-30, amongst other places, shows that there was to be a “sin offering”, “burnt offering”, “wave offering”, and “heave offering” (other passages even include “guilt offering”).

Let’s not cut repentance short by stopping after ‘sin offering’; let’s continue to offer a fragrant aroma of prayer to the Lord and to continue fighting against our flesh until everything in competition with the Lord is purged from us.

It’s not enough for us to JUST confess our sins and receive forgiveness–this is a good start, but Christianity is more about seeing and knowing Jesus than simply being forgiven.  That is, a Christian can be forgiven and ‘saved’, and yet not be walking in the freedom Christ intended.  The freedom occurs when we let godly sorrow move us to full submission and a renewed mind.  As we experience this full repentence, we also begin to experience the Lord Himself because the cloudiness of sin clears itself from us enough that we can begin to see our Lord.


Stop indulging the flesh


One of the best ways to grow spiritually is to stop indulging the flesh.

Paul writes:

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men…for you were not yet able to receive it.  Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?  For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

It sounds like the church in Corinth struggled primarily with envy, offense, and division (putting more emphasis on earthly leaders than Jesus Himself).  But whatever our personal battles, when we get rid of the things of the flesh, we have more room in us for things of the Spirit.  We also clear ourselves of the ‘static’ of the world, so that we can better focus on God and His voice.

So how do we get rid of the stubborn parts of our flesh?

  • We continually make an active choice in our hearts to submit to God and war against our flesh (through prayer, deliberate choice, and maybe even the intervention of other Christians)—the point isn’t whether we are initially successful, but that we earnestly and diligently desire righteousness
  • We  stop feeding our lusts by choosing not to do, watch, read or listen to the “permissible” things that are preventing us from fully focusing on the Lord
  • We welcome the conviction of the Holy Spirit and desire to work out our salvation with fear and trembling through repentance
  • In fact, we ask the Lord to search our hearts, that we may be purified–as we repent–of hidden fleshly desires
  • We abide in His Word and immerse ourselves in His truth so that we continue to grow in righteous qualities (2 Peter 1:5-8)

In my own life, I’ve found that the more I pursue the Lord and consider Him in my everyday choices, the freer I become and the easier it is to walk more in His Spirit and less in my flesh.  Jesus’ grace gives us the power to choose righteousness, so let’s discipline our bodies and lay aside every encumbrance that we may effectively run the race set before us (1 Cor 9:24-27, Heb 12:1-2).


Creative ways to read the Bible without a devotional book


Who wants to spend $15 on a devotional book when you can read the Bible in a fulfilling way for free! 🙂

Here’s a list of some of my favorite ways to get more out of the Word of God.  And remember, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to guide you into all truth (John 14:26 & John 16:13), so remember to pray for His help before you read!

The prayer I typically pray is: “Holy Spirit, help me to understand everything I read today and write the words of scripture on my heart. Give me wisdom, and help me to gain a better understanding of Jesus so I can be a faithful witness to Him.”

If you’re a young Christian:

Start reading the Bible at the beginning of the New Testament; this is where Jesus’ life and teachings are described, so it’s the most relevant for Christians. Jesus’ time on earth is described in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (which are called the Gospels). John has a bit more theology and is harder to understand, so I recommend starting with one of the other three. The first time I read the Bible with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I started in Luke, then went back to Matthew and read the whole New Testament in order.

For the more mature Christian:

Make it a treasure hunt. Remember how Proverbs says to search for wisdom like precious gold and silver? I’ve found it really satisfying to search the Bible for the answer to a particular question. For instance: “What has Jesus commanded Christians to do?”, “What does the Bible promise?”, “How did David worship the Lord?” And then prayerfully search the scriptures for as much wisdom as you can glean. -Or- ask the Lord to give you the question AND the answer! (Those seeking wisdom really excite the Lord!)

Focus on one book. Many Bible studies do this, but it’s even better to do it on your own. I recommend reading the book over and over and over again, paying attention to the big picture first (who is writing the book to whom and why? Can anything be gleaned about the historical context?), then the smaller details (what is the Holy Spirit speaking to you personally?). Since the books were written as individual units, it is essential we also read them that way.

Focus on one author or audience. Read and compare Paul’s letters, or all of John’s writings.  Or focus on one church (say Ephesus), or one people group (say the Philistines) and follow that audience through the scriptures.

Make a comparison. Try comparing one book to another (say, Genesis to Revelation, or 1 Cor to 2 Cor).  It can be especially interesting to see how the Old Testament mirrors the New.  Or watch to see how different apostles reveal unique aspects of the same mysteries.

Ask for divine guidance. One of the easiest ways to practice hearing and identifying the voice of the Holy Spirit is to ask Him where in the Bible to read and then pause and listen for what He says. He will absolutely tell you something! Dig deep in prayer and wait for His voice! Often He’ll take you to surprisingly relevant and personal truths!

Look for Jesus. Every story in the Bible points to Jesus, and reveals something unique about the nature of God. Pick a chunk of scripture or a book and start praying that the Holy Spirit would allow you to know Jesus in a deeper way.  You could even ask specifically, “Holy Spirit, show me how this passage reveals Jesus’ first (or second) coming,” or, “Holy Spirit, reveal a facet of the Father’s nature that I’ve never seen before.”

Take it slow. Read a very small portion (especially of something already somewhat familiar so you don’t accidentally take it out of context) and meditate on it throughout the day, or during a “quiet time” with the Lord.

Pray the scriptures. It can be really powerful to connect to God by agreeing and proclaiming what He’s already spoken in His word. You could do this by praying a Psalm, or one of the prayers of the saints already recorded in the Bible. Or you could turn something else into a prayer. For instance, take the words Jesus spoke and start dialoging with Him about them, and proclaiming and pledging your allegiance to Him and His wisdom.

Pick a historic time period. For example, strive to learn us much as you can about the church right after Jesus ascended into heaven, or the building of the first temple, or the time of the first Diaspora, and then search the scriptures for everything pertaining to that specific time (including those looking back, or prophesying forward, to the time period of interest). If you were looking to understand the time of the building of the second temple, for instance, you could read Ezra, Nehemiah and even parts of Daniel and Isaiah.

Other Ideas:

  • I like to write, underline and highlight in my Bible so that I know what I was thinking at various times I was reading. Sometimes I’ll put question marks in the columns or write out what I don’t understand–the next time I read the passage I am often pleasantly surprised that the Lord has addressed my concern or question.
  • Keep a journal to record what the Lord is showing and teaching you.
  • Use a website like blueletterbible.org or biblegateway.com to analyze the Biblical language on a word level or to check out other translations of the Bible.

An explanation of the “body of Christ”


Christians are often talking about “the body of Christ” and how ‘the church’ is to be and act as His body.  I can’t recall that I’ve ever heard anyone ‘define’ this in a helpful way, which makes sense since different circles of ‘the church’ have an unspoken connotation of this lingo within their communities.

So, I’m going to do my best to articulate what “the body of Christ” means.  I think this is actually very profound. 🙂

Jesus came to earth as a man. He was fully God, but fully man.  And, being fully man, He had a “man” body rather than a “God” body (in fact, He still has a “man” body of sorts–though now a resurrected body).

Jesus was also fully walking in the Holy Spirit (read the gospels carefully to see this), which is how He could not and did not sin (1 John 3:6, 9).  And Jesus had all the spiritual gifts, and all power, and all authority, and all wisdom through the Spirit… Most Christians, I think, know this about Jesus, but haven’t put much thought into it.  The point, essentially, is that He is the fullness of “man”–the only one found worthy (Rev 5).

Okay, so anyone who calls themself a Christian is (or at least has the invitation to be) a member of ‘the church’, which is also called ‘the body of Christ’.

What this means is that, as a collective unit, we will embody Jesus.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the metaphor of how each Christian represents a part (or member) of “Christ’s body”‘–this is a more literal description than I’d realized.

See, Jesus had all the spiritual gifts for Himself.  We each have one, or a few, or a bunch–whatever the Lord has blessed us with (and given us responsibility over).  Together, we will have all of the gifts to the full extent that Jesus Himself had them! That’s what it means that we are His body!

Jesus had all power and all authority, and He passed that mantle down to us (commanding us to walk as He walked!).  But only together will we have the strength and power worthy to be the “bride” of the King!

Jesus had the ability to stay in the Spirit, whereas we have “on” and “off” moments as we fight out the spiritual battle before us.  He never sinned because He walked in the Spirit, while we would be lying if we said we had that same fullness in the Spirit (1 John 1:8).  But as “the body of Christ” we will learn to walk in righteousness, and the members of the body left when our Lord comes will have made themselves holy and unblemished as the collective bride (Rev 19:7).

We can’t accomplish the fullness of Christ individually.  But if we AREN’T individually pursuing and cultivating a love for the Lord, godly character, wisdom, and the stirring of our spirits to walk worthy of our personal callings through our spiritual gifts, then the body of Christ will arise as His bride without us!  We’ll find we aren’t one of the members of His body.

Let’s spend the time to learn from Him on our own, so we can fulfill our unified calling as “the body”!