Monday, August 2, 2010

Predictions and prophecies

I wrote this article in early June 2008. We all know what happened in September 2008: the collapse of multi-national financial institutions and the government admission that we, um, er, had been in a recession after all since December 2007. Hmmm, what a surprise. It was an even greater surprise when I was laid off in June 2009, and in September 2009 a financial expert declared that the Great Recession was over. Well, at least HE has a job.

June 2008– Some in-the-position-to-know newsmakers, pundits, and government spokespeople look at financial indicators and say that the economy is strong, to spend your tax refund on big-ticket items, and not to listen to the pessimistic forecasters--there will be no recession in 2008. Others say that not only is a recession predicted, it is already upon us. The local newspaper has changed its editorial format to reflect the many pages of legal notices about foreclosures and bankruptcies. Many newspapers have closed their operations for lack of advertising revenue and subscription losses. Two months ago, we heard that US gasoline prices might rise as high as $4 per gallon. In California, $4 is a dimming, distant memory. We've been there and done that.

On Sunday, June 1 [2008], a religious program predicted that Fred Thompson and Hillary Clinton would receive their party nominations, and battle it out for the 2008 US presidential election (must have been taped last December before primaries!), and that people should invest everything in precious metals against the coming economic meltdown. In 2001, the Iraq war was predicted by the Secretary of Defense to last no more than five months. Geologists predict that southern California will suffer a 7.8 earthquake in our lifetime. This hurricane season will be more terrible than others because of worldwide climate change. Every time the doorbell rings, my dog predicts that very dangerous people have come calling.

With all the alarms and hype, it’s easy to sink into a funk about how awful the world is. We Christians say to each other that surely, Jesus is coming "soon." But Jesus said that two millennia ago, and it doesn’t seem particularly immediate! Meanwhile, it’s definitely more difficult to make the income stretch to meet the expenditure, and the “bad guys” work even harder in myriad ways to steal your earnings.

How was it possible that in the midst of a hurricane of several days’ duration, and the impending doom of the ship carrying him, the apostle Paul was able to have peace, and tell his fellow sufferers that all was well, to have a meal, and they’d all be saved? How could Jesus’ disciples, experienced fishermen, be expected to know that their slumbering Master would calm their raging tempest with His spoken word?

Hebrews 13 has interesting prepositions and conjunctions. The writer exhorts us to keep loving both our spiritual family and the aliens among us; to cultivate hospitality because we may be honored with the presence of the angels; to honor marriage vows (even if you’re not married, be faithful to your future spouse); and then – “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5-6 NLT.

How do those statements track? For? So? Surprising little words. Paul used the same little words at the end of the two-week gale that threatened 276 lives on the ship. So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said.” Acts 27:25 NLT

This part of the story holds a huge surprise: cut loose your only hope and security, let it drift off and sink, and watch what God will do to your situation. 
Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship. But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.” So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away.  Acts 27:30-32 NLT

LET GO?? Be relaxed? Have peace? Put your hands down and stop struggling? That’s a lot like saying during the Force-Five tornado, “Peace, be still.”

A song lyric by Steven Curtis Chapman says, “Sometimes His voice comes calling / Like rolling thunder, / Or like driving rain; / And sometimes His voice is quiet, / And we start to wonder / If He knows our pain. / But He who spoke peace to the water / Cares more for our hearts than the waves…” *

We often attribute troubles and storms to the enemy. To the devil. But sometimes it’s God Himself in the raging hurricane or the earthquake or the fire. His voice, the same voice that created the heavens and earth, the same voice that declares our salvation, comes in a whisper, and it comes in a roar. Sometimes His glory and grace can best be revealed in what we perceive as trouble.

How was God’s glory revealed in Paul’s storm and shipwreck? Everything happened as Paul’s angel had said. No one even lost a hair in the ship’s breakup and the swim to the island. But better than that, when the poisonous snake struck Paul's hand, people witnessed God’s miraculous healing power and became believers in Jesus Christ.

Just by reading the news, we can see how predictions played out as the months and years pass, and we can make educated predictions of our own. But some predictions are not of this world: they’re spiritually discerned. That’s how we can predict with confidence during a crisis of finance or war, during a life-threatening natural disaster, that we trust in the Lord and have submitted all we are and have to Him, SO He is in control and we will have no fear FOR He is God alone.

We have faith. We trust that God’s glory will be revealed, and that we are His servants, His instruments to make peace where there is war, to create prosperity from disaster, to encourage and lift up the terrified and hopeless and abused.

We know that this world is the unreal, and that the kingdom of God is the ultimate reality. It’s all upside down and backward from what we’ve always known. The first is the last. The peace is found in the eye of the storm.

Predictions. We will have NO FEAR. All we have to know is that God will never leave us or forsake us. Ever. Because He is Immanuel, God With Us.

* His Eyes, by Steven Curtis Chapman, c. 1988.


  1. A great posting again, Christy! It is hard to let go of material security in the midst of life's storms. I think people are now saying we're in the Great Recession. I lost my job in April 09 when I thought the job market would pick back up in the following months. This is where faith comes in. :)

  2. Thanks, Karen, and thank you for "sharing" this link on Facebook. :)

    I prepared as best I could for the Great Recession. I saved several months' worth of expenses. I paid off debt in 2004, because there was a huge housing bubble that HAD to burst--it was only a question of when. I saved the maximum vacation time my company would allow, not to mention I saved the money I would have spent on transportation, accommodation, food, and shopping. I didn't think I'd lose my job, but my preparation at least kept me solid for 6 months, with zero income or unemployment comp.

    In this age and this economy, 6 months is no longer enough time to get re-employed. Who knew?

    One scripture I cling to is this: "I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread." Psalm 37:25. God does provide for the helpless (in surprising ways) when society does not.


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