Awakening the Dawn at 5:00 am

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Every Saturday night after service as I’m getting into bed at about 11:00 pm, I set my alarm for 3:45 am. The goal is to be out the door by 4:25, backpack and tea (earl grey, hot) in hand. It takes me about five minutes to drive to my destination. I rarely see more than three or four cars on the road. The Starbucks I pass isn’t even open that early.

But I have a fire to start.

The Prayer Room is open 18 hours a day, 5:00 am to 11:00 pm, every day, no matter what. Literally. We’ve NEVER missed a day since we started 11 years ago, and only two or three times have we ever missed so much as a single minute.

Every Sunday I have the privilege of serving as the morning section leader and opening The Prayer Room at 5:00 am with (usually) two other people. Sometimes it’s just me and my worship leader. He always starts playing his guitar a minute or two before 5:00, so that when the clock shows those zeroes the fire is already on the altar. At 5:00, I pray an opening prayer over the room, which usually goes something like this:

“Good morning, Jesus. We love You. Thank You for another day we get to sing love songs to You for 18 hours straight. We ask that Your presence wuld fill this place today, that You would speak and move however You want… You are so, so worthy of all of this and more.”

And then I get to sit and pace and sing and pray in that room for the next six hours (I do spend a bit of that time in the lobby as I’m ushering) overseeing the fire on the altar until 11:00 when the afternoon section leader takes over.

5:00 am prayer meeting this morning

5:00 am prayer meeting this morning

I am very much not a morning person. When I have no schedule at all, I’m likely to be awake 10:00 am to 2:00 am every day. I knew this section leader assignment was going to be a stretch for me. But even though it’s dang early, there’s something really, really precious about giving God the sacrifice of love songs at dawn.

Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
Psalm 57:8

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
Psalm 5:3

I believe dawn is a really special time to God. Even though nightime is also beautiful and holy, there’s something truly remarkable about the freshness of a new day.

The light breaking over the horizon, chasing away the shadows.

The fragrance of dew on the grass.

The quietness of a world just waking up.

His mercies are new every morning. (Lam 3:22-23)

Scripture likes to use the image of dawn to describe Jesus’ return. Revelation twice calls Jesus the “Morning Star”. (Rev 2:28, 22:16) The same phrase is in 2 Peter 1:19, where Peter instructs the church to stay faithful to the prophecies of Scripture “until the day dawns and the morning star shines in your hearts.” The Old Testament, too, is filled with prophecies of God delivering Jerusalem and filling her with the light of His glory at dawn. (Psalm 46:5, Isaiah 58:8, Isaiah 60:1)

Will Jesus literally appear in the sky one day just as the sun peeks over the Mount of Olives on the eastern horizon in Jerusalem? I don’t know… but knowing His penchant for fulfilling things more literally than we expect, maybe! At the very least, it’s going to be the darkest hour of human history, and Jesus’ sudden return to make all things new will feel very much like morning light breaking through the black of night.

And in the midst of these prophecies, we have prophecies of songs of worship breaking out with the dawn. In the midst of a dramatic prophecy of end-time judgment on the whole earth, Isaiah prophesies:

Therefore glorify the Lord in the dawning light…
From the ends of the earth we have heard songs:
“Glory to the righteous!”
Isaiah 24:15-16a NKJV

And to bring it full circle, we come back to Psalm 57:8 (and identical phrasing in Psalm 108:2):

Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
Psalm 57:8

When I think of my 5:00 am prayer meetings, I think of the preciousness of giving Jesus that morning offering of love, that He is being glorified at the very beginning of the day. But I also think of the big picture of “awakening the dawn” of His appearing. Our worship is actually paving the way for His coming. 2 Peter 2:12 says we can “hasten the coming of the day” of His return, and every sleepy little 5:00 am prayer is filling up the bowls of incense before His throne. One day, the prayers of the Bride will reach a crescendo, and everything will be in place for Him to split the sky and stand on earth again.

There will come a day when the dawn will break over the horizon; just when it looks like things couldn’t get darker, the Morning Star will appear to make all things new.

As Aslan himself says it,

“The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
(C. S. Lewis, “The Last Battle.”)

Come, Lord Jesus.

 

Revelation Study/Getaway Weekend!

Bible, beach, babes.

This past weekend, I attended a mini women’s retreat with a few ladies from my church. We went to a friend’s condo in Oceanside, CA, and spent the weekend walking on the beach, talking, praying, and studying the Bible together. It was a truly special and memorable weekend!

I was asked to prepare a few teachings on the book of Revelation, and so was another woman, named Lynn. Revelation probably isn’t the topic I would have chosen for a women’s retreat (I mean, isn’t Song of Solomon and Proverbs 31 more typical fare for these kinds of things? I’ve actually never been to a women’s retreat before.) but these ladies were really hungry to know what the Word says about this crucial area of understanding– the end times and the return of Jesus.

I admit to being nervous about the teaching. Lynn planned to also teach on Revelation, but from the opposite eschatological perspective. Whereas I believe that the events of Revelation are still to come (the futurist/historical premillennialist view), she believes that most of the events were fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (the partial preterist/amillennialist view). I really wasn’t sure what form those discussions would take, and even though I’ve studied several different eschatological views, I was really nervous about being able to represent my beliefs well in this kind of situation.

As it turned out, everything went very smoothly. I was amazed at the unity and fellowship that God brought. Several of the ladies got deeply touched by the Father, and we all felt very encouraged. I came to love and respect Lynn very much; she is extremely kind, wise, and hungry for God and His truth. Her wisdom as we candidly discussed different life situations and world issues was invaluable. She has spent years studying Revelation, sometimes for 10-15 hours each week, while being a wife and homeschooling mom. I was deeply provoked by her determination to search out truth for herself, as well as the way she prioritised relationship over debating. That’s a woman who loves Jesus and loves people very well indeed!

I also noticed several themes that we both shared as we were teaching:

  1. Revelation is meant to be understood by all believers, not only the theologically elite.
  2. Revelation becomes clear as we let Scripture interpret Scripture.
  3. Revelation is the revelation OF JESUS CHRIST (Rev. 1:1) – it’s the story of His heart.
  4. Revelation isn’t meant to be fearful- it’s a story of hope and courage for the Church.
  5. Revelation is at its core the story of a jealous God of love, not an angry, trigger-happy God of smitage*.
  6. Revelation sees the Church come into full maturity as the Bride finally looks like Jesus.
  7. Revelation ends with God’s Kingdom being fully established and His Bride being with Him forever.

I also had volunteered to lead worship (I brought my little keyboard and set it up on the kitchen table), and it was such a privilege to glorify the Lord through song with these ladies and invite the Holy Spirit into our midst. God brought a supernatural unity as we fellowshipped, studied, worshipped, and prayed.

Here are the notes from my Revelation teachings this weekend. I’m also adding the timelines from IHOPKC that I used and gave the ladies with the session 1 notes. Many more study resources can be found at MikeBickle.org and IHOPKC.org.

Session 1 – Themes and Structure
Session 2 – Bridegroom, King, and Judge
Session 3 – Jesus’ Second Coming
IHOPKC Revelation timeline

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*Don’t go looking for that word in any theological dictionary. You won’t find it.

Why Study Eschatology? (The Short Answer)

“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30

(One of my IHOPU classes, Basic Christian Beliefs, is giving the assignment of blogging on certain questions from the lessons every week. This week, I’m choosing the question “Why is studying eschatology a profitable practice for a Christian?”)

Eschatology can be a really intimidating concept. Many Christians don’t really like to think about it in any kind of detail. We love to quote verses like “He will wipe every tear from their eyes,” (Revelation 21:4) but don’t really study the process that leads up to that moment. I’ve had family members and close friends tell me that their eschatology is “pan-tribulation” (“It will all ‘pan out’ in the end”) and that reading the book of Revelation is “too scary.”

This boggles my mind. The fact is, God is telling a STORY with humanity that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. We passionately defend the beginning and the middle, but sometimes it seems like we couldn’t care less about the end, so long as we all end up happily ever after somehow in “a better place.”

I want to know the story God is telling. He has wrapped up some of the most profound and stunning revelations of His character in those final few chapters. I can’t know Jesus fully unless I look at Him in the context of a Bridegroom, King, and Judge who’s coming back to rescue and marry His bride, rule the earth, and execute full justice. The book of Revelation is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 1:1)

Furthermore, that time is getting close. We would all agree that it’s closer than it’s ever been, but seriously, it’s getting CLOSE close. I want to have as much understanding of this time period as possible so that when things start happening, my own heart can remain unoffended and fully engaged with what God is doing, and I can also help others to stay in that place. There is no reason I should be caught unaware on that day. He’s already given me everything I need to understand what’s coming – the Spirit and the Word. He wants me to watch, stay awake, and set my heart to love the day of His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8)

Maybe it won’t come in my lifetime. It really might, but if it doesn’t, I will build a legacy for the next generation of this eager and faithful watching. When He comes, He WILL find a Bride made ready. (Revelation 19:7)

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
~1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
~Luke 18:7-8

Bringing Jesus Home

The past few days have been wonderful, overwhelming, emotional… but it’s okay because I like crying. 🙂 God’s doing good things inside me, although I’m not entirely sure what yet.

On Friday night I attended a night of the Call2All congress hosted at FCF. It’s a gathering of church leaders from around the world to put together world evangelism strategies. (Check out Call2All on Facebook with pictures of the event.) At the service I was at, they talked about what was going on with world evangelism and told us about a meeting that happened at Amsterdam 2000 with a few hundred leaders of the world’s most influential ministries such as YWAM and Campus Crusade. They were presented with a list of a couple hundred of the world’s remaining unreached people groups and by the end of the day, they had divided up the list among them and committed together to reach them all. Ideas were flying, partnerships were formed and strategies were devised. The Body of Christ has been mobilised and no corner of the planet is safe. (I encourage you to take six minutes and watch the story of that meeting HERE.)

Also, China is mobilising thousands of missionaries in a divinely inspired “back to Jerusalem” movement aimed at spreading the gospel throughout all the Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim nations geographically located between China and Israel. I saw many prominent evangelism leaders on stage at FCF on Friday night (along with the governor of Kansas) joining hands with underground church leaders in China (although most of them couldn’t be on stage because being recorded on camera would endanger their lives) and committing together to do this thing. I watched spiritual history being made.

Let me slow down and explain what this means. This is not another “That’s cool, one more step forward.” This means that the finish line is in sight and the Great Commission is more than likely going to be FINISHED in our lifetime. These leaders are expecting it to be complete in their lifetimes, and they’re all 60-70 years old!

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne… crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'” Revelation 7:9

One of the main things Jesus is waiting for before he returns is this completing of the Great Commission. And let me repeat—THE FINISH LINE IS IN SIGHT. We are no longer in the “drop in the bucket” stage. We are witnessing the beginnings of the final sweep of the gospel in the nations before Jesus returns. Very, very soon, we’ll be living in Revelation.

Jesus could very possibly, dare I say easily, be back on Earth before I have grandkids. That is not a joke or wishful thinking. That is the evidence of the signs of the times.

This is not the era of “someday he’ll return, won’t that be nice” like it’s a sweet fluffy little “happily ever after” in the vague future. No, one day SOON he’s going to SPLIT THE SKY and come with a roar and the sound of a trumpet. (Is 64:1, 1 Thes 4:16) All of creation groans for that day. This planet is on the edge of its seat, waiting for the revealing of the sons of God on the day when the Firstborn comes home. (Rom 8:19, 23)

This is what I’ve been freaking out about. I cannot possibly live a “normal life” in light of this. The only thing that matters anymore is preparing his bride, bringing him home, and seeing him face to face. What will he say to me on that day? Will he honour me by standing like he did for Stephen? (Acts 7:56) Will he give me the crown of righteousness for those who have loved his appearing? (2 Tim 4:8) Will he say “Well done, good and faithful servant”? (Matt 5:21) A thousand years for now, most of what I’m now filling my life with will not matter. What will stand when my life is tested by fire? (1 Cor 3:12-15)

Peter said we can “hasten the day.” (2 Peter 3:12) There are two specific ways I know of to do this: through prayer/ worship and fulfilling the great commission. He is raising up a 24/7 prayer movement of a lovesick bride crying “Come!” (Rev 22:17) and he is raising up a missions movement to carry his glory to the ends of the earth. (Hab 2:14) And now, he is joining them together.

“They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the LORD they shout from the west. Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD; in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One.” Isaiah 24:14-16a

What will that look like for me? Do I join IHOPKC? Do I join YWAM? Do I live as an ordinary radical SAHHM (Stay At Home Homeschool Mom)? I don’t know. And for the time being, I am okay with that. There are a few things I know about my destiny. God’s been revealing these to me one by one, uniquely tailored to me. I was made to:

-Pour out my worship like Mary of Bethany. (First Commandment)

-Cast vision for who God is and what he’s doing. (Second Commandment and Great Commission)

-Live with the clear endgame of Jesus’ return to marry his Bride and establish his Kingdom.

That is what my life is about. I want to bring Jesus home. And that day is suddenly looking very, very close.

People, get ready.