February 25

Oh Proud Nation!

The Word came to me again:

Look at the proud nation! How they go here and there without a thought for those they trample underfoot. “I did this,” they say. “I made these riches.” Oh, you wicked, arrogant people, have you no shame? What you have, you were given by your Lord, or else you took from someone else. You have made nothing! You are but the image of the One that is, and even that you have forgotten! My son gave his life for you to save you from sin and even death. What do you give in return? You shield your eyes from the poor, call them criminals, and blame them for their poverty.

Hear this, oh proud nation: I do not know you! For you have strayed far from my teachings, and look only upon yourselves. You cry “Lord, Lord,” but you say it as if into a mirror. Save yourselves, then, if you think you can! Send forth your mighty armies, your riches, your bankers, and your politicians. See how they fare! Beat your brows upon the cliffs of the sea until you return to your senses, or until you drown.

Rebellious children, you do not hear the language of love. Listen then to the language of consequence. You will reap as you have sown. Your fields shall burst forth with weeds and thistles—eat them! Your cup will be of poisoned water—drink it. And your mattress shall be hard with the bones of those you have trodden in your quest for riches. See then how you sleep.

When you have had enough, when you are ready to hear, turn then back to me, for I have not yet given up my love for you. But know this: it is not I who punish you, but you who punish yourselves. No longer will I shield you, for you have become spoiled children who do not learn.

February 19

Behold a Pale Horse: A Vision

I had planned to write a different blog post today. But I had this vision while at church this morning, and it seemed appropriate to change direction.

Behold a pale horse, and on it a black rider, and he came down from between the hills into the valley wielding a sword of fire.

(I had seen this once before, clearly echoing Revelation 6:8, about two months ago. It’s the first time a vision has repeated itself. But this time it continued.)

And there we were, our homes built on stone foundations, but they were made of wood and they could not withstand him. Our locks were of no value, nor were our fences. And all our weapons failed us, for there was only one weapon that could be used against him. That was the Sword of Righteousness, which is the tongue of Jesus. But who can wield it? For it feels strange in your hand. Would that, knowing this day would come, you had taken up that sword and made it your own! For the day is come, and what is not done will remain undone.

This I have revealed to you that you may do what must be done before the time is ended. For can you build a house by thinking about a hammer, or by showing it off to your friends and family? No, you must swing that hammer until it becomes part of your arm, your body, and your heart.

It is just so with the Word. Begin now, before that day comes, that you may be ready.

Until now, my visions have suggested a cyclical event (See the cycle of Judges, for example: “Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord… and they abandoned the Lord…” Judges 2:11-12, 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1 and so forth, after which the Israelites are first punished and then restored.) My previous visions suggest that we have strayed from the ways of the Lord, and we will be disciplined until we return to his ways.

This vision uses the term, “that day.” Does it refer to a final, eschatological event? Or is it the day on which our discipline comes? I’m not sure. In the context of my previous visions, I tend to think it’s the latter, but I could be wrong.

However, the message remains true to my previous visions, especially the one which assured that “Those who dwell in the Kingdom will not be harmed.” It seems obvious to me that to “dwell in the Kingdom” and to live out the Word “until it becomes part of… your heart” are one and the same command.

For those who may be reassured because they profess that Jesus is Lord, let me say that it seems clear to me that God is demanding more than lip service. To “dwell in the Kingdom” or to use the Word as a tool and way of life demands an outward expression of the Holy Spirit that is obviously lacking, else I wouldn’t be getting these visions. And I would add that personally I am not reassured. My outward expression is perhaps more than some, surely less than others, and I am not convinced it represents evidence of the radical change of heart God wants.

As I’ve written before, the existence of a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Luke 22:20, Hebrews 8:6-13) insists on a relationship in which both parties have responsibilities. We haven’t yet lived up to our part, and God is getting impatient.

February 3

A Vision for Babylon

I saw a vision of the sky being separated from the earth by fire, and this Word came to me:

Babylon must fall, and Babylon will fall. The walls of Babylon will be thrown down, not one stone left on another, for this was written from the beginning. Who will hide behind walls for safety? Who will hide in a brick house when the earth shakes? Abandon Babylon, for she cannot save you. Run from her as from a burning building, for her beams are dry and rotted, they are ready to burn. Her grain has been harvested, and the straw is ready for the fire.

When the fire dies, will you plant nettles or wheat? Willow or oak? Will you build on sand or rock? Using straw or brick?

There is but one rock from which your feet will not slip, the one rock that stands through the ages. Turn from temporary things and seek a firm foundation!

And again the Word came to me:

People, what have I not given you? You live in luxury, yet you crave more. Your food is more abundant than you can eat, yet you do not share it. What do you leave for the gleaners among you? Your wealth could have built anything, but you built Babylon. “In God we trust,” you say, but in your hands are weapons of war. You trust in kings. Indeed, you make and destroy kings as if you were gods! Too long I have called you and you have not listened. Too long have you played the games of children.

You built a great white tower of brick and knowledge. You build walls to keep you separate. You, a people of the world, now separate yourselves from the world! “We are the chosen,” you say. But you don’t act like my chosen. Who, then, were you chosen by?

And when your child forgets who is the parent, will you not remind him? And if words fail, will you not take stronger measures? Then that child will cry, for how could his parent do this to him? Take heed, my children, for my patience wears thin.

I want to highlight some things about this. First, what is coming is yet preventable. Were we to change our ways, God would be satisfied. But that seems unlikely, so we will be disciplined. Yet the purpose of that discipline is to convince us to return to God and live as he has instructed. God promises not destruction, but transformation. But that’s not to say that his discipline will be pleasant or easy. Make no mistake: we’re headed for the wood shed.

January 29

The Foolishness of the Cross

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

Two weeks ago, I posted a Word that God gave to me. One of the things it said was:

When the word fails, will not any father turn to the rod? In that day, you will ask, “What does God want?” but I will not answer, for it has not changed.

What does God want? Does he long for churches or cathedrals built in his name? Does he long for songs of praise? Does he judge us on how much we put into the collection plate?

Clearly God must want something, for the Bible speaks of covenant, an agreement between two parties. God made promises to us. What does he ask in return? Hebrews (8:6-13) points us in the right direction:

I will put my laws in their minds and I will inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their God and they will be my people.”

Do you hear echoes of Deuteronomy 6 in that passage? Hosea? I do.

God gave his law in written form in Exodus. The problem with written law is, there’s wiggle room. Just look at Matthew 15:4-5.

God told us clearly what he wants, and Jesus repeated it:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

How much do I have to love God and my neighbor? My family has a three-bedroom house. Do I have to give up one or more of those bedrooms for someone who can’t afford a house? That would be crazy. I have responsibilities to my family, right?

That would be foolish.

The point is, if this law is written on my heart, I’m not looking for wiggle room. I’m living the law God set out for me.

Was Jesus serious when he said that those who don’t feed and clothe the poor are headed for “eternal punishment” (Mt 25:45-46)? Was God serious when he commanded us to love the stranger, the alien among us (Dt 10:19)? Was the Beloved Disciple serious when he said that those who have, but who close their hearts to a person in need, cannot claim that they love God (1 John 3:17)? Was Jesus serious when he said we should forgive those who sin against us as many times as necessary (Mt 18:22), and that we should love our enemies (Mt 5:44)? That we shouldn’t worship so long as someone has something against us (Mt 5:23-24)? That our own forgiveness from God depends entirely on whether we forgive others (Mt 6:14-15)?

Seriously, that doesn’t work in the real world. (How many times have readers told me that?)

That’s just foolish.

And yet, if God’s law was written on our hearts, we wouldn’t question it. We wouldn’t look for wiggle room. We wouldn’t add the exclusion, “If it makes sense to do so and doesn’t cost too much.”

When I say “we,” I include myself. Because what God wants is impossible in the real world, and I live in the real world. Some of the time, anyway. Yes, I fall short. Every day I fall short. I am of Babylon, and I shall suffer its fate.

I know this, because I can read, and I have read. The prophets reviled Israel and Judah for their greed, their corruption, and their selfishness. I am not exempt from that judgement. Nor are my country, my people, my brothers and sisters.

Today in church, we read Micah 6:1-8, in which God makes a prosecutorial statement against Israel. He’s challenging them to a court case! Israel replies by asking how much worship will satisfy God. (Worship in those days meant sacrifices.) God replies with these famous and oft-quoted verses:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

It’s not about how much I worship God. It’s not merely a matter of professing Christ with my lips. Yes, I have been given grace–that’s God’s part of the covenant. My part is, how do I live in the world now that I’ve received that grace?

God declared Israel to be in breach of contract. They hadn’t fulfilled their part of the covenant.

Have we?

January 13

God on Love

This Word was given to me:

Oh, my people! I gave you one commandment – one! – and you did not follow it. “Love.” That is all. Where is the love in your hearts? The sheep say, “We should love,” but they love only other sheep. The goats say, “Look! We have appointed these to love for us,” and they do not love.

This I told you: The Lord is one, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you in your heart. Teach them to your children, that they may never forget. But you did not love, and you did not remember. When Pharaoh sent his armies against my people, the finest chariots could not stand before me. The wealth of the world is but food for locusts. Still you put your faith in strength and wealth, and not in me.

Cursed be your leaders who lie and plot in secret, who reward the wealthy while the poor suffer. Cursed be those who make war against enemies they created, and who cause your young men to trample on those made in my image. And now this arrogant little horn—I name him Agnoeo, for he does not know me. Did I not warn you?

The voices of my prophets you ignore. My words you quote to justify your pride. You point to me with one hand while with the other you accuse your neighbor. You praise me with your mouth, and with that same mouth you say vile things about your family. Do I not hear each of you blaming your brothers and sisters? “He did this.” “She did that.” Selfish children! You are siblings, make peace with one another! Do you hold your hand out in love for your brother who disagrees with you? Do not dare to lie to me, for I know the answer.

Look at your hearts! You build yourselves up, like a tower to the heavens. Humility is not in you. Therefore, says the Lord, like petulant children, I will chastise you until you listen and obey. A child who responds quickly receives little correction, but a stubborn child must face consequences. I called you, says the Lord, but you did not come. When the word fails, will not any father turn to the rod?

In that day, you will ask, “What does God want?” but I will not answer, for it has not changed. Then you will blame the sinners and the outcasts and the unbelievers among you. But this I tell you: My discipline comes not because of the unrighteous, but because of those who claim to be righteous.

When those who worship me with their mouths worship also with their hearts and hands and feet, and when you hold out your hand in love to those you hate and welcome those you despise, and when you see my image in very person, as I created them, only then will you have learned.

January 9

Martyrdom

I had another vision.

I was in church, sitting on the left side, and the congregation split along the middle aisle, as if the right side slid further to the right. I saw a pillar of fire in the empty space. Then I saw a stream of colors, white and yellow and brown, melding together and running to the base of the pillar of fire. As I watched, the people sitting in front of me (the pastor, his wife, and another man) lost their color so they became white, and the began to melt into the stream of color. I asked, “What am I seeing?” A voice replied, “Martyrdom.”

I had no sense that this was an actual prediction of the deaths of these three people. Rather, I took it to mean that we are challenged to be willing to live our faith even in the face of fear of death. These three people are examples who to me appear to do just that.

But perhaps martyrdom means more than just facing death. In these times of political correctness and concern over what others think, are we willing to risk social martyrdom by proclaiming that which sounds crazy to our neighbors?

(I suspect I’ve already made this decision. I’m sure plenty of people think having visions qualifies as mental illness.)

We are approaching a time of trial. As I’ve written before, God will challenge us to live according to his commandments. (These are simple: Love God and love our neighbor.) It may become difficult or even dangerous to live the Gospel in our lives.

I took this vision as a challenge to us to prepare ourselves for the coming trials, that we are close to God and do not falter in our footsteps.

January 7

The Visions: Destruction and Restoration

I’ve been having small, personal visions for several years. Mostly they’ve been about my near future. They don’t tell me what’s going to happen so much as different ways to think about what’s going to happen. A few have been foretelling, and some of these have turned out to be true and one has not yet (though I still hold out hope).

My prophetic visions started about three months ago, several weeks before the election. They fall into two categories: destruction and restoration.

I’ve seen huge waves, and a lot of fire. It’s not lost on me that water and fire are the two baptisms (Matthew 3:11). And even the visions of destruction do not indicate annihilation. I have been repeatedly assured that I will be okay. And in the most recent one, I was assured that all who “dwell in the Kingdom” will not be harmed.

But what does it mean to “be okay”? I’m well aware that I could lose all my earthly possessions and still be okay. This semester, I also read  the words of the 2nd century Christian, Justin Martyr: “You can kill us, but not hurt us.” So it’s not safe to say that I (or we) will navigate what’s coming without challenge or loss. But we will not be harmed. God loves us. This is not about punishment, it’s about discipline. God is becoming more insistent that we follow his commandments because he loves us.

“He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:10b-11)

I’ve also received two visions of restoration. In one, I swam through calm water toward a new land as the old one burned behind me. The other vision of restoration was so complex and powerful, I’ll describe it in detail.

I saw Jesus standing in a white robe, and the holes in his hands were radiating white light. In his hands, he held the Earth, which he gazed at with love. His chest burst open, and his blood covered the Earth. Then I began to descend to the Earth, while at the same time I could see a tree sprouting. I somehow knew that it was the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 2:9), but it had no fruit on it because the fruit had already been eaten. Other trees and vegetation grew also, and then I was sitting in the garden, a new Garden of Eden. I looked up at the sky, and I could still see Jesus’ face there. I asked him, “What does this mean?” He just smiled and didn’t answer. Then I saw an angel in the garden with me. I somehow knew that her name was Hedra (which I looked up later: in Greek it means “face”). I asked her what this meant, and she replied, “You know.” Then a worm came out of the ground and began to consume my body. I asked the angel, “How can I stop this?” She replied, “You brought this on yourself. It is happening because you are mortal.” Then I felt peace, even though my body was being consumed.

As I contemplated the vision, I remembered what Genesis (1:31) tells us: that God saw that the Creation was good. Humanity may have fallen into sin, but the Earth still belongs to God. And to Jesus. “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (John 1:3). We are warned not to love (esteem) the world (1 John 2:15), but we are also reminded that the Earth belongs to God (Psalm 24:1). We should not worship the world, but we should care for it because it is not ours but God’s, and we should treat it as such. And the vision says something else: just as when we are reborn in Christ we don’t get a new body, so the New Earth promised in Revelation 21:1 is formed right here on the old Earth. We shouldn’t be expecting a replacement planet.

I was also struck by the fact that I arrived in Eden in my existing body. The Kingdom begins here, in this existence, and extends beyond into our post-bodily existence.

But most of all, this was an encouraging vision following as it did several other visions of destruction.

I’m not saying that our land will be devastated by fire. My guess is that the visions were more symbolic than literal. But we will be baptized by both water and fire in some figurative sense.

And afterward, if we learn what God wants us to learn, we’ll find a New Eden.

If.

 

January 2

My First Vision

I didn’t used to be religious. I grew up Episcopalian, and what I learned in Sunday school never seemed to have much relevance to my life. We learned the Bible stories, but not why they were important or what they meant. By age 13, I decided I wasn’t Christian. But I still went to church with my family because I didn’t want to disappoint them. I accepted Confirmation for the same reason, even though I knew I wasn’t being honest.

I struggled with depression and feelings of being outcast by my peers. By 16 years old, I had found drugs. At 17, I got expelled from high school. I also had what I now would say was a religious experience in which I was promised that things would get better, and that if I did what was put before me I would eventually find peace.

Things didn’t get better for a long time. I moved far from my family to Los Angeles, where I could pursue my habits without interference. My habits grew worse. At 25, addicted to heroin, cocaine, and alcohol, I sought help and wound up (after months of struggle) getting sober in AA.

AA strongly suggests seeking God. I didn’t believe in God, but at the same time I couldn’t say I disbelieved in God. I was an agnostic, and I wanted evidence one way or the other. The fact that many times I’d driven home too wasted to see and somehow arrived safely, or that I survived five overdoses, or even that my unbearable obsession for alcohol and drugs had now disappeared, apparently wasn’t sufficient. I tried churches, but didn’t find any that made sense to me. Eventually I became a Buddhist. That led me to do volunteer work in Sri Lanka.

I had another powerful spiritual experience in Sri Lanka when I was 34 years old. At the time, I was thinking about making that country my permanent home. The vision led me to understand that what I would learn in Sri Lanka I was supposed to take home to the U.S., where it would someday be needed. Both of these visions had a common characteristic: they gave me messages about my life, but they gave me no clues about the source of the messages. I remained an agnostic.

But I wanted to understand Christianity. After working with a Catholic priest in Thailand for two months, I could see that there was more to Christianity than I’d seen in my childhood church, or than the evangelists I’d met over the years (some of whom were drunk themselves) had told me. I attended a Catholic university and majored in Theology and Peace Studies. I began hanging out in Campus Ministry, and a nun became my spiritual director. But I still didn’t feel as though I had any evidence for the existence of a God who was present in my life. In 1998, I began to pray, “If there is a God, let me know you.”

This was my quest as, in 1999, the organization I’d worked with in Sri Lanka invited me to help them try to end the civil war there. My first trip witnessed 160,000 people gathering (in the face of political opposition and some fear for safety) to meditate for peace in the capital city in September. During my second trip in December, the rebels had begun an offensive, driving out Sinhalese villagers from what the LTTE considered “their” territory. My team decided to go north to see what these refugees would tell us. We interviewed refugees all day, and that night retired to a compound that our organization ran.

At dusk, the artillery began. It wasn’t a constant barrage, just one shell every five or ten  minutes, landing somewhere to the north of us. Meanwhile, by lamplight because there was no electricity, our local host began telling us stories and showing us photos of what he had seen there. Some of the photos were pretty gruesome. The one that touched me most was of a black lump, which our host said had formerly been a young woman who volunteered as a preschool teacher in one of the villages before the LTTE burned her to death.

In the middle of the night, gunfire erupted outside the compound. I heard machine guns, grenades, and RPGs. I couldn’t sleep through that, so I sat in a chair in the common area in the dark. I was acutely aware that the war was raging outside, and I was powerless to do anything about it. I began to ask, “Why, God, why?”

I got an answer. I saw a net, or a loose cloth, with fibers that stretched infinitely in all directions. Each place the fibers met was an event, and they were interwoven in a way I could not understand. A voice said, “If there was no war, there would be no peacemakers. Blessed are the peacemakers!” At first, I thought I was being told that the war existed for the purpose of calling people to be peacemakers. That seemed horribly cruel. But that was not what it meant. I understood that nothing could happen without God’s consent, and that somehow, in some way far beyond my comprehension, there was a purpose to this war– and it was equally true that we were called to try to end it. And I saw that the ways of God are too incomprehensible for a human mind to grasp.

I want to reiterate that I was at the time coming from a Buddhist perspective in which “evil” can be explained by the Three Poisons: anger, greed, and ignorance. Buddhism doesn’t have a concept of God or Evil. That is a philosophical approach that makes it easier to understand war. Address anger, greed, and ignorance, and the fighting stops. I was comfortable with that. Except we hadn’t yet made any progress.

This idea that the war could somehow be permitted by God went against everything I then believed, and everything I wanted to believe about God. In short, it blew my mind.

I returned to Los Angeles a few days later, but found I could no longer function. I’d graduated by now and was doing accounting work to support myself, but I couldn’t work. I couldn’t carry on a conversation. And I couldn’t explain what had happened. I felt like I’d plugged my 110-volt computer into a 10,000-volt main line, and every circuit was fried.

I didn’t realize at first that part of my distress stemmed from Post Traumatic Stress. I had seen and heard violence and stories of violence that I could not accept. Over the next 15 years, I would undergo various types of therapy for PTSD before I gained some measure of recovery from it.

But I also couldn’t reconcile the fact that I, an agnostic, had prayed to know God, and God had revealed himself to me in a powerful and disruptive way. The line from the T.S. Eliot poem, “Journey of the Magi,” haunted me: “No longer at ease in the old dispensation…” That was me.

I’ll tell you the truth: I ran away. I tried to put as much distance as I could between myself and that experience– between me and God. By 2004, I had given up peace work and moved to rural Utah to make cheese in the middle of nowhere. I dabbled in Christian theology that was based on the teachings of Jesus but had no room for God to be present. God had terrified me, and I wanted no part of him.

But if God wants you to go to Ninevah, chances are you’re going to Ninevah. Just ask Jonah.

In 2012, my second marriage ended, and my fiancee got pregnant. I was ecstatic. I didn’t have any children of my own. I couldn’t wait to hear the baby’s heartbeat. But when we went for the first ultrasound and they put the machine on her, there was no heartbeat. She was miscarrying. In moments, I went from ecstasy and anticipation to despair. I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. Then my friend Dave, who’d been undergoing experimental treatment for liver cancer that the doctors said was working, went for a liver transplant, after which he was supposed to be fine. But when they opened him up, they found the treatment hadn’t worked after all. He was full of cancer. They sent him home to die. Once again, hope was crushed into despair. I blamed God. I raged at him. I shouted at him. I demanded to know what kind of God he was.

In doing so, I stopped denying him.

This began my slow journey to becoming a Christian. I started going to church later that year (though my home church was in Denver, 8 hours away). In 2013 I was baptized. In August 2016, I finally accepted forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

The journey wasn’t easy. My wife and I struggled through demonic oppression, mental and physical illness, and financial hardship. Trusting God wasn’t always easy. But that’s what it took for me to be ready. That’s what it took for me to surrender to this simple truth: He is God, and I’m not.

Now the great theological question: Do we have free will? Absolutely. Then how is it that everything that happens is consistent with God’s plan? I don’t know, you’d have to ask him. Maybe you’ll understand better than I do. But I now accept that to be true. The Bible confirms it. Just read the Book of Job (particularly 1:6-12, 38:1-4, 40:6-9, and 42:1-6; see also Lamentations 3:37-38). This paradox is hinted at by Isaac Bashevis Singer’s famous saying: “We must believe in free will. We have no choice!”

Did my wife have a miscarriage so that I would find God? Yes. No. Maybe. Partly. The answer is too complex for me to say with any certainty. My human mind can’t possibly comprehend.

A wise man once said, “Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.”

I used to think he was wrong.

December 23

Please Read This

This may be the most important post I’ve ever written.

There’s no way to say this without sounding a little crazy: I was told what to say. But not how to say it, so please bear with me.

Starting with Scripture is never a bad idea.

Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)

That’s the task I was given.  “Tell them,” he said to me (Romans 10:13).  “Tell them.”

Tell them what?

The vision I received contained images but very few words. The day was dark, and I saw a pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21) rising out of the ground. Smoke billowed from it, and the smoke filled the sky (Exodus 19:18, Revelation 9:2). Lightening came from the clouds of smoke (Exodus 20:18, Psalm 29:7, Hosea 6:5, Revelation 4:5). The smoke swirled and came near me, and I saw that it wasn’t really smoke, it was clouds of locusts (Psalm 105:34, Joel 1:4, Revelation 9:3). Then I saw a great light appear in the smoke (Habakkuk 3:4), and I asked it, “Can this be prevented?” A voice replied, “Look around you, it is already burning” (Luke 12:49).

Then I saw Jesus on the Cross, and all around him the landscape was in flames (Isaiah 66:16, James 3:5). The voice said to me, “Do not be afraid, it will not hurt you” (Isaiah 43:2). And then he said, “Tell them! Tell them that all who dwell in the Kingdom will not be harmed. Not a hair on their head will be singed” (Daniel 3:27, Luke 21:18).

(I added Bible verses because I found, much to my surprise, that every element of my vision could be found in the Bible.)

Let me put this in context. Over the past two months, I have received a number of visions. Some are of troubled times coming near. Others show restoration. I’ve seen destruction, and I’ve seen a New Eden.

This was the first vision in which I was told to take any action. “Tell them!” he said.

I’m a writer. I’m good with words. But I’m struggling to put into words the message I received.

Despite the frightening images, it’s a message of love. God loves us! (1 John 4:8) And not because we are Christians or Americans or because of our color, our bank account, our language, our flag, or our church membership. He loves all his children.

“Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:7)

Make no mistake: trials are coming. But let us be aware of the reason. We have become soft, what Jesus and Paul called malakoi (Matthew 11:8, Luke 7:25, 1 Corintihans 6:9). Those living in luxury. Those who carry no cross. And yes, I include myself.

It’s easy for us to protest. We don’t own a chain of luxury hotels. We don’t fly around in corporate jets. Perhaps we work hard for our living, and perhaps that living isn’t very large. But if you’re reading this, you have internet access, and that puts you in the top 40% for starters. The world’s median per capita income is $2,920 per year. $34K a year puts a person in the top 1%.

I don’t write this to suggest guilt. I write it in the hope that it will help us do something Americans are not very good at: taking stock of ourselves (Proverbs 28:13). As Christians, we admit that we’re sinners, but we don’t like to admit that we sin (1 John 1:9, James 5:6). And yes, I include myself.

Jesus’ challenge to us is not easy. It’s nearly impossible not to fall short. The point is not whether we’re doing everything he asked, but to acknowledge the ways in which we aren’t. Here’s a simple example: I’ve accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. But I’m never quite satisfied with the material things he’s given me. And I’m afraid of my government. True there’s much to fear, but not if my Lord is bigger than the government.

If. Therein lies the quandary of my faith. Do I really believe that Jesus is Lord? Am I willing to trust him wholeheartedly? Even with my money and my family’s well-being? My self-defense?

I invite you to pray honestly about questions like these. Because the purpose of the coming trials is to make us teachable (Jeremiah 9:7-9, Zechariah 13:8-9, Daniel 12:10). “Those who dwell in the Kingdom will not be harmed,” he told me. But “dwelling” in the Kingdom means more than a profession of faith, it means living that faith in our everyday lives (James 2:26). It means, as Paul said, imitating Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1).

I’m not going to tell you how to do that, because I recently learned something else: Each of us has a different calling. I’m called strongly to the social justice aspects of the Gospel. You may not be. Perhaps your strength is prayer, or witnessing, or healing, or deliverance, or evangelism. I don’t think any of the Gospel can be ignored. Matthew 25 is as important as John 14, and vice versa. James 2 is as important as Ephesians 2. We can’t “specialize” completely. But, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12, each of us has a different role to play. Maybe we haven’t found it yet. I invite discussion, because a lot of people are going to see this differently. God didn’t tell me what you have to do. But “doing” is the operative word.

I am going to begin a series of posts trying to explain what I saw and what it meant, because a profession of faith isn’t enough. We’re being called to repent. We’re being called to confess (to God and each other, not to me). We’re being called to change.

The call right now is verbal. But it’s going to get more insistent. Times of trial are coming.