BIRTH PANGS

FIRST BABY

One of the happiest dd969d2f1a6df44419c3b73273e232e8bays of my life was the time when my wife Cathy told me she was pregnant with our first child.  I shouted it from the rooftops.  Cathy’s pregnant.  A baby is coming!  Our baby!

Hallelujah!    

Month one, two, three––everything was relatively normal.  Funny, you don’t look pregnant, Honey.  Month four, five and six––definitely showing signs.  No doubt about it now.  You’re pregnant.  Baby’s room is decorated.  Lamaze classes begin.  “Pant, blow?  That’s it?”  Piece of cake.  Month seven and eight––major discomfort for Momma.  Month nine––big as a house––hurry up, Baby, Momma’s not liking this. 

And then they started…birth pangs! 

“I think it’s time,” Cathy said one night.  The pangs were five minutes apart, so we packed up our baby gear and headed for the hospital.  However, after a brief checkup we were sent home. 

False alarm.

The pangs continued regularly.  Then at 6:00 pm the next night the interval between pangs decreased to around 2 to 4 minutes apart.  They were more intense.  Pant––pant––blow––blow.  We headed to the hospital again.  No mistaking it now.  The signs were regular, more intense.

What followed was twenty-six hours of labor, followed by ten hours of HARD labor.  Cathy was exhausted.  She’d given up on Lamaze, she just took it.  I was nervous.  It wasn’t supposed to take this long, I thought, or be this hard.  I actually wondered if Cathy and the baby would survive.  One nurse examined her, then quipped, “I don’t think you’re ever going to have this baby.”  I almost punched her. 

The baby was in the birth canal for ten hours of very intense labor!  The baby was major stressed, Cathy was major stressed.  I was praying like crazy.  Finally, after what seemed an interminable amount of pain, the moment arrived.  Brandon was born, the cord twisted around his neck three times!  It was a miracle that he survived!

LIKE A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL

Jesus said that His Coming would be like the birth pangs of a woman in travail (Matt 24:8).  The Apostle Paul said the same in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3.  There would be birth pangs before the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ.  As in a natural birth, the pangs would increase in intensity, the intervals between them shorten, and then the time would come.  What would these birth pangs look like? 

AS IT WAS IN THE DAYS OF NOAH 

Jesus said, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt 24:37ff; Gen 6:5).  What was it like in the days of Noah?  Genesis 6:5 reveals that wickedness covered the face of the earth, continually. 

On April, 20, 1995 Timothy McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma Federal Building, killing 168 people and wounding over 600.  The nation was shocked.  Four years later, almost to the day, two teenage killers murdered 12 fellow students and one teacher at Columbine High School.  Again, the nation was in shock.

Everyone at the studio where I worked at the time stared dumbfounded at the news reports on a widescreen television.  The carnage, the cold-hearted wickedness, was stunning.  Who could image such a thing happening.  Two years later, on September 11, 2001, it happened again. 

I groaned in my spirit, as did we all, at such wickedness.   

Since then there have been more mass murders, more school killings, theater killings, train killings, riot after riot, here and abroad, at shortened intervals, with heightened intensity.  As it was in the days of Noah!

AS IT WAS IN THE DAYS OF LOT

Jesus said it (Luke 17:28-30).  A reading of Genesis 19 will give us a sickening glimpse into the depravity of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  It is no wonder that God destroyed them.  Is the world any different today than it was then?  With the recent Supreme Court decision to redefine marriage, I wonder if we aren’t living in the days of Lot. 

Other birth pangs will include the rise of false messiahs, wars, earthquakes, famines, worldwide deception, the love of many growing cold, children hating their parents, worldwide apostasy, the persecution of genuine Christians, and on and on.  These birth pangs are being felt around the world today.  Jesus is coming soon!

THE WORLD IS OBLIVIOUS

Immorality continues to increase.  Celebrity worshippers gawk at their “stars” audacity.  The killing of unborn babies continues at an alarming rate of 1.6 million a year in the US alone, with Planned Parenthood selling baby parts for profit!

Every baby killed is yet another birth pang.

How long, O Lord? 

The news pundits point to this or that cause but miss it entirely.  Man is wicked.  His wickedness will increase until one day, finally, the heavenly trumpet will sound.  It won’t be a false alarm either.  The heavens will open and Jesus will appear in the clouds, so that every eye will see Him!  The dead in Christ will rise from their graves, and we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the air to meet the King of kings, and Lord of lords in His glory!   

HALLELUJAH!

Dear ones, the birth pangs are many.  They continue to grow and become more intense.  More frequent.  But let us not lose heart.  Jesus said, “When you see these things begin to happen, look up for your redemption draws near”  (Luke 21:28).  Be comforted with His words.  In the meantime let us “hasten the day” of His coming (2 Peter 3:2), by living godly and holy lives, and by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a lost world.  Let us be found doing so when the Master returns.   

Maranatha!    

When the Foundations are being Destroyed

Constitution of the United States via “Caveman Chuck” Coker
Constitution of the United States

That morning of January 17, 1994, I was thrown out of bed at 4:30.  There had been a terrific crash of glass.  The room was moving, the floor shuddering, a roaring like the sound of a freight train filled my ears.  I knew what it was as I raced across the bedroom down the hall in my bare feet.

Earthquake!  Big one!

“The children!” my wife called after me.

I was moving in a rush, mindful of broken glass in the carpet.  A fish tank had shattered, fish flopping on the floor.

My youngest daughter was crying, holding me.  “Daddy?”

“Was that an earthquake?” my eldest daughter wanted to know.

“Yes.  Is everyone all right?”

They were, thank God.  “Let’s get out of the house.  Put on your slippers.”

EARTHQUAKE

The 1994 Northridge, California, earthquake.  Terrifying.  It caused great damage, jolted our in-ground swimming pool upward to resettle at an uneven cant.  57 people were killed that day, over 5,000 injured.  Homes and businesses were destroyed.  Freeways buckled, became parking lots.  In that predawn morning Officer Clarence Wayne Dean rode his motorcycle over the overpass from the Antelope Valley Fwy 14 to the Golden State 5, like he did every morning on his way to work.  But this morning, his last, he rode his bike into the air.   The overpass had collapsed.

Those of us living near the San Fernando Valley can well remember that morning.  We all felt so out of control, so helpless, so small compared to the awesome forces of nature.

SUPREME COURT DECISION

I think a lot of us are feeling a little wobbly after the last few weeks of change in our country, as though we’ve been knocked a little off-balance by great tectonic plates shifting beneath our feet.  It’s been on my mind since that Friday.  I’m sure it’s been on a lot of others’ minds as well; those celebrating the SCOTUS decision, those alarmed by it.

When we see fissures in our Constitution, the foundations of our country crumbling beneath us, it causes fear.  It causes uncertainty, anger, despair.  A longing for the good old days wells up in our hearts, a longing for heaven.   For home.

Peace.

“When the foundations are destroyed what will the righteous do?” was written by David as he fled from King Saul.

When I reflected upon Psalm 11 this morning God spoke peace into my soul.  He gave me renewed hope and trust.  Let me share my reflections with you.

GOD IS IN CONTROL

In the LORD I take refuge.  How can you say to me: flee like a bird to your mountain.  For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.  When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?  (Ps 11:1-3)

When trouble strikes us personally or corporately our natural tendency is to want to flee to the mountains.  The mountains are safe.  They are a refuge.  But read on.

The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne…(vs 4)

Whoa!  Yes!  Our God is firmly ensconced upon His throne in heaven.  He is the Sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords.  Nothing that is happening at the present has taken God by surprise.  It’s part of His plan, His story.  He is sovereignly in control!  One day soon Jesus will return with ten thousands of His holy ones to establish righteousness upon the earth.  What a day of rejoicing that will be!

HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE?

In the meantime, God is still in control, and He has a mission for us.  We are to love the unlovely, share the Gospel with people who are very lost, like we once were.  We are to link arms with fellow believers around the world, of all stripes, all denominations, every ethnicity, every culture.  We are to link arms with those who call upon the name of the Lord and pray for the lost.  We are to love them as Jesus loves them.

We are to show them Jesus!

We are also to fight against evil, using the spiritual weapons at our disposal.  Prayer.  The Word of God.  Righteousness.  Truth.  The Good News of salvation to all who will believe and repent.  Above all we are to fix our eyes upon Jesus, and think not upon the waves roiling at our feet.

For “men are like grass…the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Is 40:6-8).

Let me know what you think.

Islands in the Stream

Welcome to my new blog.  My name is Michael Joens.  My goal for this blog is to talk about Christian essentials––islands in the stream of world culture, a culture that is fluid, always moving, ever-changing.  I trust that my writing will be winsome, entertaining and insightful, pointing always to the Rock of our faith, Jesus Christ––the God-Man who seeks to save lost sinners.

It’s my hope to post a couple times a week to start, and hopefully gain momentum in time.  I really would love to have a conversation with you, so please respond in the comments section if you want to say something.  If you like what I say, let me know.  If you disagree, that’s okay.  That’s what makes a relationship interesting, and it will help us to grow in our pursuit of truth, joy, and God’s desire for our lives.

I look forward to beginning a new adventure with you!

Mike