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Hurricane Irene: In Which We Leave the Cone Behind

Since I last posted on Irene on Sunday evening, the track of the storm has moved steadily to the east. Yesterday evening South Florida was barely still in the Cone of Uncertainty. Today, South Florida is out of the cone.

There is a sense of relief when a storm’s path shifts away from your region, especially when that storm has intensified so quickly and viciously. There is also a sense of thankfulness that God has given the keys of Kingdom authority to his people so that we can bring protection to our areas of influence.

The Lord recently spoke to us about watchtowers. He showed us watchtowers throughout our land, and that many of them were not manned very well. Those watchtowers not only provide insight, but intercessory protection for an area. When they do not have enough personnel manning them, an area or region is much more vulnerable to the effects of negative events such as Irene.

I mention this because Hurricane Irene is a major threat to the Bahamas and other parts of the United States east coast—And even though South Florida is out of the impact cone, we remember the Irene of 1999 and how it hit by surprise. So we still continue to use our authority to push this storm away from us. But as it passes our watchtower, the primary responsibility for this storm shifts to the geographical area under threat. We certainly join our prayers and our authority to any region under threat, but we are no longer primarily responsible. The watchtowers of that region become primarily responsible.

I once spoke to a prophetic mentor about this spiritual dynamic. My question was simple. If we successfully push a hurricane away from our area, doesn’t that automatically target it somewhere else? If we look at the current situation, Irene was originally targeted for South Florida. Its energy and destructive force would have been spent on us, sparing points further north. Now that Irene has shifted to the east, many more areas are under threat of a major hurricane. You can see why I had the conversation with seasoned veteran of intercessory prayer. His response to me was simple and direct. He said, “I guess they had better learn to pray, too.”

In essence, he was saying that they needed to man their watchtower. So, while storms like this certainly are a threat, they are also a training mission. They are an opportunity to grow in intercessory authority and confidence. God’s purpose is to grow his Church into an intercessory army. That army is tasked to protect geographical areas from things such as hurricanes (or volcanoes, or earthquakes, or tsunamis, or diseases, etc.). If all of the watchtowers up the east coast of the United States are functioning efficiently, then we could expect to see Irene turn out to sea. Every watchtower, every region’s Church, is responsible to build an intercessory hedge around their geographical region.

Can we turn every threat? I believe we can turn every threat unless it is God’s purpose to release a cleansing judgment of some type. But I would never assume that a threat is intended as a cleansing judgment. I would want a clear word from the Lord on that (like we received through Rick Joyner about the 2005 hurricane season), and then I would still pray, trusting in God’s mercy and grace to avert or greatly diminish the judgment anyway.

Irene is a major hurricane threat. While South Florida must continue to pray, other regions now bear more direct responsibility. We will join with them, holding up their arms and cheering as the storm continues to shift out to sea. Our goal must be that this storm churn harmlessly out to sea. And I haven’t forgotten the Bahamas. They are in immediate danger. We must pray that the Irene’s development is delayed until it is past them, also.

We are still in the opening days of the busy part of the hurricane season. We may have much more opportunity to flex our intercessory muscle. We must never weary of this task. Manning a watchtower is not easy, but it is definitely necessary. If Irene hits anywhere as a major hurricane, we will be reminded why.

Tropical Storm Irene

I don’t know about you, but storms by the name of Irene are beginning to bug me. Just when you think your done with the thing, six years have passed, and here it comes again.

Our first bout with Irene was in 1999. The Lord used Irene to teach us about authority over negative weather patterns. The name showed up again in 2005, this time attached to a hurricane that never came very close to the United States. Now, another six year cycle later, South Florida is in the cone of another storm named Irene.

If you take a look at the graphic, you will note that the National Hurricane Center has plotted the center line of Irene’s path directly over Fort Lauderdale and up through central Florida. The good news, of course, is that South Florida could see some much needed rain. We have been asking the Lord to send a non-hurricane tropical system over Lake Okeechobee to fill it a bit more. The negative is simply that South Florida is under a hurricane threat as a result of Irene. Whenever we show up in the cone, you begin to feel tension rise. That tension will only increase in the days ahead. News and weather services will begin their drumbeat of hype until it drives folks to distraction. Storms are great for ratings.

We took some time to pray about this Irene in our worship service this morning. We actually prayed at several different points because it is so much a part of our calling. When God gives you authority, you need to take the time to exercise it. If Irene actually becomes a threat to South Florida, we will have another prayer meeting. Some people might think that it is already a threat, but the truth is that it is much a threat to North Carolina as it is to us. We may be in the Cone of Uncertainty, but it is called that for a reason. The storm’s actual track is supposed to be somewhere in that cone, unless the cone changes tomorrow, which the cones usually do.

Here is the current computer model run for possible storm tracks:

I don’t want to put anyone too at ease, but does anyone else notice that only one of the computer models even touches Florida? Hmm. Don’t stop praying, but also stay firmly planted in reality. We have authority over storms—and just because they put South Florida in the cone doesn’t really mean anything at this point. We will see in the days ahead.

Tropical Storm Emily (Updated Sunday)

I have purposely not posted much this summer in order to give my keyboard a break. However, we are now far enough into the hurricane season for me to dust off the keys of my word processor and industriously type a few words about a tropical system named Emily.

This past Sunday, July 31, we invited Emily to come to South Florida. It didn’t have a name then, but the National Hurricane Center was reporting that the tropical disturbance that would become Emily, was developing (Emily was only a tropical depression at the time, shown by the blue markers on the graphic). So we decided that it would be nice if a tropical system that was not a hurricane would come to South Florida.

As I write this, Emily is a tropical storm (indicated by the green markers on the graphic), and is located just south of Haiti. She is now forecast to visit us by the weekend (her projected path is marked by the lines).

Florida needs tropical systems to drop copious amounts of rain on us over the summer. Our dry season starts in November. Lake Okeechobee, our wells, and the Biscayne Aquifer all need to be full before that season starts. If we don’t get enough rain over the summer, there are all sorts of negative consequences. So while we pray against hurricanes, we occasionally invite, even command, tropical storms to come and drop their moisture on us.

We did that back in 2008 with Tropical Storm Fay. When Fay was still southeast of Cuba, our congregation prayed that it would come around the west side of Florida, cross over to Lake Okeechobee, and sit on its watershed. Fay did exactly what we had prayed, and sat over Lake Okeechobee and Florida for days. Here was Fay’s track:

Notice how bunched up the tracking dots become once Fay began to impact Lake Okeechobee (the lake is under the red dot in the graphic). Fay sat on top of Lake Okeechobee’s watershed and replenished it, breaking a drought that had hurt South Florida.

We have learned a little since then. Fay caused flooding in the city of Melbourne, and so when we prayed that Emily would bring her rains, we also prayed against flooding. We are continuing to pray that Emily will not strengthen beyond a tropical storm, and that she bring her rains to Lake Okeechobee’s watershed.

Please join us in asking the Lord to use this system for South Florida’s benefit.


If you live in South Florida, you know that Emily came to visit on Saturday. Emily herself did not stumble over Florida. But she remained just far enough off shore that we got her bands of rain. The rain she brought yesterday and today has been a needed blessing, and it is still raining a lot even as I type this. Thanks for joining in the prayer to get some rain to South Florida. Emily had actually dissipated on Thursday. It looked like it would bring no rain. But amazingly, on Saturday, it reformed and dropped a lot of moisture. It’s fun to watch our prayers work.

“Where’s the Justice?”

The news channels, pundits, and bloggers will have a lot of grist for their mills since Casey Anthony has been found innocent of the murder of her daughter. The talk news channels, the pundits, Facebook, and Twitter are filled with statements of outrage over the verdict. I hope you live far enough from Florida that you were not subjected to the endless media coverage of this trial. If you do not know of the trial, or the horrific events leading up to this trial, count yourself blessed. I had to work very hard to stay away from coverage of this case and trial. For the most part, I succeeded.

I did, however, pick up enough on the general flow of news to realize that most people expected a guilty verdict. In fact, it began to feel like they almost demanded a guilty verdict. This is the danger when a particularly tragic event occurs—in this case the senseless death of a child—and the people who surround the event are not very nice or respectable. In this case the term “unsavory” could certainly be used.

In Luke 6 we are told, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned” (Luke 6:36-37). Jesus spoke these words to warn us against a rush to judgment. Facts are facts. When the facts are incontrovertible (on the testimony of two or three witnesses), we do not have to judge. The evidence speaks for itself. That is not the judgment of which Jesus speaks. He is speaking of that merciless part of our nature that wants to judge and condemn others without the facts.

Throughout Casey Anthony’s trial, a trial that could not produce enough facts to convince a jury that Casey was guilty of murdering her daughter, it was evident that the media was living in the “lack of mercy” arena. The coverage created an atmosphere in which Casey was convicted in the public’s perception. Mercy was tossed out the window. Casey was condemned apart from trial.

I am not a legal expert, but I will say this: Justice was served. That doesn’t mean that the verdict was correct. Only those immediately involved and the Lord himself really know. But justice is served when there just isn’t enough evidence to convict someone of a horrendous crime, and the jury acquits the person. I will accept that verdict, because a jury of her peers gave that verdict. I will accept that verdict, because when there are no facts, I will be merciful, I will not judge, and I will not condemn.

Jesus clearly teaches that when I do this, I will not be judged so quickly by my peers, and I will not be condemned by them. This is a good reminder for us all.

The World Ends Saturday, May 21???

By now you have seen the billboard, read the news articles, or seen the commentaries about a very public group of Christians who have convinced themselves that the rapture will occur this Saturday, May 21, and then the world will end on October 21. They believe the five months between the two events will be filled with catastrophes for those who remain.

The group has garnered quite a bit of media attention, and their claims are now so mainstream that at least one syndicated cartoonist is highlighting their beliefs in his daily strips (Doonesbury). Some people have taken the claims so seriously that they have quit their jobs in order to spread the news. The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that one couple left medical internships in Orlando to spread the news in other parts of the world. Like-minded folks have been traveling around the world to spread the message, taking their responsibility to spread the word very seriously.

That is probably the bit of news that concerns me the most: Good and sincere people get hurt by such predictions. Every so often someone believes they have received new insight into the scriptures and sets a date for the end of the world. They put together questionable numerologies that depend on many different assumptions being exactly right. But they are so convinced that they decide to convince everyone else that they are right. To this point, 100% of them have been absolutely wrong. But good and sincere people still get hurt when they are convinced by those who set the dates. When people leave good jobs, upset their households, and otherwise leave good order behind because of these date setters, it is apparent that this is not a harmless pastime.

When Jesus walked on the earth he said to those around him, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36 NIV). As I have read comments by Christians about this issue, they will often quote this passage as if it refutes the date setters. Unfortunately, it does not. When Jesus walked the earth, this statement was true. No one knew the date or time. Even Jesus, in his state of dependence on the Father and the Holy Spirit, did not know. But this statement is no longer true since Jesus has been glorified. He certainly knows the day and hour since he now knows all things once again.

Also, in the very next verse of Matthew 24, Jesus says, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37).” Well, in Noah’s day someone did know the date. His name was Noah (see Genesis 7:4 below). God has always shared things with his friends.

So, we can’t just dismiss those who set a date with pat scriptures that we misapply. Like good Bereans (see Acts 17:11) we need to search the scriptures to see the truth of a matter. It doesn’t take long to see the truth of the matter when we look at the May 21 claim. These claims are built upon the idea that Genesis 7:4 is dual fulfillment prophecy. In that scripture, the Lord told Noah, “Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made” (Genesis 7:4). Those who believe that the rapture is Saturday believe that this verse meant two things. First, it meant that in seven literal days the waters of the flood were going to destroy most life on the earth. Second, they believe that because of Peter’s statement that a day is like a thousand years (see 2 Peter 3:8), that God was also telling Noah that he would also destroy the earth exactly seven thousand years later.

Here is where the many assumptions enter the picture. We have to assume that Genesis 7:4 is double fulfillment prophecy. We have to assume that Peter’s words apply to this passage. We have to assume that seven thousand years have passed since the flood (most conservative theologians peg the age of the earth at only six thousand years to date). We have to assume that the group who set the date has solved the myriad of calendar difficulties to figure out that May 21 is exactly seven thousand years since the flood (anyone who has studied the history of calendars knows how difficult this can be). We have to assume that rather than rapturing the wicked by removing them from the earth, as the first flood clearly did, that this time God will rapture the righteous instead.

This is not a comprehensive list of assumptions, but it is enough to make any student of the Bible shake his or her head in dismay that people are sacrificing their livelihoods because of their belief that this prophecy is true.

So, does that mean that the predictions of floods, earthquakes, and volcanoes won’t happen? Well, we’ve already had historic floods, major earthquakes, and awakening volcanoes already in the last few months. I believe that when Jesus told us that the times of the end would be like the days of Noah, he was telling us that the times would be so difficult that many people would lose their lives, just like the days of Noah when the flood covered the earth. So I expect floods, earthquakes, and volcanoes, among other disasters, to increase as we move more fully into the end of our age and the beginning of the next. There will be a rapture of the unprepared in this way as “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left” (see Matthew 24:38-41). The words of our modern day prophets are certainly in agreement with these words of Jesus. Just as the Japanese earthquake fulfills these predictions, so the earth will continue to groan as the children of God are revealed through it all (see Romans 8:18-22).

So, what do I expect for this weekend? I expect to see a creation groaning in longing for God’s people to be revealed. I expect to preach on Sunday morning. I plan on reading Monday’s Doonesbury comic strip to see how the author intends to profit from this spectacle. And I plan on listening to those who set the dates explain what numerological issue has tripped them up this time.

Have a good weekend.