Friday, March 27, 2015

Blood Moons

Wherein I try to avoid lunacy (pun alert!), while pointing out some things...

Most of us are aware that we are in the middle of a relatively rare phenomenon called a lunar tetrad. Tetrad refers to four and lunar...well, you know.  A complete lunar eclipse is sometimes called a blood moon, because the light reflected through the Earth's shadow is red. Most are also aware of the alarming blogs, reports, articles, Facebook pages, tweets, ad nauseam screaming all sorts of stuff about what it all means. The sheer volume (both in number and in noise) is enough to make us cover our ears and eyes, until the fire hose is shut off. Because there is so much information to sift through, the tendency is to think about something else until the entire thing is over and we can return to hoping that Kim Kardashian has tired of posting nude pictures of herself on the internet (please God).

Because of instant, world-wide information access, our ADD culture chatters excessively about a topic for about five minutes, before jumping to the next trending story. That's a shame, because that doesn’t mean the story is actually over...or that we actually got the message of the story. Way, way back, before we had all our technology and scientific information, God told us He set the lights in the sky, "...to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years (Genesis 1:14 ESV). We take this for granted. Of course that's what they're for. Most versions say seasons, some say sacred events, less say religious festivals. But the Hebrew word translated seasons is mo'adim which means 'appointed time.' The religious festivals God ordained and scheduled according to the moon's cycle are special appointments at which He promises to meet with His people. He used the cycles of moon and sun to help pre-modern folks—who couldn't exactly check their watches or iPhones—keep track of time.

And yes, we don't need to use the moon to keep track of our calendar days any more. And yes, Paul tells us that feast days and new moon festivals are only shadows...our salvation is in Christ alone (Col 2:16-17). But we don't want to find ourselves thinking we've grown too sophisticated to hear from God, any way He chooses. Just because we now have clocks and printed calendars and internet doesn't mean that God has thrown up His hands with a, "Well they're ahead of Me now! I guess I'd better stop using such antiquated methods to signal my tribe." God uses many means to speak to us including signs in the heavens, the ancient method He invented.

So what does the tetrad have to say to us? That covers a wide spectrum from "nothing" to "The world is ending, like right now! Please go immediately to my website where I just happen to have for sale everything you need in order to survive the impending apocalypse!" We have to find the line of sanity which runs between these two extremes. We also have to be careful not to dismiss or accept the message because of how we feel about the messenger. Just because the folks shouting the loudest may come across as a bit loony doesn't mean God isn't trying to speak to us (If you're unsure, read about the OT prophets' lives). Neither should we uncritically accept reassurance that it all means nothing, because the messenger is logical, low key and credentialed. There are respected teachers and scholars on all sides holding forth on this topic.

I'm not saying which way folks should jump. What I am (I hope) gently and humbly urging is, please ask God. Do not simply rely on what others are saying, no matter who they are. Look up these phenomena in the Bible and read what it says about them. Pray. Find out for yourself what you believe God is saying through these signs, which no one can deny are biblical signs, i.e. found in the Bible. What you then do is between you and God.

Signs in the heavens are just that...signs. Signs exist to inform, or warn, or point to other things. The fact that these eclipses are falling on important feast days cannot be dismissed as mere coincidence. The first one was Passover 2014; the second Sukkot (Tabernacles) 2014. The third is Passover 2015, next Saturday morning (full eclipse at 6:58 am, Central time) and the final will fall on Sukkot 2015. God set up the feast calendar as a giant prophetic marker. The spring feasts were fulfilled with Jesus's first coming. Any guesses on what fulfills the fall feasts? Could God be saying to us—First Coming! Second Coming! Pay attention!

So, should we begin setting dates and counting days? Quit our jobs, postpone college or having children? Not at all! (Stop cleaning the house, maybe.) But neither should we give mental assent to the second coming as part of our orthodoxy, but live as though it were never going to happen. That's what scoffers do (II Peter 3:3-4). Re-examine those Scriptures we've been told say we can't know anything at all about when Jesus returns. In context, those verses seem to indicate that not everyone will be caught flat-footed. People who like to quote I Thess. 5:2 as if that concludes the matter, seem to be unaware of I Thess. 5:4-6. Since God both put the lights in the sky and arranged His calendar—before there were people, let alone calendars—it makes perfect sense to me that He is trying to tell us something. Only you can decide what that something is. I just can't picture Him in Heaven, smacking his head and saying, "Wow, Blood Moons! Look at that! What a coincidence! How did that happen?" And we shouldn't either.
 






Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Faithful



“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Corrie TenBoom

 

God is faithful. What marvelous assurance for the child of God! God doesn’t vary—He remains as He has always been. His steadfast faithfulness is an indivisible part of who He is, and therefore can never waver or weaken. God cannot 'run out' of faithfulness. He will fulfill what He has promised to do. He unswervingly adheres to His covenant with us. He will never change his attitude toward us. He will never leave nor forsake us. What He tells us, we can believe and rely on—not just today, but tomorrow and forever.

God is faithful. There is no inducement attractive enough to tempt Him to abandon His people, nor can there ever be. He doesn’t get irritated or tired of dealing with us and our issues. His loving concern is constant and steady. His passion for us does not wane when we are “bad” or increase when we are “good.”

God is faithful. Neither fear, nor sin, nor circumstance, nor disappointment, nor even our faithlessness diminishes his faithfulness. God’s faithfulness assures us we will be favorably received when we run to Him. Even when we’ve been bad. Especially when we’ve been bad. He is never tempted to love us less. He doesn’t get distracted and forget us. He doesn’t decide what to do based on the latest opinion poll. He isn't influenced by what's trending. He doesn’t have moods and He doesn’t take breaks.

Faith is not keeping a stiff upper lip; hoping for the best; or keeping a positive attitude. Faith is not, as we’ve been so often told in the movies, believing in something when common sense tells you not to. Faith is not illogical, best left to crazies, children and little old ladies—those not completely grounded in reality. Faith for the Christian is not a mental exercise or reliance on a particular outcome or philosophy, but trusting the character of a Person.

Faith can bear me up even when bad things happen, because my faith depends on Him and my expectation that He is trustworthy. So even when my circumstances are not good, I can trust the One who is good. God promises to rework even my disasters so they serve my eventual good.* I can trust His decisions about my life. I can trust His ‘yes’ and I can trust His ‘no.’ (I have a harder time with His 'wait,' but I'm working on it.) When my world crumbles and my heart fails with fear, I can lift my eyes to Jesus, trusting that He’s got me. This is not gum drops and lollipops thinking that everything will turn out just as I'd like it, but childlike expectation that even the bad stuff will turn out according to God’s plan—and that He will get me through it. Faith is deciding to trust an individual who does not fail.

God is faithful. He will never turn aside, never abandon, never give up, never stop loving, never lose heart, never fail. He will always love, always protect, always provide, always guide, always tirelessly work to form the kingdom in us—the life of joy and abundance that glorifies His name. Even when we are reluctant to cooperate. His faithfulness is a strong fortress in which we will find protection from our enemy. He will never, ever allow anything to take us from His hand. We can absolutely, positively, without question or reservation, rely on the faithfulness of God!
 
*Does not mean that my disasters are good…there is a difference, see Romans 8:28.

 
 

 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Brainwashed*

“God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you
as dear children. This trouble you're in isn't punishment; it's training,
the normal experience of children... so why not embrace God's training
so we can truly live?" Hebrews 12:12-13 The Message

When depression attacks, my prayer life tanks, worship is difficult and I rarely 'get anything' out of the Bible. I confess my usual default isn’t to immediately run to my friend, Jesus (I’m working on that). But there is something that helps nudge me back in a healing direction. God says that the Word washes my mind, renewing it according to God’s way of thinking. So when I sense that creeping dullness that precedes the stifling black-out of depression, I read my Bible—even when I’m having trouble reading anything. I read, even when I don't want to...even when I have trouble focusing. I read, knowing that the Bible is not just words on pages, but living, active, fulfilling the purpose of God, with power to rescue and heal. I read, telling myself that God is greater—greater than my circumstances, greater than disappointment, greater than my brain chemistry. I read, asking God to renew my mind, to redirect it to more healthy paths. I read, reminding myself that I am God’s and He will keep me and He will heal me and He will provide for me. I let the Word correct my destructive thinking, affirming what God says about me and my life.

I have to tell myself and keep telling myself, because there is nothing in my senses or emotions that tell me it’s true. In depression I don't usually get bright, light bulb moments of inspiration. I have to go on faith alone. And that may be the point, if there can be a point to the devastation that is depression. These seasons of darkness, though terrible, are teaching me not to trust my senses, but to keep believing what God says. He is taking what the enemy means for my destruction and using it to train my hands for war. It's not magic or simplistic, but it is simple. When I'm folded in on myself, I can't do will power, or deep thinking...or rational thinking, for that matter. Sometimes I can only do a verse, but that one line becomes a lifeline anchored in the reality of God. Tethered to Him, I'm held secure against the current that seeks to sweep me away.

When I’m in the midst of the battle (which always feels like death), I repeat to myself what I’ve learned—that even though it seems I am trapped in a deep, black hole with no way out, I am actually walking very slowly through a deep, black tunnel. That makes a huge difference, for a tunnel goes through, which means eventually I will come out the other side. I've learned to accept by faith that, even though I cannot feel or see Him, God is with me in the tunnel, prompting me forward one baby step at a time. Though it feels I am not moving at all, I’ve learned that if I keep calling on Jesus, I cannot fail to come back into the light (but it always seems like an excruciatingly long time).

Those dark seasons have taught me what I perhaps would not have learned any other way…that the tiny pilot light ignited by the Spirit cannot go out, for He guards it jealously. He loves me all the more fiercely, when I'm in that dark place where I am disgusted with myself for my weakness and faithlessness and failure. He holds on to me, when my fading strength loses its grip on Him. Through His Word, He breathes life and light back into my emptiness. His whispers override the shouts of the enemy, telling me truths more substantial than mountains. He promises that I will not only survive but end well. I am grateful that my fallen brain with its hinky chemical pathways is not the final answer. Thank you, God for the cleansing power of Your Word.

* Caveat: If you are clinically depressed, do not be too embarrassed or ashamed to see a doctor. If you broke your leg, you wouldn't wonder if it was a lack of faith to have it casted. Medication is not the devil. Christians often suffer needlessly, because the church doesn't always embrace those suffering from this illness. And it is an illness, not character weakness! I was once told that all healing comes from God, but sometimes you need medicine in order to get up and get your healing from God. Good advice. 


 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Passion for Jesus

“Love for God needs to be kindled, tended, watched over, breathed on, treasured, enflamed, celebrated and exalted above all else... It is not a procedure, recipe or military discipline, and not an impersonal idea. It is a gift never to be taken for granted or treated passively. It is passion for the most desirable person
 in the universe: Jesus!” Rolland Baker
 

That quote speaks deeply to me! It reminds me that my highest priority must be maintaining my relationship with Jesus. Not because it’s a devotional chore I must complete to be on God’s good side, but because my friendship with God is a living thing. Because it’s alive, it needs tending, like any living thing. I must feed it, protect it and weed out unbeneficial intrusions in order to keep it growing and healthy.

To let my love and need for Jesus cool, or retreat to the back of my priorities is to risk a very great danger. Because I am a creature of two worlds, neglecting the supernatural tends to point me squarely at the natural. I can begin to live as if I must rely on my own wits, my own strength and my own resources. Focusing more on myself, I lose focus on God and my connection to Him. Faith bleeds away. My problems seem larger and more insurmountable. My world flattens and depresses into a very small, very dark, very silent place. Much too small for hope or joy or faith. So small I no longer see the big picture, where God has my back.

In the fight to reinvigorate my relationship, my part is to stand, to encourage my flagging faith, to strengthen my feeble hands and weak knees…to keep moving in rhythm with God. Sounds heroic, doesn’t it? But let’s make that picture more realistic. Usually by the time I even realize I’m in the fight, I’m pinned down in a foxhole under heavy fire, wounded, demoralized and scared witless. But calling for help is a step of faith, whether or not I have a courageous attitude...or cool armor. Knowing that I’m helpless without Him and calling for rescue is half the battle—and He does the rest.

I fall into error (and feel stupid) when I begin to run my spiritual life by habit, taking my relationship with Jesus for granted. Salvation isn’t something I have, like a merit badge I pull out of my pocket when I need it. It’s the start of a whole new existence. The beginning of a collaboration that will carry me through this life, and on into eternity. I really bring nothing to the table; He has done, and will do it all. But that’s why neglecting my most vital relationship is deadly. My life is all in Him. To access it, I must stay connected to Him. To live in response to Him. To stick close. To keep the lines of communication open; talking to Him, but also listening. Mostly listening. He has my weather report, my survival kit, my agenda. He’s my supply line, my stockpile, my health care system and my psychiatrist. He's my fortress and refuge from disaster. My closest friend, my deepest need. His love for me is fierce and relentless and never-ending. How could I not seek Him as the most desirable person in the universe?

Lessons from a Possum

In which I panic upon discovering a mother possum has made a den beneath my screen porch. After which I decide it is a good idea to catch ...