Sunday, September 27, 2015

Blood Moons, again

This was originally posted in the spring, when the third blood moon of the tetrad appeared. The fourth blood moon, a supermoon (yes, that's a thing) is tonight.

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, " 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.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Sound of the Trumpet Blast

The ram's horn was heard in ancient Israel to sound the alarm; to gather the tribes for battle; to tell the people when the New Moon was sighted; and to signal times of feast and worship. God also commands that the trumpet blast be heard during the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), which is the biblical name for the Jewish civil New Year (Rosh Hashanah). It is the sound we will hear when Jesus returns.

We’ve entered the days which conclude the year-long cycle of feasts, traditionally called the High Holy Days. This period of time contains the New Year, The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). It is a time to reflect, repent, and recommit to following the Lord more closely. The Fall feasts rehearse what we know will happen at Jesus' return; the blast of a trumpet; the books opened; final judgment rendered; followed by a magnificent, long-awaited bridal feast.

This season is all about refocusing on God. Retelling the accounts of His great deeds; remembering His goodness; thanking Him for forgiving our sins and calling us into relationship with Him. Our wise and wonderful Father scheduled the feasts so we have regular opportunities for gratitude and worship in order to re-direct and re-focus and re-center our lives on God.

The Feast of Trumpets begins the High Holy Days with the sound of the shofar. The trumpet blast is a proclamation that the Lord God is King of the universe; an announcement of doom to powers and principalities; a call to arms for God’s people; a broadcast that we stand with God in His victory.

Yom Kippur reminds us that our sins are forgiven; our future assured; our names inscribed in the Book of Life; we are permanently adopted into the family of God.

Sukkot is a feast of thanksgiving and gratitude for all that God has done. It is a picture of the bridal feast which culminates human history and inaugurates the fullness of the kingdom of God on Earth. It foretells the day when Jesus comes and ‘tabernacles’ permanently with us. The days when no sun or moon are necessary, because the Light of the World will be with us. An eternity with no tears or pain. Sukkot is an annual reminder that our forever home is with Jesus; it reminds us to look for, anticipate, yearn toward and prepare for that day.

We are approaching the season in which all the events long prophesied will begin to unfold. When the days of faith will become sight. When what we’ve believed will be confirmed as Truth. The exciting days of lifting our heads to see our redemption drawing near. The internet is full of uncertainty and fear about current events, but we can rest. Our peace does not depend on smooth seas, but on Jesus who calms every storm. He is the faithful One who has never disappointed or failed. The One who came for us, died for us and will return for us. Before the foundations of the world He set out the events which will close out human history. He knows exactly where we are on the prophetic time table. He knows how to protect us in the midst of difficult times. He knows how to strengthen us to pass through the storm, while remaining completely His.

Sukkot begins the evening of September 27. I encourage you to watch the final blood moon that night. Let awe fill you as you marvel at all that God has done, and anticipate what He has yet to do. Let this season lead you to watch, pray and resolve anew to give yourself completely into the hands of our good Father. Maranatha!

"I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable
and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world 
you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart!
I’ve conquered the world.”  Jesus

John 16:33 The Message

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How not to Defend the Faith; Facebook Edition

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control...  Galatians 5:22-23

I went a few rounds on Facebook. Again. And then repented for my tone. Again. I'm beginning to think that social media may not the best arena for me. I get too riled up. My posts tend toward sarcasm, bordering on snark. Ignoring a challenge is not in my DNA. Sigh. I am way too eager to explain; to be understood; to demonstrate that I am not a nutjob. Which of course sometimes makes me look like a nutjob. Most of all I can see that my inability to humbly and graciously allow others to express their opinions, 'uncorrected', demonstrates an immature need to be right…and accepted. Double sigh. And after every, single, internet brouhaha, not only have I not persuaded anyone to my viewpoint, I end up snappish and irritated. Not a model of the gentleness that Jesus displayed when He was attacked.

Gentleness is an undervalued trait in our culture—words come to mind like weak, docile, soft, mousy or defenseless. That cannot be right for Jesus is gentle. And I don't mean 'gentle Jesus, meek and mild,' for when folks use that cliché they are describing a Jesus who surely never existed—a nice Sunday School Jesus who'd never hurt a fly. Jesus is gentle, but He is also the Jesus who threw the moneychangers out of the Temple; who boldly laid down His life then took it up again. The One who will return in kingly splendor, thrash the enemy, restore the world and set it running the way originally intended. So gentleness is not weak, it is strong, decisive and brave. It takes courage and strength to determine ahead of time to treat people like God would, no matter how we are treated in return. My Facebook forays reveal that I have a long way to go.

Gentleness does not wait to be treated well before treating others with kindness and respect. In a moment of potential conflict, it is a voluntary abdication of rights, choosing instead to rely on the vindication of God. It is neither the result of low self-esteem, nor a passive mindset. To me it feels like cowardice not to answer every challenge I'm presented, but Jesus was silent before His accusers. Was He a coward? Did He have nothing intelligent to say? Of course not; He was simply more concerned with God’s glory and reputation than His own. Jesus' love for God caused Him to trust in God rather than defend Himself. 

I am frustrated that our culture has become so shallow that knee-jerk outrage over stupid stuff counts as noble character these days. And I am ashamed that we Christians are partly to blame for that. We are just as prone to micro-aggression and misinformation as anyone else. I expend way too much energy fighting paper dragons with clever come-backs. Every day real injustice and catastrophe arise, perhaps my outrage should be reserved for them. Jesus has entrusted us with the words of life, yet I throw out one-liners like a kid in the locker room snapping towels at everyone.  

There is no question that we are on a learning curve here. The world is finally figuring out that our faith makes us different. It's a new reality to find that a great number of people think we are no better than terrorists—that Christianity is unintelligent, bigoted and hateful. It is natural to be shocked, angry and defensive at the level of ignorance and vitriol. But I have to discern the real issue here. Am I supposed to prove that I am right, or live and speak in such a way that Jesus' character is illuminated? Our world grows increasingly dark, but I can't help with that unless I'm holding a light folks will be drawn to. Ultimately I need to decide who's in charge of my reputation, me or God. When I must engage—and I'm still learning that I don't always need to—it should be in a gentle, winsome manner. I can scream all day long, "Daggone it, treat me with respect!" But arguments aren't won by shouting down the opposition. If my first inclination is to go on the attack, what am I winning? No one for Christ, that's for sure!  

When He walked the earth, everything Jesus said and did was a choice made to please and obey His Father (John 5:19, 30). Jesus' example shows me how far short of that standard I am, but also makes me want to more completely yield to God. I want my hard, selfish heart softened to make room for more of Jesus—and those He loves—in my life. This is a painful journey, though I suspect a necessary one. 

Father help me to stand for what is right, but in a manner that is also right. Help me to take a breath and check my motives before I run my mouth. 

Show, don't Tell

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