Monday, September 28, 2020

hateful or silent?

 I have to admit, I'm just about ready to run away and hide from everything and everyone. I've never seen the world like it is right now, and I'm just plain tired of it.

I'm tired of the name calling and hateful rhetoric being spewed out. It seems no one knows how to have a respectful conversation anymore. If you disagree, the only way to get your point across is to yell and scream and point fingers and accuse the other person of being a horrible human being. Though I find myself scrolling through facebook a lot (maybe because of it), I think social media is probably the main catalyst for how people treat one another. It's so easy to say atrocious things to someone through a computer screen--when you don't have to look someone in the eye after you say horrible things, you don't have to actually consider how your hateful words affected them, right? And when you read words on a screen, with no tone of voice or true context or visual cues, it's so incredibly easy to misconstrue what someone means.

Or on the other end of the spectrum, people are so afraid of being called a bigot or a racist or ___phobic (you can really insert just about anything into that blank) or intolerant that they go the way of extreme political correctness. I've seen people speak biblical truths only to follow them up with words like, "...but that's just my opinion. You're welcome to yours, and I'm not going to tell you how to live."

As followers of Christ, we aren't called to be silent any more than we're called to be hateful. If you believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, you should be standing up for that. As Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy, God has not given us a spirit of fear. If that's true, we shouldn't back down from speaking the truth. We shouldn't quote Scriptures and then water them down because we're afraid to be seen as "unloving" for speaking God's truth. As Paul went on to say, "I am not ashamed because I know Him and I have put my trust in Him. And I am fully certain that He has the ability to protect what I have placed in His care until that day." (2 Timothy 1:12)

Now is not the time for God's people to be silent. We can't just sit back and watch as evil is called good and as His name is dragged through the mud. We can't stand by as good people are ridiculed for believing--and striving to live out--God's word.

"And now I bring you this charge before God and Jesus the Anointed, the one destined to judge the living and the dead, at His glorious appearance and His kingdom: go out and preach the word! Go whether it's an opportune time or not! Reprove, warn, and encourage; but do so with all the patience and instruction needed to fulfill your calling because a time will come when some will no longer tolerate sound teaching. Instead, they will live by their own desires; they'll scratch their itching ears by surrounding themselves with teachers who approve of their lifestyles and tell them what they want to hear. They will turn away from the real truth you have to offer because they prefer the sound of fables and myths. But you must stay focused and be alert at all times. Tolerate suffering. Accomplish the good work of an evangelist, and complete the ministry to which you have been called." ~2 Timothy 4:1-5

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now is the time for us to stand up and speak out. Jesus didn't spend His life going along with the status quo. He touched the untouchable, challenged the self-righteous, drove the money changers out of the temple, and changed the hearts and lives of sinners. He challenged people at every turn, pushing them out of their comfort zones and forcing them to come face to face with their own failings in light of His perfection. He spoke in love, but He spoke truth. He didn't tell people they could think and believe and live however they wanted, and that doesn't change today just because society says it should.

Taking a ‘Long, Loving Look’ at Kendrick Lamar’s ...

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

in the twinkling of an eye...

 There's a common theme I've seen popping up in social media lately--lots of talk of the rapture. I see people worried about the things that are happening in the world around us, seeing the mess as a sign of the end times. Honestly, I see the same thing. I look at the wars and diseases and the blatantly evil things that are being called "good" and I see what Jesus described as the beginning of labor pains.

It's right there that people like to turn to two verses from Paul:

"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. Fort the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." ~1 Corinthians 15:51-52

"For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night." ~1 Thessalonians 5:2

As is so often the case, though, we get ourselves into trouble when we handpick verses and don't compare them to the rest of Scripture. In this case, it leads to a common comforting belief--God's people being "raptured" before any of the truly terrifying things that are outlined for the tribulation. Like I said, it's a comforting thought. The things outlined in Revelation, Daniel, the words of Jesus in the gospels, and the other prophets are awesome and terrible. We're told that nothing this earth has ever seen--no earthquake or tsunami, no Genghis Khan, Stalin, Mussolini, or Hitler--can even start to compare to what will happen during that time. Who would want to be here for that?

Here's a question I would ask you to consider, though: If God didn't spare His own Son from suffering the agony of the cross, why should we think we will be spared from suffering?

I'm not saying I'm an expert on end time prophecy. There is still so much I don't understand and so many questions I just can't answer. However, there are some things I think a pre-tribulation rapture ignores. These verses make me think that, despite the popular teaching, we will be here and will be asked to stand against the powers of darkness during those terrible times.

First, in Paul's letter to the Corinthians he mentioned that believers will be changed "at the last trumpet." So that begs the question, when is that trumpet? To answer that we need to skip to the back of the book and look at Revelation. The seven trumpets start in chapter 8, but the final trumpet doesn't get mentioned until Revelation 11:15, where it is followed by voices in heaven crying out, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"

Okay, so at first glance that doesn't necessarily seem to contradict anything. But the seven trumpets? They don't even start until after the seven seals--the first four of which release the famous "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." The sixth seal is when all the people of the earth are hiding in the mountains and begging for the rocks to fall on them to hide them from God.

The trumpets themselves signal terrible things--natural disasters that wipe out 1/3 of our natural resources, demons that rise from the abyss to torture mankind for 5 months, 200,000,000 soldiers who kill 1/3 of humanity with plagues, the two witnesses who are killed for their testimony and are raised from death and called up to heaven in front of everyone. It's only after all of that that the last trumpet is sounded.

What about the verse in 1 Thessalonians, though? First, let's just read a little bit further. Verse 4 says, "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief." Paul goes on to say that as believers we won't be caught off guard because we know the signs to look for, and we will be expecting Christ's return. His second letter to the Thessalonians gives us more information:

"Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." (chapter 2, verses 3-4)

Jesus Himself spoke of His second coming. In Mark 13 we get to listen in as He explains to Peter, Andrew, James, and John. He outlined the troubles that would come--false prophets, wars, earthquakes, and famine. He spoke of His followers being betrayed, hated, and executed for their faith. He told them they would see the "abomination of desolation" Daniel warned about. In 13:19 He said, "For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be."

I strongly encourage you to read the whole chapter, but for now let's move on to verses 24-27: "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven."

Jesus told His disciples that before His return, there would be a great tribulation. He spoke of the sun and moon and stars being darkened, all of which are outlined in Revelation 8 as events heralded by the trumpets. Revelation also talks about the multitudes who will be martyred during the tribulation, a number John couldn't even begin to count, people from every tribe, nation, people group, and language. The beast of Revelation 13 is given permission to wage war against God's people and to conquer them. How is that possible if God's people aren't here?

Multitude Of Worshippers Painting by Gregory Staton
Multitude Of Worshippers Painting by Gregory Staton


Despite the gloom and doom, though, we have a promise to which we cling: "Therefore, we were buried with Him through this baptism into death so that just as God the Father, in all His glory, resurrected the Anointed One, we, too, might walk confidently out of the grave into a new life. To put it another way: if we have been united with Him to share in a death like His, don't you understand that we will also share in His resurrection?" Romans 6:4-5

Because of that, we get to join with all those who will be victorious over the beast and sing, "Great and amazing are Your works, Lord God, the All Powerful. Right and true are Your ways, King of all nations. Who will not fear You, Lord? Who will not glorify Your name? Because You alone are holy, all the nations will come and worship before You, For Your righteous judgments have been revealed." ~Revelation 15:3-4

The judgment of God isn't a fluffy thing to look forward to. In Hebrews 10:30-31 we're reminded, "For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. And again, 'The Lord will judge His people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Throughout the Scriptures we're given pictures of God's judgment being poured out on Israel, and it's never an easy thing to read.

But God.

As is always the case, God doesn't stop at judgment. Instead, He follows it with restoration, and that's no different at the end of the book. In Revelation 21:7 God tells us, "To the victors will go this inheritance: I will be their God, and they will be My children."

And like John, may we be able to say with faith, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Beauty in falling

There's beauty in every season, but I think fall is my favorite. Maybe it's the foggy mornings, the clouds hanging low in the hills, making them look like islands floating in a white sea.
 
Maybe it's the spider webs sparkling in the field in the morning, tiny threads so delicately spread across the grass. Maybe it's the first hint of cool weather, when you're greeted by crisp mornings that pair perfectly with steaming coffee and a front porch swing.

Maybe it's because I like the reminder that God uses brokenness. I think fall is His way of showing us that there is beauty in letting go.

As the leaves change colors, it's Him whispering, "There is beauty in the endings, too." The greens give way to reds, golds, oranges, and browns as His creation seems to slow just a bit.

The leaves fall to the ground and the branches are left bear, stretching--empty--up to the sky. With that, God tells us to bring Him our brokenness, our emptiness, when everything else has fallen away and left us with nothing to offer but empty arms stretched up to Him, knowing that anything we're given comes from Him.

Like the trees, we have to learn to stand even when our beauty falls. We have to learn to be exposed, everything else stripped away. We have to face the cold and the darkness of this world with nothing and no one to cling to--but God.

There is beauty in the trees after the leaves have fallen, beauty in the time of waiting. There is beauty in knowing that there is nothing left, that you have been stripped of everything you hide behind and that God still sees beauty there.

Friday, September 18, 2020

masks?

Sometimes I search for something to write. Other times, though, it seems like a topic is dumped on my lap, even if it's something I've been trying to avoid. Today is one of those times. I guess a more apt description would be "shoved in my face," because that's what's happening right now. Right now, that's the division over masks and government mandates pertaining to this virus.

I'll be honest--I have friends and family on both sides of the issue. I see and hear arguments on both sides, which normally wouldn't be a bad thing. Normally, I appreciate a good debate. I think I must get that from Pop, because he's been known to play "devil's advocate" on more than one occasion. I love learning something new, and you don't ever get to do that solely by watching, reading, and listening to the people you already agree with. New things are learned by putting yourself into a place of slight discomfort, a place where you acknowledge that you don't have all the answers and that there are things you don't know.

The problem right now? Nobody seems to be willing to listen to anyone on the other side of the issue. Instead, we see long lists posted on social media talking about the reasons people wear masks. They typically look something like this:
  • I wear a mask because I'm educated enough to know...
  • I wear a mask because I care about other people...
  • I wear a mask because I want to be part of the solution...
  • I wear a mask because I'm an adult who contributes to society...
  • I wear a mask because it means I'm caring and responsible...
  • I wear a mask because I know this isn't a hoax...
  • I wear a mask because I don't think an inconvenience is more important...
  • I wear a mask because it could save just one life...
At first glance, it looks positive. The problem, though, is that all too often the assumption seems to be that if you do the opposite, that means you believe the opposite. In this case, if you don't wear a mask it must mean that
  • you are uneducated
  • you don't care about other people
  • you want to be part of the problem
  • you aren't a contributing member of society
  • you are uncaring and irresponsible
  • you think the virus is a hoax
  • you think inconvenience is more important than lives
  • you don't care if people die

But wait--no one would ever say that, right? The problem is, that's exactly what these lists are doing.

I'll go out on a limb here to say this: I don't think we need to be wearing masks. No, I don't think the virus is a hoax. I do, however, think it's being used to create division and hatred in our society, just like everything is that happens in an election year (no matter which side of an issue you are on). There is overwhelming scientific evidence that shows that the vast majority of people are not at risk from this virus. Schools are closed or meeting virtually, though the risk to children is so low that it is statistically insignificant. People are losing businesses they've given everything to build. People in nursing homes are being forced to live out the end of their lives alone. I think those who are at risk should take precautions, and like always I'll stay home if I'm sick (isn't that what we're supposed to do?). I'll cough and sneeze into my elbow so that I'm not putting those germs on my hands.

I wear a mask at work, because I've made a choice to work for an organization that requires masks. That's one of the wonderful things about living in a free society--organizations have the right to make rules and guidelines, and I have the right to choose whether or not I work for them. If I choose to work for them, though, I choose to abide by their rules and guidelines. The same goes for businesses--it should be their choice whether or not to require masks, and my choice is whether or not I visit that business.

My choice not to wear a mask doesn't mean I'm uneducated. It doesn't mean I think the virus is a hoax or that I don't care about people. It does, however, mean that I've done my research (as I hope you have) and have come to an informed conclusion. It also means that I believe our rights in this country trump emotions and opinions. That's part of growing and maturing--children are controlled by their emotions and opinions. Mature adults? They depend on facts and truth.


Monday, September 14, 2020

when friends seem few...

To the teen girl, trying to find her "people":

Oh my goodness, sometimes this "friendship" thing seems hard. Sometimes you feel like you don't really have anybody you connect with--the people around just don't really seem to want you around, or you've found out that you've outgrown the friends you used to have so much in common with. You look at your childhood friends and realize that as you've started to grow up, you've started to grow apart.

The teenage years are far from easy. You're in a body that has become foreign to you, dealing with a mind that seems to have become your enemy at times, and prisoner to hormones that definitely don't seem to have your best interests at heart. You feel like you don't fit anywhere--at school, at home, or in your own body.

But can I tell you something? You're not supposed to fit right now.

You're in that in between, the time when you're not a little girl anymore but you aren't really grown up, either. The whole world is trying to convince you of who you should become, how you should look, how you should act. And all those girls who have been there with you through the childhood part of your life? They're in the same boat. That means all of you have lost your minds together, which makes it incredibly hard to be together.

You're not supposed to fit, because if you fit you get comfortable. And if you're comfortable, you stop growing. Right now, the only one you need to try to fit with is God. He's the One who can help you figure out which pieces of the childhood you should be kept and which pieces should be tossed away to make room for the new. He's the One who has designed you and who is shaping you into who He wants you to be.

Sometimes, that shaping is hard. Sometimes it takes grinding or scraping or melting or squeezing. It is so worth it, though. These hard times you find yourself in the middle of will create a treasure that can withstand the pressure and the flames of an uncertain future.

But that's the future, which I know is hard to think about. Right now, you're in the middle of the hard stuff. You're facing the fire and feel like you're alone--but I hope you remember that you're never alone. Remember the fiery furnace? And when Jonah called out from the belly of the fish? And when Peter started sinking on the waves? And in Lamentations when Jeremiah was crying out in the midst of the devastation of Israel?


Even right now--maybe especially right now--God is with you in the hard time. He's close enough to be able to whisper in your ear, and He's got you. He's holding you and there's no power that can ever be strong enough to pull you out of His grip.

One day, you'll feel the pieces of your soul start to slide into place. You'll start to learn who God wants you to be and you'll see glimpses of why you've gone through the hard things to make you who you are.

I'm not saying it will all make sense, or that suddenly one day you'll find "your people" and feel like you fit in the world. To be honest, I've never gotten to that place myself. I still have times when I wonder who my friends are, where my "tribe" is. I don't have a big group of friends who all hang out together and bring their families together for barbeques. I do, however, have a friend I've been able to count on for more than 20 years now, one I can count on no matter how little we've seen each other. I have family (blood and not) I know will love me no matter what. I have a husband who has stood next to me through all my craziness and who loves me in spite of myself.

Most of all, though, I have a God who promises me that He's always close enough to whisper in my ear.

He's your "people" and that will never change.

Monday, September 7, 2020

lamenting a nation

Israel had been warned, time and time again. They had been given so many chances to turn away from all the wrong they had been doing and to return to God and His purpose for them. Over and over again, though, they refused. The leaders, priests, and prophets kept lying to the people, telling them that everything was fine. Instead of pointing out where Israel was falling short and showing them what needed to change, they overlooked all the shortcomings. Instead of guiding them back to the right path, they pretended like the people didn't have anything to be worried about.

"They never warned and exposed you to correct your wicked ways so that things would go well again with no captivity. Instead, they told divine oracles of lies and deceit, that everything was fine." Lamentations 2:14

Lamentations isn't a fun book to read. Right now, especially--because as I read through these 5 chapters I keep seeing glimpses of the United States. If I'm being honest, they seem more like big, flashing, neon signs of the United States, actually.

The poet is talking about a nation whose beauty and worth have faded. It's a nation that has allowed the enemy to take over everything, even the temple of God. It is a once great nation that is now mocked by its enemies, all its failings exposed and put on display. It is a country that has even begun to sacrifice babies in order to make life "better" for the mother. A country that doesn't care about anything other than this moment:

"Impurity clung to her inside the cover of her clothes. She refused to consider anything but the present, never expecting her impurity would be revealed." Lamentations 1:9a

We, as a nation, have turned away from God. Our children are paying the price for our sins--through abortion, gender reassignment, pedophilia, and human trafficking. We have "pastors" who are telling us that all the wrong we're doing is fine, saying that the Bible didn't really mean that sins are actual sins, that right and wrong changes with society so things like homosexuality and sex before marriage and greed and lust and pride aren't bad now because our society has changed. Our enemies are watching in glee as all our failures are put on full display, and none of them have any interest in coming to our aid.

I wish I could point to Lamentations as an example of a nation realizing just how far they have fallen, repenting, and running back to the God of their salvation. That's not the case here, though. Lamentations is the grief of a nation lost deep in the consequences of their sins, finally bearing the punishment that God has long warned was coming. To be honest, I'm afraid our nation has followed suit. I'm afraid we are finally reaping what we've sown (though I sure hope I'm wrong). The Scriptures are really plain when talking about the reasons God will bless a nation and the reasons He will destroy one, and we seem to be comfortably camped out in the behaviors of the latter category.

In the middle of Lamentations, though, we have a reminder of hope:
"Saying Your name, Eternal One, I called to You from the darkness of this pit. Surely You've heard me say, 'Don't be deaf to my call; bring me relief!' So close when I've called out in my distress, You've whispered in my ear, 'Do not be afraid.'" Lamentations 3:55-57

Even when we're in the pit, crying out in despair, God is close enough to His children to whisper.

memorial day 2021

Okay, so this is the third time I've started a post for today. There are so many thoughts and emotions flying around in my head, but I c...

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