Thinking Out Loud

November 26, 2018

Let’s Talk Classical Music, If You Think You Can Handel It

Saturday night the choir in which my wife sings presented, a more or less complete performance of Handel’s Messiah. Despite being intimately familiar with some of the pieces either through playing or singing, this was my first time hearing everything in full context.

Handel‘s orchestral works are among my all time favorite classical pieces. Especially the Overture to the Royal Fireworks and the Finale from the Suite in D major of the Water Music. (Is it nerdy that I have favorite classical pieces? I don’t think so. Yesterday at church I was belting out the lyrics to Jesus Culture and Elevation Worship with everyone else.)

I knew some of the Messiah pieces well enough to spot some changes in interpretation that the new music director of the choir was bringing to this performance. I suppose this is how music critics get started, but even as a seasoned writer, I would find a choral concert review a rather daunting task.

So two thoughts here:

One is the same question I found myself asking when the same choir performed a Requiem by Fauré: How many of these singers and musicians truly know the One about whom they are singing? Do they believe that “the Lord God omnipotent reigneth?” Or let’s get really Evangelical: Does the Lord God omnipotent reign in their hearts? (Not a recommended opening evangelistic question.)

Exactly a week earlier, I had stood on a stage in front of a much smaller audience and sung the Andrae Crouch lyric, “No, it’s not just a story, but reality.” It was part of a larger, 3-night series of mini-performances involving people from across a wide spectrum in the community. I did wonder how many of the performers would be in a worship service that weekend. Everyone knows the lyric, “God and sinners reconciled;” but how many can tell you how that atonement process works? Or how they’ve experienced it?

Perhaps that’s asking too much. Students of classical music simply take the religious texts as a given. That was the music of the day. People went to church on Sunday, too; but that’s another discussion. In the choir were some of the best of the best musicians in our little town; people who themselves would be directing church choirs the next morning — being paid to do so — but the question would still stand; is this just another gig or do they know the Jesus of whom we speak? Let’s face it, musicians are the worst. The poster children for total depravity.

All this begs a greater question when it comes to the members of the audience: At a personal level how do they relate to the lyrics as they are hearing them? Are they simply captivated by the soloists vocal ability or the richness of the full choir harmony in a glorious crescendo? Or do they internalize the message that “He shall reign forever and ever.” (And ever and ever.)

We never really know the spiritual state of someone else. How God has worked and continues to work in their lives. Or what masks of pretension they don when walking into a church building. 

Messiah is about Jesus. He’s not in the choral work insofar as he doesn’t show up to turn water to wine, feed the 5,000 or raise Lazarus. But it’s all about him. It’s helpful to know that on a personal level.

Second, I marveled at the texts from Isaiah in a new and fresh way. They were almost… I don’t know… prophetic. (Okay, that was bad.) You grow up in church and you know that the writings in that section of your Bible are called ‘Major Prophets’ for a reason, but when your mind is awakened to the details of those prophecies — particularly the Messianic ones — it’s as though the writers were inspired. (Okay, that was also bad.)

…Messiah doesn’t end with the chorus ‘Hallelujah.’ There is a much shorter third part and then the climax is ‘Worthy Is the Lamb.’ provided below.

Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto Him!

► One of this blog’s all-time most popular posts is, Hallelujah Chorus: Should Audiences Still Stand? There are now 112 comments and they are far more interesting than what I wrote! (Yes, we stood on Saturday night.)

 

 

June 28, 2018

Choosing Kingdom Over Empire

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:59 am

Several years back, I got to know Canadian Baptist pastor Clarke Dixon. As I read his blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon (where he takes his weekly sermon and shrinks it) I realized it was an absolutely perfect fit for Christianity 201 (our sister blog) and so his writing appears there most Thursdays. Today, I wanted to give readers here a taste for what Clarke writes there, and as this is today’s C201 post, many of you get to read it here first for a change! You can also read it at Clarke’s blog.

Will we ever wake up in a world with no violence or conflict? We see it on the news, we hear about it in the lives of people around us, maybe we experience it personally. Yes, there will be a day there will be no more conflict. Christ will return and there will be

a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . . And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’” (Revelation 21:1,5 NRSV)

But are we to just wait for that day, putting up with all this conflict until then? The prophet Nahum will help us find our way.

Nahum points us in the right direction by pointing out what happens when we get on the wrong track. Nahum is a prophecy to a people who had been on the wrong track. The Assyrians were on the track to empire. Nahum had the task of telling them that they had reached the end of the line. There are three problems with the track to empire.

First problem with the empire track; empire is temporary. Much of the history of the world is a history of the empire after empire seeking to become the biggest and best. The history of the world teaches us that they all fall in the end. Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, it doesn’t matter, empire is always temporary.

There is a better track; the track that leads to the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is eternal. We may struggle to understand the book of Revelation, but the main message is really quite simple; empires rise and fall, but the Kingdom of God is eternal.

So are we building towards empire, or Kingdom? Are we building for things that are temporary? Are our time, talents, and treasures going toward things that last?

Second problem with the empire track: empire destroys relationships. In empire living, there are only allies or enemies. The peoples within and around an empire are either going to help the empire get bigger, or they are going to get in the way and be a threat.

There is a better track, one that leads to the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of God, there are only neighbours. Jesus taught us to “love thy neighbour as thyself” and then went on to define our neighbor as anyone and everyone.

When we meet people, do we see them as either allies of enemies? Do we see them as either being useful to us, or in our way, and even a threat? Or do we simply see them as neighbours to be loved?

Third problem with the empire track; empires are built through brute force and brutality. Nahum tells of this, for example:

1 Ah! City of bloodshed,
utterly deceitful, full of booty—
no end to the plunder!
2 The crack of whip and rumble of wheel,
galloping horse and bounding chariot!
3 Horsemen charging,
flashing sword and glittering spear,
piles of dead,
heaps of corpses,
dead bodies without end—
they stumble over the bodies! Nahum 3:1-3 (NRSV)

Yet she became an exile,
she went into captivity;
even her infants were dashed in pieces
at the head of every street;
lots were cast for her nobles,
all her dignitaries were bound in fetters. Nahum 3:10 (NRSV)

In building empires, countless of people were killed. For those who lived, eyes were often gouged out, tongues cut off, people sold off and removed far from home. So brutal were some empires that even unborn babies were ripped from their mother’s wombs, and orphaned infants dashed to the ground. This is how empires struck fear in their enemies. Better to surrender to the power of a “better” empire, than experience it firsthand. Nahum’s prophecy is about the Assyrian empire experiencing what it dished out to others.

All who hear the news about you
clap their hands over you.
For who has ever escaped
your endless cruelty? Nahum 3:19 (NRSV)

There is, thankfully, a better track, the track that leads to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is built with a different kind of force: “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit” Zechariah. 4:9 (NKJV).

Jesus said “those who draw the sword, will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:62-54 NRSV). Jesus was doing two things when he refused to use violence at his arrest in Gethsemane. He was taking the Kingdom track for our sake, so that we might be forgiven rather than destroyed. But he was also giving us an example to follow, an example of Kingdom thinking, Kingdom living, Kingdom dying. Jesus call us to pick up the cross and follow, which means to trade empire for Kingdom. We are to become Kingdom people, good news people.

We are empire people when we show up with swords and guns and bombs. We are Kingdom people when we show up with the Spirit of God: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22,23 (NRSV). Do we show up to our relationships with swords or the Spirit? Do we show up on Facebook, Twitter and other social media with swords or Spirit? Do we show up ready ready to fight people? Or to fight with people against the evil in their lives? Do we show up as empire people or Kingdom people?

You might perceive a problem with the Kingdom track. It does not seem to take into account your suffering at the hands of another. It is unfair. You deserve vengeance. And perhaps you are right. It is unfair. However, the prophecy of Nahum, though addressed to the Assyrians, was for the encouragement of Israel when they experienced what seemed to be very unfair treatment. Having been on the wrong track for a long time, Assyria has reached the end of the line. However, nowhere in the prophecy of Nahum is there a call for Israel to take up arms. There is no need. We can think of Paul’s word to the Christians in Rome who also knew a thing or two about being treated unfairly:

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 (NRSV)

Every day we wake up to violence and conflict. Every day is an opportunity to live as God’s good news people. Every day is an opportunity for Kingdom rather than empire. While we may not feel we have much influence in conflicts around the globe, the ones close to home are opportunities for Kingdom building.

April 20, 2018

The Year Summer Never Came

I’ve run this picture 3 times now. On New Year’s Day 2009, Ippswich in Australia was expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F. Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer is showing that we’re heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F. Their high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night. That’s 101 degrees F difference. That day I was asking, “Are we even on the same planet?”

As I’m writing this, it looks like temperatures are going to break out of the single digits (°C) here this weekend, though nothing spectacular is promised. The sun is shining for the first morning in six, so there’s reason to hope.

But what if never summer never came? What if you didn’t know why? In 1816 there wasn’t the communications we have today and certainly not weather forecasting. The first video below is short, to whet your appetite for this story. The second one is 16 minutes, talks about the role of the church in the face of meteorological disaster, and even notes a small connection between the winter of 1816 and the birth of Mormonism.

I’m sure the people of that day felt they were witnessing the end times. Later, they would learn the scientific reason that winter truly never came that year.

 

December 9, 2017

Armageddon Preview: California Wildfires

Admittedly the person who posted this on Twitter retouched the sign, but everything else in this image is real.

Long before there was the Left Behind books and music, there were the Russell Doughten films. Growing up Evangelical in the ’70s and ’80s meant your church probably had showings of:

While studies have shown that guilt- and fear-induced decisions tend not to produce lifelong disciples, there are no doubt some reading this who were “scared into the kingdom” by movies such as this and live productions such Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames.

Looking at the images from Southern California this week, it was difficult not to imagine that we were viewing a film producer’s vision of the end times. The people who had to drive through those scenes in order to escape will simply never be able to erase those images. The future PTSD issues related to the past week will endure as long as many of these people are living.

The losses are staggering. But beyond the personal tragedy is the loss of a rather unique part of the world, every bit as special to me as Venice is to others.

I took six trips to So. Cal., staying at least two weeks for each, and renting a car each time. My favorite memories are of driving north of Los Angeles at night with the radio cranked on KFI or KKHR and capturing the image in my mind of the homes lining the Hollywood Hills, not unlike the view you get looking down on a city or town at night from an airplane, but with the perspective reversed by the fact you’re at the lowest altitude and the porch lights and street lights are displayed in a panorama above you.

When the lights go down in the California town
People are in for the evening
I jump into my car and I throw in my guitar
My heart beatin’ time with my breathin’

After finding something that totally awed me, I would then take the first exit, loop around and drive the opposite way to see it all again. Gas was cheaper then, I suppose. I can’t describe to you the beauty of the lights twinkling up the hills. It was another world.

Ventura Highway in the sunshine
Where the days are longer
The nights are stronger
Than moonshine

To think of so much of that being simply gone is unimaginable. You see the video footage of burned out properties, but I think about what they were; what will take at least a generation to rebuild if not longer.

When you think of the dangers of living in So. Cal., you think earthquakes. Not any longer. As one responder said yesterday, “Fire season is now all year.”

In the end, condition “red” was not enough. They had to create a new level “purple” for “extreme” danger.

…I don’t know if any filmmakers were mercenary enough to go out and shoot stock footage in the middle of this, but it certainly raises the possibilities of what Armageddon could look like; metaphorically of course, because the prophesied battle takes place on the other side of the world.

But The Tribulation, perhaps? Definitely. Nuclear aftermath? For sure.

 

 

March 4, 2016

That Moment Where Peter Gets It

I wrote this for Christianity 201, but as I was writing, it evolved into something greater than I intended, so I’m sharing it here. Apologies to those who subscribe to both.

Last month several churches in my area held their annual meetings. Part of this is required by law and is intended to include the election of officers. Because one church has a rather unique take on this, I looked into the choosing of Matthias (to replace Judas Iscariot) in Acts 1, but ended up with a completely different takeaway.

First, the text (all scriptures today are NLT)

20 Peter continued, “This was written in the book of Psalms, where it says, ‘Let his home become desolate, with no one living in it.’ It also says, ‘Let someone else take his position.’

21 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— 22 from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they all prayed, “O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen 25 as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven.

Some commentaries believe that they cast lots because they had two equally viable candidates and there was no clear consensus for choosing one or the other.

But it was verse 20 that got my attention; and I left the other consideration aside. Sometimes that happens when you’re reading scripture; you’re looking for topic “A” and find topic “B” jumping out at you!

First, some background. In Matthew 16, Peter starts the chapter doing really well. As the lead follower of Rabbi Jesus, he’s got the right answer.

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

15 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.

But then things fall apart for Peter a few verses later:

21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”

I think you know what happens next.

23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

What I think is clearly stated here is that Peter is unaware that everything Jesus is doing is following a divine script. It’s “necessary for him to go to Jerusalem.” This is all part of God’s plan. But Peter doesn’t see it that way.

Now, flash forward to where we began, in Acts 1. Peter is invoking two prophetic passages from the Psalms foretelling of the replacement of Judas:

Ps. 69:25 Let their homes become desolate
and their tents be deserted.

and

Ps. 109:8 Let his years be few;
let someone else take his position.

Suddenly, Peter realizes that he and the other disciples are following a divine script. He sees it as equally necessary for them to appoint a 12th apostle. He gets it!

At first, I thought this was even more remarkable considering Pentecost had not happened. I mistakenly concluded they were not yet filled with the Holy Spirit. This is, after all Acts chapter one, not Acts chapter two where we read:

3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4a And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit…

But in terms of The Twelve (and any others that were with them at the time) that’s not the case. If we backtrack to the time before Christ’s ascension, John 20 points out:

19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

The point is that Peter is now a changed person, and he recognizes the fulfillment of the Messianic Psalms in everything he is experiencing in his lifetime.

There is another example of the Psalm connection I want to end with. In Matthew 27, we see Jesus on the cross:

46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

This one verse is so rich and contains much we could discuss as to Jesus being abandoned by The Father. But one preacher I heard said that in saying what he did, it was like a giant, neon, flashing billboard saying “READ PSALM 22.” (The people of the day knew the Psalms by their first lines, the numbering system wasn’t around then.)

This is the clearest Psalm in terms of predicting the crucifixion which is taking place at that exact moment:

7 Everyone who sees me mocks me.
They sneer and shake their heads, saying,
8 “Is this the one who relies on the Lord?
Then let the Lord save him!
If the Lord loves him so much,
let the Lord rescue him!”

14 My life is poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
melting within me.
15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
16 My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
an evil gang closes in on me.
They have pierced my hands and feet.
17 I can count all my bones.
My enemies stare at me and gloat.
18 They divide my garments among themselves
and throw dice for my clothing.


Imaging being there and knowing you are right in the middle of everything spoken prophetically in the Psalms
.

Peter figured that out, and from this point on his ministry moves on a new trajectory, with confidence and power.

 

September 11, 2015

Blood Moons, The Shemitah Cycle, and Your Stock Market Portfolio

Blood Moons Shemitah Etc

I’ve used Mary Agrusa’s writing several times at this site’s devotional sister-blog, Christianity 201, so I’m hoping she’ll forgive me for reprinting this in full here at Thinking Out Loud. The bottom line is, this really resonated with me, and if I just post a link, statistically, many of you don’t click. You can send Mary some stats love to her blog The Thought Just Occured To Me by clicking the title below and reading this at source. Mary Agrusa describes herself as an author, speaker, painter, teacher and day trader. The final blood moon is September 28th.

My Two Cents

“In the Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property” Lev. 25:13

I’m taking a break from my normal routine. My blogs are written several months in advance and any correlation between subject matter and current events is a Divine set-up. This week I decided to weigh in on this matter before and not after the fact.

The hot topics in some of the Church are The Shemitah Cycle and the Blood Moons which are creating a good deal of fear and for a few, positive cash flow. For the  most part, I’ve kept my opinions to myself and chose not to join in the fear mongering. As we approach the final blood moon and the end of the Shemitah cycle for 2015 I’m going to add my two cents into the mix.

First, the Shemitah cycle and the Year of Jubilee were given to Israel and the purpose was two-fold. It allowed for the land to have regular periods of rest from production in order to keep nutrients and minerals from being depleted. Doing this helped ensure healthy crops and abundant harvests. Even today it is great gardening and farming advice.

Second, these laws provided a system whereby people who had lost their ancestral lands could be restored to them. In theory, it was a great idea. Unfortunately Israel never consistently followed these practices and paid the price.

So, what does the Shemitah cycle have to do with the U.S. stock and financial markets movement? Scripturally speaking – nothing. These laws applied to Israel alone and there is no biblical evidence that any other nations ever received those mandates or were punished for a failure to comply with them. Although I actively day traded the markets for about five years, I don’t classify myself as an expert. I have, however, learned a great deal about market cyclicality and what makes them move in either direction.

If we want to give kudos to someone who understands these things the award goes to Tom McClelland. Tom is a market timer and the offspring of the originators of the McClelland Oscillator, a tool used to forecast market movement. McClelland correctly called August, 24th ahead of time as the day the market would turn down and it did. As far as I know his call wasn’t based on either of the two popular Christian premises making the rounds but on solid technical and fundamental information and analysis. And he got it right.

Anyone can predict that our stock market will take a downturn in the fall of the year and have a good chance of being correct. There are several things that go on “under the hood” that contribute to this. Here are just a few.

Managers of large portfolios re-allocate resources. If they’ve hit their benchmarks for the year they sell out early in order to bank the profits and keep customers happy. If they’re on the losing side, for tax purposes, they need to slowly liquidate their holdings of millions of shares in an orderly manner to avoid panic selling. What this means is that the market can continue to rise higher but on reduced volume. That is what happened in our markets over the past few months.

Corporations begin reporting earnings in October but it isn’t unusual for some to give guidance ahead of time. If they do the markets can move sharply based on this news. When earnings are announced often companies will give forward guidance; where they see things going in the future. This type of information can also have a serious impact on the market, up or down. Since the financial crisis of 07-08 companies have become leaner and more efficient. This helps the bottom line but only for so long. Unless sales are generated revenues shrink and profitability falters. Many corporations based projections for growth on China’s seemingly robust economy to balance out losses in the U.S. and Europe. Now that China has slowed there’s no one else to pick up the slack.

For years our government poured obscene amounts of money into the equity markets and raised stock prices to artificial highs. People felt better when they saw their 401k’s and investment portfolios regain the losses and go in the black. With interest rates at record lows, bank accounts were no longer a place to park money. People were forced into the stock market to receive any type of return on an investment. These aren’t long term investors. This week the Fed will announce if it will raise rates and there is some speculation that they will. This type of policy change or one whiff of bad news could have short-term investors headed for the exits.

The market’s bull run has been built on shaky financial underpinnings. Sooner or later it will reverse, it always does, and the results could be ugly. When that happens it will likely be the result of poor economic and financial policies, short-term investors cashing out, national and international events that can’t be predicted and not on God, Shemitah cycles and blood moons.

About blood moons, Peter was very bold to declare that the events of Acts 2 were the direct fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy concerning these signs in the heavens. Rather than a time of doom, this event was an unprecedented outpouring of the Spirit of God on Jews and Gentiles alike. Prophecy, dreams and visions also expanded. One of my favorite ministers gave this advice concerning blood moons. Based on what Peter said he recommends that one put oneself in a position to receive dreams and visions from God. I like that idea.

Jesus repeatedly spoke out against fear in every way, shape, form and manner. Unfortunately in the Church, fear sells even in direct opposition of the Lord’s teachings. Why would unbelievers want what we claim to have when some of us are acting more frightened and pessimistic than they are?

How about you? Are you fulfilling Jesus’ command to occupy until He comes or are you hunkered down and hoping for The Great Escape? Has the plethora of gloom and doom promulgated by ministers and ministries caused you to be overcome with fear and dread for the future? If so, is that the type of abundant life Jesus died to give us? The bible tells us over and over that there will be difficult and hard times, challenges to overcome but through Christ we are victorious over them all. Be an overcomer.

August 13, 2015

Prediction vs. Prophecy

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:12 am

Written very late at night…

I looked out the window at the morning sky as I stepped out of the shower stall. In the five minutes I had been in the bathroom, the scene had completely clouded over. Originally, I thought we were promised completely clear skies. Talking to myself out loud I said, “This is not the day that was prophesied.”

Of course, the wording is awkward. We tend to think of prophecy in religious terms. In a conversation today, one person suggested to me that the term was exclusively Christian or at least limited to deists; it was only prophecy if it came from God. I reminded them that the term is indeed associated with other religions, that in the broadest scheme of things, prophet is not limited to a handful of Biblical writers, and sometimes they got it right.

skipping stonesThe day’s weather was instead a matter of prediction, but by this point I was straining at the nuances of that word as well.

“Just save yourself all this, and use the word forecast when referring to the weather;” was my youngest son’s suggestion.

I think one variable is time. The meteorologist can predict tomorrows climate conditions, but we would hardly call it prophecy. Even if he offers a forecast for the same date, but twenty years from now, some would argue that this is projection based on climate data available to him or her.

But what we do see from the Biblical writers usually involves a very distant future, and involves parameters that exceed any current data available. There is usually a sense of a holy person having seen some type of vision. But even there the time frame is variable, as some prophecies have multiple fulfillment, not unlike the idea of stones skipping across the water.*

An internet search on this topic yielded over 600,000 results. Not all agreed. But it is interesting how people from a faith group, and Christians in particular, can appropriate a term as if it’s their own. We have no exclusive rights to prophecy — even if we believe that the only true or accurate prophecies can come from the author of truth — but we also have to remember that many times what we say is merely a prediction of human agency.

Any thoughts on this subject?


*A friend of mine taught me this skipping stones principle in terms of Joel 2:28 — among other passages — having multiple fulfillment. We developed this a little bit in this article:

Related:

 

 

 

February 20, 2015

The Bible and the Weather Forecast

Before his recent suspension from NBC’s Nightly News broadcast, I always thought that if I ever found myself sitting next to Brian Williams on an airplane, the first question I would ask is, “Do you remember the last time you did an evening newscast without a weather story?

free_snow_signMuch of the American news coverage revolves around hurricanes and tornadoes and drought in the summer and freezing rain and record snowfalls in the winter. One has to wonder if the place was ever meant to be inhabited. To those who constantly ask, “Is America in Bible prophecy,” the answer might have more to do with the country being diminished by weather catastrophe than by some major loss of economic influence.

In my native Canada, we are more accustomed to the worst the meteorologists have to forecast. Everything from clothing to cars to housing must be able to withstand temperatures varying from -40°C to +40°C, and even lower wind chill factors and higher humidity indexes. (To my U.S. readers, I’m sorry that you are one of only two countries left that does not use the metric system. I think pride has a lot to do with that. The lower temperature is the same -40°F as this is the place where the two scales meet. The higher would be 104°F.) Canada has also built infrastructures — the banking of roads is a great example — with winter in mind and each municipality and province is well equipped with trucks and snowplows as well as alternatives to salt, which is ineffective below a certain point on the thermometer.

By contrast, it was reported two nights ago that a large U.S. municipality has only 12 trucks for spreading salt, no doubt due to its situation in what is termed “the south.” Changing weather patterns mean that preparedness takes on a new importance. Perhaps this type of truck can be re-purposed for other duties when the temperatures are warmer.

I heard it recently here suggested that America spends so much on its government bureaucracy, and so much on the war effort, that the money simply doesn’t exist to keep southern Interstate highways free of snow and ice.

But back to our theme, I can’t help but think of a couple of verses in Luke 21 where Jesus is speaking:

There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.  (11)  There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. (25)

These verses are part of a longer prophetic section which, just as you can skip stones across a lake, had one more immediate fulfillment and can be expected to have yet another fulfillment to come.

I noticed I wrote about weather at least once a year here.  In 2011:

I think weather is a rather weak “sign” of the impending ending to the “age of grace” when compared with, for example, moral decay. When people say, “Look at the way the world is…;” they generally are referring to its spiritual state, not its meteorological state. Furthermore, it’s the aggregate of many signs that point to “final wrap up” here.

and more practically:

I think we have a responsibility to close the windows so the rain doesn’t get in. In other words, we need to do the practical things we can do here and now.

In 2012 shortly after watching a sermon from Greg Boyd:

…Boyd is very cautious about trying to read too much into the effects of weather phenomena: “It’s like reading tea leaves.” He points out that when the disciples find themselves caught at sea in a storm, Jesus, normally depicted as ‘in charge’ of the weather, actually rebukes the storm, using the same word that he would use when silencing a demon. Boyd asks, “If Jesus was in charge of the storm, why did he need to rebuke it?”

Still, there is no denying that the United States is seeing a number of modern day plagues, and since it was God himself that sent the plagues to Egypt, it is certainly easy to jump to similar conclusions with weather signs…

Last year we looked at whether (no pun intended) or not we should speak of “Mother Nature”:

…I do think that much if not all of the weather phenomena we experience is the natural consequence of living in a fallen world. When we speak questions like, “How could a loving God allow so much evil to exist?” we are usually talking about genuine evil, and not snow or drought; but it all comes under the same category. This world is broken, and we are continually adding to that brokenness through our disregard for the environment.

Is God powerless in all this? Not for a moment. I believe that God is positively disposed and favorably inclined to intervene each time someone prays, but that sometimes he holds back his hand and allows things to proceed naturally. A miracle is a miracle because it doesn’t happen every day. I don’t know if Pat Robertson really “prayed a hurricane back” from the Virginia coast in the ’70s, but I do believe that God is intervening in our planet more times than we realize. I don’t subscribe to the “clockmaker” theory that God simply “wound up” the planet and left it “ticking.” 

At the very least, the winter of 2014-15 should give us pause to consider our place in the cosmos, that we are no match for the elements, and yet for the most part we survive the winter and move on. 

Where my son is in Haiti right now, they might look at things differently however. The earthquake 5 years ago took 250,000 lives.  While the tectonic shifts are not meteorological per se, they are the effect of living in a fallen world much greatly magnified. To that, I cannot answer today, but it helps us put our weather concerns in perspective.


image: Daily Encouragement, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber

January 29, 2015

When Unbelievers Get It

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:39 am

I Cor 14 is a passage that deals with spiritual gifts that may be interpreted differently by people depending on their take on the reality of those gifts in the 21st century. So I don’t want to focus specifically on the idea prophecy or prophesying as much as I want to focus on the latter part of verse 25:

24 But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. 25 As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is truly here among you.” (NLT)

What a great moment that would be! Imagine someone coming into one of our meetings who is not a believer, but they observe “God is truly here among you.”

I like how The Message handles this:

But if some unbelieving outsiders walk in on a service where people are speaking out God’s truth, the plain words will bring them up against the truth and probe their hearts. Before you know it, they’re going to be on their faces before God, recognizing that God is among you. (vs 24-25, Message)

There’s a great Old Testament parallel passage to this:

This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: In those days ten men from different nations and languages of the world will clutch at the sleeve of one Jew. And they will say, ‘Please let us walk with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ (Zechariah 8:23 NLT)

What a picture that paints!

We had a pastor once whose nearly ten year ministry of us truly came to a dramatic climax with his final sermon. His last sentence of that message went something like this, “I don’t want people to leave here saying, ‘They have a great church;’ but rather, they should say, ‘They have a great God.'”

What a great thing to hear!


About the Blogroll:

This blog has a rather interesting link list in the sidebar. Blogs mentioned are chosen because they are (a) faith focused and (b) posting regularly. The doctrinal flavor of the blogs listed is quite varied, but I don’t include blogs that appear to have more “agenda” than content. Some blogs are listed somewhat permanently, some disappear and return a month later. Together, they represent almost one twentieth or about 5% of the bloggers that I have bookmarked in my computer and read regularly. Some of the blogs appearing in the Wednesday link list end up on this page later on, while others have a key post that I feel is worth mentioning, while at the same time I’m not sure I want to establish them as a link or imply endorsement. Recommendations are invited.

November 10, 2014

When People Try to Guess The Future

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:51 pm
It’s just about that time again…

In an article in The Futurist magazine, writer Laura Lee catalogues some of the worst predictions of all time:

“Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further developments.” —Roman engineer Julius Sextus Frontinus, A.D. 100

“The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.” —John Eric Ericksen, surgeon to Queen Victoria, 1873

“Law will be simplified [over the next century]. Lawyers will have diminished, and their fees will have been vastly curtailed.” —journalist Junius Henri Browne, 1893

“It doesn’t matter what he does, he will never amount to anything.” —Albert Einstein’s teacher to Einstein’s father, 1895

“It would appear we have reached the limits of what it is possible to achieve with computer technology.” —computer scientist John von Neumann, 1949

“The Japanese don’t make anything the people in the U.S. would want.” —Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, 1954

“Nuclear powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within 10 years.” —Alex Lewyt, president of the Lewyt Vacuum Cleaner Company, quoted in the New York Times, June 10, 1955

“Before man reaches the moon, your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.” —Arthur Summerfield, U.S. Postmaster General under Eisenhower, 1959

“By the turn of the century, we will live in a paperless society.” —Roger Smith, chairman of General Motors, 1986

“I predict the internet … will go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” —Bob Metcalfe, InfoWorld, 1995

Aren’t you glad your faith does not rest on human words?

~

 

The Futurist, (September/October, 2000), p. 20–25

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