Posts Tagged ‘end times’

the-churchThere are so many definitions of the church–from a local body of believers to the Church universal (implying all believers). In Greek, the work is ekklesia which was used by the first testament church as the society of the Lord Jesus Christ but eventually was accepted as the Lord’s House, a derivation of kyriakon, this then separate from the term synagoga. 

In Ephesians 1:22-23, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” the implication is that the church has even deeper relevance in that the “ekklesia” is no longer just a body of believers who meet together but is part of the ultimate mission of Jesus, to bridge a gap between humanity and God through the ultimate sacrifice. What Jesus did in microcosm, the church is to do in macrocosm. There are a number of scriptures that speak of this sending out of the “church” into the world (http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Mission,-Of-The-Church has a strong list), most notably is Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

At Restore Church, where I attend and serve, this message is embedded in the church’s mission statement: “We exist so that people far from God will be raised to life in Christ.  Our mission will be unleashed by: Meeting people where they are. Connecting people to life changing relationships. Serving people with no strings attached. Fulfilling the mission of God will not only result in new ministries or programs, but a movement of disciple makers, impacting the world.”

What does this then look like? Mostly, it’s in the church structure (multiple campuses), the culture-relevant messages, the contemporary music, multi-media included in the services, and a conscious effort to welcome all people into the space without judgment. It takes about 120 volunteers each weekend to successfully support four campus workshop experiences.

Outside the walls of the church, there are a number of annual community events that are intended to broaden the appeal of Christ’s message through familiar and non-threatening events such as a massive Easter Egg Hunt, movies in the Park, Single Mom’s Spa Days, Mom Swaps, free clothing give-aways, concerts, and more.

Personally, I have been at Restore Church since it’s inception about five and a half years ago. My roles have evolved from hosting campus services to behind the scenes production work and special services. It would be my hope that my daily life would reflect my faith and commitment to a loving God, and my part of a living and breathing church.

But of course, that doesn’t always work out in some perfect way. I can remember going through so many different programs in churches throughout the years, programs of evangelism and outreach with the intent of “saving” people. It was well intentioned but with little heart for the individual. It’s one of the more realistic and powerful messages of the more contemporary churches: relationships as core to sharing Christ, sharing Holy Spirit, sharing life. The early church, gathered in homes and small spaces, seemed to get this piece of it but over the years, we have become too unwilling to engage in the lives of others.

Am I a good example of relationship discipleship? Not really. I participate in church activities when my work schedule allows, but the very essence of the new way, I have embraced in theory and not in practice. This is a kind of disappointment in myself. I know my mission field is not far afield, but here in my small town. And my mission is to love out of the box. I could build a case for my lack of relationships, but honestly, that’s not the point. My faith and love for God is known. But I am not a very good friend to many.

There is only one cure (for lack of a better term), and that is to step out–one person at a time. The “assignment” for the ministry school is identify one thing to do. But for me, it’s not a “thing” but a person. It is upon me to reach out to one person. This I will seek to do, with no real goal in mind, merely to “do life” a little with someone new to me.

For the story of the world is reflected in what we call the “end times” and when those days will come, it is not for us to know, but there will be trials and tribulations. For this reason, we are called into unity with others. This will not be a time to be alone. Family, extended family, church family, all of these will be a buttress to lies, and fake Messiahs, and hardships. (Matthew 24: 1-28)

Scripture does give us some information about these times, most importantly that we cannot know the time of Christ’s coming (Matthew 24:32-41). As in the time of Noah, people did not expect the flood, and yet it come. The story is a warning for us all. Not that we’ll have a flood, but that we must understand that our human time is finite.

There are some indicators of Christ’s return (although many have misinterpreted the signs again and again). Some thought Hitler was a sign of these times for the great damage that he did in the world. And yet, the end was pushed back. Some thought the Great Depression was a sign, but it too was not the end. Even today, there are fears that the great weather changes and storms are indicators of the end. But we will not know, not really.

So, what do we do? Remain faithful. Build relationships. Honor God. Love others.


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No one knows for sure how long it took Noah to build the ark although time is very much a part of the story, whether it’s the 40 days and nights of rain and bubbling springs or the month, day, and year the deluge started, scripture emphasizes a specific timetable and the significance of the flood and the ark in human history.

Genesis 7:11; 13; 16b
In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. . . . On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. . . . Then the Lord shut him in.

I am not going to put forth the logic or lack thereof for the flood as literal truth or symbolism. In either case, the story has been passed down to us for a reason, and I believe it is predominately to remind us that God will always protect at least a remnant of Human even in the face of complete destruction. For me, this is part of my faith walk, to believe in the faithfulness of God toward humanity and all living creatures on Earth as a whole.

Noah was not necessarily required to proclaim or warn the rest of the people on earth like Jonah was, to warn Nineveh (book of Jonah) of upcoming destruction. And yet, Noah was considered a righteous man who walked with God. He was known by the people, he had a reputation. And, undoubtedly, people noticed him building a very large structure. But, unlike the bible stories from Sunday School, there is no record that Noah and his family were mocked during this construction. More than likely, they were somewhat ignored or viewed as a curiosity. There is also no record of people pounding on the ark trying to get in, a scenario that gives everyone pause in the face of recent floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes.

This thread makes me think again about our disasters of the last ten years. It’s making people jumpy and anxious. As a result, many people all over the country (maybe the world) have become quite extreme about preparing for the end times or preparing for global war or preparing for natural disasters. They are building “fallout shelters” and laying up provisions. They are arming themselves. Are they privy to something we aren’t? Are they wise to prepare? Are they building an ark? And will we be the ones pounding on the doors? I don’t know.

It goes back to relationship with God. If there is to be a remnant, then God will will provide. Otherwise, I can only live in fear and angst. The story of Noah and the ark is about the preservation of life as much as it is the destruction of unrighteousness.

God shut the remnant in.

No matter how big the ark was or how many were inside, in the end, unless God shut the door, they would have perished as well.

Matthew 5:45b states, “He [God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” All are exposed to suffering and pain as well as joy and happiness. No one is exempt from the flood, not really. In the greater scheme of things, we cannot choose for ourselves who will escape cataclysm.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain. [Psalm 127:1]

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The Bible is rich with measurements, from paces and handbreadths to ephahs and hins. One of the first things described in cubits [generally considered to be the length of a forearm] was Noah’s ark. And here, New Jerusalem is described in stadia [generally considered to be 600 feet, give or take]. But really, who cares?

Revelation 21:15-16
The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia [1,200 miles] in length, and as wide and high as it is long [a cube].

Some people seem to think these measurements confirm, by specificity, the reality of what is being written about. In other words, the ark must be real, why else describe it in such detail? Some people have taken these descriptions and measurements to such “lengths” (pun intended), to recreate the items or places, either in life size or intricate models.

Another set of folks are fascinated by the actual numbers in scripture (a type of numerology if you will), citing the repetition of certain numbers and their implication.

I’m sure all of these studies are fascinating and may even give additional insights to the richness of the text. Of course, there are a number of holy document that have received the same treatment. Numbers, measurements, dates (and dating) are just a few of the ways that humans establish themselves in space and time.

Personally, I’m still trying to come to grips with the relationship between the European kilometer and the mile, or the length of my son’s ship in the Navy in relationship to something I know (it’s about two football fields, he finally said). I can barely figure out if a chair in the store will fit in my living room, much less the size of the ark, the temple, or the New Jerusalem. In the old days, when I felt much more compelled to diligently read every word of scripture (including the begats via the King James), I tried to picture every length, breadth, Old Testament celebration and sacrifice. I was determined to figure out the secret meaning or mystery embedded there.

I confess, today, I’m much more cavalier. I’ve been through the Bible, from front to back, more times than I can accurately count (another falling down, I’ve stopped keeping track), and honestly, I’m no closer to uncovering the ultimate number or truth. If anything, I’m backing off the detail and looking for the big picture. In the same way the Pharisees were chastised by Jesus for trying to tithe on spices used in foods [Matthew 23:23], I’m letting go of it too.

I’m not counting how many people I have “brought to Christ” or with how many people I have shared the gospel. I’m done with measuring my effectiveness as a human being by how many people I speak to or speak to me, or how many agree with me or how many people read my blog. I will not be running for office so I won’t need to count how many people vote for me.

My faith and my ability to love others is not really measurable, so why try? The size of my church doesn’t really tell much of a story either. It’s time to give up the cubits and work the quality of the event, the encounter, the moment.

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Art by Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison

I had an epiphany this morning. The Book of Life only has the good stuff in it. I mean, it’s not a list of all our mistakes, our sins, or our misdemeanors. That’s the point. If one’s name isn’t in the “book,” it’s because there’s nothing to write. That which is written there, nurtures life in others.

Revelation 20:12, 15
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. . . . Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

The other day, we had our micro-church (small group) meeting and talked about the feeling some of us have about “not doing enough.” [James 2:14-26] And at that time, I shared how that feeling or self-perception can morph into condemnation, which is NOT from God [Romans 8:1]. It’s like this: the poor will always be with us [Mark 14:7], the need will always be greater than what we can give. This is the nature of our current world, filled with strife, jealousy, and yes, even evil. Everywhere we look, there are people who are in ill health, depressed, lonely, out of work, addicted, or just plain lost. Each of us cannot tackle every misfortune. But we can touch one. And then another one.

We must, as they say, “keep on keeping on.” And that means, doing what we can, when we can, because we can. Each good work, each loving deed, each prayer, and each kindness works to tip the grand scale toward love and away from despair. We tend to minimize our good actions because they seem so small in the face of a daunting and urgent need. That’s unproductive thinking.

None can know the impact that a single kind remark might have.

I remember, a long time ago, I wrote a note to a woman who was participating in a retreat (Walk to Emmaus, for those who are familiar with it). Several years after that, while sharing my story at a Women’s Aglow meeting in a completely different state, this same woman came up to me with the note, now old and somewhat crumpled in her hand, and told me, with tears in her eyes, that my note had saved her life. I have no clue what I even wrote. And yet, this tiny act, so seemingly insignificant, became the difference between life and death for someone else.

As Yoda said, “do or not do, there is no try.” And so it is with the extension of self toward others. Do. But do not judge what you do, this is not the way of love and God.

When Jesus walked this earth, did he not face even more insurmountable odds. One man, then three, and then twelve, changed the face of humanity in three years. Ok, so he did a few miracles, but ultimately, I’m not so sure those are the actions that made the real difference. I think it was his authentic presence, his touch, his listening ear, his compassion, and his unconditional of acceptance of everyone he met. He showed us “human,” the way human was intended to be from the beginning.

Today, I can choose to write into the Book of Life.

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Painting by Carmela Brennan

There is always a “last battle.” Not just in the heavenly realms, those extra-ordinary places that we can’t feel or see, but in our own world as well. In our individual lives, there is one last struggle. It can come in a moment during a car crash or it can be a lingering battle in a hospital bed. But it will come.

Revelation 19:11, 19
 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. . . .  Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army.

Throughout my slow read through the book of Revelation, I have been determined to find something personal in the global end time story. Otherwise, it becomes an exercise in the esoteric.

And so, as I draw to the end of the visions and prophecies, the sorrows and judgments, I am confronted by this final battle. What makes evil press on despite the odds? Why does an enemy still do battle although the end is clear? Why do they fight to the death?

I’m guessing it’s the experience of previous skirmishes won. It’s an addiction, like gambling. It’s quite illogical, since a previous win gives no advantage. Each game, each battle stands alone. There may be some experience gained, but ultimately, the outcome is not directly influenced. Look at sports teams. They can have a long list of wins and still lose the championship game. There are so many other factors.

In the last battle of a human life, the end is clear: the body will die. The battle is manifest, perhaps, in the body, but really, the battle is within. It’s the battle of the soul. With whom have we aligned that spark of energy and essence?

The battle is waged whether we engaged in spiritual things in our waking state or not. I’m sure of it.

I discourage anyone (and everyone) to dispense with these inane questions about a person “knowing” or not knowing Christ before the last hour. What the soul and inner spirit know and how that battle will be waged is not merely dependent on a deathbed confession. Each life is built on an array of experiences. That which is within stores them all: the kindnesses, the stories, the pain and the joy. It is all within and it is all part of the last battle.

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” [I Timothy 2:3-4]

The last battle is different for each person. And I do believe that people who have aligned their hearts and minds as well as their souls and spirits, will have a different kind of battle than those who have not. But God is sovereign. And none of us can know how the battle will go for others. There is strength and power in the King of Kings that may draw many more out of the fire than we can imagine. I believe in a just God. None will perish who God desires to embrace. For in this way, it is still possible, that the “last shall be first.” [Matthew 20:16]

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Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!

I almost feel like Dorothy trying to navigate her way through the Land of Oz. But where she chanted lions and tigers and bears; we are told to beware of dragons, beasts, and 666. Dorothy and her friends didn’t know what to expect and honestly, either do we.

Revelation 13:11-12a, 18b
Then I [John] saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, . . . Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.

Whether these are mythical dragons or early man’s interpretation of dinosaurs, they represent something bigger than we are, stronger, fearsome, and non-human. Let’s just take a Sauropoda or Brontosaurus, an average human next to that one is about as tall as toe to mid-calf of one leg of the dinosaur. That would be like a man next to a mouse, a very small mouse. What do we have in common? What do we share? And if, today, we actually encountered a malevolent creature of that size, wouldn’t we fear it?

According to Revelation, that’s not all, we also have multi-headed beasts and mysterious numbers to fear, or just one number, really, that mysterious 666 which has become synonymous with evil, the devil, and other negative connotations. It’s universally accepted as sinister except for those who relish in sympathizing with such symbolism such as the Aryan Brotherhood, the Growing in Grace Church of Miami who follow self-proclaimed “christ-figure” Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, the Cult of Saturn, and many more.

I remember my first exposure to all of the prophetic tumult in the 1970’s about the end times, 666, the mark of the beast, and so on. I was terrified as more and more people seemed to believe in it and write about it. For many, the last days were identified by many signs like the modern day happenings in Israel, the European Union, and the demise of paper money for e-cash. And of course, more recently, the pathetic predictions of charlatans such as Howard Camping whose rapture was to have happened last year on May 21st.

Just as there are good witches and evil witches in Oz, so do we have the spectrum here in “Kansas.” Good and evil are ever before us with the narrow good road generally appearing as the least likely way to travel.

Wisdom calls out in the market place [Proverbs 1:20] and yet we do not hear her. We are running to and fro looking for signs and wonders and yet do not see the most obvious sign of all: our own biases.

The poor, the orphan, the widow, the single mom, and the homeless are fighting the dragon and beasts every day as well as those humans who behave as though 666 is their motto, withholding what they have out of fear losing it all. Oh God, is that my number after all? Forgive me.

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Of course, this “war in heaven” is raged all the time. Despite the various views of Bible scholars, both Old Testament and New, I cannot eschew my commitment to timelessness to all things heavenly and Godly. And how do I know this? Just look around.

Revelation 12:7-8, 9b
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. . . He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

If the effects of this war in heaven is the hurling of evil forces to earth, then we have had no respite from it. Throughout the ages, earth and human have experienced nothing but travail, fighting against one another for one stupid reason after another.

We have always longed for things we could not have. This is the mark of evil.

“They [Michael and his angels] triumphed over him [the dragon and his angels]
by the blood of the Lamb [the Christ]
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death. [Revelation 12:11]

This is the life of paradox: taking the “strength and power” of the Christ, the lamb, the peace that passes understanding, and doing battle against evil. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” [Ephesians 6:12]

Oh, if I could just get this in my head and heart and mind and not struggle so much with traditional strength, with my own determination, and my own flappings.

Gandhi got it. Martin Luther King got it. Mother Teresa got it. What about you and me?

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