Posts Tagged ‘prophecy’

prophesyProphecy, predictions, and fortune telling: do we really want to know?

Amaziah said to Amos, “You who see things, go, run away to the land of Judah, eat your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s holy place and his royal house.” [Amos 7:12-13, CEB]

We check with the local meteorologist/weatherman every day; we are obsessed with knowing the weather forecast. Most people have it on the home screens of their cell phone. Will it rain? Will it snow? Will my life be changed by either? Nope.

We say we want to know but then, if it’s not what we want to hear, we speak against it. Chance of rain today, 53%  Oh, please don’t rain, I want weathermanto take a run or a bike ride or a walk or go out in my boat. Tomorrow, warm and sunny with only 3% chance of rain. Of course, the day I have to work indoors, it’s going to be a beautiful day. Yada, yada, yada.

And if the message is particularly grim, the messenger’s credibility is immediately suspect.

Originally, predictors about our world’s atmosphere called it “global warming,” but then the naysayers used every snow storm as an example to the contrary, as though their local snowstorm can counter the scientific evidence that our planet is warmer than ever. So, the analysts switched up the label and now use “climate change” to speak to the future. All the same, very few want to hear this prophecy. Like Amaziah, they say, go somewhere else to tell your tale, we’re all just fine here.

fortune tellingAre you curious about your own immediate future? How many fortune tellers grace our city streets? In some areas, they proliferate more than others (New Orleans has a high number of soothsayers on every corner in the French Quarter and Bourbon Street). Is it a game or do we really want to know? Do we believe these strangers have access to the string of our future? Or do we hope for a tantalizingly dark handsome stranger to be in our stars? Something or someone we can keep a look out for.

Not long ago, I finished listening to a new sci-fi fantasy book, Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price (first in a series, of course). The book has some issues, but I love the way it digs into the idea of time, both future and past as well as alternate lives and worlds, seemingly existing side by side. It’s pretty exquisite world building. For one of the characters, it’s Groundhog Day on steroids, but he doesn’t become a nicer and nicer person, he just kills people sooner to get it over with, etc. He is doing his best to manipulate the present and the future.

We are all manipulating our futures by the decisions we make today and living out the decisions we made yesterday.

There is an exercise in which you can do a review of your past and snip out the pieces that you would (if your could) remove from your past. It’s illuminating actually because few of us can do it. Why? Because every snip would change today and the now becomes too similar to the unknown future we struggle with each day. Would I like to snip out my bi-polar mother? Sure. But then, I would not be in the United States because it was her extreme personality that under girded our emigration.

Why did God provide prophets in the first place? And then, why did they disappear after the coming of Christ?

milk and honeyIn the Old Testament, it’s as thought God acted like a Father, giving fair warning about the consequences of certain choices. There were a lot of “if you do this or that–expect this result.” God tried to lay out the benefits, a land flowing with milk and honey, and yet, it was never enough. Once acquired, the people rejoiced, but it wasn’t long before the land was treated like a entitlement and not a gift. And so, God tried a different tactic, and provided one last prophet, one last shepherd, one last message.

Unfortunately, despite knowing and reading and seeing how things have gone in the past, we continue to make the same mistakes. God says: Accept the Spirit of Christ and “heaven” is a given grace. Follow Christ and live differently, sacrificially, in love and forgiveness and the world will unfold in a completely different way, an incomparable future. And yet, despite the prophesied future, we choose idols instead. We choose our immediate desires over a promised future.

Read Full Post »

It’s a baby, a little, little baby. How sweet. How cute. What potential!

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. [Luke 2:12, NIV]

babyIn Greek, the word is brephos, which can either mean an unborn child or a newborn child, but interestingly enough, this word is gender neutral. As a result, this is the same word that is used for the baby that Elizabeth carries in her womb and “leaps for joy” when Mary came to visit [Luke 1:41], along with six other references. And my favorite reference is in I Peter 2:2, where brethos is used to describe young believers who should crave “spiritual milk,” and cast off the food of the world.

But I’m getting off track. I wanted instead to talk about a baby’s potential. You see, from the outside in, we do not know what is in store for every baby we see. Facebook is filled with pictures of babies, taken by proud parents, who are full of hope and expectations for their baby. They want to give this baby the best of everything, the opportunities, the nourishment, the foundation. They love this baby so much.

And yet, how many mothers collapse in grief when their child becomes a murderer or a drug addict or an abuser? How did this happen? What happened to all that potential?

We know that prophecies abounded about the Christ child who would come into the world innocently enough, but who knew his life would only last 33 years? Who knew he would be mostly rejected? Who knew, really, that it would all happen to this particular baby? Not even the mother knew for sure, despite the miraculous circumstances of his birth. She continued to ponder all those things in her heart [Luke 2:19]

A baby depends on the “village” around him/her to grow and become. If we succeed, if God’s intent is encouraged and prevails, we have a saint. But if we fail that child, what then?

Hitler’s First Photograph
——-Wislawa Szymborska

And who’s this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe?
That’s tiny baby Adolf, the Hitlers little boy!
Will he grow up to be an LL.D.?
Or a tenor in Vienna’s Opera House?
Whose teensy hand is this, whose little ear and eye and nose?
Whose tummy full of milk, we just don’t know:
printer’s, doctor’s, merchant’s, priest’s?
Where will those tootsy-wootsies finally wander?
To garden, to school, to an office, to a bride,
maybe to the Burgermeister’s daughter?

Precious little angel, mommy’s sunshine, honeybun,
while he was being born a year ago,
there was no dearth of signs on the earth and in the sky:
spring sun, geraniums in windows,
the organ-grinder’s music in the yard,
a lucky fortune wrapped in rosy paper,
then just before the labor his mother’s fateful dream:
a dove seen in dream means joyful news,
if it is caught, a long-awaited guest will come.
Knock knock, who’s there, it’s Adolf’s heartchen knocking.

A little pacifier, diaper, rattle, bib,
our bouncing boy, thank God and knock on wood, is well,
looks just like his folks, like a kitten in a basket,
like the tots in every other family album.
Shush, let’s not start crying, sugar,
the camera will click from under that black hood.

The Klinger Atelier, Grabenstrasse, Braunau,
and Braunau is small but worthy town,
honest businesses, obliging neighbors,
smell of yeast dough, of gray soap.
No one hears howling dogs, or fate’s footsteps.
A history teacher loosens his collar
and yawns over homework.

— Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavenagh, translators
from The People on the Bridge


Read Full Post »

Isn’t it peculiar how many people are adamant about the dangers of astrology and “magic,” but wholeheartedly repeat and support the classic story of the “three magi” who supposedly visited the baby Jesus by way of King Herod and left in their wake, three famous gifts for the child: gold, incense, and myrrh? Their “astrological” roots have been overlooked in favor of calling them “wise men.” But is wisdom treated any better?

Matthew 2:7-8,
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

There are so many symbols in ancient storytelling. Some interpretations have carried down through the ages while many more have been adjusted along the way through natural evolutions in the telling. After all, many ancient tales and wisdom narratives were a verbal art form. Even the New Testament was put into writing years after the death of Jesus and although they were based on eyewitness accounts, how many witnesses can agree on anything)? The letters of Paul and other apostolic letters were written and then carried from place to place, and no doubt, ruined along the way and copied from memory or pieced back together. Accurately? Maybe and maybe not.These are just a few of the questions and discoveries of Bible scholars of today.

Now before anyone panics: relax. I’m not setting forth an anti-bible or a particular bias against “scriptura sola” (which means by scripture alone). If anything, my faith is unshaken as I uncover the variations and discoveries  about the Bible: the presence of the Holy Spirit within me is untouched by modern science nor is it enhanced by Biblical narrow-mindedness.

Ok, here are a few facts and personal observations:

1) Herod (the Great) was actually assigned his role to be King of Judea by the Romans. In many ways, he was a puppet king. And although he built many great buildings during his 34 year reign,  he was considered to be a madman and killed many of his own immediate family. Clearly, he suffered from paranoia. This is later confirmed by his order to murder the boy-children of Bethlehem. (On a side note, I have learned that this genocide of male children is not confined to ancient history, but has been repeated throughout history. One notable example is the story of 20,000 boys and young men displaced in the second Sudanese Civil War of 1983-2005 and beautifully depicted through the documentary, the Lost Boys of Sudan.)

2) The Magi (and really, nowhere does it really say three except through the reference of three gifts), or magicians or astrologers or wise men or astronomers or whatever, made a journey based on their interpretations of the heavens and the prophecies carried through the ages and across nations. They studied, they read, they heard, they watched and then they acted. They made a HUGE journey based on their discoveries. They expended a great deal of time and money to get to where they were going. I’m guessing they figured everyone knew about it already, that is, those who lived near the event. But they didn’t. Herod was caught off guard and so were the “people of Jerusalem” (verse 3). The biggest juncture in Jewish history had happened and they missed it? How could that be? The Messiah was born and nobody knew about it except for a bunch of foreigners?

3) The star was exactly what? Really, a star? Based on our modern day knowledge, a star is a gigantic sun that is really, really far away. It doesn’t just “rise” and hover over a location. I mean, Earth is round (not flat as they imagined it to be back then). You can’t chase a star in the heavens any more than you can chase a rainbow. So, what was it? The shape and its placement in relation to other stars? Perhaps it was a super nova or a comet or some conjunction of the planets Saturn and Jupiter? We’ll never know really. But they saw something. And as a result of what they saw, they packed their bags (which was probably a very large caravan) and took a very long journey (some scholars say up to two years).

So, what do I end  up with? A mad king, three (or more) eccentric soothsayers and a celestial mystery.

What’s my take away? Today, we have quarks, the Higgs Bosun particle, Virgin Galactic (space travel by tourists), and 1,740,330 identified species of invertebrate and vertebrate animals, plants, and others. These things are no less amazing. Our world is full of natural wonders as well as unknowns. How would a primitive describe any one of the things that modern man has discovered or invented?

Will we be any better at recognizing the second coming of the Messiah? Or will we be like the people of Jerusalem? Or will we work really hard to explain away the wonder? Would an appearance in the sky be too much like the latest Sci-Fi movie? Would we miss the point. . . again?

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

What will you eat today? What will I consume? I know I am too quick to “eat” gossip, those juicy tidbits doled out by well meaning colleagues and friends. But no matter how sweet the information seems at first, it’s ultimate value is bitter to the soul.

Revelation 10:10
I [John] took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

I have said before that I struggle with judging others but I”m beginning to see that the gossip thing is seriously vying for first place. As a gregarious person, I am always talking with people and the tendency to gobble up unbidden news is always there.

Today, then, just today, I must be aware of this tendency and flee. “Tell me later,” I can say or “Just a minute, I think I hear my cell phone,” or “Hold that thought” and run to the ladies room. Truly, I must flee.

And what about the gossip I long to tell. Lord, help me count to ten before I say another word.

Focus. Focus.

I know this verse from Revelation is not about gossip, but it reminded me of the phenomenon all the same. In reality, the little scroll that John consumed, held an unspoken prophecy, a piece of news that could not be shared with the world. Will we ever know?

Read Full Post »

How often do people say, “Did you pray about it?” or “Did you ask God first?” and although I may or may not specifically seek God’s favor or direction, can I hear truth if I have already made up my mind on what I want to hear, on what I want to do? Am I just looking for a stamp of approval?

I Kings 22:5
But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel [Ahab], “First seek the counsel of the LORD.”

When Jehoshaphat came to ask Ahab to join forces against the King of Aram [Damascus], they both knew they needed God’s go-ahead. Despite hearing his standard 400 prophets affirm the plan, Ahab (evil as he was) still wanted one more proof, a endorsement from the prophet Micaiah who served the one God. They went through the motions and Micaiah even played along and agreed with all the other prophets. But Ahab didn’t believe him and made him give the true message from God. It wasn’t a good message: both armies would be scattered and Ahab would lose his life.

Despite dressing in disguise for the battle, a random arrow shot Ahab anyway. He stood and watched the battle and the destruction of his army as blood filled his chariot before he died.

Ahab believed he could trick the prophecy by disguising himself. He actually believed in the words of Micaiah enough to do that, but not enough to halt the plan, to change his mind.

I don’t have a prophet to come to my house and tell me God’s answers to my questions. But I have written often and believe the presence of the Holy Spirit within me is my source of inspiration and prophetic expression. As a result, I am respectably good at hearing affirmation from the Spirit when I seek a sanction to proceed. But I am not no sure I recognize the stop signs, the tug of holding back, the cautions. Sometimes, I will take silence as an approval. It’s because I want that thing to happen; I want to will it to be so, to be OK.

My single focus on what I want closes my interior hearing. I am no better than Ahab in that regard.

Forgive me Lord. Help me sustain those times of confusion or “not knowing” long enough to hear truth, to recognize truth whether it be a yes or no, a now or later, a different answer than I want.

Read Full Post »

I am beginning the Book of Revelation with some fear and trembling. I’ve read it before and I know of its mysteries as I am aware of the promised blessings for reading it. I pray for fresh eyes. Let me start then with this: the time was near? Not really. Is it near today? It can be, if we so choose.

Revelation 1:3
Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

Of course, there is always the issue of what is time to God? Near in time to God is a type of nonsense since there is no time as we know it in God’s realm. This is all a human interpretation of the message. John sensed urgency and for him, that meant the “time” would come posthaste, soon, and in short order. But that didn’t happen.

Some writers interpret this “nearness of time” as the start of the prophesied events. they say the milestone events were merely drawn out over the millennium and while the end may not be near-near, the beginning of the end was near enough to mention then.

But again, I cast aside anything dealing with time. I think humans spend too much energy on interpreting the time and the times. For this reason, we have a plethora of prophecies and kooks in abundance. And yet, human has managed to live through the “end of time” several years over, from the rise of Hitler in the 1930’s to October 21st (or 28th), 2011 (the predicted dates of Harold Camping and Family Radio). To make things even more interesting, we now have the secular world in on the “end of time” party as we enter into 2012, the year that the Mayan calendar ends.

I am not saying there is no Judgment Day … I’m sure there is, but I am saying that we are incapable of predicting the time. Our world is always in a state of flux, either through the unpredictability of nature or the power of prayer. The way is morphing. Our relationships with God are changing. Our “times” are transforming, lengthening and shortening as God wills.

This is the only element of God that is truly near: the Holy Spirit. The nearness, the very indwelling, of God through the Spirit is the most significant nearness factor. And this nearness depends on human to embrace the truth of Presence.

When Jesus walked the earth, he spoke of the “nearness” of the Kingdom of Heaven as within us [Luke 17:20-21]. This is where the true revelation is now and will be, no matter what events happen or don’t happen. The salvation of humankind is within.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: