Posts Tagged ‘prophets’

anchorHow quickly I forget. How quickly the words escape into the ether and my faith-filled experiences and my God-given confirmations become a distant memory. I have had my share of minor miracles and serendipitous encounters with wonder. I have felt the Presence of God. I have prophesied truths that I could not have known except through divine revelation. And yet, I forget. I lose myself in my circumstances and my fears and insecurities.

Fix [anchor] these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. [Deuteronomy 11:18-21]

To remember the stories of our past, we must talk about them. In this way, families develop beloved corporate stories that are passed through the generations. Their exactness is not as important as their intent, the feelings they engender, and the bond of memory.

God offers us this opportunity through the scriptures and texts, the oral traditions put to paper were passed to us for our sakes.

Through the prophets, the people were told over and over again, to remember.

Today marks the fifth month of my husband’s death. Who he was and what he did and what he looked like are still emblazoned in my heart, but for the sake of the children and the children’s children, we must remember and share and talk about this man. And while we do this, let us remember as well, his unwavering faith that became a rock for our family together. Mike was our family’s anchor; Christ, my soul’s anchor.


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Art by Catherine Andrews

The implication then is this: if the Christ appeared in a more perfect tabernacle not of “this” creation, there must be other creations. Hmm. The psalmists write, Selah, “pause and calmly think of that.”

Hebrews 9:11
But [that appointed time came] when Christ (the Messiah) appeared as a High Priest of the better things that have come and are to come. [Then] through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with [human] hands, that is, not a part of this material creation . . .

Are there other clear references to another creation? I mean, it isn’t necessarily heaven designated in this passage from Hebrews, it could be anywhere. It seems a bit “woohoo” and “new agey,” right? In fact, I find it totally other-worldly, Star Trekian, multi-dimensional, and clearly, we’re “not in Kansas anymore.” We’re outside our human understanding. We don’t know about this other creation(s).

I understand, some commentators still believe the “perfect tabernacle” is in heaven because the human tabernacle was intended to mirror or replicate some heavenly place. But I think that’s simplifying the Spirit realm of God. It’s anthropomorphizing what we don’t understand and trying to put it into human terms.

It’s a similar situation with all the prophets who were given extraordinary visions of things outside their ken such as animals covered with eyes and wings in Revelation or Ezekial’s animals with four faces.

When my children were little, my husband and I liked to have fun with the various holiday characters such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, etc. We always told them these characters existed in a different dimension. As the kids got older and realized how unbelievable it was that Santa could fly across the world in a single night and deposit gifts in each and every house, we reiterated: different dimension–anything can happen. Of course, our story is not as creative as C. S. Lewis and his world of Narnia, but ultimately, we share the same idea, once anyone goes through a “portal,” things are very different “there” (wherever there is).

The world and words of the Spirit realm are best depicted through the arts I think. Music, visual art, performance art, dance, film, scent, poetry: these are some of the better expressions of God’s kingdom or sphere or neighborhood.

What the Messiah did for Human is not really fathomable in our limited cosmos. One sacrifice for all? One outpouring of blood covers all sins from the beginning to the end of time? Perfection in human form? Covenants, promises, reconciliation, restoration, renewal, all of these possible by the act of one offering? Absurd, right?

Nope. It’s the link between our creation and all the other ones. The ultimate portal. Not science fiction or fantasy, but God business. And the stuff of dreams, imagination, love, resurrection, and transfiguration.

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Can you imagine a time when everyone in a gathering was so fired up for God that they had to be admonished to “slow down,” to take turns, to be polite? Everything from music to words of knowledge to prophetic utterances were common place. What happened?

I Corinthians 14:26b, 33
When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. . . . For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

I guess, in the “name of order,” habits developed. I’m trying to remember a saying about traditions. It’s something like, “the first time you do something, it’s a novelty, the second time you do it, it’s repetition, and the third time, it’s tradition, locked in stone.” How many families have traditions that got started accidentally? And once they’ve passed the “three times” mark, how do you stop them?

Church services are no different it seems. Repetition and tradition have ruled the roost for so long in church that it’s nearly impossible to envision a “new order.” Solomon knew, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 1:9]

When the Charismatics emerged in the 1970’s, they were determined to break the mold and get back to the old ways. They took the Corinthian verses about the manifestation of the gifts and church leaders encouraged their flocks to sing in the spirit, prophesy in the spirit, speak in tongues, interpret, etc. I know because I was there, singin’, dancin’, and prophesyin’. Those were exciting times. But then, things got a little out of hand. Bold people got carried away and it seemed like they had prophecies and tongues every week, every service, every opportunity. And more often than not, the utterances were relatively generic or downright anemic (not unlike newspaper astrology – fits for anyone). After awhile, even I started to cringe whenever I heard someone start in a loud voice, “My children, my children . . . ” Most of these prophetic statements were less than enlightening.

And so, after awhile, one by one, these wild services started putting on the brakes. Pastors had quiet conversations with the self-anointed prophets and tongue speakers and “in the name of order,” everyone settled down to a standard: praise songs, worship songs, a prophetic utterance or two (maybe a tongue and maybe an interpretation, but they all sounded the same), greeting one another, announcements, fund-raising (I mean, offering), more music, and then the sermon. I guess we were saving the best for last?

Eventually, the “wild” churches became equally traditional and tame as the very churches they tried to break away from.

I think this is one reason for the interest in the old forms like liturgy, praying the hours, celebrating the church calendar, weekly and daily communion, meditation, contemplation, labyrinth prayers, and so on. You want order? That’s well thought out order.

But, is it any better? There’s no better or worse to any of these traditions really.

Another trend is “house churches.” Of course, these have been popping up here and there for years, so it’s not really that new, but the popularity of home churches is gaining momentum. In some cases, it’s a push back from large churches, traditions, and the like. In other cases, they are an outgrowth of the “small group” movement where folks from bigger churches have discovered they can enter into more meaningful relationships in weekly meetings with fewer people. But I have a feeling, traditions and “order of worship” have developed in these settings as well.

So, what’s the answer? Don’t know.

I have some kind of an “ideal” in my mind. But it’s just that, a dream: church as koinonia, where people know each other, love each other, and care for each other. And flowing over koinonia, the vertical relationships with God who covers a multitude of sins and mistakes. And flowing out of koinonia is service together to help those who cannot help themselves. How big can koinonia get? I don’t know, but I doubt it’s much bigger than Jesus’s example of the twelve. Anything outside of that is just friendly fellowship.

One thing the Catholics did right was the parish concept: people worshiping together who live together. Koinonia is no different. We must be able to participate in one another’s lives.

I asked a friend the other day, “If disaster happened, where would you run?” He said, most people go home. But face it, the family unit is too small and isolated to face true disaster. And in many cases, family is dispersed as well. Can I run to my church? At this point, it’s 25 minutes away by car. My neighbors? I have lived on the same block for twelve years and although I can name six or seven families, that’s my limit. Would we turn to one another in the face of danger? Would a type of koinonia develop from need on our block? Would we approach disaster the same way without a shared faith?

Lots of questions today. Lots of dreaming.

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If we just call it a “sect” or a “faction” or even a “cult,” we can marginalize everyone within that group. These labels already carry negative connotations without anyone needing to know any actual beliefs or doctrines. It’s a technique for categorizing the world and justifying our actions.

Acts 24:5-6
We [Sanhedrin] have found this man [Paul] to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him.
[Tertullus, the lawyer, speaking against Paul to Felix, the Governor, in Caesarea]

I have always been intrigued by labels. It’s something that humans do automatically. It’s how we “understand” what we are seeing or hearing. We look at an object and our brain identifies it as a chair or an animal or a tree. And then there are the sub-categories like particular designs of chairs or specific animals or breeds or types of trees. We do this with people too. They are categorized by how they look by skin color, body part shapes, hair color or texture, size, etc. People are also sorted by their sex, clothing, their neighborhood, their country, their language, and their incomes. And of course, they are classified by their associations, whether religious or secular.

But how do we understand or embrace something or someone new? How do we recognize it? If that thing or person does not fit into any of the normal designations, then what is it? Who is it?

I always thought the ancient prophets, whose writings and prophecies are peppered throughout the scriptures, were beleaguered with this categorization problem. They were seeing visions of a future they could not know. How would a primitive person describe an airplane, a rocket, or a space ship? How would they describe an atomic explosion? Are we any better at explaining or understanding miracles?

We use our limited understanding, our own frames of reference. We shove the unfamiliar into the closest or most familiar box. If there is no shape we recognize, we give it shape. We name it.

Jesus was outside the box. He was doing and saying things that made no sense to most of the people he encountered. Paul wasn’t much better.

Christianity of today evolved its own norms. It has taken the recorded words of Jesus and scrutinized, categorized, dissected and analyzed them to the extreme. And yet, when folks start pulling at the edges of Christianity, there is no less resistance than there was in Jesus’s day. We are still afraid of being deluded, of believing a lie, of breaking the law.

But God does not need us to “protect” the truth. God knows the heart.

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Acts 2:14, 16b-17
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say…. this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel [2:28-29]: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams….”

When, exactly, are the Last Days? Good luck with that. Theologians and other Christian writers have written volumes about this phenomenon while the Pentecostals and Charismatics have been waving the Last Days banner since the turn of the 19th century. People have been talking about the Last Days for a long time. Is it possible that we’re still in the Last Days? Have the last 2000 years been the Last Days?

In his post-Holy Spirit filling in Acts 2, Peter certainly implied that the Last Days were beginning that day. He saw the outpouring of power and the speaking in tongues (other languages) that day as a sure sign of Joel’s prophecy being fulfilled.

Here are the choices I see: either we are still in the Last Days… or the Last Days haven’t really started yet… or we’re on the other side of the Last Days. Pick your camp!

I think the disciples and newly committed Christ followers in Peter’s time, believed the Last Days were right then and that it was indeed … a matter of days or weeks, at best, before Christ would return and the world would end as they knew it. They lived and died as martyrs because of their commitment to this idea. They lived fully and without compromise.

But, in the same way that Nineveh was spared when Jonah finally did what he was supposed to do, e.g. warn Nineveh’s residents of coming destruction if they didn’t change… so has the world has been spared… for now. We are still here.

But are we paying attention to the Joels and Jonahs of our own age? Are we reading the signs of warning? Are we taking seriously that we may be on borrowed time?

There are still men and women today prophesying… seeing visions… and dreaming dreams. Their words speak of spiritual deserts, economic chaos, environmental collapse, human suffering at the hands of evil, starvation and traumatic illness.

Not everyone can be a prophet or a watchman on the wall, but we can be listeners. We can change our own small world. We can love our neighbor and love our environment. We can pray for change. We can pray for healing.

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