The End Is Near. Again.

endisnearagain

It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt.  It also breeds indifference.

There is a lot of discussion on the Internet about current events and whether or not they are tied to Biblical prophecy.  I have to admit, some of it is eerie and can be a bit unsettling.

In Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 (all of which I strongly recommend you read), Jesus’ overwhelming message is to pay attention and be prepared.  Pay attention to what is happening, understanding that God will provide signs for us to let us know the time is near, and be prepared for Christ’s return.

What are some of the signs?  Go back and read those chapters if you haven’t already.

“Wars and rumors of wars” and “nation will rise against nation.” (Matthew 24:5, Mark 13:7-8, Luke 21:9-10) Could that be North Korea?  Or perhaps China, or Russia?

What about “nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea”? (Luke 21:25)  Does that have anything to do with three hurricanes in the Atlantic, two creating history as the first two category four storms in that ocean at the same time?  And these right on the heels of Hurricane Harvey decimating the coast of Texas.

What about “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” or “the stars will fall from the sky”? (Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:24-25)  That sounds a lot like the great American eclipse – the first of its kind in nearly a century – that recently occurred.  I witnessed it first hand with my family.  The moon was black, and the sun no longer gave its light.  Even the crickets thought it was nighttime.

This eclipse was, by the way, in many areas preceded the week before by meteor showers, visible in the night sky as a plethora of falling stars.

Recently my wife received a text from a dear friend, worried about what all this means and fearful that Jesus’ second coming was imminent.  When she told me of the text, I (somewhat flippantly) reminded her that earthquakes were also a foreboding sign (“there will be earthquakes in various places” – Matthew 24:7, Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11) but that we hadn’t seen those yet.  I awoke the next morning to the news of an unforeseen earthquake in Mexico rating 8.4 on the Richter scale.

I have to be honest.  The news rattled me – more than I expected.

The Internet’s shrinking of the global community made the seeming “America-centric” nature of many of these events not as diminishing.  Anyone watching or reading the news anywhere in the world would know of them.

And then of course, there’s this:  “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:30).

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What does that mean?  A sign in the sky about Jesus?  Many have been focused on the sign in Revelation 12 which seems to clearly be a heavenly sign about Jesus’ first coming:

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.  And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.  She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.   (Revelation 12:1-6)

What’s that all about?  A woman, clothed in the sun, with the moon at her feet, twelve stars at her head as a crown, and giving birth to a male child.

It just so happens that this year, in less than two weeks, a sign exactly like that will be in the heavens, specifically appearing over Jerusalem.  Although it will not be visible to the naked eye since it happens during the day, astronomic calculations and easily accessible computer simulations make it known to anyone who can Google. The constellation Virgo (the virgin) will rise with the sun in the constellation and the moon will rise behind her at her feet.  At her head, the constellation of Leo (the lion), which according to some normally has nine primary stars, will be joined by the planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars, all also appearing as stars, and together making a crown of twelve stars at her head.

And if all that wasn’t enough to freak you out, how about this extra tidbbit?  The largest of our planets, Jupiter, will be in an elliptical, retrograde motion orbit, that is, it will have appeared to go around in a small loop within the constellation of Virgo, around her midsection – for 40 to 42 weeks, or around nine months.  Jupiter will exit Virgo between her legs after nine months (or the human gestation period), on the same day as she rises clothed in the sun, with the moon at her feet, with twelve stars on her head, over Jerusalem.

Not spooked enough?  How about the timing of this event?  The coming of the Son of Man is supposed to be heralded by a loud trumpet (Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Revelation 11:15-18).  On what particular day does this heavenly sign appear over Jerusalem?  September 23, 2017.  But this particularly year, this day just happens to correspond to an Old Testament Jewish Feast – which is meant to foreshadow Christ – the Feast of Trumpets.  Yes, trumpets.  It also happens on the first day ending the Hebrew year 5777 (that’s three sevens, or three – the number of the Divine Trinity – sevens, or the number of finality and completion).  The Feast of Trumpets precedes another Jewish Feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, or the feast celebrating God coming to dwell with man.  Right after the Trumpets.  On the day that the sun, moon and stars will be telling the story of Christ’s first coming.

Oh, and by the way, all this happens on a Saturday, or the Old Testament sabbath day, the holy day.

So, what does all this mean?  Is Jesus coming on or near September 23 of this year?

I have no idea.  In fact, neither does Jesus (Matthew 24:36)

I fully realize that some of the things foretold by Christ in these accounts have already come to pass.  Some of it is even recorded for us in the Acts of the Apostles.  Persecution.  Martyrdom.  The destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.  But the Son of Man has not yet come again.

What I do know is this – there have been all these signs at various times throughout history.  I don’t know, however, if they have ever all converged into a single time frame as they are now.  And whether or not these are the mystical harbingers that are foretold in the Scriptures, one thing is certain.  They have together made me take Jesus’ return much more seriously than I ever have.  It has made His words “He is near, right at the door” (Matt 24:33) much more real, and urgent, and pressing.

Is Jesus coming in two weeks?  The only certain answer is maybe.  But He may also be coming tonight.  Or tomorrow morning.  Or sometime in October.  Whenever He comes, my responsibility is simple and clear:

Pay attention. Be on guard.  Be awake.  Watch for the signs.

And

Be ready.

The first time Jesus came, it was to save.  The next time He comes, it is to judge.

In each of the gospel accounts, Jesus closes His predictions of His Return with two stories.  The first is of a fig tree.  His simple point is if we can look at a tree in leaf and know that summer is near, we likewise should be able to see the signs given to us by His Heavenly Father, and know that the time of His coming is near.

The second story is the most sobering.  It is an account of the servants in the master’s house.  This is an allegory about Christians in the Church.  Jesus’ point is crystal clear – don’t grow complacent, don’t be slack, and act as if the master is long in coming.  Don’t act as if you have plenty of time.  If you do, you will be surprised and will not be ready.  And for those in that condition when He comes, His words are grim indeed:

The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  (Matthew 24:50-51)

Cut to pieces.  With the hypocrites.  Those are the people who claim one thing, but live another.  They profess to believe in God, and to love and follow His Son.  But that’s not how they live.

Is Jesus coming soon?  I don’t know.  And the truth is, it doesn’t matter.  I’m supposed to live every day in sober anticipation of the unchanging truth.  What is that Truth?  That He is coming. 

It is more real to me now than ever.  Whether the concurrence of events happening right now are some kind of cosmic fire drill, or the real thing – the point, the essence of it all – remains the same.

He is coming.

Pay attention.

Be ready.

The question is – am I?

Are you?

Storm

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A Tribute to the ONE Who made him

IMG_20170818_230529113Today is a hard day.

Yesterday, just before midnight, our beloved German Shepherd Shadow died. He was nine years old — young in our estimation — and we weren’t ready to say goodbye.  We buried him in our family cemetery early this morning, several hours before dawn.

Romans 1:20 teaches that God has revealed Himself — His invisible and divine qualities — through what has been made, so that we are without excuse.  I have heard it said — and it seems true — that we are unique in the universe as the sole portion of God’s creation who act and will in rebellion against Him.  We do it often.  But the rest of His creation submits itself to Him and always acts in accord with how and for what purpose He created them.  In that respect, every other part of creation somehow perfectly represents some divine or mysterious attribute of our Creator.  They all exist, and they live as they live, to make Him known to us.

Shadow taught us many lessons about and from God.  Here are a few of them that seem particularly poignant today.

 

Life is short and unpredictable.

Just four short weeks ago, Shadow was frolicking in our river with our children.  He was running and barking and playing.  We even talked about how he was only nine, and still had good years ahead of him.  Then one day that all unexpectedly changed.  We’ve spent the last month, long days and nights, trying to figure out what was wrong and watching him suffer through whatever ultimately took his life.

Life is short and unpredictable.  You not only never know when it’s going to end, but you also don’t know when it will dramatically change.  There is so little we control or understand.

Life is short and unpredictable.  Don’t waste it.  And appreciate every moment you have.

“Pay careful attention then to how you walk, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:15-16

 

God listens and is faithful.

Cosette (one of our daughters), Andrea (my wife), and I all prayed — independently and without each other’s knowledge, but unwittingly at the same time — that if Shadow was not going to live through his illness, that God would take him quickly, to end his suffering (and ours).  Just moments after each of us uttered our individual prayers, Shadow passed.

While today is certainly a day of mourning, it is also a day of sober reflection on the intimate nature of who God is, and what He desires with us, with me.  I may be surprised by the answer, I may not even like it, but I can’t escape the shocking conclusion that somehow the Creator of the Universe listened — to me, and to us — and then acted in accordance with what we asked.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of Him.” – 1 John 5:14-15

 

Faithfulness, and Loyalty, and Love are Every Day.

There was not a day, or a moment, in Shadow’s life that he was not excited to see us, wanted to be with us, and eagerly and enthusiastically showed us.  Not a day went by where we were not incredibly important and special to him.  Just a few short days before he died — despite what had to be excruciating pain and lameness — he circumvented the fence around our property and ran the half mile to our swinging bridge just to be with us.

I am convicted that I don’t communicate love this way.  I don’t love this way.  This is not only who Shadow was, but is an unbelievable picture of who God is.  To all of us.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.'” – Lamentations 3:22-23

 

While I am sad and mourn the loss of our friend, I also rejoice and am grateful for the nine years God gave to us with him, and especially for the lessons He has left behind through him.

Thank you Father for all you taught us – and me – through my dog.  I will miss him.

“The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the LORD.” – Job 1:21

Shadow

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Virtual Music Studio

Hi, everyone!

For those of you who don’t know, I have begun offering piano lessons in my spare time. I’m writing to you to let you know I just set up an online profile to get connected with more new students in our area. If you’re interested in learning piano, I hope you’ll check out my profile (below) and maybe even book some lessons with me! If you’re not interested in lessons but know someone who might be, would you do me a favor and forward this message to them? I’m currently available for new students and I would really appreciate it!

Book lessons here: https://takelessons.com/provider/profile#

Have a wonderful week!Music Background #1

Grace in Him,

                Cosette

 

 

 

 

(FYI:

 

  1. The site that is hosting my online lessons will not permit me to teach students under the age of eighteen unless you register an account on takelessons.com as a parent and then open that up for your child’s use during lesson time.  This demonstrates your consent as a parent to me teaching your child.
  2. Currently, I am only offering online lessons as this is the most cost effective for both parties.  In the future both in-home/studio lessons may be available and I’m looking into that possibility.  If that is your preference please let me know and we’ll work something out.
  3. Music is a gift from God that is universally appreciated and enjoyed.  It is difficult to imagine life, and our world, without it.  Learning to make music should be accessible to anyone, not cost-prohibitive depending on economic status.  While I don’t at all want to diminish the value that music teachers bring to their students (including my own value as a teacher), I desire to make my teaching available to everyone regardless of what you can afford to pay.  This is a ministry and a passion for me.  Unfortunately, takelessons.com which hosts my lessons, does charge a fee from me to make our lesson times available here (the more lessons the less their fee). My initial rate is the minimum that takelessons.com will allow me to submit.   To that end, I submit the following rates for your consideration but ask that if it is a hardship for anyone, please contact me and I will do my very best to accommodate your situation and needs.
  • $15/3o min.
  • $17/45 min.
  • $20/1 hr.

 

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An Open Letter to Parents

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I wrote the below as I was praying and considering the children we spend time with every Sunday night as a ministry outreach of our church.  God makes no distinction in His calling to us all as parents, whether we grew up in church or have never cracked our Bibles.  It expresses what I feel as a father, and what I see and feel as we have been working to disciple and meet the needs of the children in our community, both inside and outside of our church.  

Dear parent(s),

You have an awesome responsibility.  It is a huge blessing, but if you neglect it, it will become an eternal curse.  Jesus said:

 “If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!… See that you do not despise or hinder any of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 18:6-10)

Do you understand what Jesus is saying?  It would be better for you to die – literally to be drowned like a cat tied in a bag and thrown in the river – than for you to blow it as a parent and fail to teach your children to fear and love the Lord.

Do not abdicate your role to the church.  It is not their responsibility, it’s yours.

Do not abdicate your role to schools.  They are woefully unprepared to teach your children what they need, and they are not the ones who will stand before God at the Judgement to give an account.

You are that person.

Jesus also said:

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.”  (Psalm 127:3)

God ingirls swinging bridgetends for your children to be a gift, a reward, a blessing.  It is up to you to train them to become that blessing.  If they are not a blessing (and you know exactly what I mean), then that is your fault.  God expects YOU to teach them obedience.  God expects YOU to teach them holiness.  And God expects YOU to teach them love.  Most of all God expects you to MODEL it for them WHILE you teach it to them.

After all, that’s EXACTLY what He did for you.

So don’t blow it.  Embrace it – with all its terrifying challenges, exhausting days and nights, and exhilarating, chaotic, up and down insanity – knowing that if you do, God will be with you every step of the way.

And you truly will be blessed.

 

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Invitation

sound-of-music

We wanted to let everyone know that Cosette and Tess are in a production of the Sound of Music at the Bristol Paramount Theater on July 18th in the evening around 8pm.

Keep in mind, this isn’t professional theater, but the kids do well especially given the relatively short time they have to pull together the performances.   The Barter theater uses these programs to help youth develop greater speaking skills and confidence in group settings.  There are often kids there that don’t have much or any previous experience, but our girls have learned a lot and done very well in past performances.

Tess is playing the  role of Maria and she and Cosette will have opportunity to sing some duets together. I’m sure it would be an encouragement for them to see some familiar faces in the audience and we would certainly love to have you join us.

Tickets are $5 per person and can be purchased at the box office just prior to the show.  There are other plays running all day done by other children and the $5 entry ticket allows all day entrance to all the shows that usually begin around 3 pm.

Let us know if you plan on coming and we’ll look for you or save you some seats.

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A picture that’s worth a thousand words

 

4d093b98c86c5b36b4427ea887f134d5How does God speak to us?  As we have been going through the book of Acts learning about the early church (you can see some posts on that here) we have thought and talked about this question as a family quite frequently.  One way God speaks that I am sure we can all agree on is through the Bible.   Some other voices of God in our lives are: the Holy Spirit, other people, through praying then listening/waiting, and even through dreams and visions.  The list extends the length of God’s love.

But there is another voice I haven’t mentioned that is so prominent and yet typically overlooked.  In example after example, Jesus illustrates how this oft ignored voice teaches vital truths about Him.  Look at the verses below (they are only a few examples among many).

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”…..”I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-2, 5

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.  It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”…….”Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you,even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 6:26, 28-30

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”  Matthew 13:3-5

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.” Matthew 24:32

…”But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”…..I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10:2-5, 11-16

~~~~~~~~

What is the oft ignored voice I am referring to?

From the beginning, God has surrounded us with His handiwork.  The masterpiece constantly on display serves as a reminder of Him.  From the garden to the grave, from a fruit tree to a hewn tree, God painted pictures of perfection and love.  His creation is the voice that surrounds us constantly, persistently calling to all who will listen.  No matter what humanity does the creation never stops pointing to the Creator.

 marylaneanderson_creation13For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  Romans 1:20   

(See also Job 12:7-10, Romans 1:20, Psalm 148:1-10)

Why do I share this?  God gave me a passion to enjoy His creation.  There is something about its voice that speaks to the heart in a way that words cannot.  And at the same time, I feel a desire to express it to the extent that words can.

That being said I would like to share on this blog the joys and lessons that I am discovering in God’s creation.  But even more, I want to encourage you to explore the creation on your own.  There is so much to find once you start looking.

I’m looking forward to learning together as we sit in His classroom!

Posted in Cozi's Corner | 1 Comment

Paradise Lost

“There is, among men, a universal longing to go back to the earth from whence they came.  Man will never forget his native place in Paradise lost, nor will he ever cease to yearn for a life of perfect contentment.  The hope that occupies every heart is the secret dream of a Shangri-La discovered where there is an escape from the pressures of this present society.  Each of us, in this insane world in which we live, knows something of the restlessness and the dissatisfaction that create a relentless obsession to escape the treadmill of existence that this society has forced upon us – an existence that has crushed us with pressures and demands that far exceed our resources; a life that often shatters our peace and leaves us like trapped animals, pacing the cage of our circumstances, plotting how to break the iron bands of involvement.  We have all known the frustrations of our self-imposed timetables and commitments that cause us to feel like wheat in the grist mill of an evil system; a system that crushes our hopes, dreams, desires and blows away, like chaff, the highest aspirations of our souls.

As has been said before:  ‘I write with no higher hopes than motivate the rooster at daybreak -I do not expect to be appreciated or even tolerated, but I hope to awaken some to a new day.’  And so, to those who are homesick and do not realize that the “home” for which they are longing is not a geographical location, but a way of life, I sincerely dedicate this small effort.  Especially do I dedicate this book to those whose homesickness will never be cured on this earth.  May we all know the truth and by the knowledge of that truth be set free.”

The above excerpt is credited to H.L Roush in the dedication to his book entitled Henry and the Great Society. 

Before ever laying eyes on this book, I felt intensely this longing for a simpler life.  I wouldn’t have ever been able to explain so eloquently what my heart desired, but I knew I and my family were seemingly running all the time, expending lots of energy, doing lots of things and growing increasingly lonely as individuals and separated as a family.

About 12 years ago, after much wrestling with emotions and each other, we finally gave up our big screen t.v. so that we could spend more time in conversation or reading.  Next, we decided to move to Virginia to pursue a simpler life.  Thirdly we purchased land far away from a city and rather remotely so we could be closer to nature and thereby more in tune with God through His creation.

We did this all before we ever came across this book.

And now, here in Virginia, on our remote piece of land across our rickety swinging bridge, I find myself re-reading this book.  The world’s frenetic pace, technological  advances, more time-saving devices and lots of “stuff” have increasingly crept back into our lives and again threaten to tear asunder the simpler, God centered life we moved here to create.

I am currently about half way through and still I find myself wanting to shout it from the roof tops that this should be required reading for everyone, though I do wonder if anything has changed in me since the first reading that I might now disagree with. I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone, so without delving into many details, be forewarned that there are some things I remember the author sharing in the last few chapters that I did not agree with Scripturally my first reading, but the overall message of the book reverberates  things I have felt much of my life.

It is one of five books  I have read in my life that has inspired me to change radically.  I hope and pray that you will take the time to read it. It isn’t long in pages, but is is long on wisdom.  May it bless you and motivate you to seek the truly good life which is found in chasing the only treasure worth chasing.

Posted in Andrea's Attic | 2 Comments