Hurry, you’re running out of time!

I’ve been reading through the Bible in a year, backwards. It’s been a pretty good experience so far. I have probably only read through the prophets in the Old Testament once or twice before when I was very young and I have no memory of them. I have heard sermons on various sections over the years, have read different chapters occasionally, but I don’t have a good understanding of them. So it’s been good to read through them again. 

 I just finished reading the book of Jeremiah. I have to admit it was pretty heavy going in many chapters. I kind of felt like I had to wade through the doom and gloom before I could move on and read my Psalm and Proverb and chapter from the New Testament. But as I reached the end of the book I noticed a theme that got me thinking. And pondering. And praising. 

Throughout the whole book God is having his prophet tell his people that judgement is coming. And he lists all the reasons that they deserve judgement. They have turned from their God. They have embraced idols and all the sin that goes along with the worship of idols, including sacrificing their children in the fires. They have continually refused to listen to God’s prophets. The wealthy and ruling peoples treat the poor unfairly and harshly. They have been given multiple opportunities to repent and return to God, and they won’t. So finally, judgement is coming. 

God tells them what the judgement is going to be, but even as he berates them and tells them why they’re about to be judged, he keeps calling for them to repent. If you will just turn from these wicked ways, come back to me, I will forgive you. And they don’t. And the judgement gets closer and closer and God keeps telling them, you’re running out of time, judgement is coming. Repent. And they don’t. 

And then the judgement arrives in the form of a conquering nation and even then God says, look, turn yourselves over to your enemies and then at least you will live and one day I will restore you. And some people listen, but many don’t. And the conquering nation is there and they are trying to fight back and God keeps giving them one more chance. Just turn yourselves over and you’ll escape with your life. And they still don’t listen. 

When I first started reading it felt like a book about judgement. Punishment. Harshness. Anger. But as I finished it I walked away feeling like I had just read about everlasting mercy. Enduring love. God saying, ok, the consequences for your actions are finally coming on you. But look, there’s still hope. I can still fix this. Come back to me and I can help you make it right. 

Over and over again God sent Jeremiah to warn his people. Stop! Don’t you see death is on the horizon! Come back to me while you still can! And Jeremiah became very unpopular. People got tired of hearing the same gloomy message. They had other prophets, false prophets, who were telling them all kinds of happy things, like God loves you and he’s going to make your nation prosper! Forget about the fact that you are no longer following any of God’s laws and mandates. Forget about the fact that you have adopted all kinds of other gods. God still loves you! He wants you to be happy! Those were much nicer prophecies than what Jeremiah was giving them. 

But God loves his people, and he gave them a way back to him all the way up to the very end. His mercy is everlasting. 

It gives me hope. I read the book of Revelation and it feels scary. Judgement. Chaos. Punishment. But God never changes. I believe he will be offering his love and his salvation all the way to the bitter end. Because he doesn’t want us to die. He wants us to come to him. Judgement is a result of our sin, a consequence. It is inevitable. But he sent Jesus to take that punishment for us. And if we turn to him, we will be saved. But we have to turn. We have to stop listening to the false prophets who tell us God would never punish anyone. Hell isn’t real. God just wants everyone to be happy. And instead listen to his very urgent message. You have sinned. Your sin will be punished. Soon. Quick. Repent of your sin, turn to me, and I will save you. 

Hurry. You’re running out of time. 

Revelation at the Park

There is a park about two miles from our house. I know that it is two miles because we have all ridden our bikes there before, the small ones being pulled in a bike trailer, and after such a feat, the kids wanted to know just how far they had gone. 

We’ve been visiting this park for fifteen years. My kids call it Dragon Park. That is not it’s name. But, there is a large plastic dragon head that kids can climb on, and from the very beginning that is how it has been remembered. 

We just spent two hours there this afternoon. It’s one of my daughters’ birthdays and that is what she wanted to do for her special day. Some of the kids took their skates and skated on the walking track while I walked two miles as well. Afterwards the kids played on the playground, while I sat on a bench watching the action. 

One of my girls found a classmate playing and they had a great time together. The four year old found other kids his size and they all ran around squealing together, playing who-knows-what. A dad with a little tiny girl, maybe 8 months old, walked past, he was holding her hands to help her walk,  and the little one stopped and stared at me. Dad, embarrassed, nodded hi and apologetically said, “She likes to stare.” I grinned back, said hi to the sweet little thing, happy that she happened to walk past me. She was adorable. 

More families showed up while I was sitting and watching. Dads with toddlers. Grandmas with grandsons. Hovering moms. All colors. All sizes and shapes. 

As far as parks go, it’s really not a big park. There is a walking track, about a quarter of a mile round that circles the park and a green field. There is a small pavilion with four picnic tables and bathrooms in the back. It usually has a nice water fountain with a place to fill water bottles, but Covid seems to have shut that feature down.  There is lots of fun playground equipment, and on one end, a rock garden with some young trees and a tall metal post that, in the summer, lets off a cooling spray when you press the big silver button. 

It is wide open, not many trees, and I always feel the presence of the sky when I am sitting there, face turned to the sun’s rays. 

Today, while I was walking the track, I turned on my Bible app and listened to the book of Revelation being read out loud. And I’ll tell you what my impression was, as I walked in our quiet little park, the sound of children’s laughter everywhere. The main thought that ran through my head was, This is All Too Big For Me. Throne rooms with mystic creatures, judgements, a march of events that cannot be stopped. The awesomeness of being in the presence of God. I felt very small and frankly, quite content in my smallness. I like my life here. I like my family. I like the routine I have carved out for myself. I like life to continue in the patterns that I’m used to. I love Jesus, but today, the thought of being in front of his throne, in front of his Holiness and his Majesty…that felt overwhelming. 

And then there are all the judgements. Do I have to figure out when and where and how? Cause honestly, it all sounds baffling. 

As I was sitting on the bench in my little park, the last chapter of Revelation came through my headphones. And one section stood out to me.

“10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”

12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Revelation 22: 10-12

I know for certain that Jesus is going to return and when he returns, there will be judgement. And I can rest in knowing that everything that happens here on this earth, now and in the future, is in God’s hands. But, in the meantime, let the righteous continue to be righteous, the holy continue to be holy. And our righteousness and holiness come from being in Christ. And while there is a sense of urgency to fulfill The Great Commission, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all the world, after all, judgement is coming for everyone either at death or when Jesus returns…despite that urgency, I also felt peace. I don’t know when all these things are going to happen that Revelation speaks about. I don’t know what it is really going to look like. But I do know that today, I will enjoy being at the park. I will love my children, love my neighbor, do the work that is put in front of me. Live the life that is given me today. And that is enough for now. 

To Read the News or Not to Read the News

I don’t know about the rest of you, but lately, I’ve been pretty stressed by the state of the world. 

Maybe it’s just me. 

I find myself obsessively scrolling through news sites, scanning headlines. Clicking on the occasional article. Trying to figure out just what on earth is going on. 

And as I’ve done this, my level of stress and fear has risen. Significantly. I find myself restless. I can’t concentrate for very long. I’m struggling with feeling hopeless. I think ahead, start to think through plans for things that we could do in the near future and I stop. Well, maybe we can do that, as long as the country doesn’t self-implode. 

Have you noticed that both sides of the political spectrum have lost all faith that the other side is committed to a safe, fair election? We both think that the other side is going to cheat. And we both think that the other side will not accept losing. We both think that the other side is prepared to fight to have their candidate in place. And the media keeps egging us on. Sowing all kinds of doubts and fears. 

And it occurs to me that my life would be a lot more peaceful if I just avoided the news completely. And it’s tempting. It even sounds spiritual. Think on things that are good. Keep your eyes focused on Jesus. 

But you know, as Christians, we were called to be IN the world, but not OF the world. 

I live here. This is my planet. This is my country, my state, my city. The things that are happening affect my life. It is also a historic time. The decisions and events that are going on are unprecedented. We are watching history unfold before our eyes. I don’t feel like I can simply unplug and ignore everything. 

So then the question becomes, how do you maintain peace in such a time as this? 

I’ve been reading through Revelation the past couple weeks. Reading a chapter and then reading through commentaries to try and get some understanding. And I am reminded of what one of our pastors said about this book: the whole point is that Jesus wins in the end. 

And that is the answer. 

That is how I hold on to peace. 

In the end, all will be made well. Jesus knows what it is going on. He is not surprised. He is not watching the news and scratching his head in bewilderment. Revelation lets us know that there is a plan. None of this is random. We might not understand the timing and all the details, but we do understand that the earth is going to have to go through a time of judgement. And in the end…Jesus wins. 

And when I write that, I feel my shoulders dropping a couple inches. It’s ok. No matter how this life unfolds, the end story for me is eternity with Jesus. And I have his word that in the meantime, before eternity arrives, Jesus has promised to be with me. I am not alone and abandoned. I am walking side by side with my Savior through this craziness. 

And that is peace. 

Truth

In the book The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis (the last book in the Narnia series) there is a great deception where an ape and a donkey attempt to pretend that they are Aslan. Many people are fooled. But there is a group of Dwarves who remain skeptical. Later in the story, the deception is revealed and the dwarves are confronted with the Real followers of the Real Aslan, but they refuse to believe them. They say that they aren’t going to be tricked again. Later, even when they are face to face with the real Aslan, they still won’t believe. Holding firm to their determination to not be “taken in” they can’t see the truth, even when it roars in their face. 

 

I’ve always felt a bit of disdain for these dwarves. What was their problem? They were so determined to not be taken in by another deception, that they lost their ability to see the truth. In the book, there was no solution. There was no way to help these dwarves. 

 

This morning I opened up my email, read through the various news outlet updates I get. New York Times had an article where they were trying to figure out how Qanon had become so influential. Now, I’m going to come right out and say that the New York Times is incapable of writing anything from any other perspective than Democrat and liberal. They just can’t do it. They are incapable. Just like Fox News is completely Republican and conservative. I like to glance through both just to see what the Democrats are believing these days and see what the Republicans are believing these days. I also enjoy a whole host of articles from Facebook that promote all kinds of theories and “conspiracy theories” and all kinds of ideas. Some of them are so badly written and full of blatantly erroneous material, that you know right away it’s just quackery. Others are more convincing. 

 

This morning, I admit, I felt a bit like the dwarves from The Last Battle. This is all lies! No one is telling the truth! It is impossible to know what is true and false any more! Bah Humbug to all of you. I’m done. I’m done with social media. I’m done with the news. I’m just going to live my simple life here in my house with my family and forget about trying to stay up with what is happening in the bigger world around me. I’m done being “taken in”. 

 

And it’s scary. Because I don’t think I’m the only one in this situation. Our culture is being bombarded with “News” and the news is saying exact opposite things depending on whether you read Liberal or Conservative, and in the end, we are all skeptical and don’t trust any of it. And if we do hold to one side or the other, we are accused of Drinking the Koolaide, and basically being idiots for being “taken in”. 

 

Here’s the thing. I know the truth, and it’s not found in a news site. It’s found in the Bible. I can cling to God’s word. I can say, ok, the world is screwing me over, trying to trick me, but at least I know that This is True. This is a Solid Rock that I can cling to. 

 

But what about those people that don’t know the Bible is true? They are being bombarded by so many lies, so many conflicting ideas. In the end, are they just going to scoff at the Bible as well? I’m not being “taken in” by those old myths! I think it’s a very real possibility. The more our culture twists and plays with “truth”, the more likely people are to not believe anything. And I don’t know how we can stop this from happening. 

 

I have, on occasion, had conversations with my older children about truth. How can we really know that the Bible is true? In the end, after all my logical arguments and proofs, in the end, it comes down to me and my life and my experience. I can tell them, I have met Jesus. He talks to me. I have felt his presence. He has changed MY life. The word of God has comforted me, it has given me wisdom, it has given me direction, it has given me hope. I am who I am because of God and his word. 

 

As we try and navigate these dangerous times where we can no longer rely on our leaders and news outlets to tell us the truth, I’m reminded of a story my parents told me as a child. A young man is apprenticed to a Goldsmith. He shows up to his first day of work. The goldsmith gives him a chunk of gold and tells him to sit in the corner and hold the gold in his hand. He is not given anything else to do. All day he just sits and holds the gold in his hands. The next day he is given the same task. This goes on for several weeks. Finally the young man has had enough. He walks into work and tells the Goldsmith, I want to learn how to work with gold! You aren’t teaching me anything! The Goldsmith looks at him, nods, and throws a chunk to him, Here, hold this gold. The young man catches the chunk in his hand then exclaims, Hey! This isn’t gold! And the Goldsmith smiles and says, Now you are ready to work with gold. 

 

If we want to know the truth and be able to discern the truth, we are going to have to spend a lot of time in the truth, with the truth. Memorizing the truth. Meditating on the truth. And as far as convincing others, in the end all we can do is say, Look at my life. I am who I am because of God and his word. 

 

I am feeling more and more the need to withdraw from the drama of this world and put my focus on God’s word. It’s the only truth I can be certain of.

 

Psalm 1: 1-2

 

Blessed is the man

Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,

Nor stands in the path of sinners,

Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he meditates day and night.

Are You Ready?

Last night I dreamed that the sun didn’t come up. The sky was dark, covered in clouds. I kept waiting for things to start lighting up. And they just didn’t. I finally realized that we were in the middle of the day and it was still dark. Wasn’t this one of the things they talked about in the Bible in the book of Revelation? Wasn’t this one of the signs that Jesus was going to be coming back soon? In my dream I felt this shock. It’s happening. Do people realize this? I need to tell my family! I was trying to rush off to tell everyone I knew when all of a sudden there was a small break in the clouds, a little hole, and I realized that on the other side of this extremely thick, unusual cloud bank, the sun was still there! Wheew. Thank goodness. 

I’ve had several of these dreams lately. 

Each time, I am convinced, This is it. Jesus is just about to appear. And then it turns out it was a false alarm. But, each time, there is a little space in between, where I am convinced. And in that little bit of time, I start looking around me. I’m ready. I can’t wait for Jesus to be here. But most of the people around me aren’t ready. And there is a sense of running out of time. There’s no more time to tell you about Jesus. No more time to get everyone else ready. This is it. Game Over. 

Every time something big happens on a global scale, we Christians tend to pull out the book of Revelation. Is this a sign? Does this line up with what we’ve been reading about all our lives? Are we in the End Times?  While I can read Revelation and say, hmm, it sure does seem like a lot of this stuff is happening…I do know that, historically, Christians have thought they were in the End Times for a really long time. I think back in the year 999, people were convinced that the year 1000 was it. The end. All done. So yeah, we have a long history of being wrong. But here’s the thing. Everyone is going to meet Jesus. Either he’s going to show up in bright living color here on earth, or we are going to die and stand before him in judgement. There is no escaping it. So, the urgency of wondering whether people are ready or not is very real. Very necessary. 

Even if I don’t know what day Jesus is coming, I do know that the Coronavirus is coming. On Friday, according to the news, as of Saturday morning, 627 people died in Italy from the Coronavirus. I was talking to my husband last night about whether we should put our two daughters, who have asthma, in a closer quarantine. He was puzzled. What is that going to do? Do you really think you can keep them from ever getting exposed to the virus? Social distancing is slowing down the exposure of everyone to the virus, but in the end, I don’t know how we can avoid all getting exposed to it. And a small percentage, right now they are saying 2%, are going to die from that exposure. This is real. Not made up. People that we know personally are going to die. And, let’s say you totally avoid the virus, you are not one of the 2%, all is well. Well, hey. Statistically, 100% of all people die. Eventually. 

As someone who holds the key to life in her hands, I am feeling the need to share what I know with you. 

First. We are all created by God. Human life is not a biological accident. It was planned. We are God’s creation and he created us in his image. 

Second. We all have sinned, done the wrong thing. In our humanist way, we say, Well, I’m not perfect. We can all acknowledge that we aren’t Perfect. Right? Here’s the thing. God IS perfect. And he is perfectly Holy. He can not have any sin in him. Our sin keeps us separated from God. 

Third. There’s going to be a punishment for sin. The Bible says that the Wages of Sin is Death. Our punishment for sinning is death. There isn’t anything we can do about that. And I’m not just talking about the death of our body. I’m talking about eternal separation from God. 

Fourth, God loves us. He loves us so much that he came to earth, fully human, fully God, to die for our sins on the Cross. Jesus lived the perfect life. He didn’t sin. He did not deserve death. As a perfect person, he was the only one who could voluntarily take our place. He willingly died and took the punishment for our sins. So that our sin no longer had to separate us. 

Fifth. If we believe that Jesus is God and he came to earth and died for our sins, and if we repent of our sins and openly confess that He is now our Lord, and that we want to follow him and let him be the one who tells us what to do, then we can know that we are saved. When our earthly bodies die, we will go to heaven and live forever with Jesus. This is what we call Being Saved. 

When we are saved, Jesus not only becomes our Lord, the one we follow, he also becomes our friend. The one who listens to us and guides us and helps us in all things. 

If you would like a much more detailed version of what I just tried to explain, Click on this link The Roman Road .

Guys, I love all of you. I’m so glad that you have been willing to read my blogs. We are living in crazy times. I don’t want death to suddenly be looking you in the face, and you aren’t ready. I also don’t want you to have to live in fear. Death is scary. But if you know what is going to happen afterwards, it’s not nearly as scary. In fact, it can be something that you look forward to, in its proper time and place. 

I fully intend to live a long full life. But, I know that whenever my time to die comes, I will be excited. Finally. I get to see Jesus face to face. I want each of you to have that same confidence. 

If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me. There’s a place to contact me on the blog. 

May the Lord bless you and keep you during these crazy times.