What in the Heavens is going on?

planetary alignment 23 Sept. 2017

People are looking at the heavens. Are there new things there?

The solar eclipse in the United States this August was an unignorable phenomenon. It may have delighted or irritated you, depending on how it affected your personal life, but either way it was “there” in a very real way.

If nothing else, this event, which happened across the U.S. made more people think about what’s going on in the heavens.

Psalm 19 from the Bible begins:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world” (Ps. 19:1-4a, NIV). 

Rumors are going around (new rumors?) that there will be a special alignment of stars, planets, the sun, and the moon in conjunction with the constellation Virgo today, September 23rd (2017). You will have to figure out for yourself—maybe after a little research—what you think about the predictions and possibilities that are being put forward there.

So, what IS going on in the heavens? Well, for sure, in another 7-ish years from now, another solar eclipse will be going on. It will cross the U.S., but instead of crossing from the North West towards the South East of the country as the one in August did, it will come up from the South West and go up towards the North East of the U.S. In other words, in conjunction with the August 2017 eclipse it will make an X over the country, crossing one area twice (the center of the X).

I mention it, because this aspect of what is going on in the heavens is touching the earth—in the form of the moon’s actual shadow. These two eclipses are making a shadowy X over this country. Is this significant?

This has become a public question because of social media, but I am not addressing at this point whether some are taking advantage. Or whether they should. Or whether people are right (speaking truth) or not about what they are putting forward. Or whether they are sincere or not…

This is what I am addressing. Let me rephrase the question: What on earth do the heavens have to do with us?

What if it is true, as the Psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God…”? There are two options. Either this God exists or He does not. And this Psalm offers two more options. Either the heavens declare the glory of God or they do not. And what does this God do who is “other” outside His creation even though He infuses and fills it with His Spirit (see the Bible Testaments) to communicate with us?

Could it be through the things of the heavens touching the earth that our unseen God is nudging us to be looking to the greater reality that He is “there” –Present. Maybe He is trying to remind us, without taking away our “free will” or right to choose, that life is not permanent.

Do we remember that besides birth, the only sure thing about mortal life, is death? Maybe reminders will change our minds and our priorities, helping us remember our souls are eternal and our relationships and dealings with other people matter.

Maybe because He can see from the beginning to the end, and is wise above any psychologist, doctor, or theologian on the earth, and He LOVES us, despite knowing every single detail about us, He is calling us to repent— ‘to turn (back) to’ Him? Maybe He wants us to look to Him for setting things right in our lives and getting our priorities straight and spending our time well and in meaningful ways, because how we live now WILL affect how we spend eternity?

Maybe He wants to save us from ourselves, from our stubborn adherence to hurtful habits, from the addictions and confusion that bind us and only keep making life worse, not better for us and others? Maybe ultimately, He wants to save us from not just physical death, but from spiritual death—permanent, eternal separation from Him and from other souls?

Why would God want to do all this for us? Why would He care at all, if He is the maker of the universe(s) and of everything good thing we experience? And can do anything He wants?

Maybe He does all this because it is His nature to love? Maybe it’s Who He IS? Maybe He IS pure, unadulterated love? Maybe He can’t be anything else? And maybe part of His love and justness is that He will not impinge on our “free will,” our right to choose true Love (or not)?

Material, earthly things ARE temporary. Life IS temporary. Everything about this life, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain,… are also temporary. But what if our souls go on eternally. What if God is looking after the well-being of our eternal souls, which includes maintaining our “free will” or right to choose His love and life or naught.

What if He is wooing people to Himself because He loves them, even while they despise and hate and mock and spurn and fight with all their might against His love–because they want to be “free” to choose and to go their own way?

This is what I know first-hand (through spiritual and mortal experience):

To those who have turned to Him, who have come into covenant and made a commitment to Him, He is a faithful, loving, provident ‘husband’—as much as we allow. He is faithful despite our “slips” and lack of faithfulness to Him. He remains with us notwithstanding our lack of openness or submission to His loving touch, even when we fail to trust in His absolute, sure, pure goodness and love. He is at work for us at all times and through all things. We only need to turn back to Him in truth to “see” or know or experience or realize this.

Through all things He remains one-sighted to benefit and bless and be with us to truly love us, and He constrains Himself though He would delight to be of much more benefit and blessing to us and to have much more communion or fellowship with us, because we don’t allow it.

This is the God I know through Jesus Christ. He is “there” and loves us as much as we will allow through our repenting—or turning back and back and back to trusting Him. With Him the impossible happens and we have the very real hope of a blessed eternal life.

I believe this is what the heavens declare, in a new and yet very old way, day after day.

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Another Surprise?!

surpriseAnother surprise? Of course! Once more, this morning, God “surprises” me with a whole new understanding of a passage from the Bible. Not just a little turn in understanding, but a pretty MAJOR shift… Again!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to regale you with some “new” teaching you’ve never heard before or that is meant to impress you or shock you with something previously “hidden” –some mystery that no one has ever heard of or discovered before.

Truly, there is “nothing new under the sun,” as King Solomon once observed (Eccl. 1:9). But there are ALWAYS new ways of seeing the “old” things we thought we knew, as we grow and mature in our understanding of God and His goodness—the truth of the “I AM” or of who God is (Exo. 3:14-15).

You might think after many years of reading and studying this compilation of books, called the Bible, every day, there would be nothing new in there anymore, no surprises left between the covers. All the while you (or I) might think this, you (or I) would be wrong (So we need to watch ourselves that we don’t think this J ).

God and His Word do not change, but hopefully we do. Hopefully we let God’s Word penetrate our minds, beliefs, hearts, and so we are continually “surprised,” and so we are seeing “old” things in a  “new” light, and so our natures, characters, and lives are constantly changing—for the good.

First of all (FLASH, FLASH) the “surprise” this morning is yet another reminder to me that I should NEVER assume I know FULLY what ANY passage of scripture means EVER.

Next I am observing again, that when we sincerely seek to understand God’s heart, suspending our own understanding for a minute or two, and search His Word for other similar passages and words as those we are currently looking at, digging deeper into what He meant through those who spoke and/or who wrote it down in their culture and time, even with all their limitations—more about God will come to light—now, in our time, by the same Spirit, translated.

…I think the “surprises” are limited only by our own faithfulness or lack of faithfulness. When we value, so hold to and try, with the help and strength only God can give, to live out the light God gives, He can and will and delights to give us more…

What is the passage God gives me “new” today? It is in Luke, chapter 11 (using the ESV today): 33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

I’m wondering: What exactly is a “bad” eye? As I look up the cross references for the word “bad” from verse 34, for a minute, I think I have looked up the wrong cross reference which is in Matthew, chapter 20:15. It reads: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’”[a]. No (I’m not wrong). It’s the right reference.

But then I read another cross reference for a “bad” eye, from Deuteronomy, chapter 15:9 which says: “Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly[a] on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin [Footnote: [a] Or be evil..].”

I look back at the footnote for Matthew 20:15: [a] “Or is your eye bad because I am good?”

This is “new” (to me)…A “bad” or “evil” eye means grudging? Or begrudging? Holding back good or holding back from wishing good to others? I never imagined this. I look up some more cross references to this word:

(Deut. 28:54) “[Because of national rebellion or disobedience to God] The man who is the most tender and refined among you will begrudge food to his brother, to the wife he embraces, and to the last of the children whom he has left…”

(Deut. 28:56) “The most tender and refined woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because she is so delicate and tender, will begrudge to the husband she embraces, to her son and to her daughter,…”

(Prov. 23:6) “Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies…”

(Prov. 23:22) “A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him.”

Another synonym for a “bad” eye is “stingy”?!

A “good” or “healthy” eye, then, must be a gracious, generous, giving heart. Yes! Of course! A heart just like God’s. This is how God has always been to me. It is how He treats all His children—all, despite our imperfections—all who look to Him, who want to and learn to believe Him, who come to love and so to follow Him and His true Word, embodied in Jesus—all!

NO ONE who seeks Him is EVER turned away. ALL who honestly seek Him will find Him.

I LOVE this “surprise” from my reading and study today. Though it is convicting, it is also comforting as it confirms to a greater degree the unchanging goodness of our God. I pray my heart might be more like His and less grudging or begrudging or stingy (as mine too often is). “Help me, Lord, through Your Spirit or Presence, which is only with me because of Jesus, to be more like You in my heart and attitude! Thank You, for teaching me “new” things from the “old,” LORD. Thank you for another “surprise,” another change of mind and heart today!

“Right? Of Course Right!”*

tevye

Watching this classic production, once more we see Tevye’s “existence is balanced as precariously as a *fiddler on the roof.”1 New ways and new challenges, one after another, press in on him…as they do us.

How does anyone ever really know what is right or wrong to do?

When people say they are being honest, what is the standard by which they judge? Honest according to whom or what? When people “see” and say that the world is a crappy place and their lives are a living hell, are they being more honest than those who say God is in control, and all things will work together for the good of those who love Him? Most people would say the first perspective is the more honest assessment. Is it? I believe the second perspective doesn’t deny the first, but that it doesn’t stop there. I believe, for that reason, the second perspective is more honest—because it doesn’t stop where humans and humanness stops. It goes on to acknowledge the unseen, but no less REAL, fact of God. The WHOLE of reality, not just what humans can or can’t fathom or generate. The God who IS there, and who can, who will, who does redeem.

Are you SURE there is no God? How can you be sure? Are you in fact living a half-truth, a lie, in denying His existence?

Even the self-proclaimed atheist uses, for example, the “bad” things “Christians” have done in the name of Christ to “justify” his or her unbelief! In doing this, even the atheist admits to SOME standard of what IS good—and in a sense even, they are right, except in assuming God is actually behind ALL the things SOME claiming to be Christians have done. Atheists also judge there could not possibly be a God, because if there were a God, He would not allow the atrocities committed all over the world! They judge these atrocities to be “bad,” and they are–and they are not generated by God. But by what standard do they judge?

Where does the (immaterial) sense that there is good and bad come from if not from the (immaterial) existence of Ultimate Goodness? There is certainly a sense in humans that/when things are amiss. Amiss from what—or Whom? All people have this sense of some things being good and some being evil—which is enhanced when evil is done to ourselves or to a loved one—and diminished when we deny the evil we or a loved one has done to another. There are those who claim that people can be born without this sense. How can they claim this? How can anyone know such a thing? There is ALWAYS, with everyone, a limit of what is “acceptable,” a defining, if you will, of what is “good” or “bad.” A sense that there is good and evil is one universal trait we share with all other human beings.

So again, how does anyone know what it truly right or wrong?

If we are going to be fully honest, we need to consider the WHOLE truth in order to find a REAL answer.

The only person who ever was and ever is always “right,” said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment”—Jesus, quoted by John2 said this—or according to another translation, He said: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” 3

So it’s not that we should NOT judge at all, but that we need to judge rightly. And we are back to the original question: How does anyone know what is right or wrong? How do we know whether we are judging rightly or not? Just as for Tevye, “tradition”1 isn’t the answer, but neither is “progressiveness.”

The Answer is waiting with open arms to embrace us. He (though unseen) is staring us in the face: the One God of all the myriad gods, who came, not to lord it over us, but to serve and die for us, because we alone are not enough. With Him is the full truth, the light, the way.

What is right is this simple: honestly turn to and obey Jesus.

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Footnotes:

  1. “Fiddler on the Roof,” The Mirisch Production Company, VHS, 1971
  2. John 7:24, King James Version of the Bible
  3. New International Version of the Bible

Which Eyes See?

eye

Each day brings new challenges, new opportunities, new vistas… What am I seeing today as I journey down the river of life? I am seeing that, which eyes I see with, is important.

When I am grateful, I see what God is doing in us all of us despite ourselves.

When I am thinking only about what pleases me, I am never content, and everything and everyone displeases me.

After spending time in God’s Word and in prayer, I love people more, I see the big picture and what’s really important more clearly.

When I am dwelling on my problems I can hardly get myself to do the necessary things of life.

After reading or hearing the “news” I have mixed feelings. I feel frustrated and angry when it’s just me…

…When I remember we are talking about individuals God loves, my main feelings are sadness that so many people in our nation and in Europe have turned away from the only One who truly loves them to trust in themselves and their own human understanding. Christians among these (me too sometimes). I also experience wonder and bewilderment that God allows even “them” (whoever “they” are at the time) to practice their free will (unjustly); followed by gladness that God is absolutely dedicated to allowing each of us, individually, time and space (freedom) to “see”–if  we will—and to choose whether we will love Him and His good, just ways or not; followed by relief and gratitude that He hasn’t judged me immediately for my own sins and mistakes and shortcomings (unjustness).

When I’m heedless of anything but my own comfort, and things are going along pretty well, there is no problem I can’t solve–until things quickly dissolve.

When things aren’t going so well, I quickly remember and find true, there is no problem GOD can’t solve.

When sometimes, even the smallest thing goes wrong, and I dwell on it and dwell on it, it grows and grows until EVERYTHING seems impossible.

After I put my eyes back on the fact that God is all-seeing, past, present, and future and all-powerful and stop relying on my own understanding (what I think of my own abilities, of a situation, or of someone else, etc…) and sincerely turn it all over to Him for His help and guidance, immediately whatever was upside-down begins to be righted—even in the midst of horrible circumstances.

When I am tempted beyond my control and I give in, I feel worse about myself, no matter my justification.

When I am tempted beyond my control and I choose to love God (and others) more than (whatever it is) and whole-heartedly turn it, including my desire, over to God, He gives deliverance.

When I am trying to make my plans and to have more control of my life, I get frustrated and it doesn’t end until I stop.

When I submit to whatever it is God has already given me, in other words: what I know by His Word and Spirit and the conscience He has given me to be right, and try to love and be kind to those already in my life, and do well the tasks already at hand, and help others in their present need wherever I can, I feel content in God’s pleasure, and life is well worth living.

Sometimes escaping, one way or another, works for a while—but only for that while—then come the consequences. They always come, and sometimes they aren’t really worth the price paid.

So what am I seeing as I travel this river called life? What do I see more and more clearly as I journey? Not just in the above instances, but in all situations? There are no REAL substitutes. Life goes better, the journey is even joyful, not with Coca-Cola, but with God—The One whose Spirit presence is with us through Jesus.