Responding to the Signs of the Times

(WARNING…Big word usage for End Times theories ahead. Stick with me there is a point in it.)

Eschatology (end times theology)  has not been my forte… I was raised in a church that was amillennialistic, I’ve attended churches that were Post Millennialist, and I am currently going to a church that is Pre Millennialist.  If I sit there and give it some thought, I can see where each one of them is coming from and I can find things I agree on and disagree on.  So when it comes to End Times Theology, I land on this point. I believe Jesus is coming again.  I don’t know when that is or how it will all go down, but I know that I am ready and the last instruction Jesus gave to his disciples before He ascended was for them to receive the Holy Spirit and to be a witness of Him to their local home area, those areas around it, and then to the ends of the earth. Acts 1.   That is plenty for me to keep busy with in my area of the world and everywhere I may go.

Probably the one thing that really gets my goat when people start talking about Jesus coming is they approach it with this attitude that you feel like you should be hearing “Twilight Zone” music in the back ground and a spooky voice saying, “You know, Jesus is coming…”  It’s like they’ve got to scare you with the fact.  Major earthquake occurs, “Jesus is coming…”(scary tone applied to quote).  Giant tornado rips through a major city, “Jesus is coming…”(apocalyptic fear applied) And now the current news, a global pandemic… “Jesus is coming… BOO!”  To me the fact that Jesus is coming is not something to scare my neighbor with.  It is something I should eagerly anticipate. Something I should be so excited about that it leaks out on those around me.  He is coming, I am excited, time to prepare.

When my husband and I were dating 28 years ago about this time of the year, he lived in a town about 1 1/2 hours from where I lived.  It was the dinosaur age of phones.  There was this thing called long distance, that if he called me or vice versa, we would have to pay large fees just to talk for 10 minutes each night.  In fact, we learned that one the hard way.  He had to sell his favorite guitar to pay a phone bill that we racked up talking each night.  We just wanted to be together.  So every weekend as soon as he could get free, he would hop in his car and drive to where I lived to see me.  I knew he was coming sometime that evening.  So I would try to be ready.  Hair fixed just so, make up on, the cutest outfit I could find.  I would watch and wait to see his little red car driving up.  I wasn’t scared in the least bit at his arrival. I anticipated it.  THAT is the kind of feeling I want to find in myself as I anticipate Jesus and His return.

I have been reading a weekly devotion this year, Secrets of the Secret Place  by Bob Sorge. This week I have been contemplating chapter 14 “The Secret of Watching”. Watching for Jesus… It’s just like me watching for my love 28 years ago.  Watching is not out of fear that at the last moment I get my ducks in a row because the past 49 years I have wanted to do my own thing and now the signs of Jesus coming has increased. I better get ready… Watching is “I am soooo in love with Jesus right now.  I want to be with Him.  Is that the possible sound of Him coming my way?”  Interpreting the signs of the times is for me to have a better perspective of how to show people this Jesus I am so enamored with.  in Luke 12:54-56 Jesus talked about how the people of his time were able to “see a cloud rising in the west, and immediately say ‘It’s going to rain’ and it does.” Or they could feel the “south wind blow and say its going to be hot.” and it was.  But they could not interpret “this present time”.

Global Pandemic, National unrest, International Terrorism, Natural disasters, etc.  That’s what preoccupies our news.  Going to the grocery store in my town, shows the fear and unrest that preoccupies my corner of the world.  I can look at the “clouds and the winds blowing” in a figurative speech.  It is time for me to interpret “this present time”.  My interpretation is that this is not the time to scare your neighbor to repentance.  Now is the time to be the light.  Now is the time to show the Hope, the Peace, the Love that has been inside of us ever since we encountered the Lover of our souls, Jesus.  “It’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.” Romans 2:4.  People are scared. Offer them the cure for the fear that is eating away at their broken hearts.  Let them know how you have found the One who not only holds peace for today, but who walks with you no matter where you go.  The power of sickness and death are conquered in Him.  We don’t have to fear. That is what the world needs to hear now.  Not “get right or get left.” “Turn or burn”.  But show them the love that conquered death on Resurrection Sunday so many years ago, and now He has given us GREAT Hope in a time when uncertainty and fear abounds.

Lessons Learned: the Birds, the Flowers, and a Stare Down With a Deer

What a evening for a sunset walk! It felt so good to listen to the birds singing as I walked by our pond. It reminded me of when I was a kid and went fishing at my Grandma’s Pond. Such a happy place of peace. As I strolled by our garden plot and looked over the fence to the Federal Forest land. I saw a deer watching me from a distance. So I decided to watch it. I’ve never really been in a staring contest with a deer before until tonight, and I have to admit. The deer won. It hit me as I watched the birds flying overhead and listened to the animal sounds. These animals don’t have a care. They do what they need to do for today and they don’t worry about tomorrow. Jesus talked about this very thing. He talked about how the birds don’t plant fields or store food in barns. Yet God takes care of them, and the beautiful flowers of spring and summer don’t work hard to clothe themselves. God does and He dresses them magnificently. He talked about how we aren’t to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has enough worries of its own. If God has the birds and the flowers, and my stare off challenging deer, He has me.

My staring contest opponent

It’s Tuesday and it’s already been a week. I am fully aware of how blessed I am to be where I am during our national crises. But it is still hard not to let fear, anxiety, and worry creep in. I had to make a journey to town today. (Not that far away. Just 8 miles.) My daughter who is staying with us has a bad tooth ache. I was blessed to get ahold of our dentist, who called her out an antibiotic for the infection. It’s kind of unnerving not feeling like you can just take her to the local walk in clinic and have it looked at whenever you need to. Now it feels like a life and death endeavor. As I drove through town, our town had a large sign informing the residents of the Covid-19 threat. Displayed for all to see at the only roundabout in town. We’ve had an outbreak here. Not a whole lot of cases, but for a small town, too many. I’ve never been germ conscious in my life. But today I was not pleased to touch the gas pump handle, and pick up some necessary items at a local store. Not to mention go through a drive thru pharmacy window to pick up my daughter’s RX. Even though my social isolation with my husband and three of our kids hasn’t been that bad, (actually at times it feels like a vacation) I’m starting to feel the fear and paranoia of touching things in public and running the necessary errands. I have contemplated the hardships in New York as they struggle with their outbreak, Italy, and others. Then the weight of the heart break a family we are friends with as they struggle with the possibility of losing their husband, son, and dad as he fights to stay alive in the hospital 30 miles from my home. (Not covid related). So much weight…

Thus the walk… blue skies with light fluffy clouds and my prayer floats up too. “God everything seems to be just going on as normal. These are the same things I saw, the same sounds I heard a year ago this time on the walk I did back then. Nature has no idea the hardship and pain in our world right now. It just goes on.” Birds are preoccupied with singing and finding a worm here and there, and my deer friend: he’s concerned about whether a middle aged woman could be fast enough to bolt across a field and catch him so he’s going to keep an eye on me. All living in the moment. All taken care of by something much bigger than themselves, God.

What about me? The weight of the events that surround my heart could easily smother me if I let them. But I know I need to leave them in bigger hands than I have. My running ahead trying to figure out how this will all end up is futile. My looking back at how I could have, should have, would have done better at sanitizing everything around me is probably futile as well. Although I am a proponent of doing what you can.

Somewhere along the way I have got to just trust. I have to know that the same God that orchestrates the seasons, watches the animals scurry, and keeps the planets in their orbit so we don’t end up in an interplanetary marble game, with us riding on the blue and white ball. He’s the same God who numbers the hairs on my head (which happens to be a lot, thick hair) and watches me when I wake and when I lay down to rest. He will take care of me. He loves me. He has the current events. I must keep my eyes on Him and trust Him.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:26-31, 33-34‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The One

Finals week of my freshman year of college did a number on me. I was a walking ball of nerves. One class in particular gave me great angst, College Algebra. College Algebra was one of the main reasons I switched my major from computer programming to Spanish. The thought of taking another college level math course sent me into instant panic. It was in studying for the Algebra final I found myself broke down into tears. I was certain of the impending doom and my demise to being a total failure. One of the older girls in the campus house I lived in walked by in my time of despair. She encouraged me with words that have stuck with me through the years. It’s a southern way of saying the age old proverb of “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” She said in her distinct southern drawl, “You know my daddy always told me to remember how the best way to build a brick wall is, one brick at a time.”

One brick at a time, one step at a time, one person at a time, etc. I’m not sure what makes me and probably 90% of Americans think “when you go you’ve gotta go big.” I’ve lived most of my life with a “99 brick at a time” mentality to building a wall. It needs to be done and it needs to be done now. No steps, no process, just “bam!!” Instant achievement. That thought process isn’t very conducive to success when we think “everything is all up to me right now”. It just produces a bunch of anxiety, stress, and eventually I just shut down, “Can’t fix it, so why try.” I forget how important “the one” can be in the big picture of things.

Jesus has always been about the one, the individual. He had great crowds around Him at times, but when it came down to the life changing miracles He did. It was Him touching the one. I think His desire for individuals to be touched was what spurred His statement, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew‬ ‭9:37-38 NIV‬‬. In order to touch the individual lives of so many, a lot of hands would be needed.

The American church has been very fixated on numbers. The more we have in attendance the better. I’ve heard the arguments that Jesus is into numbers as well because he doesn’t want “one to perish”. So go big or go home. But sometimes my focus on how do I reach so many runs over the obvious “one” that is sitting right in front of me “face to face”. Maybe the better approach would be for me to look for that “one”. Pray for that “one”. Offer help to that “one”. So that as “the one” is reached they in turn will see their “one” and reach them too.

So let’s break this down to where I am today. A global pandemic speaks of masses of people being affected either physically, spiritually, or mentally. It’s the elephant that needs to be ate. It’s the wall that needs to be built. It’s the “one” who needs to be found. One person at a time.

Sad to say. I’ve lived here in my house for 12 years. I can honestly say that I don’t know the first names of the women whose houses and land are on each side of me. I’m pretty sure I would have a hard time identifying them as my neighbor at the grocery store if I ran into them. My excuse for not knowing, our busy lives… I’ve been working and volunteering in so many capacities for the past 12 years, all of them noble tasks, that I’ve not had time for my neighbors, and at times, “the one”.

The other day I was on my daily walk up and down my driveway when I noticed my neighbor in his yard. I contemplated what it would be like to walk on by and maybe not be noticed. (Not sure why). But instead I decided to make a point to wave and greet him. There’s been a lot of talk about how the life of Social Isolation has actually brought communities together. Neighbors talking to neighbors (from a distance of course), checking on each other’s needs. People making calls to loved ones and friends, to catch up and make sure they didn’t forget anyone and leave them alone.

Even the churches encouraging their members to be what we’ve always been called to be, family. Call and visit, make sure they have their needs met, give, etc. Since the opportunity to minister to crowds has been reduced greatly, we’ve been refocused on “the one”. I believe when this storm all blows over and we can finally come out of our bunkers we will find something new. All this focus on the one will cause us to grow and people will finally see what they have been needing to see all along. Instead of just one giant light house pointing the way to peace and safety in the storm, the homes of Jesus lovers on every street corner will be shining its light pointing the way. Because when we look all around us there is plenty to do. It’s been sitting under our noses all the time. It’s not only some gigantic move out there that changes the world. It’s also us touching “the one” next to us with the love of God and the truth of Jesus and His power to change a life. Then the next one, and the next, etc. “The one” is waiting, Lord open our eyes to see just how close and easy to touch they can be.