RSS

Category Archives: Eschatology

God’s Stump Speech? (Ps. 147)

10341948_1136209249753147_2020847579845022647_n.jpgI saw this picture posted on Facebook today. At first blush, I felt awkward about it.

I am a believer in God. I would say that the following labels apply to me, for the most part: Evangelical. Conservative. Bible-believing. And there are many, many people in the United States that share these convictions. But sometimes the ways people communicate these convictions embarrasses me.

Take the picture. “America” – I’m guessing you mean North America, and specifically the United States of America? “Great” – what is greatness, Biblically speaking? An incredibly strong economy that has us aggressively accumulating a disproportionate share of the worlds goods? A massive military that can exert influence on others countries, whether they want our influence or not? Freedom that has, especially in the media, proven to breed licentiousness and immorality?

Some people who say they want to make America great also think that they, themselves, are pretty great. If that’s greatness, I’ve got to say … I don’t want that kind of “greatness” for America.

So, to say God can make us great, we need a refined vision of greatness.

My Bible reading today has me in Psalm 147. I don’t want this to sound sacrilegious, but it almost reads like God’s “stump speech.” It’s pretty great.

Urban development: The Lord builds up [the city] … He blesses your people within you.

Social Services: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds … He sustains the humble.

Homeland Security: He casts the wicked to the ground. He strengthens the bars of your gates.

Immigration: He gathers the exiles. 

Foreign Policy: He grants peace to your borders.

Climate and Environment: He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call … He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes … He stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.

Economy: He satisfies you with the finest of wheat.

Priority of the Military: His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior.

Religion: He has revealed his word … the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

God. At times He seems like what we might call a bleeding-heart liberal. At others, a hawkish, economically motivated conservative. I doubt if He could secure the nomination of either party.

But, I do believe, life under His rule would be great. If that is what the marquee sign is promoting, I’m all in.

Oh … and by the way … it will be great. That rule is coming. Probably not in November. But maybe before! And soon.

– EO

   

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thy Kingdom Come … Now!

It’s Christmas Eve! At sundown, let the 12 Days begin!

But for these last hours of Advent, and for our final leg of the journey, read Amos 9:13-15 one more time.

hills“The time will come,” says the Lord, “when the grain and grapes will grow faster than they can be harvested! Then the terraced vineyards on the hills of Israel will drip with sweet wine. I will bring my exiled people of Israel back from distant lands, and they will rebuild their ruined cities and live in them again. They will plant vineyards and gardens; they will eat their crops and drink their wine. I will firmly plant them there in their own land. They will never again be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the Lord your God.Amos 9:13-15, NLT

Two days ago, we saw that the “booth of David” would be rebuilt from the ruins. Yesterday, we were told that this Kingdom would be international in scope, possessing a remnant from “all the nations.” Today, we get a peek at what this rebuilt global community will look like.

A God-man cooperative! God will bring the people back, and God will plant them in the land. But it will be the people who will rebuild the cities, and plant the vineyards. Immanuel, “God with us”, will enfold us into a life of purpose, productivity, and celebration. (If any of you think heaven will be boring, don’t!).

wineAbundant prosperity! Our God, Who says “blessed are the poor”, has great riches in store for His people when He comes again. The imagery here is fantastic – enough to excite any commodities broker to buy low, and sell high! Production so abundant that the supply chain can’t even keep up? So much wine that it will look like the hills are dripping with it? (That doesn’t sound like Genesis 3:17-19, does it?) No more let thorns infest the ground … He comes to make His blessings FLOW far as the curse is found!


Abundant life!
I so love this picture. We’re not talking about a one-time feast (like many of our Christmas day celebrations). And we’re not talking about the consumerism-induced transience that has turned today’s believers into a bunch of frenetic church hoppers. And we’re not talking about “churches” that have become “as-long-as-the-front-door-is-bigger-than-the-back-door” retail franchises. No, God is going to “firmly plant them” in the land- what will now and forevermore be their land. Deep roots. No deracination. Never again will these aliens and strangers, these wanderers, these sojourners, have any cause or reason to leave. Home. Rest. Health. Peace.

Is all of this coming in the future, or do we get to experience it now?

Yes.

We celebrate Christmas Day on the 25th (the manger, the shepherds, the holy family). But the “thrill of hope”, why “the weary world rejoices”, is that the incarnation of Jesus on that first Christmas brought His Kingdom to bear on this world now! Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the divine cooperative has commenced. We can, now, experience abundant life, and usher others into the “foretaste of glory divine” that is life in His church! Hallowed by Thy name, now! Thy reign in the lives of your chosen people come, now! Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, now!

– – – – – –

In conclusion, the short version of our Advent journey: We are a hell-bent people. We live for ourselves, and disregard others. And our worship of God is terminally infected by this condition. The Day of the Lord is near, and on that day, the plumb line will ultimately be dropped by God. He rules the world with truth and grace: Those who remain in their stubborn, selfish, godless ways will face a horrific judgment. Those whose hearts are pierced to repentance will get 9:13-15!

May your Christmastide be rich as you enter into the feast of abundance with your wonderful savior. He has come! … and is coming again! Maranatha!, and Merry Christmas.

– EO

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 24, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Christianity, Eschatology

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Just Sayin’?” Uh…no.

Read Amos 8:1-3

The Amos reading tonight reminds me of the advent verses in the first chapter of John’s gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:1, 14).

Jesus is the Word. Christians, like the Jews, have always been people of the book. We believe that a primary way that God has communicated to people is through words, through language.

The modern understanding of “objective truth” has driven many people, both believers and non, to a different type of relationship with words. We analyze everything. We treat our sentences and word choices like the matter in a physical science experiment. When we approach the Bible this way, we end up parsing, mincing and mining the texts – their history, grammar, authorship – in a pursuit of “the facts”. (So immersed our we in this brand of Bible reading that we cannot even see how unusual it is in the grand thousands-of-years history of the faith.)

When it comes to our Advent eschatology, we do the same. We rip into Daniel, Revelation, and all the other prophecies, trying to extract some sort of pre-history of upcoming events that is “valid”. Then we argue over our findings…

…As though this was the purpose of the prophets, and of the written words their revelations produced.

But … what does this have to do with Amos 8?

God has another word for Amos. As the book moves to its final chapters, the prophecies are getting all the more grim. God has more tragic news to share through His prophet … but His approach is very curious.

“This is what the Lord God showed me: behold, a basket of summer fruit. And he said, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A basket of summer fruit.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass by them. The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,’ declares the Lord God. ‘So many dead bodies!’ ‘They are thrown everywhere!’ ‘Silence!’” (Amos 3:1-3).

We don’t get this in English … but in Hebrew, God is doing a play-on-words. The word for “fruit” in Hebrew is pronounced kay-EETS. The word for “end” is KEETS. Get it? It’s a basket of kay-EETS, Amos, but what it really is is a healthy serving of KEETS … “the end” … the destruction of Israel.

Seriously? This is God almighty, informing Amos of a catastrophe that will leave bodies strewn everywhere … and He’s presenting it with a clever double entendre? One might consider this, well, kind of inappropriate. At the very least, it’s interesting.

I find it wonderful, for a few reasons. First, God is good, all the time. He doesn’t have to shift from being at once creative, artistic and engaging, and then become somber, sterile and matter-of-fact. The same God who playfully carved out the Grand Canyon is, with complete joy and goodness, bringing about His judgment on His own faithless people. No apologies. No change in character.

Second, it affirms again how important the creative use of language is to God. The way God speaks to His prophets reinforces to me both the truth and the beauty of God, and His Word. And we, made in His image and likeness, are the only creatures on the planet who are also users of language. What we say, and how we say it, are of enormous importance! We don’t just deal in “truth”. We deal in divine-image communication, which should be handled with great care, and for the most noble purposes.

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in[d] blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God (Rev. 19:11-13). He is coming!

– EO

 
1 Comment

Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Eschatology

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Don’t Criticize Our Worship!

Read Amos 7:9-17

A bit more on the plumb line text from Amos…

God shows Amos that he is “setting a plumb line in the midst” of the people. And it’s clear that the people won’t measure up. Destruction is imminent … but where will it be centered? “The high places”, “the sanctuaries”, that’s where (v. 9).

When it comes to worship, the people of God have, throughout the scriptures, always had the propensity to drift. Specifically, we tend to want to incorporate what we think are attractive additions to God’s prescriptions- either things we dream up, or things we pick up from the culture around us. Golden calves. Unauthorized fire. The high places. But why would we go beyond what God has called for? Almost always, it’s because we want to enjoy His worship more.

In today’s text, the high priest Amaziah has had enough of Amos. Amaziah is the leader of the worship program at Bethel – a brand of worship enjoyed by the wealthy Samarians, which incorporates some of the most attractive, diverse, intercultural elements of the neighboring religions. This bumpkin Amos has already declared Bethel’s worship offensive to the very God it claims to honor. Now, he has the gall to say that the sanctuary building will actually be ruined? Who would say such a thing about a fine, successful, religious man, his organization, his services, and his facility? So, Amaziah rallies the political support of the King, and then tells Amos to go home to Judah, and never return*.

It is almost impossible to speak prophetic correction into someone’s worship experience: there is so much self there. Worship can be very emotional. The use of the arts helps us express that emotion. When it comes to one’s heart and art, it gets very subjective, very personal. To say to someone “your worship is wrong” can, and does, elicit a violent reaction.

But Jesus is coming! In Luke 18:8, Jesus asked cryptically: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” The very fact that Jesus asked that question should make us cautious and reflective about our faith practices as we await His return. Are we willing to hear Amos-like challenges to the way we express ourselves to God? Or are we so confident in what we’re doing (after all, I picked this church because I really like the worship!) that we, too, would be dismissive of corrective criticism?

Because we need it! We need a plumb line for our worship more than ever. Because, like lemmings to the sea, our contemporary church has let the influences of our secular culture not only infect, but even set the agenda for our gatherings. They are now far less for God, and far more for people – often for unbelieving people. We do this in the name of “evangelism”, which is often simply a pseudo-spiritual redefinition of business development and procuring market share. Most church leaders have given little-to-no thought about the actual divine prescriptions for their people’s worship. Oh, that Amos would come to us today … and that we would not just send him away, but would hear his voice, repent, and do what is needed to be found pleasing Him in our worship when He returns!

(You…you want me to go now?…)

– EO

*(By the way, Amos could have said, “Okay, sorry, I went too far, I’ll just go.” Instead, Amos tells Amaziah that his wife will become a prostitute, his kids will be killed, his country will be taken over, his people Israel will be exiled, and he himself will die. Talk about doubling down!)

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 16, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Eschatology, Worship

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I Have Until Friday?

Read Amos 7:1-9

I have a hypothetical situation for you. Suppose God came to you with a choice: He was either going to send Jesus to return right now, or on Friday. If He returns right now, you are changed to your immortal body in the twinkling of an eye, and all the features of heaven are yours to experience, right now! Or, if you wait until Friday, you have three days to make one last appeal to the unbelievers in your life … and then you get the blessings of His coming.

Which would you choose?

By the way, this isn’t very hypothetical (except the Friday part). The Apostle Peter tells us that “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly … The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come, like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:7-13).

I thought about this passage from the New Testament while reading Amos 7. Here, Amos is privy to a vision of a God-initiated infestation of locusts, in judgment of the people of Israel. Amos says, “O Lord God, please forgive!” The LORD relents. Next, Amos sees that God is preparing another act of judgment – this time a catastrophic fire. Amos cries, “O Lord God, please cease!” The Lord relents. Amos knows they are guilty. Amos knows they are deserving. But He begs the Lord for mercy, and they receive it because of Amos’ intercession.

Are you ready to stand in the gap between the promised judgment of your righteous God, and the hell-bent people around you? Would you do all you can to delay that final verdict and sentence on their sin? I guess the question isn’t, “are you ready?”, but rather “are you doing it?” … because this is our situation right now. Actually, we may not have until Friday. It may be in the next five minutes.

But maybe God will relent on His own? Maybe the universalists are right – that everyone will enjoy God’s favor, because He’s a God of love, and our “sin” ain’t so bad? Verses 7-9 put an end to such talk. Yes, God has twice shown mercy to His sinful people, but this time…

“Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them [e.g., extend my mercy and wait] and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam [cf., Israel] with the sword.”

Image result for "everyone goes to heaven" signA plumb line is “a ​piece of ​string with a ​weight ​attached to one end, used either to ​test if something ​vertical is ​exactly ​straight”. God is going to, once and for all, measure the people. It will be based His standards, his right-ness, His holiness. On that day, if you don’t “measure up”, your destruction is upon you.

“But nobody’s perfect! Who will be able to stand up against the measure of God’s plumb line?” Only one has ever been perfect- Jesus, the Christ. He offers you His righteousness for the plumb line test. In fact, He offers His righteousness to everyone you know. Have you let them know that it’s available? You may want to get that word out …

Because it may be useful on Friday.

A bit more on this text tomorrow…

– EO

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Eschatology, Evangelism

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Shhhh!

First Monday of Advent

Read Amos 6:9-14

(For those of you who have been following along through this whole Advent blog … are you starting to find yourself longing for some grace?!? I sure am. I suppose that’s a good place for the soul to be during Advent…)

Today I’m amazed at just how stubborn and misinformed we can be when it comes to God.

In vs. 9-10, we have this grizzly prophetic anecdote. Because of the judgment of God on their sins, an entire household of ten will be found dead in their house. An uncle will come by to do his duty of cremating the bodies. While searching for bodies and carrying out his task, he will say, “Shhhh! We must not mention the name of the Lord!”

Why would anyone want to be careful not to mention the name of the Lord?

Perhaps this uncle is in denial. He is stubbornly refusing to believe that what has happened has anything to do with God. Despite the tragedy, he still doesn’t give God his attention.

Or maybe it’s the opposite: Perhaps he knows the LORD is behind the destruction, and he doesn’t want God’s wrath to be kindled any more than it already has been. God has his attention … but his response is misguided.

Our increasingly secular nation seems to be quoting this Samarian uncle these days. “Shhhh! We must not even mention the name of the Lord.” Do they say this because they stubbornly-yet-genuinely refuse to believe in God’s existence? Or might they, deep down, hold to some semblance of belief, and hate the mention of God because it reminds them that a day of reckoning is coming?

Either way, it is pathetic. Though God shows Himself strong all around us, let’s seal our mouths, plug our ears, and burn the bodies. Our godless world, at its most ignoble.

What’s wrong at the root is the theology behind the “shhhh.” tasteGod is nothing but good! He created an amazingly beautiful world. Her provides for us miraculously every day. He has saved us time and again (g
arden, flood, exodus, conquest, battles, returns from exile, and ultimately in Jesus). He speaks to us through his prophets. His people
have brought countless practical blessings to the world. And the good news, that God loves, forgives, blesses, empowers and makes alive, continues to take hold of people all over the world, filling them with “inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Pet. 1:8). That is God! And that is grace! Why would you want to “shhhh” that?

Well, ignoring God doesn’t make Him go away. Israel’s godless insistence on injustice, unrighteousness and self-confidence will result in their being “shattered to pieces.”

Advent. A time of proclamation. Don’t let the “shhhh” keep you from calling out to Him, and proclaiming His return.

– EO

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 14, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Eschatology

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers! 3rd Sunday of Advent – 14.12.14

Another Lutheran hymn for you on this Advent Sunday. It was our “hymn of the day” this morning. The text was written by Laurentias Laurenti in 1700, and was translated from German into English in 1854 for the hymn compilation Hymns from the Land of Luther. Laurenti was the music director at the cathedral in Bremen.

A true Advent text! I love the acknowledgement of the tough, dark side of waiting for Christ’s coming.

Rejoice, rejoice, believers, and let your lights appear.
The evening is advancing, and darker night is near.
The Bridegroom is arising, and soon He draweth nigh.
Up, pray, and watch, and wrestle: At midnight comes the cry.

See that your lamps are burning; replenish them with oil.
And wait for your salvation, the end of earthly toil.
The watchers on the mountain proclaim the Bridegroom near.
Go meet Him as He cometh, with alleluias clear.

O wise and holy virgins, now raise your voices higher,
Until in songs of triumph ye meet the angel choir.
The marriage feast is waiting, the gates wide open stand;
Rise up, ye heirs of glory, the Bridegroom is at hand.

Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear!
Arise, Thou sun so longed for, over this benighted sphere!
With hearts and hands uplifted, we plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption that brings us unto Thee.

Ye saints, who here in patience your cross and sufferings bore,
Shall live and reign forever, when sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory the Lamb ye shall behold;
In triumph cast before Him your diadems of gold!

 
 

Tags: , , ,