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Posts Tagged ‘future’

prophesyProphecy, predictions, and fortune telling: do we really want to know?

Amaziah said to Amos, “You who see things, go, run away to the land of Judah, eat your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s holy place and his royal house.” [Amos 7:12-13, CEB]

We check with the local meteorologist/weatherman every day; we are obsessed with knowing the weather forecast. Most people have it on the home screens of their cell phone. Will it rain? Will it snow? Will my life be changed by either? Nope.

We say we want to know but then, if it’s not what we want to hear, we speak against it. Chance of rain today, 53%  Oh, please don’t rain, I want weathermanto take a run or a bike ride or a walk or go out in my boat. Tomorrow, warm and sunny with only 3% chance of rain. Of course, the day I have to work indoors, it’s going to be a beautiful day. Yada, yada, yada.

And if the message is particularly grim, the messenger’s credibility is immediately suspect.

Originally, predictors about our world’s atmosphere called it “global warming,” but then the naysayers used every snow storm as an example to the contrary, as though their local snowstorm can counter the scientific evidence that our planet is warmer than ever. So, the analysts switched up the label and now use “climate change” to speak to the future. All the same, very few want to hear this prophecy. Like Amaziah, they say, go somewhere else to tell your tale, we’re all just fine here.

fortune tellingAre you curious about your own immediate future? How many fortune tellers grace our city streets? In some areas, they proliferate more than others (New Orleans has a high number of soothsayers on every corner in the French Quarter and Bourbon Street). Is it a game or do we really want to know? Do we believe these strangers have access to the string of our future? Or do we hope for a tantalizingly dark handsome stranger to be in our stars? Something or someone we can keep a look out for.

Not long ago, I finished listening to a new sci-fi fantasy book, Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price (first in a series, of course). The book has some issues, but I love the way it digs into the idea of time, both future and past as well as alternate lives and worlds, seemingly existing side by side. It’s pretty exquisite world building. For one of the characters, it’s Groundhog Day on steroids, but he doesn’t become a nicer and nicer person, he just kills people sooner to get it over with, etc. He is doing his best to manipulate the present and the future.

We are all manipulating our futures by the decisions we make today and living out the decisions we made yesterday.

There is an exercise in which you can do a review of your past and snip out the pieces that you would (if your could) remove from your past. It’s illuminating actually because few of us can do it. Why? Because every snip would change today and the now becomes too similar to the unknown future we struggle with each day. Would I like to snip out my bi-polar mother? Sure. But then, I would not be in the United States because it was her extreme personality that under girded our emigration.

Why did God provide prophets in the first place? And then, why did they disappear after the coming of Christ?

milk and honeyIn the Old Testament, it’s as thought God acted like a Father, giving fair warning about the consequences of certain choices. There were a lot of “if you do this or that–expect this result.” God tried to lay out the benefits, a land flowing with milk and honey, and yet, it was never enough. Once acquired, the people rejoiced, but it wasn’t long before the land was treated like a entitlement and not a gift. And so, God tried a different tactic, and provided one last prophet, one last shepherd, one last message.

Unfortunately, despite knowing and reading and seeing how things have gone in the past, we continue to make the same mistakes. God says: Accept the Spirit of Christ and “heaven” is a given grace. Follow Christ and live differently, sacrificially, in love and forgiveness and the world will unfold in a completely different way, an incomparable future. And yet, despite the prophesied future, we choose idols instead. We choose our immediate desires over a promised future.

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make a wayWe all were. Sent ahead. In some cases, that is more obvious than in others, but if you think about it, we can each lay a path or new ground for our descendants and loved ones.

But God sent me [Joseph] ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. [Genesis 45:7, NIV]

My mother and father left Europe and came to America and worked hard for the sake of their children and a new life. My mother’s mother left her village in Lithuania to go to Riga to experience city life. In my own life, bouncing from city to city, I eventually landed with a husband and a home here in Maryland and drew three orphaned children to us from Latvia and St. Petersburg, Russia, their lives forever changed.

We can each make a way. We can cut the brambles to the best of our ability so that others can walk behind.

But of course, some people refuse. The road ahead seems too difficult, too overwhelming. And so they sit in what small space they can carve out and wait. Reminds me of the parable of the “talents.” Three servants were entrusted with wealth to invest for the Master while he journeyed away. Two took risks and plunged ahead. But the one merely buried what he was given and although he returned it all, he had made not change or increase.

Humans are given gifts as well as challenges that make us who we are but also help make us what God intends. It is not about the money but about the attitude, the response to life’s events, accepting the truth of what is and making the very best of what that truth can contribute.

This process is true for organizations as well as individuals. Churches, in particular, have a mission to reach out to those stagnant souls who have lost their will or hope toward the next step. The Church, the Body of Christ, can do corporately what cannot always be done by the one. But it must be done in unity and love.

Look back: who is following you? Whose steps are landing in your footprints?

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Art by Desexign

What is a dream? Night time dreams and daydreams are what I think of first, but other symbolic uses come up as well. I suppose the most prevalent one is the speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., who said “He had a dream . . . ” as he looked to a brighter future. He was a visionary. And I think of Don Quixote who “Dreamed the Impossible Dream.” Quotes aplenty sprinkle the web. Check them out for encouragement.

But after he [Joseph] had considered this [divorcing Mary quietly], an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife’ . . .  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him . . . ” [Matthew 1:20a; 24a, NIV]

But I am looking at a specific kind of night dream that a humble carpenter had when his fiancee became pregnant. Being a nice guy of sorts, he decided to divorce her quietly, although I find that amusing since her pregnancy, without his protection, would have ended her stoning. I think he was rather more interested in a) not participating in the punishment, and/or b) disassociating with her and her family. Also, he was a fearful man who could not imagine dealing with the fall-out.

And yet, he had a dream.

How do we know when a dream is from God? I’d say, in general, that the dream contradicts our normal thinking about an event. A dream brings in new information that we would normally suppress. And I believe it’s straightforward.

When I was still struggling with my decision about accepting the Christ, I had a vivid dream of standing on rope bridge. Below me, what initially looked like roiling water and waves, was human bodies. At one end of the bridge was a woman who was interested in enticing me into her lifestyle, both decadent and exciting. At the other end, was a man who had introduced to the stories of Jesus and prophecy in the Old Testament, a “holy” life I could not fathom for myself at the time. I was torn between the two but knew I had to choose one way or another or I would be pulled into the maelstrom below, lost to both. This was a dream from God, still distinct in my mind after more than thirty years.

I am without doubt that Joseph’s dream stayed with him until he died. We don’t have a record of Joseph’s later life, how he died or when. He and Mary bore other children after Jesus, so we know he didn’t disappear and he was still on the scene when Jesus was twelve. But after that? We’ll never know. But we have a dream and savior because one man submitted to a dream.

To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. Anatole France.

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From this point in the book of Revelation and forward, there is a flurry of activity, none of it good. But the “white robed ones” are the survivors. Like most God events, I believe this tribulation multitude stands outside of time.

Revelation 7:14
And he said to me, These are they who have come out of the great tribulation (persecution), and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
[Amplified]

My slow walk through the book of Revelation is becoming more and more difficult. Yes, this book is rich with symbolism but it is also filled with confusing texts and “timelines” that have been peeled apart by the most studious of scholars. As noted before, I am totally out of my element. And yet, I want to get something from the book that I can use and apply to my life, that I can engage in my heart and embrace. I am not interested in the controversies of pre-millennial or post-millennial; pre-tribulation or post-tribulation. I just want a nugget of understanding, a glimpse of truth.

The multitude referenced in verse 14 is huge, uncountable. This is no special group of 144,000, but another collection that represents the peoples of the earth. These are people who have known deep affliction, persecution, and sorrow. Are the tribulations or grievous trials referenced here, are they the ones to be described next (linearly). Or, are we simply seeing the “survivor benefits” on the front end, or, is this some huge group of people that has already had enough pain and are being given a reprieve? I don’t know. Does it matter?

In my “earthly time,” I’m not in this group on either score.

But there is an inherent promise to the verses, 15-17. Extrapolating from the description, I see these promises:

  • to experience close proximity to God;
  • to have opportunity to serve and interact with God;
  • to be protected from any subsequent dangers;
  • to be satisfied and all needs met;
  • to be comfortable;
  • to be guided and have clear direction;
  • to be filled; and,
  • to be happy.

Some people have taken these promises as the state we will enter in “heaven.” And perhaps that’s true. These are the goals that most humans seek in their corporeal lives, aren’t they? Isn’t everything we do, particularly as believers, built on these long-term objectives?

Life is hard. Whether people are rich or poor, healthy or sick, there are challenges and tragedies which cross most human lives. Why do we bother to keep living? Because we believe in life. We believe in the evolution of the soul; we believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit; we believe in a purpose.

Or, we die. Those who have lost sight of the “golden ring,” no longer believe in human, in God, in a future, often give up and choose death over suffering.

People who dissect the book of Revelation believe the worst is yet to come. And that may true, but that should not discount the sorrows, the wars, the persecutions, the deaths, the miseries, the tortures that have already happened to many parts of the world, to many people through human history.

In or out of time, there is still the promise of the divine.

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It’s a hard reminder that our lives are not our own, no matter how much we believe they are. Oh sure, there are responsibilities and choices that only I can make for myself, and yet, in the end, it is God and all that is infinite that chooses to give or take away, to end or begin.


James 4: 13-14
Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and spend a year there and carry on our business and make money. Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears [into thin air].
[Amplified]

Conceptually, it should be a joy: after all, isn’t God sovereign? Doesn’t God promise to do what is good for me, even better than the birds of the air [Matthew 6:26]? But I don’t walk each day in this confidence. I am still wary of the next moment. I still want to “control” it: after all, what is familiar, even painful seems better than the unknown.

But the future is the great unknown. We can create probabilities, but we cannot create absolutes.

And so, I ask, what will I experience for the rest of this day? Can I keep my hands open? Can I say “yes” to this day before it unfolds? Can I trust god with my time, my experiences, my journey?

When/what is the next moment anyway? Is it now? no now, no this other now. I can watch the clock or I can turn that invisible countdown outward.

When my elderly mother lived with us, up until her 91st year, she would get so frustrated because she felt so unproductive in those last years. In fact, one of her biggest concerns, “What should I do for the rest of my life?” She never considered the number of those days, just the fullness of them. She wanted to see her minutes and hours as valuable to others, useful.

Can I be more mindful of my day time? Can I hear the stray comment, the smallest encounter, the big mistakes as well as the great successes as opportunities to embrace the “rest of my day” in God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit?

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Empty Room by Tom Burke

Believing in a future is part of the faith package. We can’t know what that future will actually hold for us, but that does not preclude us from embracing all the possibilities. So much of tomorrow hinges on today.

Philemon 20
And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.

Paul believed he would be cut loose from prison. He asked his friends and his followers to believe the same thing, despite the circumstances.

I can function fairly well in this part of the equation, but I’m not so good when that future I had prayed about, asked for and even envisioned, doesn’t happen. I am disappointed. This is a trap for me.

Intellectually, I understand what it should be. I can preach about it and I can teach about. I can offer all kinds of advice, quotations, and scripture references. Honest, I get it. But the reality of living the other answer is not always my best day.

Instead of disappointment, when the alternate future presents itself, I need to joyfully envelop it and give thanks because God, all sovereign, heard my prayer and took my future onto a different way. When I don’t get “out of prison,” when I don’t get the job, when my kid doesn’t go to college, when my project is not accepted, when . . . when . . . when, it’s no less intentional from the God perspective.

I’m reading a book by Steven Furtick called Sun Stand Still. He’s a young, exuberant pastor from Charlotte, North Carolina, who planted a church that grew into the thousands in a very short time. He’s all about audacious prayers and expecting God to do impossible things. He has seen such prayers answered every day. His faith is infectious. He challenges his church to do the same, like Paul, he says, “do as I do, believe as I believe, trust as I trust.”

Have a I become too jaded in my walk to drum up this kind of enthusiasm? I don’t know. It’s not that I don’t believe God can do great and wondrous acts. God can and does. But I want to be able to walk on through despite the outcomes. I want to have a faith that isn’t wrapped around the answers. Because, quite honestly, my requests are not always in the best interests of the whole picture; I know that instinctively. I can only dream my dream and put my desires out there. But I could be way off.

When I was younger and went through those terrible years of barrenness, I came to a peace when I accepted the reality of my body. It was no less God’s plan and, in the end, we built a family through adoption, three kids who didn’t know that God had prepared a room for them here.

Everything is connected, every dream, every future, every room. Keep me mindful Lord, when I step into the room prepared for me today, that I don’t forsake it just because it’s not painted the color I had imagined or it’s not furnished with the expected furniture or populated by certain people.

Help me dream and even dream big still, but help me engage in today fully as well. Today is part of yesterday’s dream.

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When we enter into relationship with Christ Jesus we are also entering into an agreement to be a witness to the acts of Jesus in our lives up until that moment and as events unfold in the future. Much like the cusp of the New Year… we look back, but we also look forward.

Acts 26:15b-16
” ‘I am Jesus, whom you [Paul] are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. …”

When I started on the Way, I was a little embarrassed. I wasn’t comfortable with the trappings of being a “Christian.” There was a whole new vocabulary and depending on the types of believers around me, there were expectations about behaviors. Sometimes, the whole thing just didn’t feel real. Was I really going to carry a bible around with me all the time and wear a cross around my neck and give homage to Christian holidays? Was I really a person who would stop saying Jesus Christ! when I banged my toe or hit my fingers with a hammer? Was I really going to go to church every Sunday or even extra days throughout the week? Would I pray in public? Would I raise my hands and dance in the aisles or would I kneel in a pew and cross myself? Would I pray for people over the phone? Would I ask people to pray for me on the Internet?

Which of these outward expressions would really witness to my faith in Christ?

None. Not really. Somewhere along the way, I realized it was my transformations within that would dictate my outer expressions. And even from the very beginning, there was a powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. No matter how I stumbled, there was a wooing that would bring me back to the Way.

I experienced private joy when I walked around my apartment for an hour singing the only Christian song I knew, Jesus Loves Me. There were intense times of forgiveness of my father who died and abandoned me at a young age, and forgiveness of people who had hurt me, and forgiveness of myself for the hurts I had caused others (my mother, my first husband, my brother, my friends). There were testing times too because I wanted to see if God really cared about me as an individual. He did. He does.

Now, what of tomorrow? What will be my witness be for tomorrow? What more will the Christ do in my life? Perhaps this is the reason I write now… to capture today so I can be ready for the next hour, the afternoon, the evening, and then tomorrow.

Yes, I am on the Way. It is a long path that winds ahead. I can look back on that path and see where I took some “long cuts” (opposite of a short cut) and I can see where the path was wide and easy as well as the places that were narrow and difficult. When I turn to look ahead, I can see there are curves ahead that prevent me from seeing very far into the future. But I do see that there is a path. And when I look around, I can see the footprints of others. I am not alone on the Way.

Yes, it’s all good. I am comfortable in my Jesus shoes at last. I am content.

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