Red Moon Rising

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.
See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”
(Matthew 24:6)

bloodmoonDid you get up to see the lunar eclipse this week?  If you’ve been paying any attention, then no doubt you’ve picked up on the talk about the Tetrad, a series of 4 consecutive total eclipses occurring at approximately six month intervals.  The first total eclipse on April 15, 2014 will be followed by another on Oct. 8, 2014, and another on April 4, 2015, and another on Sept. 28 2015.  Such an occurrence is pretty rare.  According to the NASA website, “During the 21st century, there are 8 sets of tetrads, but this has not always been the case.  During the three hundred year interval from 1600 to 1900, for instance, there were no tetrads at all.”

Coinciding with the beautiful pictures of this rare phenomenon has been a lot of buzz from “End Time” Prophets that the Blood Moon is a sign of the coming apocalypse.  Please remember, when the article begins with “best-selling author and televangelist…” that should say quite a lot about the reliability of what you are about to read.  Keep in mind, Tetrads have happened before, and were probably received with the same caliber of hype and doom-saying from the prophets who profit off fear.

I recently concluded a series of sermons working through Matthew 24-25, never knowing that this whole “tetrad” thing was coming.  Still, I thought, given the current attention of the news, it might be good to offer a quick reminder of the basic premise of Jesus’ teaching about the signs of the end times.

  • Christ is Coming – While it’s easy to get caught up in the signs and mysteries of the end times, the primary purpose of Jesus’ teaching was to remind His disciples that He is indeed coming back.  In each of the gospel accounts, Jesus’ teaching on the “signs of the close of the age” are always found just prior to his betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion.  Jesus is about to be taken away, about to give up His life for us, but He wanted His disciples to know that He would be returning.  Not only would Jesus return, He would return in great glory, to gather His people to Himself (Matt 24:30-31), and to judge the nations (Matt. 25:31-32).
  • Watch for the Signs – Because He is coming, we are instructed to watch and wait for His return, and part of this watching and waiting involves knowing the signs of the age.  Jesus wanted His disciples to be prepared that in advance of His coming, there would be wars, famine, natural disasters, persecution, tribulation, lawlessness, and even a great falling away from within the visible church (Matthew 24:3-14).  All these are but “birth pangs,” signs that something greater is coming.  Therefore, when we hear of wars, when the moon turns red and stars fall from the sky, when there is division within the body of Christ, these things should not cause us to panic, but should serve to remind us that Christ is coming, and we are to be prepared.
  • Do Not Be Deceived – While we are instructed to watch for the signs, we are not to be deceived.  Jesus made it very clear, “See that no one leads you astray… but concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”  It floors me whenever I hear a “preacher” (and I use that term cautiously) say, “THESE ARE THE SIGNS THAT JESUS IS COMING” (aren’t they usually shouting?).  No one knows the day or the hour.  The signs have been happening for centuries.  There were natural disasters in the NT era that made people think they had missed the return of Christ.  There have been wars to end all wars – I remember when the first Gulf War was the sign of the apocalypse – and here we are almost 25 years later.
  • Be Prepared – Rather than becoming preoccupied with end time signs and hoarding up for the apocalypse (remember Y2K, anyone), how should Christians wait for Christ’s return – by being prepared.  We do not know when He will return, so we must assume He will be back at any moment.  The parables of the ten virgins, the talents, and the sheep and the goats teach us to watch and work – supplying ourselves with the means of grace that have been given (oil for the lamps), putting that grace to work for God’s Kingdom (the talents), and caring for the least of these (sheep and goats) as we would care for Christ.

Ultimately, there is nothing for those who are in Christ to fear.  He is coming for His elect.  The signs may be alarming, disturbing even, but do not be dismayed.  These are signs to remind us that Christ is coming, and before His coming there will be trouble and struggles for His people.  Yet through it all, God is on His throne, He holds all things in His hands, and there is nothing that can separate us from His love for us in Jesus Christ our Lord.

SDG

My Personal Apocalypse

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…”
(Colossians 3:5)

I don’t usually put a lot of stock in my dreams – rarely do I even remember them.  Dreams are open to so much interpretation, and there are so many things that can influence them.  Who knows but that on those nights when my dreams are rather disturbing that maybe I didn’t have too much salsa before going to bed?  It’s like the line from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge tells the ghost of Jacob Marley, “There’s more gravy than grave about you!”  I trust the Word of God that says in Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughter shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions…” I just don’t often associate my dreams with the fulfillment of that prophesy.

Still, there are times when I think my dreams are helping to reveal what God is trying to say to me.  Take, for example, a dream I had not too long ago – I call it, My Personal Apocalypse.

My life had become its own dystopian future (think Blade Runner not Hunger Games).  I was spiraling out of control.  I don’t know what happened to my family – I’m guessing they had left me, or I had driven them away.  Who would want to stay with me.  I was unkempt, frazzled, disheveled; I had really let myself go.

I found myself surrounded by illicit and wanton behavior.  There was drug use, fighting, and scantily clad women in the cloudy periphery of my dream.  I knew it was there, but I did not partake.  And while I had kept myself clean from the drugs, the sex, and all the rest of the debauchery; I soon realized that the whole dream was set inside a McDonald’s, which was apparently my drug of choice.  My sin was gluttony, sloth – but not just physically, it cut even deeper to a spiritual apathy and lethargy that was doubly fatal.

Suddenly – because time is rather “wibbly-wobbly” in dreams – I met someone, one of my high school teachers with whom I had recently reconnected  on Facebook.  There he was, in my dream, pointing to the door, and telling me it was time to leave.  He said I had really let myself go, that I needed to get up and engage in the fight for my life.

That’s when my alarm went off.

Now, just as a side note, I use my iPad as my alarm clock and on its lock screen in the following picture:

IMG_0706

In case you can’t read this, it is a quote from the Puritan pastor, John Owen, which says, “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

This is the image I saw when I woke from that dream.  Make War!

Are you engaging in the war for your life, or are you listing to the false prophets who cry, “Peace, Peace!” when there is no peace.  There is, in the life of every believer, a necessary and unavoidable conflict with the old life – if you are to become more like Christ you cannot also remain like you were before knowing Christ.  The Westminster Confession teaches us that our growth in holiness is imperfect in this life, and “there abides still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”

Each of us is in a battle for our lives.  We are fighting against sin, sin which is so entrenched in our lives, so natural and instinctual, that often we don’t even know what we’re doing.  No one needs to teach you to lie, to take what you want, to put yourself first.

For those who put their faith in Christ, we realize that only through His victory over death on the cross will we ever know victory over sin, and we trust in His grace, His righteousness to cover us.  But that does not mean that we are exempt from taking up arms in the battle.  Once He brings us to life in Christ, the Spirit then reveals the depth of our sin, and equips us with His grace to mortify more and more the old man, and to live in the new.

To sum up the Owens quote, make it your daily work to put kill your sin, or else your sin will be killing you.

Are you engaged in the battle?

SDG

            Next Week – How to Mortify Sin.