Musing on the Tragic Death of Amy Winehouse

Well yesterday, 7/23/2011, the pop music artist Amy Winehouse died. Sadly, not one person is truly surprised at her death for she was living on borrowed time, long ensnared by addictions to drugs and alcohol. It was simply a matter of time. She continued to use and ultimately she died. Sadly, her one hit was the song “Rehab” which she essentially wrote and sang about her rejecting a plea for her to go to drug rehabilitation. Her is a fact, while Amy’s life and death was tragic and while many can easily sit in judgment over how sick she was and proclaim if only she would get clean, each of us are really no different. When it comes to making changes, we too often protest “No, no, no.” There are things we like, we enjoy that we really just do not want to give up. We resist calls to repentance with the reply “No, no, no.” It takes brokenness and a realization of the truth to move toward change. We all have choices to make. There are many paths to death and destruction beyond the likes of alcohol and drugs. We are selfish and walk paths even with full knowledge that it is not good. We all have trouble embracing changes and turning from the paths of death. Ultimately there is one choice each person needs to make and sadly the refrain there is too often “no, no, no.” And that choice is surrender to the Creator, to Jesus the King of Kings. All to readily the response is “They told me to submit to Jesus” and “I said no, no, no.” See, for the appeal of self-direction and choosing own life, even if well aware of the pain and emptiness with lack of true peace, is alluring. Any life that dies apart from surrender is tragic. It is the path of many, not just Amy Winehouse. It is a sad day that such a hurt and broken soul reached the death point. It is too late for Amy, it is not too late for you. Please do not cry out “No, no, no” any further. This is true even for those who have submitted to Jesus yet God is stirring you to change and let go of areas of sin in your life. Stop saying “no, no, no” and repent, for the rejection only brings more pain. Surrender, say yes, it is worthwhile!

The Day of Judgment and Atonement: Yom Kippur

From sundown Friday September 17, 2010 to sundown Saturday  September 18th, 2010 was the day considered Holiest in Israel for this year. It was Yom Kippur also know as the day of judgment and the day of antonement as well as the sabbath of all sabbaths. On this day, in Israel the do not eat, drink, wear leather, bathe, wear fragrances, or engage in pleasure such as marital relations. For the day is a somber day and one that brings great joy. For this day results in a person being in good standing for the year ahead. It is the day sacrifices were made that provided for the atonement of the community. It was a day for the purification of the temple.  It ultimately served as the day of  final judgment. It is the day when things are set and God provided that his people were in right position with Him for the coming year.  It was always a year to year process. 

There are some interesting facts about how God communicated his approval of this day and the changes that occurred.  These facts are presented at the following blog article: http://www.yashanet.com/studies/revstudy/rev2e.htm.

 

The miracles/signs that took place, showing God’s approval and forgiveness:

Drawing of lots always produced “LaHashem” in the right hand
The red ribbon tied to the scapegoat always turned white
The Center light of the Menora always burned until morning
Fire on the copper altar never went out even when it wasn’t properly stoked
Priests felt full even after eating only a small part of the offerings
The smoke of the incense offering would fill the Holy of Holies
The Talmud however, records that many of these miracles ceased to occur about 40 years before the destruction of the second Temple, and never returned. This of course coincides with the time of the death of Yeshua:

Yoma 39b – During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did the westernmost light shine; and the doors of the Hekal would open by themselves, until R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: Hekal, Hekal, why wilt thou be the alarmer thyself? I know about thee that thou wilt be destroyed, for Zechariah ben Ido has already prophesied concerning thee: Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.
The miracles/signs that took place, showing God’s approval and forgiveness:

Drawing of lots always produced “LaHashem” in the right hand
The red ribbon tied to the scapegoat always turned white
The Center light of the Menora always burned until morning
Fire on the copper altar never went out even when it wasn’t properly stoked
Priests felt full even after eating only a small part of the offerings
The smoke of the incense offering would fill the Holy of Holies
The Talmud however, records that many of these miracles ceased to occur about 40 years before the destruction of the second Temple, and never returned. This of course coincides with the time of the death of Yeshua:

Yoma 39b – During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did the westernmost light shine; and the doors of the Hekal would open by themselves, until R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: Hekal, Hekal, why wilt thou be the alarmer thyself? I know about thee that thou wilt be destroyed, for Zechariah ben Ido has already prophesied concerning thee: Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.

It shows absolutely in amazing fashion the change from the need of yearly atonement to the atonement once and for all. Upon Jesus the Messiah’s death and resurrection the signs indicated forgiveness was granted ceased.  They ceased because Jesus gave the sacrifice once and for all. He is the source of purification.  He is the scapegoat who took sins upon him, so there was no need for any other.  Yet, there is a time yet coming. We have yet to have the final judgment. There is coming a great and final day when all creation is untwisted and cleansed. There is a day coming when Jesus judges all.  Be assured that when Jesus sits on the great white throne of judgment it will be on a Yom Kippur day.  

So Yom Kippur is a day to truly be still and know that He is God, for  that is the proper response to His providing atonement and judgment.  God has provided the scapegoat who has carried of the sins. He no longer requires sacrifices year after year because “It is finished.”  The time is coming when all will be set right. All that is twisted undone.  All purified. The day is truly the day the Kingdom of God is fully established and the kingdom of darkness is no more.  The King of Kings sorts out those who are his, and those who will face eternal punishment. This day is great and Holy.

So how then does a Christian respond and focus on this day.  Atonement is complete and judgment is coming.  Well it is a day for sober reflection.  A time to look back and look ahead.  Look back at what changed within in the past year and a day to look ahead to see what God is doing and identified the places that need a change and turning.    It is a day to praise God for it is truly about the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.  This day, is the day. Once the great and final day comes, there is no more choice, no more time, no more second chance. The great Judgment will be cast.  So today, while it is today, it is not to late.  Let Jesus serve to provide you atonement and make you clean and right.  For a time is coming when there is no  longer a choice as the  end has come.

Reflecting on the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)

Today is the Feast of Trumpets, the Jewish New Year, one of God’s Holy days.   Sadly, it is a day that most Christians know nothing about other than a name that appears on a calendar in the fall and known as a Jewish Holiday.  Well, it is not just a Jewish Holiday; it is the Jewish New Year.  It is a day established by God for celebration.  As all things established by God the day has specific meaning about what has happened, what is going on today, and what is to come.  The point of this article is to examine some principles of this day a little deeper. Admittedly, this article is written not from personal experience, but upon examination of the documented elements of the day. Certainly there is plenty of information out that can give much deeper insight into the day. One article that has been helpful in understanding the elements of the day is found here: http://brenda.ratcliffs.net/07Trumpets.pdf.  

This Holy day is a day of transition.  As such it is a day of paradox. It is a beginning and an end. It is a day of celebration and introspection. It is marked by a transition of a waning moon to a new, full moon.  It is a day of joy and can be a day of fear.  The fear comes as the day is the start of focusing on God judgments. According to Jewish thinking it is the day when God writes folks in the book of life, the book of death, or sort of a yet to be determined state.  Thus there is fear of judgment and sober reflection.  As followers of Jesus the Messiah who as made us clean, there is no need of fear of judgment but sober reflection is beneficial.  I think it is very important to note there is a day that reflects beginning and end, as this day clearly points to Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, where everything starts and everything ends. He is the one who brings about all changes and by His gift our name is assured of being in the book of Life. And this Holy day is a day for reflecting on this fact.

One element to reflect on is that the Holy day of Rosh Hashanah is a day that does point to the past. It points to the beginning of all things. It points to God as the creator.  There are other events that may well have taken place on this Holy day. One is that is the most likely day that Jesus was born. There are also suggestions it also was the day of his baptism and the day he was led to the wilderness. So this day has been a day of prime importance to God, one that He has seen fit to be a day he has chosen for some beginnings.

If we look at this Holy day for what it what it means to us today. It is a day to look both at what has changed from the past year and what it is ahead. It is a day to focus on what God has been doing and to note what comes ahead.  For Jews, there are two greetings on this day. One is “May you be inscribed and sealed (for a good year” the other is to wish others a year of sweetness and joy.  Well, every year is a year of sweetness and joy when we live a life of surrender to Jesus.  When we accept Jesus as the one who saves us and the one to whom we submit it bring a complete wholeness that is sweet and joyous. And the fact is that with that relationship to the Messiah, we are sealed and inscribed.  A follower of Jesus is sealed with the Holy Spirit and his name is assured of being written in the Lamb’s book of life.  There is no greater joy than that fact, as for the follower of Jesus there is no fear of judgment, just the need to continue to grow and be cleaned and purified.

Now, the day is certainly one about the end. While Jesus may have been born on this day, there is another day coming. It is a day of Jesus coronation as coming King. A day he establishes his government and authority and begins the judgment.  This day is a day established by two witnesses because it may be missed because of clouds and obscuring darkness.  Those who have turned to Jesus for salvation and call Him Lord are to be having a mindset of preparation and watchfulness. We his followers are his servants and bride. He is coming to claim his bride and reward faithful servants.  We are to be about His business. We are to watch. We are to prepare. We are to be sober and alert.  This day, is a day that reminds us of all these things.  It is a day to examine what gets in the way of walking in surrender and being faithful servants. It is a day for the bride to be cleaned and prepared for the groom.  So on this day and the days that follow is a day to take a close look at self and listen to God’s direction to learn what needs to change in the year ahead.  It is an ongoing process until the day of the great Rosh Hashanah when the King of Kings comes and his throne is established.  It is a joyous and dreadful day, for judgment is coming but Jesus will put all enemies to flight and then there is true joy and rest.

So, there is much to reflect and learn from on this day.  Take some time and learn more about the Feast of Trumpets, for the day is soon coming when the trumpets shall resound and it will be a day unlike any other day.  A day from which forth the whole of creation will resound with “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” and “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

The victor over encroaching darkness: Jesus

The world is filled with darkness. The news is filled with stories of death and destruction.  We have holidays that even embrace and celebrate darkness such as Halloween. There is an ever-growing trend of what is good being called evil and what is evil called good, such as the non-dualist moral framework of that which impedes desire is evil.  Recently this writer visited Brazil and one of wife’s family commented how Brazil used to be a safe place, but it is not safe anymore. He even commented about Southern Brazil experiencing a cyclone (tornado), something unheard of in Brazil.  So darkness is ever encroaching.

No a reader may ask what is meant by darkness.  Darkness is that which is evil, that which shows no light. Now many philosophical and religious systems out there do talk about good and evil, light and dark.  Yet the definitions vary. Essentially it focuses on the battle of evil impulses with those of good impulses.  There is a focus on benefiting the world at large, building it up, or being destructive and tearing it down.

There is acknowledgement in the world at large at pretty significant issues and areas of darkness. The world at large focuses on crime, disease, poverty, climate change,  and intolerance as areas of primary darkness. There are plans and scopes made to find and arrange political solutions to these problems. There is a hope of a New Era Dawning and folks that work toward facilitating a New World order, all in the name to fighting what they consider to be things of darkness.

The Christian world view is quite contrary to the world’s approach to problems.  The Christian view is not about finding political solutions. It is not about finding ways to all work together.  The Christian worldview sees darkness as defeated.  The encroaching darkness is something that is but temporary.  The evil within each of us evidenced by our on-going selfishness has been dealt with, a person simply needs to choose to accept the solution and turn from self and surrender to God.  The answer to darkness if found in the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah. 

Now, there are many that distort the Gospel and change the message of Jesus. There are many who believe they embrace light, when they reality is they are exchanging one darkness for another.  The number of things that appear to be light when they are truly dark is numerous.  Even within those that profess following the Gospel there are many deceptions and ways of darkness that can take one-off the path.  There are many who think they have embraced truth when still lost.

The fact is the forces of darkness know that time is short. They are working hard to deceive many and bringing destruction. The forces of darkness celebrate each choice that leads to death.  The forces of darkness want to take all to the reality of hell and eternal separation from God. 

Yet, while darkness is growing stronger and many are deceived, darkness is defeated. There will be those that turn from light to darkness, there will be those that seek to aid darkness, thinking the darkness is good.  Yet, the end result is all darkness is already defeated.  A time is soon coming when Jesus will return and implement the victory of darkness and bring wrath and judgment.  The question for each of us, is what choice have you made. At death or upon Jesus return it will not be about how often you did good things over embracing your dark impulses, because one thing done selfishly is disqualifying.  Light and darkness do not coexist and are not interdependent.  So the question is what keeps the reader from embracing and walking in the light? What source of darkness have you embraced?  What is your response to God’s offer of redemption through Jesus the Messiah?  Jesus is the light, there exists no other. Jesus is the victory over all that is dark.

News Commentary: The Hoa Nguyen saga

Yesterday the Star Tribune reported on the situations Hoa Nguyenfinds herself in. Apparently Hoa is facing deportation to Vietnam in spite of being married and having  spent ten years in the United States.  Apparently she entered the United States on a student visa, met her husband at Luther College, and continued academic studies.  They apparently had a court date in August which was missed and now Hoa was jailed to be deported.  Hoa’s family and friends post updates at a website www.freehoa.org.  The bare essential fact is she confused her court hearing and has been jailed and facing deportation as a result.

Now I do not know where Dan Hanson and Hoa are at in their spiritual life.  They are facing a difficult trial and need political pressure for any chance of not facing separation.  I would hope they are able to lean on and turn to God in this ordeal.  However, they could well be missing that source of hope and strength.  Regardless,  it is a sad situation and I pray that they may be granted mercy.  It is a sad state of affairs that getting confused and missing a court date results in such severe consequences.  Personally there have been moments where things have been confused or forgotten.  If something like this happened with me and my wife it would have been devastating.  So the wish and hope is for this couple be granted some mercy here, as they did miss the mark regarding legal immigration standards, albeit unintentionally. However, the law does not look at intention or circumstances, but rather did you do what you were supposed to do.  This is a case where there really is not a legal remedy, rather they need some form of political mercy.

It was amazing to read the comments at the Star Tribune article. The majority of responses were showing no sense of mercy and compassion and simply want the letter of the law enforced and see it as appropriate in this instance.  My thoughts went to consider how these people will be before God when God holds them to His law.  We are all guilty before God, thankfully God has given us each a chance for grace and mercy through Jesus.  We each have violated the law and face the eternal consequences.  Jesus meets the conditions for the required consequences and sets us free if we simply turn to Jesus in faith and accept his gift.  It involves surrender of self. This whole situation plays out whether the law be simply executed without any regard to the situation or any willingness for mercy.  I am glad that God has given me grace and mercy for how I have faltered and remained self-centered.  I think when the ultimate time of judgment come many will plead for special understanding and God can simply say, you did not regard circumstances for others, you failed to live righteously and did not accept the mercy and grace offered and therefore stand condemned.

Christianity and Politics

 

Well the elections season is moving into full swing.  We have the candidates for president of United States lined up on both sides.  The usual political process will ensue and someone will be elected.  Folks will vote for the candidates who to them seem to fit their views best.  This year more than ever candidate’s religious views seem to be at the forefront. You have candidates professing to believe in Jesus as Messiah but coming from all different perspectives.  Is the espousing the belief in Jesus as Messiah truth, or a way to try and garner votes.  The balance of truth is somehow in the middle.  However, it does point to the fact that in the United States, those professing to be Christian do make of a good portion of the electorate.

      In viewing the political scene, it has been easy to develop a cynical view of how things operate in this country.  When one really analyzes both political parties, truth and error can be found in both.  Sometimes it seems like where the parties ultimately compromise is some position at the expense of the truth.  On the side of the Democratic Party, the truth they hold to is the looking out for the poor and disadvantaged. They hold to the importance of reaching out to those who cannot do so on their own.  One of the negatives of the party is that they emphasize individual choice and press toward accommodation and tolerance in the name of treating everyone fairly.  In terms of the Republican Party, there is a solid stand for building strong social morality.  The negative side is there is an emphasis on looking out for self over others.  Now, granted those characterizations are generalizations and the actual dynamics are far more complicated. It does break down to both sides standing for things that are true and that should be things a Christian values.  On the negative, they both present ways that self is elevated over others. No political party stands for the whole truth.

                So given this mix, what are Christian’s called to do regarding politics and the running of a country?  Christians are called to be salt and light to a culture.  However, as salt and light not just to be pointing out morality issues but ultimately be pointing the way to Jesus.  We are to stand for truth with the truth being found in Jesus.  We are to have the mindset of Colossians 3:1-2: Since then you have been raised with Christ set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  This is what God desires as well as Romans 13:1:  Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  We are consistently directed to submit to authority, however not at the expense of preaching the gospel.

                Now, that is not to say the Christians should not enter the political realm or be concerned with our government.  We are called to be salt and light, but we need to always be submitting to the King of Kings.  The Bible does show of people God put in positions of authority and called them to a specific task.  People like David, Daniel, Joseph, and Esther for example.  The Bible however, is also full of examples of people in power that become corrupted (Saul, Solomon) or are corrupt (Jeroboam, Ahab, Jezebel) but they always meet their judgment.  In this political process we don’t really know the true hearts of the men and women seeking office. Outward appearances can be deceiving, but regardless we can rest in knowing that those in authority are those God allows, to ultimately serve His purposes.

                However, the church in the United States of America currently seems obsessed with politics.  Part of the response to the cultural shifts in the sixties and seventies and essentially starting with the Ronald Reagan presidency was the formation of the “Christian Right” and a focus on Christians being involved with politics.   There are members and elements of the church that became obsessed with social morals and changing the society by passing what would be considered morally right laws. 

                This mindset came from the shifts that happened in the United States. Many Christians see the secularization of schools, the legalization of abortion and other societal ills as being a sign of the failure of the church to be salt and light.  Many out there even profess upcoming judgment on United States of America do to the lack of changing of moral laws.  The perspective is lost that change in laws will not change the hearts of people. We live in a day an age, that regardless of party, the focus on elevating the individual is emphasized.   The church in America has lost sight of the fact that true change comes not from political change through the establishment of law, but by changing hearts and minds of men and drawing others unto the Gospel.  We are always going to be looking after  our own interests.

                The most dangerous thing about politics is that it is about the acquisition of power.  As John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902), once said “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” It is possible for people to start out with honorable intents and falter, much like Saul.  Even David, a man after God’s own heart, abused his power, committing murder.   Power is alluring.   Jesus was tempted with all power of all the kingdoms of the world, to turn his back on God’s plan.  So the problem with Christians entering into the political scene is the enticement of power to even do what would be considered “right” things, yet doing so as building own kingdom and not kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not political change or change in the laws of man.  The kingdom of God is people living in surrender to Jesus.

                In terms of how we view this political process, the expectations, the fears, and the hopes in regards to the candidates for office we need to surrender our will the Jesus.  God is in control. There may be no righteous candidate; all may head things in the direction of evil. If this is so, God is still in control.  Now there are many other aspects one can explore and there will be other articles examining elements of Christianity and politics.  In essence we need to submit to God and keep our thoughts not on this life, but on things of God.  We need to ask ourselves what do we care most about, political change or the true change of hearts and minds that comes through the Gospel. 

Two Rivers

Two Rivers
by Timothy G. Blake

Curtain rises
On knees beseech
Take me to thy River
Flowing from the fountain
In your temple
Thy will be done
Father gifts assent
Vision unfolds

Mighty City
On a Center Hill
Holy
Majestic
River flowing
Ever widening
Flowing Swift
Sure

Around the bend
Widest Point
Large Crowd
Venders
Lights
Sign post
Take drink
Imbibe
Enter in
Soak
One by one
Water swarmed
The water sweet
Aloe to the soul
Water soothes
Cleanses
Pleasure beyond depth

Euphoria Explodes
Laughing
Singing
Dancing
Playing
The crowd chants
Everyone needs to get some
More! More!

River retrace
To the source
Outside the gates
One of great stature
Crowned with Little Horns

Through his bull horn speaks
Gives command
The Time has come
All loyalty require
Brand them

Creature of Lights
Many Men of Renown
Do his biding
Line of Humanity
One by one
Branded
Herded
Commanded

Yet there are others
Already branded
My sheep
Bullhorn speaks
Herd them all
Threshing floor

Lambs slaughtered
Blood flows
The Slain Lamb weeps
and wounds grow deep

The ever present servants of the Lamb
Attend to the lamb
Gathering tears till cups overflow
Then wash the killing field
With the cup of tears
Blood of the slain
Tears of the lamb
Gather together
Mighty river is formed

Flashback
Wide River berth
Laughter
Signing
Dancing
Mirth
Many caught unguarded
Strong undertow
Drags under
Dashed
Many lose bearing
Swept away to the rivers end
Where vultures gather

Yet some awake
and flee
Sounding Alarm

Vision fades
Mourn
Confusion
Dismay
Lion Roars
“FEAR NOT!”

Vision Unfolds
Center of city
Eyes beheld strange sight
Spigotted rock
And a pile of scrolls
The voice of the Lamb spoke
Remove thy shoes
This is Holy Ground

Fear and Amazement
Drop to bended knee
Take drink from the rock
Spigot turned
The Living water flowed
A Simple Chalice filled
Blood red
Mouth Alive
All taste at once
Suddenly
Peace and Joy
within
Newness
Life
No more thirst
Bubbling to overflow
From the pores flowed blood red
Anointed Bathed, Cleansed

The voice of the lamb spoke
Take eat a scroll
The word consumed
Bitter sweet
Transforming
Truth known in deepest parts
And a sudden glow, light within
The Lamb spoke
Go and Forget not!

Walking temples
Fountains within
Living water
Blood red flowing
Touching
Giving life

The Word firmly planted
Lighting the way
In the darkness
Of realms outside
Where snakes in darkness wait
Snares and traps
But no matter where the temples walk
Living water flows,
Blood red
And each step
The Light of the word shines
Seeding darkness with seeds of truth
Each walking temple a stream

Vision fades
Questions remain
Voice of the Lamb speaks
My son, two rivers you have seen.
The River of judgment
The River of Life.