Passion Week Musings: The Olivet Discourse

In terms of Passion Week, after causing great disruption at the temple and driving out moneychangers and merchants the next documented event is that of the Olivet discourse. Jesus took extended time to give last words to the crowd of disciples. The discourse was his last public teaching. He spent time speaking in prophecy and parables. His teaching included the commentary on the ten virgins and the five talents. He also provided warning to remain in truth and warned of deceivers. He prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem and the times leading up to His second coming. It is worthwhile to take time to read the varied accounts of the Olivet Discourse found in Mark 13, Matthew 24 and 25, and Luke 21. Jesus is quick clear that there is great difficulty and tribulation coming before His return both in terms of Israel and those in God’s kingdom. He makes it clear that there are signs to attend to and that love can grow cold and people can and will be deceived. Also emphasized in the discourse is the importance of our actions following what we say we believe.Through all of what Jesus talked about, there is one point that catches my attention today.

Jesus summed up his discourse with a call to stay awake. The book of Mark ends the account of the discourse in Mark 13: 34-37 (ESV): “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning– lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” So Jesus emphasizes the importance staying awake. The point is further clarified in the way Luke’s account wraps up the discourse in Luke 21:34:36 (ESV): “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” So Jesus does give clear directive that there will be pain, loss of self control, and distractions of life that can draw one away from attending to the Gospel.

There are endless varieties of pain; endless ways to lose self; and unyielding array of life concerns that can take the focus and result in failing asleep and failing to attend to the matters of a servant in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is noteworthy that in many circles within the Body of Christ are calls for revival and suggestions of revival happening in one location or another. In this discourse, Jesus warns not to go chasing from one location or another. He simply directs us to stay awake. Staying awake is actively attending to the matters of the Kingdom of God. It is found in loving others and attending to the various signs as they occur. It is taking focus away from pains, pleasures, or tasks of life and instead seeking to be about the Father’s business. No one else can supply what is needed, rather staying awake involved actively worshipping in spirit in truth. It is depending on the fuel of God and investing what He has given in order to spread God’s kingdom. His Kingdom is not of politics, it is not about relief of suffering, it is not about giving us all we want and reducing the cares of life. Rather, his Kingdom is about loving God and loving others fully and letting others know that there is only one way, one truth, one life, and one gate; JESUS! So stay awake and if caught up in the varied elements of life that lure and entrap like the Siren’s call of myths, WAKE UP! For Jesus return is always and ever SOON! He is the soon and coming King. We have all we need and all that is need for true revival is for each of us to wake up and actively use what God has given.

Some principles of God’s provision found in 1 Kings 17

In a previous post, there was a requested direction of prayer for the missionaries in Haiti for God’s provision but natural and supernaturally. The article and request referenced Elijah being fed by ravens and the widow with oil and flour that would not cease. Those stories are found in the Bible at 1 Kings 17. The passage points to certain principles related to God’s provision in the midst of suffering. The suffering in 1 Kings was a drought that was brought on as a consequence of the spiritual condition of Israel and to draw the nation back to God. On examining the chapter, there are a few principles that are applicable to today.

The first principle is that everything starts with obedience to God. In order for God to provide, we need to have two things operating. We need to listen and obey. Before we can obey, we need to be able to know what God desires. Knowing what God desires involves listening to God. It is having a relationship with the Creator of the Universe. Interacting with the Creator cannot just be a once in a moment thing. It has to be ongoing, moment-by-moment. We need to have our ears and eyes attuned to attending to Yahweh. It is in that ongoing relationship that God does make his leading and will known. Once we hear from God, we need to obey. Elijah obeyed God in declaring the famine. He obeyed God in walking in faith and following God’s direction. If Elijah had not gone where God directed he would have missed the provision of being fed by ravens or the source of water that was provided by the brook. If Elijah had not followed God when the brook ran dry, then he would never have met the widow that allowed God to give supernatural intervention. It is also to note, that obedience was not just an action from Elijah. The widow also obeyed God at the risk of her own life. She could not see a possible way to survive if she gave to Elijah her last, but God did provide.

The second principle is that God’s provision comes in many ways. God sometimes works using the natural, sometimes the supernatural. God is capable of providing in ways far beyond what our mind can even imagine. For Elijah God used first natural provision. He provided by ravens and Brooke. Yet, the time of that was limited. When that provision ran dry, God led Elijah to a place where He would provide supernaturally in response to obedience. It is interesting to note that when God intended to provide for Elijah supernaturally, he did so not in a way that blessed not only Elijah, but also in a way that blessed others as well. God’s supernatural interventions are not just for the needs one individual. When God gives supernaturally, it is intended to be used beyond self-interest. His supernatural provision is always done for his greater will and to bring Himself glory and demonstrate His love to others.

It is interesting to note, that even in the midst of God’s supernatural provision events related to the tyranny of suffering connected to the fall of man occurred. The widow’s only son became sick and died. Neither the widow nor Elijah understood that in the midst of His supernatural provision that such suffering was allowed. The widow thought that God was be upset with some sin she had committed. Elijah’s response was to cry out genuinely to God as to why and plead for the child’s life to be returned. God did restore the child’s life. It was something beyond understanding, but God intervened for His glory. His love and provision do not return empty, even amidst appearances, what we can see or understand. There will be times when in obedience and receiving divine intervention that are beyond human understanding. But God is always at work and will bring glory to His name.

The third principle is really that through it all God is the source of life. Ultimately, God restoring the child’s life really demonstrates that God is the source of life. He provided the oil and flour. Yet, God is the source. Now God has frequently used oil connected to the Holy Spirit, and bread in connection to the word of God. We are led and fed by the Holy Spirit and by the Word of God. In our relationship with God, both these sustain us each day. In walking in genuine response to God’s love and reflecting that love to others, the Holy Spirit and God’s word will never run dry. They are fuel to living and interacting with God. God brings us life. In however God’s provides in our lives and for whatever period of time we must remember that God is the source of life.

The fourth principle see at work here, is God’s provision matches our needs. Scripture is filled with God providing at an equivalent to what the needs are at the moment. God’s provision is not over and above what is needed, but rather what is needed, when it is needed. God’s provision here was what they needed each day. The same is true for Israel in the wilderness. God gave them what they needed, when they need it. Too often people teach and look to God to provide in ways over and above the actual needs. The view is that obedience brings prosperity in this world. Yet, biblically the example is that obedience results in provision needed at the moment. Actually, there is a difference between God’s provision and God’s blessings. God’s provision is given but at times he also gives blessings over and above. When he does bless, he does so always to bring himself glory. Yet, more often than not, what we expect is blessing in return for following God’s lead. Blessings come as God sees fit according to His purpose. Often our response is to demand blessings to meet our needs and desires, rather than looking to what serves God’s will and purpose in our lives and the lives around us.

So in looking at those four principles, the basic foundation is that God provides in such a way that serves His will and purpose. We do not always understand or see what is going on around us at the moment. We can easily get wrapped up in self and even expect what is beyond what God intends. He works in ways that we do not understand. When He gets involved supernaturally, it is always for His greater purpose with scope beyond the interests of one individual. Everything starts and stops with God. It is important to stay in the moment and continue to be in relationship with the Creator, obeying and following His lead.   God will provide. What we need to do is respond in obedience and keep focused on God over even our own wants and needs.  It is a walk of faith  to things that we cannot even possibly see a way out.  It is an attitude that will give of our last.  It is an attitude even of receiving others sacrificial giving.   Personally, asking a widow to give of all that she has left would be confusing and hard to walk in obedience, yet both Elijah and the widow obeyed.  God provided at their moment of need with what they needed.  In their obedience suffering still occurred, but God is always in control and brings Glory to his name and turned that of death to life.  He does so  in all our lives, be it in tragic circumstances such as Haiti, or other more personal struggles in our own day to day lives.  God is the same in all circumstances.

Musings on the pain of separation and relationship to feast of trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)

Well this last Saturday was Rosh Hashanah. If you haven’t read last years article on the subject I hope you take the time to do so, it focused on the alarm and awakening aspect of the first trumpet. Now while I have some other thoughts related to Rosh Hashanah for another article I want to first attend to thoughts related to my experience which happened to fall on Rosh Hshanah.  The day for me was a traveling day.  Me and the wife were in the midst of traveling to visit family in Brazil.  In this process we needed to leave our little dog, Bella, behind.

Now we left her in good hands with my mother. She will be treated more like a dog and will have the company of my mom’s dog.  Yet, leaving her behind was very difficult.  As we left her friday night, the sadness was great.  The worst part was when we left and she followed us right to the door expecting to leave with us and having to see her watch us leave not understanding what was going on. My mother reported that whole first night she kept looking for us to see if we were returning.  She has now settle into the routine of that house but clearly she missed us.  Now, me and the wife feel this way over our little dog. I cannot yet imagine what it is like to be separated from a child you love. 

Thoughts that came to my mind during this time centered on how much pain God experiences over separation from us. There are two thoughts related to this.  First of all is the separation of sin.  The choosing to turn from God that goes back to Eden had to be devastating for God. God was enjoying his fellowship with his creation and then choices were made that brought on lasting separation.  This separation is so severe that God refers to it as death.  God certainly felt an intense amount of grief over that choice.  In the same way each time we go our own way, chase after whatever idol seems to satisfy, God is in great pain. He wants be with us.  He wants to be with us so much that he has taken whatever means necessary to reconcile the relationship.  He pursues connection and for each rejection, He has great pain.  The thought of such pain of separation draws me to examine myself and turn from that which separates me from the love of God. It is important to note, that once reconciled with God, there is nothing that we do that brings back that separation of sin. God has made it so that pain does not have to be experienced again.  Nothing will ever separate us from his love again.

The second thought the pain of separation brings to mind is about the joy of reuniting.  During this trip we are going to spend time with the wife’s family. Several of them we haven’t seen in five years.  When we landed the family members that were present were literally jumping with joy.  It is of great joy to be reunited with those you love after separation.  The same is true with God’s relationship with us.  There will be nothing of greater joy than when Jesus is able to end the separation and return to be with us.  The first trumpet is a call that says the time is truly near and Jesus is coming soon.  Now regardless of end times theology one subscribes, the fact is the first trumpet signals the soon and coming return of  Jesus. It is a time of exceeding joy.  The time of the pain of separation is over, and the joy of fellowship returning.  

Another thought that crosses my mind is that when there is separation we always have something to look back on with memory. For our dog we left something behind with our scents on it.  We have pictures, videos, and our memories to ease the times of separation from those we love.  God did not leave us without means of relationship.  He left us two things.  The Bible and the Holy Spirit.  The bible gives us God’s words and gives us pictures, memories and directions on how to live until his return.  Yet, he did not just leave us with his Word but also has indwelt us. While Jesus has left, we do have the Holy Spirit dwelling within.  God is truly with us.  For me it may seem like interacting with God on similar levels to communicating by phone or internet.   We have that direct connection but yet it is not quite the same as full physical contact with another body.  Yet, God even left us a third piece to deal with that separation.  We are the body of Christ. When we interact with one another, we  are able to step into the void of seperation. We reflect and demonstrate pieces of God’s love. 

So for each Christian, we eagerly await the soon and coming return of Jesus.  We long to hear that first trumpet blast that says the time is rapidly approaching.  God left us the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and each other to help us in this time of separation. But the time is soon coming when we will no longer be longing for the return of Jesus and experience the joy of His return.