I want to share some thoughts with you on something near and dear to my heart…
From the account in Luke… “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
I have attended and received Communion in churches of many denominations, and there is no shortage of opinions. Opinions about who is eligible to receive, opinions about whether it is a representation or miraculously becomes the actual body and blood of Christ when we partake, and opinions about how often one should receive the elements…. And guess what… I have a rather radical opinion of my own, but I will spring that on you a little later.
Prophecy in the Ages of Silence is another topic suggested to me by a friend. It is a topic I have pondered for some time, so I suppose it is time for me to break my own silence on the subject.
Have you ever heard the phrase “History is written by the victors.”? Revisionist history is a fact. The basis for it is at the root of our human condition. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone will go to great lengths to defend that opinion, and those in power, church or state, have the power to publish that opinion for posterity as fact. This was true in the ancient world and is true today, so we must look at history from a spiritual perspective if we hope to uncover the Truth that God wants us to see.
In some cases, as in the events related in Matthew 1, multiple versions of history survive. A great divide occurred in the Jewish community in that d
ay, one side believing the events were the messianic prophecy unfolding, the other side, determined it was not. The Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H Stern states, “The early Rabbis developed a tradition that Jesus was the illegitimate son of Mary and a Roman soldier named Pantera.” Whatever their reasons, a small group of leaders could not accept the way this prophecy came to pass, and so discounted it. Those who believed became the ancient Christians, those who did not evolved into modern Jewry.
Because I believe that God is ultimately in control, I believe that this divide was part of His plan, and similarly, the events unfolding in the world today are indeed part of His plan. We are witnessing another of the prominent religions, Islam, experiencing a great division between radical extremists interpreting their scriptures in a far different manner than a peaceful majority. Just as our Christian cannon of scripture paints the Pharisees and Sadducees as villains, a close look at the Jewish writings of the times paints them as primarily righteous leaders with a few radical extremists muddying up the waters.
I’ve lost my mind! This should have been posted early in January, but apparently I was asleep at the switch… or… maybe in love. But what I wanted to do was to offer something special for you to hold fast to as you begin this New Year. We are still in the first quarter, so here goes.
Years ago, when I first encountered the last book of the bible I understood it as a prophetic vision of the future filled with gruesome imagery. I have been reminded often through my year-long + study of The Revelation of Jesus Christ, the time is near, but what that time actually is, now holds a far different meaning. As this study comes to an end, for now anyway, it is not so much about what is out there in the world, and events that we are expecting to happen, or even trials we expect to go through… It is about the same love we all felt when we experienced our own Walk to Emmaus. In that spirit, I share with you “The Lord Himself”, a poem by Annie Johnson Flint, and wish you a blessed 2015.
It is not for a sign we are watching-
For wonders above and below,
The pouring out of vials of judgement,
The sounding of trumpets of woe;
It is not for a Day we are looking,
Not even the time yet to be
When the earth shall be filled with God’s glory
As the waters cover the sea;
It is not for a King we are longing
To make the world-kingdom his own;
It is not for a Judge who shall summon
The nations of earth to his throne.
Not for these, though we know they are coming,
For they are but adjuncts of him,
Before whom all splendour grows dim.
We wait for the Lord, our beloved,
Our Comforter, Master, and Friend,
The substance of all that we hope for,
Beginning of faith, and its end;
We watch for our Savior and Bridegroom,
Who loved us and made us his own;
For him we are looking and longing;
For Jesus, and Jesus alone.
Blessings & Adventure,
Lynn “lynnibug” Rios
A friend recently gave me a suggestion to write about how to explain God to someone that has had no religious experience as we know it. I pondered this subject for about a week before it struck me that the question that was troubling me was actually a bit broader. My question was “Why are so many Christians so ineffective at sharing their faith in everyday situations?” Not knowing how to explain God to someone that has no religious point of reference is just one example of how we fail to communicate the love of God and the availability of that love to anyone who will surrender to it.
I wonder if our enthusiasm to share the good news might be at the root of our inability to share it well. I have personally witnessed well-meaning preachers scare seekers away rather than bring them into the light, so I thought it might be worth looking a little closer at basic sales techniques and how we might apply them to spreading the Gospel message more effectively.
Recently, a friend asked me (via Facebook) to look at a website published by a woman claiming to be a modern day prophet and naming a specific individual as the antichrist.
He wanted to know what I thought about it. My response was lengthy, and considering the tribulation we all can see in the world today, I thought worth sharing.
Several people in recent history have been identified as THE antichrist.
Adolf Hitler and Raj Patel come to mind as having had that finger pointed at them, and frankly, in 2008 I suspected Obama as being the one. All are of them are at least symptoms of the growing culture of ‘antichristism’, but I don’t think the text in Revelation points to a person as much as an “ism”. The bible teaches that God uses both righteous and evil men to achieve His will. No position of power is received by any man unless God permits it. It is all part of His plan, perfecting humanity so that as many will come to Him of their own free will as possible.
In Isaiah 55:8-11 it says: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
In Revelation we are shown a vision of the world from the divine perspective in order that we may understand that what we see and hear and touch and experience is not necessarily what it appears to us to be. I have been studying the Revelation in depth over the past 18 months, so allow me to share some things from a different perspective.
I am blessed to be co-leading a Sunday school class on the Book of Revelation, and through it am seeing everything in an entirely new way. We have spent 2 months very slowly moving through the first five chapters, taking in and internalizing the history and the imagery to gain a deeper understanding of what this often misunderstood Revelation of Jesus Christ is saying to us today. Normally, I include an image or two in my writings to help you create a picture in your mind, but have decided it is far too important for you to “see” this image in your own mind, so I am including only text, and encourage you to read these two chapters, Revelation 4 and 5, to drink it in for yourself.
After the letters to the 7 churches in Revelation 1-3, John is shown the throne room of God in layers…
each layer building upon the last, culminating, as the only one who is worthy to break the 7 seals on the scroll is revealed to be the Lion of Judah, but when John turns to see this lion, he sees a lamb as if slain, in the center of the throne – in the center of God upon the throne. Backing up to incorporate the verses that came before, we can take in the entire scene.
The scene is thunderously loud and emblazoned with brightly coloured lights, colourful precious stones, and a sea of glass. The throne room of God as described in chapters 4 and 5 has all of this noise, and color, and excitement, and at the center a throne, surrounded by four creatures – worshipping, encircled by the 24 elders – worshipping, and surrounded by all of creation – yes, worshiping. The lamb is not just on the throne, but in the center of the throne – in the center of God upon the throne.
The throne room – what an amazing place!
The ultimate worship service in the throne room of God, and we are all invited! Now I can imagine it so vividly… the sights, the sounds, the colours, the vibrations… and most importantly, if I can imagine it – this Revelation of Jesus Christ that John shares with us can be as real for me as it was for John. I can imagine myself there when I pray and when I worship, and the time I spend with Him becomes more tangible and more impactful. I have a deeper understanding of who Jesus is, and where Jesus is, and in my time of prayer and meditation I can imagine being there with Him. I can put my faith into action in a new way.
“1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. 5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. 8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
I imagine that this throne room I now envision so vividly, is in this city that God has “prepared for them”, and for us.
It provides focus, clarity, and perspective in day to day matters, and when I have a care or concern, I am not crying out to an empty sky, but taking my petition directly to His seat of justice and mercy. Someday I will be there, but for now it is enough to know that this is the wonderful home I will return to when I have fulfilled my calling here.
Blessings & Adventure,
Lynn “lynnibug” Rios
A few weeks prior to Passover, I was approached with a guide for an abbreviated Seder to review. I had actually created a Seder program several years ago that was true to the Jewish traditions while revealing the presence of Jesus as the focus of the program. Because it was traditional in its structure, it was a long program, about 2 hours including the meal, and the Christian attendees got a bit antsy about three quarters through it. I reviewed the new 9 page program (two pages of which were illustrations) and was stunned. This was not a Seder at all. It did not tell the story, which is the primary purpose of the Seder. It was at best a 15 to 20 minute class on the symbolism of the Seder elements, but it did not have the heart of a true Seder. I looked at the advance flyer advertising the event, then read over the program again, and the thought that sprang to mind was “false advertising”! This was not, in my mind, a Seder at all.
Through all of the centuries since the Exodus from Egypt occurred, the Jewish people have handed down this story of redemption year after year through a celebration and ceremony that has changed little. It is like the glue that has held the Jewish people together, though oppressed and scattered across the globe. It is a common thread that makes us a people. No matter what the language, the culture, or the circumstance that exist in a given time or place, the experience is universal and connects us all. The story is retold… once we were slaves in Egypt, and with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm the Eternal God delivered us in keeping with the covenant made with Abraham. We have told, and retold the details of that story, handing it down from one generation to the next, and it cements in us our Jewish identity.
Trying to share the Passover experience without including the story of the Exodus as a key component, in my mind is doomed to be a hollow experience. There is no purpose as it excludes the most important truth that is taught in the Seder, redemption by the grace of God. So I took the old program and began to whittle away at it, taking out all of the fluff, and leaving the bare bones of what makes a Seder a Seder, and pared it down to 10 pages of text. Hopefully, that will be short enough.
I know that people have busy lives, myself included, but some things we just need to make time for. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and if you can’t allow the time necessary to do it well, perhaps you should not do it at all. Celebrating the Passover by retelling the story opens an individual’s heart to receive the blessings of the Passover. I, for one, want to receive them all, not just some of them. In his book, “Seven Blessings of the Passover”, Steve Munsey lists these blessings and explains them in great detail.
1. Exodus 23:20, 23 God will assign you an angel
2. Exodus 23:22 God will be an enemy to your enemies
3. Exodus 23:25 God will give you prosperity
4. Exodus 23:25 God will take away sickness from you
5. Exodus 23:26 God will give you a long life
6. Exodus 23:30 God will cause increase and inheritance
7. Exodus 23:29, 31 God will cause a year of blessing and return what the enemy has taken
I am certainly willing to set aside an hour or two for that! How about you?
Blessings & Adventure,
Lynn “lynnibug” Rios
The parallel imagery we find in Daniel and The Revelation are striking, but there has been one phrase troubling me for months as I completed a study of Daniel, then another in The Revelation.
I recently wrote about the interpretation of the phrase “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7:13, but was having a hard time reconciling the conclusion I had come to with the obviously different understanding of the same phrase when used in The Revelation.
Now, as I am reviewing my study of the final book of the bible in preparation for a Sunday school class I will be co-leading, I have finally found a resolution to my internal conflict, and put the matter to rest in a most uplifting manner.
Daniel 7:13-14 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Daniel 7:15-18 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this. “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’”
So, my bible clearly says the “holy people of the Most High” are who the imagery of “one like the son of man” who received the kingdom is referring to. In the previous article I wrote, I conceded that as much as I would like to accept the interpretation that Daniel, like a fly on the wall, was witnessing Jesus returning to heaven and being rewarded for a job well done, the citizen of heaven that answers Daniel’s question as to “the meaning of all this” is quite clear that it represents “the holy people of the Most High”.
“one like the son of man”
In The Revelation we see the same phrase, but here it is clearly representing none other than Jesus. First, we have the name of the book itself, The Revelation of (and from) Jesus Christ, in which Jesus reveals or unveils Himself to John. This entire book is first and foremost all about Jesus.
Revelation 1:12-13 “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was one like a son of man dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.”
Over and over in The Revelation we are offered images and descriptions of the Risen Jesus in all of His Glory – this cannot be confused with the “holy people of the Most High”, so why in two such parallel visions do we have such opposite conclusions to the meaning of “one like the son of man”? This was the conflict I was wrestling with and determined to reconcile, and finally, after much prayer and reflection the answer came.
It came when I least expected it! While I was watching a national news broadcast, Charles Krauthammer commented on what the founding fathers intended our elected officials to do – represent us. He expounded some on what it means to represent, and suddenly I connected the dots. According to the dictionary:
1. to serve to express, designate, stand for, or denote, as a word, symbol, or the like does; symbolize.
2. to express or designate by some term, character, symbol; to represent musical sounds by notes.
3. to stand or act in the place of, as a substitute, proxy, or agent does.
4. to speak and act for by delegated authority: to represent one’s government in a foreign country.
5. to act for or in behalf of by deputed right in exercising a voice in legislation or government.
“one like the son of man”
In Daniel it refers to “the holy people of the Most High” who are represented in every sense of the word – symbolically, spiritually, and most importantly, before God as faultless – by Jesus Christ. That is how they became holy people! In Daniel, we don’t know Him yet, but He represents us none the less. In The Revelation, we recognize Him, and know that we belong to Him.
So how cool is that? What I had been struggling to reconcile was reconciliation itself. Another facet of the person of Jesus has been revealed!
Blessings & Adventure,
Lynn “lynnibug” Rios
Thanksgivukkah… what does it mean?
This year, 2013, the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, fell on the same calendar day as Thanksgiving. This prompted a rather large response of funny musical videos portraying various unusual combinations of costumes and holiday traditions, as well as some very creative recipes that mingled the traditional foods of both holidays into a unique Thanksgivukkah cuisine.
According to Wikepedia, “Because the Gregorian and Jewish calendars have slightly different average year lengths, over time they drift out of sync with each other. As a result of this, the first day of Hanukkah will not precede or coincide with Thanksgiving Day again in the foreseeable future. One physicist has calculated that, if the Jewish calendar is not revised, Thursday, November 28 will not fall during Hanukkah again until the year 79811, once it has drifted all the way around the cycle of the Gregorian calendar and back to November. Many media sources have reported this “tongue-in-cheek” calculation as a serious estimate of the date of the next Thanksgivukkah. However, since the Jewish day does not begin at midnight, but on the sunset before it, there will be two more years in which Hanukkah and Thanksgiving partially overlap, with the first night of Hanukkah beginning in the evening of Thanksgiving. These will be the evenings of Thursday, November 27, 2070 and Thursday, November 28, 2165. The most recent such year was 1918.”
Any way you look at it… that is a really long time!
The woman credited with coining the name Thanksgivukkah is Dana Gitell from Boston, MA.
At first, she thought people would find it amusing, but the idea grew. “The more I thought about,” she says, “I realized it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the Jewish-American experience and for Jewish-Americans to give thanks for America and the religious freedoms we enjoy here. It’s also a chance for Hanukkah to enjoy a fresh spotlight, rather than being “lumped in” with Christmas.”
That is what brings me to the serious side of this article. The two holidays that converged this year actually have quite a lot more in common than one might think at first look.
A miracle occurred in the 2nd century B.C., when a small band of Jews led by Judah Maccabee and his sons triumphed over the forces of King Antiochus IV. When they entered the temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by the occupying forces, only a small quantity of oil was found, just enough to last for only one day. Miraculously this oil burned for eight days, enough time to acquire more oil to light the temple, which is why Jews light the candles on the menorah for eight nights.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman recently posted on Chabad.org: “Thanksgiving is a narrative about an arduous journey to escape religious persecution for freedom in a new land, the establishment of a democratic charter and the sense of Divine providence that carried those refugees through their plight. That’s Chanukah, as well, a narrative deeply embedded in the collective Jewish psyche of how we fought back against religious oppression in our own land, earned our freedom and thanked G-d for the miracles.”
Another Rabbi, David Paskin, was quoted as saying, “The story of Hanukkah is a story of religious freedom. It’s a story of a people yearning to truly live as full Jews and yet also be fully integrated into a secular society. The story of Thanksgiving is of pilgrims yearning for their own religious freedom and trying to find their identity in a new world that they didn’t even know yet.”
Hanukkah, just like Thanksgiving, is a celebration of a miracle of God’s provision. Both holidays are deeply rooted in expressions of gratitude for the freedoms and bounty we enjoy. The parallels may not be as striking, nor the symbolism as fundamental as those between Easter and Passover, but the thread of commonality is undeniable, and so I wonder, “Why now?” God’s plan is perfect and because it is His plan, I find myself wondering what He wants us to learn from this alignment of days on calendars that conflict, as we live out our lives in a society full of conflicting viewpoints.
This was all driven home as I watched the Fox News reports on the atheist campaign to take Christ out of Christmas in Times Square. The atheist representative’s point was that we should allow everyone to share in the joy of Christmas equally and without guilt, regardless of whether or not they celebrated Christ as the reason for the season. From my perspective, Christians have always welcomed everyone to join their celebrations at Christmas. Yes, they hold out hope that the seeds of faith might be planted in those who don’t know Jesus, but they have never denied anyone their right to celebrate the holiday with or without religious conviction. For many Christians it is the season of the prodigal as those who do not attend church regularly, are drawn to it at Christmas time. Obviously, you can’t take Christ out of Christmas any more than you could take Thanks out of Thanksgiving or remove the miracle of the oil from the Hanukkah story – RIDICULOUS!
If I could address that man face to face, I would reply, “If you want to have a party and give gifts, have a party and give gifts, but admit there is no occasion for your celebration other than you want to have it, and stop trying to change Christmas to a secular event!” How empty one must be to take such extreme steps to express a need to rely on someone else’s deepest convictions of Truth as an excuse to celebrate, and then defend it as a requirement for tolerance from the Christian community, yet that is apparently the atheist position, and just screams for our prayers!
The glaring Truth is that we all woke up in Babylon today, and most of us will wake up in Babylon again tomorrow. We have a daily choice to follow Jesus or linger in Babylon a little longer. There is no middle ground, no position of compromise.
Thanksgivukkah, and the unity it inspired, gave us a glimpse of life in the Holy City.
Hang on to that image and draw strength from it.
Blessings & Adventure,
Lynn “lynnibug” Rios
As the song says, “You and I were made to worship.”, yet most of us are living in a state of worship interrupted… so much so, that worship becomes something we see as separate from our daily lives and try to fit into our spare time and church time. I imagine Satan is celebrating heartily that he has managed to twist up our priorities so completely. Worship can be, and should be something we are doing all the time. It can be, and should be like the background music of a movie, playing subtly around us no matter what we may be doing.
Too many of us have come to understand worship as the ceremonious things we do in church. Isaiah preached against this attitude of worship long before Christ came and became the ultimate sacrifice for us.
Isaiah 1:11-13 (Gods Word)
11 The LORD asks, “What do your many animal sacrifices mean to me? I’ve had enough of your burnt offerings of rams and enough fat from your fattened calves. I’m not pleased with the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats. 12 When you appear in my presence, who asked you to trample on my courtyards? 13 Don’t bring any more worthless grain offerings. Your incense is disgusting to me, so are your New Moon Festivals, your days of worship, and the assemblies you call. I can’t stand your evil assemblies.
Isaiah also expressed what the true and genuine worship that God desired of us would look like.
Isaiah 1:16-17 (Gods Word)
16 “Wash yourselves! Become clean! Get your evil deeds out of my sight. Stop doing evil. 17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Arrest oppressors. Defend orphans. Plead the case of widows.”