Overlooked festival

Overlooked festival in the church year is Ascension Day. It becomes the basis for Pentecost (10 days from now, June 8, 2014). Here are the readings for Ascension Day.The-Ascension-Les-Très-Riches-Heures-du-duc-de-Berry

Acts 1:1-11 GW

1 In my first book, Theophilus, I wrote about what Jesus began to do and teach. This included everything from the beginning ˻of his life˼ 2 until the day he was taken to heaven. Before he was taken to heaven, he gave instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles, whom he had chosen.

3 After his death Jesus showed the apostles a lot of convincing evidence that he was alive. For 40 days he appeared to them and talked with them about the kingdom of God. 4 Once, while he was meeting with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for what the Father had promised. Jesus said to them, “I’ve told you what the Father promises: 5 John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 So when the apostles came together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you’re going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 Jesus told them, “You don’t need to know about times or periods that the Father has determined by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you. Then you will be my witnesses to testify about me in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he had said this, he was taken to heaven. A cloud hid him so that they could no longer see him. Acts 1:10    They were staring into the sky as he departed. Suddenly, two men in white clothes stood near them. 11 They asked, “Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking at the sky? Jesus, who was taken from you to heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.”

Ephesians 1:16-23 GW

16 I never stop thanking God for you. I always remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the glorious Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Christ better. 18 Then you will have deeper insight. You will know the confidence that he calls you to have and the glorious wealth that God’s people will inherit. 19 You will also know the unlimited greatness of his power as it works with might and strength for us, the believers. 20 He worked with that same power in Christ when he brought him back to life and gave him the highest position in heaven. 21 He is far above all rulers, authorities, powers, lords, and all other names that can be named, not only in this present world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put everything under the control of Christ. He has made Christ the head of everything for the good of the church. 23 The church is Christ’s body and completes him as he fills everything in every way.

Luke 24:44-53 GW

44  Then he said to them, “These are the words I spoke to you while I was still with you. I told you that everything written about me in Moses’ Teachings, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to come true.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 He said to them, “Scripture says that the Messiah would suffer and that he would come back to life on the third day. 47 Scripture also says that by the authority of Jesus people would be told to turn to God and change the way they think and act so that their sins will be forgiven. This would be told to people from all nations, beginning in the city of Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses to these things.

49 “I’m sending you what my Father promised. Wait here in the city until you receive power from heaven.” Luke 24:50    Then Jesus took them to a place near Bethany. There he raised his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken to heaven.

52 The disciples worshiped him and were overjoyed as they went back to Jerusalem. 53 They were always in the temple, where they praised God.

May God bless your observance of this festival.

 

Posted in Bible Study, New Testament, Worship

SMLC Confirmation 2014

Here are a few shots of our confirmands at our service May 25. God’s richest blessings to Cyndi, Justin, Pam, Tyler, and Walt. We are partners in the Gospel (Phil. 1:1-17).

Confirmation 052514 Cyndi 1 Justin 1 Pam 2 Tyler 2 Walt 1

Posted in Discipleship, Practical, Worship | 2 Comments

Another scenic shot

Falcon Way 20140511

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Thoughts on Mother’s Day

A few more thoughts regarding Mother’s Day

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Posted in Uncategorized

A refreshing view

It only lasts two weeks. But the beauty of the poppy fields can last much longer. This is about 40 miles east of the church, on the way to Lancaster.

God’s beauty of creation never ceases to amaze me.IMG_0226cropped

Posted in Scenery

Revelation 1:1-2

Revelation, or more properly apocalypse is the first word in the book. It is used in this book only in this place. Notice that God gave to Jesus and He in turn gives it to the angel who gives it to John. Only at the end of the verse do we find John’s name. It might seem unusual for the author to be writing in the third person. We expect it to be a first person (John’s document) document. But John carefully avoids any misunderstanding that may result from having the the source and content attributed to him. By 1:9, John switches to the first person so as to identify with his fellow Christians who are suffering.

Given the focus of content on Jesus Christ, the title of the writing could very well be “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” or “The Revelation of God.” The former makes sense because Jesus is front and center as to content and the delivery person from the Father. The latter makes sense because the Father is the ultimate source and revealer, who then reveals to His Son, Jesus Christ [see Matthew 11:25]. Jesus is then the medium through whom the father passes it to the Angel and then to humans. That the Son receives what He is and has from the Father is the constant teaching in the Gospel which John wrote: John 3:35; 5:20ff.; 5:26; 7:16; 8:28; 12:49; 16:15; 17:2ff. Jesus is the Revealer of this as He is enthroned in heaven, but He causes it to be realized in history [see 1 Cor. 15:26].

Next there is the angel whom Jesus commissions to guide John and to exhibit to him by means of visions the elements which are to be revealed. This angelic guide shows John a vision of heave, then earth, then the wilderness, then the new heaven and the new earth. The servant, John, is next in line to receive the revelation. The phrase “he bore witness” is typical in John’s Gospel and his three letters [John 1:15, 29-34; 21:24; 1 John 1:1-4; 5:10-12].

In 1:2 the phrase: “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” occurs in several significant places [1:9; 6:9; 20:4]. The revelation comes by means of a vision “he saw” — consistent with Old Testament prophetic visions. What better source than to have an eyewitness of the end write down the things which he had seen. John is seeing more than the end of the world—he is seeing the victory of the Lamb and His triumphant return. Throughout Revelation there are two phrases that emphasize the testimony/witness of Jesus to John: “I heard” (28 times) and “I saw” (49 times).

Posted in Bible Study, New Testament, Revelation

ER14 Symbolism in Revelation

Symbolism is part of our everyday life. Sometimes we see the symbols so often that we fail to recognize that they are symbols. Take a look at these symbols to verify this:stopsign

But the symbol can be used without the words and combined with other words to indicate something else.StopFraud

The symbol can also point to the reality behind it (or in our earlier lessons: the symbol has a referent). For instance, wedding rings are not marriage, but they signify the promises and reality of the wedding and the corresponding marriage.wedding-ring

Symbols in the Old Testament

In the Bible we find symbols quite often. In the Old Testament, we find memorial stones placed on the ephod:

Fasten both stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the Israelites. Aaron will carry their names on his two shoulders before the LORD as a reminder. (Exodus 28:12 HCSB)choshen

Or when Joshua led the people across the Jordan River:

So Joshua summoned the 12 men he had selected from the Israelites, one man for each tribe, and said to them, “Go across to the ark of the LORD your God in the middle of the Jordan. Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each of the Israelite tribes, so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the LORD’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.” (Joshua 4:4-7 HCSB)

The use of symbols increases in the prophetic writings, especially Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, and Zechariah. In the Writings (last division of the Hebrew Scriptures), Daniel incorporates the most symbols, and especially as it looks toward the future.

Variety of Symbols

We notice that there is symbolism from all aspects of life (references in parentheses are to Revelation):

Animal Kingdom: various colored horses (6:2), lamb (5:6, etc.), lion (4:7), calf (4:7), leopard (13:2), bear (13:2), locust (9:3), scorpion (9:5), frog (16:13), eagle (4:7), vultures, fish of the sea.

Plant Kingdom: trees (8:7), herbs, grasses (8:7).

The sky, sea, earth, and agricultural operations all for part of the scenic, beautiful, yet at times horrifying images symbolizing what God intended. Figures move across the stage of Scripture arrayed in a variety of colors and designs; some with priestly garb, others in sackcloth.

Symbols in Revelation

By the time we get to Revelation, John sets his writing in the midst of many symbols. The strange and sometimes monstrous images suggest something far more than even simple narrative can achieve. Most of the images come from the OT.

Place names: Euphrates, Egypt, Sodom, Hill of Megiddo, Babylon, and Jerusalem.

Names of People: Balaam, Jezebel

Concepts: Tree of Life, Book of Life, Water of Life, Two Witnesses

Other terms take on added or even new meanings: The Lord designated as the Lion and the Lamb, the Root of David (root of Jesse in Isaiah 11).

One of the key points is to realize that while the same name may be used in Revelation as in the OT, the referent (what it is pointing to may not be the same). For instance, in the OT Babylon has the referent the city/nation that looms over the horizon and where the two southern tribes are exiled. But in the NT we find Peter using Babylon in reference to something entirely different (1 Peter 5:13).BackMontage-300x249

To all of this, John adds his own (through the Holy Spirit) symbols and meanings that are unique to his writings. The woman with the Child can find no parallel in Biblical or extra-Biblical literature. Also unique are the Seal openings, the Trumpet blasts, the outpouring of Bowls. While the idea of a millennium was around it had not been seen as a symbol of spiritual triumph.

Another caution. Some of what is written is not symbolic, but rather a use of images to heighten the coloring of scenes and add vividness to what we witness through John’s writing. And in some cases symbols are interpreted for the reader:

1:20 “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (NAS)

4:5 Flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder came from the throne. Seven fiery torches were burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. (HCSB)

5:6 Then I saw One like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth. (HCSB)

17:9  “Here is the mind with wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated.” (HCSB)

17:12 The 10 horns you saw are 10 kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they will receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. (HCSB)

17:15 He also said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute was seated, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.” (HCSB)

But even with the aid to interpreting the symbol, we still have more problems: what is the referent in each case?

More to come…

Posted in Bible Study, New Testament, Revelation

ER13 Time lines

Time Framework for Interpretation?

Time lines, tigers, and bears. It seems that the focus of end times and Revelation is often the basis for a timeline industry of interpreting prophecy. If you miss the timeline, then you miss the whole thing. But what if the common/popular view of time is not correct? What if there is another way to look at time and the framework based on time?

Linear Interpretation

What is the time framework that we use to interpret Revelation? For most Westerners, our framework is linear time, like this diagram:LinearInterp

The assumption is that everything happens chronologically (over time). Hence John wrote Revelation in the same way. The story begins in the present and ends with the Parousia (Jesus’ final appearing).

Within this framework it is necessary to identify specific points on the line with specific historical events. Over the past 50 years as this view has gained popularity, we find a wide variety of events given significance on the end times timeline. But it keeps changing with each new event or interpreter.

This approach also places more stress on getting the timeline right rather than focusing on what Christ has encouraged: live in faith and trust in Jesus Christ, keep watch, and “lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near.” The focus on linear interpretation makes faithfulness dependent on your timeline, not on your heart that trusts God in all circumstances.

Recapitulation Interpretation

For the lack of a better term, this framework looks at Revelation as a series of recapitulations, retelling the events from different perspectives, each starting with the present and going to the end (Parousia). This diagram gives a simple view of the approach. In revelation, the scene repeats, but switches between earth and heaven.Recapitulation01

So, Revelation 2-3 focuses on the people of God on earth. Revelation 4-5 shift the cycle to heaven, 6 is back on earth, while 7 once again shows a heavenly perspective.

Even more, each time the cycle begins anew, the focal point shifts chronologically, closer to the Parousia. This means that there is movement on a time line, but the overall framework is cyclical.Recapitulation02

That focal point is always on Christ in working out the perfect plan of salvation. So, we could present each cycle as this:

ChristologicalFocus

Thus, even as Christ is the center of history, he is the center of the book of Revelation—in each cycle, whether in heaven or on earth.

Conclusion

This little post on time and the framework for studying Revelation is not meant as the be-all-end-all of the discussion. Rather, I offer it as an alternative to the popular, strict linear interpretation of Revelation. In the process, perhaps we can learn even more from this writing in Scripture.

Posted in Bible Study, New Testament

Parade Decorating 2014

Here are a few snapshots of our team decorating for the 2014 Rose Bowl Parade.

Gunya Na Thalang, Director of Lutheran Hour MInistries—Asian Region

Gunya Na Thalang, Director of Lutheran Hour MInistries—Asian Region

What a delight it was for me to meet Gunya and Berhanu Moges. Both of them will be riding on the LHM float.

 

Berhanu Moges Hailu, Ethiopian Director Lutheran Hour Ministries

Berhanu Moges Hailu, Ethiopian Director Lutheran Hour Ministries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a walkway on the east side of the building so that you could look at all eleven floats from the “sky.” Quite spectacular!

On the left is a view of the Lutheran Hour float.

A view from the top Lutheran Hour float

A view from the top Lutheran Hour float

While the building is done and the painting underneath the pine branches is done (for determining flower color placement), this side of the float looks rather bland.

The right side of the float before most of the decorating is done.

The right side of the float before most of the decorating is done.

Not any more!

This is that same side view after the flowers have been placed/attached. Quite a contrast.

This is that same side view after the flowers have been placed/attached. Quite a contrast.

Working on the final touches on the back of the float.

Parade18

While some tired, others were going strong, even with laughs!

Not everyone is tired. Smiles kept coming all night long.

Not everyone is tired. Smiles kept coming all night long.

Deatil and concentration definitely needed!

Detail and concentration in action!

Detail and concentration in action!

LCMS President Matt Harrison will be riding the float.

LCMS President Matt Harrison

LCMS President Matt Harrison

Even had the privilege of meeting National Cherry Queen at the float.

National Cherry Queen stopped by the float.

National Cherry Queen stopped by the float.

Another float that we helped decorate.

Another float that some of us helped decorate

Another float that some of us helped decorate

Two more aerial view of the floats.

Parade08

Parade11

We worked from 4 PM to midnight. Great group to work with. The float supervisors were fantastic, always engaging, helpful, knowledgeable.

Farewell from the sky.

IMG_0162

An excellent way to spend a day before New Year’s Eve!

 

[PS Don’t try to push a float with your nose. It’s been tried, and they didn’t even give me style points!]

Posted in Lutheran, Practical | 1 Comment

ER12 Prophecy 3

Prophecy 3: Limits of prophecy

This post is a summary of items covered in previous posts about prophecy, but this serves as a quick reminder.isaiah

Four ways that prophecy should not be used

  • To satisfy human curiosity
  • To determine the specific day of the end
  • To disregard the historical factors related to the original prophecy
  • To disregard the covenant with Abram

Six ways prophecy should be used

It should lead to…

  • Repentance
  • Firm faith in the true, living God
  • Peace
  • Quiet faithfulness as we watch and wait for the redemptive acts of God when He ushers in the fullness of the true, everlasting reign of Christ
  • Clear, calm, courageous evaluation of the arch enemy of God, Satan, and the forces of evil arrayed against God and His people
  • Clear sighted recognition that the battle lines in history have been drawn as written in Genesis 3:15

The next section will cover linear and recapitulation as interpretive grids for understanding Revelation.

Posted in Bible Study, New Testament, Old Testament | 1 Comment