Of Signs & Seasons

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Cotton-fields are white again and our southern roads are framed in golden stretches of tobacco.

Trees are shaking their branches, hues of red and yellow glinting, and letting loose their leaves.

Mornings are chillier and darkness settles earlier and earlier each day.

Yes, the season is changing and the signs are all around us.

Yet we do not worry about these transitions. We know that the world spins in the Creator’s hands and His rhythms are for our good and His hands give this earth what is needed. Instead of finding fear in the changes, we look for reason to celebrate them. We rest in the knowledge that the next season, too, is secure when He reigns over it.

It feels like there is another season changing – call it a way of life, a culture, a chapter in God’s Time – whatever the right name for it may be, it seems like there is a shift occurring all around us. And this season-change, too, comes with signs.

Maybe you know that Jesus said He would return to this earth and that, one day, this span of time as we know it will come to an end. Maybe this is a new idea to you…whether or not you are familiar with this promise, this is the time to examine it. Jesus Himself spoke often about His return – and His words are what we must know and hold as the true foundation for our faith and our every-day lives. This Savior who gave His life and rose from the grave is the King who will bring the children of God into His eternal-Kingdom.

No, we cannot know when, exactly, Jesus will return to earth. No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. (Matthew 24:36) But Jesus knew we’d understand the familiar cues creation gives us…maybe that’s why He said this in Matthew 24:32-33: Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know His return is very near, right at the door.

He spoke of some of the initial signs in Matthew 24:4-12… Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many.  And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world.  But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people.  Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.

These words of Jesus resound in my heart every single day when I open my eyes to our world. Every sign He said would come to pass before His return is happening.

So as we see these cues and feel the changes of this season– how should we live?

It could be easy to get bound up in fear and discouragement when we see the problems abounding everywhere we turn. It could be easy to hunker down in our corner and hide from it all, closing our eyes to the changes and the turmoil.

It’s interesting, to me, that Jesus compared this last season to the time before the Great Flood (Matthew 24:37). I can imagine that Noah and his family, before receiving their directions from God, tried to stay out of everyone else’s way. I can put myself in their shoes – living in the middle of a people violent and cruel, set in their own ways – and think that, perhaps, it was safest to blend in. But building an ark required action. To trust in the promise of salvation that God had given him, Noah had to set out into the world in obedience. He had to make proactive decisions based on faith and not on what he saw around him. He had to risk drawing attention to his family and he had to trust in God’s ultimate wisdom every step of the way.

Noah could not shut out the world. He could not give fear control of his life.

And neither can we.

As frightening as it can be to watch events unfolding around us, we can take heart because Jesus has overcome the world and nothing – trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword, death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation – will separate us from the love of God. (from John 16:33 and Romans 8) This is His promise – if we stand firm to the end, we will be saved. (Matthew 24:13)

It’s time to be proactive in our faith – like Noah, we must listen for the voice of our Lord and obey, even if it seems risky…even if He takes us away from our safe routines.

Please know – there is peace in following Him, in having eyes and ears open to Him. He gave us these signs so that we could look forward to His appearing! As we understand that His return is ever-closer, we put our faith in Him and not in our circumstances.

Jesus gave us these signs so that we could be prepared, so that we would understand God’s sovereign hand at work. He said that we should be like wise servants, faithful over what He has entrusted to us in this life until the day of His return. As we watch for Him, we are able to offer hope of salvation to the people around us. 2 Peter 3 tells us that He is not slow keeping His promise, but patient – not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Peter encourages us, as we wait, to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

So as the world continues to sink into a place of conflict and hatred, of discord and suffering, there is no better place to look for instruction than in the words of our Lord. As it becomes more and more culturally unacceptable – life-threatening in so many places – to wear His name on our lives, we must know what our Savior has told us to do.

From the beginning, He called us to take up our cross and follow Him, to love our enemies, to pray for those who curse us, to live holy lives. From the beginning, He let us know that our way of life would appear upside-down and inside-out to a world that would not receive Him.

Still, we can rest in Him – secure in knowing that He reigns over everything the next season of our lives may hold.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”-Isaiah 41:10

{Please come back and visit…over the next week or so, we will be revisiting the Beatitudes and listening carefully to the words of Jesus about how we should live – and shine! – in our world.}

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