Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lessons from the garden: baby marigolds

Today, I went outside while it was relatively cool to plant the marigolds I'd picked up. The bed right next to the driveway gets very hot, and many things languish there - except marigolds. And weeds. Weeks ago, I had cleaned out all the weeds and planted marigold seeds. It was even a little too early in the season to be growing marigolds, but I figured by the time they poked their leaves through the soil, it would be warmer.

Well, life went on, as it tends to do. I neglected the bed next to the driveway. Every once in a while, I'd check for baby marigolds, but I didn't see any. So, while I was grocery shopping, I also picked up some marigolds that were already blooming - ones that someone else had planted and watered and cared for. I was going to plunk those down in my little strip next to the driveway, and that would be that.

Well, I even neglected THOSE marigolds. There they sat, in their little plastic cells, day after day. I didn't even water them. They were still alive, but their blooms faded. Last night, when my husband came in from work, he said, "Do you know you have flowers you haven't planted? They've been sitting there for a while now."

So, this morning, I went out early, determined to take care of it. It was wet from the rain last night, and the mosquitoes were annoying, so I wanted to do it fast. The driveway bed was full of weeds - thick and lush. They would have to go before I could plant my "pre-grown" marigolds.

I got down on my knees, and started pulling weeds out quickly and roughly. It didn't matter - they were weeds! Just messy weeds. Pull! Toss! Pull! Toss! Wow - that was satisfying, to just clear that space and make it ready for my purchased marigolds.

Then, I happened to glance at my weed pile, and there on top was a baby marigold. I couldn't even save it, because I had ripped it to pieces. In my thoughtless weed pulling, I had killed the very thing I'd planted.

I got closer to the ground and pulled the weeds aside. There, in the dirt, struggling for sunshine, tiny and fragile, were dozens of baby marigolds.



It's my fault they were buried in weeds. When I didn't see them as fast as I thought they ought to be there, I stopped looking. I let the weeds grow. I could have been out there, tending that little bed, pulling the weeds out as they appeared, and waiting more patiently for the baby flowers to appear. It's my fault those little marigolds were so overwhelmed with weeds that no one could see them.

Yet, they they were. Sure, I had planted the seeds, but when they didn't grow in my time frame, I went about my other business. My busy-ness. But, despite the weeds and lack of watering from me, they grew anyway.

I still pulled the weeds this morning. I still planted the marigolds I'd purchased. But, I had learned my lesson. Those baby marigolds, while they're tiny, can look a lot like weeds. They are not. They are simply flowers who haven't grown up yet. With a little care, a little water, a little sunshine, a little (very, very careful) weeding - they will bloom, too. No - not as fast as the mature ones in the little packs that are blooming when you buy them. And, yeah, because they came from seeds I collected from last year's plants, they might not all grow up looking exactly like their parents. But, they will flower in their own time, and each bloom will be a smile from God.



And, no - this is not really about marigolds.




Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Daddy, Help Me!

For those days when you feel like the world's worst Christian. . .

When I was a little girl, we had a rope tied to a huge maple tree that we used to swing on like Tarzan. One day, my brother discovered that he could get a much higher arc if he climbed to the top of the swing set and jumped off. When I tried the same thing, the rope broke, and I fell flat on my chest, knocking the wind out of me. I literally thought I was dying, and all I could do with my last remaining breath was pant out, “Go........get........Daddy!” I could do absolutely nothing about it myself, but as Daddy held me in his arms, the pressure on my chest eased, and I could breathe again.

That's the relationship God wants us to have with him. It doesn't matter if your hurt is something you did to yourself, or whether you are filthy with dirt you got all over yourself. It doesn't matter if you should have known better or if you have failed in this same way a dozen times before. He is our Heavenly Father, our Abba, our DADDY. He wants us to run to him and trust him to take care of it.

Whatever it is, don't hide it from him. Don't try to clean it up yourself; that only smears it around. Just say, “Lord, here is my anger. . .my frustration. . .my pain. . .my sin. I trust you to wash me clean.” And, he will, in his own time, in his own way. You may not even notice him doing it, until one day, a situation that always made you angry just.. . won't. A pain that made you cry will hurt less.

It's not a “do it once and you're done” thing, though. You need to go to him again and again, even if it's a hundred times a day. And, as he gradually cleans you, you'll notice old wounds that never healed right. Show him those, too.

Maybe it's not sin that weighs on you. Maybe it's grief. Or fear. Maybe it's the relationship with your mother or your spouse or your child. Your heavenly Father wants to hear about it, wants to fix it for you. Take it to him, and let him deal with it. He likely won't fix it instantly; that's not usually his way. But, he WILL deal with it, in his own time and probably in a manner that never occurred to you.

We are God's beloved children, little toddlers in his eyes. We are just learning to walk, learning to talk and serve and help. If your toddler fell down, would you punish him? Of course not. You'd pick him up, give him a hug and say, “Try again.” If he yells that he hates you or slaps his sister or doesn't do as he's told, do you stop loving him? Never! You know he's just learning. You patiently discipline him again.

And, if he hurts himself doing something he shouldn't do, do you want him to try to stitch up his own cut? No, you want him to come to you and say, “I did what you told me not to, and I hurt myself.” You want him to trust you and love you enough to come to you and tell you the truth.

We are toddlers in God's eyes, and that's OK. We don't have to have it all figured out. All God wants is for us to love him. Can you picture a little toddler running to his father, throwing his arms around his knees and yelling, “I love you, Daddy!” That's what God wants from us.

Is it the toddler's job to put food on the table or cloth the family? No. We are toddlers, and it's God's job to provide the food, the clothes, the house. He lets us help, but he is the one who is responsible.

Don't be afraid to show him the cuts and scratches you get as you run through life. And, if you haven't, and those wounds you inflicted on yourself are now infected and oozing, don't hide them under your Sunday clothes. Take them to your Abba, and show him. “Lord, I hurt myself, and I need help.” Trust him to heal you.

And, if the world's bullies have knocked you down, let your Abba deal with it. Be like the trusting child telling your daddy about the boy who stole your red truck. It's alright to be upset, but it's not alright to try and smash the other boy over the head. Instead, let your Abba go and get the truck back. In the process, he might even heal the naughty boy who hurt you.

In the days ahead, if things make no sense – if the economy gets worse, or terrorists attack or earthquakes destroy, it is trusting God as your Father, your Abba, that will see you through. He loves us as his little toddlers. He will take care of us and provide for us, because that's what fathers do.




This article was inspired by a beautiful forum post by someone named “Final Call.” In some places, I used his exact words, because I couldn't think of a way to say it any better.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A discussion of Christian Ethics, Part 2

Christian ethics - right and wrong from a Christian point of view. For most Christians, that would mean right and wrong from God's point of view, as outlined in the Bible.

Before we stray onto the muddy edges of the path, let's stay in the clean, dry center for a bit longer. In the last post, I suggested that it was impossible to practice true Christian ethics, as outlined by Jesus, in your own strength. We may not commit murder, but Jesus said in Matthew 5:22 that (some) anger, speaking in contempt or even saying, "You fool!" carries the same penalty. He told us to love even our enemies with the same pure, all-consuming love that He showed us.

So, what is the answer? In the same Sermon on the Mount talk, Jesus also said,
Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
He was specifically talking about not worrying about food or clothing, but the principle applies to pretty much everything. You don't become Christ-like (which would really fulfill those Christian ethics) by coming up with a list of rules and then determining to follow them. You become Christ-like by seeking HIM, and the rest will follow in God's own time.

The book of Galatians in the Bible is kind of a scolding by Paul of the Galatian Christians who were going back to following the Jewish Law to be right with God, instead of faith in Jesus. Now, most Gentile Christians aren't going to fall into the trap of trying to live under all those 600+ dietary and other rules in order to earn eternal life. However, we can easily slide into thinking that unless we live out perfectly all of God's expectations, we are failing and might even lose our salvation. You fall further and further from God because you wind up thinking of Him as this stern judge, ready to whip you for every infraction. Dear ones, in your own strength, you will always fail. Even Paul, the world's greatest evangelist, said,
Romans 7:18b For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
So, in Galatians, this same Paul is scolding the Galatian Christians for trying to be right with God through the Law. Is he saying that the law is no longer important, that it is invalid? Granted, much of the mosaic law doesn't apply to Christians, like those dietary laws. In Romans 14:20, it says "all food is clean," (unless it causes someone to stumble), and we don't worry about mixing our fibers in our clothing. Some of the laws were specifically given to counter the pagan fertility practices of the surrounding people. On Bible.org, here, it says the law can be broken down this way:
  • Codex I = The Commandments: The moral law governing the moral life guiding man (Israel) in principles of right and wrong in relation to God and with man (Exodus 20:1-17).
  • Codex II = The Judgments: The social law governing Israel in her secular, social, political and economic life (Exodus 21:1–23:13).
  • Codex III = The Ordinances: The religious law which guided and provided for Israel in her spiritual relationship and fellowship with God. It included the priesthood, tabernacle and sacrifices (Exodus 25:31: Leviticus).
So, those laws governing the moral life of the people would still apply, and you can find many of them, in principle, at least, in the New Testament. So, Paul is not scolding them for trying to live the way God wanted them to live. He is scolding them because they were binding themselves to the law in order to be right with God. They were listening to people who said they needed to be circumcised, for example.

How we live is still important, or in terms of this post, Christian ethics are important. Paul says in Galatians 5:14, For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
But how? By letting the Holy Spirit lead and teach you:

Galatians 5: Life by the Spirit

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
How exactly you do that - live by the Spirit - can be a lifelong study, but that is the point. It's not something you do. It's something the Spirit does in you. And it is a lifelong process. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

Here is more for your reading, if you are interested: Living by the Spirit. There are also quite a few posts on this blog that apply, especially the ones regarding Peter's list:
2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
You can find those posts beginning February 3, 2012.

OK - now for those muddy edges. So far, I haven't written anything that most Christians would argue with.  I can stay in the middle of the path and avoid controversy, but where's the fun in that?

Why are there literally millions of articles, videos and websites on this subject? How can there be such disagreement on the subject of Christian ethics? Either the Bible says something is wrong or it doesn't, correct?

I'm not going to give any space at all to those who argue from an anti-Bible standpoint, at least right now. I'm also not going to give any space to those who are speaking from a "The Bible only contains God's word and we must mine it to find it" point of view. That probably wipes out at least half of the "stuff" on the subject of Christian ethics.

There's the "our application of the Bible must change with the times" crowd. Those are the ones that say that what the Bible says is irrelevant if it disagrees with a society standard. For example, these folks would say that it doesn't matter whether homosexuality was considered wrong by Christians in the past. Society has changed, and therefore, Christians must change with it. For example, the Presbyterian Church USA just approved gay marriage by vote. 

So, I'm going to skip that group, too. For my purposes, and the position of this blog, "Christian ethics" are what is right and what is wrong according to the Bible - the whole thing being God's word. If your "Christian ethics" are defined by anything else, in my opinion, you are not on the muddy edge, you are off the path all together.

Of what remains, most of the division, as you'd expect, comes from controversial subjects. Some of it is just innocent (or maybe not so innocent) ignorance.  For example, does the Bible say it's OK to be cruel to animals? Of course not. That is part of that natural law that God put within us - that it's wrong to be cruel to any living thing. The sacrifices in the Old Testament were not teaching cruelty to animals. It was to show us that sin must be covered by the shedding of innocent blood. That Passover lamb? It was brought into the house and treated as one of the family for four days before it was killed. Wasn't that horribly cruel? Of course it was, but it was to show the seriousness of sin. That spotless lamb represented Jesus, who lived among us, without sin, teaching and healing the sick, and then was killed in the most gruesome way imaginable.

What about freedom of religion? Don't Christians say that all other religions are false and Jesus is the only way to heaven? Isn't that what the Bible teaches? Absolutely. However, no where in the Bible does it say it's right to force someone into Christianity. In fact, even the most basic understanding of the Bible would lead someone to believe that you can't force faith, and it's only by faith we are saved. We win people by sharing the Gospel: Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:17). People also are attracted by the way we live and the peace we have. In fact, Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words." Never will a person practicing true Christian ethics ever attempt to force anyone to adopt Christianity. In love, and like God, not wanting anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), I'm going to gently and lovingly share the Gospel with as many people as I can, though.

One of the controversial subjects, as you might imagine, is homosexuality. Is it right or wrong? What about gay marriage? Is it right or wrong? Some people come to their views about it because of what others have taught. Some will say that it was mistranslated in Deuteronomy 23:17 in the Old Testament and should have been translated "male temple prostitutes" and in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, where they say it should have been translated "men who have sex with boys". (lots of arguments on both sides. In my opinion, the "men who have sex with boys" is stretching it) For those people who haven't spent much time in the Bible, or maybe got their information from catechism or church instead of the Bible itself, it's then easy to accept this because it sounds scholarly and quickly discard what they grew up with as uninformed. However, even if these "mistranslations" are true, if you approach the Bible without an agenda, you're going to have to do a LOT of explaining away to come to the conclusion that the Bible doesn't condemn homosexuality. That said, bear in mind that it also condemns every other kind of sexual immorality also.

Other people come to their views about homosexuality and other issues because some people teach that because Jesus came to fulfill the law, none of that applies. God makes no broad statements to the Christian any more. Everything was fulfilled in Jesus, therefore God deals with you on an individual basis. What might be wrong for that Christian is right for this Christian. Again, because it sounds scholarly (sort of) and appeals to what people want to be true (tickling ears?), they accept this. This is so easily disproved, it's hard to imagine that entire congregations believe this way. This isn't applied to just homosexuality, but pretty much everything the Bible calls "sexual immorality." As long as you believe in Jesus, live in love, and follow your heart, you're living the way God wants you to.

Well, when did Paul, Peter and John write? They wrote after Jesus ascended. Much of our New Testament understanding of how to live in a way pleasing to God comes from Paul, Peter and John. So, were they just wrong? That completely removes the inspiration of the Bible. And, if they're wrong, what else is wrong? Teaching that because Jesus fulfilled everything, nothing applies to us any more, is not only grossly twisting most of the New Testament, it is a faith-killing position to hold. Besides, what did Jesus Himself say?

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Sorry - I'm still not done with the muddy edge. Most of those examples are not on the edge, but again, off the path entirely.

What do you do if you are convinced the Bible teaches that homosexuality is wrong, but then your child announces that he is gay? How do you react? How does it affect family dynamics? Never is there a reason to treat someone with anything other than love, but if you are convinced that the person is on a path that leads to hell, how can you stay silent? And, what if you do your best to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:14) but the other person rejects it entirely and breaks off a relationship with you?

What about those real, Bible-believing Christians who are convinced that, for example, murder is wrong? What position do they take with capital punishment? Do they separate punishment for wrongdoing from murder and say one is OK, but the other is not? Or do they say that taking a life is taking a life? What about those people who wholeheartedly agree that abortion is wrong, but then the mother-to-be is diagnosed with cancer and without treatment, she will certainly die, but her treatment will kill the baby?

Real, true Christians might come down on different sides with those sorts of issues. And, real, true Christians can be at different stages in their maturity and understanding. In God's eyes, even the most learned is little more than a toddler, with a very long way to grow. Paul spends an entire chapter in Romans 14 talking about some of these things. We are not to be stumbling blocks to others. We are to treat each other with love, grace and mercy. If we really, truly, "love our neighbor as ourselves" all the while, letting the Spirit teach us what that means, we won't be treading the muddy edge very often.

Books and books have been written on this subject of Christian ethics. I encourage you to comment on anything I've said or left unsaid.

Let me end with Romans 14 from the NIV:
Romans 14:1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister[a]? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God.’”[b]
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.[c]

Footnotes:

  1. Romans 14:10 The Greek word for brother or sister (adelphos) refers here to a believer, whether man or woman, as part of God’s family; also in verses 13, 15 and 21.
  2. Romans 14:11 Isaiah 45:23
  3. Romans 14:23 Some manuscripts place 16:25-27 here; others after 15:33.




Do we "act" like Christians? A discussion of Christian ethics


What makes something "right" or "wrong?" Who decides? If it's wrong for you but right for me, is it right or wrong?


Direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXGitYkKXFs

For the past couple of days, I've been researching "Christian Ethics." By definition:
Christian ethics is a branch of Christian theology that defines concepts of right (virtuous) and wrong (sinful) behavior from a Christian perspective.
In the video, most of the college students interviewed believed that all people have a sense of right and wrong. Most believed we are born with a knowledge of right and wrong and others believed that society has determined what is good or bad. When asked where that "innate" sense of right and wrong came from, they thought it evolved. 

You could write a book on that idea - but let me just very quickly declare that you can't biologically evolve a moral code as they are suggesting in the video. Nearly all the students said that murder is universally wrong. One of them added that rape is wrong. We'd all agree, I'm sure. Yet, if evolution came about by the survival of the fittest, then murder and rape would be means to that end. The strongest male fights, maybe kills his competition and mates with the best females, whether they want it or not. No - if a moral code evolved as a species progressed by survival of the fittest, then most of the things that most people consider wrong - murder, rape, stealing, lying - would be considered "good" because they were means to an end.

That inner sense of right and wrong, our conscience, is considered "natural law." In fact, unless it's been rendered void by something, it is universal. It is something we're born with. In fact, most people would agree that we are born with a sense that if we do good, we'll be rewarded, and if we do evil, we'll be punished. Society reinforces that idea with laws and regulations meant to keep order. 

Much of what we call "Christian ethics" is based on that natural law. Our conscience tells us there are things that are wrong - murder, rape, stealing, lying, unfaithfulness. So, what makes "Christian ethics" different from the ethics that everyone is born with? 

That innate sense of right and wrong can be turned off by family or society expectations, the way we are trained and educated and by repeatedly ignoring it. We might all be born with a sense that it is wrong to kill and eat people, but if you are born into a society of cannibals, you will grow up considering it normal and right. We can let man dictate what is right or wrong. 

For the Christian, the reason there is a universal sense of right and wrong built into us is because  God created us that way. With Christian ethics, we let God have the final say in what is right or wrong, based on what He has said in the Bible, regardless of what society says or even what our inner man says. Is it right if I don't feel guilty? What makes an ethical choice "Christian" or not? It is if it agrees with the teachings of the Bible. Christian ethics depends on an outside source - the Bible - to determine whether something is right or wrong. God declares His word unchanging. Therefore, if something was wrong in the past, according to the Bible, it should still be wrong today. Right? Well. . . (more on that in Part 2)

While it may seem fairly simple on the surface, a Google search on "Christian ethics" will bring up literally millions of hits, ranging from biblical to downright bizarre. Even among those who call themselves Christians, there is little agreement, and in fact, even disagreement among considered "born again" and Bible-believing. The center of the path may be dry and clean, but the edges get very muddy.

Before we go down that path - is any of this even important? Christian ethics - Christian behavior - "acting" like a Christian. Why even care?

Well, first of all, God commands it. As Leviticus says in 20:26, "You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own." And Peter repeats it in the New Testament, "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

Secondly, because people are watching: Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (2 Peter 2:12). 

In about 112 AD, Pliny the Younger, the Roman governor of Bithynia-Pontos (part of Turkey) wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan and asked him what to do about the Christians. He was afraid of their spread and that their meetings would breed sedition. However, "Pliny told Trajan that he had been unable to prove anything criminal or vicious on the part of Christians during all his examination of them, and that, on the contrary, the purpose of their gatherings was to confirm themselves in conscientious and virtuous living." From here

Those Christians were living out exactly what Peter said in his letter. And people are watching. Bertrand Russell, the famous atheist philosopher, in his book, "Why I am not a Christian," (he also had a paper and lectures on the same subject), had many reasons for not believing in God, but one thing he kept coming back to was the behavior of Christians.  He didn't believe there could be any validity in a religion with so many hypocrites who didn't behave the way he thought they should.


The biggest reason, however, is not law at all, but thankfulness. We love Jesus, are thankful for what He's done for us, and want to do what He says. 
John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands."
John 14:21 "Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
I would add one more thing - and that is the thought I have that every time I sin, I'm adding to what Jesus suffered. I remember when that really hit home the first time. I was in my car, listening to the radio as I pulled into a parking lot. The speaker was saying, "If you were the only one Jesus could save by dying on the cross - the only one who would believe - He would have done it anyway, just for you. He loves you that much." I just sat there in my parking space, feeling like I had been stabbed in the heart. I knew I was hearing truth.

So, I want to obey God and keep His commands - not because I have to, but because, for lots of reasons, I want to. So, what does that even mean? Where do I start? I could look to my parents, my pastors, the teachings of various denominations to tell me what that means. Or, as a Bible-believing Christian, I could go straight to the source. 

Yet, Bible is full of commands. Jesus fulfilled the mosaic law - those 600+ commands in the Old Testament, and I know from Galatians that they don't apply to me. (more on that in Part 2) The Ten Commandments pretty much sum up what does apply to me, but Jesus summed it up even further when He said:
Matthew 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
This is where Christian ethics begins to diverge from society's ethics. If I love God with all my heart, soul and mind, then I'm not going to put anything ahead of Him. I'm not going to give anything greater value than Him. Of course, I won't worship false gods - but it also means I won't make anything into a god in my life. Sports, money, fame, and power are easy to make into a god. Those don't trip me up so much as food, gardening, crafts, my house and maybe especially, my children. Do I spend more time with any of those than with God? Or at least, more time thinking about? Greed can come in many forms and all of them are idolatry.

So, as a follower of true Christian ethics, there may be times when I have to say "no" to things that society and most people would think were fine. Jobs, opportunities, hobbies and even people need to pass through that filter. Does it take my mind off God? Have I put it (or them) ahead of God in my life?

On the positive side, if I love God with all my heart, soul and mind, I'm going to spend time worshiping Him. I'm going to value highly His word and spend enough time with it, regularly and often, so that it becomes a part of who I am. I'm going to value time with others who are also worshiping Him and studying His word.

If I love God with all my heart, soul and mind, then I'm going to be a good steward of the things He made. He put man in charge of His creation - but to treat with kindness and care - and not to use in a way that hurts others.So, as a follower of true Christian ethics, I don't want to be cruel or careless with any of God's creation, including myself.

To really love my neighbor as myself covers just about everything else. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not covet. Do not commit adultery. Most of those are part of every culture and are built into our laws. As I mentioned before, the Bible says that God wrote them on our hearts so that we instinctively know they are wrong.
Romans 2:14 Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.
Ah, but here's the rub. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained those commands more fully. About murder He said,
Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
 Or adultery:
Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
 He went on to say:
Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
In John 13:34, he says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." If you've studied that verse, then you know that word "love" in the new command is agapaō. Jesus explains what kind of love that is when He says, As I have loved you, so you must love one another. How did Jesus love? He never gave in to His own desires, but only did as His father wanted. He lived without sin so that He could be the perfect sacrifice, and then He took all of our sins to the cross where He suffered in a way that we will never fully understand when His father forsook Him. His love for us was all consuming, completely unselfish. 

That's how He says we are to love each other. OK, but again, here's the rub. That doesn't mean just love fellow Christians that way. That verse in Matthew? Love your enemies? Same word. It gets even harder, because we're not just talking outward actions here, but all of our unspoken thoughts and desires.In fact, 2 Corinthians 10:5 says we need to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

It should quickly become evident that anyone wanting to practice true Christian ethics in his own power and strength is going to fail miserably. 

Do you remember the "Purpose Driven Life" book? It had many good points, but it was kind of like, "OK, you're a Christian. Here's what God expects of you; now get to it."

If a Christian is not living as a Christian should, not "acting" like a Christian (or practicing true Christian ethics, in terms of this post) what is the answer? To tell him how he ought to be living, as the "Purpose 

Driven Life" did? Even if he could manage it, that only cures the outward problem. Or is the answer to help the person draw closer to God? To have a Bible study with him - to encourage him to get to know the Lord better through His Word? To pray for him and let him know that you are?

This is very, very hard for lots of people to grasp, especially new or immature believers. There is definitely a place for law (all those "do this, don't do that" things) in the life of all Christians. It shows us our sin when we fail to live up to it, as we always will! It keeps us from going even more wrong - and it guides us as we seek to live as God wants us to.

I want to live as God wants me to. For example, I really want to be that Proverbs 31 woman. I can read it and take note of how I should be, and then go out and do my best to live that way. And, I will fail, because I'm trying to do it in my own strength. However, as I live each day, trusting God to lead me and teach me - I will gradually (oh, so gradually!!) move toward becoming more and more Christ-like. God will use His Word to change me, shape me and use me to do HIS work. In His time. And, someday, when I look back, I'll realize that I'm more of that Proverbs 31 woman than I used to be - but that it was all God's doing, not mine.

You can never - repeat never - become Christ-like by deciding to be that way. It's a process that only God can do in you, as you stay in His Word and stay connected to Him. When you seek Him with all your heart - every day - He will direct your paths and give you work to do. Work that you will succeed at, because it came when HE wanted it to, when HE had fully prepared you for it.

In my opinion, that's the problem with the Purpose Driven Life and any of those "how to act like a Christian" books - and one that most Christians will not pick up on. Why are they reading them in the first place? They want to be closer to God - to please Him. Yet, in the end, those kind of books set them up for failure, as they race ahead of God's timing, GOD'S PURPOSE. In the end, I'm so sad to say, I believe it will lead many a young Christian AWAY from the God they were only trying to please, like a child who feels he can never please his parent.

So, what's the answer? More in Part 2.  


P.S. If you want to read more about the Purpose Driven Life, I have a paper on it: Purpose Driven?
 


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Every word is there for reason

When I study the Bible or prepare something to share with friends, the premise that I start with is that everything in the Bible is there for a reason. There is no "just because." This is GOD who ultimately wrote what we are reading. Yes, the Bible was written by some forty or more men, but they, "though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:21)

You can take almost anything - shoes, candles, house - and search for it (using the original language is best) in the Bible and discover that there is a theme that carries through. The Bible is full of symbols, yes, but most times, the key to "decoding it" is right there in the Scripture. Unlike works of human origin, God doesn't change what things symbolize. If yeast means "sin" in one place - then yeast means sin every other place, too. 

That idea will often work with phrases or concepts, too. An example is "the third day." What's the thing that immediately comes to mind with that phrase? Jesus' resurrection on that early Sunday morning, right? 

You'll find, if you search that phrase "the third day" in almost any Bible, but especially one that is close to a word for word translation, that pretty much every single one has to do with resurrection in some way.  Many of them seem to allude to the end, when we expect our resurrection. 

Here's the first occurrence:
Genesis 1:12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.

What happened on the third day? The dead, lifeless ground produced life.

Here's the next one:

Genesis 22:3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad[a] and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

You know the story. God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, his only son (the only son of the promise), and from that moment, Abraham considered him dead. When did Abraham receive Isaac back, "alive?"  On the third day.  You can tell that that is what Abraham was thinking from Hebrews: 
 
Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,”[d] 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

What about this one?
Genesis 40:20 Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.

Do you remember the story? The chief butler (or wine steward) and the chief baker were in prison with Joseph and each one had a dream about three days. Joseph told them what they meant, and each came true. On the third day, the wine steward got his life back and was restored to service. The chief baker lost his life on that third day.  At the end of the age, what will happen? Believers will be resurrected and we will delight in serving God forevermore. Unbelievers will face a much bleaker existence.

Some of those "third day" passages sound very much like the descriptions of the "Day of the Lord," when God comes with cloud and fire - but also the time when we will get our resurrected bodies. In context, of course, this is what happened during the days of Israel in the wilderness, but is it picturing something much more? This is what I mean by symbols meaning the same thing throughout the Bible:

Genesis 19:16 Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain[a] quaked greatly. 19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. 20 Then the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

That one is particularly fun, I think - when viewed in an "end times" sense. 

Ezra 6:15 The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.

That one is kind of fun, too - when you think about what the "temple" is now:
1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?


Then there's this one, that really is prophecy:

Hosea 6:1 Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight.

To make sense of what that means, you need to go back to the last verse of Hosea 5:
Hosea 5:15 I will return again to My place Till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.”

Who is speaking in Hosea 5? Jesus is. When did he return to His place? As His ascension.  I won't take the space to make the whole argument here (but you can read it on your own, if you want), but many scholars believe that was April 6, 32 AD. (some argue for 33 - and some argue other dates). 

Now, I could be very precise -and someday I will (or one of you can and let me know!) - but if you take the day equals 1,000 years idea, and use 360-day biblical years, what happens if you add 2,000 biblical years to 32 AD? (To be precise, you'd start with the very day and you'd use actual calendar days, adjusting for leap years, calendar changes, etc)


If Jesus was crucified in 32 AD when will it be 2000 years (2 days)? Not 2032 if you use biblical years of 360 days each. 2000 x 360 days is 720,000 days. Divide that by 365.25 (not precise - just a good approximation) and you get 1971 years. Add the 1971 to 32 AD and you get 2003 - the year of the solar flare, (see this post) among many other things.

It would be interesting to do it precisely and see what date it fell on. 

In the next post, I'll follow through with another pattern in the Bible that will turn out to be very interesting (in my opinion, at least!)

 

  


 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Total solar eclipse on March 20

Please forgive my delay in getting promised material on here. I've spent the last week with the worst cold in years. That's still coming. Meanwhile.....

Europe's biggest solar eclipse since 1999 is on its way

 

The headline above is a link to an article about the eclipse that will occur on March 20 this month. We won't see it in the United States, but in Europe, it will be the biggest event they've seen since 1999. They're actually worried about power glitches because a significant portion of their energy is solar.




The image above is from TimeandDate.com.

There are a few interesting things about this particular eclipse:

1. Comes before the last two blood moons of the current tetrad. (Four total lunar eclipses in a row without any partial lunar eclipses in between)
2. First day of Spring
3. Occurs on Nisan 1 - "New Year's Day" on the biblical calendar.
4. Exactly two weeks later, there will be the third total lunar eclipse of the current tetrad on April 4, Passover - (the day before Resurrection Day)
5. Place of maximum total eclipse splits "Old World" and "New World."
6. This month of March - and in fact, the entire biblical year is a match for 33 AD, the year many believe is the year of Jesus' crucifixion.

Will this eclipse mean anything other than another solar eclipse? I don't know. There have been plenty of total solar eclipses followed shortly after by a total lunar eclipse. However, if you remember my blood moon tetrad post, and the recent "Signs in the Heavens" series, you know that the tetrad we're in the middle of is unique among all previous ones. Something to think about, for sure. 

Joel 2:31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Signs in the Heavens, Part 4

Signs in the heavens! God made the stars for signs:
Genesis 1:14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years
He used the stars to announce the birth of the Messiah (previous post):
Matthew 2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
He will use the stars again to announce when Jesus' second coming is approaching:
Luke 21:25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;
Even "great signs" in heaven:
Luke 21:11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.
Now, granted, some of those signs we expect (at least I do) to be huge and major - something that causes the kings of the earth to hide themselves in caves. The next verse after Luke 21:25 above is
Luke 21:26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
So, yeah - huge, major, unmistakeable things are going to happen. But, leading up to that are signs we can see right now with modern technology. The current blood moon tetrad with the accompanying eclipses being in perfect symmetry is one sign like that. Another such sign is something that will play out in the sky in a couple years - something that has never happened before and will not happen again.

How many times have you read these verses?
Revelation 12:1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.
Did you take them literally? I didn't. I've read those verses at least a couple dozen times and took them to be speaking figuratively of Jesus' birth - and of course, they are. They are also perfectly literal. We take the passage from Luke literally -
Luke 21:11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.
Why don't we take Revelation 12:1 literally, when it uses the same words?
Revelation 12: 1 Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. 
In the Greek, from Luke 21:11 - great (μέγας megas) signs (σημεῖον sēmeion) shall there be (ἔσομαι esomai) from (ἀπό apo) heaven (οὐρανός ouranos). From Revelation 12:1 - there appeared a great (μέγας megas) sign (σημεῖον sēmeion) in (ἐν en) heaven (οὐρανός ouranos). 

In my last post, I talked about (thanks to the folks at Bethlehemstar.net), what was likely the sign in the heavens that announced Jesus' birth - Jupiter in triple conjunction with Regulus from the constellation of Leo and then in the most amazing conjunction with Venus nine months later.  Normal people, looking up at the night sky wouldn't have seen anything unusual, unless they happened to have seen the perfect Jupiter-Venus conjunction during the probably two hours that it was brightest. 

Something similar is coming up. All of us - looking into the night sky - are not going to see anything amazing unless we really understand what's happening there. As Daniel 12:4 says, knowledge has been increased, and thanks to technology, we can see that sign now. 

OK - here is the constellation Virgo. I will not take the space here, but I believe like Seiss and others who believed that the constellations were all originally to tell the Gospel story. (a post on that is coming soon) Virgo, of course, is the Virgin:
You can kind of see her, right? Interestingly (that upcoming post), every culture and language calls this constellation "the virgin."  Yet, without those lines, this is what she looks like:
Do you still see a virgin? Do you even see a constellation? Well, anyway, that's a tiny preview of a future post.

Now, every Autumn, the sun "clothes" Virgo (click on the picture for a bigger image):

The moon is often at her feet, but according to others, smarter than I am, it's only precisely at her feet WHILE she's clothed with the sun every 19 years.

The constellation "Leo" is at her head in the sky. Leo has 9 stars, but the verses call for her to have a crown of 12 stars. Approximately once every eight years, Mars, Venus and Mercury come into position so that these "wandering stars" make up a total of 12. (the times they do this is kind of irregular, but it's on an average of once per 8 years).

Jupiter is the King planet and associated with Messiah. Even in the corrupted version of the stars, Jupiter is "king of the gods" in both Roman and Greek mythology. Jupiter enters the "womb" of Virgo relatively often, but it is only every 83 years that its retrograde motion "keeps" it in her womb (that trapezoid of 4 stars in the Virgo constellation) for the length of a normal pregnancy. On November 20, 2016, Jupiter will enter the womb of Virgo. Because of retrograde motion, it will stay there until September 23, 2017 - a total of 41 weeks.

On that same day - September 23, 2017 - Virgo will be clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet and a crown of 12 stars at her head. This is the first time this has happened -that all those things happen together - in at least 6,000 years, and it will not happen again for at least 1,000 years. That's as much as this fellow checked it. 


Here's the direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXxVwpcXV0U

Once Jupiter leaves the womb of Virgo, it continues and enters the constellation of Libra (the scales). As this site says 
Libra was depicted as a set of scales. Libra represented the condition of the human race after the fall of Adam. “Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting” (Dan. 5:27). The sign of Libra has been associated with justice and order throughout the centuries. For that reason, the symbol has often been used on buildings housing courts of law and justice.
In other words, Jupiter, the king planet - representing Messiah - enters Libra, representing law and justice. For a year, Jupiter's retrograde motion keeps it inside Libra, until September 10, 2018, when it comes to the very top of the scales - exactly at the Feast of Trumpets. This is a picture, in the sky, of Messiah taking control of law and justice. Sitting on the throne, ruling, some would say.

This person explains that. I don't think I agree with his take on the serpent/dragon. I'm still expecting that to be a comet or something, but who knows?



Direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-ccQPOl5U0

Now, one person has calculated (I have no way of checking) that ALL of that - the signs in Virgo, fully describing Revelation 12:1-2 and then Jupiter staying in Libra until it comes to the very tip (and there is even more to it that I will not go into, involving Saturn) - will not happen again for 1.97 trillion years. If someone has the skills to look into that wants to comment on that, feel free.

Here is another person who comments on the first part of the sign - the stuff that happens in Virgo (there are plenty more videos and websites discussing this, if it interests you): 



Direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBijLdYXMFw

OK - to summarize. We are currently in the midst of the 8th set of biblical blood moons and in a time period (2010 to 2019) of eclipses that are perfectly symmetrical. That has never happened before. (See Part 2 of this series)

On September 23, 2017, Revelation 12:1-2 and at least some aspect of Revelation 12:5 for the year after that, will play out in the sky above us in a way that has not happened for at least 6,000 years and will not again for at least 1,000 years (and perhaps as much as 1.97 trillion, but it was checked with Stellarium for sure for 1,000 years).

If you accept that Revelation 12 is a mid trib sign, (that would be way too long to defend here, but I can in a future post if there is interest) when you subtract 1260 days from, you come to three days before the first of the blood moons in the current tetrad.

Now - these are SIGNS, not the actual events. What do signs do? They tell of something coming up. The sign for your exit comes BEFORE the exit - otherwise, you'd never exit in time.

What does this mean? We can argue, but to me, it would appear that these signs are warning of the start of  that period of time that God says in Luke 21 to be careful about: 

Luke 21:34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.
"Watch. Watch. Watch," Jesus said over and over. If you are ready, there is not reason to fear. In fact, rejoice!
Luke 21:28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near
How soon? How much advance warning are we getting? No idea. They may very well play out at the same time they appear, as they did when Jesus was born. The advance warning is hearing about it now, thanks to technology. In any case, it would appear that that time period that the prophets all spoke of is very, very close.  The last blood moon of the current tetrad is THIS September.

 Wow - and I just wrote that last bit so casually. It's still weird to me to study things and even accept them on some level as being probably true (Scripture always being true - but my interpretation of it or how I think it might play out being up to question) and yet disassociate myself from it. It's one thing to be interested in prophecy and quite another to think of it actually coming true in front of me. 

Am I right in what all this means? Maybe. Maybe not. My interpretation of this may be off. However, the fact that this is playing out over our heads over the next 2-1/2 years is perfectly factual. And, WHATEVER it means, it has never happened before. What I just wrote in these posts, if I truly believe it (and it's certainly true - the only question is, does it mean what it seems to?) SHOULD impact me. As Peter says, "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives." 
 

Signs in the Heavens - Part 3

Onward with our "Signs in the Heavens."

First, let's backtrack just a second. Just to make very, very clear - this is NOT astrology. Astrology, by definition is "the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world." If you think the stars are influencing you, you are basically worshiping the creation instead of the Creator.

God DOES use the heavens for His purposes, though. Besides giving light to the earth, that's exactly why He made the stars to begin with:
Genesis 1:14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.
 That word "sign" is 'owth in Hebrew. It means, just like you'd think, "sign, signal, a distinguishing mark, a banner, remembrance, a miraculous sign, an omen, a warning."

It's the same word used here:
Genesis 4:15 And the Lord said to him, “Therefore,[a] whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.
Genesis 9:13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.
God uses the stars for signs. In fact, the Bible records a time He did exactly that:

Wise Men from the East

Matthew 2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’[a]
Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
These "wise men" were, of course, the Magi, and chances are, we are all guilty of thinking about them like the stories we've heard more than the Bible actually says. We know a bit about them from Matthew, here, but also from Daniel. They were from Babylon (and then Persia). It's from their name that we get the word "magician." They were certainly not a biblical bunch -although that probably changed for a time when Daniel was made leader over them after he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dream about the statue:
Daniel 2:48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.
So, some things to remember. Daniel knew the Torah, the books of Moses, very well. He also had prophecies of his own that he recorded. He knew of the coming Messiah, and he knew the Messiah was important not just for his own people, but for all the world. He certainly would have communicated the importance of that to this group of people he was in charge of. I imagine he spoke often of this coming "King of the Jews" during his lifetime. He knew from this prophecy that a literal star was expected:
Numbers 24:17“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel. . .
He knew from his own prophecies when that would take place. He may even have been alive when the "go" for that countdown began, but even if he wasn't, the Magi would have been watching for it and making record of it:
Daniel 9:25 “Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street[c] shall be built again, and the wall,[d]
Even in troublesome times.
So, they knew to watch for a star, and they knew about when it would appear. We think of the "Star of  Bethlehem" as being this big, blazing thing moving through the sky like a spaceship, but remember, Herod didn't even know when this "star" had appeared. He (and Jerusalem through him) didn't get upset until the whole thing was explained to him.

Among other things, the Magi were astronomers. They didn't have telescopes, but they kept track of the stars and planets (which they called "wandering stars.") I won't defend it here (watch for a post on it soon, though), but the constellations and names of the stars tell the story of Messiah. Daniel would have known this, and through him, the Magi would certainly of known in what part of the sky to watch for that special star.

Now, the rest of this is primarily from the study posted at http://www.bethlehemstar.net/ (with my own flavoring, because of course, I can't help myself from doing that) They give a very good, very plausible, biblical presentation, and honestly, I think they're on to something.

The constellation "Leo" is the king constellation - the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Within that constellation is the star "Regulus", known as the king star. Regal is from the same word. It has been known as the king star from antiquity. Jupiter is the king planet. Even in the corrupted version, Jupiter was the "king of the gods" in both Roman and Greek mythology.

So, the Magi certainly kept track of  Regulus and Jupiter. In September of 3 BC, Jupiter did something remarkable. It makes a relatively close pass by Regulus every 12 years. To our eyes on earth, Jupiter does not have a smooth forward motion through the sky. That's because the earth moves more quickly around the sun than Jupiter does. When the earth "passes" Jupiter (like a car passing another car in the fast lane), to us, it appears that Jupiter goes backward in the sky - just like it seems like the car we're passing on the highway is going backward. That's called "retrograde motion."

Well, in September of 3 BC, Jupiter had a conjunction (very close, according to our eyes) with Regulus - THREE times. The Magi must have been very excited to see that and probably kept very careful track of Jupiter, night after night. Was the star they had been watching for coming soon?

Nine months later, in June of 2 BC, they were rewarded when Jupiter made a conjunction with Venus that no one had seen before or since. Jupiter came so close to Venus that they appeared to be one star, but each with its full brightness. This would have been the brightest "star" they had ever seen in the heavens.

The following chart is from the site http://www.bogan.ca/astro/occultations/occltlst.htm and shows the times that Venus and Jupiter have had a close conjunction. That "elongation from the sun" is how close this is from the sun so that you could actually see it. As you can see, all of them are pretty close to the sun, except the one in 2 BC.

It would be spectacularly bright - but the thing is, just like eclipses last only a short time, this would have lasted only about 2 hours - not weeks. 

YearDate/U.TImeElongation
from the Sun
Venus, Jupiter Diameters
Geocentric Separation
Comments
2 BC17 Jun 17:53 UT45oW26",32",28"Very Large Elongation
Occurs over Middle East
121017 Sep 10:35 UT7oW10",31", 0"Too Close to the Sun
Central occultation
15705 Feb 7:47 UT25oW11",31",18"Occurred over South Atlantic, Argentina
No Historic Record
18183 Jan 21:51 UT16oW10",30",12"Occurred over Far East
No History Record
Over Unpopulate Area






206522 Nov 12:47 UT8oW10",29",14"Too Close to the Sun
212314 Sep 15:26 UT16oE10",29", 6"Occurs over the Pacific Ocean
All the other Venus occultations of Jupiter have similar restrictions

When the Magi saw that star, they knew that was what they'd been looking for, and so they set off to find the "King of the Jews" that had been born. We're not talking three guys on camels, though - we're talking an entourage - with lots of people, including guards capable of fighting.

But, if they followed the star west - and the Venus/Jupiter conjunction had only lasted a couple hours, what were they following? They were following Jupiter as it moved westward through the sky. When they came to Jerusalem, they lost sight of it for a time - but when they left Jerusalem, they were filled with joy to see it ahead of them, exactly above the road to Bethlehem. So, what did it mean when it "stopped" over Bethlehem? It went into retrograde motion again, and did literally stop.

Here are a couple of articles on the Magi:
     Who were the Magi? By Chuck Missler
     Who were the Magi? Grace to You from John MacArthur

Be sure and check out the written study at www.bethlehemstar.net. There's also this video on the same subject, by the same folks:


Here's the direct link, in case you can't see that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ff-Gp194XUU

So, what's the point of all this? That God DOES use the stars as signs, and that He is about to use the same part of the sky as a sign again.  To keep this from being terribly long, I'll continue in one last post.