Saturday, August 1, 2020

Telling Time

Photo by Manisha1607 2015

I have never been able to enjoy the convenience of knowing the time by consulting a wrist device. As a young girl, I was blessed to receive several beautiful time pieces from a Swiss watchmaker who was a dear friend of our family. Despite their fine craftsmanship, they would adorn my wrist for only a few days or weeks before they would mysteriously stop ticking.

At first my parents thought I had treated them carelessly, but even when they restricted my wearing of them to Sundays and special occasions, they would cease to function without explanation. In high school it was important that I know the time so that I would not be late for classes or for the train I took to school and to ballet practice. So my parents bought me a series of supposedly reliable Timex watches, advertised to “take a licking, and keep on ticking.” But to no avail – each one stubbornly refused to keep time while attached to my wrist.

We all finally concluded that I was one of those strange individuals who emits a magnetic field that stops timepieces in their tracks. Even today, I wear a Fitbit but have no cell phone, and my Fitbit won’t tell the time unless it is synched to a cell phone, so I am bereft of an external timepiece. 

Thankfully, I was blessed with a fairly accurate internal clock, which allows me a good sense of time elapsed and keeps me punctual for appointments. Even upon awakening during the night, I generally can guess the time within 15 minutes even before looking at the clock. 

Long before timepieces were invented, God enabled mankind to tell time by the sun, moon and stars, which He set in motion to create the natural divisions of days, months and years (Genesis 1:14). Sundials use the motion of the sun through the sky to mark the passage of hours by the shadow cast by the sundial’s hand. Modern clocks use the frequency of vibration within atoms to mark the passage of time with astonishing precision. 

God even designed our bodies (Psalm 139:14) with biological clocks, such as circadian clocks that regulate the ebb and flow of hormones within a daily cycle, and endocrine signals triggering monthly cycles in the female reproductive tract. Each individual cell in our body can undergo a limited number of divisions before time runs out and the cell undergoes apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Since Adam and Eve sinned, the curse of death has plagued mankind (Genesis 3:19), so that our once unlimited lifespan has progressively shortened to approximately threescore and ten, or 70 years (Psalm 90:10). 

Even more important than our being aware of the passage of time is understanding the signs of the times in which we live. Jesus Christ chided His disciples for knowing that new leaves on a fig tree herald the soon appearance of summer (Mark 13:28) and that red skies foretell the day’s weather (Matthew 16:3), but for being unaware of the signs of God’s unfolding prophecy. 

In Matthew 24, Jesus detailed the signs that would presage His second coming: false prophets claiming to be the Messiah; wars and rumors of wars; famines, pestilences, and earthquakes; Christian persecution; and increasing sin and depravity, accompanied by spiritual coldness and lack of love even for one’s own family. 

All we have to do is to browse the Internet, turn on a news channel, or open a newspaper to see these signs of the times in abundance. False teachers and cults have drawn many away from faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God, and in His death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Wars continue in the Middle East and political tensions grow between the US and China, and other nations. 

Worldwide famine, particularly in Africa and Asia, has resulted from drought, extreme weather, and even locusts and murder hornets, which threaten the bumblebee population and could thus prevent crop pollination. The COVID-19 pandemic is a modern-day plague, its death toll adding to chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer, while new forms of swine flu and a few recent cases of bubonic plague also raise health concerns.
Earthquakes continue to increase in severity and frequency, not only throughout the Ring of Fire, but also in unusual locations. 

Persecution of Christians is now widespread and increasing, with martyrs in many nations facing imprisonment or death for refusing to renounce their faith. In the United States we are still blessed to be able to worship freely, but recent regulations have banned large assemblies and congregational singing. 

Corruption, moral depravity, violence, destruction of property, drug use, and murder, including abortion as legalized murder, are raging worldwide. Mothers are abandoning or selling their children for drug money; family violence is on the rise; and “honor killings” have claimed the lives of those who dare to denounce their family’s religion. Division is rampant in our countries, political parties, and even our churches. 

So surely we are in the End Times, and Christ’s return must be drawing near. Yet even in the days of the early church, Christians believed that His return was not only imminent, but would occur in mere days or months. No man knows the day or the hour of His return, but only the Father in Heaven (Matthew 24:36). Still, we do know with certainty that we are 2,000 years closer to His return than when He ascended into Heaven (Acts 1:9-11). 

As Christians, we need to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), and understand the difference between the two phases of Christ’s return. The first phase, or Rapture of the saints to meet with Christ in the air, will occur suddenly and without warning (1 Thessalonians 3:13-18; 5:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58). 

After the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-31), in which God deals with the nation of Israel to recognize Jesus Christ as their promised Messiah, the second phase will take place. Christ will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 17:14) to defeat the enemies of Israel, and ultimately to defeat Satan, sin and death (Revelation 19:11-21). Once the Rapture has occurred, the events of the second phase can be timed precisely, based on Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27). 

How then should we now live, knowing that Christ is on His way? He warned us that the day is coming in which no Christian can work, because we will no longer be on earth (John 9:4). The apostle Paul urged us to be stedfast, unmoveable, and ever abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58), and to be fervent in our Father’s business, serving Him while we have the opportunity (Romans 12:11).

Let us eagerly anticipate the glorious resurrection that awaits us, in which we will have glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-50) that never age, get sick, sin or die! Let us remember that we shall be rewarded in Heaven for things we do on earth to further God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:10-15), provided our motives are pure! 

Truly these are telling times in which we live. May we recognize the signs of the times, though the days are evil, and redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16) for His glory!

© 2020 Laurie Collett

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Quilting the Pieces Together

Photo by Francis.arquesa 2014

I dreamed that my family and I are touring the French countryside, accompanied by a young blonde girl, wearing her hair in a braid, whom I didn’t recognize. In the dream, we have just visited an ancient chateau and are walking along the bank of the surrounding moat. I find a fossil that contains what look like four black teeth, and I cry out excitedly to my husband, who is an avid fossil collector. But he doesn’t share my enthusiasm, and dismisses my find, saying “Oh, that’s just old building material.”
We come to a tree which has been uprooted and is lying on its side, the dead roots pointing backward along our path and the black, bare branches pointing forward, like a giant sea fan stranded on the beach. However, most of the trunk seems to still be connected to the earth by vines overgrowing it.
The young girl asks me about the bed coverings we had seen in the castle, all pieced together. 
“You mean quilts?” I ask in surprise. “Haven’t you seen a quilt before? You and I need to have a long talk about quilting!” 
I explain how I had once started to make a quilt, but I hadn’t spoken to anyone who knew how to do it, so I had to learn by trial and error rather than benefiting from the experience of others. I had chosen to use hexagonal quilt blocks instead of squares, which made my task even more difficult. Undeterred, she says she wants to make a theme quilt, based on the subject of painted cities. 
We meet up with our son, who is acting as our tour guide, at the visitor center, and we ask him if we can go back along the bank to explore further. He says no; we have to move on to our next destination. 
As I awoke and contemplated the meaning of the dream, I realized that a fossil is a preserved record and memento of the distant past. To dwell in the past is a danger, if we attempt to treasure it in itself, rather than realizing that the lessons learned and experiences we had there are just building material for our present life. In the dream, my son warned me that we can’t revisit our past experiences, because it’s time to move on to our next destination. 
The fossil in the dream took the form of teeth, which in Scripture are often equated with violence, aggression or insatiable greed (Deuteronomy 32:24; Job 16:9; 41:14; Psalm 35:16; 37:12; 124:6; Proverbs 30:14; Isaiah 41:15; Lamentations 2:16; Daniel 7:5,7; Zechariah 9:7). The fossil teeth were black, suggesting that God can use even the darkest experiences such as these, whether we were victim or perpetrator, to shape us more into the character of Jesus (Philippians 3:10), working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). 
There were four teeth in the fossil, and the first mention of the number four in the Bible references the fourth day of Creation, in which God made the sun, moon and stars not only as light sources, but to indicate and measure the passage of time and to give us the four seasons  (Genesis 1:14-19). These measurements really have personal meaning to us only to mark past events, for we are not promised tomorrow (James 4:14), and only God knows how many years or even minutes our future on earth holds (Luke 12:20). 
The uprooted dead tree we encountered also suggests the contrasts between the past, for the roots were pointing backward, and the future, with the bare branches pointing forward, indicating a general direction but no details, for our future is unknown except to God (Jeremiah 29:11). But the only part of this tree still connected to the earth and showing signs of life was the trunk, symbolizing the present in which we must live (Psalm 118:24; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:13). As the saying goes, “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; today is a gift, which is why we call it the present.” 
Jesus warned us not to worry about the future (Matthew 6:25-34), but instead to ask Him for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3), which He will provide just as He provided daily manna for the Israelites on their wilderness journey (Exodus 16:15-34). Although we are not to dwell in the past, or to let Satan rub our noses in our past mistakes, we should constantly remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness. 
If we remember that He is faithful and just to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9), Satan cannot use these as a weapon against us. The prophet Samuel took a special stone and named it Ebenezer to remind the people of the LORD’s great help against their enemies (1 Samuel 7:12). 
In the dream, we were walking along the bank of the moat, which was used in ancient times to separate, distance, and protect the castle and its inhabitants from invaders in the world. Similarly, Scripture warns us to keep ourselves separate from the world, by being decently different in our speech, lifestyle and dress, and to be holy as God is holy (Romans 12:1;1 John 2:15; 1 Peter 1:15-16). 
Although I didn’t recognize her in the dream, I realize now that the young blonde girl with the braid represents my former self, and that she resembled me as a teenager. Even as a child, I loved collecting and preserving memorabilia. The art of quilting seems to symbolize how our life is pieced together from memories and building blocks of experience, and the quilt I had started making in real life was made from cloth hexagons, which I embroidered to reference places I had visited and important life events. 
But I never actually finished the quilt, which is fitting, because my life still continues as a work in progress, praise God! He is piecing it together like a fine tapestry. At times I only see the rough seams, tangled threads, and knots on the reverse side of the quilt. But when I see Him in glory, He will show me the right side of the beautifully fashioned work of art He designed! 
As I had attempted to preserve my past memories through quilting, I had done it on my own, without first seeking Godly counsel. Learning from the life experiences of fellow Christians, with their wisdom and advice set in a Biblical context (Proverbs 27:17; Hebrews 10:25), is one of the great benefits of being part of the church, or body of Christ (Romans 7:4; 12:5). Of course I had not done that when I began the quilt, as I was still unsaved and full of prideful self-righteousness, listening neither to Christians nor to God Himself. 
It is interesting that I chose the hexagon as the pattern for my quilt blocks, as six is the number of man (Revelation 13:18). The more traditional four-sided, square quilt block reminds me of the term foursquare, which occurs in God’s directions for making holy items for His service, like the altar (Exodus 27:1; 37:25, etc.) and the breastplate (Exodus 39:9). It also describes the court in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 40:47) and the holy city of New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:16). 
Why did the girl, representing me before I was saved, want to make her quilt on the theme of painted cities? “Painted” in Scripture generally refers to worldly adornment for purposes of seduction or ungodly pride, as in the evil queen Jezebel painting her face (2 Kings 9:30), and the rebellious nation of Israel painting her face or eyes to please false gods that could not save nor even love her (Jeremiah 4:30; Ezekiel 23:40). 
The prophet Jeremiah warns the king of Judah that his city will be destroyed because of the wrongdoing of the people, but that in contrast, God will build a beautiful, spacious house of cedar painted in vermilion, a brilliant red pigment (Jeremiah 22:14), looking ahead to the shed blood of Christ that saves us from all our sins (Matthew 26:28; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:22). 
If we follow the world and its idols, our lives and cities will be in shambles. But if we are saved by our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), and if we trust Him to design and create the quilt of our lives, He will work in us a beautiful and miraculous masterpiece!

© 2017 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives