Discerning the Times

Let’s discuss some theory and practice of discerning the times, discerning our times. We live in interesting times.

First, Let’s establish that discernment is a good thing. The Book addresses the topic. First, the Bible celebrates these particular boys who had good discernment:

“… sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…” 1 Chronicles 12:32

Jesus is more forceful on the topic.

“When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” Matthew 16:2-3.

Yes, he’s chewing out some religious leaders, but the reason he is chewing them out was because they couldn’t discern the times. Specifically, they couldn’t discern what God was doing, and the Son of God rebuked them for it.

It is that important that we discern what God is doing in our day. In these outrageous times, I am convinced that it is more important than it was in previous generations that we understand our times, that we discern our times correctly.

I want to set something of a foundation for where we’re going. Let’s start with Jesus. He’s a pretty good foundation.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1.

I feel the need to re-emphasize some basic truths from this passage. There’s nothing new or controversial here.

· Jesus is the Word of God incarnate.

· He was alive before the beginning of creation.

· Jesus is God.

· Creation happened through him.

· Apart from Jesus, there was no creating going on.

One of the stones of this foundation that we’re laying is this: Jesus is the Creator. My point is this: Jesus is that it is well documented that Jesus is creative. I would argue that he is the source of all creativity, the fountain from which all of his creation draws from in their own creativity. Creativity was in Jesus’ blood before he had blood, before blood was invented, before the molecules that would eventually make up blood had been formed.

The New Testament adds to this:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

If Jesus was creative for that very first week of creation, then the Book says that he remains unchanged. He is still creative. The guy who declared, “Let there be light!” is still that guy. Creativity is a part of him.

“Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? Isaiah 43:18,19.

God identifies himself as a God who does new things. We could get technical and point out that “I will do a new thing” is an Active Participle, which “represents an action or condition in its unbroken continuity.” In other words, it could quite accurately (and more clumsily) be translated, “I do new stuff. That’s who I am!”

Then he adds, “You’re going to know it! You’re going to experience my new stuff!”

This is pretty basic: If God does new stuff, then he is doing new stuff. If Jesus – who is unchanging – is creative, then he is still creating, still doing new stuff. If this is who he is, then it’s who he is.

Therefore we should expect new stuff to happen. We should expect God to do new stuff. New stuff in us. New stuff around us. Things that nobody has ever seen before. (The Hebrew word חדש speaks about something that’s brand spankin’ new, and is contrasted with other words that mean rebuilt or renewed.)

I’m making a strong point about this because it seems that whenever someone says, “God is doing something new today!” someone crawls out of the shadows and snarls, “No he’s not!” Their justification for their narrow mindedness generally comes from Hebrews 13:8 (quoted above), or from their own self-centeredness: “I ain’t never seen that before, so it can’t be God.”

It has often been pointed out that the greatest persecutors of the latest move of God are very often the members of the last move of God. But it is to us specifically that God says, “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old!”

“Quit measuring things by the past. Stop looking back to what I did before. That is not what I’m doing now.”

Then the LORD said: "I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you. Exodus 34:10

OK. God is doing new things in our day, things that have never been seen on the earth before. But God isn’t the only one who’s doing things that we have never seen before. How do we discern between the unfamiliar thing that is God and the unfamiliar thing that is not God.

This is the rabbit trail that God led me on this morning. We must be able to discern our times. We must be able to discern that which is God from that which is not God.

Here’s where it got awkward for me, where it became unfamiliar to me: I cannot use my mind for that task. “But I have a good mind! It works well!” I argued. He agreed, and added, “but your mind is limited to what it knows, what it remembers, what it has seen before, and – from that – to what it can imagine. That’s insufficient. You must discern these times with your spirit.”

If God is doing new things in our day, things that have never been seen on Earth, then we must use a tool that is capable of working with things that are new, never before seen on the earth.

May we learn to discern well, to rely on our discernment, and to receive the new and different and unusual things that God is doing.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Christians on the InterWebs

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it happen, but you probably have seen it as many times as I have: someone, somewhere – let’s call him Henry – posts an opinion online. Fine. All is well and good.

Then some fundamentalist Christian sees that post! Far too often, the Christian ignores the heart of what they said, but finds some little detail that they don’t agree with, and they tell them why they’re so wrong. Others join in, and soon we have a feeding frenzy, rapid-fire accusations of all kinds of nasty things, all on account of a detail.

• We are on Facebook, not in theology class. The requirement of rigorously defending one's theology is different in a social environment, such as Facebook, than in an educational environment. I will not demand that someone quote chapter and verse, listing supporting papers for their position, while we're sitting at a dinner table among friends who have no idea what we're talking about.

• Some among us are teachers, and as such, they have a standard that we must live up to. Most people online are not teachers, though their post sounds a little like they’re trying to teach. I will not hold him to the same standard that I hold teachers to. The James 3:1 kind of thing. We don’t hold kids just learning to hear God’s voice to the same standard we hold a mature prophet, do we?

• I do not have my theology perfect. I don't know where it's wrong, and I work hard at correcting it where I find errors. But I am aware that I don't completely agree with ANYone's theology, including my own. Let’s quit arguing about insignificant theology. Who cares if it reminds you of some hated heresy of the past? That’s not the point of their post! Get over it! Move on!

• I tend to agree with John G Lake, when he said, "It is a law of the human mind that I can act myself into believing faster than I can believe myself into acting." In similar spirit, I have concluded that it is FAR, FAR more important to get young Christians out doing stuff, expanding the Kingdom, doing something, anything, even (hear me carefully) even if it's wrong, than it is to sit them down behind a desk and make others learn theology. For example: I would really rather deal with someone who had just raised my dead friend back to life, but was confused about Ananias & Sapphira, than I would deal with a young buck who had just gotten his MDiv and was looking for a church to pastor, but as yet has not really done anything.

• Likewise: I'm far more interested in the fruit that comes from a your life than I am the doctrinal correctness that comes from your teaching. That is NOT to say that good doctrine is unimportant: it IS to say that good doctrine is not preeminent over living out that truth which we already know.

• Authority to teach comes from God. But my authority to teach YOU comes from YOU and nobody else. If Tyler has not invited you or me to speak into his life, but we go ahead and speak into it, then he would be correct to label us as nosy busybodies or worse. If you were on your way to buy a dozen red roses for your sweetheart, and someone jumped in your face, blocked your way, and proceeded to tell you why America made a mistake to abandon the gold standard for its currency, what you can do about it, and why you needed to deal with it •right•this•minute•, it is likely that you would have difficulty receiving that data, and it is likely that anything that that person ever told you would be colored by that encounter. Let’s not be that person.

Brothers and sisters, please hear me. Unity isn’t about everybody agreeing with your personal pet doctrines. In fact, unity is not about doctrine at all. Unity is about us all having one father, and a very good heavenly one, and trusting each other to follow Him. Agreeing isn’t part of that equation, and agreeing with YOU is completely off the topic. If I’m following the same Father you are, then eventually, we’ll get to the place where you and I see the main things through His eyes, and we see the peripheral things through our individual assignments. We probably won’t ever agree on the details.

I am not saying that doctrine doesn’t matter. I’m saying people matter more.