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Opinion: Of signs and seasons

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Commentary by Michael VandenBurg

“When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. (Matthew 16:2-3) 

One day it is 80 degrees and the next, it never even gets to 70. This is a sign that fall has arrived at last and that we should expect the temperatures to get colder, the days to get shorter, the nights to get longer and the leaves on the trees to get fewer, albeit after a brilliant display.

When I was a Boy Scout, we learned the rhyme, “red skies in morning, sailors take warning, red skies at night, sailors delight.” With it, we knew the difference between skies that told of the impending storms and those which predicted a beautiful day ahead.

Jesus told the people that followed him that they were great at reading the signs of the seasons but terrible at reading the signs of God. We know the signs that autumn, then winter, is right around the corner. What is more difficult, possibly because we pay far less attention, is when we are called to read the signs of our culture, economy, politics and relationships. We observe the changes, but we fail to see the change in our seasons of living.

Some signs we should pay attention to are: the breakdown of relationships, the rise in dependencies on either a multitude of substances that deaden our hearts and souls or upon others, the general dissatisfaction with life for no apparent reason and all reasons, or even the greater despair that comes in living into our expectations. We see the world as a threatening place instead of a place of hope and opportunity that God created it to be.

When these signs of the seasons change before our eyes, take notice. They are telling us that we have moved away from God. They are beckoning us to return to the God of our creation. They are pointing us toward a calling to repentance and its accompanying forgiveness from God himself.

How well are you reading the signs of the times? Are you seeing the red skies of morning just on the horizon or even overhead? Are you ready and willing to face the changes simply by ignoring the changes as they come or are you getting ready and making plans?

I have a family of red squirrels that live in a hollow tree in my back yard. For months now they have been storing away nuts and foods for the winter ahead. They are reading the signs and seeing what time it is, then reacting appropriately. Oh, how I wish that we, too, would see the sign, turn to God and once again become strong. 2 Chronicles 7 says, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Read the signs!


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