Thinking Out Loud

March 1, 2019

“It’s the Rapture!” “No, It’s Not!”

Two forthcoming titles take two different paths to explore a similar theme. I thought it was interesting that both of these have a scheduled release date of March 19th. For the record, I did not receive review copies from either publisher.

First, Herald Press offers Unraptured: How End Times Theology Gets it Wrong by Zach Hunt, available in both hardcover and paperback.

Are you rapture ready? As a teenager in the buckle of the Bible Belt, Zack Hunt was convinced the rapture would happen at any moment. Being ready meant never missing church, never sinning, and always listening to Christian radio.

But when the rapture didn’t happen, Hunt’s tightly wound faith began to fray. If he had been wrong about the rapture, what else about his faith might not hold water?

Part memoir, part tour of the apocalypse, and part call to action, Unraptured traces how the church’s focus on escaping to heaven has it mired in decay. Teetering on the brink of irrelevancy in a world rocked by refugee crises, climate change, war and rumors of war, the church cannot afford to focus on the end times instead of following Jesus in the here and now. Unraptured uses these signs of the times to help readers reorient their understanding of the gospel around loving and caring for the least of these.

Then, releasing on the exact same day, Chosen Books releases Not Afraid of the Anti-Christ: Why We Don’t Believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture by Michael Brown and Craig Keener in paperback.

Despite the popular belief that Christians will be raptured before the start of the Tribulation, Scripture paints a very different picture. Nowhere does the Bible promise that believers will escape the revelation of the Antichrist and his war on the saints. In fact, God tells His people to expect tribulation–and to persevere through it.

In this eye-opening text, acclaimed scholars and authors Michael Brown and Craig Keener offer encouragement and hope for the approaching dark times. Together they walk you through an intensive study of Bible passages, helping you gain a better understanding of what the future holds. Through it all, there is no need to fear; God has a plan. He will not abandon His people in the terrible days ahead.

Take comfort in the words of Jesus: He has overcome the world. Even in the midst of great sorrows on the earth, we live in Jesus’ victory until He returns at the end of the age.

People who are strong adherents of traditional Evangelical eschatology may be offended by both books (!) but there are those who have misgivings about that end times model which may welcome these two books.

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December 9, 2017

Armageddon Preview: California Wildfires

Admittedly the person who posted this on Twitter retouched the sign, but everything else in this image is real.

Long before there was the Left Behind books and music, there were the Russell Doughten films. Growing up Evangelical in the ’70s and ’80s meant your church probably had showings of:

While studies have shown that guilt- and fear-induced decisions tend not to produce lifelong disciples, there are no doubt some reading this who were “scared into the kingdom” by movies such as this and live productions such Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames.

Looking at the images from Southern California this week, it was difficult not to imagine that we were viewing a film producer’s vision of the end times. The people who had to drive through those scenes in order to escape will simply never be able to erase those images. The future PTSD issues related to the past week will endure as long as many of these people are living.

The losses are staggering. But beyond the personal tragedy is the loss of a rather unique part of the world, every bit as special to me as Venice is to others.

I took six trips to So. Cal., staying at least two weeks for each, and renting a car each time. My favorite memories are of driving north of Los Angeles at night with the radio cranked on KFI or KKHR and capturing the image in my mind of the homes lining the Hollywood Hills, not unlike the view you get looking down on a city or town at night from an airplane, but with the perspective reversed by the fact you’re at the lowest altitude and the porch lights and street lights are displayed in a panorama above you.

When the lights go down in the California town
People are in for the evening
I jump into my car and I throw in my guitar
My heart beatin’ time with my breathin’

After finding something that totally awed me, I would then take the first exit, loop around and drive the opposite way to see it all again. Gas was cheaper then, I suppose. I can’t describe to you the beauty of the lights twinkling up the hills. It was another world.

Ventura Highway in the sunshine
Where the days are longer
The nights are stronger
Than moonshine

To think of so much of that being simply gone is unimaginable. You see the video footage of burned out properties, but I think about what they were; what will take at least a generation to rebuild if not longer.

When you think of the dangers of living in So. Cal., you think earthquakes. Not any longer. As one responder said yesterday, “Fire season is now all year.”

In the end, condition “red” was not enough. They had to create a new level “purple” for “extreme” danger.

…I don’t know if any filmmakers were mercenary enough to go out and shoot stock footage in the middle of this, but it certainly raises the possibilities of what Armageddon could look like; metaphorically of course, because the prophesied battle takes place on the other side of the world.

But The Tribulation, perhaps? Definitely. Nuclear aftermath? For sure.

 

 

September 24, 2017

One Day After September 23rd: We’re Still Here

Filed under: Christianity, prophecy — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:46 am

At the very least we should have felt a loud impact yesterday as the planet Nibiru crashed into earth. That’s how some people interpret the writings of David Meade (pictured right) at the website Planet X News, though the post itself seems more focused on October 15th. Was it changed? In a UK interview two days ago with The Sun he says we all misunderstood the September 23rd date, and seems to be leaning to October 21st, and this date as more of the beginning of seven years of nuclear war.

Our friends at Internet Monk devoted their entire Saturday roundup to Meade — I’m not sure why — where you can turn for greater analysis. I would have been more reluctant to give him that space, and yet alas, here we are…

…Dates come and dates go. J. Lee Grady, a former editor and now columnist for Charisma News reminds us in a recent article,

Failed date-setting has discredited Christians many times before. Why can’t we learn from history? William Miller, the father of Seventh-day Adventism, was convinced Jesus would return in 1844. When his prediction turned out to be bogus, many disillusioned “Millerites” abandoned their faith.

Jehovah’s Witnesses taught that Jesus would begin His millennial reign in 1914. When that didn’t happen, they pointed to the outbreak of World War I and began teaching that this was the “beginning of the end.” A few years later they moved the date to 1925. Nothing happened that year, but more than a generation later they circulated the prediction that the world would end in 1975. (They also taught that only Jehovah’s Witnesses would survive a global holocaust.)

Recent history is littered with more of these embarrassing predictions. It hasn’t been that long since Edgar Whisenant, a Christian layman, wrote 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. Millions of believers bought that paperback book. Other Christians have made similar predictions—such as the Y2K scare in 1999 or Harold Camping’s infamous warning that the world would end on May 21, 2011.

Furthermore, we need to be wary of date-setters and especially precise date setters. We’re certainly given hints as to the times and seasons that might foretell of the immanent return of Christ, but not the day and the hour. Nobody’s got that. Jesus even goes so far as to suggest that there is some information that God the Father has shielded from (or not revealed) to God the Son, which can lead us to an interesting study on a possible chain of authority within the Godhead; “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” (Matthew 24:36)

On top of that, the dominant teaching in Evangelicalism clearly points us away from the total destruction of this planet. Cataclysmic events maybe; perhaps even precipitated by rogue dictators of Asian nations. But an eschatological view that incorporates New Earth should imply to us that the planet is not entirely doomed.

Finally, our posture in these situations should not be one of fear. Jesus tells his hearers, “So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Luke 21:28; the whole chapter is instructive.)

Grady concludes,

End-times date-setting hinders the cause of Christ. It’s wrong-headed and irresponsible for any Christian to tell an unbeliever when Jesus is coming back or when the world will end. That’s not the message we were commissioned to preach. Dates and deadlines don’t have the power to save souls—only the gospel can do that.

When we share Christ with others, we don’t need to provide a date for His Second Coming. Instead, we should tell them about the miracle of Calvary and remind them: “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). Hundreds of thousands of people die every day without Jesus, whether or not He returns in their generation. This alone should motivate us to avoid foolish distractions and false prophecies so we can get busy with the task of evangelism.

Our job is to preach the good news—not the bad news!

July 4, 2017

For July 4th: Where Does the USA Fit into Prophecy?

America in Bible Prophecy

Three years ago we spun the magic Google wheel and landed on these answers to the question, “Why isn’t America in Bible prophecy?” We thought it was good time to haul these out again.

We start with Greg Laurie:

When I look at Bible prophecy, one thing that is of great interest to me, and of great concern, is the absence of the United States. It is interesting to note that a number of nations are mentioned in the Bible that will be active in the last days. Libya is mentioned by name. Persia, which became modern Iran and Iraq, is mentioned. Ethiopia is specifically mentioned. Quite possibly China and Russia are mentioned. And certainly Israel is mentioned. But the one nation that is strangely absent is the United States of America.

Where is the United States? Why are we not in the last-days scenario? Why is it that we can read of nations like Iraq and Iran and Libya and that we possibly can find China and Russia mentioned, but we cannot find the United States?

I would like to offer three plausible answers.

[…continue reading here…]

From The Remnant Report:

…Maybe we’re just not as important as we once thought…we in the Western world tend to think of prophecy in terms of “prediction/fulfillment.” In other words, something is predicted in the Bible which is later fulfilled.

But, Jewish scholars and many good Christian theologians tend to think of prophecy in terms of biblical “pattern.” For instance, nations fall into patterns of behavior which results in God’s judgment again and again. These are clearly outlined in Scripture.

In terms of pattern there is no question that almost all nations including America fit into biblical prophecy. For example, Deuteronomy 28 & 29 lists the blessings of following God’s law and the consequences of disobeying it. Hosea 4 and Ezekiel 7 are two books which also list patterns of disobedience and God’s judgment. We might include Isaiah chapter 5 to feature consequences of disobedience, too. This one mentions large, beautiful houses sitting empty due to God’s judgment.

[the article then lists a variety of these patterns of judgments]

…I think you could make a good case for America suffering this kind of judgment at God’s Hands today. The pattern fits, doesn’t it?…

[…continue reading here…]

From a lengthy article at WARN Radio

1 Peter 4:17
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

This last September 11th we remember the trouble on that date and the many lost lives. We have people who are mourning the lost and many others who let the moment of the day bring swells of tears and pride. During this time we have many who see and are blinded at the same time by the same thing Israel was blinded by. Their own pride and stubbornness. They simply did not see their sins, nor acknowledge that the LORD God would judge them so severely. Even today the churches and many Americans do not see the trouble that is coming.

Simply put, it will come to this nation, in like manner as it did to Israel. The reason again, pride and stubbornness, with an unwillingness to repent of their sins. This nation was raised out of the earth by God himself. It stood so many years for his good pleasure, not ours. Yet, the sins of the nation has become past being as bad as Israel. America is blinded!

[…continue reading here…]

A short interview with author Joel Rosenberg:

…The bottom line is there are a lot of theories over the years over what prophecy in the Bible might refer to the United States. A careful analysis of all of them indicates that there is not a single direct reference to the United States as a player in the last days.

So, the question really is ‘Why not?’ If we are already in the last days, how could the United States not be a clearly defined player? The answer is, we don’t know because the Bible doesn’t say.

Something happens by which the U.S. is paralyzed, sidelined or neutralized and therefore unable or unwilling to project influence to be a major force in the major events of the last days. That’s what Implosion is about, walking through a whole series of things that could happen to the United States, things that are consistent with Bible prophecies and what the Bible says will happen to various nations in the last days.

There is not a verse specifically about what happens to us. You have to look at a whole range of scenarios and say any one of these, or even a combination of them, is possible…

[…continue reading here…]

A differing opinion: In this 35-min audio, the presenter feels America is in prophecy.

December 24, 2016

Is the Second Coming Like Nothing We’ve Ever Seen?

Filed under: Christianity, prophecy — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:29 am

first-and-second-coming-3

So yesterday I rather shook things up with the idea that the second coming might be be more gradual than the “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” event that many picture. In my defense, I’d like to point out that this particular phrase in I Corinthians 15:55 is, strictly speaking is referring to the resurrection of the dead.

Offline, one of my friends suggested that what I was proposing was “a stealth return followed by a big reveal.” Why would anyone suggest such a thing?

Well, the premise of the article was simply that if the second coming was to in any way resemble the first coming — this is Advent season after all — it’s interesting that Jesus breaks on the scene gradually: a birth heralded by angels and shepherds; a presentation in the temple; a glimpse into him confounding the teachers in the temple with his questions; then a long silence followed by a baptism in the Jordan River; and a first miracle at a Cana wedding.

The scriptures are filled with parallelisms, symmetries, and something called chiasms, which we’ve looked at before here.

Exodus as a reversal of Genesis
But alas, I am no expert on such things. Instead I’m reminded of Bill Hybels who once pointed out to his congregation that after 20 years (or maybe it was 25) he had never done a series on prophecy or the book of Revelation and reportedly said that we wasn’t sure he should as he really didn’t understand “the nuances of it.”

So quickly, before the heretic label starts to stick, here is something closer to what you’re more likely to hear from my mouth if we were to engage in conversation on this…

…I’m always afraid of people who say, “Well, Jesus is coming again for sure, but there are still several things which have to happen before that takes place.”

I think such an attitude contrasts with the imperative of the gospel. The notion of redeeming the time, because the time is short. The notion of choosing this day who we will serve. The notion that now is the appropriate time, today is the day for salvation. There ought to be an urgency to our proclaimed message and our personal response.

But here’s the thing, and this is closer to what I honestly feel: I believe that the prophetic markers are stacked like dominoes and that when things start to happen they will happen very quickly. One could potentially trigger another. It could all go down very fast.

So we shouldn’t presume, like those who say, “So what happened to the promised second coming of Jesus? For everything keeps going just the way it has since our ancestors fell asleep in death; since the beginning of creation, nothing’s changed.” II Peter 3:4 (The Voice).

Furthermore, to deny the imperative of the eschatologically-weighted gospel is to deny that while Jesus may not be coming back tomorrow, he could, figuratively speaking, come for me. In other words I could get hit by the proverbial bus and die, and then my pontifications as to the end of the present dispensation if you will would be totally pointless. (Pointless pontifications. You read it here first. And over 2,000 other places on Google.)

…So do we find cause to believe that the return of Christ mirrors the first coming that we consider today; a birth in a remote province of the Roman empire to a couple of dubious marital status in a less than ideal setting created by the lack of available lodging?

Yes and no. Sometimes the Bible indicates that the second coming mirrors the first coming only in terms of the contrasts. The first time we see Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem; the second time he appears on a white horse. 

ascension-of-jesusAs one reader pointed out “we’re told a bit at his ascension that he will come again in like manner as they have seen him go.” But what do we know about that? How long were the disciples staring as he rose into the sky? Was there a low cloud ceiling that day? The Bible’s tendency to brevity and concision makes me think that perhaps God didn’t just beam Jesus up, but his ascension may have have been more prolonged; a vertical processional to heaven.

So does Jesus just re-enter the atmosphere quietly and then creep onto the scene in a dramatic climax? We don’t know. We see in part and we prophesy in part. We see as through reading glasses that have been smeared with Vaseline™ (my paraphrase of through a glass darkly.) What we do know is that the second coming of Christ no doubt exceeds the parameters of our understanding. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Cor. 2:9 NLT)

In the meantime, we have before us today the full details of his first coming; about which much is written and many songs are sung. This is incarnation. Christ the Savior is born.

 

 

 

 

December 23, 2016

Is the First Coming of Jesus a Pattern for the Second?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:12 am

first-and-second-coming-2

I’ve been giving some thought today to two aspects of the advent of Christ:

  • The timing of His coming
  • The nature of His arrival

The timing of His coming

I’ve heard many sermons about the fact that before the time of Christ, we find what Christians call the “intertestamental period” wherein the prophets seem to be silent. It’s a kind of calm before the storm before Jesus breaks on the scene and teaches like no other rabbi or prophet ever.

Will there be a calm before the storm before Jesus returns a second time? The voices (prophets if you will) of our day are being silenced. In the east because of the rise of militant Islam or religious radicals in places like India. In the west because of the rise of militant atheism or political correctness. Could it be that the second coming of Christ will take place in a time where the voices of the prophets are not heard in the land?

The nature of His arrival

We tend to think of Jesus’ arrival on earth — in flesh; as one of us — at Bethlehem, but really Jesus arrived so to speak when He began His public ministry. (We speak of someone arriving on the scene; entering the public consciousness.) You can date this arrival by His submission to John’s baptism and identification by John as “the lamb of God;” or you can choose the wedding at Cana or the beginning of His teaching ministry.

We tend to think of Jesus’ second arrival as being signaled by the sound of trumpets and his appearance on a white horse.

I am not, in the following paragraphs, suggesting that it’s possible that Christ has already returned and is alive and on earth now; so please don’t write me off as a heretic.

What I’m wondering is, if it’s possible for Jesus to embed himself here on earth somehow for a short period of time, and then, suddenly, there is the sound of trumpets, there is the appearance of the conquering King on a white horse (as opposed to the submission symbolized by the donkey the first time around) and every eye sees and every ear hears. I say that only because that was the nature of His first coming. There was a beginning in Bethlehem that preceded — in this case by 30 years — the beginning of His taking up His spiritual office.

Before you jump all over this and find it full of flaws, remember, at the time of His birth, it is the belief of many commentators that nobody understood the “…then a virgin shall conceive…” passage as meaning exactly how we know today the story played out. Bruxy Cavey is a pastor and author who maintains the prophecy should be read ‘backwards’ to see how God was in control all along, not ‘forward’ to try to predict the future. On the other hand, author and pastor Rob Bell teaches that every Jewish girl envisioned herself as being “the one” who would give birth to the Savior. Nor does this possibility discount the aspect of “being caught up to meet Him in the air.”

I’m just saying it would be most consistent if, in addition to the timing of His second coming following the pattern of His first coming; that the nature of His arrival should also include something that has an element of process to it. That perhaps instead of looking up we should be looking to the left and to the right; scanning the horizon for the Lion of Judah who has massed his forces, or, more likely, will mass his forces, right here prior to that moment when every eye will see and every ear will hear.

Or perhaps it’s something closer to the more traditional view, but there is a physical presence — similar to the angels at Bethlehem singing ‘Glory to God in the highest’ — followed by the taking up of the spiritual office. A period, a moment filled with signs in the skies followed by a dawning of the great significance of what is happening. Only instead of it taking up to a year for the Magi to arrive on the scene bearing gifts, we have CNN carrying the event live.

People speak of the timing of his birth as offering the maximum potential for word of his life, his teachings, his miracles, his death and his resurrection to be carried to widest parts of the Roman Empire. Clearly, we have reached a point in terms of technology where the the timing of his second coming optimizes the message being carried instantly to the entire world. (Though a miraculous, non-technological approach to his return being visible to everyone is equally valid.)

Either way of course, it will also be a dramatic intervention into world history on a par equal to His first coming; but seen and known by everyone instantaneously.

The point is, ultimately we just don’t know. However, though we don’t know “the day nor the hour,” we can know “the times and seasons.” And we can be prepared. Are you?

My point is to ask, “What if…?” We read scriptures with many built-in assumptions, and I think we need to be challenged to think outside the box, without tossing out the basic elements necessary for the Grand Story to play out to completion. Is it heretical to ask, “What if…?”?

I am convinced that if the scriptures tell us there will be the sounding of a trumpet, or there will be shout, then that means there will be a trumpet and a shout. I’m just having some fun with the idea that perhaps his return won’t be so much of a breaking in as it will be a breaking out; the idea of his return not being comparable to a sudden fanfare, but perhaps the product of an extended crescendo

That would after all more closely resemble his first coming.

first-and-second-coming

September 20, 2016

The Mysterious Book of Mysteries

end-times-prophetic-etc-books

This is not a book review. I didn’t read The Harbinger or The Mystery of the Shemitah. Or the book today’s discussion is focused on.

These books just aren’t my thing. I’m sorry. Different things attract different people. I tend to be more IVP than Charisma House. More N.T. Wright than Joyce Meyer.

the-book-of-mysteries-by-jonathan-cahnI have held a copy of The Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn in my hands. It’s a packed volume written in a format where you can simply read it all at once — which I suspect most people will do — or read it in the alternative devotional format provided, doing a page per day. Each page’s header names the specific mystery uncovered or revealed. (The complete Table of Contents is pictured below.)

So why mention it here at all? Simply because if past trends hold, this will be one of the bestselling Christian books from now until Christmas. So for that reason, I think it’s important for some Christians to know what other Christians are reading. Here’s one take on it:

“At the end of each mystery, The Teacher gives the disciple a mission about how to apply it to your life and it can actually transform your life,” said Cahn, describing the story. “I don’t say things lightly like this. I believe this truly can transform lives if you go on this journey. And there other thing is there are mysteries in here that have never been revealed as far as we know, never before. It’s almost like hundreds of Harbingers, if you can imagine that.”

[Radio host George] Noory asked Cahn how he was able to discover these secrets. However, as Cahn pointed out, he didn’t come up with anything. The mysteries, the rabbi maintained, were created by God. And Cahn said once readers start on this journey, it never really ends.

(A sample of the writing from The Teacher appears at the bottom of this article.)

Amid the fanfare of the book’s release, it’s hard to find a good analysis from a website I or you would know. At CBD there were a number of five star reviews, as well as this one which goes on for many, many paragraphs:

Apparently, the time has come for the false Jewish prophets of Mystery Schools that are prevalent in some Messianic Jewish circles to come out of the closet and take a bow. Now that Christians have been trained to search for hidden messages in their Bibles, Jonathan Cahn has come out with his third book; “The Book of Mysteries.” Does the Bible contain “mysteries,” hidden codes and dates for Christians to distract themselves searching out? Absolutely not! God never intended for His word to be a book of mysteries to be unlocked! That is a thoroughly Kabbalistic / Gnostic teaching…

For the most part however, the gatekeeper and watchdog bloggers hold back until something becomes truly popular and then launch their attack where and when it can do the most damage. I’m not sure I fully trust the one above simply because of its sheer length and use of capital letters. Seriously, can’t we debate someone’s theological perspective without the use of caps lock? (I am amazed they published the scathing review on the retail site, which you’ll notice I didn’t link to.)

So what did the publisher say?

The Book of Mysteries opens up with a traveler and his encounter with a man known only as “the teacher.” The teacher takes him an on odyssey through desert mountains, valleys, gardens and plains, encounters with nomadic tent dwellers, caverns and ancient ruins, chambers of scrolls and vessels, and more. The reader is taken along to partake in the journey and in all the teachings and revelations. The traveler keeps a journal in which he writes down each of the mysteries given to him by the teacher in his one-year odyssey—365 different mysteries—one for each day of the year. Thus, on top of everything else, The Book of Mysteries is also a daily devotional unlike any other. And each mystery contains a special mission for each day of the year, a mission that takes the revelation and applies it to reality for a life-changing journey.

I wouldn’t devote myself to this book, but I might read a few more pages just to see what others find so captivating about this author. This will be a huge bestseller. It does seem to be part of an another world, a world quite removed from the centrist Evangelicalism with which I more fully identify.

book-of-mysteries-contents

book-of-mysteries-sample-page


The opening graphic was in my files from a thing I ran last year and was actually the impetus for mentioning Cahn’s latest here on the blog. In fairness, Hagee, Hitchcock and Biltz (not a law firm) were not actually mentioned today. By the way, for those of you who are still reading, don’t you think there’s a similarity between what’s in the above book excerpt and the type of writing you find in Jesus Calling or is it just me?

November 5, 2015

Answers to Tuesday’s Challenge

If you haven’t already, you need to read what was posted here 2 days ago: Here’s the link.

So let’s begin.

The Bible says Jesus is coming back.

There are a couple of problematic things here. First, Jesus said he’s coming back. Maybe I’ve been listening to too much Andy Stanley, but I have to agree with him that it’s much better to say, “The author of Proverbs says…” or “The gospel writers believed…” or “The Apostle Paul taught…” so that we’re focusing on real flesh-and-blood people and not a generic “This is what the Bible says.”

But what does it mean that Jesus is coming back. Has he been down in the polls and he’s making a comeback? The language so familiar to those of us inside the church may be meaningless to those outside. Perhaps this is a good news return like the time Uncle Raymond returned from his year in India. He’ll toss the kids on his knees and tell stories and everything will be like it was before.

Is that what it means? We believe that the second coming of Christ means that this time He is returning in judgment. If your life is yield to Him, then I suppose you approach this with joy, and it really isn’t unlike Uncle Ray’s return after all. But if you’re not sure, or definitely not ready, then I suppose you approach this with apprehension or even dread.

I believe he’s coming very soon.

I think we can present the imperative of responding to Christ without quantifying it in terms of the calendar. Personally, I think there are number of prophetic markers in place that have to happen first before the return of Christ. However, I believe some of these are stacked like dominoes, and that many of these markers could fall in quick succession.

Of greater concern however is that our days are numbered. We don’t know what tomorrow might bring, hence the reminder to “choose this day who you will serve,” and that “now is the appropriate time to respond, today is the day for salvation.”

However, by reminding us of our mortality, we can introduce fear into the equation, and the experts say that guilt and fear are great motivators for making short-term decisions, but not long-term disciples.

I think that simply saying, “We need to be ready,” places the onus of responsibility back into the hands of the person listening. It’s a call to action, “If Christ is returning, what do you need to do about it?”

I don’t think I will ever die.

It was the memory of this part of the presentation that got the ball rolling for what was posted on Tuesday. It occurred to me that years later, this person is now aware of the possibility that the second coming of Christ may not happen in his lifetime, especially as the clock keeps ticking and more years pass.

Of course, the overtones of pre-tribulation rapture theology are also implicit in this, and that viewpoint is, in my perception, losing supporters even among Evangelicals. I’m not saying there will not come a day when “some will never die,” but I’m not sure that a presentation of this nature is the right place to introduce that.

I think what is more important to signal is that the return of Christ will signal a dramatic paradigm shift. In the incarnation, Christ came as one of us, and while the world changed — recognized every time you write the date — I think it was nothing compared to what it means when he returns as king.

In the first coming, Jesus rode a donkey, and while his followers went on to found a kingdom without end, in many respects the world went on as it did. In the second coming, Jesus rides a white horse, and whether supernaturally, or through already present technology, “every eye will see him.”

That said, I believe a closing statement — if one were limited by this three-point format — is to say something instead about responding to God’s love, God’s grace or some basic statement of the implications of the atonement. I suppose how deep a person wants to get at this stage depends largely on the type of people who constitute their audience, but whether or not the speaker will ever die is at best immaterial to the responsibility of the hearer to respond to the offer God is putting forward in sending Christ.


So what’s the point?

Keep in mind, the speaker in this case — again click back to Tuesday for the backstory — was in his early 20s when he made the original presentation. But often our words are tossed out without preparation, and perhaps this type of music group or youth group approach needs to be written out, and even crafted with the help of someone with greater spiritual wisdom.

I know that I had similar days I wish I could live over. I wasn’t the speaker in this example, but I probably used similar words and phrases when I did itinerant youth ministry.

If nothing else, I hope this gives you something to think about.

July 7, 2015

God’s Got a Picture of the USA on His Refrigerator

Keep in mind that God has had his fridge for a very, very long time.

Keep in mind that God has had his fridge for a very, very long time.

Hey, America! You’re special in God’s eyes. At least according to yourselves. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is rolling its collective eyeballs. Here’s some stuff people were linking to on Twitter yesterday:

As one person Tweeted, America is special “In my humble opinion, no more so than Canada, Monaco or Luxembourg. The U.S. exists at God’s pleasure and providence, but not like ancient Israel.”

Journalistically speaking these concepts are a whitewash. They say things that I am sure America wants to hear, but the ideas don’t hold up under the microscope of either history or theology.

No one from the east or the west
    or from the desert can exalt themselves.

It is God who judges:
    He brings one down, he exalts another.

Psalm 75: 6,7

 


Related:

 

February 20, 2015

The Bible and the Weather Forecast

Before his recent suspension from NBC’s Nightly News broadcast, I always thought that if I ever found myself sitting next to Brian Williams on an airplane, the first question I would ask is, “Do you remember the last time you did an evening newscast without a weather story?

free_snow_signMuch of the American news coverage revolves around hurricanes and tornadoes and drought in the summer and freezing rain and record snowfalls in the winter. One has to wonder if the place was ever meant to be inhabited. To those who constantly ask, “Is America in Bible prophecy,” the answer might have more to do with the country being diminished by weather catastrophe than by some major loss of economic influence.

In my native Canada, we are more accustomed to the worst the meteorologists have to forecast. Everything from clothing to cars to housing must be able to withstand temperatures varying from -40°C to +40°C, and even lower wind chill factors and higher humidity indexes. (To my U.S. readers, I’m sorry that you are one of only two countries left that does not use the metric system. I think pride has a lot to do with that. The lower temperature is the same -40°F as this is the place where the two scales meet. The higher would be 104°F.) Canada has also built infrastructures — the banking of roads is a great example — with winter in mind and each municipality and province is well equipped with trucks and snowplows as well as alternatives to salt, which is ineffective below a certain point on the thermometer.

By contrast, it was reported two nights ago that a large U.S. municipality has only 12 trucks for spreading salt, no doubt due to its situation in what is termed “the south.” Changing weather patterns mean that preparedness takes on a new importance. Perhaps this type of truck can be re-purposed for other duties when the temperatures are warmer.

I heard it recently here suggested that America spends so much on its government bureaucracy, and so much on the war effort, that the money simply doesn’t exist to keep southern Interstate highways free of snow and ice.

But back to our theme, I can’t help but think of a couple of verses in Luke 21 where Jesus is speaking:

There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.  (11)  There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. (25)

These verses are part of a longer prophetic section which, just as you can skip stones across a lake, had one more immediate fulfillment and can be expected to have yet another fulfillment to come.

I noticed I wrote about weather at least once a year here.  In 2011:

I think weather is a rather weak “sign” of the impending ending to the “age of grace” when compared with, for example, moral decay. When people say, “Look at the way the world is…;” they generally are referring to its spiritual state, not its meteorological state. Furthermore, it’s the aggregate of many signs that point to “final wrap up” here.

and more practically:

I think we have a responsibility to close the windows so the rain doesn’t get in. In other words, we need to do the practical things we can do here and now.

In 2012 shortly after watching a sermon from Greg Boyd:

…Boyd is very cautious about trying to read too much into the effects of weather phenomena: “It’s like reading tea leaves.” He points out that when the disciples find themselves caught at sea in a storm, Jesus, normally depicted as ‘in charge’ of the weather, actually rebukes the storm, using the same word that he would use when silencing a demon. Boyd asks, “If Jesus was in charge of the storm, why did he need to rebuke it?”

Still, there is no denying that the United States is seeing a number of modern day plagues, and since it was God himself that sent the plagues to Egypt, it is certainly easy to jump to similar conclusions with weather signs…

Last year we looked at whether (no pun intended) or not we should speak of “Mother Nature”:

…I do think that much if not all of the weather phenomena we experience is the natural consequence of living in a fallen world. When we speak questions like, “How could a loving God allow so much evil to exist?” we are usually talking about genuine evil, and not snow or drought; but it all comes under the same category. This world is broken, and we are continually adding to that brokenness through our disregard for the environment.

Is God powerless in all this? Not for a moment. I believe that God is positively disposed and favorably inclined to intervene each time someone prays, but that sometimes he holds back his hand and allows things to proceed naturally. A miracle is a miracle because it doesn’t happen every day. I don’t know if Pat Robertson really “prayed a hurricane back” from the Virginia coast in the ’70s, but I do believe that God is intervening in our planet more times than we realize. I don’t subscribe to the “clockmaker” theory that God simply “wound up” the planet and left it “ticking.” 

At the very least, the winter of 2014-15 should give us pause to consider our place in the cosmos, that we are no match for the elements, and yet for the most part we survive the winter and move on. 

Where my son is in Haiti right now, they might look at things differently however. The earthquake 5 years ago took 250,000 lives.  While the tectonic shifts are not meteorological per se, they are the effect of living in a fallen world much greatly magnified. To that, I cannot answer today, but it helps us put our weather concerns in perspective.


image: Daily Encouragement, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber

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