Categories
theology World etc.

The End Is Near!

Harold Camping has been in recent headlines as he predicts that the world will end this Saturday: May 21, 2011.

For those who don’t get to read this post until after Saturday, my apologies. Camping was wrong.

Actually, Camping says that May 21 is the first day of Judgement. The world will not be destroyed until 5 months later. Camping arrived at these figures by combining two Bible verses and a lot of date calculations. See specific details below.

Jesus himself warns us to not predict when he will return:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
Matthew 24:36

Despite this warning, there is a long line of people in history who have attempted to predict when Jesus will return.  Camping is not alone.  So far, not one of them has been correct.

One such man in the early 1800’s was William Miller.  Miller had calculated that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844 (revised from March 22).  Several of Miller’s followers had sold their farms and stood with Miller on that night in October. That night would go down among these followers as “The Great Disappointment”.  Afterward, some of Miller’s followers revised their understanding of these events and began the movement that we now know of as the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  See here for more details.

I was in college when a popular booklet was distributed, entitled, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988″.  The author, Edgar C. Whisenant, had done extensive research into arriving at the conclusion that the Rapture would occur on September 1988.  I can recall my pastor at the time critiquing Whisenant’s findings, yet commending him on his scholarship.  But Whisenant was mistaken and the rapture did not take place in 1988.

Even in our more recent past, several people believed that Jesus would return in the year 2000.  (This belief was often in conjunction with the widespread fear of Y2K computer failures).

Harold Camping himself had originally predicted that the world may end in 1994.  Once again, the passage of time has shown these people to be mistaken.

Why does Camping believe that the world will end on May 21, 2011? Camping bases his conclusions on the following premises:

  1. Amos 3:7 says that “The Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets“.  Camping takes this as a promise that God will reveal the timetable of the world’s end.
  2. In Genesis 7:4, God is commanding Noah to enter the Ark and says, “For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground“.  Camping takes from this that God will destroy the world in “Seven Days” after Noah entered the Ark.
  3. 2 Peter 3:8 says that, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day“.  Camping combines this with the Genesis account above to conclude that the “seven days” from Genesis 7:4 really mean 7,000 years.  Therefore, he concludes that the world will be destroyed exactly 7,000 years after Noah entered the Ark.
  4. Camping has concluded “by careful study of the Bible” that the flood occurred on May 21, 4990 B.C.  Therefore, 7,000 years later will be May 21, 2011.

Camping has done a lot of calculations in order to arrive at this date.  However, he has these problems in each of the above premises:

  1. He uses Amos 3:7 to prove that God will show us his timetable.  Amos 3 is warning Israel of their pending judgement.  But God also promises that he will deliver a warning through his prophets before sending judgement to Israel — a warning that God is currently doing through Amos.  There is no basis for extending the prophecy in Amos 3 beyond the Old Testament judgement on wicked Israel.  Also, Camping is equating himself (and his followers) with the Old Testament prophets.  He makes this conclusion without any basis.
  2. He uses Genesis 7:4 to set a timetable for the end of the world, yet the context of Genesis 7 is God’s command to Noah personally.  He has a week to get himself and all the animals onto the Ark.  There is no indicator here that the “7 days” has a further meaning beyond the worldwide flood of Noah’s day.
  3. He uses 2 Peter 3:8 to translate the “7 days” above to 7,000 years.  In addition to the problem mentioned above with trying to stretch the command to Noah beyond the flood, Camping is being inconsistent with translating days into thousands of years.  For example, why translate the 7 days waiting for the rain as 7,000 years, but not translate the 40 days of rain as 40,000 years?  2 Peter is not a tool to convert timetables from days to thousands of years.  Instead, a better understanding of of 2 Peter 3  is to look at 3:8-9 and realize that God will keep his promises, even if it takes a thousand years!
  4. He says that he discovered that the flood occurred on 4990 B.C. “by careful study of the Bible”.  Unfortunately, I could not find any information to support his claims for why he has so definitively chosen 4990 B.C. (There is an option to order a free book with these details, but I fear that they will not be able to ship it if the world ends).  This date is much older than any research that I have done, and it is in conflict with other Bible scholars who date the flood at approximately 2304 B.C.  See the link here for specific details on 2304 B.C.

You can see the full details on Camping’s treatise here.

What are the consequences of making predictions like this?  Unfortunately, there are two groups that are hurt by false predictions:

The first group is Camping’s followers.  Like William Miller in the 1800’s, false predictions can leave a trail of disillusioned followers.  Many of these people have contributed greatly to his cause, selling property and contributing to help spread his message.  These people have put their credibility on the line for a belief without a solid basis.  Like Miller’s followers in the 1800’s, this disillusionment can be fertile ground for new false teachings.

The second group that is hurt are those who are lost.  The mockery of a Christian leader grows as the word spreads about this prediction. Christians lose their credibility and the lost have one more obstacle in their way before they will listen to the truth about Jesus.  Regardless of attitudes, we need to pray for those around us.

What should we do?

The best advice comes from reading the rest of 2 Peter 3:

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Wait for Christ’s Return!

Be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and be at peace!

Don’t be carried away by the error of false teaching!

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Jesus can come today, tomorrow, Saturday, or any day after that!  Until he returns!

Categories
theology

Worldwide War Reports and Gilgamesh’s Flood

My mother’s father told of a great war in the 1940s and what it was like to be blown off the deck of a battleship in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  My father’s father would tell what it was like to be in the German Luftwaffe in Northern France during the late 1930s and labeled a traitor for criticizing Hitler in the 1940s in Germany during a great war.  My father’s uncle would tell what it was like to fight and freeze in Russian and be captured and sent to Siberia in a great war in the 1940s.  It was also told that another of my great uncles died in a battle outside Stalingrad in the 1940s.  All these different stories told about a great worldwide war in the 1940s.  Very different stories.  It would be absurd, however, for me to conclude that these stories were false because they reported different events from a great war.  It would be doubly absurd for me to conclude that these different stories indicate that in fact there was no great war.

Of course, that would be absurd if I was using such reasoning to disclaim that there was a historical cataclysmic worldwide war.  If, however, I was using such reasoning to disclaim the existence of a historical, cataclysmic worldwide flood, I would be a respected academic.  Steve Ham provides an excellent analysis on how ancient records to include The Gilgamesh Epic support the Scriptural history of the worldwide flood here.  A telling well worth the reading.

Categories
culture entertainment theology

Save the planet!

Save the planet!

Be kind to the earth!

This common theme runs throughout contemporary American culture.  You see it all the time in popular music,  movies, and television shows.

This issue gets hotly debated, especially across political lines.

But how often do we look to see what God has to say about the issue?

I came across this passage in Leviticus:

“Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations … lest when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.

So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”

-Leviticus 18:24-30

WARNING: This chapter in Leviticus contains a list of some of the most disgusting, vile, and deviant practices to ever be recorded in Scripture. But what is the warning? Don’t do these things “lest the land vomit you out“!

Few of us would even think to stoop to the level of depravity in Leviticus 18. But let’s celebrate the earth that God has given us by keeping our lives pure!

Categories
praise theology

Soli Deo Gloria – Salvation

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:4 -9

God’s creation walked away and rebelled against Him.  It is through Christ’s blood and the grace of God that we are saved from the consequence of our rebellion and inherent sin nature.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8, 9

Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.

As a lawyer, I “get” the debt of sin we accrue.  Christ explained to a young lawyer that the foundation of the law could be summed up in two maxims: love God with all that you are and love others as you would love yourself.  In law, those two maxims are referred to as “affirmative duties.”  They create an obligation to do something.  Whenever you fail to perform your obligation you break the law.  Accordingly, every time we fail to love God with all that we are or love others (to include our enemies) as much as we love ourselves, we sin.  That means our sins are constantly accruing.  During our “best” moments when we’re loving selflessly and/or praising God with a pure heart and righteous behavior, we’re simply not sinning.

I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. John 6:47

It’s not about us. We had nothing to do with our creation.  Our present life was an unearned gift.  We didn’t choose or earn the right to live.  We didn’t select this time, this place, or these bodies.  Life was a gift, which we cherish.

Eternal life is also a gift from God.  Our original sin was turning away from God and looking to our own ways, our own wisdom.  The world’s false religions teach us how we can or should warrant God’s approval.  That is the first principle of sin and Satan’s lie – look to ourselves first.  The way that seems “right” by our own reckoning is the path of destruction, for we are creatures of wrath warranting destruction from the eternal and perfect Creator.

Creation and salvation are about what God has already done through Jesus Christ.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!‘  Mt. 7:21-23

Testimonies on the day of judgment about how well we lived and what we did for Christ will be a denial of God’s grace.  Such testimony will reveal a soul still self-focused and oblivious to the mountain of sin in our lives.  On the day of judgment, those who rely upon themselves and what they did will be cast away as evildoers.

Jesus said, “only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  God’s will is for us to place our faith in him, in Christ, and not in ourselves. We are to look to our Lord.  Even in the Old Testament, the story is told over and over again.  God called his people to look to and rely upon Him.  Repeatedly, the people of Israel looked to their own ways, which repeatedly led to their misery and destruction.

Our salvation is to God’s glory only.  It’s all about Jesus.  It’s not about us.  Salvation is entirely through the holy blood of Christ, it is not about our sweat.  And the fantastic thing is, there is great, perfect and lasting pleasure in enjoying and praising God’s grace and perfection.  People praise because we were designed for it and it feels great.  Indeed it does.  Praise Christ, our Savior.

Categories
politics, economy, etc. theology

It’s all about me

Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. James 1:15

Representative Christopher Lee recently resigned from Congress after his overtures, fraudulent representations, and shirtless photos to a woman he found on Craigslist were exposed.  The Congressman was married.  See New York Congressman Resigns Over E-Mails The incident is a sober reminder of basic truths regarding sin.

Foremost, unrepentant sin exposes and destroys.  Sin is a cancer that ravages and eats away what is good.  Even sins from which we repent can continue causing destruction for long periods of time thereafter, both to the sinner and to those whom it affected.  While Christ’s blood washes away the weight and spiritual consequences of sin, the scars and temporal repercussions may be with us until our final breath, or Christ’s return.  Mr. Lee was at the height of his career, a national leader in the prime of his life. That’s all gone.  Career is over; he’s shamed; his name is sullied, and his family is likely devastated.

Which leads directly to a second nature of sin.  It’s insatiable.  Being a US Congressman with a beautiful family wasn’t enough.  While Christ is the living water and bread of life, sin only creates a deeper hole in our being that demands more and more to be filled.  It temporarily satiates, but the hunger returns quickly and more fiercely. There is no lasting peace or enduring joy in sin.  Sin is a ferocious lion whose end purpose is destruction.  Sin only feeds its own hunger, until it devours all whom it touches.

Third, sin is always self-centered.  The NYT’s article does an excellent job “showing” this truth. The story shows a picture the Congressman sent to the woman — a self-portrait Mr. Lee took of himself posing in the mirror, flexing his muscles.  His intentions for pursuing this woman are obvious and too common to the nature of man.  His shirtless posturing in front of the mirror captures his utter vanity, the essence of sin.  Sin starts with focusing on the self and taking our eyes off of Christ.  Sin always focuses on the self first.  If we focus on God and the needs of others before ourselves, sin falls away.  Such focus comes from Christ; it is not of the flesh.

Sin leads to suffering and death. This is appropriate.  Suffering breaks us and causes us to realize that we are not in control or in charge. It causes us to take our focus off ourselves and to reach out to God.  It was for good reason that the lost and downtrodden sought out Christ and worshipped him, while the powerful and mighty plotted against Christ.  At the end, death is the final reminder we cannot ignore that we are not in control.  God is.  And he offers the bread of life, the true source of peace and strength.

Please say a prayer for Mr. Lee and especially for his family.

Categories
theology

The Scandal of the Christ Child

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:12

The King of Creation, born a powerless babe to peasants in backwater Judea, itself a backwater of Rome, appearing to the world as nothing more than a poor bastard child. Welcomed by the company of livestock and the lowliest of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!

On December 19, Dr. Doug Bookman gave an impromptu sermon on the birth of Christ, specifically, on The Scandal of the Manger, and in the course of doing so explained relevant portions of contemporaneous Jewish culture and assailed several Christmas myths.  He spent a good amount of time explaining the prominence of the betrothal and marriage ceremony during the times of Mary and Joseph.  The marriage ceremony was a prolonged, multi-day celebration.  The event was known throughout the community and all were expected to express their support and enthusiasm.  The betrothal period was a time of anticipation as the families prepared for the celebration.

What utter shame and humiliation Mary and Joseph endured when Mary returned to Nazareth pregnant during her betrothal, and not with Joseph’s child.  It was a shame, Dr. Bookman contends, that caused them to permanently move to Joseph’s familial home of Bethlehem where Mary stayed until the time for her to give birth.  Luke 2:6.

Was Mary rejected from a public inn as conventionally told?  Dr. Bookman says “no.”  He contends that translators misinterpret Luke 2:7 when they say there was no room in the “inn” for them.  He says, it should say that there was no upper room or guest room for them.  According to Dr. Bookman, there was no such thing as an “inn” in the cities of first century Judea.  The same Greek word is used in other places throughout the NT where it is accurately translated as guest room or upper room.  See. e.g. Luke 22:11 (the guest room where Jesus held the last supper).  An upper room or guest room was an extra room families kept for honored guests.  Luke 2:6 suggests that Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem some amount of time before Mary gave birth.  Dr. Bookman believes Joseph’s family refused to host Joseph with his betrothed and pregnant wife in their room for honored guests.  Betrothed and pregnant, Joseph and Mary were anything but honorable to their kin and fellow Jews.  The best Joseph’s relatives would give them was a manger (livestock cave) on the outskirts of town. This fits the Christmas story perfectly: hardship and humility.

God mocks what we too often take for wisdom and despises man’s pride.  When God sent his son to save mankind from sin, to show mankind our Lord, he sent the Christ child to be born in the backwater province of a pagan empire.  In the backwater province, the King was conceived in one of the poorest and most remote locations.  The wife and her husband were the poorest of poor, essentially peasants and nothing resembling human royalty.  And the pregnancy was completely scandalous.  The pregnancy shamed Mary and Joseph before all of Nazareth, all of Mary’s family.  When they left Nazareth for Bethlehem, Joseph’s family rejected close fellowship with them and sent them to live with the livestock.  Sorry, we can’t put you in our guest bedroom (what would the neighbors say?), but y’all can stay in our barn on the back 40.  The Christ child was born under shameful circumstances and in squalor.  His first visitors were shepherds, the poorest and least esteemed among the Israelites. 

Welcome Lord Jesus, creator of the Universe.  Of course, this is exactly what God planned and intended and revealed through prophesies over hundreds of years.  But who would have thought THAT’s what the prophecies meant?  And few could fathom that this all-powerful King would conquer through being tortured and crucified.  He confounds the proud.  Indeed, the proud never noticed the birth of Christ. 

It is that way still.

The God of creation became flesh under the most humble of circumstances.  That God became flesh is THE miracle.  If you can have faith that the Christ child was the begotten son of God, all the rest of the New Testament, indeed, of the entire Bible, is easy to believe. 

Merry Christmas!

See also I Wonder if We Wonder by Doug Bookman.

Categories
encouragement praise theology

Forever

“No matter how great your pain is right now, it is not forever.”

I heard this quote from my pastor recently. The lesson is about our Eternal State with God himself. Forever.

We are reminded in Scripture to to focus on the forever.  The problems that we encounter here and today are nothing compared to the Forever.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, while we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I am reminded again and again how little I know about life.  I cannot even manage my own problems this week, let alone my entire life.  And my life is much more fortunate than many.

How little I know.

How little we all know about life.

We look at life as if it is about to crush us down.  We look at what we see, hear, and touch, and define this as our life.

We measure ourselves by our accomplishments and our pains that we encounter.

How little we know.

God has not made us for this 70-year span here on earth.  We are meant to be with him.  Forever.

What will life be like when finally see God?  How little will we care about our day-to-days pains from here on earth?

We will have stepped out of the shadows and will finally get to experience the REAL life.

Forever!

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:3-4

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. – Revelation 22:3


Categories
Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc. culture humor theology

I Have A Confession…

I have a confession to make…in an ever-growing culture of sound bites and video clips, I find that my life reveals “clips” that show a side of me I prefer not be known. In my role as pastor and missionary, I want people to see nothing but a courageous, faith-filled follower of Christ. My hope is that no one can see my occasionally faltering faith. Perhaps I have done a good job so far… or have I? So whether those clips have been observed or not, I have a confession I must reveal.

Before I make my transparent admission, let me tell you about the last 24 hours. Here’s the gist – I have been pursued by a loving God to face a weakness in my walk with Him. Yesterday, after a 40-day ordeal with our aging mini-van, the car broke down again. (What’s sad is that I merely drove it away from the auto shop that just finished repairing the problem. Just 10 miles down the road…viola! ) Trust God is all things? At that moment to any observer the “clip” of my life would reveal anything but a man of faith. I’m amazed to realize how God gets most of the blame for a car not running. Been there and definitely done that!

Then it happened…a long time friend drove up, offered help. However, I politely dismissed his help due to the tow truck on its way (and partly out of embarrassment). He drove away and I sat back down in the van waiting for the tow truck. (I think the driver and I are on first name basis now!) After a few minutes I decided to text the would-be Good Samaritan to thank him for stopping and offering help. But at that moment, he drove up again, jumped out of his car and declared he was not going to leave me stranded. There in the pouring rain, he assessed the problem and sought to make the minor repair to get me back on the road.

After some elbow grease and finding the right tools, the van’s engine purred back to its rustic self. My friend had accomplished what he set out to do. He even followed back me to the auto shop to drop off the car. (I felt this was my only option since the gun shop was closed!) And then he offered me a ride home. Later that night I reflected on the fact that while I was playing the blame game with God, He Himself was already in motion to show His power and care for me. My friend embodied Christ’s love in the flesh for which I am very grateful.

This morning I listened to another long time friend teach from Matthew 6:25-34 about trusting God in all matters rather than worry. This was a timely encounter with God on the subject. As I reflected on this truth I discovered that the last 24 hours revealed a great weakness in my walk with Christ.

So I have a confession (actually two):
First – there are times in my walk with Christ that I act like a Practicing Atheist. Yes, really! I view God as if He does not have control of anything in this world. He might as well be powerless to work on my behalf. Then He sends a Good Samaritan by to prove His power. But that’s not all…

Second – there are times in my Christian experience that I become a Brooding Agnostic. I see God as if He doesn’t care about my circumstances. “Hey, Lord, we’re having a crisis here, jump in anytime you desire…preferably now!” Have I dropped down on His list of priorities? Was I ever on it? Then He sends a Good Samaritan by to show how deeply He cares for me.

There – I confessed it. Now what? Train my heart to trust God: trust Him more, trust Him deeply. In Matthew 6:26 we read the words of Christ “Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.” (The Message)

Today, I’m just learning to be a trusting follower of Christ and be “careless in the care of God.”  How about you?

Categories
encouragement theology

What should we pray for?

I often think of the common child’s prayer: “bless Mom, bless Dad, bless my friends, bless my teacher, …”  Now as adults, we can make a much better sounding prayer, with much more more spiritual words.  However, how often do we really think about what we are saying when we pray for others?  What do we pray for?

I am encouraged to pause when reading the Bible when it covers a specific prayer or prayer requests. How often do our prayer requests model these precedents in Scripture?

Paul starts the letter to the Philippians with a prayer of encouragement:

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

In this prayer of encouragement, these are some of the specific requests made on behalf of the Philippian Christians:

  1. That your love may abound still more and more” – That their love (agape) would grow in abundance; more than enough
  2. “real knowledge” – That their love would be anchored in understanding and in the Truth of Scripture.
  3. “all discernment” – Also translated as “depth of insight”, that their love would show an understanding of what is good.
  4. “approve the things that are excellent” – That that they would evaluate things for what has real value
  5. “sincere” – lit. “without wax”; illustrating broken pottery that was repainted for a cheap sale.  The prayer for them is that their love and discernment would produce in them a pure faith without secret agendas or motives.
  6. “blameless” – that they would give no cause for offense; have no legitimate accusations against them
  7. “having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ” – recognizing that the only source of them being able to accomplish this was their salvation in Christ, and his ongoing work in them.
  8. “to the glory and praise of God” – the ultimate goal was for God’s glory in everything.

May we include this in our prayers for others.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Categories
politics, economy, etc. praise theology World etc.

Rights?! What Rights?!

We live in a world obsessed with personal rights.   The recent political manuverings in Washington highlight a popular worldview that everyone has extensive rights, including health care.   Many wonder, how far do personal rights extend?   However, it’s nothing new.  It’s been with us since the curse.

Yet there was One Man who lived very differently.  We read in Philippians 2:6-8 that when Christ came to our world from the Father, he set aside his rights as God to fully incarnate into humanity.  The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ, though God Himself, gave up his rights to live like, look like and be treated like God.

Imagine a king leaving the glorious and lavish environs of his palace to live among the poorest of the poor in his kingdom.  But not just for a night (as if a publicity stunt), rather for years.  Regardless of the squallor in which he lives, where he lays his head or stale bread he feasts upon, the fact remains he is still king.  Christ, the King of Kings, did just that – He left his glorious, righteous throne and laid aside his rights to live as God.

What if you were to wake up tomorrow and be summoned to court only to learn that due to enormous debt you are now a slave of your creditors – for the rest of your life!  You no longer have personal rights – where to live, what to do for a career, ownership of personal property, access to a bank account, or anything that is yours.  You are now the one that is owned.  A bit frightening isn’t it?  The prophet Isaiah foretold the Christ would not have any form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  Christ stepped in humanity not as a nobleman or into a well to do family, but as a lowly slave.  He gave up his rights to look like God.

To leave your rightful throne and live like a common slave is one thing .  To do so to sacrifice your life for wretched lost mankind is completely something different.  Scripture tells us that he humbled himself to the point of death on a cross.  The final hours of Christ leading up to the crucifixion was perhaps that most humiliating and excruciating experience anyone could ever face.  The betrayal, false trials, cruel beatings, mockings and jeerings would crush any man.  Yet Christ endured them all to rescue you and me.  He gave up his rights to be treated like God. 

What’s more amazing is that Christ gave up his these rights so that you and I would gain one of the greatest rights known to man.  In John 1:12, we read these priceless words, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

He gave up his rights so we could have the right to call heaven our eternal home. 

Thank God for the cross! 

Thank God for the empty tomb! 

Thank God he gave up his rights to rescue us.

Categories
encouragement theology

Happy Good Friday!

The irony and twists of God … a happy day because the innocent Christ was brutally slaughtered.  By the grace of God through his blood, we are saved if we will only place our faith and our trust in him.  We celebrate the price and fact of our redemption today, our eternal purchase, and at such cost.

Excerpts from Spurgeon’s sermon The Tomb of Jesus

 [W]e will stand at that tomb; we will examine it, and we trust we shall hear some truth-speaking voice coming from its hollow bosom which will comfort and instruct us, so that we may say of the grave of Jesus when we go away, “It was none other than the gate of heaven”—a sacred place, deeply solemn, and sanctified by the slain body of our precious Saviour. … 

 Away, ye profane—ye souls whose life is laughter, folly, and mirth! Away, ye sordid and carnal minds who have no taste for the spiritual, no delight in the celestial. We ask not your company; we speak to God’s beloved, to the heirs of heaven, to the sanctified, the redeemed, the pure in heart—and we say to them, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” Surely ye need no argument to move your feet in the direction of the holy sepulchre; but still we will use the utmost power to draw your spirit thither. Come, then, for ’tis the shrine of greatness, ’tis the resting-place of the man, the Restorer of our race, the Conqueror of death and hell. … 

  First, I would bid you stand and see the place where the Lord lay with emotions of deep sorrow. Oh cone, my beloved brother, thy Jesus once lay there. He was a murdered man, my soul, and thou the murderer.

  “Ah, you my sins, my cruel sins,
His chief tormentors were,
Each of my crimes became a nail,
And unbelief the spear.”

“Alas! and did my Saviour bleed?
And did my Sov’reign die?”

 I slew him—this right hand struck the dagger to his heart. My deeds slew Christ. Alas! I slew my best beloved; I killed him who loved me with an everlasting love. Ye eyes, why do you refuse to weep when ye see Jesus’ body mangled and torn? …

Come, view the place then, with all hallowed meditation, where the Lord lay. Spend this afternoon, my beloved brethren, in meditating upon it, and very often go to Christ’s grave, both to weep and to rejoice. Ye timid ones, do not be afraid to approach, for ’tis no vain thing to remember that timidity buried Christ. Faith would not have given him a funeral at all; faith would have kept him above ground, and would never have let him be buried; for it would have said, it would be useless to bury Christ if he were to rise. Fear buried him. Nicodemus, the night disciple, and Joseph of Arimathea, secretly, for fear of the Jews, went and buried him. Therefore, ye timid ones, ye may go too. Ready-to-halt, poor Fearing, and thou, Mrs. Despondency, and Much-afraid, go often there; let it be your favorite haunt, there build a tabernacle, there abide. And often say to your heart, when you are in distress and sorrow, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”

Complete sermon here.

Categories
theology

Is there anything more terrifying than the prospect of …

God’s judgment?

We like God’s love.  Is there anything more wonderful than it?

Polite company does not, however, talk about God’s judgment. It seems so out of touch with how nice things are.  The idea of an eternal Hell, wrath filled God, etc. is so entirely incongruous with Disney, Starbucks, and prime time entertainment.  I mean, Hell is passe. It’s also horribly uncomfortable to think about.  Kinda like thinking about the death of a child of someone you didn’t know very well.  Easier to just not think about it. 

Unfortunately, Hell is so entirely probable if God is perfect and/or the Bible is in any way true.  And if it’s a probable event and we know about it, it’s practically criminal to be silent about Hell.  Yet, silent we largely remain, myself included.

But who would go?  Certainly the unrepentant bad guys, Stalin, Hitler, and the criminals, especially those we hate the most, like people who do mean things to children. Most people can live with that idea.  But what about the idea of a much higher standard?  A standard of perfection?  The Adam and Eve standard.  They were cast from God’s presence and condemned to death for … eating an apple.  Disobeying God.  Departing from his will.  We depart from his will frequently if not continually.  When the foundation of God’s law is an affirmative and absolute standard of love, and it is, we typically live in a state of perpetual sin.

The Old Testament features a recurring pattern of God’s judging rebellion, e.g. Sodom, Gomorrah, Noah’s flood, and warning of a final judgment and eternal punishment, e.g. Isaiah 13; Dan. 12.  Some have suggested that the New Testament changes things, that somehow God is different or we know him more now that we know Jesus.  I find that sentiment most odd — that the God of the NT is somehow “new” or different or more “love” and less “wrath” than what we see in the OT — on at least two counts.  First,

Categories
culture theology Uncategorized

Good at Heart?

I recently saw this quote on a popular TV show:

“That man…believes that everyone is corruptible because it is in their very nature to sin.  I bring people here to prove him wrong.”  (See the entire clip here).

This quote, as expressed by the “good guy” speaks to the essence of thought in our culture: man is basically good.

The democrats in life espouse the goodness of man by believing that people will do right if they are only educated properly, given the right opportunities, etc. When we build the proper “village”, people will be good.

The republicans in life espouse the goodness of man by believing that people do right if left alone.  When we stop meddling with others, people will be good.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Bible says that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).   This is further shown in the New Testament (using Old Testament quotes):

There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together.
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.
Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,
The poison of asps is under their lips,
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness
Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Destruction and misery are in their paths,
And the path of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.

-Romans 3:10-18

Apart from God, we are all corrupt and worthless.  Even when we know God, we are not much better, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8).

We are all corruptible and sinners by nature.  Thankfully, God offers to cleanse us:

Come now, and let us reason together, says The Lord,
Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.

-Isaiah 1:18

Since God has forgiven us, we can thank him with the Apostle Paul, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.” (Ephesians 1:7-8)

No, we are far from being good at heart.  But thanks to God that he forgives us and brings us back to him!

Categories
culture theology

Really, it’s not about you

What an uncool and unpopular sentiment.  Of course it’s about YOU.  I mean, if I heard anything as a kid, it was “Have it your way” and “You deserve a break today” and “If it doesn’t make you happy …”  The entire sentiment underpinning most marketing is that it’s all about you.  It’s an easy premise to accept.  If most people are anything like me, I find it extraordinarily easy to think of myself first.  I’m a natural at it.  Based on my tenure on this globe thus far, I think this might be the most commonly shared talent.

I used to work in a ministry where we would visit church visitors.  Part of the visit was to see where they were spiritually.  One of the key questions we would ask was, “If you were to stand before God and he were to ask, ‘Why should I let you into my Heaven?’, how would you answer?”  So many church people talked about how they tried to live their lives like Jesus. The most common answer was about how they had lived.

Those responses remind me of what Jesus foretold as recalled by Matthew in chapter 7 of his book:

21Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

God wants for us to rely upon him and what he has done for us.  Our “goodness” will spring from that faith, from trusting in Christ for our strength, and from desiring to please the God that has given us everything.  Those who try to justify themselves based on their own actions will be rejected — even called “evil.”  Again, Paul warned the Corinthians (2 Cor. 10) that all glory is to God, not man:

26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Woe to the men and women who stand before God at judgement and try to explain how well they’ve lived their lives and what tragedy for them to hear, “away from me” …  Again, Paul explained to the Ephesians in chapter 2 of his letter, “8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.”  And to the Romans, “9That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Rom. 10)

All glory, honor, and power shall be to our lord and God forever and ever.

That is the way it is.  It’s not because God begrudges us attention, to the contrary, in the context of holiness, it’s a mystery why he has anything to do with our rebellion.  He is pure love.  As stated, as the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, we naturally love ourselves.  The foundation of the law is to love God with all we are and to love others as we love ourselves.  Every time we fail to do that, we rebel against God.  Hah!  I am a natural-born rebel.  On rare occasions when I selflessly love through the power of Christ in me, then, I am living as God intended.  Regardless of my rebel nature in the flesh, he covers my sin in the blood sacrifice of his son … Why?  It’s unwarranted.  I don’t know why God did it.  It’s amazing grace.  It’s all about him and what he’s done for us – our creator, our redeemer, and our perfector.  All glory and honor to Jesus Christ.  It’s not about us.  Amen.

Categories
encouragement theology

The Wisdom of God

The Wisdom of God

I have been reading through James lately and am being taught about the wisdom of God vs. the wisdom of the world.

Some attributes that we see from the world’s wisdom:

  • Feeds our own lusts (1:14, 4:3)
  • Builds within us a covetousness that develops into other sins (1:15; 4:2)
  • Enemy of God (4:4)
  • Jealous, bitter (3:14; 4:5)
  • Has no hope (3:15)

In contrast, some attributes of God’s wisdom:

Categories
encouragement theology

Do our words make us hypocrites?

“For we all stumble in many ways.  If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man, able to bridle the whole body as well…for every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.  But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” -James 3:2, 7-11

This passage of Scripture struck me as I was reading today.  How often do I have something bad to say about other people when their lives interfere with my own?  What will be my reaction to the driver who cuts me off on the way home from church tomorrow?

The challenge here in James is that it describes others as being “made in the likeness of God”.  Note also that the audience of our words is never spoken here in James — the core issue is our own heart, not with who hears us.  May we remember that about the next person who bothers or annoys us: let us remember that they are in God’s image, and may we also remember to keep our mouths shut.

Even when I am alone in my car!

Categories
praise theology

Angel Heart

Just ran across Spurgeon’s quote, “Beware of no man more than of yourself…we carry our worst enemies within us.”  While running this morning, I was listening to Todd Agnew and his song “If You Wanted Me” where he questions why God made us so prone to fall in love with the world, which is similar in theme to Spurgeon’s thought.  Agnew starts the song referencing Peter’s walking on water, which is really a clever start to the song.  Through God, all things are possible to those who believe in the name of Christ.  God reveals his strength and grace through his act of saving us and thereafter perfecting us, and His strength and grace are so apparent precisely because we are so inherently and naturally fallen and hostile to what is holy.  He overcomes and transforms our black hearts.  To Christ alone goes all the glory for creation, salvation and sanctification.  With mysterious love and through his power, He enables us to accomplish things we could never accomplish on our own.  God is great.

Categories
marriage and family theology

Marriage and Christ

My friend Anna raised some good points on her blog recently concerning marriage and love.  The longer I know Christ and the longer I’m married, the more interesting I find it that we’re betrothed to Christ.  Talk about being unevenly yoked .  First Jesus died for us, and now he’s betrothed to us?  Amazing grace.  At least for us, in our human marriages, we are to find our satisfaction and identity in Christ instead of demanding meaning and satisfaction from our spouses.  Easy to say, difficult to do.  Another mystery to me is what satisfaction Christ finds in his commitment to us?  Why does he hold us so dearly?  He who serves the least, ie us, is the greatest.  We denied and crucified him and are adulteress of heart, but yet he holds us firm in the palm of his nail scarred hands.  Amazing grace.