Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What "imminent" event should be a motivating factor in Gospel proclamation?

I keep hearing this term "the imminent return." I find it somewhat disturbing and somewhat arrogant. Those who use the term usually imply that they know Jesus' return is right around the corner despite the fact that every generation since Jesus' incarnation here on earth has believed that the his coming was right around the corner. Every generation has interpreted events of the generation as if they were fulfilling Jesus' prophecy concerning the end of days.

There seems to be a trend developing in the Church today. Along with more and more people believing that the rapture is to happen before the Tribulation there is an awful assumption being made. "If you don't accept or believe in the imminent return of Jesus you can't fully develop the sense of urgency that is needed to proclaim the Good News!" Really?! You mean to tell me that every person who believes in the imminent return of Jesus right now (which seems to be the majority of American Christians today) is out there evangelizing? Statistics concerning the growth of Christianity  in America would disagree.

Many people use the Christianese term "imminent return" as if this is the only real motivating factor for a Christian to urgently proclaim the Good News. However, consider this. There is another imminent event that every Christian should be completely aware of, and this event should also be a motivating factor in the urgency of Gospel proclamation. It is the imminent ending of one's time here on planet earth! No one knows how long they have, nor do they know the hour of their departure. James said "What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." (James 4:14)

Christians should not be looking down on brothers and sisters who may not subscribe to the "imminent return of Jesus" ideology (pre-tribulation rapture theory) that is present today. There are other motivating factors for Gospel proclamation. Christian brothers and sisters should encourage one another to give Gospel proclamation priority and see it as an urgent matter because our days here on earth are short, and we should be making the most of what we have been given. This concept in Christianity is known as good stewardship.

Things like when the rapture should happen should never be a dividing issue especially when all Christians should be motivated by the same thing when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel. The major contributing factor to the urgency of Gospel proclamation is not even the fact of our own imminent demise. The greatest motivating factor in Gospel proclamation should be one's love for and obedience to God.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

When Does the "Rapture" Happen?

I wrote this as an email with a friend who holds the pre-tribulation rapture view. Up until a couple of years ago I didn't hold a rapture view. I was "pan" in my view. I believed that everything would pan out in the end. Two years ago my men's group study went through Revelation. I was fascinated that there was no mention of the rapture there. So I began to study more and came to the conclusion that the "rapture," or the "catching up" of the saints, should not be a separated event from Jesus' second, and final, coming.

Today I finished Daniel. I know that some people read the pre-tribulation rapture into Daniel. Here is the email unedited (except for some personal stuff).

Daniel 11:2-35 pretty obviously presents historical events from Daniel's time up until Antiochus IV Epiphanes (and I believe Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter 2 and Daniel's visions in chapters 7-10 all speak of this same period). History matches with what is revealed in all of these chapters. However, at the end of Daniel 11 verse 36 there seems to be a switch that takes place. The Angel goes from speaking about Antiochus IV Epiphanes to some unknown king. So I would agree with scholars that 11:36-12:4 is concerning the endtimes and Revelation certainly fills in the gaps there.

Okay, so here is where I see support of the rapture happening when Jesus comes back for the last and final time. Chapter 12 is the end of history and the beginning of eternity. It is recorded "There will be a time of distress such as had not happened from the beginning of nations until then." Obviously the great tribulation. "But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered." I see a lot of people on the web claiming that this refers to Christians. However, Daniel is very concerned about HIS people. God reveals what he does in chapters 11 and 12 because of Daniels concern. And then you have this statement in 12:1 "But at that time YOUR people...will be delivered." So I can't buy that that verse 1c is a reference to Christians being delivered. However, verses 2 and 3 would seem to imply that the resurrection being spoken of here will be the final resurrection which of course includes Christians. The implication. Final deliverance for Israel comes at the same time as the resurrection for all God's people.

Some can make an argument about the phrase "But at that time" saying that it implies at the beginning of the "time of distress." However, I see a problem with this interpretation and it is based on translation. This phrase is a translation of one Hebrew word. The word is hiy and is a pronoun. Depending on context it can be translated that, him/her, same, this, he/she, which, who, etc... What this means is the word "that" cannot be used as an preposition (As in English. Actually, in English "that" can be used as an article, conjunction, pronoun, adverb, preposition...) It does not act as preposition to show a fixed position (first, during, after) in time. It simply means "that time" similar to the phrase "his book" or "which rock."

So in order to find the fixed position in time one must line what is revealed in Daniel up with other scriptures such as 2 Thessalonians 2.

Paul is of course is speaking to the concern of Christians about the being gathered to him (which many take as meaning rapture because the concern seems to stem from Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians where of course he speaks about being "caught up"*). Paul clearly explains in verse 3 "Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship..." (which seems to be a reference to Daniel 11:36-39). Paul further explains " in verse 8 "And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of HIS COMING." ("His coming" is the English translation of the Greek word parousia and means "presence" referring to a royal visit. It is used earlier of Jesus in verses 1 and 8 and therefore cannot refer to the lawless one).

Paul says all of this must happen before the gathering of God's people can occur.

It seems pretty clear to me that the deliverance of Israel in Daniel, and the resurrection of God's people, which includes we Christians, will occur at the same time which is at the end of time when evil is defeated once and for all. God's people will be resurrected and we will be gathered together and caught up in the air to meet our Lord and Savior. At the same time, he will not even need to set foot on the earth to defeat Satan. His mere appearance (epiphaneia "brightness," "radiance," "splendor," "glory") will vanquish the enemy.

* What did Paul reveal in his first letter to the Thessalonians? In summary, the way the passage reads cannot refer to a secret rapture but refers to the final coming of Jesus. "For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first (Resurrection in Daniel 12). Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord." (1 Thess 4:16-17).

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

When Offense Becomes Insult

Someone told me that the truth is not offensive. This was in response to me accusing them of being insulting. My response, most of the time truth is offensive. Truth is offensive in that it will always go against what is falsely held to be true. A person who believes falsely will be offended by the truth. I think there may be several reasons for this, but perhaps the biggest reason truth makes a person feeling foolish for possibly falling for a lie. When we believe certain things to be true, in particular religion, we become invested in such false truths and we live our lives upon the foundational beliefs. To have someone reveal that our foundation may be faulty causes pride which leads to a stubbornness to hold on to false belief.

This is completely natural. It has to be, for we human beings want to know everything, and yet, we cannot. We are finite beings with finite thinking, finite knowledge and have finite comprehension. It is so very important to understand the humans limitations when revealing and speaking about truth. We are all ignorant, however, it is till possible to know the truth.

Why is it important to understand this...truth about human nature? Because one of the worst things we can do is move from the offense of truth to being just plain insulting. An insult is an intentional hurting of someone else, and it has no benefit when trying to win someone over to the truth. In fact, insult hardens the heart and closes the ears.

I'll give some examples that closely resemble some things I have seen on a facebook page where Christians and Muslims come together to debate.

The truth, according to us Christians, is that Muhammad prophesied falsely.

One can speak the truth like this and it will still offend the Muslim. How can it not offend them when they believe Muhammad is the final prophet of God?

Or, according to the Muslim, Jesus is not the Son of God but only a prophet.

Again, a Muslim can speak this truth (as they see it) and still offend the Christian. How can this statement not be offensive when the Christian believes Jesus was not just the Son of God but also God in the flesh?

Compared to insult, offense is much easier to get over. Especially if one considers how the other person sees the "truth." But insult, as stated before, is meant to hurt. It is meant to be so offensive that the other person will either make mistakes in their response or quit responding at all. It is meant to have a sense of victory where there is no real victory at all. (Why, because the real victory is getting to see someone accept the truth not run away from it).

Examples of insult would be...

"Your 'prophet' is nothing but a lying sack of garbage and you are the idiot who fell into it!"

Or, "You're so stupid you believe in a god who impregnated his own mother and claimed to be his own dad. Whose the idiot now?!"

These are insults added to the truth and they do nothing to help the truth (or perceived truth). They do more damage than good. The beauty about truth, if it is truth, it will stand on its own. Truth is powerful that way.

The Apostle Peter writes

"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil."

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Pe 3:13–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Peter understood the offensiveness of the truth, and that is why he exhorts Christians to witness with "gentleness and respect, having a good conscience." Why is having a good conscience important? Peter is basically saying to leave the conversation having done your best to love like Jesus and not having intentionally done anything that might jeopardize the response to the Gospel message. Basically, you shouldn't be the reason someone rejects the gift of salvation. That is why he continues by saying that even when you are slandered your character (which comes out in your behavior) will put them to shame.

So I encourage all who are engaged in disseminating lies and revealing truth so just simply speak the truth with love, gentleness and humility. Remember that it will offend and there is no need for greater offense through insult. Don't count it a victory if you just shut someone down. Count it a victory when they realize and understand the truth you have.

Monday, October 17, 2016

When Does it Become Gossip?

Just doing some thinking. What really defines gossip as opposed to sharing information for the purpose of prayer? I ask because, even in light of the fact that some Christians use the opportunity to "pray" as an opportunity to gossip, other Christians will use the excuse of not gossiping to not pray for and even ignore the sin of a brother or sister. We get the idea that we shouldn't discuss the sins of brothers and sisters in Christ with each other because it is gossip, but is it?

Jesus commands us to confront one another when sinning. If no repentance takes place we are to confront that person with a couple of other people. That requires talking about a person's sin amongst concerned brothers and sisters.

I think gossip really has to do with the heart more than anything else. Gossip is malicious and lacking in love. Gossip is selfish for it is done to make one's self look good. It does not take into consideration the person the information is about and how the divulging of that information will negatively affect that person. In fact, it doesn't care, or it maybe even done maliciously.

I believe it is important that sins are made known amongst those who are suppose to be caring for one another. I believe we are each other's keeper. There is a fine line to walk between gossip for selfish purpose and the decimating of information in order to help a person through prayer and accountability.

We need to be very careful when we speak of others and their sin. We shouldn't completely avoid such talk, but we need to be wise when we do. The purpose of such talk must be for the benefit and edification of our brother or sister.

If we really care for one another we are going to find loving ways to confront sin. Prayer is essential. The more people praying the better. Support is essential, the more caring people there are supporting and encouraging the better. The more open and known our sin is the better it can be dealt with within a loving community of believers.

Something to think about.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Can Physical Healing Be Found In Jesus?

When I teach on Sunday mornings I have a particular point, or lesson, in mind. Case in point, this Sunday's teaching was concerning the need to test man's teaching for, as John says, there are antichrists among us who have come out from us. In stressing the point that we can identify false teachers by the examining of the gospel they present I used an example. I examined the gospel of Ricky Edwards who was the evangelist for the Kingman tent revival held a couple of months ago and supported by some churches in Kingman. Ricky holds that the Gospel message not only promises salvation but guarantees healing as well (the inference being made by using Psalm 103:3 as a proof text).

When I teach, with a particular point in mind, it can be easy for things said to be misconstrued especially if what I am teaching seems to go against a held belief. Case in point, I made the statement that one would be hard pressed to find scripture that guarantees healing for the Christian (much less it being a part of the Gospel message). What some may have heard me say was that Christians shouldn't believe that God heals.

It is important to me that what I teach be understood in proper context, and not false implications made. On Mondays I will be posting on my blog, and sending out a churchwide email, that will followup on the preceding Sunday's teaching. It will do one of two things. It will attempt to clear up any misunderstanding and/or give further thoughts concerning the subject.

Today I want to clear up a possible misunderstanding. Can physical healing be found in Jesus? The answer is, absolutely! But is physical healing guaranteed? Absolutely not! Jesus very obviously can heal. He did so while here on earth, and being in nature God, he has the power to heal today. In fact he does heal today. One cannot ignore the many miraculous healings that occur in this present age.

Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?) there is no guarantee that God will heal, no matter how much faith on has despite the number of teachers who say so. Is it wrong to believe God can heal or to pray for healing? Absolutely not! Is it wrong to expect God to heal? I believe it is. Some might claim this is a lack of faith, but I claim it is greater faith. What is easier to believe? Is it easier to believe that God will heal, or is it easier to believe that God has a plan that brings glory in the midst of one's suffering? It is easier to believe in healing for the desire to be healed is a selfish desire. What I simply mean by this is that it is far easier to focus on one's self than it is to focus on what may benefit others. Therefore faith in God's ability to heal is easier than faith in God's ability to use one's suffering to help others. God may have a reason for physical suffering, and it may involve the salvation of others. Of course this is harder to accept because it means one may have to continue to suffer and not experience healing.

The fact is God can and often uses suffering to increase faith. As faith increases the concern for self decreases. The very nature of faith brings our fears and concerns about ourselves to cessation as we believe and understand that God will do and provide what we need. Faith enables us to focus on others as John says is the evidence of salvation.

Can God heal? Absolutely! Can we expect to be healed? Not always. What can we expect? God's will to be done in our lives when we submit and have faith in his perfect and divine nature.

Again, the point of Sunday's teaching is to examine man's teaching. Examine the Gospel message taught, and compare what is taught to the revealed scripture. By this we avoid slipping into error. We will be held accountable for what we accept as truth.

Another issue I would like to try and clear up is the correct understanding of prosperity. People mostly think in terms of financial and material prosperity. This is rather unfortunate (and reveals the continued contention with flesh and selfishness) for the prosperity of God surpasses such petty things as money and stuff. Even so, does God financially and materially prosper those who follow him? I believe he definitely can. I previously said as faith increases the concern for self decreases. So the question I must ask is, why would God financially prosper only to have the concern for self increase? I don't presume to completely understand God and his mind, but in general I don't believe he would do something that would take us further from him. As long as a person is concerned about self I don't think they should expect for God to prosper them in such a way, but if the concern is truly for others and not for self one would probably most likely be unaware of God's financial prosperity as the more they are given the more they give in loving others. In fact, what they most likely will be even more aware of is an increasing joy that only comes from loving others as Jesus loves (talk about prosperity!). Overall, I caution anyone in believing and expecting that God will prosper them financially and matetially (as I cautioned with the expectation of healing). What is at issue is God's will. We can stand firm on the promise of Jesus that our needs will be met. What more do we personally neec? Such a promise frees us from concern of self and allows us to focus on truly loving others. In this way God is free to work through us. If he prospers us financially and materially it is simply because he expects us to use it to love others.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Is Happiness All There Is?

Happiness. It is one of the many answers to the philosophical question "What is life all about?" It is the foundation on which many ethical theories rest (egoism, utilitarianism, etc...). It is also used in the attempt to discredit Christianity or question the God taught by Christianity. 

Over the course of the last few days it has become obvious that many people think happiness is all there is to this life, but I have to ask the question. Is happiness all there is?

Here are my thoughts. 

1. If happiness is all there is then life is pretty pointless. In view of the fact that we are all mortal and will some day die then I think the idea that the ultimate goal on earth is happiness is complete nonsense. What's the point? I'm happy now but when I die I will not remember it because happiness was all there was when I was and now I am not! I would argue that happiness is not the ultimate goal but, from a biological standpoint, survival and perpetuation of my genetic material would be (fortunately I am not an evolutionist).

2.  The kind of happiness I think most people are looking for is a non-stop/eternal type of happiness. The truth is, no one will ever achieve the kind of happiness they seek on this earth. It is completely impossible. Life is filled with pain, suffering, evil and selfishness. There will always be heartbreak, loss, and sadness. As long as we live in a world where there is evil (both natural and selfish driven) then lasting happiness will never be attainable. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

3.  Happiness, by definition, is an emotion and as such emotions come and go. This relates to number 2, but there will always be something that causes the emotion of happiness to cease or it just plain wears off. Happiness is not an emotion that is maintainable. It is simply impossible. 

Based on just these three thoughts I have to come to the conclusion that there has got to be something more to life than happiness. 

True Agape

What is agape love? Agape was a generic word for love that was hijacked by Christians. It became a word that was used to describe God's "unconditional" love. 

We often use it when we tell each other to love like Jesus, but what does it mean to love unconditionally? You see, many Christians use agape the same way the world uses tolerate. What I mean by this is if Christians are to love like God then we must accept everyone and everything about them. Question, I thought we are suppose to influence the world and not the other way around?

Agape is not the same as the world's definition of tolerate. God's agape love is this... All people, no matter what they have done, can receive salvation. It is not limited to the "good" or "qualified."

That is God's agape love, but we have to also remember that God hates sin. He loves us so much that he is unwilling to allow sin to reign in our lives. The greatest act of his love was allowing his son to take our place on the cross. He hated sin so much, and loved us so much, that he gave us a way to be reconciled to him. So obviously he does not just accept us and our sin unconditionally.

We as Christians need to understand the difference. We love the sinner and hate the sin. When it comes to the non-Christian the most important thing is to show them the love of Christ and point them to Jesus as Lord and Savoir who will convict of sin. When it comes to the Christian it is important that we confront sin and seek their repentance. We cannot tolerate sin in the church.

Jesus showed us how this is to be done in Matthew 18:15-20 (Mind you early texts do not contain the words "against you." It simply says "If your brother sins...") After sin has been confronted and there is no repentance then we go back to square one with the person and see and treat them as unbelievers.

This is Christlike love. Christlike love is doing the best and right thing for others, and it is different from agape. How does agape play a part in the life of a Christian? No Christian has the right to condemn an unbeliever. What I mean by this is we don't get to pick and choose who we share the Gospel message with. Salvation is not our call. We are called to share the love of Jesus with all.

If you use agape to say tolerate then you need to stop. God does not tolerate. Sin will be dealt with one way or another. I love my Christian brothers and sisters. I will continue to expose and confront sin. If you love me you will do the same for me.