A good way to undermine Christ’s mission

Anger 2I want to leverage the sermon from church this past Sunday to point out some observations I’ve made over the course of my Christian life and a quote from a book that I greatly appreciate.

The sermon, titled Remember Christ’s Mission came from Luke 9:51-56

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went to another village.

A good point that was made about this passage is that Christ’s mission is not to condemn. Now that might raise the hackles on the back of necks especially from those who are quick to point out how much the topic of sin is neglected from the pulpit these days (as if we have a reasonable sample of what all churches are preaching). In fact, I often wonder if this rush to make sure sin is pointed out is to make sure the person knows they can’t get away with anything.  Continue reading

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Christians, let’s re-think this new year’s tradition…

new years clockI don’t want to be one of those kinds of Christians, hyper-critical and disrupting cherished beliefs simply because I see problems with it. I recognize that some of our practices, rightly or wrongly, can become so ingrained because of teaching that has influenced us, that animosity will possibly result from anyone who tries to knock it out of our hands.

But there’s something I do want to address, that runs rampant in some Christian circles, some more than others. I’m not addressing this merely because I believe it’s inconsistent with the whole counsel of Scripture, which it is or because I disagree, but because of the implications that it can have especially for those young in the faith.

It is simply this: declaring what God is going to do in the new year. This typically comes in the language of “breakthrough” – answers to prayers, financial gain, better circumstances, overcoming sinful patterns or bad habits – basically a change because you declare it to be so. Often this is prompted by the proclamations of church leaders under the guise of prophecy, that this is “your year.” My friend Ekemini said it best in her excellent piece at Reformed Margins;

[T]his is the time of year that our social media timelines, news feeds, and even television commercials teem with declarations from false prophets who boldly prognosticate about the impending new year.

They “decree and declare”—through memes no less—that 2016 is your year! Deceptively they tell their followers to simply “Claim riches, health, and prosperity! Bind death, destruction, and poverty. Do this and 2016 will be yours!” Never mind that they said the same about 2015, 2014, and so on. God is doing a “new thing” in 2016!

Now before I go on and discuss why I think we need to re-think this “tradition,” please hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying we should not expect for God to move in our lives. I’m not saying that we should not hope for answered prayers and we definitely should hope to change.

But it’s something else to impose upon God’s agenda what he will do in your life. I hate to bust bubbles, but we really don’t know what’s going to happen in the way of breakthroughs. People can declare and decree that 2016 will be their year, that won’t change God’s sovereign hand. Yes, pray for change, pray for open doors, pray for those trials and circumstances. But also pray that you might know Christ better, that you might know the power of his resurrection. Continue reading

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My love for Jesus is not enough…

hands with heartI’ve been a Christian for a long time. I came to faith in Christ my freshman year in college, 1982. I was pretty pumped up initially. I read the Bible like crazy, rarely missed church, bible study and other Christian gatherings within my circles.

But after some time, something interesting began to emerge. My zeal for the Lord began to hit some lethargic patches. The trials of life, temptation of sin and general distraction slowly ate away at my walk and after a few years, dropped me into a 13 year rebellious period.

But after I came back, I noticed something all too familiar, a strange blend of zeal mixed with a dull sense of just can’t quite get it together. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the Lord. I loved him deeply and truly. I have no other choice really. A passage of Scripture that profoundly impacted me then in 1999 and still impacts me to this day is found in John 6:66-69. After Jesus touched people with miracles that gained a pretty following, he then began to lay down the truth about himself;

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

The older I get in the Lord, the more Paul’s words resonate with me of being a bond-servant of Christ. There are times when I’ve wanted to run and hide, but to where? There is no other place to go than to the sweet arms of Christ…even when I feel my love for him weakens and fails. Continue reading

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Does 1 Thess 5:1-11 indicate a seven year tribulation?

rapture w buildingsI’m continually mindful that we often read presuppositions into the biblical text especially when convinced of a particular position. I think it’s just natural to do that. My shifting views on eschatology that is causing me to re-examine portions of Scripture with fresh eyes continues to affirm this.

As I indicated in my posts on the book of Revelation, this has struck me so powerfully how much I presumed a dispensational premillennial reading of Scripture. This then gets imposed onto key proof-texts that those of the dispensational stripe promote as proof of this system. In terms of eschatology, that primarily means a pre-tribulational rapture of the church followed by a seven year great tribulation before Christ renders final judgment.

Now I get that when determining if certain passages mean one thing or the other, it’s easy to be influenced by well-studied commentators with persuasive arguments especially if it concurs with a position you are already warm to. It does take a bit of honesty to recognize where they or YOU could have blind spots or want to hold on to a position or just be plain wrong.

But I’ve also discovered in the midst of doctrinal shifts and re-examining of positions, that sometimes you get hit with passages that you’re not even looking at to persuade you of one position or the other. They just further affirm that you weren’t crazy to change your mind.

And so it was, as I was reading through 1 Thessalonians with no angle or inquiries other than to just let the text speak into my life for fuel and comfort, that a particular proof-texted passage just jumped out at me. After a few readings, it became so obvious how it was yet another instance of a dispensational perspective being imposed on the text.

Now, I have concluded for a while that 1 Thess. 4:13-18, does not reference a pre-tribulational rapture and that Paul’s use of “caught up” references the custom of that day to go out and meet a visitor and accompany them into the arrival destination. As I’ve delved into this topic, it’s become clearer to me that Christ will come back once and it won’t be a quiet affair. The rapture spoken of here correlates to 2 Thess. 1:7-8; 2:1 and Rev. 1:7 when Christ returns to judge the world and set everything right. Continue reading

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On speaking things into existence and the biblical narrative

mouth open_lifeIn my last post, I opened up my discussion on how we read the book of Revelation with a personal anecdote of how we bring presuppositions into reading the Bible. The specific example I used was a belief that I had for many years, which is that God gave Christians the ability speak things into existence and are required to do so. You can read here on how that unraveled for me just by reading one verse in its proper context. Romans 4:17 – calling things that be not as though they were.

It is so painfully obvious that Paul is not saying Abraham was to call those things that be not as though they were. Paul is saying that Abraham’s faith is being credited to him for righteousness because of his belief in the God who calls those things that be not as though they were. In other words, it is God and God alone who can speak anything into existence. You cannot possibly derive that we are called to speaking things into existence from this passage.

So why did I believe for so many years that this passage supported the notion of speaking things into existence even though I had read this book many times? I’ll tell you why. It is because this concept has been so pervasive in a strain of evangelicalism that it gets read into the biblical text. It is because the concept has been so popularized and regurgitated that it has become like a major doctrine in some parts.

If you believe that God has given his creatures this ability, that our words somehow contain power to create conditions in circumstances and that God only moves according to this power, please keep reading. I want to challenge you on the biblical narrative itself. Continue reading

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