Why church matters matter . . . Revelation and deception

seekersI’ve been working on a post on Rev. 13:16-18 and in doing some commentary diving, was struck by Greg Beale’s commentary on Rev. 13:11.  The passage of Rev. 13:11-14 sets the backdrop of my next post and Beale’s poignant assessment of what this passage is saying;

And I saw another beast coming out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. And he exercies all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. And he performs great signs, so that even he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast who, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.

As I indicated in my post on reading Revelation, it helps if we understand Revelation to be a series of visions that describe the goings  on of what happens between the first and second Advent of Christ, these visions describe the reality of what occurs during that period particularly in relation to the opposition that comes against Christ’s church. In other words, it doesn’t help to see these visions transpire after the church is taken out of the way via a Rapture and isolated to a 7 year period, but rather describes happens from the tine of Christ’s ascencion until his return. As evidenced by the presence of the church, very much describes the onslaught of deception that eventually pits the mainstream culture against Christianity. (It also helps to see chapter 13 as a reflection of a larger series of visions beginning at 12:1). By way of observation in our culture, I have much to say about this, which I’ll get to in a bit, but I found this section from Beale compelling and sobering. Continue reading

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Mary, Martha…and Scripture?

I’ve been pondering this past Sunday’s sermon on Luke 10:38-42, Mary and Martha

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

mary at Jesus feetWhile I have heard sermons on this passage dozens and dozens of times, I’ve not quite heard the inextricable link of sitting at Jesus’ feet and believing God’s word. I had typically heard the sermon on this passage in the context of prayer, worship, “being still,” etc vs. the busyness of doing. But in consideration of the redemptive narrative of Scripture, making Jesus the priority is more than the activities we engage in but the orientation of our hearts, which starts and ends on the surety of Scripture – what God has actually said. Considering that Scripture testifies to the incarnate Word, this connection made perfect sense to me.

The other day I came across a blog post with yet another progressively oriented Christian proudly patting herself on the back that she had moved away from the doctrine of inspiration. She was so pleased with herself having resolved the mystery of God’s breathed out word through human authors. They were, after all, merely human and probably got a lot of things wrong, she reasoned. It was ok to no longer wrangle over the unpleasant parts of Scripture because it’s too stressful to handle the tension of believing this is what God says and does when confronted with all the inconsistencies the mind cannot fathom. How many people claiming to sit at Jesus feet have said this? Continue reading

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. I’m not saying don’t hope for change. Yes, let’s hope, pray and expect.

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, and that you might serve his body more faithfully. Continue reading

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 and 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 growing 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

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