The Eclipse of Wisdom

Solar Eclipse

As far as we can tell, Christians predicting the end of the world have gotten it wrong every time so far, and this trend shows no signs of ending. Wait… signs? Did I say signs? Sorry… what was I thinking!

We could help the cause of the Gospel (which includes our public image) by no longer claiming that everything is a sign of the end. Whether it’s a President we don’t like (I’m looking at both parties here), the return of ugly fashions, or strange patterns on tortillas, we just can’t seem to help ourselves. Everything seems to portend the Antichrist just ahead, waiting at the next truck stop. And a solar eclipse obviously ratchets this sort of thing up to the next level.

One pastor is quoted as saying that today’s “Great American Total Solar Eclipse” could possibly fulfill the prophecy of Joel that the sun will be turned to darkness before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. While I do believe in that prophecy, which I think has already happened once (Acts 2) and will happen again (Matthew 24, Revelation 6), has anyone done a quick Google search to see that there are about two total solar eclipses every three years? Which of these 65 or so eclipses in a century, over 1000 since the time of Christ, is the right one to herald His return?

 

Just wait till next year: 2018 will be a doozy!

Other folks are fired up about a supposed sign in the stars that’s coming next month. And just wait until next year! In 2018, people will be speculating hard again about the End, because 2018 marks 70 years since Israel’s rebirth as a nation-state. (Trust me, I’ve already heard this one, and you’re definitely going to hear it also.) After all, these people say, it’s been 70 years, and that makes one biblical generation. And don’t forget, Jesus said this generation won’t pass away until all these things come to pass.

Two problems with this thinking leap out at me, and they should leap out at you, too:

  • What generation was Jesus talking about? Ask five scholars and you’ll get six answers.
  • And how long is a generation anyway? Why pick a 70-year generation? Why not a 120-year generation like it was with Noah, or maybe the evil generation of 40 years under Moses? Of course, we also read in the Psalms that our days are 70 years – however, our lifespan is apparently 80 years if we’re strong! Confused yet? You will be.

 

Time out! (Please?)

Let’s call “time out” on this kind of speculation. We’ve already had too many of these self-inflicted wounds. You probably remember the Harold Camping debacle of a few years ago. I grant you that date-setting was only one of Mr. Camping’s theological quirks, but modern media and the sheer stubbornness and implacability of today’s Christians guarantee that anything strange we say will be widely disseminated.

It’s worth noting that the eclipse story I quoted above came from the “weird news” section of the newspaper. That’s never where we want to be, if we can help it. Let’s stop terrifying ourselves and stop amusing unbelievers unnecessarily.

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Books That Shape Us

old-books

From time to time someone will mention a book to me and I find myself saying, “Oh! That’s in my Top Ten List!” So, I figured I would sit down and see if I really do have a Top Ten List. These are ten books that shaped me as a younger believer, or that shaped my thinking about ministry. None is academic; I think all are accessible. Here they are, in no particular order. There might just as easily have been twenty, I suppose.

1. Spiritual Authority, by Watchman Nee
2. God Meant It For Good, by R. T. Kendall
3. The Making Of A Man Of God, by Alan Redpath
4. The Prophetic Ministry, by Rick Joyner
5. Humility, by Andrew Murray
6. How To Be Born Again, by Billy Graham
7. The Holy Spirit And You, by Dennis & Rita Bennett (so helpful back in the day!)
8. Rees Howells, Intercessor, by Norman Grubb
9. Prayer Series, by E. M. Bounds
10. Power Healing, by John Wimber

What about you? Do you have a Top Five or a Top Ten you’d like to share?

Betraying the Son of Man

Photo posted by U2 on Instagram
Photo posted by U2 on Instagram (https://instagram.com/p/2-ON_VAF1Q/?taken-by=u2)

An interesting bit of news. As Ireland votes on whether to allow homosexual marriage, U2 frontman Bono has come out in favor of a “Yes” vote and was quoted as saying, “Marriage is now an idea that transcends religion.”

So you see, this is how you can claim to be a committed Christian and yet not have to face the scorn of the world for saying that marriage is only between a man and a woman. You just say that marriage has nothing to do with religion.

That may be a coherent line of thinking in the opinion of someone who does not profess to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but it can never be considered “wholesome words” for someone who truly loves God and His Word.

No Christian can ignore the fact that the very first recorded words of a human being are these:

“This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23 KJV)

After telling us this, Moses, the founder of Western Civilization (may it rest in peace), immediately comments, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24 KJV)

Read the beautiful creation story in Genesis 2 and you will see that marriage was God’s idea. The man-woman bond was reinforced in the Law of Moses and, despite what homosexual activists say, was restated by the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles Paul, Peter, Jude, and John in the New Testament.

And U2? The band posted on its Instagram (see photo above) a phrase from Bono’s song, “Pride (In The Name Of Love).” The song, which has a social justice theme, contains a line about Jesus:

“One man betrayed with a kiss…”

I wonder if we’re doing the same.

Victory is Assured

550px-Africa_(orthographic_projection).svg

In an article entitle History in Maps, Philip Jenkins takes a look at the phenomenal spread of Christianity in Africa over the last 100 years. I don’t know if there’s been anything like it in history. Surely it has come at a great cost in tears and blood. But the victory of God is assured. Jesus said that the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness, and then the end will come.

The religion which opposes the Gospel in Africa teaches that the end of days will not come until the last Jew is slain – a message of death! But the Christ of the Gospel says the end of days won’t come until every nation has had the opportunity to hear how God became a man (became a Jew, in fact!) to die on our behalf – a message of life!

The victory of the Gospel is assured, as we used to sing:

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before!

[Image Credit: Martin 23230 under CC BY-SA 3.0]

How to “Reach the World”

earth and sunWorldly thinking and worldly ways can never help the Christian reach the world.

Why?

It’s because the Kingdom of Christ is upside down. It doesn’t work by the principles of this world. It enters this realm as a face full of cold water, demanding that we awaken to our real condition and hear the heavenly summons.

The Kingdom of God, no matter its benefits, is distasteful to Man. Jesus said that the things which are highly esteemed by men are an abomination to God. This is strong language, to be sure, and yet Christ is the King of a Kingdom where God deliberately chooses things that are weak to confound the strong, and picks foolish things to humiliate the wise.

Mighty kings of Earth make golden statues to their own supremacy and boast of “thousand-year reichs,” but the One who really is coming to reign 1000 years took the form of a servant. He washed the dirty feet of those who had pledged to obey him.

Only those who possess that holy, upside-down kind of life and love will thrive in the new kind of world we seem to be entering. It is only the people who truly know their God, as the angel told Daniel, who will be strong and do exploits at the “end of days.”

So do we know Him? Not just in the sense of “being saved,” but knowing His ways, knowing the things He approves and the things that grieve Him? Can we embrace the reproach of Christ and His Kingdom and be willing to be “the Other?”

The apostles of Christ would counsel us that only there, in the embracing of the reproach of Christ, do we find the release of Resurrection Life that we and the world stand in need of:

…I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:8-11)

Do Evangelicals support Israel because they want Jews dead?

 

Why do Evangelicals support Israel? I was happy to see an article in the Washington Examiner asserting that Christians support Israel because of God’s promises to Abraham and his descendants, and not because of some twisted desire to see Jews slain or something similar.

Straight to the point is David Brog, a director of Christians United For Israel, and himself a Jew who does not believe in Jesus:

“Any one who says that evangelical support for Israel is all about somehow speeding the end times, bringing Jesus back, [and killing or converting Jews] … any one who does that is showing their own ignorance.”

Whatever your position, I encourage you to read the article and Brog’s comments carefully. As the tweet above shows, we commonly hear the complaint that Christians support Israel or Jews in general because we want them to die. Which, of course, makes no sense whatsoever.

This is a slander which does indeed show a frightful ignorance of what the New Testament teaches: that the coming Antichrist will persecute Jews and all who “have the testimony of Jesus Christ,” a phrase which refers to people who profess faith in Jesus as the Son of God. This takes place during the three-and-a-half years before Christ’s return to Earth.

And the dragon was enraged with the woman [Israel], and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 12:17)

In other words, we are in this thing together.

As Brog correctly says, Christians do not believe that we can force God’s hand or by human agency set end times events in motion. (Again, Brog is Jewish!) Jesus said that the timing of the Kingdom is a matter which belongs to the mind and purpose of God alone.

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. (Acts 1:6-7)

The malicious statements about Christian Zionists and all Evangelicals that we see on TV and social media are nothing more than politically-motivated fabrications. They are poisonous nuggets of propaganda meant to advance the goals of the secular Left and fundamentalist Islam, two hateful forces which are very strange bedfellows indeed, and who can only unite around their anti-Semitism and antichrist spirit. (Woe to the world when they finally fall out!)

In order to demonstrate true love for Israel, and for Muslims, too, let us be prepared to counter this flood of lies with the truth spoken in Christian love and longsuffering.

Debbie Downer or Joy Unspeakable?

joyful

Which are you? Which should you be?

Some Christians take verbal swipes at other believers whom they consider too frivolous, urging them to be more sober. Others poke their fellow saints for being too serious and tell them to lighten up.

Consider that both kinds of “tweaks” can be soulish in their source. While we’re always called to have have the joy of the Lord in our hearts, there is a time to be measured, reflective, and serious. There is also a time to celebrate, rejoice and be “exceedingly glad.” The key is to know how the Holy Spirit is moving – how is He expressing His own powerful emotions at the moment?

There is an off-putting kind of spirituality which interrupts a meditative moment with a call to be light-hearted — and the opposite is of course true, when overly-serious saints stifle the praises of Zion. By following the Spirit we will reflect His own heart, as He mingles joy and sobriety without confusion or unseemly behavior.

It’s worth recalling that Peter begins his first Letter by telling us to be sober, while only a few verses before he had reminded the believers that their walk was characterized by “joy unspeakable and full of glory!”