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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What Are They Thinking About?

Clearly churches have their work cut out for them.

This is an eye-opening look at what Google thinks (knows!) people in my locality are asking.

It’s a window into their real worries and fears, not what they claim those fears to be. Both the Church and individual Christians need to be prepared to address their concerns with a Gospel that is still “relevant,”  the Gospel that makes you relevant, the Gospel of a Savior.

The Facebook Dream

dolphin-203875_1280

The other night, I had a strange dream. In this dream, I jumped onto Facebook and to my surprise my feed was full of stories about men who thought they were women, women who thought they were men, and even one guy who had his ears removed and otherwise altered himself so he could live as a dolphin.

What’s worse, there were pictures!

But then I woke up and discovered that it was not a dream at all. It was all true, every bit of it.

Even the dolphin guy.

Then I woke up spiritually and I realized that I was in a different world from the world I had known. In the world I had known, gasoline was 29 cents. In that world, men wore hats, and women wore dresses. There was no designated-hitter rule, and in that world I sang “Silent Night” and “The Dreidel Song” in public school Christmas concerts with my Jewish friends. In that world I had marched on the Fourth of July in my Cub Scout uniform while World War II veterans in their 40’s marched with us in civilian clothes, laughing and having a good time. I realized that the world I had known was really gone.

Suddenly I realized something else, too. I realized that Christians had stepped into an online mousetrap.

I saw that God’s people were discouraging and even defiling themselves by keeping tabs on the disintegration of society. They were studying with great earnestness all the latest shocking evils and sharing stories about these evils with their friends. Without knowing it, they were even causing their children to learn things adults didn’t yet know when I was a boy. They had forgotten the warnings of Scripture: David had said he would set no wicked thing before his eyes; Paul had said it was a shameful thing even to speak about the things that wicked people do in secret. But God’s people had become knowledgeable about many evils.

I remembered how Jesus said that because of iniquity the love of many would grow cold. But looking at iniquity, learning about iniquity, and getting enraged at iniquity was how we Christians were spending our moments of relaxation. The Bible and prayer had become neglected things for many, and instead of moving in the power of the Spirit, we were actually fighting against the Dolphin Guy with weapons that could never un-dolphin him. Much like Lot, sitting in the gates of that other Sodom, we were vexing our souls day and night instead of being refreshed in God’s Presence with Abraham.

Now fully awake, I had learned that what we needed was not to study the darkness and keep announcing its triumphs, but rather to shine the Light. That Light would help other people wake up, too.

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.

The mystery of the missing Millennials

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It may be bad form in 2015 to disagree with Rachel Held Evans too much, but perhaps the lack of Millennials in the pews will not be solved by offering an experience of a God who is somewhat tangible in bread and chrism.

In last week’s super-viral piece in the Washington Post, Ms. Evans skillfully calls out the hip Evangelical worship paradigm, but is veering towards sacramentalism the answer?

I don’t think so. I think the reason Millennials aren’t in the pews is simply because they have no Christian cultural background that makes going to church part of being an American. In a great many parts of our country, going to church is just not something you do any more. (So I can at least acknowledge their lack of hypocrisy.) And the culture has changed so completely in the past 50 years that we have jettisoned what was affirmed for the last 3,500 years.

The consequences? To give just one example, teens and 20-somethings come into churches already “knowing” that there is nothing wrong with gay marriage, to say nothing of homosexual activity. How do they know this? They know this because it’s what everyone in their world believes and knows. So when, as a young person, you go to a church and hear someone reading Romans 1 from the pulpit, you are outraged and you want to call the Human Rights Commissions. You do not cringe with disgust or cover the ears of your kids as your grandfather did in 1955.

So, with due respect to Ms. Evans, encountering God in a “sacrament” is meaningless without the content of faith (the Word) which is behind it, and giving God’s own definition to it. The baseline of the Gospel (which everyone’s flesh hates) is the call to repentance – to yield to God’s diagnosis of my condition and to yield to His prescription for my condition.

Under the wisdom of such a Physician, “culture-war sins” such as abortion and homosexuality are ills just as dangerous for the human condition as the sins that Left and Right can agree to denounce such as greed, racism, and theft. When the Church refuses to say so, Millennials – and others – will not only be missing from the pews, but they will miss their opportunity for repentance and life.

Reading Some Old Letters

Bible_Savio Sebastian

About a week ago, controversial pastor Rob Bell told Oprah Winfrey that the Church is “moments” away from accepting gay marriage:

“… I think culture is already there, and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense…”

Bell’s comment proves we are never static in our view of God’s Word. We are either increasingly devoted to it with the passage of time, or else we move in the opposite direction: first neglecting it, then questioning it, and then rejecting it.

But once people reject the Word of God they never stop there… they go further, and end up despising it, even disparaging it to others.

As Psalm 1 shows us, once we heed the counsel of the ungodly, we end up sitting in the seat of the scornful. Bell ridicules the Word as something we have outgrown in our current state of societal sophistication. But his statement is not sophisticated – it’s sophomoric, and blasphemous.

Was the Apostle Paul unaware of the “modern” issues we grapple with? Were there no homosexuals in the Roman Empire? What conceit and self-deception! The Emperor Nero himself had a homosexual ceremony of sorts. But Bell says we’ll be increasingly irrelevant if we rely upon the Bible. Granted, there are certainly a number of “civilizational” reasons to oppose gay marriage, but Scripture can never be irrelevant to morals.

Ironically, it’s our failure to uphold and submit to the authority of the Word of God that makes the Church in North America so anemic and timid. The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword and therefore, having cast it aside, the Church makes few converts… but it hatches scorners in abundance.

Photo by Savio Sebastian on Flickr under Creative Commons License.

Australia judge says incest may no longer be taboo

Stop Sign

Christians in Western nations must begin to set aside serious time for prayer and fasting. It is no longer something that can be left to the people who are “into” praying. The Apostle Paul said that in the last days perilous times (more literally, exceedingly fierce times) would come. (2 Tim. 3:1) And it appears we are right there.

Fences and gates continue to be thrown down by those falsely promising freedom and joy. All morality and common sense is rejected and renounced as interfering with a person’s right to express and actualize himself apart from God or any other restraints at all on his behavior.

The faster a wall is broken down, the faster and easier the next ones fall. In the past few days there are stories about people advancing the normalization of pedophilia, and now there is this:

Australian judge says incest may no longer be a taboo – Telegraph.

While we can be glad that many were outraged, the insidious worm of pro-incest thinking has likely been planted in a few minds who will now seek to carry this further.