Live pure, Speak true, Right wrong, Follow the King

Mark

Are We Too Enraptured with the Rapture?

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I believe that Jesus is coming back. I look forward to that glorious day.

I am not completely convinced it will be in the next years, or even decades. I am even less confident that a rapture will take place. (This probably comes from years of hearing from the “experts” that Jesus was coming back before this year or that, and that the entire mystery of The Revelation had been revealed to these experts, only to see them fail time after time. It gets tiring and I am a little jaded. A rapture might happen, but if it doesn’t, I’m OK with that.)

But I am absolutely convinced of His Second Coming. I think The Revelation is clear about that at least.

Now for argument’s sake, let’s say He will return shortly and that there will be a rapture and that there will be seven years of not-so-fun times to follow. Here is a problem I see in today’s American Church.

They are too excited about it.

Now I’m not saying that the Lord’s return is nothing to get excited about. It is - absolutely. I just have problems with the attitude that seems to say, “See you, suckas! We are out of here!!! Where’s my new body?!”

The problem I have is that I think we should have a heart that is torn between being taken away to be with Him and one that wants to stay and help. For the last 30+ years I get this feeling that most American Christians have their eyes totally focused on diving into the lifeboats before that ship goes down, forgetting there are people about to go through hell as the ship sinks.

I wonder how many of us would be conflicted if we found out He was coming back tomorrow. Would we have bags all packed and at the door (figuratively) or would we dare to say to Him, “Lord, if it is your will, can I stay and help? Can you use me to further your kingdom during these awful times by having me stay behind? Because I am willing.”

Because I think He might be greatly pleased with the heart that volunteers to stay - and suffer - to save those who are lost. Like He did with us.

Something to think about.

Old Earthers Thrown Under the Bus - Again

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It happened again. In one five-minute answer to a question from the audience about the age of the earth, a speaker managed to throw under the bus all of science and all of us who believe the universe is more than several thousand years old.

A lecturer I was listening to last night told a group of people that the Bible clearly teaches that the earth and universe are thousands of years old, not "millions." (I believe it's billions of years old, for the record.)

It doesn't matter that I and many I know are followers of Jesus Christ, or that we believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis One. It doesn't matter either that we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. None of that apparently matters at all to some young earth creationists. After 20 years of this, it just never seems to matter.

What matters is that they believe a Genesis "day" means a 24-hour day, darn it, nothing more, nothing less! And that a handful of "scientists" - actually less than a handful - support their interpretation. Any other opinions need not apply. Any other interpretation - and all of science - is wrong.

In fact, any other opinion is not just wrong but means being in bed with those "Darwinistic evolutionists." To these young earth creationists life is that simple. Either believe as we do (read: the absolute truth) or backslide into the camp of the enemy. There is no in-between. It is black or white, no shades of gray.

How about this, young earth friend: Another alternative to your God-breathed opinion is that the Hebrew for "day" can be interpreted to be "a long time." Moreover, that interpretation fits the facts. No need to change the Bible. No Hebrew words were harmed in our interpretation. No compromise.

And, he added last night, why can't God create things instantly in mere days? Why can't He create Adam and Eve and the Garden in an instant with the appearance of age. And why can't He create the entire universe in the beat of a heart and make it look like it's been here for "millions" of years?!

How about this, young earth friend: 1) It is never a question of power or an ability to do it in a flash, just a question of how He really accomplished it all. 2) A God who waves a magic wand and poofs everything into existence with the appearance of age is a deceptive God, one not found in the Bible I read. Unless I interpreted that wrong, as well.

Here's a suggestion that my apparently-deceived old earth friends and I follow when we are asked about the age of the earth. 1) Start off by admitting the age of the universe is not a salvation issue (it really isn't), 2) State the fact that there are other views besides yours of how God did it (there are more than five). 3) Then proceed to give your point of view. (key phrase: point of view) 4) Finish by repeating steps 1 and 2.

One more thing: You are free to believe what you want about the age of the universe, but please do not say there is good science to support it or "brilliant, brilliant scientists" who can prove it. That is an exaggeration of the highest order, beyond reasonable comprehension.

Like the belief that a thousands-of-years-old universe appears to be billions of years old.

The Ups and Downs of Heaven and Hell

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One of the silly arguments some people use against Christianity goes something like this, “So if heaven is up there somewhere and hell is below us, how come we can’t find heaven somewhere up there, and we know that everything below us is molten rock, not some place with demons and sinners? Huh, Christian boy?!”

Let me briefly speculate why that might be.

The Bible use phrases like “ascending into heaven” and “descending” into hell. And believers have used phrases like that for thousands of years. I cannot wiggle out of that.

But, I would also agree with my nontheistic friends: Heaven is not literally above us in this universe, nor is hell below us. Not that the Lord couldn’t put them there if He wanted to, but He says pretty much that this entire universe will pass away. Therefore, it would follow that if they really are here with us, just above and below, they would be done away with, as well. They, too, will see an end. Which kind of flies in the face of an “everlasting” life, doesn’t it? Heaven and hell must then be “elsewhere.”

So why does the Bible refer to our afterlife as “above” or “below.” Put on your thinking caps!

I believe it is because it is the only way that He can get across the concept of extra-dimensions to us poor, dim humans. Extra what?

We live in three dimensions of space - up/down, right/left, forward/back. Heaven and hell are in other dimensions of space (and time) - not in this universe at all. They are in the truest sense of the phrase “beyond us” and cannot even be described in human terms. How can He convey other dimensions - the heavenly realm - to our limited minds without making our brains explode?

Well, our existence here is almost entirely limited to the face of planet Earth. With the exception of 12 men who travelled to the Moon, all humans who have ever lived, have lived on what is essentially a two-dimensional planetary surface, north/south and east/west. We are confined here; this is all we know. For all intents and purposes, there is no up and down for us, none that we can actually experience anyway.

For Jesus to say He is ascending to heaven is like saying He is going where we may not go (yet), outside of our existence, to another place entirely beyond us. He doesn’t have to get into a high-level astrophysics dissertation on the extra-dimensions of time and space. For all us simpletons, “ascending” and “descending” means going into a dimension where we may not go, a place beyond us.

Another point: All we know, all our volumes of real experiences here, are from the two-dimensional surface of this giant sphere. But despite that, there actually is an inside to the sphere, there is an outside to it. There are real “places,” above and below us, not figments of our imagination.

To take the analogy one more step: All that we know about them have not been from real experiences but from inferring or speculating or using special tools or trusting the experts. That’s not unlike what we know about heaven and hell, is it?

And - yet one more thing - notice how the Bible and tradition put heaven and hell on opposite sides, the implication, I believe, being obvious.

So, no, heaven is not really above us, hell is not really below us. But they exist. We have faith that they are there, although we cannot truly experience them. And someday we will shuffle off this mortal coil, and those who follow God will “ascend” into the one, those who have chosen rebellion will “descend” into the other.

Going up?

O, Jennifer

Jennifer Knapp recently announced publicly that she was a homosexual. For those of you who do not know, Jennifer was big in the so-called Christian music scene a decade ago before vanishing off the map. She now returns with a new look, a new album, a new girlfriend.

We here will not send her to hell. (Sorry.) We at S&S (you may want to sit down for this) still see her as a sister. Our little sister. But just like with any family member who messes up, although we still love her, we are disappointed. Why?

There is now some more fuel for the opposition fire, and we have another seeming lose-lose situation.

Jennifer, whose music I love and who undoubtedly struggled with the whole issue, comes out now. That itself makes me sad that she lost the battle, so to speak. I hope she is sincere when she implies that she is hoping that God will continue to direct her. I think her struggle was genuine, and that she is being honest now. That’s a trait I have always admired in her.

What is worse though, I think, is that Jennifer is coming across as "Well, this is who I am. God made me this way." The CNN article I read was hardly detailed enough for me to read that much out of it, but it at least appears that way.

So, we have a former darling of Christian music, who undoubtedly has many fans, now coming out and pretty much saying it's OK to be gay, to be who you really are.

Whom I feel very sorry for are the kids who followed her, who looked to her as a role model or "star" and may themselves be struggling with homosexuality but are fighting the good fight. Now what? "Well, Jennifer came out and God still loves her and maybe He did make her that way. Maybe I was meant to be that way, as well." End of struggle.

Let me illustrate. It’s as if my pastor came out and said, "You know, I have been struggling with looking at other women for years. But I went father than looking; I admit now that I have had an extramarital affair with another woman for years. But you know, these urges... God made me that way. I think God’s cool with that!”

Now imagine that all the men in the congregation who love and admire my pastor heard this. The wise would call him on it, the not-as-wise would leave the church without a comment or throw him into hellfire. But the weaker ones would say, "Wow. Maybe he is right. And if he is my role model, then I will model his role and go out and find another woman, something I have always wanted to do."

Bottom line. I love Jennifer. I pray the best for her. But coming out and saying pretty much "Just accept me, because this is who I am" may cause irreparable damage in the lives of kids who are struggling.

(And there will be the people in the church who will send her to hell. They, of course, will get the publicity. We will all be guilty of damning Jennifer to hell just by association. Gotta love America!)

I think Jennifer’s Coming Out Party just made our job a little harder.

Opening a Can of Whoop Butt on Christian Music

I originally published this on our forum, but here it is in all its furious glory:
I can’t listen to Air One Christian music radio anymore. It drives me nuts listening to the same insipid, predictable lyrics with the same four chords (max) put together in the same formulaic way.
Sorry that this probably does offend someone, but someone has to say the emperor has no clothes. Just putting Jesus’ name in a song and/or praising His name through it doesn’t make it good music. And instead of demanding more from these “creative” talent we’ve just settled in and accepted it like everyting else we do in American Christianity.
There are some good Christian bands out there, to be sure, but they seem to be falling off by the wayside. Look at the Top Ten of any Christian music list. Were any of these people here two years ago? Probably not. And they won’t be two years from now, that’s a safe bet.
Wake up Christian music scene! Snap out of it! Be courageous, be daring, be leaders, be innovative. Don’t settle for what sells the most CDs or what will appeal to the masses! Don’t think that just making some gushy emotional song that happens to include the name of the Lord in it makes it good! It doesn’t! Let the secular community produce boatloads of disposable music as we produce music with integrity!
Oh! for the return of bands like Chasing Furies with their non-conformist music and SmallTown Poets with their heavy and insightful lyrics!
Sigh. Will someone - anyone - step forward? Until someone does I’ll stay with those “compromisers” like U2 and Switchfoot and Bruce Cockburn and Creed and POD - groups that aren’t walled up in the Ghetto of Mediocrity we call American Christianity.

Abraham Lincoln Today

I always used to think that if only we had a man like Abe Lincoln resurrected, that he would bring back to the presidency what has been sorely lacking in the last generations: integrity, high morals, strong leadership, etc.
Yes, Mr Lincoln was flawed but he was a role model of a leader, and a man I would love to hang out with if only to see him work. Sigh…
Then I realized recently - and sadly - that it would make no difference. We would first have to vote him in and that ain’t happening.
America today is too d*** self-centered and arrogant and pleasure-seeking and egomaniacal and just plain stupid to vote for a man like Abe. Really, can you see a man in a political ad that looks like Mr Lincoln? He was way too ugly to get himself elected today. And he was kinda homely. Ble. And he was folksy, like Mrs Palin. Minus ten from all pundits and from people on both coasts. And charisma? C’mon, you ever read anything about him and his amazing charisma? And worst of all…
He was honest.
Nope, Mr Lincoln had his moment and he shone brilliantly. He was here for such a time as that. But today he would not have made it into a primary, let alone be his party’s representative. We cannot see past our own self interests and “give me everything - now!” attitudes to see that we would need him.
Maybe what we need is not a Mr Lincoln, but a nation of such a character that would actually vote for him if he should appear again.

A Positive Spin on Bad Times in America

I am not a big fan of capitalism or Wall Street. I see them both run by the engine of filthy lucre. To my eyes they are not much more than controlled greed.
But when the greed goes uncontrolled, when the lust for money overpowers any vestige of morals and integrity that it hasn’t already killed off, that’s when things go from bad to worse.
When over the last years our banks and lenders and corporations and even individual borrowers saw nothing but how they could profit monetarily, and willingly looked the other way when unscrupulous or unwise methods were used to obtain that money, is it really a wonder the USA followed its god down the toilet?
The good thing about all this is that maybe - just maybe - this sudden loss in revenue and jobs will cause many people to reevaluate what life is truly all about. Maybe many will for the first time find some lasting and profound priorities that they would otherwise have not seen having been blinded by the darkness of greed.
This all might result in some sort of spiritual revival. Wow. Wouldn’t that would be great. Maybe the vast majority of Americans who claim to follow God but don’t, actually will now.
Maybe in losing all the false gods in our lives, we will rediscover the one, true God.  Someone say “amen!”

How to Lead Hundreds to Christ - Every Day

I heard someone say a while ago that when he came back from Mississippi from helping Samaritan’s Purse in their attempt to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina that someone asked him before asking anything else, “How many did you lead to Christ?”
Ahem. Tell me this isn’t an intimidating question. What this person is saying is, “I don’t really care what you did to help, or how many you helped, or about the sacrifice you made to do it all - I just want to know how many people you led in prayer to accept Christ.”
He meekly answered, “None.”
I think he should have answered “dozens” or “hundreds.” I have a couple problems here that I think we should start dealing with.
We Christians in America have completely redefined what it means to lead people anywhere. Remember the phrase, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”? We can lead without forcing the last step!
We can lead someone to the throne by delivering the best apologetic for the faith, or answering their concerns, or comforting them, or rebuilding their home, or helping them load that heavy case of bottled water into their vans in the parking lot at CostCo, but we can’t make them fall on their knees.
The Holy Spirit causes all this change on the inside. We are privileged - profoundly privileged - to play even a small role in that. But it is He who calls them.
We lead people to Him - or away - all day long in all sorts of ways. Our lives are signposts pointing the way. We are stepping stones on the path to Him. All of us followers of Jesus are leading people to Him all day long in all we say and do.
I pray that each day I am leading 100+ students to Christ. And another hundred on the freeway. And a couple at the drive-thru at Jack in the Box, and that barista at StarBucks. I pray I am every day leading my family to Christ when I get home by how I act and react.
The list of how many people we are leading to Christ is endless. Let’s focus what it really means to lead people to Christ.

Common Era = Common Heap o' Poo

One popular thing to do nowadays, at least in the sciences, is to replace the common phrase B.C. (before Christ) with BCE, that is, Before Common Era.
Pardon me if throw up a little here. In an attempt to rid the calendar of Christ (you know, that fascist monster from the Galilee) some people who know better and/or are frightened of this man (Christophobic?) have replaced him with a Common Era.
Now here is a question or two. What the heck is a Common Era? An era we all have in common? What was it before that, an Uncommon Era? What suddenly makes it “common”? Really… 35 BCE is 35 years before an imaginary common era started up? Does this Common Era apply to all people everywhere on the planet, unlike that eurocentric BC? If not, why not? If so, how?
Face it. This is a ridiculously asinine attempt to push Christ out of the picture - again. When will it end? Someone has to grow up soon - before I self-ignite!
Common Era Advocates: It will be OK! You needn’t panic! Using B.C. (or God forbid, A. D.) will not give you some social disease! Move along citizen, nothing to see here!

Science and the Obvious

I’ll write more on this later (I hope). Right now it’s just a rant.
But when are the nontheistic scientists gonna grow up a little and at least admit the possibility that there is an all-powerful God behind this universe? Crimaney! How much evidence does one need that this place is not a mistake?!
It’s really frustrating reading all the horsepoop in the literature implying that everything - the universe, this planet, life, and humans - will all eventually be explained as the results of countless beneficial mistakes.
Give us a least the possibility that there might be a God, that a personal Creator might be behind it all. Whether you follow him or not, that is your call. But please drop the pretense that there is absolutely nothing beyond time and space. You’re bigger than that.

Steve, Cancer, and a Loving God

Originally written OCTOBER 2005
I just met a man named Steve. He has been sitting behind me in church off and on for the last couple months. He is an asian man with the biggest smile I think I have ever seen. He speaks in a hoarse whisper, and doesn’t sing much beyond a gravel-throated attempt. But he always smiles.
Last week at church as I sat there before service waiting for it to begin I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked back. It was Steve.
I turned around and said hello and asked him how he was. He smiled that smile and said he was great. That was the end of it for a moment.
I looked forward again but felt a compelling urge to turn around and talk to him again, this time with a little more depth.
I asked him how he was really doing. He then proceeded to tell me about himself. He said he had cancer, throat and lung. Then he thanked Jesus for it. He must have been healed, I thought. I asked if he was. No, no, not at all, he answered.
Five years ago the doctors gave him six months to live. It was then that he gave his life to the LifeGiver. And he hasn’t looked back. “I was a very, very bad man,” said he, without going into detail. “It was the cancer that made me see Jesus.”
But Steve is not physically healed. He has finished with all the chemotherapy and radiation therapy; there is nothing more medical science can do. When I patted his back I felt nothing but bone. But this man loves Jesus like few I have ever met.
I believe the Lord will give some people a horrible illness like cancer, but for a reason…
I don’t pretend to know the reason behind every illness - or why some evil men live long lives while some children get cancer - I can speculate but I don’t know. But we know the Lord is willing to do just about anything to wake somebody out of a spiritual coma.
And that includes giving the person some horrible disease like cancer.
An analogy might help here: If my child was carelessly walking into the path of an oncoming bus, I would not hesitate to yank or push my child put of the way. Might I break her arm? Yes. Might she break a rib falling to the ground? Yes. It will probably be a painful experience.
But, is she alive? Yes!
For some people drastic measures must be taken in order to wake them up to their spiritual condition, but, as strange as this sounds, I believe things like this happen because He loves us. It may be hard to see this if you or a loved one has some terminal illness - and I’m not saying that this is the reason he or she might be sick - but we have heard enough stories like Steve’s, about how some people with terminal diseases actually thank God for them because they then, for the first time, seriously reflected on the meaning of Life.
And some give their lives to the Lord and are with Him now.
But they might not be with Him in eternity if the Lord had just watched them wander into the traffic.
Unless the Lord intervenes Steve will probably die of his disease. But he is a man at peace with God, and with others. His current mission while the Lord allows him to live is to tell others about the love of Jesus. This man who has suffered greatly at the hands of this terminal disease is telling everyone he can about the love of Jesus.
Steve hasn’t been healed physically, but spiritually he is alive and well.
[note: I have not seen Steve since I originally write this.]

Finite Minds Stuck on Infinite Mode

I sit here, with a million things to do and no time to do it, writing about having no time to do things. (?)
I was wondering if it is “natural” for us to want to behave supernaturally. As in, I want to do every thing, see every where, be with everyone. I want to finish projects I have now, do projects I’m planning in my head. I want to lecture to all kinds of groups, to listen to all kinds of learned people, to read every classic ever written. I want to learn most every instrument I pick up, listen to a million songs, and sing - alone - to every song I know. All this and I want a happy family; a best-friend wife, and God-fearing, polite and friendly children.
And I want it all now.
I’m not asking for money or a new Mac (well…). I’m not wanting to climb the corporate ladder. I don’t want the company car or the latest HDTV. Just the non-material things above.
Some would say - have said - that this is a sign of mental instability or, worse, an attempt to be God, a subtle form of blasphemy.
But maybe, if I may put a positive spin on it, maybe it is a reflection of what it will be like There. Here I have just four dimensions which severely restrict my every action and desire above. I cannot be two places at once or exist in any time but the present. And I’m only given finite time to do all the things I’d like. Finite space + finite time = bummer for me.
All the indications from the Bible say it will be different There. Extra dimensions of time and space mean I can do essentially all those things I listed above without problem and with none of the earthly limits I’m trapped in now.
A friend of mine said that He doesn’t give it to us now because the present laws of nature not only limit us but limit evil, as well. Bad people can only do a limited amount of evil in a limited amount of space and time.
So, I guess I should be content and pray for maturity in all this. Maturity to understand that my desires to be all that I can’t be now may be realized when I go Home, but for now those restrictions are making this a more pleasant place to be.
I guess I should be thankful.
(Gotta go; have a ton of stuff to do.)

Scott and the Abortionist

Once upon a time in California there was a man who willfully took the life of an unborn child. Through an act of violence, the life of a little one was snuffed out.
What should his punishment be? Should he be tried in court for this killing, tried by a jury of his peers? And if it were found true that he committed this act, should he be convicted of murder? If so, should he then spend the rest of his life in prison or even go to death row?
Of course this all happened to Scott Peterson several years ago now. But except for how the baby was killed, what is the difference between what he did and what an abortionist does every day?
Scott Peterson will go to prison for the rest of his life, or to the death chamber.
The abortionist will go home to his family and watch TV.
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