This is the story of a wild horse named Pal. In his youth he was big, strong and fast. He galloped the open range proud and free. Local cowboys called him "untamable," ranchers called him a nuisance, and children were told to stay inside when he was on the loose. He was a horse to be feared. He also was notorious for leading large stampedes with other mustangs through the outskirts of local farms, eating vegetables and trampling crops. Even some domesticated horses joined him to run wild.
One day the bravest of cowboys got together and cornered him in stony gorge. They jumped him and wrestled him down tying him up with thick ropes. Day after day they whipped him and beat him till he broke. His once proud spirit was tamed, he became only a shadow of his former self. The victorious Cowboys brought him to the county fairs boasting of their triumph. He was ridiculed and advertised as the "Demon Beast Tamed."
Children rode him, mothers took pictures with their babies on top of him, and he became a whipping post for teenage vandals wanting a quick laugh with their neighborhood buddies. Poor old Pal, a threat no more. Overtime Pal was bought by an old farmer, feeding him straw and giving him a stable to sleep in. Occasionally people would come by and laugh at the old horse while telling tales of his fearsome, disreputable past. They would mutter under their breath,"And to think my parents walked in dread of this sorry animal?"
On a lonely fall evening, as Pal was being led out to a field to graze, he fell down refusing to get up. The farmer's cheeky son had enough of the broken down horse and began to whip him, "Get up you stupid horse, you are nothing. A failure as a horse, and a forgotten memory of a distant past, get up!"
The farmer moved with pity for the old horse snapped at his son, "Stop it! The poor horse is dying, let him be. It takes no courage to beat down a broken old bronco...let the silly beast die in peace." The horse never got up again, a faded memory of the once threatening stallion.
Pal died that night..never to be feared again.
Patriarchal Authoritarian Legalism (Pal)
Strange story...if it was about a horse it would be. But this is a metaphor about a culture that once ruled the range of the vast evangelical realm of churches. "Patriarchal Authoritarian Legalism (P. A. L.)" The outgrowth of Billy Sunday and revivalism, over the years became the Sunday norm in conservative American churches.
Filled with very serious and often intimidating tie wearing pastors, these churches implemented a series of standardized gospel formulas, a book of acceptable hymns and a prescriptive and proof-texted theology that wasn't to be questioned. Equipped with the Scofield 1611 King James Version, pulpit pounding paternalism resounded through fire-brand preaching with confidence and conviction: "Christ centered homes must be led by manly men. Hair cut short, (buzz cuts preferred), no pants for women, be at church when the doors are opened, and we want children to be seen and not heard. Soul winning Sunday is every Sunday, the numbers of converts must be counted, Red-White-and Blue Republican Patriotism is right, avoid theaters, stop dancing, and absolutely, positively, no alcohol!"
This was standard fair across the nation. Fundamentalism had a tight grip on most Bible believing, Independent, and Baptist traditions. Those who questioned the authoritarian bent of these churches were often silenced or steam-rolled out of the church.
As the children born in these homes began to grow; bitterness against "Pal's" religious strong-arming tactics grew as well. Especially in the hearts of the strong willed, those who demanded reasonable answers before they would comply. The thirst for grace couldn't be quenched, Patriarchal Authoritarian Legalism was losing its grip. Instead of setting the pace, fundamentalism was fast becoming a pariah in mainstream America.
Church culture started changing. A new freedom was in the air, music directors adopted drums and guitars, ties were coming off, and even women were given more latitude when it came to areas of leadership. Defectors of the faith unloaded their anger on the leaders and purveyors of P. A. L. Countless books and emergent church communities began ridiculing fundamentalism and blamed it's fall-out on everything from the popularity of the new atheism to the failure of the political right.
A younger generation of church leaders who never grew up with "Pal's" influence see it as nothing more than a dinosaur from the past: Something to laugh at, something to mock. In fact, it has became cool to ridicule. It is believed the further you can distant yourself with both your style and dress, the more liberal your politics and perspectives, the more acceptable to the world the younger church culture is hoping to become.
Thinking themselves heroic as they are whipping up on fundamentalism, the brave new world pastor doesn't realize they are doing nothing more than beating on a dead horse.
P. A. L. was never a substitute for Christ -- nor is mocking it true Christianity either. A church built on a contempt for the past doesn't necessarily mean it's foundations are sure. And in its passion of throwing out the bath water of fundamentalism, some churches have lost the baby of the gospel as well.
In your zealotry of beating a dead horse, don't forget to love Jesus, his word and his church. It still is his bride you know?
I once heard it said, "Every Writer Has a Story. It's like a living thing inside that's yearning to be set free. It's the story. You've got to tell your story, your way." This week as I have been studying and meditating on Galatians 1:6-10 for my next sermon, it hit me, "I think this may just be it?"
I found my one story, the one that lights me on fire. Galatians 1:6-10 has three parts to it that resemble the three movements in my own life:
Pt. 1: Bobby Brady
Believing in a "Different Gospel" & a "False Jesus" (1:6-7)
By temperament, I was, and still am, a nice, compliant guy. In fact if you ever watched the "Brady Bunch" growing up, I looked and acted a lot like Bobby Brady. I had brown hair combed straight down, and I wore t-shirts with two-colored large stripes matched along with brown corduroy pants. I also was the youngest of six kids; and like Bobby I often said to my older siblings, "Gee wiz guys, can I come too?"
Bobby Brady rarely made waves, and neither did I. I liked peace and having fun playing lawn-jarts with my sisters in our nicely trimmed suburban backyard. And I really trusted all the authority figures in my life. My dad, like Mr. Brady, was always available to give wise fatherly advice with a comforting smile. My neighbors were trustworthy and gave us kids on the block a cool glass of Hi-C punch on a hot summer day; and my teachers were kind (except of course Sister Joan of Arc).
And because of my innate trust and respect for people, I naturally listened without question to the spiritual teachings of our parish priest, Father Callahan. Looking back with adult eyes, Father Callahan was one weird dude. His favorite saying was, "The most profound spiritual moment you can have is when you begin to 'think about, what you're thinking about, what you're thinking about.' Think about it." He was also a strong proponent of religious pluralism: He accepted Vatican II's "Brighter Light" paradigm which meant he saw salvific value in Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. In other words, Jesus was great, but he wan't the only show in town.
As Bobby Brady, I didn't question my superiors, nor did I see any need to. Life was good! Little did I realize, I really did not know Christ. Even though I did have a thirst for God, I more than gladly accepted a "different gospel" as the answer to my thirst. And I never once questioned Father Callahan's perverted version of a "softer suburban Christ."
Pt. 2: Otter turned Lion
After Illumination and Regeneration a New Fury Arose (1:8-9)
As I started to grow up I went from being a nice Bobby Brady to a foolish partier. I was a jolly otter swimming in a sea of happy meaninglessness. College was one stupid escapade and 'pleasure hunt' after another. I paid Jesus lip service on Sunday while ignoring him Monday thru Saturday. Just as I learned from Father Callahan and others like him, I had nothing to fear because God is love and he won't hold anything against you. "It's all good!".
So it didn't matter who "god" was: Allah, Krishna, or whoever else you chose to worship that particular day. Most of my friends at that time chose to worship Bud Light, Margaritas and Jimmy Buffett. But my life was spinning out of control; the more I tried to fix it the more messed up it became. I lost touch with God, and I was now swimming in a stormy sea without purpose. Tossed to and fro like a piece of driftwood I wondered, "Why was I on this earth, and do I even matter?"
The God of the bible, the one "Who is, Who was, and Who is to come" came to me in my misery. First he sent my brother Don to tell me the 'True Gospel': "Jesus died for your sins so you would sin no more. He wants your allegiance by faith, and if you don't accept him, he will not be yours." I began to read the bible from cover to cover, and I came to realize as Acts 4:12 declared, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Either this is true, and Jesus is it; or false, and as the 70's rock group Queen sings, "Nothing really matters."
I knew it was true! So I asked Jesus to forgive all my sins and take over. Boy did he ever, so much so I became a man on fire. No longer was I an otter swimming in a meaningless sea, I became a lion boldly declaring that "Jesus is God" to anyone who wanted to hear. I even confronted a few Catholic priests in my young fire, "Tell people the truth!" I demanded. This didn't go over well, but I didn't care anymore. . .no more Bobby Brady for me.
Pt. 3: Once Dead no more Dread
The Fear of God set me Free ()
Overtime, I began to mature as a Christian. I learned that I had to tame the lion if I was going to have anyone listen to me. So I went to school to sand my rough edges by studying theology and the art of persuasion. While there I was asked to preach, and then asked to go to Poland to speak, and soon enough I found my calling, "To serve God in a professional capacity."
God has allowed me many opportunities to serve him: I got to go to Russia, Bulgaria, Mexico, Germany and he even sent me to the deepest and darkest corners of west Michigan in a little town called Kent City. Here I have been planted and here I stand, among the apple trees and wild wolverines.
I have one singular aim in my ministry: To stop people from believing the lies that the Father Callahans of the world are spreading. In my naive Bobby Brady nature, I was deceived, and still can't get over it. If I would of died believing in the soft-peddled 'different gospel' of suburban bliss, I would be in agony right now. Lost forever under the hot condemnation of my deliberate sins. However, Jesus came to my rescue, and I owe him everything. So, I must say something.
While in Kent City I went from a shorts wearing youth pastor to a shorts wearing pastor. I tried the stiff white collar and penny loafers thing for a week, but it wasn't me. Guilt about my unprofessionalism started creeping in as I could read the disdain from area pastors looking at my untidy blue jeans. Then I read a wonderful book called, "On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518" by Gerhard Forde. I learned that God likes me being me. He is the one who gave me Bobby Brady's disposition. He is the one who pulled me from the bar and rugby field because he wanted to use me. He is the one who has set my heart on fire.
I really like being me, and I am preaching on Galatians because I want you to be you. We do not have to believe the lies of liars, nor intimidated by the professional pastors who look down on the non-tie wearing world. We serve one person, the one who saved us; and to be truly free we must live by Galatians 1:10. Let it sink into your soul...
"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."
This is my one story...and I am sticking with it!
"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."
Nothing really is new: Same debates, same anger, same hatred.
The questions and arguments for truth never stop. I want you to take a look at a quote from the political science professor Robert Fitch, from a 1959 article entitled "The Obsolescence of Ethics":
“Ours is an age where ethics (determining right from wrong) has become obsolete. It is superseded by science, deleted by philosophy and dismissed as emotive by psychology. It is drowned in compassion, evaporates into aesthetics and retreats before relativism. The usual moral distinctions between good and bad are simply drowned in a maudlin emotion in which we feel more sympathy for the murderer than for the murdered, for the adulterer than for the betrayed, and in which we have actually begun to believe that the real guilty party, the one who somehow caused it all, is the victim, and not the perpetrator of the crime.”
Tell me, has anything changed, and should anything surprise you?
As Isaiah said almost 2,700 years ago: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who puts darkness for light and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks, who acquit the guilty with a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent." Isaiah 5:20-23
You see, our problems are not unique.
We are all humans living in a broken world.
That is why we need Jesus.
Have a nice day!
"They are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead."
(1 Peter 4:4)
I found an old bug zapper in our garage. We received some tools from my wife's dad, and in the pile of stuff was this hard-core piece of machinery designed to annihilate all invading species of flying bug within a 100 yard radius. I pulled it out off the box and hung it up in our backyard.
Eagerly I waited for the dark shadow of night to descend upon our yard so I could plug it in to watch the show. As the sun hid behind the horizon I called the kids, "Hey y'all, come out here and take a look at this! It is better than fireworks."
"Zip, pop, fizzle..." A small wisp of smoke rose from the burnt carcass of a monster June-bug. The kids couldn't believe their eyes. The sparking death of a Polyphylla decemlineata really is a curious wonder to behold.
"Dad, why do they fly to the light?"
"How could they be so brainless?"
"Don't they notice that their buddies are dying right in front of their eyes?"
A monster moth flies close, "Zip, pop, fizzle..." Bug after bug flew into the light, bug after bug was fried to a crisp.
After 15 minutes of back-yard fun, I decided to go inside and see what was on TV. We only have one station (bad reception in the valley we live in), channel 13. And the only thing on was the "Billboard Awards." I couldn't believe what I was watching, it was like "Deja Vu":
* A dark auditorium was all abuzz with noise and one big bright light was flashing on in the center stage.
* Brainless people were cheering at the silliest and most mindless songs you ever heard. (How can a song called, "I'm So Fancy" win any kind of award?) Isn't Brittney Spears so yesterday?
* Don't they notice they are cheering for felons, domestic abusers, drug addicts, and transsexuals as the new modern day heroes? Aren't those behaviors killing us as a people, and yet they are being exalted?
It is like watching bugs to the light - - just because someone is on stage with a bright light we are led to believe they are right. One song was a blatant attack against everything noble and pure and people were signing it like they were at a worship service at church. Truthfully, I don't think they even knew why they were singing.
Like bugs to the light!
I was recently watching a sermon by Ravi Zecharias concerning the impact that secularism is having on our society. He made a point that secularization wants to kick out God from the conversation, and the result is to destroy those institutions that we once considered sacred: Marriage, family, and purity. The ultimate goal is freedom without shame, and tolerance without consequence. Ravi made this point,
"Satan knows if can destroy shame, he can kill the soul...Secularization has a deadly effect when it is not informed by a transcendent moral order!"
And it is killing us, like bugs to the light!
I have been attending a Faith and Works symposium for the last three months, with the goal of answering the question,"How do we help people in our congregations flourish? How do we help individuals find their calling in the world (specifically the workplace, community and home) and then thrive as they use their gifts to bring God's blessing as his representatives upon the earth?"
The last session discussed the complex topic of poverty.
How does the church help the poor breakout of the chains they seem to be bound in? How do we as a church assist in helping those who seem to get the short end of the stick in society thrive? The speaker was an expert in starting micro-businesses in third world countries. He was fascinating. One statement in particular he made was how "the countries that have received the most international aid over time end up being the most impoverished. Desperation led them to become chained to a cycle of dependency."
He explained the five stages of human drift, which I am going to elaborate and add to:
(1) Emergency: Desperate need forces people to seek help. When they get that help it leads to...
(2) Gratitude: Genuine thankfulness. If there is no solution to keep them from falling back to emergency mode and desperate need, the next couple rescue missions lead to ...
(3) Anticipation: People start getting excited for help outside, they learn to wait for the heroes to come to the rescue. It is at this stage when human creativity, which a person needs to be self sufficient and helps them to survive, starts drying up. Personal solutions are eventually abandoned and bad habits of lethargy formed, which leads to...
(4) Expectation: Gratitude does not last long in a human's heart. People start expecting rescue, and if it doesn't arrive soon enough, they demand; which really is a sign they are confirmed in their...
(5) Dependency: This is a static state of despair where you rely on others for your safety and comfort, risk taking has been extinguished and hope is all but gone.
In this stage of dependency, the speaker said you can visibly see defeat in the demeanor of a person. Shoulders are hunched, chin lowered, genuine joy becomes a relic of the past. Bitterness begins to poison the heart -- what once was gratitude for the one who helped turns to jealousy and the "wanting" of what they have.
The good desire to help can actually end up stealing the soul of the person if your not careful. He gave an example about a lady in Haiti who refused to do major repairs on her house, not because she couldn't fix it herself or was really lacking in the tools to fix it; but because she was waiting for short-term missionaries to come and do it for her. She figured, if her house looked worked on, the short-term missionaries who "always show up in June" might pass her by for someone worse. So there she sat.
I have seen this happen not just with relief help for people in poor socio-economic conditions; it can become a consistent pattern in other arenas of life as well. Let me offer two more examples:
(1) Let's call her Betty. Growing up she was her mom and dad's princess; and as a princess she constantly lived in emergency mode. She needed money for a phone, she got it. She wanted 70 bucks to go out with friends, dad came through. Her mom had her laundry done, lunches made, meals cooked, bedroom cleaned, all Betty had to do was go to school and chill with friends. Betty went from a fun loving girl to a demanding teen. Ask her to clean the car, wash the dishes, help with supper - forget it, that wasn't her job. She eventually got married...poor husband, he was expected to continue her pampering, and if he didn't, mama wasn't happy. It seemed like mama was never happy. Eventually the couple thought children would fix her discontent, she had two, and they only put more gas on her fire of bitterness. They soon became a bother and a burden. The marriage became a nightmare.
(2) Let's call him Bob. Bob was a bright student, straight "A's" in High School. But he became a social bug in college, constantly staying up late with friends and running the gamut of campus parties. He often skipped his first period class, "Weeks, can I borrow your notes? Weeks can you help me study for this test?" Often he would join my collaboration group as we worked on team projects, rarely showing up and expecting the rest of us to do the work. For our final presentation he was to give a five minute introduction of our project that he had to prepare for in advance. He only spoke for one minute and it was laced with "ummms" and numerous interjections of "You know what I mean?" The rest of the team did great, but our final grade ended up being a "C"; the rest of the team was furious. Eventually Bob dropped out of school.
In our attempt to rescue others, if we are not careful, we can end up ruining them. Ironically, rescuers like to think highly of themselves, "Look at how good I am," while they could be soul stealing from others and never realize it.
So what is the answer for the poor? I know one thing, it may not be handing them boatloads of money after all?
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.
Galatians 1:1 | NIV
Sunday after Sunday, in thousands of congregations across our land, a person walks slowly up to a lonely podium to speak. Some talk for 10 minutes, and some for an hour, while claiming they are speaking on behalf of heaven. Have you ever once asked yourself, "Were they really sent? By whose authority do they speak?" If that question was asked more often then it is, I think the church would be, as a whole, much better off. I am not sure many of the Sunday morning soubrettes were ever actually sent by Jesus in the first place (2 Corinthians 11:13-14)?
In Galatians, Paul was facing strong opposition from a group of believers who doubted his credentials. So he pulled out his VIP Card to silence the naysayers,"I am an apostle!" That means a sent one, with full authority and acclaim from on High. Beat that you rascally legalists!
As a result, the church grew and Christianity flourished. But this isn't always the case: there are numerous men and women claiming they too are God's herald of truth when they are nothing more than play actors on a stage of their own making. But because the church is filled with such nice people, many congregations just grin and bare their local charlatans and con-artists for years.
What does it mean to be sent?
And how do you know if someone is? Theologians over the years have identified four types of "sent ones." All the way back to 347 A.D. St. Jerome asked what makes a sent minister of Jesus? here is what he said:
(1) God Sent "Those sent neither from men, nor through men, but directly from God." These are those who must say something - - they just can't help it. Like Jeremiah whose word was like a "fire in the belly!" this group can't hold it in, and when they speak, people instantly recognize their calling. Eloquence and polish are not part of their portfolio, but clear cutting truth. (1 Corinthians 1:17 & 2:1) These people are often very lonely and broken, a humility born from the heat of battle; because not many men and women want to hear them once their flaming words come rolling off the tongue. They cut the heart of the complacent. However, those thirsty for God run to hear them.
(2) Commissioned by God, Confirmed by Men "Those sent usually rise from the ranks and are recognized with a God given giftedness." Like Joshua sent by Moses, and Timothy by Paul, this group of ministers have been recognized as messengers because of their consistent life and solid teaching. This group is not flashy nor are they born provocateurs, instead, they are groomed from the ranks of the noble and mature. As H. A. Ironside writes, "Often these servants are examined by the brethren and are satisfied that he can preach, and so commend him to the work, perhaps by the laying on of hands."
(3) Accredited by the Group "Those who are chosen based upon the favor they have won with people rather than their upright conduct and spotless integrity; this group are born performers." As Jerome says of some men, "O bishop, you surely would not be a bishop today if you had not paid a hundred gold coins!" Often this group has chosen ministry as a profession, a business proposition, a good fit for their skill set; not as a calling as a direct result of being born again. They are the "Ear Ticklers", "Trend Followers", "Suit Wearers", "Money Makers", and "Progressive Demanders of Equal Access for All." The pulpit becomes a prize for these people, not a burden to be carried. As Ezekiel 33:30-32 describes, these are the people who are happy to sing for the curious crowd and perform for the paying customer, but they really are not sent by God. They are not the prophet whose words land heavy and leave damage. They are performers who shine when the lights are on, but are shallow men and woman when you encounter them in the shadows.
(4) Dangerous and Deluded Posers "There are men and women who posture themselves as Christ's ministers, and have not received their authority neither from God nor from men, they are free-lancers. You have to take their own word for it that they are definitely appointed. Nobody else has been able to recognize any evidence of it." As Charles Spurgeon has said, "This group is sure they are sent, but after awhile you begin to realize they are streams without water and black clouds without rain." This group is born by a pride of self-delusion; and they will try to worm their way to gain influence over those who have little discernment or appreciation for God ordained systems of authority. They are jealous and are desperate for followers of their own; and yet, they can only win people over by tearing down those they see as competition or a threat.
So who sent your preacher?
Who has your ear? A messenger of God, a posing professional, or a deluded disciple of the devil? Remember, be a Berean, they are people of noble character because, "they received the message of Paul with great earnestness and then examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."
13 weeks, that was my promise.
And yet there seems to be so many loose ends that need to be tied off in the Revelation study? Is that the result of bad preaching or is it just the nature of Revelation? I think it is a little bit of both. Some of the concepts I presented were not as clear as they could have been; but also, we are talking about Revelation and it is one difficult book!
A number of people have suggested I take one more week to tie off those loose ends - - answer all the questions and reveal the deep-dark secrets that people have been trying to figure out for thousands of years. I know many of you think I have those answers in my back pocket (which of course I do), but I like to keep you guessing. A good preacher never shows his hand!
So this post is meant to answer three questions that I think need to be explained a little further. I was considering very seriously to take one more Sunday sermon to answer these . . .but you know, I made a promise: 13 weeks. I need to stick to it because I don't want to fall into the Revelation Rabbit Hole. I have seen some pastors get stuck in it and they still have never really been able to get out! (Think Hagee, Van Impe, Lahaye, and Hal Lindsey).
So I am going to stick to my original promise and use this blog to answer the big three lingering questions:
(1) "Bury Me in Satin" (Question of dying - - what happens?)
Let's say I am walking down the street and a brick falls off a building and hits me in the head. I bleed profusely and die. Where do I go? Because last sermon I kept saying that "Heaven is on Earth?" So do you stay on earth? Does your soul go into the grave and sleep until Jesus comes back (soul sleep)? Here is my take:
2 Corinthians 5:8 and Philippians 1:23 seem to teach that if a Christian dies their soul/spirit goes to be with Jesus while their body waits to be resurrected at the rapture. So do I float as a wandering spirit waiting for the resurrection of the body? No, when I go to be with Jesus I am given a spiritual body that has physicality to it. Jesus says people are recognizable, people will be eating and enjoying, they will meet up with their loved ones - - but this is not the permanent residence. The final destination has always been earth, we have been made for earth, we are human after all!
Think of it like flying to California to visit your sister in Laguna Niguel. Your flight will have a layover in Chicago. While in Chicago you go to Taco Bell in the airport and sit next to Jay Leno. Meanwhile, your sister in California is not wondering if you are a wandering spirit. And your wife back in Michigan is not bemoaning your demise - - they both know you are alive, and doing well. However they don't know that you are sharing some chicken Mcnuggets with the big chinned comedian.
Many theologians call this the "intermediate place", you know it as heaven. Paul calls it "with Christ." It is not, and I stress, not "purgatory." Purgatory is Roman Catholic aberration that is not biblically supportable, and it is not kind. It is a medieval motivational tool to extract tithes and obedience from poor peasants.
So if I die right now, I go to heaven.
(2) "Trailers for Sale or Rent..." (Explain the Millennial Kingdom again.)
Kings of the road. Revelation 20:6 is clear, true believers in Jesus in the church age, will be priests and kings in the Millennial age. That means we will be placed as rulers over all the nations of the earth. This is where the confusion lies, there seems to be two classes of people after Jesus comes back for his 1,000 year reign (And yes, I believe in a literal and physical 1,000 years kingdom because I am a "dispensationalist." Don't hate me for it.) :
IMMORTALS: These are all the resurrected redeemed. They will have indestructible bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-49). They will not die, they will no longer sin, they will be holy like Jesus. They will be able to eat food, build a house, and throw a football. No more marriage for them, no kids.
MORTALS: These are those (Jews and Overcoming Gentiles) who make it through the tribulation and are counted as the "sheep" when Jesus comes back (Matthew 25:31-46). Since they are human they will be able to die, they will marry, they will have children.
If you notice in Revelation 22:3, the curse is not lifted until the New Heaven and New Earth appear. So even though Satan will be locked up for a 1,000 years, mortals will still have to deal with thorns and thistles, bad moods and kidney failure.
(3) "You're So Vain." (Who will be the Anti-Christ, what is 666, will he be European, Catholic, Muslim or a Jewish Hybrid, is there a Beast Computer System, and whatz up with the Blood Moons?)
There are some things I am just no longer interested in, and weird speculative prophecy is one of them! I use to try to figure out who would one day take over the earth as the evil dictator. For awhile I was convinced it was King Juan Carlos until he retired and took up motorcycle riding. I just could never imagine the Anti-Christ riding a motorcycle. I thought I figured out that Brussels, Belgium had the Beast computer where all the information on everybody was kept until I learned that Lois Lerner had an "App" on her I-phone that could download at the touch of a button all the IRS secrets on American citizens. Who needs the Beast when you have an Apple?
And the final straw that broke my prophecy junkie back was this Blood Moon non-sense. C'mon, a Lunar Eclipse is not what Joel (Joel 2:31) and John (Revelation 1:7) where talking about. If a Lunar Eclipse is a sign of gloom, doom and God's wrath, then explain to me why good things always happen to me under the faint light of lunar moon: February 21, 1970 - - our family decided to move from Dayton, Ohio to Columbus, Ohio and Woody Hayes was the coach of the Buckeyes at that time. August 4, 1970 - - a baby girl by the name of Michelle Rohrer was born. (Later to be married and named Michelle Weeks) June 5, 1974 - - Sly Stone from "Sly and Family Stone" got married. May 25, 1975 - - Dennis Eckersly pitched for the Indians and shut out the Oakland A's 6-0.
I could go on, but I won't.
So you see, Revelation has the potential of being a Lotus flower whereby eating it's fruit will keep you dreaming and speculating while the rest of the world moves on. I would rather get to things that change lives instead of swirling in the land of speculation and conjecture for two or three years.
So if you attend my church and you want to change, you will love the new series called "Free". See you soon!
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband." Rev. 21:1-2
I call it "Heaven Panic": This is when a person gets cold sweats, trembling fingers, and experiences palpable fear every time they think about eternity. Usually dread is reserved only after considering the mystery of hell and its horrors; but sometimes I will have a person come into my office and ask me, "Is it wrong to not want to go to heaven? It really scares me."
I proceed to ask them why they feel this way, and not surprisingly I usually get the same answer, "I don't want to float around in the clouds playing a harp. I hate harps. Who wants to wear a white robe for all eternity? If I am not going to be married in heaven and I never get to enjoy the bliss of physical union ever again, what's the use? It sounds so boring, I can't bare to think about it!"
So then I pose another question, "Are you scared of waking up tomorrow?"
They reply, "Well no, of course not! I have a lot of things to do, people to see, games to watch, a chicken-coop to build. So much to do and so little time..."
And then I throw in the mind-blowing truth as a hypothetical question (Usually I say it with a slow, cool, crafty half-smile): "Did you know eternity has already begun for you, and you sure don't seem bored to me?"
"Well, I am not in heaven yet."
I reply, "Are you sure about that?"
PLATO & DUALISM
Before you start questioning my theology and whether or not I believe in 'life after death'; don't worry, the resurrection is my ultimate hope! I am a subscriber to the "Already - Not Yet" narrative. The Kingdom of God and his Son Jesus Christ as King is already ruling over my life and heart; but Christ's physical rule on earth is not yet. If you notice in my statement, I believe his rule will be "on earth." So technically, I don't believe in heaven.
When people use the word heaven, what they are most often are expressing is the belief in "Platonic Dualism." This way of thinking I most emphatically 'do not' subscribe to.
Plato, the Classical Greek philosopher, devised a system of thought known as a "Theory of Forms." He placed higher value on things above (the higher invisible realm - above and beyond cloud and sky), and lower or base value on things below (the earthly-material realm). This theory proposes that non-material abstract forms (or ideas) possess the highest and most substantial kind of reality. Simply put, that which is valuable or "good" is invisible, composed of ethereal non-substance. It's realm is reached through the mind (reason, intuition, and contemplation), and is not trapped in the confines of material substance.
The things of material and matter: dust, dirt, sensations and feelings, are only shadows of the invisible things. Shadows are always poor reflections of the real thing. So to Plato, the beauty of the physical body , that which you see with your eyes and touch with your skin, is not intrinsically good because it is only the material echo of the eternal idea of the ideal called "Beauty." The temporal body will eventually fade away, as a shadow does when the sun goes down; while the permanent ideal it reflects will always remain.
Confused? At face value, I know many of you see Plato's philosophy as nothing more than useless babble that has nothing in common with me and my life. But don't write Plato off so fast. Without realizing it, all of us have adopted many of his assumptions in your own everyday thought patterns. Dualism (seeing a value distinction between the invisible good and the material bad) permeates the way we place importance on things. For instance:
* Ask a person which job is more important, a Pastor or a Plumber? More times than not people will say a pastor - he deals with the things of God where as a lowly plumber just unclogs toilets. The business of the upper world trumps the poop of earth every time. Who will you call when your bathroom overflows? (Sometimes a plumber is a direct answer to prayer!)
* What is a more noble: making money, saving and investing it, or disavowing the need for it by giving all you own to the poor? Money is the root of all evil right? Or is it the love of money? We have exalted the man who gives it all away and marches on Wall Street; while they feel self-righteous as they scream at the banker and businessman and call them spawns of Satan. I like what one man has said, "Money is nothing more than stored up work." That isn't evil, it is a means.
* What is better for society, being a Hermit Monk praying in the mountains of Nepal; or being a "stay-at-home" mom? A mom is so insignificant, lowly, and expendable, right? Think of it like this, where would Gandhi be if no one ever changed his diapers?
All of these examples reflect Plato's "Theory of Form" at work. Notice how the higher and more contemplative role is seen as more exalted. Denying material wealth and the need for things is seen as more noble, closer to the ideal.
ORIGEN ON HEAVEN
And when it comes to the afterlife, Platonic thought has been one of the prime influences on how we perceive the kind of life we are going to have after death. One person who has been heavily influenced by the Platonic vision is a man named Origen of Alexandria (185-254 a.d.). His writings have seeped into the very core of Christian teaching. Listen to just a few quotes and you will see how our view of heaven has been tremendously warped by him:
"The resurrection body will not be in the grosser and more solid condition of the body but instead will shine with the splendor of the celestial bodies fit for more perfect and blessed beings... we will all have a spiritual body, which can dwell in the heavens."
Here is another quote,
“The saints may begin in ‘paradise,’ which is ‘some place situated on earth,’ they may ‘ascend’ through increasing knowledge and wisdom to the ‘region of the air,’ passing through the planetary realm (the visible heavens), until they ARRIVE at the ‘invisible’ heavens where the mind feasts eternally on the contemplation and understanding of God.”
Note some of the words he uses: He calls earthly bodies as "grosser because they are made of solid material," meaning a body that is more like a floating spirit is superior to one that walks on concrete ground. He believes that the ultimate state of being is dwelling in the "invisible' heavens where the mind just contemplates. Yuck! Now I know why people are scared.
Look at this picture to the left. I was reading a story about a woman who was given visions of heaven by God and she started painting them. This was one of them. What do you see?
I see Andy Gibb floating in the exploding Crab Nebula of outer-space. He is awfully big. But what is he doing? Waiting to catch a floating meteorite or maybe the U.S.S. Enterprise zooming by? I would much rather be on earth running on the grass catching a solid football made of pig-skin, and laughing with my friends than floating among the stars. If this is heaven, count me out!
But it isn't! That is my point. These visions and speculations have nothing to do with scriptural teaching. Revelation 21-22 point to a restored garden of Eden. There are rivers, rocks and trees. Isaiah talks about lions and lambs, cities, running children. It sure sounds material and physical to me? Let's stop being so "heavenly minded that we are no earthly good." Jesus is a man with actual scars on his hands, he has a face, we will see his smile.
One more thing, and it concerns sex. I know Jesus says we will not be married in heaven, but that doesn't necessarily mean we will be bored. Listen to a quote by C. S. Lewis concerning eternal joys:
"I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No’, he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it." Miracles (New York: Macmillan, 1947), p. 160.
So, are you still scared?
Don't be, because I guarantee you wont have to dress like Andy Gibb or Joan Biaz either!
"The father of godly children has cause for joy.
What a pleasure to have children who are wise."
Proverbs 23:24 NLT
I am a lot of things:
A son, a brother, a pastor, an ex-(expired & exhausted) rugby player, a nuisance, a honyak and a husband. I also am a dad. And I love it.
My kids are gifts, I can't believe God would grace me with having four of them living in my home for the past 18 years. I understand that fatherhood is not something that is heralded or exalted much these days; dads often are portrayed as the leading fools in sitcoms and "persona-non-grata" in political dialogue. "Dad" is fast becoming a cultural byword, a fuzzy memory in America's distant past. But in my opinion - - being a dad is one of the greatest honors a man could ever receive.
It is fun to watch your son run fast. Or to hear that your oldest son works hard. I smile when my youngest daughter runs through the halls of the house chasing the dog with a water sprayer. But last night, watching my oldest daughter be rewarded by her teachers for her 12 years of solid work in academics, friendship and community building left me humbled and speechless. There are no words for the joy I felt and still feel.
Dad's are famous for bragging - - taking credit for the accomplishments that their children acheive. Acting as if they deserve all the credit. But last night, I realized that my daughter is God's jewel. He has poured an enormous amount of grace into her life and she responded to it. It is not about me, it is God at work in the life of a willing heart. And there is nothing more enjoyable to watch.
Being a dad is like sitting in the front row of a great show. I know that I have had a part to play in her growth; but looking back on her twelve years, I really can't take the credit. It is amazing to watch how God blesses a child that responds to him. Ginger is God's daughter, and he does the transformation.
Why do we discredit fatherhood? Sure it is hard. Oh I know that you can go broke doing it. But c'mon, you are able to know first-hand some of the greatest people in the world. For 18 to 24 (it might be 30 for my boys) years, human beings fashioned in the image of God, get to live under your roof and they are more than eager to learn from you. Don't you understand the overwhileming opportunity given to you?
What did Joseph feel as Jesus grew up in his home? Can you imagine? I got to have a small taste of that for 18 years with my daughter - - I got to know personally someone I respect, admire and love.
Sure, I am just a dad. But that is more than enough for me!!
"To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne." Revelation 3:21
Do you know how terrifying it is to admit this? What I am about to say is almost as embarrassing as acknowledging that...
* I like Johnny Manziel. I believe his potential has yet to be tapped. Sure he is a cad, but he didn't win the Heisman for nothing. I know, sports experts think he is a washout. Should I be embarrassed?
* I like Macaroni-n-Cheese. It is super easy to make and it really hits the spot when I am hungry. I know, food connoisseurs think it is low-brow, trailer park food. Should I be embarrassed?
* I think the first Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was terrific! Johnny Depp lovers will strongly disagree, but I believe Gene Wilder is so much better, smarter, crazier and cool as Willy Wonka. I even like the first Charley Bucket's hair, it was a lot like mine back in the day. Oh sure, people will say the newer Oompa-Loompas are way cuter. Should I be embarrassed?
* And when it comes to discussing eschatology and end time events, I believe in the literal, 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem when he take the throne over the whole Earth immediately after his Second Coming. That means I am a Premillennial Dispensationalist. I am part of a dying breed. I can hear what the learned scholars and emerging theological consensus is saying about me now...
- "Oh, you and your Scofield KJV Bible worship. When are you going to give up that dusty old stand-bye and come to the light of the new generation?" (Actually I am now transitioning into an ESV bible after years of preaching from the 1984 NIV.)
- "Oh, you just want to escape the world, check out from the struggle of every day life, and be rescued. Dispensationalism is your way to not be engaged in the culture around you. Slacker!" (No, I do care about my neighborhood, I cut my grass, I support my brother-in-law who is working with the urban poor, and I am not hiding out in a bunker in Montana waiting while looking up in the sky to be extricated by Jesus. I still buy boxes of Mac-n-Cheese. I am still living the dream down here!)
- "Oh, you are a Jack Van Impe follower and John Hagee fanatic. Always looking for the coming of Christ in the next headline." (Truthfully, both of those men and their fear mongering and bad hermeneutics drives me crazy. If I hear any more about the Blood Moons I think I will begin howling!)
- "Oh, you have no respect for the rich history of great learning and intellect from reformed covenant men like Calvin, Luther, Augustine and Edwards? And you now are jumping on newer scholarship bandwagon like John Darby and other revivalist pastors?" (No, actually if you take Luther's view on the Anti-Christ you would be calling for the Pope's demise. Or did you know Jonathan Edwards was worse than Jack Van Impe? He saw the coming of Christ's kingdom every time the British Colonists won a battle against the French and Indians during the war in the early 1700's.)
I am a Dispensationalist for a few main reasons. I try to use a straight interpretation (grammatical-historical approach) of the scriptures. As Professor Bernard Ramm says, "The literal interpretation as applied to any document is that view which adopts as the sense of a sentence, the meaning of that sentence in usual, or normal conversation or writing. It takes words in terms of normal usual designation." Oh, I know there are apocalyptic symbols in Revelation; and more often than not those symbols will often be explained in the context. Let me offer you one example in Revelation 20:2 - - it says Micheal the angel seized the dragon and threw him to the abyss. Critics will say, "Your literal wooden method of interpretation will have you believing in a literal dragon. Dragons are myths you fool!" No, I don't believe in a literal dragon because the symbol is immediately explained. Read the whole verse, "He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan." See how symbols will be explained if you keep reading?
I also think those who revert to allegory as their mode of interpretation can cause God's word to read rather fuzzy and rubbery, like they are using the Scriptures as silly-putty. Covenant theologians often take tricky passages and with the tool of allegory make them seem to say whatever they want. I am not saying my method of interpretation is flawless, in fact the more I study the book of Revelation, the more confused I become at times. But I believe I am more restrained from wild speculation, because I do study scared. Listen to this verse by Peter:
"Paul writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:16)
Did you catch that last part? Bad handling of Scripture leads to destruction. That terrifies me. So yes, I am looking forward to the rapture. I believe that some sort of Evil Empire will arise and Jesus will wipe it out with the word of his mouth. Yes, I believe Jesus is going to sit on a throne in Jerusalem, while I get to rule with him. I am still hoping to help out in New Zealand. I do believe I will drink some wine with my sisters, my brother, my mom and dad, my wife and kids, while we all laugh at my son Joseph as he goes swimming in the river of life.
And yes, I think on that day, Satan will be utterly humiliated and we will all get to see it.
I do have to admit one more thing: I don't want to suffer in the tribulation. So for that, I am glad I believe in the rapture! Does that sound crazy? Do I embarrass you?