Monday, November 26, 2012

Why the End of the World Isn't In Your Future

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly said, "You have heard it said. . ." or "It has been said" and then recounted some false teaching of the Pharisees followed by "but I say to you" and the correct teaching.  We know Jesus wasn't changing or correcting biblical principles, because He didn't say, "The Scripture says,"  "It is written," or another phrase indicating a scriptural quote.  In this teaching, He contrasts the false teaching of the church leaders of the age with truth.

If I may be so bold, I am attempting here to follow the example of Jesus and say, "You have heard it said, but Scripture says to you..."

At the church in which I grew up, we were taught to look expectantly towards the eastern sky for the soon appearing of the Lord in His Second Coming.  Imagine my shock when I discovered my new boyfriend (and soon-to-be fiance) didn't believe the end of the world was nigh.  In fact, he maintained this gloom-and-doom eschatology was not at all what the Bible taught.  Wanting to save him from such erroneous thinking, I began debating end times prophecy with him.  I lost - big time!

Today, I am firmly convinced the eschatological perspective I was taught (by my church, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, etc.) is not only wrong, but harmful.  It fills Christians needlessly with fear by misinterpreting Scripture.  It can paralyze Christians so they are not working to transform our world because, as one of the end-times teachers said, "You don't polish the brass on a sinking ship."  I don't believe these teachers purposely taught falsehood, but I do believe that was the end result.

If you are freaking out by unrest in the Middle East, or are a young person worried about never getting married because the Rapture is going to happen before you get the chance, or are not worried about planning for the future because you think you'll be raptured out before you get old, please know Christians through the centuries DID NOT believe this.  Lots of Christians today (myself included) DO NOT believe this.

Proverbs teaches us the first man's case seems just until another comes to examine him (Proverbs 18:17).  Too often, erroneous teaching is continued generation to generation simply by repetition and assertion.  Here are some example:

Does the Bible say the lion shall lay down with the lamb?  No.  Doubt me?  Read Isaiah 65:25.

Was Elijah taken up in a fiery chariot?  No.  Doubt me?  Read 2 Kings 2:11.

Does the Bible teach in the parable of the wheat and the tares that Christians will be taken before the wicked in the end times?  No.  Doubt me?  Read Matthew 13:24-30.  The Scriptures says (of the wheat and tares) in vs 30:  "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn"

One little blog post is not enough to change your mind, but I hope it is enough to challenge you to be like the Bereans:  "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."

Here are some resources to help you in your investigation:
A wonderful (and little) book called, "Why the End Is Not Near," which you can pick up for $5 here.

American Vision has this article about prophecy and what is going on in the Middle East.

And while preaching through Mark, my hubby did an overview of some eschatological talking points in this week's sermon.  You can find it here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bounds of Habitation

"And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation."  ~ Luke 17:26

Our congregation rejoiced this past Sunday when a couple from India, whom we have grown to love, joined our church family.  After Pravin and Abarna had assented to the membership vows, my husband cited this verse in Acts.  I was struck by the realization we were seeing a fulfillment of this truth right before our eyes.  They were my brother and sister in Christ; we were joined in the "one blood" of the church.  The LORD had ordained that this Indian couple's "bounds of habitation" would extend to Kentucky and enrich my own habitation.

I confess my mind wandered a little during the next hymn.  I thought of all the wonderful people who have been placed in my life from all points of the compass within the United States and of those wonderful unique friendships with people in far off lands such as Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Russia, Germany, Thailand, Afghanistan, and more.  I smiled at this thought as Elder Brian O'Leary read the scripture readings with his trademark Irish lilt. I am smiling now as I type in anticipation of future new friends whose predetermined bounds of habitation will overlap my own.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Gathered To His People

On the liturgical calendar, November 1 is All Saints Day or All Hallows (thus "Halloween" as a derivative of All Hallows' Eve).  On this day, we remember the Christians who have entered heaven.  This Sunday, the names of congregants who have died this year will be read during our worship service.  It's a bittersweet time for many as we rejoice in our loved ones' heavenly residence, but also grieve the loss of their companionship this side of heaven.

This year I'm especially reflective.  My Mom, sister and I recently made the southward trek to my parents' hometown to put autumn flowers on my Dad's grave.  My Dad is buried in the cemetery beside Parnell Baptist Church.  His grave joins the graves of generations of his ancestors who are also buried there.  As I walked through the cemetery, I realized more and more these names weren't just etchings on stone familiar only by the history Dad had recounted over the years, but now represented dear ones to whom I have said goodbye.

It may seem a strange thing to say, but I love this cemetery.  I love the literal "resting with your fathers" aspect of it.  It gives me a visual of the oft-used phrase in Scripture, "gathered to his people."  Every time I visit it, I am reminded death has lost its victory and the grave has lost its sting.  Like David's lost son, my loved ones can't return to me, but I will join them.  What a wonderful reunion is awaiting us!