Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What Next? Apparently this...

It did not take too long for an explanation to come out concerning the failed "prophetic" prediction of Harold Camping.  You can click here for an article; the basic explanation is Camping was off by five months as this past Saturday was an "invisible judgment day" (how convenient), and October 21st is still the day the earth is going to be destroyed by a fireball (presumably a gigantic one).  Apparently, as you can read here, this dawned on him over the weekend. 

I wonder what happens with "the rapture" in light of this new revelation?  That is (unfortunately) a mainstay in the eschatology of many...but apparently Camping - err, I mean God - has no use for that now.   Apparently there is no use for the earth either as it will be destroyed...but I will leave that behind for now.

While far from being an exhaustive list, a few major options we have are to either a) believe Camping, b) dismiss him as a false prophet, c) go about life as normal and ignore eschatology because another prediction has failed, or d) take a serious look at eschatology and its implications.

I opt for "d" - but this is where many often do not like to go because of the belief eschatology is confusing.  This is unfortunate because the implications of eschatology are important...important enough God wanted them clearly communicated so His people would obey by them. Believe me, God does not want this to be confusing - why would He?

Indeed, many live unconcerned about eschatology due to ignorance.  Please note I did not say "stupidity"; we are all ignorant of many things - this is a fact of life.  So how about this, how about we shed light on some biblical teaching concerning eschatology in an attempt to remove the cover of ignorance?  While doing this together people will be able to form their own conclusions; e.g., reject the most commonly held eschatological teachings as false (e.g., a rapture, the earth being destroyed, etc.) and actively seek to live a life of readiness...OR accept what culture says is true about eschatology - and basically ignore it.

Open our eyes Lord...

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Next?

To the dismay of several, yet not to the surprise of most, "judgment day" did not occur this past Saturday.  I am not sure how Camping and his followers will adjust.  While I would like to say I could care less, as a follower of Jesus I am compelled to care (and therefore repent of a "care less" attitude).  Based on past predictions, which have ALL failed, it seems some will leave the group and others will become more entrenched in the belief based on an explanation of some sort.

Partially leaving the "Judgment Day" prediction of 5/21/11 behind for now, I turn our attention to the tornadoes of Saturday (Reading, KS) and Sunday (Joplin, MO) evenings.  What are Christians to do in response to those events?  Among other things we should offer help.  God's love is shown in times like these through His people.  Indeed, our interaction with others directly reveals how much we love God (cf. Mt22:34-40).

The reason I said 'partially leaving...' above is because I want to keep this discussion informed by eschatology, which ought to influence all Christian discussion.  Among other things, in Luke 13:1-5 Jesus tells us we should not be concerned about finding a "one-to-one" correlation between disaster and some sort of cause/sin.  Rather, Jesus tells us is we need to live a repentant life.  Living in light of eschatology ought to compel one to lead a repentant life.  So why don't we live in light of what the Bible teaches concerning "eschatology"?

Confusion is one answer.  I hope to post a bit about confusion in the near future.

Yet it also seems to me the very fact of living a repentant life is another struggle we have with living in light of biblical teaching on eschatology.  By and large people do not want to repent.  By and large people enjoy doing what they think is best.  By and large people enjoy the (supposed) comforts life in this world offers.  Yet what happens when those comforts are wiped out?

Alas, we are back to the tornadoes of Reading and Joplin (not to mention the recent flooding of the Mississippi and other tornadoes...or the earthquake/tsunami in Japan...or ______).  This is not to minimize the loss of lives and material things suffered recently, or at any other point in history, due to anything (such as a "natural disaster").  What it is intended to do is help us to realize an obvious reality; THINGS ARE NOT RIGHT IN THIS WORLD!!!

Somewhere around 22,000 children die of poverty related issues around the world every day.  The majority of those deaths are on different continents, which makes "out of sight and out of mind" very prevalent for us in the West.  However, when tragedy strikes closer to home it is harder to ignore the reality of this world being a mess.  At this point we have options.  CS Lewis said "pain is God's megaphone".  I am not saying God causes these horrible things to happen (views on this vary).  Yet I am saying we can either choose to listen to the pains of the world or ignore them (I do not know if there is another option).

Back to the Camping crew...as misguided as they were at least they acted on their beliefs.  I, for one, need to repent of not being shaped more by what I believe - which is shaped by what I know about eschatology.

Friday, May 20, 2011

After Saturday...

I readily admit, I am not well informed when it comes to popular culture.  I suppose I ought to be, yet I often rationalize I have better things to do.  Perhaps this is a reason why I have basically ignored the whole Harold Camping date-setting issue.  I have had a few private conversations with people, but nothing too much.    I knew better...

About a month ago (while relaxing and reflecting with a cup of coffee) I saw three moving billboards (2 vans and a box truck if I remember correctly) drive right past the Java Cat 5 window on a Thursday morning.  Their message, among other things, 5/21/11 is The End.  The other day my eye was drawn to a full page add in the USA Today on the issue as well.  Then yesterday an article in the Kansas City Star caught my eye as I tried to find the USA Today add online for another look.  I cannot ignore the issue any longer...

Thankfully my wife keeps me reigned in on the issue or else I would likely be quite abrasive.  So here goes: this (and all other date settings) are "unfortunate" [how's that for gentle honey :)].  One of the things this does is make The Church a laughing stock.  The general thinking is "If they can't get Jesus' 2nd coming right...why should we believe anything they say about His 1st coming?"  I find no fault in that logic.  Indeed, there are entire websites devoted to documenting failed predictions (there are also websites poking fun at the rapture in general - like "rapture ready pets" - but I am being nice and not, ummm...well, I am not talking about the "rapture" of the church here).

While I acknowledge this is not good for the unbeleiving world (e.g., it is another way in which they can write off The Church as irrelevant), the larger harm is for The Church internally.  Why?  This is another example/reason/excuse of why many see "eschatology" as irrelevant or too confusing.  Indeed, properly understood "eschatology" is the most important aspect of Christianity (I think I agree with that statement...).

What should The Church do?  1) We should begin praying (if we are not already) for those who are expecting the world to end and are going to be let down.  It would be tragic if some were to leave the faith due to a failed prediction.  2) We should begin praying Harold Camping will repent and be held accountable (Harold as well as many others who have done the same...).  3) We should begin praying the scoffing of non-believers will somehow (by God's grace) be turned into questioning and searching.  Pray God will use this too for His glory - somehow.  4) We should begin praying The Church will take "eschatology" seriously (I think #4 is a key to revival...).

A few years ago I did some Radio Spots on "the last days".  Please listen; there are several.  I am open for dialog if you disagree...but at least you have to agree I have used the Bible (and if you disagree please feel free to tell me why).  If you agree then share the link or this post.  There are other links and people to whom I can refer for the study of eschatology - I think I'll save that for a future post.  Yet Shane J Wood is too good to pass up; especially since I may not do a 2nd post (I have been known to do that you know).  I am certain what you will find will be informative.  Shane is one who takes eschatology seriously.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Indeed...a Shepherd

Today is Dr. Lowery’s funeral; yesterday was the visitation services.  Although it pains me to not be there; given the responsibilities of each day – and what I know of Dr. Lowery – he would have encouraged me not to come. 

Yesterday we had a Family (Congregational) meeting at New Life.  I could have been gone from preaching.  Yet the meeting was too important as we work toward more health as a body.  I think he would have agreed. 

Today my wife has a late afternoon baby appointment followed by a birthing class in the evening.  I am going to both.  With Melissa due mid-May I cannot justify leaving her home while I drive a long distance to “say goodbye”.  In fact, now that I think about it, I believe we (my wife Melissa, our daughter Ellei, and the baby still in Mommy’s tummy) will have our own little celebration and dance party for Dr. Lowery this afternoon after Ellei wakes from her nap.  I can almost hear Dr. Lowery’s hearty laugh of delight at such a thought/image. 

I relay the information of what we will do because of another aspect of Dr. Lowery.  A few days ago the focus was on the Scholar; today the focus is on the Shepherd.  Indeed, those two aspects fueled one another.  His study drove him to be a better shepherd; his love for people drove him to a deeper study of God’s word – which drove him to be a better shepherd…  Indeed, beautiful cycle. 

In the fall of 2004 I took Preaching from the New Testament with Dr. Lowery and Dr. Sackett.  During that week of class (an intensive week) I was not only introduced to Dr. Lowery the World-Class Scholar for the first time; I was also introduced to Dr. Lowery the Humble Shepherd as well. 

One way both Scholar & Shepherd were shown was how Dr. Lowery (as well as Dr. Sackett) offered affirmation and critique after I gave my sermon during the week of class.   

I also fondly remember both professors making time to pastor/shepherd those of us in the class.  Both men acknowledged difficulty in finding time to study God’s Word deeply while finding time to love people in tangible ways (i.e., be a shepherd).  Dr. Lowery mentioned the staggering number of unread emails which had accumulated in his Inbox since Monday morning (class from 8am-5pm coupled with prep time for the next day as well as family time does not leave much time for email).  Basically, you have to make time for what is important. 

The following fall I had a class over Revelation with Dr. Lowery (and 18 or so others).  Due to circumstances in our marriage, mid-week it became necessary to share some marital struggles my wife and I were experiencing.  These circumstances were first shared with only few of my classmates.  Yet these classmates (appropriately) shared with Dr. Lowery.  His concern was obvious as before class began for the day (which, remember, was focused on Revelation) time was made to pray for us.  Prayers for another marriage were included in this time, after which an appropriate break/breather was given.  

After the week of class, for a time, I kept everyone up to date on improvements in our marriage and desired prayer requests.  I kept Dr. Lowery up to date longer than others.  I did this because of his responses to my emails.  Last week I was moved to tears again in remembering how Dr. Lowery – despite having dozens and dozens of emails every day to answer – would answer mine.  I could reproduce what he shared with me in response to some of my email updates.  But it is sufficient to say they were specific and not a general “help/bless them God”. 

I also know this is not unique to me.  In one email reply he mentioned using a portion of Friday mornings to pray for students in ministry who are facing a variety of difficulties.  Given the 100’s he influenced I am certain that list was long. 

Indeed – a Shepherd…a Shepherd shaped by his Scholarship.  May we all conform to God’s Word.