Singing About Heaven

Heaven does not get much description in the Bible. Revelation 21 and 22 offer a glimpse of the after life, but also note these chapters are describing the New Jerusalem, not heaven.

Since the Bible does not define what heaven looks like or what life will be like, one would imagine a wide array of descriptive words would be used in our songs about heaven.

But after looking at about a hundred hymns that refer to heaven, three very common themes run through these songs when they describe heaven.

1) Mansions. Many hymns, from hokey ones like I’ve Got a Mansion Over the Hilltop to more churchy hymns like When We All Get to Heaven, mention our own personal mansions to spend eternity frolicking in.

2) Sea, Ocean or Shore. Christians are either going to gather by the crystal sea or we will meet on that beautiful shore.

3) Rivers. There is either a mention of a specific heavenly river or crossing the Jordan.

What is interesting about these descriptions of heaven is that two don’t even exits.

The mansion idea is from John 14 and the KJV rendering that “in my Father’s house are many mansions.” The word for mansion can be as generic s a dwelling place. Probably it is better translated “In my Father’s dwelling place there are many places to dwell.” Heaven is big and there’s room for everyone.

It is ironic that Christians, who routinely mock Muslims for wanting to go to heaven so they get virgins, at the same time promote heaven because we get nice, big houses. How is one fleshly lust worse than another fleshly lust?

The ocean, sea and shore stuff, I’m not at all certain what that is referring to. Revelation 21:1 says there is no sea in the New Jerusalem, which is where we base most of our heaven stuff on. What is this sea or this shore we are meeting on? I will be bummed if you all know where it is and I can’t find it and I miss out.

I get the river stuff, there is a river flowing out of the New Jerusalem and crossing the Jordan to enter to Promised Land are nice descriptors. The other two, not so much.

Persecution or Judgment?

Read this in the comment section of a blog post:

“How sad would it be to find out in the end that what we thought was persecution for our faith was actually the natural wrath of God in the world against our sins of pride and hate?”

I have often wondered the same thing. Persecution of Christians in America is more along the lines of wounded pride, we think we should have been taken more seriously, our opinions aren’t heard, which is summed up–we didn’t get our way.

Not getting your way leads to anger, anger leads to self-righteousness, self-righteousness to judgmentalism, and judgmentalism to our own judgment.

True Christian persecution is getting nailed for righteousness sake. We, being reinforced by our self-esteem driven Christianity, know we are all righteous, so we interpret everything through this self-righteous lens, so every misdeed against us is seen as true Christian persecution.

It isn’t. It’s you feeling bad for yourself for not getting your way and feeling self-righteous about it.

One of the best signs you are going through true Christian persecution is that you’re happy about it, not whining and sniveling about how rough it is to be you.

“But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.”

Oh for more reasons to be happy!

Legalism and Church Softball

Church softball season is winding down. It’s been a fun year, but our last two games have been against two teams from the same church, a church which doctrinally gives me issues.

Inevitably games against this church involve arguments. For some reason I was pitching in our last game and there were runners at second and third with no outs and a big guy up. I pitched him junk. He didn’t swing. A person from their bench said, “That looked like an intentional walk.”

I laughingly said, “Ya think?” Which then led to an argument. “Can you do that? Is that legal? Do the rules say you can intentionally walk people?”

Later a guy was rounding third, I took the throw from the outfield and ran toward the runner assuming he would turn back to third. For some odd reason, he decided to go for it, so I tagged him out. “Wait, can you do that? Can you tag a runner going home?”

Granted our church league has some odd rules, but both these plays were perfectly legit baseball plays. There may, in fact, be a rule about tagging runners going home, but this was such a dumb play, no way he was going to score, that it’s not what the rules were written for. There may be a rule about intentional walks, but in all fairness, he could have swung. It’s not like the catcher stood five feet outside, I didn’t miss by that much.

At the same time, there are no rules about borrowing players if your church has multiple teams (because this is the only church up here big enough to do so), yet their two teams swap out their best players whenever possible to guarantee they both win (they are both in the top three in our league). There are no rules but this is a blatant violation of baseball etiquette.

Rules, for them, are things invented to help us win, to gain advantage over you, things to be manipulated to make us look better. This is called legalism.

David could not eat the shewbread if he played on their softball team. Jesus could not pick corn if He played first base for them. Rules are not things provided so you can one-up others.

Rules are not for the righteous but the unrighteous. Rules are there to prevent people from getting away with stuff that can hurt others or to prevent cheating. Rules are not there to keep the other team from playing the game of baseball.

Legalism must die. The Spirit should reign, not the coldness of the letter in baseball and in Christian living.

Learning Through Suffering

Some of the most interesting verses about the sufferings of Christ are Hebrews 5:8-9:

“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”

His sufferings taught Him obedience! That is fascinating. Most people aren’t quite sure what to do with that one.

Did Christ really have to learn? Furthermore, did He have to learn obedience? I thought He was God in the flesh who knew what was in people’s hearts?

Then there’s the “being made perfect” bit. Surely the writer of Hebrews knows that Jesus is already perfect and didn’t have to go through a being made perfect process.

No doubt, most Christians have these answers down pat and can resolve them in nothing flat. I would merely encourage a few moments of reflection on these verses to understand the humanity of the one who suffered. Yes, He was God in the flesh, but He was tempted in every way like us. Peter says we are perfected by sufferings in the same way.

If Jesus learned from it, imagine how much we have to learn!?

This is our example. This is what we desire to be fellowshipped with. This is what we are now to do for others–to suffer for them.

The Suffering of the Messiah

A god who becomes flesh to suffer and die doesn’t seem like much of a god, more like a god with a really weak plan. Unless you see the depth of the plan, the depth of the problem and the depth of the wisdom of God.

The cross is foolishness to the world. It doesn’t make much sense to the “rational” mind.

At the same time, the suffering of Christ is n0t what avails for us. His suffering was not meritorious. His suffering is not where the power lies. Many have suffered, and many have even suffered on a cross.

What makes Christ’s sufferings worth anything is The Blood that was shed and The Body that was broken. Human suffering does not save souls.

Generally when the Bible speaks of Christ’s sufferings, it’s spoken of as something to join Him in. Those who suffer with Him will reign with Him. We desire to know the “fellowship of His sufferings” like Paul. Those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

He suffered as an example for us, as a demonstration of His love, His patience, His long-suffering. What we are so unlikely to do for others–be inconvenienced to the point of pain–Christ did for us. Let us join Him there and show the love of Christ to others.

The Messiah’s Messiah Complex

On His way to the cross, Jesus told His followers not to weep for Him but for themselves and their children. Feeling sorrow for Christ because of His crucifixion aint all bad, but we should not stop here.

Later we are told that Christ endured the cross for the “joy set before Him.”

The emotions of the moment certainly do not appear as joyful, in fact, not much of Jesus’ life is marked by outward joy. But He had a joy in knowing He was doing His Father’s will, even if that meant death on the cross.

Jesus Himself weeps at Lazarus’ death, He weeps over Jerusalem because they refused to be gathered, and He weeps in the Garden before His final ordeal. He is a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief.

But He doesn’t tell us, “Yeah, feel bad for me, guys. This whole thing is a real bummer. I’m a suffering martyr, cry it up.” He sorrows for others and the one time He sorrowed for Himself He did it in private.

His death was on our behalf, He sorrows for us. Obviously He would then tell us to sorrow for us and not Him too.

Seems to me much of our religious sorrow is nothing more than misplaced emotional energy with no effect. Do we truly understand the Cross? The emotions of Christ?

Jesus was the best Messiah ever, yet many have tried to follow in a Messiah-complex, walking about sorrowing and suffering and evoking emotions out of others in pity for their suffering.

This is not Christ’s example, nor should we follow in it.

Don’t Cry For Me Humanity

Man’s rejection of the Son of God is not the high point of our existence.

Knowing this truth, it is quite chic to feel guilty about it and bemoan our ugliness. This has its place, but can also develop into a false humility and will-worship, as Paul calls it.

The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson’s interpretation of the death of Christ, stirred up many emotional scenes in us. We see Christ beaten, whipped, blood pouring everywhere in all Hollywood’s glorious cinematic gore.

People left that film with a sorrow for Christ. We feel bad for Him, that all that evil stuff happened to Him. Indeed this is true, but what was Christ’s view of sorrowing for Him?

“Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.”

Jesus tells the people they’re in much worse shape than He is! Don’t cry for me, cry for you! Cry because you are capable of this. Cry for you because ultimately, if Christ does not get in the way of God’s wrath for you, God’s wrath is coming for you.

Our rejection of Christ is worthy of our repentance and sorrow, no question about this, but don’t let it stop there. Don’t just feel bad for Jesus, understand your own place in God’s wrath.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

Weep for those who are still under God’s wrath. Perhaps live in such a way that you are able to pull “them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”

Suffering Does Not Save

I do not wish to offend for the sake of offending with this post, but I do wish to share an opinion. I speak this with humility and with the firsthand witnessing of several people I have known who have died from horrible things.

I don’t know how else to say it so I’ll just drop it on you.

Suffering does not mean you are a good Christian.

The assumption is made that anyone who suffers will be in God’s saving grace. I wish this were the case, yet everyone suffers and dies and yet not all are saved. Suffering because of cancer, age, any other dreadful disease or accident is no fun, hence the word “suffering.”

Suffering for suffering’s sake, having to put up with bummer reality on a fallen planet, stinks but does not equate to spiritual suffering or suffering for righteousness sake.

Many believers have been built up through their struggles and many have been brought to salvation through it. But being in it does not give you any special pull with God or make you mature just because your life currently stinks.

It’s like the people who died in the Twin Towers on 9-11. They called them heroes because they died when a plane ran into them. That’s not a hero; that’s being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The firemen who rushed into the burning building, now that’s heroism. Dying does not equal heroism, nor does suffering equal salvation.

I mean no disrespect, but I believe there are many people who think they are on God’s side because they are grinning through diseases while Satan is having a field day with their delusions. Salvation is on the basis of faith, not on the basis of grinning and bearing life.

Skipping Church so you can Sin Guilt-Free

The New Testament says several times that the collection of believers is the temple of God (Ephesians 2, 1 Corinthians 3, 1 Peter 2). There is weight to being in the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

in 1 Corinthians 3:17 Paul says anyone who destroys the temple of God will be destroyed by God. In chapter 5 he says the church can kick people out for living in sin. In chapter 6 he says our bodies, as members of Christ, need to be careful what they do lest they join the whole body of Christ to a harlot.

How often do we consider out behavior in light of the Church?

I know, I know, we are free to do as we wish, what we do doesn’t really matter, no church can boss me around or keep me from my favorite sins.

That’s what we’ve come to believe. Any church who upholds a standard is viewed as being legalistic rather than Pauline. This is mostly because the only stuff we know out of 1 Corinthians is that the world is foolish and speaking in tongues is cool.  I wish we knew the rest of the book as well.

Paul talks about liberty in the very same context as how the church has much to say and do about your behavior.

It is cool to say you don’t need church today. “we’re all priests.” Indeed we are, but we are also in one Body with Christ as our head and He does not like His members dabbling in sin. One of the factors that drive people to Christian lone-rangerism is avoiding being accountable or fleeing sin. “I do church with trees” is much safer than doing church with people who can see what you’re doing.

The Church is there to help you, yet most would rather be unhelped and just sin. You can choose to do that, but good luck at judgment day.

Grow Into Christ, Maggots!

I wonder if many of our theological and denominational differences are nothing more than personality clashes.

There are many central issues to Christianity and yet those issues can be expressed in different ways.

For instance, I am motivated by being degraded. If I weren’t blind, I often think I would have joined the military and tried out for some elite group. I’d like to be pushed and trampled on and called a “maggot.” I would get a charge out of it and it would motivate me to push on.

But I didn’t, instead I’m a pastor. A pastor who sort of wants to be a drill sergeant.

Unfortunately, I can tend to be a little overbearing at times, perhaps state things too strongly. It’s the way I speak to myself, the way I like to be spoken to for motivation. But it doesn’t work for everyone.

Many very nice, sweet people have not liked my style of preaching. Many egotistical types have not liked it either, who am I to talk to them that way?

I don’t know. I’m just a guy figuring things out and trying to teach it to others in a way that will bring them closer to Christ. My style isn’t for everyone and I’m cool with that.

I need to gain appreciation for the more breathy, “you’re a superstar with Jesus” types just as I’d like to be appreciated by them. There are many members in the One Body. We aren’t all the same and this is good.

There is room for personality in the Body. Personality tempered by the Spirit is what we need more of, rather than whining, sniveling weenies. Oops, there I go. . .

Blindness, Fear and Rejoicing

I have often wondered what happened to Peter in his younger years. Seems like something happened to make him fear people.

This shows up not just in his betrayal of Christ but also in Galatians where Paul confronts him for acting differently depending on whether Jews or Gentiles are nearby.

Many say that Peter and the other disciples were completely different after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, but Peter has the same struggle.

I can relate to Peter and his fear of people. As a legally blind guy with crossed eyes, kids mocked me mercilessly for years. This drove me quiet and into the background, always analyzing what jerk would pounce next.

It’s stupid but 30 years later I still have the same feeling in my gut around certain people. I know they see my eyes, when will the attack come? I cringe, shrink back and hide.

These are difficult things. Too often we belittle these insecurities, make it sound like we’re disobedient or something. You have no idea what I’ve overcome just to order a hamburger at McDonalds.

I expect to go further, I expect to continue to overcome the fear, I expect to be confronted by godly men when my fear keeps me from doing the right thing. It is not an excuse. It is an obstacle to overcome.

We all have these things, our weaknesses in which Christ is made strong. Learn to rejoice in them rather than to beat yourself over your failure in them, learn to use His strength to overcome.

Body as Temple

1 Corinthians 3 is the first passage that speaks of a body being a temple. Paul speaks of reward for service, compensation for all that is built on the foundation. The foundation is Christ and what is built on it is what makes up ministry–stuff done to edify the Body, the building, the Church.

1 Corinthians 6 also talks about the body and the temple. Verse 15 says “your bodies are the members of Christ.” Christ is one–one body with many members. The body is one, our bodies are members of Christ’s Body. So in verse 19 Paul says, “know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.”

Rather than saying “your bodies are the temple” he says “your body [singular] is the temple.” So, is he saying that Jeff’s physical body is a temple or is he saying that since my body is a member of Christ’s body, this one body, Christ’s, is the temple?

Ephesians 2 is the last passage referring to a body and a temple. Verse 21 says, “In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple.” We are all parts of one building, one temple, not many individual temples. He further stresses the unity in verse 22, “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” This joining into one building is the temple, the residence of the Holy Spirit.

Now, most commentaries will take 1 Corinthians 3 or Ephesians 2 and have no problem saying that refers to the Church. The problem arises in 1 Corinthians 6 and most commentators say our physical body is the temple of the Spirit.

The NIV, in fact, just goes ahead and interprets for you that it refers to each of our individual physical bodies by, for no apparent reason, making the singular “body” plural. The only other verses to compare this with both refer to the Church, the Body of Christ, being the temple.

What thinkest thou?

Belittling the NIV

I’ve been a NIV hater for many years. When I come across a good example of NIV horribleness, I like to pass it along.

I was discussing 1 Corinthians 6:19 at Bible Study the other night. Every time I touch on this issue the topic is raised that the “body” being discussed may not be the human body, but the Body of Christ, the Church.

Proof for this is that “your body” is singular here. It’s a singular body, not referring to multiple bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure about the interpretation, but I am sure the Greek is singular here (more on the interpretation tomorrow).

Then there’s the fine folks of the NIV translation committee. Here’s how they have it:

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”

It’s the only translation I’ve seen that decides to pluralize the singular.Showing again their willingness to put interpretation in place of translation. That disturbs me.

Here’s another NIV disaster from 2008

Another from 2009

The Morality of Dynamiting Kittens

Morality is a system of acceptable behaviors. It is a rule of conduct that a moral person would conform to.

Morality, for the Believer, is based on the character of God and His revelations of Himself and His righteousness.

Morality, for the heathen scum, is based on societal acceptance, or peer pressure, or mob mentality, or cultural norms.

Christian morality is based on God; heathen scum morality is based on who surrounds you.

That being the case, if a person believes we are merely a higher form of swamp goo morality is subjective, moldable. If I want to dynamite small kittens but guilt stirs within me, my goal would be to make dynamiting kittens socially acceptable. If I can convince enough people that dynamiting kittens is perfectly normal and good behavior, I will no longer struggle with guilt.

If however, your guilt and conscience are run by an internalized God, no matter what external pressures or acceptance tell you, you’re gonna struggle if you violate God’s standards.

The recent hubbub over homosexuality is a perfect example. Many Christians are waffling over whether it is a sin. The only reason a person could possibly do this is if their morality is based on societal pressures. Biblically based morality leaves no question as to the sinfulness of homosexuality.

The evolutionary belief that we are here by chance, that God is either completely uninvolved or non-existent, leaves us with the shifting sands of popular opinion to set morality. We will sink.

Even if everyone in the world accepted homosexuality, it’s still sin. It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment, and the judgment will not be done by your societal peers, but by the Righteous Law-giver.

This also applies to covetousness, gossip, lust, profanity, course jesting, etc. Let us not focus on one sin and elevate it over all others. Sin is sin and is sin every time it’s sinned.

Awake to righteousness and sin not. Christ, the Law-Giver, is also the Savior. He condemns in one role so that He might save in the other. Let Him shape you. He’s your Creator, He knows what is best.

Will We Be Casting Crowns?

Christians seem generally uncomfortable with the idea of eternal reward. The Bible mentions several crowns that are awarded to those who do certain services for the Lord.

Most Christians are good with saying their parking spots, health problems that go away, extra money in the mail and such things are from the Lord, but crowns in heaven? Never, we are not so selfish as to obey for reward!

In order to get around our discomfort for taking reward for service (which by the way seems contrary to grace, no?) we have invented the idea that we will all throw our crowns at the feet of Jesus.

This idea of casting crowns before Jesus is based on Revelation 4:10 where 24 elders before the throne of God cast their crowns before Yahweh. This is a sign of humble adoration and also a cool thing to name your band after.

Problems arise, however, when we realize that no one really has any clue who the 24 elders are. Some think elders must refer to the Church since elders (presbuteros in the Greek, presbyters) are the primary heads of local churches.

Others see elders as a term relating to Israel and 24 being the number of priests in the priestly service cycle. Others see them more generically as not referring to Israel or the Church but to heavenly beings in the council of God.

I am convinced that believers will be rewarded for service, it’s too frequently mentioned to not be actual. I see no reason to try to get humble here and resist the idea. I think it’s cool and I want me some crowns.

Will I throw them back to Jesus? I don’t know. If I do it will be solely voluntary and done out of humble adoration, and if not it will also be out of humble adoration. You’ll know what I did when we get there. If you see a guy walking around heaven with tons of crowns on his head saying, “I never thought Revelation 4:10 referred to me so I kept mine,” that’s probably me.

Struggle With Sin

My computer has contracted a virus that my anti-virus software cannot remove. This particular virus has the ability to reproduce itself apparently, so it keeps coming back. It’s something like generic dropper cmmi. It’s an annoying one.

I am currently running another program now that says it can eliminate this virus, but we’ll see. I aint holding my breath.

A reproducing virus that can’t be gotten rid of is not just a problem for my computer. I also have a virus that reproduces and just when I think I’ve dealt with it, gotten rid of it and flushed the system, it comes right back.

Sin gets me down. I get tired of blowing it. I get tired of the struggle, sometimes it’s easier just to give in and get it over with than fight and still end up doing it anyway.

Christians offer two bits of advice at this point:

1) You’re probably not saved. Saved people don’t sin. Christ eradicates the old man and sin never causes you to tumble again. If it does, you know you aren’t saved.

2) Hey, no worries mate, there is no condemnation to those in Christ! It doesn’t really matter. Don’t let it get you down.

Both answers completely fall flat for me.

Sinless perfection exists in some people’s heads, but a brief observation of their lives shows they are merely not paying attention. (One guy I follow on Facebook that claims to be sinlessly perfect posted a picture the other day with “OMG” on it. I chuckled. Which was a sin, but I never claimed to be free from it.)

I am free from condemnation in Christ, but to even hint at the possibility that sin shouldn’t bother a guy anymore seems much closer to having a hardened conscience than it does to spiritual sensitivity. Sin is disobedience to God, how can a guy not be bothered by that?

Sin is an evil beast. I do put all my faith in Jesus Christ who will ultimately deliver me from the body of this death. But until I reach that finish line, I will continue to lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets me.

I won’t win til I’m done and I aint done yet. Never give up the fight against sin. Don’t fall for sinless mindlessness but pray that you enter not into temptation. Don’t revel in a spiritual happy zone that makes sin harmless. Sin is always dangerous. Flee. Resist. He is faithful to cleanse us.

Then flee again. Resist again. He is still faithful.

So, flee again. Resist again. He’s still faithful.

Don’t stop. The race needs to be finished.

Flee. Resist. He is faithful.

No Yoking Around

2 Corinthians 6:14–be not unequally yoked with an unbeliever. Pretty much every time I hear this verse it is related to the context of marriage–Christians shouldn’t marry heathens.

As much as I agree with that point, I can’t help but be amazed that marriage has absolutely nothing to do with Paul’s context there. 6:1 talks about working together with Christ. Chapter five talks about the temporal and the spiritual and being ambassadors for Christ.

The point of Paul’s unequally yoked comment is about practical living. We are not to be linked up with the world. If we are, we won’t be ambassadors for Christ. If we put temporal things in their context and work together with Christ, then we will be ambassadors.

How in the world did this passage get so ruined over the years? Perhaps because it has too many implications and it’s easier on our conscience to say it has to do with marriage.

How about the Church being yoked with government to get its points across?

How about believers living off the government dole?

How about believers with mortgages?

How about believers in business with unbelievers?

How about believers dependent on medication?

How about believers who go out with their buddies on Saturday night who wouldn’t be caught dead in a church on Sunday morning?

Yup, let’s just stick with marriage.

Repent Does Not Mean to Change Your Mind About God

“Repent” used to be a word that had a clear message attached to it. People knew when they saw this word that they were being confronted over their sin. “Repent” used to mean turn from your sin.

The reason why we know that’s what it means is because that’s how it’s used in Scripture. “Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions.” It was also frequently used in relation to idolatry. “Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.” Paul warns the Corinthians because they “have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness.”

“Repent” is a call to turn from being stupid, to drop sin and follow God. But the guilt of this word caused much trouble for some theologians who don’t think guilt is necessary under grace and sin is no big deal now.

So now repentance is defined like this:

“Is repentance a condition for receiving eternal life? Yes, if it is repentance or changing one’s mind about Jesus Christ. No, if it means to be sorry for sin or even to resolve to turn from sin.”
–Charles Ryrie

This is said to supposedly stay consistent that we are saved by faith, not faith plus repentance. But this is just theological wheel-spinning. If one does not see his sin for what it is and have a desire to turn from it, how and why is that person looking to Christ to be saved? Saved from what?

Repentance always deals with sin and the works of the flesh. Repentance is not merely a change of mind about God, but a change of mind leading to change in action. It’s the actual turn in conduct resulting from the turn in the mind.

I even read one place that repentance is “changing your mind about how much God loves you.” Oh gag.

Repentance is a brutal word for many, but to rip it completely out of biblical context so you can sleep at night is a travesty. Repentance is a beautiful word that enables a sinner to see that his only hope is in the shed blood and the empty tomb of Christ.

Christian Evolution

Evolution says that over time things change. This is true in many minor senses, but entirely impossible to believe on big things. Adding time to the equation apparently increases the odds of the impossible happening.

It’s fun to bash on evolutionists, but I’m not too concerned with changing the minds of evolutionists, I’m more concerned with the Church. The sad thing is that evolution has crept into our beliefs in Christianity.

There are many who think God’s progressive revelation of the Bible is evolutionary. Although few would say this, it appears as though God were trying things out, trying to find that one way of management that would work. By the time Revelation comes along He finally gets it right.

There used to be, before two giant World Wars, a belief in Christian circles that the Church would usher in the Kingdom, things would get so good down here even Jesus wouldn’t mind joining us. This belief is coming back.

Others have seen a change in God over the years in the Biblical revelation. The Old Testament God was cranky, but over the years He has evolved into a much higher form of God and now knows how to chill.

The biblical revelation of doctrine also gets an evolutionary spin. Law is out and grace is in, what is this other than an evolution of doctrine? Law was a stupid idea and grace is like the awesomest thing ever. Too bad God didn’t just start with grace, but thank God He had enough time to figure it out.

Then there is the pinnacle of faith we have today in the Church. Most groups of believers think they have the best understanding of any Christian ever. We’ve learned over the years and evolved proper doctrine from those silly Church Fathers and all their arguing to the goofy Higher Critics and now to us, those who have it all figured out.

Undoubtedly, few actually state things in this way, but it sure seems to me our understanding of God and doctrine is fairly evolutionary.

Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. You can add all the time you want to that and He still won’t change.

24-Hour Creation Days?

Fundamentalists have gotten in trouble for being too literal with God’s Word while combating the liberal tendencies that shook up American Christianity sometime around the 50’s.

One of the main areas of Fundamentalist literalizing was Genesis 1. Evolution was making strides and people saw Genesis 1 more figuratively to fit more nicely into an evolutionary understanding.

Fundamentalists responded by saying that not only did God create in six days, those days were 24-hour periods. Did Fundamentalism go too far? Do we really need to read those days as being 24-hour days?

Seemingly those who believe they were 24-hour days are ridiculed as hicks and morons, backward living people who deny science.

Of course, questioning the literalness of Genesis 1 is nothing new. John Calvin in his commentary on Genesis says:

“Moses describes the special use of this expanse, to divide the waters from the waters from which word arises a great difficulty. For it appears opposed to common sense, and quite incredible, that there should be waters above the heaven. Hence some resort to allegory, and philosophize concerning angels; but quite beside the purpose. For, to my mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy, and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere.”

Calvin doesn’t think Moses is speaking straight, and points to others in his day who think this is allegory, so if you want to learn how the universe works, don’t go to the Bible. I would agree that the Bible is not an astronomy textbook, but the fact that Calvin can’t make sense of Moses makes me doubt Calvin more than Moses. Not so for Calvin, however!

Hence our dilemma–if we don’t understand how God did what He did, do we fault God or do we fault our understanding? I tend to fault human understanding.

God created the heavens and the earth, He did not use evolution, nor billions of years, He spoke it into existence just as He’ll speak it out of existence, if He couldn’t do the first we should not fear the second.

I’m a hick, moron Fundamentalist. I think God created in six days and those days were strikingly similar in length to our days. I fail to see what is gained by playing with it further.

Dear America: Happy Birthday and Nice Try

America has been a nice country to grow up in. I like it’s weather, abundance of food options, the freedom to assemble and worship, the free press, apple pie and baseball. There is no other country on earth I’d rather live in.

My appreciation and enjoyment of our country does not, however, lead me to think that we are exceptional. American exceptionalism seems to say that Americans are above the rest of the fallen human natures that make up other countries.

People are people, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile or Gentiles and Gentiles. We’re all fallen short of the glory of God. We all have hearts that are desperately wicked and deceitful. Americans are no different, therefore, our country is no exception.

We’re going to tumble just as every other world power has. We’re going to have the same moral destruction and the same inevitable division and collapse.

I remember as a kid people being in wonderment over why America was not included in biblical prophecy! Surely, we being the only country founded by God, we would play a central role in His plan. Some would make something about an eagle showing up in prophetic verses or perhaps we’re the Great Whore of Revelation 18, the great consumer.

Nope, we’re just not there, cuz we’re just like every other country–evil and not heaven on earth.

The only nation that has a right to claim exceptionalism is Israel, and not because they are humanly superior, but because God created them to be a blessing to the nations. When we hijack their promises and apply them to the USA we make a mockery of God, the Bible and Israel. Resist this urge to read America in Israels’ promises.

America, you’re young and dying. Thanks for the good times. No offense, but I live for a better country. You can’t compete.

Book Review: Bad Religion

“This book has been written in a spirit of pessimism, but for both Americans and Christians, pessimism should always be provisional.”

I like that sentence. It’s in the conclusion to Ross Douthat’s book Bad Religion: how we became a nation of heretics.

The book traces American Christianity over the past 60 some years and notes the increasingly heretical views now established in Christian teaching. The main heresies with their own chapters are:

–The Search for the Historical Jesus trend with its desire to recreate Jesus in our own image. He can be a CEO, a war protestor, a football player or whatever cause you need Him for and historical research will show that Jesus was that guy! He takes shots at dispensationalism and Scofield here, incidentally.

–Health and Wealth Gospel with all its trappings. But this is not limited to television preachers with nice tans! Douthat sees the same tendency in our obsession with balance your checkbook Christian financial advisors and the “more money=more ministry” philosophy.

–The God Within and the effects of the New Age, follow your heart, self-esteem movement encouraging people to listen to their inner voices and be their own God as they drop out of structured religion. Oprah is not helping

–The City on a hill and the unreal mixing of religion and politics detailing the churches selling out to the state as well as the state constantly playing up religious themes for their advantage–mainly messianism and apocalypsism. Freak em out, make em think you can save them and get the votes.

Douthat, a Catholic, does a great job dissecting the Church and the heresies we now accept as being commonplace and non-threatening. I think he nails it. His conclusion, as noted at the beginning, is pessimistic, but he thinks the only hope is if Christians begin to focus on their own sanctity to transform others.

The book uses big words; I learned some new ones. It is dry in places. He covers many names that if you are not theologically informed you will not know and this may frustrate you. But all in all, this is a good read with powerful wakeup calls for our heresy filled Christianity.

God Didn’t Give You All The Things You Thank Him For

Hebrews 11 talks about people of faith, a great cloud of witnesses showing us how faith is done. The consistency of their testimony is that they lived for another world, a better country.

Christianity has lost its voice. We do not live for a better country, instead we make ourselves at home in this one. We sell out our responsibilities and authority to the government, get wrapped up in economic debates and live as the world does.

This is all very sad. Pretty much every book of the New Testament has a warning about living in and for this world. We are warned over and over that money is the great faith killer, and yet we continue to think we are the few who can serve both God and money.

Furthermore, when we get our material blessings, we thank God for them. I have heard a number of people give thanks to God for landing the job that allows them to live a better sinful lifestyle and ruin their family.

“All good gifts come from above, brother. Praise God for my excessively wasteful house I have.” We are under the impression that faith equals prosperity, oh sure, not crazily like them whack-job Pentecostals, but evangelical Christianity believes God blesses spiritual faithfulness with physical abundance.

It’s why we thank Him for our comforts, don’t ya know.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and  the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”

We know these verses, but do we really understand what it’s saying? Allow the ever so correct ESV to put it nicely for you. Notice the “–” in there and the phrase it sets apart, a kind of parenthesis. Read the verse without that phrase once.

“For all that is in the world is not from the Father but is from the world.” Now, specifically He is talking about our lust and pride after the worlds things, the things of the world we are not to love–lust after.

But the things in the world that you lust after for your own pride, when you get those, don’t thank God for them, He didn’t give them to you. You heaped them to yourself after your own lust.