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Category: End Times

Exceptionalism and alarmism

Have you ever heard the phrase, “American exceptionalism”?  It is the assertion that the United States of America was uniquely formed as a democracy in an age of Kingdoms.  The government was to be ‘of the people, for the people and by the people’ was revolutionary.

As the country was developing an identity, another attitude was taking hold; alarmism.  At it’s root, alarmism is an ideology which promotes action to defend oneself.  “The British are coming, the British are coming”, was a call to arms for a very real threat.  And, once a person has been threatened, they tend to retain the reactionary tendency.

So, it has passed on from one generation to another.  Many Americans are modern-day minutemen with arms at the ready for anything that threatens what they hold precious.

It’s useless trying to calm people down who are in that agitated state.  They are unwilling to listen to reason.  They hold to their particular ‘threat’ as a religious belief, even if they think they are not particularly religious.

The threats could be real or imagined, but often, they are exaggerated.  Think of the Mayan Calendar’s supposed prediction of the end of the world in 2012.  Who cares what the Mayans thought?  So what, they invented the number ‘0’?  We don’t follow their social and cultural behavior in other areas, so why do we care what their calendar says?

Yet, many in the U.S. have this reactionary strain living just below the surface.  A virus that blooms when the slightest issue could possibly threaten them.

It could be GMO’s, Global Warming (cough, cough; Climate Change), the rapture of the Church (a modern strain of American Evangelicalism), or air conditioners.  Any number of things cause people to go into a frenetic state, tipped over with the help of a fragile psyche.

And, once one threat diminishes, they move on to the next.  There is an endless supply of people willing to provide threats (remember all the Y2K propaganda?): “The end is nigh”.

How is the church to behave in the midst of a culture of alarmism?  Matthew reports Jesus’ words in chapter 24:

23“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. 24“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 25“Behold, I have told you in advance. 26“So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. 27“For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

In other words, don’t run around like a chicken with its head cut off.  Christ has already ascended to the throne (Colossians 3:1).  He’s in total control.  He’s also in control of the future.  In fact, He has told us what the future holds, and that He will be victorious.  We are called to rest in the victory of the cross, with an eye to His final victory.

It is in the rest of assured victory that we can love the fanatics within and outside of Christ’s church.  The wild-eyed zealots cannot be won over with reason alone.  Their real and imagined fears can only be assuaged with love.  1 John 4:18 states:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

It might take a while to talk a fanatic off of the cliff’s edge.  They will passionately rant and rave over what they perceive as a threat to our well-being.  Every once in a while, though, you can calmly drop a seed of wisdom which will grow into a tree of life.  That seed is Jesus, who came into the world to save … fanatics.  Even fanatics like you and me.

Pastor John

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Flights of fancy

unique bird

What is the difference between astrology and astronomy?  The answer is that astrology is categorically false because it is based on a geocentric universe.  That is, the earth is at the center of the universe.

Astronomy, unlike astrology, makes no such assumption.

Foundational assertions matter.  Understanding them allows us to distinguish whether or not something is true or false.

Such is the case of Jonathan Cahn’s writings.  If one was able to place his books in a pot and boil them down to their essence, what would remain?

First, you would be able to determine that his works are highly speculative.  At many points, he refers to circumstantial evidence which is highly suspect.  This is fun when it comes to fiction, but is quite dangerous to the spiritual life of a Christian.

Secondly, numerology plays a significant role in the interpretation of present-day events.  Many people are susceptible to arguments based on ‘bible codes’ because they love the unveiling of a mystery.  They want to feel special because they ‘figured it out’.  They are part of a select few who have discovered the truth.  Therein lies the principle of  gnosticism.

Thirdly, astrology plays a significant role in his assertions.  The locations of planets, moon and other celestial objects are more the provenance of medieval doomsday predictions than 21st-century economic meltdown predictions in the United States.

This last point leads me to the fourth point.  The United States is not Israel.  Never has been.  The only people asserting such garbage are Mormons (otherwise known as ‘Morons’).  This group went as far as to adopt native Americans because they believed they were part of the lost tribes of Israel.

Jonathan Cahn is playing on ethno-centric prejudices.  In fact, he’s better at it than Donald Trump.  Cahn’s work is far more subtle and engaging (thus ends the positive portion of this analysis).

Back to the point: the United States is not the center of Christianity.  It is not even the linguistic center of Christianity.  Guess which continent has a negative growth rate of Christianity?  While the other 6 Continents show grow (some of it very dramatic), North America is poised for a major retraction.

Finally, it plays into the conspiratorial scare tactics of the modern American evangelical dispensational theology.  If you have ever heard something like, “You better repent and ask Jesus into your heart, because He’s coming soon”, you’ve experienced what I’m referring to.

All of this leads the readers into desperate acts of self-preservation out of fear of economic judgment.  Screw your neighbor, save yourselves!  Yell at them to get their house in order, then batten down the hatches!

But Scripture states “Love casts out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18).  In Acts, we read of a gentile church donating to the Judean church in desperate need (Acts 11:19-30).

Finally, Jesus is an appendix to all of this hype.  Speculation overruns Gospel.  Christ is submerged beneath the waves of manic excitement and desperation generated by these works.

Yet Paul, living in prison, wrote the ‘Epistle of Joy’ – Philippians.  Read it.  How many times does he use the word ‘joy’?  It is counter-intuitive in light of his circumstances.  If I had the choice of being a self-preserving, paranoid with frayed nerves, jumping at the slightest downturn of the financial world, or being a person of such confident faith that not even living in prison could sink my spirit, I would take the latter every day and twice on Sunday.

Throw this book away.  Then find your copies of ‘Left Behind’, ‘The Late, Great Planet Earth’ and any other literary work that employs fundamental horrible Biblical Exegesis, and promptly lay them on the bottom of you guinea pigs’ cage where they can serve the most glorious purpose they were designed for; the reception of excrement.

sincerely,

Your crotchety Lutheran

 

 

free-alarm-clip-art

A couple of weeks ago, one of the Sunday readings (periscopes) was from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  I spent a considerable amount of time working through the text, because it is from this text that some theologians developed the concept of a rapture. I came to understand a great deal, and as it is with any […]

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Guilt by association

The other day, I was questioned on why I felt the freedom to see a particular movie.  As part of the premise of the questioning, the person mentioned a saying that is common among the people that attend her church; “Would you watch this if Jesus was sitting next to you?”

First of all, the goal of the question is to motivate by guilt manipulation.  If you are in a church where people talk like this, roll your eyes, grab your keys and go home; never go (or look) back.  Only two people live in this church setting, the manipulators and the victims.  I know for a fact that God has NOT called you to this church.

Secondly, Jesus sees everything you do, everything you see, every thought you think and He sees the same for the rest of this fallen creation.  Even more to the point … He has become that sin so that the Father could pour His wrath upon this Only-begotten Son.  Jesus isn’t a puritan, He was the toilet brush for our sin, and is now the God who reigns over all creation.

Thirdly, the movie I was going to watch had an “R” rating, but I am a big-boy, in my forties, and I don’t need mommy to tell me good and bad.  The movie is about a battle over good and evil where good wins.  This is called justice, and all Christians should be reminded of the final end for evil in watching it.

Fourthly, God doesn’t exactly hate violence.  Marshmallow bunny rabbits weren’t poured out on the enemies of Israel.   Nerf balls weren’t lobbed at the broken body of Jesus.  And in the end, God’s ultimate Justice on Satan and his minions will include a war like no other, and we will witness it (read Revelation).

I understand that watching empty violence is objectionable.  I don’t watch it, but neither do I go to Will Farrell movies.  To imagine that our God is some prudish mid-western grandma is to castrate God.

And by the way, God doesn’t do guilt.  Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Shaken, not stirred

I live in earthquake country.  I have been through so many earthquakes that I sometimes act a little too casually when they hit.  Instead of panicking, I walk to the “safe part” of a building to wait it out.

Strong earthquakes are another story, though.

When they hit, I move more quickly and hope that it won’t last much longer.  Then, I try to reach my family to make sure they’re o.k.

The author of Hebrews tells us that God will shake both the earth and the heavens (Hebrews 12, ESV):

26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

In the heart of this terrifying threat is a hopeful promise, there are things that cannot be shaken, but will remain.

Earlier in the chapter, the author writes about the discipline of God’s children.  He doesn’t allow us to be spoiled and arrogant.  He uses physical ailments, sickness, persecution, and other trials to drive us back to His word.

It is His means of purifying the faith of His children.  It is also the evidence of His presence in our lives (along with scripture and the sacraments).

The pain and suffering He sends are like a cross that we must bear.  And some will actually be killed for the very faith they have.

But this isn’t God’s wrath.

That comes later, when He will shake the heavens and the earth.

It is the promise of a “hellish” day which everyone will witness.  It is the fulfillment of the “Mount Sinai” experience of ancient Israel.  God will be seen as a “consuming fire”.

For those who have been put through the trials and suffering meant to drive them to faith, they will remain secure on “Mount Zion”.  That is, of course, if they remain believing in the one who secured their salvation in the first place, Jesus.

Who is Jesus?  “… the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Through Him, we are, ” … the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (12:23).  And, as the author writes at the end of the chapter, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken …” (12:28).

Jesus is our Mount Zion.  He is the temple that will not be shaken.  He is the foundation upon which our faith is both founded and perfected, now and forever.

Jesus is the Gospel

The gospel is not:  a decision to receive, believe, retrieve your own personal Jesus.

The gospel is not: making Him Lord, re-dedicating your life, saying a “sinner’s prayer”

In fact, the Gospel is completely outside of your (or my) activity.

The Gospel is ALL God’s activity through Jesus Christ.

What is ‘Gospel’?  It means ‘Good News’.

It is Jesus dying on the cross for your sin and my sin, and being raised in resurrection, so we can have the gift of resurrection in Him.

What’s the bad news?

First, the world is fallen and it can’t get up

Second, the devil is a fallen angel, not an archaic, pre-logical myth

Third, we have fallen into our coffin, and are bound to a horrible eternal end unless there’s an intervention

In other words, the situation is hopeless.

God loves hopeless situations.

God loves hopeless sinners.

Because Jesus was given as a sacrifice for sin.  He came to seek and save that which was lost.  Jesus came for sinners (including me).

And, He continues to be the good news for us.

When we confess our sin (not a feeling), He is faithful and just to forgive us based on His bloody death.

When we have doubt (by the way, doubt means you have faith to begin with), He remains faithful as a priest before the Father in Heaven.

When we are hungry for good news, we can find it in the promise that God has sent a deliverer in Jesus.  He hasn’t come for “good people”, but for those who have no hope in themselves.

He is hope fulfilled.  Both now and forever.  Amen.

Obsessing over the end

A new show came out last night on TLC last night called Livin’ for the Apocalypse.  I tuned in to watch what kind of crazy things people do to get ready for the end.  But, instead of being funny, it was actually quite sad to see the extent to which people have devoted their lives to a “maybe”.

On an unrelated program, I learned that Mormons are kind of obsessed with preparing for the end, too.  They buy food that can last for 25 years, and are always “beefing up” their supplies.

So many people believe that the end is near.  They believe that civilization will go into a state of demise, and we will have to fend for ourselves.  But, it is more than a belief.  It is an obsession.  Much of it seems rooted in the notion that we haven’t entered into the Millennium yet.

Worse yet, if you are an honest Christian who does not hold to the view that there is a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ which is to come, you are considered an “unbeliever”.  It is the litmus test among modern American evangelicals.

I’m all for litmus tests in Christian teaching (doctrine).  It helps us to filter through what is true Christianity (also called orthodoxy) and false religion (heresy).  Jesus is both God and man.  God is triune.  Jesus was born of a virgin.  That kind of stuff is important.  This is why I’m not a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness.

And, there can be differences between various expressions of Christianity within this framework.  Not on key things (like the nature of Christ and God), but there can be differences on who should take communion, or when is a child old enough to receive it.  And these are not unimportant.  But we could still call a person a Christian who holds to minor differences.

We don’t make a big deal about the end.  My church does have a position.  We’re just not obsessed with it.  And, we believe that we are in the middle of the Millennium, instead of looking forward to its beginning (Some, including Riddlebarger, call this “realized millenium”, or “Amillenial”).  The real question is; are you willing to call me a heretic because I don’t agree to a future Millennial reign of Christ?

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