Archive for March, 2010

Extra-Credit Reading

Well, tomorrow morning we will be finishing our “Majoring on the Minors” sermon series with the Book of Malachi. I thought the series had gone quite well and that many had benefited greatly from looking into these more obscure portions of scripture.

However, my confidence was shaken when I came home and found this library book on our kitchen counter-top. I concluded that Pastor Matt must have been unable to thoroughly communicate the themes to my wife (an otherwise very intelligent woman)!

Nothing wrong with a little extra-credit reading. This one has “bathroom reader” written all over it…


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Today I received a video link from my friend Kurt (see link below) that I found very interesting. It is the story (testimony, actually) of renowned British journalist and author Peter Hitchens and how his encounter with a painting called “The last Judgment” sent him on a path back to God. Peter’s journey of how he came to faith in God from Atheism is in itself a great story (which he recently turned into a book). But it’s what I discovered in looking up Peter’s book on Amazon.com that makes his story really interesting.

You see, Peter has a brother named Christopher Hitchens. Christopher is two years older than his brother Peter and is famous for a book he wrote in 2007 called “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”.

I recall the first time I saw this book in the featured release section at the local Barnes & Noble and the shiver it sent through me. Not because anyone’s questioning of God makes me nervy (He’s quite able to deal with it), but because of the pity I feel for people like Christopher, Richard Dawkins, and other outspoken Atheists who openly mock God. This tactic has not worked out so well for many who’ve gone before them…

Anyway, for many years there was a rift between the brothers over completely non-religious issues, but now that Peter had become a believer there was a whole new angle to their differences. As you may conclude from the title of Christopher’s book, he sees religion as a disease and says he “loathes believers”.

As mentioned above, Peter recently wrote his own book entitled “The Rage against God: How Atheism led me to faith”, which was in part a response to the book his brother had written. Furthermore the two of them ended up squaring off in a highly publicized debate in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In an unexpected turn, during the events and meetings leading to the debate the two brothers actually came into a closer relationship that they had had in a very long time. They were able to bury some of the old hatchets.

If you don’t think you’ll read the book you can read a basic outline of Peter’s testimony on the London Daily Mail website where Peter is employed and hosts a blog.

“How I Found God and Peace with my Atheist Brother”

Here’s the video link to an interview with Peter: http://vimeo.com/10354237

If you find Peter’s blogpost interesting there is another one that I would highly recommend. Peter writes about his experiences living in Communist Russia as well as working in Mogadishu, Somalia. Peter talks about how he came to the conclusion that the absence of God in a society leads to its decay as well as his belief that our western nations are headed that direction.

In the Soviet Suburbs of Hell and the Blasted Avenues of Mogadishu, I Saw What our Society Could Become

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Modern Discipleship

Jude made some money doing a modeling job a couple of weeks ago and so we took a little trip to Target and let him buy a toy. And what does every 4 year old boy want? A gun, of course. So Jude is the proud owner of a new pump action plastic Nerf rifle that shoots little Nerf bullets. Pretty cool actually.

So, the other day Delaney is reciting her scripture memory verses for me from her Awana manual and Jude comes into the room.

Delaney: “OK, everyone be quiet. I’m going to say my verses.”

Jude: “Ya, and if you get it wrong, I’ll shoot ya…cracker.”

Nice. That’s one way to motivate disciples. What kind of house am I leading here? At the very least I need to stop using the word “cracker” apparently. Yikes.

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Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? Isa 53:1

The old gospel song “Whose Report Will You Believe” brings to mind the times in scripture it is graphically illustrated for us how important it is to use discernment concerning whose interpretation of events we decide to believe. Take for example:

The Israelites decided to ignore Joshua and Caleb, but instead listen to the spies who said the promised land was  unconquerable; and they were left by the Lord to die in the wilderness because of their lack of discernment and unbelief.

Kings Ahab & Jehoshaphat decided to listen to the prophets possessed by “lying spirits” who told them what  they wanted to hear ( “the Lord is with you in battle”). They chose to ignore (and imprison) Micaiah the prophet of God who said their campaign would fail. They were routed on the battlefield and Ahab died in the struggle.

The leaders of Israel chose to ignore the prophets Joel and Jeremiah who warned of the coming judgment of the Lord on their wickedness. Instead they listened to the false prophets who proclaimed “peace, peace”; exile to Babylon ensued.

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray”. Matt 24:4

The reason I got thinking about this today is because this week another well known prophetic voice in our nation, Dutch Sheets, delivered a word of warning concerning an impending crisis coming to America.

“America is in a horrendous crisis of monumental proportions, a season much like Israel in the days of Joel. This Old Testament prophet warned of devastating judgment coming to Israel, but laced the warning with hope and Gods mercy if certain things occurred. That is precisely where we are in America. We Americans are a confident and optimistic people, which is often good, but can also create a dangerous denial and crippling passivity. This is happening with many. But please do not be deceived by those who are saying everything is fine. The truth is that we, as a nation, are in serious trouble.

If God brought corrective but serious judgment to Israel, we are horribly deceived if we think it will not happen to us. If something doesn’t happen to lessen this judgment (and it can be lessened)–we are headed for very difficult times. The economy is going to be devastated. The stock market will go well below where it went a few months back. A crash is coming, and soon. More terrorism and violence will occur in our land, perhaps even war. In my spirit I’ve seen buildings crumbling and cities burning. Devastating natural disasters will take place. In general, hard times will be prevalent. Why is this so? Because we have turned from God and His ways. Consider the true condition of America. This assessment is bleak but accurate”. – Dutch Sheets

Dutch goes on to remind us of the statistics concerning the rising tide of idolatry, murder, immorality, and apathy that are washing over the American cultural landscape. I’ll spare you the details, you can read it on his website. Dutch’s word of warning reads much like a bullet point summary of sermons recently preached by Allen Hood, Lou Engle, and others who see a God ordained crisis and judgment coming on our land in response to our wickedness (not the least of which is the murder of 50 million babies) unless we turn to him in repentance and humility.

At the same time as these messages are being delivered you have other Godly men who are espousing a radically different view.

For example, after the earthquake in Haiti, Greg Boyd preached a sermon titled “Left my Worries Behind” from Matthew 24.  Greg’s assessment of the situation is that, yes, we should expect hardship in this life. However, Jesus primary message here is not “watch and pray” but “don’t worry”. Especially do not worry about trying to “read the tea leaves” concerning the coming of the Lord or the signs of the times. Jesus is not instructing us to do this, and God is not to be suspected as the author of our natural disasters. Furthermore, these prophecies of Matthew 24 and elsewhere have all been fulfilled in the first century, so speculation concerning end times events is a wasted effort (see preterism). I suspect Greg might say that we would do well to ignore folks like Allen, Lou, and Dutch.

Another well known prophet, Jason Westerfield, recently spoke concerning the earthquake in Chile. He makes it abundantly clear in this video clip that (in his estimation) God, being a God of love, would not send judgment on the creation He loves. Rather, this event was actually the fall-out from a great spiritual battle in which God was dethroning a large principality over the region. He likens it to a “disgruntled employee” being removed from the company who causes a little damage on the way out. According to Jason this event is actually a spiritual breakthrough that will usher in revival.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that along with the increasing intensity in recent world events there is a corresponding  increase in the divide over interpretation of these events and the times in which we live. And so the question must be asked of us as the people of God:

“whose report will you believe”?

While my own particular bent may be obvious, it’s not my intention to soapbox excessively here. I have simply been impressed with the reality that in these days of significant change and upheaval, apathy and lack of discernment are not an option (not that they ever really were). In fact, it may prove deadly. Just ask the children of Israel in the wilderness, King Ahab, or those who were carried off into Babylonian captivity.

He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. Daniel 2:21

He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away. Job 12:23

Simply putting off the discussion will not pluck you from the currents of history. God’s dealings with you as an individual do not remove you from the context of the nation in which you live and in which God sovereignly acts. Godly men like Daniel, Ezekiel, and others were carried off into exile along with the wicked despite their standing of favor before the Lord.

No matter what conclusions you draw,  we each need to look long and hard at the scriptures and wrestle with God in prayer over how He deals with nations, including our own. We would be foolish to believe that in the face of our exponentially escalating wickedness America would be allowed to hold the title of being the first empire in the history of the world to go unchecked and unchallenged by God or man. Rest assured, the sun will set on us as well. This being true, we must be wise and discern rightly the times in which we live. Don’t succumb to the ubiquitous spiritual laziness in our churches that would keep you from serious prayer and thought on these issues.

When crisis is in the nations and the spiritual leaders are giving opposing interpretations,  take note of the lessons in scripture, and be wise in whose report you place confidence in. The stakes are high.

Let us be like the men of Issachar of whom it is said:

Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. 1 Chron 12:32

For those who are so inclined, below is one of the Allen Hood sermons I mentioned previously.

Allen Hood Standing at the juncture…

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Playing Catch up

It’s been a while since I made an entry, so, for the sake of my wife and her friends who read this, let’s play a little “catch-up”!

Birthday Loot

Last week was my birthday and I received the only gift a man will ever need to survive the perilous end times: “Omega – The Board Game”! Brilliant. I love it. It is THE undisputed mark of attaining to the office of “Charismatic nut-job”. I am now complete in my conversion and there’s no going back from here.

“Omega” is packed full of all the end times related questions, charades, and Pictionary type trivia entertainment one could ever want. I’ll store it right next to my camping gear, wilderness survival guide books, and one year supply of canned food.

The Sweet Colleens – Back in the saddle…

Last week I also had the opportunity to reunite with my band “The Sweet Colleens” for one of two shows I will be playing with them while Dave Bille (the guy who replaced me) recovers from surgery. We rocked the St. Croix River Falls Theater in historic St. Croix River Falls last Saturday evening. It really was a great time. Next weekend it’s off to splendorous Ullen, Minnesota up near Fargo. Should be interesting…

IHOP – Back on the carpet…

Currently I’m down at IHOP with the yay-hoos pictured here. Matt is down for some “praying church” strategy meetings and the rest of us came along to spend a couple of days in the prayer room and at the evening Awakening meetings. Last night was a lot of fun. The worship was outstanding and I dove into the “pool of Siloam” and ran into my old nemesis Dave Sliker and his spiritual henchmen. I spent most of the rest of the evening a little “tipsy on the booze”. In the past I’ve sort of been knocked down by the power of the Spirit, but I’ve not had the experience of having the Spirit rest on me in that manner. In the midst of some craziness going on around me it was so odd to have such a feeling of restful peace. I’m glad to be a “happy drunk” and not the thrashing and flailing type!

Adoption News

I spent most of last week fasting and praying with regards to our adoption process. We’re at the point where the paper work is starting to get filed and so we need to have some certainty with regards to where and how we will adopt. After “taking a pause” to ask the Lord if He had anything else to speak to us, we feel confident and at peace that He is leading us to pursue adopting a child from Rwanda via independent adoption. The Lord has provided us a connection to a great ministry that is going to help us through the process. God willing, a year from now we’ll be new parents once again!

In Closing

On a more spiritual note, we had an interesting conversation in the car ride down here to Kansas City related to the eternal torment of Hell. In our conversation I was so struck by the prayer of the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:3

“For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

I woke up in the middle of the night with this scripture on my mind. It’s one thing to be willing to give up your time, resources, and even your life for the sake of the lost. But eternal damnation? Wow, my heart is still so hard.

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Came across a fun little video showing all the empires of the middle east over the last 5000 years in 90 seconds. Who knew the Mongol empire stretched so far west?! Go Ghengis, Go Ghengis…

I love “history for Dummies” type of stuff!


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This week I read a great book. Sometimes you read a book and in a few years time God does something in your life and the book takes on new and deeper meaning. Other times you find a great book and it’s perfectly matched with what is currently on your heart and mind; like the book was written based on a personal request. I love it when that happens. It’s like having one of those acute itches in your shoe and it seems to take forever to get the shoe and sock off, but when you do, Ooooo the scratching feels so good!

Ben Witherington’s “Jesus, Paul, and the End of the World – A Comparative Study in New Testament Eschatology” was one of those books. It was three hundred pages of hard core scratching.

As I looked through the table of contents I thought “wow, interesting”. It was like reading through a list of all the discussions and deep musings I’ve been recently engaged in.  “Paul, Jesus and the language of Immanence,  The Dominion of God, The Israel of God, The Parousia, The Day of the Lord, The Resurrection of the Dead, and The End Times”, were just a few of the chapters. Ben goes through the sayings of Paul and Jesus in order to delineate what their positions are related to these topics and then compares the continuity (or discontinuity) between the two. It’s full of great insights into some of the more difficult passages of scripture related to biblical eschatology.

The book is a scholarly work but is written so that it’s very readable and accessible.  Ben is very intelligent, well educated, and considered a top shelf New Testament scholar. From what I hear, he’d be the first guy to remind you of that. But we won’t hold that against him…

The last couple of years I’ve seen the Apostle Paul’s words “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” in a new light. When the Apostolic gospel is preached in its proper context of the coming Day of the Lord, our bodily resurrection, and God’s coming Kingdom on earth, it has the power not just to save us but to radically empower us to live godly and righteous lives in this age like nothing else can. In all my Christian living I’ve never experienced the deep power of the Gospel or seen its life-spring bubble up in the lives of other believers like I have since God began to grant me that revelation. Ben’s book helped to deepen my understanding of the power and centrality of these realities in the gospel message.

“To deny the (bodily, on this earth) resurrection is to jettison the essence and basis of Christian hope. Without this very concrete object of hope, preaching is pointless and Christian living is in vain. In short, for Paul the basis of ethics, Christian living, preaching and even Christology is the resurrection.

For Paul, the drama of redemption must have an earthly conclusion, or else salvation is not complete. Without such a conclusion there can be no renewal of the earth as well as believers. Without such a conclusion there can be no inheriting of the Kingdom of God on earth, or fulfilling of the earthly promises of God to Israel. Without such a conclusion there is no point to a doctrine of a parousia, a return of Christ to raise the dead and to be with His people forever in the Dominion of God.

In the end Paul pictures final salvation – it will entail not only new believers but also a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem on earth that has come down out of heaven. The realities that already exist in heaven will find their final resting place on earth. Then, and only then, will the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms ‘of our God and Christ’.

A church without a proper eschatalogical framework in which to live and believe is a church at odds not only with the world but with some of the crucial elements of the Gospel. There is a major difference between redemption from and redemption in and of the world, and it is the latter that is proclaimed loud and clear in the teachings of Jesus and Paul”.

– Ben Witherington III

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