Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Harold Camping - Doomsday Prophet

Let's take a moment to think the best here for a bit. In his heart of hearts is it possible that Harold Camping started with the vision of teaching the Word of God to as many people as possible through radio and doing something good with it? When you look at his background he seems to be a faithful sincere Christian who served his church well and followed God's lead to launch a bible-focused ministry during a time when the church was struggling with great social changes (60's). His radio station strove to keep programs that were true to God's Word and not associated with "extra-biblical" revelation. That is, anything from outside the Biblical pages. Good sound approach isn't it?

What happened? Somewhere along the line he declared the "church age" over. He believes that all institutional expressions of the church are apostate. By doing this he left any semblance of accountability for his teaching which is always dangerous. His biggest error (there are many others) was getting into biblical numerology and attempting to predict the end of the world, which he has missed three times now. And here comes October 21st.

What are the source of these errors? I believe it is three-fold.

First, he allowed himself to embrace a false and dangerous way of biblical interpretation where after looking at the context of a verse (very good) you look for the "spiritual meaning" behind verse (very bad). In doing so he turns a narrative story with spiritual lessons and principles into an allegory or symbolic story reading into it additional spiritual meanings. When you do that you are lost in the woods. My professor used to say, "when the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense." The bible is meant to be understood in a straightforward way. There are times when it is literal narrative and times when it is poetic, prophetic, parable, or epistle (letters to churches) but it gives you clear clues to be able to discern that. By departing from good interpretation he opened the door to disaster.

His second error, in my view, was doing what Christians so often do. Early on, he started worshipping bible study instead of God. It's so easy to worship a method that we are passionate about and lose sight of God. We worship worship, or prayer, or small groups, or other Christian ministry methods that are designed to get us closer in our relationship with God. If done correctly we love God with all of our hearts, we love people around us, and we reflect the same gentle and humble character that Jesus had. He so fiercely defended the need for personal bible-study and made the method his focus instead of a sincere relationship with God. That led to another reason for his downfall.

By putting so much focus on understanding the bible rightly he shrugged off the possibility that he could be wrong. He became the ultimate authority because he saw himself at THE mouthpiece for God's truth. The truth is ANY of us can get it wrong, can get imbalanced, can misinterpret, can misapply truth. That's why we need the church. We need other sincere, mature, and godly eyes on our teaching. We need a community of love and truth to be a sounding board to keep us accountable as we strive to live out God's truth correctly.

At worst he is a cult leader and false prophet, at best he is a man who started out with a genuine love for God and passion for the truth who took a very wrong turn and has given the world another reason to mock God, the Bible, and the Church. But I wouldn't worry to much about that. The truth runs deep, lives are being genuinely changed by God's love and grace, and the true church can and will stand firm and continue to follow God's lead.

As for Harold, I'd love to have coffee with him sometime and have a civil discussion on what we agree on and disagree on and urge him towards the truth. As for me, I will keep a healthy fear of taking a wrong turn in my own walk with God. I pray that my heart would always be tender and authentic and my bible study and application accurate . I hope that I can finish my life having done more good for God's kingdom than bad. Perhaps that's the most any of us can expect.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Does Hell exist?? Rob Bell's book "Love Wins"

I took the time to read and ponder Rob Bell's book, "Love Wins." In it Rob implies that people can restore a relationship with Christ after death and that hell itself may be a place of intense pruning rather than a place of eternal punishment. He's been accused of being a universalist. That is, the belief that eventually everyone will make it to heaven. He's also been accused of blurring the important doctrine of eternal punishment or hell.

It's confusing that such a gifted communicator and thinker can go so wrong. He himself claims not to be a scholar or theologian and frankly it shows here. Even if you disavow those titles if you claim to be a pastor you have to be responsible when you interpret scripture, even more so when God has allowed you to have a mantle of influence, whether you wanted it or not.

I believe he is a very sincere Christian leader and passionate pastor. I have heard nothing but good things about his character and service to the Kingdom. In this case he's careless. It's okay to write a book that will stimulate discussion and cause people to think through their faith, however, it must always be anchored to the truth and "Love Wins" was not.

Here's the short answer. I'll give you the joy of discovering the details. A scholar and theologian from Western Seminary put his finger on the problem with Love Wins. Bell refers to an interpretation of the greek verb, kolazo (punishment, which he implies can mean "correction" or "pruning") to make his argument. The bible however uses the noun, kolasis. He then camps on a shade of meaning used by Plato 400 yrs. earlier and in other secular non-biblical settings. Bell also uses the greek noun aion (eternity, which he claims is not a concept the biblical writers used), while the Bible uses the adjective aionos. The adjective clearly means unending time. He gets a shade of meaning from the noun form. Yes, I know, technical...but very important. If you read the Bible with the correct tenses it clearly talks about eternal punishment in hell for those who don't know Christ. That's why every english translation of the Bible that we have translates those sections "eternal punishment" and not "intense period of pruning."

Bell attempts to paint of picture of reality with an unbalanced view of God's love. God's love is perfect. So is His Holiness, Justice, and Wrath. God is glorified by his grace and love in heaven and God's holiness and justice is glorified in hell. God is perfect and glorified in all of His creation.

The truth is love will win...but not quite in the way that Bell suggests. The conversation goes on...but lets stay anchored to the truth and be found faithful to accurately interpret it.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Is it worth it to suffer in ministry?

The apostle Paul, thought so. He was a missionary that started his mission work by avoiding assassination attempts. He went on to an adventure filled with riots, stonings, shipwrecks, and jail cells. Why be in ministry when it gets too hard??

This is what Paul said, "All of this is for your benefit. And as God's grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving and God will receive more and more glory." (2 Cor. 4:15 NLT)

He was sure he would be in heaven AND he just knew that more and more people giving their lives to Christ would bring more and more glory to God. That was worth suffering for.

It's the same for us. Keep preaching, keep reaching, keep striving and moving your ministry into the thick of the fight. Expect the trials, expect resistance...but remember, you'll be with Christ one day, and with you, all those you reach for His glory. It's totally worth it.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Keeping your eye on the ball!

It's an old saying that still has teeth. "Keep your eye on the ball!" Whether you are trying to hit it, catch it, or field it the first rule of baseball is:
"don't be distracted",
"don't be caught sleeping",
"don't lose focus",
"Keep your eye on the ball!"

For any Christian it applies as well. There are many things we can be doing, but the main one is simple. "Make Disciples."

Go and tell people about the grace and love of Jesus Christ and then teach them to observe ALL that Christ commanded. Make Disciples. Reach and Teach...and then unleash.

I'm thankful to be in a church with a pastor who has his eye on the ball. We won't be distracted. We won't be caught sleeping. We won't lose focus.

Come hell or high water we'll keep our eye on the ball. We'll dedicate ourselves to the very end to making disciples and honoring Christ and by God's grace, we'll make a difference.