Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Not Camping With Camping

Well, May 21 came and went and California radio preacher Harold Camping's prediction that the rapture would occur and God's judgement would fall on that day didn't materialize.

Regrettably, the 89-year old Family Radio head is not deterred. He's simply "recalculated", again, and now says that all of this will take place in October. News people are having a jolly field day with this stuff, and hundreds of folks who believed this man's declarations now feel crushed and deceived.

Some observations:
1.He blended ignorance and arrogance in his claim to know when these major prophetic
events would happen. Matthew 24:36,42, and 44 make it clear that no one but the Father
has that information. We're given signs but not the date.
2. He has to be labeled a false prophet now if you take Deuteronomy 18:21-22 seriously.
Jesus warned that lots of spokesmen like that would turn up in the endtimes(Matthew 24:
3. He has given the culture around us one more reason to laugh at our faith. In the minds of
many, all preachers, churches, and Christians are lumped together with this guy and
others like him as silly and backward and thus deserving of ridicule rather than a hearing.
That's unfair because there are millions of believers who are faithfully living the Christian
life and are involved in serving, sacrificial ministry. There are thousands and thousands of
Christ-followers who are careful, responsible, capable students of the scriptures who
present God's Word accurately(2 Timothy 2:15).
4. The more I study the Bible, the more I doubt the validity of a pretribulational rapture
anyway. It's just my opinion these days but I don't see a lot of scriptural support for it.
Jesus is coming back visibly, bodily, gloriously...but it's hard to hold to a 2-stage second
coming. And just believing in that because that's always what you've been told,without
doing your own diligent study on it, is not wise.
5. Unwittingly, Mr. Camping may now have caused a lot of Christians to lose hope in the
return of Christ. He may also have made it easier for many unbelievers to doubt the sure
reality of coming judgement for this earth . Evidences abound that we are living in the
last days. Signs seem to be intensifying that our Lord will soon be appearing and millions
of lost people will be doomed forever. That's why it was so hard for me to hear media
people mock and scorn Camping, even though I knew he was wrong, because I was
saddened that they were missing the larger point that one day final endtime events are
going to take place and so many won't be ready(2 Peter 3:1-13). Jesus said that society
would be pretty much like it was in the days of Noah(Matthew 24:37-39) when He comes
6. While we're waiting, we're to be ministering to people, winning souls, and growing in
Christ-likeness. That ought to keep us busy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Summer Reading

The summer season is arriving and with it comes more relaxed opportunities for reading.

Christians should be in the forefront of those who allow their minds to be expanded and their souls stretched by good books. Obviously the Bible is our first priority but God plants truth in the writings of contemporary authors, too. Their works can sharpen and refresh us and give us greater understanding not only of pertinent life issues but of the scriptures themselves.

Allow me to recommend some literary offerings that have impacted me recently and that could be helpful in your faith journey as a believer.

For starters, try Russell Moore's Tempted And Tried(Crossway, 2011). It's a brief study of the 3 major temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. Those critical tests are unpacked and explored skillfully and then their relevant applications to our lives today are discussed. It makes for good devotional reading. We tend to forget that Jesus himself experienced temptations and yet was victorious over them, giving us a pattern to follow in overcoming our own tests after we are born again and have a new spiritual nature.

Paul Enns has written Heaven Revealed(Moody Publishers, 2011). After the death of his wife this seminary professor set out to study anew the wonders of the afterlife for the child of God. His work considers many of the basic questions that Christians have about our eternal destiny, such as what we will do there and what we will see. His answers are based on biblical teachings and offer an exhilirating view of our future that rules out the common misconception that Heaven is just a glorified retirement village where Christians will sit on clouds and strum harps.

There is another dimension in the life beyond, though, that has gotten a lot of attention in recent months due to a controversial book by Michigan pastor Rob Bell that seemingly eliminates the idea of eternal punishment for some and apparently espouses universalism. A good, scholarly antidote to Bell's ideas comes in an earlier published work, Hell Under Fire(Zondervan, 2004), edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson with contributions by several leading evangelical academicians. This book examines the scriptural perspectives on Hell from a wide variety of angles. It's interesting that in July popular California pastor and author Francis Chan has a new work coming out on this fascinating subject, entitled Erasing Hell, in which he will defend the reality of this unpleasant otherworldly destination.

Two short but insightful books should be of special interest to church leaders. The Case For Antioch(B&H Books, 2011) investigates some of the characteristics of one of the early churches presented in the New Testament book of Acts and how that particular ancient congregation offers clues on how to develop transformational churches today in our culture. David Platt's Radical Together(Multnomah, 2011) deals with ways that modern churches can model serving, sacrificial ministry in society and make a profound difference. This work is a followup to a previous bestseller by Platt.

Interested in family concerns? Try the helpful, practical book How We Love Our Kids(Waterbrook Press, 2011) by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. The authors describe several different love styles that show up in homes and how those approaches affect children. Using the increasingly popular attachment theory, this book reveals how the early childhood experiences of parents determines how they will rear their own kids. Sometimes that's good and sometimes it isn't. This couple offers very specific suggestions on how to best show healthy love to our children.

Tired of shallow, trivial formulas for living the Christian life? Read the new book by Gary Thomas, Thirsting For God(Harvest House, 2011), in which he blends scripture and the reflections of some great Christ-followers in church history who discovered depth and maturity in ways unexpected to us who live in an insipid, fluffy, celebrity-and-entertainment oriented environment that often infects our view of Christianity. Two other works, Counterfeit Gospels(Moody Publishers, 2011) by Trevin Wax and Revise Us Again(David C. Cook, 2010) by Frank Viola also diagnose some of the glaring misunderstandings about our faith and practice as evangelical Christians and propose how we can live authentic spiritual lives as believers. Wax's book exposes some of the alternative brands of Christianity that do not match up to the biblical portrayal of the genuine gospel. The work by Viola, succinct and fresh, cuts through some of our behaviors as Christians that aren't very real and life-giving.

On these lazy, hazy days just ahead don't simply pamper your body. Do something good for your soul, too. Read a stimulating book.