What happened to the disciplines, pt. 3

Last month we closed out by saying, Jesus best exemplafied THE human life, a life that flows out of the heart of God’s love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, and justice.  We referenced, Philippians 2:5-8 as a way to show what this life looked like.  We saw, through this text, that God’s idea of a humanity that images him to the world around us, through the life of Jesus, was a humanity lived out in:

Allow me to dive into each of these functions personified in the work and person of Jesus, if for nothing else, for the sake of definition, and then we will return to the original purpose of this blog series:

  • Service by means of emptying – The idea of emptying found in Philippians 2:5-8 is not so much the idea of “emptying of” only, but rather the idea of being “emptied of in order to be emptied into” – or emptying of and out of and from one set of properties into another.  It’s the same idea found in 2 Corinthians 2:8-9, where Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself of his richness and into poverty for the good of the other.  Hebrews 2:17 takes this so far as to insinuate that the mercy and empathy of God was brought to its depth and fullness because of Christ’s emptying into the other.  Then in Matthew 20:28, the evangelists will go as far as saying that this is not just one of the reasons Jesus came, but the reason.  We all want to be full of gratitude for the very fact that Jesus did this for us, but if we jump back up to our Philippians text, we see that the proof of our gratitude is shown as we “have this mind among” us… meaning, our gratitude for Christ’s service by means of emptying, should be shown in lives of service by means of emptying.   Here’s the deal, this sort of life seems daunting if not impossible, which is why I believe we can’t jump from being selfish demons to self-emptying saints in a moments notice, but rather we need practices in our lives that help shape us into this sort of person.
  • Incarnation, guided and informed by grace and truth…- Christ’s ontology among us was balanced, it did not weigh more to one side or the other, in fact it was informed and guided by two elements which seem to be in opposition to each other in our world. In the life of Christ, they not only complimented each other, they were weaved together so tightly that one could not exist without the other in his being and thus in his function as a human.  Three words that drive the depth of this home:
    • Full – which means to be permeated with, covered in every part, as if there was no room for anything else.  I think of my ruck sack that I recently packed for Haiti. I packed it so tight with clothes and books, there was no room for other substances within the bag, it was bursting at the seems with these two items there was no room for anything else – the person of Jesus, the servant Jesus (to use our Philippians text) was packed full of grace and truth – there was no room for selfish ambition, bigotry, lust, or any other disposition – and it was this grace and truth that caused him to weep over Jerusalem in compassion, caused him to drive out the money changers in the temple fueled by justice, drove him into times of solitude with his Father, and made him obedient to the point of death…he was full of it, and his person had no room for anything else that would shape his humanity into any sort of distortion of being the true human.
    • Truth – often times in our minds truth is a set of propositional facts, something that is one-dimensional, and can be memorized and regurgitated by almost anyone without much cost to us.  But Jesus’ truth cost him, it cost him his life, a truth that shaped his personhood, a truth that was the product, not of memorized facts, but a relationship with his Father, a dialogical truth, shaped in the fire of a love relationship between him, the Father, and the Spirit – truth as person, truth with texture, truth with depth, truth at a cost.  This is why Jesus will later tell us that truth is not a system of facts we must memorize, but truth is a person that we must engage, and this engagement will ultimately shape the truth we know, because of the truth that knows us at a soul level.
    • Grace – that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, good-will, loving-kindness, favour – I’m not going to expound on this one, but at the end of the day, I don’t know about you, but I can tell you my existence toward others cannot be defined by this idea of grace – but it should be.  Again, this sort of life “packed-full” of grace and truth is not something we can just “do” we must be formed into it, we need disciplines that help us identify the other junk in our suit case that is taking up space that should only be reserved for grace and truth.
  • Obedience shaped by submission and suffering – suffering – it seems almost selfish that I have any sort of right to this word.  I’ve traveled the world, and I’ve seen suffering, I’ve touched it, smelled, and wept over it, but suffering like that I have never experienced.  Again, not to belittle the word, but being that I am a melancholy introvert I have wrestled with a suffering soul and mind, I have had a few times, not many, where true heart ache was my reality.  But I can not claim ownership of the word suffering like many of my friends across the world can – those who have suffered far reaching loss, war, extreme poverty, and oppression.  I have not had to suffer, as some of my other friends have, sexual, physical, or mental abuse.  I’ve not suffered the loss of a parent, spouse, child, or sibling – so I am, in no way, assuming I have the corner on understanding suffering.  All that said, scripture talks about suffering at many levels – it talks about a kind of suffering that Jesus experienced, due to his willingness to embrace the suffering of others through relationship and community which lead to an empathy that very few of us know.  Scripture talks about a kind of suffering that is the result of denying and killing your sinful will, sinful dispositions, and sinful desires that we feel are part of our very personhood – to rip these out of our hearts through obedience causes the soul to suffer, but like a phoenix, our person rises anew in a new way.  Jesus experienced both of these sufferings that resulted in his obedience, and Paul calls us to willfully enter this sort of suffering, which is very opposed to our western ways of overmedicating ourselves with entertainment, consumerism, and the like, in order to avoid suffering that is due to embracing the suffering of others (true empathy) and the denial of the will.  Again, this is why we need practices and disciplines, because I simply love my own will too much, and find comfort in ignoring or being ignorant of the plight of the other.

 Now back to the original summed up question that launched this blog series, “what sort of practices shape a Godward humanity?”  If we don’t have practices that form us, not unlike a lump of clay being formed into a beautiful vessel, we end up trying to force this sort of humanity on ourselves and end up at best in a state of burnout, rather than these being the natural outflowing of one who is fully and deeply enjoying Jesus.   So, what are these disciplines or practices?  I think they can be narrowed down to the following four categories:

  • Contemplative Practices (slow and focused)…
  • Communal Practice..
  • Environmental Practices…
  • Servant Practices…​

 but this for another blog…until next month

​for those following this blog… I am moving it!  Click HERE to go to the new blog site:

What happened to the disciplines, pt. 2?

We ended last month’s blog simply proposing an alternative to the enlightment thought of, “I think therefore I am” with a more existential view of humanity, “I am what I love” – or we as beings are more than just cognitive, after all, we all know things to be true that the mind can’t comprehend nor explain.  This ides, we proposed should be followed by two sub-ideologies:

  • “discipline/practices shape and direct my affections”
  • “the direction of my affections shape my belief and personhood”.

This idea leaves us asking, “if intentional practices prove what I believe to be vital and necessary to the creating and deepening of my whole person, then what do my daily intentional practices prove my values and beliefs to be about my humanity?”  To put this in statement form, would be to say, “my current daily rhythms and practices prove my values and beliefs more than my verbal affirmations.”

When this sort of self-audit is performed, often times we are left realizing that what we truly believe and value is contrary to our verbal confession.  For example, while we may verbally confess Jesus to be Lord, often times our practices and rhythms prove otherwise – they prove that culture, self, promotion, platform, perception, money, spouse, job, etc are truly Lord of my life, and Jesus is a token that helps me justify my current self-centered life by using spiritual verbiage – in other words, many of us, while we verbally confess Christ as savior, are instead functional pagans, bowing our knee to any altar that satisfies our selfish desires and brings glory to self.  What ever my affections are pointed toward will always play out in daily rhythms and practices.

So, if our goal is to be the type of whole person who is ontologically Godward, then functionally we would be the type of person who has in place practices and rhythms that support, create, strengthens, and deepens God’s ideas of my humanity – a Godward human.  So we are left with a simple question: “what is God’s idea of my humanity?” Once answered, this leads to a follow up question, “what practices, disciplines, and rhythms help solidify, deepen, and form me into that type of human?”

God’s idea of humanity:  The most encompassing description of humanity comes in the first few chapters of Genesis – here we are described as the very image of God himself – in other words, being the image of God is normative to our humanity.  Another way to say this, would be to say we are most fully human when we are most clearly imaging God.    We have a couple options to determine what the image of God most clearly looks like in human form:

  • Option 1 – we begin to go through all of scripture and sort out all the actions, characteristics and dispositions that are attributed to God and then divide those up into divine actions that cannot be portrayed in a human and principles, actions, dispositions, and characteristics that could be seen and attributed to realm of mortality…or…
  • Option 2 – we simply find a human that already and most perfectly images God, which we find in Jesus.

The next step would be to find a good summation of how Jesus’ lived and functioned as the very human who was the image of God.  In my opinion, I realize there are MANY passages that do us this favor, define and summarize Jesus’ functional humanity, but one of my favorites is found in the book of Philippians, chapter 2, verses 5-8.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who thought he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  and being found in human form, he hubmled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross…

I believe here, we see a few things – we see a functioning life that flows out of the heart of God’s love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, and justice, and we see Jesus living in a way that best reflects the very essence of God’s idea of a humanity that images him to the world around him:

This blog is a bit too lengthy as it is, so we’ll spend the next blog or so defining what this might mean in our daily lives, and then we’ll finally dig into the practices, rhythms, and disciplines…

What has happened to the disciplines?

What happened to the disciplines?  Let me start over.

Martin Luther, the Reformer said, “Is it not wonderful news to believe that salvation lies outside of ourselves?”

I agree with this statement without having to add any sort of qualifier to it.  I also believe, that according to Ephesians 2:8-9, that God does not gift us with his grace to add to our faith (synergism).  Rather I believe Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches clearly that both grace and faith are the free gift that is given to us based off of nothing we do – meaning we do not deserve, nor can we earn it – they are both a gift from God.  I simply believe that salvation is too deep, rich, precious and mysterious to be trusted to the will and choice of humanity.  We are too broken.  History shows we will make the wrong choice more times than not.  Our affections are turned in way more than we want to believe.

So, just before you lump me into a particular camp, know that I believe no truer statement has been said about the whole salvation, time, choice argument than when C.S. Lewis said, “You cannot fully understand the relations of choices and time till you are beyond both.

So, why all this explanation?  Simple, I want to write about the loss of and hopefully the need for the disciplines.  It is quite possible, that one will read my rant on the absence and need for the disciplines, and write this post off as an ideology of synergism – nothing could be further from the truth, and I wanted to attempt to capture my thoughts on that before I go on.

So, now to my initial statement, “what happened to the disciplines?”  Why are the least talked about disciplines in the church world, service (justice/mercy), daily prayer and daily scripture reading/meditating/contemplation?  Why are they non-apologetically lumped into the “if I have time” or “I didn’t have time category”?  Why, and I have heard this by ‘great’ minds, are these disciplines being written off as “a focus on works” or even worse being written off because one can point to a time in history when the church did focus on daily disciplines of prayer and scripture and they produced pharisees or focused on service and it created liberals with a watered down theology.  Is this not like writing off food because it has made a generation obese?  Is this not like taking the idea of say, breathing, and moving it from the ‘necessary’ category into the ‘if I have time’ category?

I think therefore I am” – enlightenment ideology.  Man is no more than a thinking being with a body.  This has also been deduced to carrying with it two other, seemingly logical thoughts – “I see therefore I believe” and “that which I believe must be seen (proven)” – yes, this has seeped into the church, think of our lust for quantifying everything we do.  This is the reduction of humanity, the reduction of values, and therefore the reduction of disciplines.  In other words, what I believe about the ontology of man, produces a set of values about that belief, and plays out in disciplines/practices (or lack of).  Those disciplines and practices that sustain those values, and thus sustains (even creates) my vision of humanity.  The problem with this sort of ideology, is not so much its lack of truth, rather its lack of completeness – it reduces man to the cognitive and material only, to what can be seen, and leads to the neglect of all else – spirit, soul, mind, emotions, etc – the intangible.  In fact, we have become so submitted to the cognitive and material, that we seem to readily neglect and write off that which is beyond us as unimportant, silly, or devaluing.  A dangerous cycle begins, when we neglect that which is beyond us, that which thrives in the realm of imagination and soul – we are reduced to becoming surface creates, whose thinking becomes limited and shallower with time.  When we start with the cognitive and material, we are forced into shallowness, because we neglect that which moves and motivates and informs the mind and will – the affections.  The affections are the offspring of the imagination and the soul dancing together.  Please hear, me, when I say imagination, I don’t mean fairy tails, I mean the deeper imagination, the things that we know to be true that we can neither see, prove, or touch, the affections of the heart that are not willed, but move the will and mind. We have forgotten that we are not primarily creates limited to the cognitive and material, but, to use the words of James Smith, we are liturgical animals in need of disciplines to help shape and direct our affections, which will, in the end shape our whole being

How did this happen?  As we moved from the 15th-16th century into the 18th-19th centuries we had two competing ideologies going head to head: renaissance ideology, which was resurrecting the human creativity and beauty lost during medieval times.  The renaissance sought to journey back to the creativity of the Romans and Greeks, capture the ideas and bring them into the 18/19th centuries.  The focus was on man as ultimate, man as hero, man as good, man as beautiful, man as responsible, and a focus on a, sort of two realm (separate and distinct) universe of life – or a very platonic philosophy, except with a focus on the cognitive and material as better than.  Then there as reformation ideology, while the basis of this was, the idea of God reclaiming the world, much of this became so distorted due to its reaction to and against renaissance ideology.  This reaction jumped to the other end of the spectrum so that the participation of man was voided out. In other words we were merely puppets and pawns to God’s schemes.  So, due to the voiding out of human participation by reactionary reformers, many leading thinkers of the enlightenment were driven to take renaissance ideology and put even more focus on man, after all, this is much more attractive than reducing man to puppets and pawns.  What we ended up with was the idea that it was man’s job to build the stairway to heaven, and when we arrive at the gates of heaven, if God is there, then great, if not, oh well, we didn’t need him anyway.  What am I saying?  I am suggesting that when we begin to focus more on “earthly things” or “things that are seen”, the cognitive and material, that which can be controlled and quantified by man, to the neglect of the soul and the non-cognitive, we begin to journey away from the completeness of our humanity.  Due to this incomplete view of man, our energy and discipline is only used to develop the cognitive and material realm of ourselves, while the soul of who we are starves.

What we need to understand is that the wholeness of the human being is made up of the affective (non-cognitive – cares, concerns, motivations, and desires); cognitive (ideas and beliefs); and physical (practices, bodily, and material).  When we believe our identity to be located and shaped primarily by the realm of the cognitive and material, we reduce our lives to be based on what can be proven, known through empirical evidence, or deduced and rationalized from knowledge that is, at the end of the day, extremely limited.  However, when one’s identity is to be located in and shaped by the affective, we do not lose the cognitive, rather we displace our fixation on it, because one knows that even knowledge (at a macro level) and belief is situated and informed by desire and love (the affections).

The ideology that posits “I think therefore I am” is not only sabotaging the church, it is is sabotaging our humanity.  The truth is, “I am what I love” and may I add to that two sub-ideologies:  “discipline/practices shape and direct my affections” and “the shape of my affections shape my belief and personhood”.  The question that we are left with is, “if intentional practices prove what I believe to be vital and necessary to the creating and deepening of my whole person, then what do my daily intentional practices prove my values and beliefs to be about my humanity?”

If this self-audit proves, contrary to my verbal confession (that Christ is Lord of my life), that my lowest priority is that of being being fully Christian (a peculiar, holy, Godward, ‘humanward’ person) – in other words, proves that my affections are pointed toward that which is other than God and his will, then what daily intentional practices should I have in place to help re-direct and shape my affections Godward.  There is another question we must answer first – if my goal is to be the type of whole person that has in place practices that are Godward and are thus deepening and strengthening God’s ideas of my humanity, I have to ask, “what is God’s idea of my humanity?”  I’ll attempt to get into these in the next couple of blogs…

Tolerance, Marriage, Hate & Sexuality

I believe it was the summer of 1991 when Disney issued their first “Gay Day”, and the small town I lived in and many conservative friends went nuts – you would have thought way more than our right to excess, make believe, over priced entertainment, and talking mice had been attacked – but nope, that was it, gay men and women simply wanted a day at America’s most famous vacation spot set aside for their families absent of discrimination and marginalization.  Why?  To do something extremely dangerous… ride rides with each other and their kids.  This was the stuff of real worry, if you could get a talking mouse, pantsless duck, and the boy that never grows up dressed in tights (sense the irony) to befriend gay families then the good ole US-of-A would crash and burn.   Well here we are, and the issue is no longer talking animals and a land of make believe overtaken by gay extremists, but this war has escalated to Ice Cream and Chicken nuggets – we are now living in a time in which the most unhealthy nation in the world can no longer achieve bipartisan obesity. A line in the sand has been drawn, and on one side stands the muppets.  One day, I will sit my grandchildren on my knee and tell them stories of the days of old, when you could order a chicken sandwich, eat ice cream, and never wonder if the cow that was milked for the ice cream nor the chicken that was killed for the nuggets was gay, straight, republican, or democrat; a day when getting over weight could be done without political controversy…

However, all that said, I think these continuous debates about chicken, ice cream, gay rights, marriage, and the likes just shows how much we (when I say we, I mean the “we” on both sides of the argument) take great pleasure in missing the point, and are willing to chase after a more shallow and hollow humanity built around igronance.

Okay, so, let’s define a few things:

  • tol-er-ance [tol-er-uhns] – noun – a fair, objective, and PERMISSIVE attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own.
    • Let’s be real – which political, cultural, and social groups pontificate this word the most?
    • The idea of tolerance in our culture is smoke and mirrors, and is not practiced (from either side), someday someone is going to have to put on their big-boy undies and be the first to act out this idea.
  • Marriage– marriage, historically has had two major roles (1) religious (2) political (uniting kingdoms, empires, families or to create heirs).
    • Christians, get your panties out of a wad, the moment the state began to allow divorces to happen over reasons not defined in the bible, they no longer lined up with our definition of marriage – if the government makes gay marriage legal, this is not the beginning of some redefinition of marriage, they did this a long time ago… move on!
  • Hate– simply means to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; to detest.
    • Dear Friends (who happen to be gay): real christians (those who hold to the Bible) cannot hate.  It is an anti-Christian property.  Rather than accusing Christians of hate, it would be more congruent to call those “christians” who hate, non-Christians.  However, Christians do disagree, and up until recent history disagreeing and hate have been considered two very different things, we should return to this.  Sincerely, Christian
    • Dear Friends (who are not gay and are Christian): to deny the same rights you enjoy under a non-Christian government to those who hold to different ideas and definitions than you, does edge close to the idea of, “feeling extreme aversion” towards someone.  Sincerely, other Christian
  • Sexuality: sexual character; possession of the structural and functional traits of sex; recognition of or emphasis upon sexual matters.
    • With all the hoopla surrounding the gay/straight talk, it seems as if our humanity has been reduced to sexuality.  What if we all got into car accidents and had our bodies severed from the waist down?  Would we cease to be human?  While our sexuality is part of our humanity, it is certainly not the entirety of our humanity.  If our sexuality ceased, our humanity would not.  So can we place this argument in it’s proper place, and elevate the importance of our humanity.

We’re humans, we will always argue.  Our differing opinions make this democracy great (among other things).  Can we please elevate this conversation?  Can we respect our differences?  We need to, or this is going to get ugly (it already has).  Here are some ideas I have:

  1. Tolerance: can we do this?  Can we simply act out what we say we hold as a value?  Scratch that – can we tangibly be love to those who are different from us.  Christian, can you turn the other cheek (I think someone pretty important said something about that).  Do we always have to one-up the “opponent” by lowering ourselves to their mode of attack?  I’ve heard that the “counter attack” to the Chicken sandwich appreciation day was to show up in masses and publicly “kiss” – really, this is what we have come to – this is the opposite of tolerance and maturity.
  2. Marriage: Get Government out of the Marriage business! Rather than argue over who has the right to be married, can we take marriage out of the government business?  If you go back to the historical reasons for marriage, the only one that still survives in our nation is the religious reason.  Our government is not a religious institution.  Can’t we give both straight and gay couples the same rights under civil union rights – and then allow religious institutions to determine how they define marriage under the spiritual and/or religious authority they hold to?  Sometimes I think the real fight is that conservative Christians don’t want the biblical definition of marriage invaded.  But as I said earlier, it has not only been invaded, but over taken, and that happened way before this gay marriage debate started.  I would much rather have a government that focused on things they needed to focus on, keep their nose out of the idea of marriage, and transfer all “marital advantages” to civil unions for any couple willing to live in a committed relationship, and then let churches, mosques, temples, and Las Vegas chapels honor marriages as they see fit.
  3. Hate – can we grow up and reserve the word “hate” for what it really means! Can we go back to realizing that differing opinions makes for a great democracy.  My Christian straight friends, we too need to realize that a great democracy is made up of beautiful people who have very different views from us, and deserve the same rights we have (stop getting caught up in semantics), if you cannot appreciate this, then you need to do a quick study on national theocracies…if you still aren’t convinced, I’m sure you could find some real estate in Saudi Arabia.
  4. Sexuality – I get it, it’s important.  If you are a Christian then you know that sexuality goes way beyond who you are sleeping with at night and speaks to the imago dei in us all, which demands of us a posture of humility and love.   That said, sexuality is not worth dividing our humanity over.  It is not worth denying rights over.

Christian, we are never told to “demand our rights.”  We aren’t told to boycott, condemn, or demand the government to legislate our morality.  However, as US citizens we have those rights, and this is what makes us citizens of a democracy.  That said, let us remember that as Christians (takes priority over our citizenship) our energies are to be spent on making peace:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with ALL

Can we do this

’tis the season…

’tis the season for…hustle, bustle, debt, stress, anxiety, and greed.  ’tis the season that we celebrate the birth of our God… Mammon. ’tis the season, that the divine nature of our God becomes oh so present… consumerism, materialism, and individualism.  Argue with me all you want, minus the one or two days we sprinkle in 8-pound 6-ounce baby Jesus, this is what Christmas has become for the majority in the church…in fact, for many of us, outside of what we may verbally declare, our actions show that we have become functional atheists during the holidays.  Our actions show, that we believe God to actually care that you get that set of golf clubs you’ve always wanted but couldn’t afford, or that you get that Coach purse you ‘need’, or that mine and your little brat gets those toys they ‘deserve.’ This year we will spend about 450 billion dollars, just in our country alone, on junk that we will be ready to replace in a few more years, and we think congress has a spending issue.  Doesn’t it seem ironic that we are the very ones who fight, who get indignant, who lose our witness over the idea of taking “Christ” out of Christmas… we get angry that the secularists don’t want to use Christ to represent everything during the season I just described.  Are they not simply making official what we have already put into practice?  I have to say, when I look at it that way, I have to agree with them, in fact, it may be the most polite thing we do for Jesus this season, and that is completely disassociate Christ with our greed OR relearn how to celebrate Christmas in such a way, that his life is obvious to those around us. Continue reading

Haiti, day 6

Today was a great day, simple but good.  No manual labor, and a LOT of time in the car, which is normal, but today seemed like more.  Though the roads, absolutely suck, and my back proves it, our time in the vehicle as been rich… some deep conversations, some fun conversations, some silly, and some silence… we have all gotten to know each other even better, even those of us who have known each other for a long time, in fact, Shonna, Jill, and myself realized we really aren’t rude, snobs, rather just quiet introverts that don’t always do the best when surrounded by people we don’t know, thus, the three of us will establish an IA Support group (Introverts Anonymous) for those coping with this at ANC – it has been a joy getting to know them better.

Outside of conversation, we spent the first half of the day just playing with the kids at the orphanage, the orphanage that ANC and

The Orphanage that ANC, HELP, and Soma Austin built

The Orphanage that ANC, HELP, and Soma Austin Built

Soma Austin built and the kids that ANC sponsors.  It was a great time, moving, laughing, and crying… What do you do when the orphans pray, that God would bless us, and prosper us…?!?!?!? Geeze!  After saying “Good Bye” we headed to lunch and followed that with a final look at the house that we built.  Just to be finished with some time at the art market overlooking the whole of Port au Prince and the ocean from about 6,000 feet up.

So, because today was so laid back, I had the opportunity to do a lot of thinking today.  When you are in a place like Haiti, doing the kind of mission you love, wrestling through John 6, and reading Don’t Waste Your Life, it’s bound to make for a hot bed of tension in your soul.  So, to that, I won’t expound, but I would challenge you to wrestle with John 6 and it’s implications, add to that a good thoughtful read through Don’t Waste Your Life, and if you want to go over the edge a bit, take a community of friends, into an environment and culture that none of you are familiar with – it will challenge your current reality, which is something we all need.

So, on that let me leave you with a quote from Don’t Waste Your Life:

What a tragic waste when people turn away from the Calvary road of love and suffering.  All the riches of the glory of God in Christ are on that road.  All the sweetest fellowship with Jesus is there.  All the treasures of assurance.  All the ecstasies of joy.  All the clearest sightings of eternity.  All the noblest camaraderie.  All the humblest affections.  All the most tender acts of forgiving kindness.  All the deepest discoveries of God’s Word.  All the most earnest prayers.  They are all on the Calvary road where Jesus walks with his people.  Take up your cross and follow Jesus.  On this road, and this road alone, life is Christ and death is gain.  Life on every other road is wasted.”

 Or in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

when Christ calls a man, he bids him, ‘come and die’.”

 

how to deal with the “rapture”

So, if you are reading this, it is because the rapture didn’t happen, or you didn’t make it if it did.  Okay, there’s my joke for this whole thing.  That being said, all this hoopla about some rapture happening and some tribulation beginning all to be finalized in October on Judgement day, has really got many people asking good questions, it’s got some mocking the whole idea of some sort judgement day and the “end of the world as we know it“, and other’s ignoring it for various reasons.  I have a few thoughts on how to view this:

  1. Extreme 1: Contempt and Mockery for it: While I must confess, I have boarded on this land a few times, my point has not been to make fun of the man who came up with this date, as I don’t even know his name, but rather all the details surrounding it – still no excuse.  The thing is, there will be a final coming of Christ, the world as we know it will end, and those living and dead will be eternally judged – it’s going to happen, and this is no laughing matter.  Those of us who believe in some sort of second coming and some sort of final judgment, believe so based on the scriptures; we should allow those same scriptures to inform how we react to those who are deceived.  Matthew Paul Turner has a really good article on this, click HERE to read it.  I can’t help but wonder, when we are asked about the rapture or a 2nd coming or a judgement day, do we revert to mocking, because we don’t have a solid way to explain what we think… which leads to the next point…
  2. Extreme 2, Consumed by it  – We could do a quick google search to find all the days that some sort of end was supposed to happen: in AD 90 St. Clement claimed the end of the world was upon us; in 365 Hilary of Poitiers announced it would happen that year; Hippolytus and Sextus Julius predicted Armageddon would happen in AD 500; AD 1,000 many Christians in Europe predicted the end of the world on January 1st of 1000 – then starts the fad that every time a hundredth year approaches dooms day predictors get loud (you remember December 31st 1999); and no one can forget the very man that made these predictions famous in our time, good ole’ Darby – When you look back at each of these incidents (and many more) you will find that many of the followers of these men, reoriented their lives, or were so ‘consumed’ by these predictions so much so that it changed the way they lived so much, that when the ‘rapture‘ didn’t happen, they had many repercussions – it would be the equivalent of someone forgoing their debt payments for months on end, all because it was going to end, just to find out that while the end of the world didn’t happen, the end of living in their nice house has.  While we are to anticipate it, while we are to look for it, if we believe all the scriptures say about morality, service, ethics, marriage, etc, etc, then our lives shouldn’t change because of some prediction, rather all of our decisions should be in light of the fact that Christ will return in glory some day, be it tomorrow or in another 4,000 years – this is the equivalent of those who live one way on Sundays and another the rest of the week… Don’t let our lives be consumed with the 2nd coming, rather allow the 2nd coming to inform how we live for Jesus everyday…
  3. Extreme 3, Ignoring it – Scripture is very clear, that this is not an option either, in fact, Titus 2 tells us that all of life should be informed by the reality that Jesus did come in grace and is coming in glory, and those two realities should shape everything about the present, the in between.  In fact, Paul goes as far to say, that Jesus’ people should be waiting, expecting, or living as if they really believed it was true – the truth is most of our lives really reflect that we never give the 2nd coming a thought, as opposed to living like it informs all we do.  I love this quote by C.S. Lewis: If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.  I’m convinced that the reason people ‘write-off’ or ‘ignore’ this subject is because if we didn’t , it would reveal how little most Christians know about the 2nd coming outside of some sermon they may have dozed in and out of, or some 16 part FICTION book series, which brings me to my final point…
  4. Balanced Approach, Know About It: The truth is, out of all the things that separate different belief systems, including atheistic science, the one thing we ALL hold in common is that this place we call home is coming to an end.  Now how we handle it is different, while many belief systems are trying to educate people in order to empower them in such a way that they can either delay it or stop it, the end that is, as if it is a bad thing, our scriptures tell us to expect it, look for it, long for it.  This is all kind of fresh to me, as I just finished a class that dedicated 25% of its time to Last Things, so it has been interesting getting into brief discussions with those around me.  So here are a few things you can do to know about it more:
      1. Scripture – grab some friends and begin to do a study on last things – I would challenge you to do one thing, throw out what you have been taught, and approach your study with new eyes, I bet you’d be amazed at what you end up not agreeing with and what you end up believing…this is a very fun journey…
      2. Resources – Study your view and views that oppose yours, just because it’s not your view doesn’t make it wrong… there are some great resources out there, here are a few: As Far As the Curse is FoundSurprised by Hope, The Bible and the Future, The Meaning of the Millennium, etc – there are many more, but these are a good place to start
      3. Think – it’s one thing to just learn the ideas that are out there, it’s another to THINK while you are studying, “how does this inform my life NOW?”
so, there you go… you are still here, I’m still here… and while May 21st is just another day, it is one day closer to the end, how does that inform our lives now?