Sunday, May 22, 2011

Oops, We're Still Here

I have to admit that I was distracted on Saturday May 21st at 6:00 in the evening to look for the return of Jesus.  I did finally check the clock at 6:30 and realized that either the rapture hadn't happened or I was left behind.  Since my wife and son were still here also, I began to suspect that Camping had been wrong in his prediction.  I even called my brother to check on him and see if he were still here, which he was.  My Mom called to check and see if I were still here, which I was.  Looks like another fool has tried to know more than God and failed miserably.  When will we ever learn?

Well, here are some lessons from the hype of this last prediction (And hopefully the last Camping will ever make).  I hope these lessons will strengthen us in the future:

Lesson #1 - Trust in Jesus, not in a man
It's easy to look at followers of Harold Camping or Jim Jones as fools and easily led astray.  However, there are many in the church today who attend their church because of a person other than Jesus - They come because of the personality of the pastor or go to Sunday School because of the teacher.  We can easily find ourselves following a personality rather than the person of Jesus.  Jesus is our role model, hero, Savior and all-in-all.  Whenever we take our eyes off Jesus, trouble always comes.  Examine your own followship to see if you are coming to church because of a person other than Jesus.  If that person were to leave the church or fall, what would happen to your faith?  Please, look up to Jesus and model your life after Him, but don't fall into the cult of personality.

Lesson #2 - Camping is a false prophet, liar and thief
Those may seem like strong words, but that is how we are to judge our leaders.  James tell us that not many of us should presume to be teachers because teachers will be judged more strictly.  Paul admonishes us to have high standards in judging our leaders.  Camping made a prophecy and in God's eyes, Camping gets only one shot at this.  If his prophecy doesn't come true he is a false prophet and should never be listened to again.  I find it interesting that in the hours after his prophecy failed, reporters went to his home for a comment, but no one would answer the door.  I guess they are busily crafting and wording their response to this failure.  Beware of someone who won't even step up and own up to his mistakes, but hides behind closed doors.  Shame on anyone who listens to his radio station, sends a penny to this "ministry" or ever listens to Camping again.  As the great theologian Gomer Pyle once said:  "Fool me once, your fault.  Fool me twice, my fault".

Lesson #3 - The focus of our lives as Christians should not be on judgment but on Jesus
The followers of Camping gave us a lot to follow his teaching and now they are left empty.  Their entire focus was on the coming judgment, seeking to scare people into Heaven.  Rarely does this work with any lasting results.  Oh, we can scare people into saying the sinner's prayer, but that doesn't mean the person has made a commitment to follow Jesus.  We may be doing more harm than good.  Following Jesus is not about fire insurance to miss Hell, although that's a great benefit.  Following Jesus is about allowing Jesus to transform our lives throughout our lifetime.  It is a moment-by-moment journey that at times can be painful, yet at other times exhilarating!  Let's let the world see the joy and peace which rules our lives because of the radical change Jesus has brought.

Lesson #4 - Utilize Every Opportunity to share Jesus
I have had wonderful opportunities to share Christ with friends and acquaintances because of the hype of this prediction.  The doors have opened in the locker room of 24 Fitness for me to talk calmly about Jesus and how we should prepare for His return.  God can even utilize the foolishness of one man to see others come to Christ.  Unfortunately, the by-product of Camping has been to give the skeptics more ammunition to keep Jesus at a distance.  For that, Camping and his followers will be held accountable.  However, we will be accountable for whether we have taken advantage of this wonderful opportunity to share Jesus with our friends, whether in person or Facebook or over the phone.  Did you witness about the true Jesus this past week?

Lesson #5 - Know your Bible
The most foolish people are those who chose to believe a teaching which goes contrary to the explicit words of Jesus.  They blindly gave money and many gave up their homes and jobs to proclaim a lie to the world.  They could have better utilized these sacrifices by studying the Bible and becoming involved in ministries which touch people's lives.  Don't be a victim to the cult of personality.  We need to be in God's Word every day!  That's why our church bulletin has daily quiet times listed so each day you can listen to God from His Word.  If we are knowing and applying God's Word, we will see the false prophets from a mile away.  Not only that, but we will be able to give a reasonable response when faced with unreasonable events and circumstances.  The purpose of your church is not to get you addicted to attending church, but to train you to be dependent on God, not on man.  Are you in God's Word daily?

There are tons more lessons we can take from such a prediction, but these will do for this blog.  I would be interested in hearing the lessons you have learned or we should learn from such a foolish prediction.  May this Sip refresh you to serve the Lord and share His love with a lost and dying world.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Should I prepare my Sunday School lesson for May 22nd?

"This web site serves as an introduction and portal to four faithful ministries which are teaching that WE CAN KNOW from the Bible alone that the date of the rapture of believers will take place on May 21, 2011 and that God will destroy this world on October 21, 2011. Please take your time and browse through the teachings of Harold Camping, President of Family Radio. Visit EBible Fellowship, Bible Ministries International, and The-Latter-Rain to read and listen to many faithful teachers give scriptural insight on the doctrines that God is teaching His people. Learn about the Biblical Timeline of History, the correct method of Bible interpretation, the End of the Church Age and God's command to believers that they must depart out of the churches. Study the proofs that God has so graciously given in His Word showing us that these dates are 100% accurate and beyond dispute. Above all, please READ THE BIBLE and prayerfully ask God to open your spiritual eyes to these truths. May it please Him to have mercy on each of our souls."

 The words above are not mine, but came from a web site which is supporting the view of Harold Camping that Jesus will come back and the rapture will take place on May 21st of this year.  Camping has spent a lot of time and money to let us all know that Judgment Day is coming.  He has even set the date for the rapture, which is a very impressive feat.  He has outdone Jesus because Jesus said He didn't know when it would happen.  Of course, he also "calculated" that the rapture would happen in mid-September of 1994.  Oops - That first prediction didn't work out very well, did it?  My guess is, this second prediction will fare about the same.  I'm sure there are already some Camping folks working on a press release for May 22nd that will talk about how he misread the data or, once again, miscalculated the date, but at least they got people to think about eternity, yadda, yadda, yadda.  That's one press release I can't wait to read.

I had another blog ready to post, but felt the need to address this topic when I had conversations with two separate men at the gym this week asking me what I thought about the coming judgment.  Here are some Goslen Facts about May 21st:

Fact #1 - Only the immature follower of Christ will get sucked into this talk.
Those who are mature in their faith know that no one knows the day or time of Jesus' return.  They know He will come like a thief in the night.  They also know that He promised there would be signs which could be seen in preparation for His return, but these signs would not point to a specific date.  They also have seen other false prophets, like Hal Lindsey, claim a specific date of Christ's return, only to see that day come and go.  Those who care nothing about Christ just laugh at such foolishness.  They find it humorous when someone thinks he knows more than God and are excited about seeing that person proved wrong.  This adds fuel to their fire to not take Jesus seriously and becomes another reason for them to mock Jesus and His Church.  The ones who get sucked in are the ones who know just enough about the Bible to be dangerous.  They walk by touch, taste and smell rather than by faith.  They have a Bible, but wait for others to interpret it for them.  They rarely make time each day to spend in prayer and study of Scripture so they are easily duped.  They attend church, but are not involved in church.  Their faith is at about the same level as it was five years ago.  They are still wrestling with the same issues they have always wrestled with over the years.  These are the ones who can be sucked into such discussions and maybe even have fear over the future judgment of God.

Fact #2 - God enjoys giving us wisdom, but He'll never give the date of Jesus return to anyone
We must have a solid Biblical understanding of the "when" of Jesus' return.  The Bible tells us specifically that no one knows the day or the hour.  For man to presume a specific date is to allow man's foolishness to supercede God's wisdom in our lives.  Jesus gives us signs about the end times in Matthew 24, but this is simply to prepare us for His return.  It is a reminder that as the devoted followers of Jesus, we should always be about His business.  Don't let the owner of the house come home and find his servants goofing off.  In James 1:5, God promises to give us wisdom in any situation, however that wisdom does not include the date of Jesus' return.  If He gave us that date, it would be abused because of our sinful nature.  There would be those who are slackers until the day before, then try to get everything ready for His return.  There would be others who would like out every destructive passion until the day before and then try to get right with God.  There would be others who would misuse that date to make themselves look wiser and gain for themselves.  God, in His infinite wisdom, will never reveal this date to any person so don't waste time reading the different voices who advertise the answer.  So this bold claim of 100% accuracy claimed in the intro of my blog is not just audacious, but flat our, wrong.

Fact #3 - If Jesus does come back on May 21st, I'm covered
In 1971, I got my ticket for eternal life by receiving Jesus as my personal savior.  From that day forward, I have been covered with my rapture flight ticket.  Now, have I lived the way Christ wanted me to live every moment of ever day since then?  Not a chance.  I have needed His grace more since I came to Christ than before I came to Christ.  But that grace is the reason I have confidence in what will happen to me at the return of Jesus.  So I don't spend a whole lot of energy trying to figure out when Jesus will return.  It simply shouldn't affect how I am living because I should be living full on for Jesus every day.   So I'm not really worried nor investing much energy into this latest prediction and all the hoopla given to this prediction.

Fact #4 - God is God
God alone determines the time of Jesus' return.  Jesus' return can happen at any moment since Jesus ascended.  It could even happen when I type the period to this sentence. (Pause)  It didn't, but it could have.  Ever since Jesus ascended forty days after His resurrection, the Church has been awaiting His return.  The Apostles thought it would happen very soon after His ascension.  One of the problems of the early church was those Christians who didn't want to work or serve because they thought Jesus was coming back within a week, month or year.  So to think that Jesus cannot come back until THIS specific event happens is limiting an unlimited God and making His less than Sovereign.

Fact #5 - I would not want to be Harold Camping on May 22nd
If his prediction is wrong, he is a false prophet.  The Old Testament tells us to stone false prophets because they said they spoke on God's behalf but reality showed that they didn't.  I guess if we had taken that Old Testament admonition serious in 1994 Harold Camping would not have been around to make his latest prediction.  Why would anyone listen to him now when he was so wrong earlier?  If Jesus doesn't return on May 21st, what will Harold Camping and those following/supporting this prediction say?  If May 22nd comes around with no rapture, only a fool would listen to this man and anyone connected to this prediction.  Unfortunately, Fact #1 will still hold true on May 22nd because there are too many followers of Christ who are "spiritual weaklings" (A term I attribute to my wonderful Mom).  Apart from the way he will bring shame upon the church, Harold Camping will reap what he has sown by giving a false prediction.  I don't mean others will pick up rocks to stone him, but there will be spiritual consequences to this.  He will also be held accountable for how he has spent such huge amounts of money for Billboards, web advertising, TV ads, etc.  Money which could have been used to help the widows and orphans, which James says is the true expression of religion.

So by now you have figured out the answer to my question.  Yes, I have prepared my sermon and Sunday School lesson for May 22nd.  I have done that because these facts will never change, no matter how many predictions are made about the return of Jesus, the rapture or the end of the world.  So if  Jesus doesn't return and you are still around on May 22nd, we invite you to come to Hillcrest Baptist Church at 3400 Hillcrest Road, Richmond, California at 9:45 AM to study God's Word and worship the Lord together.  I'm fairly certain all of our Sunday School teachers will have prepared their lessons for that day.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The question for the day

For the past week, I have been visiting family and friends in Greensboro, North Carolina.  I have been amazed by the difference in the atmosphere between here and the East Bay area.  I don't mean the temperature or the humidity, but the mindset of the people.  In the past week, I have only seen two people wearing drawers hanging down to their knees and using one hand to hold their pants up.  there have only been three sightings of men wearing hoodies with the hood pulled up over the head and trying to cover their features.  I have only heard three vehicles driving by with a loud and obnoxious boom playing at an annoying level (And one of those was old school country).  While standing in line at the stores, other customers strike up conversations with me and we become friends in the short time it takes to check out.  Female clerks in stores call me "honey" or "darling" and the men clerks call me "sir".  I am greeted at the door of stores by clerks who ask if they can help me and actually help me.  If they can't find it, they get someone else to help.  I have been waved at by people I do not know who were passing me while I was out walking.  Most everyone I pass on the sidewalk will smile and speak some type of greeting.  People here don't seem nearly as angry nor preoccupied as those in the East Bay.  The pace of life is so much slower and there is no such thing as a quick conversations.  Waitresses treat me like I am a long lost family member and strike up conversations about life.  My six son plays outside by himself without me worrying about traffic or something else happening to him.  Now, don't get me wrong.  Greensboro is not a utopia because it has it share of government corruption, crime, violence and unsafe places.  I kow, those of you who live in Greensboro will tell me that my view is a little simplistic and there are major issues here.  I understand all of that, but this is my blog so just go with it for the moment,  However, I feel like I am in Mayberry.  I keep waiting to see Opie and Aunt Bea walking down the sidewalk.  I am so much more relaxed and not just because I am on vacation.  I feel a freedom to converse with people and don't feel as threatened or feel as much tension from people.  The atmosphere is one which makes it easier to enjoy life and others.

(These are some of my high school classmates, family and friends after dinner)

As I was jogging this morning, three of the cars that passed me had drivers who waved at me.  Now, I know these people don't know me, but they were just being friendly.  That NEVER happens when I run in the East Bay.  So I began to think about this question:  Is it easier to be a Christian in a place that reinforces the values of the church or in a place that has rejected those values and is following pagan values?  I think the biggest difference in Greensboro and the East Bay is this:  Only about 4% of the East Bay population will go to any church at least once a month, but in Greensboro about 40% of the residents will attend church at least once.  And even though I am math deficient, I know that this means ten times more people attend church in Greensboro.  So this has affected the values and morals on a tangible, measurable level.  I only ran for three miles, so I didn't have too much time to dwell on this question.  But I was struck by the differences in my first home (Greensboro) and my home now (The East Bay).  I was wondering what you would think about all of this.

However, that simply sets the stage for the question:  Is it easier to be a Christian in a place that reinforces the values of the church or in a place that has rejected those values?  The church in Greensboro seems to be more like the Galatians church:  They wrestle with legalism and hypocrisy while the church in the East Bay is more like the Corinthian church:  They wrestle with immorality and paganism spreading into the church and accepting the values around them which compromises God's standards.  Obviously, this is a broad generalization, so please don't get caught up in that comparison.  Stay focused on the question of the day.  Ask yourself, which can you face with the most success:  Hypocrisy/legalism or temptations to compromise.  I am planning to answer this question for myself in next week's blog, but I would enjoy getting your feedback this week.  So which would be easier for you?