Category Archives: Antichrist

What is the Gospel?

I wonder if I have at times become “so familiar” with the Bible and especially the Christian Gospel that I lose sight of its epic, boundless quality. Can you have heard so many sermons that you begin to think there isn’t much new to be learned about God? Or does this reveal a faulty mindset that has lost its way? If God is beyond description, why do we look at His Word as something less than supernatural, epic, and majestic? The Bible (God’s book) is beyond whatever else we might read on a daily basis. I was thinking about this tonight after Pastor Tim Matthews spoke on the parable of the sower and the seed from Matthew 13. He challenged the youth group to dare to study the Scriptures, soak in it and live it. Beyond looking for good principles to apply, Pastor Tim encouraged us to seek to be transformed. He challenged us to be good ground that would produce fruit in God’s Kingdom.

The Bible is not a self-help book. I admit that on many occasions I have taken the “I already knew that” attitude toward something found in Scripture. But the strange thing is I may not have been living by the light of that knowledge. Many times I needed to hear something again that I already supposedly knew.

So I feel led to revisit the basic Christian message, commonly known as the Gospel. What is it really? Is the Gospel just ten basic beliefs about God and His relationship with mankind? Is the Gospel merely about statements of faith? Or is it something more — an ethic, a call to become like Christ? Is the Gospel something that ever changes? Or is it something that only changes us? Is the Gospel fully realized now or a forward looking hope for a better world? Is the Gospel even really about mankind? Or is its core preoccupation mainly God and His glory revealed to humanity?

These questions have led me to develop what I am calling the Gospel Challenge. I am encouraging anybody who has a relationship with God through Jesus to take 30 days to wrestle with what the Gospel is based on Scripture and your own reflection as you pray and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. May you look to see how the Gospel is lived out in your world. Specifically, I am encouraging other Christians who know me to take up this challenge.

It starts with reading the Bible daily while looking to see what your reading reveals about the basic Christian message. You should ask questions like, “What does this story show us about God? or How does this passage depict God’s Kingdom?

Second, you develop a list of key beliefs explaining what the Gospel is and how it should function in our daily lives. What really is this Good News that we are called to share with the world? I am starting with a simple computer document that says, “The Christian Gospel is….”

Third, refine your list and share some insights with others to see what they think. I intend to ask other believers, “If you had to explain the Christian message in 3-5 minutes, what would you say?”

Fourth, wrestle some more with the concepts that arise as you study, pray about the Christian message and discuss the Gospel with others. The last part of the challenge is to come up with a basic Gospel statement or creed and attempt to live according to these beliefs on daily basis.

So who is with me? What does the Gospel really mean to you? I welcome others to post on my blog their thoughts on what the Christian Gospel is and how it functions in the world.

Two Masters

Luke 16:13
“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

There are a lot of words that people call Jesus, but “Master” is not one of them. Jesus may be Savior, Redeemer, Healer, even King. But I don’t think that we in modern society like to think of anyone as our master. That denotes a slave/master relationship.

This hits on a point mentioned by Michael Card in his recent concert at St. Giles Presbyterian. Card said, “You aren’t truly free until you are Christ’s slave.” He went on to talk about how the servant language in Scripture helps us understand the upside down freedom of the Christian Gospel. People who live for themselves think that they are free. But they are actually bound by their own appetites. We all serve something.

I have always thought that the real evil in this passage was money. But money is just the vehicle for the real idol to fulfill its desires. In this passage, Jesus is clearly pointing to a greater evil. It lurks within us all. It is the god of self. The worship of our own desires.

I believe Jesus was saying that we can’t serve God and ourselves. Sometimes we think we can be in two camps at once. But Christ is clear. There is no middle ground. In any given moment of our lives, we are either living for God or living for ourselves.

Chasing after money is a clear sign of what is going on in our heart. There can be no two masters because we will chose to love one and despise the other. The biggest danger is when we think we can equally serve both sides at once.

Holy Underwear Batman!

Every once in a while, I get a  desire to Google something unusual just to see what comes up. I recently did this after having a conversation with a friend about some of the quirks of Mormonism. We discussed their sacred undergarments, which I find to be one of the most unusual aspects of their religion. You gotta love any religion that gives away free underwear 🙂 

Here is what I found when I did my Google search…                                        

Hilarious video on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsXzHLiHTOU

Decent position paper on topic from LDS site – http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/mormon/underwear/

Official LDS Position on “Temple Garments” is the following:

“Like members of many religious faiths, Latter-day Saints wear religious clothing. But members of other faiths — typically those involved in permanent pastoral ministries or religious services — usually wear religious garments as outer ceremonial vestments or symbols of recognition. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, garments are worn beneath street clothing as a personal and private reminder of commitments to God.Garments are considered sacred by Church members and are not regarded as a topic for casual conversation.”

———————

Okay, I understand that many religions have sacred garments. We even see this in the Bible. I just find that all the Mormon secret rituals seem like a creative blend of Masonic rites, pagan practices and pseudo-Christian terminology. I kind of like that everyone can wear the garments not just the priests or religious leaders. This reflects a tradition that understands the importance of the priesthood of the ordinary person. But I do believe that the sacred garments also highlight what is wrong with the Mormon religion. LDS teaching misappropriate Biblical truths. Mormons shroud their lies in mystery, symbols and secret ceremonies.

What some think of as weird or comical; others take very seriously. Christians should work to understand the real implications of LDS teaching and be prepared to uncover the lies that they spread door-to-door across the country. When you understand the real implications of people trusting in holy underwear and works for salvation instead of the blood of Jesus, you see that sacred britches are no laughing matter.

Revelation

Dr. Brian Blount, the new president of Union-PSCE, spoke in my NT2 class today. As a respected African American New Testament professor, he brought an interesting perspective to Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. He wrote a book called Can I Get a Witness? that connects the struggle of blacks in the USA with the events and imagery covered in Revelation. While I am more interested in pure Biblical exegesis than cultural studies, Blount’s connection of Revelation with modern struggles flushed out some new ways to look at a somewhat familiar and bewildering text.

I have always been suspicious of anyone who has everything in Revelation worked out. When somebody walks toward me with an End Times chart, I want to run. At the same time, I don’t want to be lumped in with scholars who downplay the prophetic nature of the text believing it is merely imagery. I think all sides in this discussion have some valid points. And it seems that all too often the real key issues get lost in disagreements over lesser details or wild goose chases trying to figure out specific pieces of the apocalyptic puzzle. I tend to think that God uses mystery as much or more than specific instruction to get our attention and motivate us to His holy goal.

Dr. Blount made many interesting points during his lecture. Here’s some of the highlights:

  • There are many visions in the book but only one Revelation. Blount stated that the key theme of the revelation is that Jesus stands as sovereign Lord over all human history.
  • Revelation can be dangerous book for those who don’t heed its warnings or misapply its message. Some people have wrongly taken the text to mean that this world does not matter. But Blount insisted that is completely contrary to what John wanted his reader to think.
  • In John’s day, it would have seemed ridiculous to those in the natural world for Jesus to be declared Lord of all. Rome was the ruling power on the earth.
  • Blount stated that if more people today understood John’s Revelation, there would be more daring action and transformation in the Church.
  • Revelation does not flow in linear progression. It is a series of conic spirals that interweave. There are flashbacks and different spheres going on at the same time. Blount called it a “3-ring apocalyptic circus.”
  • John’s visions in Revelation pick up on some important themes and characters from the Hebrew Scriptures, including Jezebel, Balaam, plagues of Egypt, Eden imagery, Ezekiel’s visions, etc.
  • Another key concept is that John was calling the early Christians to be “witnesses” of the Gospel. He wanted them to be willing to do things that made them stand out even if it caused them persecution or death. The goal was to live as a witness of Christ not to die as a martyr. John wanted Christians to stop passing as normal Greco/Roman citizens who believed in the emperor cults.
  • Even when God is unleasing plagues on the earth, His aim is repentance and restoration not destruction.
  • The Lamb is portrayed as both a gentle sacrifice and a warrior. 
  • Blount said that the imagery in Revelation was meant to frighten its readers into fearing eternal judgment more than any earthly pain imposed by Rome.
  • Blount explained the imagery of Satan being released after the millennial reign of Christ as a sign of sins stubborn ability to keep coming back to deceive humanity.
  • The restoration of the garden imagery from Eden closes the loop of history from Adam to Eve.
  • John doesn’t want the reader to try to calculate or flowchart the last days. It is not about knowledge as much as action, devotion and striving to be a witness to God’s kingdom here and now. It is a call to be radical for the cause of Christ because Jesus said He was coming soon.
  • Instead of trying to figure out who the beast is, John would want modern readers to be motivated by the imagery to act in such a way that upholds Jesus as Lord and seeks to bring godly transformation to this world here and now.
  • Blount pointed out that the term antichrist is not in the book of Revelation. That is pretty interesting since antichrist is one of the first things that many Evangelicals think about when you mention the book of Revelation.

I may blog on some of those points later. For now, I hope they give you something to chew on.

The Bar

One of the most fascinating places that I visited on my trip to Morocco last summer was a small town called Moulay Idriss. It is a northern city known as a spiritual retreat for Muslims seeking enlightenment and direction. The city is small, built on a hill with lots of close quarters and streets that wound around each other. Moulay Idriss has a very rustic and mystical feel to it.

Many Moroccan Muslims come here if they can’t afford to go to Mecca on pilgrimage. The city is named after its founder who is considered to be a pioneer of Islam in the country as well as a distant relative of Muhammad.  

Moulay Idriss is buried in the city. Many people come there to pray, burn candles and celebrate some of the more mystical side of Islam. Just like in Christianity, there are a wide variety of divisions and differences between various branches of Islam. It just to happens that in Morocco, the religion has been somewhat combined with modern customs and ancient, mystical traditions.

My friends and I were there as Westerners and Christians. We enjoyed talking with the people in the town and even found a local teenage boy to help show us around. The entire time I felt a darkness to the town. I didn’t see any other foreigners in the town except us. Everyone knew that we didn’t belong. This feeling got worse as we approached the mosque in the center of the town next to the tomb of Moulay Idriss.

As non-Muslims, we did not enter the holy site out of respect for the religion.  At the entrance was a bar that stood about waist high. The bar was a line of demarcation. By bending down to enter, you are in essence saying that you submit to Allah as god and are a good Muslim. Of course, we were not prepared to do that. Looking at that bar as if it would cut me in half if I entered, I began to understood the chasm between me and the Muslims in Morocco.

My heart went out to them as I watched person after person bend under the bar to enter. They went somewhere that I couldn’t go. And I wished they would realize it was a dead end. I silently prayed for everyone that passed me that day.

My experience at the bar is something that I will never forget because it reminds me why Christians should support missions, pray for the lost and be witnesses of Christ’s love wherever we go.Moulay Idriss

Built on Sinking Sand

The next several posts are based on experiences from my trip to Morocco last summer. I went on a humanitarian aid trip to work at an orphanage. While in Morocco, I also did a lot of prayer and intercession for the country.

One of the first places I had a chance to pray was at the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. Built on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the mosque is one of the largest in the world. It is certainly the largest mosque that is open to non-Muslims. The structure was very impressive although it felt empty to me.

While praying outside of the mosque near the ocean, I noticed all the fallen stones and construction equipment near the base of the structure. It looked like there was a massive project underway to reinforce the base of the mosque. I wondered if this was a prophetic picture of Islam in Morocco.

Later that day, I met up with a friend who is doing humanitarian work in the country. He said that the mosque is literally falling into the ocean. This comment came completely unprompted by me. Then, my friend said that he believes this is a prophetic picture of Islam compared to the might waves of the Christian message about Jesus Christ. 

In His most famous sermon, Jesus warned about building on the sand and not the firm bedrock of His words. Islam is built on the sand because it denies Christ’s work on the cross. It encourages human efforts to appease a very demanding sense of god.

Islam is very strong in the Middle East. But there are cracks in the foundation that are starting to give way under pressure of a world that doesn’t make sense apart from Jesus Christ. My hope is that many come to know that we all can be guaranteed of salvation through Jesus.

I agree with Islam that God is great, mighty and beyond anything we can imagine. I disagree with Islam that we can do anything to bridge the gap between us and God except believe on His Son. The five pillars of Islam are nothing more than human striving in religious language.

Grace is the thing that makes Christianity different.

 What is the foundation of your life? Is it secure?

Another Jesus?

For some reason, I seem to be on a cult leader kick lately. Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is quite a character. He claims to be Jesus in the flesh. He encourages his followers to get 666 tattooed on their body. He encourages his disciples to be party animals.

Oh, Jose Luis denies the existence of hell too. No wonder the Scriptures warn about false teachers in the later days. The USA seems to be full of them.

You can read more about Jose from the following links:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/02/16/miami.preacher/

http://www.allaboutcults.org/jose-luis-de-jesus-miranda.htm

http://www.creciendoengracia.com/reportes/2007/0407_miamiherald/04_23_2007_MiamiHerald_com.mht

I think Jose may be my favorite wacko cult leader yet. He has a lot of chutzpah. I’ll give him that.