“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.”
This country music video has had 30 million views at the time I am writing this. In addition the Grammy performance of the same song has had 2.2 million views. It tells the story of an abused woman who was protected by a stranger. I have watched this video and listened to the song several times and was brought to tears every time. If you haven't seen the video, watch now, but have some tissues available.
Did you cry? This video tells a story and pulls on heart strings whether you more closely identify with the man or the woman. In some way, I identify with both. When I was young I witnessed my mom being physically abused on multiple occasions. At one point I witnessed a loaded 12 gauge shotgun being pointed at her head. I certainly know what it was like to live in a home where abuse was common.
I also have this protector drive built into me. Part of this is because I am a man. Yes, I believe that is part of God's created order. I am charged with the responsibility of protecting my family and others who are not able to protect themselves. Obviously my ability to protect has limits, but this is a strong motivation that through nature and nurture motivates me. It is probably the reason I practice martial arts and am competent with using firearms. It is probably the reason I love apologetics and defending the faith and protecting those who have put their faith in Jesus from wrong ideas that might threaten their faith. I want to protect them from fallacious attacks against their faith. The urge and compulsion to protect others is strong. Pastors are protectors of the sheep and I cherish that. This video and song taps deep into that protector instinct that exists within me and so many others. It also taps into the reality that we all know exists, that reality is that predatory men will abuse women and as a society we righteously find that repulsive.
This song and video are brilliant for several reasons and I'm not sure the writer of the song even realizes the brilliance. It taps into several realities, moral dilemmas, and innate human desires. Perhaps the most basic reality that is seen but not explicitly stated is the difference between men and women. First Peter 3:7 says, "Husbands, in the sam way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." Are women weaker? Yes, they are. This is objectively and scientifically true, not to mention the reality that God's word says so. Strength and weakness are not characteristics of value and I'm not suggesting weakness of mind or will. I will not argue this point at this point, it is simply true. Men and husbands are therefore told to respect the weaker partner. Abuse is the opposite of respect! Men are to be protectors for this very reason. The strong are to protect and when that turns to abuse rather than protection, that is a reversal of God's design and an offense to God.
There is more, much more that this video taps into. Abuse is the opposite of Justice and their exists a deep desire in the human heart for justice. This is because we are created in the image of God and God is just. The song and video doesn't give all the details of the back story. Were the police ever called? Did they not do their job? Maybe they were called and there was some kind of manipulation or deception. Maybe they were never called. Government and police are part of God's design (Rom. 13). Was there a miscarriage of justice on the part of the authorities instituted by God? We don't know, but what we do know is that there is a deep desire for justice built into the heart. When we see a miscarriage of justice, our desire is to fix it.
This man fixes it, sort of. He takes justice into his own hands. Perhaps this could be justified if those who were supposed to carry out justice (again see Romans 13) had failed and refused to do their job, but we don't know if that is the case. The problem is he "fixes" it by murdering a man. My flesh wants to say, "he deserved it!" He did, but that isn't my place. "Vengeance is mine saith the Lord." I am not the Lord. What makes this morally difficult is the man's willingness to wait for the police and face the consequences. He trades his freedom for the freedom of the abuse woman. She walks free from abuse and he is put in prison. WOW! No, it isn't the same as the gospel, but it gets close. Jesus set us free by paying the price for our sin and satisfying the law on our behalf (read Galatians). I might be willing to make the same trade off he made in certain circumstances. If my daughter was being abused my a man (she isn't) I might be tempted to simply make the problem disappear. Who among us wouldn't face that temptation?
They don't run off into the sunset, he goes to prison and she gets the truck. Sure, she visits him, but his sin is murder and the one whom he murdered was guilty of abuse. Where is the hero? Is it the one who commits murder? Yet, that is the one we all want to say is the hero precisely because he murdered someone. But for the grace of God, there go I. Our desire to revere a murderer because he killed an abuser should reveal to us how throughly messed up the world is. I won't be the abuser, but somehow it is easier for me to see myself as the murderer. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God...there is no one righteous, no not one." God help us!
He has helped us. Jesus sets us free from the slavery of sin by paying the price for that sin on our behalf. Oh how beautiful that message is. "God so loved the world [you] that He gave his only son that whoever believes in Him [the divine, eternal, Son of God who took on human flesh and died and rose again for our sins and will one day return and make all things right] will not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
I recently watched an interview NBC didwith pastor and author Doug Wilson in which NBC seems to condemn (implicitly, but strongly) the goal of Doug Wilson to "Christianize" Moscow, Idaho. You can watch the interview here. Unfortunately a disclaimer is appropriate here. Wilson has said and done many things with which I have significant issues and this post is not an endorsement. I will give credit where credit is due, Wilson is forthright and honest about his intentions to "Christianize" Moscow, Idaho. The question we must ask is whether or not Wilson's goals are appropriate. Should Christians seek to Christianize the cities, states, and country in which they live?
It is tempting to point out the tone and slant of the interview but perhaps I will, just for a moment. NBC was far from fair in what they aired (not that I expected them to be fair). The interviews were slanted and the interviewers they aired were chosen to display Wilson and his ideas as radical, fringe, and unacceptable. For the purposes of this post the details are unimportant. But some observations about Wilson's goals, as stated in the interview, are appropriate.
Wilson never argues for a theocracy in the interview. He never says that religious freedom should be set aside for a city/state imposed religion by which everyone must abide. In fact, when asked he says the opposite. In a Christianized Moscow there is room for religious freedom, emphatically so. Of course the same sex marriage issue is brought up and Wilson makes clear the teachings of Scripture and how there would be no state endorsed same sex marriage in his vision. That topic alone deserves much more attention for the sake of clarity. Wilson is not saying that gay people would be punished, at least not in this interview.
This interview misses the point of what it means to "Christianize" a city, state, or nation. At one point Wilson was asked if he sought to do this through persuasion or by drawing others to Moscow. His answer was, "both." Wilson is not, as far as I can tell based on this interview, arguing for tyranny and imposing the Christian faith at the end of a proverbial gun (or a literal gun). Wilson's eschatology (postmillennialism) supports his approach to these things. I believe he is mistaken in his eschatology, but that view alone is not heretical. In fact, prior to the 1860's it was quite common in Christian circles. Regardless of one's eschatology we are given the great commission to go into the world and make disciples and that fits in with Wilson's desire to change hearts and minds. If "Christianizing" our cities, state, and country means changing hearts and minds with the gospel and the teachings of Jesus (and the Bible in general) then it would be sinful to not desire to Christianize the places where we live!
The reality is that this has cultural and political implications. If God designed this world to work in a particular way and for humans to flourish according to certain rules and standards, then shouldn't we want exactly that? I have not read Wilson extensively nor do I pay much attention to his blog. I often have issues with his approach and with some of his theology. However, this interview reveals how the media and large portions of our culture misunderstand what Christians seek to accomplish. This is another attempt to push religious belief (at least Christian belief) into the closet and lock the door. The way this is done is by taking a guy like Wilson, portraying hims as extreme (throw in bigoted, misogynistic, etc.), and then pretend that this picture of Wilson is how all of Christianity operates. The Christian faith is to be lived out in politics, in culture, and in every other area of life.
I pray for a Christianized nation because I believe Jesus is the only salvation from sin, because I believe we were designed to operate in a particular way and that when we go outside of the boundaries given by God it does not go well, and because we are commanded to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Pray with me, and don't willingly go into a closet and allow the broader culture to lock the door.
What? You might be asking what Christianity or the Bible has to say about Monkeypox. Actually, Christianity and the Bible explains all that we see and do. When Christianity (both natural and particular revelation included) is understood properly it explains everything, including Monkeypox. That said, there are some specific issues related to Monkeypox that bring it to the top of the list. Some things, like cancer or heart disease, can be quickly attributed to living in a fallen world marred by sin and that is pretty sufficient. Monkeypox is different because because of the manner in which it is spread. Progressives (Christian and non-Christian alike) will be quick to decry anyone who deals with this issue honestly, scientifically, and Biblically. Why? Because 95% of cases are among gay people, mostly men. It is culturally taboo to point out this reality; it is considered homophobic to point this out. What should Christians make of this reality?
First, ethics is intimately connected to the physical reality in which we live. Our culture seems to dismiss any form of ethical responsibility at all. School shooters aren't the problem, it is the guns. Illegal aliens (undocumented immigrants) aren't the problem, the border or the wall is the problem. Criminals aren't the problem, it's the system. All of those are a rejection of the idea that evil and wickedness can exist within the person. They reject any sense of moral responsibility in order not to "stigmatize" or "shame" someone. Christians must reject this often subtle lie. The gospel itself is based on the premise that that people are morally responsible for the evil they perpetrate no matter how small the evil act is. There is guilt, shame, and even stigma associated with evil and wicked actions...there should be (Romans 3).
Monkey pox appears to be spread primarily through sex between a man and a man. Christians believe there are two kinds of revelation from God. One is the natural universe. This includes the hard sciences like physics, biology, chemistry, and o on. If God created the world (He did) then it makes sense that we might learn some things about God by studying the world. We can come to theological and moral conclusions by studying the world we live in. Yes, even moral principles can be understood in this way. Could it be that something like Monkeypox, AIDs, and STDs tell us something about the ethics of sexual behavior? Licentious sexual practices very often have detrimental physical effects. This includes homosexual behavior, but is not limited to homosexual behavior. Having multiple sexual partners, sex outside of a monogamous sexual relationship, and other sexual acts can have physical consequences like the transmission of diseases.
Second, the broader culture often assumes there isn't really a connection between the world of ethics and the physical world. Ethics is relegated to beliefs about what is good and bad, but those things are subjective. That is to say they exist inside of each individual subject and not outside of the subject. This is often referred to as relativism and stems from a postmodern perspective of the world. The late Francis Schaeffer talked about this as the upper and lower story of a two story building in his book How Should We Then Live. The lower story is the dwelling place of reason, logic, the hard sciences, etc. The upper story is the loci of emotion, ethics, artistry, etc. These two kinds of things are separated. This separation is a false separation, an inappropriate bifurcation that must be necessarily avoided. Ethical realities/moral absolutes have physical implications. As it relates to Monkeypox, the moral reality that same sex sexual acts are morally wrong has physical implications. The fact that 95% of Monkeypox cases are among the gay population screams that there is a moral reality behind the spread of this disease. While the previous statement is bound to be wildly unpopular and considered to be homophobic, bigoted, and hateful, none of those false accusations have any bearing on the truth.
Nature gives us a minimum of a hint that homosexual behavior is morally wrong. The basic biological realities relates to sexual organs and having babies tells us that there is a proper use of those sexual organs. The reality of STDs and other diseases like AIDS suggests that there are improper uses for our sexual organs. Some say the answer is "safe sex" but to quote the great philosopher D.C. Talk:
Safe is the way they say to play
Then again safe ain't safe at all today
So just wait for the mate that's straight from God
Don't have sex till ya tie the knot
When the Biblical sexual ethic is followed a host of real, physical, and social evils are avoided. Homosexual activity (Lev. 18, 29; Rom. 1; 1 Cor. 6, et al.) is expressly prohibited along with a host of other kinds of sexual activities listed in the same texts. Another example is incest which can have detrimental effects on the children produced in such a case. Monkeypox is an epidemic among a particular population and to shame those who point this out dismisses the the reality that morality has physical, real-world implications on a personal and societal level. The apostle Paul's words in Romans 1 seems appropriate here, "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another."
Leading a Bible study can be harder than it sounds and sometimes pretty intimidating. The goal here is to give a basic approach to leading others through a passage of Scripture in a way that is fruitful for all involved. It isn’t a guide on how to write a sermon, prepare a lecture, or even teach a class. All of those things are a little different from this. Here are some principles and steps you can take as you prepare a Bible Study.
Know the Text
In order to be effective you need to know the text as well as possible given the tools and skills you have access to. You don’t have to be a Greek or Hebrew scholar, have many commentaries, or be an expert on the Bible. You also don’t have to have the answer to every question. I have been a pastor for 25+ years (I started at 10 years old) and I still get asked questions I don’t have answers to…it’s okay not to know. Nevertheless, as the leader you should know the text as well as you can given your resources. Here are the basics:
Try to derive the main principle found in the passage
This is probably the most difficult part of the process, but these questions might help figure it out.
These are great questions to ask in a Bible study or small group context.
Do not skip to application before going through the previous two steps. Only once a principle is discovered can we ask the question of application. Once a principle is revealed determine how that principle can be applied in various context. This isn’t something the leader has to have figured out, this is a great time to invite interaction. Stat the principle discovered and ask how it might be applied in different circumstances. Think about how it might apply to you ahead of time.
Sometimes you will learn as you lead the group through this process. You may arrive at a principle you missed. As long as the group stays focused on the text, roll with it. Flexibility doesn’t mean letting the study leave the text all together, but there may be insights and observations that appear during the discussion that provide a principle or application that you didn’t see…that’s okay.
This is just a basic start, but if you are just beginning or if you want a basic outline to approach a Bible study, this will suffice for those purposes. Everyone should learn to lead a Bible study, and, in fact, they should do it as often as they have opportunity.
2 Tim. 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
Is Bibliolatry a Problem?
Bibliolatry usually comes in the form of an accusation, that is to say the word itself is derogatory. The word is usually used by progressive Christians or, dare I say, progressives feigning to be conservative to describe Christians who they might label as "fundamentalists" or "extremist" who hold the Bible as authoritative. The term itself is used to suggest that a person or group of people have committed the sin of worshiping the Bible rather than God. This would be the sin of Romans 1; the sin of confusing the creation and worshiping it, with the creator who we are supposed to worship. In short, it is the accusation that someone lost the distinction between the Bible and the God who inspired the Bible. But what does Bibliolatry really look like? Is it a real problem? If so, what would that look like?
I've been told on multiple occasions that "Bibliolatry" is a problem in evangelicalism. Some might even suggest that I am a Bibliolater (if that is actually a word). Angela Parker, a progressive Christian and professor of New Testament and Greek at McAfee suggests that this is a real problem. It hinders any real growth and maturity in the Christian faith. In her book If God Still Breathes, Why Can't I? She says, "Think of the phrase “the Bible says” and how it is often considered the be-all and end-all in an argument. The biblical text becomes a bludgeoning tool used to exert supremacist authoritarianism; what the Bible says (or rather, how the wielder interprets what the Bible says) goes" (p. 45). Parker makes the same mistake many make; she commits a category error. The way one interprets or uses the Bible is different and distinct from the authority of the Bible itself. Nevertheless, this deserves a little more examination. What exactly is the Bible?
Evangelical Christians believe the Bible is the word of God, not God Himself, but His word. It is not expected that non-Christians agree with this sentiment, but within Christianity this is a fundamental belief. The question of how we got the Bible requires a lengthy discussion that cannot be had here. For a full treatment see, From God to Us. Here is a short description of how this belief is derived. Paul instructs his young protégé, Timothy, that he should trust what he has been taught and that "πᾶσα γραφὴ" (all writings or Scripture) is "θεόπνευστος" (breathed by God). Timothy is to remember what he has been taught and the Scriptures are an integral part of that. The reason Paul admonishes Timothy in this way is so that Timothy can avoid being deceived (2 Tim. 3). In other words, the word of God, the Bible is to be the ultimate authority precisely because it is the word of God! That isn't the only relevant passage, there are many. Jesus reliance on the Old Testament for his own teaching, most prevalent in the Sermon on the Mount, speaks volumes. If the God-Man relies on Scripture as authoritative, shouldn't we? The author of Hebrews reminds his readers that God spoke through the prophets, but most recently through Jesus. The New Testament is a witness to the person of Jesus. Acts 1:8 is instruction to the apostles to be witnesses of Jesus, that includes their writings and the writings that record their witness. Paul not only was commissioned by Jesus himself, but the apostles confirmed His teachings (Gal. 2; Acts 13). There is much more Biblical evidence. While this may not be convincing to the non-Christian, for the Christian this speaks to the authority of the Bible. If it is God's word, then it has ultimate authority.
The Bible doesn't have ultimate authority because it is God, it has ultimate authority because it is the word of God.
What would Bibliolatry look like? To my knowledge, no one is putting the Bible on an altar and singing worship songs to the Bible. No one is praying, "dear Bible..." No one, to my knowledge, is making sacrifices to the Bible. While I do not know for sure, I can't imagine that those who make the accusation of Bibliolatry mean any of those things. So, what do they mean? Angela Parker uses the example of the phrase, "The Bible says..." being wielded as authoritative. Parker is right about one thing, there are people who hold their own interpretation of the Bible with the same authority as the text itself. That is wrong. However, let's look at the clear teachings of Scripture. Let's use the example of Exodus 20:14 "You shall not commit adultery." Is there anything unclear about this teaching? We all know what adultery is and we know it is prohibited. There aren't any exceptions to the commandment. If a person comes along and attempts to justify adultery with some kind of sophistry and faulty interpretation, it is the interpretation that is at fault, not the text of Scripture. The command against adultery stands regardless of whether there is faulty interpretation and regardless of whether or not the faulty interpreter erroneously claims his interpretation to be authoritative.
If the Bible actually says adultery is wrong and the interpretation of that command is correct, then, and only then, it is authoritative. Is that Bibliolatry? If so, count me guilty.
More often than not, that is not the issue. The accusation of Bibliolatry is actually an attack on the authority of Scripture. Parker and others would say they hold the Bible to be authoritative, just not ultimately authoritative. In fact, Parker says, "I also love the biblical text, and it is an authority in my life but not the authority in my life" (p. 45). Parker reduces the Bible to an authority that is on equal grounds with other authorities in her life. This enables her to pick and choose where the Bible is authoritative and where it is not. I can't help but ask, who is the ultimate authority for Parker and others like her? It is hard to imagine that the authority in Parker's life is anyone or anything except her. Isn't that the same sin Adam and Eve committed when they thought they could defy God and eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil and become like God?
If the Bible is the word of God, then it is hard to imagine giving it too much authority in the life of the Christian. In the end, accusations of Bibliolatry are based on the straw man fallacy. No one is worshiping the Bible. Some may inappropriately elevate their own interpretation of Scriptures that are less clear to the level of authoritative, but that is another question. No doubt some will claim clear Scriptures are unclear or that unclear Scriptures are clear. Those wrongs need to be challenged. But accusations of Bibliolatry serve no good purpose. They only undermine the rightful authority of Scripture.
Those making the "Bibliolatry" accusation should look in the mirror. Who is the authority in your life? Is it God? If so, then the word of God should be authoritative as well. Worship God by being obedient to His word, not by undermining its authority.
Is Kyle Rittenhouse a racist who went to Kenosha to kill black people? Is he a hero? Maybe those are the wrong questions. In fact, I think they are the wrong questions. We should have never known Kyle Rittenhouse's name. He shouldn't be on trial right now because he never should have been in the position he was in. I am not commenting about whether or not Kyle made a wise or foolish decision on that fateful night, I'm talking about something much more important.
Romans 13 gives the government the power of the sword to in order to punish wrongdoers. The government is to serve God and do good. When it fails to do those things, what should happen? The government failed in its duties when riots broke out in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The police chief, mayor, city council, and governor failed to do their duties. They lacked the courage to do what needed to be done. Instead of protecting the people of Kenosha the police stood back and watched the city burn.
Regardless of what you think about Kyle Rittenhouse, the political leaders were cowards! They lacked the fortitude to do what needed to be done. Kyle Rittenhouse or the numerous other people that were there doing the same thing but were never put in a position where they needed to defend themselves should have never had to be there.
Was it wise for Rittenhouse to be there that night? No, but what do we expect to happen when the grown ups fail to do their job? We end up with kids like Rittenhouse filling the void. Frankly, the people that should be on trial, or at least relieved of their duty are the politicians that failed to do their jobs!!! When we set criminals free and watch them burn down the city we shouldn't expect people to simply watch their property, their businesses, and their homes be destroyed.
"God's not Dead: We the People" was released recently and I saw it on Tuesday night. While I don't normally do movie reviews, I think this one deserves some comment. Here is the official description:
"Reverend Dave finds himself at the defense of a group of Christian homeschooling families after they receive an impromptu inspection by a progressive, local-government official -- who doesn't like what she finds. Believing that the children are receiving an inferior education compared to their public school counterparts, and potentially being unfairly indoctrinated at a young age by their Bible-believing parents, the families are ordered to return their children to the public school system, or else face exorbitant fines and contempt of court. Taken aback by the interference of the government, and believing that their right to educate their own children as a freedom worth fighting for, the resistant families, along with Reverend Dave, are invited to Washington to testify in a landmark congressional hearing that will determine the future of public (and private) education in our country for years to come."
All of the movies in this series have over reached in the story lines to tell a story that portrays an attack on Christianity that is beyond what is common, even if it rightly reflects some exceptions to the general reality. Two weeks ago I would have said this one does the same thing. Before I get into that, let me make a few preliminary comments.
Production value, acting, and script writing are unfortunately what you might expect from a lower budget film. That isn't to say it wasn't good, but your expectations in those areas should be appropriate if you go see the movie.
Regardless of whether you think it is appropriate, many will attack this movie for connecting the Christian faith to the country of the United States. The narrative will be that the movie promotes an "evangelical Christian nationalism." They might even throw in some works like "racism" or "Trump voters" to round out the criticism. There is nothing in the movie itself that would suggest any connection to racism or voting for Trump, but those "criticisms" seem to be traveling buddies these days. Whether people want to admit it or not, the United States was founded on Biblical principles. Any unbiased evaluation of the founding documents, the founding fathers, and even the monuments in our country will lead to that conclusion. There is an unabashed commitment to this reality by the script writers and producers of God's Not Dead.
Homeschooling finds itself center stage in this movie. For people like former governor and current candidate for the governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe who believe that children do not belong to their parents, but the state, or to all of us, homeschooling is a threat. That isn't part of the movie in any way, but just a week ago McAuliffe said, "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." Also within the last week President Biden has weaponized the FBI to investigate parents who speak out against school boards for teaching sexually explicit material (my own daughter dealt with this about 8 years ago) or for promoting ideas related to Critical Race Theory).
As I sat and watched this movie it was clear to me that this was not as much of an over reach as some might think. There wasn't a straw man being erected by the script writers. In the end, this movie is a call to action. It isn't just homeschooling that is at risk, it is parental rights, education in general, and even certain aspects of our nations history.
This past week, congresswoman Cori Bush along with others in the media and "woke" leftists referred to mothers as "Birthing People". The fact that this was done as mother's day approached was no accident to be sure. They say it is an attempt to be inclusive. The question is, who does "Birthing People" include that the term "Mothers" did not? The short answer is no one, in fact it actually excludes many that fall under the category of mothers that would not fall under the category of birthing people.
It is a scientific fact that biological women are the only ones capable of giving birth. This isn't in question and it never has been. Even if you believe that a transgender man can give birth, it is the ultimate self-deception to think that a trans-man is anything but a biological woman in man's clothing. I don't say that to be offensive, but to be accurate. There is no way around this reality. So even a trans-man who gives birth is, in fact, a mother if we define mother as the parent who is also a female. So the term mother doesn't include anyone that wasn't already included. But let's just say you take objection to this point, let's consider two addition groups of people that birthing persons actually excludes.
The first group of people that would fall under the category of mothers that would not fall under the category of birthing people is those people who were not able to get pregnant but decided to adopt. Are these not mothers? They are raising and parenting children they have gone to great lengths to provide a home for, are we going to exclude them because they didn't give birth? One of my friends posted this on her Facebook:
It would be unconscionable to exclude people like this!!
There is another group of mothers that are excluded by this term birthing person. There are mothers who have gotten pregnant and carried a child, but that child did not make it to birth. They had a miscarriage or possibly an abortion, but they were mothers nonetheless. Are we to exclude this group of mothers?
It seems this term, like many others, that is intended to be "inclusive" is actually more exclusive than inclusive. The redefinition of terms that have had good and positive meaning in our language and culture rarely has a positive influence on culture or the broader conversation. Women, specifically women, have been given a beautiful gift by God that does not belong to men. To blur lines that are part of God's good creation is an outright offense to the character of God.
Without repeating the sermon that Mitch Lynn gave at Grace Fellowship yesterday, I love this phrase and his application. So often we stare at the wrong thing, we stare at the philosophies of the world and take our eyes off of our savior. Jesus is the one who will judge, who provides salvation, and who perfects our faith. When we are distracted by worldly philosophies like Critical Theory in any of its forms we are distracted from what is true, just, and worthy. We steer where we stare. The church in Pergamum (Rev. 2) was faithful in some ways, but they were distracted by worldly philosophies.
I can't help but see this as extremely relatable to the world we live in today. So many churches are buying into worldly philosophies and even false religions. So many have bought the lies of Satan (i.e. worldly philosophies). When we begin to redefine theological and Biblical terms in cultural ways. For instance when we say "America's original sin was slavery." Do you see the distraction? We begin to focus on the wrong thing. Yes, slavery was/is a sin, but it is not the original sin or the most important sin. Rebellion against God, the creator, the almighty, is the original sin and the most significant sin. There is no greater sin than rebellion against God (Gen. 3; Rom. 3). It's not just racism or slavery, there are many worldly philosophies that distract the church from focusing our eyes on Christ (Heb. 12:1-2).
What is the philosophy? Is it sexual identity (lgbtq)? Is it viewing government as our savior, a form of civic religion? Is it various forms of scientism, thinking that science has the answers to questions it simply can't answer?
We steer where we stare. What are you staring at? Is it Jesus? The only way to avoid compromise as a Christian and a follower of Christ is to keep our gaze one Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith. Is that where your eyes are focused? You steer where you stare, what are you staring at?
During the year that will forever be known as the year that Covid shut down much of the world, 2020, I spent the entire year reading and re-reading the book of Revelation. I read it about 15 times. Even with the almost apocalyptic events taking place around the world, I never came to the conclusion that I was seeing the "end times," at least not in the same way I had heard about it growing up.
I was always told things would get worse and worse progressively until there was a "rapture" that would take place prior to a 7 year period called the tribulation. God would spare his people from going through this difficult time that was described in the book of Revelation. According to the fictional "Left Behind" movies our clothes would be left neatly folded on the ground where the people of God once stood as they met Jesus in the air (God is no slob after all). Then, after those 7 years Jesus would return to set up His millennial kingdom and eventually the new heavens and the new earth. Yes, I know I skipped a few things. Many people had charts and graphs showing exactly how all of this would happen. I had read the book of Revelation, but it was confusing, so I just focused on the rest of Scripture until last year.
Over the years I had come to realize there were some things that just didn't sit right with me. Especially as I read the words of Jesus in places like Mt. 24. It seemed that the wars and rumors of wars were to be standard fair, not that they would get worse. In fact, Jesus says all of those things are just preliminary and normal things (Mt. 24:6). That passage, among others, specifically says no one knows the time and seems to be suggesting that we should not be trying to figure it out. So, for the most part I just stayed away from studying the end times until this last year when I dove into the deep end and learned some unexpected things.
First, I had suspected that there was much more to the book of Revelation than a bunch of end times speculation. It turns out I was right and I had been missing out on much of the more important themes found in Revelation that were applicable in the first and second centuries as well as today. If your reading Revelation trying to figure out the end times, you're doing it wrong.
Second, the common message in Revelation, Mt. 24, and really the rest of Scripture is not, "God will prevent you from suffering," instead it is, "God will be with you as you endure and persevere." This message is strong in the book of Revelation. It also does not square with a pre-tribulation rapture...just something to think about.
Third, I couldn't find a single mention of a 7 year period of tribulation. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of "7s" in the book: 7 churches, 7 bowls, 7 seals, etc. There are also some "3 1/2" mentions. Yes, I realize that two of those makes a 7. However, for something as significant as the tribulation I found it odd that there wasn't one direct mention of a 7 year tribulation. Nor is there a mention in Mt. 24 that the great tribulation will be 7 years. Yes, there are the weeks of Daniel and some might argue that the various "7s" in Revelation are descriptions of the 7 year tribulation...fair enough. But, maybe there is something else going on in those descriptions that might even be more important. I think there is.
While it is undeniable that the book of Revelation gives insight into what the future holds, it does so to encourage and motivate the people of God throughout the centuries to endure, persevere, and remain faithful. If you miss those themes, you have missed the message of the great and important book.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.