The End of the World is Not Coming May 21 2011

I couldn’t believe CNN actually did a full length article on the end of the world from a group called Family Radio (see Road Trip to the End of the World) who are using “biblical prophecy” to show the end of the world, or the Tribulation and second coming of Christ, is coming to a city near us on May 21st, 2011. Just last week I thought CNN was turning the corner when they actually “allowed” an article called “The Bible Really Does Condemn Homosexuality“, but maybe I jumped the gun. At the time of this writing “Road Trip” had over 30,000 “likes” on Facebook and on the opposite side, secular hate mongers who see anything religious as wrong, controlled the comments. Where are the people out there who know, have, and teach sound biblical doctrine about the end times?

What bothers me about this is not a teaching about the end times, which is certainly covered in scripture, but how the news covers it with the most radical groups they can find and then likens all people of faith to the Branch Davidians or Heavens Gate (see screenshots of both below). I understand I’m talking about a secular news organization, but if they wanted to do a serious journalistic article could they not have found someone, anyone, who would represent sound biblical principles? How about Charles H. Spurgeon and Eschatology: Did He Have a Discernible Millennial Position?, Spurgeon seemed to study a lot, but they probably couldn’t have interviewed him.

Even a surface reading of scripture shows that we are (1) not to become obsessed with the dates of the end times, and (2) we, not being God the Father, do NOT know the exact date of the Second Coming of Christ and all that goes along with the end times. Only God the Father does (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32 and many more). If Jesus Himself tells us that he doesn’t even know the timing, only the Father, why in the world would “Family Radio” know the exact date. Of course they address that themselves in a 6 page explanation, explaining away those verses (full pdf download here). Unfortunately after reading some of their literature they remind me of another group in the news lately, the idiots over at Westboro Baptist Church (though I understand they are two totally different groups).

Mark 13:32-33 But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.

Everyone knows that the only person who really knows the actual timing of the end of the world is Tim Lahaye (and possibly Thomas Ice), and CNN never asked about their book “Charting the End Times” (which is actually very well laid out and useful, though it doesn’t always following a good reformed theological argument). Looking at the chart below you can see that the Family Radio people do drop May 21st 2011 right at the beginning of that orange square, at the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation, Lahaye just forgot to put in the actual date of May 21, 2011 (I’ll have to ask him why). Of course one of them did think the end was September 6, 1994, and offers infallible proof of the end of the world date here (see also full pdf download in case you want to put it on your iPad).

Not sure if I have a point here other than to show the absurdity of conclusions and predictions made without a deep long knowledgeable study of scripture. Sound doctrine and understanding comes from prayerful study and contemplation and we run the risk of becoming false prophets and teachers, actually working against the Holy Spirit. When we try to make scripture fit into pre-made conclusions it never seems to work in God’s favor, but does work for the praise of man in the way of attention from the news.

Are There Different Degrees of Sin? The Greater Sin of John 19:11

Do you think there are varying degrees of sin? Isn’t all sin equal in God’s eyes? Lying is the same as stealing, it’s all sin to God, right? I was always under the assumption that all sin was created equal, having this drilled into my thought process for almost 40 years until I came to John 19:11. I have even argued that point in previous blog posts (see “Prop 8” article for one), but if that’s the case, what do we do with John 19:11?

Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” John 19:11 (ESV)

On Wednesday and Friday I try to dive deeper into scripture, and it is amazing what is revealed to you from God’s Word when you read for knowledge and understanding. Today, after reading over John 19:11 it was revealed to me that clearly the answer to this question is yes, there are greater and lesser sins. But that led of course to the most natural question, why does it matter? Perhaps there are varying degrees of sin for those within Christ, and for those without Christ? If we are saved by grace, our sins are forgiven, and if we aren’t, well, they aren’t, so what difference does it make at all then?

The Greater Sin: Are There Degrees of Sin?

I would argue it matters simply because Jesus himself made the distinction, possibly as a warning to both parties. His words in John 19:11 clearly indicate if the sin of Caiaphas, the High Priest at the time (or possibly Judas Iscariot), was greater than Pilate’s sin, there must be lesser sins. The best essay I found on making the various distinctions between levels of sin came from the Reformed Theological Seminary blog titled “‘The Greater Sin’: Are There Degrees of Sin?” and it is well worth reading. It covers this topic far more in depth than I ever could here and to keep from just repeating all the text from that article I would ask the question here, why does this matter to us?

After an extensive search I found almost no sermons preached on John 19:11, so maybe it doesn’t matter, so I would not want to add emphasis to scripture where there is none. Simply put, if our salvation rests in Jesus Christ and he has called us to himself (John 15:16), our sins have been forgiven and the distinction in degree of sin makes no difference to the salvation of our souls. If we are living outside the grace and forgiveness of our sins, we are condemned already (John 3:17-18).

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (emphasis mine)

Is it For Eternal Reward in Heaven or Punishment in Hell?

So, if we know it doesn’t make a difference to our salvation, does it make a difference to our judgement or call to bear fruit? If we examine John 3:17-18 above, we are either condemned (without eternal salvation) or not (with eternal salvation), so the difference in level or degree of sin could be associated with our eternal reward, punishment, or judgement.

This topic is sprinkled throughout scripture, and while both sides (the condemned and the saved) don’t really want to discuss it much, scripture says we are to be judged according the fruit we bear in this life. If we look at John 19:11, Jesus is referring to the punishment or judgement of Caiaphas (or Judas Iscariot) being greater than that of Pilate, because both Caiaphas and/or Judas both knew far more of the Gospel message (or light) than Pilate, but all men here were likely “condemned already”.

Scripture of course never specifically says what a greater or lesser reward looks like in heaven (and honestly, will we really care at that point), but it does specifically say there are those called greater (Matthew 5:19 and Luke 9:46) and points back to the fact that we are to live a life that produces fruit. [For other references to degree of reward or punishment see also Leviticus 4:2, 13; 5:17; Numbers 15:30; Ezekiel 8:6, 13; and Matthew 23:34.]

19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19

For Believers, this is more a matter of bearing fruit, but it’s also a warning that God takes our sin much more seriously than those who have not received as much of the Gospel light as we have. The article by RBS puts it like this:

This is a warning to those of us who preach the gospel. Brothers, God takes our sin more seriously than the man who has received little biblical truth. We have been entrusted with much gospel light… And it is a sobering thought to know that the Lord views all of our sins in relation to the degree of light with which He has entrusted to us.

A Relavant Conclusion to Why it Matters

Studying this particular verse has actually left me with more questions than answers. Does the revelation that sin has differing levels or degrees matter? I think ultimately it does because, one, it leads to larger discussions throughout all of scripture about sin, judgement, and bearing fruit. Two, it reinforces many truths of Scripture about sin, and three, it puts more personal responsibility on those who have been given the knowledge of the Gospel message (not necessarily those who have received salvation), which should be important to all of us. Some other concluding points that come to mind are:

  • It shows that God takes the sin of the condemned and saved very seriously
  • John 19:11 is just one piece of an overall greater picture of grace and judgement
  • It shows that God has entrusted some with more revelation than others
  • There are differences of sin and judgement
  • A lesser sin does not exonerate the guilty, they are still guilty
  • Authority, even from the condemned comes from God alone

These are just some conclusions I came to, each could be expanded upon in greater detail.  What does the truth of John 19:11 reveal to you?

Claims We as Christians are Called to Defend and Refute

I began a new journey in my walk this summer, 2009, one I have felt a long time calling to pursue but just never could figure out how and when.  That is probably because the how and when should have been left up to God, not me trying to figure it out but non-the-less, after many years, I have decided to start my academic pursuit of work in ministry, whatever that comes to mean in the future, in seminary.

For some reason, I decided to start off my 2009 class year at Liberty with Apologetics, probably because I knew so little about the subject.  As an introduction we were given seventeen claims we as Christians are called to defend and fifteen we are called to refute, all of which I have listed below.

It was interesting that I should start my seminary work with this class.  These point below are probably an overview of what is in the years ahead of me.  I see many things I know I believe are true, but many I can not begin to explain in logical terms.  Makes me look forward to the times ahead of me.

All of us as Christians are called to share and defend our faith.  We don’t have to be experts in all these areas below, but we should know, the rest of the world expects us to be, or at least expects us to be able to explain to them, in common terms, the points below.

Seventeen claims we are called upon to defend as Christians in our Time:

The following are in no particular order, but all are important and all are challenged by the modern secularist mindset.

  1. God exists
  2. The Lordship of Jesus Christ—He was fully God and fully man.
  3. Christ died for our sins
  4. Christ rose from the dead
  5. God is all knowing and all powerful
  6. God is all goodness, in spite of the fact of evil in the world
  7. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God
  8. Events recorded in the Bible really happened and tell us something significant about God, about life, and about morals
  9. God will judge the world on the basis of the moral behavior of mankind
  10. Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, to peace with God
  11. Faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for one to be right with God
  12. The churches have the freedom and right to preach and teach God’s truth in God’s way.
  13. The teachings of God’s word exemplify a moral “high ground”
  14. A life lived so as to please God is better than a secular lifestyle
  15. The historic truths of the Christian faith are objectively true, in the same sense that scientific truths or other secular truths are true.
  16. We are responsible to God for our moral behavior.
  17. Mankind is a special creation of God, not the product of evolution or of impersonal forces in the universe

Fifteen worldly claims we are called upon to refute as Christians:

Some of these may appear to overlap, but each is a separate issue, and each has adherents in the world.  You will discover that there are people even in our churches who believe at least some of these, according to research done by George Barna.

  1. All Religions lead to the same god
  2. It doesn’t matter what your religion is as long as you are sincere—God understands
  3. Jesus is merely a great teacher or prophet
  4. God is too loving to ever send anyone to Hell
  5. A god who would send any of his “Children” to Hell is not a god worthy of our worship
  6. Morality is relative.  You have to decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong.
  7. We are the end product of evolution, the crowning achievement of the forces of nature.
  8. Man is the measure of all things.  What is good is what benefits the human race.
  9. The individual is all that matters—what’s good is what is good for you!
  10. Religion and Science are different realms—religious truths are different from scientific truths.
  11. “I know what’s best for me! I don’t need anyone else running my life!”
  12. Don’t worry about doctrine!  Religion is about what you feel!  If I have peace in my heart, then that’s all I need.
  13. The Bible is a human book, a product of the religious experiences of one people.
  14. The Bible is an old book—it was fine for back then but it has nothing to say to our time, to people today.
  15. Muslims worship one god too!  So it must all be the same God.

This post was originally created on May 11 2009 and updated in June 2010.

The Truth in the Bible Still Survives from 1895 to Today

The Book of Mark

Bible Published in 1895

Title page of bible from 1895

Title page of bible from 1895

1896 in History :: So what was going on in 1896?

Tonight we start the first part of a series of studies on how to study the Bible, called Journey Bible Class.  Yesterday I picked up a Bible at a local store specifically to start using tonight, but I have about 30-35 Bibles here in my office so I guess I could have used one of those but I was looking for one in particular.  One I have here in my office is this one Bible published in 1895 I picked up after someone threw it away back when we were in the book business. The Bible I picked up at the store yesterday was a relatively nice leather covered Bible but it made me think about this one I have that was published more than 100 years ago.

It is far from fragile and you can flip through the pages, look at the illustrations and everything you do with a Bible purchased today… but… in it’s time, this Bible must have cost a small fortune.  It took more than 100 photographers and a huge number of editors and all the other people to put this 1895 Bible together.  It weighs about 6-8 pounds, is a hard cover, has tons of illustrations, and is even referenced and includes commentary, wow.

You can read it very well on the photo, but if you look on the blank page it has, written in pencil,

Oct the 6 1896

Presented To.

Mary Jane Williams.


G.E. Th Williams.

and on the inside it still has a cross stitched book mark that says “I love Thee With All My Heart”.  Of course if you flip through the pages you will see that the scriptures are the same in this book published in 1895 as in the book I purchased yesterday.  The history of this Bible is incredible to me.  I am holding in my hand something that is tangible evidence of a God’s word being passed on from person to person more than 113 years ago.

I took these photos today when I got to work.

January 4 Following Mormon abandonment of polygamy, Utah admitted as 45th state
January 5 German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen’s discovers x-rays
January 7 Fanny Farmer publishes her 1st cookbook
January 18 British troops occupy Kumasi, West Africa
January 29 Emile Grubbe is 1st dr to use radiation treatment for breast cancer
February 8 Western Conference forms of Midwestern U, later renamed Big 10 Conf
February 18 Cave of Winds at Niagara Falls goes almost dry for 1st time in 50 yrs
February 23 Tootsie Roll introduced by Leo Hirshfield
March 1 Battle of Adua: 80,000 Ethiopians destroy 20,000 Italians
March 8 Volunteers of America forms (New York City)
March 20 Marines land in Nicaragua to protect U.S. citizens
March 25 Modern Olympics began in Athens, Greece
April 4 Announcement of Gold in Yukon
April 6 1st modern Olympic games open in Athens Greece [3/25 OS] American, James Connolly, wins 1st Olympic gold medal in mod history
April 15 1st Olympic games close at Athens, Greece
May 4 1st edition of London Daily Mail ( penny)
May 6 22nd Kentucky Derby: Willie Simms aboard Ben Brush wins in 2:07.75
May 14 Lowest U.S. temperature in May recorded (-10 degrees F-Climax, Colo)
May 15 Tornado kills 78 in Texas
May 18 U.S. Supreme Court affirms race separation (Plessy vs. Ferguson)
May 27 Tornado hit St. Louis, killing 255 and leaving thousands homeless
June 6 George Samuelson leaves New York harbor to row across Atlantic
June 15 Tsunami strikes Shinto festival on beach at Sanriku Japan 27,000 are killed, 9,000 injured, with 13,000 houses destroyed
June 26 1st movie theater in U.S. opens, charging 10 cents for admission
July 8 William Jennings Bryan “cross of gold” speech at Dem convention
July 21 National Federation of Afro-American Women and Colored Women’s
July 28 City of Miami incorporated
August 16 Gold discovered in Klondike, found at Bonanza Creek, Ala
August 20 Dial telephone patented
October 1 Yosemite becomes a National Park
November 1 1st bare women breast (Zulu) to appear in National Geographic Mag
November 14 Power plant at Niagara Falls begins operation
December 8 Start of Sherlock Holmes “Adventure of Missing 3 Quarter”
December 25 “Stars and Stripes Forever” written by John Philip Sousa
December 30 Stanley Cup: Montreal Victorias beat Winnipeg Victorias, 6-5
December 31 25th auto built in US [thanks]

Don’t think my Bible is going to be around in 2133 but I guess it could be.  So if those items above are facts of history, how far back do we go before we don’t think these things actually took place.  We have buildings in this country that go back to the 1600-1700’s, China and Japanese history goes back a pretty good ways, and so does Israel and the history spoken about in this book.

Of course we as human beings selectively choose what we believe as truth. Perhaps today this poem I wrote below is what truth is.

What Do We Believe is the Truth

Truth is all relative.
Truth is what we make it to be.
Truth is fluid.
Truth is adjustable.
Truth is changing.
Truth is false.

Truth is love.
Truth is faith.
Truth is belief.
Truth is alive.
Truth is sacrifice.

Royals Pitcher Scott Sullivan Asks What's Your Story

This morning we had a special guest, Scott Sullivan, speak during our normal Tuesday morning meeting.  Sullivan was a pitcher (one of those great “submarine pitchers” I love to watch) for the Cincinnati Reds (1995-2003), Chicago White Sox (2003), and finished his career with the Kansas City Royals (2004).  As usually is the case with those who have been through the riggors of MLB, he had quite a story to tell, but he made the point that we all have stories to tell, good and bad.

What many of these stories have in common is where each of them were in their life during their career and where and how God has taken them to the point where they are right now.  All of us are always a work in progress but through circumstances and situations in each of our own lives, we have made it to the point we are today.  The question is what are we going to do with the time we have left?  Sullivan suggested a book that has meant a lot to him, Stu Weber’s Tender Warrior, and left us with three questions to think about and discuss.  They are:

1. What is Your Story?

Each of us has a story if we are still living and breathing.  If you are a Believer, that story is called your testimony, and as a Believer, each does have a testimony.  Have you ever written down your testimony?  Some may scoff and write down a few brief sentences, but some of us took many years to come to our decision and our testimony is not just one event or thing that happened, it is years of work and living that got us to the point we are at today.

If you are not a Believer specifically, you still have your own story to tell.   What has shaped your life up to this point.  Is it people, friends, family, where you live, how much money you have or don’t have, what car you drive?  I would encourage each of us to put some thought into what exactly is our story.  What were the specifics that got us where we are today.

2. What Do You Want Your Legacy To Be?

Each of us will leave a legacy in one form or another.  We may not have a sphere of infulence like a major league ball player, politician, or holywood star, but each of us will leave behind the story of our life.  What do you want that to be?  Do you know?  If you do, how are you moving in that direction to fulfill that part of your life.

3. What is Your Plan to Finish Strong?

None of us are destined to stick around for very long.  Some longer than others but either way, we are not long for this world.  How can we finish our lives out strong.  Do we have a plan, or do we care?  I think it may be harder for those of us who are for the most part healthy, relatively young-ish (maybe at heart), and feel like we are full of life to really appreciate the time we have left and make a conscious decision to finish out strong.

I think about Richard Quick and what he is going through right now in his fight with a Malignant Brain Tumor, or my mother-in-law who did the same thing.  What is our plan to finish strong and live the rest of the life we have been given with conviction, purpose, and with a plan, to at some point hear what Jesus said in a parable in Matthew 25 where He said:

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Thanks Scott for making your way over to our side of the world (funny how these Tuscaloosa, Alabama people end up down here in Auburn, and we are thrilled) and thank you for giving us a few words of encouragement to think about.

Do I Get in Synch With God as Much as My iPhone?

Am I the only one that takes a picture of his iPhone while it is syncing and wonders how or why I don’t do this as often with God?  I took this photo this afternoon while waiting on my phone and of course started daydreaming.  I hate it when the things of this world intrude and seem to take precedence over our walk with God but they do, and little stupid things like this photo remind me I need to stay plugged into and in sync with God more often than with my stupid phone (yes I said stupid twice in one sentence).

What does staying in sync with God mean to you? Conversation, prayer, study, fellowship… when we sync our phones we are transferring data from a main source (usually a computer) to a device (this case an iPhone) and back again. Wouldn’t that be cool if we could plug ourselves into God and he could just transfer all the data down to us and we could send Him up all our changes we made while on the move? I think we can, and do, we just may do it in many different ways, some that other people don’t recognize, don’t agree with, or understand, but we can all still plug into God can’t we?

Eternal Purpose Found in the Mundane Activities

This morning as I was going through my email I came across an email Sandy from Toomer’s Coffee sent to me with a devotional message that he found relevant to his day and thought I would like it as well. Most of the time it is just something that is forwarded to me that pretty much gets treated as spam but today, it was a message that really spoke to me and I wanted to share it on The Damascus Blog.

But I said, ”I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” ~ Isaiah 49:4

While I have read the book of Isaiah it is always refreshing to read what struggles the prophet Isaiah went through in his life. I am not sure if this was a result of comical relief from reading my resume on my other blog or not, but this pretty much hit the nail on the head for me.

Mundane Activities for Eternal Purposes

Have you ever felt like you’re spending your life using your talent for nothing? Life is often spent doing mundane activities that seem to have little eternal purpose. The great prophet Isaiah was struggling with his own purpose. He knew he was chosen to be a voice for God, yet life became purposeless for Isaiah. We all go through periods when our purpose seems to be clouded with the mundane. We see little meaning in life. On the other hand, Isaiah didn’t stay in this place. We read in this passage that he knew the truth of his existence.

He could look past his present circumstance and know that his real reward and purpose would be revealed in eternity. He knew that God was just and fair, so he placed his faith on this truth. When life appears to lack meaning and purpose, remember that if you devote your life to the purposes He has for you, the fruits of your labor will be manifested in due time.

The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it (1 Thess. 5:24)

Welcome To Wherever You Are

That about sums up my “very specific” chosen career path, expressed from a very early age, of wondering and hunting for what in the world God would have me do. Over the years I have come to a realization that it isn’t what we do that is important, it is how we do it.

God has put each of us where we are. While some of us are quite well defined in what we do, like a race car driver, doctor or lawyer, others, like myself, are career freelance workers (which is about as defined as a “consultant”), but the eternal purposes of what we do are still not defined by us, but by God.

It reminds me of the lyrics to Welcome To Wherever You Are by Bon Jovi that go like this:

Maybe we’re all different
But we’re still the same
We all got the blood of Eden running through our veins
I know sometimes it’s hard for you to see
You’re caught between just who you are and who you wanna be

Welcome to wherever you are
This is your life; you made it this far
Welcome, you gotta believe
That right here, right now you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be
Welcome to wherever you are

A great way for me to start off the day today, thanks Sandy.