December 25, 2008

12 Days of 80's Christmas--Day 12

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Twelve Bands-a-Aiding,

The quintessential 80's Christmas song. Lots of celebrities singing about the people around the world who need our help. Kudos to these guys for trying to use their celebrity status to try and bring help to people in need.

Of course, Christmas is really about meeting our greatest need of all. The need to be reconciled to God. Peace on earth means peace between God and man. This peace could only come through God becoming man, and providing a way for this reconciliation. Peace on earth, indeed.

We need to feed the world. It's hard to listen to the gospel message with a growling stomach. But let's also feed them the food that satisfies the deepest hunger. That is what Christmas is for.

December 24, 2008

12 Days of 80's Christmas--Day 11

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 'Leven Twisted Sisters,

This song may not have been recorded in the 1980's, but we all you know who Twisted Sister is and you know where they came from.

Even metalheads like celebrating this joyous season.

December 23, 2008

12 Days of 80's Christmas--Day 10

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Ten Bluesy Voices,

If you don't know who Leon Redbone or Dr. John are, then go find out right now. As the blues singer said in the great 80's movie, Adventures in Babysitting: "Ain't nobody leavin' this place without singing the blues."

This is in honor of my son's devastation when our Mississippi Snowman melted away with the 70-plus degree weather. RIP, Snowman. RIP.

December 22, 2008

12 Days of 80's Christmas--Day 9

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Nine Country Christmases,

Kenny and Dolly. Dolly and Kenny. After Islands in the Stream, there was no doubt this collaboration must return.

Kids, this is another one of those songs that you remember listening to with your family around Christmas time. Is it corny? Yes. Does anyone readily admit to liking this song? No.

Is it awesome? Absolutely. Kenny Rogers had the gift of beard WAY before Chuck Norris.

December 21, 2008

The Effect of the Gospel

Penn Jillette, from the illusionist duo "Penn and Teller", talks about his experience with a man from one of their shows giving him a Gideon's New Testament/Psalms Bible. Jillette is openly an atheist. I hope this serves as an encouragment to share the gospel sincerely, humbly, and with the Authority given to believers.

12 Days of 80's Christmas--Day 8

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Eight Raisins Dancing,

They just don't make Christmas specials like this anymore. I had all the California Raisin figures that you would get with a breakfast meal at Hardee's when I was a kid. They've recently become bath toys for my kids.

I'm not sure if you could get away with the California Raisins today. Something about the way that they look makes me think that some one would scream rais-cism.

But, back to a simpler time:

December 20, 2008

12 Days of 80's Christmas--Day 7

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Seven Cougar's Coug-ing,

Why did you ever drop the "Cougar", John? And why did you lose the mullet? Something tells me that it took you about three minutes to throw this little ditty together. Couldn't you have at least dressed like it was Christmastime? Maybe had a tree in the background?

Oh well...big budget music videos aren't all they're cracked up to be:

December 19, 2008

12 Days of 80's Christmas--Day 6

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Six Rick's a' Rolling,

Again, a little bit of a rule-break today because this performance was recorded more recently, but c'mon...Rick Astley IS the 1980's. His Silent Night is definitely no Never Gonna Give You Up, but then again, WHAT IS?

Take us home Rick. Take us home:

December 18, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #23--Women's Role in Church

What is the role of women in the church?

This is the question that could get all of us killed. Let it never be said that Jay McGuirk is a coward.

The toughest part about this question is settling what in the Bible is a cultural statement about womens' roles (or their role in 1st century Palestine), and what is a timeless truth that transcends culture.

Without a doubt, Jesus advanced the status of women far beyond the times that they were living in. His conversation with the woman at the well, his treatment of the woman caught in adultery, the status of Mary Magdelene and the fact that his first appearance was to her…Jesus moved the ball down the field for women.

But did he move it far enough, and should it be moved farther? Since we’ve been in 1 Corinthians 14, let’s look there to see what it says.

1 Corinthians 14:34 “Women should remain silent in churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

Is this a cultural statement or is it a timeless statement? Based on the text, Paul is referring to married women whose husbands are present with them in the service. The word “submission” and the fact that he refers to “their own husbands” clue us in on that. The same thing is the case in 1 Timothy 2:

1 Timothy 2:11-15 “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was decieved and became a sinner. But women will be saved through their childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

It appears that the point Paul is making is that women whose husbands are in the church should submit to their husbands role as spiritual head of their home and not to clamor for positions of spiritual authority over men. The same Greek word is used for “quietness” and “silent” (hesychia) and it does not mean complete silence without talking. Elsewhere it means “settled down, undisturbed, and not unruly” There is another Greek word, (sigao) for “complete silence saying nothing” and that word is not used here.

Elsewhere, Paul permits the participation of women in services:

1 Corinthains 11:5 “Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head.”

Now, this verse has to be taken in understanding with the culture, and it’s referring to women dressing modestly as opposed to the other Corinthian pagans. But, it’s clear that women did pray in church, and that they taught in church.

Titus 2:3-5 “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

The point is that married women shouldn’t try to play an authoritative role that should be played by their husband, the spiritual leader of their family. Women are, however encouraged to teach other women. In Acts, we see a husband and wife team, Priscilla and Aquilla both discipling as a couple Apollos. Unusually, Priscilla is mentioned first. The only thing we can grasp from this is that she was the more prominent member of the pair, and that certain contexts there is an appropriateness to women teaching men.

But, what about as deacons, elders or pastors?

In Romans 16:7 a woman named Junias is mentioned as being among the apostles, and Phoebe is mentioned in verse 1 as a servant or deaconess. So should women play these roles in the church?

In the early church, in the late 1st century and early 2nd century, it was common practice, according to a record of church history called The Didache, for women to baptize other women. They also baptized in the nude there too, so this probably explains why!

As far as the office of deacon goes, there is absolutely no mandate in Scripture that you must have women deacons, though there is evidence that this may have been the case based with Phobe. The thing that has to be understood is that the office of deacon in the Biblical sense was the role of a servant. They took care of the orphans, widows, and the needs of the people in the church. They were not a decision making body or a body of authority. The Greek word deaconai literally means "servant" It’s a word that was created when then Bible was being translated into English.

So, is it wrong? You cannot say that it is wrong for women to be deacons based on Scripture. But, before you go pushing for women deacons, you also have to realize that it is not a mandate. And, if it is a divisive issue in a church, then it should be avoided. Anything that is not a clear mandate in Scripture should not serve as a divisive force for a church.

1 Timothy 3 lists the qualifications of deacons and the word that the NIV translates “wives” can also mean deaconess, or female deacon, and may make more sense to translate it that way. When it says a “deacon should be the husband of one wife”, it literally means “a one woman man”. It’s speaking of male deacons, clearly. This cannot be taken to mean without a doubt that all deacons should be men, or that all deacons should be married.

What about the office of elder/overseer/pastor?

1 Timothy 3:2 “Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife
(same wording)...”

In this passage there is no mention of wives, or females as there are in the qualifications of deacons. Combine this with Paul’s teaching about married women not exercising teaching authority over their husband and it appears that it was not intended for women to play the role of what we would call “senior pastor” or “elder”. That’s the one thing that we can say pretty definitively.

Remember, Jesus elevated the role of women, and Paul praised women for their gifts. The only thing that we can say pretty definitively from Scripture is that women should not play the role as lead pastor of a congregation, and that wives should submit to their husbands role as spiritual head of the home when both are believers.

Everything beyond that must be dealt with in love, wisdom, and a following of the Holy Spirit.

Next, we’ll answer a much lighter question about Cain's wife. Check out all of the Q and A series here.

12 Days of 80's Christmas--Day 5

On the 5th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Five Jersey-ans Sing!

OK, this song is actually from 1992, but the BAND is from the 1980's. Now, sit back and enjoy the smooth Christmas sounds of Jersey's finest: Bon Jovi:

December 17, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #22--Speaking in Tongues

What's the truth about speaking in tongues?

The gift of tongues are mentioned in three books of the Bible: Mark 16:17, Acts 2, 10, 19 and 1 Corinthians 12-14.

There are two different gifts of tongues that are described in the New Testament: the gift of language (speaking a different earthly language), and the spiritual gift of tongues (that is an unknown language).

The book of Acts describes the transitional period between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The apostles, (Jesus’ disciples) were given instructions and commands, some of which apply to believers today, and some that don’t. Acts 2 speaks of the gift of known tongues. The disciples are speaking in the languages of the people gathered in Jerusalem. Acts 10 and 19 record the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. You cannot take everything that happened in the book of Acts and consider it normal for believers today. Part of interpreting Scripture involves discovering what is normative and what was a special event in a special time. Because of this, we won't focus on Acts as much in our discussion.

Mark 16:17, if you look in your Bible, is part of a greater section. Mark 9:20 in your Bible, should contain a footnote that says something like “the earliest manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20". What that means is that Mark most likely didn’t write this and it wasn’t an original part of his gospel. It was added later by someone else, and it got incorporated into the manuscript. Notice that the ability to handle snakes is included in this passage, too. So we’re not going to take this as normative either.

That leaves us with 1 Corinthians, which is one of the earliest written letters of the New Testament. It was written around 55 A.D., which makes it older than Acts which was written 7-8 years later. Here, Paul discusses spiritual gifts in general. Tongues along with the gift to interpret them are explained.

In two later letters (Romans and Ephesians), Paul again mentions spiritual gifts. In those lists, in letters that were written later than 1 Corinthians, the gifts of tongues is not mentioned.

So what’s the purpose of speaking in tongues?

1 Corinthians 14:22 “Tongues, then are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers.”

Two purposes are given for the gift of tongues. One of them was as proof to unbelievers that the gospel message was true. In the two instances in Acts where the gift of tongues is used, both times it is Gentiles who speak in tongues. Remember that the first Christians were Jewish, and that the gospel began moving out to the Gentiles.

The fact that Gentiles were speaking in tongues in both instances served to prove to the Jews that Gentiles could in fact be saved and have the gift of the Holy Spirit. Salvation was not just for the Jews, and this proved it. This was a fulfilment of Isaiah 28 where it said that through foreign men who speak in strange tongues, God would speak to his people.

The second purpose was when tongues were used in church services.

1 Corinthians 14:27-28 “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.”

Remember that we said that 1 Corinthians is one of the oldest books in the New Testament. This means that it pre-dates the gospels. That means that there was not a written record, or Scripture, like we have it today.

In certain times, God would provide direct revelation to the church through people speaking in tongues, but only two or three in each service. This is how they got His truth. It required an interpreter to confirm that the message was from God. If there was no interpreter, then tongues should not be used.

Paul downplays the use of the gift of tongues, and he lifts up the importance of “prophecy”. This is not foretelling the future, but the forthtelling of God’s Word. In other words, he means preaching and teaching.

1 Corinthians 14:4-6 “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.”

What's the common theme? The building up of the church. If the church is not being built up, then the gift is useless.

So are tongues still in use today?

1 Corinthians 13:8 “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, the will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

At some point the gift of tongues will stop or have stopped. The Greek verb there is “pauo” which means to stop oneself. The gift of tongues will be stopped in and of itself. There is a different verb (katargeo) used for prophecies and knowledge. It’s a much more definitive and finite verb which means that once it stops it will not start back up. It’s finished.

So have they stopped?

The early church fathers (those living within a few generations of the apostles) considered tongues obsolete. John Chrysotom and Augustine both writing in the 4th and 5th centuries stated categorically that tongues had stopped by this time. Augustine referred to them as being gifts only for the time of the apostles.

During the first 500 years of the church the only people who claimed to have spoken in tongues were the followers of a man named Montanus who was branded as a heretic by the church. The next time any significant tongue-speaking movement came about was in the late 1600’s with a "not-really Christian" group in France. It started flourishing in the U.S. in the mid-1700’s under the Shakers whose founder, Mother Ann Lee claimed to be the female equivalent of Jesus Christ. From there it began to spread into other denominations and led to the founding of others

The problem with this is that after being dead for 1500 years, the gift suddenly came back and it came back with groups that did many things that were contrary to God’s Word. Paul says that prophecy is a greater gift than tongues, and it appears that with the availability of the Word of God, tongues are unnecessary.

There are languages spoken in the world today where there is not an available translation of the Bible, though. They don’t have access to God’s Word like we do in the Western world. Is it possible that tongues could be used in those parts to receive God’s Word and revelation? Maybe.

But in areas where God’s Word is readily available, especially based on the idea that tongues faded out of the early church with the advent of the New Testament, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to seek this gift.

Someone asked the follow-up question: Why does the Pentecostal church speak in tongues and other denominations do not?

According to the Assemblies of God's General Council's homepage, "God has brought the Pentecostal movement into being in order to help the Church rediscover the doctrine of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the accompanying gifts of the Spirit. In obedience to that charge, Pentecostals have placed a high priority on this particular doctrine. However, much of the supposed imbalance is more imagined than real."

These gifts include speaking in tongues. Other denominations either see themselves as non-recepients of these gifts or they disagree with the use of tongues as being a Biblical doctrine.

Next, we'll answer a question about womens' roles in the church. (Merry Christmas, Jay!) Check out all of the Q and A series here.

12 Days of 80's Christmas--Day 4

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Four Singing Punks,

Ah, The Ramones. Truth be told, I'll bet more families' Christmases are like this than you would imagine. Any family testimonies are welcomed in the comment section below.

Merry Christmas, I don't want to fight tonight with you? Classic.

December 16, 2008

12 Days of 80's Christmas--Day 3

On the third Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Three "Fresh" Men,

It's Christmas in Hollis!

December 15, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #21--Angels and Demons

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

When Satan was cast out of heaven, he took 1/3 of the angels with him. Have we not minimized the impact of demonic spirits on earth? Would we recognize them, and what should we do?

Revelation 12:9 “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”

Verse four of that same chapter says that 1/3 of the stars from heaven fell to earth. Traditional Jewish belief was that 1/3 of the angels fell to earth with Satan and became demons, so this passage may build on that. Satan’s fall from heaven to the earth is shown in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, also.

So was Satan cast down to the earth before history began? Well, we’re not sure.

At some point (depending on how you read Revelation and the other apocalyptic passages) Satan has been or will be cast down to earth. Whether this has happened or will happened in the Tribulation is unclear. But, it’s not important, because whether it has or is yet to happen, we are clear that demonic forces do have the ability to wreak havoc on human beings.

The 2nd part of the question is a little subjective…have we minimized it? It depends.

If you don’t believe that demons have the ability under God’s sovereign control to make an impact on history, then you ignore the Bible. If you are someone who sees demons around every corner, and that every time something bad goes happen it’s a demon, then you’re probably taking it way to seriously.

The key is to recognize that anytime there is a choice between doing right by God or sinning, spiritual warfare is involved. Christians cannot be demon possessed, but they can be oppressed by demonic activity (just like Job was harassed by Satan, we can be too). Satan is not omnipresent like God, so his demons do his work too. But, remember that Job was only harassed by Satan because God allowed it. Demons cannot, however, cause you spiritual harm in a sense of taking away your salvation. Non-Christians can be demon oppressed/possessed/influenced, so we should pray for their salvation.

So how do we recognize true spiritual warfare and what should we do?

Demons in the Bible are described as evil spirits, unclean spirits, and angels of Satan. They deceive the world, attack Christians and combat the holy angels. They are enemies of God.

Does demon possession still exist today? We aren’t told anywhere in the Bible that it ended, so probably so.

It’s not like the exorcist, though. Movies have interjected too much into our imaginations. You do see a little of this in the Bible as in the demon possessed man that Jesus casts a multitude of demons out of (Luke 8:26-39). He had superhuman strength, walked around naked and lived in a graveyard. But this seems to be more the exception than the rule.

Biblical signs of demon possession or demonic influence also include a refusal to forgive (2 Cor 2:10-11) and a belief in and spreding of false doctrine (2 cor 11:3-15, 1 Timothy 4:1-5, 1 John 4:1-3). So be careful that you don’t go accusing people of being demon possessed!

The key to successful spiritual warfare is finding biblical balance.

Ephesians 6:10-20 tells us that there is a spiritual war to be fought, so we are challenged to put on the armor of God. This includes:

  • Belt of truth. Spiritual warfare is not a power encounter, it’s a truth encounter. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, he quoted Scripture to combat him.

  • Breastplate of righteousness.

  • Feet fitted with the peace of the gospel.

  • Shield of faith to block Satan’s attacks.

  • Helmet of salvation to protect the most important part of your body.

  • The only offensive weapon given is the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Like I said, it’s a truth encounter.

There is no armor for your back, by the way. You are not meant to retreat from the battle.

There is no exotic or unusual weapons. There are no incantations, no magic spells. This stands in stark contrast to modern “demon hunters” who name and claim spiritual authority and rebuke demons and principalities. We are meant to put this armor on in prayer on a daily basis. Or else we might end up like the 7 sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13-16).

Should we try to cast a demon out of someone?

Jesus commanded his disciples to do this in his name, but that was a direct command given to them. Not to all believers everywhere, but only to his disciples. Nowhere in the teaching portions of the New Testament (Romans-Jude) are we encouraged to do so, or consider doing so. Our key is the spiritual armor of God and the prayer that helps us put it on. We are not Jesus, and we are not apostles. We are followers who have never been given that command.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at what the Bible says about speaking in tongues. Check out all of the Q and A series here.

12 Days of 80's Christmas--Day 2

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Two Total Dorks
And some songs from the 1980's.

It's Hall and Oates, and let me just say this: Oates is mustache-a-licious! This, kids, is what MTV was like when I was growing up. Jealous?

December 14, 2008

12 Days of 80's Christmas--Day 1

It's Christmas! And who helps us celebrate better than our friends from the 1980's music scene. Nothing says Christmas like some synthesizers, big hair, and falsetto voices.

Day #1 takes us back to a time when George Michael was more wholesome and Andrew Ridgeley didn't exist anonymously.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a song from the 1980's.

December 10, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #20--Gambling

What does the Bible say about gambling?

Gambling is risking money in an attempt to multiply the money on something that is against the odds. This is also called "investing in the stock market". OK, I kid...

The Bible does not specifically condemn gambling, betting, or playing the lottery. I know that many of you may disapprove of that statement, but I can’t show you a verse that says “thou shalt not gamble” or anything like it.

The Bible mentions on several occasions the casting of lots in order to make decisions. In Leviticus it is how the priests chose between two goats, one which would be sacrificed and one which would be set free as a scapegoat representing the forgiveness of the people's sins. In Joshua, it is how they divided up the land among the various tribes.

But, nowhere is gambling mentioned as an entertainment or as an acceptable practice for followers of God.

The Bible does, however, talk about the love of money as being the root of all evil. Scripture also encourages us to stay away from attempts to get rich quick:

Proverbs 13:11 “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.”

This is a gray area, and therefore a difficult issue because if it is done in moderation and only on occasion, then it’s still a waste of money whether it’s evil or not. Of course, it’s no more a waste of money than other forms of entertainment like seeing a stupid movie, eating an unnecessarily expensive meal or buying a worthless item.

That, though, doesn’t justify wasting money.

The question is not “is it right” so much as it is “is it wise”? Can you really feel good about making the case for it being right and good for you to spend your time in a casino at a chance of throwing your money away? Is that the best thing you can think of to do with the resources that God has blessed you with?

Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘I will never leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

Someone asked this follow-up question: What should we think about other activities funded by casinos like buffets, waterparks, etc. since these activities are primarily used to bring people to the casinos?

Again, this comes back to what is wise. If we start going down the road of "should I do it if there is any evil that can be associated with it anywhere at anytime?" then we wouldn't be able to do very much. Enjoy these things or avoid them as your conscience allows you. This goes back to Romans 14, and making sure that the things we do don't cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble.

Tomorrow we will see what the Bible has to say Satan and demons, and their role here on earth. Check out all of the Q and A series here.

December 09, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #19--Alcohol

What does the Bible say about drinking alcohol?

Historically, Baptists have considered themselves against alcohol use. So many of you, like me, may have grown up with pastors who regularly railed against it’s evils.

But, let’s look at what the Bible clearly says, because that’s what matters.

Ephesians 5:15-18 “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Drunkenness is a sin. Multiple scriptures mention this. If you think that this verse is only about wine, then you’re mistaken. The point is that it leads to debauchery, so don’t use anything that will impair your sensibilities or abilities to this point. This would include drugs and other substances too.

Romans 13:1 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”

If you are under the age of 21 in this country, drinking alcohol violates the law, which is an authority that God has established. So, teenagers and most college students: you have no excuse to drink. It is a sin to break this law.

But what about an adult having a drink that is not to the point of drunkenness?

There is no command in the Bible that tells us to refrain from drinking alcohol. There were certain groups of people (the Nazarites, the Essenes, etc.) who chose to set themselves apart from other people by refraining from alcohol. Sometimes these vows were for life, but usually it was only for a short amount of time.

Most of the biblical characters drank wine, including Jesus himself. This was real wine, not sugar wine like some have claimed. Jesus' first miracle was to turn water into wine at a wedding party.

1 Timothy 5:23 “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” Wine even had medicinal purposes and had a health benefit.

So is it right for us today? More importantly, is it wise? The answer is found in Romans 14.

The real issue is this: How do we go about deciding what is right before the Lord? How do we interact with fellow Christians when they arrive at different conclusions?

The first thing we have to do is remove all the strands of our own selfish desires, and consider others better than ourselves. Take an "others first" attitude.

In Romans 14, pagan people would sacrifice meat to their gods. Yhat meat was then resold in the markets, and some of the new Christians had no problem eating that meat. New converts from those pagan religions did. They thought it was defiled and a reminder of their past, so they thought people shouldn't eat the meat.
So is it OK?

Romans 14:1-2 “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand."

So what does that say? We accept those whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters. Just because we disagree with something doesn’t mean that God disagrees with it. Each one should be fully convinced in their own mind.

Romans 14:5-12 "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God."

This is like the tattoo question. We are accountable to God, so we should hold our opinions and actions up to Him and see how they measure. Some things in life, like alcohol, are left up to our consciences. If you have guilt or doubt about it, then that is a clear sign that you shouldn’t be doing it. If you can drink alcohol with a clear conscience, though, then make sure you pay attention to these next verses. You have to make up your mind not to put a stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

Romans 14:13-14 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean."

If your brother is distressed because of what you eat or drink, then you are no longer acting in love.

Romans 14:15 "If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died."

What you can handle may not be managable for someone else, and it can even destroy their faith. On the other hand …

Romans 14:16-18 "Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men."

Make peace and build each other up.

Romans 14:19-23 "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin."

The answer? It’s between you and the Lord. You have to be culturally savvy and you have to be aware of what affect it will have on others.

We live in South Mississippi. What are the consequences, good or bad, of exercising your liberty in drinking alcohol or choosing to abstain? What are the chances of making a brother stumble in their faith…you have to weight them out.

As for me personally, I have chosen not to drink alcohol. It’s an issue of conscience. I couldn’t do it without doubt or guilt. Some verses that have served as a guide for me:

Proverbs 31:3-7 “It is not for king, O lemuel—not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.”

Those who are in a position of leadership are held to higher standards. and that includes me. So, I don’t want it to be an issue, and I don’t want it to become something that disqualifies me from my duties as a minister.

The qualifications of elders and deacons include men who are not given to drunkenness, and not indulging in much wine. Men like that have no business leading in the church.

Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”

Proverbs 23:20-21 “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor and drowsiness clothes them in rags.”

Gluttony and drunkenness are put together here. I didn’t exactly hear that sermon growing up.

Those are my reasons. The Bible teaches moderation without excess in everything, and with alcohol it’s up to your conscience and it’s up to you to keep from making your brother stumble.

Tomorrow we will see what the Bible has to say about gambling. Check out all of the Q and A series here.

December 08, 2008

Why The End Times Scared Me as a Kid

Apparently Matthew Paul Turner over at Jesus Needs New PR attended a similar church that I did growing up. They also showed the same "scare the 'Hell' out of you" movies!

I haven't read his book, Churched: One Kid's Journey Towards God Despite A Holy Mess yet, but it's only my list to read in the break between seminary classes. In that book he talks about a clip from the movie Thief in the Night (which my entire church watched when I was a child) that scared him to death. Some forward-thinking YouTuber has uploaded this clip among other from the infamous 1970's end times classic.

If you've been keeping up with my Q and A 2.0 series, I covered an entire range of questions on the end times and how people freak out about them in an unusual way. I am convinced that it is because of movies like this that have crossed the line of "what's does the Bible tell us" and have taken some pretty serious liberties in order to scare people into embracing Christ.

I offer up a warning with this clip. In spite of the bad acting and horrible special effects, this is a pretty scary and freaky clip. Watch at your own risk, and realize that there are two things at play:

1) This is one person's interpretations of what will happen to those who are "Left Behind". I'd love for you to show me all the things in this clip that can be backed up with Scripture. There are a few "general ideas" here that are based on some verses, but nothing specific.

2) This view represents a "dispensational pre-tribulational rapture" view. See my thoughts on that by clicking here.

Again, I warn you about watching this clip. It is surprisingly frightening.

See what I mean? Yikes.

Hell is scary enough, and God's love is amazing enough that we don't have to add to the story. Especially like this.

It's Christmastime! Get classy!

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what Christmas should look like. My favorite version of my favorite Christmas song.

For those of you out there who enjoy your T.I., your Flobots, and your Kenny Chesney...THIS is what good music looks like. Nothing says Christmas like the very androgynous Ziggy Stardust (a.k.a, David Bowie) teaming up with Harry Lillis Crosby (a.k.a, Bing) for some Little Drummer Boy.

Reward your ears with this gem.

In all seriousness, I get chills every time I hear Bing say, "I played my best for him, ba-rum-pa-pum-pum."

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #18--What will we do in Heaven?

What are we going to do in heaven?

This is my last post on questions about heaven and the end times, and it's a good one.

Heaven is going to be one never ending church service, with all of us sitting on a cloud playing a harp. Isn’t that what you’re afraid of?

Aren’t you afraid you’ll get bored?

Luke 23:43—Jesus says to the theif on the cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The word “paradise” in the Greek refers to a park, like the Garden of Eden. When you think of a gorgeous park, do you think of boredom?

So what will we do to not get bored?

Revelation 22:3 “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” For one we will serve God. We will have work to do for Him. We think of work as being a curse; but, don’t you have some things in your life that you enjoy working at? Some things you enjoy doing? It’ll have to be that kind of work.

2 Timothy 2:11-12 “If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” Apparently we will also reign with Christ in the sense of being caretakers of the new heaven and new earth.

Revelation 3:21 “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Jesus said that in this life, those who are first will be last, and those who are last will be first. Those who are faithful in this lifetime will seeming have higher levels of responsibilities in heaven.

Luke 19 contains the parable of the faithful servants. When the master returns they are rewarded for their faithfulness with greater responsibilities. But, if that’s the case it seems impossible that differing levels of responsibilities would lead to any resentment among each other.

Whatever we are doing, you can be assured that it will be incredible, you will be fully satisfied and there will be no thought in you of “I am not enjoying this”. I’m planning on being there. I hope you will too.

Heaven is a celebration. It’s not something to be down about. People get too down about the end times and heaven, but it’s going to be amazing.

Revelation 19:11-16 “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and Ture. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blod, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were followinig him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

So, why do people freak out about the end times?

First of all, they're afraid they’re going to be "left behind". Secondly, they begin doubting their salvation, because sin builds up in their lives and it goes unconfessed and without repentance.

John 10:27-29 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

We don’t live a fear-based faith! We don’t have to be afraid because God is greater than all, He is in control of the future, His plan can not be thwarted, and those of us who are saved through faith in Jesus Christ and what he did on the cross need not worry.

But, some people ultimately default to a works based theology. They think Jesus is going to come back while they have sin in their lives and that he won’t take them with him. And if you believe that, then what you are saying is that you can lose your salvation. You think that it depends on you, and that is in conflict with God’s Word and His sovereignty.

I’ll leave you with these verses…

2 Peter 3:10-15, 17-18 “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed this way, what kind of people ought you be? You ought to live godly and holy lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness…Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position (referring to truth, not salvation). But, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen."

This is a reason to celebrate.

Next, we’ll take a look at what the Bible says about alchohol.  Check out all of the Q and A series here.

December 03, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #17--Will I Know You in Heaven?

Will we recognize our family and loved ones in heaven, or will we just be random, generic people?

This is one of those questions that the Bible doesn’t answer directly, but we can sort of infer an answer from a few different passages.

First of all, the focus of heaven is not seeing our friends and family. There will be an eternity for that. The primary focus of heaven is worshiping God and enjoying the fullness of His presence. If you wonder whether you will be able to do that or not, don’t worry. When you are in the presence of God in a state of glory and perfection, it will be the most natural thing you can do.

But what does the Bible say about this?

As we saw in an earlier question, David said that he would go to his infant son who had died. In Luke 16:19-31, in the story of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, the rich man recognized Abraham.

1 John 3:2 tells us that when Jesus appears, “we shall be like him; for we shall see Him as He is.”

1 Corinthians 15:44-49 talks about what our bodies will be like at the resurrection: “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body…The first man (Adam) was of the dust of the earth, the second man (Jesus) from heaven…and just as we have born the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”

Our earthly bodies are just like Adam’s, so our heavenly bodies will be like Jesus. Jesus was recognized by the disciples in his glorified or heavenly body, so it would make sense that we would recognize each other.

Now, which body will we have? I’m not sure. I’m hoping for 21 year-old Jay. I had my hair like I liked it, was at the perfect weight, you know...the height of my physical presence!

Being able to see our loved ones is a great part of heaven; but, the best part is being in the presence of God, and keeping in mind that whatever the plan is for eternity, it is right, it is good, and we will love it.

Next, we'll take a look at what we're going to do in heaven. Check out all of the Q and A series here.

Sermon--Why Are We So Afraid

This is a recent sermon I preached in a series called "It" on living without fear. I promise you that there was at least two times that people laughed at my jokes.

Am I wearing a houndstooth jacket with a crimson shirt the day after Alabama beat Auburn to go to 12-0, to the SEC championship game, one win away from playing for a national championship?

Yes I am. That is having no fear.

You can get the video podcast on iTunes here. You can just grab the audio here.

December 02, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #16: Animals in Heaven?

Does God care about our animals? Do they die forever or will we see them again?

Do all dogs go to heaven, or have we been lied to?

First of all, God does care for animals. He cared enough to save them from the flood, and he cares enough to provide them with everything they need.

Read Job 38-41. God is answering Job about how he runs the universe, and he specifically mentions several places about how he cares for the animals of the world. he satisfies the hunger of lions, provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God, provide donkeys with habitats, etc.

Secondly, the Bible is silent about whether animals have souls or whether the ones on earth will one day be in heaven. We simply don’t know. We know that humans are the only creatures created in the image and likeness of God; animals are not.

Humans are like God. We are capable of spirituality with mind, emotion, will, and a soul that carries on after death. There is no indication that animals share those same qualities.

On the other hand, when God created the animals in Genesis 1, he said that they were good. So there’s no reason to rule out why animals couldn’t be a part of the new heaven and new earth.

In fact, Isaiah 65 mentions animals in the context of the millennial kingdom. The only question is whether they are animals from this lifetime or not.

So, I hate to be a jerk and not give you a definitive answer. As a kid, I had a dog that I loved, and it would be great if I see her in heaven. We do know that God is good and that He is just and that whatever His decision it is right and good.

It’s also good to note that we have no bearing over this either way, so it’s best not to worry about it. We do, however, have responsibility in helping other humans discover the path to heaven. That would be a better place to focus our energies.

Tomorrow, will we recognize our loved ones in heaven, or not? Check out all of the Q and A series here.

November 25, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #15--Cremation

What does God think about cremation?

It really burns Him up. Zing! Just kidding.

There is no specific teaching about cremation in the Bible. There are some instances in the Old Testament of people being burned to death and of human bones being burned, but this is not cremation. It is, however, mentioned in 2 Kings 23:16-20 that burning human bones on an altar desecrates that altar.

Cremation was practiced in Biblical times, but it was not common for the Israelites or New Testament believers to have it done. Burial was by far the most common way of disposing bodies.

So should we do it?

One day God will resurrect our bodies and reunite them with our souls. The fact that a body was cremated doesn’t make it any more difficult for God to resurrect that body. People who died 2000 years ago have already been turned to dust. All cremation does is speed up the process of turning your body to dust.

The answer to this question exists in the world of Christian freedom. Pray for wisdom and do what you feel is right before the Lord and for your family.

Some people try to make the case that people were burned in judgment, like fire reigning on Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. You can’t apply the same idea to cremation. God did the judging in the Bible, and by that logic, any body burned in a fire would displease God.

It’s not a salvation issue either, so don’t worry about it.

Next up, a question about our pets. Do animals go to heaven when they die? Check out all of the Q and A series here.

November 24, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #14--Suicide

Will people who commit suicide go to heaven if they are Christians?

This is another one of those questions that go beyond being intellectual. It's also an emotional question. Most of us know someone who either took their own life, or have been affected by a love one taking there own life. But, this one is not as hard as people make it out to be.

Matthew 12:31-32—“And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven of men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”

This is the context of the verse: Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees. They are on the brink of making a decision that will bring irreversible consequences. They have just accused Jesus, the Son of God, of working by Satan’s power to cast out demons instead of by God’s Holy Spirit. They are in the process of and will ultimately reject Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah.

There is no sin that can be committed in this lifetime that cannot be forgiven by what Christ did on the cross. The only sin that cannot be forgiven is the ultimate rejection of God’s plan for salvation by a refusal to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. But, while you’ve still got breath in your body, this is still a possibility.

But isn’t that person playing God when they take their own life? Of course they are. But, all sin is playing God. It’s saying that your plan is better than God’s plan.

But they’re taking their own life and dying with that sin in their life? Chances are that all of us will die with sin in our life. And, all sin is equal in the sense that it leads to spiritual and physical death. If dying with sin in your life keeps you out of heaven, then we’re all in trouble.

The only thing that matters is a person’s salvation in Jesus Christ. Nothing can take that away: no sin, no matter how great or unpleasant. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates someone cannot receive eternal salvation if they choose to take their own life.

Next, we’ll look at how God feels about being cremated after you're dead. Check out all of the Q and A series here.

November 20, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #13--Age of Accountability

What happens to children who die before they accept Christ?

This is a tough one, because it goes beyond being simply an intellectual question. It’s an emotional question, too.

No doubt, we all know those who have suffered the loss of a baby or young child. We want to be comforting to them, and we also want to be comforted ourselves.

Scripture does not speak to this issue directly, but there are some principles that we can look towards when answering this question about infants and children who do not reach a stage of moral understanding and accountability when it comes to recognizing their need for salvation from their sin.

Dr. Albert Mohler, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dr. Danny Akin, the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote an article that speaks to this issue. You can read the article by clicking on the link.

First, God’s grace, goodness and mercy would suggest that God saves all infants who die.

  • 1 John 4:8—God is love.

  • 1 Timothy 2:4—God desires that all be saved.

  • In speaking of children, Jesus said in Matthew 18:14—“Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

Secondly, when the infant son of David and Bathsheeba died, David said two things in 2 Samuel 12:15-18: he would see the child again, and he comforted his wife. These show his confidence in the child’s eternity

Thirdly, the Bible makes a distinction between original sin (what we are born with) and actual sin (actively choosing wrong over right). Infants are unable to make this distinction of right and wrong.

Fourth, Jesus said in Luke 18:15-17 that the kingdom of God belongs to little children. This is in reference to our faith being a childlike faith, but it can also be speaking of those who live in heaven.

Fifth, some in Scripture are said to be chosen by God from the womb. The prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1:8-2:21), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15) were all chosen this way.

The one thing we have to remember is that God is righteous, just and good. That means that everything He does is right, just and good. We can always believe and know that God will act to accomplish His purposes, which is the best thing for humans and the universe.

Next, we'll look at what happens to people who commit suicide. Check out all of the Q and A series here.

November 19, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #12--The Antichrist

How will we recognize the Antichrist?

In John's first letter, he speaks of false teachers and refers to them as antichrists. This and 2nd John are the only books in the Bible that this term, antichrist, is used.

Other books in the Bible refer to a supreme Antichrist who will come and oppose God and his people. 2 Thessalonians refers this Antichrist as a man of lawlessness, and Revelation 13 calls him the beast coming out of the sea. Daniel 7 and 9 speak of him as someone who will oppose God’s authority, oppress believers, abandon previous laws and institute his own system, and will appear as Israel’s friend, but will become Israel’s persecutor and occupy Jerusalem as the capital of his empire.

John is speaking of false teachers, but his readers would have known about the predicted ultimate Antichrist who would fulfill the image of several Old Testament passages that led to a Jewish expectation of an archenemy of God who was to rise just before the reign of the Messiah.

This individual will emerge in a time of rebellion, which in The Revelation probably refers to a revolt against God and the power of law. He will set himself up in God’s temple, sort of like a couple of Roman emperors who desecrated the temple just before and just after Christ was on earth.

The question here is, what is God’s temple? Will the Antichrist come from the Christian church or will the real temple have to be rebuilt? Or, will he simply just be in opposition to God?

The book of Revelation can be a confusing book. But, it’s not as crazy as people make it out to be. It is very specific type of literature known as apocalyptic literature, and it looks a lot like other 1st century apocalyptic literature. When you know how to read and decipher that kind of literature, a lot of questions (not all of them), but a lot of them are easier to answer. Also, realizing that John was writing this to seven churches in Asia Minor late in the 1st century helps you make more sense of what’s going on.

If someone would have said to John, "did you know that people in a land that has not yet been discovered will be reading these words 2000 years from now?", he probably wouldn’t have believed it. Remember that he thought Jesus would come back in his lifetime.

Revelation was written to 1st century Christians in Asia in the form of apocalyptic literature, and not to 21st century Americans in Mississippi. However, there is information here that is pertinent for us.

Revelation 13 gives a vivid description of a beast and a dragon and how men worshiped them. This is not a literal beast and dragon. It is imagery and metaphor. In fact, John’s audience would have probably recognized that John was referring to the Roman emperor Domitian who claimed to be either God or Nero come back to life.

Daniel gives numbers about the length of the anti-Christ’s reign, but as in most apocalyptic literature, it’s probably more safe to assume that these numbers are metaphorical and not literal. There are lots of things associated with the Antichrist, like the number 666 and the “mark of the beast”.

Lots of people try to use weird formulas and deductions to try to find the name of the Antichrist or make predictions about what the mark of the beast will one day be. Some have even pointed to things like bar codes, credit cards, and medical I.D. bracelets as the mark of the beast. So far, all of them have been wrong.

Revelation 13 mentions three evil beings: the dragon, beast #1 (from the sea) and beast #2 (from the land). Think of this as the unholy trinity that is trying to be like God. The number 666 falls short of the number that is used for God’s perfection, 777. This, then, may be a representation and not a literal number, as is common in apocalyptic literature.

Trying to discern names or figure out the mark of the beast misses the point of John’s symbolism. Trying to identify who the Antichrist might be by choosing some awful, godless person or movement in any time period is a distraction from the faithful life of following Christ that biblical apocalyptic literature consistently calls us to. You can fill hundreds of books with the names of people who have at one time or another been identified as the Antichrist, and been proved 100% wrong.

So, how will we recognize him?

We may or we may not until its too late. But, even if we did know who he was, we couldn’t stop him. When it’s God’s time for the final things to start moving into place, it’s His plan…not ours.

And, those believers who are alive when this happens, will get to see Jesus return and destroy him. So we shouldn't be upset or afraid of the Antichrist to come, because it means Jesus is right behind him.

Tomorrow we'll look at a question about children who die before they have an understanding of the Gospel. Do they spend eternity in heaven? Check out all of the Q and A series here.

November 18, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #11--Judgment

When does the great judgment happen for believers? Before they enter into heaven, or after they have been there awhile? Is there more than one judgment?

Many passages in the Bible teach about the final judgment of believers and unbelievers:

Revelation 20:11-15 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according wo what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

So when will the judgment take place?

Revelation 20 says that it will take place after what is called the millennium, where Jesus reigns on earth in peace for 1000 years, and afterward Satan is set free for one final rebellion. Fire will rain down from heaven and defeat Satan and his armies and then the great judgment will follow as described in the previous verses.

So are their two judgments, or just the one?

Well, this sort of goes back to the question of the rapture, and if you believe that there are two Second Comings of Christ. If you do believe this, then you mostly likely have to believe in at least two judgments. Here is how those who hold to this view explain their belief:

Matthew 25:31-32 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the sheep from the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats”

This is the first judgment, or the judgment of the nations. This determines who enters the millennial kingdom. There is also a judgment of the believer’s works (a.k.a., the bema judgment) where Christians will receive degrees of reward. This judgment is described in 2 Corinthians 5:10. Finally, there is the great white throne judgment where the unbelievers are punished, seen in the previous verses from Revelation.

There are problems with this view. If you read the entire passage in Matthew 25 where it speaks of Jesus separating the sheep from the goats, there is no mention of a millennial kingdom. It does, however mention eternal punishment and eternal life. So, this seems to be speaking of the same judgment as the great white throne. Also, there is no mention in Scripture of God dealing with anyone’s eternal destiny based on what nation they are from.

While many people hold to the view of different judgments, this is a fairly new theory in regards to church history. It comes from a theological system called "dispensationalism", which is widely held by many evangelicals.

My conclusion, based strictly on what the Scripture says, is that there is one judgment. Jesus is the judge (2 Timothy 4:1). At this judgment unbelievers are judged (Romans 2:5-7), believers are judged (Romans 14:10-12), the angels are judged (1 Corinthians 6:3), and also believers will play a role in the work of judging (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).

Two follow-up questions from our series:

1) Does Revelation mean 1000 years literally? Well...depends on who you ask. Apocalyptic literature is fond of using numbers metaphoricaly (as in 1000 being a "complete and whole" number), but it could very well mean literal years, too. There are people on both sides of the debate, and no one has definitive proof.

2) Aren't we judged when we die before we get into heaven? See the above answer. We are. The question stems from confusion about what happens if there is more than one judgment.

Tomorrow, we'll look at a question about the Antichrist. Check out all of the Q and A series here.

November 13, 2008

Turning Point Weekend

This weekend, I get the privilege of speaking to our Student Ministry's fall retreat called "Turning Point Weekend. Byron Malone and our Student Ministry staff do an excellent job, and I'm ecstatic to be the speaker. Several folks in our First Singles and Young Adult ministries help out, so it will be great hanging with them too.

Check out some of their creativity in these weekend promo clips:

Hat Tip to H. R. Sweat for the videos.

November 12, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #10--The Rapture

What's the deal with the rapture? How will it affect those on earth and those already in heaven?

I bet if you were honest, you'd admit that there was a time when you couldn't find someone you were looking for, or couldn't get anyone on the phone, and you secretly began to wonder if the rapture had happend, and you'd been "left behind". Admit it.

I want you to forget about all the things you’ve heard, the Left Behind books that you’ve read. Forget all those Thief in the Night movies we talked about yesterday, and I want to talk to you strictly from Scripture.

The word “rapture” never appears anywhere in the Bible. It’s from the Latin word raptus which means “caught up”. There is only one verse in Scripture that deals with the idea of believers being “caught up in the air”:

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord together.”

No text in the Bible speaks of this idea of the rapture and the Great Tribulation together. So, ideas have to be formed by taking verses from one part of the Bible and putting them together with verses from another part of the Bible. This has led people to divide themselves up into basically three camps:

Pre-tribulation View—believers will leave earth before the great persecution begins

  • There is some scriptural support for this

  • Daniel 9:20-27 is the most common passage alluded to

Midtribulation View—believers will only experience half of the great persecution

  • This one is a hard case to make from Scripture and is unlikely accurate

  • The few proponents of this view point to verses like Revelation 11:15-17 and place the rapture in Revelation 14.

Posttribulation View—believers will experience the entirety of the great persecution and Jesus will come back again

  • There is scriptural support for this

  • This view sees the events of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 happening at the same time.

I’ve now told you everything the Bible says about the rapture. But, let me tell you a couple of more things that are important for you to think about when making up your mind about what you believe about this. It’s good for you to search the Scripture and make up your own mind.

#1—If you believe that Christ will rapture the church before the tribulation begins (the whole “left behind” idea), then you must believe that Christ will have 2 "Second Comings". He will come back to rapture the church before the tribulation, then return again at the end of the tribulation to establish his kingdom on earth. This is a hard case to make from Scripture.

#2—The idea of the church being raptured out of this world before the Great Tribulation is a relatively new idea. Before the mid-1800’s, the belief that believers would disappear from earth before the tribulation began (the rapture) was completely unknown throughout the history of the church. It was proposed and made famous by an Irish evangelist named John Nelson Darby. People who we look to, even in recent church history (like Johnathan Edwards, John Wesley, John Newton, George Whitefield), these guys never heard of, nor held to this belief.

#3—the Greek word used for meeting the Lord in the air is the same word that was often used for a welcome and escort provided for a returning king or visiting dignitary to an ancient Roman city. You see this same word in the parable of the ten bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13) with them going out to meet the groom and escort him to his new bride’s parents home. It's also used in Acts 28:15 when the Roman Christians leave town to meet Paul on the highway and escort him back to their city. This suggests that Jesus will descend from heaven to earth at the second coming and that his followers will form a welcoming party to meet him part of the way and then escort him back to earth in triumph. Those on earth will meet Christ in the air, and that will be preceded by those who are in heaven somehow coming back with Christ by rising from the dead.

Again, it's important to not get too caught up in the details, but rather focus on the fact that there IS a Second Coming somewhere in the future. That means that we should try and lead as many people to go with us as possible.

Next, we'll look at what the Bible says about The Judgment at the end of this age. Check out all of the Q and A series here.

November 11, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #9--End Times

Are we seeing the end times happening right now?

You might want to grab a cup of coffee. This is going to be a little lengthy.

People freak out about the end times. How many of you have ever watched an “end times” movie growing up in church? Thief in the Night was one of the more popular ones when I was growing up. Back in the 80’s, we watched these movies made in the 70’s. They involved people disappearing in the rapture, and they would scare you to death. I couldn’t sleep for weeks.

You may not realize this, but probably a lot of what you believe about the end times is based on what someone else told you. And probably what you believe or what you have heard was not so much based on what the Bible says, but it’s based on someone's interpretation of what the Bible says.

So, as we approach this subject, don’t freak out. I want to try to give you a brief overview of what the Bible says about the end times in response to your questions, and show you what we can know for sure, and what is speculation and opinion. I’m going to simply scratch the surface of all the arguments that exist about the end times. It would take weeks or months to exhaustively examine every passage and argument, and if you're looking for more reading on the subject, I'll be happy to recommend some things for you.

So, are we seeing the end times happening right now?

Simple answer: yes we are. 100%, yes we are.

How can I be so sure?

Because we have been living in the “last days” for about 2000 years.

When the New Testament speaks of “the last days”, it is always speaking of the time between Jesus’ First Coming and his Second Coming. Something that you need to understand when you are reading the NT: every writer of the New Testament understood themselves to be living in the last days.

John 21:21—“When Peter saw him (John), he asked, ‘Lord what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.’ Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die.”

The rumor in the early church was that the apostle John would not die until Jesus returned. They thought they were living in the last days. In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was given to the believers. Peter clearly understood this to be a fulfillment of a prophecy from the book of Joel…he quotes that prophecy:

Acts 2:17—“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”

Clearly, they understood that this prophecy was being fulfilled, and that these were the last days. Peter, again:

2 Peter 3:3—“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.”

The writer of Hebrews: Hebrews 1:2—“In these last days, he has spoken to us by His Son…”

So, are we living in the end times? Yes we are.

Now, when someone asks this question, what they really mean is this: is Jesus about to come back? Right?

So, is Jesus about to come back? What does the Bible say about his 2nd coming?

1. There is one return of Christ, and it is a sudden, personal, and visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ.

  • Matthew 24:44 “So you must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

  • Acts 1:11 “[The angel said, ] ‘This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’”

  • Revelation 1:7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds and every eye will see him.”

2. We should long for Christ’s return.

  • Titus 2:12-13 “[God’s grace teaches us] to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

3. We don’t know when it is going to happen.

  • Matthew 24:44 “at an hour you do not expect”

  • Matthew 25:13 “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

Since I’ve lived in Hattiesburg, I’ve gotten 4-5 emails or pamphlets that people have sent me telling me that the things that are going on in the world today indicate that Jesus is about to return. What happens is that people take the Bible in one hand, and put the newspaper in the other, and they start connecting the dots.

You cannot decipher when Christ is return this way. It’s not a code to be cracked. If it is, then there are a lot of people who are getting mixed signals.

Many people have tried and failed to predict Christ’s return. In September 1988, Edward Whisenant said that Christ would return on the 12th. Thousands of copies of his books were sold and many otherwise sober-minded Christians read it and believed it. I remember being in Mrs. McPherson’s 5th grade class and a bunch of my friends freaking out because their parents had bought into this. Across the nation, some even pulled their kids out of school to be together as a family when Jesus came back…which he didn’t.

This kind of stuff isn’t just silly, but it’s disobedience to God’s Word. We do not know when it will happen. It is possible to have an unhealthy obsession with this kind of stuff!

My challenge to you is to figure out what you believe about end times theology, and don’t dwell on it constantly. Back to the list...

4. I said this earlier, but there is a lot of disagreement over the details of the last things. So we have to be careful about building concrete theology on passages that we are unclear about.

The Bible does, however, give us some things that will happen before Christ returns:

1. The gospel preached to all the nations

  • Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

o 2. The Great Tribulation

  • Mark 13:7 “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginnings of birth pains.”

3. False prophets doing miraculous things

  • Mark 13:22 “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles…”

4. Signs in the heavens

  • Mark 13:24 “But in those days, following that distress, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”

5. The coming of the man of sin and rebellion who is the last and worst of a series of antichrists, or false prophets, that 1 John 2:18 talks about.

6. Large numbers of Jews will trust in Christ.

  • Romans 11:25-26 “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.”

So have these things been fulfilled, or have they not? And, how can we tell?

The truth is, we don’t know. We don’t know if these things have been fulfilled, or if they haven’t. It’s possible that some have, and it’s possible that they haven’t. But we cannot say for certainty.

The best things for us to do:
1. Read and understand the Bible in context
2. Be prepared for Christ’s return
3. Be humble in our understandings and interpretations of end time events

Beware of people who see the prophecies of the book of Revelation as being fulfilled in current events. Every time throughout history that people have made these claims about the prophecies being fulfilled in their eras, they have been 100% wrong. Tthat should warn us against believing the same things in our time, too.

If someone speaks a prophecy about what God is going to do, or is doing in current events, and then they are proven wrong, then what does it make that person? A false prophet.

Eugene Petersen, the creator of The Message Bible says this in his book, Reversed Thunder: “One of the unintended and unhappy consequences of St. John’s Armageddon vision is that it has inflamed the imaginations of the biblically illiterate into consuming end-time fantasies, distracting them from the daily valor of dogged obedience, sacrificial love, and alert endurance. This is exactly what St. John did not intend as even a cursory reading of Revelation makes evident. When people are ignorant of the imagery of prophets and gospels, and untutored in the metaphorical language of war in the story of salvation, they are easy prey for entertaining predictions of an end-time holocaust…conjured up from newspaper clippings on international politics. Jesus told us quite clearly that the people who make these breathless and sensationalist predictions are themselves false Christs and false prophets that they are pretending to warn us against.”

In the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 13:1-18), prophets who spoke on God’s behalf, but then their predictions didn’t come true were stoned to death. Of course, we don’t hold to that, but that should give us reason to write them off and pay them no attention.

Deuteronomy 18:22 “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message that the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptiously. Do not be afraid of him.”

A follow-up question was asked: Is there a difference between the end times and the events described in The Revelation?

There is a view of The Revelation that says, "yes", and it is called "preterism". You can read more about it by clicking on the link. Most evangelicals, however, hold that The Revelation describes future events as opposed to past events.

As with most "end times" theology, it's a pretty complicated journey to figure all of the different views, so good luck in your endeavors.

Tomorrow, we’ll cover questions about “The Rapture”. Check out all of the Q and A series here.