Thursday, 13 November 2014

Pass the Torch? No, Just Let it Die.

I made a call today on an Anglican church. There were 2 or 3 seniors preparing for a bazaar. We talked a bit about Alpha. Nice people. One of them had done Alpha a few years ago with video's by, "Who was that guy?"

"Nicky Gumbel?" I suggested.

"Yes  that was him."

I gave him some information and my card and he walked over to place it in the Rector's mail slot. I looked into the sanctuary. It was very nice, with seating for probably about 200 or more.

"How many do you get on a normal Sunday," I asked

"Oh, a good Sunday would be about 50," he replied, "Mostly seniors. Young families seem to be so busy these days." I commiserated with him about the fact that there seem to be so many distractions on Sundays - sports and activities for the kids; so many distractions that people seem to place in priority to going to church.

"Oh, it's OK," he said, "As long as they're good people."

I don't know if he knew his church was dying, but I just said, "Thanks. Call me if I can help."

"Good people" can kill any church. Oh well, I guess the land is worth something.

Take Care

Monday, 3 November 2014

Go Figure

I have tried, for the past year or so, to avoid being overly critical, on this blog of certain, what I would refer to as 'liberal' denominations. But some things I just plain must say. I will say this as a mere statement of fact and will leave the editorial interpretation to the reader.

My new home church is now about a year and a half old. We are a group that left a mainline denomination to affiliate with ANiC, the Anglican Network in Canada. Our first facility was a local community hall but now ewe meet in a Christian High School. We are fairly stable (flat, if you are more on the pessimistic side), but growing slowly, seeing new people dribbling in, and not many leaving.

The other day I met and spoke with the pastor of another church that reminded me very much of our own situation. They split off from a local church about five years ago. They met in 6 locations in the first three years. Finally they moved in to their own permanent facility and have grown to between 300 and 400 members in the last two years.

So... a couple of things. We recently hired a part-time youth pastor and just this week were informed that our Pastoral Selection committee have found a new full-time pastor who will be joining us a couple of months into the new year.

We are also in the search for a new facility, one of our own, where we can be more settled and able to offer various ministry activities any and every day or evening of the week. We have found three potentials, and here, finally, is the point of this post. Of the three, one is that of an evangelical denomination who needs a larger facility, and has just turned the sod on a new, larger, church building.

The other two are buildings of a mainline Protestant denomination that has departed from what I would call, to quote the book of Jude, "the faith which was once for all delivered to the Saints." Both are closing their doors.

So, I look at the reasons these three buildings are available and say again,

"Go figure."

Take Care

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Tribulation?

According to my Blogger stats, most of my pageviews have to do with teachings on the end times; specifically on the pre-tribulation rapture of the church and my criticism of David Jeremiah's teaching on the subject.

The largest audience, next to the United States, is from China and the Ukraine. These are both countries where there are great difficulties at the moment. In China, there is rather intense persecution of Christians. (And may I reiterate my position, still firmly held, that China's destiny is to become a great Christian nation, and the sooner it becomes Christian, the sooner it will become truly great and the greater it will be.) In the Ukraine there is great suffering because of the current civil war there.

Much of my study and writing on the subject of end-times prophecy was when I was in the middle of a severe clinical depression. I have seen the same interest among others who would just like something to end their suffering. I believe many Christians suffering persecution or severe difficulties would be happy to see the Lord return and make all things right - not just in these countries, but anywhere they are, suffering severe physical, emotional or financial struggles. As I have said, at the worst of my own depression, at the bottom of the pit, in the darkest moments, I would have welcomed it. I would have welcomed death, although I never once thought of suicide.

So my heart goes out to these readers. My prayers are with them, as well as those suffering the severe persecution going on in the Middle East.

And for their sake I pray, in any way he chooses, "Amen, come Lord Jesus."

Take Care

Friday, 17 October 2014

Of Bureaucrats, Overregulation and Sheep (Updated)

We seem to be becoming a nation of bureaucrats and sheep. Let me try to explain what I mean. In the category of bureaucrats I include elected officials. In that of sheep, I include many of us ordinary citizens.

Bureaucrats pass laws. Sometimes, I am convinced, just to have them. It may be just in attempts to justify their existence, but I believe it is more the case that they have come into power because they are the type of people who want to enforce their will on others. And the populace as a whole often doesn't seem to question these laws. Let me give just a couple of examples, although examples seem to be everywhere one looks.

The first is secular. In my province we have photo radar. For those who may not know what I'm talking about, this involves a vehicle sitting beside a road, taking photographs of the licence plates of speeders. The speeder then will have a speeding ticket show up in the mail some time later. Officials will insist that this has everything to do with safety. I think it has almost nothing to do with safety and everything to do with income.

There has always been a, "grace spread" with these tickets. In other words, you won't get a ticket unless you exceed, say, 10 km over the posted limit. In Edmonton, this grace spread was recently reduced from 15kmh over down to under 10. Arbitrarily. No one was told, but all of a sudden people started complaining about now getting tickets where they never did before. Now, I could issue the challenge to show me one accident that could have been prevented by a difference of 5 km an hour, but that's not my main point. The letters to the editor were suddenly filled with argument from both sides, but I was amazed at how many took the position, "If you don't want a ticket, don't speed." Sheep. Not that I am trying to condone speeding, but I guess my point is that a prevailing attitude now seems to be not to examine a particular law or rule, but to accept it blindly and say that anyone who disobeys deserves their punishment. I just use the volume of opinions in favour of this photo radar business as an example.

None question whether the new practice was fair. No one questioned whether the speed limits were reasonable (there are cases where I think they are not). No one questioned whether hiding on the overpass of a 3-lane expressway, as if 2 kmh over or under the grace limit would cause or prevent an accident. Just, "There's a law. We must obey it."

My other example touches more on matters of faith. Freedom of conscience, religion and speech. A most recent example of what I mean was the story out of Houston where city council passed a motion requiring certain pastors to submit to them their sermons (now revised to speeches) addressing issues of sexual orientation and gender identity for approval. Bureaucrats in action. "Let's make a law just because we think there should be one." Overregulation.

And sheep. The sad thing, to my mind, is that there are a great many people who might think this a quite a reasonable law. The pendulum has swung so far over toward the spirit of which this law represents, that a lot of people think that anyone who differs with them should not have the right even to express a contrary opinion. The funny thing, to my mind, is that a decade ago, many of these same people probably held the same opinion they now so condemn. "Yes, I thought a certain way then, but what I think now is right, and you don't have the right to still think the same way I thought then."

Another example is the arrest, documented here, of a couple of protesters at the University of Regina. They were protesting homosexuality (which I think is pointless) and abortions (which I think is not.) What I found interesting were the comments of students near the end of the video clip. One said, "We believe in diversity - they don't." So they should be arrested? Apparently her belief in diversity applies only to those who agree with her. Another said protests were okay as long as they didn't "infringe on anyone's quality of life," whatever subjective interpretation can be applied to that nebulous phrase.

And these sheep will one be the bureaucrats. Just my interesting speculation.

Take Care

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Want Freedom From Religion?


“I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.” Richard Dawkins. (Ruth Gledhill, Scandal and schism leave Christians praying for a ‘new Reformation’, The Times (UK), 2 April 2010)

The, "Freedom from Religion" people, and others who consider it their mission to remove Christianity from the Western public square would be wise to pause and consider: If Christianity is expunged from our society it will not be replaced by nothing. The vacuum will quite likely be filled by something much more sinister, less tolerant and not so willing to be ignored.

The key to the true face of any religion is not how it behaves when it is in the minority, but what it does when it has power. Having just said that in a general sense, compare the rights of Muslims in Christian-majority countries with the rights of other religions in Muslim-majority nations.

I think I can safely rest my case. I see no reason to believe it would be any different here should that situation ever come to be. #ISIS

This is not Islamophobia; it's just my perception of reality.

Take Care

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Some Things Are True...


I often think of Nicholas Cage's final line in this clip from the movie, 'City of Angels'. I wouldn't say it was a Christian movie, in fact, far from it, but I think this quote fits very well with the Christian faith. It is one that all atheists would be wise to consider. I think I will probably post it on my Alpha blog as well.

Take Care

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Is It Alright For a Christian to Lie?

I was making calls on Alpha churches this morning. At one church was a fellow working on his car in the parking lot. I asked if he was part of this church. He said he used to go there, but he was not the pastor. (I knew that, because I know the pastor.) He said he now has a calling to visit various churches and seek out false teaching. Well... OK...

I told him I was with Alpha. He said he had seen the Alpha course and there were areas of it with which he was uncomfortable. I asked him what one area of concern might be and he said he couldn't think of any right off the bat.  Finally he said he thought that Nicky Gumbel lumped all churches together, including the Catholic church. This fellow was unfortunately one of those who consider the Catholic Church to be evil. All I said to this was that in my travels I had met many wonderful Spirit-filled Catholics in wonderful Spirit-filled parishes. (I am, after all, an Alpha leader and trained not to get into arguments.) He actually agreed magnanimously that there might be true Christians in the Catholic Church.

I don't know how the subject started, but the conversation turned to whether or not it was OK for a Christian to lie. I said I thought that it was sometimes alright for a Christian to do so. The actual commandment (the 9th) that most people take as a prohibition against lying is actually not a blanket prohibition. It says you shall not bear false witness (give false testimony) against your neighbour. In my opinion this is a fairly specific prohibition against exactly what it says, not a general prohibition of not telling the truth in any and every circumstance. He disagreed adamantly, of course.

I didn't have my Bible with me, and my phone (with a Bible app) was in my car, but I did mention that I thought God had told Moses to lie to Pharaoh, and that Rahab was commended for lying to protect the Israelite spies, but I didn't have specific references at hand.

I do now. In Exodus 3: 18, God tells Moses:
...you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.
When in fact there was no intention of taking a mere 3 day journey. We know that Rahab lied to the authorities about the whereabouts of the Israelite spies (Joshua 2) and was rewarded for it. In Hebrews 11:31 and in James 2:25 she was actually commended and "considered righteous" for it.

I think this gives good Scriptural evidence for my point. Anybody think differently?

Take Care    

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Rapture


I'm amazed that by far the most page views on this blog have to do with the Rapture that I posted years ago. So in order to fill this space, and perhaps give these readers something more to see, I will post a few more posts on the subject. These are from a book I wrote a number of years ago when I actually took an active interest in the subject. Lately, you will know that my attention has been on Alpha and reaching out to others with the good news of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. But to let you in on what I once studied, and to share my thoughts from that time, here, and possibly a few posts following, are some more thoughts on the Rapture of the Church.For the Christian believer what is known as the Rapture is the most climactic event in all of end time prophecy:  what is known as the "Rapture".
 
The word 'Rapture' does not occur in the Bible, but the concept certainly does.  The term itself is taken from the Greek word meaning 'caught up'.  The doctrine of the Rapture is this: there will come a time during these end-time events when the church, every living Christian believer, will be caught up into the air to be with Jesus along with the resurrection of every saved person who has ever lived.  It will occur before the wrath and judgment of God is poured out upon a wicked and rebellious world. 
There are those who don't believe in a literal Rapture, or even in a literal Millennial Kingdom, but to do so one must disregard the clear teachings of Scripture.  There are also those who hold to a post-millennial Rapture, that is, that the church will not be raptured until the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, but this too, I believe, is unscriptural.
 
I believe the Bible clearly teaches that there will be a pre- millennial Rapture, that it will occur before God sends His righteous wrath upon the unbelieving world, before Christ returns in judgment and before he sets up his 1000 year kingdom here on earth.  But that's not the end of the discussion.  Even among premillennialists, there are a number of views as to the exact timing of the event.  These include:
Posttribulationism; the Rapture will occur when Christ returns at the end of the seventieth week to judge the world. According to this view, when Christ reaches the air above the earth at his second coming, the church will be raptured up to meet him and then return immediately with him to earth.  It assumes that the church will go through the entire final seventieth week.  I think it can also be proven false by analyzing scripture.
 
Pretribulationism; the Rapture will occur sometime before the last seven year period of history begins, that is, before the Antichrist signs the covenant signaling the beginning of the seventieth week.  Some even feel that it will occur even before the Antichrist begins to consolidate his power by overthrowing three of the ten rulers in the final world empire.
     Let me give you a couple of verses that holders of this position use to back up this view.  1 Thessalonians 1:10.
 
"...to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from  the dead -- Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come."
 
1 Thessalonians 5: 9.
 
"For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."
 
One more, Revelation 3: 10, from the letter to the Church in Philadelphia.
 
"Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I  will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.
 
Each of these verses seem to indicate that the church will not suffer the wrath of God that is to be poured out on the world as part of Christ's second coming, and I must say that I think that is a correct interpretation.  God’s wrath was already poured out, on our behalf, on Christ, on the cross. However, I'm going to tip my hand here and say that, although the 'Pre-trib' position is probably the currently most popular one, I don't think it's correct.  I'm afraid it may be wishful thinking. It was not considered in the early church and in fact did not appear as a theory until the early 1800's.
 
Midtribulationism; that the church will be raptured exactly at the mid-point of Daniel's seventieth week, when the Antichrist sets himself up in the Temple, declaring himself to be God.  This is the event which signals the beginning of the time of 'Great Tribulation'.  This and the next position rely on the interpretation that the time of God's wrath does not begin at the beginning of the seventieth week, but only at the mid-point or sometime after.
 
The Pre-wrath position; this falls somewhere between the mid- and post-tribulation positions.  It teaches that the Rapture takes place sometime after the mid-point of the seventieth week, but before the wrath of God begins.  It holds that the church will go through a period of tribulation and persecution by the Antichrist following the mid-point of the seventieth week, but that this period of great tribulation will be cut short "...for the sake of the elect...", as Jesus tells us in Matthew 24: 22, and we will be raptured just before the day of the Lord judgment is poured out upon the unbelieving world.  This was the opinion of many of the early Church Fathers and this, in the author's opinion, is the correct position. I'm sure many people will disagree with me, so we will spend some time trying to discern just what the Bible actually teaches.
 
Let me first say that our God is the Sovereign Lord of the Universe.  He is accountable to no one.  Whatever He has ordained, that is what will take place, and if what you or I happen to believe turns out to be different from what actually happens, well, we know who was right and who was wrong.  This issue of the timing of the Rapture can tend to be a highly emotional one, with firmly and passionately held views, and so I would urge that it not become a point of violent argument.  We do not need to divide over this issue, and true, born again Christian believers who hold to any one position are just as saved as those who believe another.  In fact, the Rapture will happen when it will happen.  It's just that some of us may be more surprised than others when it happens.

It is crucially important, though, that we not allow ourselves to be mistaken or deceived on this.  If it is to be a pre-trib Rapture, that is what it will be.  We will all be pleasantly surprised, including myself.  However, if (and this is very important) --if it is not, then all those who have been assured and have accepted that the church will not enter the seventieth week may not be prepared if and when they do. Indeed, if we blindly accept popular teaching that we will not be here when the Antichrist is revealed, many may not even believe that it is the Antichrist when he does come. They may say, "No, this couldn't be him, because I've always been told that we would be raptured before he came."  This, as you can well imagine, would be a deadly mistake.  We could be in the seventieth week and many people might not even be aware of it. As you know, there are certain events which will occur within that seven years which Christians, if we are here, have to be ready for.  This is one of the main reasons I'm doing this analysis; to try to prepare those who will listen for what may happen.  It is essential that the Body of Christ be prepared when (or if) these things do come to pass.  Even those who teach the pre-trib position, I feel, do the church a disservice if they insist that theirs is the only possible position.  They should at least acknowledge the possibility that there are other options and they could be wrong.

More to come.

Take Care