“That’s all there is.”
I couldn’t believe it. Really?
I had become a believer the previous May, near the end of my freshman year in college. After spending a frustrating summer vacation back home, fending off my mother’s determined efforts to undermine my fledgling faith, I was finally back at school, eager to grow spiritually. Until two weeks prior to “accepting Jesus as my personal Savior,” I’d been a fervent atheist. I’d never even been to church. Now it seemed as if there was so much to learn about God! So I turned to the person who had answered my questions last spring.
“OK. I’m reading my Bible. I’m praying. Now what?”
And the answer came, “That’s it. That’s all there is.”
In previous two posts I’ve explained what I believe, or don’t believe, about the rapture. But why even talk about it—whether or not there’ll be a rapture? After all, our human interpretation of scripture won’t change God’s plans. Either the church will be raptured or it won’t. My opinion doesn’t change the truth.
However, our theology has repercussions. We will act differently depending on what we believe. Therefore, I need to ask, what is the fruit of our view on the rapture? Does it draw us closer to God? Does it make us more loving, more compassionate, more like Jesus?
As I mentioned last week, a sermon at church has me thinking a lot about the doctrine of the rapture. Whenever any church controversy arises, my first response is to see what God has to say about it. I started by rereading Revelation, specifically noticing the many references to believers living in the time of the Great Tribulation. There were many—see Revelation 6:11, 7:3, 7:9-15, 11:1-12, 12:17, 14:12-13, and 20:4-6. I also looked for verses about God taking the church out of the world before or during the tribulation. I couldn’t find any.
“Just believe! It’s that simple.” I’ve heard this comment so many times. Is that really all it takes to become a Christian? Is simple belief all the assurance we need that we’re heading for heaven?
Some parts of the Bible clearly support a “yes” answer to these questions. Here are a few verses (out of many possible examples):
What motivates you to pray?
A group of us were talking after church one day, and a friend declared, “I pray as a last resort, after I’ve exhausted all other possibilities.”
He clearly didn’t see any problem with that; I bet a lot of people would agree with him. As long as things are going well, as long as we think we know what we’re doing, as long as we believe we have the answers, we don’t pray. After all, God is busy and we don’t want to bother Him with the “little stuff.”
Well, I’ve learned that this is a really bad approach. There are two reasons why.
I was reading my Bible this morning when I came across these verses (Matthew 26:59-60):
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
When I’ve read this before, I’ve always dwelt on Jesus’ sinless nature, and how there wasn’t any real evidence so they had to invent something deserving of the death penalty. This morning, what caught my eye were the false witnesses.
I wondered… who were these witnesses? Did the Sanhedrin go looking for people to lie on their behalf? What would cause a person to testify falsely? Was there money involved? And in this case, they weren’t just lying. They were lying about God! We, of course, would never do such a thing!
“We know how to celebrate Christmas. We’ve got that down to a science. We just haven’t figured out how to celebrate Jesus.”
This quote is from Matt, who blogs at TheChurchOfNoPeople.com. While his posts are always thought-provoking and entertaining (yes, he manages to accomplish both!), this statement really got me thinking.
It’s true. Our culture is so bound up in Christmas that we miss Jesus. Even in the church, we sometimes focus on the Christmas program, the poinsettias for the platform, the gifts for missionaries, the songs, the turkeys for the poorer part of town, the lights, and all the other holiday accessories, that we just don’t have time for the birthday boy. Have we even invited Him to the party?
Last time I examined some reasons people give for going to church. Today I want to talk about why I go. It isn’t the singing, although that’s important. And it isn’t the sermon, although I enjoy listening and learning. It isn’t even because of the many times I’m intensely aware of God’s presence during the service, although that’s a side-effect of being together. (God meets me in other circumstances as well.)
The main reason I go to church is because that’s where the body is. Following God is something we just can’t do alone.
Why do you go to church?
I hadn’t really thought about it before… that’s what Christians do, right? But then several people challenged my assumptions, and this question has been nagging me ever since.
I didn’t always go to church. My family wasn’t “religious” and church wasn’t part of my childhood. When I became a believer, at the end of my freshman year in college, all my Christian friends assumed I’d be going to church with them—so I did. I’ve been attending church regularly ever since.
Recently, during my search for a meaningful church experience, I re-examined my purpose in attending a weekend service. What was the point? I searched through scripture, talked to friends, and read books and articles. Along the way, I learned a few things.