India. Complex. Overwhelming. Fascinating. It’s a land of flamboyant colors, intensely flavorful food, memorable odors. The city traffic is relentless—trucks, taxies, auto-rickshaws, buses, mixed with bullock-drawn carts and bicycles, motors rumbling, horns blaring. It’s a land of contrasts—city-blanketing smog comprised mainly of smoke from cooking fires, engine fumes and factory-produced dust, and blue skied villages; churches and idols; fabulous, bejeweled wealth dressed in business suits and silk saris, and too-thin families living under bridges or in back alleys. I can’t wait to get there, and I am relieved to go home again.
Should Christians be patriotic? I’ve read dozens of articles on this controversial topic over the past few years, with devoted believers with sound reasoning weighing in on both sides. I admit to getting frustrated when I go to church around July 4 and it’s all about the USA instead of all about Jesus. On the other hand, this is the country in which God has placed us. Shouldn’t we care about it?
Christianity Today magazine recently posted what I consider to be an excellent explanation of why it’s fine to be patriotic, as long as your nation doesn’t become an idol. Do you agree? You can read their editorial and decide for yourself.
For years, the church in Europe has been in decline. We speak of rising secularism, and the evidence is everywhere. Soaring cathedrals stand empty, with the buildings for sale. The German Spiegel Online reports:
Dwindling church attendance and dire financial straits are forcing the Catholic and Protestant Churches in Germany to sell off church buildings en masse. Some are demolished, while others are turned into restaurants or indoor rock climbing centers.
A cathedral in the Netherlands has been turned into a skateboard park. Others are becoming mosques.
What if you had never heard of Christmas?
Here in the U.S. almost every house in our neighborhood has some sort of decorations up. Santa is at the mall, and the stores have been pushing gifts for months. At least one radio station has been playing Christmas music nonstop since Thanksgiving. Our tree is up, the stockings are hung, and the calendar is full of invitations.
This true story about my husband is appropriate for today, Veteran’s Day, a day we honor the heroes who defend our nation. Pete isn’t a veteran, but in this age of glorified sports figures, media stars, and fictional super heroes, it’s good to stop and ask ourselves, “What is truly heroic? Who is my greatest hero?” This is a story about Pete’s.
A number of years ago, Pete traveled to India to participate in some strategy and training meetings on unreached people groups and church planting. His role was technical, dealing with computers and data. As a Silicon Valley consultant, this was his comfort zone, and he excelled in it.
God must take special pleasure in evicting us from our comfort zones. (Maybe He prefers that we depend on Him rather than our own expertise?)
A friend of mine “helpfully” posted this article on Facebook. It’s from an organization called The Christian Left. The first paragraph reads:
An epic deception has taken place over the last 35 years. Purveyors of deceit have managed to equate Christianity and right-wing ideology as one and the same in the majority of Christian minds. We know the history, but how this ever happened is unfathomable to us because the two things could not be more opposed. Right-wing ideology is selfish, greedy, arrogant, vengeful, loud, pushy, judgmental, exclusive, controlling, militaristic, aloof, void of empathy, hostile towards the weak and the sick, and many times racist, misogynistic, homophobic and Islamophobic. The list goes on. Does that sound like Jesus?
The writer went on to accuse the “Christian right” of brainwashing, false teachings, and shaming. (And then they asked for donations.)
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.
Our pastor said something the other day that really shocked me. We were in the middle of a sermon series on the book of Mark and we had reached chapter 13, about the second coming of Christ. As usual, Brady’s excellent sermon focused on the Biblical text. But before he began, he mentioned his personal position on the rapture—He doesn’t believe in it.
I was astonished. The vast majority of evangelical Christians side with authors Jim Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, and their Left Behind series, and believe that at any moment the faithful here on earth will be suddenly caught up to heaven. I’ve always felt like a bit of an apostate, since I’m not so sure I agree. I usually tell people who ask that I’m preparing to to still be here during the hard times to come, but I’d be more than happy to be excused.
One of my good friends read my “Bait and Switch” article and wrote me a thoughtful email about another kind of bait and switch that has become a significant issue in the church. She gave me permission to fill out her thoughts; the resulting collaboration is today’s post.
There is another bait and switch—not pulled off by God, but by the church—that is weakening the Body and causing dissatisfied “customers.” We, the evangelical church, are “selling” the gospel as merely therapeutic, rather than as the Good News it truly is.