Category: Theo…

Reding the Bible in a week

On occasion the Holy Spirit, whose operations are mysterious no doubt, taps you on the shoulder. The tap is often a kind way of saying you need to do something different or correctly. This occurred when on a spiritual retreat. I wanted to try something different by reading through the whole Bible in one week. Right up from I got a tap on the shoulder that I was reading it wrong. Here are some things that stood out when going through the whole book.

You’re likely not the hero
We like to identify with the protagonist in the story, and not the mob. Chances are very good that we’d be like the mob. Reading through the Bible will break you and it will challenge whatever perspective of the Bible you hold. Rather than asking how people in the Bible could make the mistakes they make, ask yourself how you could make those same mistakes. Why? Because we do. The Bible was written to people like you in me. Different time and culture, but many of the same challenges.

Scope and Sequence
In reading through the Bible in a week, aim to see the big picture of what is going on. Speed read it. The win isn’t details, it’s the big picture. If something catches your attention, flag it to study later. In hitting the New Testament I suggest this order: Matthew, Hebrews, Galatians, Revelation, and then the rest in order. Coming fresh off the Old Testament, those books in the New Testament will make a TON more sense. But first, pray and tell God that you’re going to listen and keep you mouth shut. Bible reading is ultimately about listening to God. For me, the process took about 6-8 hours of 216ish pages a day.

Random thoughts
Reading from beginning to end is interesting. Genesis carries a lot more weight than we realize, as do the first five books. God’s standard is perfection in every sense of that term. This is massive when suddenly in the New Testament Jesus touches people who were forbidden in the temple. The prophets will depress you. Even heroic moments ultimately become let downs. But before that lets you down, there are the writings. Those books show how things can be done. Psalms is a pain to read. Great content, but repetition of various phrases make it challenging reading. The Gospels are a breath of fresh air! The New Testament carries common themes from the Old, but Jesus gives TONS of up. Things move ahead.

Gratefulness
Reading through the Gospel makes you VERY thankful for the Gospel. Without the Gospel we are very stuck. What is also amazing is how gracious and merciful God is throughout the entire Bible. The mean curmudgeon feeling we associate with God in the Old Testament isn’t there. God is truly the loving father who doesn’t give up on his family, even when his family abuses or takes advantage of him.

Always old
The key message from God nearly always been an old story of hundreds if not thousands of years old. We ask the question of why we should listen to a book that is 2,000 years old. But that comment could easily be made in Noah’s day, Abraham’s, Moses’, Davids, and Jesus’ day. But given this span of time, God’s Word became more and more fulfilled…literally.

You are loved
A repeated phrase throughout the Bible is God’s love endures forever. It is a major theme in the Bible. If God chose to orient himself with humanity through the lens of justice, we would not exist. Instead God chose the lens of grace and mercy. A BIG reason for the chaos we live in now is God wants you to be a part of his family. God willingly endures what he hates to get what he most loves, and that is you. God doesn’t give up on those he loves.

The bottom line:
Take the time to read through the whole Bible as fast as you can. It may seem intimidating, but it is very refreshing. While it will break you, scare you, it will also leave you feeling incredibly loved. Ultimately the Bible is about God revealing himself and being available to us all. Even when we try to run from him.

Why the church is doing just fine…

img_4099The crying out on the state of the church is huge, massive, and honestly misplaced. Much of it stems from the impression that we control the church instead of Jesus. In a conversation with a person decrying the status of the North American church, I stated: “You know you’re talking about Jesus’ bride, right?” There is a lack of humility in how many Christians treat the church. All of that to say, I think the church is in a much better position than we think. Even given the crazy election cycle.

Election’s call to wake up
Of all the elections I’ve been able to observe, the saints exercised the most discernment I’ve seen in a long time. Much of this has to deal with how to vote when the field is very bleak. This woke Christians up to a new reality of what voting really is and what it really isn’t. Better still, it is waking the church up to the realization that many have sold their soul to a political party rather than their boss, Jesus. Both left and right of center Christians are in a quandary. This seems scary, but it is a good thing for the church. The Bible places a high value on discernment.

This isn’t home
Another big win I am seeing in the church is the focus on being on mission. The elections gave more speed to this, but over all the church is refocusing on something critical: Heaven. Understanding than national politics is a wrong course to take, but local politics is a wide open door, there is a change in focus on how to make our communities better places to live. This focus on the betterment of our cities is welcomed, and it is where the rubber meets the road. The over-emphasis on the macro-good sacrificed too many day to day good things we can and should be doing.

We are growing
While the church growth rate of 1% for evangelical churches is not as fast as we’d like, it does mean we are doing more than just keeping up with population growth. While over all the church is in decline in America, the evangelical church, which is my primary concern, is become more nimble and healthy. A season of pruning for the North American Church is a very good thing. Pruning often leads to more growth.

Social Gospel is back in a good way
The norm of church history is to over compensate. The church being involved and concerned for social justice issues is a welcomed sight. The Bible is more than just Jesus loves me. It is also how to help out our neighbors. Some churches made the social gospel THE gospel. This was wrong, just as ignoring social justice issues wrong. We need to be at work to speak for the defenseless and to be a voice of reconciliation, which is a core concept of the Gospel. We are realizing we can be involved in social justice while not ignoring the source of true justice, Jesus.

Cr0ss-generational
Churches being stratified based on age seems to be eroding. This is a great thing given the call we see in Titus 2 for older saints to invest in younger saints. There is a shift happening where people realize that tradition was not the enemy, but apathy is. The move towards high church or liturgy comes as we realize it is training in righteousness instead of stale repetitiveness. In a culture of chaos and instability, the church is finding its bedrock the practices of saints of old. The move towards church as family is welcomed.

Work to be done
Make no mistake, there is much work to be done. Ethnic reconciliation needs to be more effective. The idolatry of consumerism is a battle. Biblical literacy needs to be greatly improved. Living holy lives while not being legalistic is still an issue we struggle with. But over all, I see more good than ill in Christ’s church. I’m frankly more excited for the church in the days ahead. Paradigm shifts are hard and messy, but the ones happening in the church are good and noble.

The bottom line:
The church is much better off than many give credit for because God is at work building His church. With all the talk of issues we are having, we have forgotten all the amazing things God is doing. Growing into a God glorifying, healthy church is hard work, and it is very messy. Honestly, we have too many critics of the church and not enough cheerleaders. We’re doing well, so let us excel still more.

The opposite of freedom is tyranny

IMG_2306I’ve had many conversations with believers who hold socialistic views from a seemingly biblical standpoint. While the marriage of church and state is disaster, it is essential for both to be in the public square. The marriage of church and state is disaster, yet too many vouch for that idea. Secularism/socialism is also disaster. What is a biblical solution to this seeming paradox? Freedom! Freedom is a consistent theme throughout Scripture. Ultimately, tyranny is the absence of God whereby humanity rejects God and is unable to govern itself. Socialism has the appearance of justice, but in the end it is anything but just.

Socialism is government codified legalism
Are you for or against legalism? The answer is obvious, a whole book of the Bible decries the false gospel of legalism. Why then, if for freedom’s sake Christ set us free, would we yield to a governmental structure that is legalistic? The common thread I am hearing from “christian socialists” is not congruent with biblical thought. This is often couched in the “tax the rich” or “universal healthcare” discussions. For, those with more should help those with less. Such is a true biblical principle, but not when mandated. Forced outward conformity does not produce inward change. Besides, there are selfish socialists too. Further, people can covet power as much as money.

Socialism is stealing not generosity
“Tax the wealthy to lower interest rates for college students.” If one were to take money from a wealthy person to pay for a nobel thing such as education, one would be in jail for stealing. The money was not theirs. If one could get the government to tax that money away, which is still not theirs, such is considered ‘noble.’ This coercion may give the appearance of generosity, but lacks the heart change God is concerned with. It is forcibly taking one’s private property and giving it to another. The justice of this is questionable at best.

Self interest is not selfishness
The problem with “christian socialism” is the merging of self-interest with selfishness. The acquisition of wealth to leave an inheritance is wise. Being stingy and lacking generosity is unwise, especially concerning the poor, as one is to love their neighbor. If by coercion we take what is not ours via the government, how then does a person have the resources they desire to help their neighbor, friends, and family? When you or I are forced by coercion our compassion decreases, not increase.

Ponder this…
Write down a couple of people or families you wish you do more to help. With that in mind, about 40-50+% of our money earned goes to taxes. Moving more towards socialism means more will need to be taken from you. Pretend you’re rich, and in the name of justice the government takes more of your revenue, inhibiting your ability to help your neighbor. By having less of your money, you’re ability to build a business to employ others is diminished. Ask this question: How do African-American families, who have been gravely wronged from past sins of our country, build up generational wealth? It is in the self interest of our families to build wealth and security. It is also in our self-interest to be generous with our wealth to those in needs. Socialism inhibits both.

The Big 10
The Bible teaches private property. Do not steal, and do not covet make little sense without such. People have equal dignity or do not murder, the Sabbath, and not bearing false witness makes little sense. God will judge, or the first couple commandments make no sense. In his judgments both nations and people are included. The core is actions based on an inward belief system. If we become a “christian socialist” nation, does our outward performance match the nation’s heart or will our nation be judged for taking that which was not ours? Will we be judged for ruling as the gentles do?

Acts and all things in common…
Acts describes sacrificial generosity, not socialism. The church started with nothing and holding to “the way” was socially unacceptable. The radical sacrifice from a changed heart, not governance, allowed the church to be established. Because of this Gospel a greater concern- people’s salvation- was at heart. Now whether a prisoner, slave, workman, employer or rich, the issue was mutual respect under the equality of the Gospel AND to use one’s station in life as a platform to share the Gospel.

The Gospel is shrewd
In the Gospel and becoming more like Jesus, the issue of slaves submitting to their masters and teaching on contentment is not an endorsement on slavery to the neglect of freedom. It is a keen shrewdness centered on heart change. Submission to government is not a blind thing, but rather a shrewdness of “overcoming evil with good.” Why? Ultimately the Gospel is the truest source of freedom. And the promotion of that freedom doesn’t come from claiming rights, but rather in loving submission. Not blindly, but with wisdom and shrewd living. In the Gospel we have freedom. In that freedom we willingly set aside rights and property to spread the Gospel. Not by compulsion, but as free people.

The bottom line:
Freedom is an efficient mess and tyranny is inefficient graveyard. Only God can rule justly, and given our fallen state, only freedom can pragmatically counterbalance our propensity to tyranny. Socialism, as a Christian choice for governance, is essentially codified legalism. It may give the outward appearance of justice, but it fails the heart. The inefficient reality of socialism will ultimately lead grave injustice. In the name of justice, socialism will erode our ability to love our neighbor, and act in the self-interest of our family and friends. Let’s be a voice for freedom.

Secularism and the problem of humanity

DSC_0057I am not surprised. The news that broke this week about Planned Parenthood is a natural outgrowth of secular thought. Just as superiority of a certain ethnicity is an outgrowth of evolutionary thought. Treating aborted babies as a cash crop is consistent. Stating the alternative of just throwing ‘it’ away a dry juxtaposition on an empty system. We must realize that secularism is not morally neutral.

Religion as a whole has its problems. Though by religion in North America people usually mean Christianity. After all, the voice of the church was not loud when slavery was around, though there were Christians and churches that decried the barbarism. The ills of the past are often thrown in Christianity’s face. Such misses the point of Christianity, but that is for another day. In reality the problem is not religion specific, but of the marriage of church and state that is the issue. What is often decried as “church” was really “state” in past history.

That is the past, let us focus on recent history. In the 20th century secularism took on greater vigor. As evolutionary thought exploded and theologically conservative Christians (unwisely) abandoned centers of cultural influence, secularism blossomed with greater speed. Along with the explosion of secularism was the political movement of socialism/communism/fascism. Society formed a spectrum of tolerance whereby religion was either forbidden, ‘tolerated to a point,’ or said to only be placed in one’s private life, not the public square. The premise of this form of thought is fairness, justice, and what is best for society as a whole. Humanity paid a price.

Racism now had scientific backing, not just a mere political/colonialism one. In the name of the greater good and the shelving to outright forbidding religion the human soul was lost. Religion was no longer to “force” it’s views on morality, though morals were being forced on everyone through secular society: Conform or be labeled and destroyed. In this seemingly progressive period of history, racism fell out of favor, though the strongest supporters of secularism and racism still had cards to play: government and “best for society.”

The slavery of the confederacy was outlawed, and the KKK type things were formed. These too slowly fell out of favor, but eugenics and then the abortion issue came into vogue as KKK types lost favor. Social safety nets also formed under the nobility of the “war on poverty.” Going against the wisdom or the effectiveness of such social help programs is to be going against the poor. Going against abortion is to be on the wrong side of the war on women. Standing for morality based on a religious premise is to be like the racists of the past, except such people are not.

In the United States, slavery, the Confederacy, the KKK, Socialism, Secularism, and Planned Parenthood have one common ancestor. Globally secular and evolutionary thought pays a common price. In recent history secularism slaughtered millions. In the name of the common good or even choice a terrible price was paid: people can be less than human. And when people are less then human, discarding such lesser beings is consistent both scientifically or for the common good. Harvesting human body parts from abortions instead of dumping them in the trash is not unreasonable. The wretchedness of such a juxtaposition is lost upon secularism. Gone (maybe, doubtfully) is the racism, but the pillar of racism isn’t: that a group of people can be less than human.

Secularism is not the answer, for in it we have more people slaughtered than any event in history of mankind, minus the flood. If avoiding religion brings the slaughter of millions, and the abuse of religion brought on its own tragedies, what then is the solution? For humanity could not live up to the ideals of religion, nor could humanity live up to its own ideals in secularism. Racism is bad, that is nearly universal now, but abortion kills more African Americans than any other type of death, bar none. Our social safety nets have destroyed families and heaped upon us the problem of absent fathers. Fatherless homes have a massive impact on crime, mental health, the economy, and education. We now live in the mess created in large measure by secularism. What, then, is the solution?

The misunderstanding of Christianity is that the church is perfect. The church is not perfect, but it is about being perfected by the only one who can change us. The good news, known as the Gospel, is that Jesus showed us a better way to solve problems: Loving sacrifice. Jesus demonstrated this by dying on a cross, though he is innocent, for our sins, though we are guilty. The concept of freedom comes from God and specifically the person of Jesus. For freedom’s sake Christ set us free. Government or secularism cannot solve humanities ills, nor can religion.

Can there be good and nobel secularists? Yes. But, there cannot be a good and noble secular society. Secularism is not morally neutral and has it’s own sins to atone for. But justice and the good of society cannot come at the price of our humanity. We bear the image of God. All people of all ethnicities do. If this were not true, than why did Jesus say go into all the world and preach the Gospel? The greatest mark of equality is not by law, but by Jesus. The only answer for religion and secularism’s ills is the forgiveness that Jesus already provided. There is no other way to balance the scales of justice. Humanity’s sin is too great.

Who turned out the lights for a brighter future?

Stained Glass Window
by Hauki-

Every once in a while an article or articles you post online blows up your feed. Clearly, lighting in a worship center is a sensitive issue. In the ground swell of discussion there are a few concerns and patterns that need to be addressed. The lighting issue is a symptom of a greater issue within the North American Church, issues we do need to repent of.

One God, sneaky idols…
Churches worship methods as Christians worship preferences. While churches decry consumerism, Christians can point out the out of balance focus on methodology. Shedding light on modern idols is essential. We should operate from our theology and not our methodology. Methods change, who God is does not. On the individual side, church is not a commodity or business, it is a family. Being the church via one’s preferences misses a major point in the Bible: It’s not about you. Let us be frank: method worship and preference worship are major idols we the church need to remove.

One family, many discussions…
We are too quick to end discussions, as if the truth is already clearly known or understood. We are too quick to take offense. For example: The no light crowd pounces on the non-biblical issue with a side of evangelism. The all light all the time crowd brings out the design and Bible issue. Boom. Then there are people on the entire spectrum who say we shouldn’t discuss such things as there are more important issues. All three shutter discussion that is healthy and important. As Christians we stop discussion way too often and to our hurt. Cue the passages that talk about listening.

One creator, numerous stories…
Design communicates. Design matters. How we act as a church communicates our message as much or more so than what we say. For instance: Try communicating about Jesus’ birth in a brightly lit room, or discuss heaven in a dimly lit dark one. In both these scenarios the environment is antithetical to the story. Both these stories also need to be communicated with utmost clarity. We must stop treating the arts, such as design, as a non biblical, minor issue. Our mission to clearly communicate and proclaim who God is requires that such be brought under the light of our theology to reach a darkened world. After all, artists are a part of the body of Christ.

One church, open back doors…
In the last few decades there is a price the church paid: the de-churched. The idolatry, shuttering of discussion, and schizophrenic views on the arts cost the church too much. After all, we are family. Perhaps church growth would improve if our back doors were what we shuttered and not discussion, if we valued the glory of God more and our little kingdoms less. We can open our front doors more with artistic brilliance as more darken the seats of our worship centers. That is a worthy discussion, but there are sins we as a church family must repent of first. We’ve already paid too high a price.

The bottom line:
How we light our churches is not a big deal. How we discuss it shines a light on a dark stains the blood of Christ can easily wipe clean. While lighting may not be significant, there is too deep a price we paid. So, why not have the discussion and let the grace which God lavished on us and predestined before the foundations of the world conform us to the image of His son. Why not focus on the long-suffering and patience aspects of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. As a family we can and must do better.

Church would be better if people thought like and agreed with me!

Coffee-LoveI finally found the solution to ALL the church’s problems! For sure this will be a chapter in my up and coming book “Humility and how I achieved it.” Oh wait! I do have a chapter about that! Let me be frank, cause I love you. Church has a big y’all don’t agree with me issue. Here is what I mean:

Be a cheerleader
That’s right. Start off by trying to encourage people not be a critic. (Yeah, some of you preacher boys should just stop reading right now and focus on this part.) We all have too many critics but not enough cheerleaders. My critics practically killed me! Cheerleading is a choice.

Be loving
There is nothing more comfortable than being around a loving person. That person may even point out where you’re wrong, like a loving mommy saying “you’re not wearing that are you!?” while baking you epic chocolate chip cookies. Seriously, love comforts. Don’t pour gas on a bad situation. Bring about peace and comfort. That’s what I do.

Be a team
You live as a team or you die as a team. Period. Work together. I do believe the Spirit is readily available to help with this. After all, if we don’t row together alike a team… Work it out and be a team. Easy to do when the above is true! So, get in line and be like me!

Be Loyal
We have affection and and sympathy for people we are loyal to. An we even do that for friends of our friends. So, care about the people I care about.

Be one
Here is what it comes down to: You need to have the same mind and love as me. Really. Church would be so much better this way. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this whole thing is be in arrogant. “Oh course everything in church would be better if we thought like you, duh!” “You’re just thinking of yourself! What about diversity all?” My response? You’re just thinking about you. In fact, you think church would be better if people were one with you and not me.

Why I’m right and you should be like me
I could have had the good life, but I didn’t. I sacrificed and worked hard just like you do. But, I did it for you and not myself. I put up with a lot. And frankly, it killed me. You humiliated me and being in this job I got blamed for things I didn’t even do. But hear me out. There is a day coming when everyone will agree that I am right and people should be like me. Mark my words: everyone.

The bottom line:
This chapter is called Philippians Chapter Two. My brother Paul wrote it for me. (If y’all think like and agree with him you’ll be well on your way to being like me.) Humility is the KEY! So, what church to be better? Be humble like me. It’s the only thing that work.

Love you all!
~Jesus

Get to work! A perspective on prophesy

IMG_0852“It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” ~Jesus

Given the news of late and also preparing for an up and coming sermon series, some people raised questions on how events relate to prophecy. This tendency is one of the great dangers of dispensationalism and Christian belief in general. (While dispensationalists are often the straw man for prophecy issues, they’re really a human nature thing.)

Why prophecy?
God gave prophecy to exhort us to live holy, worshipful and servant-minded lives. His interests were not so much in knowing the future but in resting in Him who is in control. In times of dire consequence, God offered pieces of His plan to comfort. Meaning? God is demonstrating that He is in control. However, our focus shouldn’t be on the events but on God and walking in His ways.

Is it now? Are we there yet?
Before Jesus ascended back to heaven the disciples asked if now was the time for the kingdom. Jesus said to not worry about it, but instead gave them a mission. This may seem odd given all the teachings of Jesus exhorting people to read and understand the times. This seemingly paradoxical response is followed by more prophecy down the road. Like the Old Testament, prophecy pointed to a God who is in control and a call to holy, servant-minded living.

But…
Chill out. Love and serve your neighbors. Preach the Gospel boldly. Prophecy isn’t so we can sit in the grand waiting room we call a worship center and listen to Christian music while waiting for Jesus to return. Prophecy is a call for us to make disciples until Jesus does return. With all the news coming about of late remember Acts 1:7 and get to work on Acts 1:8!

The bottom line:
Many times throughout history current events lined up with aspects of Scripture. Rather than fear or trying to figure out the answer, we must respond to prophecy by boldly proclaiming the Gospel. The details of God’s plan is none of our business. God shared enough to give us hope, show he’s in control and point us to a mission. Now, go finishing the mission God called you to. Get to work!

The great divorce: Belief from action

IMG_0349Ask a dumb question and you’re bound to get a bad answer. In the vast online discussion on living for Christ one such questions is rampant. What is more important: theology or how we live? Let me be frank, it’s a dumb question. Why? We act (live) based on what we believe (theology).

God to Joshua
God tells Joshua that he MUST be absorbed with the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible). Why? That Joshua may be careful to do all that is written in it. The result is success. God did not distinguish between action and belief, He called for both. Right actions flow from right thinking. God designed us as theological & philosophical beings. Theology and philosophy are intensely pragmatic because it’s the source of our actions.

Paul to Timothy
A key theme Paul wrote to Timothy was to guard both ministry (living) and doctrine (theology). This theme echoes the idea that God instructed Joshua. Either bad theology or bad living will undercut our mission of making disciples. This is a tension in life that is best left in place. Resolving this tension, which is too often done, creates a bigger mess. Poor Christian living is often a result of bad theology.

The other words of Christ in red…
Jesus makes this point as well. In the seven letters to the churches in Asia Minor Jesus upholds the value of upholding correct theology and living. Jesus calls out the error in either direction and praises success in either direction. While incorrect, people often value the words of Christ in red as more important than the other Holy Spirit (who is also God) parts of the Bible. Hilariously, people often forget the red words in Revelation. Jesus will judge our actions and doctrine.

This divorce hurts our kids
When we focus on belief vs action we lose the ESSENTIAL third rail of proclamation. God wants to be known and made known. The belief vs action debate is inherently self-focused. God upholds correct theology and correct living because He wants us to make Him known. It’s time to hang up the “preach the Gospel and when necessary use words.” God wants us to use words. Bad theology and bad living will undercut our sharing that message. Our focus should be on our spiritual children and grand children.

The trinity
God the Father has a plan. Part of that plan is making Himself known to us. Life is not about us. God leads for His own name’s sake! God gave us the Bible (special revelation) so He could be KNOWN (theology). God the Son acted as a servant to point people to the Father. (He also did a lot of theology.) In communion this aspect of servanthood is demonstrated as we take the bread that symbolizes Jesus’ body which is for us. Becoming like Jesus is fundamentally servanthood (action). God the Spirit empowers God’s plan and living like Christ. The Spirit is our third rail. Acts 1:8 points this out. The Spirit leads us to not just live well, but to make God known (proclamation).

The bottom line:
We act based on what we believe. This drives us to share with others who God is by the power of the Spirit. Being like Jesus involves correct theology AND correct living for upholding our message of a risen savior. Don’t get stuck with the dumb question of belief vs living. Ask this question: Is my theology and life such that I can boldly proclaim the excellencies of Him who came as a servant, died innocently for our sin, rose victoriously on the third day and will soon return as King to make all things new?

Sacrificial Service: Isaiah 53

1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
English Standard Version

End times: Why it matters & Why I’m a ‘dispensationalist

Our view of death determines our view of life. Biblical teachings on end times, known as eschatology, is essentially a Christian view of death. The recent trends to avoid or downplay this teaching is unhealthy. Over emphasizing the doctrine is also unhealthy. In the push away from end times I’m often asked why I am a Dispensationalist. My reply is I’m a little ‘d’ not a big ‘D’ because I don’t emphasize the doctrine or focus on the current possible details. The short answer: in studying scripture, it’s what I see it teaching. I submit we should not shy away from end times.

It’s taught in scripture
Avoiding the end times parts of the Bible is to miss significant teachings of Scripture. In Matthew 16, Jesus chides the religious leaders for being able to determine the weather but were clueless on “the signs of the times.” Paul taught on the rapture, whatever view you take on it, to a baby church plant. He then wrote twice to that baby church to clarify end times teaching. The book of a Revelation is all about end times. The Bible does give us a framework and does teach on the end times. It does not give us a specific time table and tells us to not worry about timing (Acts 1:7).

It’s a matter of encouragement and perspective
The rapture and Revelation give us both encouragement and perspective. These essentials are lost if we avoid the end times. The rapture is meant to encourage us when a saint dies. (A strong argument for pre-tribulational rapture.) We don’t mourn as others do because death is a temporary state. The end times give us the needed perspective so we can practice blessing people instead of returning evil for evil. A HUGE part of end times is God balancing the scales of justice of a world filled with injustice. How can I bless those who persecute me when a I’m faced with injustice? The end times gives us the perspective of why.

It’s a matter of God’s character
I’m a Dispensationalist because I think Israel means Israel in the Bible. As Hosea illustrates, God will go after and redeem national Israel as Hosea redeemed his wife from prostitution. I’d submit that spiritualizing Israel in the New Testament makes the Bible ludicrous. Why? What assurance of salvation do we have if God wrote off Israel? This is the issue Romans 9-11 addresses. Further, Paul makes a clear distinction between national Israel and Gentiles in Romans 11. God’s treatment of Israel gives confidence in His treatment of us and the church. God is the God of second chances, of grace, and He keeps His Word.

It’s a matter of our character
Paul’s states in Romans 11 that we should be careful as God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare us. Much rejection of Dispensationalsim is arrogance of the grafted in branches. End times keeps us humble before God. For sure humans tend toward arrogance. Churches often become arrogant as well. In Acts 1:7 Jesus didn’t say there is no kingdoms of Israel, he said the timeline was none of our business. In Revelation Israel is specifically mentioned as well as mentions of various nations. End times is a check on our character.

It’s a matter of faith
Hebrews 11 has an end times perspective. It is true that the big issue in theology is a matter of interpretation, but not all views are valid. I believe in the plain interpretation of the Bible, meaning what the author intends to communicate is the meaning. All other viewpoints have no true bearing in how to interpret Scripture. There is a pattern of literal fulfillment of prophecy throughout Scripture. Spiritualizing prophecy yet unfulfilled is to play hermeneutical voodoo. While God is mysterious and did not give us all the answers, He is predictable in that he keeps His word with an uncanny literalness.

The bottom line:
Avoiding the end times is to lose much needed perspective and clarity for godly living. While I do not major on a time line of future events, there is a framework given to us for the purpose of encouragement and perspective. Key to all this is that God is not done with national Israel, just like he’s not done with you or me. His grace, mercy and justice are evident in end times teachings of Scripture. Be carefully balanced, but do not avoid this essential doctrine of Scripture.

Side note:
Much of the antagonism towards dispensational thought started with Augustine who was anti-chiliasm (premailinalsim). While Calvin moderated (somewhat) on the matter, the antagonism towards pre-millennial viewpoints endured. As people act based in what they believe, much anti-semitism came from a non-dispensational viewpoint.