Thursday, June 12, 2014

The High Calling Reflections

I was given the opportunity to write two reflections for The High Calling on the topic of scarcity this month. Below are excerpts from those upcoming reflections should appear in the next couple of weeks.  Feel free to subscribe to The High Calling daily reflections on the right side of their home page or check in at their website over the next few weeks to see the full reflections.

Reflection #1
Four Verbs that Combat Scarcity

“Then he took the seven loaves, gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to share around, and they gave them to the crowd.  They had a few small fish, which he also blessed and told them to distribute.  They ate; they were satisfied; and they took up seven baskets of leftover bits.” Mark 8:6-9 Kingdom New Testament (emphasis added)

Four verbs: take, bless/thank, break, and give. The four gospels use these combination of verbs in some very specific places in scripture. The feeding of the thousands, Jesus’ final Passover meal, and the Emmaus Road meal. These four verbs demonstrate for us how God’s economy works.

Jesus will only ever take what we bring him...

Jesus then gives thanks....

Jesus breaks the bread....

Jesus gives back what we bring him....

Reflection #2
A Lack of Abundance is Not the Same as Scarcity

Scarcity surrounds us. Many people around the world do not have enough. Enough food, water, shelter, love, peace, comfort, material goods, natural resources, or job opportunities. Economies are struggling, families struggle with financial stress, wars and conflicts abound, and far too many children go to bed hungry. Some would argue this is all unnecessary, for there is enough food and water and other resources for all to share.

Scarcity is a like a disease that infects our minds and causes us to make poor choices. It creates a tunnel vision that does not allow us to see beyond this moment, and into a different future. Research has shown when we feel insecure we do not perform as well in life. If we are uncertain about our job stability, we under perform. If we are financially insecure, we tend to indebt ourselves to creditors. When we are socially or emotionally insecure, we isolate ourselves, increasing our loneliness and the inner belief we are unlovable. Feelings of scarcity grow in fear, creating a vicious cycle that is not easily broken.

But feelings of scarcity also come from the sin of comparison....

To see these and other full reflections I have written for The High Calling check out their website.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Righteous are "Left Behind"

With the new "Left Behind" movie premiering this fall many people are writing about the film and its theological implications.  There are some very good points being shared and thought I might add a few. Basically Left Behind is built on a dispensational belief that Christians will be raptured, that is removed from earth bodily, while leaving non-Christians on earth to struggle, that is wallow in the results of their sinful reality.  While it makes for creative fiction in the vein of Steven Kings "The Stand" it is not all that biblical.

In his article, "Why the Rapture isn't Bibilical...and Why it Matters" Kurt Williams lays out three good points how people have misinterpreted I Thessalonians 4:15-17, that reflect the teachings of NT Wright.  In summary Paul is not talking about bodies going into heaven, but rather physically resurrected bodies joining Christ on Earth upon his return.

 Other popular rapture passages come from Matthew 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-36 where Jesus talks of two people working in a field where, "One will be taken and the other left."  Matthew states this will occur at "the coming of the Son of Man."  It has often been interpreted that those taken were Christian and those left were lost people who missed the rapture.  Jesus also references the Noah flood and reminds us that in this time too and immenent disaster was threatened but in this image it was the wicked who were "taken away" and the righteous Noah and his family are "left."  Clearly in this image of Jesus being "taken" is applied to the wicked and lost, not the saved Christian. Steve Gregg's article "Who's Been Left Behind?" expands these points more fully.

Jewish eschatology of the Old Testament and "intertestimental" period did not look for the removal of the righteous from the earth. The whole point of God creating earth and placing humanity as care givers was so that we would remain in community with God on his created earth. Sin damaged this relationship with both God and creation but someday the ultimate eschatological hope is that all will be in perfect harmony together again.  Creation and Restoration are the main themes of Jewish and Christian hope.

God has given the earth to the children of men in Psalm 115:16.  Paul states God promises that Abraham's seed would inherit the world, not heaven in Romans 4:13.  Psalm 2:8 declares earth is Christs inheritance and the earth is his possession.  The messiah will one day fully rule over the earth but only after the wicked are removed in Proverbs 2:21-22 and Psalm 37:9-11.  Jesus says that the meek with inherit the earth in the Sermon on the Mount.

The idea that God will take away the righteous to a different reality and leave the wicked to wallow sinfully in his good creation is a foreign concept in the Jewish mind.  The New Testament does not contradict the traditional Jewish worldview.  Revelation 5:10 states that Christ's disciples will "reign on the earth."  Jesus' eschatology is the same as that of the Old Testament.  2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 and Revelation 21:4 and 22:3 states there will be a time of judgment but that the wicked will be removed not the righteous.  It s the righteous who will be left to enjoy what God created as he intended from the time of the Garden of Eden.

This matters because if we do not have an appropriate view of God's greater narrative for his creation it is easy to get off track and create our own narratives as those who support a dispensational eschatology do.  Because as many have argued lately including NT Wright and Christopher J H Wright (no relation) the earth has intrinsic value and it is not to be easily escaped or destroyed.  Therefore as important as heaven is, ultimately that is not our destination but rather a redeemed and restored heaven and earth as seen in Revelation 21-22.