Redneck Buddhism

redneckbuddhism

I’ve been reading “Evil and the Justice of God” by N.T. Wright, and as N.T. Wright’s books usually go, so far I’ve not been disappointed. Once or twice I’ve raised my eyebrows in hesitation, but so far he’s not said anything that I just overtly disagree with. However, he did make a statement that has inspired this post.

Wright is talking about the end of the book of Job and he brings up how it is easy for us to dismiss the trouble that Job is going through because eventually Job is going to Heaven and joys of Heaven will be so tremendous that it will practically (if not literally) make Job forget that he ever went through anything bad.

“It might have been easy for the author… to say that after Job’s death the angels carried him to a paradise where everything was so wonderful that he forgot what a terrible time he’d had one earth. But that is emphatically not the point. The question is about God’s moral government of this world, not about the way in which we should leave this world behind and find consolation in a different one. That is the high road to Buddhism, not biblical theology.”
– N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, pg. 70

This statement struck a chord with me because I come from a culture where the idea of Heaven and escaping from the world was practically worshiped right alongside the Triune God Himself. We would fervently sing lyrics like ” Laying up my treasures in that home above/Trusting, fully trusting in the Savior’s love;/Doing what I can for heaven’s Holy Dove/I’m a getting ready to leave this world.” and I still remember pecking out the chorus on the piano and singing, “I’m getting ready to leave this world,/Getting ready for gates of pearl;/Keeping my record bright/Watching, both day and night/I’m getting ready to leave this world.”

There was no concern for the world and the culture in which we lived only about escaping it. This seemed to fly in the face of Jesus’ high priestly prayer to His Father in John 17.

“I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world… As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” – John 17:15-16, 18, NRSV

So, you have a group of people who understand that they belong to Jesus so you would think that they would want what Jesus wants as far as the mission of God is concerned, but all they cared about escaping and if they were evangelistic at all, they wanted to proselytize people into their escapist ideology. For them, there was no living in the world to make it a better place for the glory of God. There was either living for the sake of the world or living for the sake of their idea of God. And their idea of God involved a God who would take them out of the world so He could completely do away with it.

As I contemplated the words of N.T. Wright, I thought about how this unhealthy obsession with escapism has affected so much of Christianity and a lot of it comes from fundamentalist ideology. You don’t really see a lot of progressives that want to hurry up and get to Heaven so they can escape the conservatives, but you have a lot of conservative fundamentalist Christians who want to hurry up and go to Heaven not because they want to be with Jesus, but because they think they can finally get away from ‘those damn liberals.’ I think they’re going to be surprised. I think the 30 minutes of silence we see in Heaven (Revelation 8:1) is going to be everyone dropping their jaws at the sight of everyone that they thought for sure wouldn’t be there.

So, how do I know that there’s an unhealthy obsession with escapism in fundamental Christianity? Look at the sale of books about people that have allegedly been to Heaven and back. Christians are buying into this crap and they’re celebrating it as if it’s these works should be added to the Bible as canon.

Let me just preface what about to say with this: I believe people can have dreams and visions about the afterlife, but I don’t believe we should treat these dreams and visions as applicable to all of us. Maybe these dreams and visions are meant to bring personal comfort to the particular person that received them no so they can make millions of dollars off of them, and that’s assuming that the dreams and/or someone might have are true depictions that reflect what we already learn in Scripture, but if you read these books, then you have got to understand that the dreams and/or visions given these best-selling books do not in any way reflect Scripture, if anything they contradict it.

One review of ‘Heaven is For Real’ says the following, Heaven Is for Real… insists that the fantasy elements of this story are “true” — that this is a story that really happened and that this is “for real,” what “Heaven” is all about.

That means we can’t simply respond to this story as a story. It means we have to respond to this lie as a lie — as a mawkish, melodramatic, manipulative, sappy, shallow, schmaltzy, anti-biblical, anti-rational lie.

Christians who care about Christianity ought to be upset about a lie like that. But they won’t be, because this lie is embedded in a movie festooned with all the tribal signifiers that delight white evangelicals — praying firefighters, miracles that prove scientists are stupid, talking embryos in Heaven, etc. Include enough of the totems and talismans of their tribe, and white evangelicals will embrace this movie as their own.”

Pay attention to the last part of that review – “Include enough of the totems and talismans of their tribe, and white evangelicals will embrace this movie as their own.” WHERE IS THE LIE? All anyone has to do to attract Christians to their movie is have an Atheist antagonist that whitewashes all atheists as angry people who want to make the lives of Christians miserable. Oh wait! They’ve done that – it’s called ‘God’s Not Dead’! I’ve seen God’s Not Dead, and I refuse to watch God’s Not Dead 2, God’s Not Dead 3, and God’s Not Dead 76.
Christians, I mean this out of love and great frustration, embracing things like “90 Minutes in Heaven,” “Heaven is For Real,” and “To Heaven and Back” as real events that add to our theology of Heaven is exactly the reason why no one takes us seriously as intellectuals. We used to have geniuses in our camp that the whole world respected as intellectuals like Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, Francis Bacon. Now who is the most well known name in science that represents Christianity now? Ken Ham. A pseudo-scientist that can’t admit when he’s wrong. Is this is the best we can do?
Back to my original thought, this escapist ideology that has infected our religion like an annoying boil on our backside is nothing more than a redneck form of Buddhism because it leaves it’s adherents obsessed with “the other side” while ignoring our goal here on this side. Here’s the thing, it is apparent that we were not made to permanently reside here on earth. Ultimately, at the end of our Christian life we go to Heaven and we get to see Jesus and rejoice in His presence, but the Bible (intentionally, I believe) doesn’t give us that much detail about Heaven. Here’s what we know: Jesus is there, and sin and Satan are not there. That’s good enough for me.  The Bible has a lot more say about who are becoming and what we should be doing here.
So, until God calls us home and we see Jesus, we should follow Wesley’s words of wisdom and “Do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, as long as ever we can.”

This world, as it stands, may not be our home, but are not just passin’ through. There will come a day when Jesus will make all things new including the earth and what we do here until then matters.

Also, I highly recommend this video by David Platt (just watch it, it’s less than 5 minutes) taken from his Secret Church seminar where he covered Heaven, Hell, and the End of the World. He brings up the notion that a lot of these best-selling books about Heaven are being devoured by people who would describe themselves as being born again which tells nothing more than that the discernment within the Body of Christ concerning this topic is embarrassingly low.

Neither Shall They Learn War Anymore

“He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” – Isaiah 2:4-5 (ESV)

There’s a fighter in all of us. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but sometimes that can be a bad thing.

Sometimes we want to fight against cancer, oppression, or injustice. Other times we want to fight against God, the Church, those that want to help, and we end up biting the hand that feeds us.

What’s interesting is that the passage tells us they (referring to the people of God) shall not learn war anymore.

Let’s think about what war is. War, at it’s simplest, is fighting. As humans, we don’t need to learn how to fight, it comes naturally with our depravity. The desire to fight is always there. We may be taught how to strategize in our fighting like how to throw a punch or where we should kick a predator if he traps us in an alley, but our fighting is natural.

But, Isaiah 2 points to a time when there will be no more war, no more conflict, nor more fighting.

Our days on earth are filled with constant fighting. From personal spats with family members or spouses all the way up to global conflict between nations, but all this conflict will be no more when the weapons once used for war are used for mutual good.

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” That’s the goal. That goal will only be achieved when Jesus returns and fully establishes His Kingdom. Until then, we cry with John the Revelator, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen.Come, Lord Jesus!” – Revelation 22:20 (ESV)

Joy To The World: A Christmas Homily

This post was inspired by a Christmas post I read from John Piper entitled, “World, Get With the Program: Joy! Joy! Joy!”

Issac Watts was a theologian, a logician, and a writer. On his headstone it will read “July 17, 1674 – November 25, 1748”. Within the dash between his birthdate and his death date, he penned a book about logic and over 750 hymns, many of which we still use today.

“That’s my kind of person! Lucid logic for seeing truth, and a living soul for feeling it and singing it. This is what we were created to be.” – John Piper’s Description of Issac Watts

One of the hymns that Watts wrote was “Joy To The World”. It was based off of his own personal meditation of Psalm 98 and most agree that the psalm and the hymn are vivid descriptions of Christ’s Second Coming. Pay attention to the very last verse.

“O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. 2The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.”
– [Psalm 98:1-9 NRSV]

This psalm gives us two clear reasons for us to have joy this Christmas season: Christ loves the world (verse 3) and Christ will judge the world (verse 9).

CHRIST LOVES THE WORLD

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. – [John 3:16-17 KJV]

“The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands”
― Martin Luther

Satan wants to make us blind to any evidence of God’s love toward us. If he can convince us that we’re not loved by Almighty God then we’ll believe that God left us with no way out of our sin and no where to turn in times of temptation, but that’s not the truth. God has provided a way of escape from our sin.

A little over 2,000 years ago, a baby was born into this world that would forever shake history, and change the course of humanity. That baby’s name was Jesus. He was the Son of God. He grew up like you and I did, had to eat, drink, and breathe just like the rest of us, but He was entirely sinless. He lived a perfect life that couldn’t have lived and died the death that we deserved to die, but the story doesn’t end there, he rose again to proclaim victory over sin.

Now that sounds like a happy ending, right?
It gets even better…

CHRIST WILL JUDGE THE WORLD

“Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy 9at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” – [Psalm 98:8-9 NRSV]

One day Jesus will come back to judge the world. Everyone that has received the grace and forgiveness of the Lord will be taken to live with Him for eternity. All those that rejected the love of the savior will be thrown into outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. In judgement all things will be made right. Things will once again be complete peace and rest, just as they were before the Fall.

As you celebrate your Christmas with your friends and loved ones this holiday season, be thankful for every moment you have and keep in mind that it’s only a foreshadow of the wonderful fellowship we’ll experience in Heaven together.

Jesus Is After Your Joy

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you…I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
– John 15:1-7, 11 (NRSV)

Jesus is after your joy. Think about that. He always wants us to have joy. But, how can we take joy in being pruned? Hoe can we take joy in knowing that we must always depend on Him? As human beings, we are so independently minded that we often forget that we need Jesus just to breathe.

“The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.” – Acts 17:24, 25 (NRSV)

Personally, I’m glad to know that I don’t have depend on myself. It’s comforting for me to know that I am not the culmination of my human experience. In John 17, Jesus shows us that we must be connected to him if we are ever going to bear fruit for His kingdom. He first shows us that if we are not bearing adequate fruit then God prunes us that we will bear more fruit. Sometimes God has to take away things from our lives to show us that He is more precious than anything else. He has to show that we must enjoy Him above everything else. Enjoying God above everything else is what caused David to exclaim

“Because your steadfast love is better than life,  my lips will praise you.” – Psalm 63:3 (ESV)

Understanding that God is be valued more than life itself should motivate us in such a way that bears fruit. When we consider all this we must ask ourselves, “Are we bearing fruit for the kingdom?”, “Do we really value God more than life itself?” As I finish up this post, consider the words of Paul:

 “If our hope in Christ is for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone else in the world.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:19 (NCV)

We have a hope beyond this meager human experience, let’s pursue that hope together!

Another World

“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” – [2 Timothy 4:10 KJV]

About a year ago, I was youth pastoring at a small church in a small town and I spent four weeks preaching through the book of 2nd Timothy because I wanted to bring my youth group to the reality that even in this modern day the beloved church of God is persecuted. In my preparation for this sermon series I studied as much I could, trying to get every bit of information I could about this book and through all my studying, I never noticed this simple phrase, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world….” It made me think that if there is a present world then there must be a world that is not yet present, Heaven. Demas had not just fallen in love with the world, but in the process, he fell out of love with the thought of being with our savior in Heaven.

I urge you, don’t lose focus. Keep your eyes upon the goal. Continually fall in love with Jesus! Review the words of Paul the Apostle:

 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus…For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” – [Philippians 3:13-14, 20-21 KJV]

Remember that you are loved today by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!