Category Archives: Headlines

“Where’s the Justice?”

The news channels, pundits, and bloggers will have a lot of grist for their mills since Casey Anthony has been found innocent of the murder of her daughter. The talk news channels, the pundits, Facebook, and Twitter are filled with statements of outrage over the verdict. I hope you live far enough from Florida that you were not subjected to the endless media coverage of this trial. If you do not know of the trial, or the horrific events leading up to this trial, count yourself blessed. I had to work very hard to stay away from coverage of this case and trial. For the most part, I succeeded.

I did, however, pick up enough on the general flow of news to realize that most people expected a guilty verdict. In fact, it began to feel like they almost demanded a guilty verdict. This is the danger when a particularly tragic event occurs—in this case the senseless death of a child—and the people who surround the event are not very nice or respectable. In this case the term “unsavory” could certainly be used.

In Luke 6 we are told, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned” (Luke 6:36-37). Jesus spoke these words to warn us against a rush to judgment. Facts are facts. When the facts are incontrovertible (on the testimony of two or three witnesses), we do not have to judge. The evidence speaks for itself. That is not the judgment of which Jesus speaks. He is speaking of that merciless part of our nature that wants to judge and condemn others without the facts.

Throughout Casey Anthony’s trial, a trial that could not produce enough facts to convince a jury that Casey was guilty of murdering her daughter, it was evident that the media was living in the “lack of mercy” arena. The coverage created an atmosphere in which Casey was convicted in the public’s perception. Mercy was tossed out the window. Casey was condemned apart from trial.

I am not a legal expert, but I will say this: Justice was served. That doesn’t mean that the verdict was correct. Only those immediately involved and the Lord himself really know. But justice is served when there just isn’t enough evidence to convict someone of a horrendous crime, and the jury acquits the person. I will accept that verdict, because a jury of her peers gave that verdict. I will accept that verdict, because when there are no facts, I will be merciful, I will not judge, and I will not condemn.

Jesus clearly teaches that when I do this, I will not be judged so quickly by my peers, and I will not be condemned by them. This is a good reminder for us all.

The World Ends Saturday, May 21???

By now you have seen the billboard, read the news articles, or seen the commentaries about a very public group of Christians who have convinced themselves that the rapture will occur this Saturday, May 21, and then the world will end on October 21. They believe the five months between the two events will be filled with catastrophes for those who remain.

The group has garnered quite a bit of media attention, and their claims are now so mainstream that at least one syndicated cartoonist is highlighting their beliefs in his daily strips (Doonesbury). Some people have taken the claims so seriously that they have quit their jobs in order to spread the news. The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that one couple left medical internships in Orlando to spread the news in other parts of the world. Like-minded folks have been traveling around the world to spread the message, taking their responsibility to spread the word very seriously.

That is probably the bit of news that concerns me the most: Good and sincere people get hurt by such predictions. Every so often someone believes they have received new insight into the scriptures and sets a date for the end of the world. They put together questionable numerologies that depend on many different assumptions being exactly right. But they are so convinced that they decide to convince everyone else that they are right. To this point, 100% of them have been absolutely wrong. But good and sincere people still get hurt when they are convinced by those who set the dates. When people leave good jobs, upset their households, and otherwise leave good order behind because of these date setters, it is apparent that this is not a harmless pastime.

When Jesus walked on the earth he said to those around him, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36 NIV). As I have read comments by Christians about this issue, they will often quote this passage as if it refutes the date setters. Unfortunately, it does not. When Jesus walked the earth, this statement was true. No one knew the date or time. Even Jesus, in his state of dependence on the Father and the Holy Spirit, did not know. But this statement is no longer true since Jesus has been glorified. He certainly knows the day and hour since he now knows all things once again.

Also, in the very next verse of Matthew 24, Jesus says, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37).” Well, in Noah’s day someone did know the date. His name was Noah (see Genesis 7:4 below). God has always shared things with his friends.

So, we can’t just dismiss those who set a date with pat scriptures that we misapply. Like good Bereans (see Acts 17:11) we need to search the scriptures to see the truth of a matter. It doesn’t take long to see the truth of the matter when we look at the May 21 claim. These claims are built upon the idea that Genesis 7:4 is dual fulfillment prophecy. In that scripture, the Lord told Noah, “Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made” (Genesis 7:4). Those who believe that the rapture is Saturday believe that this verse meant two things. First, it meant that in seven literal days the waters of the flood were going to destroy most life on the earth. Second, they believe that because of Peter’s statement that a day is like a thousand years (see 2 Peter 3:8), that God was also telling Noah that he would also destroy the earth exactly seven thousand years later.

Here is where the many assumptions enter the picture. We have to assume that Genesis 7:4 is double fulfillment prophecy. We have to assume that Peter’s words apply to this passage. We have to assume that seven thousand years have passed since the flood (most conservative theologians peg the age of the earth at only six thousand years to date). We have to assume that the group who set the date has solved the myriad of calendar difficulties to figure out that May 21 is exactly seven thousand years since the flood (anyone who has studied the history of calendars knows how difficult this can be). We have to assume that rather than rapturing the wicked by removing them from the earth, as the first flood clearly did, that this time God will rapture the righteous instead.

This is not a comprehensive list of assumptions, but it is enough to make any student of the Bible shake his or her head in dismay that people are sacrificing their livelihoods because of their belief that this prophecy is true.

So, does that mean that the predictions of floods, earthquakes, and volcanoes won’t happen? Well, we’ve already had historic floods, major earthquakes, and awakening volcanoes already in the last few months. I believe that when Jesus told us that the times of the end would be like the days of Noah, he was telling us that the times would be so difficult that many people would lose their lives, just like the days of Noah when the flood covered the earth. So I expect floods, earthquakes, and volcanoes, among other disasters, to increase as we move more fully into the end of our age and the beginning of the next. There will be a rapture of the unprepared in this way as “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left” (see Matthew 24:38-41). The words of our modern day prophets are certainly in agreement with these words of Jesus. Just as the Japanese earthquake fulfills these predictions, so the earth will continue to groan as the children of God are revealed through it all (see Romans 8:18-22).

So, what do I expect for this weekend? I expect to see a creation groaning in longing for God’s people to be revealed. I expect to preach on Sunday morning. I plan on reading Monday’s Doonesbury comic strip to see how the author intends to profit from this spectacle. And I plan on listening to those who set the dates explain what numerological issue has tripped them up this time.

Have a good weekend.

The Mighty Mississippi Humbles Us

I’ve been watching the slow motion disaster occurring around the Mississippi River. I haven’t had a lot to say about the continuing disasters that are unfolding, simply because I think I’ve written a lot on the topic already. This is what the Lord told us to expect. It is happening.

Of course, we didn’t know exactly how the extreme weather and other shakings were going to unfold, but we knew they wouldn’t be fun for those involved. We’ve certainly seen the truth in that. This isn’t fun, but it is necessary. We have become a proud people, and we need to be reminded that we are far more frail than we think. We need to be reminded that we need the Lord’s help. By the time this is over, we will know that.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue to pray for those in harms way. And I am going to continue to believe that God has given authority to his people to bring safety and protection to their areas of influence. We cannot always avoid the shaking, simply because of the times in which we live, but we can use our authority to plead for those in harms way, and we can help in a variety of different ways when disasters touch the lives of other people.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.

See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.

Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

—Isaiah 60:1-3

 

Extreme Prayer

The incredible carnage left by the storms that went through Alabama, Mississippi, and other parts of the South this week, is sobering. The death toll has climbed over 300 as entire city blocks have been leveled. We must continue to pray that the death be taken out of these storms. The pictures and video coming out of the storms are a breathtaking reminder of why we must pray over these systems.

My first post in this series was entitled Extreme Weather Grace. It was a reminder that there is grace available for these systems. My second post celebrated the fact that grace was released in St. Louis last weekend, and though the system caused a lot of damage, no one died (Extreme Weather Grace on Display in St. Louis). I’m sure there is much to celebrate today if we knew the individual stories of God’s grace that made the difference between life and death throughout the South this week. I’m certain that there will be testimonies of divine intervention shared at many churches and other meetings throughout the South. But there will also be many tears as people gather to bid farewell to those who died in these storms.

The difference in those meetings, one filled with celebration and one filled with grief, motivates me to keep on praying for those in harms way. We may have reached a demarcation time in history where systems like this must come because the earth is groaning for the sons of God to be revealed. But even if we have reached such a time, we can exercise the authority with which we have been entrusted so that there are more testimonies of divine intervention than there are sad farewells.

I am grieving with the South this week, waiting to hear the testimonies of grace that surely will come, even more determined to see God’s intercessory people stand in victory over such systems. The last enemy to be overcome is death (See 1 Corinthians 15:26). Let’s make things like these storms one of the first things that God’s people overcome.

My Sun-Sentinel Editorial

I wrote a short article for the Forum section of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel about a month ago. They published it today. You can see it, and the flying fur in the comments section, at the Sun-Sentinel.

Why the flying fur? Whenever I publish an article like this, some who are angry about religion of any type cannot hold back. They have to comment on the article. Then others, who like the article, join the fray and it can get really intense. I suspect that the discussion in the comments section generates more heat than light, but that is usually the case in the comments section.

The article isn’t explicitly Christian, but to anyone who knows the two greatest commandments, it obviously flows from my Christian worldview.