Leaving Rapture Culture Behind | Chris Williams

Chris Williams writes:

Leaving Rapture Culture Behind | Chris Williams


Photo credit: Flickr, waiting for his word
Photo credit: Flickr, Waiting for His Word, no edits made. C.C. Licensing.

This post is part of a weekly series focused on the National Geographic Channel’s documentary miniseries “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman.” I’ll be tackling the topics of that series from a Christian perspective over the next few weeks, usually by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. This post is based on the next episode, “Apocalypse,” which will air on 4/10 at 9 p.m.

I think most evangelicals go through a Rapture obsession.

I remember when it happened for me. I was 15 and my parents had taken me to a dc Talk concert. During the show, the trio played a cover of Larry Norman’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” When the group got to the last verse of the song, what had been a light-hearted, energetic show suddenly chilled me to the bone:

The Father spoke, the demons dined
How could you have been so blind?
There’s no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you’ve been left behind
I wish we’d all been ready

I’d been raised in a Baptist church since infancy, so I knew that my family believed in the Rapture — the time when many Christians believe Christ will take His living and dead followers up to Heaven. According to that interpretation of Scripture, nonbelievers will remain to suffer through a period of suffering (the Tribulation) that culminates in the reign of the Antichrist, the battle of Armageddon, the fiery destruction of the planet and, ultimately, the Final Judgement. I’d heard about this for years, but this was the first time I began to consider its implications.

Would I be alive when Christ returned? What if I wasn’t truly saved? Would I be left behind? What would it be like for those who were? I had nightmares of friends and family suffering catastrophic war, giant locusts and continent-demolishing earthquakes.

A few months later, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins published the first “Left Behind” novel. Like many other evangelicals, I devoured it. I also read other books that promised to unlock the code of Revelation, listened to church leaders theorize about the Antichrist’s identity — often the Democratic presidential candidate — and sometimes jumped if I heard something that sounded a little too much like a trumpet.

Left_Behind_film_poster

This wasn’t a new fad. Hal Lindsey ignited Christian culture’s end times obsession with his 1970 book “The Late, Great Planet Earth,” which theorized that the Rapture and Tribulation could play out in the ’70s and ’80s (spoiler alert: they didn’t). Russell S. Doughton’s “A Thief in the Night” and its three sequels depicted the Rapture and Tribulation for Christian filmgoers several decades before Kirk Cameron and Nicolas Cage were left behind. And any time a new war or global conflict occurred, writers found a new way to link those events to the Biblical warnings of trumpets, seals and horsemen — all for a price. Rapture culture is so pervasive that even Homer Simpson got in on it.

It’s easy to understand the evangelical obsession with the end times. We love doomsday stories, and Earth under the Tribulation is the ultimate dystopia. It’s the perfect plot for a movie, complete with apocalyptic weather, a world war and supernatural beasts; it’s no wonder Christian bookstores are filled with Rapture films and books. Plus, there’s a smug satisfaction evangelicals get from Rapture narratives. Not only do the bad guys get judged, but we don’t have to suffer; we get to sit on a cloud in Heaven watching the show.

Two decades after that concert, I’m a bit chagrined about how into all of this I was. Many Christians, including myself, actually believe “Left Behind” is way off base. The word “Rapture” doesn’t appear in the Bible at all. The idea of Christ coming to rescue believers before the Tribulation was popularized by an Irish priest in the 1800s. While Christians do believe Christ will return, judge the living and the dead, and bring Heaven down to Earth, we’re a bit muddy on how that all works. Some still believe in a pre-tribulation Rapture; others believe it might happen afterward or halfway through. Still others believe that Revelation is symbolic of events that have already happened, or is both a warning to the early church and a political allegory. The ominous number 666 conjures pictures of tattoo’d barcodes in some believers’ heads, while others believe it’s actually a reference to Caesar Nero, who was persecuting Christians around the time Revelation was written.

The truth is, I don’t know how the world is going to end. I also don’t know 

when

 it’s going to end, or if I’m going to be around to see it. I’ve stopped worrying or trying to figure it out. As a Christian, I rest in Jesus Christ and His finished work. If He chooses to take me away before things get bad, through death or Rapture, I’ll welcome it. But if it’s His plan for me to endure the Earth’s final days, I believe that He’ll give me the strength to do that as well. My job is not to try to predict events or look for hidden Bible codes. My job is not to fear the end times or pray for judgement. My job is to trust.

And to hope, which is something that goes missing in all the Rapture obsession.

In a culture that peddles fear and tension, end times theology has taken on a grim tone. Yes, the Bible says that things will get dark before Christ’s return. And looking around our world, it’s easy to see violence and disaster everywhere and wonder just how much worse it’s going to get. Admittedly, sometimes it feels like I’m just waiting for God to step in and say, “Time’s up.”

But what gets lost in the Rapture hysteria is that the promise of Christ’s return is not one of destruction, but of renewal. It’s a reminder that no matter how dark this world gets, there’s coming a day when Christ will make it right. This world might be destroyed by war, but it will be renewed by love. Oppressive regimes will be wiped away, replaced by a good king who’s died for his subjects. Sickness and death will be replaced by a life more vivid and vibrant than anything we can imagine. Revelation ends not with a war but with a feast. Not with enemies, but a family. Not with screaming, but with singing.

Photo credit: Flickr, Keoni Cabral
Photo credit: Flickr, Keoni Cabral. C.C. Licensing.

Contrary to media portrayals — and, very often, our own words — Christianity is not about licking our lips and waiting for our enemies’ annihilation. It’s about believing a truth so beautiful that we want the entire world to believe it: God has made a way for us to know Him. Many times when I was younger, I wondered why Jesus didn’t just take the disciples with Him to Heaven and end the story there. Why wait several millennia to return? It’s only been in recent years that I’ve discovered two reasons. One is that we know this world is a mess, and Christ’s followers are tasked with making it less messy. We have the job of preparing for the king’s arrival by pushing back the effects of sin. We’re called to love and serve others, live peacefully, take care of the planet, and pursue justice. And the other reason? Christians believe in “the more, the merrier.” We believe that the reason Christ hasn’t returned isn’t because He’s lazy or slow, but because He’s patient and has given us time to reach the world with His message. Those two things drive missionaries in every corner of the world and should be the beating hearts of our churches. That — not politics, morality or nationalism — is the heart of evangelicalism.

One thing that Morgan Freeman mentions at the end of the episode is that the word “apocalypse” doesn’t mean annihilation or ending. It’s actually a Greek word that means “unveiling.” And these days, when I look out at our world and think of what my faith tells me comes next, I’m no longer filled with fear, but with hope and expectation. For the Christian, the apocalypse isn’t the war to end all wars. It’s the wedding to end all weddings, and the start of the true story we’ve been preparing for all of our lives.It’s not an end; it’s the beginning of forever.

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Only One Worldview Brings Life

Any time any person (usually a christian) says “Changing this will lead to that,” they are scorned for espousing the slippery slope theory. Sadly, human nature being what it is, the slopes are often slipped.

We see this already in Australia. Just one year after the Same Sex Marriage plebiscite, which we were told would not affect anybody, we find that attacks are being made on the rights of religious schools to teach their beliefs about human sexuality. They said, “If you don’t like same sex marriage you don’t have to have one,” but already the pressure is building for schools and, soon, churches to buckle under and negate their own faith.

People around the world have been shocked by the decision in New York State to allow abortions right up until birth. A baby now has not even the right to live right until it is safely born. The city was lit up in pink in an obscene celebration of this event.

But it gets worse. In the state of Virginia similar legislation is being introduced. The Governor of that state has been reported to have coldly described a scenario in which labour starts before an abortion is completed. The baby is born naturally and then made comfortable while the doctor and the mother decide whether to kill the baby or allow her to live. In normal societies this is called infanticide and fills people with revulsion.

Whenever people decide to live their lives separate from God, it always results in a death culture. Whether it is the traditional pagan human sacrifice or its modern versions of abortion and euthanasia, humans will be sacrificed.

Fifty years ago this would have prompted outrage but now we are not surprised as the slopes continue to be slipped.

A number of times in the scriptures people are given choices and exhorted to “choose life.” Have you ever wondered why they had to be told to “Choose life”? Isn’t that a normal desire?

No. Sin, our built in rebellion against God always drives us towards death. A culture that ignores God will always, in the end, choose death- even the deaths of newborn babies.

Persecution growing in spread and intensity: Open Doors

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Open DoorsLICENSE

2019 World Watch List reveals 245 million Christians experience high levels of persecution

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Persecution of Christians worldwide has increased over the past year, with one in nine believers experiencing “high” levels of persecution compared with one in 12 a year ago, according to the 2019 World Watch List released by Open Doors today.

In what Open Doors Australia described as an “hallmark of the success of Christianity,” persecution is growing in both intensity and the number of countries and Christians affected. On the 2019 World Watch List, 73 of the 150 countries surveyed show extreme, very high or high levels of persecution.

“The world will get worse before it gets better … ” – Tim Reid, Open Doors

“The first thing I would say is that persecution is the hallmark of successful Christianity,” Tim Reid, Church Engagement Manager for Open Doors Australia, told Eternity. “I think when the gospel is being shared, persecution increases. I don’t necessarily mean that Christianity is rapidly growing in numbers, but it does mean Christianity is growing in courage.

“The whole philosophy of Open Doors is not necessarily the end of persecution – it’s not even a top priority – it’s to give people the strength to stand under the face of it and try to grow as they can.”

Open Doors estimates that 245 million Christians experience high levels of persecution in the top 50 countries on the World Watch List for 2019. North Korea remained ranked at No 1 in the 2019 list, a position it has held since 2002, with about 50,000 to 70,000 Christians believed to be in labour camps. Russia entered the list at No 41 due to increasing violence from Islamic extremists.

Life for Christians became even more precarious in Nigeria, where 3731 believers were killed – double the number in the 2018 list – by extremist groups of Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram. This accounted for about 90 per cent of the 4136 recorded deaths of Christians as a direct result of persecution in the 2019 list.

According to Reid, increased persecution of Christians in India went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world.

“In India, violence against Christians has been increasing since the Modi government stepped into power, elected with promises to restore Hindu dominance in the nation. Churches have been attacked and Christians assaulted,” he says.

“I spoke in May last year at a Senate inquiry [into religious freedom] about four horror days in India in which three pastors were hospitalised, one losing his fingers in an axe attack.”

Reid told Eternity that these attacks on Christians had flown under the radar of police, so the perpetrators had not received due punishment.

“That kind of Hindu extremism we have also noticed in Nepal and religious nationalism as a topic is starting to spread to other countries too,” he says, giving Myanmar as an example.

Reid there were a few factors behind the increase in persecution.

“We’re seeing religious nationalism increase, so the kind of intensity that we’ve seen from Islamic extremists over the years we are now starting to see in other contexts,” he said.

“But persecution is biblical and the world will get worse before it gets better and there is a move in many nations towards an anti-Christian sentiment.” He said Open Doors was not just committed to social justice but to helping the gospel advance and that necessarily brought with it persecution.

Open Doors Australia is calling for the government to create a permanent position to advise on religious freedom.

“Roles such as that we’ve seen overseas have been really crucial in bringing to the fore at a government level what persecution is already happening,” Reid said.

“So in the Asia-Pacific region, we see that as persecution increases in places like India or China, where we have a great deal of trade, that there are Christians being discriminated against and Australia has a role to play in this area.

“Australia’s human rights record in the department of freedom of religious belief has been quite exemplary, but other people who we trade with it’s not necessarily been the case. So it’s part of Australia’s moral obligation to lift these people in circumstances where they’re not experiencing the same freedom.”

“The unforeseen benefit of that is that many churches are now asking us to speak.” – Mike Gore

Mike Gore, CEO of Open Doors Australia, said the unforeseen benefit of Christians feeling less secure of their place in Australian society was an increased engagement by churches with the persecuted church.

He said there had been a 20 per cent increase in the number of donors to Open Doors Australia, to 11,500. The target was 18,000 by the end of 2020.

“What we’re seeing is a change in a section of the church towards religious freedom in this nation. There’s a big element that’s saying we need the message of Open Doors in our churches now because we’re feeling uncomfortable. Things aren’t feeling as safe anymore. What do we do? We haven’t felt this before and we’re worried about things like same-sex marriage, religious diversity, and all of these fears that the West equates with persecution,” he said.

“The unforeseen benefit of that is that many churches are now asking us to speak.”

“I think an understanding of the increased focus of the media in the last five years on persecution, married with the uncomfortable feeling of changing societal values in Australia, has created a perfect of storm of tensions resolving in churches wanting to know more about the cost of faith.

Reid adds: “What’s really exciting here is that as people engage with persecution, what they will find is the true hope-filled story that where there seems to be persecution the church in many circumstances is still joy-filled and seeking God with all their heart.”

“When people engage with that example, their faith will come alive here in Australia as well.”

Snakes Return To Ireland

From lifesitenews.com

Featured Image
K.V. Turley

OPINION

Is it mere coincidence that a serpent came ashore in snake-free but no longer abortion-free Ireland?

IRELAND, January 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — It turned up unexpectedly.

The newspaper reports were lighthearted.

It was strange but nothing more, surely?

On January 4, washed up on the shore of County Cork, Ireland, was a large serpent, measuring 1.5 meters (approximately 5 feet).

Ireland is free of snakes. It has been since the time of St. Patrick, who, it is said, cast them from the island. They have for centuries represented the vile paganism that ruled the land before Patrick came and established Christianity.

The fact that a snake made its way ashore onto Irish soil once more is not, therefore, to be seen as just another zoological phenomenon. It may be read as also a symbolic one, coming at a time when Ireland is turning away from the light and naively embracing an ancient darkness.

Just three days before the appearance of the serpent, the new Irish law on abortion came into effect. The president of Ireland had just a few weeks earlier rescinded the country’s constitutional safeguard for the unborn and signed into law the death warrant of many future Irish now denied the right to be born. On that day, his pen was more akin to the scalpel, the same implement that shall now be wielded against defenseless human beings who have committed no wrong, who asked for nothing other than life and love, but found only death.

January 1 was the day chosen to inaugurate this new gruesome dispensation. Traditionally, this is the feast day dedicated to the Mother of God. It is, now, in Ireland a “feast day” of a different kind for another type of “celebration.” What is being venerated is unseen but, nevertheless, all too present in modern Irish society.

A day or so after the feast of the Epiphany, when Christians commemorate how the kings came from across the world to worship the infant King of Kings, the first abortion took place in Ireland. It is alleged that this occurred in a hospital that goes under the name Our Lady of Lourdes. This is a title of Our Lady’s specifically linked to her maternal care and concern for the sick. Now, instead, this title has been made into an infernal sneer, a wicked boast.

Was all of this mere coincidence? I’ll leave you to judge that.

But with the darkness now descending upon Ireland’s Four Green Fields, a spiritual night is fast approaching. And, in its cold gloom, strange new gods are being worshipped once more, the bitter lessons of old, that the pagan gods were never gods but demons, long since forgotten.

So too has been forgotten the truth that the Church has been a home to the Irish nation — at times its only home, despite those within the flock who turned out be wolves in sheep clothing. Through persecution and famine, through pain and suffering, exile and poverty, Holy Mother Church was the home where the Irish found refuge emotionally and spiritually, whether in the north country of Ulster, on the grey streets of New York, or the sparsely populated territories of Australia or Patagonia, She was a light to enlighten the darkness that had so often flooded the lives of the children of Erin at home and abroad. For many, the Church remained the hearth warming the center of the nation’s emotional home, and with a Mother always present there.

Today, publicly at least, Ireland has abandoned the faith.

Too many of the country’s politicians talk glibly of the nation’s onward march to a bright new future – one that, no doubt, shall be as economically prosperous as it will be spiritually bankrupt. Yet all the time, while these same politicians incant the word “progress” to justify a nation’s regress to former barbaric ways, the progression talked of is in reality the same as that described in the nine-circles-descent described by Dante.

These Irish who jubilate over new abortion legislation refuse to learn the lessons of old. They shall learn them soon enough, however, especially as they come to experience what spirits have been invoked upon the land of Patrick. By then it will be too late. Even if, at that point, they have learned again that, away from the faith, outside the true home of all mankind, there is only endless night.

A serpent was washed ashore at County Cork on January 4 to usher in 2019. That creature was soon dead. Other “serpents” are already ashore, however, and very much alive, and have all too easily found a home.

Jennifer Leclaire: 5 Sober Prophetic Predictions For 2019

(Photo by Karl Magnuson on Unsplash)

As I was preparing to share the word of the Lord in Dallas in November, the Lord showed me five things to come. Some of this is the enemy’s plan and can be averted through spiritual warfare and prophetic intercession. Some of it is God’s will, and we need to come in agreement with what He is doing for His glory.

1. A Year of Threats

Military, economic and ideological threats will increase against the US. Trump will stand strong and continue pushing back. Cyber wars will escalate and rumors of war will rise, even among unlikely foes. Terror threats will also escalate. Threats on Trump’s life will escalate.

2019 will be a year of threats specifically originating from the queen of heaven and communist regimes. The U.S. will see an ally betray the nation because of pressure from outside forces. The good news is many of these threats are empty. Many who are issuing the threats are merely bluffing and unable to carry them out. These intimidation tactics will not move Trump.

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China will continue to escalate fear campaigns with talk of invasions in Taiwan and the Philippines. China is positioning itself to usurp America as the world’s leading superpower. Relations between China and the U.S. will continue to deteriorate but both nations know they must maintain some level of relations to preserve the global economy.

2. A Purging in the Church

The church will undergo a purging in 2019 to make way for clear visions in 2020. Dead branches in ministries are going to be cut off to make way for new, different and more abundant fruit.

3. Jezebelic Leaders Exposed

God is going to deal with Jezebel and Ahabs in leadership. A remnant church will begin to emerge that refuses to tolerate Jezebel, false prophecy, idolatry and immorality.

A new breed of leaders will arise in the nations with courage to confront and authority to throw Jezebel down. This will cause the beginnings of a shift in the church that allows the apostolic to take a greater role in the body of Christ.

Jezebel is one of the key resisters of the apostolic, as this spirit hates authority. While Jezebel hates prophets, this spirit has been allowed to influence the some camps in the movement through witchcraft and divination.

More false prophets will be exposed. When the true apostolic emerges at higher levels in the church, greater order will come to lock Jezebel out.

4. Prophetic Movement Ascends

The prophetic will also come up higher. Many who have cultivated a bless-me-only-give-me-a-personal-prophecy culture will press in to deeper level of the prophetic with intercession and prophetic declarations that cause true shifts in heart, minds and cities around the world. This is a process that will take years, but one that will gain momentum in 2019.

5. Intercessors Rise in Boldness

Intercessors are rising up with new boldness after seeing a harvest of prayer answers and begin to take on more complex issues by faith. A younger generation of intercessors will begin to rise under the tutelage of prayer warriors who are completing their race. Gen Z and Millennial intercessors will tackle the problems in their generation with innovative intercession and prophetic acts that demonstrate the power of God to heal, rescue and raise up.

Jennifer LeClaire is senior leader of Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, founder of the Ignite Network and founder of the Awakening Blaze prayer movement. She is author of over 25 books. Find her online at jenniferleclaire.org or email her at info@jenniferleclaire.org.

 

Read the article at Charisma

Jared Wilson: How To Kill A Church

How to Kill a Church

 

Want to fatten a church for slaughter? The steps are below.

This is a true story.

1. Launch a “church for people who don’t like the church” with a dynamic leader with big ideas and self-help teaching.

2. Care less about biblical depth, discipleship, and leadership character than inspirational messages, excitement, and creativity. Make sure the success is built around the leader’s “brand” so that he and the church are largely synonymous.

3. See the place attract large crowds.

4. See the success go to the leader’s head. Make excuses and accommodations as his short temper, control issues, and lack of accountability begin to take their toll. Accept the loss of numerous quality leaders as the collateral damage necessary to win the attendance war in your city’s ministry marketplace.

5. Continue staking everything on a “killer weekend experience” to the expense of discipleship, community, and mission. Marginalize (or get rid of) anyone who does not get the vision.

6. Watch the leader eventually crash and burn.

7. As the church haemorrhages attendees who were there for “the brand,” fail to learn your lesson and hire a similarly dynamic leader to replace the one who’s fallen. (Make sure he’s at least nice.)

8. Make sure only yes-men ascend to leadership as the new leader tries to rebuild a better version of what crashed the first time.

9. Watch as the new leader drifts further and further away from biblical teaching and more into the world of quasi-spiritual wanderings. Make sure anyone who sees red flags in occasional New Age-type teaching and embrace of heterodox spiritualities can’t do anything about it. When those people leave, don’t care.

10. Watch as liberal theology takes root and slowly drives more and more people out the door. As money dwindles, and staff along with it, take no steps to correct course. Go “all in.”

11. Follow the “new kind of Christianity” all the way to barely-Christianity, and close the doors on what used to be a thriving megachurch.

12. Wonder what went wrong.

This isn’t the only way to kill a church. Some churches dwindle and die through no fault of the leaders. But if you want to kill a church, this is a time-tested way to do it.

Full story here

Martin Lloyd-Jones: “Why could we not cast it out?”

“Why could we not cast it out?”


Mt_17_14-15.Gustave_Dore.JesusHealingTheLunatic

And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”  Mark 9:29

“You failed there, he said in effect to these disciples, because you did not have sufficient power. You were using the power that you have, and you were very confident in it. You did it with great assurance, you were masters of the occasion, you thought you were going to succeed at once, but you did not. . . . You will never be able to deal with ‘this kind’ unless you have applied to God for the power which he alone can give you.

You must become aware of your need, of your impotence, of your helplessness. You must realise that you are confronted by something that is too deep for your methods to get rid of or to deal with, and you need something that can go down beneath that evil power and shatter it, and there is only one thing that can do that, and that is the power of God. . . . We must become utterly and absolutely convinced of our need. We must cease to have so much confidence in ourselves, and in all our methods and organisations, and in all our slickness. We have got to realise that we must be filled with God’s Spirit.

And we must be equally certain that God can fill us with his Spirit. We have got to realise that, however great ‘this kind’ is, the power of God is infinitely greater, that what we need is not more knowledge, more understanding, more apologetics, more reconciliation of philosophy and science and religion, and all modern techniques — no, we need a power that can enter into the souls of men and break them and smash them and humble them and then make them anew.  And that is the power of the living God.

And we must be confident that God has this power as much today as he had one hundred years ago, and two hundred years ago, and so we must begin to seek the power and to pray for it. We must begin to plead and yearn for it.  ‘This kind’ needs prayer.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival (Wheaton, 1987), pages 18-19.