Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The End of Times?

I have heard a lot lately about the end of times. It seems that the events in the Middle East has spawned yet another round of folks who believe they see signs of the end of history and the emminent return of Jesus. Now I want to give a bit of a disclaimer first; before I give my two cents worth, I want to say that all of those folks who are preaching that are good people. I do not want anyone to think that somehow my statements are meant to ridicule or defame anyone with that set of beliefs. I think that you are entitled to your opinion and that we are both entitled to be different.

Currently, as I understand it, most of the end times theology is based on John Nelson Darby's theology of the 19th century. Darby was a "Dispensationalist" who believed that all of human history is told or foretold in the Bible and can be divided into certain time periods, called dispensations. According to Darby's understanding, the end times can be understood by watching the events that happen around the world but especially in the land of Israel. Okay, his theology makes sense because he uses prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures as well as the New Testament scriptures.

But, he seems to forget one important bit of evidence. Jesus told his disciples that there would always be wars and rumors of wars but that would not be the end, yet. Then he added that even he did not know when that would be.

It just seems to me that the God of the New Testament is more of a God of grace and forgiveness than one who is violent. Will God really come back and send all of our enemies to hell? Besides, if you listen to those who follow other gods or even Allah, we are the enemies. The God that I have seen and felt is a God of forgiveness and starting over.

There is one more thing. Even if this is the end of times, my responsibility and perhaps yours is to continue living and doing what Jesus has called me to do. As another UM minister, Mike Ramsdale, said this week:

"If a border dispute in Israel is a sign of biblical prophecy or if it is just a continuation of a long-standing dispute over a piece of land, it changes little about my responsibilities as a Christian, or even the when and how of His return. He will still return when He is ready, as I will die and stand before Him also when He is ready.

I must still pray every day.
I must still love my neighbor.
I must still live as He teaches me.
I must still live out my faith in our faithful God.
I must still share Christ with others.
I must still serve the least, the last and the lost.
I must still give, worship and grow in my knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I must still follow Christ. " (www.pastormike's thoughts.com)

I don't know about you, but I think Mike has it right. Regardless of what is coming, I have a job to do - a calling to continue living. Would you like to discuss it? I'd love to meet you, so why not come by on Sunday? We meet every week. Now where is my coffee? Allen

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Problem with Words

I apologize to all who have missed my words of wit. (ha!) I have been gone on Mission trip and then spent some time getting better. Actually the trip was fine but the long drive home nearly killed me. I am better thanks to some good doctors and a wonderful wife.

I have been working with some of our Ministry Teams and last night during our Worship Team meeting, it dawned on me that we were all using the same words but we obviously had different meanings. So we spent some time working through what certain terms meant so our discussion would be meaningful for all of us. Here is what we decided about worship:

The word "Traditional" for some of us means a more liturgical, high church, type of service, but for some in the meeting the word was being used to refer to the way they did church thirty years ago. We discovered that what they were referring to was to my understanding a more "revival" type of service. You may remember that much of the early history of the UM's in this country was from the Camp Meeting days - a spiritual movement that swept over the new country and land.

We decided that some people like a more "contemporary" type of service and then quickly realized that even that term was difficult to understand. For us it will be used to describe a worship experience with more modern praise songs, usually accompanied by guitar or band music as opposed to a piano or organ. And we then realized that some of our worship services were often a "blend" of more than one style of music.

Isn't it strange how we use words and mean different things? In seminary, the argument of the day was over using gender-neutral language about God. We are past some of that discussion now, but we still need to pause everynow and then to understand our the other person is using the same words that we are using.

Well, I suppose I need to stop or this will turn into an academic paper. I don't mean to do that but if you have questions, we would love to discuss them with you. Why not meet us on Sunday and let's talk about what Jesus meant. Perhaps together we can begin to understand his words. See ya! Allen