When Doomsday Fails

May 27, 2011

Unless you were in a total media blackout, you heard the predictions of Harold Camping. He predicted the rapture to occur on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at around 6 p.m. His followers sold possessions (after all they weren’t going to need them for long) in order to get the message out. I admire their boldness but lament the message wasn’t true to the Bible.

Camping believed that Noah’s flood was in 4990 B.C. He took the words from Genesis 7:4 (“Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth”) to be a prediction of the end of the world. He argued that a day equaled a thousand years because of 2 Peter 3:8 (“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day…”). By the way, Peter is quoting from a Psalm 90, and the psalm says that a 1000 years to the Lord is also like a watch in the night. Camping takes the 17th day of the second month in Genesis to equal May 21. So 7000 years after the flood, Camping was predicting the rapture. He is now recalculating and arguing that the Judgment Day was spiritual and the new date for the rapture is October 21, 2011.

In case you didn’t notice, Camping’s argument contains many assumptions. But the biggest problem is the argument contradicts Jesus’ own clear statement:

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. Matthew 24:36, ESV

Jesus had all the same biblical data that Camping has, but Jesus said he didn’t know and taught that his coming would be like the thief in the night — that is unexpected (Matthew 24:43 and 1 Thessalonians 5:2). After his resurrection, the apostles were inquiring about the times, and Jesus instructed it wasn’t for them to know (Acts 1:6-7).

Camping is not the first predictor of doomsday. Many predictions have been made since the 19th century. The new millennia brought about the feverish activity of many speculations as it did in A.D. 1000. My concern is when the prediction of doomsday fails. It may discourage faith and seeking after the truth of Jesus Christ by some, and it may encourage the skeptics to scoff even more.

The Bible does not teach us to predict dates for the coming of Jesus. But it does teach that Jesus is coming again, and a Day of Judgment lies ahead for each of us. Instead of encouraging speculation, it warns us to be prepared.

Congratulations to Graduates and Parents!

May 22, 2011

Graduation is surrounded by many traditions. It is a human way of expressing the significance of the event. Graduates are most often dressed in a cap and gown (and there may be hoods and stoles involved too). This academic dress dates from the medieval universities of Europe when robes were the daily dress of those in the academy and not a special occasion attire.

Many of us will hear the strains of “Pomp and Circumstances” as graduates march in and out of the ceremony. This tradition is not nearly as old as caps and gowns. It dates back to 1905. Yale University bestowed an honorary doctorate on the composer, Sir Edward Elgar. In the ceremony, the New Haven Orchestra played a small part of his 1901 “March No. 1 in D Major.” The music caught on for graduations, and the rest is history.

Many will hear a commencement address. Such speeches celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates and often give advice for the next phase of life. Graduation is a transition. Graduation represents the closing of one phase of a person’s life and the beginning of a new phase. It is a time full of promise, even though transitions are not always easy. Graduates are often thinking and planning what’s next.

What message do I have for parents and graduates? Raising children is a gradual process of letting go. We train. We instruct. We discipline. But the goal is always for these lessons to be internalized, so that our children reflect Christian character as they make their way in the world. It is rewarding but never easy.

Youth is a time to follow dreams. As you get older responsibilities may increase and certain doors of opportunity may close or at least become harder to go through. Test your dreams by the will of God (see Ecclesiastes 11:9), but recognize that this is a unique time in your life to work towards what you will become.

Whatever else you pursue in life, my prayer is that you will seek first the kingdom of God. (See Matthew 6:33.) For those who are leaving home for the first time, there may be challenges to your faith. I want you to know that there are good answers to the skeptical questions people ask. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you seek God, you will find answers and your faith will be strengthened.

We are looking forward to our son’s graduation. We are proud of his accomplishments and look forward to celebrating this important event in his life. Congratulations to all of our graduates and their parents! It is an exciting and important time for you.

Glimpses of Heaven

May 13, 2011

The Book of Revelation is difficult reading. Yet, Revelation is also rewarding. Five major and contradictory approaches to Revelation can be found in the religious world. Such facts can boggle the mind, yet I think there are some simple guidelines for reading the book. Read Revelation for what it says about itself, rather than what others say about it. Read Revelation in light of the rest of scripture. Scripture is its own best interpreter. If all we get from Revelation is that Satan will be defeated and God wins, then we’ve understood the major lesson. Passages may puzzle us, but some things are crystal clear. Among the clear things is the fact that John gives us glimpses into heaven.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:9-17, ESV

Heaven is assured by the teaching and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Revelation, John gives evidence for heaven and glimpses of our future hope.

Heaven answers a deep longing. With C.S. Lewis we too cry, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”1 Christ conquered death, and so will the Christian. Paradise lost in the garden will be paradise regained in heaven.

Heaven gives purpose. The person who most fully believes in heaven will also be the one who most faithfully lives for the Lord in daily life.

1C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 120

Travail Has Become Joy!

May 6, 2011

When Becky was born, I took 35 mm pictures and recorded the audio of her birth on a micro-cassette tape recorder. A few months ago, I dug up the recording to see if it still worked and transferred it to a digital recording.

I’m not totally certain it was a friendly act to send the audio to my then pregnant daughter, but she listened to it. It was interesting hearing it again. When time for the delivery came, things happened quickly. So quickly that Kathy wasn’t able to have a spinal block. It was all natural child birth whether she wanted it that way or not. When they wheeled Kathy out to the delivery room, I was told to change into my scrubs and wait. I told them I would change, but not wait. And it was a good thing I didn’t wait.

The recording has about 10 minutes of labor prior to the birth. Pain and stress are in Kathy’s voice. The doctor and nurse are business-like, and I’m trying to be calming and reassuring. Then the birth comes, and you hear that little cry, and the whole mood changes. Travail has become joy.

I recently confessed to Kathy that I felt more anxiety over the birth of our grandson than I did for our own children. I really hadn’t worried back then. I asked if I had been that naïve. With the reassurance that only wives can give, she assured me that I had indeed been that naïve. (Of course, it is easier being the breathing coach than the one actually going through the labor.)

Labor and delivery has a mixture of pain and joy, so does raising a child, although my experience has been that the joy far outweighs everything else. We may have a hard time realizing the pain and sacrifice parents make until we become parents. But we all have a debt of gratitude.

I’m looking forward to Mother’s Day 2011. Lord willing, I will spend it with my wife, daughter, son-in-law, and new grandson. I will be with my daughter on her first Mother’s Day as a new mom.

Mothers are special. They have experienced the travail of child birth and its joys.

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” (Proverbs 31:28–29, ESV)