It’s Time to Cancel the Rapture: My Guest Post for Zach Hoag

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I’m guest posting for Zach Hoag, my church planting friend in the greatest state of them all… Vermont. He’s helping me spread the good news about Revelation.

I know that Nicholas Cage is “starring” in a summer blockbuster that relies on an inevitable and immanent rapture to scare viewers into theaters, but I’m afraid this little end times ruse needs to stop. It’s time to cancel the rapture.

Really. We’ve milked this biblically suspect, historically bankrupt, literary abomination of a doctrine long enough.

Did we really need a remake of the first Left Behind movie in the first place? Did we even need the first Left Behind movie after the books?

If an action movie relies on any measure of suspense, that’s already gone any way.

RAPTURE MOVIE News flash: people will disappear, stuff will blow up, news reporters will look confused, everyone will get the mark of the beast, and then more stuff blows up. THE END.

And while Christian culture is still gobbling up the latest end times speculation like Four Blood Moons and Perfect Ending, the vast majority of biblical scholars have left the rapture, well, behind. It’s time for the rest of us to do the same before they make the sequel or prequel to the latest Left Behind movie. If anything let’s do this for the sake of Nicholas Cage and the long-neglected American Treasure franchise. It’s what the founding fathers would have wanted.

Here are three even better reasons why the rapture needs to be cancelled:

Read the rest at my guest post for Zach Hoag…

Asking Myself Tough Questions: My Post for Moving Beyond Mediocrity at the High Calling

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I’m writing over at The High Calling Today about a life-changing anxiety attack that led to an important lesson for my career as a writer. Here’s a preview…

Gasping for air, I told my wife, “We need to go to the emergency room.”

On our way to the hospital my breathing became heavy and labored. My chest didn’t feel tight, but it also didn’t feel right. My family has a history of heart disease. I wasn’t physically active at the time. I expected the worst.

Looking back, it’s not like I was drafting an outline as we sped toward the hospital that day. But as a writer, I would have thought that I could at least pull a long magazine article out of a trip to the emergency room and subsequent months of intensive medical testing, maybe even base a book on the experience. But my failure to do so provided an important lesson about my work as a writer and about life in general.

Read the rest at the High Calling.

My Next Book Release: Hockey Is for Real

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I was five years old. There were bright lights, unfamiliar faces, and a loud booming voice. 

People cheered and celebrated, clapping their hands for joy and sharing drinks. 

Sticks slapped at the ice, a black disc zipped from one end of the ice to the other, and men smashed each other into the boards. When things got out of hand, they all flooded the ice to punch each other. 

I didn’t quite know where I was or how I’d gotten there, but in the days and months that followed, he gradually clued me in. I had just been to a hockey game. In fact, everything I described from my experience matched a hockey game precisely. 

I had been to hockey and back, and my life would never be the same. No matter what has happened in my life, I have always known that I will one day return to the peace and joy of a hockey game.

I wrote about hockey in my new book, Hockey Is for Real so that you can know that hockey is real too.

Hockey is for Real

This book answers life’s most daunting and perplexing questions:

Is hockey a real place? 

What is hockey like? 

How can I go to there if I want to go to there?

 

I’ve been hesitant to mention this book project for quite some time since I’m currently releasing my two latest books: Unfollowers: Unlikely Lessons on Faith from the Doubters of Jesus and The Good News of Revelation. However, today seemed like the perfect time to unveil a project that has been my passion from a very young age.

I pray you’ll discover that hockey is real.

I pray you’ll learn to stop fearing hockey. 

Most of all, I pray that we can all go to hockey together one glorious day in the future. 

HOCKEY IS FOR REAL MY FRIENDS. 

 

We Know Where to Find Jesus, But What If We Don’t Want to Go There?

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By the time John the Baptist reevaluated his entire life calling in the prison at Herod’s palace, Jesus was well on his way out into the wilderness. Nothing added up. If Jesus was the Messiah, why wasn’t he in control of Herod’s Palace? Why were the corrupt priests still ministering in the temple? Why were the Romans still taxing, demeaning, and executing his people? 

Why wasn’t Jesus in control? 

John couldn’t make sense of the power that Jesus exerted throughout his ministry. John expected a Messiah who would take over. Instead, he got a Messiah who wandered in the wilderness, healed the outcasts, forgave notorious sinners, and spoke about a vague Kingdom of God without ever crowning himself king. 

How could Jesus be a king without the office and position of a king? 

The riddle of Jesus was as confounding to John as it would be for us today. There’s no doubt that many Christians today would struggle to believe in and follow a religious “leader” like Jesus who wasn’t married, didn’t have a large following, and never assumed any kind of official office or put together an organization/denomination. 

Jesus wasn’t organized, systematized, or influential according to our own terms. While he had a certain amount of authority and clout because of his powerful teachings and miracles, he never took on a formal position. That latter point made no sense to John. 

I was reminded of these lessons about John from my book Unfollowers when I read a post by Sarah Bessey over the weekend. Sarah gives evangelicals “permission” to step away from labels, traditions, and positions for a season in order to grieve and to rediscover what following Jesus may look like for them. Everything in her post resonates with my own experiences in evangelicalism: the need to grieve its worst parts, the desire for distance and space, and the reassembling of my faith out in the wilderness apart from religious structures. 

We don’t get to remake faith according to our own terms. We can only seek out Jesus wherever he may be found, and as the story of John the Baptist teaches us, Jesus spent a lot of time in the wilderness. 

Like John, we all crave some sort of validation, an external marker that tells everyone: “Look, I’m on the right side!” 

We can feel the tension of Jesus’ audience all over the pages of scriptures. His disciples asked when they would be able to reign on thrones with him. They followed him to his ascension asking if he was finally going to restore the kingdom of Israel. They wanted clear, external validation that they were on the right side. 

I can feel the same tension today. I’ve always wanted to be associated with a group that is successful and right. Whether that’s been a group of fundamentalists destined to be raptured someday soon or a rag tag band of progressive evangelicals who are trying to figure out prayer and service to the poor, I want my choices to be validated by institutions and groups. I want to belong to something bigger than myself and to have a kind of position or rank or recogniztion within that group. 

Jesus consistently denied his followers any kind of office or position. They were just a bunch of uneducated nobodies who followed that “Messiah-wanna-be” for three years. They never received any kind of validation or position that meant a thing among their contemporaries. Jesus even discouraged them from taking the title “rabbi.” 

And so where does that leave us? 

Can we find contentment on the margins and in the wilderness, with only the validation that comes from Jesus? Do we need positions, titles, labels, or recognition in order to serve, bless, or pray? Do we need an institution to recognize us? 

As much as I crave the roots and traditions of my faith, I have also seen how institutions and power structures can become a snare and an idol all their own. I live daily with the tension of seeking to learn from the founders of my faith while also embracing the wilderness that Jesus has called me into. 

At some point every day, I have to face my desire for validation and recognition within a structure or organization. Most importantly, as I stand in the prison made of my own desires, I wonder where Jesus is. Why isn’t he here with me? Why hasn’t he given me what I want? 

The answer is found in the barren wildnerness where titles are never given and have no value any way. I can follow Jesus out there, but I have to let go of my own plans first. In that sense, I have quite a bit in common with John the Baptist. 

5 Reasons American Christians Love to Get the Book of Revelation Wrong-A Guest Post for Zack Hunt

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Zack Hunt is one of those bloggers who often says what I wish I could say. His American Jesus blog mixes theology and commentary with his sharp whit and radar for the absurd in American Christianity. I always enjoy dropping by his blog because I feel like I can let my sarcastic side off the leash a bit more. This week I’m writing about 5 Reasons American Christians Love to Get the Book of Revelation Wrong. Here’s the introduction below…

Christians in America have ZERO incentive to interpret the book of Revelation correctly.

Learned Bible scholars have presented compelling interpretations for years that provide biblically grounded and compelling explanations for its symbols and predictions. And guess what? They aren’t big fans of the rapture—a theological innovation of the 1800’s that rose to prominence because of marketing and chance rather than its accuracy.

Among today’s biblical scholars there’s a strong consensus that the majority of the book of Revelation addressed events that concerned seven first century churches in Asian Minor—you know, the seven churches the letter is ADDRESSED TO.

No worries, those liberals don’t REALLY care about understanding the Bible.

My goodness, Christians in America, especially the evangelicals, love to butcher the book of Revelation into sound bite sized, attention-grabbing, uninformed nuggets of speculation that drizzle in just enough biblical study to make their speculations look biblically legitimate.

If you live in America and you want to understand what the book of Revelation is really about, good luck. There are five really good reasons why Americans love to get it wrong:

Read the rest at The American Jesus.  

The Correct Theology Didn’t Help These Guys: My Guest Post for Micah J. Murray

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I’m guest posting for my friend Micah J. Murray, a talented up-and-coming writer who has written some of the most powerful blog posts I’ve read over the past two years. After you read my post, be sure to subscribe to his blog.

They witnessed miracles. They listened to hours and hours of perfect, undeniably correct teaching. They’d even had the future predicted for them.

They still doubted.

When calamity struck, they bolted. They didn’t join their friends in prayer. They didn’t wait for clarity. While they had every reason to believe, they couldn’t make sense of their experiences. Doubt was too much for them.

I wish we knew more about those two disciples walking along the road to Emmaus. There’s no doubt that they possessed more accurate information about Jesus than we could ever know. They’d lived the story of Jesus. They saw miracles. They listened to his teaching. They knew his death was coming.

At the times when things don’t add up about Christianity or the Bible, there are times when I can relate to their desire to run away.

I take comfort that Jesus showed up even as they ran away.

Read the Rest at Redemption Pictures.

World Vision, Consumerism, and Replacing Children Like Cell Phones

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World VisionGiving to charity can become yet another facet of American consumerism.

As Americans consume more technology, food, clothing, and furniture, giving to charity can alleviate guilt over our affluence. We can make a donation, and it could save us from asking hard questions about our lifestyles. We can say, “At least I’ve done something.”

I’ve seen the influence of consumerism in the way some former World Vision donors are planning to simply “swap” their sponsored children for another, supposedly morally pure model. If they don’t like the  decisions of World Vision when it comes to its hiring practices, they can just switch their loyalty to another charity brand and pick up another kid to support.

It’s consumerism running amuck in our benevolence.

World Vision is one of many charities that has attempted to overcome the cold financial transaction of charitable giving with something far better: relationship. By linking donors directly with children, they offer them a chance to develop a relationship.

A donation to charity can become just another notch in a consumer’s to do list, as if that donation relieave them of guilt or an obligation. I think we can all sense that tension when we donate money to a worthy cause. However, when your money is directly tied to the well-being of a child you know by name, whose face you see in a picture every day, you have a chance to move beyond merely alleviating your moral guilt. You can become a partner, perhaps even a distant surrogate family.

You can swap pictures, share stories, and become involved in each other’s lives.

Many donors at World Vision and other charities get this, but in light of World Vision’s shift in hiring practices, it’s likely that at least 2,000 donors didn’t get the point of it all. Unconfirmed reports on Twitter have mentioned:

These former donors didn’t see the value of the relationships with their children when there was a tiny, minute risk that the purity of their donations could be “corrupted” by the future presence of LGBT, married Christians. Within mere days of the announcement about World Vision’s policy change, over 2,000 donors dropped their kids. Relationships? Done.

Just… like… that…

Welcome to American consumerism kids.

For those former donors the relationships with children in need didn’t take center stage. They were more committed to the culture wars and the impact of their donations on themselves than they were on the impact on the children whom they’d committed to support. 

We can argue all day over whether World Vision truly took a step toward middle ground by allowing married, LGBT Christians onto their staff. I believe they did all that they could to remain open to both camps in Christianity, even if the more conservative side defines compromise in very strict terms. We may argue whether World Vision went too far and who caused this “crisis.” That end of this debate will go on and on among a continually dwindling number of Christians.

However, there is no debating that those who dropped children over this issue have illustrated that they never really understood the way World Vision works in the first place. They didn’t grasp the importance of personally connecting with the children they sponsored. When you’re in a relationship with a child through a charity, you don’t hold children accountable for hiring policy changes at the charity. For these donors, remaining holy and adopting a moral high ground in evangelical culture meant more than ensuring their children receive 3 meals a day and can attend school.

These former World Vision donors behaved exactly as you would expect consumers to act and nothing like you would expect a family to behave–at least, a healthy family.

Seeing all of this unfold reminds me just how important it is to put people before our personal dogmas and culture wars. Seeing the ugliness of this conflict reminds me of why Jesus told us that loving God and our neighbors are the first two commandments. If there is ever a tough decision we need to make, our first question should be: Is this decision loving or harming my neighbor? 

World Vision has given us the gift of relationships with precious children. Our financial support for them is but a small part of the transaction. The larger good is that we get to be a part of these promising young lives.

We can be a part of restoring these relationships. We can let these kids know that they aren’t rejected or abandoned, that they aren’t just commodities we can swap like cell phones, that their stories matter to us and that we will help them find the support they need.

You can support a child today at World Vision.

You can also contact Nish Weiseth if you know of a child who has lost support.