Is It Really God’s Fault?

Camping_billboardJust under two years ago, the Western world was reeling at Harold Camping’s prediction of the end of the world–reeling with laughter, that is. Once again the professing Bible believer had calculated the date of Christ’s return, a date which obviously came and went without a single Camping follower meeting Jesus in the air or a single coal of fire igniting an all consuming fire.

To make matters worse, that latest was a re-calibration of an earlier May 21 failed prediction which was a re-calibration of the one he made in 1988. When the third prophetic pronouncement yielded nothing but scorn, Camping admitted he had been wrong. Some even said he apologized since a number of his followers had reportedly sold their possessions to help fund the ad campaign to get the word out.

Others like myself didn’t see an apology in what he said, but perhaps his “I was wrong” actually meant “I’m sorry I led so many astray with my sinful, prideful, false prophecies.”

The 90-year-old broadcaster told his listeners that the Rapture did not occur October 21 because it was ultimately God’s will. “He could have stopped everything if He had wanted to,” he said. (“Camping Apologizes”)

What goaded me then and what has stuck with me for the past two years is this implication that God was at fault for not stopping him. His “confession,” in my opinion, was akin to Adam’s: “The woman YOU gave me handed me the fruit and I ate” (OK, I admit, my paraphrase and my emphasis).

This thinking, however, actually mirrors some of the reasoning of those who reject God. If He was all powerful, they say, He could stop wars and gang violence and cure cancer and pretty much all forms of suffering, sickness, pain, and death.

Except, God told Adam not to eat of that tree because if he did, if he so much as touched it, he would die.

So Adam sinned, but it’s God’s fault.

On the flip side are Christians who take the “let go and let God approach.” I don’t want to misrepresent this position because I know godly Christians who genuinely believe that they must only wait on God, and He will stir them to action.

My problem with that centers on the fact that every believer who has a nine-to-five job seems stirred to action when the alarm goes off at six each morning. Why would it be wrong for someone not under a time requirement to be stirred by the same godly motivation–responsibility?

We should be obedient to love our neighbors. No one makes us, though. We won’t get fired if we don’t welcome someone new or share with the person in need or pray for the one in the hospital. So we wait for God to prompt us, to give us the nudge by His Spirit.

However, I submit, it is sinful for us to wait for God to move us to do what He’s already told us to take care of.

It’s as sinful for Harold Camping to say, God didn’t stop me as it is for other Christians to say, God didn’t start me.

The truth is, God did stop Mr. Camping. Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 tell us that no one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return. Yet Mr. Camping felt compelled to do his special calculations to figure out the day, at least, if not the hour. Why would he say God didn’t stop him when he clearly ran right through God’s stop sign?

And those who are waiting on God’s special nudge to do what He’s told us to do–whether it’s to love our neighbor or honor our parents or work with our hands or season our speech with grace or forgive our enemies or a host of things–these folks, it seems to me, are sitting at a green light with their engines running and a full tank of gas, waiting for God’s special invitation above and beyond that green light He gave in Scripture.

Go into all the world and preach the gospel, He says in Mark 16:15. Preach with our lives, with our speech, with our writing, with our good deeds even, Peter says. So why are we waiting for a special invitation from the Holy Spirit, to do what God told us to do in His Word?

Published in: on September 9, 2013 at 6:52 pm  Comments (12)  
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What Are We Saying

Steve Jobs died.

I’m not an iPod, -Pad, or -Phone person, but I’ve used Macs ever since the little SE30 came out, before they put the i in front of the name.

I consider Steve Jobs to have been a genius, a techno and marketing genius. Whether we realize it or not, he revolutionized the way we live. His inventions changed our lives as much as Henry Ford’s did a century earlier.

But he died young.

And although people praise him for his work, I’ve heard little about his family and nothing about his faith.

All this makes me think about how fleeting life is.

At ninety-two Andy Rooney finally stepped down from Sixty Minutes, and in his final show said how short life is, how he doesn’t want it to end, and he wishes he could keep doing what he’s doing. But he can’t.

Those two men are well-liked it seems, and people for the most part say nice things about them. But two other men who’s lives are also fleeting receive regular ridicule. I’m thinking of Pat Robertson and Harold Camping, but I suspect I could have named a half dozen others and would not have exhausted the names that came to the minds of different readers.

Eighty-nine year old Harold Camping was vilified — by talk show hosts and Christians alike — for his false prophecy about the end of the world. Soon after, he had a mild stroke and has been in a nursing home until recently. Apparently his recovery allows him to hold onto his new prediction that the world will end (or finish ending) October 21.

About Pat Robertson, one Christian blogger said, “He’s an idiot,” a reaction to Robertson’s recent unbiblical statements (since retracted) about divorce.

Much loved or much hated, these four are mere men with fleeting lives. They will much sooner than we realize come into the presence of their Maker and ours. And how will we answer for what we said about them?

Don’t speak ill of the dead, the proverb says. Speaking ill of them after they’re gone doesn’t hurt them. And praising them as the world is doing with Steve Jobs doesn’t help them. They’re gone. We either used the brief time we shared with them here on earth to bless them or to curse them.

But someone may well point out that some things, some people don’t deserve to be blessed. Actually that isn’t true. None of us deserves to be blessed. If someone thinks we do, it’s because they don’t know the parts of us that reveal our sin nature. They don’t realize that the good they see wasn’t something we manufactured but rather the result of God’s magnificent creative power and astounding grace.

So we don’t remember our own sin and we don’t give God the credit He’s due; therefore, we feel superior enough to (publicly, no less) call someone else an idiot. Why, I wonder, do we Christians think this is OK?

God’s pretty clear about the fact that it isn’t.

With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. (James 3:9-10)

Published in: on October 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm  Comments (8)  
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False Prophecy Is Not A Laughing Matter

Harold Camping’s false prophecy that the rapture would occur yesterday (after having failed some seventeen years earlier) gave those opposed to God more ammunition in their arsenal. It also gave humorists and regular joes alike comedic content, and that fact is one of the saddest results of this debacle.

Camping and his believers have been the butt of jokes for days, making material for late-night talk show hosts, funny bumper stickers and even jest on local news stations around the country (“misjudgment day: Survivors pick up the pieces” ).

True, there is also the very sad reality that some of Camping’s followers shucked off the trappings of this world in preparation for the rapture — things like jobs and houses, savings accounts and school opportunities. As hard as it might be for them in the short term, they can recover.

Some of their kids may have a harder time. Their faith might be shaken.

The May 21st kids will be facing their “day of reckoning,” waking up to realize that their parents, pastors, and theologies were wrong. Many of those kids will lose something that day. The questions that many of them will ask will get answered with lies and excuses and bad biblical reasoning. Some of them will be angry with God for not bringing about Judgment Day. Some of them will lose their faith and yet be unable to escape it. (“May 21, 2011: The harm that ‘Judgment Day’ will do“).

Since these folk were believing something that wasn’t true, I don’t see it as a bad thing that they re-examine their faith. One Camping follower said that obviously something was off about the way they were interpreting the Bible. Good! Some of them, at least, will wake up to the fact that they have believed a false prophet.

But there’s a whole camp of people who never once considered that the world would end May 21, 2011 — not because they believe Jesus when He said no one knows the hour of judgment, but because they don’t believe Jesus at all. They don’t believe He died for their sins, that He’s coming again, that He will rule in justice and hold them accountable for rejecting Him.

Those who mock God and who harden their hearts as a result of the “evidence” Camping’s false prophecy provided that the Bible is untrustworthy, may well be permanent losers. Here’s one person’s reaction:

I am not sure why so many people are eager to leave this earth. Many are waiting to be sucked up into a heavenly abyss while looking down on us heathens who simply lived our life day to day. I personally had a great day this rapture weekend and attended several parties and even the day after breakfast and must say with each and every prediction, the parties get better, and the technology through the use of Facebook and Youtube is absolutely hilarious (“Rapture Reflections“).

The heartbreaking reality is that Camping’s false prophecy is no different from the false prophecies of Jeremiah’s day. God does not look on false prophecy lightly.

Behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the LORD, “who use their tongues and declare, ‘The Lord declares.’

“Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams,” declares the LORD, “and related them and led My people astray by their falsehoods and reckless boasting; yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people the slightest benefit,” declares the LORD.

“Now when this people or the prophet or a priest asks you [Jeremiah] saying, ‘What is the oracle of the LORD?’ then you shall say to them, ‘What oracle?’ The LORD declares, ‘I will abandon you.’

“Then as for the prophet or the priest or the people who say, ‘The oracle of the LORD,’ I will bring punishment upon that man and his household.

“Thus will each of you say to his neighbor and to his brother, ‘What has the LORD answered?’ or, ‘What has the LORD spoken?’

“For you will no longer remember the oracle of the LORD, because every man’s own word will become the oracle, and you have perverted the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God (Jeremiah 23:31-36, all emphases added).

There’s something we Christians can gain from all this, I think. For one, false prophecy — of the Camping variety or the Rob Bell variety or Word of Faith, Mormons, or any teaching that strays from what the Bible says — should not go unchallenged. We can’t wink at this stuff or shrug and say, Oh well, they can believe whatever they want to believe.

At the opposite extreme, however, I don’t believe Christians should turn into heresy hunters. Convicting and convincing others of sin is the job of the Holy Spirit.

Our role should be to know what we believe. We should have an increasing knowledge about what the Bible teaches, but we should also know how we are to understand it. Are we to look for numerical codes to dates and times of Christ’s return, or are we to believe Jesus when He said

But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come (Mark 13:32-33).

If we know what we believe, then we’ll be ready — alert — to stand up and speak the truth in love when a false teacher comes along.

Published in: on May 23, 2011 at 7:10 pm  Comments (2)  
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