Review: “The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation”

One of the most talked about and polarizing texts in all of the canon of Scripture is the book of Revelation.  This book has been the subject of fiery debates, discussions, theological stances, studies and TV programs on TBN.

At first glance the book of Revelation doesn’t really seem to fit with the rest of the New Testament.  It’s style and language are different than anything else in the Bible.  Reformer Martin Luther (as well as others) wanted the book to be removed from the Bible.

When it comes to interpretation of this book there are several camps of thought but I will highlight two of them:

  1. Dispensationalism– a literal understanding of the book; the book portrays events in the future that marks the Second Coming of Christ into the world.  The book is a coded message that the faithful need to understand so they can be on the look out of the signs of the return of Jesus Christ. This method of understanding the book of Revelation was first postulated by John Darby in the late 19th Century.
  2. A message or story of hope and support for a persecuted community– The message of Revelation is one that encapsulates the pain and struggles of a community trying to live and survive in a society that did not like them.

The Rapture Exposed puts forth the thesis that the book of Revelation has been misunderstood for many years.   The author claims that the book was not meant to be a future predicting, dispensational text,where people are trying to connect events in the world to the ancient text.  The author believes that the message of Revelation is really a hopeful one.

The book looks into the nature of Dispensational theology and how the text does not support this idea; one of the most popular modern versions of the this theology is the Left Behind series.  This series has sold millions of books world wide and even spun off into three films (with a reported reboot coming soon starring Nicolas Cage).  The Left Behind series follows the life of people who have been left behind after the “rapture” of all Christians on the earth.  They have to battle the evil Anti Christ and try to get the message out about the salvation of God in Christ before God destroys the world and starts anew.

The author, Barbara Rossing, writes:

To understand the biblical basis for much of today’s end-times thinking we have to begin our story further back than the book of Revelation. In the view of Darby and other dispensationalists, God’s whole biblical plan for the end-times is already mapped out in the Old Testament. The entire end-times framework of Darby’s dispensationalist system is based on just three verses at the end of chapter 9 of Daniel! (page 25)

The problem according to Rossing is that the Book of Revelation has been distorted to fit the model of theology instead of the Book itself shaping a model of theology.  She points out that no where in the text does the word “Anti Christ” appear as well as there is no mention of the Anti Christ establishing a covenant with Israel and then breaking that covenant.  These items have been read into the pages of scripture and made to fit.

Rossing lays out well reasoned arguments on why the message of Revelation is one of hope and not World War III. The message of Revelation is one that is centered in the notion of God’s revealing and redemptive power now, not in some predetermined future date. She writes,

Like the visionary journeys of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Revelation’s vision of seals, trumpets, bowls, and other manifestations are meant to be a wake-up call. They unveil the urgency of God’s justice and judgment by taking us on terrifying journey, all with the goals of persuading us to ally ourselves with God’s vision for our world. The journeys are not intended as literal predictions of events that must; they are nightmarish warnings of what may happen– if we do not follow God’s nonviolent Lamb. (page 91)

The Book of Revelation has been used as a tool for right action and orthodoxy (correct belief). The mode of thinking is: one does not know when the end of the world will be so you better get right with God or you will witness the destruction of the world. The faithful of God, however, according to dispensational theology, will have a front row view of the end of the world and humanity from Heaven.

Revelation is not a book written to inspire fear or terror. But it is definitely written to increase a sense of urgency for our world. It is an apocalyptic wake-up call for each of us, precisely because there is hope for us and for our world. … Revelation teaches us a fierce, urgent, and wonderful hope– not an easy comfort, but a hope that knows the reality of terror and evil and still can testify to God’s love in the face of that terror. (page 170)

Overall I thought this text was a good overview of the pitfalls of a literal interpretation of Revelation and I believe that the message of hope as laid out in this text is a refreshing one, one that the church needs to hear more of. This type of hopeful theology is one that is not being promoted and propagated in the church today; if it is for may it is falling on deaf ears.

★★★★☆
4 out of 5 stars
Amazon Link

In Christ,
Rev. Evan

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Sojo.net gets 10,000 signatures on Victoria’s Secret Petition

A ministry colleague emailed me and told me that Sojourners had online petition encouraging Limited Brands to stop targeting young women in their marketing campaign; they cited one of the many article written about my letter in their petition information. I was honored that they asked me to write a piece about my experiences and thought process behind writing the letter to Victoria’s Secret.

Sojourners has been petitioning Victoria’s Secret to stop objectifying young girls; they have had about 10,000 people sign their online petition.  When some one signs it an email is send to Limited Brands.  According to a follow up piece on Sojo.net (see below), Victoria’s Secret has given them the same standard answers.  Catherine Woodiwiss, the author and Associate Web Editor of Sojourners, writes

This statement about “Bright Young Things” — what Sojourners has always made clear was a campaign, not a line — does not address Sojourners’ central concerns over reinforcing confusion about the value of young women, to young women. Over the action alert’s charges that oversexed objectification contributes to a culture of abuse, rape, and distorted worth, Victoria’s Secret gave no comment.

Please read the articles below and consider signing the petition.

Thanks for reading and supporting me.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


My article Link on sojo.net

Follow up article- 10,000 Emails, Victoria’s Secret Continues Business As Usual 

Consider signing the petition to tell Victoria’s Secret to stop objectifying teen girls.

Sojourners’ Bright Young– What? Campaign (via Facebook)

Reflection on Boston and West

I was in Phoenix all of last week.  I was attending a retreat for young ministers.  The retreat was jam packed and I had little time to check email and did not have any TV access at all.  It was only through twitter that I even heard about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, the shootings in Watertown, the factory explosion in West, TX and the “man hunt.”

As information was flying across the internet I was able to catch a glimpse here and there.  As the days progressed and more and more information was being made available it was a difficult pill to swallow.  It seemed like it was an unrelenting barrage of tragic events.  Some of the people I was with in Phoenix stated that they were glad they were in Arizona during all of this, not because it was away from the action but because they knew they would be glued to their TVs while the events unfolded.

So what can we learn from these events?

First, don’t believe everything you read on the internet or hear on the news.  In the first few hours of the bombing and the West explosion, there were so many conflicting reports.  News agencies try to get the best information they can but sometimes the first information that is reported is either false or extremely over exaggerated.

Second, the human condition is alive and well.  Humans unfortunately at their core have the ability to enact violence and hatred on one another.  Whether it is racial tensions, religious objections, ideological differences, humanity can be a viscous beast. When tragedy strikes we reflect on how this could have possibly happened. We begin to think of ways this could have been prevented and sometimes that leaves us feeling empty and agitated. I know this is a dismal view when it comes to humanity, but is something that we as the human race have been trying to fix for millennia. Wars, hatred, violence, genocide and human rights violations are in our past; you don’t have to look that far to find this in history.

However, not all hope is lost. (see below)

Finally, humanity is not as flawed or selfish as we once thought. Yes, I know this might be hard to completely understand given the death in Boston (and the previous point), but I read report after report of first responders and police officers running TOWARD the blast sites in a effort to help others. Even the runners of the marathon continued to run to the local hospital to donate blood for the victims AFTER they had already ran 26.2 miles. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of supplies were collected in the days after both Boston and West. People recognized that those who fell victim to the bombings and accident at the plant did not intend for this to happen. We as a species have a great emotional gift called empathy. Our hearts break when we hear of tragedy and mourn right along with people even if we ourselves are not effected.


As a minister I began to reflect on the message of the Gospel and how that message was being played out in these cities. A colleague and ECLA minster, Rev. David H., tweeted something that stood out to me. (See below)

For me, the message of the Gospel is more about love and grace and care than anything else. Christ reminds us that his time on this earth is one marked by serving and loving than by being served. Christ’s redemptive and radical message of wholeness and grace is one that should inspire others to do the same. Christ’s message is one of self-lessness; it is a message that makes us look outside of ourselves to facilitate a world where peace, love and justice reign.

Maybe Rev. David is right… if the message of the Gospel of love and wholeness can not be shown in times of uncertainty and instability then maybe we should close up shop. However, Christian’s from all walks of life clung to the notion of God being ever present in the lives of those effected and walking right beside them.


May we continue to pray for those effected by the tragedies in Boston and West. May God’s comfort and peace and grace and wholeness be poured out.

Come Spirit Come.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

When Starbucks Is Thought Provoking…

"my morning pick me up"

“my morning pick me up” via Instagram

Today I went out to run a couple of errands and more importantly to get a haircut. For the past few days I was starting to resemble Grizzly Adams or at least a distant cousin. After I dropped off my daughter at pre-school I made my way to get my hair cut at location near the church. I arrived at 9:30, but they did not open until 10am. Not a problem… why? Two stores down is a Starbucks.

I made my way into the establishment and purchased a Grande Tribute Blend and took a seat. I read emails and tweeted and like many High School girls I took a picture of my coffee and posted it to Instagram (see above). It was posted to Twitter and Facebook and I received a comment pretty quick on Facebook.

The comment was from a colleague in ministry in Indiana– Jay. He had an interesting experience at a Starbucks when he was getting his “morning pick me up.” He just recently started a blog and I thought his first post was quite thought provoking.

Here is a snippet of the post.

What I had just experienced is commonly called “Paying it Forward.”

It sounds like a really nice gesture, and it is. But as I was going through this experience, I was quickly thinking and processing my feelings. First was obvious, FREE COFFEE!!!! Then I thought, “How long has this been going on today?” I had seen a story on the local news about how one Starbucks in town had 50 some-odd people “paying it forward.” Then I thought, “I can’t be the guy who breaks this cycle and look like a total jerk. The social pressure to continue with this trend was very high. Then after I gave her my card, I thought, “Wait a minute, what if the person behind me just ordered a $10 coffee?!?!” I obviously did not have that kind of budget.

As I fell into the social pressure that was placed upon me by complete strangers, I pulled out of the parking lot, finally with my coffee, and I thought: ”WHAT IN THE HELL WAS THAT?!”

Jay took the experience of free coffee and the guilt associated with not “paying it forward” and views it in the lens of social justice and the Christian response.  This post is an excellent example of public theology and how Christians are called to be the light of Christ to all people at all times.  Good job Jay 🙂

I highly recommend that you read the entire blog post, click here to do so.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Finding God In Tragedy: A Review of “Faith Under Fire”

On February 14-17, Bethany Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Houston, Texas will host the first annual Texas Christian Film Festival.  From now through the festival I will be posting reviews of the films shown.  You can learn more about the festival by going to TXCFF.com.


June 22, 1980 was no normal Sunday. This particular Sunday in the quiet town of Daingerfield, Texas will never be forgotten. On this date, Al King, Jr. entered the First Baptist Church and opened fire, killing seven people including a seven year old girl.

This day and the days after it are the subject of a documentary entitled “Faith Under Fire.” (Trailer Below)

This film recounts the moments that changed so many people’s lives on a typical Sunday morning in Daingerfield.   Director Sondra Martin Hicks takes the viewer on a emotion filled retelling of the tragic events.

You can hear the pain, the anguish, the heartbreak, the “what ifs”, the “why them?” and the raw emotion still after 30 years.   Hicks weaves the story of the event and the the reflection of the event in a powerful way.  At one point, the viewer is able to hear the original church audio of the moment when King entered the church and opened fire.

“Faith Under Fire” examines how faith, community, love and justice co-exist.  For some this experience brought them closer to God, for others it was years before they could return to a relationship with God.  I began to question how I would react if my child or wife was killed.  Would I call for the death penalty?  Would I chose to forgive?  Would I hate the person who did this?  Could I ever learn to “deal with it”?

During this film you hear the reaction and thoughts of the family of Al King, Jr.  It was surprising to hear their version of that fateful day.  King was cold, mean and abusive and his wife and children were powerless under his reign.  In their minds, there was nothing that could have stopped him from committing the act of violence that he did.

In the end, this film brings up so many different emotions.  But through it all, the viewer  is left with a sense of how faith even under fire can hold up and restore people.

4 of out 4 stars.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan Dolive


God, Football and Theology According to Ray Lewis

My latest article on houstonbelief.com


All eyes were on New Orleans Sunday night as the 47th playing of football’s biggest game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Amid the $3.8 million 30-second commercials, blackouts and amazing plays, one player, Ravens Middle Linebacker, Ray Lewis was the focus on much of media’s attention. Lewis at the beginning of the playoffs had stated that he would retire after 17 years with the Ravens; this was his last run at another Super Bowl win. He has been in and out of the media light during his career; he was charged with obstruction of justice in a murder investigation and even been accused of using a banned substance.

However, after the Ravens had clinched their second franchise Super Bowl victory, Lewis was asked how he felt being a Super Bowl champ again he answered:

“It’s simple: when God is for you, who can be against you?” [Quoting from Romans 8]

So what exactly are you saying there Mr. Lewis? Was God only on your side or the Ravens’ side? Is God not a 49ers fan? Did the good people of Baltimore unite in prayer more fervently than those on the West Coast?

I am not denying that God gifted Ray Lewis with the ability to play a position in football better than anyone else; I am not denying that Ray Lewis has a relationship with God. Could his answer possibly have been an excited utterance, just something that he said in the moment? Maybe, but then again maybe not.

Was God’s hand in the mix during the Super Bowl? Did God cause the black out or cause the ref not to call passing interference that would have swung the game to the 49ers? And if God’s hand was in the mix why was the favor only for one team in league or 30 teams? God was just as much on the side of Ray Lewis as God was on the side for all of the 49ers, the Houston Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars and every other human on the planet. No amount of status, fame, fortune or access to resources grants a person “more favor” with God. It just doesn’t work that way.

When it comes to public theology, one has to be careful. We have to be careful that we are not using a text for a purpose that it was not originally composed for. This is a very difficult skill to learn and one that has plagued the church for centuries. The Bible has been used for almost every major political, socially and “hot topic” issues; it has been used for having slaves and for the emancipation of slaves, for the promotion and denial of women’s rights, for and against the affirming of homosexuality.

When we come to the Bible we are bringing our own preconceptions or even our own “agendas.” If one is looking for a passage to make their theology work, well guess what, they are going to find it.

So congrats to Ray Lewis and the 2012-2013 Baltimore Ravens.

May we remember that in winning and in losing that ALL are all God’s children. God doesn’t love one person over another.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


 

And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians: Part X (Inauguration Edition)

My latest blog on Houston Belief


I’ve said many times before that I believe that some people who were Christians and left the faith or those who reject Christianity altogether do so not because of any objection to the teachings of Jesus Christ. They object to the actions of Christians themselves.

This is just another example of how one stupid act can make all Christians look bad.

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill in Seattle, Washington has been known for his outlandish statements. Generally he takes to the social media and makes wild statements about what it means to be follower of Christ or how a certain group of people should act.

Normally I just roll my eyes and have a good discussion with other minister friends but this time, he went too far. Now I am not saying that his previous 538 wild statements were somehow deemed “ok” by me, but I think that this one deserves special attention.

Driscoll took to the mighty Twitter on Inauguration Day and tweeted this:

Really Mark? Really? Please inform the masses in what class at Western Seminary did you learn the complex inter-workings of knowing a person’s faith? Last time I checked you and the President were not sharing a brew on the White House lawn.  So then how are you capable to judge someone’s faith and intent?  How are you able to say that he does not know God, that he does not believe in the Bible?

BIG WORDS MR. DRISCOLL, BIG WORDS.

Just another reason why people aren’t Christians and yet again it has NOTHING to do with Jesus. If the image of Christianity is one of judgment and self-righteousness, well we might as well close the doors and go home. The idea that Christians have some sort of mystical power that allows them to peer into the soul and heart of others is a stretch.  This is not the image of Christianity that I want to be promoted.

Could it possibly be Mark that the President and you might have different understandings of what it means to live out the gospel? Is it possible for the two to co-exist?  I am assuming that in your mind they can not.  This my friend is saddening.  If all of Christianity believed in your version of the gospel, it would be pretty plain and monochromatic.  But Christianity is diverse, rich and multi-layered.  Sure we can disagree on theological concepts but if the fact remains that we are doing it as a response to the Gospel and the faith that we hold dear I do not see a problem.  Sure people can take it to the extreme like Westboro Baptist, but isn’t this tweet just as extreme?

Driscoll’s words fly in the face of what Jesus actually taught in the Bible that he claims he knows but the President does not.  The problem with his words not only are they extremely judgmental, but they make all faithful followers of Christ look bad.  Not every Christian believes that the President is not a Christian, not every Christian believes in the same understanding of God, Jesus, the Bible, the authority of the Church or even sin.  Just becasue you might not have voted for the President or even like his policy choices, the President (whether you want to admit it or not) is created in the same image of God that you and I are.  Belittling the President or anyone for that matter is down right wrong.

As Christians in the 21st century we are called to become more than just talking points, cliches and tweets.  Christianity at its core is based in relational loving and caring.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

6 Objections of the Church from “They Like Jesus But Not The Church”

I am currently reading “They Like Jesus But Not The Church” by Dan Kimball.  It is an interesting book on how the church is seen by those in the “emerging generations.”  The author does not hold back in calling out followers of Christ on both sides of the theological spectrum. In the book he list six objections people have to the church (they are listed below)

What do you think about these six?  Would you add or take any way?


Objection #1: The church is an “organized religion” with a political agenda;
Objection #2: The church is judgmental and negative
Objection #3: The church is male dominated and oppresses females
Objection #4: The church is homophobic
Objection #5: The church feels Christianity is right and all other religions are wrong
Objection #6: The church is full of “fundamentalists” who take the Bible too literally.

Join The Conspiracy!

Think about Christmas differently this year! Turn your Christmas upside down!

When Intolerance/Difference of Theological Belief Leads To Unemployment

For starters, this post is not about me. I am not losing my job, but it is about a fellow minister who is currently in this unfortunate boat.

A minister colleague of mine posted on Facebook that his church had made the decision that they were going to withdraw from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination. On top of that, the governing body of the church had the right to terminate the minister, no congregational vote or anything.

The beginning of all of this started when the Kentucky Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at their last assembly voted to remove the restriction that stated that open homosexuals could not be ordained in the Region.  The measure passed by a wide margin and even church in the region had an opportunity to cast a vote and speak on the issue.   For my colleague’s church this was not enough.  They disagreed with the measure and thus have taken action.

The thing that I do not understand is that in the Disciples of Christ denomination, one our main tenets is the freedom of belief and the priesthood of all believers.  Under the notion of the freedom of belief, there are not hard and fast interpretations of the Bible broad casted from on high at some national office.  Each person is supposed to be lead by the Spirit to come up with an interpretation of themselves.  Now this does not mean that they are devoid of conversation with others or that they can not draw upon the knowledge of ministers and leaders, but it does mean that the conversation can not be had.  The Disciples are big proponents of local church authority and autonomy.  It is so the church can find an expression of faith that fits the congregation at hand.  No two Disciples churches look a like and that is a great thing.  The Bible is meant to expressed in a different ways to different people.  Gone are the days of cookie cutter religion and hello a place where questions are welcomed and discussions can be had.

Does this mean you can believe whatever you want?  In a sense yes and no… I mean you believed God was a water buffalo, you have missed the point of the gospel.  But for the most part, theologies are constantly in flux, they are growing and shaping over a course of a life time.  This does not mean that once you chose one particular way of believing or understanding the Bible that you are stuck with it forever.  This is where I believe this congregation might have jumped the gun.  What is wrong with having differing theological opinions   What is wrong with having a good discussion based on and around the notion that in the end we are still welcome and able to come around the Table of Grace under the common bond of Jesus Christ.  I hate to tell this congregation but even though they differ on this issue, there are still people within the remnant that do not see eye to eye on every piece of theology, its quite impossible for that to happen.

I am saddened for my friend and colleague and pray that he will find a church that will accept him and his understanding of the gospel.

 

May it be so.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan