Imagine the joy that will fill you…
The last time I wrote a personal blog was back in March 16, on the flat earth controversy. This time I want to touch on something completely different and hopefully relevant to EVERYONE!
Most of the people who read my blog, and most of the names on my mailing list, are following me because of my early focus on “End Times” research and the two books I wrote, Red Moon Rising (2005) and The Second Coming of the Antichrist (2012). These were researched and written from a premillennial dispensational perspective, which is very common throughout American evangelicalism. You might not even recognize these terms, or understand what they mean, but chances are your expectations for the future are shaped by your exposure to them, and from this particular approach to reading the Bible.
The high point of my career as an “end-times author” came for me in January of 2013 when I was invited, with all expenses paid, to speak at a bible prophecy conference called Future Congress 2 in Dallas, Texas. I shared three one-hour presentations. Two of them focused on my end-times books and the third on the identity of Babylon in Revelation and how it relates to global capitalism in today’s world. These were all well-received and I left with a certain sense of accomplishment, yet there was also an uneasiness within me, fueled by a couple of things. For one, I got to spend some time at the end of the conference with my friend Tim Bence, and he politely refused to engage with me on anything related to my supposed knowledge of Revelation and the end times. He wasn’t rude, but he did share his opinion that Revelation is so entirely mystical, symbolic, and sacred, that those who think they can boil it down to a timeline of future literal events are TOTALLY naïve and misguided! This was humbling to say the least, especially since I was expecting at least some sort of affirmation or pat on the back!
The other thing that caused me to question my entrenched beliefs was a challenge that I received in the aftermath of the conference from people who doubted the integrity of the New Testament, coming from a Hebrew Roots perspective. Specifically, these people were very aggressive in their denial of the Apostle Paul as a genuine Jesus-follower. Now this was completely out of left field for me! Yet the case that was made was too comprehensive and too serious for me to dismiss lightly. It was time for me to get very serious about my Bible study!
The result of that deep Bible study, to put it in a nutshell, was the realization that the entire system of premillennial dispensationalism is deeply flawed and contradictory to the teachings of the New Testament and the traditions of the early church. I found out that dispensationalism is the shaky foundation upon which Hebrew Roots teaching is built upon, and both camps lack a basic understanding of Jesus’ central teaching on the Kingdom of God.
After a year of study, I posted a three-part series on Jesus and the Law at the end of 2013 (adding two more parts in the Fall of 2015). This series helped me to define the nature of the Church in relation to the Old Testament law and in relation to Israel. After dealing with these issues I then turned back to my passion for all things related to “End Times” through my blogs and articles on the New Exodus, beginning in early 2014 and extending to the Summer of 2015. Rather than offering us a textbook filled with future events that we can plot on a timeline, I found instead that the Bible’s approach to the end times is much more conformed to the idea of a parable based on the types and shadows found in Israel’s exodus story and their Old Testament promises of redemption. This perspective may offer us much less certainty of what is to come, but it delivers more beauty, wonder, and hopeful expectation! It also provides a perspective that is entirely faithful to the New Testament and to the handed-down traditions of the early Apostolic Church.
The nature of my study was to rely first and foremost upon prayer and Holy Spirit guidance as I re-read my Bible. In addition to this I was also blessed by the work of many bible scholars from various perspectives, with a couple of them standing out for me in their level of influence. After diving in to the anti-Paul perspective offered by a few scholars I then decided to dive into N. T. Wright’s brand new book on Paul. Wright’s clear and comprehensive explanation of Paul’s life and doctrine really exposed the shallowness of the anti-Paul camp and also highlighted for me the errors of dispensationalism. It was here that I came upon the idea of the New Exodus, which was supplemented for me by the work of G. K. Beale, especially his comprehensive commentary on the book of Revelation. It was here that I found that New Exodus symbolism permeates the entire Apocalypse!
Another significant influence for me appeared as the result of listening to the June 13, 2013 edition of the Beyond the Box podcast, hosted by Steve Sensenig with guests Peter Enns and Michael Hardin. It was here that I first heard the name of Rene Girard, and it was here that I first began to think that my understanding of biblical inerrancy and inspiration might possibly be entirely off base! Rene Girard offered a whole new approach to the message of the Gospel that encompasses all of human history, breaking out of the box of “biblical history” and opening up new horizons with far-reaching progressive, yet entirely Christ-centered, implications!
In addition to the “scholarly” influences mentioned above, another major influence on my spiritual journey has been a missionary to Africa by the name of “Papa” Boyd Dennis. My wife Lori and I first met him in 2009, and we continue to see him at least once and often twice a year when he visits Hawaii from his base in Kibera, Kenya (the second-largest slum in all of Africa). Since first meeting him Papa Boyd has been provoking and challenging me and my views about the Bible, the end times, and the character of God. Like Tim Bence, Papa Boyd is never rude and is rarely argumentative, but he has a way of pointing out contradictions and false doctrines that simply makes you begin to think (and re-think) from a deep-down heart level. As this journey progressed I continued to remember the words of Papa Boyd that were provoking me from the back of my mind.
Throughout 2013 and into early 2014 I remained absorbed in my studies, trying to hold onto many of my old views, yet being pulled relentlessly away from them by something better, but not yet clearly defined. In the early months of 2014 I noticed that the sales of my Red Moon Rising book were increasing based on the expectation (evangelical end-times hysteria) of the approaching four blood moons, the first of which was to occur on April 14. Due to inner conviction and the total lack of confidence in the integrity of my book, I pulled it from publication on April 12. My views no longer aligned with those of John Hagee and I needed to extract my work from the consumer marketplace of fear-based end-times evangelicalism.
Sometime later on, in 2015 I think, I also informed the publisher of my Antichrist book that I did not want any more copies of it published as well. This book was a little harder to let go of, and I still see some value in it, but if it were to be published again it would have to be entirely re-written with an entirely new perspective on the biblical role, identity, and purpose of the Antichrist. Maybe one day it will happen, but this whole area of “End Times” is no longer where my passion lies!
It is clear to me now that my focus on “End Times” was driven by influences going back to my childhood. Both of my grandfathers were ministers in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, and so both of my parents are pastor’s kids. I attended an SDA school all my years through eighth grade. In seventh grade, instead of bible devotions, our teacher read through a huge SDA end-times novel chapter-by-chapter over the course of several months. It was much like Left Behind but with an Adventist doctrinal emphasis. It painted an end-times picture of a brutal New World Order taking over, an evil catholic pope, the mark of the beast, the plagues of Revelation, and faithful survivors hiding out in the wilderness waiting for their rescue from heaven. I never really accepted the Adventist “Sabbath-keeping” doctrinal emphasis, yet the fearful expectation for the future and the call to sacrifice for Jesus remained deeply embedded in my psyche. In young adulthood when I came back to Jesus I was drawn to dispensationalism because it offered a superficial template from which to easily understand all of Revelation’s terrible symbolism. With this information I could warn people and help to save them from what was inevitably coming soon upon the entire earth!
My passion for “End Times” was thankfully re-directed towards a passion for the presence and power of God manifested in the gifts of the Spirit, beginning in 2007. This was my “Pentecostal Awakening” that truly continues to this day! For a number of years my end-times views existed alongside my newfound awareness of the Holy Spirit. Like most charismatics I was engaged in the present activity of the Spirit, but held within the context of spiritual warfare and the soon expected approach of the end. I could pray with someone for a miracle one minute, and then talk intelligently about the fulfillment of prophecy and current events the next, yet I was still far from tapping into the truly good stuff!
So where is my passion now, and where is the truly good stuff? Where is this journey taking me, and am I even progressing? Well, over the years I have come to realize (with much help!) that there is something even more important than end times knowledge and even more captivating than the Power of God, and that is the Love of God. And this eternal and relentless Love was nowhere expressed more perfectly to humanity than in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Yes, the Love of God is an awe-inspiring swirling vortex relentlessly pulling all of Creation into it.
Over the course of my studies, with positive influence from many mentors, I have begun to realize that everything that I think I know about the Bible, about the future, and about myself, must be grounded in the Truth that GOD IS LOVE. This was one of the FIRST revelations delivered by Jesus (Matt. 5:38-48), and it was a Truth repeated by the Apostles (1 John 1:1-5, 4:16, James 1:17) and maintained in the traditions of the early Church. Everything else must revolve around this Truth! Every revelation, every doctrine, every prophecy, every work of power must directly connect with the reality that GOD IS LOVE. This is truly a revolutionary new perspective for me personally, but I honestly believe that there is no firmer ground upon which to stand!
It was from this new outlook that I was attracted to, and (along with my wife Lori) signed up for, Andre and Mary-Anne Rabe’s Mimesis Academy at the beginning of 2016. This couple have been long-time ministers based in South Africa and their year-long online course covers six subjects: Desire and Mimesis, Scripture as Conversation, Symbolism of Evil, Idols and Icons, Jesus Christ, and Mimetic Atonement.
You see, here’s the deal: If the testimony of Jesus is true, and if God truly is Good, if God is Love, and if God is Light with NO darkness in Him AT ALL, and if we are willing to put these fundamental truths about God’s character FIRST, then this means that all other doctrines, whether we consider them “biblical” or not, need to be analyzed again with fresh eyes. This is a Spirit-led process of deconstruction and it is something that is sweeping through the Body of Christ all over the world today! It is a wonderful thing, but also a provocative and challenging thing, but it is necessary to birth again the original “love revolution” that was the heart and soul of the early church.
We have been very fortunate and blessed to be part of the online community hosted by Andre and Mary-Anne Rabe, and to anyone who is encouraged by what they are reading here, who may be dissatisfied with their church life, cynical of man-made doctrines, and hopeful for something MORE, I recommend signing up now for the 2017 Mimesis Academy program. Mention my name and perhaps you will even get a discount! The program is not free, but for us it has been entirely worth it.
On a related note, I would be remiss to wrap up this blog without assigning any homework. One of the key areas of change in my spiritual life has been the way in which I read Scripture as my Faith has transitioned from being Bible-centered to being Christ-centered. So what does a Christ-centered way of reading the Bible look like? Why must our approach to Scripture change in light of Christ’s revelation of the relentless all-consuming love of God? I think you will find these questions answered in the following article by Brad Jersak:
Print this out, read it, study it, and you will be greatly blessed, as well as come away with a better understanding of what I am talking about!
Lastly, I want to introduce to you the subject of what I hope will be my next book, tentatively titled, Quadratus: A New Race, A New Way of Life. This will be a little book that will include my own modern translation of an early church manuscript called, “The Letter to Diognetus.” This is the earliest extra-biblical document in existence that explains to non-believers what it means to be a Christian, probably written in 126 AD by Quadratus, the leader of the Church of Athens at the time.
[Update – January 2, 2019: According to recent scholarship the author of the Epistle to Diognetus is most likely the early church father Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna who died as a martyr early in the second century. See From the Lost Teaching of Polycarp by Charles E. Hill. The idea for my upcoming book has changed considerably.]
According to various sources Quadratus was a disciple of the original Apostles, part of the second generation of early church leaders, and his short explanation of what it means to be a Christian is breathtaking and inspiring, focusing on the way in which Jesus shows us the true character of God. Quadratus was a martyr, executed for his faith a short time after he penned the following words,
For God, the Master and Creator of the universe, who made all things and arranged them in their proper order, is not only a true friend of mankind but is also long-suffering towards us. Truthfully he has always been this way, and will continue to be this way towards us: kind and good and free from anger and true. He alone is good. And when he had formed in his mind such an amazing and unspeakably wonderful plan he shared it only with his son. For a long time, in his wisdom, he kept this secret from us as a well-guarded mystery, as if neglecting us without concern. But when he revealed it to us through his beloved son and made known to us what had been prepared for us from the beginning he gave everything to us at once, so that we would have a share in his blessings. Who would have ever expected that we would be able to see and understand such things!?
And then in a later section…
If this faith is something that you wish to pursue then first you must seek knowledge of the Father. For God loved mankind, and made the world for them, subjecting all things on earth to them. To them he gave reason and understanding and to them alone he gave the capacity of looking up to him, who created them in his own image. To them he sent his one and only Son and to them he has promised the Kingdom of Heaven, given to those who love him. And when you have received this knowledge, imagine the joy that will fill you…
Yes, this is the good news that freshly inspires me today,
because I am seeing it in a brand new reality!
October 14, 2016