Thursday, December 29, 2005

Origins and the Bible

ok steve here is some questions i have ,i was reading about dinasaurs and evolution ,from a national geographic and it has me questioning God and his creation as opposed to the Bible they are very contradicting and as science seems to proven the earth and its inhabitants have been around for billions of years

First of all, the Bible doesn't teach that the earth is only a few days older than Adam. Genesis 1 says that before the seven day creation "The EARTH was formless and void and was covered by the DEEP" The earth already existed before the seven day creation, which means that it was a re-creation, rather than the initial creation.

There is other Biblical evidence for that-- in Psalm 74:12-17, it talks about a battle that God had with Leviathan BEFORE the seven day creation (talked about in the latter part of the passage). So this is how creation works out in the Bible-- God created the earth sometime in the past, we don't know when or how. Then there was a terrible, chaotic war between God and other spiritual powers that threw the earth into chaos, and the ocean covered all of the earth. Then God began re-creating the world, with the current species and land forms we have.

Now, there are a lot of gaps in the Bible, here. We know nothing between the creation of the world and the war. What happened there? Scientists who have studied the fossil record have discovered something interesting. That species, rather than evolving over a long period of time, would suddenly spout in a revatively short period of time-- ten thousand years, perhaps-- and then remain stable for a long period of time. Then, there would occur some catastrophe which would kill off most, but not all, species, and then there would be a quick period of new species appearing again.

Frankly, I think this works with what we know about the Bible pretty well. God created the world and then populated his world-- this creation was done not just by God but by the "Sons of God", or angels, including Satan. Once they had made a level of creation they were satisfied with, they left it alone, to see what would happen. Then they would "wipe the board" with some kind of disaster, and begin the creation process again, building on what they had already creating, but making it more complex, more interesting. This time, say, with dinosaurs. Then they let it go for a while. Then they decided to "wipe the board" again, and begin with a new creation, building on the old one, but getting rid of the species they decided didn't work-- like dinosaurs. The battle with Leviathan effectively "wiped the board" again, and then God made a new creation. And then we have the flood which "wiped the board" again, but instead of creating new species-- so it seems, but he might have-- he allowed the earth to re-populate with the creatures on the ark.

Does this dispute evolution? No-- it is just one explanation of the fossil record. Those who don't believe that God and angels have been changing the earth for millions of years won't ever accept it-- but they can't disprove it, either, for the fossil record agrees with it. And if evolution worked the way they said, then why didn't species evolve evenly, over all the times? But the fact is, they didn't. The fossil record proves it.

So why does the fossil record show that the less complex creatures were earlier and the more complex creatures later? Doesn't this prove evolution originated the species? No. If that were true, then computer programs over the last thirty years were caused by evolution. Because computer programs now are much more complex than thirty years ago, and we can display a growth of complexity over a period of time.

Increasing complexity is how intelligent design works as well. If the angels were busy making species, on and off, for a period of millions of years, then why shouldn't they build on what they have already created? Why should anyone think that it wouldn't be from less complex to more, improving as they move on. Frankly, I think that the fossil record better displays intelligent design rather than strict evolution.

Of course, this is a matter of speculation and faith, rather than pure science. But saying that evolution without intelligent design naturally caused the origin of all species is also speculation and faith, rather than pure science. Pure science only says-- "This is what we found, this is the evidence", the conclusion from that evidence belongs to philosophy.

We have to say that evolution exists as a force that changes species. I don't have any problem with that. To say that there was no person involved behind those changes is speculation. I chose to agree with Jesus and the Bible.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Apocrypha and Hospitality

I have been reading the book of Sirach, which I consider to be inspired, but I've been reading some passages in there that talk about not welcoming in strangers in your house because they might ruin your reputation. How does this square with Jesus teaching about welcoming the stranger in to your house?

My view of the apocrapha is that they are good books to read, but not inspired. They are like books you might pick up at a Christian bookstore-- good to read, but they aren't doctrinally perfect. I do recommend reading them-- my personal favorites are Sirach and Tobit and the extra stories of Daniel-- but we need to recognize that they will contain some errors.

As far as the passages you mentioned in Sirach, you are right that they do seem to contradict the New Testament teaching about hospitality. Sirach is reflecting the fact that hospitality is primarily for those we count as friends, companions, bosom buddies. The Old Testament, especially in wisdom literature (Psalms, Proverbs, etc), emphasize that who you hang with will, to a certain degree, determine your reputation and character. And we know this to be true, to a certain degree-- our friends convince us of our morality. Peer pressure isn't just an issue for teenagers, it is a way of life for all of us.

But in the New Testament, our character is determined primarily by the Spirit. This gives us the freedom to do some things that the saints without the Spirit could not. We are able to love those who, without the Spirit, could drag us down the path of evil. The other thing, is that Jesus is encouraging us to practice benevolence, not only to our friends, but also to those we don't like, even to our enemies, who do evil to us. This takes hospitality to a different level, one in which peer pressure doesn't enter.

Jesus calls us to a higher morality than Sirach, just like the Old Testament. Not a different morality, just to a higher level. Love for others must overcome our personal concern for reputation.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Why Repent?

1. If we repent, then we will be forgiven of our sins.
Ezekiel 18:30-32—God judges everyone according to what they do. Therefore repent and turn away from your sin and God will forgive, for he takes no pleasure in the death of anyone.
Jonah 3:1-10—Nineveh was not destroyed because they repented
Matthew 3:4-8—The people came to John, confessed their sins and was baptized by him.
Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3—John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Mark 1:15—Jesus’ basic message was to repent and to believe in the gospel.
Luke 15:1-10—The Lord rejoices at the repentance of sinners.
Luke 17:3-4—A brother is to forgive a repentant brother.
Luke 24:47—Repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached to all nations.
Acts 2:38—Repent and be baptized and you will be saved.
Acts 3:19—Repent so your sins will be wiped away.
Acts 5:31—Jesus grants repentance to Israel and the forgiveness of sins.
Acts 8:22—Repent that your intention might be forgiven you.
Acts 11:18—God granted to the gentiles the repentance that leads to life.
Acts 20:21—Paul taught repentance and faith in Jesus.
Acts 26:20—Paul taught repentance, turning to God and doing acts in accordance with repentance
II Tim 2:25—God might grant repentance to them leading to the knowledge of the truth
II Pet 3:9—God does not desire anyone to be punished but that all would come to repentance.
I Cor 6:11—Some of you were evildoers, but now you are justified and sanctified.

2.If we don’t repent, we will be punished eternally.
Luke 10:13—Woe to cities of Israel because they did not repent—they will be judged on the last day.
Luke 11:32—Nineveh will condemn the generation of Jesus on the judgment day because Jesus’ generation did not repent
Luke 13:1-5—Unless you repent, great punishment will come upon you
Rev. 2:5—Repent or else Jesus will come and take the lamp stand out of its place

3. If we repent, we can have a good relationship with God.
I John 1:5-10—This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

4. If we repent, we can be restored to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Luke 17:3-4—If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."

5. If we don’t repent, we will be separated from God’s people.
Matthew 18:15-17—If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
I Corinthians 5:11—Do not associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-- not even to eat with such a one.

Discussion on Hubris and Hermenutics

It seems like some of your assertions are approachingself-righteousness. I doubt you mean them to, butthat's how I read them.

In responding to Larry Eby about the judgment of NewOrleans, you said, "I understand that this seemscontradictory. It is not. If you can't understandit, I respectfully recommend that you meditate on it. Otherwise the Bible and the God of Jesus just makes nosense."And in your response to me, you said, "I understandthat you have probably heard quite a bit of preachingon the prodigal son, but, of course, what we shouldmost be interested in is what Jesus' point is, not anygiven pastor's point."The first example demonstrates an attitude that if wedon't understand the Bible the way you do, it "justmakes no sense". And we should all endeavor to takethe time to understand it the way you do.

Maybe youcan't see it making sense another way, but thatdoesn't mean it can't make sense for others.In the second example, the implicit attitude is thatwhat you are about to exposit *is* Jesus' point. Thisis hubris. Every preacher I've ever heard is"interested in Jesus' point" and is attempting todiscern it. The way you pose "any given pastor'spoint" against "Jesus' point" is specious. For inthis age, 2000 years after he walked the roads ofGalilee, none of us has perfect knowledge of Jesus'point. We're all interpreting. If you cast yourinterpretation as "Jesus' point", this doesn't changethe fact that it's still your interpretation.

In fact, I think the passages you described thataccompany the prodigal story actually support *my*interpretation, in that they say *nothing* about Godor the angels in heaven "accepting" the repentant onesafter having rejected them before. They simplydescribe the joy and rejoicing in heaven now that theones who were lost have repented. Remember, I saidthat repentance is critical to our being able toaccept God's forgiveness. I assert, however, andthese passages don't contradict, that our repentanceis not a prerequisite or requirement for God to acceptus.I don't see how it could be otherwise. For why wouldanyone *want* to repent, if they are facing only thewrath (non-acceptance) of an angry Father God. Howcould they trust that God would -- bing! -- becomeimmediately loving and welcoming only *once we decidedto be good*? Rather, I think people repent becausetheir brokenness allows them to recognize that God isstill there, loving them and welcoming them backwhenever they are ready to come.

On simplistic interpretation...It's risky to take any one passage as toorepresentative, and I know this happens from allsides. But as an example, your passage cited below tosupport the fact that Jesus judges (John 5), actuallysays that the Father does not judge, but that only theSon does. What? Then, does this mean that God does*not* judge? Well, yes, on its face. I'm sure manypeople have bent over backwards to reconcile this withother passages, but I'm not sure why they bother.

Thetake-home point I get is to be a lot more humble aboutinterpretation, seeing through a glass darkly and allthat. Anyone out there claiming there is *ONE RIGHTINTERPRETATION* and that *THEY KNOW IT* is full ofthemselves, not the Holy Spirit. There may indeed beone right interpretation of every part of the Bible,but I'm not sure any of us can fully know it.As it happens, I agree with you that the dialectic ofa God who shows mercy and a God who judges seemsreadily apparent in scripture. Yet that doesn't meanwe can know how or where that judgment is occurring,nor should we try to participate in it. (And I thinkthe key point here is that by claiming to know whereit exists, we are actively participating in it.) "Judge not, lest ye be judged." "take out the log inyour own eye" etc. etc. God may judge the wicked, butI don't think any of us is capable of unbiasedlyidentifying who God considers wicked, unless it isclaiming our own wickedness.

I certainly don't think that a singing "prophet" fromSouth Africa who makes vague Nostradamus-likeprophecies and is considered by many *conservative*Christians to be a "New Age prophet", is the voice ofGod in the 21st century. (Did you know, Steve, thatthe "prophet" you cited that started this whole thingoff has been criticized for not preaching the need forrepentance?! light of this discussion, that's highly ironic.) But this is all just my opinion.Apologies to the peacemakers among us for all thistheologizing.Shalom,Dave

I think this "theologizing" is significant, because it gets to the heart of why we do peacemaking, and how we do it.

If repentance is not necessary for forgiveness, then we do peacemaking because it is the "right" thing to do, and we accomplish peacemaking by helping people see other people's sides. If repentance is necessary for forgiveness, then Jesus is essential in peacemaking-- not just to tell us to do it, but to accomplish the repentance necessary for peace. This is because repentance is impossible without God's Spirit to empower us to repent. Creating peace between people (especially individuals) is easy compared to helping people live a right lifestyle before God. Only God can do that.

As far as my arrogance, I apologize for that. I AM arrogant at times and I will do my best, with God's help, to alleviate that. However, hubris-- a terrible sin in Greek morality-- isn't a terrible sin biblically. Yes, pride is rejected as evil, and humility is certainly exalted. But pride is described in Scripture as attempting to take a higher social position on one's own power and authority, and not being grateful to the one who gives one position (namely God). Humility is described as taking a low position, and doing the actions of that position-- such as Jesus enacting the role of a slave in John 13. Thus Jesus, Paul, Peter, the Pharisees, James, etc all exhibited hubris, and yet were considered very humble. And their hubris was no sin.

The problem with hermeneutics is unbelievably huge. From my understanding, the key to understanding Jesus' message is to look at what Jesus' says, in the first century cultural context. Like you said, Dave, it is not a matter of taking one verse and looking at that, and then deciding what it says, solo. It is a matter of looking at a consistent body of literature, and determining the message as a whole. The core of my understanding, my belief, is the synoptic gospels. I will use the rest of the New Testament to assist with details, but Jesus' message-- as a whole-- is found in the synoptic gospels. I will not take just a part of it-- such as just love, or just purity-- and say it represents the whole. I must accept the whole, or else I do not have any of it.

I have attached a file listing verses that show that God's acceptance of us, as well as the church's acceptance, is dependant on repentance, according to the gospels, with supporting verses in the Old Testament and the rest of the New Testament. As I said before, this forgiveness is not the same as God's general "love" of all humanity. Forgiveness is equivalent to being welcome in God's presence, having the blessings of God's kingdom, and no longer having God's punishment. Forgiveness is the equivalent of salvation. I didn't put it all on this email, because I didn't want to make it longer than it already is. But if you are interested in my full argument on repentance, it is there.

Reading over your email once more, I wanted to talk about a couple more things:

First of all, I think that there really IS "one right interpretation"-- and I think you do, too. Otherwise, you could accept that God can either require repentance for forgiveness or not require repentance for forgiveness. That either interpretation is acceptable. However, we are having this discussion because we feel that one interpretation is correct. That's the way thinking works-- God will not give us a contradiction. Interpretation is trying to understand that which isn't clear to everyone.

However, our interpretation must be based on evidence. We cannot say, "I think that Jesus supported war" based on no evidence. And the statement cannot be supported by saying that Jesus accepted soldiers, welcoming them with salvation, either. There is inadequate evidence for that interpretation. I think we all agree with that. And we also agree that Jesus' statement "Love your enemies" speaks against Christian participation in war. Others would disagree with that. But is it just a "matter of interpretation"? Or is there evidence one way or the other? Well, we can look at other passages of Jesus to confirm one way or the other, and we can look at the example of his life-- whether he made choices for war or against it. And we can look at the rest of the New Testament to see if that body of literature supports our theory or stands against it. And looking at the New Testament as a whole-- interestingly enough, in opposition to the Old Testament-- that it stands against the Christian participation in war. The position may need to be nuanced, but it stands firm.

Even so, we can look at Jesus' message and life as a whole concerning the issue of repentance and forgiveness. We know for a fact that Jesus' message is deeply concerned with repentance. His basic message, according to Matthew is to prepare for the coming kingdom of God by repentance. When asked forthrightly about how to gain God's kingdom/eternal life, he responded by saying to obey the ten commandments, to sell one's possessions and give to the poor, and to follow Jesus. He did not say, "There's nothing for you to do-- just accept God's forgiveness." And he was very concerned that those who did not repent would be punished eternally (Luke 10:13; Luke 13:1-5).

In the passage we were dealing with (Luke 15), the Pharisees were complaining about Jesus because he was eating with "sinners"-- those who have failed the covenant treaty with God through their continuing disobedience. They didn't want Jesus eating with them because it implied covenant brotherhood with them-- which the Pharisees rejected. This brotherhood was tanamount to "forgiveness"-- acceptance, despite their past sin. Jesus then tells three stories about God, who goes out of his way to seek out and accept certain people. But in all three, Jesus qualifies the acceptance to sinners who repent, not sinners in general. God seeks the sinners in general, but only accepts the ones who repent.

Theologically, we have to say that repentance is difficult, even impossible, in many cases. It is for this reason that in Jesus we can receive the Spirit who will assist us. But repentance is first of all turning to God, and receiving his assistance in overcoming sin.

Those who do violence and kill another are in sin. Those who continually threaten and do harm to others are in sin. And we need to warn them about the judgment that is coming on them because of their sin, even as Jesus did-- "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword." And we also talk to them about the God who loves them so much that they will forgive their sin, if they would but turn to Him and turn away from that sin. Then the murders will be forgiven. The soldiers will be accepted by God. The warmongers will be converted. And Jesus will have created peace. Not just through carte blanche "forgiveness". But through the power of forgiveness and repentance in unison.

Steve Kimes

Monday, December 05, 2005

What Should We Do With Prophets?

What is Prophecy?
There are these people out there and they are obnoxious. They get in your face, and say things you aren’t comfortable with and often they claim to be speaking for God. Those who want to say something positive would typically say, “Oh, he’s a prophet” (inevitably, the prophet is a “he”). But just because a person has a “hard message” does that make them a prophet?

Not necessarily. A “prophet” in Scripture is specifically someone who has a message directly from God through God’s Spirit. This isn’t just a message from the Bible or a rewriting of a Bible text. It is something one hears from God directly. Not everyone hears God’s voice in the church, nor does everyone who hears God’s voice necessarily have to speak his messages to others. But a prophet receives a message from God and then he or she must go and speak it to the ones God commanded them to tell. Prophecies could be in dreams, visions, voices or just listening to a silent voice. But it is clear, and it is clearly from God.

Do We Need Prophecies?
The Bible says we do. God often spoke to prophets in the past, and Moses exclaimed, “I wish that all of God’s people would be prophets!” (Numbers 11:29). All of Jesus’ followers receive God’s spirit and all of them have something from God’s spirit to share with others (I Corinthians 12:3-4). Some people are led by the Spirit to serve, others to give, others to teach. Prophecy is one of those “gifts” that some have received from the Spirit.

While prophecies are uncomfortable for many, Paul says that prophecy is essential. He calls it the most essential work of the Spirit for the community of believers. Why? Prophecy, more than any other service to the church, can point out the weaknesses and the issues the Lord wants a particular congregation to work on. The Lord can speak both encouragement and rebuke clearly and immediately without confusion or as many interpretation problems.

How should we respond to a prophet?
If a prophet has a message to give to a church, they should be allowed to do so. This may not be comfortable for many, but Scripture tells us clearly not to “quench the Spirit or despise prophetic utterances.” (I Thessalonians 5:19-20). Prophecy may be a hard pill to swallow, but it is necessary from the Spirit. Such a prophecy should be shared at an appropriate time determined by the leader of the worship time, so any prophet should ask for an opportunity to speak and not be upset if they are asked to wait. Only two or three prophecies per service so that others may share what they have from the Lord as well (I Corinthians 14:29-33). The prophet should speak the exact words of the prophecy and allow the people to test and interpret the prophecy. “No prophecy is of private interpretation” says the Scripture, so the prophet should not interpret the prophecy themselves before they give it to the congregation (I Peter 1:20).

Testing the spirits
After a prophecy has been given, then the spirit of the prophet must be tested. There are many spirits, and not all are the Holy Spirit come from God. We must test every word we receive from a spirit.

We can know if a message is not from the Spirit of God if:
 It encourages people to sin
 It encourages people away from the God of Jesus (Deuteronomy 13)
 It slanders someone with an evil act that is not already publicly known. (Matthew 18:15)
 It serves the personal interests of the prophet.
 It is a message to the whole people of God, but only one group of God’s people has received it. (I Corinthians 14:36)
Another indication that a prophet is sent from God is if they speak a prophecy about a future event, and the prophecy does not come true as stated. If a prophet is inaccurate about the future, then Scripture says “You need not fear that one.” This means that they are not a true prophet from God (Deuteronomy 18:22)

However, a prophecy is more likely true if:
a. The prophet is humble before the Lord and God’s people, and shares with love and gentleness. (Galatians 5:22-23)
b. The message the prophet shares is accurate with the Bible. It does not have to be accurate with popular theology, but it must be accurate with the message of Jesus in the New Testament. (John 14:26)
c. The message leads people to godly repentance, drawing them closer to a relationship with the Lord.

How should we respond to Prophecy?
If a prophecy and the prophet has been tested and has passed, then the word of the Lord is to “fear that prophet”. We must do as the prophecy says. We do not need to tell other people to obey the prophecy, unless they were given it personally. But we need to do it, for it is the word of the Lord for us. If we do not listen to the prophet who spoke truly, the Lord will judge us for not listening to Him. (Deuteronomy 18:18-19; Ezekiel 3:19)

Discussion on New Orleans and God

This discussion took place on the Peace and Justice Forum of the PNMC:

Thank you for this information. I know some of us may not be comfortable with this or with the idea that God speaks prophetically today such as this. I am most concerned when we who call ourselves followers of The Way disregard the written Word of God. I for one was very thankful for our conference Bible teacher, William Higgins, when he responded to J. Denny Weaver on the “Workshop on a Non-violent Atonement” as J. Denny simply disregarded many scriptures to propagate a theory which ignores that God Himself provided the sacrifice for our sins and God alone determined the manner in which it would happen. God alone (Deut) established that there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood. Isn’t it marvelous that Jesus shed his blood for the whole world so there is no longer a need for the blood of others to be shed! Byron Shenk

“I found those 2,000 verses on the poor. How did I miss that? I went to Bible college, two seminaries, and I got a doctorate. How did I miss God's compassion for the poor? I was not seeing all the purposes of God. The church is the body of Christ. The hands and feet have been amputated and we're just a big mouth, known more for what we're against."
Steve, this something you sent some time ago. How do you reconcile the two? I can agree more with the above quotation than with the essence of the prophecy. I have spent much of my life under the leftovers of being taught that God is a vengeful God rather than the loving God that sent us Jesus to show to us what is a cross-bearing life that we are challenged to follow other than in name. But to me that does not mean condemning people. It seems to me that Jesus might have felt more at home on Bourbon Street in N.O. than in the temples of the megachurches or perhaps in some of the smugness in the Mennonite and other well-known evangelical churches that wish to remain orthodox above every thing else.
I admire you, Steve, for your work with the homeless. Would that some more of us would feel the same passion. So it saddens me a bit that your are distracted by prophecies that wherever their source seem to be in disagreement with the loving God incarnated in the loving Jesus and who seeks to be incarnated in us.
Larry Eby

Thanks for your response, Larry. I understand your confusion. It would be difficult to reconcile a God of full mercy with a God who judges. But Jesus' God is a God of mercy who assists everyone (Matt 5:44), and also a God who judges the wicked, especially the oppressors and the hypocrites (Matt 23; Luke 13:1-5). And God is the same now as then.

I read last month an article by Tony Campolo about how Katrina couldn't be God's judgment because the poor were the ones worst hurt by the hurricane, and the poor are God's people, he couldn't be judging them. While I firmly agree with Dr. Campolo that the poor are God's people, I respectfully disagree with him that the hurricane isn't God's judgment based on Amos 6.

Yes, the poor were terribly hurt by this. But the poor in New Orleans were hurt, not because of God's judgment, but because the wealthy and powerful in New Orleans and Louisiana did not provide for the poor, what they could easily provide-- transportation to escape. All of the poor would have left, staying in shelters somewhere else, if only it had been provided them.

As I have written previously, the powerful didn't help the poor simply out of their ignorance, not out of hatred of the poor. However, it is the responsibility of those who have resources and wealth to provide for the needs of those who do not have. And the poor being harmed in New Orleans is the result of the attitude of focusing one's compassion only on "one's own".

I understand that this seems contradictory. It is not. If you can't understand it, I respectfully recommend that you meditate on it. Otherwise the Bible and the God of Jesus just makes no sense.
Steve Kimes

While I appreciate your work with the homeless, Steve, I can't let your interpretation of prophecy pass without a comment. My first question is how do you know that New Orleans is or was more deserving of judgment than any other American City? Just because New Orleans is well known for its drunken debauchery doesn't mean that God automatically regards that city as more sinful and deserving of judgment. What about all the American suburbs filled with self-satisfied people who are ignoring the needs of the poor? Aren't they equally as sinful? Why didn't the hurricane hit them instead?Secondly, if God really intended to make New Orleans the target of his judgment , then why didn't the French Quarter get destroyed? One can make a very convincing argument that it is the most visibly sinful section of the city. Since the flooding barely touched the French Quarter, I must conclude that God either has a very bad aim or else that he intended to target the poor black sinners of the Ninth Ward and leave the wealthy residents of the French Quarter relatively unscathed.In my opinion, it's this kind of nonsense we get into whenever we fallible humans try to decide who is or who is not deserving of God's judgment. I prefer to focus on my own foibles and leave the judging to God.
An alternative interpretation is that God lets us suffer the consequences of our own stupidity. Building a city on ground that is well below sea level and then destroying the wetlands that protect the city is the ultimate in arrogance and hubris. Perhaps the message we are to receive from God is that it is folly to think we humans can control either God's creation or even our own destiny.Love in Christ, Joe Blowers

We only can know whether or not a catastrophe, like tsunamis, earthquakes or hurricanes, or military attacks like the attack on New York city, or America's attack on Afganistan are naturally caused, or divinely caused through the testimony of prophets. Bad things happen on earth that are not necessarily the hand of God (though I believe He is still sovereign over all). In the old testament, disasters and military invasions happened all the time like they do today. But it took the prophets to interpret the meaning of the disaster or military invasion.So the issues today are...a). does God still judge through military invasions and disasters. not all catastrophes, but specific ones.b). are there still prophets functioning?c). how do we test the prophets?These questions need to be answered generally before we can deal with specific events. If a person has no criteria for testing prophets then they'll blindly accept every prophecy they hear. If a person doesn't swallow the notion that God still judges through events that affect both the guilty and the innocent, then they won't accept a prophetic interpretation of an event.Personally, I believe that God does still judge this way and I believe that there are prophets still functioning. The only one I give attention to is David Wilkerson who ministers in New York whose heart is broken for New York pleading that they would repent and turn back to God. I know nothing of the prophet that Steve quoted. I believed that the New Orleans disaster could have been the hand of God just as i believed that the attack on the twin towers and the attack on Afghanistan could be the hand of God. But without confirmation of a prophet I trusted, I wasn't willing to commit to such, or to preach such. So where I struggle is with c). how do we test the prophets. The messages of prophets are often hard for us to accept because they make us very uncomfortable by railing against the status quo. And the temptation is to pridefully accept the message of a prophet when it is pointing at everyone but me. But if they are doing God's work, they will make _me_ uncomfortable. Or they will cause my heart to break for the people who under God's judgement.While I don't question the appropriateness of this subject to this forum, I wonder as a followup how this issue impacts us from a peace and justice perspective. Do we only use the term "justice" when it speaks of fair treatment of the oppressed and not use it to speak of appropriate measures for the oppressors? Would it not be a measure of peace to warn a group that they are susceptible to God's judgement if they do not repent? Was Jonah a peacemaker? I think he was. It seems that we only do peacemaking when it is testifying to the government to not use military action. But were we peacemakers by warning Sadaam Hussein that if he did not repent and turn from his sins, God was going to bring judgement on him and his nation. I think peacemaking is both sides of the coin, though we only give attention to one.
Jeffrey C. Long

Jeff, I think this is a very good point. I think that as peacemakers, we do not have the right to take the measure of justice against oppressors ourselves. We do not harm our enemies. However, we have the responsibility to warn oppressors that they would be judged by God. We don't necessarily have the responsibility to force change to oppressors. If people want to do that, it might be okay, but the more humble position is to speak to them God's truth and allow them to make their own decisions.
BTW, I do have a teaching which lays out how to test a prophet.
Steve K

1. I never said that New Orleans was worse than other cities. I said that God declared that a city isn't destroyed without his plan, and that he doesn't do it unless a prophecy is declared ahead of time to that effect. Since there WAS a prophecy to this effect, and the timing was right, I believe that we can confirm that it was done by God.

2. New Orleans, however, is a good target because they had a number of issues: They promoted sorcery, they also ignored their poor, and what was worse, they promoted the abuse of Christian tradition as an excuse for drunken debauchery-- Mardi Gras in particular.

3. I am not the one second-guessing God's plan or work. I have evidence to that effect. Where is your evidence that God does not act that way? What texts prove that God would never act in judgment? It seems that the requirement of proof is on the side saying "God wouldn't act that way"-- since we have clear evidence all throughout the Scripture that He does.
Steve Kimes

Of the answers I've read so far, I find that I agree most with Joe. Are we afraid to trust in a loving God who, as in the story of the prodigal, allows us to go our own way, but is waiting, not to hand out the punishment we deserve, but with open arms to welcome us back? This God, described by Jesus, is the one I choose to follow.
Tom Brenneman

Jesus prophesied destruction as well.
Jeffrey C. Long

The one thing that many people don't recognize when the use the prodigal son as their paradigm of salvation is that the prodigal repented of his sin first.

The paradigm of the prodigal son is as follows:
a. Rejection of the Father
b. Lifestyle of sin
c. Destruction due to lifestyle of sin
d. Realization of salvation of the Father
e. Return to Father
f. Confession/Repentance
g. Acceptance by the Father

New Orleans actually fits the prodigal son paradigm-- it's just that they are in the destruction part of the story. Some individuals are in the "realization" stage. But all of them still have the opportunity to repent and be accepted by the Father.

Jesus and Paul and Peter and the whole bible recognizes that God sometimes initiates destruction in people's lives. The New Testament paradigm is that God does it in order to save some people. This is certainly God's purpose for New Orleans.
Steve K.

Steve, your interpretation depends on what you mean by"first". I have heard this preached differently(multiple times). The father accepted the prodigalson before the son did any confession or repentance,as evidenced by the father's running to the son andembracing him upon the mere sight of him. It was*after* this acceptance that the son made hisconfession. Yes, the son had *planned* to repent,which is what led him home. But the father didn'trequire the words; he was just overjoyed to see hisson back home!This is a subtle but key distinction in thisdiscussion. And it is one that has always bothered meabout those who supposedly preach "salvation bygrace". Even though they profess this claim thatworks are not required, they still require the "work"of repentance prior to acceptance by God. In otherwords, they say that God won't love or accept us untiland unless we repent.In contrast, if God's love for us is constant and hiswelcome is always available, the "requirement" ofrepentance is only for our sakes. In other words,*we* can't accept God's love for us until we re-turnto God and recognize that God is there waiting for us,arms open wide. Repentance is crucial, but notbecause God requires it before he'll love us.

I appreciate your comments, and this discussion is helpful, I believe.

I understand that you have probably heard quite a bit of preaching on the prodigal son, but, of course, what we should most be interested in is what Jesus' point is, not any given pastor's point.

Jesus had given three parables about acceptance in Luke 15, and the main point is the same with all three. Jesus' explanation is given in this way:
"I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." and "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:7, 10). If one looked at each of these parables-- that of the woman looking for a coin and a man looking for a sheep-- no indication of repentance is given. But Jesus inserts repentance into his interpretive statement of them.

In the prodigal son, the son did repent before the father accepted him. On the human level, the father would not have known about that repentance. All that is well and good. But we need to accept Jesus' interpretation, not restrict it to human limitation. Jesus' interpretation, and the reason the son is given a paragraph to describe his repentance before he reaches his father, is that the repentance is a pre-requisite of the father's acceptance.

This does not mean that God does not love everyone. Of course he does. He sent his son to die for everyone in the world because he loved the whole world-- Hitler, Stalin, Herod, everyone (John 3:16). And he offers rain and food to everyone, without exception to their sin (Matt. 5:45). But he does not offer his blessings, his kingdom, his full promises to everyone. Some are accepted, and some are judged (John 5). And some are judged in this life, by God's hand (Acts 5). That is how God works.

God is the God of mercy and forgiveness. And he is the God of judgment and vengeance. If God never gave vengeance, then it would be foolish for us to be sacrificed for peace. The way of the cross is founded on the fact that God judges the wicked. And those who do not repent will be judged (e.g. Luke 6:24-26; Luke 13:1-5).

And here's something that perhaps you didn't notice-- that even our forgiveness of other's can be limited by whether the sinner repents or not (Matt 18:15-17; Luke 17:3-4).

By the way, I never called myself a "grace" theologian. I am just interested in teaching what Jesus taught, doing what Jesus did-- no more, no less. To the degree Jesus showed grace, so will I. Inasmuch as Jesus limited grace, so will I. Jesus is the Savior, not I, so I must depend on Him to show me who to declare salvation to. And I still find that I usually have to preach "do not judge" and "forgive" more often than "rebuke the sinning brother".
Steve K

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Is the New Orleans disaster a judgement of God?

Many have been concerned about the New Orleans disaster, and the questions has been asked and argued over-- Did God judge New Orleans? I believe that the answer is yes, based on a passage of Scripture and a prophecy given to New Orleans before the event.

Amos 3:6-8
6 If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it? 7 Surely the Lord GOD does nothing Unless He reveals His secret counsel To His servants the prophets. 8 A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?

What the Lord is saying through Amos is that a city is destroyed through the judgment of God. However, we cannot be certain of this unless His messengers, the prophets, speaks of it. A city is not judged at God's hand unless God's prophets speak of it, and warn about it. However, a prophet did speak God's message, warning New Orleans of impending disaster before the event occurred.

This is a prophecy spoken by prophet Kim Clement in July, 2005, one month before the disaster that would overtake New Orleans:
"O New Orleans God speaks to you from Houston tonight and says enough of this! For a judgment is coming says the Spirit of the Lord, and I will take the men that have stood in faith, raise them above the flood that shall destroy those that constantly bicker and stand against my servant Moses, or my servant Bilbo. I want you to understand there are great men in New Orleans that have faith but you have been set aside not to lose but to win. Enough of this! For I will take the curses and the bodies will even rise and they will come forth on the water, but I will keep you and the stench of death will only last a few days. And then what I promised two years ago will come to pass for August, September and October of this year I made a promise it would happen, and God said be strengthened now, be strengthened now for enough is enough says the Lord."

For the full prophecy and more information, look at the following web page:

The "Bilbo" is not the character in the Hobbit, but Pastor Garland Bilbo of New Orleans, who was somewhat involved in the scandal of Jimmy Swaggart. For more info on this, look here:

Many have questions about Kim Clement's ministry and previous prophecies he has made. However, concerning this particular prophecy, I think his words after the fact are right on:
"I had no joy hearing of the devastations as news came to America of the dreaded "Katrina" and I found myself in a state of mourning and tears. I pray for strength upon the people of these States, especially those who have lost everything. God said to "be strengthened"."

I understand that this point of view doesn't sit comfortably with some of our theology. I don't like it either. But we must recognize that judgement and vengeance is in the hand of God, and that God will, on occasion, use that right. However, if we pray for God's mercy, then he will surely listen. So let us use this opportunity to continually pray for God's mercy. Go's peace is established through the prayers of his people. If they fail to pray, then judgement will fall.

May the Lord have mercy on all of us who live among degenerate peoples and have mercy on the poor who are harmed the most in any judgement or destruction caused by the Evil One.