Top 5 Books on Eschatology

Over the last couple of months I have been working on a series on eschatology called The Time Travelers Guide to the End of the World. Apart from the Bible, I had some great resources to draw from, and here are my top 5:

51W44ivQizL1. The Bible and the Future

A .A. Hoekema: W. B. Eerdmans, 1979

This is far and away the best book I have found on eschatology.  It is easy to read, Biblically faithful and not afraid to deal with some of the hard issues.   It deals with both the trajectory of Biblical history and what is expected in the future.  It is worth getting for the appendix alone: recent trends in eschatology (as in in the last 100 years).

 

51rXepnn3yL2. 666 and All That

John Dickson and Greg Clarke: Aquila Press, 2007

This is an even easier read than The Bible and the Future.  It tends to be written with implied questions that people have about the future.  If reading is not your thing, this is the best of the books for you.

 

cover3. Erasing Hell

Francis Chan: David C. Cook, 2011

This book was written as response to Rob Bell’s approach to questioning the church’s understanding of hell.  Chan looks at the questions that Bell raises and does not back away from what he finds.  Rather than a comprehensive book on eschatology, it is more a book on hell alone.  But this is where Chan does what he does best – looks at Biblical truth and deals with it at both an intellectual and emotional level.

 

71DZmG4Tj3L._SL1500_4. What’s Best Next?

Matt Perman: Zondervan, 2014

OK, so this is not really a book about eschatology.  It is a book about making the most of the time we have, so its kind of related??  Seriously, this is an important read for anyone (get that: anyone) who has any kind of disposable time.  The study of eschatology should lead to us using the time we have here and now better and this is a good practical guide for Christians to work out how to do that.

410BTSRVE5L5. Eschatology and the Shape of Christian Belief

Robert Doyle: Paternoster Press, 1999.

Sadly, I think I am one of the few I know to wade through this tome, but trust me, if you have the time and the inclination you will be rewarded.  Doyle doesn’t just give us a Biblical picture of  eschatology, this is an incredibly comprehensive historical theology.  If you liked the appendix in The Bible and the Future you will love this.  Historical theology is so important in this topic and this book is a great resource.

 

 

In Defence of Tribalism: 5 Reasons we need to be careful not to kill it.

In the last little while I have been hearing a lot of…well to translate it into caveman: “Tribalism bad, must kill all tribalism” in the Christian culture I work in.  But let’s take some time, as we head out to the shed to find the lynching rope behind the lawn mower and hunt down the monster, to ask if killing tribalism is actually a good idea.

Before I go any further, I should point out that I do live in the real world.  I do know about the pain that tribalism in the Christian community has caused.  I have scars, I have seen the bad side, I have probably also been guilty of causing some of this pain.  I am not here to justify the sins of tribalism nor to say that there isn’t a problem, but to ask what we lose if it was strung up to die or more what we would lose while we doing the lynchin’.  So in order from the least important to the most:

5. Tribes can only be so big

Tribes are inevitable.  Tribalism is merely combining tribes into the one.  But the dynamic of a tribe is that there are only so many chiefs and the rest are indians who follow the cultural norms of the tribe, and often feel neglected by being on the outer.  It’s one thing to say we should just have one big tribe, but that really puts power in the hands of a few, not unity as we are being presented it would have where everyone gets a chance to collaborate.

4. Different tribes bring competition

One of the things I keep hearing in the justification of mob violence against tribalism is that we need to stop competing against each other.  Actually I think we do need to keep competing.  It stops us from being complacent, to keep innovating, to ask some hard theological questions from each other.   Competition done well is a good thing and we shouldn’t be afraid of it.

3. Killing Tribalism distracts from more important things

To kill tribalism we need to track it down and kill it.  OK, so what we really need to do is spend time talking and meeting with each other.  I am not against this and it can be beneficial, but I have seen guys in ministry fill up their week with catch-ups with others in ministry and not do any evangelism or meeting the pastoral needs of their churches.  We need to count the cost that killing tribalism does.

2. Unity is in Jesus and not in the Tribe

One of the dangers I think we have in seeking to kill tribalism is that we think we need to create unity.   That unity has already been created for us in Jesus.  We don’t need to nor are able to create that kind of unity.  Yes, that unity should be expressed and tribalism can be the criminal that stops it.  But I do not think is to kill tribalism is the solution and that is the solution that is being presented, but rather to recognise the unity that we already have.

1. The Gospel may be at Stake

In one of my previous jobs I had a meeting with a wiser, older man trying to convince him that our two organisations that worked happily together should simply merge: it would be easier.  He counselled me well in showing the danger of that.  His argument was that while both organisations were currently Biblically faithful and working well together, history teaches us that that will not always be the case.  One or other of the organisations will fall, become heretical or there would be a falling out causing one group to fail.  The other needed to be around to continue the work.  “The Gospel is more important that either organisation” were the words that still ring in my ears so many years later.  The Gospel and it’s progress is more important than killing tribalism.

 

Relational Evangelism made easy in 5 Lessons

Over the last couple of weeks I have seen a couple of great examples of how you do relational evangelism.  Simple, easy and straight up.  Here are 5 lessons I have learned from 2 guys who made it look easy.

Example 1: Touch Footy

Every Friday afternoon I play touch footy.  The main reason for me is to simply get fit, but it also allows me to spend time with people who are not Christian in a social setting.   This is a social game with a lot of Christians and some non-Christians who come.

One Friday I watched a guy who played on the side opposite me.  He was playing with some teenagers who, it was clear were not Christian.  He spent the game celebrating their wins, laughing together at their mistakes, encouraging them when they got it right.  He was not a great player (he was old and slow like me) but through this he was able to build a relationship with these kids over a matter of 40 mins of play.  What he did at the end was what made the whole thing (I was listening in on the conversation).

“Great game. Hey, do you guys want to come to church on Sunday?”

These guys obviously have never been asked before, “Ummm…what time is it?”

“6:30, just over there, it will be great”

“Oh, OK, I will have to ask my mum.”

“OK, I might see you there then.”

“Ummm…yep”

Did they come?  I am not sure yet, but this was obviously the first time that anyone had invited them to church.  It made me and the other ‘professionals’ who play look bad!!

Example 2: Cooking Classes

OK, I didn’t actually see this, it was my wife.  But this is what I understand happened.  My wife went to a cooking lesson with a friend.  Next to them were two guys who had come alone and were paired up.  Over the course of the lesson here are some snippets of the conversation she heard.

“So what do you do, B?”

“I am in full time Christian ministry, actually.”

“Wow, I never met anyone who does that.  What’s it like?”

“I love it, I get to teach people the Bible and talk about Jesus…”

Later in the lesson

B: “Do you want a lift home?”

“Sure, thanks, I live over at X though”

“Actually that is completely out of my way, I am going to Y, but I would love to do it anyway”

“Wow, thanks”

What happened in the car?  Again I don’t know  – these are real examples, but my guess is that there was some conversation about church, Jesus or Christianity.

What did they do?

Since both these conversations were overheard, I don’t have all the details nor what happened.  But here are some of the things I think they got right

  1. They were enjoying the activity they were doing.  When B walked in, he had a joy and friendliness about him that made my wife and her friend say “I bet he is a Christian” before he had even said anything.  Turns out they were right.  The footy player was enjoying the game and would have anyway.
  2. They were friendly.  We talk about ‘building a relational bridge” but really its just about being friendly, asking questions and being nice.
  3. They looked to serve.  They were seeking to help the others who were around them and in one case even go out of their way to drive someone home.  The other was looking to help the guys be better players.
  4. They were not embarrassed to be Christian.  One of them said “Church is great” the other said how much he loved Christian ministry.  Sure we should expect persecution, but that does not mean we should take the “good” out of good news.
  5. They were looking for the opportunity and in some cases made the opportunity to talk about church, Christianity or Jesus.  Because of all the things above, when they did it wasn’t an awkward introduction.

I have to admit that I am writing this post because I had an opportunity to talk last night.  It was flung on me out of nowhere and I failed at point 4.  When asked what I did, I could have been clearer and more, well, happier that I do what I do as a pastor.

It’s really not rocket surgery.  These guys made it look easy, because it is.  We just make it harder than we need to.

Do you have other stories of where you have seen it done right?

5 Lies Christians Believe about Church

It seems that everyone these days are making lists, so I thought I would make one of my own.   This is a list of lies I have heard people say about church.  
 
The most effective lies are not the straight out denial of the truth.  They are the half truths that have exceptions.  This list is no different, there will be exceptions to each of the lies that are based on truth.  The thing is that we often make the exception the rule and we lose the truth in the half lie.
 
So let me be up front these are meant to be provocative to get you to think if you have swallowed the lies about church, since what we believe is what we tell ourselves.  Before you dive for the exception, you need to ask if you have bought the lie.
 
  1. Everyone at church will be my friend. Community and love at church are important but fellowship is not the same as friendship. Fellowship (the Greek word is koinonia) has more a partnership aspect, in the case of church, serving together.  I may not be friends with everyone I play sport with if I am playing on a team, but there will be a companionship of working together.  If you are feeling like you aren’t connecting with people at church serve with them, don’t wait for them all to line up and want to be your friend.
  2. I can just sit in the pews. One day I would like to have someone explain how you get this from the Bible, since as far as I see the expectation of is that church operates as a body “with the proper working of each individual part” (Eph 4:11),  or that everyone comes with something to build the church (1 Cor 14:28).  Sure there may be seasons when this is not possible due to prolonged illness, new baby or burnout.  But these are the exceptions.  This does not mean that you need to be doing formal ministry (appointed by the church), but it could be as simple as “I will turn up to look for the new person or the person who needs prayer so I can pray for them or to do the thing that is being missed like washing up or cleaning up”.  It doesn’t have to be big but I don’t see how you can be a passenger in church.
  3. It doesn’t matter if I miss a week, I can always go next week.  I have had some problems writing this one, but then others have already written on this.  Kevin deYoung has written a really though provoking post on this asking the question that is the attitude behind this whether you are Christian or not.  This is true church will always be there and there is a danger of legalism.  But it is the attitude under it that is the question.  Does it matter to you if you miss a week?  What would you not have this attitude to?  Would you say about work – I won’t go to work, I can always go next week.  Or I can miss this appointment with my friend, because they will be there next week.  If you are not sure if this is you, Trevin Wax has written an interesting case study for people
  4. Church should be cool.  I think one of the reasons that we baulk at inviting our friends to church is that church is not cool.  Church should be a lot of things, but cool is not one of them.  Church certainly should be engaging and life changing and that is why we should be inviting people to hear and see God’s Word spoken and lived out in church.  But it will never be as entertaining as an X-Box or as exhilarating as a concert, its not meant to be.  Cool is what culture tells is is trending. Church will always be uncool because there will always be a point that church is against culture. 
  5. I can offend church without offending Jesus.  Church is not perfect and is not above criticism. And yet it is clear that the Bible sees that Jesus sees the church as his bride (e.g. Rev 19:9).  So there is a myth that we can “love Jesus and not the church” is indeed a myth since to love Jesus is to love what he loves.  It is easy to take pot shots of church, but consider how Jesus is going to respond to you as you do this.  I think the solution is not to not criticise the church.  And if there are issues you should take it up with your leaders.  But it is all about attitude and how you do this.  There is a difference between “You are not doing your job…” to “Hey, we both want to see Jesus’ bride looking the best she can be, can I raise something I think will help?”
I am sure there are more.  I am sure (and kind of hoping) I have got under your skin a little.  I am not asking you to agree with everything I have said, I am asking you to consider the lies you might have unconsciously swallowed.