June 16, 2019

Another Look: Now. On Earth.

Church Sign 9-3

Another Look: Now. On Earth.

Is that it? Is what we read on this church sign the message?

Is this what Jesus and the apostles announced?

Are we in rehearsals? Is this prep time for the final exam? Are we taking batting practice? Is this pre-season and we’re sorting out the team, making the cuts, setting the roster?

Are we humans given sixty, seventy, eighty or more years that have no value in and of themselves? Is it all merely preparation for the real deal?

I don’t think so.

The more I read the Bible and the longer I follow Jesus, the less I think this whole thing is about “eternity” or “heaven.”

Of course I hold to an age to come — “I believe…he will come again to judge the living and the dead;” “I believe in…the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.”

God will make a new heavens and a new earth. However, it is not we who will go to heaven, it is heaven that will come to earth, to us:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them…”

• Revelation 21:1-3

Whatever this “Christian” thing is about, it is about earth.

It is about life on earth.

It is about life in Christ, with God on earth.

It is about life that begins now here on this earth and extends to the age to come on a renewed earth.

And it is about you and I starting to live that life now.

It is NOT about spending my years getting ready for the life to come.

When Jesus gave his apostolic commission, he said we should make disciples — lifelong learners and apprentices. Now.

He said we should baptize — bring people into the life and nurture of his family. Now.

He said we should teach one another to obey everything he commanded us. Now.

He ascended and sits enthroned as King. Now.

He sent the Spirit, who indwells and empowers his people. Now.

The promises Jesus gave regarding the future make now more meaningful, not less. The seeds we plant now will yield a harvest both now and then beyond anything we can imagine.

“Now” is not just time God gave us to determine where we will spend “then.”

“Now” is the time when “then” begins.

Comments

  1. David Greene says

    “God will make a new heavens and a new earth. However, it is not we who will go to heaven, it is heaven that will come to earth, to us”

    Isn’t that kind of relativistic? They are the same except for the location of the observer (with apologies to Einstein).

    • Iain Lovejoy says

      Whether we say that heaven will come to Earth, or Earth will rise to meet Heaven, or both,the key difference, perhaps, is that the Earth will not be abandoned by heaven, or by us, but is where our eternal heavenly home will be.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Unfortunately, I got seriously conditioned to “It’s All Gonna Burn (any minute now…)” which kinda defeats the whole purpose of the exercise. Especially when Eternity in Heaven(TM) was presented as a never-ending Absolutely Compulsory Bible Study.

        And I can’t have been the only one to be so vaccinated.

        • So many people were fixated on being in Heaven that they ignored the earthly journey. They wanted to get there like in “When we all get to Heaven” and countless other gospel songs. The thing is, no one had any idea what they’d do there. Sure, pastors fed them with a sorts of nonsense; mostly how it would be one great big long vacation in one of the many mansions. Few related eternity to earthly vocation, as if God’s work through us now will be irrelevant in our “retirement” years on the other side. At least in preparation, they could have taken harp lessons…

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Remember that during my time in-country, “DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU! WILL! SPEND! ETERNITY!!!!!!” was a standard Witnessing “cold open”. I remember one Over-Saved Soul-Winner from my college days who actually pronounced it with Caps Lock on.

    • Robert F says

      I think what is at the center of CM’s concern here are those many Christians who are expecting a violent and cataclysmic transformation of the world at the end of the age, a disruptive apocalyptic transformation of such explosive discontinuity that in their minds it excuses them from having to take care of the earth now, take care of human relationships now, try to build a better, more just world now, live the future that God intends now. Someone might argue, however, that it was expectation of exactly such a violent, explosive, sudden, and imminent transformation of the world that led the early Christians to lead lives of self-giving love, helping both Christian and non-Christian neighbors, often without concern for their own safety or earthly future, that led in short to the willingness to be martyrs; and that it is also exactly when the Church inherited Empire from pagan Rome, when it made accommodations to living in the world and in time, that it became oppressive and violent, and came to believe that ruling is a form of service, indeed, the form of service.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > Someone might argue, however, that it was expectation … that led the early
        > Christians to lead lives of self-giving love

        Maybe.

        – That is a Psychological take on a Religion which asserts itself to be Spiritual. Adopting that take, IMO, nullified the Religion; it is a Social Engineering perspective – we should just make everyone afraid to produce better outcomes.
        — That Social Engineering take clearly is the approach used by many current institutions. It does not seem to produce “lives of self-giving love, helping both Christian and non-Christian neighbors”. The evidence demonstrates against the premise.
        — It may be that such a premise has an expiration date. Anticipatory-Waiting eventually becomes Waiting-For-Gadot; Preachers can crank-it-up-a-notch, maybe buy some more time, but not indefinitely.
        — I wonder if increased Life Span, then add Education, diminishes its impact as well. History is l-o-n-g, and littered with promises of overwhelming change; that train rarely arrives.

        I believe there is a much simpler explanation: They were inspired.

        I know people who give a lot to their community, who spend a lot of their time caring for others, and some who play the withering long-game towards the diminishment of systemic evils. None of them do it out of Fear, not one. Generally speaking, they are the happiest category of people I’ve yet to meet in my ~50 years. [all the absurd and bogus SJW tropes are just that].

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I think what is at the center of CM’s concern here are those many Christians who are expecting a violent and cataclysmic transformation of the world at the end of the age…

        Ever heard of “Christians For Thermonuclear War”?
        i.e. “History Written In Advance — SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE!”?
        In retrospect, the expected result of The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay.

        …a disruptive apocalyptic transformation of such explosive discontinuity that in their minds it excuses them from having to take care of the earth now, take care of human relationships now, try to build a better, more just world now, live the future that God intends now.

        “IT’S ALL GONNA BURN. O Ye of LITTLE Faith… Tsk. Tsk.”
        (Remember, O Ye of Little Faith: The RAPTURE will whisk you all away to Heaven BEFORE anything bad can personally happen to you. Do I need to elaborate on how dangerous a meme that is, especially when combined with Christians for Global Thermonuclear War?)

      • Robert, I’m not so sure about whether early Christians had an “expectation of exactly such a violent, explosive, sudden, and imminent transformation of the world.” Certainly many of them lived in times of distress, and they looked for Jesus’ return and a great reversal that would put things to rights, especially with respect to the Roman empire. Many distinguished themselves, as you said, by refusing to let the pressures of persecution and the threat of death keep them from loving and serving their neighbors. The cross was much with them.

        But I am more and more suspecting that we read too much futuristic “heaven” and “judgment” and “end of the world” thinking into apocalyptic literature and the church’s actual expectations. Apocalyptic is much more about what is real but hidden NOW and its ultimate unveiling in the world. Its imagery may be violent, chaotic, spectacular, and bizarre, but so many read too much of that literally as a road map of future reality. The Hebrew prophets who sometimes used the same kinds of images and language were not writing about “the end of the world.” They were writing about the overthrow of those they perceived to be God’s enemies — the Assyrians and the Babylonians, for example. Events WITHIN history and in the course of time.

        I may try to write more about this soon, if I can think it through more.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Apocalyptic is much more about what is real but hidden NOW and its ultimate unveiling in the world. Its imagery may be violent, chaotic, spectacular, and bizarre…

          I think the word you’re going for is “Trippy”.
          (Can you imagine what R Crumb would have done with the Book of Revelation as he did Genesis?)

          …but so many read too much of that literally as a road map of future reality.

          The Christianese word is “History Written in Advance”, a seven-year checklist choregraphed almost down to the minute. (Check, Check, Check, Check, Check…)

        • Robert F says

          I think you may be right that there is a strong tendency to read the wrong things into apocalyptic language. It is certainly a bad habit that’s hard to break.

  2. Pellicano Solitudinis says

    O hochbeglückte Christen,
    Auf, machet euch bereit,
    Itzt ist die angenehme Zeit,
    Itzt ist der Tag des Heils.

    (O most fortunate Christians
    Arise, make yourselves ready,
    Now the acceptable time is here,
    Now is the time of salvation.)

    BWV 147

    • Christiane says

      some favorite lines from ‘A Litany’ by John Donne

      ” … come
      And re-create me. . . . .
      that new-fashioned,
      I may rise up from death
      before I’m dead. “

      • Pellicano Solitudinis says

        Poets can often out things into words that theologians cannot. Happily for Donne (and us, his readers) he was both.

        • Pellicano Solitudinis says

          *put

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          This!

          And many Theologians forget that they are reading poetry.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            CM wrote once that the one-two punch of the Age of Reason and Industrial Revolution turned the Bible from the Old Stories of God and Man into a Spiritual Engineering Manual and Checklist of Axiom, Axiom, Axiom, Fact, Fact, Fact, Check, Check, Check.

            Paraphrasing Chesterton, Myths are told and written by the 99% of the village who are sane; Theology (and by extension other Perfect Ideology) is written by the 1% who are not.

            • Pellicano Solitudinis says

              Beware of anyone who says, “Just a story.” They don’t understand what stories really are.

    • Susan Dumbrell says

      I have been thinking of you this week.
      Thanks for the Bach.
      Hugs, Susan

  3. Steve Newell says

    Are you a sheep or a goat?

    In the parable of the goats and the sheep, the goats thought that they were in good with Christ but they failed to care for their fellow humans. The sheep were the true followers of Christ because they cared for those who are suffering.

    The goats believe that they are serving Christ but in fact that they are only serving themselves.

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+25%3A31-46&version=NIV

    • If that doesn’t frighten you, you haven’t been paying attention.

      • The people who aren’t frightened probably should be, and the ones who are frightened… probably need not worry.

        Or some sort of conflict/tension like that…

      • Christiane says

        whoah!

        with St. Peter meets me at the Gate:

        St. Peter:
        according to our records, your sin number 3 thousand ninety four was to SKIP the St. Agnes the Lamb Bible Study Group in order to attend
        GOAT YOGA last Thursday !!!!!

        Me: (:

        • Christiane says

          (: is meant to stand for ‘looking guilty frown face’
          or whatever

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          St. Peter:
          according to our records, your sin number 3 thousand ninety four was to SKIP the St. Agnes the Lamb Bible Study Group in order to attend
          GOAT YOGA last Thursday !!!!!

          Make that Lightbulb-headed Christ on the Great White Throne instead of St Peter and you have Jack Chick’s This Was Your Life right there.

          • Christiane says

            Jack Chick?

            oh, THAT Jack Chick~ the scary comic book Jack Chick where everyone goes to terrible torment for all eternity

            Jack Chick, beloved of preachers of fundamentalism

            I got it.

            Goat Yoga is not worth being a part of a Jack Chick ‘comic’, no.

            • Christiane says

              honestly, Headless, how can fundamentalists not realize that this Chick stuff has nothing to do with the Good News ???

              how did Christianity take such a sideways turn away from proclaming the Euangelion, the Good News????

              • john barry says

                Christiane

                Jack Chick
                Trump likes KFC and Jack in the Box and Chick A Fila
                Trump is fat’

                3 degrees of Trump

                I would guess 98 percent of living evangelicals do not know who Jack Chick is or care. I think he took the money and ran. We will keep his memory alive , I guess

              • john barry says

                Christiane, I am sad to inform the world that Jack Chick died in 2006 at the age of 92 according to Google who still remembers him. No one has replaced him as it seems his tracts were to scholarly for todays world. I got him confused with Ralph Edwards , host of TV’s This Is Your Life, but it was a different formant. Now I am sure all the people on This is Your Life would be more apt to be This Was Your Life. I will notify the evangelicals that Jack Chick is no longer doing tracts and his plot is a different kind now.

    • Throw in all of Matthew 23 and it’s pretty obvious that anyone who calls themselves a follower of God better look in the mirror periodically to make sure they haven’t turned into a goat.

      (Proceeds to look in mirror… sees some goat-like tuft…)

      Lord, have mercy on me, a broken pot who wants you to mold me to look more like you every day.

      • David Cornwell says

        Looking around my little town and neighborhood I see more and more men with “goat-like tuft.” Is this a sign of end times?

        • I do believe I’m going to shave off my goatee later today…

        • Assuming the End Times are defined as the NT defines them – the entire time between the Comings of Christ – then yes. Which is to say, things have been they way they have been for quite a long time.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      In practice it’s all too often “ME SHEEP! YOU GOAT!”
      (“HAW! HAW! HAW!” optional.)

      I keep thinking of all these Pastor Grima Wormtongues so certain THEY will be sitting at Christ’s Right hand on J-Day, whispering in His ear WHO is REALLY Sheep and Who Goat. (“ME SHEEP! HIM GOAT! HIM GOAT! HIM GOAT! HIM GOAT!…”). I mean, What Would God Ever Do Without Them?

    • Robert F says

      Are you a sheep or a goat?

      In the parable of the goats and the sheep, the goats thought that they were in good with Christ but they failed to care for their fellow humans. The sheep were the true followers of Christ because they cared for those who are suffering.

      The goats believe that they are serving Christ but in fact that they are only serving themselves.

      I don’t really believe that I’m in good with Christ, but then again I don’t do as much as I can to care for my fellow human beings. What does that make me?

      • john barry says

        Robert F. That makes you a human being , that is why Jesus came. I was at Burger King the other day having an angry Whopper and I my food snob wife called me a pig, I can not find that reference in the Bible so I do not know where it came from. My wife refuses to dine with royalty.

  4. john barry says

    When twitter first came out I compared them to church signs with messages such as the one cited in article. Trying to soundbite or capture a complex or a message in a 144 text or a sign is an attention getter not where one would expect to get an explanation or deep background of a subject. I know church signs and messaging is not the focus of CM good message but I do not have many original thoughts and wanted to share it before I forgot it again.
    One thing it is hard to do is to live in the “now”. The past only exists in our thoughts and mind but the past drags me back to it and I willingly go. I know more about the past than the future for sure.I totally agree with the heart of message, I really try to live my life and enjoy the fruits of my sometimes weak faith in the now as this is the life God gave us. This is the day that God has made etc. The future of the world is under the complete control of God, my own future is a joint venture as I can at least do the best I can to chart my course

    In Vietnam one of the few USO shows I saw was Christy Lane, a singer that was so cute and a round eye so course a big hit. She was in a helicopter crash and was okay and I remember we were all happy. I do recall when she had a hit song One Day at a Time and thought that would have been great in 1969. Most of the time we did live in the now and did not connect with the world . BTW , Steve Newell, we smelled like goats , does that count? just kidding.

  5. My guess is that 75-85% of the evangelicals who see that church sign believe it to be a truism. We’ve probably all heard it before, and some of us have maybe even used it before. If we’re honest, I think we all try to boil down our beliefs into nifty soundbites (just look at CM’s list of simple one-line statements) and this is just an attempt to boil down the Gospel (and Bible?) into a pithy one-liner.

    The problem being, of course, that simple one-liners are in reality merely “near” truisms. They capture an element of truth–maybe even most of it–but they don’t really define the depth and mystery of the REAL truth. For example, just read Proverbs. None of it is 100% truth or should be viewed as “guaranteed.” They might “shape” truth–follow this wisdom and your life will probably go better than if you didn’t follow it–but there are no guarantees. “Good is good, all the time; all the time, God is good” might be a truism to some, but to others… they’re struggling to see it.

    I don’t know where I’m going with this. Just kinda rambling, I guess. I love soundbites. I love to try to boil down great truths like the Gospel into something simple. Anyone who has written a book has tried to do that, too; “My book is about…” Let me tell you, the ten-second elevator pitch for my sci-fi novel leaves SO MUCH OUT.

    Be careful of one-liners, I guess, especially when it comes to trying to portray something as rich, deep and mysterious as the Bible and the Gospel.

    Unless maybe it is really as simple as… “Jesus saves.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      It’s like Twitter.
      Hard to get more profound than “I made a poopie!” in 140 characters, even using txtspk.

  6. Iain Lovejoy says

    A very common motif in early Christian art was Christ carrying not a sheep but a goat on his shoulders.
    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/keithgiles/2019/02/jesus_goat_shepherd/

    • Rick Ro. says

      Goats need to be saved, too! Jesus is just as willing to show them their “lost-ness” as he is the sheep.

    • Christiane says
      • flatrocker says

        But if you look closely at the way the goat is portrayed, he’s really not at all comfortable on the shoulders of the shepherd. Either he just landed and is wondering how in the hell did I get here or he was placed there and is actively trying to get down. Either way the goat may portayed on the shepherd but he’d clearly rather be somewhere else. A sheep he is not.

        • David Cornwell says

          There’s a certain amount of predestination when it comes to goats. They will never be turned into sheep. Goats are impish and will commit the same atrocities over and over again and then just look at you. Be careful about turning you back. I watched a livestock auction once in Indiana Amish country. They bought in a kid and he entertained the audience with his antics. Some breeds may be different, but the ones I’ve observed do not seem inclined toward repentance and will always be happy just as they are.

        • Robert F says

          You get all that from this image? I certainly don’t.

      • Thelliot says

        No – it is a sheep – the tail goes down not up. In the middle East sheep and goats are incredibly similar even down to the horns,

        • Robert F says

          Much as I like the idea that in this image the early church is going beyond Scripture to include “the goats” in God’s salving care, it seems highly unlikely to me; what you say about the physical similarity of goats and sheep, however, seems entirely plausible. It also would explain why “goats” and “sheep” could be so easily confused, except in the knowledge of the True Shepherd.

    • Robert F says

      A goat that needs carrying here.

  7. Iain Lovejoy says

    NB: This was a reply to Steve Newell’s question as to whether one is a sheep or goat. It seems to have got misplaced.

  8. I suppose it’s too late to point out that “eternity” is not an unending lifetime. That is immortality. Eternity is a state of timelessness. A pedantic distinction surely but I hear the entrance exam is tough so bone up!.

  9. The more I read the Bible and the longer I follow Jesus, the less I think this whole thing is about “eternity” or “heaven.”

    Because it never was about that. But many made it become about that.

    And remind that the people who were saved and led during the Jesus Movement are now the ones unconcerned about the earth and environment because it’s all going to burn and they got their salvation figured out.

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