Monday, March 24, 2008

Heaven is Not Our Home

I grew up in a conservative evangelical home and church. Then I went off to a fundamentalist college. In all my theological training as a youth and college student, I was always told that heaven is my home.

But the more I read the Scripture and pieced together the grand story, the more I saw this was strangely deficient. Yet I started to speak a different message on this topic as my understanding grew. The Jews didn't think this. And the Jews who followed Jesus as Messiah didn't have this view either from what I could find.

On many occasions I would preface the point with, "Now, I know this sounds strange, but hear me out. Don't think I'm a heretic because of what I'm about to say. I just want you to think about it for a moment. If I'm completely off kilter, let me know."

Then I'd share how heaven is not our final home. And to this day, I've not yet had anyone correct me.

How can they? Read Revelation 21. Then, if you're not convinced, read the same promise in Isaiah 65. John, a Messianic Jew with a full understanding of God's promises, linked the Jewish promises with Jesus' promises. Our home is the Kingdom of God and that Kingdom will come on the earth at the end of all things.

Along with that promises is the resurrection of the dead. Death will die.

Humans were made for earth at the beginning and they will be on the earth at the end. And this answers the Sunday School question of "why did God make us on earth if he always intended us to be with him in heaven?" It's a question that pulls back the curtain on our theological inconsistency.

Over the course of a few years, I grew more confident in this, even though I wasn't finding evangelicals talking about it.

It is little wonder that a popular question among teens today is "What's the big deal about heaven?" Because on the common evangelical soul-winning model, heaven is the end-game. And heaven is a disembodied existence. It sounds like bad news, really. Yet the good news is what Jesus told us: Because I live, you will live also. The last chapter of my book, Living with Questions, is dedicated to this very question covering the resurrection, heaven, hell, a New Earth, and the Kingdom of God.

And I'm in good company. N. T. Wright, the preeminent evangelical-Angelical scholar is talking about it now too. His recent article on the matter is found in Christianity today under the title, "Heaven is Not Our Home."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Living with Question changing lives....

Mark McMahon, pastor to students in Pennsylvania, added this on his blog today regarding Living with Questions:

This book explores some of the most frequently asked "tough questions" about our faith. I read this book because I have spent a season dealing with a significant number of students who are asking these types of questions. That being said...this is an excellent book! Dale Fincher is one of the best Apologists-turned-Authors that I've ever read. This book would make a great recommendation for a seeker who enjoys reading. ps - I shared a copy of Living With Questions with a student who read it and has since gotten saved!

Stories like this encourage my soul.

Friday, March 14, 2008

New Book: What's So Great About Christianity

Tony Snow, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, wrote a clear, enjoyable article in Christianity Today, reviewing What's So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D'Souza.

I agree with the whimsical assessment of this article. And it is written in a way that average people can understand. Here's a taste:
[After citing a string of negative adjectives Dawkin's writes about God, Snow says...] Such invective clings like chewing gum to atheist polemics and raises the question of why these people are so worked up about a creator they don't believe exists.

Darwinists may be able to describe how older bees, wasps, ants, and termites help their younger siblings, but they can't explain why Raoul Wallenberg became a martyr for captive Jews.
Atheism fails as a creed because it lacks humanity. It destroys the wall of sanctity that defends the weak from the strong. It spawned history's most savage movements—from the French Terror to the Stalinist purges. None of the atheistic alternatives has survived because reason just doesn't make a satisfying god.

Those are just a few lines you'll enjoy in this article, "New Atheists Are Not Great."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New film - an apologetic to The Lost Tomb of Jesus

Jonalyn and I occasionally host a 'spiritually significant movie night' at our home. Last year, while we were still living in SoCal, we invited over a group of friends, most of them philosophers, to watch the documentary on the Lost Tomb of Jesus. This documentary claims to have discovered the family tomb of Jesus, which includes the bones of the unresurrected Christ as well as Mary Magdalene and others.

Other scholars have shown that the evidence provided isn't sufficient to make the claim that this is Jesus the Messiah's tomb. Gary Habermas provides this page (with links to others) giving details on how to think through this issue.

Now another group of investigators go back to that discovered tomb to discover another side to the story. Not only looking at the evidence that the Lost Tomb of Jesus provides, but also filling in evidence that was not provided in the film. And, to outdo themselves, they also include many of the same scholars from the original documentary who share how their views and interviews were twisted to reach a preconceived conclusion.

This new apologetic-documentary is called "The Jesus Tomb Hoax." You can watch the trailer here. I haven't seen the film yet, but the trailer looks promising.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

What I learned at NPC -- Motto for 2008

Here's a personal confession.

At the National Pastors Convention (NPC) we attended seminars as often as we could. We interacted with well-known leaders and got some of the inside scoop through Zondervan. Because we are authors and seminar leaders, they gave us special treatment. I often feel self-conscious and suspicious of special treatment, but I sensed a lot of sincerity from the Zondervan group.

Halfway through the convention, I started to feel overwhelmed with the dynamics. One lunch, Jonalyn and I went to In-N-Out and talked about our impressions together. I shared discouragement over seeing so many leaders, so many on the 'cutting edge' of their fields, and how their age and experience and knowledge so far surpasses my own. It was that part of me that wants to serve the church through a non-profit and yet seeing myself as contributing little compared to what many, especially professors, are offering.

The other half of the discouragement came from seeing those I didn't perceive as all that qualified getting so much press and coverage. And I see the new 'pastor celebrity movement,' putting young mega-pastors into print, in part, because they will sell many copies and not necessarily because they are saying anything much more than is already published. And that's discouraging. I'd often rather hear the passionate professor over a pastor anyway (is that bad?)

So there I was at In-N-Out, struggling with these two dichotomies, reflecting on my own mission, struggle, voice. It was a mire of self-reflection, really, that gooped me over with despair. In the quest to help others see God had I become focussed on how I'd get to that point?
I recently read a commentary on how attractive power is to the evangelical community (well, any community really, the Christian one being nonexempt), how we cling to it when we get it and forget our purpose in it. And I saw how that temptation was creeping into my own thoughts. I was focussed on getting into a higher 'status,' to get 'recognized' for the purpose of having a broader voice. Was I conflating my desire to for a 'broader voice' with desires to be validated, affirmed, be seen as important?

So two things emerged from this, from prayer, from my experience at NPC. And it had nothing to do with what was taught at the NPC. This reflection came from observation of the evangelical climate of the convention and my own struggle to be 'successful' at my work and a leader of the larger body.

So here's my motto to grow into for 2008. Jonalyn and I have been saying it to each other at our various events since my In-N-Out confession.

1) Be yourself
2) Serve the people

That's all I have to offer. And that's what God wants me to do. Keeping those two simple ideas before me as a discipline of 'centering down' my motivations and gifts has already proved to be a relief of a burden and a focus on the needs of my audience.

I'll add a third idea that I learned from my acting mentor, Bethany Crawford, in college. After all the preparation and rehearsals were over, she'd tell me to let all of it go and allow the rehearsals to carry my action. My job on the stage at the moment of performance was to concentrate not on the technique of storytelling or characterization. Rather it was to enjoy the performance. Before I'd go on, she'd say this idea I'm adding as the third part of my new motto:

3) Have fun.

And there's my personal confession.

I have an additional fear that if I am to 'be myself' that they won't like me as 'myself.' But I guess they will have to deal with it. Cause that's all I've got. It's the human thing.

Be Yourself. Serve the People. Have Fun.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Live! Tonight.

We are still on the road. This last weekend, we spoke in Bakersfield at Heritage Bible Church and then helped judge at the 14th Annual Kern Youth Festival. A great time! Some real film talent among the teens!

This morning, we're going to Laguna Beach to read scripture aloud at the Church by the Sea (our church prior to moving to CO). Jonalyn will take an hour. Then I will. They are doing this through Lent.

This evening, we go to Costa Mesa to Calvary Chapel. I'll be the guest on internet television, hosted by my friend, Brian Nixon. So if you've got an internet connection tonight at 7pm (Pacific), then hop on and listen in. LIVE. The first half, I'll be sharing my story. The second half will be about my book and culture. Should be a good time.

Here's the link:

UPDATE: This live on-air interview came out well. I was relaxed and engaged. And Brian Nixon, the host, carried the questions to fill the time and cover the material. Also, I should add that I discovered upon arrival that, while across the street from Calvary Chapel is not affiliated with Calvary Chapel. And this helped free me up from feeling like I needed to avoid anything controversial. ~df~