Communication, Confusion and Clarity
What turned out to be the biggest non-story of the weekend, was the prediction by Harold Camping and his followers, that Saturday, May 21, 2011 would be the “end of the world.” The interesting thing to me was that after the coverage and attention all week long, on Sunday morning there were NO news stories about it at all! This tells me that a lot of it was more of a “media-apocalypse” than anything. The good news was that myself, and thousands of other faithful pastors, took this occasion to preach sound doctrine about a very important subject: the coming of the Lord, the signs of the times and the closing of the age. Before I get into this, let me back up to Saturday.
Saturday was a “first” for me: I performed my first deaf wedding, and was blessed to officiate at the marriage of Shawn Smith and Ashley Pinnick. I was extremely grateful to Aaron Hinds who translated, and did a phenomenal job. He truly loves the Lord and carries a burden for the deaf community. I encourage you to lift him up in prayer. The reports that I received were that many in the deaf community were commenting, “This is how a deaf wedding should be done!” If that’s true, I am very grateful. One of the things that I took away with me was how powerful and wonderful is the God-given instinct and ability to COMMUNICATE! This originates in creation, but also in the amazing truth that God is a speaking God - He is the Word, and desires to communicate His truth and ways. The Book of Hebrews begins with the declaration, “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.” (Heb.1:1,2) This capacity or instinct is seen in that even though there are those who are hearing-impaired, they still are able to communicate. Sign language (ASL) has the tremendous capacity to communicate, and some of the words or signs/gestures are incredibly insightful. The word and sign for “marriage covenant” shows the mind or forehead (the person or being) looking at two hands joined together, or the “two becoming one.” My only regret is that I just married Kara Pinnick, and now Ashley, and in July, Wesley Pinnick is getting married to Hannah McClardy from Cape Cod. Since the wedding ceremony will be in Cape Cod (reception later in Tucson), I won’t be able to get a “hat trick” in the Pinnick family, instead I will pass the puck to Pastor Paul Campo and be left with two goals and one “assist!”
Sunday’s message, “The Day After...The End of the World” was to confront any CONFUSIOIN relating to the newest episode of apocalyptic fever, which was Harold Camping’s prediction of 5-21-11 as the day of judgment. (2Pet.3:1-4) spells out the importance of this truth, and how it is a strategic target in the last days. “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." The truth about the second coming of Jesus Christ is basic Christian doctrine, and Peter says that it is especially singled out in an attempt to discredit it. Scoffers will mock the idea saying, “where is the promise of His coming....all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” In other words, there is no such thing as any kind of divine intervention, especially related to judgment. So, anyone who holds to this precious truth has to be marginalized, and portrayed as some kind of religious kook. The problem with “date-setters” or misguided Christians like Harold Camping, is while they are as old as time, they simply give “ammunition” for mockers, scoffers and cynics.
In the process of trying to bring CLARITY there are a number of things that stand out in my mind, and not the more obvious ones like ignoring Jesus’s direct command, "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matt.24:36) What are some of the life lessons we can take from all of this?
In spite of the inaccuracy of Harold Camping’s prediction, there is still something that resonates in people’s hearts that the world is headed somewhere towards some kind of conclusion. This is not becoming a “doom and gloomer,” but the things Jesus said would be “signs” of His coming are happening all around us with increasing frequency and intensity. People all around us have a “sense” that this is true. Camping was way off on his date, but the fact remains that judgment is still real!
How do people get caught up in things like this? Jesus’s first warning about the last days was “take heed that no man deceive you.” All of the earmarks of error and false doctrine were present in this latest incident. One is the element of pride. On his website, Camping posted “It was not until a very few years ago that the accurate knowledge of the entire timeline of history was revealed to the true believers by God from the Bible.” Ahh, yes, the true believers, which embrace his teaching, and this ends up leaving out most people, including you and I. Pride and false doctrine always go together. When we genuinely embrace the the truth it doesn’t make us proud, instead, it deeply humbles us. The other element was the undercurrent of disdain for the traditional church. Of course, the church needs an awakening, but beware of those who always feel that the “real thing” lies somewhere outside of the church in some special group. Simply living out your faith daily, being planted in a local church, and doing your best to reach others with the Gospel is not enough for some. They are looking for the “deeper things,” which in turn makes them vulnerable to error. I’m not suggesting that God or the Bible is shallow, but He has made His truth plain for all to see and not putting it in some “hidden code” that only a few can decipher. The plain, straight-forward message of the Gospel is what still sets people free.
Our calling is to live prepared all the time. Jesus concluded by saying, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Mt.24:44)
Like a lot of things, let’s try to take advantage of them to advance the Kingdom of God! In 1981, there was a guy from Tucson, Bill Maupin, who predicted the date of the Rapture for June 28, 1981 (like the rest, he had to revise his predictions) which also became national news. It just so happened that at the same time we were showing what we affectionately referred to as “The Big 3" series of prophecy films. As a result of the interest generated, and the fact that people were talking about it, we used it to invite people to church to hear the Gospel and saw numbers of people saved! I thought you might like to see the picture of that time when we were meeting in the Circle Ballroom of the then Marriott Hotel. Brett Buss re-dedicated his life to Jesus right at that time and he wrote me, “God can use anything, even a group of mixed-up Christians who are off-base on their Scripture interpretation to draw us to Saving Grace!” May 21, 2011 may have come and gone, but the urgency still remains!
Remember the angel’s directive to the disciples after Jesus was taken up into heaven. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11) They were not trying to dismiss or dampen their enthusiasm or expectancy in the Lord’s return, they were trying to direct it profitably into loving God with all your heart, living fruitfully, pursuing holiness, and reaching souls with the Gospel. I think that’s still pretty good advice to all of us today.
Let me close by shaking you up a bit! In spite of all the nuttiness of Harold Camping and his followers, HE DID GET SOMETHING RIGHT, and that was their attempts to get the message out there! Phil Cooke wrote these words that offer this unique twist on things:
“Over the last few months, a remarkably tiny group of people have done a brilliant job sharing their message with the world. Inaccurate, wrong, or wacky – they have told their story far better than major Christian denominations, mega-churches, and supposed ‘media’ ministries have done.....All from a fringe radio preacher that 99% of Americans have never heard of six months ago. In the meantime, what has the rest of the Christian world been doing to get THEIR message out?....The bottom line is that most of these anemic efforts are so focused on trying to convince us that Christians are ‘just like you’ that they’ve completely lost any unique, compelling, or provocative message about the life-changing experience of following Jesus Christ......Why? Because Harold Camping and his followers really believe their message. When that happens, you’re not afraid to spend money, creativity, passion, and energy to make sure your story impacts people’s lives. It’s just a shame that it’s the wrong message. And even more of a shame the rest of us have done such a poor job of getting the right one out.”