Cul-De-Sac Memories

When I was four, my family moved from Arkansas to California.  For a few months we stayed at my grandparents’ house.  I don’t recall much from that time except that I had a little green bicycle that I think someone pulled out of the dump and spray painted so that I would have a bike.  I remember years later, my mom said that while we were living there, I took a pair of scissors and clipped all of the folds in my grandmother’s drapes.  I was only four at the time, so I don’t remember it, but it sounds like something I would do.  I’m pretty sure it embarrassed my mom, and may be one of the reasons she didn’t especially connect with my dad’s parents.  I don’t know… Speculation on my part.  But looking at others I know who have stayed with people in a transition situation, things that the kids do makes parents crazy and strains relationships, especially among the women.

My dad eventually found a little house on a cul-de-sac a couple of miles from my grandparents’ house.  The house couldn’t have been more than 1000 square feet.  It was probably more like 800 or 900.  There was a small eat-in kitchen in the front, a small living room that had a door directly into the master bedroom, and a short hallway off the back of the living room that led to the two smaller bedrooms.  My brother and I shared the bedroom directly behind the kitchen, and the girls got the one in the middle of the house. The bathroom was between these two bedrooms.  We stayed in that house from the time I was in kindergarten to about the time I was in fourth or fifth grade.

In the winter, the house was really cold.  In fact, I remember getting up for school some mornings and it being so cold in the house that my mom had all of the burners on the stove going to help heat the place.  I would go in the bathroom and rum my hands under the hot water to warm them up.  The heater was an old gold-colored gas thing.  It was in the wall between the living room and the hallway in front of my sisters’ bedroom, so it was pretty much central in the house, but it didn’t heat very well.  But on those cold mornings, it was the best heat we could get, so we would run to the kitchen, get a bowl of cereal, and then argue over who got to sit with our feet directly under the heater- one in the hall, and one in the living room.

One of my favorite memories from the house was the day we got the carpet changed.  When we moved in, the carpet was really old and nasty.  Apparently it was that green 70s shag, but it had a lot of dog stains.  When my parents saved enough, they went and got new carpet.  It was a brown high/low, with the little lines running through it.  I remember all of the furniture being out on the lawn.  That was strange to me as a kid.    I also remember the incredibly large amount of dirt on the floor after they pulled the carpet up.  They installed the carpet, and I was fascinated by the process.

Behind the house was an unattached garage.  When we moved in, the siding was some kind of wooden slats.  Somewhere along the way, my dad decided to replace the siding on the garage.  To remove the old siding, which was dry rotted, my dad, mom, and one of my uncles were using a sledge hammer to bust it up, then a claw hammer to pull out the nails.  I got to bust some of the siding off, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever.  They replaced the siding with plywood, which they painted yellow.  Strange choice, but… Hey, if you knew my family, you’d understand.

In the back corner of the yard was an apricot tree that we spent many hours climbing.  Somewhere along the way, my parents put up a tire swing, and we wore a hole in the ground underneath it.  It wasn’t just a tire hung from the tree, it was an actual swing made from an old tire.  If you cut around the bead, then across the tread, so that you remove about 75% of the sidewall and tread, but leave the rings of bead on both sides, you can turn it inside out, tie a rope from the bead to the tree, then you have a swing.  When you spin it up as much as you can, you spin for what seems like forever.  You spin one way, then back, then back again.  When you get off, you can’t walk straight, and sometimes you even throw up a little.  Best feeling ever!

There were some train tracks about a block from our house.  Sometimes we would go over there against our parents’ permission and do things like put coins on the tracks and let the trains squish them.  Once there was a train carrying some sort of ore; I guess that’s what it was.  It was a silvery, grey, shiny rock.  Some of it fell off the train and we got pieces of it.  I still have mine somewhere.  I thought that was the coolest thing ever.  I guess that’s why I held on to it.

There were two kids who lived next door to us.  Their dad owned a small car lot and and detailing shop, so he always had cool cars.  The oldest one was a couple of years older than my older sister.  The younger one was either the same age or a year older than her.  We hung out with them quite a bit.  For a while, I think when I was in second grade, there were two girls that lived across the street.  I tried to impress them one day with my fishing pole.  I tied a weight to the end of the line and tried casting toward them.  Their dad got upset with me.  They also had chickens.  We got in their chicken cage one day and tried to catch one of them.  I don’t remember if we were successful, but it was interesting.

There were some kids down the street at the house on the corner.  They were a rough bunch.  The one that was close to our age was named J.D., I think.  They were always dirty, and they cussed.  There was a tree house in their yard.  One day the younger kid from next door and me and one of the dirty kids climbed up in their tree house and looked at a playboy or some other girlie magazine.  I was only in second or third grade, so I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I vaguely remember a naked woman with paint all over her body.

My neighbor also introduced me to the word “stoned”.  We were riding our bikes and we skidded on some dirt, which cause a minor dust cloud.  He said something to the effect of, “we could do that over and over, then get in the middle of the ‘smoke’ so we can get stoned.”  Near the same time, we were playing one day and somehow ended up in my front yard.  As best I can remember, we were paying like we were going through a typical day… or something.  Anyway, we “came home” to my front yard.  That’s where the “house” was in whatever it was that we were playing.  And he said, “OK, now we have to hump.”  He lies on the grass, face down, and begins doing semi pushups with his pelvis.  I followed suit.  I had no idea what we were doing, but looking back on it as an adult, I can imagine that he had been exposed to something on TV… or whatever that he had an inking of an idea what “humping” was.

It was while we were living at that house that we discovered what an eclipse was.  One day the kids next door asked our mom if we could come over and watch the eclipse that night.  She asked what channel it was on.  That’s still one of my funniest memories.  It says a lot about my upbringing in one sense as well.  That night, both of our families stood in the back yards and watched the moon slowly black out, then slowly reappear.

Some time later, one night my dad got all of us out of bed and took us to the back yard so we could watch the space shuttle fly over.  I remember that it was cold, and we were staring at the sky, then finally, a fairly bright- what looked like a star- somewhat quickly made its way across the sky.  I’ve done the same thing to my kids; stay up late so we could watch some astronomical event.  Kids hate it, but one day, they’ll look back with fond memories.

There are lots of other memories I have of that house.  I’ll have to post them later.  We had a garden, there were olive trees, and this one summer rain storm I’ll never forget.  But those are for another time.

No More Mr. Nice Guy and Hank Hanegraaff

So I met with the psychologist and discussed setting up an ongoing counseling regimen.  I was supposed to call back on Friday to set up the initial counseling appointment, but after a few rounds of phone tag, I started wondering what I was doing.  I realized I was tired go being depressed and I started questioning why I had let myself get that way.  I went back and reviewed No More Mr. Nice Guy, with made me realize that I was falling back into my toxic shame.  That’s what this was all about.  I had forgotten to follow the rules that Dr. Glover specifies in the book.  I was slipping back into the old mindset.  So I went back to rule #4- I am the only one on this planet who is responsible for my desires, wants, and happiness- and started repeating it to myself.  This little mantra seems to be working.  I suppose it takes a while to internalize a healthy mindset once you’ve been coddling an unhealthy one for so long.  I still have a long way to go, but I’m back on the mack Truck, baby!  Get the hell out of the way!

In other news, I finished the Hank Hanegraaff book The Apocalypse Code.  He does a fantastic job of explaining why the dispensational views of the “end time” are not particularly good for christians to adhere to.  First of all, John Nelson Darby, the father of modern dispensationalism, didn’t introduce the idea to the world until the 1800s.  No one in the church taught dispensationalism until Darby came along, then when the Scofield Reference Bible became popular, it disseminated the dispensationalist teachings throughout the English-speaking world.  All of the fundamentalist christian groups, such as pentecostals and baptists bought in to it, and the rest is history.  If you really look at the Bible, as shown in Hanegraaff’s book and on the Raptureless.com website, you will see the truth about the “end of the age”.  The end of the age was the end of the old covenant and the mosaic law.  The “tribulation”, as the dispensationalists call it, already happened in 70 AD.  Which explains why Jesus said in Matthew 24 that some of them standing with him would not die until all of the things he mentioned would happen at the end of the age would transpire.  It also explains why Daniel’s “70 weeks” don’t have an unexplained 2000 year gap between the 69th and 70th weeks.  It also explains why we have no business, as christians, going back and trying to follow old testament laws: they’ve all been fulfilled by the “completed work” that Jesus did on the cross.

On a side note, it also solidly puts the nail in the coffin of the oneness pentecostals and their dress codes and other teachings.  I had a conversation with my brother about this very thing.  I made the observation that when you’re in oneness pentecostalism, they talk about how they have true freedom because they are following their silly rules.  They always say that “as soon as someone backslides, the first thing to go is their ‘holiness’ (dress code).  But we know that by following the holiness standards, we are pleasing to the Lord and that’s how we have true freedom.”  But It’s not… It’s a prison.  Their dress code has nothing to do with holiness, and by relying on it, they are reverting back to the old law and not accepting Jesus’ sacrifice to be the fulfillment of the law.  They are trusting in what THEY do to make them holy, and not what God did so they could be holy.  Ironic, isn’t it!

Hanegraaff’s book also does a good job of explaining the injustice and outright evilness of christian support for the zionist movement based on God’s promises to Moses.  He notes the conditional aspect of the promise; if you do what I command, then you can have the land.  He goes on to show how most Jews are not following God’s command, and how historically they haven’t.    He also shows where those promises were already fulfilled under the rule of Solomon.  He also shows how God’s intention is for us to love everyone, as shown in several places in scripture, and how persecuting and killing non-Jewish palestinians to get their land and homes isn’t a very christian, or even moral, thing to do.

Overall, I think it’s a well-written, clear presentation of the case.  This book, the book on Raptureless.com, and several other writings available on the web have convinced me that I’ve had it wrong all along.  I’m so glad the truth is out there.  I just with it wouldn’t have taken me so long to discover it.  Maybe, though, it will be more valuable to me now that I’ve had to work so hard to get it.  Wasn’t it solomon that said to “buy the truth and sell it not”?  Someone said it, and I kind of feel like that’s what I’ve been doing; buying the truth.

I started reading another book, So You Thought You Knew by Josh Tongol that looks to be right in line with where I have come to.  Mind you, I’ve only read chapter 1, so I can’t speak for the rest of the book, but what I have read seems to be some of the most enlightened thought I have come across in a while.  It seems to bring everything I have been learning in the last few years down to the “now what does it all mean” level.  I’m hoping that when I get to the end, I’ll have abetter answer than I do now.  It may take a while, though.  I have a lot of school work to get through in the next few weeks, and seemingly little time to get through it.

Counseling and Hank Hanegraaff

I’m not quite sure why, but since the last time I posted, I have gotten very depressed again.  My wife went out of town on business, and that may be what started it, but even after she got back, the depression has continued.  I am tired of this cycle of depressed, OK, depressed, OK.  I was sitting at my desk  yesterday, and I looked up at my list of rules, the ones from No More Mr. Nice Guy.  Rule 5- I am the only person who is responsible for my wants, needs and happiness, and rule 27- Do it now struck me pretty hard.  So I finally made the call that I was considering six months ago when I was in the middle of that horrible depression I went through.  I got an appointment and met with a psychologist this afternoon.  He seems to think there are some things we can work out.   I’m feeling pretty good about it.  Maybe I’ll be able to work out some of my issues.  I actually talked to him about that one thing that I’ve never spoken to another person, ever, in my life before.  Maybe I’ll post about that someday.

In other news, I started reading Hank Hanegraaff’s The Apocalypse Code.  It’s an explanation of partial preterism, and he makes a really good case, from the scriptures and history, for why the tribulation happened in 70 AD.  He also makes a really good point for why a Jewish state with the ouster of non-jewish palestinians is a really horrible, racist thing for christians, who are supposed to love others, to support.  I remember when my current pastor first mentioned CUFI, Christians United For Israel, and how I immediately had a sense of I’m not so sure about this.  I’m starting to see why I had reservations.  Read the book.  HH makes a lot of good points, and your view of a lot of things will be rocked.

That is all.

The Gospel: The Good News (and bad)- A Revelation According to Me

I think I’ve figured some things out.

I think I’ve regained my faith.

I still claim Agnostic Christian, because ultimately, we can’t prove or disprove God’s existence.  But the more I look into this (what I’m about to explain) the more I believe.  And that’s a good thing, right…?

A word of caution: I’m pretty sure this isn’t orthodox Christianity, but it makes more sense to me than ANY version of orthodoxy that I’ve ever encountered.

Here’s the setup:  This past weekend, the dude who pastored the Brownsville “revival” preached at our church.  (Yes, I’m skeptical because of the whole Hank Hanegraaff prophecy, but that’s another story.)  Prior to preaching, he mentioned some end times sermon CDs he was selling.  In addition, this coming month, our pastor will be preaching about the “five unfulfilled prophecies of the end times”.  All of a sudden, I realized that I know very little about the end times except what I have been told.  I’ve never studied it on my own.

In my thought process, I recalled Bart Ehrman’s latest book, which I recently read.  In it, he mentions how the first century church believed that all of the prophecies that we normally consider “end time” prophecies were fulfilled in 70 AD.  Nearly everything else Dr. Ehrman says has made sense to me, so I decided to investigate a little further.

A quick google search brought me to “preterism”.  In case you don’t know (I sure didn’t), preterism is the belief that all of the end time prophecies in the Bible have already been fulfilled.  They were fulfilled in 70 AD with the fall of Jerusalem under Titus.  I started searching the web for details, and came across some really good websites that had me convinced they might actually have a case, with just a cursory read.  I mentioned this to my brother, who soon after, pointed me to the Raptureless.com web site.  Jonathan Welton has done an amazing job of presenting the facts, scripture, and arguments for a pretty watertight case for the fulfillment of old testament prophesy in the events of 70 AD.  If you aren’t convinced, take a read for yourself.  He offers his book free if you read it online.  You can finish it in a couple of hours, and it will probably rock your belief system.

I’m pretty convinced of the first part of the book (70 AD and all that), but I don’t think he has done a good job of presenting the evidence of another coming of Jesus.  He does present a case, but It’s not as watertight as the former.  For me, the verdict is still out on this. (more research, I guess.)

Essentially, the idea is this: the “tribulation” has already happened.  There is no “AntiChrist” person- it’s a spirit of false teaching.  The “end of days” that Jesus describes is the end of the old covenant, which ushered in the new covenant of grace, and the Kingdom Age.  I won’t get into all of the details here, but if you want to fully understand it, read Welton’s book.  You’ll thank yourself.

One of the questions my dad asked when I mentioned all of this to him was about the new heaven and earth.  He felt cheated, he said, if THIS (what we are living in now) was the new heaven and earth mentioned in the new testament.  More research led me to this page that explains the preterist view of the new heaven and earth.  To sum it up,  “heaven and earth”  is a hebraic term for the covenant between God and man.  In other words, when  “heaven and earth” passed away in 70 AD, it was the old covenant between God and man, the law of Moses, and not the actual heavens and this planet we live on.  Both works I’ve mentioned up to this point do a much better job of explaining this concept than I can, so I won’t try to rehash it here.

One thing I started thinking about, however, was the science vs. creationism debate that I mentioned in a previous post.  Both of the works I previously linked to say that the reference to “heaven and earth” in Genesis 1 does not reference the covenant between God and Man.  But… why couldn’t it?  Mind you, this is entirely speculation on my part, but it seems to me to make sense.  In fact, it makes a lot more sense than nearly any other explanation I have heard.  If the heaven and earth in Genesis was the beginning of covenant between God and man (in the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth) then the Bible would line up with the undeniable scientific evidence we have that the earth is much older than the Bible seems to claim.  If heaven and earth is used consistently throughout scripture, then we have a seamless story of God trying to bring civilization to mankind, starting with the people eventually called Israel, and finally christians and the entire world. It would also explain the other people who were on the earth that God marked Cain for after he killed Abel.  So essentially, my version goes like this: Big Bang, dinosaurs, meteor, mankind evolves, God “creates heaven and earth” by bringing them an early form of morality and civilization.  That doesn’t necessarily work (Cain and Abel), so he regroups, and gives the Noahide Laws, which don’t necessarily work either.  Then he finds Moses and gives him “the” law- which worked for the savage people that it was given to.  These early power hungry, “I don’t care about you or anything except my own survival” savages did the best they could to live up to the law God gave them.  That was the best they could do.  Eventually, the religious elites perverted the law and made it all about “the law” instead of the civilization and morality it was intended to be about.  But God promised a more perfect way through Isaiah and Daniel.  Then he eventually gave that more perfect way through Jesus.  And what was that more perfect way?  Jesus’ teachings can be summed up as: Love God with all you heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. If you look closely at the gospels, you can see  this is what he taught the people- to the religious leadership, however, he told a different story of their soon coming judgement (which came in 70 AD) because of their lack of love.  This idea of “love your neighbor as yourself” is reiterated throughout the new testament writings.  Consider the “Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians: love (your neighbor), joy (because you do right by everyone else), peace (with yourself, for the same reason), long-suffering (with others’ issues), goodness (to others), gentleness (with others), faith (in others, and in God), meekness (or not taking advantage of others, even though you could) all deal with loving others.  I think of the words of Paul when he told the Ephesians to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Or in more practical terms, fit into decent civilization and get along with each other.  THAT’s what I believe God’s work with humanity is: he is trying to civilize us.  He started with the early savage people, people who needed LAW. But as we have advanced, we have become less and less dependent on the force of law, and now we should try to get along because it’s just how people should treat other people.  That’s what His grace is all about: treating others the way we want them to treat us: GETTING ALONG! I believe that’s the whole point of the Mosaic law, the law of grace, and the entire history of God’s interaction with Man.  He just wants us to get along and treat each other right.  We were savages, now we are more civilized.  He had to give a more modern version of “getting along” as we got better at getting along, since the previous version was designed for a less getting along bunch of people.

In Welton’s Raptureless book, he makes this point by explaining how bad the world used to be.  We have advanced a lot in the past few thousand years.  We, in general, seem to get along with each other a lot better than we used to.  We don’t kill people because the steal our sheep anymore.  We don’t rape and pillage any more.  Sure, there are still pockets of society that do less civilized stuff than we do, but overall, I’d say this is a pretty peaceful place to live.  People tend to worry a lot, but when is the last time something truly bad happened to you because someone was “bad”?  It doesn’t happen all that much.  Overall, it seems violent crime is going down, and is probably much lower today than in the past centuries.  Even the wars we wage result in a lot fewer casualties then in the past.

I think part of the problem is that we just don’t see it.  This NPR story,  makes that exact point.  Stuff, civilization, society, and people are a lot better off now than ever in the past.  We just don’t recognize it.

I think that we are starting to be where God wanted us all along: civilized.  Think about it; he said, “I have come that you might have life, and that more abundantly.”  We would probably all agree that life is a lot better now than in the past.  Even those that aren’t christians act like decent christian people, for the most part.  I have a few atheist friends who are, in many respects, more moral and righteous than a lot of christians, especially when it comes to judging others.  Christians are some of the most judgmental people I know… Of course atheists can be judgmental of christians, too, but when you think about the scripture, “judge not lest you be judged”, it seems pretty fitting!

Moving on…   Here’s the one big thing that’s bugged me for a while: Jesus’ last prayer was for the Father to “make them (us, christians, whatever) one, as we are one.”  It bothered me that even though this was his last prayer, as soon as he went away, we started being “not one”.  People started getting this revelation, or that revelation and making their own version of the church.  It is estimated that there are 20,000 to 40,000 christian denominations in the world.  How is that being “one”?  That bothered me.  It still does a little.  But then I realized that most, if not all of these people still say the “Lord’s prayer”, which is essentially, “God, make your will happen here.”  And what is his will?  Like I said earlier, it’s for us to get along.  So even though we are split as far as our christianity goes, we are getting along.  I kind of like to think that all of us asking God to help us get along, by saying the Lord’s prayer, hasn’t gone unnoticed to God.  I think it’s been pretty effective.  It would be nice if all of these disparate belief systems could agree on doctrinal points, but is that really necessary?  Think about it; we are never going to agree.  One thing I think we all agree on, though, is that Jesus is the messiah. Don’t we all agree that he is the way, the truth, and the light?  Don’t we all believe on him that we might have everlasting life?

Welton makes the point in his Raptureless book that Jesus prophesied that “the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed”.  In other words, it (christianity) started out small, then grew into the largest religion in the world (for a while).  The kingdom is also like leaven.  In over words, a little yeast is put into the dough, but after a while, it effects the entire loaf.  It permeates every space in the bread.  Hasn’t christianity done that?  I think Jesus’ prophesies have been fulfilled.  Even those who claim not to be christians have been affected by “the kingdom of God”.  Even though they don’t live their lives specifically for the purpose of pleasing God, they do live in a way where they get along with others.  And even the religion of Islam is a perversion of Christianity, or a refinement, from their point of view.  They are attempting to be righteous in the eyes of God, just as most christians are, and it is because of the teachings of Christ that Islam even exists.

So that’s our modern world.  That’s the reality of how all of this has turned out.  If you’re a christian, you have to believe that God is in control.  Do you really think he would let it get to this point if that’s not really where he wanted it?  We pray the Lord’s prayer, but we don’t believe it’s working…  I kind of think it has been working, and we are exactly where God wants us.  I think we have a ways to go, but overall, we are getting along.  We are suspicious of each other, but that might be a good thing for overall peace and tranquility.

So that’s it: that’s my “great” revelation.  We are in the kingdom age.  The peace of God is slowly “leavening the whole lump”.  God’s will is being done.  We just don’t see it and realize it.

And, this whole preterism thing has brought me another comfort, which, on top of what I’ve just explained, has been restoring my faith in God.  In the “futurist” camp (that is still waiting on the antichrist and tribulation, et al), there is no “proof” of the Bible’s credibility.  It’s just a book about God and Jesus and some stuff that might or might not happen in the future.  In the preterist camp, however, we have old testament prophesies that were fulfilled in the new testament, providing the proof that the Bible is accurate.  So discounting arguments over the dates that different books were written, and whether there were revisionists in the early church, we have a seamless story of God bringing civilization to a bunch of savage animals called humans.  It starts in the wilderness several thousand years ago and works right up through the modern day.  God makes promises in the beginning, and fulfills those promises, proving his credibility.  And we have the complete work.  That’s the good news; we can believe the Bible.  Whether we can “prove” God’s existence is another thing altogether.  But I think that the complete work of the Bible, when viewed from this point of view is the best proof that we have, and are going to have.  And that’s comforting to me.  So although I am agnostic, I am still a christian.  And even though I may or may not agree with your version of christianity, you have as much right to believe it as I do my version.  Does that make either one of us more christian than the other…?  I tend to think not.