Saturday, October 31, 2009

Politics Wins Again

How far will politics and hatred for liberals take you as a believer? Well, even though you criticize a slew of people on a regular basis, you will link to an article by an avowed atheist just because you feel an anti-Obama kinship. And your blog is hyperbolically called “crosstalk”. You once linked to a Charles Krauthammer post because he is a conservative politician, even though he is pro-choice, and now you link to a column by Ted Rall because he hates Obama, even though he is an open atheist.

I get it, compromise is fine as long as everyone hates liberals and President Obama. When will we learn that we are not called to politics, we are called to redemption. The moral and political crusade is antichrist and the nationalism manifested by many Christians is idolatry.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Things we do for Christ, as well as the things we do without for Christ’s sake, are all commendable…as long as we do not think they are.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Responding to Persecution


The man in question was offered a "United We Stand" button that was approved by Home Depot, but he refused. He now has retained an attorney and is planning to sue. This information was left out of the article by the crosstalk blog. This man said, "It feels kind of like a punishment, like I was punished for just loving my country". So in fact the article below also shows how some Christians manipulate a situation to present an incomplete picture to better serve their own interests. The story in the Miami Herald is here. The news source that crosstalk used was Fox News, and a friend told me he informed Mrs. Schlueter in a comment of this additional information. The hope that his comment will be published is not very strong. But as you will read here, the issue isn't whether a Christian can be unjustly persecuted (not like this man), but how are we called to respond.


Let us address the issue of persecution. I realize that what we western believers call persecution is embarrassing when compared to others around the world, to say nothing of former and present martyrs. But I want us to meditate on Christ’s admonition on how we should respond to persecution. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said:

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

It is unseemly to see all the Christian blogs that complain about so called persecution in America. The fact is that we are not persecuted enough because we do not exhibit the traits of Christ which would generate such persecution. We have been marginalized and institutionalized by political fervor and moral debates, and we are seen as “right wingers” rather than standard bearers of the redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And posts like this baulk at the fellowship of His sufferings.

And even if some legitimate persecution comes our way, we squeal as if we should not have to bear His reproach and sufferings. But as we can see, even the smallest of slights is magnified and results in complaining that the Muslims don’t receive the same bias. Even though every business has a right to dictate certain things, when we are made to remove a profoundly benign vest button that in effect is untrue (One nation under God, indivisible) we are outraged. This so aptly illustrates the nationalistic allegiance that has crept into the church, and the “Princess and the Pea” kind of spiritual discomfort that believers find unbearable.

This button “torture” is only one example of how believers who have allegiances to this country search out every type of perceived Christian persecution or moral deviance and holler loudly about their mistreatment. In that, we are no different than any group that refuses to be defrauded or mischaracterized and organizes and vocalizes their displeasure about the issue with which they disagree. All this is without redemption and projects a Christianity that is foreign to the Bible and unknown to the legitimate martyrs.

I refer you a former post.

The church in America has invented ghost persecutions with which to provide opportunities to complain and whine – when in an embarrassing contrast we are commanded to rejoice and keep:

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”

It is past time for the church of Jesus Christ to climb down from the political bleachers that look to pick unredemptive fights and squint to see any if there is any pitiful slights that we can label as afflictions and begin to respond with a verbal outrage that rivals a manager's tirade at an umpire's close call. The button slogan aside (which was written by a preacher with socialist views – “under God” added under Eisenhower), what if the young man would have complied and shared his respect for his superiors? What if he had suffered this directive with humility and forbearance? Is it worth causing strife and staking a claim about a button that elevates a country and speaks nothing of Christ? Even if it was unfair, it was still an opportunity for a believer to show grace and restraint and even humility, which when compared with the button’s slogan, would have been a far greater gospel light.

And let us be crystal clear, even if the button said “Jesus is the Only Way” the young man should have humbly and gracefully acquiesced to their demand. The man was probably sincere, but in his own words he wore the button to “support the troops” not proclaim the gospel. But can’t you see how far we have strayed from Christ honoring attitudes? We live among those who desperately need to see a people who are not caught up in demanding their “rights”, but who present a hope and faith that transcends petty inconveniences with a joyful sacrifice that, when given the opportunity, refuses to run from a freshly opened Philippian jail in order to minister grace to a jailer in need, who instead of listening to outrage and complaining, had heard hymns of joy emanating from that very cell.

Moral outrage and demanding rights is against everything our Master lived and taught.
Let us be outraged at our lacking devotion to our Glorious King,
and let us rejoice in humble gratefulness that we have been counted worthy to suffer for His sake.
Who have I in Heaven but You?

Ps.73:24-26 - Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

Everything is vanity and frustration of our very spirits. Solomon had everything but peace. And God’s Words continue to transcend time and generations and have arrived here in 2009 A.D. with the same truth and power as when they were spoken by Solomon and when they existed before the world were made. Temporary and fleeting peace is all that can be hoped for upon this earth. And while we so often criticize drug addicts for their attempt to gain secluded peace through narcotics, we are ourselves guilty of striving for peace through an array of earthly methods.

Especially in America we are inundated with a broad assemblage of outward amenities that promise to engender happiness and contentment. And like cotton candy in our mouths, once we grasp them they quickly dissipate and lose the luster that seemed so brilliant from afar. And many times these transient treasures rapidly become encumbrances. The new car retains its glamour for a short time and then the newness wears off as the payments continue. But like wildebeests who believe that the river is now safe even though they have just witnessed their neighbor being eaten, many forget the buyer’s remorse they had last year and hope that this time will be different.

We live in a culture that is built upon cultivating discontentment. The newest television screen, the newest cell phone, and the newest clothes are just a sampling of how the market attempts to leverage discontentment and open our wallets. And most disappointing is how God’s people have fallen into this trap and continue to pursue some of the same things as does the hopeless world. In the end, God’s people end up in debt and are unable to support God’s work as they might have.

But there is another facet of this kind of phenomenon. Those on the outside, as well as the children of professing believers, are observing and learning a fraudulent representation of the Christian faith. The church, with its massive debts both personal and organizational, is modeling a journey of faith that is consumed with this life at the expense of the real and eternal treasure. And that treasure is in part the streets of gold, and it is in part the gates of pearls, and it is in part the angelic throngs. But those are only part of the treasure’s outward chest.

The treasure is and always will be the Lord Jesus Christ. The Spirit through the Psalmist says, “Who have I in heaven but You!”. Would to God that all our hearts would be fully given to that emotion and that truth. What hope is there in this world? Who should we look for but the Royal Lion of Judah? Must Jesus be a part of our pilgrimage or should He be the beginning, the journey, and the end altogether? There was a time when believers used to muse about seeing the Savior one day, but now we look for things here to fill our souls. And we argue about eschatology without a hint of passion and expectancy of seeing His glorious face!?

If we do not have Jesus we have nothing. One day all things will be rolled up as a scroll and the center and focus of all creation will be the Risen Christ. And what emotions and what marvel will be sufficient when we are allowed to see Him as He is; Lord and Master, Friend and Comforter, King and Shepherd, and dead but alive. The former things will all be wiped away, so there will be no remembrance of sin. Think on that, and then wonder how will we see Him as Redeemer with no knowledge of our sins. If all our sins are both washed away and forgotten, against what backdrop can we see Him as Redeemer and Lamb?

Remove your shoes and let your mind have some slack. Jesus was the Redeemer and the Lamb before there was a creation. Those wounds are not what made Him the Redeemer, they reveal Who He always was, is, and always will be forevermore. When we are in His everlasting and manifested presence, we will be like Him. And in that eternal state knowledge and experience are one. No longer will we know in part and subsequently experience in part; we will see, know, and experience the Risen Christ in a dimension that cannot be imagined by us who remain captured in this three dimensional prison.

Let us bring our minds into focused desire and with a futuristic squint of the Spirit. There is coming a moment of glory that can only be portrayed in words that are embarrassingly limited. And I do not primarily refer to the endless expanse of what we call heaven which is God’s eternal dwelling place. The glory of such a place is beyond a mystery and beyond our imaginations. And if the dwelling place be imposing and resplendent, how much more He Who dwells therein and indeed created it? What words, what thoughts, can approach such colossal mysteries?

To gaze at a picture of thousands upon thousands of galaxies, all containing 100 billion stars, boggles the mind and gives us a perspective of the frightening grandeur we call the universe. But climb upon the knowledge of creation and lift your hearts and minds to strain with the eyes of faith, and wonder about the power of One who created this universe with a word. As I stood in the cold February nights and looked through my telescope into the heavens I imagined a Creator who was powerful, aloof, and august. What could possibly gain His interest with things on this obscure planet we call Earth? It seemed to me as impersonal as a distant star.

But the very next month I heard about Jesus. There is absolutely no way I could have blended the Creator I saw through a lens, and a person named Jesus. But such is the ministry of God’s Spirit. It suddenly and without much warning became all too real to me; that Jesus was the Creator and Redeemer. And with a burst of revelation that was given to me I realized I had found what I was searching for, and in fact, I was found by what I was looking for. Jesus was not just some man who did good and was murdered for it; Jesus was the answer to everything.

But here we are as believers and followers of Someone who we have never seen nor could see and live. But that cannot dissuade from looking for Him now and in the future. The Psalmist eliminates everything in heaven but Christ. Of course I look forward to a time where I am relieved from this body of sin I carry. I look forward to being stripped of my self righteousness. I anticipate the day where lust does not haunt me. I embrace a coming day where I love like Jesus does. I look forward to that day where I am made like Him.

But what I thirst for most is Him. What else compares to the promise of seeing and being with the One whose name I have uttered thousands of times? Yes, there will be no more sin, but what is paramount is that Jesus will be there. Since that cold night in March of 1975 I have been on a journey to be with Him. Sometimes I have stumbled on the path, and sometimes I have taken my eyes off Him and sank, but by His grace I am still on this journey. And I relish in the glory of that mystery, the mystery that His creation will be made like Him and will be allowed to experience His presence forever. I can hardly understand “forever” so how can I fully comprehend Him in all His fullness?

So as we continue one step of faith after another, let us never underestimate the impact of looking for a coming day of glory, and let the light of that day shine backward to enlighten and empower us as we head toward the
Celestial City.
And that light shines directly from the face of the
Risen Lamb of Eternal Glory.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Expressions of Christ

It has become evident, and sadly so, that once a person has traversed to a certain point in the emergent movement, only a powerful revelation from God’s Spirit can call them out. Many become belligerent when you attempt to interact with them about critical issues of redemption that are being taught. And should you produce troubling and even disturbing teachings by an emergent preacher with whom they have some sort of allegiance, they sometimes exhibit the same hostile disputatiousness that they accuse the more conservative crowd of displaying when asked about men like MacArthur or Sproul. There is almost never even the slightest admission of concern, and when there seems to be an obvious departure from gospel teachings, those emergent adherents will refuse to believe the clear meaning of words.

When I became aware of the emergent/emerging movement I assumed that the people themselves would be gracious and accommodating even if their theology was deeply suspect. I imagined a people that were concerned with the poor and downtrodden, even at the expense of gospel preaching, but whose general spirit would be warm and cordial, and because of their projected theology of compassion, there would be a marked and undeniable difference in the way they interacted with others. In my limited dealings with people who either lean or embrace emergent thought I have found the same militancy and aggression that can be found elsewhere in more orthodox genres. The theology aside, I have been greatly disappointed in much of the tone of the discourse.

It seems almost effortless for the conversation to become antagonistic and petty, and personal attacks are not uncommon. This is particularly sad since most emergents are not rigid in their systematic theology and tout a renewed emphasis on orthopraxy and being like Jesus. But this style of interaction is unremarkable with the overall Christian community, and it reduces their particular brand of Christianity to nothing more than the brand from which they emerged. You would think that a revolution on this level would produce more observable fruit as it pertains to grace, love, and humility. In my experience the interplay is strikingly similar to many others throughout the blog world and beyond. One well known emergent pastor, when told that a minister who disagrees with him would be preaching the gospel outside the doors of his church, threatened to call the police and have him removed. It has come to that.

Let us point our attention to the teachings of Paul in Romans chapter fourteen. In this chapter and in other places the Spirit gives specific instructions about weaker brethren and causing believers to stumble in general. This is another area where emergent people seem to not only ignore, but to relish in their so called freedom and display it openly, even in the midst of those who would be offended. Using inappropriate language and words that would generally be considered cursing seems to be one area that brings much pleasure and freedom of expression to many. But even if you believed some of the tortured etymologies necessary to justify such coarse speech, you would still be bound to exhibit forbearance and a level of consideration for those brethren who you know are wounded by such language. But it seems this type of expression is necessary to “let your freak flag fly”.

Again, the interaction seemingly has no consideration for the participants, and some of the aggression is stunning. I do not suggest that they are sinners above everyone else, but what I do suggest is that the fruit that has been exhibited is inconsistent with a movement that proposes to express the teachings and the life of Jesus Christ in a new and fresh way. In many cases it’s just more of the same. So how is it that Christians cannot even speak to each other without demeaning sarcasm and even personal attacks? And even this new theological stream that touts itself as leaving the old wineskins of harsh orthodoxy and boldly moving into a more accurate expression of the Lord Jesus, resorts to the same method of interaction and communication.

So theology aside, I have found little if any difference in the communal expressions of these emergent people, especially when a Christian stranger wanders into the room. It is paradoxical to see obvious projections of self righteousness among people who suggest they walk in a new light of humility and compassion. And being self righteous concerning your compassion toward others just may be one of the more astounding and clandestine brands of self righteousness. Everyone is familiar with self righteousness as it applies to doctrine and morality, but when you unveil a self righteousness that in effect says “I care for people more than do you”, well, that is another level of hubris.

So what conclusion can we draw from this? We do not need another theology, we need a more profound and remarkable expression of the Risen Christ. We need our lives and our lips to become subservient to the Spirit and not our flesh. We as believing followers must take a painful inventory of who we are and Who we represent, and make some dramatic adjustments so that our lives are arresting manifestations of the One who allowed His face to be spat upon without retaliation; the One who was silent before His accusers; the One who offered His back to the torturers; the One who was mocked and jeered without returning evil for evil; and the One who gave everything for His enemies.

We cannot be satisfied with showing love and mercy to unbelievers while showing aggression and contempt for the brethren. And let us be honest, it seems more difficult to exhibit love and humility among the Christian community, especially when discussing and confronting serious errors that are being taught. I have found it extremely challenging to speak boldly while still retaining the level of humility that would substantiate my acknowledgment of my own intense need of God’s grace. And in full disclosure, I believe the church has lost its energy and passion for this humility, since we have not only been called to show humility, we are called to be “clothed with humility”.

I am not sure I have ever been clothed with humility, which is much different and much more profound than just being civil in discussions. Where can we find the selfless and crucified ground that contends for the faith doctrinally, but with a conspicuous love and humility that disarms enemies and makes the world take notice that we “have been with Jesus”? Too often the method we employ to defend the faith is a means by which it is deconstructed. Contentment with being doctrinally orthodox is a significant barrier to pursuing a lifestyle that is peculiar among the community of faith that often seeks its own and uses verbal force to achieve its goals. Being a servant for Christ requires more than just a theology and a grace that vanishes at the first serious test.

Being a servant of Christ must be revealed in works of love and compassion, as well as preaching the gospel, but if we cannot control the tongue by cleansing the heart, it all unravels at the most basic of levels and renders us the highest of hypocrites. Let us all resign ourselves to a deeper pattern of humility and grace, so that when we are tested and when we are scorned, we can and do respond with “sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.”

If the smallest expressions of Jesus were practiced by the greater community of Christ followers, it just may construct the foundation for a mighty and powerful intrusion of light into a desperate world of darkness.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Jn.5:5-8 - Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

There are denominations and teachings that refer to God’s wind as some nondescript power that swirls generally around the world waiting for some “sails” to catch it. I have described that teaching in this previous post which presents the teachings of Shane Hipps and his pastor Rob Bell. They describe God’s Spirit like this:


“To lose your religious identity is like losing a sail at sea. The sail is like religion, the wind is the Spirit. You need a sail to catch the wind…to harness the wind, but you gotta’ realize that that sail isn’t the wind. The sail is actually dependent on the wind. See, here’s the crazy thing, the Spirit (the wind), doesn’t need sails in order for it to move about the world. The sails need the wind. So the Spirit in order for it to move and operate in the world has no need of religion, but we (those of us made the way we are) for some reason need sails in order to catch the wind. We need religious structures, external things we can touch and see and traditions and lineages that teach us so that we can better catch the wind.

Now some sails are built better than other sails; some sails are bigger than other sails, some sails are a different shape than those other sails, and those differences matter. And sometimes, one sail is better than another sail in the same way that some religions are better equipped to catch the Spirit of God. Some religions are not as well equipped to fully capture and be compelled by the Spirit. So it matters what religion you choose. It matters why that religion…why you choose it. It matters what it looks like…how it’s shaped, but don’t ever confuse the sail with the Spirit…the sail with the wind.

Here’s what’s so confusing about this…John comes along and says, “Hey both of you guys you’ve got great sails…they look awesome.” I just want you to know it’s the wind that I’m interested in. He says Jesus became the fullness of that wind. And so along comes us and we create a sail around that person. We go, “Now we’ve got it!” Wooo! It’s just another sail. Just because we claim Jesus as the center of our religion does not make us one and the same with the wind of God. It just means we have another sail. I happen to think it’s a better sail than most other sails. I happen to think it’s a more effective sail than other sails (that’s why I chose this particular sail), but it ain’t the wind. (pause)””

As we can plainly see from the section of Scripture in John chapter three, the wind is God the Holy Spirit. Of course it is metaphor revealed for our understanding, but even on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit came to inhabit believers He was described as sounding like a mighty rushing wind.

We can most assuredly reject the teaching that the divine wind is some force that awaits it capture by the cunning of man, and be aware that the destination for such teaching is universalism that assesses all religions as paths to God. All such teachers are false and in fact tethered to the spirit of antichrist. No one has the right to change the Person and work of Jesus Christ and make it nonexclusive and applicable in all religious settings. When the religion of Islam reduces the Risen Christ to a mere prophet, are we to embrace that as a minor misunderstanding or must we agree with the Apostle John when he said all such teachings are antichrist, of which there are many?

We as believing followers of the Lord Jesus must stand humbly and boldly and proclaim that Jesus is the only Way, Truth, and Life, and that any and all teachings that compromise even in the slightest with that glorious truth are antichrist and anathema. It is with brokenness and joy that we acknowledge the Risen Christ as the Eternal Lord of all Glory. And against that truth we acknowledge as well the ministry of the Person of the Holy Spirit. It is this Person and His ministry that I want to address in this post.

No one can see the wind. That stood as the basis for Jesus’ point to Nicodemus. No one knows where it came from and no one is sure where it will go, and the only way we can know that He came through is by the effects He has on things that are in its path. Those effects can be seen and heard, and so it is with God’s Spirit. But there are differences as well as similarities between earth’s wind and the Spirit of God. One basic and dramatic difference is that God’s Spirit does not move arbitrarily or without purpose. The Holy Spirit is not floating around like the wind that changes direction from one minute to the next. God’s Spirit moves with direction and power and with a divine mission. There is nothing nebulous or indiscriminate about the ministry of God’s Spirit; quite the contrary, He has an eternal vision and mission which He has known before the foundations of creation and which were with Him as He descended on Pentecost.

The wind of earth is a non-personal force while the Holy Spirit is a divine Person and is eternal with the Father and the Son. But like common wind, His presence and power is revealed in the objects He came to affect. His common ministry to the entire world is to illuminate sinners to the gospel of Jesus Christ and draw them to Christ. No sinner can of his own wisdom and research believe that a dead Jew is the door to eternal life; he must be illuminated by God’s Spirit. This is essential, and when men like Shane Hipps project God’s Spirit as some metaphysical force that can be apprehended by hoisting some religious “sail” they are preaching another gospel and another spirit.

The Holy Spirit did not come to earth to parse the redemptive work of Christ that allows some religions to believe in God but not Jesus, and then make that acceptable to God. The Spirit lifts up the Person and work of Jesus Christ without compromise and without dilution. His ministry is essential for the spreading of the gospel and without God’s Spirit no man can know Christ, much less believe on Him unto salvation. In these last days there will be many spirits of antichrist. Some will openly deny Him, while others will give Him a diminished exclusivity that make Him one of many. We must faithfully reject any and all teachings that tamper with the quintessence of all truth and the foundation of the Christian faith.

Suggesting that Jesus can be found in all religions is a wicked and false teaching. And presenting the Holy Spirit as some wind looking for the sails of all religions is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit Himself. It is open and public apostasy and it counts the blood of Christ as an unholy thing. There can be no gentle way to say it. To the small company of people who read this blog I humbly and passionately warn you against becoming involved with these men and their false teachings. This is no minor doctrinal squabble and this is not even a battle of orthodoxy verses post modernism. This is infinitely more treacherous than those important issues because this is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

To teach that God’s Spirit fills all religions is to attribute the devil’s work to God’s Spirit. That, my friends, is the unpardonable sin and no one that can hear even the faintest voice of the true Spirit should have anything to do with these wicked men and their wicked deeds. Please do not sift through this as some inflated histrionics, and please make this a matter of prayer. Some of you have children who dabble in Rob Bell’s material, and some of you think that it is just a modern and fresh way to present the gospel. It is not. There is eternal danger even in being silent about these things, and although we have much to pursue in our own spiritual walks, we mustn’t allow teachings like this to go unchallenged or left for some apologist to confront.

Shane Hipps and Rob Bell are accurate in one part of their metaphor, there is a wind that is filling any sails which arbitrarily unfurl to see what wind they can catch. And these sails are filling up with this wind and moving those spiritual ships with increasing momentum and speed. But this “wind” of which they speak is the spirit of antichrist, a powerful and magnificently creative spirit. It is filled with deception of the highest kind, and its masquerade goes much deeper than just a benign spirit sent from the Universal Mind. This spirit claims to be the Holy Spirit sent from God and it is pushing many ships into the rocks. And these men are partakers of its evil deeds.

And you will see believers, true believers, who have become enamored with Rob Bell and others who will not, and possibly cannot, see that deception, even when it is presented before them. That is a breathtaking phenomenon when seemingly intelligent and Biblically educated men and women are so deep into this kind of deception that their minds cannot even be open about such things, much less entertain the thought that anything Rob Bell would teach is heresy. Once you harness your mind and heart to a man, and that can be any man from Spurgeon to Moody to MacArthur or Rick Warren, you have now relinquished your God given ability to understand the Scriptures and hear what the Spirit is saying to your heart. All teachers must be proven by the Word, and all teachers are on some level inaccurate in some things.

But when men manipulate and massage and dramatically change the gospel of Jesus Christ they are to be rebuked and their mouths stopped by strong and sharp words of correction and warning. These emergent men are far worse than seeker pastors or purpose driven pastors as far as their teachings go. But be aware that many seeker and purpose types and others will use emergent materials and will be accommodating to men like Rob Bell. So even men who would disagree with Bell’s and Hipp’s teachings must be approached with this evidence and asked what they will do about this great heresy.

We cannot allow hatred or self righteousness to fester in our hearts, or forget that we all stand by God’s grace alone. No, we have been born in these days and we are called to live for Jesus Christ. That includes contending for the faith and being called rigid and intolerant. When it comes to Jesus there can be no compromise, and when men teach things that are blasphemous to the Holy Spirit, we must run from them with fear and trembling for their souls. Do not think these things are being done in a corner and with a delicate attention to avoid publicity. Rob Bell travels around the country with pages of advertising and fanfare. He is not shy or clandestine; he openly charges admission to lectures which do not include a hint of Jesus and His gospel.

And large denominations use his material and show his videos. How did this happen, you ask? The world we call evangelical is dull of hearing and interested in their own welfare. And men like Bell and Hipps are good natured and amiable enough to lull the Biblically illiterate to sleep and allow their teachings to establish a beach head within many denominations and churches. Bell and many of his members have emerged from orthodox evangelical churches and in a very short time have stretched the linguistic parameters of Biblical understanding until it has become clear that they do not espouse the gospel of Jesus Christ anymore.

And many run to their defense, and when asked for proof within Bell’s teachings that he still believes the gospel, they do not have the time to peruse through his body of work to search for any scraps of evidence like that. And when Bell and others make statements that are blatant departures from Biblical truth, his defenders manipulate the interpretation to provide at least some thin and questionable link to gospel truth. It is all so tragic and sad, and good men are being deceived and the deception grows deeper by the day. I can say only this to us all:

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Apostasy is Complete

Shane Hipps is a Mennonite pastor who has accepted a teaching position at Mars Hill Church which is pastored by Rob Bell. Pastor Hipps is a spiritualist, which means he believes all religions have a piece of the truth and are valid, but that Christianity has a larger piece of the truth. In this excerpt from one of his sermons he uses the metaphor of a “sail” in referring to the different religions. For instance Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and all the rest are just different sails that catch the divine wind. He claims that all the sails catch this wind, but that Christianity’s sail catches more of that wind.
As you read through this segment of his message, I would like you to watch for this portion:

“Just because we claim Jesus as the center of our religion does not make us one and the same with the wind of God. It just means we have another sail. I happen to think it’s a better sail than most other sails. I happen to think it’s a more effective sail than other sails (that’s why I chose this particular sail), but it ain’t the wind.”

This is rank heresy and open apostasy. And since Pastor Bell is sometimes very noncommittal in his theology, this statement, along with Pastor Hipps being called to ministry at Mars Hill Church, reveals in no uncertain terms the theology of Rob Bell. For those of you who had viewed Rob Bell’s teachings as left of center but still containing the gospel core, you must now reevaluate your views in light of this unassailable evidence.
I had only recently come to the conclusion that Pastor Bell had departed from the faith due to his friendship and endorsement of Peter Rollins. I wrote a post about my concerns with the teachings of Peter Rollins. But now there can be no doubt about the direction of the Mars Hill Church and Pastor Rob Bell. The following was taken from a message by Pastor Hipps who is now a teaching pastor at Mars Hill:

Here is the sermon excerpt:

To lose your religious identity is like losing a sail at sea. The sail is like religion, the wind is the Spirit. You need a sail to catch the wind…to harness the wind, but you gotta’ realize that that sail isn’t the wind. The sail is actually dependent on the wind. See, here’s the crazy thing, the Spirit (the wind), doesn’t need sails in order for it to move about the world. The sails need the wind. So the Spirit in order for it to move and operate in the world has no need of religion, but we (those of us made the way we are) for some reason need sails in order to catch the wind. We need religious structures, external things we can touch and see and traditions and lineages that teach us so that we can better catch the wind.

Now some sails are built better than other sails; some sails are bigger than other sails, some sails are a different shape than those other sails, and those differences matter. And sometimes, one sail is better than another sail in the same way that some religions are better equipped to catch the Spirit of God. Some religions are not as well equipped to fully capture and be compelled by the Spirit. So it matters what religion you choose. It matters why that religion…why you choose it. It matters what it looks like…how it’s shaped, but don’t ever confuse the sail with the Spirit…the sail with the wind.

Here’s what’s so confusing about this…John comes along and says, “Hey both of you guys you’ve got great sails…they look awesome.” I just want you to know it’s the wind that I’m interested in. He says Jesus became the fullness of that wind. And so along comes us and we create a sail around that person. We go, “Now we’ve got it!” Wooo! It’s just another sail. Just because we claim Jesus as the center of our religion does not make us one and the same with the wind of God. It just means we have another sail. I happen to think it’s a better sail than most other sails. I happen to think it’s a more effective sail than other sails (that’s why I chose this particular sail), but it ain’t the wind. (pause)

This is what John is doing and it’s extremely innovative and it’s very unsettling that he’s inviting us beneath and beyond the things that make distinctions between us. He’s pointing beyond the sail to the wind and he desperately wants us to experience the wind…the logos…that animating, creative life force that gives you breath right now in this very moment. That’s what John’ll be pointing us to, so as we go through this series, that’s what we’re going to be experiencing and exploring is this whole thing of the logos becoming flesh, and the difference between our…how we operate in the world and how God animates everything that is in the world.

And that’s why it says, “It was the life and light of all people.” It didn’t say the light and life of the people who believe in Jesus. This logos affects everybody including Osama bin Laden, as long as he’s got breath, in him, is a spark of the divine.
So let us consider this teaching, although anyone with a moderate level of Biblical understanding will already be on alert. Pastor Hipps is teaching that all religions lead to eternal life with God, and that Christianity is just the shortest and best way to heaven. That is blasphemous and desecrates the Name and work of Jesus Christ. To say that Jesus is just one of many sails is apostate and defames the Son of God and His gospel.
This is nothing new, but what is new is the openness and boldness by which these men have proven themselves to be the certain men referenced here:

Jude 1:4 - For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here is the question that accompanies such unchristian teachings: How can true believers follow such men and their teachings? The answer is deception, deep and powerful deception of which we are all susceptible if we allow our guards to be lowered. The "unawares" part of that verse means that they came in as one of us but have now changed course. This is no doctrinal game, and this is not the Calvinist vs. Arminian debate. No, this is the ultimate deception whose spoils are the souls of men and whose consequences are eternal hell. And this issue supersedes all other issues because this is the gospel. If Christ is exclusive in redemption then these men are false prophets and teachers and their mouths must be stopped. And let me make myself clear, whatever issues I may have with men like Ken Silva, Mike Ratliff, or John Chisham, are of no consequence when compared with this unequalled truth. Those men teach the exclusivity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is past time for true believers to humbly but unequivocally renounce the hidden works of darkness and come out from among them. This is not something in which to rejoice and take pride, this is something in which to weep and mourn for those who are being caught up in this elaborate web of deceit. The journey to apostasy has taken many back roads and has progressed through evangelicalism with many multi-colored doctrinal camouflages, but it is now in the light of God’s truth and it stands unashamedly against the very Son of the Living God.
This heresy shames the New Testament writers with their blasphemy, and defiles the blood of the martyrs. It counts as nothing the blood of Jesus Christ and dismisses the sufferings of Jesus as just another sail with which to catch some imaginary wind. Every preacher and teacher who fellowships with these men or uses their material is a partaker of their evil deeds. Melodramatic, you say? I suggest I am not competent enough to accurately and completely present the divine ramifications of such gospel departures. Be aware, though, this is just the beginning of a new and imperious level of brazenness that is gaining momentum throughout the evangelical world and will leave in its wake the carcass of gospel truth slain in the streets.
And breathtaking it is to watch people listen to such nonsense and shake their heads as if they were hearing something deep and profound. Stand firm, brethren, in your confession, but press toward the mark as well. Do not be content with avoiding deception, but be thirsty to know Christ in all His fullness and be broken before His correction of you. This is not just a competition for truth, this is, this must be, a continuing journey to seek Jesus with all our hearts. I have little doubt that in that search we will see much that necessitates our repentance and contrition. We cannot afford to stop and be consumed with apostates, and although we must be warned and speak against their teachings, we ourselves must continue steadfast toward knowing and obeying our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Boldness and humility are strange cousins, but we must never sacrifice one for the other. Let the Name of Jesus Christ be the one and only Name by which sinners can be saved, and let His gospel light be spread to the four corners of the earth. Only Christ can save, and all other religions are worthless constructs of men that will ultimately lead men to an eternity separated from the God they professed to know. My prayer for us all is this:

“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


God creates. Man sins. Creation falls. God teaches. Jesus comes down. Jesus dies. Jesus pays price. Jesus lives again. Man believes. Jesus saves. Jesus comes down again. Jesus creates again. Eternity.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jesus as a Living Doctrine

Doctrine: Something that is taught. (Merriam-Webster)
When we say the word “doctrine” we envision a written theology that is usually taught by reading or by listening to someone expound and teach that doctrine or truth. Biblical doctrines are far ranging and include the doctrines of God, man, sin, judgment, and all the rest. Most denominations have a written systematic theology that outlines and teaches the doctrines they espouse. To most people these written expressions are understandable, even if they disagree with them.
Titus Chapter 2

But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

Please notice how the Scriptures move in and out of both theology and behavior as it applies to doctrine. There are two principles here that have their own set of spiritual liabilities. Let us look at both.

First there are those who place a person’s lifestyle and behavior as redemptive. They espouse a works-salvation, meaning that God accepts some charitable works as having some redemptive weight, and in laymen’s terms, sinners can get closer to heaven by what they do. That is not what the Scriptures teach, and in fact, the same apostle that wrote the book of Titus also addressed the subject in Romans and Galatians where Paul strongly condemned any notion that works play any role in eternal redemption.

There has always been an attempt to weave the works of man into salvation, but today that doctrine has taken on a renewed energy. As I have written before, certain men have crept in unawares and are now teaching what the Bible calls the “doctrine of demons”. The slightest suggestion that works play any part in the salvation of a sinner is the most egregious doctrinal issue of all, and is apostasy itself. Salvation is by faith alone in Jesus and His finished work of redemption on the cross.

I have addressed that subject many times like this for example.

But there is another side to this issue of doctrine. The Scriptures teach a living doctrine; one that communicates the person of Jesus Christ through the apocalypse of deeds, words, and expressions. They are no substitute for the gospel, but they do substantiate and bring life to that same gospel. So many times we as orthodox believers have minimized and even maligned the notion that our lives can and should be “living epistles” that are “read of all men”.

It is not enough to be satisfied with a written dogma; we are called to be imitators of the Christ we follow. The question is: How do we live out Christian doctrines? Which doctrines can the Spirit be speaking of when He calls us to express them in our lives? How could one express the Trinity in behavior? The virgin birth? The incarnation? Do you see what I am saying here? Which doctrines should we be exhibiting in our Christian walks?

The problem comes when we view doctrines in a constricted definition, and we fail to see that things like love, mercy, humility, and grace are doctrines that are every bit as valid as the Trinity. We have so neglected the living elements of Biblical doctrine that we have created a disconnect between our verbal contending for the faith and our lifestyle revelations of that same faith. In short, the church is confused, and those on the outside quickly recognized the incongruity between our words and actions. We have our statements of faith plainly printed in our church information packets and websites, but almost absent from that doctrinal statement is any mention of love, humility, mercy, forgiveness, grace, sacrifice, or anything else that relates to a demonstration of those kinds of doctrines.

We seem to be so concerned with every minute aspect of our systematic theology that we wholly neglect a continuing and thorough self challenge as it concerns outward expressions that enhance the doctrine of Jesus. It remains a liability in the church and only God knows how much it hinders our evangelistic outreach. While it is true that we have the truth, it is also true that we many times misrepresent the truth as well as we ignore huge sections of Biblical truth. We can easily spot some emergent as teaching a gospel of works, yet we are blind to the true gospel we preach that is sometimes isolated and without the works that should be an indispensable component necessary to authenticate and vouch for that same gospel.

If we are to assume that the life of Jesus was a practical template to which we should emulate, then we must begin the process of evaluation personally and collectively. In other words, let us not just study the gospel narratives of the life of Jesus, but let us compare His life with our lives as believers. Sure we can stand up to a test of doctrinal orthodoxy in our systematic creeds, but how do we measure up against the compassion, grace, and love of the One we profess to emulate and follow?

How easy it is to be amazed at the miracles of Jesus. We all are interested in where Jesus went and what He said. We are comforted by the healings of Jesus, and we are astounded when He raises the dead. And we are driven to worship as we recount His death, burial, and resurrection, and well we should be. But it is much more difficult to look for inconvenient expressions of love He exemplified and set a course to mirror His heart. It is much harder to emulate His forgiveness for His enemies than it is to attack our enemies. It is more pleasant to be edified by how Jesus was so humble and yet it is much more strenuous to count ourselves as nothing and refuse to return evil for evil.

Now if we are honest, and if we are not afraid of humiliation, and if we see the life of Jesus Christ for what it is, we will have to admit at the outset we have lost the divine design for the church and the followers of Jesus. I am assuming that I speak to those who believe and have experienced that Jesus is the only way to eternal life, and that way is by faith in Him alone. That is the foundation that cannot – MUST NOT – be tampered with in any way, and that is also the foundation that must be made clear to all who hear our words. If there is a shred of compromise there, than the doctrinal house will eventually fall in ashes.

Proceeding fearlessly from that foundation, let us enter the operating room of the Spirit and examine our lives with the life of Jesus in the foreground, and let us not grade with a convenient curve. We cannot be those who compare ourselves with ourselves. I realize that in our fast paced society and with years of hearing pleasant things about our Christian commitment, we will be hard pressed to see with clarity and sacrificial boldness. We have been praised relentlessly by pastors who have a vested financial interest in seeing you content and continue to assist in the mortgage payment. And we have been continually assured of our standing before God due to a recitation of a prayer years ago. And we have also been complimented on our spiritual walks because we faithfully attend church, or we teach a Sunday School class, or our lives are different than those around us, but have we been challenged by God’s Spirit to open up our hearts and:

“Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.” (Hos.10:12)

Will we listen to pleasant voices that tell us what we want to hear, or will we allow our ears and hearts to hear the loving corrections of God’s Spirit? Do we desire to press toward the mark of God’s high calling in Christ Jesus, or are we content and satisfied to remain where we are? Dos it placate us to fit snugly and unremarkable within an over-religious society, and once in a while snipe at the emergents so we can soothe our orthodox consciences? And as we traverse through this life, indistinguishable from an acceptable western lifestyle, will we be able to convince ourselves that this is what God desired, ignoring the price others have paid throughout church history?

If there were ten believers who had not been tainted by society and other believers, and they were brought to an island for ten years with ten Bibles, would they live like us when they came off the island? Jesus, if alive in the flesh today, would be living among the poor, the sinful, and the downtrodden. He would be found more regularly eating with the gay community than He would at Christian conferences and Christian cruise banquet tables. He ate with sinners, but do we? He sought them out with love and grace and redemption and in so doing He brought the ire of religious folks upon Himself.

We are way too interested in our own situations and our own comfort. Consider the sacrifice that brought Jesus into this sinful world and consider our resistance to the slightest sacrifice. And consider the profound need that brought Him to earth and consider our tearless and self interested journey amidst the most needy of sinners. Where is our passion for sinners; passion that refuses to see their sin as a barrier, but sees their sin as a call for the redemption of Jesus Christ.

Why would we ever align ourselves with the constant drone of demeaning rhetoric coming from talk radio and television? We are not called to castigate sinners, we are called to be Jesus in their midst. The world around us hears our murmuring concerning the economy and liberal politicians and Hollywood activists, but do they hear that we stand by grace alone and that before Christ entered our lives we were every bit a sinner as were they? We sit high and aloof in the official press box and observe and critique the lost culture, basking in our situation as if we had climbed the stairs ourselves. Jesus was mocked and scourged, rejected and despised, beaten and bruised, and abandoned by those He came to save, and yet – He wept over the rebels of Jerusalem. Jesus weeps and we editorialize.

It is past time that we as believers become imitators as well. The world hasn’t seen the Risen Christ, displayed in all His loving glory and grace, manifested in the lives of church members. Let us surrender our rights and political agendas; let us release our interest in monetary gains; and let us reject any hint of self interest. We must begin an uncomfortable journey that assesses everything through the lens of what Jesus did. The Apostle Paul says we should esteem everyone else’s needs above our own. That, in and of itself, might bring revival to the church.

We live sometimes as if we really do not believe in heaven. And the subliminal message we have communicated to the lost is that Christianity is meant to change your political party and your views on abortion and gay rights. What a pitiful excuse for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and what a blasphemous misrepresentation of the meaning of the cross. How have we gotten so untethered from the moment the Spirit fell on that wonderful Day of Pentecost? When Jesus Himself sent us to preach the gospel to every creature, why did we feel it necessary to burden that commission with all sorts of worthless moral mandates and political issues? This gospel is redemption, pure and glorious redemption. And we have been called to live, speak, and care like Jesus.

Let us face the mirror. The greatest way to magnify the doctrine of justification by faith is to embody the Person of Jesus Christ so clearly and so remarkably that men will take notice and proclaim, “Who are these people and Who is their God”? So many times the gospel has become a set of facts, albeit true, but existing in a doctrinal vacuum that are expressed exclusively through words with little emphasis on the power of deeds. Who is this Jesus and what does His life look like?

We need not get entangled with global warming or tree preservation or any of the other “cause du jours”, we have a mission and a calling that soars far above earthly causes. And our calling must be fulfilled through human conduits that care not for themselves, but are committed to sacrifice everything for the gospel. And most sinners will never investigate the Scriptures, and most will not seek out Jesus, but they must depend on the revelation of Jesus Christ they can see in those who profess they know Him.

“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The So-Called "Culture War"

is Humanisn

In conservative circles that include sections of evangelicalism there is a react style of debate. This is not a "go into all the world and preach the gospel" type of evangelicalism; this centers around moral issues and it can be generally broken down into liberal vs. conservative people and views. Many call it a “culture war” because some desire a more progressive approach to the culture while others demand a return to the morals of yesteryear. The culture war moniker suggests a battle for control of the culture.

Culture: the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic. (Merriam-Webster)

So in essence a culture war is an attempt by different factions to control and form the accepted practices of a certain society. In America there are many such factions that vie for control, or at least be accepted in the culture at large. Only a blind man could suggest that the way of Jesus has been a major part of American culture. The reason that some long for a return to the “good ‘ol days” is because they have an unbiblical perspective of what a Christian society would look like.

There is nothing about a capitalist society that has the way of Jesus stamped upon its culture. They believe that America was built upon Judeo-Christian standards, whatever those are. Think about that for a moment. Just what are Judeo-Christian principles? Almost all nations have some form of government that condemns stealing, violence, and other generally illegal behaviors. So what specific principles are we speaking of when we say Judeo-Christian? Many people visualize a return to the 1950’s Norman Rockwell image when they say “culture wars”. That too is a mirage and a misrepresentation.

The 1950’s were an age of hedonism and self interest, to say nothing of profound racism and anti-Semitism. They were a projection of white anglo-saxon protestanism that even made John F. Kennedy’s Roman Catholicism an issue in 1960. The society was decidedly sexist and presented a Leave it to Beaver ambiance, and preached a prosperity message called the “America Dream” which at that time was an exclusive club. There was nothing there that represented the way of Jesus.

But let us examine the deeper implications of desiring and attempting to manipulate your cultural circumstances. What you are saying is that you are uncomfortable with your present circumstances, and instead of praying, you will complain, criticize, and generally express your desire that you are discontented with the circumstances God has you in. And from high atop some throne of condemnation you inventory all the things that are wrong with your culture and you inadvertently indict your own powerless situation when you suggest this cultural demise continues to cascade downward. Many times you are just stating the obvious as you curse the darkness. How observant and erudite are you, but you are hating the very fields of white that Jesus came to save..

In essence, the so called culture war is no more than complaining, camouflaged as spiritual editorializing. Look at the promiscuity! Look at the gays! Look at Hollywood! Look at teen pregnancies! Look at the Muslims! On and on goes the discerning (complaining). And these culture war proponents are very adroit and resourceful in their ability to seek out examples of cultural demise and decay. They have much empirical evidence of such societal decomposition that cannot be denied. But what they do not have is redemption, and without Jesus and His redemption all you have is a ministry of cataloguing the sins of others. It is of little value and requires miniscule talent to re-report instances of cultural demise that comes fresh to you through many news sources. A computer does most of the work for you. And their symbiotic relationship with secular and anitchrist news sources is most distrurbing and revealing.

What does take courage and spiritual character is exhibiting the love of Jesus Christ in the midst of this glorious mission field. You feel you deserve better than the South African missionaries who minister to the spiritual and physical needs of African AIDs sufferers at substantial risk to their own health? Missionaries who minister to the gay community are regularly persecuted and berated, and yet they continue to be moved with love and compassion while you comfortably shriek your hatred, yes I said hatred, for the gay community. The cultural war soldiers are nothing more than cowards that use other people’s sins to elevate their own spiritual and moral standing in the eyes of men. Many times this cultural war is a product of national idolatry.

But I would like to get at the heart of the matter. Attempting to change the culture by voting, writing, legislating, speaking, and organizing is humanism, plain and simple. What you are saying is that God has called us to change the culture in which we live by carnal weapons, and that God’s will is for us to lead lives free from the inconvenience of sinners in our midst. And if we shout enough, write our senators enough, protest enough, or by the strength of our numbers we can right this cultural ship. That is humanism and void of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

On the surface it appears to scold sin and come against the forces of evil, but its deception is much more savage than that. This type of deception is motivated by self righteousness, and it views sinners as enemies, especially when they are committing sins that you seem to avoid. This cultural war receives self gratification from condemning others and using demeaning and caustic language against those who are on the other side of this contrived war. This kind of moral conflict rejects the gospel and takes up vicious weaponry meant to remove sinners from our environment and arrive at a more pleasant ambiance.

This cultural war moniker is part of the health and wealth movement, even though many would outwardly eschew such teachings. But it is part of the larger attempt to provide living arraignments that would reduce suffering and agitation, brought upon us by sinners in need of a Savior. It contains aspects of dominion theology as well, since the Bible clearly states that things will get worse and that we should rejoice rather than complain! The same people who they castigate for humanistic efforts without Christ, can see that these culture war people are employing the very same Christless methods.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to love sinners and through grace and love share with them the hope that is found in Jesus Christ. When Jesus ate with sinners, He was not criticized by other sinners. He was condemned by the smug, religious crowd. Some might ask what are we to do about the continuing downward spiral in the culture where we live. We are to live and share Jesus and His gospel. It is infinitely more difficult to love a sinner than it is to condemn him. Jesus said He did not come to condemn the world, so do we suggest they He has sent us to do what He did not? If we have a light worth shining, it should only get brighter as the darkness escalates.

So the next time you read someone’s blog and they are berating some sinner; and when you read someone bemoaning illegal aliens; and when you read someone castigating the gay people; or when you read the words “culture war” on someone’s blog, take note. That blog is humanistic and has left the gospel of Jesus Christ even though they may claim they believe it. In these last days, with the times becoming worse and worse, we must decide which Jesus we will represent. Will it be the political Jesus that fights for national freedom and magnifies the sins of others and complains about the cultural surroundings? Or will it be the Jesus that loves sinners, shows them love and grace, and offers them eternal life through His blood?

You who shout about the sin and culture around you, read this and see if your circumstance competes with that horror. Around the world people suffer unmercifully, 5000 Africans die every day with AIDs, children in India starve regularly, and all the atrocities worldwide could never be fully reported. But you western culture warriors, you go ahead and lead your battle against whatever and whoever goes against your moral fabric. You keep castigating sinners, but be advised, Jesus is not with you and He never will be. Why? Because you preach humanism and Jesus has commanded us to lift up Him.

Jesus died to bring sinners to Himself and He has never been concerned with your cultural surroundings. It is that distinction that some seem to miss completely, and in that,they have missed the Savior completely as well. We have not been called to change the culture. We have been called to lift up Jesus and see sinners changed by His grace and power.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Mystery of the Blood

We live in the age that views a moon walk as old news. We speak of missions to explode incoming asteroids. We construct machines on the atomic level. We have bombs that can travel hundreds of miles and land in your mailbox. We have produced heated gas at billions of degrees. We have cloned animals. We have successfully flown an unmanned spacecraft between the planet Saturn and its own rings. The age in which we live is amazingly sophisticated and technologically futuristic. We are the Jetsons.

But in the midst of all this is the Christian faith. I realize there are now many and varied expressions of the Christian faith, however only ones that depend entirely and exclusively on the blood of Christ are authentic. We as believing followers of One called Jesus the Christ teach something very mysterious, and when juxtaposed against this modern world, it is very much unsophisticated. We believe, and have experienced, that the shed blood of this Jesus is the only way for sins to be forgiven, and it is the door to eternal life. Imagine such a thing! Men walk on the moon and we are still teaching some archaic and old fashioned religion that demands blood as redemption.

This is a great mystery, simple in its understanding, yet extraordinary and profound in its understanding. A paradox, to say the least. Majestic and infinitely noble; common and rustic; bourgeoisie and proletariat; and able to be understood on a narrative level while soaring far above our understanding on a spiritual level. The blood of Jesus is a glorious mystery. No wonder sinners reject the suggestion that the blood of Jesus is some kind of spiritual elixir.

Even if men admit that they are sinners, they recoil at the Neanderthal idea that the blood of a dying Jew two thousand years ago is the path to forgiveness and eternal life. Men will attempt to clean the stains of transgression by applying good works. They will assign a divine quality, one that will surely grant a heavenly entrance, to those who show a compassion for their fellow man and do some sort of humanitarian philanthropy. A man can be the vilest of sinners, but if he feeds the poor or raises money for the disadvantaged, he is lauded as a servant of God. But that is not what God has said.

There is something about that blood. I cannot imagine watching a crucifixion at all. I am averse to seeing blood, and I am sympathetic to human suffering. The gore and tearing of human skin repulses me, and hearing groans would make me hold my ears. To be aware that an innocent man was suffering and dying would just compound my revulsion. But to be aware, as aware as the human mind can be, that this was God in the flesh, is beyond my pitiful ability to even imagine, much less describe. To watch God suffer – think on that for a moment. To watch God suffer escapes even the imaginary level of experience. To watch God suffer…

Please, please, pause right here and contemplate that thought. God suffered. And please add two important and mindboggling words to that phrase. God suffered...for you. I can hardly see my screen right now, I cannot imagine such a thing, all I can know is that my sinful unworthiness is beyond all reason, and my sin was the suffering that God endured. I do not care about the sins of Hitler or Stalin or Manson, it is my sin, my awful sin, that causes brokenness and grief in my soul, while eliciting such praise and worship to Him who knew no sin but mine. There He hangs, there He suffers, there He dies.

And as we stand there and watch God suffer, innocent and without the hint of transgression or guilt, we are taken aback at the amount of blood that is pouring out from His side, His back, His feet, His hands, His pores, His head, and His face. He is awash in blood and completely covered in His own blood, flowing from those wounds that were undeserved yet embraced nonetheless. We are repulsed and sickened by the horror of that scene. This is God? This is the Creator? If this is God, well, this is the mystery of all mysteries.

But while we still stand there with our minds and hearts agape with wonder, we are informed that this blood that we are seeing is the agent, the only agent, by which we can enter God’s presence and live with Him eternally. But wait…if this is God, then how can this blood, spilled by our own wicked hands, be the redemptive instrument by which we can gain eternal life with…with…this same God?? Are you saying that what we did to God is our redemption?? Are you saying that what we did to God is our redemption??!! And are you suggesting that this God used our own sin that put Him to death to accomplish His redemptive will for us?? But now I ask you this: How can this blood wash away all of our sins and make us acceptable in the sight of a Holy God??

There it is, a monumental mystery. Why blood? How can we understand a blood sacrifice, so connected to archaic and uncivilized religions, as the exclusive avenue to what every religion seeks, eternal life? No gold, no silver, no knowledge, no philanthropy, no science, and no self sacrifice is considered in this redemption – only blood. And not just any blood; it must be this blood, the blood of this particular man called Jesus. And blood, which under normal circumstances causes such a mess and stains almost everything on which it comes into contact, is considered a cleansing agent? This blood cleanses and forgives all the sins, iniquities, and transgressions that any believing sinner has ever committed?

A mystery to be sure. But when a sinner believes in this Jesus, and when His blood, in the spirit, has been applied to his soul, the sinner may not completely understand the mystery, but he now recognizes the truth that this blood is indeed the door to eternal life. The mystery still stands, however now the sinner has experienced the mystery and has a profound recognition of its power, love, and grace. Oh sinner, have you been plunged beneath the everlasting flow of this blood with all its power and mystery? Have you felt the unmistakable inward voice of God’s Spirit drawing you to this Jesus and His blood?

Yes, men may walk upon the moon, and in the coming days there may be feats of human technology that astound the world at large. But do not get carried away with the colossal triumphs of men thinking that these accomplishments represent a modern and successful Tower of Babel. When all is said and done, and when time as we know it rolls up its tent and disappears, eternity will be the infinite witness that only the blood of Jesus the Christ redeems a sinner and grants him life everlasting. And that life will be forever in the presence of the Author and Shedder of that blood. How will you know which one is Jesus in heaven?

Look for the wounds in His hands, the wounds that spilled that blood, and that, my friends, is the Lamb of God that was slain and which was, and is, and will be forever The Redeemer.
And when the saint next to you asks how you were granted an entrance into God’s throne you can tell him simply, “The blood, brother, nothing but the blood.
In 1975 I was a committed sinner who cared little for man and less for God.
While watching Billy Graham on television the Holy Spirit reached out and drew my heart to Christ and His blood.
From that day I have never been the same.
I was cleansed by the blood of Jesus the Christ.
Yes, it still is a mystery.

Halleluiah for that mystery!!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Cult of
Social and Political Conservatism

It is a cult. There, I’ve said it. And by the word “cult” I mean something that is unchristian, and in fact, antichrist. You may be wondering if I speak of Mormonism, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the Moonies, or a host of other well known cults. No, those are indeed cults however I do not refer to those here. This is the cult of “Political and Social Conservatism”. This masquerades as part of the Christian faith, but it is a counterfeit and in fact misrepresents entirely the message of Jesus and His gospel. It is antichrist at its core.

It has become accepted and even fashionable to roam about the community and preach a different gospel that spews certain moral and conservative issues. These believers would never consider themselves as part of a cult, but they are deceived and even though they may be born again believers in Christ, they are now engaged in cultish behavior that undermines the gospel they would profess. They join hands with unbelievers in their endeavors, they preach a set of moral rules, and worse than everything they suggest that God is a capitalist and has a spiritual and vested interest in the finances of America. All of this is a cult, pure and simple.

Many “orthodox” believers have objected to the way labels have infiltrated the church. They recoiled at churches that called themselves “centers”. The resist “seeker” monikers and reject labels such as post modern, followers of Jesus, red letter Christians, and almost all other more recent titles. They are even re-evaluating the name “evangelical”. And yet these same “I am orthodox – call me a Christian” will proudly and forcefully wear the label “conservative” as it pertains to social and political issues. Shall we examine what our Master’s Word lays out for His followers?

As disciples of Jesus Christ we are not called to be known by our views concerning morality, and surely never should we allow ourselves to be known because of our capitalistic views about money and taxes. The gospel is not one of many of our messages, it is our one and only divine message. We have not been commissioned to traverse the political landscape and spread the gospel of moral values and capitalist principles. When a believer leaves the gospel of redemption and begins preaching and voicing something else, he is in a cult.

The motives may be righteous, albeit with an unmistakable air of self righteousness, but they are in a cult nonetheless. I call on my brothers and sisters to come out from among them and be separate; separated unto the gospel of Jesus Christ and His redemption. We cannot afford to get caught up in many different moral causes; we must be faithful to one cause alone. All these different causes may by moral, and some of these causes are righteous and address an issue in which God disapproves, but they still are diversions from our calling. Jesus said we could do and accomplish nothing without Him, and the moral majorities and the conservative movements have compromised the gospel and made Jesus an aside and not the central figure to which everyone must give an account.

It is difficult, and almost impossible, to see a believer who has joined with unbelievers in moral causes to speak truth to them. Believers who have abortion as their passion and who join with conservative Roman Catholics and Jews have misrepresented the gospel. Those believers in other faiths who are “pro-life” are deceived into thinking they are in right standing before God because they espouse the same moral convictions as their evangelical comrades. This is dangerous behavior for us as believers, and the truth is that we should not be joining with any unbelievers in spiritual and moral endeavors.

Sad was the day when evangelicals became a voting block and had a few issues that defined us. We became known as the “religious right”, another label for that same cult. How tragic and how blasphemous it is to see believers make moral and conservative issues their message at the expense of the cross of our Blessed Lord and Savior. This needs to change.

What else happened when believers became conservatives? They began to speak and act like the fallen world. They began to listen to and approve of the caustic and self righteous rhetoric of the multi-millionaires called “talk show hosts”. They began to watch them on television and listen to them in their cars, and since they agree with their “philosophy”, they supported them and even repeated them in mixed company. In short, they journeyed deeper into that cult. And now the world began to believe that Christians were like Limbaugh or Hannity or like O’Reily and all the rest.

The world began to understand that followers of Jesus were Republicans and conservatives and they used the same harsh rhetoric against the “liberals” as the liberals used against them. They began to see that Christianity was one, large battle against liberalism. The world soon understood that Christians were right wingers and were virulent about taxes and spending policies. They heard believers speak about gay people in the most unflattering and ungracious words; many times harsh and satirical words that were meant to demean and not words of redemption and love. The world now has an understanding about Christianity that is far different than the New Testament defines, to say nothing of the life of Christ.

And the world saw that when some liberal like Ted Kennedy died, the Christians were less than compassionate, and in some cases used his death as an opportunity to throw dirt on his grave. The unbelievers heard, and continue hearing, verbal assaults on the President. They realized that a Christian had to abide by a set of conservative fiscal policies, and that anyone who was “pro-choice” was fair game for the most debasing language, void of any respect or compassion. The unbelievers understood that if a person was not a Christian, or not an evangelical, he was a target of attack rather than a target of love and redemption. They saw evangelicals as a cult, and in many ways they are correct.

Politics is a dirty business that strips the most ardent believer of his uncompromised followship of the Lord Jesus. The system is designed for wrangling and battle, not over Jesus, but over issues. It reduces the most committed believer to a pawn of morality and capitalism, and it forces him to laud himself and his accomplishments and downplay his opponents attributes and many times his integrity. It forces him to join with all sorts of unbelievers and stand with them on a wide range of issues. Politics constrains a believer to make the name of Jesus and His gospel an aside and become just one of many. Politics directs believers into a life of conformity and compromise. Politics is humanistic battlefield where Jesus is misrepresented at best, and denied at worst. Politics is a cult.

How many times have I in times past, or even in times present, watched some television program where the left and the right debate and argue, and in the midst of watching this spectacle I realized I was beginning to strongly dislike one or the other on the panel? I began to become emotionally affected to take sides and in so doing I began to have strong feelings against some of those who were participating. That is completely against what my Savoir has commanded of me. Unless you do not own a television most of you have experienced the exact same thing. It is wrong; profoundly wrong.

Until the church of Jesus Christ escapes the trappings of this cult she will continue to be powerless and only a shade of gray in a world of darkness. We must again take up our cross and follow in His steps. This journey is not well worn in these last days, and many will see this as radical and out of the mainstream, and they would be absolutely correct. I suggest we pray for every person whether “liberal” or “conservative”, and I suggest we view them all, not from a political vantage point, but looking down about 6 feet from the vantage point of a Roman cross. I suggest we come out from among them, not to be smug and elitist, but to let the light of Jesus Christ shine in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation.

American sinners do not need rules and issues, they need a company of believers that are so gracious, so loving, so humble, and so filled with the Spirit of Christ that they are drawn to us without having to leap the fences of conservative social and political issues. We as followers of Jesus have been operating in a cult far too long, let us quickly repent and return to the one and only true cult, the gospel preaching church of the living God!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The American Christ?

When the mystery of the Godhead decided/planned the redemptive mission of God in the flesh, there was no mention of any nationalistic identity that would define or differentiate His followers. To the contrary, God’s Word makes many attempts to present a kingdom that is not of this world, a city whose builder and maker is God Himself. We, as believing followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, are to be patriots of the unseen kingdom and not loyal to any structures of men. Although God instituted human government, seemingly to have some order among the fallen masses, He has been consistent in His direction for the New Testament church.

Possibly the most obvious offenders in this area are Christians who happen to live in America. Many evangelicals have not only happily adopted the American moniker; they have constructed a narrative that suggests America as a divine creation above the rest of the nations. Many have strongly believed that America began as a Christian nation, which by any impartial review of history is patently false. The overarching sovereignty of God has incorporated many nations as it pertains to His people, and God has even used totalitarian nations that were violently opposed to the gospel to forward His divine plan.

But God, juxtaposing His church upon a certain nation and sovereignly using those particular circumstances to His glory, is a far cry from anointing any nation as Christian. And the Lord never meant for His people to become attached to their surroundings, much less fall in love with the country in which they live. When David Livingston body was carried to England, his heart was cut out from his chest and buried in Bangweulu Swamps in Zambia , Africa. This was done not because Livingston loved any country or government; it was because of his unusual and profound love for the African people.

But Americans have always considered themselves a special people, a cultural and racial collage, tethered together by a pioneer spirit and, like it or not, a spirit of superiority. The highly competitive nature of American nationalism, as well as the intense feelings of moral and spiritual arrogance, has led the church to become entangled in a distorted symbiotic relationship with the earthly nation in which they serve Christ. And this deception has been so perpetuated within the church and Christian schools, that it is now a stronghold that millions of Christians will vehemently defend. Even posts like this one will create inward feelings of anger and even betrayal among many believers who hold their nation as part of their spiritual heritage.

Let us be candid. Almost everything the government does and stands for, even the best parts, are either at odds with or are worthless counterfeits to the kingdom of Christ. Even if there were no misspenditures, and even if the government was the most philanthropic organization on earth, it would still draw men’s allegiance, dependence, and hearts to see the government as their provider/god, protector/god, and advocate/god.

I remain somewhat confused as to the meaning of God ordaining human government. The best I can resolve in my own mind is the creation of the institution of government since to believe God directly placed Hitler and Stalin etc. in power is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Himself. We as followers of the living Christ have no part in the contrivances of men, especially when those contrivances suggest a substantial element of “parenthood”. Our attitudes should never be smug or superior, but the followers of Jesus should obey the law with humility and grace, but with a serpent’s wisdom that realizes the government has no place in our divine calling.

I honestly and before Jesus my Lord believe that becoming involved with the government and politics has been a subversive influence on genuine Christianity and has surreptitiously stolen the spiritual value from the church. Like Hezekiah showing the golden artifacts in the temple to the Babylonians, only to have them return and steal them later, the church has built an unholy alliance with the government and hasn’t realized the high cost of that alliance.

I believe many Christians, like me, who once did not give it a second thought, are rethinking this entire government issue. I judge no one but myself, but I believe I have a responsibility to speak out about these issues. And if we “left behinders” are wrong, and if we are to affect this world for Jesus instead, then I would assume that this issue might be a paramount prerequisite before the Kingdom of God can thrive apart from compromise and dilution.

Nations rise and fall, but that fact is of no importance to me. God’s kingdom will continue for eternity. Men may call me an American, but I am a child of God, a brother of Jesus Christ, and a citizen of a country that is not of this world. And as such, I am free from any government or earthly king regardless if I wind up in jail, or wind up destitute, I will still be free. In some ways the preacher in China who is spending his 20th year in prison is more free than many American Christians who believe their “freedoms” are being stripped away by some earthly government.

In Oregon some apartment complex attempted to make people remove their display of the American flag since they claim it might offend their diverse clientele. That is goofy to me, however how should we as followers of Jesus Christ react to such a thing? Here is how a professing follower named Ingrid reacted to it:

“My advice is for any Oak Apartment resident who is offended by the American flag to leave the country within 24 hours. If you’re so “diverse” that you despise this country and its freedoms, than what in the name of common sense are you doing here? Return to your superior homeland and free up some housing for those who love America!” (online source)

If that isn’t modern day idolatry I don’t know what is. And that is only one example of how we have lost sight of our unseen kingdom in favor of some misguided, prideful, and caustic allegiance to even a flag itself. It is this crass arrogance that leads genuine Christians to abandon their faith and hate illegal immigrants, while conveniently forgetting that this entire nation was enlarged through violence against the indigenous peoples by European immigrants. It is this blindness that has some believers working for the interests of Norway; others work for the interests of Italy; others work for the interests of Brazil; and some work for the interests of America. See the picture? Believers, who should be unified in their pursuits, are diligently working for different, and sometimes opposing, causes and interests.

There are very few issues that elicit more resistance and more virulent projections against someone like me. Nationalism has been drilled into the church for many decades and from birth we have been reared as patriots. And in an attempt to relieve the obvious tension between being a follower of Jesus and an American patriot, the church has revised history in a somewhat blasphemous teaching that America is special and was formed as a Christian nation by God Himself. Anyone can see the great and spiritually destructive dangers inherent in such a belief system.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, followers and imitators of the Lord Jesus, we should be about our Father’s business. God’s calling is redemption and in that calling morality will come, not by force or voting block, but through the regenerating work of God's Spirit. Becoming involved with the systems of men and attempting to sanctify them with a tortured revision of history and interpretation of Scripture will only lead to…only lead to…well, it will only lead to what we have today – a compromised church who has gotten all entangled with the affairs of this world and has unwittingly turned her back on Jesus Himself.

We are to be light and salt and faithfully resist becoming an unremarkable voice among many in the political montage. Our cause, our calling, and our unique mission is the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. All the other voices are well represented by others, but if we do not separate our voice from the rest and preach and live the gospel of Jesus Christ, who will? If Jesus is portrayed as some kind of moral fixer, how will the lost see Him as Redeemer? And if the church complains about finances and taxes in lockstep with the rest of the world, how will anyone distinguish anything different about us? And if we make abortion or gay rights our cause, how can we show the love of God through Jesus and His offer of redemption?

When will we actually display the trust in God and His power that we so glibly speak with our lips? How can we exhibit the peace of God when everything the government or the President does immediately irks us and becomes a topic of useless conversation, and worse, unchristian rhetoric? Oh let us fly back to Christ with unbridled praise on our lips and unbridled obedience in our lives! Let us quietly but determinately step away from the roar and clamor of things that pertain to the kingdoms of this world, and let us humbly set about to become incandescent followers of the Lord Most High and His Son Jesus the Christ.

The people in darkness do not need better darkness; they are in desperate need of a dazzling luminousness that only Jesus can provide. We can be, we must be, the surrendered filament in the hands of the Father of Lights that spreads the glorious light of the gospel and the heat of God's eternal love!!