The Babylon Affect

Genesis 11:6 – The LORD said, “They are one people with one language. This is only the beginning of what they will do! Now nothing they plan to do will be too difficult for them.

God saw all the amazing things the “globalized” people of the earth were accomplishing and He saw it as a negative.  Why would great advancements, huge building programs and international cooperation be seen as a negative?  Because God knew that along with “nothing they plan to do will be too difficult” would also come an arrogant practice of anything goes.

So it has taken several thousands of years for the world to be “globalized” again to the point where language differences are of little consequence when all you have to do is hit “translate page” on Google or upload a comparable app on your smart phone for instant, real time translation.  Just yesterday I saw and advertisement for an ear insert that instantly translates a language.  There is again no language barrier in the world.  As a result, truly amazing things are taking place in the advancement of the world in technology, medicine, farming, science, construction, manufacturing as well as equally negative, anything goes, factors of relativism, pride and debauchery.

An amazing amount of these “advancements” have taken place in my lifetime.  I was visiting with my father a few months back and we were discussing the decline of the church’s influence in America in particular.  He made the point that WWII was a significant factor in the beginning of the globalization of the world.  Prior to WWII, the vast majority of people were born, grew up and died all within a few miles while all the time going to the same church, generally knowing the same people as well as being subject to the same peer influence and pressure for most social and character life issues.  The effect of WWII on that localized influence was monumental.  With the advancement and reduced cost of both local and international travel, it was no longer assumed that you would live and die in your “home town”.  Troops from across the globe, in addition to fighting a war, were exposed to vastly different and exciting new states, countries and cultures.  Combine this shrinking of the world via travel with the ease of international communication and collaboration and what was once the local village ultimately became the World Wide Web breaking down all remaining barriers.

Don’t get me wrong, I see it as a good thing when somebody in South Africa comes up with a piece of some medical puzzle and he is able to instantly collaborate with someone or even several someones in other countries to affect a breakthrough in medicine.  That is not the problem God saw with common tongue and communication.  It’s when some guy with a foot fetish, (or substitute some other fringe activity) who because of social media and the ability to search the whole world in an instant for others with the same interest, no longer feels alone and the need to hide or curtail his vice.  He now feels validated and accepted practicing what would have otherwise been viewed as weird and perhaps even deviant to his local community.  Don’t believe me.  Oh you doubters, there are now foot worship fetish parties all over the world.

http://www.footnight.com/la.html

When it comes to appreciating nice looking feet, perhaps there is little concern for the decline of worldwide morality.  There are, however, other incredibly destructive things which have come “out of the closet” in my lifetime.  And I’m not just talking about homosexuality.  In the big scheme of things, homosexuality may be one of the lesser evils which have found validation in today’s society as a result of the shrinking world.  By far the most destructive things to emerge “triumphant” in modern society are areas in which the church has capitulated to “right side of history” and culturally correct or expedient practices.  The reason falling standards in the church bears so much consideration is because, lest we forget, “judgment begins in the house of God” 1Peter 4:17.

I am going to be as blunt and honest as I can here because the future ability of the church to regain its effectiveness, influence and reputation in the world is at stake.  Just a short biblical lesson shouldn’t be too tedious for those who already know and it will be helpful for those who don’t (of which there are apparently multitudes).  From the very beginning of the establishment of the Jewish nation, leadership was admonished to not collect a big salary (multiply gold for themselves), to follow God’s eternal laws and to serve the people.  Most of them unfortunately failed to do this causing countless reoccurring problems.  Jesus however, as our most perfect shepherd/leader, did in fact model these eternal values by living a life of servant hood and sacrifice paired with an extremely modest lifestyle.  How is it then that today there are so many “pastors” who insult God’s commands and the very essence of who Jesus is by embracing living standards more closely resembling the “lifestyles of the rich and famous”?  It’s because they can go on line and find other pastors “succeeding” who have equally inflated opinions of themselves who live in million dollar homes and who collect 6 or 7 figure salaries.

It is primarily a modern day phenomenon in which a person can feel “called” into the ministry and service of Christ and have the prospect or expectation of being greatly enriched by doing so.  And if we are going to be completely honest, even the un-churched are often all too aware of the commands in scripture for a modest lifestyle among Christians and these affluent and greedy mega-church practices, which more closely resemble those in the corporate world, have them dismissing and tuning out entirely because of the blatant hypocrisy.

I’m going to sound a bit liberal here for a moment (please forgive me) but how do so many churches justify cushy couches, fancy coffee bars and worship leader spot lights combined with a multitude of projector screens, mood lighting and the latest internet technology while we still have the destitute, lost and desperate right outside our church doors.  I suggest it is our priorities which need remodeling – not our “out dated” facilities.  And here is the kicker, those “bigger, better, more” accoutrements are the very reason we are not drawing in or retaining our young people as they see these things as a shallow mimic of their entertainment world.  They are longing and searching for something very different than their most recent secular concert experience when it comes to engaging and worshiping a holy God – or was it for naught that God said “My ways are not your ways”?  And in Romans 12 when God exhorts us “Don’t become like the people of this world.  Instead change the way you think.”  What follows is a list of activities of servant hood, giving, teaching, showing mercy etc.  Conspicuously lacking is any mention of fancy buildings or big salaries.  This is not to say that functionally appropriate facilities are not necessary, but they cannot take precedence over the work of the ministry.

There are many more factors which have led to the church growing in its irrelevance.  In order to maintain those high salaries, fancy coffee bar lobbies and environmental sanctuaries, which by the way are resulting in ever increasing budgets, many churches have rolled over on many eternal biblical standards.  They simply can’t risk losing those tithe dollars so in order not to offend the offenders, long standing Biblical laws are massaged and equivocated on to include a hate for divorce that mirrors God’s (Malachi 2:16), an intolerance for adultery, teen sex, gossip, greed, homosexuality and more.  Pro-active mentoring and accountability for Godly character has become a fading and lost art.  I offer one glaring example from Malachi 2:13 & 14 where God plainly informs His people that the reason He no longer pays attention to their prayers and sacrifices is because of the high divorce rate.  Could it be stated any more plainly?  And here we are today with divorce rates in the church approaching the same level as in secular society.

I hope you are able to track with me on this as to the negatives of the church being “plugged in” to the progressive globalized world.  To possibly help illustrate this I will offer an example.  Most of us Christians, as well as non-Christians, view the Amish and similar communities as old fashion, behind the times and maybe even a bit weird.  But let’s give the benefit of the doubt for a minute and consider this quote from an article on the Amish Studies website.

“Why would God frown on a telephone? What sense does it make to keep a tractor at the barn but not take it to the field? Is it not inconsistent, if not outright hypocritical, to hire non-Amish drivers but refuse to own cars? And what could be the difference between 12-volt electricity from batteries and 110-volt current from public utility lines? These distinctions may look silly to outsiders, but within the context of Amish history they are important cultural adaptations that have helped to slow the pace of social change and keep worldliness at bay”.

Obviously the rejection of many types of technology hasn’t been a catch-all for the Amish, but in their close knit and tight communities the influence or validation of Biblically fringe practices have had little opportunity to foment and grow.  Not too unlike it might have been 100 years ago in a smaller community where if some guy in your church is abusing his wife and the other men in the church find out, they would have taken that guy out and given him a good talking to or more depending on the level of abuse.  Or if the guy with some other fetish or deviant inclination was unable to find others like himself in their town he might truly have understood that this was a lifestyle or way of thinking which he shouldn’t entertain.  But today, it almost doesn’t matter what fringe or deviant interest you might have, you are sure to find a few hundred if not several thousands of people “just like you” amongst the billions of people in the world for the simple reason you were able to search it on Google or some other social media and even go the their annual conference.

And on a more broad note, how is it that so many young people today feel the freedom to be dismissive and rude to their parents, teachers and other community “elders”?  Because they see it modeled every day on the latest TV sitcom, late night comedy “news” or selfie video on social media.  And if all those other young people are doing it then it must be ok and all those grey headed people are just stupid and out of touch by trying to hold onto those outdated practices of honor, character, respect, morality and hard work.  Even among many Christian youth it hardly even enters into their minds that the first commandment with a promise was to honor those “older” people in your life (parents).  They have been brainwashed into believing they know better after finding validation for their attitudes with the latest trending YouTube video and they do not even hesitate to inform you of their new found enlightenment and your “old and busted” views.

How unfortunate that the globalization and shrinking of our world through the ease of communication, and the internet in particular, has spawned 2 very different results.  One being the almost limitless capacity of our world to accomplish things formerly thought impossible as well as the ability for anti-God practices to gain an increasing foothold in the church because “everybody is doing it” and I can prove it because I read it somewhere on the internet today.

As much as it pains me (and the Lord) to say this, I don’t see things changing for the better in the church in general.  So many have fallen hook line and sinker for the Joel Osteen, Rob Bell and Carl Lentz types who embrace feel good wealth fantasies, no worries about eternal punishment and an unwillingness to call blatant sexual sin – sin.  I am feeling more and more that Jesus was not speaking metaphorically when He said that the path to eternal life is narrow and few will find it.  I am challenged everyday to watch my attitudes, anger, impatience, un-forgiveness as well as my devotion to the principals of scripture and how it compares to the life of Jesus and the fruits of the Spirit.  I have a long way to go, but I cannot turn aside  from that narrow path to run across the median to that wide and inviting road shouting to the rest of humanity, and so many who call themselves Christians, “wait for me, I’ll catch up”.  This is not about being on the right side of history.  This is about being hidden in Christ and Him alone.  And the promise is that if we do so we will be despised on this earth.

PS  As I was writing this over the past few weeks, I felt strongly that it was a prophetic word for the church.  I was praying the past few days for the Lord to confirm this word in my heart before I sent it out and this morning a good friend posted an excerpt from a short letter written by Derek Prince probably 25 years ago.  That letter parallels this blog in several ways and I felt it was a confirming encouragement to go forward.  Thanks Richard!  Link below

http://www.derekprince.org/publisher/file.aspx?id=1000021473

I have never asked this, but if this blog speaks to your spirit, pray about sharing it.

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Monumental Selfishness

I write my blogs as an outlet, sometime as an outlet for passion, sometimes for a prophetic word and sometimes in disgust and anger.  This is one of those disgust and anger times (with likely prophetic overtones).  I have to be careful as my much more mercy oriented wife exhorted me to be cautious about what I might say, but I am getting closer and closer to “taking numbers and naming names” when it comes to some of the bile I see “Christians” spewing.  This will be short but goes to the core of Jesus, the Gospel, the Love of the Father and asking “just where is YOUR home?”

This blog is simply posing the question “what are the really important things in your ‘Christian’ life”?  And yes, I put Christian in quotes a second time as I suspect there are many out there who are just playing church because it’s the cool thing to do but who have little willingness to actually embrace the heart of the Father. 2 Peter 3:9

Is prayer in school important to you?  What about tax deductions for donations to the church? Are the Ten Commandments carved in stone and place in your town square important to you?  Is the preservation of your earthly home and your earthly country your focus? Are Easter bunnies and Christmas lights on your list of top ten things you must have to enjoy “your” Christianity? Then it’s just that, “your Christianity”, and not the one that I read about in the Bible which places our citizenship in an eternal heaven and not some fading home on this earth to try and fight for and preserve for “just us Christians”.

I am not saying that those things are bad, not at all.  But I am saying that if devotion to things like the ones mentioned above take priority over opportunities to lovingly rub shoulders with those who don’t know Christ then you yourself have not experienced the fullness of the love of Christ in your own life.  And this is why I call it monumental selfishness because you are choosing temporal things over the call to share eternal joy with someone who isn’t “like you”!

christian-hypocrcy

Being like Christ is the issue, not blue blazers or Khakis!

The following link was posted on our facebook thread today.  It is an article which basically encourages giving a pass on certain activities to certain new converts or congregations who practice differently than you practice.  The author mentions activities such as a person smoking a cigarette, using foul language or the less than stellar former lives of some of the 12 disciples.

http://www.faithit.com/f-bombs-and-bikinis-what-it-really-means-to-be-a-christian/smoking man

I understand that many Christians do not drink or smoke and they refrain from activities like these for various reasons.  The Bible is clear that Christian are not to get drunk, but there is actually no prohibition on either smoking or drinking and in fact it is clear that Jesus and the disciples drank alcoholic beverages.  Were they ever accused of being drunk?  No!  Were they ever accused of being foul mouthed?  No.  Were some of them foul mouthed prior to accepting the call to follow Jesus?  Likely so.  Did a couple of them get off base when they wanted to call down fire from heaven?  Absolutely, and Jesus didn’t hesitate to call them out for their horrible behavior and rebuke them.  What they did before choosing to follow Jesus is germane only to the extent it displays for all to see that grace and salvation is available to all.  And the Holy and sacrificial lives they lived after Jesus called them out is a testimony to the character of Christ which they took on thereby causing others to call them “Christian” or like Christ.

Christ expects perfection from us (Matt. 5:48) but He also understands that salvation is a process of sanctification.  I find it odd that the author chose to focus on foul language and the F bomb for leniency since changing the words one uses in conversation is probably one of the easier areas in which we can be more like Christ.  I have a much harder time with patience, envy, anger and materialism.  A conversion experience should speak for itself in a life converted to be more like Christ through repentance and turning away from our former life.

Tim Enloe tells of a people group in Tanzania who although they have never previously heard the name of Christ or met any Christians, once they hear the Gospel and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior they immediately stop the status quo of horrible sexual practices and beating their wives.  They don’t even have to be told the whole gospel to immediately understand in their renewed conscience that some things are simply not to be a part of their lives any more.  But then Tim doesn’t present some “join the club” form of Christianity.  They present a gospel more in keeping with the “Christ bids us come and die” concept as presented in “The Cost of Discipleship” book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Perhaps a huge disservice is being done by those who call people to come and “join” without explaining the true cost of following Christ.

I read it on the Internet so it must be true – right?

There are lots of places to get your news and information these days – CNN (leans left), FOX (leans right), NPR (leans intellectual), the Internet (leans – everywhere), gossip magazines (leans to the gullible & bored), the government (leans politically expedient) and then you own personal experiences which although definitely lean true, they might not be the whole truth.

Here are a couple of examples to illustrate my point.  In just the last couple of days Barbie has been told that Michelle Obama is really a man and that Barak is gay.  Follow that up with the “breaking news” there is a project in Alaska called HAARP which “they” are using to cause (among other things) the drought in California and the earthquakes in Oklahoma.  The sinister motive behind the infamous “they” is to cause everybody to move out of California and return the fertile valleys to Government lands and the earthquakes, which center around Cushing, are an effort to disrupt the oil industry and once and for all stop the Keystone Pipeline project.  It didn’t take much checking to find out that the HAARP project was scrapped in the last few years due to lack of success and funding and earlier this year the entire project was deeded over to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.   And here is the really scary part, the people who told Barbie of these ridiculous conspiracy theories were “mature” adults (55 years+) one of whom works in education at a local university and another attends our church.  The internet was cited as the source of these stories when Barbie asked.  I did some checking (on the internet) and the Michelle/Barak story was originated by none other than the trusted investigative reporter Joan Rivers.

By the way, I am not going to discuss either these issues here (or anywhere else for that matter), but I would like to discuss the fact that just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it so.  I have read or listened to numerous reports or rants about the proposed acceptance of Syrian refugees in recent days. They have covered the gamete from “they are part of a well planned Trojan horse” to keep out at all cost to “God is love” and because of that fact it follows we should let them all in.  Most notably have been numerous reports that there is little to no risk in letting them in and especially the widows and orphans because the vetting process is almost foolproof in weeding out all (current) jihadists.  There are likely elements of truth in all these angles.

I would like to share a story directly related to this discussion from my own personal life experience – not off the internet.  When Barbie and I first lived in Israel in the late 70’s things were drastically different from today.  It was very common for the population to tramp (hitchhike) all over the country accepting rides from whoever stopped, whether Jew or Arab.  People didn’t think twice about shopping in East Jerusalem, the Arab quarter of the Old City, Bethlehem or Gaza.  If you rented a car you could drive wherever you wanted with no concern beyond a flat tire.  Yes there were occasionally terrorist attacks, but in most cases they were carried out by jihadists who had snuck across the border from Jordan or Syria in the hours before the attack.  In other words, the vast majority of the Arab population were living and loving life in a peaceful co-existence with their Israeli occupiers.  Fast forward to the early 90’s when we lived there for a couple of months as part of YWAM (Youth With a Mission).  Imams from the surrounding Arab countries began to garner greater and greater control over the Arab population in Israel to the point there were significant security concerns at many of the traditional tourist locations such as Bethlehem, Jericho & Hebron.  And a visit to Gaza was totally out of the question.  The team we led got a pretty good feel for the deteriorating situation as we spent a lot of our time in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  We were strongly cautioned about taking our rental van into predominantly Arab sections of the country as ambush attacks on cars with Israeli tags were on the rise.  Barbie and I have been able to visit Israel a couple more times in the last 20 years to include a spring trip last year.  Now there are walls, fences and checkpoints everywhere, you are forbidden from taking rental cars into many areas and a population that some 30 years earlier was not radicalized has been, in just one generation, transformed into what may well be a radicalized majority who are carrying out knife, car and gun attacks (some by women and young boys) almost on a daily basis from Arabs within the country.

You see, to truly understand Islam, you must understand the huge influence the main Imams have over their “flock”.  Not too unlike prominent Christian leaders such as the Pope, Billy Graham and Joel Osteen have over trends in Christianity – some good and some not so good.  In Islam, there are a significant majority of the Imams calling for jihad.  Take note that one thing that has been missing in response to the recent terrorist attacks has been any broad scale denouncing of them by the Imams of the Islamic world.  Yes, there have been some Arabs who have denounced these acts, but what has dominated the headlines are things like what happened a couple of days after the Paris attacks when Turkish fans booed and shouted Allahu akbar during a moment of silence to honor the Paris victims before a soccer match between Turkey and Greece.

So is there risk is bringing the refugees here?  Yes, there are absolutely great risks and anybody who dismisses the cautions claiming there is little to no risk either doesn’t understand Islam, has little interest in learning or they read something on the internet to the contrary.

Having said all that, as a Christian, I must try and view this situation through God’s eyes and a heavenly perspective.  The US is not my real home, I hopefully count my life on this earth as no value for the sake of the Gospel and what if all this is part of Gods grand plan to bring those in desperate need of the Gospel right to our door step?  As one who has been involved in mission work in the Middle East, I can tell you it is very difficult if not forbidden to do mission work over there.  And this refugee challenge might just be a golden opportunity for the Church to strategize together for the sake of the Gospel.  What if Churches across this country offered to sponsor refugee families on a grand scale?  Not to cram the Gospel down their throat, but to love on them, serve them and help them get jobs and housing in a strange new country.   What if?

I love and am challenged by the story of the Moravian missionaries Dober and Nitschmann who went so far as to sell themselves into slavery in order to bring the Gospel to the West Indies in 1732.  There was of course great risk for them to do that, and although there is risk in bringing Syrian refugees to American soil we too could echo the cry heard from Dober & Nitschmann from the bow of that ship as it pulled out of that German Harbor –

“May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”

But you don’t understand, my problems are worse than a martyr’s – Said Nobody EVER!!!

I have not yet watched the video of the beheadings of 21 Egyptian brothers.  I am very conflicted as to whether I will on not.  Part of me wants to and part of me is loathe to watch it and I have no particular “spiritual” reason for either.  But I have read accounts of a father in Egypt having to stop watching it after seeing his son crying out the name of Jesus Christ just before his beheading.  Other reports are of many of them proclaiming Jesus as their only savior as the knives come out.

I have seen a picture of the sea turned BLOOD red and I can just imagine the chorus of their blood crying out from the sand and the sea.

Part of me cries uncontrollably, part of me wishes I could have been a sniper on a sand dune overlooking the event to take out the executioners before they could carry out their empty deed.  I say empty because I cannot imagine someone with any self esteem, worth or noble purpose in life being able to do this kind of thing.

Then there is the part of me which cries almost more intently because of my complaints to my wife, my kids (and worse yet) the Lord about my problems.  Until the last couple of days my problems loomed large and many would agree as to the severity of what I am facing.  But in light of the real life, captured on video and broadcast to the whole world, plight of these precious Coptic brothers in the Lord facing modern day martyrdom my issues are just that – temporal issues with no eternal implications.

I have seen postings of praying for the executioners.  I know I should be there, but not just yet Lord.  Please give me a few more hours of righteous indignation and desire for exacting retribution of similar fashion.  But even as I write that I hear scripture proclaiming the Father is so very patient in His return – not willing for any to perish, but that all would come to repentance.  But I don’t want them to repent!  I want them to pay and I want to be the one that makes them pay.

But then I hear the rebuking words of Jesus to James and John – “you don’t know what kind of spirit you have taken on” and all of a sudden I have become no better than those lost souls on the beach in Libya – having no knowledge of the risen Savior.  I know from how low I have been pull up and compassion begins to roll in like a flood – God, you take a pass on my problems if you can save but one.

PS – There but by the grace of God went Paul …. re-phrase – There went Paul before the grace of God!

Maybe the church could learn something from McDonald’s!

McDonalds is not my favorite place to eat and in fact I may have spoiled my kids from even gracing the doors of Ronald’s place because of all the times we stopped there on road trips.  It was simply one of the cheapest and quickest ways to get food to go while on long vacation drives.  And although not my favorite place to eat, there is one thing about McDonalds I do really appreciate – if you go to a Mickey Ds in Tulsa, San Diego, Hawaii or DC you know exactly what is on the menu and how it is going to taste, in other words, consistency.  Just this week I had a double quarter pounder w/cheese for the first time in several years and it was exactly as I remember it from years previous.

This is where I believe the church could learn a lesson.  This blog will not be so much about which is right or wrong, but rather exposing some of the inconsistencies Barbie and I have witnessed over the years.  Some have not impacted our lives very much and others more so.

I will start with a short caveat about our time in Israel in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  We were part of an organization made up of Christians from all denominational backgrounds and many different countries.  Some were conservative dispensationalist, some more liberal Europeans still others were looser independent charismatics.  This variety made little difference in our fellowship as we were focused on a bigger, God given, goal of service to the Jewish people.  Our unity of purpose made those theological issues pale in comparison.  This common goal allowed us to be very consistent in the expression of our commitment and love.

Some years after returning to the states, we felt it necessary to switch churches when one of the elders at the church we were attending decried what became known as the Toronto blessing or renewal movement as being from Satan.  And although I might have agreed that some of what was exhibited early on was pretty weird and not exactly in scripture, I was not ready to throw the whole movement under the bus because of a few bad passengers.  A few years later we were applying to be part of a Christian organization which ministers to the military.  We had nearly completed the application process when presented with a form indicating we must not practice glossolalia – or speaking in tongues.  Now I personally don’t get bent out of shape if someone speaks in tongues or not, but I do know there is a scripture rebuking anyone who tries to forbid it (1 Cor.14:39)  This one seemed like déjà vu from when I was 11 and our family was kicked out of the Baptist church for speaking in tongues.

This next one might seem a bit odd as we now attend an AG church (which traditionally prohibits alcohol), but what is the deal with trying to dictate abstention from any alcohol?  Some places respectfully address it up front, such as ORU and others.  One organization I was in training with over the course of almost 3 years did it a bit differently and frankly deceptively.  I was taking these courses towards the goal of becoming a credentialed chaplain.  In addition to the cost of the courses, I even had to travel to the DC area twice involving plane flights and hotels.  After I had successfully compleated the course I was handed the final application packet in which there was a “Personal Conduct” agreement I had to sign.  Most of the items listed were scripturally addressed moral issues.  But then at the end was listed no alcohol consumption even for communion.  I made an appeal regarding the alcohol prohibition based on the scripturally founded acceptance of alcohol which included Jesus and the disciples (as long as it did not involve drunkenness).  The reply was dismissive and condescending expressing that they never indicated their conduct agreement was based on scripture.  I guess one makes certain assumptions when the name “Christ” is in the title of their organization.  Mind you the director and the person rejecting my appeal is morbidly obese and seems to ignore the fact scripture speaks as much about gluttony as drunkenness.  Even more disturbing is the fact that even after exhorting them several times they still withhold that conduct agreement and spring it on applicants at the very end???

Another similar situation happened a couple of years ago when a prominent Christian organization canceled a speaking engagement by Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty when they found out the family had invested in a California winery.  And again, as the previous illustration, the head of the organization who made the decision probably weighed at least 400 lbs.  Phil was slated to share his testimony to a large gathering of young people as to how drugs, sex and alcohol almost destroyed his marriage and came close to killing him and how his walk of faith with Jesus saved his life and marriage.  Do these people who “strain at a gnat” and swallow way too much camel, hamburgers, bacon and soft drinks really believe their hypocrisy is somehow lost on those young people not to mention the scrutiny of the un-churched.  And consider the irony that Jesus and the 12 might not be welcome to share with those young people or lecture at some Christian universities because of their reputation of drinking and even making wine.

When it comes to worship it would come as little surprise to those of you who know us that we lean far to the side of quieter more reflective types of worship and less to the orchestrated big production worship.  This dividing line has been a deal breaker for many.  But truth be told, we are primarily speaking of preferences on these subjects and not issues of spirituality – Seriously ……

Then there are the immersion vs. sprinkling groups, the instrument vs. no instruments churches, the Saturday vs. Sunday crowds, the transubstantiation vs. bread and grape juice people etc. etc. etc.  I could go on and on listing areas where the Church is inconsistent or hypocritical on many issues that are simply not really that important to our salvation.  Of course baptism and communion are vitally important, but not the precise method.  The sad truth is that when we do argue or make big deals over these kinds of things, what we have done is to give the world ample fodder for their justification to reject Christ.  Not because of Christ, but because of us and our stupid pet peeves or trivial issues.  We do this while at the same time ignoring issues which have proven to be far more devastating to the character of the church such as porn, gossip, divorce, greed as so on.  And just for the record, this is not a new issue; Paul had to addressed stuff like this in his letter to the Colossians when he mocked those trying to dictate diet going so far as to charge that we not to put up with or be bullied by people who try and control what we eat or drink.  He further described these kinds of people as arrogant and resorting to worldly ways of manipulation.

Having it your way cannot be some cute advertising slogan as it serves only you and your preferences.  Our goal must be to have it God’s way.  In the church our consistency is not looking and tasting the same but rather showing the world the unity of calling and fellowship we have in the midst of our diversity, much like those groups in Israel.  We must embrace the vast array of practices in the worldwide church (not having to do with foundational issues of salvation) as the infinitely creative nature of God and not some battle line because “Whose side are you on anyway?”

He can do whatever He wants and who am I to complain – but what if?

Free will vs. election, pre/mid/post tribulation, eternal physical punishment vs. annihilation, Jesus is the only way vs. universalism, tats vs. no tats, instruments vs. no instruments, tongues vs. no tongues, miracles vs. no miracles, etc. etc. etc.

There have been and are many debates, controversies, arguments and downright fights out there over the subjects listed above and many more.  What is right?  Who is right? And what is my responsibility before God in all this confusion and fog?

This blog is not going to answer any of those questions, but rather offer a perspective to consider as it relates specifically to a couple of the more weighty ones.  I’m not so sure my or your eternal position will be determined by whether either of us speaks in tongues, believes in miracles, plays instruments or has a tattoo.  And, although perhaps more weighty, I not sure if my belief in when the rapture happens (if there even is one) will have any bearing on when it actually takes place.  I will even go so far as to say that when I get to the pearly gates and find out the it was free will instead of election that got me there, or the other way around, I’m not going to argue at that point which one should have been right.

There are a couple of the “vs.” above that are perhaps more important relating to eternity than the others.  Very popular movements in mainstream Christianity today are the rejection of an eternal physical punishment in hell and a significant nod towards universalism being embraced because of our abundantly merciful God.

I have my views and opinions on both of these subjects which I will only give in brief.  On the idea of eternal physical punishment in hell I will only say that the same Greek word for eternal is used for both the eternal punishment the goats are sent to and the eternal life the sheep are promised.  In faith believing I am one of the sheep, I am definitely interested in the kind of eternal life that is actually forever.  On the subject of Jesus is the only way or maybe not so much, simply put, I have chosen to follow Jesus as the only way and I try to do it the best I can.

Now, ultimately, God is going to do what He wants to do.  If that means sending sinners to the isle of perpetual tickling, totally annihilates them or gives them a pathway to redemption, who am I to say anything against that.  I may not like the idea that I worked in the fields most of the day and someone who comes after dark and after the work is completed still gets the same reward, but then I am not the land owner and I still got what was promised to me.

The bottom line for me is that He is the Owner, Master, Potter, Creator, King of the universe, He is EVERYTHING and I recognize all those attributes and no matter what His plan or what He ultimately decides to do – I’m all in with my devotion to Him no matter what the outcome.  Why?  Because of all those titles I listed at the beginning of this paragraph.  He gets to call ALL the shots no matter what, when or how.  He can change His mind even if I have long understood that He doesn’t change.  HE IS.  And because of that, I will chose and promote scriptures most “conservative” points of obedience, devotion and commitment for the simple reason of “what if?”.  In other words, what if there is an eternal physical punishment in a lake of fire, what if Jesus really is the only way and what if He really is as holy, merciful and intolerant of sin as described in scripture.  Since it is eternity we are talking about, which is a really, really long time, I am not taking chances and I’m going to encourage others not to take the ultimate risk of being wrong when there is so much at stake.

PS – inspired by a comment by my daughter Jayme – If our desire is to be understanding and compassionate, is it really compassionate to promote a certain philosophy which ignores the possibility, no matter how small, of an eternal consequence?