I could be wrong!

In fact there is a good part of me that hopes I am wrong.  Let me back up a little, in fact to really be thorough, honest and academic we will need to back up at least 100 years (if not a couple thousand).  What I am talking about is a subtle agenda being pushed to the fore by many very talented and gifted communicators in various forms to include TV, media, books and movies.  I’m speaking about universal salvation as well as several other beliefs which seem to be commonly tacked on to the coat tails of universal salvation.

In short, universal salvation, or Christian universalism, is “a school of Christian theology focused around the doctrine of universal reconciliation – the view that all human beings will ultimately be restored to a right relationship with God” (Wikipedia).  Naturally and closely associated with Christian universalism is the belief that there is no eternal physical punishment (a burning hell).  There are numerous other practices or beliefs which follow closely behind these 2 schools of thought such as acceptance of gay lifestyles in the church, a de-emphasis on chastity as well as embracing a philosophy of never judge and always include.  But for the most part I will only offer some thoughts on Christian universalism and hell.

Let me first say, as I hinted at earlier, I completely understand the appeal of Universal Salvation and the absence of a physical and eternal hell.  I have many family members and friends who do not profess Christ and who would benefit from an eternity lacking a permanent physical punishment and the opportunity to be reconciled to the Father beyond the grave.  That would be wonderful on so many levels even if mildly disconcerting to me and my, before the grave, efforts to embrace the cross and commands of Christ.  However, the above views are not what I see in scripture, but if I’m wrong it’s still a win win for everybody.  Yes I, and many like me, may have endeavored to live more circumspectly in this life to no real avail, but in the end, that end being eternity, there would be no real down side to having been wrong and having lived a life of discipleship and devotion to Jesus.

Here is my concern and caution with the increasing evolution of some mainstream Christian beliefs and the direction in which they are moving.  These beliefs, theologies and practices did not follow 50 – 100 years of respected Christian theologians from the most respected Christian seminaries beginning to question and debate the possibility that we may have been wrong about salvation and hell.  In fact the opposite has happened.  Secular philosophies of “if it feels good – do it” and other related beliefs which were introduced in the 60’s ultimately carried influence into the walls of an insecure church desperate to “stay relevant”.  This was closely followed by accusations of intolerance and hate towards anyone or any church/denomination which dared to hold onto traditional beliefs instead of getting on the “right side of history”.  Barbie and I have even had very dear friends with whom we have discussed some of these issues pull back from relationship, cut off relationship or “unfriend” us because we are the ones perceived as narrow and intolerant – I trust you see the sad irony there.

So, in what I believe to be a misguided effort, many churches in recent decades have embraced the all inclusive universal salvation position complete with setting aside significant moral prohibitions in what can best be described as a “land for peace” deal with secular society.  I will be the first to admit that it appears compassionate and inclusive to promote universal acceptance of varying cultural practices.  This is especially effective when combined with the elimination of hell as a place of punishment.  And perhaps if I had sat under different teachers in my life I might easily go there as well.

As I said earlier, if I am wrong there is no real downside to me or anybody else to having held fast to traditional beliefs of what it means to be like Christ and to hold traditional views of salvation and hell.  However, and this could be the costliest however in the history of the church, if these highly influential teachers, church leaders, movie makers and book writers are the ones who are wrong then 100’s of millions of lives could be forever separated from the Father.  That is a down side none of us should consider as an acceptable risk.

http://babylonbee.com/news/progressive-criticizes-jesus-not-christlike/

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Let your light shine???

Some blogs I write and then some blogs write themselves as is the case with the most recent actions of Pastor Karl Lentz, the senior pastor of Hillsong NY.  I’m certain that the accompanying picture (which I had to edit) to this blog is not what Jesus meant when He exhorted us in Matthew 5:16 to “let our lights shine before the world in such a way that they would see our good actions and glorify our heavenly Father”.

let your light so shine

I don’t care who you are, where you pastor, where you work or minister, as Christians we are portraying Christ to the world 24/7.  The most important question we MUST ask ourselves in light of that fact is “what is the world seeing?”.  I read well over 100 comments attached to the original article as well as subsequent Tweets about the pictures seen here of Pastor Karl Lentz and Justin Bieber.  Not one, I repeat, not even one came anywhere close in anyway to defending or giving the benefit of the doubt to Pastor Lentz’s display.  They were fraught with mockery or sensual comments from girls & men.  I will let Twitter comments and the comment section of AOL Entertainment speak for what the world (and perhaps many Christians) thought.

  • Papi,
  • God Bless,
  • what religion is this:)
  • if that’s his “pastor/boyfriend” no wonder he’s so f…… up!
  • Whose man is this???
  • Jesus!
  • Daddy Lentz! Sprinkle you holy water on me!
  • Everyone who is a parent in this church needs to watch their kids,
  • Well, it looks like he lost the “cloth” somewhere.
  • A pastor running around showing darn near his private areas?
  • Holding JB like he’s a female around the waist?
  • What’s wrong with this picture?
  • Looks like JB is a choir boy and pastor a molester.
  • No straight pastor would walk with his shorts hanging down his legs like that!

And these were the nice comments.  I have no idea what either of them (Karl or Justin) were thinking or what is in their hearts but I can say, as plainly as James – “these things ought not be!”

justin & Karl

Brian Houston, the founder of Hillsong, has made statements in the past as to the challenges Pastor Lentz has created for leadership.  Much of this has been in the position Karl took in refusing to take a stand on gross sexual sin even when present in some levels of leadership in the church (feel free to read my blog entitled “Did another one bite the dust?  We’re not quite sure” from Aug. 6 2015).  I believe it is time for him (Pastor Houston) to take what action he can to remove Karl Lentz from any leadership role in Hillsong in an attempt to possibly regain or salvage some level of integrity at the church in NY.  Believe me, the world is watching and even the un-churched understand enough of the bible to know when things have gone horribly wrong.

Off “Message” – Biblical principles and social media – Eugene Petersen test case

Many are aware that about a week ago Eugene Petersen was “put on the spot” by the question of whether he would perform a same sex marriage.  Eugene answered in the affirmative and thus ensued 24 hours of social media backlash against this oft revered pastor.  So, as is so often the case these days with politicians, reporters, entertainment or sports figures, Eugene walked back his comments saying “on further reflection and prayer, I would like to retract that”.  The fact that Eugene “saw the error of his ways” garners little respect from me since it took an almost overwhelming flood of reaction to cause his eyes to be open to what is already clearly pronounced in “The Message” (with full double meaning!)

This, unfortunately, is just another example of how social pressure is dictating church policy and practice in a modern world controlled by the click of a mouse or the posting of a poignant mem.  The church is losing respect and participants in droves today and it’s not for the reasons one might think.  Society is not impressed when Christians “get on the right side of history” by acquiescing to rapidly changing social practices any more then ISIS is impressed with efforts to appease their message of hate.  Giving in like this makes us (the church) look like spineless milquetoast minions with no guiding principles – and who wants to be a part of that?

I believe principled people who practice their beliefs with grace and kindness will be the ones looked to for guidance and wisdom for the seismic challenges in the years to come as well as being pleasing to the Lord  – if that even matters anymore!

https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/eugene-petersen-affirms-traditional-marriage/

Shacking up with universalism

It was probably a dozen years ago when I first read the Shack.  I loved the book and the message of forgiveness worked some much needed healing in my life.  I vaguely remember some small dust ups of controversy back then but was able to set it aside since the book was in fact fiction and all of the theologically questionable things actually happened during the course of a dream – and we all know how weird dreams can be.

Fast forward to present day and my wife and I went to see the movie based on the book and, as before, we loved it and embraced the main message of the movie being the necessity to deal with forgiveness.  It was also true that a couple of the theologically questionable things came through a bit more in the movie.

The two events which left me with some questions as to what Paul Young actually believes were when Papa seemed to be shocked that Mackenzie made a reference to a vengeful God and towards the end when Mackenzie’s dad is included in a large group of people presumed to be those who have passed on and are in the congregation of a heaven of sorts.

Actually there was one other thing that really bothered me and that was the fact that anybody, and I mean anybody other than Morgan Freeman was used to play the role of God.  I am going to choose to believe it was because his fee simply too much for the films budget.  But in all seriousness, I had no problem whatsoever with God being portrayed as a warm and affectionate black woman nor an aging American Indian.  I know that some, maybe many, took special exception to the whole God as a woman part and to those I have a couple of things to say.  God is portrayed as many things in scripture to include Father, mother hen, spirit, a flaming bush, strong tower, nursing mother, wind, judge, comforter, cloud, pillar of fire, etc. etc.  Hopefully you get the point that to think that you know what God looks like is, well, frankly, arrogant, narrow and religious.  I have read and heard all the arguments and most of them go something like this “God is most often portrayed as male” or “isn’t He called Father for a reason?”.  The thought that our finite minds could even begin to visualize all that God is and all the forms that He has manifested or described Himself as during this incredibly short blink of an eye moment called world history is shallow at best.  What percentage of the image of God is the form we call the human male?  50%? 100%? 1 billionth of a percent?  Do you really think God can be condensed down to a form so contained, controlled and simple as to be a something we could replicate in wood, stone or gold?   I don’t think so.

So what does Paul Young believe?  Actually, a lot of what I believe!  But with all the questions and discussions about error, universalism and issues about hell I decided to buy his most recent book, “Lies we believe about God”, and dug in.  It is crystal clear, in this book, that Paul Young has gone all the way down the road of universalism.  Here is a short excerpt from the book and I promise you that I am not taking it out of context.

“God does not wait for my choice and then “save me.” God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. Now our daily choice is to either grow and participate in that reality or continue to live in the blindness of our own independence.

Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation?

That is exactly what I am saying!”

Paul has also embraced a similar view of hell as Rob Bell in which there is no eternal physical punishment.  I do not presume to know for certain who will be saved or what hell is or isn’t.  But I do know that I do not want to be in the position of that person mentioned in scripture for whom it would have been better if he had never been born because of leading people astray.  The appeal of all being saved is significant as I have many friends who I love and who do not follow Jesus and the thought of them not being in heaven is not pleasant and the thought of them experiencing eternal physical punishment is horrific.  But I cannot but continue to exhort them that Jesus is the only way and that to choose any other path will result in serious eternal consequences.  As a visual, to promote a Gospel message in which the broad road and the narrow pathway ultimately converge in heaven could be the greatest deception and disservice to humanity ever put forth.  This would of course give little incentive to choose the hard and narrow road over the broad and easy one.  To put it another way, there really does appear to be a special place in hell for those who lead other away from the narrow way.  Brings a whole new sobriety to the saying “better safe than sorry, really really sorry.”

In closing this blog, I can freely encourage you to read the Shack or watch the movie and embrace the message of forgiveness while at the same time understanding it is fiction.  Unfortunately, I must also place several chapters in Paul Young’s most recent book in the fiction category as well.  May God be merciful to Paul and those who are led astray by him and other like him.

Diane Feinstein – As libs, we must have our cake and eat it too!

Well, that’s not exactly what she said in the Neil Gorsuch hearing but it might as well have been.  You see when questioning around the subject of abortion Feinstein said that she probably will oppose Gorsuch because he believes “the intentional taking of a human life by private persons is always wrong.”

Does anybody else see the absolute pure and unadulterated hypocrisy in that statement?  Was it intentional, was it a Freudian/Feinstein slip or did her true color get exposed?  You see, we actually do have laws on the books as it relates to the intentional taking of human life by a private person.  And when you exclude the right for self defense, you are left with only one thing and we call it murder.  Feinstein didn’t say that Gorsuch thought the taking of a mass of cells or a fetus was wrong, she referred to it as the “intentional taking of a human life” and according to our laws, that is always called murder.  So wouldn’t that fall into the plus column for Gorsuch to always follow the law by seeing the intentional taking of a human life as always wrong?

These people who support the killing of babies are simply messed up in the head and it comes out in their inability to even get their terms and stories straight.  So eat that cake up baby killers, but just know that it’s going to eat you up in the end.  God will NOT be mocked!

eat cake

History can teach us if we let it! (Captain obvious)

Although I am a Christian, with scripture and the laws of God holding a prominent place in my heart and life, you don’t actually have to be a believer in order to make certain choices given our extensive knowledge of history – unless of course you are intent on repeating it which seems to be the status quo most of the time.

Although some may not view Leviticus as a historical book I am going to “enter into evidence” Leviticus 18 for your thoughtful consideration for the purpose of this blog.  In that chapter God indicates actions which have caused judgment to fall on all the former inhabitants of the lands, which in this particular case refers to the land to be given to the descendants of Abraham.

The actions identified in Leviticus are of two specific categories.  One is sexual activities ranging from adultery and incest to homosexuality and beastiality and the second is killing or burning the innocents (babies) which in that day were an offering to the god Molech.

At that point in Leviticus we have a minimum of 1500 to 2000 years of recorded history to verify that no people group survived who began to practice these types of activities.  And now here we are with an additional 3500 years of history to seemingly confirm that any country which was given over to sexual or social activities which did not align with the more conservative Judeo/Christian ethics (and again although I am referencing religion I am doing so in regards to recorded history) have not survived long historically.

I recognize and understand to some extent the laws of physics such as gravity, Newton’s law of motion and others.  But what if what we have seen in history is another level of laws for the physical earth which were also set in place from the beginning which cannot be ignored any more than you could ignore gravity regardless of whether you believe it or not.  In Leviticus God refers to the land “vomiting out” people groups who participate in the practices listed earlier as if the actual physical land may have some involuntary gag reflex that plays a role in cleansing itself of people who violate these laws.  And He promises the same judgment for the Israelites if they participate likewise.  And our recorded history really does seem to confirm this to be the case.

gravity

So why should any country or people group today expect that they have somehow learned the secret of immunity to the moral laws of the universe which seem to be just as unbreakable even if somewhat less predictable in the timing or means of execution (double entendre).

So whatever you want to call it, free sex, choice, abortion, “love wins”, MYOB, equal rights, gay or women’s rights; history and the laws of the universe will not be changed or persuaded by some progressive school of thought.  I find it especially ironic that many progressives call it “being on the right side of history” to give in and practice such activities.  Have no doubt, history (and God) will not be mocked.

Restoring the fallen!?

I, more than most, understand and appreciate the forgiveness of the Lord and the tremendous grace that has been poured out in my direction.  I am a sinner saved by grace and a repeat offender who has experienced the unmerited gift of forgiveness in my life where I continue to falter on the road to sanctification.

I also understand that scripture gives us standards and expectations for spiritual roles in the church.  The roles of elder and deacon have similar high standards and it would follow that these requirements, if not even higher ones, would be true for any role of shepherd or pastor as well.

There have been seasons in my life when I would not have met the minimum requirements for elder/deacon as not all my children were following the Lord.  That did not affect my salvation, but I believe it did disqualify me for certain roles in the church.  I also believe that sins which occurred prior to a salvation experience, in some cases, should not count as disqualifiers.  For example if someone had committed adultery or been divorced prior to salvation they might still aspire to the role of elder or deacon.  But let’s be clear, I do not see someone’s current character as some magic formula that guarantees Godly character in the future based on their past “performance”, but there is a reason such high standards were given as a threshold for leadership in the church.

And it is for good reason those highest standards have been set.  You need look no further than the highest office in our land, the presidency, to see how a lack of moral character there affects and changes the moral landscape for millions in the upcoming generations.  How much more influential would the person in the role of elder, deacon or pastor be in modeling character, or the lack thereof, for you and your children.

So if I consider a few of the qualifications in 1 Tim. 3:  vs12 “husband of one wife” (which I interpret to be only one ever and not one at a time), vs11 “trustworthy in every way”, vs13 “excellent reputation”.  I would not consider someone who has had an affair or committed adultery as fulfilling those requirements. And it was with that interpretation of scripture I read with quite some confusion recently an article entitled “The Elephant in the Church”.  It was an article about a conference attended by over 50 pastors, among them Ed Gungor, Ted Haggard, Ruth Graham and others who have similar stories of moral failings in their marriages while holding church leadership positions.  The main point of the article covered the complaining as to how strict or limited the pathway to restoration was for them.  And by restoration, they meant restoration to the same position of leadership they held before adultery and affairs.  Keep in mind, many of these 50 pastors rejected the discipline their church elders gave them and went off and did their own thing anyway which for most resulted in significant monetary windfalls – and they are the ones complaining???  It would be like a bunch of college students who chose to get some degree that doesn’t serve them well in the real world and then sitting around complaining about having to pay the price of their burdensome school debt.

I want to be crystal clear here.  I am an absolute believer in full forgiveness and restoration of all sinners.  But my understanding of that restoration is a spiritual position in Christ and not necessarily restoration to some physical position of leadership at the top levels in the church.  Where there is full forgiveness for sin, there are also consequences for sin. And for a pastor/elder/deacon to betray the trust put in them by a congregation by choosing some significant moral sin, I believe scripture is clear that one of those consequences is a disqualification to hold those positions in the church.  Is it so radical that I want the upcoming generations to walk in such an awareness of the Holiness of God that they would have the Holy Spirit whispering in their ear (and if need be yelling) “there are consequences for sin”.

I look at it like this.  Say you are a trusted public bus driver and you choose to get drunk and are involved in a serious accident. It doesn’t mean you are any less of a person, but you should NEVER again be allowed to hold that trusted position of public bus driver.  It sends a terribly wrong message to other drivers not to mention the potential danger it would mean for those in your care.  I see significant moral failing in the highest positions of leadership in the church the same way.  It doesn’t mean you can’t be a SS teacher, missionary or evangelist.  But you have forfeited that most honored role because of the huge mixed message it sends to everyone that holiness and excellent moral character is “only mostly” important.

Are we that lacking of people with stellar moral character to fill these crucial roles?  Do we really want to send the message to our young people that character in leadership in the church is viewed the same way as in the secular society i.e. “wink wink, nod nod”?  In reference to the article mentioned above, I basically agree with main premise of the entire article and the need for the church to learn how to be advocates for each other in the restoration process.  But that agreement stops short of the part where restoration includes regaining the pastoral/elder leadership role once held.  The article speaks about the fear they experienced surrounding the exposing of sin.  Doesn’t this put the focus all on them and the struggles they are having?  I suggest the removal of the adulterer from the pulpit places the focus on the fear of God, where it should and creates an atmosphere of sobriety for the next person who might aspire to one of the highest offices in the church of Jesus Christ.

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/elephant-church