Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Oprah: Many Ways to God?

Well the Oprah phenomenon is over in its present form. Her career has truly been astounding. My concern for her influence has to do with her view of God as expressed on her show.

When asked how Oprah reconciles her christian beliefs with some of the new age philosophy that she promotes she answered, "I opened my mind to the hugeness of what we call God." She explains another time that she was raised in the Baptist Church and needed to take God "out of the box." Another time she openly proclaims that Jesus is NOT the only way to what we consider God and that there are many ways.

She is an amazing woman with an amazing life story. She is also a very good person and sincerely cares for people. I would count it a privilege to call her a friend. But when it comes to God, she is mistaken. The worse part is not her belief system but HOW she gets it. The problem is how she thinks about God and religion.

The source of her problem is thinking that an individual can create truth through sincere belief. You hear that philosophy in statements like:
"It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere."
"I'm glad your belief works for you, but it doesn't work for everybody."
"Your belief is true for what you conceive God to be."

It assumes that a human being can "create" their own truth by believing. In that sense Oprah believes that everyones "beliefs" are valid and no ONE belief works for everybody. It assumes that the ultimate source of truth is a human heart/mind. God then is created in our image. But truth cannot be created by belief or destroyed by unbelief. Truth simply exists to be discovered.

What Oprah believes is as far as you can get from the God of the Bible. You see, it leaves out the reality of God and puts God and religion in the realm of the human imagination.

But faith/belief is only as valid as the object in which it is placed. You can believe with all your heart that your pet fish is the god of the universe, but that won't make it true. You can believe with all your heart that god is what you make him to be, but that won't make that true either. You have to choose after careful investigation where to put your trust and faith and belief. It's an important choice because it involves where you are hanging your eternal soul.

For me, I believe that there is a very real God out there who made all that there is, and chose to reveal himself through nature, human conscience, and through His revealed Word (Holy Bible) and most importantly in His Son Jesus Christ. He's a good, loving, and just God. And Jesus, His Son, the ruler of the universe said very clearly that He IS the ONLY way to the Father. (Jn. 14:6) I fall far short of being able to be in heaven with God by my own merit, but He sent His Son to open a way back to Him. I trust Jesus.

Has this expression of faith been distorted by countless wackos? Yes.
Has this expression of faith misrepresented God? Yes. (see blog on Doomsday Prophet)
Has this expression of faith been institutionalized to the point of irrelevance at times? Yes.
Has this expression of faith been stripped down to meaningless, boring religious habit? Yes.

And I believe that this has caused a lot of people who did the "Christian" gig sometime in their life to think that they got the real thing (including Oprah). But it's very possible that they did not get a true expression of God's truth and thereby hung their faith on something very fragile, making it easy for them to shirk it later in life when they "took God out of the box." God isn't in a box called human religion nor is He in the ponderings of fallen human minds or hearts. He is God, infinite, eternal, and all-powerful. Yet, he is personal and loving and compassionate and knowable (because He chooses to be).

More than one way?? If you think correctly there can't be many ways to God. One, none of the major religions or their prophets teach that. Two, the only people that claim that are outside of those religions. Third, if there were different ways to the same God then you would expect there to be some commonality in teachings. But there isn't. Case closed.

Often people who believe in many ways will accuse those who believe in ONE way to be narrow minded. The truth is, believing in many ways is just as narrow because it negates most of the world religions. It claims to have a higher way of thinking (or feeling) about god and religion. And if you can't think like them, you're wrong. Sounds pretty narrow...

In my view truth by nature is narrow. And it's okay for someone to be right and for someone to be wrong. Because I love people (and Oprah) I would do my best to share my faith with them and help them discover a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If they were devout followers of another religion, I would love them just the same, be a sincere and active friend in their life, and expect them to do everything in their power to convert me to their religion. I would engage in honest, passionate, respectful debates out of a heart of love for as long as I live. But at least we'd be thinking right...we'd be intellectually honest.

I wish Oprah the best, and hope she finds the truth. I pray that she will not unwittingly mislead millions on their spiritual journey. From what I can tell of her character, it would absolutely break her heart to know that she used her influence in a way that moved people away from God instead of closer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Harold Camping - Doomsday Prophet

Let's take a moment to think the best here for a bit. In his heart of hearts is it possible that Harold Camping started with the vision of teaching the Word of God to as many people as possible through radio and doing something good with it? When you look at his background he seems to be a faithful sincere Christian who served his church well and followed God's lead to launch a bible-focused ministry during a time when the church was struggling with great social changes (60's). His radio station strove to keep programs that were true to God's Word and not associated with "extra-biblical" revelation. That is, anything from outside the Biblical pages. Good sound approach isn't it?

What happened? Somewhere along the line he declared the "church age" over. He believes that all institutional expressions of the church are apostate. By doing this he left any semblance of accountability for his teaching which is always dangerous. His biggest error (there are many others) was getting into biblical numerology and attempting to predict the end of the world, which he has missed three times now. And here comes October 21st.

What are the source of these errors? I believe it is three-fold.

First, he allowed himself to embrace a false and dangerous way of biblical interpretation where after looking at the context of a verse (very good) you look for the "spiritual meaning" behind verse (very bad). In doing so he turns a narrative story with spiritual lessons and principles into an allegory or symbolic story reading into it additional spiritual meanings. When you do that you are lost in the woods. My professor used to say, "when the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense." The bible is meant to be understood in a straightforward way. There are times when it is literal narrative and times when it is poetic, prophetic, parable, or epistle (letters to churches) but it gives you clear clues to be able to discern that. By departing from good interpretation he opened the door to disaster.

His second error, in my view, was doing what Christians so often do. Early on, he started worshipping bible study instead of God. It's so easy to worship a method that we are passionate about and lose sight of God. We worship worship, or prayer, or small groups, or other Christian ministry methods that are designed to get us closer in our relationship with God. If done correctly we love God with all of our hearts, we love people around us, and we reflect the same gentle and humble character that Jesus had. He so fiercely defended the need for personal bible-study and made the method his focus instead of a sincere relationship with God. That led to another reason for his downfall.

By putting so much focus on understanding the bible rightly he shrugged off the possibility that he could be wrong. He became the ultimate authority because he saw himself at THE mouthpiece for God's truth. The truth is ANY of us can get it wrong, can get imbalanced, can misinterpret, can misapply truth. That's why we need the church. We need other sincere, mature, and godly eyes on our teaching. We need a community of love and truth to be a sounding board to keep us accountable as we strive to live out God's truth correctly.

At worst he is a cult leader and false prophet, at best he is a man who started out with a genuine love for God and passion for the truth who took a very wrong turn and has given the world another reason to mock God, the Bible, and the Church. But I wouldn't worry to much about that. The truth runs deep, lives are being genuinely changed by God's love and grace, and the true church can and will stand firm and continue to follow God's lead.

As for Harold, I'd love to have coffee with him sometime and have a civil discussion on what we agree on and disagree on and urge him towards the truth. As for me, I will keep a healthy fear of taking a wrong turn in my own walk with God. I pray that my heart would always be tender and authentic and my bible study and application accurate . I hope that I can finish my life having done more good for God's kingdom than bad. Perhaps that's the most any of us can expect.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Does Hell exist?? Rob Bell's book "Love Wins"

I took the time to read and ponder Rob Bell's book, "Love Wins." In it Rob implies that people can restore a relationship with Christ after death and that hell itself may be a place of intense pruning rather than a place of eternal punishment. He's been accused of being a universalist. That is, the belief that eventually everyone will make it to heaven. He's also been accused of blurring the important doctrine of eternal punishment or hell.

It's confusing that such a gifted communicator and thinker can go so wrong. He himself claims not to be a scholar or theologian and frankly it shows here. Even if you disavow those titles if you claim to be a pastor you have to be responsible when you interpret scripture, even more so when God has allowed you to have a mantle of influence, whether you wanted it or not.

I believe he is a very sincere Christian leader and passionate pastor. I have heard nothing but good things about his character and service to the Kingdom. In this case he's careless. It's okay to write a book that will stimulate discussion and cause people to think through their faith, however, it must always be anchored to the truth and "Love Wins" was not.

Here's the short answer. I'll give you the joy of discovering the details. A scholar and theologian from Western Seminary put his finger on the problem with Love Wins. Bell refers to an interpretation of the greek verb, kolazo (punishment, which he implies can mean "correction" or "pruning") to make his argument. The bible however uses the noun, kolasis. He then camps on a shade of meaning used by Plato 400 yrs. earlier and in other secular non-biblical settings. Bell also uses the greek noun aion (eternity, which he claims is not a concept the biblical writers used), while the Bible uses the adjective aionos. The adjective clearly means unending time. He gets a shade of meaning from the noun form. Yes, I know, technical...but very important. If you read the Bible with the correct tenses it clearly talks about eternal punishment in hell for those who don't know Christ. That's why every english translation of the Bible that we have translates those sections "eternal punishment" and not "intense period of pruning."

Bell attempts to paint of picture of reality with an unbalanced view of God's love. God's love is perfect. So is His Holiness, Justice, and Wrath. God is glorified by his grace and love in heaven and God's holiness and justice is glorified in hell. God is perfect and glorified in all of His creation.

The truth is love will win...but not quite in the way that Bell suggests. The conversation goes on...but lets stay anchored to the truth and be found faithful to accurately interpret it.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Is it worth it to suffer in ministry?

The apostle Paul, thought so. He was a missionary that started his mission work by avoiding assassination attempts. He went on to an adventure filled with riots, stonings, shipwrecks, and jail cells. Why be in ministry when it gets too hard??

This is what Paul said, "All of this is for your benefit. And as God's grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving and God will receive more and more glory." (2 Cor. 4:15 NLT)

He was sure he would be in heaven AND he just knew that more and more people giving their lives to Christ would bring more and more glory to God. That was worth suffering for.

It's the same for us. Keep preaching, keep reaching, keep striving and moving your ministry into the thick of the fight. Expect the trials, expect resistance...but remember, you'll be with Christ one day, and with you, all those you reach for His glory. It's totally worth it.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Keeping your eye on the ball!

It's an old saying that still has teeth. "Keep your eye on the ball!" Whether you are trying to hit it, catch it, or field it the first rule of baseball is:
"don't be distracted",
"don't be caught sleeping",
"don't lose focus",
"Keep your eye on the ball!"

For any Christian it applies as well. There are many things we can be doing, but the main one is simple. "Make Disciples."

Go and tell people about the grace and love of Jesus Christ and then teach them to observe ALL that Christ commanded. Make Disciples. Reach and Teach...and then unleash.

I'm thankful to be in a church with a pastor who has his eye on the ball. We won't be distracted. We won't be caught sleeping. We won't lose focus.

Come hell or high water we'll keep our eye on the ball. We'll dedicate ourselves to the very end to making disciples and honoring Christ and by God's grace, we'll make a difference.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ah, Christmas!

I'm sure if you think back to this past year you can find things that caused pain or suffering in your life or in the life of someone that you love. Evil runs rampant and from time to time crosses our path. The weaknesses of others impact us, tear at our hearts, and sometimes drag us down. Our own weaknesses seem to chase us down from time to time reminding us of our fallen state. We live in a fallen world striving to find purpose in life and trying to love those around us with our imperfect hearts. And when you are in pain, sometimes all you can see is the pain and become locked in the moment wondering if life is really worth living. A dark tunnel without end.

But then, there's Christmas. A time of hope! It answers the cry that goes up in the midnight moments of our lives,

"Is there anyone up there that really cares?!"

"Is this ALL that there is?"

'Is it just us and this hard life?"

The infinite God of the universe answered in the most unusual way. He came to earth to rescue us. He walked in this fallen world and faced off with evil and carried out a mission to save us from the consequences of our sins. To give us hope beyond the grave, hope of changed lives, hope of supernatural courage to live out our lives with Joy, hope of a life filled with purpose and meaning, hope of ultimate justice for evil...Hope for a better tomorrow.

Jesus came to earth for you and me. He came TO earth to save us. Wow. Let's celebrate, let's share with others, let's shine the light of Christ's love ever so brightly in a world that needs it so bad. Set up your manger and be ready to tell the story that shouts out to us...God is real. God cares about what you are going through. God loves you very very VERY much!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Age of the Fallen: Origins - What's Next??

(Age of the Fallen Origins Series)

I'm going to try to tell you what's next without creating a spoiler for those of you who are still reading AGE OF THE FALLEN.

The plan has always been to write a series of books involving characters from the original story. AGE OF THE FALLEN was conceived as a three part story. So as you read this I am charting out new characters and refining the story line of book II. I'm excited to continue to explore the epic battle between good and evil and the impact that we can have in that world.

There is also a side story that is in the developmental stages. AGE OF THE FALLEN is set in Japan (and I hope to have it translated into Japanese and sold there). But this story line will take place in an American city. It's called "The Demon in My Closet." Again, I won't spoil the plot by telling you much about it, but honestly I started the story in a movie script format. (Yes, I know. I've always been a dreamer...with faith!)

I would LOVE to see the book turned into a movie. I think it would be an incredible visual story. It would be terrifying and inspiring. Most of all it would plant seeds of truth in movie audiences around the world. It has elements of love, loyalty, grace, faith, courage, pain, renewal, evil, good, suffering, self-sacrifice, teamwork, mentoring, failure, and triumph. I'd love to see a good director get all that on the screen in a compelling story.

So when you turn the final page of AOF while listening to an epic soundtrack, just know that the adventure is just beginning!

AND, it's an adventure that we can all live and be a part of every single day....

The book is now in-stock at Amazon. com and Christian Book Distributors (google it...) and a few other sites. You can still order autographed copies from my website...I'd love to write you a note of thanks.