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Monthly Archives: February 2010

It has become popular for many churches today to preach what I and others have come to call “the false gospel of false grace”, which says, in essence, “come as you are to the feet of Jesus, receive grace and forgiveness of your sins” and nothing else.  Seldom if ever is repentance or holiness mentioned, all we hear is “the grace and love of Jesus” – all you have to do is to “accept Jesus” and your sins are automatically forgiven.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Those who preach such false gospel are sadly wrong, and sadder still are misleading their congregations into believing that once they profess a belief in Jesus that they are saved, they need do nothing else.

I can’t tell you just how wrong this is.  Jesus himself was quite clear.  Again and again in the New Testament the theme of repentance, of turning away from sin, is both necessary and required!

I guess we need to define our terms first – belief is “the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.”  It seems to me that if you believed in something that you would act in accordance with those beliefs, wouldn’t you?  If you believed in Jesus, that means you believe in his teachings, right?  And if you believed in his teachings you would do what he said to do, wouldn’t you?  And didn’t he say to forgive your brother for his sins, to repent of your sins and turn away from them, and to lead holy lives?  I can’t find anywhere in the Bible where it says that you are automatically forgiven of sin without repenting of that sin – quite the opposite, in fact!  But there are churches that teach that doctrine by omitting the necessity of repentance.  You don’t get a “get out of jail free” card just because you profess a belief in Christ – you have to act on that belief!

As for the “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” folks, I would just say that if you think you will always be forgiven, no matter what you do, you are mistaken – in fact, God will reinstate formerly forgiven sin. Salvation is not a license to sin at will!

God has sent many, many warnings to pastors, teachers, and evangelists, to stop sinning while at the same time preaching from the pulpit – to stop blaming God because their ministries aren’t where they think they should be or because someone they prayed for and laid hands on died or because the offering wasn’t what was expected, to stop chasing money and possessions and bigger congregations instead of seeking God, to stop committing adultery, to stop cheating people, to stop pretending that they are without sin, and a whole host of other sins.

What does it hurt to preach righteousness?  If you’re wrong and God is much more lax than what is presented here, you haven’t really lost anything, and gained a great deal.  If, on the other hand, God is exactly how he is presented here, then by being less righteous, you may be “saved”, but you certainly won’t go to heaven – certainly a less-than desirable outcome for your life, to say the least!

Preach, teach, live holiness and righteousness.  Teach the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts.  Root out the secular focus, both in your preaching and in your ministry – God doesn’t need you to make him popular, you’re only feeding your own ego!  Have you forgotten that people come to Christ not because of you or your preaching or your teaching or your live entertainment or big-screen displays or your big building, but because God draws them in? Forget about wealth, growing your church, and possessions, and focus on God, and everything else will take care of itself. Don’t believe this?  Really?  Then what are you doing in the pulpit?
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Just when we thought it was safer to be a woman than a man, this story hits the news:

Reports say terrorists could begin hiding explosives in breast implants.

British spy satellites have apparently intercepted terrorist communications from Pakistan and Yemen, talking about women suicide bombers getting explosives put inside breast implants.

Former Houston FBI Director Don Clark said he believes U.S. Homeland Security is taking this threat very seriously.

Houston plastic surgeon Dr. Franklin Rose said that the industry’s technology makes the bombs possible and easy.

Travelers at Boston Logan International Airport reacted with outrage and anxiety.

“I guess it’s surprising, but I guess it’s not surprising that they’re gonna go to any lengths,” one traveler said.

Another person at Logan said increased security might measures need to be taken.

“I think that we need to invest in full-body scan equipment at the airports. I think that would be the only helpful and the right thing to do,” one man said.

No full body scanners are at Logan, but they could be in place in a few months.

The Transportation Security Administration says its scanners do detect explosive materials and residue.

However, it’s unknown how well full-body scanners would detect explosives inside implants.

Gotta love the scare tactics … yet another way for the TSA to humiliate air travelers!  It’s either a joke gone bad, or someone’s thinking “Gee, I wonder just how far we can show our power and control by forcing the American people to be humiliated so they can feel ‘safe’ while we leer at women’s genitals on full body scanners?”  Never mind that this security is just so much smoke-and-mirrors – we are no more and no less safe now than we were before 9/11.  It’s all just a charade for the idiot wimps who whine on TV, “I don’t care what they do, as long as I’m safe!”

For those of you who have been living under a rock the past few days (or just been buried with work like I have), the story of Ted Haggard, the former pastor of the mega-church “New Life Church” in Colorado Springs has drawn a lot of attention on Larry King Live and other shows.  If you’re interested in reading about the whole lurid story – tales of gay sex, snorting meth, heaven-for-cash letters, and the whole rest of it – go here.  It seems to get more lurid – and ludicrous – by the day.

Whether or not the man is guilty or not of all the things that have been said about him is beside the point.  What *is* the point is the completely unforgiving attitude his former church seems to have displayed towards him and especially his wife.  While there may be some question as to whether or not he had truly repented (as evidenced by the continuing revelations and shenanigans revolving around his conduct), there has never been a question of his wife’s complete innocence – but, according to published reports, the church kicked both of them out!  I can completely understand removing the man from the ministry until he demonstrates by his conduct that he has turned away from his sin, but barring him permanently seems to me to be a bit extreme, and kicking his wife out of the church is completely over the top.  This is not the first time that church leadership has exacted the harshest punishment for those who were in sin and attempted to repent, or who weren’t even involved in the first place, and unfortunately it probably won’t be the last.

What would Jesus do?  Well, let’s see what Jesus did do when confronted with something similar.  In the first part of chapter 8 in the book of John we find the story of the woman caught in adultery.  The Law of Moses says that both the man and woman caught in adultery “must be put to death“.  As a rabbi, Jesus certainly knew that he had the obligation under the law to condemn her on the spot and have her stoned to death.  There was no leeway for compassion, for forgiveness, for leniency – the law was quite clear.  Jesus knew it, the Pharisees knew it, and so they tried to use the Law against him.  Jesus had been preaching the law of love, but the Pharisees were in no mood to hear it – their entire ministry, their standing in the community, even their culture, was based on adherence to a strict interpretation of the Law, and no dissent, criticism, or debate was tolerated.  The Law was the Law (gee, where have we all heard that one before?), and so there could only be one answer to the question, but that answer would be contradictory to the teaching, the entire mission of Christ.  How could he have her stoned to death while at the same time forgiving others of their sin and insisting that others do likewise?

What a conundrum!  But Jesus wasn’t the meek and mild wimp that some churches love to portray – far from it!  Jesus waited to answer until the attention of the entire crowd was on him – then he said “if any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  The Pharisees were undoubtedly astonished at this completely unconventional answer, but astonishment gave way to conviction, and they quietly melted away, into the shadows, until only Jesus and the accused woman were left.  “Where are your accusers?  Is there no one left to condemn you?”  “No one, sir.”  Jesus replied, “Then neither do I … go, and sin no more.”

His reaction was completely consistent with his teachings – love of God and love of one’s fellow man.  Jesus certainly knew the woman’s heart, knew she was repentant in her heart of her sin, else he wouldn’t have said what he did.  He wasn’t condoning her sin, but he had compassion on her because of her change of heart.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, were completely consumed by the law – not to uphold it in and of itself, but to use it as a club against the people, to establish and reinforce their own egos, their own sense of vengeance, and their own status in Jewish society.  Jesus, of course, would have none of it – his harshest words were reserved for those who hypocritically used the Law as a club to beat people with and at the same time broke the very spirit of that same Law they were harshly enforcing.

It’s interesting today that the harshest words of church leadership are reserved for those in sin, or coming out of sin, even if those people are doing their best to turn their backs on sin and to repudiate their actions, or even those who never even committed the sin in the first place, but by being with the sinful person is guilty by association somehow!

Where is their compassion, the compassion Jesus showed time and time again in the Gospels?  Jesus hung out with sinners, loved them, had compassion for them, while at the same time exposing those at the top of the leadership pyramid who were the most guilty of hypocrisy, all acts which many in church ministry wouldn’t dream of being caught at.

Where is our compassion?  Do we read stories like that of Ted Haggard and feel for his wife and family, or secretly cheer in our hearts that someone on such a lofty perch of ministry has been brought down, that all along he didn’t deserve to be where he was in the ministry?  Do we disagree with others who want to condemn the man, or nod our heads in righteous indignation that someone entrusted with so much betrayed that trust?

Interestingly enough, Ted Haggard has written about the morals of those who would condemn those in similar situations:

“One of the greatest marks of bearing His [Christ’s] character is our response to someone else’s sin.  If we handle others’ mistakes with a life-giving attitude, then we (and they) have the opportunity to enjoy great power and freedom.  But if we handle others’ mistakes negatively, then we’re eating from the wrong tree and will begin to die.”

I hope that Ted Haggard, as well as the rest of us, has learned from his mistakes.

I ran across this story on Yahoo this morning.  What bothered me was the description of the ad the church will pay a minimum of $2.5 million for:

The tongue-in-cheek ad opens on a funeral scene and then cuts to a young man alive in a closed casket. His body is covered in Doritos and he is watching the Super Bowl on a tiny TV while chomping on chips as mourners sob outside. Two friends, who are in on the prank, snicker that by faking his death, their friend will get a week off work and an endless supply of his favorite snack.

But the man gets excited when his team makes a big play and jostles the casket, which tips over to reveal him inside with a pile of crushed chips.

After an awkward pause, his buddy jumps up and nervously exclaims to the shocked assemblage: “Aaaah! It’s a miracle!”

Putting aside the picture of the lead pastor of Mosaic Church posing outside a night club in LA (which has obvious theological problems of its own), the idea that God needs help from a Super Bowl ad to bring men to Him, especially one that pokes fun at the resurrection of Christ, is patently absurd.  Even the best preaching in the world isn’t going to affect people unless they are drawn by God first.  Not that Christians aren’t supposed to evangelize, but even the best evangelism will fall on deaf ears, unless and until God draws them and they are open to hearing the leading of God.

Besides, poking fun at one of the central themes of Christianity (the Resurrection of the Messiah) can be as offensive to Christians as poking fun at Mohammad would be to Muslims.  Not that Christians or Muslims are always sensitive to religious humor, but it’s a risky thing to joke about, and it’s even riskier to make fun of core religious beliefs, not to mention counterproductive to the purpose of the ad.

There’s also the issue of spending millions of dollars on an ad that is obviously more advertising for the mega-church than it is for Christ Jesus.  With annual budgets for the so-called “mega-churches” running into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, it’s a prime motivation to fill seats with people (and church coffers with dollars) to pay the bills, so it’s understandable that the larger the church, the more the need to advertise in an age when church attendance is dropping.  But this brings into question the very reason for the existence of churches when the motivation turns from bringing people to a belief in Christ and repudiation of sin, to a desire to fill seats to meet a budget.  Christ would certainly not have approved.

Am I over-reacting?  You tell me!

— Update:

OK, I just saw the ad – it’s not nearly as offensive as when I first saw the clip.  Maybe they changed it for the Super Bowl, but it was clear from the ad that it was a very much tongue-in-cheek TV ad, and not playing off the Resurrection at all, just a trio of guys whose prank went wrong…