Union with Christ

The following is a passage taken from The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett:

O Father.

Thou hast made man for the glory of thyself, and when not an instrument of that glory, he is a thing of nought;

No sin is greater than the sin of unbelief, for if union with Christ is the greatest good, unbelief is the greatest sin, as being cross to thy command;

I see that whatever my sin is, yet no sin is like disunion from Christ by unbelief.

Lord, keep me from committing the greatest sin in departing from him, for I can never in this life perfectly obey and cleave to Christ.

When thou takest away my outward blessings, it is for sin, in no acknowledging that all that I have is of thee, in not serving thee through what I have, in making myself secure and hardened.

Lawful blessings are the secret idols, and do most hurt; the greatest injury is in the heaving, the greatest good isn the taking away.

In love divest me of blessings that I may glorify thee the more; remove the fuel of my sin, and may I prize the gain of a little holiness as overbalancing all my losses.

The more I love thee with a truly gracious love the more I desire to love thee, and the more miserable I am at my want of love;

The more I hunger and thirst after thee, the more I faint and fail in finding thee,

The more my heart is broken for sin, the more I pray it may be far more broken.

My great evil is that I do not remember the sins of my youth, nay, the sins of one day I forget the next. Keep me from all things that turn to unbelief or lack of felt union with Christ.

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The Great Extermination – And How it Affects YOU

You may or may not remember the 2005 movie War of the Worlds, which happens to be one of my favorite disaster movies. There’s a scene in that movie that could be  true if placed in the correct context.

Ogilvy, the madman in the cellar, says, “Think about it. They [the aliens] defeated the greatest power in the world in a couple of days. Walked right over us. And these were only the first. They’ll keep coming. This is not a war anymore than there’s a war between men and maggots… This is an extermination.”

An extermination. There’s an extermination going on right now all around us as we speak. And I guarantee you’ve been a casualty of this great attack. You don’t have to watch the news for too long or flip through many channels to see that Satan and his minions are wreaking havoc on our world. But don’t think you’re too safe in your comfy little abode traveling on your safe little commute, working at your cozy little job. Satan has polluted all of that with his venomous stench as well – you’re just immune to it.

To often we think, “Oh, well Satan’s busy corrupting the guys over in Washington, or he’s just torturing inmates, or he’s a routine visitor of the Red Light district.” But he’s released his millions, maybe trillions of demons on the entire planet, and they live right here among us, breathing down our necks, wrapping their filthy claws around our wrists, pulling us in directions we either never thought we’d go or settling us in some predictable little lifestyle where we don’t give them a second thought.

“Why would they not want us to think of them?” you may ask. Because if we don’t think of the evil spirits swarming the very grounds we walk on, then we don’t think of God. If we don’t think of the Heaven’s ghouls we don’t think to stand on guard against them. If we don’t remember that our atmosphere is rank with Hell’s pollution, then we’re more prone to developing  immunity to it quicker than anyone, and we fall astray, or get waylaid from the helping hand of God.

Let’s go back to this idea of an extermination for a minute. Satan’s isn’t like some villain out of a Disney movie (though he can be compared to some of them) -he isn’t restrained, though his goal is singular: to stop the advancement of the Gospel of Christ. Think about it. Look around you and see how far Satan is willing to go to stop the Gospel from spreading.

Satan inspires men to rape women. He lures children to scream at their parents. He entices world leaders to spread genocide, and train up child soldiers. He caresses the cheek of the doctor who mauls babies with tubes and needles. The list goes on and on and on and on and on and on. All of this for what?

To prohibit the Gospel from spreading.

That is his one, singular, primary, ultimate goal. And you have been and will be time and time again a casualty of his great Gospel extermination. Not one person is untouched by the war he has waged against Christ. No one person, ever, in the history of the world.

Now let’s flip the coin over. If Satan, who saw the dawn of Creation, who has entered the throne room of God most high, spoken directly to the Creator of the Universe and Giver of Life, was there during the crucifixion of Christ, and likely witnessed His great resurrection is willing to take on the entire world to obliterate God’s testimony, then just how great is the Gospel that we take advantage of and pass off as no big deal?

If God Himself is willing to have casualties – mind you, the one Being who really truly knows just how precious life is – in this great war over His testimony, then how much more ought we to think of this Gospel He has entrusted us with? We should be guarding it with our lives, preserving it for every person we come in contact with and shamelessly exploiting it to every person we talk with. Because while the fumes of the demons are like the pollution of Hell, the fragrance of the Gospel of Christ we carry with us ought to be like a rich balm, or sweet lotion of Heaven to help wipe away the stench of sin.

Most people would say, at this point, “I’m not trying to scare you…” But I’m not going to say that. This stuff ought to scare the lights out of us. But we don’t have to remain fearful, because we know that Satan’s extermination of all those who carry Christ’s Word with them, and who has the potential to hear it, will fail. It will fail hard and miserably. And though he may have the ground now, and is today victorious in more ways than we can imagine, D-Day is coming and God and His angels will annihilate the evil spirits that have been choking us all our lives and the smog of sin will clear and we will see clearer than we’d ever thought possible, and then we will understand the power and the significance and sanctity of the Gospel our Lord has fought so hard to preserve.

So I ask you, will you be used by God to spread His Good Word or will you just continue to be effected by the deadly, spirit-numbing fumes of sin and Hell, and stay silent in your comfy little life?

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For Whom the “Bell” Tolls: My Thoughts on Velvet Elvis – Part 2

For the first part of this review, click here.

“Is the Bible the best God can do?” asks Bell. Apparently not, because he doesn’t seem to be sure God even wrote the Bible to begin with. He wonders if Corinthians, for example, is written by Paul or God or God through Paul or Paul through God. I wonder, as he’s standing at the pulpit on Sunday mornings preaching through 1 Timothy what he does with chapter 3 verse 16 (“All Scripture is inspired by God…”), but there’s really no reason for him to preach out of the Bible anyway, according to him. 

“The Bible is open-ended,” he says. “We cannot simply do what it says,” because it first must be interpreted. Meaning, “Someone has to decide what it means.” Yes, he’s saying that the Bible can be interpreted in any way we’d like. “When someone tells you what the Bible means, it’s not true.” It’s just their interpretation. Yes, this man is the pastor of a mega church. If you’re not yet wondering about the devastating effects of the gut-wrenching statements here, take the time to read some reviews on this book online. People really think this is deep, sound, theological teaching and many say it has changed their lives. I have no doubt their lives have been changed because Rob Bell the “superpastor” is releasing people from the obligation of obeying the Words of God. No one ever said a changed life is a holy life. 

To take this hellish theology further, he gives the example of a leader in his church who had a question about a section found in the Bible and after asking many learned people and consulting many references to no avail, she in the end, decided to just go right back to the Bible to see what it had to say about this topic. Bell’s response? That’s “toxic.” And if that’s not far enough, he says that Jesus Himself gives His followers permission to make new interpretations of the Bible (somehow he gets this idea from Matthew 16:9 and 18:18).

Earlier in his book he admitted that Jesus came to fulfill the Word of God by giving it flesh and bones. Now he’s telling his readers to do what they think Jesus is saying, not what He is saying. After all, it wasn’t until the 300’s the sixty-six books were agreed upon, according to Bell. “This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that ‘Scripture alone’ is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true.” 

If you want to irk Bell, tell him that you attend a church that teaches the Bible. According to him a church that’s growing has an easy yoke. Do you want to know why that church has “easy yoke”? Because it’s not holding its congregation to the standards of the Bible. The church may present an easier yoke on Sunday, but what are the attendee’s lives like the rest of the week, being starved for the Word of God, and having it withheld time after time?

Many yokes seem easy, which is what people will likely flock to. People want the easiest dieting books, the simplest instructions, the lighter load, the church that has very few standards and does not convict with the two-edged sword of the Holy Word of God. Many churches like this will grow. And why shouldn’t they? They’re giving out milk and honey! But over time that trampoline will get overcrowded and the few springs holding everyone up will give way and the party will end when the whole thing comes crashing down. Did I mention that not once, if my memory serves correctly, does Bell make any reference to Satan and the unseen world? 

To be concluded…

 

For Whom the “Bell” Tolls: My Thoughts on Velvet Elvis – Part 1

I wrote this a while back after reading Velvet Elvis by Robb Bell. I knew the book had stirred up a whirlwind of controversy in Christian circles, and before arguing one way or the other I decided to give the guy a chance (I liked his Nooma videos) and see what he had to say before choosing a “side.”

I wrote this back in 2009. Because of the length, I have broken it up into a few different posts. I’d love to hear from you all your thoughts:

It should go without saying that when you see the subtitle of a Christian book labeled, “Repainting the Christian Faith,” you should proceed with caution, should you decide to proceed at all. 
In this disjointed book, Rob Bell seems to want the theme to be about rethinking Christianity and the Bible as, according to him, Jesus did (that’s right, you’re going to hear a lot about a second-guessing Savior). One of his main points is that we are to reform Christianity. Or, as he puts it, we are to be “reforming theology. He uses the example of Martin Luther who exposed the sins of the church leaders to make the church about God and the people and not about business and stale religion. That’s a fine example to use, if Bell is speaking to an audience of money changers. But he’s speaking to you and me, Christians striving to live according to the Word of God because we love Him

And that’s just the introduction. He then begins his first chapter by explaining how everything, at some point had to be named. At some point God’s Spirit had to be named by us, and even the Trinity was once nameless until we came along. And then he subtly suggests that the Spirit of God is not eternal. That at some point, “God became the Spirit so He could be everywhere.” This also implies God was not (and cannot be on His own) omnipresent

Concerning the doctrine found in the Bible, [Bell] points his readers to the example of a trampoline. He seems to be unclear as to whether the net itself is God or if it’s Christianity or what, but the springs are what he focuses on. They are the doctrine that holds everything together. You can remove the springs (doctrine), stretch them, pull them, examine them. If you take one or two springs off of the trampoline, it will not fail, it won’t collapse. This is where the famous controversy comes in: that the virgin birth was not necessary to fulfill Scripture.

In his defense he claims to believe in the virgin birth. But what I find to be more startling than his example of the virgin birth is that he claims that ultimately you can take any prophecy or truth out of the Bible and Christianity still remains unfaltering, somehow leaving you with a sturdy foundation to stand upon. He contrasts this analogy of a trampoline to that of a brick wall where it’s assumed if you take out one unchanging, solid brick, the whole wall will crumble. Plus, Bell says that a wall is meant to be guarded by keeping people out as opposed to enjoying the amusement of a trampoline and inviting others to join you. It’s because you love jumping on the trampoline that you’re going to invite people to join you, he continues, just like if you really love God, you’ll invite people to experience Him. “You rarely defend things you love,” he says. I’d sure hate to have him as the leader of my family [when a burglar breaks in].

He then goes on to describe a leader that is much desired and sought after. One who has more questions than answers. He uses Jesus as an example in that He answered a lot of questions with questions. So in response to the questions people have, Bell boasts in a “Doubt Night” he holds at a church where people are invited to write their questions down on a slip of paper and have them read publicly. (“Why do babies die?”, “Why do bad guys have all the fun?” etc.) In my mind, this can only accomplish one purpose: create more doubt in already [wavering] minds, and without these questions being backed up by answers, I can only imagine how hazardous this kind of thinking is to a young Christian who is already plagued with uncertainties.

Bell says people don’t want a leader with all the answers [I'm assuming political jokes would not be welcome here], but someone who has questions themselves. So while Rob and his pals are doing somersaults and throwing pity parties on his springless trampoline, I think I’ll choose to invest my faith and efforts in those who are laying their lives and reputations on the line by defending the wall as if it’s their very home. They take the Word of God very seriously because they recognize that there are eternal consequences in regard to what we choose to put our faith in. 

To be Continued…

The Strength of Mercy

For those of you familiar with All God’s Children International, here is a book that documents its humble origins, written by Jan Beazely, one of the main instruments in getting this mission off the ground.

It’s hard to step out in faith sometimes, but we’re left with no excuse after watching the Beazely family make one faith-filled decision after another, following God’s guidance like stepping stones. The Strength of Mercy is the story of how a girl named Heather took a curious path for her life which lead to the adoption of her sister, and ultimately hundreds of children throughout the world. Here is an excerpt from the book:

“As I look back on what has unfolded during the past several years, I am awed by what god has accomplished. I’ve rediscovered – on an almost daily basis – that when we yield in trusting surrender, we are ushered into the very center of His will, further than we dreamed possible.

God’s divine direction and the strength of His mercy were first experienced intimately in our home. Our greatest hopes and fondest desires as parents culminated in this amazing journey that our daughter – and our entire family – was called to take. Not only did we hope for the fulfillment of the promise God had given me so many years earlier, but it was also an incredible privilege to watch our oldest daughter walk and talk with the Lord on such intimate terms. To watch her strain to hear His voice and then obediently move forward, even when He didn’t explain Himself, was pure delight. It was the most precious gift a parent could ever hope for. Our once-rebellious teenager was transformed into a woman of courage and grace before our very eyes. In the transition, God used her to rescue a needy child – her sister, our new daughter. 

Then God invited us as a family to share this same mercy with the world. When I first received God’s promise back in October 1985, I could never have dreamed that we would bring more than 300 children out of Eastern Europe to new homes and a new life … Neither could I have foreseen working in the countries of Bulgaria, China, Russia, Hungary, Macedonia, and Honduras…

For a truly redemptive story on the power of grace and the beauty and divine possibility of adoption, I recommend this book wholeheartedly. It would do some of us a lot of good to be reminded that even today, outside the pages of the Bible, it is still possible to follow God in faith even if the world is hostile against our decisions. Does anyone else have a good adoption-themed book to recommend to us?

Theo: Adopted into God’s Family

For those of you with little kids looking for quality entertainment less intense than Disney but deeper than Veggietales, look no further than this new Christian children’s series, Theo. Created by Mike Joens, the storyboard artist and animation producer/director for McGee and Me! and Adventures in Odyssey, this traditionally animated (2-d) cartoon series is centered around a friendly English gentleman who is a student of God’s Word and lives in a large house with two witty British mice. The series is faithful to guide viewers into the basics of systematic theology.

I want to point out an episode I had the opportunity to preview recently. It’s about adoption. The ten minute video does a very good job teaching on adoption’s basic foundational truths and the idea that people very different from us can indeed be adopted into our families and called brother or sister or son or daughter.

For families with kids looking into adoption, you might want to take special care to watch this video with your young ones. It can serve as a very good tool to help aid a discussion about what your family is preparing to do. It will help your kids not see adoption as just taking some outsider into the family, but how that is so significant of a move to the adopted one, and it ties in how we also, if given our lives to Christ, have been adopted into God’s family and how that is significant to us.

Check out the website here. You’ll find other videos you can order that deal with a few other doctrines of faith. McGee and Me! and Adventures in Odyssey lovers especially will find this series endearing and even a bit nostalgic.

Cult # 3: New Age – Nothing New Under the Sun

Plumbing was on the list of top priorities of things to do last night in the Toy home. I’m not handy by any stretch of the imagination, as evidenced by my sloppy and incomplete tool closet and many half-finished projects around the house. After an hour or two I finally plied the drain covering off the sink only to find out that a piece still needs to be unscrewed from the bottom. No problem. Well, we didn’t have the proper tools, but being a tightwad mixed with a little bit of determination to prove myself, I went about trying to unscrew the darn thing by my own means.

All the while, Sarabeth is telling me that I’m attempting to unscrew the right piece, but I’m seeing the whole apparatus wrong, therefore I can’t possibly get the proper grip in order to unscrew it successfully. I insisted that parts A and B were connected just below the sink. She insisted that part B was just a ring attached to part A. The way these parts were assembled made all the difference between dinner at 9 pm or dinner for breakfast. As I’m staring at the blasted sink between breaths, I finally see that Sarabeth was right the whole time. Part A was not inserted into part B. Part A was just a ring that screwed around Part B. I was seeing the whole thing wrong. But I could have sworn on everything that I was for once, in the right.

New Age is one of the hardest religions to define. It is a worldview whereas once people view the world through it, everything makes sense (or, if it doesn’t, that’s okay!). Very little amount of reasoning and debate will likely sway New Agers and persuade them of the truth. Like me and the sink, it’s very hard reason with New Age thinking. It is a worldview that offers a new way of thinking, yet it is explicitly based off of a lie that was birthed from the beginning of time. “If you eat this fruit, you will be like God…” Yes, the roots of New Age mysticism – as new and exciting as it looks – stretches all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It is indeed the Serpent’s old lie in an updated package. Like Pepsi’s slogan: “New look, same great taste.”

In New Age circles there is no formal structure or organization. Millions of New Age activists hope to transform society by bringing about a reawakening that will emphasize self-discovery, spiritualism, growth and enlightment.

New Age concepts find their roots in the Garden of Eden. It borrows from Hinduism, Buddhism, Babylonian mystery rituals (which are supposed to elevate humans to a godlike status) nature worship, occult practices and reincarnation. Like Hinduism, it teaches concepts like monism (all is one) and pantheism (all is god). It borrows form Taoism, a Chinese philosophy that teaches that all things are constantly changing (yin and yang), therefore nothing is absolute, all is relative, including morals and ethics.

New Age adapts esoteric knowledge from Gnoticism. It ignites a divine spark and power within, therefore negates the need for Christ’s atoning death. New Age thinking is a hybrid or blend of all of the above, plus several other ideas and phenomenon of modern origin: UFO’s, extraterrestrial intelligence and psychokinesis.

Some New Agers buy into one portion of New Age thinking while others accept other portions. New Agism has even caught many Christians in its web. I’ll never forget when a Christian I know was really excited to read Oprah’s book recommendation, The Secret, thinking that it contained great spiritual truths. Not everyone may like the story of Avatar, but it’s the concepts and monistic worldviews – not the nonexistent plot – that skyrocketed the expensive and disastrous film into Box Office history. Take a look at other ways New Age has been influenced by or has influenced modern pop culture:

The 60’s became a springboard for the generation gap, anti-establishment thinking and psychedic expression through LSD and other drugs. This is when the Beatles helped introduce transcendental meditation. The musical Hair introduced Eastern ideas – “Age of Aquarius,” the theme song of NAM with direct references to astrology (mentions moon being in the seventh house and Jupiter aligning with Mars, Peace guiding the planets and love steering the stars). Many celebrities, including Shirley MacLaine, champion New Age thinking, who ebulliently states, “You are unlimited, you just don’t realize it.”

And a side note for my eschatologist friends and political followers , the Age of Aquarius, according to New Agers, will usher in a new world order with three ideals in one world government, one world leader, and one world religion.

In New Age thinking, God is more of an “it” rather than a “He.” Creation is a myth because there is no Creator. All that is here was always here. How? That is no one’s concern (a good reason to skip out of Science class). Salvation is found within themselves. Instead of saving one’s soul from being fallen and sinful, you should achieve a new “awareness” of your divinity and oneness with all things. (I wish I could have been one with the sink last night so I could undo myself.) Christ is demoted from second Person of the trinity to one of many “cosmic Christs,” including Buddah, Moses, Elijah and Mohammed.

Check out the New Age admonition – “Create your own reality.” All New Agers agree on one central dogma: All truth is relative, there are no absolutes, and you find “God” within yourself.

New Age dabbles quite heavily in Occultism, channeling, paranormal experiences, spiritualism, and a host of other dangerous practices placing individuals in the midst of a very real and dangerous spiritual world unguarded by Christ. The Bible cannot be more clear on this. One verse sums it up: “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” Leviticus 20:6.

I realize this doesn’t being to cover the tip of the ice burg on the topic of New Age mysticism, but I hope it give you an idea of the powerful influence it’s having on our nation and our world.

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