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…

 

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.

Image Credit


“Stop Nagging Me, Dreams!”

I am sure many of you have seen the Disney movie The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid. If not, stop reading this post, get on over to Netflix and order it. After you watch it, you really ought to read the book, because it tells the story of Jimmy Morris’s life preceding the events in the movie (read a post about the movie here). He wasn’t always as gentle as Quaid portrays him, though he does a great job reenacting his personality and easy-going demeanor. And it wasn’t as easy to get to play in the big leagues as only a two hour film can fit. The movie only hints at the fact that Jimmy Morris had wanted to play baseball since he was a kid – try three years old! It took him thirty-two years to accomplish his dream and pitch in the major leagues before thousands of people.

I’ve only heard of few stories where the dream achieved was an easy road. Are you on that road? Is it bumpier than you expected it to be? Has it taken many detours and wound more mountains that you thought existed? If so, you’re in good company – planet earth! The world is filled with dreamers and wannabe achievers. We’re all trying to accomplish goals in our lives. Some of us are just trying to make it through the next work week without getting fired (or giving up), and others are trying to pluck away at the childhood dream we’ve had since we were kids that just won’t let us alone no matter how hard we try to ignore it.

I’m one of those people. Ever since I was old enough to breathe on my own, I have wanted to tell stories. If I had any possible way of telling a story, I would. I used to sit in my room for hours and record myself on a cassette player narrating, voice-acting, and even humming the music to my stories. I must have filled up dozens of tapes with silly ramblings and disjointed plots that only a nine-year old could come up with. Then I decided I liked to draw, so I would constantly be making comic books for my friends to read, about forest animals getting into all sorts of adventures (one of them was up to 300 pages long). When my friends grew out of reading comics, I then started making movies, and including them in the fun. I’d spend days plotting out a new story for us to act out in front of the camera, and I’d revel in putting together premier nights at our church for people to gather and watch our newest movies.

After school I drifted from all of that, and decided that was all just a dream – wanting to be a movie director or a famous cartoonist… but as I wound my way through life, I found out that I couldn’t stop writing. I would write stories and plays and little devotionals (yes, I’ve even tried my hand out in poetry for a brief stint). At the heart of who I am, what I want to be, is a storyteller. So much so that it’s gotten me in trouble, as I have been prone to excessive lying or exaggerating, something that I’m still trying to overcome.

I’m constantly studying moving films and popular fiction to find out what makes those stories come to life. My poor wife patiently endures my ramblings after we watch a movie together as I dissect its contents, pondering aloud how and why I was so moved, or what made it come to life.

Jimmy Morris, the author of his autobiography, hardly ever thought about anything else but baseball, even when he tried not to think about it. What is your dream? What is that one thing that has followed you from childhood that just keeps nagging you, nagging you, nagging you? Maybe it’s nagging you for a reason. Maybe you should give it a shot, and go for it. Small steps to start off with, of course, you know, just get your toes wet and see what happens.

Three years ago I dipped my foot in the uncertain waters of dreams and I ended up writing my first novel. I didn’t even have a guarantee that it would be published. Yet, now it is going to be, and it should be released by the end of this year. Another dream of mine (and Sarabeth’s) is that we have wanted to adopt a child for quite a while. This is another place where we are just testing the waters, but know we need to jump in and trust God to watch over us (and our prospective kid). We’re hoping that some of the proceeds of my book will go toward our adoption. I’m writing my second novel right now, in case this one falls through. But hopefully it won’t.

If you like biographical dramas, read and watch The Rookie. It will inspire you to go after your dreams, as foolish as it may sound. If you like pulse-pounding, adrenaline-pumping adventure, follow my book, The Man in the Box, on facebook, and watch for updates. I’ve been posting segments online for those who might be interested in purchasing it when it comes out.

[Image Credit]

Cult #2: Mormonism

Mormonism is the fastest growing and most successful cult. Their church is called The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, or LDS for short. They claim to be Christians, that they believe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But they employ semantics to nearly every Christian term.

A history:

Joseph Smith Jr.: How it all began:

At the age of 14, Joseph had a vision that Father and Son appeared before him. He asked what Christian denomination he should join. They said, “None,” because they were all wrong and corrupt.

In 1823, Smith, 17, saw the angel Moroni and told him of a book written on golden plates by former inhabitant of the continent that would contain “the fullness of the everlasting gospel.” He dug them up 4 years later. Mormons deny this but Smith used occult practices to find information (scrying).

By 1830 Smith published the Book of Mormon and founded the Mormon Church. It grew rapidly from 1831-1844 establishing strongholds in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. Mormons drew hostility and persecution. Missouri militia slaughtered, raped and pillaged Mormon believers, obeying an “extermination” order issued by the governor.

Smith continued to receive revelations that guided him where to go and what to do next and established different doctrines.

Polygamy was issued in 1843, Smith said he would destroy his first wife if she resisted.

Smith was killed while in jail and Mormons claim their founder died as a “Christian martyr.” But in truth he went down fighting, using a six-shooter, that was smuggled to him, killing at least 2 of his assailants.

Bringham Young led LDS to settle in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847. Polygamy became a formal practice.

Polygamy was often practiced until 1890 and was a chief reason Utah had been denied statehood at least 6 times.

LDS Church claims the biblical canon never closed and revelation continued with Joseph Smith as well as other presidents/prophets of the church right up to present day.

Mormons believe that God is “progressive,” having attained His exalted state by advancing along a path that His children (Mormons) are permitted to follow. According to Mormonism, He is an exalted man. One of a species called gods: These gods existed before God. When God was created then fully matured and was sent to another planet. He learned all He could, grew up, died, then was resurrected. Having attained godhood, He returned to a heavenly abode with a body of flesh and bones, where He joined with His goddess wife (Mother God) to have millions of spirit children to populate planet Earth. This is called “the preexistence.” Was not created ex nihilo. God was created by a god out of who resided and one point in eternal matter. God is not eternal, but matter is.

According to Mormons, Jesus is God’s firstborn “creation.” Lucifer was God’s next-born. Everyone else was created to populate the earth. God chose Jesus over Lucifer to be man’s savior. This caused Satan to rebel and fought a war against Heaven (led by Michael archangel). He was cast down to earth to live as a spirit without a human body. Meanwhile God instructed Jesus to create earth and everything in it and Adam and Eve with the help of the spirit children using external matter. Among the descendants were spirit children who fought halfheartedly against Satan in the Great War. They were sentence to be born mortals with black stain as part of their lineage of Cain. God had sex with Mary to conceive Jesus. Orson Pratt taught that Jesus married and had children by those women. After His death Jesus “gained fullness,” which He attained through a resurrected body. He reigns in Heaven with the Father-God. Smith says Jesus will eventually take the Father-God’s place as Father-God moves on to even higher realms of glory exalting a progression.

Trinity- Mormons believe that the trinity is not consisted of one God whose essence is found in three persons, but three Gods – three distinct bodies (Holy Ghost is only a spirit body and cannot become a man.)

We, as Christians part ways on just about every point of Mormonism. Do not let them convince you that they are Christians, because our belief systems are as different as night and day. We believe there is just one God, existing in three persons, and Jesus is His only begotten Son who paid the atonement for our sins (including fornication, multiple lovers/wives, idolatry, following false belief-systems). We are to have one one spouse and be faithful to that spouse until death does us part, and when we die, we either go to Heaven where we worship God for eternity or go to Hell and be punished for not believing in the One who offered salvation.

[Image Credit]

A Very Good Date Movie

“Chick flicks” are like nails on a chalkboard to me. Not only because of the goofball characters, shallow dialogue and lack of substance, but because everyone assumes that the couple lives happily ever after just because the girl finally agrees to go on a date with the guy who’d been begging for the past 90 minutes. I think it can only be considered a true happy ending if the couple actually seals their vows under the alter at the end of the movie. I used to call that a complete love story.

And then I got married.

Now I know that wooing the beautiful girl was just the easy part – the prologue, if you will. But it’s marriage that really bears the weight of true “happily ever” love. And most of the time, it doesn’t hold it. I’m sure there are plenty of readers who are wanting out of their marriage, or are doubting the stability of their love for one another. Our pastor preached a wonderful sermon on marriage last Sunday at Ninth and O Church, and you can listen to it here, called, “When Marital Dreams Turn to Matrimonial Nightmares.”

I consider the movie Sweet Home Alabama one of the best love stories to come out of the recent Hollywood vault. (The biggest reason is because there’s no sexuality. Some dialogue and projected world views might be unsuitable for children.) I’m sure there are others out there that are better, but like I mentioned, I don’t go out hunting for these types of movies. I consider it one of the best because it’s a movie about a fight for a broken marriage hanging on the balance between a second chance and divorce. What’s wonderful about it, is that the featured couple really never work things out between themselves, but they still give their marriage another go – they don’t wait till everything’s “perfect.” There are a couple of silly scenes, but all in all, I recommend it for spouses who need a boost of marital inspiration.

We live in a society that proclaims, if you’re not happy, then you’re free to go. That is the biggest piece of garbage that this country has swallowed. You divorce your spouse to hunt for another escapade, repeat the honeymoon, get married, have a bunch of fights … then what? You will never be fully happy with the person (or people) you married, but you will find the most joy in looking back at a lifelong commitment, unbroken by temptations and strife from within and outside the marriage. (Check out the movie Up for the best picture of marriage I’ve ever seen outside of real life). There’s joy. There’s happiness. Looking at your partner of so many years knowing that nothing has torn you two apart, as wild as a roller coaster you’ve been on, even when all things seemed hopeless.

If you’re stuck in a rut in your marriage, or if you just want out, or if you can’t stand just one more fight, I challenge you to get on your knees this very moment and beg the Creator of marriage to give you just a little bit more strength, a little bit more wisdom. Women and sisters in Christ, ask for a gentle and quite spirit which can prove to be more seductive than lipstick and perfume. Men and brothers, ask for the desire for integrity and dignity to stick with your marriage, through thick and thin, spurring every outside lust and temptation, and focus your attention back on your wife.

Couples, listen to the sermon, send the kids to bed early and have a date night and watch Sweet Home Alabama, and enjoy this excerpt from my upcoming novel The Man in the BoxRobbie Lake has been wanting out of his marriage due to the mundane nature of family life. So he finds a secret world hidden in a cardboard box which he returns to over and over again, fighting monsters and being hailed as a god – the complete opposite of home life. And one day his dad, noticing his family suffering the consequences of his absence, confronts him:

“I know I didn’t teach you much even when your mom was alive. But I had always hoped that you’d learned at least a little something from us while you could. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my marriage and I’m sure you have too, but the important thing is that you still get through them all. I don’t care if your kids rebel and run out on you, I don’t care if you lose all your money and you end up on the street, just as long as you end up on the street together. I pulled a lot of crap with your mother, but I never walked out on her.”

“You were let off easy because she died.”

“No. I still think about her. I still miss her. I wish we had more time together. Her dying only proved that had I left her when I wanted, it would have been the biggest mistake of my life. But you and your issues that you’ve got with someone else or your work or whatever… you’ve got to deal with it if you’re at all serious about staying with Rosalynn to the end. The world’s out to tear you apart. Are you going to let it?”

Follow The Man in the Box on facebook.

[Image Credit]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 13,276 other followers