Rob Bell Top 100??

I know, I seem to be beating the Rob Bell bell quite a bit lately. But there is just so much noise that needs to be made about this guy so that the faithful understand his error. The latest is that he has been named to Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential people of the year.  I don’t wish to say much more about him, other than to quote Frank Turk over at Pyromaniacs.com who is also answering the question of the reality of hell in an open letter to Jon Meacham of Time Magazine who wrote the piece about Bell. Frank writes:

How would we know the answer to that question? Is there a way to know whether or not the Christian faith (and specifically, the Christian church) has made any decisions about the doctrine of hell? If there’s not, I think Rob Bell is actually a kind of snake-oil salesman — because let’s face it: he’s portraying a doctrine of hell which he thinks other people ought to adopt. He’s a partisan guy — and we can see that in almost every interview he’s done for his book so far. That is: he wants us to know that for certain the Greek word “Aeon” doesn’t mean “forever and ever” (at least, not in reference to hell — in reference to heaven he’s convinced that the good stuff doesn’t ever stop). He thinks that we do God a disservice by saying hell is punishment that lasts longer than the crime(s). He wants people to get a firm grip on the doctrine of hell — and not fear it. We should embrace it as a commentary on what we do to ourselves.

What he doesn’t want for them is a doctrine in which hell is an unquenchable verdict.

That’s strange, isn’t it — if the story of salvation in the biblical discussion is, as you put it, contradictory, perhaps the problem is that Rob has put too fine a point on it. And if that’s the case, I wonder why his influence is seen as so useful by yourself and by TIME.

Turk knows that Meacham will not answer, nor will Bell. But Turk also knows we need to ask the questions for those who seem to be asking relevant questions of our day. If we are going to ask the question “Is hell dead?” we must be willing to answer the question according to the only source we have on the subject, namely the Holy Bible. Otherwise, we make ourselves to be fools like Bell and Meacham, who think themselves wise according to the world. Here is my earlier piece on the topic in which I show that even J.C. Ryle can correct Bell from the grave.

BTW, I looked at the full list, well, part of the full list of influential people for 2011, and I find that I know very few of them. That is actually good in my book. The object in life is to know Christ and be known by Him, not to know the temporary and passing movers and shakers of our society. After all, the most influential person of all time is… Jesus Christ. Only He can change the heart of a man like Rob Bell or Jon Meacham, or even Timothy J. Hammons (as He has already done). That is quite influential.

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What is Faith?

We are working our way through the Heidelberg Catechism in our morning worship on Sunday’s and I have to admit that I’m a strong advocate of catechism. Over at Neil’s site, they are discussing the topic of what it means to be truly saved and if one can lose their salvation. I think if we would use the catechisms of the Reformation more often in worship and Sunday school, there would be a lot less confusion among the laity (not that Neil and Stan, or the others at his site are confused. They are showing the fallacy of those who believe you can lose your salvation).

One of the reasons that the catechism are so helpful is because they help clarify what is that the Bible says about the important aspects of our beliefs. Yes, some godly men of the Reformation got together and wrote down the important aspects of our belief, explaining the important terms, helping us to understand our faith. Far too many people ignore the catechisms and for this reason, fail to glean from those dear brothers that have gone on before us.

I remember when I first discovered the Westminster Shorter catechism and how helpful it was in understanding our faith. My first emotion was one of delight because it clarified so many questions that I had. The second emotion was anger, because I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary and they completely ignored the catechism (the beginning of the end for my love affair with DTS). Every church in America should be using the catechism in one form or another. Not that they are the end all, be all of the Christian faith. But they are excellent tools in helping us understand.

Here is Question 21 from the Heidelberg Catechism:

Question 21. What is true faith?

Answer: True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, (a) but also an assured confidence, (b) which the Holy Ghost (c) works by the gospel in my heart; (d) that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, (e) are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

Notice that true faith is clearly defined. So many in evangelical circles would benefit from this definition. Too many reduce faith to feelings, impressions, pizza-induced bad dreams, out-of-control emotions and the like. Yet true faith is none of those things. It is clearly defined to be that which is worked in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and placed in the works and merits of Jesus Christ. It is not just knowledge of Christ, but knowledge of Christ that results in belief in Him for salvation.

We must recognize that God’s hand must work in us to make it more than just knowledge. This is why so many gospel presentations are in error. They describe faith as something akin to trusting an airline pilot to fly the plane safely. But saving faith is more than human trust. It is God’s grace to us, of the knowledge of Christ, worked in us by the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring about true repentance and salvation.

Now some will say: “Should we not come to Christ with child-like faith.” Yes, we can. But we should not remains childlike. We need to grow and mature in our faith. This means that at times God will answer our prayers clearly and in the positive in order to build us up. But there are times where He seems silent regarding our prayers, developing our faith even more so in the process. Understanding what faith is, helps us as well. We see that our faith is in Him. This being the case, it drives us to know Him and be known by Him all the more.

Discover the catechisms. They are wonderful tools in developing our faith and understanding.

George Bush and Chick-fil-A Remember the Imago Dei!

Twice now in a span of a week I have read words that were music to my ears.

The latest: Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy pointed out the reality that we are all made in the image of God, therefore we are all worthy of respect and dignity. He was talking about the reasons that his company had increased in profits over the past 48 months, while the rest of the country has struggled in the business arena. Read full article here.

Cathy said his company has focused on applying the principles of Matthew 5, 6, and 7 to the business model in order to make the customer feel just as special while spending $6 as if they were spending $25 on a meal. (Funny, but every time I take the kids to Chick-fil-A I end up spending about $25… but maybe he is talking per person. I’m not sure I’ve been in a restaurant like that in years). The point is that Cathy is taking the principles of the Sermon on the Mount to the business place and it has improved sales. Then he said what is music to my ears:

“Here’s the deal. All of us were created in God’s image,” said the Chick-fil-A CEO. “Because we are created in God’s image – [who] is to be treated with honor, dignity, and respect – we desperately in our deepest part of who we are … desire to be treated respectfully and with honor and with respect.”

I love it! This is how we are all to treat one another because of the fact that we are made in God’s image. While Cathy was not saying this, I will, this is the very reason aborting our children is so heinous. We are aborting those who are made in the image of God. Children, the moment they are conceived, are image bearers and worthy of life.

The other place I came across someone who gets it was in George W. Bush’s book, Decision Points. In his chapter on “Stem Cells” he writes:

“The abortion issue is difficult, sensitive, and personal. My faith and conscience led me to conclude that human life is sacred. God created man in His image and therefore every person has value in His eyes. It seemed to me that an unborn child, while dependent on its mother, is a separate and independent being worthy of protection in its own right.”

Amen, and amen. I’m glad he knows that and wrestled with the embryonic stem cell issue. While many of us have concluded that he came to the wrong decision in the matter, it has turned out for good. Because of Bush’s policy of only providing federal funding for a limited number of stem cells (I believe 60 embryos), doctors and scientists have discovered that stem cells from the umbilical cords provide far more benefits than any embryonic stem cells. Read the NY Times article here.

It was also interesting that Charles Krauthammer recognized the correlation between Bush’s stance and the scientist discovery. He ended up writing, “The verdict is clear: Rarely has a president–so vilified for a moral stance–been so thoroughly vindicated.” Read his article here.

Did the President make the right decision? I don’t know about that. But God still used it for good and hopefully, all Bush’s critics will step back and recognize that Bush had the right view on life. Each child is made in the image of God, therefore worthy of life. Each life is precious and we need to remember that.

Both Bush and Cathy are Christians and applying biblical principles to their lives. Both are also being blessed because of it. Amen and amen once again.

The Public Death of Christ

The Public Death of Christ

“For ever let us bless God that the death of our Lord Jesus Christ was so widely known and so public an event. Had He been suddenly stoned in some popular tumult,– or privately beheaded like John the Baptist in prison, there never would have been wanting Jewish and Gentile unbelievers, who would have denied that the Son of God had died at all. The wisdom of God so ordered events that such a denial was rendered impossible. Whatever men may think of the doctrine of Christ’s atoning death, they can never deny the fact that Christ died. Publicly He rode into Jerusalem a few days before His death. Publicly He was seen and heard in the city until the day that He was betrayed. Publicly He was brought before the High Priests and Pilate, and condemned. Publicly He was led forth to Calvary, and nailed to the cross. The corner-stone and crowning-event in our Lord’s ministry was His death for sinners. Of all the events of His ministry, that death was the one most public, and the one witnessed by the greatest number of Jews. And that death was the ‘life of the world.’”

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 2, p. 310.

The Jesus We are Waiting For!

The problem the Pharisees had with Jesus was that He wasn’t the Messiah they were waiting for. They were waiting for an earthly king, with an earthly reign, an earthly purpose and an earthly way of doing things. It really upset them when the Messiah arrived on the scene and wasn’t the least bit interested in bringing them a kingdom to their liking. Their solution? Hang Him on the cross.

I get the same impression today when those of us who are amillennial in our beliefs, meaning that we do NOT believe in a literal, earthly reign of Christ, are confronted by the premillennial dispensational. In other words, it is upsetting to those in the Premill-Dispy camp when we don’t take a literal view of the kingdom of Christ, like the Pharisees did. We see Christ’s Kingdom as not of this world, coming not with observation, and concentrating on righteousness, peace and joy. We see the Kingdom of God as something that can only be entered into by a new birth, not swearing loyalty to earthly potentate.

If you would like to know more, listen to the sermon I preached this past Sunday by going here. It is based upon Luke 17:20-21.

J.C. Ryle Confronts False Teacher Rob Bell

Imagine that. The words of Bishop J.C. Ryle, penned back in the 1800s, condemns false prophet Rob Bell from the grave. For those of you who are not up on Rob Bell, he is the latest liberal pastor to come forth and espouse such nonsense as the fact that people do not really need Jesus to get into heaven. In his book, Love Wins, he puts forth the premise that all people will eventually get into heaven after they die because love wins. This basically means the God is truly cruel in making His Son go to the cross, die the most shameful death ever, for no reason at all. I always think it odd that when guys like Bell try to emphasize the love of God, at the expense of His other attributes, they always end up making God out to be even more cruel than they imagine. Remember, in their minds, they think it cruel that God would send anyone to hell.

The reality is that men like Bell fail to understand mankind’s sinful nature. Paul shows us in Romans (8:7-8) that we are at enmity with God in our natural state. This means our flesh is at war with God. We are rebellious to the core against our Creator and He has every right to do with us as He pleases. We ALL deserve hell for we ALL have rebelled against Him. Out of His love, He does choose to save some from everlasting punishment through His Son Jesus Christ. Those who believe in Christ for salvation are saved, and do not perish (John 3:16). Those who do not believe in Him for salvation stand condemned already (John 3:18).

Bell, and others like him, go on to make the case that those in hell, if they repent, knock on the door, etc., will be graciously accepted into God’s holy presence. This is not what Scripture puts forth for two reasons. First, they will not ever repent. Remember the flesh is at war with God. Romans 3:10-20 also shows us that no one seeks after God. No one! Not on this side of death and especially on the other side of death.

God must seek us first before we will believe in Him. He must change our hearts and convert us for us to become members of the Kingdom of Heaven (John 3:5), for we are spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Secondly, we see from Scripture that they cannot pass between heaven and hell. Jesus tells us (notice that they are the words of Christ) in the story of the Rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) that there is a great gulf fixed between heaven and hell preventing those on one side crossing over to the other side. Going between the two is not possible even if one in heaven wanted to take a day trip into hell. This is one of the deeper truths of Scripture. Jesus is telling us that when we reach our final destiny, it truly is a final destiny. This is how He created heaven and hell (Matthew 25:41, Colossians 1:15-18).

This story is instructive because it shows us that the rich man doesn’t desire heaven. Those in hell do not desire heaven. They merely want relief from their anguish. There is no desire to repent and trust in Christ, even after judgment. They remain in their sin and the very sin that kept them from ever trusting in Christ on this side of death, keeps them from trusting in Christ on that side of death. So the entire premise of Bell’s book is wrong. This is what happens when you emphasize human free will over and against what Scripture tells us. We can say that we are free to choose Christ, but not capable to choose Christ because out of the abundance of the heart, we speak and do as our heart desires. Since our hearts are rotten to the core to begin with, we will never freely choose Christ on our own accord. We need the new birth to take place in order for us to even see our need for Christ. That doesn’t happen in hell. (Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed for me to die once, but after this the judgment). There are no second chances. Bell, in his sinful, fallen attempt to make God out to be so gracious and loving, ends up making God out to be cruel and wicked for causing Christ to die needlessly.

Ryle, in his fantastic book Practical Religion, writes:

“Every reasonable conception that we can form of a future state is directly against these teachers (those who teach universalism). Fancy a heaven which should contain all mankind! Fancy a heaven in which holy and unholy, pure and impure, good and bad, would be all gathered together in one confused mass! What point of union would there be in such company? What common bond of harmony and brotherhood? What common delight in a common service? What concord, what harmony, what peace, what oneness of spirit could exist? Surely the mind revolts from the idea of a heaven in which there would be no distinction between the righteous and the wicked,–between Pharaoh and Moses, between Abraham and the Sodomites, between Paul and Nero, between Peter and Judas Iscariot, between the man who dies in the act of murder or drunkenness, and men like Baxter, George Herbert, Wilberforce, and M’Cheyne! Surely an eternity in such a miserably confused crowd would be worse than annihilation itself! Surely such a heaven would be no better than hell!”

What he is saying is that heaven really won’t be heaven if the likes of Peter and Adolf Hitler are there together. Where is the bond of fellowship? Where is the unity? One followed and died for Christ, the other despised Christ and wanted to become his own god. Peter sought to build up the church, Adolf sought to destroy it and replace it with his own religion. Peter was humbled time and time again for God’s glory, Adolf exalted himself over and over, even in his death, he refused to be humbled by God, and his sinful pride won out.

Ryle continues:

“The interests of all holiness and morality are directly against these teachers. If all men and women alike are God’s children, whatever is the difference between them in their lives,– and all alike going to heaven, however different they may be from one another here in the world, — where is the use of laboring after holiness at all? What motive remains for living soberly, righteously, and godly? What does it matter how men conduct themselves, if all go to heaven, and nobody goes to hell? Surely the heathen poets and philosophers of Greece and Rome could tell us something better and wiser than this! Surely a doctrine which is subversive of holiness and morality, and takes away all motives to exertion, carries on the face of it the stamp of its origin. It is of earth, and not of heaven. It is of the devil, and not of God.”

This last point is why this doctrine keeps coming back. What Bell is proposing is nothing new at all. The error was there in the Garden of Eden when the serpent said, “Did God really say…“Satan was challenging Adam and Eve with this premise: “does it really matter whether or not you obey God?” The answer is absolutely yes it matters. Our very conscious tell us this. How we live matters. For Adam and Eve, their righteousness was at stake in the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They lost that righteousness and we did too. So now the difference comes in belief. If we trust in Christ for salvation, then we have His righteousness and are accepted into His fellowship and His heaven. If we refuse to believe, then we get to keep our own rotten righteousness and spend eternity in hell with it.

Bell brings us absolutely nothing new in his book Love Wins. He just recycles the same old lies of Satan. For that, Bell’s writings need to be condemned and he needs to get out of the ministry, return to the secular world and sell Blue Bell Ice Cream for a living. He would do mankind a much greater good than he is currently doing with his drivel.

BTW, I wonder if Rob Bell ever realize how much his universalist doctrine must anger the new atheist. Think about it. The new atheist is spending all his time and energy trying to say that there is no God, and that we are intellectual idiots for believing that there is a God. Then along comes Rob Bell and tells them: “Hey, it doesn’t matter that you don’t believe in God. You are going to end up in heaven any way.” The very point of the atheist is the fact that he wants nothing to do with God, and here Rob is telling them, “too bad, so sad. You’re going to heaven regardless of your beliefs!” I’m sure Bell is writing in such a manner so that he can “reach” the atheist. But he has to get past the point of angering them, and… looking like an stupid fool, for bringing down the condemnation of those of us who stand for the truth.

For more on Rob Bell, check out my earlier post here, and Neil’s post on Rob Bell’s take on John 3:16 here along with another post entitled Interesting Facebook Chat About Rob Bell. For more J.C. Ryle Quotes, go here.

We Love His Honesty!

Last night, as we were working in the office, Andy came in and wanted something. Joey was right behind him, and before Andy could say a word, Joey hit him in the back as hard as he could and took off for the other room.

Clearly, Joey had sinned against his brother and I started after him immediately. Andy was fine and left the room for us to deal with the transgressor. As is his fashion, Joey was madder than an irritated hornet so it took a moment to calm him down and find out why he hit Andy. It was for nothing more than the fact that Andy wouldn’t play with him. Not sufficient. The only grounds in our household for hitting someone is in self defense, and then not from behind.

After admonitions and the subsequent backside discipline, I told Joey he needed to go apologize and ask Andy to forgive him. With big tears running down his face, he headed off to the kitchen to make things right. Or so I thought.

Joey wouldn’t apologize.

“Joey, you need to tell Andy that you are sorry for hitting him, and ask for his forgiveness.” Those were my instructions.

“I can’t say it,” he said over and over. I told him what to say one more time.

“I can’t make myself say it.” At this point, I’m beginning to laugh. I had him up in my lap as he cried and buried his face into my shirt.

“I’m not sorry I hit him!”

He wasn’t the least bit sorry. He admitted that he wanted to hit him and he was mad. I loved his honesty. He wasn’t trying to hide his feelings at all toward his brother. He was mad because he wouldn’t play with him and he wanted to strike back.

I love the fact that Joey was honest, and told him so. It’s better to be honest about something than it is to lie about it. We told him that he still needed to apologize and ask forgiveness. After a bit more backside discipline, he finally agreed.

He walked into the kitchen where Andy was patiently waiting for Joey to apologize. Andy’s attitude was great. He wanted to forgive Joey and show his love for him.

Joey mumble the apology. Andy forgave him immediately, gave him a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek. We were so proud of Andy.

However, Joey was still in a stink. He turned, walked over to the laundry basket, grabbed a towel and made sure he got that kiss off his face. We all just laughed. He was still mad at his brother and was making sure to wipe that kiss away. He probably would have hit Andy again if he thought he could get away with it.

After a nights rest, his anger has subsided. He spent the first five minutes of the day telling us that Andy was not in school, but up in bed, under the covers. Yes, he was mad. But he really does love his older brother and spends a good portion of the day thinking about the moment we get to go get Andy from school. It’s out of the love that probably caused him to be so angry. He waits at home all day for his big brother, and when Andy won’t play with him, sheer disappointment. But the hitting has to stop. That is not the correct reaction to disappointment. Given his temper is what it is, I imagine we haven’t see the last of this sort of thing.

On Turning 50!

Joey at my Dad’s ranch.

Yes, today is the big day. By God’s grand and glorious mercy, I turn 50 years old today. I am truly thankful that He has blessed me with so many years. It’s another testimony of His mercy towards me in not giving me what I deserve, but showing me grace and kindness instead. Amen and amen.

After my experience of turning 40, I thought this day would be hard as well. (The good people of First Presbyterian Church of Osceola, AR brought me a wheelchair on that day… and took me to a cake that was covered with black icing. It took me years to get over that. In fact, my counselor said just last week, “get over it you big oaf!” So I do forgive Lance and Patty for what they did.)

Seriously, I do feel blessed today at turning 50. I know there are those who will say that a good portion of my life is behind me, to which I say, “I’m saving the best for last!” Just look at how God has blessed me since my 40th birthday. He has given me two wonderful sons. Life is so much better with a loving family. The constant joys of family are a true reminder of God’s goodness to us.

For example, just last night, Joey was standing in the doorway to my office as we were heading for the bathroom for their nightly baths. He stretched his legs out to make a bridge for Andy and told him to crawl through. Andy did. Then he told me I had to crawl through as well. I dropped down on my chest and started crawling through his legs, and almost got through before he fell on top of me in true “rolling on the floor” laughter. He kept trying to get up off me and make me go through, but every time, he fell down again. Maybe in a couple of years.

It is at moments like that I realize how much God has blessed me. We are not rich, or popular, but we are loved by our God and He has blessed us in so many ways that far surpass the things of this world. That is probably the best lesson I’ve learned in the last 10 years.

I might sum it up like this: know and be known by Christ, love your family and see the world for what it is (passing away.) God’s goodness and riches are the true riches of life. All others pass like the latest electronic fad.

As for my birthday today, I’m enjoying a cup of hot coffee in my new favorite mug. The boys give me a new mug every year for Christmas and this year they gave me one with the Texas flag on it. I love it. I’m also wearing a new shirt they gave me for my birthday. I would be wearing a new pair of shoes, but Dick’s Sporting Goods doesn’t carry my size, so we had to order them off the internet. I was so bummed last night when they told me that. I don’t get to buy new shoes very often, so it was exciting to go to the store in the hopes of wearing new shoes last night. It didn’t happen. The new shoes should arrive in 3 to 5 business days via FedEx.

Regardless of that minor set back, I’m already having a wonderful birthday. Joey has already come in and crawled up in my lap. Later today, we will have a big dinner before I leave for the church tonight of chicken fettuccine Alfredo and birthday cake. And no, this birthday cake will not be covered in black icing. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Do We Idolize Our Suffering?

Working on my sermon this week, I came across this quote from J.C. Ryle. It comes from the lessons about the 10 lepers that were healed by Christ, yet only one came back to praise and thank Him for doing so. Are we truly thankful for what the Lord does for us?

“The lesson before us is humbling, heart-searching, and deeply instructive. The best of us are far too like the nine lepers. We are more ready to pray than to praise, and more disposed to ask God for what we have not, than to thank Him for what we have. Murmurings, and complainings, and discontent abound on every side of us. Few indeed are to be found who are not continually hiding their mercies under a bushel, and setting their wants and trials on a hill. These things ought not so to be. But all who know the church and the world must confess that they are true. The wide-spread thankfulness of Christians is the disgrace of our day. It is a plain proof of our little humility.”

Are we more ready to praise God in the midst of our trials, or set the sufferings we endure on the mantle of our pride? Praise Him in all things.