Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Cult of Glenn Beck and the Religion of Tea

I really hadn't intended to write anything about politics again for a long time. But today at work we got off on a tangent and "Stuff" came up. To be honest though, this post really isn't all that much about politics. It's really about false Messiahs. It's just that the topic brushes up against politics. That's all.

So this afternoon at the store, myself and two friends were talking. Mick asked if I remembered Jim Jones and the big cult suicide down in Jonestown, Guyana. (I have no idea how that, of all topics, came up. Mick is just weird that way.) I said that I did, and we kind of went off from there.

For those of you who don't know, there was a fellow named Jim Jones who founded the People's Temple in the 1950s. It was a quasi-christian set up, with Jones as the leader. In 1974, a huge chunk of them left the U.S. for Guyana to set up a socialist paradise. Instead, in 1978, they either willfully drank, or were force-fed poisoned kool aid and 900 people died. (Hence the term "To drink the Kool-Aid"..."Oh, yeah!")

"As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"

Jesus answered, "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, "I am the Christ," and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come."
Matt. 24:3-6

So this weekend, the Fox talk show host, Glenn Beck, held a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. It was all about restoring America's honor, with no solid explanation as to what that meant. I guess that who ever loses an election is supposed to assume that they can explain the loss by saying the country has also lost it's honor and such.

I am no fan of people on either extreme of the political divide...a divide that seems to get wider every time political talk shows are aired. I paid little attention to Beck's rally until I heard about the controversy of the date he chose. I had no idea that it coincided with the big 1963 Civil Rights march on Washington.

Needless to say, that choice stirred up a hornets nest. Across the street from Beck's rally was a counter demonstration held by Reverend Al Sharpton. (So I guess you had the best of both worlds for extremist, conspiracy theory loving, race-baiting, loony lefties and mighty tighty righties all in one spot. Very likely, a well coordinated terrorist attack would have resulted in a major increase in S.A.T. scores for the entire country.)

Again, most of this stuff didn't do much for me either way, until some interviews I heard this morning on N.P.R. Please read the transcript, or listen to the whole story, for yourself. Pay close attention to what the last person, Cheri Newell, says. "I love my country, and I love the Lord. And that's why we're here."

"I love my country, and I love the Lord." OK, fair enough. I do to. But I kept wondering what Mz. Newell meant by that. I have friends in Canada and the Czech Republic who could say the very same thing about their country and God. I didn't see any of them at Beck's rally, though.

If by saying that she loves God & country, and that is why she is at that rally with other Tea Party activists, is she implying that the people on the other side of the street do not love America or God? I mean, we all know that God is a Republican. I've seen enough signs at various political rallies that have told me so. I also understand fully that Democrats and Independents...and especially Green Party members, hate the U.S. and want to replace it with a godless, neo-nazi, socialist regime...and feast on live puppies & kittens.

Or is this just another form of "Works" creeping it's way into religious fashion? You listen to X, you work for Y, and you vote for Z. And that's how you know that you are among the righteous.

Now if you think I am kidding around...well, I am...a bit...take a gander at how Glenn Beck explained this whole rally. He states plainly that he wants to be a spokesman for traditional Christian values. In their own words, this rally was to honor the military and Christian values. (Which is odd, because those two things most often do not go hand in hand.)

I find it even stranger that Beck is talking about/using Christianity. I've heard him try and use the Bible to justify some of his points. Frankly, he would make Jim Jones proud the way he yanks scripture out of context.

Glenn Beck is a Mormon, NOT a Christian. This may sound harsh, but there is a massive difference between Mormons and Christians. The historic, orthodox, Christian faith that has gone on for 2000 years now, has virtually nothing in common with Mormonism. Heck, any religion can lay claim to Jesus...and many do. But the Book of Mormon reduces Jesus to just one of many gods. In fact, next to Hinduism, Mormonism is the most Polytheistic religion in the world, and historic, orthodox christianity is absolutely Monotheistic.

So here is essentially an apostate, a heretic, who says that the current President doesn't hold to true Christian values. Furthermore, he claims that it was "Divine Providence" that he accidently picked this date that coincided with Martin Luther King's speech. (So now he is claiming that God intervened on his behalf?!?!?!)

The funny part is, that while he was claiming in public that the choosing of the date was an accident...or the work of God, he is actually lying his face off. Don't believe me? Read the following. It seems to me that he is merely promoting a more pedestrian Messianic Complex then a fellow like Jim Jones did.

What REALLY upsets me.
I get very tired of people who use Jesus, the gospel, or the bible for their own selfish ends. This is regardless of politics. This goes for any area...including some of the crap I see in the church. Glenn Beck is not a stupid man. It's pretty clear that he doesn't believe half of what he says. But he knows that he is getting RICH saying this stuff.

I also believe that those who use the gospel and such, to further their own selfish ends incur judgment when they do so. The only time that you see Jesus getting violent in the gospels is when he went into the temple and saw that the areas set aside for gentiles to worship had been turned into a money-making centers. He was so incensed by seeing the Holy Temple, his Father's house, used in such a manner that he was willing to physically attack those people. (Makes you think about what may be in store for guys like Beck and some of these T.V. preachers.)

What really upsets me, though, is that there are so many gullible people out there who actually DO believe what a guy like Beck says. Many of them are my brothers and sisters in Christ. (You should see the scads of e-mails that my Dad gets trumpeting the end of the U.S. and our "Christian Republic," on a weekly basis.) They buy into goofy conspiracy theories, and go to rallies like this one because they "Love the Lord," and think they are protecting him. They weep & gnash their teeth over our "Nazi/Muslim President," and all of the heathen, brown-skinned types that he is allowing to cross the border and ruin our way of life.

The followers of Jesus back in the day were told not to fear. What ever calamities were coming down the pipe, wether it was persecution, war, famine...he said don't be afraid, God is in charge, he is sovereign...and you CAN TRUST HIM! He also told them to watch out for false Messiahs.

I get the feeling that many, many people involved in the whole Tea Party movement will be sorely disappointed when their false gods eventually let them down...and they WILL let them down eventually.

We can be bamboozled so easily. People love simplistic and easy answers, because life is hard. It is. But the fact of the matter is that there really are very few easy answers to be found in politics or elsewhere. So it tends to be easier to simply accept something outrageous to cling to.

To me, it also shows a tremendous lack of faith in the risen Christ. (I prefer clinging to Jesus. He is gentle, and tends not to shout & scream in my ears all that much.)

I dunno. This was just what was rolling around in my head for the last 24 hours. So there it is, for what it's worth.



P.S. World history has shown the dangers of what happens when large groups of people get together when they are emotionally fired up...and it's rarely a good outcome. All it takes are a couple of charismatic leaders and the next thing you know, people are getting hurt.

It made me recall a song from the Adult-ish cartoon, "Heavy Metal," when I was a kid. I suppose there is no irony in the band Black Sabbath having recorded it. Still, the gist of the song is accurate. Plus, in this video, you get to watch Ronnie James Dio work his comb-over, and Tommy Iommi try to hold his gut in. Enjoy.

Definitions definitely.

"Who am I?"

It's a question that we don't think about directly most of the time. But it's also one that we seem to answer most of our waking hours.

People live their lives the way that they define them...or the way that we have allowed others to define them for us. Seriously, think about it for a bit. We really do.

A friend of mine had a tough day yesterday. So I am hoping that I can cheer him up a bit. But what I am about to write applies to everyone.

Years ago when I was coming out of my stupidity and rebellion, I was given a book to read called "Victory over the Darkness" by Neil T. Anderson. You can hit up his website if you wish. Anyway, in one of the chapters, he covers the subject of how we define ourselves according to The World and our struggles, and then compares it to how God views us if we are "In Christ." They are two very different points of view.

Every Spring at Living Waters, we host a BBQ for Minnesota Teen Challenge. MNTC is a Public/Private ministry that works with folks who struggle with alcohol and drug related issues. They really do some amazing work, and it is awesome to hear the stories of these people as God moves in a heals their lives.

This past Spring, one of the speakers pointed out something that went hand in hand with what I had read in Victory over the Darkness. The speaker said essentially, "I am NOT an alcoholic! I am a CHILD of GOD who happens to struggle with alcohol."

That got me thinking about something a friend of mine asked rhetorically a long time ago. "If someone in A.A. hasn't had a drink in 20 years, are they still an alcoholic? When do they stop calling themselves that?" Now I am certainly not trying to make light of addiction, but I am trying to say that maybe there are better and healthier ways for people to define themselves.

My Dad has a couple of catch phrases that he likes to use on an almost daily basis. When people ask what he does, he likes to say "I am about my Father's business." When he sees me, he likes to remind me that "You are a child of the King."

Obviously you need to be careful with catch phrases. There is a lady at the store I work at who is an absolute pill in almost every way. She's really good at passing judgement and being very religious. Often, without being prompted, she will volunteer that "I don't work for the store. I work for God. Ack, ack, ack." <--- That would be the sound of her laugh, which pierces both flesh, bone, marrow and soul. Then she will slowly ascend into her handicapped van with it's "Christian" bumper stickers, and drive slowly & religiously away.

Who I am in Christ
A friend of mine is Gay. That is how he defines himself. He also wants to follow Jesus. Needless to say, it's a struggle. I have another friend who was a "Pot Head." He loved the Geef. He also follows Jesus. He tells me that some days he really craves a big bong hit. However, he doesn't call himself a Pot-Head. (The issue is obviously still there, but he doesn't allow it to define him.)

Outside of Christ, we ARE what we do. Fallen, broken, helpless...we do what we are...sinful things. (I like that flip-flopping of words.)

However, one we are IN Christ, what are we now? (And away we go.)
Jn. 1:12 = I am God's child, Jn. 15:15 = I am Christ's friend, Rom. 5:1 = I am Justified, 1 Cor. 6:17 = I am united with the Lord, 1 Cor 6:19-20 = I am bought with a price; I belong to God, 1 Cor. 12:27 = I am a member of Christ's body, Eph. 1:1 = I am a saint, Eph. 1:5 = I have been adopted as God's child, Col. 1:14 = I have been redeemed and forgiven, Col. 2:10 = I am complete in Christ, Phil. 1:6 = I am confident that the good work God has begun in me will be perfected, Phil. 3:20 = I am a citizen of heaven, Heb. 4:16 = I can find grace & mercy in my time of need, 1 Jn. 5:18 = I am born of God; the evil one cannot touch me.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

I will define myself by the things I enjoy, being outdoors, history, fishing, geeky stuff. But I often tend to define myself by my mistakes and struggles. I suppose we all do to one extent or the other. But the absolute FACT of the matter is that God doesn't!!! He sees & defines me by what he has accomplished FOR me, and is now doing IN me. We often do not feel that truth subjectively. But it is still objectively true.

God does not define me or see me based on whatever sins & temptations I am struggling with at any given time, because that would cause him to reduce himself and what he accomplished on the cross. "So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. ALL this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." 2 Cor. 5:16-18.

I think that Satan would love for us to forget that fact. He would love for us to think about ourselves from the world's perspective. That way, it is so much easier to kick & beat ourselves up over our imperfections. All the while, God is standing there saying, "Why are you doing that? I've already dealt with that stuff because you couldn't Just let me hold you."

The average male struggles with lust in one form or another. Sorry ladies, we just do. My friend Tom told me a story a few weeks ago about a 20-something asking an elderly man at his church what it's like to no longer have to deal with lust. The old guy said, "When it happens, I'll be sure to let you know."

Now, my friend who still craves pot from time to time, does not define himself by that. It could very well be an issue that he struggles with until the day he dies. But it is NOT who he is at his core...not since Jesus took up residence, anyway. He has chosen to allow Christ to define who he is. So did that fellow who spoke a few weeks ago at the MNTC picnic. A struggle with alcohol may or may not be an issue for him until the day he dies, but Christ is in him and he belongs to God.

I do not define myself over who I might get a boner over. (I'm not trying to be crude, just blunt & matter-of-fact.) It seems to me that if Same-Sex attraction is an issue for a person, it's no more or less a struggle than any other issue...and it's just plain stupid and counter productive when the church treats it that way. This is just my opinion, so feel free to disagree, but it just seems to me that Straight, Bisexual or Gay is at best a secondary label for someone who follows Jesus.

Honestly, what sounds healthier, to allow you and your struggles/issues to tell you who you are? Or does the objective truth of how Jesus views you sound like a better bet?

He likes you. He loves you. He really does.



Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Howdy Kyle" and other wondrous stories.

So I woke up very early this morning, indeed. Par for the course, I crawl into my office and poke around the computer. Lo and behold, I discovered that I have a new follower on my blog.

"Hi Kyle."

I'm gonna take a guess and figure that he found my stuff through my goofy friend, Damon. But I'm not totally sure.

Blogs, and the people behind them, are funny things. It makes me think about why we do them at all. Apparently, Kyle is gay, and his own blog seems to be primarily about gay marriage and such. Yet he also follows many other blogs, including one I noticed that seems to be pretty far into that crazy "Right-Wing" stuff. So I suppose it takes all kinds, and one is not mutually exclusive of the other.

I have no idea where Kyle is at spiritually, or why he would find anything I write about to be at all interesting...interesting enough to follow is quite a compliment. Most of what I do is simply a way to let me think, spew and vent in a manner that is healthy. (Beats shooting my guns at the ceiling of the mall. The managers always get so worked up when I do that.)

Blogs are often on-line diaries for people. They certainly seem to be windows into the soul...and that can be a bit on the creepy side. Ever since the internet came into wide use, people have created whole new worlds online. Sometimes that is a great thing. Other times it's a pretty sad state of affairs.

About a week ago, I received a comment on a post I wrote about a family member who has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome from a woman in a similar situation. She has her own blog about this disease. It would appear that her and her husband have a ministry of sorts of working with folks who were born with this problem. Pretty cool, if you ask me. (Also, very difficult)

So, blogging gives you the chance to think, write, minister, vent, work on all sorts of stuff. And you throw it all out there for the world to see, and maybe even respond to. Life is weird.

I like a good story. I think that Jesus did too. In John's gospel, he writes about the time that Jesus was hiking through Samaria and he asked for some water from a woman at the well. He just plopped down and started talking to her. (If you understand the story in it's proper context, you would know that what Jesus was doing was a major "No-no" in that culture.) Jesus seemed to show little interest in man-made, cultural do's & don'ts. But he seemed to take a lot on interest in actual relationships. Hanging out with imperfect, sinful, fallen people was a lot of fun for him. In fact, it seems that the more fallen and broken a person was, the more he enjoyed being around them.

Contrast that with the Professional Religious people of then and now. Not much has changed.

Assuming that you won't bore me to tears, (Which is sadly quite possible) I would love to hear your story. I learn a lot from listening to the stories of other people's lives. Maybe they are following Jesus, maybe they are not. Maybe they have just fallen away from him for a time. I don't know. Maybe they just want someone to listen to them for a bit. Everyone needs that from time to time.

I think that following Jesus requires being a good listener. That way, you understand that it really isn't about YOU.

It isn't for me to decide who will reside in the new heaven & earth. (Hey, that sort of rhymes.) But I do know that there will be a lot of interesting people there. I want to talk to Elijah about a lot of stuff, because I identify with his personality. I also want to talk to one of my great, great grandfathers, who was the first Christian king of Norway. (Olaf Tygverson) There will probably be quite a few interesting folks with interesting stories to tell.

It makes me think of a song by Matthew West called "The next thing you know." In it, Matt talks about being in heaven listening to other people's stories of how God met them and extended is grace to them. It sounds almost like a giant gathering around a campfire, with Jesus whipping up some S'mores. Not a bad image.

"I got a picture in my head today,
of how heaven might look someday.
I see the people there,
so I pull up a chair
and the stories they blow me away.
Cause I can see it on every face,
the evidence of grace.
And as I listen, it occurs to me
that everybody's got their own thirteen.

So what's your story
about his glory?
You gotta find your place
in the history of grace."

"Howdy, Kyle!"



P.S. The video is pretty dull, but the song is still good.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Critiquing the American Church Part 2. Santa Christ

WARNING: This particular post will have some rather disturbing video in it which may offend some people. Also, it's probably the most harsh & judgmental of anything I've written thus far.

A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend of mine, and we got on the subject of a large ministry in his city. He warned me that this "Church" had all sorts of cult-like overtones to it, and that it should be avoided at all costs. The problem was/is that an old friend of mine participates in the worship there. I know this guy, and he is not exactly the type of person to get suckered by shallow spirituality. So this set me on a quest for many days to see if I could make sense of what I was hearing.

As usual, it was harder than I thought to come up with any solid answers. One of the problems with any type of organization will always be the loose confederation of people who come in and out the doors. Some might be heavily associated with a group, while others may merely be associated by a "friend of a friend" situation. I never want to throw the baby out with the bath water, and I am not big on "guilt by association." (I've been on the receiving end of that, so I try not to do it to others.)

At any rate, it's been bugging me for some time now how to discern false teaching from the real deal. Generally, it's pretty obvious. But sometimes a situation can have all sorts of beautiful stuff on the surface, and say all of the right things initially, but later on it produces a nice heaping helping of disaster. But how do you know right away?

Paul's letter to the church in Galatia tells them that the life of the Spirit produces fruit. However, that fruit is not something you see at first glance. I mean, how often you do take a minutes glance at a person and think, "Wow, that dude sure has the fruit of faithfulness."? The same goes for what Jesus often talked about.

In Matthew 7, Jesus spoke about a tree producing good fruit, and that is how we would recognize the real deal from the false people. But then he ends that bit with one of the scariest passages I can find in the Bible.

"Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me you evil doers!""
Matt. 7:21-23

So whoever these folks are, they at least claimed to act in the name of Jesus...or at least they were pretty sure that they were. And yet, Jesus rejects them. I mean, there is power in the name of Jesus, and that is certainly what accomplished any spectacular work they did. (Certainly not by their own strength) And yet they will not be in the kingdom of heaven, because their core was false.

I was talking with Pastor Scott and a few others after worship yesterday. I think we all agreed with an assertion that Brennan Manning made in his book, Ruthless Trust, that the "question should not be Is Jesus God-like, but is God Jesus-like?" By that, he/I/we mean that whatever your view of a god is...especially the God of the Bible, does it match up with the character, lifestyle and behavior of Jesus during his ministry on earth? Jesus is the "visible image of the invisible God." Jesus IS God. So everything that Jesus did, as attested to in his four biographies, is the ultimate revelation of the God of all creation. So, what ever someone claims about Christianity, theology, the way to live as a Believer, had better match up to what Jesus displayed, or it is simply wrong.

OK, all of that having been said as a set up, I guess what I want to write about are my frustrations with a strain of Christianity that is growing in popularity, but I think has deadly consequences. That would be the rise of the "Prosperity Gospel" and the extreme form of the "Signs & wonders" movement.

Now I want to state for the record that I am not attacking charismatics or pentecostals. I fully believe that all of the Gifts of the Spirit are still an active and necessary part of the body. (I think that if there had been a time for them to end, it would have been very clearly stated in scripture...with a specific end-date spelled out.) But I do often question the way the are displayed in a given worship service.

When I was going to school in Jerusalem, I often attended a Charismatic Anglican service. (Yeah, I know...sounds like a contradiction.) They had a very wise policy I thought. On their weekly bulletins handed out during the service, they asked all attenders that "If you feel you have a word from the Lord, or a prophecy, we ask that you ask the Spirit to give it to one of our elders so that it might be tested as the Bible states." I thought that was brilliant. I also never saw any weird spiritual abuses as a result.

Now, juxtapose that with the following true story.

Joe the Atheist:
There is a church in the northern Twin Cities called Living Word Christian Center. The pastor there is a fellow named Mac Hammond. He is BIG into the whole "Health & Wealth" prosperity gospel. I must say that it really works for him, too. The church bought him a multi-million dollar jet that he can fly around in. It just so happens that he rents the jet back to the church for a monthly fee. (Nice deal if you can get it.) Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa wants to investigate him.

Years ago, when I was attending Bethel Seminary, I went to his church to do some research. I noticed a couple of things. The first was a scale model of a Christian City that they hope to build in the area. It would have Christian town homes and apartments, a Christian mall and theater, and a Christian prayer tower and amphitheater. Everything a Christian could want so that they don't have to mingle with the sinners outside the gates. (Very handy indeed.)

The second thing I noticed was the message that his wife gave that evening. She spoke on miracles and how we should expect them at all times and in every situation. I agreed with this. God is amazing and can do what ever he sets his mind to. However, I quickly discovered that to Mrs. Hammond, a successful bowel movement ought to be attributed to divine intervention. (Apparently, God intervened in my morning routine about an hour ago, and I should not attribute it to the 3 cups of coffee I ingested.)

The third thing I noticed was a fellow named Joe who I had seen around my gym. I watched him speaking in tongues. I watched the people there praise him for speaking in tongues. I also noticed that there was no one interpreting his spiritual language so that others could be edified. (I'm still not exactly sure what to make of tongues, but it seems to me that any gift ought to be for the benefit of the entire body, and not just a "Look at ME!" kind of thing.)

Well, Joe is an Atheist.

Yeah, he has a big Darwin bumper sticker on his car now. I'm sure that he was very religious while attending Living Word, but he has since rejected any notion of God. SO, what do I make of what I saw? Was he faking it? Was there some type of spirit speaking through him? The folks watching him certainly thought he was doing the right thing.

And that's the problem.

Pastor Rick McMikely and others assert over and over that we humans have a "Propensity for Religion." In other words, we are always working, striving, etc. to show that we are good people, spiritual people, etc. Non-charismatics do it too. Lets face it, we are all guilty of being "Religious."

What I have noticed in so many of the churches like Mac Hammond's is that people really, really want those spectacular gifts of the spirit. Something that will get others to say, "Wow, now there is someone who has it together." Very rarely do you see someone desiring the gift of celibacy, voluntary poverty or martyrdom.

What I have noticed about Jesus is that while he did work amazing miracles, more often he simply spent time hanging out with "The Least of These," and developing a true relationship with them. When YHWH came to Elijah on the mountain, it was as a gentle whisper. (In fact, he did so as a direct response to the spectacular.) It seems to me that God prefers the relational to the spectacular. In fact, Jesus even warned about folks who always need to see a miracle to be able to have faith.

Jesus as the Great, Cosmic Santa:
Mac Hammond preaches that God wants all Believers to be rich and healthy. The Prosperity Gospel that we now see is largely the result of a fellow name Kenneth Hagin. He built a bible school down in Oklahoma. If you attend it, you are not supposed to use aspirin, because all sickness comes from Satan. If you have a headache, you simply rebuke the devil and the headache shall flee.

Pastor Mac, Creflo Dollar (Interesting name, huh?) Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, and many others espouse that if you have faith, you will not get sick and you WILL get rich. In fact, Kenneth Copeland says that Jesus and the Disciples were all successful businessmen. They had attained so much prosperity that it gave them the luxury of being able to travel about the region preaching. If none of that happens to YOU, it is because YOU lack faith.

So many people have already commented on this that I see little point in going much further. But I guess I would ask if those ideas really & truly match up with what we see in the life of Jesus. I will say this, I have seen so many folks get burned by that stuff that it just breaks my heart. I just question if any of those guys really know the Jesus of the Bible, or if they will be the ones hearing Jesus say, "I never knew you."

And now for the Scary Stuff:
"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."
2 Cor. 11:13-15

"Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an ANGEL from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!"
Gal. 1:7 & 8

A friend of mine from college told me about the following guy. An old acquaintance of ours really likes this guy. He really wants his walk with Jesus to be this spectacular. But as you watch this video, ask yourself the following question: "Does anything that this guy says or do match up with the character of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels?"

Jesus once spit in the dirt to make some mud to put on a blind man's eyes to heal him. (It was a sabbath healing that confronted the Pharisees.) But I don't ever recall Jesus kicking people in the face to heal them.

So you have to ask the question, "Is this from God?" Todd Bentley could be just faking the whole thing and getting a kick (No pun intended) out of pulling the wool over people's eyes. I certainly see no evidence anywhere in the Bible that would ask someone to harm another person in need of healing. So if there really is a "Spirit" at work in this ministry, is it the Holy one...or could it be something else?

Now, this next video is of an ordination service for Todd Bentley. What is truly sad about this situation is that Todd was apparently having some sort of affair with a woman at this church during this time. It just strikes me that if the Holy Spirit was involved in any of this, he would have pointed it out to the elders.

I should state for the record that it is my opinion that the following is evidence of demonic possession. I know that it is a terribly harsh thing to say. It is very judgmental. And I do not say it lightly. (Probably the meanest thing I've said in a long, long time.) But if you take a look at the entire package, I simply can't come up with any other explanation.

BTW: I simply can't watch the entire video all the way through. It makes the hair of my neck stand on end.

Satan knows the Bible better than anyone except God, and he is fully capable of all sorts of false signs. But when you take a take a look at the fruits that are produced, they do tend to look more like raisins than they do grapes.

OK, now for a fellow named Bob Jones. (Not he of the racist bible school) This fellow apparently talks to angels on a daily basis. He was a mentor of Todd Bentley and taught him how to ascend to the third level of heaven (With out even receiving a thorn in the flesh like Paul did) and how to hang out with two of his favorite angles, Prosperity and Emma...both feminine angels. (Try finding that in the Bible.)

Anyway, as you watch this...and I know that this does not present the entire bit in context, ask yourself what purpose such an occurrence serves the body of Christ or furthers his kingdom?

A three foot tall female "Being" and another named Charley who surround the throne handing out fresh baked bread to Bob. I just don't get it. How in the world does that help me to love my neighbor, serve the poor & oppressed, and forgive those who have hurt me?

Bob seems like a sweet, old man. But honestly, that kind of odd angelic behavior just seems completely out of whack with anything I see in the Bible. The only thing it seems to do is to call attention to the guy telling the stories. Ultimately, I think that is the real problem.

Who do you love?
If Jesus is who he claimed to be, God, the lover of your soul, the one who has reconciled all things on heaven & earth to himself, the great king over all creation, Lord, the great high priest. Then do you love him for THAT reason? Or do you love him because you want him to do magic tricks for you? Do you follow him because he asks you to participate with him in his kingdom? Or do you tell him to make you rich and show you miracles because you have reduced him to a genie who will do your bidding when you rub the lamp by "Naming & claiming it."?

Going back to what Jesus said about false prophets in Matthew 7, I just get the feeling that there will be some folks who are extremely stunned when Jesus looks at them and says "I never knew you." I also get the feeling that before Satan gets his just desserts, he will look at those people with a big grin and say, "I gotcha!"

So, who do you love?


P.S. I know that this was a long and probably depressing post. With that in mind, here is a video to make you smirk. Benny Hinn is a fraud who's "Healing Crusades" some people I know have attended. He likes to slay people in the spirit. (U-huh.) The problem is that if you refuse to get knocked over when he does his shtick, he doesn't like you very much and will have you escorted off the stage.

Never the less, I did find this video to be pretty good. Enjoy.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Just a Thought

This is an edition to my previous post on "Critiquing the American Church, Part 1." I didn't want that post to get too long.

Never the less, the following are thoughts, statements and ideas from some of my favorite Christian Thinkers on the subject of politics and the church. Most of these quotes come from two books, "Un-Christian" and "The Irresistible Revolution."

"The Christianity of private piety, affluent conformity, and only "God bless America" has compromised the witness of the church while putting a new generation of Christians to sleep."
Jim Wallis

"Meanwhile, many of us find ourselves estranged from the narrow issues that define conservatives and from the shallow spirituality that marks liberals. We are thirsty for social justice and peace but have a hard time finding a faith community that is consistently pro-life or that recognizes that there are "moral issues" other than homosexuality and abortion, moral issues like war and poverty. So some folks just end up trying to save souls from their sins, and others end up trying to save the world from "the system." But rarely do we see that the sickness of our world has infected each of us, and that the healing of our world not only begins with us but does not end with us."
Shane Claiborne

BTW: On a side note that was running around in my head yesterday...POVERTY. If you call yourself "Pro-Life," but do not actively & vigorously work to fight poverty, then you are a liar and are nothing more than "Pro-Birth." Did you know that if you cut the poverty rate in the U.S. by %10, you would cut the abortion rate by %30?

Also, if you really & truly want to see America judged by God and burned to the ground, then allow our poverty rate to continue growing. (Forget gay marriage...most of our Straight marriages are already a joke, and we're still here.) Poverty is the #1 issue for God, and every single Prophet in the O.T. makes that plain!!! (More on this issue for some other post.) Check out Ezekiel 16:49.

"As for prescriptions, yes, we need more Bible - but we also need a better, more holistic and profound understanding of the Bible and what it says about justice, compassion, the future, power, poverty, money, war, sex, and the kingdom of God."
Brian McLaren

"In my book "Kingdoms in Conflict," I make the case for why Christians should never have a political party. It is a huge mistake to become married to an ideology, because the greatest enemy of the gospel is ideology. Ideology is a man-made format of how the world ought to work, and Christians instead believe in the revealed truth of Scripture."
Chuck Colson

"I just don't think pastors should turn their pulpits into public policy forums. It cheapens the gospel. Our congregation doesn't need another political opinion. They need spiritual revelation. They don't need to think about politics on the weekend. They need to be reminded to seek first the kingdom of God...our primary role as spiritual leaders isn't making people see eye to eye. It's making sure our eyes are focused on Jesus."
Mark Batterson. (Pastor, National Community Church)

"Every time Christianity has fallen into the trap of using politics to achieve its means, it has lost its power and effectiveness. Relevant Christianity never loses sight of the reality that in the kingdom of God, everything is upside down when contrasted with the world's pursuits. In God's kingdom the greatest is the least; the first is the last; we are to love our enemies; (When the last time you prayed for Osama bin Laden?) and to be most effective, we are called to servanthood rather than to positions of political power and correctness."
Tri Robinson (Pastor, Vineyard Boise)

"When the Christian Coalition refused to hire an executive director because he wanted global AIDS to be on their agenda, and another director resigned for similar reasons, the fate of the Religious Right was sealed...The kingdom of God is not captured by either party, and it is a dangerous moment for the church and the gospel when a temporal power is confused with the higher power...In addition, politics is not everything. We are not going to set aright the sexual revolution on the floor of the Senate. We need new and "saltier" forms of cultural engagement."
Mark Rodgers (Former staff director, Senate REPUBLICAN Conference)

"Evangelicalism has been hijacked and usurped by partisan political forces. Conservative religion is now being driven and dictated by secular, right-wing political forces...Many young evangelicals see that this is just Republican politics masquerading as conservative religion. When they observe this, they don't like it. And they are concerned it could happen on the Left too - exactly what happened on the Right - the politicizing and corrupting of religion for the sake of political power...the young people I meet don't want to go Left or Right. They reject these narrow political orthodoxies. They're not happy with Christianity being either a list of things you shouldn't do, or just about being nice. They want to go deeper."
Jim Wallis (Sojourners)

"To be biblically consistent, you must be politically IN-consistent."
Richard Cizik (Former V.P. of the National Association of Evangelicals)

"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people...Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him...and he began to teach them, saying "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."...OR "Congratulations! Because you don't have it together and are a "Zero," God is on your side and his kingdom is for YOU!"
Matthew (aka, Levi. Former Traitor and Roman Occupational Authority collaborator. Now, Disciple & Author.)

It's just a thought.



Critiquing the American Church Part 1. The Kingdom of God VS. the Kingdom of Man.

This post is dedicated to my brother, Dan Hay. Dan was the main facilitator for the Focus of a Warrior group that I participated in. This group of guys met for over year studying scripture, praying, seeking God and holding & lifting each other along the way. As a result, we know each other in ways that others do not and will not. Dan's heart burns for Jesus. As such, I trust him more than I would a person who might agree with me %100 of the time, but does not have that zealous love for Christ. Our relationship with Jesus is deeper and more important than temporal things, and that is the point of this post.

For some time now, I have been thinking about taking a shot at critiquing some of the main areas of shortcomings that I see in the American church. (So yes, my biases WILL definitely be on display.) Dan & I got into a discussion about Reagan, Republicans and modern American politics the other day. So I thought that this gave me the opportunity to go with one of my biggest frustrations, "Mixing Jesus with secular politics." So here goes.

I'll state at the outset that this was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. Mostly, this is in reference to trying to keep this post readable and not just another long screed. I will also state up front, that my ultimate contention is that God's kingdom trumps America, American politics...and that of any other country's too, but that while we might say that we agree with that, the way we live shows that we really don't believe it.

My Journey: (You know I'm all about context, Dan.)
Just so you know where I have come from, I'll say that for the vast majority of my life I have voted Republican. I have only missed one election in my entire life, and that was a minor one dealing only with local, city issues. That having been said, I have become extremely disillusioned with politics thanks largely to this past Bush administration, and because of the extremely nasty tone I now see on display.

FACT: Republicans claim to be "Conservative," i.e. Limited government and lower taxes. Yet, from 2001-2007, while they had a complete lock on power, they caused the size of government to grow larger than any since the Johnson & Nixon administrations...and all the while, cutting taxes. (You can guess the obvious result of something like that.) You don't have to like that fact, but it simply is beyond dispute. <---- Take a look if you don't believe me.

(Never mind the extremely questionable...and outrageously expensive, war in Iraq. I'll just stick to the domestic stuff.)

I knew that Obama was going to win the Presidential election, and I was OK with that. I still voted for John McCain. But I was absolutely shocked at the screaming and howling that came out in the public square with in a month of the election. The very people that sunk us into a massively bloated federal government and debt, now began to scream about this new administration and all of it's so-called "Socialist/Marxist" goals. I kept thinking to myself, "Where were you guys for the last 8 years? Oh yeah, you guys were the ones sticking it to us. And now you want to blame someone else. Shoot, if you want socialism, then we should have given Bush a third term." I simply do not and will not trust anyone, any group, any whatever, that won't take responsibility for their own actions. And what we are currently seeing on display is nothing more than politicians playing the game in hopes of winning back their power by exploiting gullible sheep...I mean, Voters. (Oops.)

(At any rate, that's my perspective in a nut shell. Obviously there is a lot more that could be said. But I figure I should keep this readable, and not as long as a Tolstoy novel.)

Nasty Habits: (The new language of the airwaves)
Q: What kind of language does the Bible insist that Christians are supposed to use...especially towards out fellow Believers?

I read in the Star/Tribune newspaper yesterday that 1 out of 5 Republicans think President Obama is a Muslim.
It's not for me to judge another person's heart, but since I have read his testimony, I would hazard a guess that Obama loves Jesus. <--- Feel free to read it yourself.

Calling a fellow Believer a Socialist/Marxist/Nazi who is also the Anti-Christ, and hates America, white people...and puppies, is not something that I think should becoming out of the mouth of someone who says that they love Jesus.

Much of what passes for political discussions these days is nothing more than venomous nonsense in search of ratings. MSNBC on the left, and Fox on the right spew poison. And sad to say, there are so many people who buy this garbage hook, line and sinker. I can also promise you that you will never get any proper or accurate information by listening to folks such as these. (There is a gal at my job who believes Obama is spying on here because she went to a pro-life rally. Glen Beck told her so.) Honestly, I cannot listen to that stuff. It literally causes me physical pain.

I know that this will come off as harsh, but I don't think you can faithfully follow Jesus and fill your minds with such filth. To me, it is little more than intellectual pornography. The things that guys like Ed Shultz on the left, and Limbaugh & Beck on the right say, has no place at all in the body of Christ.

I should also ask that when was the last time that Sarah Palin got on her knees and prayed for someone like Nancy Pelosi? Isn't that what Jesus insisted we do?

The Founding Fathers.
Dan has an assertion that America was founded upon Christian values, and that many of the founders were godly men. As I researched I discovered how difficult it is to come up with any solid answers. There are so many websites & blogs out there that are simply terrible. (Hopefully, mine will not be included in that number.) I found sites that insist that the founders were all born-again, Jesus lovin' people who could easily give their testimonies at a Billy Graham crusade. I also found sites that insisted the founders were all atheists, or at best "Theists." Needless to say, both views are nonsense. (Simplistic answers have no place in the body of Christ, either.)

A handful of the founders could have signed the Statements of Faith from Bethel University or Trinity, but most could not. It's complicated. The best site that I found is Beliefnet. <--- That's a link to an excellent article. You can also read the transcripts from an interview with Steven Waldman, the fellow behind Beliefnet, on Speaking of Faith. <--- Do your own homework.

Suffice it to say, the best description that I think you could give to the U.S. when if comes to "Religion," is that it was NOT founded as a Christian country, but was instead founded upon "Religious Liberty." And those are two very different things.

The Dangers of "Christian" Countries.
Let's say, for argument's sake, that a country could actually BE a "Christian." (Biblically, there is no such thing.) But what if a country could be one?

What would you say to a Christian that enshrined slavery into it's statement of faith...and even after having a war over that, still refused to treat those former slaves as equals for the next 100 years? What would you say to a Christian who beat up and stole half of it's territory from it's neighbor? What would you say to a Christian who, up to this very day, refused to provide 1 out of 10 of it's children with health care? (You can see where I am going with this.) Such a Christian would have to do some serious repenting.

Now, I am NOT trying to say that America is a "bad, bad, naughty country." But what I am trying to point out is the dangers of sticking a Christian label to a "Kingdom of Man." Countries are made up of people. People are flawed and sinful. So, is it any wonder that ALL countries should make some serious mistakes?

When & if we wrap the flag around Jesus and tie him our country...or ANY country, for that matter, we tie Jesus to all of the mistakes that these countries make. This can be extremely dangerous for that country and down right disastrous for the cause of Jesus. If you think I am joking, just do some minor research on how the Islamic world views America and Christianity.

"Turn around, for the Kingdom of Heaven is Near!"
It's hard to argue that Jesus believed in any form of man-made government. He certainly didn't believe in democracy. Jesus believed in an absolute, divine-right monarchy...his kingdom...which is both here now, but not in full.

The kingdom that Jesus preached and invites us to participate in is quite different from the "Kingdoms of Man." It is neither Capitalist, Socialist, or Marxist. It has neither Democrats or Republicans in it. It also has no poverty, pollution, need or want. There is no exploitation or war.

What really bothers me, at a deep, deep level is that far too many people who call themselves Christians worry so much about secular politics, and virtually ignore the reality of the God's Kingdom. We spend so much time getting all ramped up about the U.S. government and politics, that it demonstrates to me a considerable lack of faith in Jesus. (I often wonder what would happen to a guy like Rev. James Kennedy if America simply disappeared off the planet. Would he still know how to follow Jesus?)

I have noticed that the closer I follow Jesus, the more I cling to him, the less I worry about what goes on in Washington D.C. Since America and every other country will no longer exist when Jesus establishes his reign in full, why shouldn't I live that way right now?

In the mean time, I think it is fully possible to be a Republican and love Jesus (Chuck Colson), a Democrat and love Jesus (Jim Wallis), or even a Socialist and love Jesus (Shane Claiborne). Because in the end, none of that matters...only the Jesus part...and if that isn't fully in the front of your mind, then you have a problem.



P.S. I know this was a long one. I apologize for that. But I think it needed to be said.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Jesus wants to save Christians." Embracing one of my favorite Heretics.

This morning I finished another book on my long list of "To Read." It's title was "Jesus wants to save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile," by Rob Bell and Don Golden. So I thought I would do a quick review and then just put down some of the lines from the book.

This is a link to a webpage they created for the book. There is an interactive game you can play there. I don't think the page is complete yet, because not all of it works. Still, you can find plenty of info there.

For some reason, Rob Bell is considered quite the divisive figure in many American churches. I have my theories as to why, but most of them come down to people either ignorantly or willfully taking his words out of context. The second reason has to do with secular politics. Quite often, many "Christians" confuse secular, conservative politics with doing Jesus' will. The third reason is that Bell, and others like him, insist that you must put flesh & bone to the must be socially demonstrate the love of Christ. (That can really get some folk's underwear in a bunch.) The fourth reason is that Bell is an Artist. As such, he tends approach & explain the gospel through an Artsy-Fartsy lense. That can really rub people the wrong way...especially if you like your Jesus and Bible nice, safe and predictable. (Remember, it's extremely important that you can squeeze the Creator of the Universe into your little, man-made box.)

Anyway, I would highly recommend this book. Bell takes on the complacency of the American church. Sometimes it's a bit painful. But this is something we need to hear. The Gospel of Christ is a lot bigger than the U.S., and our country is guilty of going the way of every single empire that has come before it. (No, I don't hate America. But the Institutionalized, Americanized church drives me CRAZY!) A warning; if you are a big fan of Pat Robertson, James Kennedy, Jerry Falwell, etc. You will most likely wish to burn this book.

Dr. Greg Bourgond, the man behind the "Heart of a Warrior" men's bible study program...and by extension, one of my heros, describes Bell as a Lizard. He told me that there are three types of Christian leaders. #1. Elephants: Like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, etc. These are guys who are kind of larger then life. #2. Lions: Like Bill Hybels, John Piper, Greg Boyd, etc. These are strong willed & rather charismatic dudes. #3. Then there are Lizards: Guys that can creep in through the cracks in walls that others simply can't fit through.

I have seen first hand how Rob Bell has been able to impact folks with the gospel. These were/are folks who simply will never respond to the old, standard methods. They are very cynical about what passes for the "Church" and "Christianity" in America. (Yeah, I know. What a shock.)

At any rate, I get tired of people ripping on Bell. We need all sorts of people and ways to put flesh & bone to the Good News of the Kingdom of God. So without further ado, the following are excerpts from the final chapter, titled "Broken and Poured."

"Even deeply anti-religious people affirm that something is seriously wrong with our world and that wrong is nowhere more present than in the human heart.

At the center of the Christian experience is crying out in our slavery and being heard by God. Trust that through Jesus, God has done for us what we could never do for ourselves.

Rescue. Redemption. Grace.

God doesn't just want to save us; God is looking for a body, a people to incarnate the divine.

We're invited at Sinai to join the God of the oppressed in doing something about our broken world. And that always involves hearing the cry of the oppressed and then acting on their behalf.

If we forget them, we lose track of our own story.

And sometimes we lose the plot. We become proud, we start to feel entitled, we allow our abundance to isolate us from who we really are. And we find ourselves in exile, which can be abrupt and shocking, and sometimes exile can be so subtle, we don't realize what's happened until later.

We find God in our own oppression, in our own crying out, in our own response to the body of Christ broken for us, the blood of Christ poured out for us, and when we can't find God in our own oppression, we can always find God in the oppression of others.

Jesus wants to save us from making the good news about another world and not this one.

Jesus wants to save us from preaching a gospel that is only about individuals and not about the systems that enslave them.

Jesus wants to save us from shrinking the gospel down to a transaction about the removal of sin and not about every single particle of creation being reconciled to it's maker.

Jesus wants to save us from religiously sanctioned despair, the kind that doesn't believe the world can be made better, the kind that either blatantly or subtly teaches people to just be quiet and behave and wait for something big to happen "Someday."

He has chosen the path of descent; he comes into Jerusalem on a donkey, not a horse.

With children, not soldiers,



And he dies,





Maybe that's what he means when he says, "Do this in remembrance of me." The "do this" part is our lives. Opening ourselves up to the mystery of resurrection, open for the liberation of others, allowing our bodies to be broken and our blood to be poured, discovering our Eucharist. Listening. And going.

Because when we do this in remembrance of him, the world will never be the same; we will never be the same.

Now that is a manifesto."



P.S. I haven't seen all of the Nooma videos that Mars Hill has produced, but this one is by far my favorite. I never seem to get tired of watching it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Brennan Manning

After the video, the following words are from the final chapter of Brennan Manning's book, Ruthless Trust.

I spent Christmas Eve in the Bowery of New York City in 1970. During the day I worked with a Catholic Worker team that tended to the hungry and homeless. After helping serve an evening meal to perhaps eighty or ninety people, I was invited upstairs to visit with Dorothy Day, the 73 year old founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. Crocheting in a battered old rocker, she welcomed me warmly and said, "Brennan, I'm sure that you are familiar with Peter Claver."

"Yes, ma'am," I replied. "Back around the 1640s he had a ministry to blacks who had been commandeered into the slave trade, often beaten to a pulp and left for dead. Claver burned out his short life, like a modern-day paramedic, alleviating their suffering or providing them care and spiritual comfort when they died."

This wizened old woman who cried the gospel with her life said, "One night Peter recruited a couple of volunteers to help minister to a dying man whose suppurating flesh had been eaten away because of years in chains. When the volunteers saw the oozing flesh and smelled the putrid odor, they ran panic-stricken from the room. Peter cried out, "You musn't go. You can't leave him --- it is Christ."

Dorothy nodded, indicating that our visit was over, and asked my blessing. I kissed her hand and then, shaking in my shoes, walked out the door.

Our culture says that ruthless competition is the key to success. Jesus says that ruthless compassion is the purpose of our journey.

In a world where the only plea is "not guilty," what possibility is there of an honest encounter with Jesus, "who died for our sins"? We can only pretend that we are sinners, and thus only pretend that we are forgiven.

To knife through our pretense, cowardice, and evasions, to see the truth about ourselves and the true state of our souls before God --- this requires enormous courage and ruthless trust in the merciful love of the redeeming God. Put simply, sin must be acknowledged and confessed before there can be forgiveness and real transformation.

As we enter the third millennium, ruthless trust is the courageous confidence that despite suffering and evil, terrorism and domestic conflict, God's plan in Jesus Christ cannot fail. The ensuing years will bring slow but steady progress in Kingdom values, and the day will dawn when the lion will lie down with the lamb; East will learn the language of the West (and vice versa); blacks, whites, Asians, and Hispanics will truly communicate; our cities of garbage, apathy, and despair will experience the sunshine of a better life; and all men and women will rejoice in the Spirit that makes us one in Christ the Lord.

We do not have to do anything, except let your unworthy, ungrateful selves be loved as we are. Trust happens! You will trust him to the degree that you know you are loved by him.

Ruthless trust ultimately comes down to this: faith in the person of Jesus and hope in his promise. In spite of all disconcerting appearances, we stare down death without nervousness and anticipate resurrection solely because Jesus has said, "You have my word on it."

Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God. (Copyright 2000)