Thursday, September 15, 2011

What You Eat

I believe in the health of your spirit, soul, and body.  Over on my health blog, All Things Health, I posted about Ezekiel 4.  Click here to read it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Bridge

This week, both my kids (ages 6 and 11) reacted negatively (and fairly strongly) to a Biblical truth (these were two separate instances).  This was very unusual.  They have both always been excited about the Bible and church and spiritual things I have taught them, in the past.

This got me to thinking about parenting.

Let's think about sending our children across a bridge as the analogy of their maturing process.  Point A is birth and point B is adulthood.  The piers are the values we parents impart.
I think most parents think that by sending their children to church and private school, and maybe even reading them Bible stories, they are putting the supports (values) in place, for a steady, secure life, for their children.  They believe that their children will get to the other side of that bridge safely.

But it doesn't quite work out that way.  I have been doing a lot of learning in the area of understanding my children's heart.  We as parents could be imparting values, but if it just goes in one ear and out the other, without sinking down into the heart of the child, that pier is not made of solid material.  It's going to be a shaky foundation.  It's not going to last.

You may not see the effects right away.  Most of the time, we see the effects when the child is about 3/4 of the way across the bridge, in the teen years.  All of a sudden, the child becomes a totally different (so-called) person.  But in fact, this is who they were all along, in their heart of hearts.  It just took the added stress of teenage-hood to shake the already unsteady foundation of their bridge.

And many times, by the time they reach adulthood, this is what we see...

How do you know if your values are reaching your child's heart?  How do you know if their bridge's piers are solid?  You test them--along the way.  You don't want until the teenage years to see what becomes of them.  Before that, you put some pressure on them, some tension on them (the piers/values).  What do I mean?  All of us will reveal our true character under pressure, the pressures of life.  Tension is a pulling action.  I try to pull out what's inside my kid's hearts by asking lots of questions, have a lot of dialog (not monologue--and I'm still working on that one).

Are your children free to show disagreement (in a respectful way)?  Are they free to ask why you believe what you believe?  Do you ever ask for their opinion on matters of values?  Do they have the freedom to speak their mind to you?

I showed each of my children from the Bible what the truth was (which was different from their own opinions).  We had open discussions about those beliefs.  I'm glad they were able to speak their minds, and I'm sure those issues will come up again.  I could tell they each didn't really find resolution in their own minds.  So, these are piers in their life that are not quite solid yet.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes to God's truth in these areas.  (Eph. 1:17-19, Is. 54:13)

If you want to learn more about reaching the heart of your children, I highly recommend reading Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp, and Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp.

P.S.  I'm thinking, as I'm writing this, that some of you may be thinking that children don't necessarily have to adopt the values of their parents to have a fine life.  In fact, I've read of parents that want their children to be such "free-thinkers" that they want them to question everything and they in turn expose them to everything and expect that they won't adopt their values.  They think that these "free-thinkers" have brought much needed change and toleration to our world.  So, let me clarify.  I am speaking to Christian parents, and I'm assuming your set of values are based on the Bible, which is the only absolute truth in this world.  If your values are not (now would be a good time to check that out), then I hope your children don't adopt them.

I found top bridge picture at Wikimedia Commons.  It is a picture taken by David Monniaux of the Rio-Antirio Bridge in Greece.  I thought it beautiful.  David Monniaux has no affiliation with this blog whatsoever.  The second picture is of part of I-35 that bridged the Mississippi river.  It is public domain.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review: @#!*% , Rob Bell, and What Happens When People Die by Bobby Conway

I read Rob Bell's newest book, Love Wins, and blogged about it.  You can read that review here.  Then I ran across this book that counters Bell's philosophy by Dr. Bobby Conway.

First, I will say that Rob Bell makes a smooth argument.  You leave the book feeling very persuaded, and it all sounds very nice.  I can see that many will accept this philosophy just based on the feel-good factor.  But, I got to thinking--human nature craves justice.  We all want to see evil punished, things evened out in a fair manner, that is, until it comes to us.  So the "no-hell" theory sounds nice, and makes you feel very comfortable, until you start thinking about the worst offenders in our world--pedophiles, kidnappers, Nazi concentration camp officers, rapists, serial killers--admit it, you want to see them burn.  It's the truth.  That throws a wrench into the works, doesn't it?  This changes things a bit.  You could change your theory to a "bar set really low" theory, it becomes a "most get into heaven" theory, but I do not see how anyone can really have an "everyone gets into heaven" theory.  You say, "well, I'm not nearly as bad as those kind of people, surely God would let me into heaven."  But the fact is, sin is sin, and we all deserve hell.  I'm no better than a lying, thieving, murderous, adulterer.  It say so in James 2:10.

That is how Bobby Conway opens his book, and I like that approach.  With a very loving tone, his focus is on grace.  He does not come from the stance of attacking Bell, but rather goes to the Bible to show the truth.  It's the truth, you deserve hell, I deserve hell, we all do.  And if you follow Bell's thoughts through to their conclusion (which Bell did not do in his own book), you will start to question many, many things about the Bible.  The biggest question becomes, "why did Jesus have to die?"  Conway addresses this issue.  As he puts it, "Why did the Father allow His wrath to be poured out on His Son?"  Doesn't that make God out to be more cruel than the God Bell portrays?  If everyone gets into heaven, there was no point to God's wrath on Jesus.

This brings me to the heart of the matter.  Bell ultimately does not take the Word of God as inerrant, and inspired, he doesn't take it seriously.  Conway puts it this way, "One thing becomes clear when reading Bell’s writings: he is more comfortable casting doubt on the Bible than offering credible contextual interpretations."  He says that we must go to the Word with an attitude of "what does the Bible say?" rather than "what do I want the Bible to say?"  I completely agree.  Conway quotes Darrell Bock, saying, "Bell reads Revelation 21–22 as if Revelation 19–20 did not exist."  I thought the same thing when I read Love Wins.  We cannot pick and choose from the Bible as if it's a salad bar.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that has read Love Wins, or anyone that has questions about heaven, hell, death, or the afterlife.  As Conway puts it, "Jesus wins!"  I agree!

This book is only available in ebook format.  I have to say, I wasn't thrilled about that.  I thought my eyes would get too fatigued reading on my PC (I don't have a Kindle or Nook), but they didn't.  I do like the feel of a book in my hand, but this book is pretty short, so I didn't have to sit at the computer for very long.  It is only 58 pages, not counting end notes, table of contents, etc.  Perhaps it will be released in print at some point.  But don't let the ebook format stop you from checking it out now.

I agree with Conway that it does seem that Bell has the right heart, to see people come to Christ, but I'm telling you, when you start doubting parts of God's Word, you tread on thin ice.  You will open the door for the devil to tempt you with other deceptions--the ultimate being that Jesus is not really the Son of God, He was not really born of a virgin, and therefore cannot save.  If you will recall that is the same thing he did in the Garden of Eden--tempted Eve with doubting God's Word (Gen. 3).  I will be curious to watch the path that Bell follows in the coming years.  I really hope he doesn't end up like the Carlton Pearsons and Charles Templetons of the world, but I see him opening himself up to that.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell

This book contains some truths, and a lot of falsehoods. I sincerely hope some of the readers get saved through it. I believe the Holy Spirit can work despite false teaching. There are elements here—unconditional love, grace, mercy, the cross, the resurrection, etc.—but I’m not going to recommend this book to any of my unsaved or immature Christian friends or family. I do recommend that a serious student of God’s Word read it. If you are very familiar with doctrine and have at least read through most of the Bible, go ahead and read this for yourself. Otherwise, don’t waste your time, you will just end up confused. I really like what Mark Driscoll says on this topic, “get very familiar with your Bible before you read books about the Bible.”

Now, if you would like to see a breakdown of the things I agreed with and the things I didn’t, read on. If not, don't bother, it is long.  I took notes as I read, and I will list them in the order that I wrote them. I say that not all of these quotes are word for word, I paraphrased some, but I tried to put quotation marks to differentiate between what was in the book and what are my thought.

I will say that I was very, very skeptical upon opening this book. After the second chapter, I was pleasantly surprised that Bell was not as far out there as I imagined. But then after the third chapter, it goes downhill. By chapter six, he lays it all out, and what I had heard was true. And I was very disappointed that Bell did not include footnotes or endnotes, and all of his scripture references are just book and chapter, no specific verse listed; so it's hard to quickly look up the references he includes to see if he's right or wrong.

I am going to read Hell, Rob Bell, and What Happens When People Die by Bobby Conway next and I will post a review. Then I would like to read The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis, since Bell mentioned it.

Love Wins by Rob Bell

Preface – Pg. viii – what part of the gospel is causing people’s stomachs to churn? Who is teaching that only a select few will go to heaven? This sounds blown out of proportion to me. I agree we should be free to question, but that does not mean our opinions are the answers. The answers will only be found in God's Word. Pg. x – he’s not the first to bring these ideas up, he says—so?—that doesn’t make them right ideas.

Chapter 1, pg. 5 – the tone seems mocking.
Pg.6 – the emphasis seems to be on works.
Pg. 7 – that is the problem—most look at salvation as a ticket to heaven and aren’t living for Christ. Just because they are wrong, doesn’t mean the gospel is wrong.
Pg. 9 – I agree, many representations of Christ are false, and should be rejected.
Pg. 10 – "no where in the Bible is the phrase 'personal relationship' with Jesus found." It doesn’t have to be, because it’s the topic of all the epistles! And what about John 15—if you ABIDE in Me, and I in you… And who the heck is this “woman” who wrote the letter to the Hebrews? Hadn’t heard that one before.
Pg. 11 – Bell is taking issue with the fact that accepting, confessing, and believing are all actions. He states we aren’t saved by works (that’s true), so therefore if you tell someone they have to accept Jesus, confess their sins, believe on Jesus, etc., it isn’t grace, or a gift, or good news. Now hold one just a minute. If I go out and buy a really nice item and wrap it up and take it down to the maximum security prison to give to one of the worst prisoners--the least deserving person I can think of, that prisoner has the choice to accept that gift, or reject it, and has to open it in order to use it. How is it any less gracious, or any less of a gift, if he has to take it and open it? See Eph. 2:8—salvation is BY grace, THROUGH faith—it is your faith in the free gift that opens it up for you.
Pg. 13 – Bell is blowing apart the theory that you must recite a specific “sinner’s prayer.” I agree, there isn’t a specific prayer anywhere in the Bible.

Chapter 2, Pg. 30 – Jesus doesn’t refer to heaven, but eternal life, says Bell. (I think this was the rich young ruler passage.) Is Bell trying to break down the image of “heaven” as a far away place? (Yes, he was.) John 17:3 says eternal life is knowing God and that starts here, but I do believe heaven is a real place.
Pg. 33 – Lots of references to the millennium to counter the idea that heaven is a far off place.
Pg. 37 – mention of the “day of the Lord”, so he’s not denying a judgment. This will be the end of injustice, oppression etc. “God declares a ban on weapons.” What? Is he throwing in his political stance here? How about the verses that say Jesus will rule with a rod of iron? That’s a weapon.
Pg. 39 – mention of sins. This surprised me. Do pure universalists (what you call those that believe everyone goes to heaven) believe there are sins?
Pg. 42 – "In ancient times the word heaven was substituted for God because people didn’t like to use the name of God for fear of disrespect" Not sure of the truth in this. "So when you see heaven in the text, it could really mean God." I can’t counter this, but it sounds out there to me. Bell defines heaven as the place where God’s will and only God’s will is done. He says that Jewish tradition was that someday earth and heaven would be one. That may be true, there are many Old Testament passages about the time of the millennial rule and the descriptions are of heaven on earth, but I don't know for sure.
Pg. 43 – I agree that many of our perceptions and traditions of heaven are wrong, and that a lot of people focus on the material possessions of heaven; but the word, “mansions” is in fact in the Bible (John 14:2).
Pg. 45 – bringing in the social causes. I’ve never heard Bell speak, or read any of his other books, but this makes me think he probably preaches a social gospel—feed the poor, don’t trash the earth, make sure those in other countries have fresh clean water etc.—and these are all good things, but the gospel should be our first and foremost priority. Basically, there is an end--that this world will be restored and there will be an end to injustice and misery, and there will be peace and love all around. But there are two approaches to this end. One paradigm says that we Christians must work, work, work, to bring this kingdom into realization. The other paradigm says that Christ will bring His kingdom into being, in His timing, and in His power, regardless of how much we have prepared it for Him. One approach puts us at the center, the other Christ at the center. I prefer to stick with the one with Christ at the center. Does that mean I don't believe in helping the poor? Certainly not! But my focus is not to make this world a better place, but rather to show God's love, to bring that person into a knowledge of the Savior.
Pg. 46 – I agree that we should not just be looking for evacuation from this world. And that's what many look at salvation for--an escape from this life.
Pg. 47 – I don’t like the phrase, “heaven to be about partnering with God to make a new and better world." Bell indicates we start now--this leans too far to social gospel for me. See above on my position, on pg. 45.
Pg. 50 - I don't agree that it is all of your bad qualities that get burned up in I Cor. 3, but rather works of the flesh. You can have a bad character quality, but choose to walk after the Spirit, rather than your flesh, and store up gold, silver, and precious stones, rather than wood, hay, and stubble. I agree that Jesus is interested in heart transformation.
Pg. 51 - Bell says that this idea that in the blink of an eye we will automatically become totally different people who "know" everything brings confusion. No, it's scriptural and you must understand spirit, soul, and body in order to get it. I can think of II Cor. 5:17, Phil. 1:6, I Thess. 5:23, I Cor. 13:12, I John 3:2 on that topic. Bell says that our heart, character, desires, etc. take time to change. I agree and will cite Phil. 1:6, but the moment Jesus comes back we will be fully changed. Bell says the idea is to start the transformation now, I agree with that point, that's sanctification, but you can't start to be sanctified until you are first justified.
Pg. 52 - cites the surprise of the sheep in Matt. 25 (sheep and goats) on being "let in." I have a feeling this is going to come into play later (and it did). Bell hammers away that the sinners were treated with compassion while the religious were rebuked, while Jesus walked this earth. Yes, very true, but don't think that means you don't actually have to get saved.
Pg. 53 - Bell paints a picture of a single mom in dire circumstances, coming out of an abusive situation, and speculates that she will be in heaven, because she is doing the best she can with what she has--she takes good care of her children, works long hours to provide for them, etc. God doesn't save on pity. This points to salvation by works. She may very well be in heaven, but it won't have anything to do with how hard she worked or how well she took care of her children, but on whether or not she accepted God's gift of grace.
Pg. 57 - heaven is more real than what we experience now--I agree.
Pg. 58 - it transcends time--I agree.
Pg. 59 - mentions 11 dimensions--very interesting!
Pg. 62 - I pretty much agree with Bell's summary and I agree that we will be surprised by who we see in heaven. I think we should step outside of our little parameters for who we think "gets in."
In summary, chapter 2 says heaven could refer to God, the millennium, and the abundant life here and now. I agree that if we are to live the abundant life we need to be totally focused on the things of the Spirit. (Rom. 8:6).

Chapter 3, pg. 64 - "sin, refuse to repent, it's over." This is what Bell says most churches are teaching. This is wrong teaching and if it's what you're hearing, please find a new church, or at least get some quality teaching online. The fact is, our sin is not what sends us to hell and that myth needs busting. You will go to hell by your conscious decision to reject the provision God has made for your sin. No one will be in hell by surprise. "God is loving and kind and full of grace and mercy--unless there isn't confession and repentance, right?" If you don't repent, it does not change the fact that God is loving and gracious. The real question is, "have you accepted His love and grace or rejected it?"
Pg. 69 - "For many in the modern world, the idea of hell is a holdover from primitive, mythic religion that uses fear to control people."
Pg. 71-72 - stories of various people in really bad circumstance to illustrate that we can have hell on earth. Bell says, "I tell these stories because it is absolutely vital to acknowledge that love, grace, and humanity can be rejected." I agree. We are free to choose. Bell says, "When people say they don't believe in hell or sin, I ask, 'Have you sat and talked with a parent of a molested child?'" I would like to ask Bell if he believes that that child molester will be in heaven, just not "enjoying" it.
Pg. 73 - "There are very real consequences of rejecting our God-given goodness and humanity." I don't agree with that wording--it implies we are all good at heart, but Rom. 3:23 says we have all sinned and fall short of God's glory.
Pg. 75 - "Jesus brings a social revolution"--partially true--it won't be fully realized until He sits on His earthly throne. See notes on pg. 45 for exposition.
Pg. 78 - "Often the people most concerned about others going to hell when they die seem less concerned with the hells on earth right now, while the people most concerned with the hells on earth right now seem the least concerned about hell after death." I agree. I don't believe in a social gospel, but preaching the gospel so that people can be free here and now. Again, see my full position on my note for pg. 45.
Pg. 80 - "Jesus taught that God's love doesn't wield a sword." What about Rev. 19:15, when Jesus returns with a sword coming out of His mouth, to fight His enemies? Or do you just take that allegorically?
Pg. 81 - Bell is explaining that the passages about wrath in the Bible were fulfilled at the fall of Jerusalem. Wrong.
Pg. 84 - Sodom & Gomorrah were destroyed, but Bell cites Ez. 16 that says they will be restored. His point is that all the bad, all wrath, all judgment is to reconcile and restore you and if you choose to live in hell you will eventually come around to see that God is the way. Huh? So then, hell is temporary?
Pg. 85 - more examples of wrath as correction, cites Jer. 32 & 5.
Pg. 86 - Bell says God's rejection isn't forever--cites Lam. 3, Hos. 14, Zeph. 3. The only problem with using these passages is that they all specifically refer to Israel's restoration, that is yet future.
Pg. 87 - more on that--Is. 57, Hos. 6, Joel 3, Amos 9, Nahum 2, Zeph. 2, 3, 9, 10, & Micah 7. Again, ALL those are referring to Israel.
Pg. 91 - the goats get sent (Matt. 25) to an aion of kolazo. Bell says aion is an age and kolazo is a term of horticulture--pruning, trimming, so plants can flourish. I'm having a hard time swallowing this one, since the passage says that they are sent to the same place that was prepared for the devil and his angels. Are the devil and his angels being judged and pruned and trimmed, in order to flourish and be reconciled and restored? Well, I looked it up on Verse 46 of Matthew 25 uses the phrase, "everlasting punishment." The Greek words translated everlasting and punishment are aionios and kolasis, respectively. Aionios means without beginning or end, or never to cease. It is used 42 times as eternal and 25 times as everlasting. It does come from the root aion, which can mean eternity, the worlds, or period of time, an age. Kolasis means correction, punishment, or penalty. It is only used twice, here in Matthew, and in the familiar verse I John 4:18, translated torment. It does come from the root kolazo, which can mean to lop or prune, as in trees or wings; to curb, check, or restrain; to chastise, correct, punishment; and to cause to be punished. It is only used twice and both times is translated as punish. I'm not too sure this word kolazo is meant to prune in a positive sense. Sometimes you have to cut off a branch that has disease and such. This would not be the same kind of pruning that is done so that a tree can bear more fruit. Now I'm not a Greek scholar, but this word prune made me think of John 15:2. It is the word purge in the KJV, but prune in the NKJV. I found it interesting that it is the Greek word kathairo, and it means to cleanse, as in to prune a plant from useless shoots, or a person from guilt. Based on all of my findings, I do not see support for Bell's position on Matt. 25:46, that is is a temporary place of correction.
Pg. 93 - summary of chapter 3--Bell says, "hell is a good word for all the junk that goes on in this life." Hmmm. So he isn't going to answer the question of whether there is a literal hell that some will go to.

Chapter 4, Pg. 99 - Uh, oh! Here comes the "brotherhood of man/fatherhood of God" philosphy. [Adolf Harnack is credited for spreading this idea at the end of the19th century.] Bell says, "all people will come to God." He cites Ps. 65 and Phil. 2, "every knee will bow and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord." Yes, but if you notice, those that are bowing are in three separate locations--some on the earth, some above the earth, and some UNDER the earth.
Pg. 100 - making the case for God's sovereignty, that He is ultimately in control and will get His way, and His way is that all come to the knowledge of Him. That takes away free will.
Pg. 107 - opening up the idea that people get a chance to turn to God after death. Cites Matt. 19, Acts 3, Col. 1 regarding restoring, renewing, reconciling all things. Brings up early church fathers Clement, Origen, Gregory of Hyssa, and Eusebius as holding this view--that doesn't make the view correct. Origen is one that began allegorizing the text and said that God was done with Israel. Augustine followed this line of thinking, as well.
Pg. 108 - "God's love will eventually melt even the hardest of hearts." That is true that some of even the hardest hearts will turn. But I do not agree that this chance is open for all of eternity. God wants to see who will choose Him while there are still other choices (i.e. here on earth). If the choice was extended to those in hell, there is no doubt that everyone would choose God, but that's their only choice at that point. Remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. The rich man did not have the choice extended to him in hell, and then all of a sudden, he was concerned about his brothers. If there was a choice for him, even in hell, then he shouldn't be concerned about his brothers.
Pg. 110 - "This is a wide stream we're swimming in." Again, I say, majority opinion doesn't equal truth.
Pg. 112 - Bell keeps calling the Apostle John a pastor and he says he's writing his congregation by writing the book of Revelation. But John was on Patmos for about 10 years and was very old, and in the beginning of Revelation, we see that Jesus appeared to him and told him to write to seven specific churches. So Revelation is really Jesus writing to those seven churches.
Pg. 115 - the gates of the New Jerusalem are never closed, so Bell speculates that this indicates that those in hell can come back anytime they want. In his defense, Bell says that we can't answer that question. He says that we need to be careful not to treat something in the Bible so literally that it becomes less true. This is a red flag to me--does Bell take the Word of God seriously and literally? Or does Bell look at the Bible more allegorically? Like Origen? This is a very dangerous position.
Pg. 117 - Bell reiterates that if you really, really want isolation and despair, God in His love, lets you have it. I agree.

Chapter 5 - lots of mention of the cross, blood, sacrifice, etc. I was surprised by this.
Pg. 126 - terms like reconciled, justified (from Rom. 3), and victory--he says these terms are from relationships, the courtroom, and battle. I think that someone could actually get saved reading this book.
Pg. 129 - Bell purports that these metaphors were to help the 1st century Christians understand the cross, but those things don't really ring for us today. Huh? We still have relationships, still have courtrooms, and still have battles and wars. He says for us today, we just need to know that Jesus is where life is--I can agree with that.
Pg. 132 - "the writers of the Bible were extremely clever, employing incredibly complex patterns with numbers." Again, what? When you get into the study of all the patterns and numbers and heptadic structure (sevens) of the Bible, you will see how it is humanely impossible to devise and really points to the true authorship of the Holy Spirit.

Chapter 6, Pg. 147 - so far he has mentioned the cross, the resurrection and Jesus as divine--this is good.
Pg. 152 - Bell mentions a girl so anesthetized to Jesus from saturation of Christian culture that she doesn't even know Him--she goes to Christian school, goes to youth group, has always belonged to the church--yes, I can see that, but that doesn't mean that all people in that situation don't know Him. You can be saturated and be on fire. Bell says that conversely you can go visit a group of pagans in the far reaches of the world and when they hear they gospel they respond and say, "That's His name? We've been talking about Him for years..." I have a harder time swallowing this one. Yes, I believe God can reach the pagans in the far reaches of the world, whether anyone ever visited them and preached the gospel message to them. But if they are still practicing their paganism, they have not met the real God. The real God sets them free from ritual and religion.
Pg. 154 - Bell says Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, but he also says that He doesn't tell us how, or when, or in what manner people get to God through Him. Huh? "He [Jesus] doesn't even state that those coming to the Father through Him will even know that they are coming exclusively through Him." This is out there on a limb. Aren't there plenty of verses that mention faith in Jesus? [I just looked on and found 4 verses with the exact phrase, "faith in Jesus" in the epistles--two in Romans, two in Galatians. There are 6 verses with the exact phrase, "faith in Christ" in the epistles, from Galatians, Philipians, and Colossians.] "Inclusivity--the kind that is open to all religions, the kind that trusts that good people will get in [there's works again], that there is only one mountain, but it has many paths." Here we go, he's laid it all out on the table now.
Pg. 155 - "The door is opened to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Baptists..." Yes! But they must reject their false system of religion and recognize that Christ is THE only way! I do not believe that you can hold to Islam, Buddha, or Hinduism and be a Christian at the same time. What about having "no other gods before Me (the God of Israel)"?
Pg. 158 - Bell almost sounds like he is making Jesus out to be the divine spark of the New Age religion--that He is in everthing and everyone already, and we Christians just happen to call it, "Jesus." Using verses like Col. 1:17. Very thin ice, this.
Pg. 159 - Bell says that people have experiences [I see a lot of focus on the emotional in this book, rather than solid truth], but they may not call it Jesus, because they have a negative association with that name. On the flip side, I know a lot of New Agers have experiences with "Jesus" that are not really Jesus. They encounter a "spirit-guide" that calls himself Jesus. Jesus told us that many would come in His name and not to be deceived (Matt. 24:5). I'm sorry (no, I'm not), but if you come to know the real Jesus you will love to say His name and identify Him for others, in His Word, and you will love to read His Word to learn more and more about Him.
Pg. 160 - "It is our responsibility to be extremely careful about making judgments about people's eternal destinies." I agree, we can never see a person't heart, only God can. Uh, oh! Bell is now using a couple of parables in the wrong way. I will explain after the quote. "This new reality is like yeast (from Matt. 13), it spreads through the dough." The problem is, is that parable is talking about sin being like yeast, and sin will spread like yeast through the church, specifically the sin of legalism, the leaven of the Pharisees. Yeast is always sin in scripture, you can't take this parable any differently. And again Bell cites the parable of the mustard seed that grows into the big tree that is so big all the birds make their nests in the branches. Again, uh, oh, for Bell. He has used another parable wrongly. Using expositional constancy (as before with the yeast), the birds in the beginning of this passage were ministers of Satan--eating the seed, stealing the Word, so they are here, too. A mustard plant, no matter what variety, does not grow as big as a tree. I have planted mustard in my backyard. It grows about 3 or 4 feet tall, but that is all. Jesus is saying that the church will grow bigger than it should and ministers of Satan will nest in it. We see that today, there are false teachers all throughout the church. Paul even said to the Ephesian elders, as he was leaving (in Acts 20) to beware of wolves in the flock. I find it ironic that Bell chose these two parable to illustrate his point, when in actuality they are referring to sin and false teaching. Hmmm.

Chapter 7, Pg. 165 - Bell is now using the story of the Prodigal Son. He shows that there was reconciliation, return, and redemption, with the younger son. Bell said he is now a son again. But again, this brings up the view of the brotherhood of man/fatherhood of God belief that all mankind are God's children. Not so. We are born into God's family by the New Birth (John 3). The story of the Prodigal Son is not one of a sinner getting saved, but rather a Christian that has been living in the flesh, living for themselves, not for God, squandering their inheritance by works of the flesh, and repents. They realize it would be better to be a servant of the Father, than the life they are living, and so come home. But the Father welcomes this fleshly Christian with open arms, showing that they never lost their salvation, they never lost their sonship, and the Father still loves them, despite how they had been living. Now that doesn't mean that it's okay to live that way, remember the son lost all his inheritance.
Pg. 169 - still on the Prodigal Son story--Bell says the older brother chooses hell, which is just his attitude, his lack of peace and joy about the party and the younger brother's return. Bell points out that both sons are still with the father. He is equating the feast with heaven and so says that both brothers are in heaven together, but one enjoys it and one doesn't--it's their choosing. Again, you have to use the story properly--they are both sons, so are both Christians--one chose to live as a carnal Christian, and the other was legalistic and counted himself worthy based on how he lived, but both are saved and so are both going to heaven. This does not mean that everyone will be in heaven.
Pg. 170 - "Hell is our refusal to trust God's re-telling of our story." But this leaves no room for our free will and choice. If God has predetermined that everyone will live in heaven with Him, then what choice do we have? Bell says the choice is whether we enjoy it or not. Well, since we will not have to deal with the devil, our flesh, or the world's pressures and temptations in heaven, I don't see how we could possibly have a bad attitude.
Pg. 174 - Bell says we've been sold a gospel that says God is loving one moment, vicious the next. But God is not the one doing the torment the way Bell paints it out to be. If you choose to go to hell, you certainly may and God, in His love, will not stop you.
Pg. 175 - Bell says the church can't keep spreading this image of a God that will punish people for all eternity, for their sins. He calls it an unacceptable, awful reality that the church is purporting.
Pg. 178 - We cannot reduce the good news to a ticket to heaven. I agree. But to say that God's invitation is a call to enjoy what He has already predetermined that you will have is a rejection of the basic doctrinal truth that at the moment of salvation you become a new creature (II Cor. 5:17), and you are now "in Christ" and He in "in you." See Eph. 1:1 and Eph. 3:17.
Pg. 180 - "People have picked up the toxic notion that God is a slave driver." Yes, they have, but this, "everyone gets into heaven, but not everyone will enjoy it," message is not the answer. That is a false teaching trying to address another false teaching. Legalism is wrong, God is not a slave driver, Jesus said so 2,000 years ago. What we really need is a revival in the church of people reading the Bible for themselves, getting a revelation of who God really is--loving, gracious, merciful, compassionate, etc., FOR themselves (rather than relying on regurgitated food from their pastor, for all their substinence), and we would really start impacting our world! The problem with the whole book is he's attacking a lie with a lie, rather than correcting a falsehood with a truth.
Pg. 182 - "We shape our God and then our God shapes us." What?!? I agree that a distored understanding of who God is will bring fear, worry, depression, lack of peace, bitterness, etc., but the answer is to find out what the Word says about who God is.
Pg. 187 - "it's not our goodness, that separates us from God, it's our thinking that our works are eaning us things from God." Still talking about the Prodigal Son story, specifically the older brother. "Your deepest, darkest sins and your shameful secrets are simply irrelevant when it comes to the counterintuitive, ecstatic announcement of the gospel." Yes, your sins shouldn't keep you from God, He's already paid the price. "So are your goodness, your rightness, your church attendance, and all of the wise, moral, mature decisions you have made and actions you have taken." Again, yes, your works don't get you anything from God. But these two statements apply to people that will accept God's gift of salvation, they don't mean that everyone is automatically saved.
Pg. 188 - "Our trusting, our change of heart, our believing...doesn't make it happen [God grace and love and forgiveness]." True, but you don't experience it unless you receive and open the gift. Again, I refer you to Eph. 2:8--we are saved BY grace, THROUGH faith.

Chapter 8 - In conclusion, love wins, and Bell invites you to experience that love. I agree, love wins. It is God's love that will allow you to go to hell (yes, a literal place of torment), if that is your deepest heart's desire. No one will go to hell for their sin.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Review: Love At Last Sight

Love At Last Sight by Kerry and Chris Shook sets out to tell you that everything you've been taught about relationships is wrong.  This is so true.  The world tells us that we'll just "fall" head over heels with someone, and if it's Mr. or Mrs. Right, we won't have any problems, life will be a fairy tale.

But the Bible says...

"The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God."  --I Corinthians 3:19


"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord.  "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."  --Isaiah 55:8-9
I really like how the authors point out repeatedly throughout the book that what the world keeps telling us won't work.  If we think like the world thinks, our relationships will end in ruin.  This is what Romans 12:2 is all about.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
I like that this book was so easy to read.  It is broken down into 30 daily readings, which are not long.  And don't make the mistake I did, thinking it's just about marriage.  This book is for all types of relationships.

The devil wants to destroy our relationships because it will destroy our witness, to others and especially to our kids.  If you need help in your relationship, don't wait, get help.  This book may be just what you need.

I was given this book to review by Water Brook Multnomah.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dispensations in Parenting

In my last post on dispensations I promised a follow-up on how this can apply to parenting.  So you will want to be familiar with that list in order to understand this article.  Click the link to read that.  I have inserted numbers here and there to indicate which dispensation I am referencing.

When children are born, they are innocent (1); they do not have a knowledge of good and evil. At some point they do learn of good and evil, right and wrong. This is a different time for every child. Sometimes you can see the 18-month old that knows not to touch the plant, by the look in their eye—you know that look. This is not to be confused with the "age of accountability", I believe that comes at an older age.  That is the age when a child realizes their sinfulness and their need for a Savior.  With the really young child we are talking about the conscience stage (2). At the point we begin to see that the child has a knowledge of right and wrong, we institute rules of the house. This is the government stage (3), family government. We institute consequences to help them choose right, because if left to their own devices, they will inevitably choose wrong.

As our children grow, we should be teaching our children about God’s promises (4)—His blessings, His favor, His grace, His character. We should be teaching our children about God’s principles, His laws (5) and why they were given, His standards and how we cannot measure up, His symbolism showing His plan for a Savior. Don’t present God’s law just as a back-up for your rules. This is manipulation. We should be teaching our children about God’s Spirit (6) and how He indwells us and enables us to meet His standards; how He works in us our whole lives to conform us to the image of Christ. And finally we should be teaching our children about the Kingdom of God (7), how He is returning to rule on the earth, how He is going to judge our works and reward us, and how we can rule and reign with Him. This gives them hope--hope that one day all will be made right in the world, good will triumph over evil.

If we leave any of these categories out, we fall out of balance. If we decide to use family government and God’s law, but leave out the aspects of God’s Spirit enabling us and His promises of blessing that He has for us (separate from our works), this is called legalism. Legalistic families produce children that are full of resentment, rebellion, self-righteousness, and possibly even end up rejecting the faith.

Conversely, some families want to disregard the government (3) and law (5) categories because they know that God loves them unconditionally and makes His grace abound toward us. They know that He does not pour out wrath and punishment on us (He already did that with Christ and He was our substitute). So the tendency is to be lenient with our children. God is merciful with us, so shouldn’t we be merciful with our children? We are no longer under the law, so why are we putting our children under it?  The tendency is not to discipline but just to try to convince kids through reasoning that they should behanve.  But if you leave out government and law, you will produce children with no godly character, and their lives will suffer because of it.

Too many of us just stop at the stage of government. We really just want to keep control of our children. But who are our children anyway? Why did God give them to us?

In this area as well as all others we need to take in the whole counsel of God. I believe that looking at God’s plan for man, these 7 dispensations, will help us parent more completely. The goal should be to teach our children that God loves them unconditionally, even though they are sinners. They need Christ, not only to save them, but to empower them to live their lives the way God planned, to be conformed to the image of Christ, developing godly character. They will never be perfect, but they can press on, as Paul put it. The earlier they learn these principles, the more peace they will have in their lives—with their siblings, with you, with teachers, coaches, with friends, eventually co-workers, a spouse, and their own children. And most importantly, we need to teach them how to know God and hear His voice. If they won’t receive correction from us, how will they receive correction from God’s Word as adults?

Please don’t think I have mastered this. I am learning, too. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend reading Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, and Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I'm studying Ephesians right now and have come to verse 10.  In this verse we see the word dispensation.  What is a dispensation?  It is the Greek word is oikonomia.  It means the management of household affairs, or administration.  It's simply the rule of the house, the way things operate for this time.  It is used 4 times as dispensation (I Cor. 9:17, Eph. 1:10, 3:2, & Col. 1:25) and 3 times as stewardship (Luke 16:2-4).  Some translations will use the word stewardship rather than dispensation.  I use the NKJV, which is based on the Textus Receptus.  In Eph. 3:9 there appears a word for fellowship--koinonia.  But some translations are based on the Alexandrian text, which uses the word oikonomia in that verse instead  Just something to be aware of.  The NKJV reads, "fellowship of the mystery", the ESV reads, "plan of the mystery", and NASB reads, "dispensation of the mystery."
Heb. 1:1 – God works in different ways in different times. This does not mean that God tried one thing and it didn’t work so He tried something else. The reason for each of these periods is to lead man to the cross, until the final period where Christ will reign forever.

These dispensations help us understand the overall plan of scripture. They help us have a big picture perspective.  Understanding these dispensations particularly helps us understand how we are no longer under the law.

So, what are the different dispensations?  There are seven, here is a list.  I interpret them slightly differently than some.  You may ask, "who cares?"  Does this information really do us any good in our day-to-day life?  For one, I will use them to explain the Sheep and the Goats post.  And I see a very practical aspect applied to our parenting.  I will post about that soon.

1. Innocence (Gen. 1:28) – from creation to the fall. How long did it last? We don’t really know, but we do know it ended when they sinned. They were no longer innocent at that point.

2. Conscience/Moral Responsibility (Gen. 3:7) – from the fall onward. You now know good and evil, I will leave you to your conscience to choose between those. But man tends toward evil, so we get up to Gen. 6:5 and God says that ALL the purposes of man were evil continually.

3. Government (Gen. 8:15) – from the flood onward. After the flood there were consequences for evil. Man was still accountable to his conscience to choose between good and evil, but God added an incentive. He says that anyone that takes a human life will have his taken away. We see the value God is placing on human life here. If you can’t govern yourself, someone else will have to. See also Rom. 13.

4. Promise (Gen. 12:1) – from the call of Abram onward. This promise was not based on anything Abraham had done; it was unconditional. All Abraham had to do was believe. This promise is still available to us by faith, as well. So this dispensation, too, has not gone away. Gen. 12 & Gal. 3, 4. God is now teaching humans to trust in Him.

5. Law (Ex. 19:1) – from Mt. Sinai until Jesus (or specifically John the Baptist—Luke 16:16). Promise does not end and the Law did not bring justification. It brought a picture of the Savior. It brought many, many types and shadows to point us to the cross. You can study everything in the law, from the Sabbath, to the Feasts, to the elements of the Tabernacle, to the Dietary Laws, to the specific instructions to the priests on how to administer offerings, to the laws for declaring leprosy cleansed, and you will see Christ through and through. Beyond all the symbolism, the law was meant to frustrate man and show him he could never make it on his own, even with conscience and human government.

6. Church (Acts 2:1) – from Pentecost until the rapture. This is sometimes called the Age of Grace (I do not agree with this title) or the Dispensation of Faith (again, I don’t think this is entirely accurate), or the Dispensation of the Spirit. This is the mystery Paul is talking about, the secret that was hidden, not revealed in the OT, that Gentiles and Jews would be part of the same Body, and that the Spirit would indwell us. These were mind-blowing truths. This is one of the reasons Paul prayed for revelation for the people he was writing to. We need to pray this pray, too, that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes to these profound truths.

· Do we still have moral responsibility (#2)? Yes, but now we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, to give us the power to choose right and wrong, and our human spirits have been recreated in the image of Christ—it wants to follow after Him.

· Do we still have human government (#3)? Yes, we do, but if we walk according to the Spirit, we don’t have to be afraid of the government. If they put us to death for righteousness sake, the Bible says we’re supposed to be happy.

· What about the law? Does it still stand? I Tim. 1:8-10 says that the law is not for the righteous—we have been made the righteousness of Christ—but for the lawless, the ungodly, the sinners. The law still stands to point people to Christ, to show them their need. The law still stands as a standard in our world, that if people would follow it, our world would be a better place to live in. The law does not justify us, but it sets the standard and grace gives us the power to live it.
7. Kingdom (Rev. 20:4) – from Armageddon onward. The visible rule of the Lord Jesus Christ on the earth. We can see II Sam. 7:12-16, Is. 9:6-7, Luke 1:31-33, Rev. 3:21, and Matt. 25:31. He came once to die, the second to reign.

Now, the thread that is common throughout all these dispensations is grace. That is why I do not call the Church Age the Age of Grace. Every single age has been the age of grace. It was God’s grace that blocked Adam and Eve from the Tree of Life. He did not want them to live forever in their fallen state. It was grace that God had on Cain when He marked him and sent him away. It was grace that saved Noah and his family. Grace called Abram out of Ur. Grace redeemed Israel from their bondage to the Egyptians. Grace came and dwelt among us. Grace will rule on a literal throne forever and ever. The other side of this coin is faith. You can read about people of faith throughout all the past in Hebrews 11. Just like them, we are saved by grace, through faith, in whatever age we live.