2011 has been a crazy year and it is only May 20th, 2011! That is right, my last full day until the rapture and the beginning of the end!

Okay, well maybe Judgement Day is not going to be tomorrow. But then again, maybe it will. Or, maybe it will all end today. Who knows? Well Harold Camping seems to know.

He believes beyond a shadow of a doubt that the rapture and Judgement Day will occur tomorrow, May 21st, 2011, at around 6:00 P.M. Now this isn’t a post about Camping or his thoughts about Judgement Day neither is this an attack on him. He has, hopefully, done something good for all of us. So has other controversial religious leaders in 2011.

Rob Bell wrote a book describing what Heaven and Hell might actually be like and how Hell might not be eternal. This also is a very controversial subject, of which I have spoken out against in other posts, so I will not be offering anymore analysis on his book Love Wins. But Rob Bell has actually done something good for us, regardless of how wrong his suggestions are.

Lastly, Terry Jones and some followers put the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, on a mock trial and sentenced it to death. So they burned the Qur’an. Following this act, many people in the Muslim world were outraged and many people were killed because of the violent outbursts in response to Jones’ act. Once again, this isn’t an attack on Jones or his actions. We can hopefully look at this situation, as well as the other two, and see some good things that these events have done for all of us.

All three of these controversial events have accomplished one great thing. They have created conversation.

Terry Jones began to see the very dark side of orthodox Islam. And now because of his actions, we can all take a closer look into Islam and maybe even try to understand it. Maybe we can actually have enough interest to read some of the Qur’an and see what it says about Jesus and Christianity. It is rather shocking, especially if you are a Christian. Without supporting or condemning his act of burning the Qur’an, we can at least say that the topic is now a little more out in the open for people to discuss. But I will say this, we are quickly approaching, and I fear we are already arriving, at a place in time when protesting will not be possible. Freedom of speech is just barely holding on right now.

Rob Bell brought the discussion of Heaven and Hell to the forefront once again. The best thing about this controversy is that because Rob Bell offered something so opposite of orthodox Christian belief, many Evangelical Christians came out of the woodwork to defend what the Bible actually teaches about the afterlife, Hell in particular. There was a stronger unity that was created among confessional Christians, as well as a strong call to hold to, and hold high, the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Heaven and Hell became a growing topic of discussion because of Rob Bell and we can thank him for that.

Now on to Camping. No one knows what will happen tomorrow besides God. But what I do know about all of the controversy of Harold Camping is that the discussion of the end times is now in the limelight, sadly it has been, for the most part, to make fun of Camping and Christians altogether. It reminds me of how they treated Noah in his day. Although most Christians don’t think Camping is correct, Camping has at least made Christians a little more expressive about the fact that Judgement Day could be today.

Jones has at least opened up the discussion about what Islam is truly all about, even though his methods can be debated over.

Bell has brought the topic of salvation into discussion and every Christian should appreciate when that happens because it is a chance to proclaim the Gospel.

And Camping has brought the topic of Jesus’ return and the end times to the attention of the whole world. Our hearts should break for the lost people of this world. We can see how broken and blind they are when they constantly make fun of us Christians, even though sometimes we make it easy for them.

We need to clearly know what the Bible says and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all creatures because it is through the Word preached that people are made alive and brought into the Kingdom of God. We must know what Muslim people actually believe, not what professing Muslims want us to believe, and we must proclaim the Gospel to them as well, in order to bring them out of their bondage and into the freedom of Jesus Christ. Our ignorance of Islam must end. And lastly, Judgement Day may not be tomorrow, but it is coming soon. I have to ask myself, “Am I ready and enthusiastically awaiting Christ’s return?” Are you?

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I woke up today and chose to wear these specific blue jeans and this black polo shirt. I could have chosen a different pair of jeans and a different black polo shirt. I have to wear a black polo of some kind for my job at the music store. Technically, I have the freedom to just say, “I don’t care if my work yells at me for not wearing the right shirt, I am wearing what I want.” But my desire to be a good employee is greater than my desire to wear a different shirt. So I freely chose to do what I wanted most. To be honest, I wasn’t supposed to work today, and my bed felt really good this morning. I really wanted to just enjoy my Saturday at home, but I had a greater desire to both make a little more money and help out my boss because someone needed the day off.

We make decisions everyday. We do so freely based off of our deepest desires and the options that are set before us that we are capable of choosing. Then we read in the Bible about God having the ability to choose whatever he wants.

Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.”

So if we have the ability to freely choose whatever we want and God has the freedom and right to do what he desires, what happens when God wants something but we want something different? Who ultimately reigns over everything and gets what he wants; God or man? This leads to a deeper question; Can any fallen human being choose of his or her own free will to do what God commands, which is repent and believe in Jesus, unaided by a special work of God first?

These are good questions. It is good to think about things concerning us and God. Thinking about things lead to thinking deeper about God. The deeper we go with our understanding of God, the greater our desire for more of Him.

One of the most discussed/debated subjects that thinking Christians will inevitably discuss is the concept God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Or, another way to put it, do we have free will? If God is in control of everything (sovereign), and we freely choose what we want, how can these two concepts coexist. This discussion usually gets misunderstood by misconceptions in our modern language, as well as our misunderstanding of another person’s position.

Recently, Geoff Ashley from The Village Church, wrote a great 5 part series on whether or not we have a free will, and what is really meant by that.  Each one is a very quick read and each one is supported by Scripture. Please read these posts if you have any questions about the reformed position on the freedom/bondage of the will. Here are links to each of those posts:

Do We Have A Free Will?

1.Introduction

2. Opening Clarifications

3. The Reality of Unregenerate Bondage

4.Considering the Objections

5. Conclusions

Also if you would like a .pdf file of all of these articles in one document click here.

Thanks for visiting. Add your thoughts to the comment section. Let the conversation begin.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: People celebrate in the...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

So this morning I wake up at 5:00 am to do my P90X workout to then have my wife tell me that she just heard on the news that Osama Bin Laden has been killed by the US. She said that there were videos and pictures of people gathered at Ground Zero in New York City, as well as countless other places around the US, celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden. As soon as I heard this, I had no idea what to think, feel, or do. My heart sank. As a Christian I felt that it would be wrong to celebrate the death of someone created in God‘s image. But I also began to think of some deep thoughts, questions, and observations that I would like to share with you.

Here are some pictures of people celebrating over Bin Laden’s death.

Why was everyone celebrating? I understand that if he really did orchestrate the attacks on 9/11 then he must be punished for them. But why do I understand this to be so? It is part of our deepest desire to have the wrongs righted in our lives. 9/11 was a terrible event that saw many people lose their lives. We wanted justice. If Bin Laden died this week, which I think it is terrible that we just assume at face value that this is true because President Obama said so even though there is absolutely no evidence for this, then my question is where is he now?

Think over that question long and hard. Is Bin Laden in hell or heaven? Or is he in a temporary hell being offered the chance to still work through his 9/11 garbage, as well as other sins, and come on through the open doors of heaven? This is what Rob bell has written about lately. He suggests that it does not matter if you actually cognitively understand the gospel and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior who alone saves from sin, death, and hell. He goes on to say that God wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and God has to get what He wants in order to actually be worthy of praise so then the natural assumption is that all men will be saved, even through the temporary correction of hell’s flames.

Rob Bell recently did an interview with NPR news. Hear it here. He says in his interview that he leaves the door open for people from other faiths to be getting to heaven through Jesus. He also says in the interview that he cannot trust a God who sends people to hell to be punished for eternity. What about Osama Bin Laden? Is he in a place of eternal flames right now without ever getting the chance or offer of escaping it? It is ridiculous for a Christian to assume that a Buddhist man who rejected Christ is not in heaven, but I do understand that it is not easy to admit this because he may have been seen as a good man. We don’t like to think of “good” people being in hell. I put “good” in quotes because the Bible is clear that there is none good or righteous (Romans 3).

But is it easy to go along with Rob Bell’s ideas and say Bin Laden is in Heaven? Or at least Bin Laden will be in Heaven… someday?

We want justice. That is why these people celebrate over the death of Osama Bin Laden. If we are all going to be in Heaven someday then who cares about 9/11? There would be no justice. While Bin Laden was alive, Christians should have been praying for his soul to come to know Jesus, but now his time is up.

And this isn’t even touching on the fact that all of our sin is actually first and foremost against God. That is the real matter. That is what brings out the discussion about Gandhi, or anyone else who rejects the Gospel of Jesus Christ, being in Hell, no matter how “good” they seem to be.

I leave you with this thought. Heaven is eternal. Hell is eternal. The way to God is through the atoning work of Christ’s blood. The grace of God through faith in Christ. The forgiveness of sins that is only found in Jesus. There is no other salvation outside of Christ. If both Gandhi and Bin Laden rejected Christ, they are both in hell. Their sin is equal in the eyes of God because they both trampled on the blood of God’s one and only Son Jesus Christ.

“If Rob Bell is right then the Bible is wrong.” – Sean Harris

I read this Time Magazine article today about Rob Bell‘s new book Love Wins. Read it by clicking here.

It is a very good read, although I don’t agree with some of what is stated in the article, but then again, it is a Time Magazine article. I think one of the most shocking statements from the article is what I titled this post;

“My generation wanted truth — these are folks who want authenticity.” – Fuller Theological Seminary president Richard Mouw.

I think I get what he is trying to say. Mind you that “these folks” he speaks of wanting authenticity are people who are flocking to Bell and his teaching. But this sentence sounds like he is saying that as long as people are around someone who is authentic then it does not really matter if it is the truth. He may or may not be saying this, but do you think that is an honest way to understand people these days? This has got me thinking…

Can we be giving Truth without being authentic? If so, can’t this be labeled hypocrisy? And should we be seeking out authenticity without it being ground in Truth? What are your thoughts?

Also, I have been really thinking about how debating and fighting for the truth of the Gospel is actually a good thing. More thoughts about this soon.

As the firestorm continues over Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins, I thought it might be interesting to look at what other books Rob Bell’s publisher, Harper Collins, is putting out into print. Before I do this I wanted to put up a few links in order to fill you in on this controversy if you haven’t heard anything about it so far.

  • First and foremost, the best link to go to that easily documents the time line of events with many early links would be here by the good people of The Resurgence.
  • Some more recent links that will also help is this amazing interview with Rob Bell about his book done by Martin Bashir for MSNBC. Just so you know, many news outlets have picked up on this story and are doing interesting stories on it. This interview is amazing though. Take a look for yourself and you be the judge how well Rob Bell answers these questions.
  • You can also watch this re-run of the live stream interview that happened Monday evening.
  • Also there is a great commentary on this live stream interview here. It is good to have a well informed Christian pause and interject some good information while listening to this live stream question and answer session. Thank you Pirate Christian Radio for this great resource.

So now that you have some links to bring you up to speed, let us just step back to the beginning of this controversy.

Harper Collins releases a description of the new book Love Wins and Rob Bell releases a 3-minute video in which he asks a lot of questions. These questions are dealing with heaven, hell, and also whether or not a loving God would really send anyone to a place of eternal punishment. Many people seemed very disturbed by his questions because they seemed to pull out the rug on all accepted traditional thoughts and beliefs about Christianity. Many people, including myself, were beginning to wonder if he was going to make the conclusions in the book that he seemed to be making in the video. Many voiced their opinions about how if he did go to these conclusions in the book, this would have to be thrown out of conventional biblical Christianity. It just goes so counter to the Bible, but also at the core, it goes so counter to the gospel as well. But some people took a step back and thought, “well we have to actually wait to the book comes out to make that kind of judgment.” My wife said this, and also she said, “who knows, maybe he will just be asking these tough questions and then in the book he will say something like, ‘well the traditional thoughts and belief’s in Christianity about Heaven and Hell are actually correct and let’s talk about these things.'” It was pure optimism on my wife’s part. She had a point though and we didn’t know for sure what was going to happen.

But the book has been released and everyone’s fears about the conclusions he possible was making from these questions has been confirmed. Many full and in-depth reviews have come out of the book that reaffirm that these conclusions and teachings are actually being made by Bell in the book. Such conclusions as, you can use your free-will in hell to go to heaven whenever you choose to, even if people never consciously have faith in Jesus, they can still go to heaven, and so on and so on.

Now my question, which I believe some people have begun to ask is, why with the release of this new controversial book, is Rob Bell no longer being published by Zondervan, which is the publisher of his previous books and videos, and they also publish the NIV version of the Bible? There are some articles discussing this, but we do not know why he is no longer with Zondervan, but what we do know from articles is that if Zondervan was given the opportunity to publish Love Wins, they would not have done so because it did not mesh with their mission as a publisher.

Zondervan’s website says their mission is as follows: To be the leader in Christian communications meeting the needs of people with resources that glorify Jesus Christ and promote biblical principles.

So Rob Bell has a new publisher called Harper One, which seems to be an imprint publisher of Harper Collins. Now to rapidly get to the point of this post…

Today I started to wonder what other works Harper Collins is publishing. This one book was on their front page. It’s called Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire.

Here is the publisher’s description of the book.

Book Description

Bible scholar Jennifer Wright Knust addresses the big questions that dominate today’s discussions and debates when it comes to sex and the Bible: Is premarital sex a sin? When, and in what contexts, is sexual desire appropriate? With whom can I legitimately have sex? Are same-sex relations permissible? In an era where the phrases, “the Bible says,” and “God says,” are so often exploited, it is time to consider what the Bible actually does—or does not—say about monogamy, polygamy, homosexuality, gender roles, and sex.

Unprotected Texts directly and pointedly takes on widely shared misconceptions about sex, arguing that the Bible cannot—and should not—serve as a rulebook for sexual morality, despite popular claims to the contrary. From the Song of Songs’ lyrical eroticism to the rigid sexual rules of Leviticus—and everything in between—Knust parses the Bible’s contradictory, often surprising messages.

Skillfully revealing the latest insights from critical scholarship, Knust provides a compassionate and liberating model for navigating these deeply personal issues that affect us all.

Now, notice just like Rob Bell did with Love Wins, Knust does with this book. Rob Bell seemingly just asked questions. Even in Bell’s book he states that it isn’t just a book about questions but a book that attempts to answer those questions. Even from this book’s description, it is claiming to do the very same thing. Notice how Bell’s questions attempted to tear down all conservative Christians’ idea of what the afterlife and the gospel are about. Knust is doing the same thing with these questions about how God feels and thinks about sex. Now this is not an attack on another random book, but I think it is interesting that we think questions aren’t used in order to create a certain way of thinking.

Harper Collins seems to like it when an author calls facts into question. Again this is nothing against Harper Collins or this random book about sex. But what this is about is simply this; if people are uncomfortable with what the Bible clearly says then they will eventually make up a new theology by playing with the Bible until it fits with their thoughts.

With Rob Bell, it was hell. The truth is nobody likes the idea of hell. It isn’t something we really want to believe but we know it to be true because the Bible is very clear on hell. It is clear that it is eternal and it is God pouring out His wrath on people forever. With Knust, it is sex. No single person with hormones really wants to wait until they are married to have sex. We are sinners. If someone has strong urges to sleep with the same sex, then they don’t want to believe that God is against homosexuality. So Rob Bell creates a new hell and now Knust seems to think that we have had it all wrong when it came to sex and the Bible.

I find it interesting that Rob Bell’s book didn’t even make it onto the Christianity section at my local Barnes and Noble. It was in the Eastern Religions section. I don’t know how they go about putting books under certain categories, but it seems as though Barnes and Noble has even rejected Rob Bell from Christianity. I say all this with one point in mind. If we don’t know what the Bible teaches on any subject, then we are open to believe anything and everything that people want to try to teach us. Ephesians 4:14 says, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” We have to stand on our convictions about what the Bible teaches. I don’t write this to bash Knust or Harper Collins or even Rob Bell personally. I write this in an attempt to help us see that these people are not promoting a biblical system of theology. I am just a voice in the wilderness crying out saying, “read your bible, test the things these people are preaching, and don’t be tossed around by every crazy thing that wants to twist the Bible.” Questioning heaven, hell, and sex isn’t bad as long as we are satisfied by what God says about them in the Bible.

Finally, I don’t seek out to just make sure everyone believes that there really is a hell and that the Bible actually can be a book to look to in order to find out what God accepts and rejects when it comes to sex. I also want you to know that there is an escape from hell and sin.

[16] “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
(John 3:16-18 ESV)

and…

[35] The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. [36] Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
(John 3:35-36 ESV)

So I urge you today, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Repent of your sins and trust that Jesus really did stand condemned for you personally. Jesus came to save sinners from their sin (Matthew 1:21). You and I qualify. Let us look to Jesus as our Savior and worship Him forever.

Some Questions for Rob Bell

Posted: March 14, 2011 in Church, Theology

If you haven’t heard by now, Rob Bell is releasing a controversial new book called Love Wins. He also released this video, which made every Bible-believing Christian scratch their head with confusion.

There are way better bloggers out there who have written way better reviews of this book. For the best review I have read so far, click here. This review is by Kevin DeYoung and is very insightful and also very long. I am saying this with all my soul, it is worth the read though.
Right before I read this article, I watched a six minute video of Rob Bell trying to explain this book to a group of people. He talked about the fact that if it is to really be “love” it must be freely chosen and there must not be any coercion or drawing toward God by God. Then I found this article and started to read. When I got about half of the way done with it, I started to ponder these questions…

If people are getting second chances in hell, and God’s love wins, and God will eventually melt all sinners’ hard hearts, isn’t that in some way going against their free-will and coercing them?

Also, if God can melt their heart eventually (even after they’re in hell), God would surely have the power to do so before they entered hell… so why not save them BEFORE they go to hell if God is going to save them anyways?

And then Kevin DeYoung asked this same kind of question in the end,

“Bell’s god is a small god, so bound by notions of radical free will that I wonder how Bell can be so confident God’s love will melt the hardest heart. If God’s grace is always, essentially, fundamentally, resistible (72, 103–4, 118–19), how do we know some sinners won’t suffer in their own hell for a million years?”

And I would add, how do we know that they won’t suffer for eternity? Someone once said bad theology dishonors God and hurts people. Rob Bell’s book seems to go contrary to 99% of normal people’s understanding of Christianity. I could write so much more about it, but I don’t believe I would be saying anything new.

I challenge all who consider themselves Christian to pick up a copy of Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins and your Bible and see how much of the Bible makes sense with this way of thinking. One of my mottoes in life is this… if something has been considered normal Christian thought and belief for thousands of years, and it makes the Bible make sense, then we should believe it. If something is believed by less than 5% of all Christians in all time and it makes the Bible confusing, then it is false teaching. Judge for yourself.

R.C. Sproul
Image by james.thompson via Flickr

I watched this today and I feel it is something everybody would benefit from. R.C. Sproul talks about the fact that the explicit statements in the Bible must always interpret the implicit statements. And if our implications run in opposition to the explicit statements in the Bible, then our implications MUST be disregarded. The video is about 25 minutes long, and yet I believe it will be well worth every one of those 25 minutes. Here is the link

Watch it and tell me what you think.