Tag Archives: Church

The Shack Revisited

Since the release of my article, The Shack:  A Story of Freedom or Force?, I’ve received an almost constant stream of hate mail regarding the concerns that I expressed, not about the film itself nor even the book, but rather the beliefs of the author, which he himself expressed clearly in his new theologically driven book, Lies We Believe About God.  In this Young states, among other things, “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!”

My article in response to such bold and blatant theological error, which has received significant traffic and support over the past few days, was criticized as being unfair to Mr. Young, judgmental, and offering unsubstantiated accusations.  Because I am simply unable to respond to each individual diatribe that I have received over the past few days, I felt it best to assemble my response and to clarify my position, in a single follow up post – which I felt is only appropriate to call, The Shack Revisited.

To begin with, let it be known that I have never met Mr. Young, though I am certain that we have nothing short of a long-list of mutual friends and acquaintances, including pastors, journalists, filmmakers, etc.  From all of these mutual relationships combined, not once have I ever heard anything but wonderful things about Young’s disposition, character, and personal integrity.  As a fellow author and filmmaker, I also have the utmost respect for his creativity and talent, which are beyond evident in The Shack.  In fact, I have nothing against the man. I simply don’t agree with his theology, especially that which is expressed in his new book.

Contrary to this generation’s thin-skinned opinion, disagreement doesn’t equal insult.  I’m absolutely certain that Mr. Young and I agree about many things regarding the nature of God and the gospel of grace, but I would ask, “Are a few commonalities reason enough to ignore the false doctrines that he also holds, such as Inclusionism and Christian Universalism?”  The Apostle Paul didn’t think so.  He and Peter had much in common, but this didn’t stop him in Galatians 2:11 from calling Peter out for his doctrinal drift and theological error.  In doing so, I’m not questioning Mr. Young’s salvation, nor the beauty of his book, rather his love affair with progressivist theology, which is as equally harmful, if not more so, than Peter’s unwillingness to let go of his legalistic tendencies and constant people pleasing.

I’ve been amazed this past week at countless Christians who have been presented with excerpt after excerpt of Mr. Young’s own words describing his adherence to spurious doctrines such as Inclusionism, “Open Hell” (if he believes Hell exists at all), and Universalism, only to look the other way or justify his beliefs as being taken out of context.  Ironically, these same individuals, I have found, are among the first in line to call out legalistic tendencies in mainstream authors as an aspersion against the gospel itself.  Yet, when the pendulum swings the other direction, into liberalism, progressivism, and at times, antinomianism, all remain silent.  The consensus seems to be that there is no evidence for Mr. Young’s doctrinal drift and that The Shack is only a work of fiction, but this just isn’t the case.

In fact, Mr. Young’s own co-writer of the Shack, Wayne Jacobsen, said in an article he penned himself for Lifestream.org that when he first received the manuscript from Mr. Young that “universalism was a significant component in the resolution of that story.”  Mr. Jacobsen, in reference to his objection to Mr. Young’s position on Universalism, states, “Paul hoped to convince me I was wrong and sent me his paper on universalism.  We spent some time discussing it, but in the end I felt it took too much linguistic gymnastics to bend Scripture to that conclusion.”  As the article continues, Mr. Jacobsen explains that Mr. Young agreed to allow him to remove the theme of Universalism from the Shack in order to make the story more palpable to the audience that needed it the most.  Although Mr. Jacobsen was successful in removing the overarching concept of Universalism from the story-line, he says nothing of removing this line of thinking from his co-author, Mr. Young.  In fact, if anything, Jacobsen only further reinforces my concerns, that Young is not simply an Inclusionist, but a Universalist as well.

With that being said, I don’t believe the issue for the church is as much Mr. Young’s personal theology, as it is the obvious idolization of a fictional story by believers.  Hearing people speak about The Shack, one would think that Mr. Young has presented a clearer gospel than Jesus himself.  This is problematic for multiple reasons, but most importantly, it demonstrates the love lost in the heart of the church toward Christ and his word.  Like a desperate housewife bored with her first love, the church has revealed that it is on the prowl for a new gospel that is more exciting than the first.  This I intend to address further next week in a new post entitled, “Legalism or Progressivism:  Which is More Deadly to Faith?”

Until then, those who know me, should recognize that if the issues I’m describing where merely related to a movie, I would never take the time to present such a case, but in no way is this about a single author or a current film, but an evolving distrust for the church, the Bible, and ultimately for God.

“Who is wise?  He will realize these things.  Who is discerning?  He will understand them.  The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”

– Hosea 14:9

 

6 Comments

Filed under Articles

On Claiming Early Church Fathers (Part 1)

Recently, I’ve witnessed a string of universalist pastors and teachers making claims that many well known early church fathers were in fact universalists themselves.  As a long time student of the philosophical writings of early Christian thought, I have been quite perplexed to witness these claims and see so many of them go unquestioned.  Specifically, the two that I hear most often are Origen and Irenaeous.

Origen, perhaps the most common church Father to be claimed by universalist teachers, is often highlighted for such extreme universalist notions that even Satan himself is redeemed; but rarely does anyone quote where he said this.  In actuality what Origen actually said is this, “So, too, the reprobate will always be fixed in evil, less from the inability to free themselves from it, than because they wish to be evil.” (First Principles 1.8.4)  It seems from Origen’s viewpoint, that all creation, including the devil could be saved, because of free will, but that it would in fact be their will to remain reprobate because of the desire to live in wickedness.  Furthermore, Marc Cortez, a theology professor at Wheaton College, adds to our understanding of Origen’s theology, claiming, “Origen’s point was that Satan did not want salvation because his free will choice.  He (Origen) writes in a letter defending himself against the above accusation, that anyone who would claim that Satan would be saved was a “madman.””

On more vocal universalist thinker recently claimed that Irenaeous was also a known universalist.  This was perhaps the most surprising to me.  In his writing, Against Heresies 1:10:1, Irenaeous himself writes, “[God will] send the spiritual forces of wickedness, and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, and the impious, unjust, lawless, and blasphemous among men into everlasting fire.” 

By no means do I expect that one blog post should be viewed as an appropriate discourse on the mountains of writings by early church fathers, but I do hope that it may cause some to do their homework more and not just believe everything they read.  Can one find quotes and bizarre doctrines being presented by Origen or St. Gregory of Nyssa – of course they can!  But one philosophical proposition does not make someone a universalist.  I love what Paul Helm offered on the subject, “The trouble with these claims that we have been examining, vague and insubstantial as they appear, is that once they get into print that fact alone provides credibility to the view, at least to some minds. But printer’s ink is no substitute for evidence. Another reminder of the importance of primary sources, and the danger that what may count as ‘scholarship’ may in fact be nothing other than the retailing of opinions that no-one ever takes the trouble to check.”

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Human Connection Part 2, Day 1

In Review:

This is a both/and series. The point is divided into two parts: how we relate to one another and on the spiritual plain – how we relate to God.

And just how does this thing called connectivity relate to God?

Part of this series is philosophical and psychological. So, why talk about it in church? Something doesn’t always have to have scripture and verse next to it to be true. Scripture encompasses all truth. But, there are principals we can’t tie to just one verse. We’re looking at the whole chasm of scripture in how we relate to one another.The example of this is when Jesus related to others and how we do so in this natural world in which we live now.

Rom. 1:20

 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse

You can look at the natural and physical world and glean spiritual understanding and truths.

There’s a connection there – to this natural world because it’s a shadow we use to point to or connect to thespiritual world.

I want to be careful to say this is not a doctrinal thesis. I’m sharing these things as I understand them and invite you to grow and learn with me.

In the first part of the series I introduced the topic or idea of the kingdom of God. This is different than thekingdom of heaven which refers to the physical rule and reign of Jesus Christ.  When Scripture refers to the kingdom of God it’s talking about this invisible realm in which we connect to God and each other.

Luke 17:20-21

 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of thekingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ becausethe kingdom of God is in your midst.

 

The kingdom of God is within you. Christ in you – where spiritual interactions transpire.  I also talked about theimportance of connecting with one another. We need to connect for relationship and synergy. If you look at thedictionary definition, it explains synergy as the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements…Together we can do so much more than we can on our own. We want to be able to shape those around us in a positive way. To impact those within our personal sphere of influence as well as exponentially through the relationships we build with others.

I intertwined some exciting side notes about quantum physics as well. When we talk about quantum physics it points to the kingdom of God. Not because quantum physics is the kingdom of God, but because God has made himself known through what he has created. It shows us there’s a more true, if you will, physical realm with spiritual laws. It shows us the consistency of God.

In Grace we have a fear of anything that calls itself or is known by law. But God operates by laws.For instance:

He will never violate your will.

He won’t force himself upon you.

Those are laws by which he governs himself. That’s not legalism. Those are principals by which he operates around.

When the Bible says we’re free from the law it means we’re free from using the law as a method by which we obtain righteousness. It’s not that the law no longer has truth in it as though we can disconnect ourselves from it. It’s that it’s not the source of our righteousness.

The kingdom of God works every single time we let it.

Prov. 13:20

Walk with the wise and become wise,  for a companion of fools suffers harm

The entanglement theory is this: every time two things interact they will become connected to some degree. God’s principles and laws are consistent. It all points to the fact that we’re all connected and need each other. And how cool is it that we can be entangled in what Jesus did on the cross because he became a man and those who put their faith in him become entangled in him and we get what he deserves because he got what we deserve? That’s powerful.

 

So, what does all of this mean? We’re going to look into that in this part of the Human Connection series. We’re going to talk about making contact.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Grace Dependent

God wants us to enjoy a relationship with him. I was reminded of that this morning while I was getting ready for church. My dog would not leave my side. It’s like really cool for the first month or two and then you’re like – don’t you have something to do? This is my personal space. But this morning she laid at my feet while I was brushing my teeth and I’m thinking – this dumb dog – with her legs intertwined in mine. It occurred to me that sometimes we might get annoyed when other people do that to us…and then the Lord said, “This is what I want you to do with me.” He never gets annoyed with our presence and he wants us to lean into Him and touch him every place we go.

God put grace in place. This was all God’s idea. It’s not like God tried a bunch of other stuff….it was really his plan from the beginning to put grace in our lives. He wants to be an integral part of our lives. 

He’s not condemning you. He’s not against you. The gospel is that God is no longer counting your sins against you. And your righteousness is founded upon Jesus and not your own efforts and your own works. That’s called performance and performance leads to death. There is a life and there is a victory that is found in Christ and it is available to you.

There is a book called Families Where Grace is in Place by Jeff Vanvonderen. It includes encouraging explanations of this concept and the book includes a couple of top ten lists.

I want to share something with you from the book and expand on it using the lists. Before I share the top ten characteristics found in a shame based system let’s look at what God says about grace.

Titus 2:11-12

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age

The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men and teaches us to say no to ungodliness. I’ve spoken with other preachers who are accused of teaching grace and that it’s a license to sin. Legalists call it greasy grace. Church leaders in some of these religious circles look at the grace message and actually call it greasy.

I’m not here to speak out against those guys. I think life speaks. I think relationships speak for themselves. I don’t think we have to defend ourselves as much as we want to. And when we experience grace it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. It’s a total break through. God’s grace teaches us to say no to things like ungodly passion.

If God’s grace isn’t teaching you that, then you’re probably still living in some form of performance, law and legalism. If you aren’t seeing your life develop and change you’re probably not living in grace. It’s not to condemn you. It’s not to say you won’t have a bad day.

If you watch what grace is doing, you’ll see grace produce more holiness and righteousness than you could ever do on purpose.

It’s the speed of grace.

 

Check out tomorrow’s blog as I expand on grace vs. law based living.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Walmart Gets It…Do you?

index

Walmart gets it.  They have factories, they make products – that’s their message.  But they also have trucks, shipping containers, delivery drivers; all of which are only concerned with delivering their product to you, via the local store.  But they didn’t just build a store and expect people to come out.  They marketed, they made commercials, TV ads and newspaper fliers, convincing you that they had something that you wanted…no, needed….so that you would come out and shop.

This is especially true during states of emergency.  Do you know what the most important commodity is before or during a natural disaster?

Water, milk, a loaf of bread?  No, you’d be wrong.

Strawberry Poptarts.

That’s right.  During times of emergency, Walmart sells out of Strawberry Poptarts faster than any other item on their shelves.  As a result, they have crafted a special delivery system to get Poptarts to you quicker than you can say, “sugar coma.”  They have the product that you need and they know how to get it to you on time, every time.

We all want our message (i.e. content) to impact our audience – to leave them different after encountering what we have to say and give. Right? But so often, this doesn’t happen.  We preach.  Nothing changes.  We post.  No one responses.  In today’s world, we’re communicating and sending messages all the time; emails, tweets, Facebook status updates, pictures on Instagram, text messages, and even Snapchats…whatever the heck that is.  But that’s actually the problem – we are spending all of our time on the message and no time on figuring out whether or not we have an audience.  So we write more, post more, regardless if anyone is responding.  After awhile, it becomes empty opinions – words that are never heard.

But most of us, especially those reading this post – are not a box store or a supermarket.  Your product is more intangible – it’s your music, your writing, your ideas, and your opinions.  You can’t just put your message on delivery trucks and send them to the neighborhood.  Bottom-line, today’s products are intellectual.  They aren’t sold in stores, they don’t come in fancy packaging, and you can’t sell them in some rundown strip mall.

This is where influence comes in.

Let’s talk about city water.  You turn on the faucet and water comes out.  In this case, water is the product or the message.  It is the thing that you want people to receive, rather that they need to receive.  It’s a commodity – and a highly valuable one at that.  But it doesn’t just magically appear in your kitchen.  No sometime, probably long before you moved into your house, sweaty men dug trenches to run waterlines from the purification plant to your neighborhood or apartment building.  Hundreds of thousands of miles of pipe line connecting every home with what they need to receive – water.

This is the problem with the current affairs of most of the church.  Pastors want everyone to hear what they have to say, to receive, literally “living water”, but they haven’t taken the time to build the pipeline.  So no one receives anything.  Their words and message go out empty every week and their posts go unread.

Your message will never go any further than your influence.

It can’t.  This is what we have to understand.

Every relationship, every person that knows that you genuinely care, every handshake, every returned phone call, these are all opportunities to lay water lines to your community and to the world.  Here is the truth – when we care as much about our influence, as we do our opinions, people will hear what we have to say.  Yes, it takes time, but it’s worth it.

I need a poptart.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Leadership, Uncategorized

Week 15 Devotional: God’s Good Will

When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.   A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.”  (Matthew 8:1-3)

Growing up, I always heard people at my church praying for the sick, saying, “Lord, if it be thy will, then please heal so and so.”  Everyone had this belief that it was impossible to know the will of God for a person.  But Romans 12 tells us that when we renew our mind with the Word of God, then we will be able to “test and approve” what God’s will is.  When you really know the Word, you don’t have to wonder what God’s will is – you can know it.  This man with leprosy, he was still praying, “Lord if it be thy will,” but Jesus proclaims, “I AM WILLING!”  It is God’s will for you to be blessed, to prosper, to be filled with joy, overflowing with God’s goodness.  Some are afraid of this belief, thinking, “But God is God, He is too wonderful for us to know.”  What they fail to understand is that knowing God, his character, his nature, and his will, is different than understanding the full extent of His existence and power.  As created beings, we can’t fathom God’s riches and fully grasp the depth of His eternal attributes, but WE CAN know Him.  We might not understand how he could love us, or why he loves us, but we can know that he DOES love us.  If there is anything that you can stand on in this world, it is God’s love towards us.  As the angels proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, PEACE, goodwill towards man.”  Church, God now has good will towards you; in that, his will for you is good.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Week 13 Devotional: The will of God

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”  But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” John 4:31-34

In this passage, Jesus disciples urged him to eat, but he replies to them and tells them that doing God’s will is supply enough for Him.  That’s powerful!  How often do we, as Christians, hear people talking about how tired they are, or how they need a vacation or a break?  Don’t get me wrong, I love vacations, but what Jesus says here is that when you are doing what you were created to do, it should supply you and not deplete you.  I believe that this verse is a great litmus test as to whether or not you are doing what God created you to do.  Have you been serving in some role in the church just because you feel like you are obligated?  You might be struggling through what you are doing right now, when you could be prospering and feeling full by doing something else.  God hasn’t called you to be his slave or his servant.  The Bibles says that Jesus now calls us friends.  Today, start moving into the will of God for your life and begin to experience His supply.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be opposition, in fact there will probably be more of it, but don’t look for opposition to see whether you are in the will of God or not; look for His supply.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Welcome Sarah Way and Tia Brown to the OasNet Team.

For the last several months, OasNet has been seeking an intern to join our team specifically to assist with Global Pastor Outreach (aka Adopt a Pastor Program).  God answered that prayer with not just one intern, but two.  Sarah Way and Tia Brown attended the recent Oasis Granger Christmas Coffee House at Bella Vita Coffee.  They thought they were attending the event to support their good friend and singer/song writer, Seth Bible, who was performing that night, but apparently God had more in store.  Long story short, I had informed them to “keep their eyes open” for anyone who might be interested in assisting with some international ministry projects that we’re working on, as Sarah and Tia are both local college students (Notre Dame and Bethel College, respectively).  They asked a few questions about the program and I went on about the night.  Little did I know that God was stirring their hearts to join our team.  Later that night, they asked, “What if we are interested in getting involved with the project?”  And the rest, as they say, is history.  Sarah and Tia (pictured below) will both begin working for OasNet and Global Pastor Outreach in early January and will conclude their internship with a trip to visit the Oasis churches in Tampico, Mexico in June.  We are all excited to welcome them on board and to see what all God is going to do in them over the next several months.  To find out more about the Global Pastor Outreach or the Oasis Network For Churches you can visit our website at www.oasnet.net or contact our offices at 574-247-9800. 

img_0990a2tia3

1 Comment

Filed under missionaries, OasNet, Uncategorized

Oasis Mexico Mission Trip 2008 Photos

Leave a Comment

Filed under Lucas' World, Oasis Granger News, OasNet, Uncategorized

Catching Up: All the things that I’ve forgotten to blog about…

Alright, here is the rundown of significant and insignificant news that I normally would have blogged about, but due to all that we’ve been through lately, and for whatever other reason, I didn’t….in no particular order.

1.) Oasis Staff/MTL’s/Trustee Christmas Party – We went to Papa Vino’s, had a great dinner, a hilarious White Elephant Gift Exchange (I got a Qur’an, and I’m not sure why Jordan had it in the first place :).  Then afterwards we all saw “I am Legend”.

2.)  “I am Legend” Movie Review – Real simple…great concept, wonderful acting, well done, but sucky ending.  I won’t ruin it, but I will say that it didn’t live up to the hype.  They did however bring in this great idea of the world being such a quiet place now that you could “hear God speaking”, but though the concept was introduced, they just left it out there and never developed it.  I did like how Will Smith’s character announced, “God didn’t do this!”  I thought of all the intrepretations of Job, etc, where God is wrongly blamed.  Also, I’m now scared of German Shephards after the film…

3.)  Wind storm last night….crazy!  I think my roof almost ripped off my house.  Snow is definitely better than hurricane winds.  You hear that God? 

4.)  Tons of new ministries to get involved with Oasis in 2008.  We’re looking for someone to assist with snow removal, newsletter updates, someone to handle emergency contacts (such as during a snow storm and we cancel a service, etc.), Children’s/Nursery workers, musicians of all kinds, website help, sound/video technical help, youth ministry,…like I said, A TON!  I could go on and on, but I’m afraid of running out of room on WordPress’ server!

5.)  My 10 year high school reunion is coming up this summer.  Just thought of that.  This is also my 10th year in ministry.  So, ’08 marks two milestones for me. 

6.)  I still don’t have a Christmas present for Krissy yet….it’s down to the wire.  (I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have mine yet either, since she just got released to drive Friday, and hasn’t done so yet.  Don’t worry, I’ll make it!)

7.)  I had a really cool dream last night about the church (Oasis Granger) and we were meeting in this larger building and there were just swarms of people – which was sweet!

8.)  Just yesterday, I had the opportunity to pray for a friend’s sister, named Robin, who has “terminal cancer” for healing.  It went really well.  Great time of teaching, prayer, etc.  She just seemed to have so much joy when we left.  Robin – the first report isn’t the last report!  I won’t stop believing for you to be healed!!! 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Lucas' World, Oasis Granger News, Uncategorized