A Worldview Shift

I haven’t blogged much over the last couple of years, partly because I’ve been busy, but mostly because I’ve been thinking.  I’ve been reevaluating why I believe much of what I believe, and as a result, there’s been a shift in my thinking.

 

My foundational axioms haven’t changed.  They never will.

 

What’s changed is how I apply those beliefs, especially to the realm of politics.

 

I came to faith in Jesus Christ in 1979, as a college freshman.  A year later, Ronald Reagan was elected President.  Since that time, I’ve been a political conservative – pro-life, pro 2nd Amendment, pro traditional marriage, against illegal immigration, pro fiscal conservatism, and so forth.  Although my views on these issues haven’t completely changed, my view on the importance of these issues has shifted.

 

There have been many things that have triggered this shift in my thinking, but the two that stand out are my trips to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and the election of Donald Trump.

 

In Pine Ridge, I have seen entire communities living in poverty, in the middle of the richest nation in the world.  I have gotten to know the Lakota people, and they defy the stereotypes portrayed by both the left and the right.  For generations, they’ve been used, lied to, abused, stolen from, and abandoned by the government.  The politicians on the left make all sorts of promises they never keep.  The politicians on the right vilify them then ignore them.  The Lakota people live in poverty, not by choice, but because the government has imposed it on them.  The addictions and suicides on the reservation are because they have no hope.  They desperately need Jesus, but most don’t want anything to do with Him, because churches were used by the government to murder them, steal their children, and destroy their culture.  I realized that, on Pine Ridge, the government is the problem, not the solution.

 

The support of evangelical Christians for Donald Trump has mystified me.  Trump makes blasphemous statements.  He is a pervert.  He’s a blatant liar and adulterer.  He is greedy.  He is a racist and a misogynist.  He is divisive.  His character is everything the Bible calls sin, yet most evangelicals continue to think he is a great man.   This completely baffled me, until I came to a realization:  American Evangelicalism has fallen into idolatry. It has become a political movement rather than an evangelistic movement.  Although they give Jesus Christ lip service, most prominent evangelical leaders have put their faith and trust in American conservative politics rather than in Jesus Christ.  They are more concerned with protecting the culture and their material wealth than in advancing the Gospel.

 

Confession:  I realized that politics had become an idol for me as well, and that many of my political views were unbiblical.

 

I realized that I was more concerned with what the government was doing about issues like abortion, marriage, gun rights, racism, poverty, and other issues than I was about following Jesus and sharing the Gospel.  I also realized this had to change.

 

My latest epiphany is that it is it is completely unbiblical to expect the culture to accept godly values and practices.  Most people in the United States are not followers of Jesus Christ.  They are unregenerate sinners, separated from God, and therefore have no rational reason to accept biblical truth.   They are their own gods, deciding for themselves what they accept as truth.  Why would a person who doesn’t know Jesus Christ and doesn’t have the Holy Spirit have any reason to reject homosexuality or abortion?  Why would racism, greed, or drug use be wrong?  Truth and morality can be whatever is convenient, if a person rejects Jesus Christ and the Bible as truth.

 

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, my message to you would be to make sure your faith is firmly placed in Jesus Christ alone.  Anything else is idolatry.  Faith in the government or politicians to solve our problems is idolatry.  I have had to shift my thinking away from trying to change the culture, and instead focus on trusting Jesus to change individual people.  Abortion and homosexuality are symptoms, not the illness.  The illness is sin, and the only cure is Jesus Christ.  Donald Trump cannot save us, and Nancy Pelosi is not the enemy.  Only Jesus Christ can save us, and Satan is the enemy.

 

If you consider yourself a Christian, but think God is OK with homosexuality and abortion, or greed and materialism, or any of a host of other things the Bible calls sin, then you are worshipping a fake God.  God has told us His stance on these and other issues in the Bible.  Please dig into God’s Word, and see what it actually says.  If you cannot agree with what God has told us in the Bible, then you either aren’t actually saved, or you are spiritually immature and need to grow up.  Jesus Christ isn’t a liberal or a conservative.  He is God.

 

If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, I don’t really expect you to agree with what the Bible teaches about abortion, sexuality, materialism, or anything else.  You’re simply going to decide for yourself what you want to believe.  But, please know this:  God will hold you accountable for your every thought and action, whether you believe it, or not.  All of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, are guilty of sin before a holy God, and deserve the punishment of Hell.  Only by turning to Jesus Christ and receiving forgiveness through His death, burial, and resurrection can we escape the fires of Hell.  Only by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit can we understand the truth and be changed into the person God created us to be.  It’s not about being a good person, with the good hopefully outweighing the bad.  It’s about the fact we cannot be good; we must rely on Jesus Christ to change us.  God loves you so much that He sent Jesus Christ to suffer the punishment you and I deserve.  He doesn’t want your sin to send you to Hell.  He desperately wants you to deeply know His love and forgiveness.

 

Issues like stopping abortion, gay marriage, and illegal immigration used to be very important to me, as were protecting gun rights and religious freedom, and a host of other political issues.  What I have come to realize is that these issues cannot be solved by legislation or the courts.  In the grand scheme of eternity, our cultural and political issues are temporary, and should not be our focus.  They can only be solved by turning our nation to Jesus Christ.

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America’s Blessings

Many American Christians believe the United States has been blessed because we have been a “Christian nation.”
 
Many also believe that the United States has become less Christian, and that we have begun to lose God’s blessings as a result.
 
How do most American Christians respond? By fighting to keep the blessings, rather than fighting to make America more Christian again.
 
We spend far too much time and effort fighting politically to keep the blessings. We spend far too little time and effort fighting spiritually to turn Americans’ hearts and minds back to Jesus.
 
This is idolatry.
 
And, I believe the idolatry of believers, not unbelievers, is why God is withdrawing His blessings.

My Faith

My faith isn’t about being a good person; it’s about being loved and forgiven despite not being a good person.

My faith isn’t about telling others how bad they are. It’s about telling them about the One who loves them and offers them a relationship and forgiveness.

My faith isn’t about making myself a better person; it’s about the Holy Spirit making me into the person I could never make of myself .

My faith isn’t about following a list of dos and don’ts. It’s about following the One who loves me unconditionally, and gives me the desire to be like Him.

So Earthly Minded, You’re No Heavenly Good

The old Johnny Cash song says, “You’re so heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good.”

I think the problem is usually the opposite. Too many Christians – myself often included – are too earthly minded to be of any heavenly good.

We get caught up on social media with who should or shouldn’t marry whom, who should or shouldn’t own guns, who should or shouldn’t be allowed to enter the country, and who should or shouldn’t be President.

We are so busy telling people how we should fix this broken, temporary world that we neglect to tell others how to become part of the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Abortion, racism, sexuality, poverty, violence, politics, immigration, health care, taxes, the economy… Yes, they are all important. But they’re all temporary. When we die, they no longer affect us. When our children and grandchildren die, they will no longer affect them. All that will matter when we die is whether or not we have received Jesus Christ as Savior.

It’s simple: If a person has accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, their sins are forgiven, and they spend eternity in Heaven with Him. If a person has not received Christ as Savior, their sins are not forgiven, and they spend eternity in Hell away from Him. And it’s not just after we die; If a person has Jesus, they have the Holy Spirit now to help them through this mess we call life. No Jesus, no Holy Spirit, no help getting through the mess.

Christian, don’t be so earthly minded, you’re no heavenly good. I’ll be working on it, too.

Movie Review: The Shack (2017)

After being criticized on Facebook for disparaging the movie The Shack based on reviews without having seen it myself, I went and saw the movie this morning.  Most of my criticisms stand, although I did see a positive side as well.

The Positives

First, the positives.  The movie is definitely a “feel good” story.  It does a very good job of walking through the process of forgiveness.  The main character, Mack, learns to forgive the perpetrator of a horrific crime.  He learns to forgive himself for allowing the incident to happen.  And he learns to ask forgiveness from others.  The movie could be beneficial for a person who struggles with forgiveness of others, or with being forgiven by others.

For the most part, the movie portrayed Jesus Christ fairly well.  The Jesus character is portrayed as a middle-eastern man, which is much better than how Jesus is often portrayed in films as a blonde-haired, blue eyed Caucasian.  Jesus is shown as both fully human and as Creator of the Universe.  Jesus is also correctly portrayed as the Son of God, although this aspect is not well explained or emphasized.

The movie also does a good job of expressing the absolute love of God.  All three Persons of the Trinity are portrayed as omnibenevolent.   It shows how the love of God is unconditional and extended to everyone.  For a person who struggles with whether God truly loves them, this film might help them to begin to grasp God’s unfathomable love for each of us.

The Negatives

The positive aspects of the film are unfortunately greatly diminished by some extremely bad theology.

God the human woman

God the Father is portrayed as a black woman by the name of Papa, and the Holy Spirit is portrayed as a young Asian woman by the name of Sarayu.  Papa is the name Mack’s wife uses to refer to God.  The name Sarayu comes from the Sanskrit language, and means “air, wind, that which is streaming.”  In the Bible, neither God the Father nor the Holy Spirit take on human form; and neither are of them referred to a female.  Describing God as female is taken from any number of false religions, including the Canaanite goddess Asherah, the Roman Venus, the Greek Aphrodite, numerous Hindu goddesses, and modern Paganism.  Describing God as a human woman is to make Him into a false god, which is blasphemy.

God submits to human choices and wishes

Papa explains to Mack that the reason He appears to him as a woman is because Mack wasn’t ready for Him to appear as a man.  Later in the film, Papa changes to an older man, because Mack needed a father at this point in his journey.  The notion that God changes to meet our needs is unbiblical.  God is unchanging (Malachi 3:6).  The perfect, sovereign, holy God does not alter Himself to meet our needs.  He does not submit to us; rather, we are called to submit to Him.

God doesn’t judge sin

In The Shack, God never judges sin.  At one point, Papa tells Mack, “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”  This contradicts one of the central themes of the Bible.  God judged Adam and Eve in Genesis 3.  He judged Cain in Genesis 4, and the entire world in Genesis 7.  Throughout the history of Israel, God judged many individuals and many nations, including Israel.  In Revelation, God judges all who do not have their names written in the Book of Life, and casts them into Hell with Satan and the demons.  Most importantly, God judged sin and placed it on Jesus Christ.  It is through the blood of Jesus that we are forgiven for sin.  To claim that God never judges sin is to deny the very foundation of the Gospel.

Universalism

Another major problem with The Shack is universal salvation.  Everyone gets saved.  Papa states that all people are her children.  This is unbiblical.  John 1:12 states that people become the children of God when they receive Him; 1 John 3:10 calls some people “children of the devil;” and Romans 9:8 declares that not all are children of God.  Because Papa doesn’t judge, she also doesn’t require repentance.  The biblical God does require repentance (Ezekiel 14:6, Matthew 9:13, Luke 13:5, Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19).  In the world of The Shack, everyone goes to Heaven.  There is no Hell.  Again, this is unbiblical and undermines the Gospel.

Love vs. justice

The Shack portrays Jesus, Papa, and Sarayu as being completely loving and accepting, to the exclusion of other attributes such as being holy, sovereign, and just.   God is limited by His love, and therefore cannot administer justice.  This is a false dichotomy.  It’s not a matter of either God is loving, or He is just.  He is perfectly both.  The Bible describes God as being unlimited by His love (Psalm 103:11), and perfect in His justice (Deuteronomy 32:4).  God’s love does not limit His justice.

Good vs. evil

One of the major themes of the film is the question of why God allows evil, suffering, and death.  Despite the centrality of this theme, the question remains largely unanswered.  Papa skirts the issue by explaining that evil is the result of human free will.  What is missing is the biblical explanation, that sin, pain, suffering, and death can be traced back to Adam’s sin in the Garden.  God created a perfect world, but sin brought the curse of evil.  Also missing is the role of Satan and the demons.  Because The Shack rejects God judging sin, it also rejects the role of original sin as the cause of evil and death.  Romans 5:12 tells us that “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”  This is completely missing in the film’s treatment of the issue of evil, leaving the question mostly unanswered.

 Other issues

  • In the movie, Papa has nail scars on her wrists, indicating that she was also crucified. This is not in the Bible.
  • Jesus tells Mack that he is “the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu.” In the Bible, Jesus is the ONLY way to God (John 14:6), not just the BEST way.
  • The film uses the image of a garden with a tree in the center – an obvious allusion to Eden. But, instead of being perfection, the garden is in seeming disarray, representing Mack’s life.  And the tree symbolizes redemption, not the Fall.
  • At one point, the biblical God is equated with the Native American Great Spirit. Biblically, these are two entirely different entities, with the Great Spirit being a false god.

 Conclusions

My reaction to the film is influenced by my own personal faith journey.  I grew up believing in a god very much like Papa in The Shack.  The god I followed was completely loving, to the exclusion of justice.  My god would never send anyone to Hell, because my god loved everyone, and made us the way we are.  I believed that while Jesus Christ was probably the best way to god, all religions pointed to god.

What I didn’t understand was that my god wasn’t real.  I had created god in my own image.  My god was mostly there to make me happy.

When I met Jesus Christ as a college freshman, my life changed eternally.  I began to understand that God’s love and God’s justice are simply two sides of the same coin – that God’s holiness, sovereignty, and perfect love demand God’s perfect justice.  God’s love and justice can be summed up in one verse:  “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  Both God’s perfect love and His perfect justice were satisfied on the cross at Calvary.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

While I thought The Shack taught good lessons on human forgiveness, because of the theological train wreck that permeates the film, I cannot recommend it.  It points to a false god as our hope for peace and forgiveness.  For someone who struggles with forgiveness and whether God truly loves them, the film might give them some insight, but with a dangerous risk.  Embracing the false god of The Shack is a false hope.  Only the true God can offer eternal life through the blood of Jesus Christ.  A god like Papa can make a person feel good about themselves and others, but cannot save us from our sins.   And that is damnable heresy.

 

 

Over the Edge, Plunging Toward Destruction

I used to think that the United States was teetering at the edge of disaster.  I no longer believe this; we’ve deliberately jumped off the edge and are plunging toward destruction at the bottom.

Bush and Obama are not what caused this; they are merely symptoms.  And neither Trump nor Clinton can save us.

The United States was founded on Biblical principles.  For the most part, we followed Jesus Christ and built our values around the Word of God.  Although evil has always existed in America, we knew it was evil, and most of us worked to get rid of the evil.

Today, we’ve mostly rejected Jesus Christ.  We follow whatever we want to follow, and embrace evil as “diversity” or “protecting our rights.”  The American Church, for the most part, embraces behavior that the Bible clearly labels as sin, and claims it’s the only “loving” thing to do.

Although the prophet Isaiah was talking about Israel, he pretty much nails the situation in America today:  “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

As it was in Israel, so I believe it will be in the United States:

Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble,
And the flame consumes the chaff,
So their root will be as rottenness,
And their blossom will ascend like dust;
Because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts,
And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people;
He has stretched out His hand against them
And stricken them,
And the hills trembled.
Their carcasses as refuse in the midst of the streets.  (Isaiah 5:24-25).

This year’s Presidential election only confirms my belief.  We the people have selected the two most corrupt, evil candidates in American history as our Democratic and Republican nominees.  It doesn’t matter which one is elected; either way, we’re putting an evil person into the highest office in the land.  Many Christians are saying, “Yes, Hillary’s evil, but at least she’s not Trump,” or “Yes, Trump’s evil, but at least he’s not Hillary.”  And they’ll go on to talk about what will happen to the Supreme Court and Congress if their candidate isn’t elected.

I’ve got a news flash for you, Christian:  Either way, we put evil into the White House.  Either way, God is judging us for our lack of faith in Him.  Either way, we are plunging to our destruction.  And either way, nothing will stop the destruction other than repenting, and once again turning to Jesus Christ, rather than trusting in ourselves.

This election is not about whether Trump can save us from Hillary, or Hillary can save us from Trump.  It’s about whether we continue trusting our politicians to save us, or once again turn to Jesus Christ for salvation.

I fear America is about to crash and burn.  Then, out of the rubble, God can make us His people again, if we so choose.

What Is My Biggest Problem?

What is my biggest problem?

 

It’s not the government.

It’s not the economy.

It’s not other people.

It’s not a lack of opportunity.

It’s not my health.

It’s not my job.

 

My biggest problem is myself.

 

I am a sinner.

I’ve always been a sinner.

I will always be a sinner until the day I die.

I can’t change it by trying harder.

I can’t change it by being more religious.

I can’t change it by doing more good stuff.

There is nothing I can do to stop being a sinner.

It’s who I am.

 

Only Jesus can change me.

 

Only Jesus can fundamentally change who I am.

All I can do is trust Jesus.

All I can do is to quit trying to change myself,

And give my life to Jesus.

Give my sin to Jesus,

Give my will to Jesus,

Give my dreams and ambitions to Jesus,

Give everything to Jesus.

 

My biggest problem is myself.

And I cannot fix myself.

Only Jesus can fix me,

And all I can do is get out of the way

And trust and follow Jesus.

 

You are your own biggest problem.

And, only Jesus can fix you, too.