Barbie God

Barbie God, a Sermon by Pastor Scott Wiens

Do Christian Universalists create or “dress up” God in their own image? This is a critical analysis of Pastor Scott Wien’s sermon: Barbie God.

Why the System Isn’t Working

One reason I stopped regularly attending church was that my eyes were opened to how everything about the system, its history, hierarchy, order of worship, timed sermons, salaries, etc. were all working together to suppress the Spirit of God.  This, in itself, is not why I stopped regularly attending.  After all, BELIEVERS ARE the church, so it follows that if believers feel that the system they’ve adopted for their gatherings isn’t working, then BELIEVERS ARE responsible to make the necessary changes, right?  I and others tried to take baby steps in the right direction at the First Baptist Church of Umatilla, and we were met with fierce opposition from people who were used to and comfortable with the way things have always been. That’s why I was so excited about leaving FBCU and starting a brand new church called NorthPointe Fellowship.  It was a private joke among the staff that our motto ought to be, “NorthPointe Fellowship: We’re not like that.”

Looking back, I have to laugh at our naïvety, thinking that we were actually going to create a church where the Spirit of God was not systematically suppressed.  It was doomed from the beginning for many reasons, but the foremost of those reasons is that we had a one-speaker/many-listeners set up.  We had no idea that furniture arrangement could say so much about how we were expected to relate to one another.  Frank Viola explains this phenomena in his book Pagan Christianity:

Go into any given church building and […] Ask yourself what objects are higher and which are lower.  Ask yourself what is at the front and what is at the back. […] Ask yourself how easy or hard it would be for a church member to speak where he is seated so that all may see and hear him. […] This arrangement makes it nearly impossible for one worshipper to look into the face of another.  Instead, it creates a sit-and-soak form of worship that turns functioning Christians into “pew potatoes.”   To state it differently, the architecture emphasizes fellowship between God and His people via the pastor!

Once I discovered that NorthPointe Fellowship was quickly becoming a clone of FBCU, repeating the same mistakes, I took the same attitude that I did at FBCU, that is, BELIEVERS ARE the church, so it follows that if believers feel that the system they’ve adopted for their gatherings isn’t working, then BELIEVERS ARE responsible to make the necessary changes, right?  But the system, brilliant in its dark and deceptive way, does not permit change.  I say that it is brilliant in a dark and deceptive way because, by appearances only, it changes all the time.  New styles of worship music.  Dressing up or dressing down.  Co-pastors or guest speakers.  Testimonial Sunday.  Children’s church invades big church and takes over.  Meet in a park.  But the basic model that does not change is that the big-mouth/pastor/authority/few dictate what the big-ear/congregation/submissive/many may believe and teach.  In this kind of system, believers are UNABLE to make the necessary changes.

A well-intended but terribly misguided woman at NPF actually told me, “You are no longer welcome here.”  When I told her that she didn’t have the power to kick people out of the church, she said, “I will oppose you in every way I possibly can.”  Her opposition was effective, to say the least.  One by one, people who I had known and trusted as friends for over a decade approached me to tell me that they wanted to have nothing to do with me.  They used her same language and mannerisms.  When I realized that the spiritual bullying was only going to get worse and that no one was going to do anything to address the situation, I left.  Really, I had no choice but to leave, because every Sunday afternoon and evening felt like I was recovering from assault.  I should have felt defeated and depressed, but instead, I felt relieved.  I had no idea how God was going to fix the system, but I knew that He wasn’t expecting me to keep on staying there and trying.

Fast forward six months or so.  I posted a video on youtube called Jesus Saves Everyone.  After I left the system, I recognized more and more each day that God was so much bigger than the system.  My belief that God would fix the system was evolving and growing – yes, He would fix the system, but not in the way I expected He would.  God’s way of fixing is different than the human way of fixing.  Just a casual glance at the cross should be enough to establish that God’s victory comes by way of defeat, humility, and death.  The system gave me a title, “prophet,” and God did not act in my behalf when the system decided to remove that title.  The system gave me a career, “administrative assistant to the pastor,” and God did not act in my behalf when the system fired me.  The system gave me a position, “worship leader,” and God did not act in my behalf when the system refused to let me hold a microphone.  The system gave me a social standing, “trusted friend,” and God did not act in my behalf when the system gave me a new social standing of contempt, “liar, wolf in sheep’s clothing, heretic.”  In the eyes of the system, I am defeated, humiliated, and dead in my spiritual walk.

But Jesus did not remain in the grave.  He did not experience decay. God demonstrated His power in that Jesus got up and walked out of the tomb, alive.  Death was defeated by way of death.  And Jesus invites all believers to participate with Him in His death and resurrection.  We don’t get to take part in His resurrection without first taking part in His death.  Throughout history, most believers have only been willing to participate in His death to a certain extent.  For all intents and purposes, they’ve gone to the Garden of Gethsemane, but they haven’t been to that lonely place Jesus went.  Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  Most believers, instead of falling to the ground as they face the prospect of dying to all their spiritual comforts, their spiritual titles, their spiritual careers, their spiritual positions, and their spiritual social standings – they’ve fallen in a different way, that is, fallen asleep, “because their eyes were heavy.”  And if they begin to awaken, their knee-jerk reaction is to draw their swords, even though Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

What You Can Do to Fix the System

Nothing.  There is nothing you can do to fix the system.  It is set up in such a way that anyone who tries to fix the system is at best misunderstood and dismissed, at worst, demonized and outcast (supposedly in tough love).

The system Jesus put in place looks nothing like the system believers have adopted from pagan predecessors.  Jesus’s church building is made of people, not bricks and paint and carpet.  “God… does not live in temples built by hands.” (Acts 17:24)  What is said from a stage or behind a pulpit should be scrutinized and automatically suspect, because it comes from people who behave in this way: “Everything they do is done for people to see… they love the place of honor… and the most important seats in the [churches]; they love to be greeted with respect… and to be called [Pastor] by others.” (Matthew 23:5-7) Jesus’s church places importance on what is being said among the congregation: “you are not to be called [Pastor] for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers… you have one Instructor, the Messiah… For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The system basically ignores the idea that every believer in the body has a voice and Christ is the head.  They might cite Sunday School or small groups as the time and place where every believer is given a voice, but because the of the emphasis the system places on the Sunday morning sermon and pastor(s) views, everything that is said in a Sunday School class or small group is tested against the wrong “head”.  The head is not the Sunday morning sermon and pastor(s) views, the head is Jesus Christ. Take Ephesians 4, for instance.  Notice how it is assumed that believers all don’t just sit and listen on Sunday mornings. They are involved in each other’s normal day-to-day responsibilities, getting along, pissing each other off, figuring out how to relate – this is REAL communication! Notice that the believers are not pre-approved and perfect leaders, they are liars, hot-heads, thieves, lazy people, and potty mouths.  When each of them are called to minister, it is understood that they are called as real, fallible people.  The body of Christ matures through one-on-one interaction, where everyone talks and everyone listens, and Christ is the head.  It is in the “one another-ing” that we learn how to love as God loves. Ephesians 4:25-32:

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for WE ARE ALL MEMBERS OF ONE BODY. In your anger do not sin… Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Here’s what it would look like if you actually tried to fix the system, from within the system.  You suggest at the next church business meeting that everyone should have a chance to preach on Sunday morning, even the liars, hot-heads, thieves, lazy people, and potty mouths.  You tell them to allow an opportunity for listeners to offer opposition and rebuttal.  The pastor-head doesn’t get to wrap up the morning with his almighty opinion of what comes from God and what doesn’t, because you all are going to trust the Holy Spirit to reveal to each person what is good and right.  In fact, there should no longer even be a pastor.  And while you are at it, get rid of the building.  Just cram as many people as you can into the living rooms of anyone willing to open their homes.  At the end of the service give an opportunity for everyone to forgive each other for the bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and every form of malice that surfaced during the service.  Agree that Christ is the head, and continue your communications throughout the week on Facebook, text messages, and phone calls.  And stop calling it a service.  Call it a powwow or a get-together, but get rid of the churchy words like service and Sunday School and the like.  You’ve tried to fix the system from within.  Here’s the response – everyone at the church business meeting looks at you like you are crazy, and they burst into roaring laughter.  The pastor will thank you for your suggestion and ask you to be seated, or perhaps he will have you escorted from the meeting.  The people who want to be kind will pretend they don’t understand or dismiss you as a soft-hearted dreamer.  The people who want to murder you will make sure everyone knows how dangerous you are to the system.  Some people will be a little of both extremes.  No one will take you seriously.  The end.

The bottom line is, don’t try to fix the system that you are in, but enter into the system of Christ.  It is called the Reign of God/Heaven or the Kingdom of God/Heaven.  It is not a broken system, but it appears to be, when it is viewed through the lens of traditional thinking.  Jesus said, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”  In human terms, a system that works is a system that can be clearly defined and is easily identifiable.  A church is easy – there’s a website with the statement of faith, a list of activities, the names of people in charge, what to expect, where to go, etc.  The Reign of God is not so easy to define, because it can’t be contained within boundaries.  Or, perhaps it is just the opposite.  It is too easy to define, because the Reign of God can’t be contained within boundaries.  I guess it depends on your perspective.  It’ll either scare the hell out of you, because you can’t control it, or it will make you want to throw a party, because God is in control.

What the System Does

This blog is part one of two blogs inspired by a sermon called “Barbie God” by Pastor Scott Wiens.  Usually, when I quote verbal or written messages by people who believe in eternal torment, these people accuse me of taking their words out of context.  Since I will quote from “Barbie God” throughout the next blog, I encourage you to click here and listen to the message in its entirety.  That way you can be a fair judge of whether I have taken Scott’s words out of context.

The next blog (here is the link) will demonstrate how today’s religious system is the modern day version of the Pharisaical system, as is evidenced by the content of Scott’s sermon.  I will also encourage people (within the system or outside of it) by demonstrating how the almighty power of God completely transcends the system.  I will also offer some practical perspective about how much power the system actually has over us compared to how much power we have over the system in Christ Jesus.

Comments from members of First Baptist Church of Umatilla, former members of NorthPointe Fellowship, and current members of the The Church at Whistling Pines are especially welcomed, because God knows, you don’t have the power to stand up and speak your mind on Sunday morning.

 

This blog is part two of two blogs inspired by a sermon called “Barbie God” by Pastor Scott Wiens.  Here is the link to the first blog.  Usually, when I quote verbal or written messages by people who believe in eternal torment, these people accuse me of taking their words out of context.  Since I will quote from “Barbie God” throughout this blog, I encourage you to click here and listen to the message in its entirety.  That way you can be a fair judge of whether I have taken Scott’s words out of context.

Today’s religious system is the modern-day version of the Pharisaical system.  

In his message, Scott notes a classic confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees (religious leaders) and points out that there are two major sections in their discussion: Jesus talking about the Father and Jesus’s identity as it relates to the Father.

The scriptures are Matthew 7:21-23 and John 8:37-59:

[Jesus said,] “Not every one who is saying to me ‘Lord, lord,’ shall come into the reign of the heavens; but he who is doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, lord, have we not in thy name prophesied? and in thy name cast out demons? and in thy name done many mighty things?’ and then I will acknowledge to them, that – I never knew you, depart from me ye who are working lawlessness.”

[Jesus said,] “I have known that ye are seed of Abraham, but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you; I – that which I have seen with my Father do speak, and ye, therefore, that which ye have seen with your father – ye do.”

[The Pharisees] answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.”

Jesus saith to them, “If children of Abraham ye were, the works of Abraham ye were doing; and now, ye seek to kill me – a man who hath spoken to you the truth I heard from God; this Abraham did not; ye do the works of your father.”

They said, therefore, to him, “We of whoredom have not been born; one Father we have – God.”

 Jesus then said to them, “If God were your father, ye were loving me, for I came forth from God, and am come; for neither have I come of myself, but He sent me; wherefore do ye not know my speech? because ye are not able to hear my word. Ye are of a father – the devil, and the desires of your father ye will to do; he was a man-slayer from the beginning, and in the truth he hath not stood, because there is no truth in him; when one may speak the falsehood, of his own he speaketh, because he is a liar – also his father. And because I say the truth, ye do not believe me. Who of you doth convict me of sin? and if I speak truth, wherefore do ye not believe me? he who is of God, the sayings of God he doth hear; because of this ye do not hear, because of God ye are not.”

The Jews, therefore, answered and said to him, “Do we not say well, that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a demon?”

 Jesus answered, “I have not a demon, but I honour my Father, and ye dishonour me; and I do not seek my own glory; there is who is seeking and is judging; verily, verily, I say to you, if any one may keep my word, death he may not see – to the age.”

The Jews, therefore, said to him, “Now we have known that thou hast a demon; Abraham did die, and the prophets, and thou dost say, If any one may keep my word, he shall not taste of death – to the age! Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who died? and the prophets died; whom dost thou make thyself?”

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who is glorifying me, of whom ye say that He is your God; and ye have not known Him, and I have known Him, and if I say that I have not known Him, I shall be like you – speaking falsely; but I have known Him, and His word I keep; Abraham, your father, was glad that he might see my day; and he saw, and did rejoice.”

The Jews, therefore, said unto him, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and Abraham hast thou seen?”

Jesus said to them, “Verily, verily, I say to you, Before Abraham’s coming – I am.”

They took up, therefore, stones that they may cast at him, but Jesus hid himself, and went forth out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

After reading through the scriptures, Scott says:

So, what’s the main problem here?… The Pharisees had in their minds a concept of Who God was.  The God that Jesus was introducing them to didn’t fit that mold.  Face it.  Think about it.  The God that they knew was the strict, stern God from the Old Testament that came out of the law… Yet the Pharisees had done something through the “obedience” to the law, they had turned this obedience into rigid religion, and therefore, they had shaped and fashioned a god who was truly not the God that Jesus knew… So there was the communication breakdown… And it made me think, how many of us have a warped sense of who God is?  How many of us have consciously or unconsciously created… our own Barbie god?  A god that we have dressed up according to our preferences, a god that we have formed and shaped and accessorized so he’s pleasing to our eyes, yet indeed, it isn’t the God  that Jesus introduces us to… How you view God is the most important thing in your life.  And I think it’s up to us to ask the tough questions about how we view God… How do I view God?  What do I base this belief on?  Is my view of Who God is correct?  How can I tell if it’s correct or not?  How does my view of God impact my relationship and how does my view of God impact my life?  If we are truly seeking the Lord, these questions should not scare us.  Yet in the back of our minds, sometimes when we read this and go, “I don’t know if I want to know that,” as Christians we run the risk of doing exactly what the Pharisees did.  We can create our own Barbie god and accessorize him as he is most palatable to us.

Up until this point in the sermon, I agree with almost everything Scott says.  The Pharisees do have the wrong idea of Who God is.  That’s why they don’t recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  Eugene Peterson explains this phenomena beautifully:

Imagine yourself moving into a house with a huge picture window overlooking a lake with a grand view of mountains beyond. Snow-capped mountains, beautiful mountains. You have a ringside seat, before all of this beauty, the cloud formations, the wild storms, the entire spectrum of sun- illuminated colors, and the rocks and the trees and the wildflowers and the water. At first you’re just captivated by this view. You sit and you stand and you look and admire; you catch your breath. Several times a day you interrupt your work and stand before this window to take in the majesty and the beauty. And then one day you notice some bird droppings on the glass, and you get a bucket of water and a towel and you clean it. A couple of days later, a rainstorm leaves the window streaked and the bucket comes out again. One day some visitors with a tribe of small dirty-fingered children come, and the moment they leave you notice there are smudge marks all over the window. They’re hardly out of the door before you have the bucket out again. You’re so proud of that window, and it’s such a large window. But it’s incredible how many different ways foreign objects can attach themselves to that window, obscuring the vision, distracting from the vision. Keeping that window clean now becomes compulsive neurosis. You accumulate ladders and buckets and squeegees. You construct scaffolding outside and one inside; you have to get to all the difficult corners and heights. You end up having the cleanest window in North America, but it’s now been years since you’ve looked through it. You’ve become a Pharisee.

A.W. Tozer writes, “The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness.”  The Pharisees are rebuked by Jesus Christ on a regular basis.  In fact, they seem to be the only ones who stir up His anger.  Jesus applies ideas in Isaiah 29* to the religious leaders: “in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”  The heart of Pharisaical doctrine is that they were “confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else” (Luke 18:9). The Pharisees’ view of God was that God counted them as righteous.  In their eyes, they, the Pharisees, were the only ones who were seriously pursuing God in the right way.  Because of this, they felt like they had the right to point out the sins of others.

I imagine that Scott will continue in the same line of reasoning throughout the sermon, that he will explain how the Pharisee’s view of Who God is differs from Jesus’s view of Who God is, and that he will bring all these ideas together as he answers the questions he proposes.  I expect that that those answers will be based on Who JESUS says God is, not based on Who PEOPLE say God is.  Unfortunately, Scott devotes most of his sermon to the the latter and barely touches on the former.  By the time he’s done, his message is stained by the modern Pharisaical system.  Scott begins by explaining two competing views of God:

1. “ultra-justice-Barbie-God”

2. “sloppy-agape-Barbie-God”

There are many other views of God, as well.  A God that is truly ultra-justice (with no love, grace, or mercy) would either destroy everyone or would never have created us in the first place.  A God that is truly sloppy-love (with no justice or judgment) would allow His Kingdom to be overcome by evil and darkness. Neither view is accurate.  So there’s no way that trying to find a happy middle or the right mixture of the two views will result in an accurate view of God.  Just like the old saying goes, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”  At one point, Scott suggests that if you are humble enough, you can experience both views.  I reject this idea.  Instead of getting bogged down in semantics and petty arguments, it would be more productive for me (to do the “hold on to what is good” part of our responsibility as believers to “test everything; hold on to what is good”) to run with the ideas that ring true and discard the rest, concerning the two views Scott names.  Specifically, I agree with the suggestions Scott gives later on in his sermon:

…admit that you didn’t have it figured out. […] Ask for God to reveal His true self to you.  How many times have you done that?  I mean, literally said, “God, reveal to me Who You are, show me Who You are, show me truth…”  I don’t just sit here holding on to my suitcase, saying, “I’m comfortable, right here.”  Immerse yourself in God’s Word.”

Here’s the thing.  The suggestions above are true and right and good for many reasons.  But Scott’s suggestions are also church-speak for ideas that are contrary to the way Jesus taught us how to know God.  On the surface, the suggestions mean one thing, but dig a little deeper, and the suggestions are really just lip-service.  To say, “admit that you don’t have it figured out” is one thing.  To actually DO this, is another.  To ask God to “reveal His true self” is one thing, to believe God when He does, is another.  To claim, “I don’t just sit here holding on to my suitcase, saying, ‘I’m comfortable, right here'” is easy.  To actually let go of the suitcase and venture out of that comfort zone is not so easy.  What does it mean, to immerse yourself in God’s Word?  Does it mean reading a set of verses over and over until you hear God speak to you?  How can you be sure that it is God speaking and not Tradition?  What is God’s Word?  Is it the Bible?  As you read on, I will answer these questions.

First, the only way that we are really going to understand Who God is and what God does is if God reveals Himself to us.  Sure, being humble is necessary.  Our asking and really meaning it when we ask is part of the process.  However, just as grants repentance and the faith of Christ for salvation – the humility, sincerity, and desire for truth that we need to have in order to gain even an elementary understanding of Who He is are gifts from God given to people who did nothing to earn or deserve them.  If we should find that we possess a change of mind about God (repentance), or we possess the faith of Christ, or humility, or sincerity, or the desire for truth, our hearts should be filled with gratitude toward God, because He is the One Who gave us these qualities.  But if we attribute these qualities to ourselves, as if we have somehow conjured them up by sheer will or human decision (Phi. 1:29, Gal. 2:8) then, as Peterson writes, “You end up having the cleanest window in North America, but it’s now been years since you’ve looked through it. You’ve become a Pharisee.” The Pharisees perverts the law by making himself out to be better than everyone else, because he makes a decision to keep the law.  Modern Pharisees pervert grace by making themselves out to be better than everyone else, because they made the decision to open the gift wrap and receive the free gift of salvation.

Perhaps this situation could also be likened to Peterson’s window – we, humanity, are all sitting in the dark in a house in the mountains.  One day, God installs windows.  Suddenly the rooms are flooded with light, and some of us turn our heads and see the mountains. But we find a way to pervert even this.  We say that the reason we see the mountains is that we made the decision to turn our heads and look out the window.  We think that everyone else could see, if they made the decision to do so, but they don’t make that decision.  We forget that God gave us eyes to see the light, and that the only reason we turned our heads and saw the mountains was because the urge to do so was irresistible.  This mentality is demonstrated in Scott’s altar call at the end of the sermon.  :

If you have not yet made the decision to experience God, for, I mean, the decision to really experience God, where you don’t know Jesus Christ, and you want to know Him, you [say], “What [Scott] said today,” what God told you today, [you] said, “That’s the God I want to know, Scott.”  If you haven’t made that decision, I really would love for you to come up.  And you want to make that decision.  We can pray you, pray with you, and we can help you make that decision today.  For the rest of us, I’m going to lead us in a prayer… “Heavenly Father, we are humbled that you revealed yourself to me and to everyone here.  We’re humbled to know that the great and powerful and mighty God of the universe has chosen to have a relationship with us.  We’re humbled by that, Father, and Lord, we live in a fallen world… “

Second, what does it look like, to “admit that you don’t have it figured out”?  I must dig through my old journals to answer this question.

[About an hour later…]

Okay.  I just got digging through my journals to find an example of “admit that you don’t have it figured out,” and I realized that this is going to be more than just a two blog series!  This is just too important to try to fit into two blogs.  For now, here is a journal excerpt from June 2008.  Keep in mind that at the time, I had just completed a two year study on church history, and I was convinced that as believers, we were missing something very, very important in our understanding of Who God is and what God does.  But, I had not yet discovered what it was that we were missing.  Also keep in mind that I was still very much a part of the broken system of institutional church.  This journal entry is a written prayer addressed to God:

When John the Baptist asked, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.  Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”  He goes on to say, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he…”  What does that mean for me, God?  “From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”  …Lord, I want all you have for me.  I have tasted the sweetness of hearing Your voice, and I want more.  I want You to speak to me, show me, tell me, like You did for Isaiah and Jeremiah.  I want to hear Your words clearly, see the whole picture, understand with an understanding that can only come from You.  Let me borrow the very words of my Savior as a prayer of praise to You – “I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”  Jesus said, “No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”  Jesus has chosen to reveal the Father to me.  So I pray, almighty God, in the power of Your Spirit and the name of Jesus, to know my God, to hear His voice, to be used in a mind blowing way during the next 30-40 years until I die… You to told us to ask you to “send workers into His harvest field.”  I am asking.  Show me.  Tell me.  Where is the crop?  Where is the sickle?  God, You said to me, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, in your word, “The knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven has been given to you, but not to them.  Whoever has will be given more…” I have been given and believing You and what You said, I expect to be given more, not because of me or any thing I did to deserve it, but because of You and the fact that You said it.  You do not lie.  So, I give You glory by expecting more.  What if I have been appointed only a certain mount of revelation?  Can I ask for more?  I believe I can, based on the story of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15.  “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.”  I believe one crumb in answered prayer from You is enough to feed me for a lifetime.  So give me my crumb!  “Woman, you have great faith.  Your request is granted.”  This is what Jesus said.  Do I lack faith?  Then I ask for more faith.  Jesus said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”   Lord, I believe for more faith, and I ask for more faith.  I believe You will reveal yourself to me in a very big way.  I believe my life and the lives of those around me who see Your light will be turned upside down.  I believe You will allow me to be a part of Your worldwide revival of the body of Christ.  Let me see it, Lord.  What are you doing?  How are you doing it?  What is my part?  Speak to me.  “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to Heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”  Fill me with Your Spirit.  Let me see Your glory on display in the lives of those around me and in my life.  You promised the abundant life.  It has been amazing so far, but I know there’s more.  Send your angels to rescue the religiously imprisoned people.  Bind up Satan and have at it.  I am so ready for You to pour out Your Spirit in this world.  I try to explain this, but no one seems to understand.  Open their eyes!  Paul and Barnabas spoke boldly for You…  Do this for me.  Let me speak boldly, and let the words you give me to speak be backed by the power of Your Spirit.  Just as your word spread throughout the known world to the lost, let your word go out to the religiously imprisoned people.  Bring the church to a perfectly functioning state!  Bring healing in your wings… Help us to be ready.  It’s time for a miracle of Biblical proportions in the hearts, minds, and spirits of believers all around the world.  Let us unite in the name of Jesus and the power of Your Spirit, to do the work the Father has prepared us to do since the beginning of time.  You told Daniel, “the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end… those who are wise will understand.”  Lord, give me wisdom so that I can understand.

God waited three months to answer this prayer.  That’s why I decided to lengthen this blog series.  Let me put this into perspective.  I am not tooting my own horn here, saying, “Oh look at me, and how great I was at admitting I didn’t have it all figured out.”  The best way that I know how to relate an idea to someone is to give a real-life example.  It just so happens that I knew that there was a real-life example recorded in my journal from 2008 in my closet.  It was convenient, accessible, and personal.  So I used it.  I know very well that there are other people who probably were better at this “admit that you don’t have it figured out” thing than me, but they aren’t here writing this blog.  So there you have it.

Notice that Jesus pointed to what He does as an answer to John’s question.  That hasn’t changed.  We can know God the Father, because He has put Himself on display for us in flesh and blood – Jesus Christ, the image of God.  If we want to know the Father, we don’t go about knowing the Father by hoping to find the right balance between two inaccurate ideas of Who the Father is, we find out by looking at Jesus Christ, the Word of God.  If we think God is ultra-justice or sloppy-agape, we look at Jesus Christ, the Word of God.  We ask for a crumb.  We see ourselves as no more and no less than anyone else to whom God has chosen to reveal Himself.  We recognize that if we have faith, it is because God gives faith.  The wise and learned teach terrible things about the Father, and children have enough sense to ask hard questions about what they hear – are we willing to reevaluate our views with the hearts of a children, or are we just too high and mighty for such nonsense?  If someone had asked me what “the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end… those who are wise will understand” means in June 2006, I would have had an answer for them.  And that answer would have been wrong.  Why?  Because God had not revealed Himself to me at that point.  Sure, I was a believer – I was “saved” (if we must keep misusing that word) – I was “born of the Spirit”, but I barely knew my spiritual Father.  I had spent a lifetime being taught in a Pharisaical system being taught wrong ideas about my Father.  It took two years of studying the system to become convinced that this “Father” was NOT MY FATHER.  But I did not yet have accurate knowledge to replace the inaccurate knowledge.  There needs to be an UNLEARNING before there can be a learning.  There is no such thing as admitting you don’t have it all figured out, if in the very next breath, you have it figured out.  Scott prays:

We ask that You would clear our minds and hearts and that no more, Father, would we dress up a God that is not even close to You and Who You are, but rather, we would stand before the God Who reveals Himself to us.

There are two very important words in Scott’s prayer, “but” and “rather.”  Those two words are terribly important.  They are easy to say.  They work together as a nice, smooth, quick transition from error to truth.  I contend that this is the place where Jesus was crucified – between “but” and “rather”.  It the place where everything we think we already know about God is stripped naked and nailed to a cross.  It is a place of humiliation.  It is also the place where we, too, must be crucified, if we are to understand Who God is.

This was supposed to be a two-blog series, but it turns out to be longer.  Here are the links for the first blog and the second blog.

This blog series is inspired by a sermon called “Barbie God” by Pastor Scott Wiens.  Usually, when I quote verbal or written messages by people who believe in eternal torment, these people accuse me of taking their words out of context.  Since I will quote from “Barbie God” throughout this blog, I encourage you to click here and listen to the message in its entirety.  That way you can be a fair judge of whether I have taken Scott’s words out of context.

Picking up right where I left off…

Today’s religious system is the modern day version of the Pharisaical system, as is evidenced by the content of Scott’s sermon.

The scriptures for the sermon are Matthew 7:21-23 and John 8:37-59.  I wrote in the previous blog:

I imagine that Scott will continue in the same line of reasoning throughout the sermon, that he will explain how the Pharisee’s view of Who God is differs from Jesus’s view of Who God is, and that he will bring all these ideas together as he answers the questions he proposes.  I expect that that those answers will be based on Who JESUS says God is, not based on Who PEOPLE say God is.

With this in mind, let’s look at the concepts the apostle John highlighted in the scriptures Scott reads, to see if the words of Christ might help us understand Jesus’s view of Who God is and why the Pharisees, as Scott says, “didn’t get it.”

Jesus:

  1. speaks the truth He hears from the Father
  2. …honors His Father – does the will of the Father
  3. …knows the Father

Well, these are great starting points, but still too vague.  We need more details.  If Jesus speaks the truth He hears from the Father, then it follows that we can understand Who God is through the words of Christ.  If Jesus does what the Father does, then it follows that if we want to know what God does, all we have to do is look at what kinds of things Jesus does.  Jesus:

  1. …accepts a whore’s worship without first pointing out her sin and then pronounces her sins forgiven, treats other sinners in a similar fashion
  2. …keeps company with people who lack religious approval, people known for their sins, people who are still continuing in their sin in His presence
  3. …believes the greater one’s forgiveness, the greater one’s gratitude
  4. …tells stories in which the humbled religious outcasts are exalted by God and the religious elite are humbled
  5. …says people must enter into the reign of God like children (the word children implies “teachable”)
  6. …heals people of diseases and injuries, raises people from the dead
  7. …receives the praise of children (praise that is theologically incorrect, according to the Pharisees)
  8. …says “do not judge, or you too will be judged” in the same manner in which you judge others
  9. …says “the Father [will] give good gifts to those who ask Him”
  10. …says “do to others as you would have them do to you”
  11. …says “if you love me, you will keep my commandments”
  12. …says, “forgive, if you have anything against anyone”
  13. …says those who do not give drink, food, clothing, and shelter to those in need will enter into an age of correction, but the righteous will enter into an age of life (life = “zoe,” having the capacity to know and be sustained by His self-existant life)
  14. …says whoever believes is not judged and whoever doesn’t believe is already judged, that is, men love darkness and don’t want their deeds to be exposed in the light
  15. …came to do the will of the Father and finish the Father’s work – “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn (“krino” = judge) the world, but to save the world through Him.”

The Pharisees:

  1. …know they are Abraham’s descendants and believe this makes God their Father
  2. do the desires of their “father”
  3. speak falsely (especially when they say they know the Father)

Why did the Pharisees not understand Jesus, when He explained and demonstrated to them Who God is and what God does?  The Pharisees:

  1. …reject the idea that whores (and others who are defined by any particular brand of sin) can worship and expect others in the religious community to treat sinners with the same self-righteous contempt
  2. …do not accept Jesus’s authority to forgive sins
  3. …have sat down on Moses’s seat (i.e. have assumed a position of authority) so that they can tell people what to do
  4. …love to hold public positions of importance and be addressed in public with formal titles of respect and honor
  5. …shut God’s Reign in people’s faces, won’t allow those who are entering into God’s Reign to enter
  6. …themselves, don’t enter into God’s Reign
  7. …instead of actually praying long prayers, make a deceptive show of praying long prayers
  8. …will do almost anything to make a convert, but then immediately ruin that convert with their religious traditions
  9. …neglect justice, mercy, faithfulness, don’t practice what they preach
  10. …are fueled by violent greed and mastered by personal appetites of self-indulgence, …make a meal out of needy people
  11. …believe that they do not repeat the same mistakes as their predecessors (specifically, their terrible treatment of all those people who God sent to them who speak to them or write to them about the things God wants them to understand about themselves)
  12. …wear “righteous” masks, but are not righteous, pretend to be what they are not, are motivated by how others view them
  13. …become angry when little children honor Jesus in a way that does not agree with their theology
  14. …refuse to speak a newly recognized truth if it makes them look stupid/wrong for not having rejected it for so long
  15. …refuse to correct error if the majority of their followers don’t also recognize it as such

In the previous blog, I said:

There needs to be an UNLEARNING before there can be a learning.  There is no such thing as admitting you don’t have it all figured out, if in the very next breath, you have it figured out.

Scott does address this idea in his sermon.  In fact, he spends a good portion of the sermon introduction reviewing the sources of our various erroneous ideas about God, including our parents, religious upbringing, mentors, misinterpreted experiences, friends, acquaintances, culture, and the media.  He even goes so far as to say (and rightly so) that the people who believe in an “ultra-justice-Barbie-God” are probably responsible for helping to create the “sloppy-agape-Barbie-God” – that people were so sick of the judgment that they retreated to the opposite extreme. Scott says that these are ideas that we should “unpack.”  I agree.

However, what does it mean, to “unpack” an idea?  Is that the same as “unlearning” an idea?  Perhaps it is.  What we decide to name it is irrelevant, really.  What we actually do with the idea is what matters.  Scott presents, the way I see it, this idea that perhaps there are believers who have a version of God, a Barbie-God, that does not accurately represent Who God is.  He cites the Pharisees as an ancient example of ultra-justice-Barbie-God people.  He cites people who believe in universalism as a modern-day example of of sloppy-agape-Barbie-God people.

Scott explains that through the right combination of experiencing God through the Holy Spirit and studying the Bible, people can “continue drawing closer” to God, but that people “won’t figure God out” and that we are “not supposed to figure God out.”  I take issue with this idea, to a certain extent.  Yes, I know that we can’t understand everything there is to know about God, but we can, right now, enter into an age of life (life = “zoe,” having the capacity to know and be sustained by His self-existant life).  Jesus said, “according as Thou [the Father] didst give to him [Jesus Christ] authority over all flesh, that – all that Thou [the Father] hast given to him [Jesus Christ] – he [Jesus Christ] may give to them life [“zoe” life] age-during…”  And just in case we aren’t clear on this, Jesus defines the “aionios zoe” for us: “…and this is the life age-during, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Him whom Thou didst send – Jesus Christ.”  This is what most believers call “eternal life” – and in doing so, they unwittingly do an injustice to the words of Christ.  Although what they call “eternal life”, the aionios zoe, may be related to the idea of living forever because of other scriptures, what Jesus is expressing is the quality of life that believers should expect both right now and in the age to come.  It is a life that is defined by the idea that we “know” God.  We know God, because He revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ, the Image of God.

Jesus is the Word of God.  He explains to the Pharisees, “Ye search the Writings, because ye think in them to have life age-during [aionios zoe], and these are they that are testifying concerning me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  Let me explain it by citing an example of human wisdom, using the words of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his book, Creativity, Flow, and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention:

The difference between present knowledge and the knowledge of our ancestors is greater in biology than in any domain except physics… But until the last few centuries nobody had any understanding of physiological processes – digestion, breathing, the circulation of blood, the function of the nervous system… The difference between what our ancestors could see of the processes of life and what we can see is enormous.  The life sciences now have become so diversified and specialized that we would need several dozen examples to show what the domain consists of.  Even a little over a hundred years ago, someone could condense in four volumes the entire spectrum of knowledge that a biologist or earth scientist was then likely to know.  Nowadays no single individual can be expected to cover in depth even a small fraction of the content of the discipline.

Just as many people in the sciences are “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” that God exists, so also people doing theological studies have “a form of godliness” but are “denying its power… always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.”  There are millions of Barbie-Gods.  And that includes the Barbie-God Scott introduces, the Barbie-God that can’t be known.

People from various backgrounds could study the life of my husband, Tim, and write books with categories and subcategories on who he is through the lenses of biology, psychology, sociology, the humanities, history, etc.  They could analyze his music, habits, words, actions, choices, moods, etc.  By the time they are through, they could each draw on certain attributes or qualities and paint many different pictures of Tim, without ever actually having met Tim.  The only people who can say they “know” Tim are the people who have some type of relationship with him.  Even then, they each know him in a different way – father, son, brother, friend, cousin, coworker, etc.

Human beings have an idea of “know” that is quite different from God’s idea of “know.”  The only One who truly knows any of us is God.  And it isn’t because we decided one day that we ought to introduce ourselves to God.  God knows people “before [He] forms them in the womb…” Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…”  We “love Him because He first loved us.”  The glory of God fills the whole earth, yet it isn’t until God chooses to make Himself known to us, that we know Him.  We have our big AH-HA! moment.  So that’s what all this means.  So that’s why You did that.  Now I understand.  And what pure joy it is to know God Who is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…” AND “does not let the guilty go unpunished.”  The prophet, Jeremiah, expressed what he heard God saying about Himself – “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am Jehovah, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight.” God DELIGHTS in (is pleased with, desires) judgment.  Think about the implications of that statement.  Are you terrified?  Are you relieved?  The way that you interpret “God delights in judgment” demonstrates how the Word of God reads YOU, how the Word of God brings you face-to-plastic-face with your own Barbie-God.

Please don’t hear what I am not saying.  I know Scott personally, as well as many of the people who attend Whistling Pines, who used to attend NorthPointe, and people from the First Baptist Church of Umatilla.  I’ve met many believers along the way, who I will personally attest, to the best of my knowledge, are believers. Jesus Christ is their Savior.  But I also know that the fruits that have been produced through the system are not at all characteristic of who I know them to be, in Christ.  This sermon Scott gives is a perfect example.  He insults me, on a personal level, when he cites characteristics of universalist-sloppy-agape-Barbie-God people, because I know that he includes me in that category.  Yet, I have never known Scott to be the type of person to sit in judgment of another believer’s relationship with God in a face-to-face encounter.  It’s as if the system creates a bizarro-Scott.  On a side-note, please familiarize yourself with the difference between Universalism and Christian Universalism, both of which Scott refers to as “one of the most dangerous doctrines that’s now in another cycle.”  Scott says:

You won’t see a lot of them going through and doing a study on hell.  Quick to point out the ultra-justice-God people – they can spot these a mile away.  Goes to great lengths to avoid the concept of eternal punishment (ie hell), because it just seems to contradict… who they believe God is.  I have heard this from people’s mouths that says, “Well, you know, the God that I know wouldn’t condemn people to everlasting punishment.”  The God that I know. [Scott uses a strange, mocking tone here.]  I don’t mean to mock it, [Well, maybe you didn’t mean to mock it, but that’s exactly what you did, Scott.] but it’s amazingly silly, when you think about it.  The God they know, you mean, the God that they have dressed up to be the God that they know, the sloppy-agape-love, you know, Barbie-God?  They know the wrong God, then, because they’ve cherry-picked the Bible.  They’ve gone through and they’ve picked out different things, and they said, “Hmm.  [Scott makes some sort of “tsk” sound, and his tone has gone back to mockery.] That’s nice.  I like that.  No, well, let me see.  Okay.  Well, let me figure that out, a way to explain away all those other scriptures, but I’m going to have to hang on to these.”

And brethren, I’m going to tell you this is such a tempting one to go for, because you don’t have to call sin out.  That means you don’t have to make a lot of enemies.  That means you get to tell everybody it’s okay… Universalism is so palatable, guys, because you don’t have to tell anybody bad news.  You don’t.  Universalism, at its core, basically says everyone will eventually, even if they go to hell for a short time, everyone will eventually come and accept Jesus Christ.  And they go to Revelation and they show scriptures like, “every knee shall bow.”  And it’s really tempting to fall into the universalist trap, because it’s very palatable, but it’s so dangerous, because it ignores core scriptures that totally go against that.  They’re super-tolerant of sin in others, and eventually, brethren, they become super-tolerant of sin in themselves.  Because they have painted this God that is just love, unconditional love, unconditional love, I can do anything I want, unconditional love, unconditional love, and pretty soon, they’re like, “Well, you know what?  It’s okay if I sin, because after all, God just loves me.”

Oh, really?  Is that who I am?  Is that an accurate portrayal of Who I believe God is and what I believe God does?  God is my judge, and He will judge rightly whether these accusations of me and others who have seen the glory of God are true or false.  Here’s the thing.  Remember the Pharisees?  Remember why they “didn’t get it?” Remember how they accused Jesus?  Jesus explains and demonstrates through His actions Who God is and what God does, but they don’t see it.  They don’t understand.  Let me refresh your memory.  The Pharisees:

  1. reject the idea that whores (and others who are defined by any particular brand of sin) can worship and expect others in the religious community to treat sinners with the same self-righteous contempt
  2. …do not accept Jesus’s authority to forgive sins
  3. …have sat down on Moses’s seat (i.e. have assumed a position of authority) so that they can tell people what to do
  4. …love to hold public positions of importance and be addressed in public with formal titles of respect and honor
  5. …shut God’s Reign in people’s faces, won’t allow those who are entering into God’s Reign to enter
  6. …themselves, don’t enter into God’s Reign
  7. …instead of actually praying long prayers, make a deceptive show of praying long prayers
  8. …will do almost anything to make a convert, but then immediately ruin that convert with their religious traditions
  9. …neglect justice, mercy, faithfulness, don’t practice what they preach
  10. …are fueled by violent greed and mastered by personal appetites of self-indulgence, …make a meal out of needy people
  11. …believe that they do not repeat the same mistakes as their predecessors (specifically, their terrible treatment of all those people who God sent to them who speak to them or write to them about the things God wants them to understand about themselves)
  12. …wear “righteous” masks, but are not righteous, pretend to be what they are not, are motivated by how others view them
  13. …become angry when little children honor Jesus in a way that does not agree with their theology
  14. …refuse to speak a newly recognized truth if it makes them look stupid/wrong for not having rejected it for so long
  15. …refuse to correct error if the majority of their followers don’t also recognize it as such

According to Scott, you probably won’t see me “doing a study on hell.”  My first response to discussions on hell is usually to ask, “Which of the four ‘hells’ are you talking about?” Reader, do you know why I know that there are four words translated “hell”?  Because I actually studied every single Biblical reference to Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus – and everything and anything else even remotely related to hell.  When I ask, “Which of the four ‘hells’ are you talking about?”  People sometimes respond, “The Lake of Fire.”  And then I ask, “Are you saying that hell IS the Lake of Fire?”  And they sometimes respond affirmatively.  And then I ask, “What do you think it means when it says in Revelation that ‘death and hell are thrown into the the Lake of Fire’?”  The reason I am able to ask these questions is that I spent three months trying to disprove what God was so clearly revealing to me through His Word – Jesus Christ.  I had a lot to lose, if I were to publicly challenge the eternal torment in hell doctrines.

Scott was right about me being “quick to point out the ultra-justice-God people – they can spot these a mile away.”  I, like Jesus, have a knack for spotting religious bullshit.

According to Scott, I “don’t have to call sin out.”  He’s right.  I don’t have to call sin out.  In fact, I make it a point not to.  Why?  Because I do what Jesus did.  I expect that people who don’t know God will probably act like people who don’t know God, because they actually don’t know God.  I expect that people who do know God will love God and love others.  If they don’t, there could be a lot of reasons why, reasons that I have no way of discerning.  There have been times when God has prompted me to express some concern about a believing friend involved in destructive behavior.  A few years ago, this was TOO TRUE of me.  These days, I usually just pray and keep it to myself, knowing that the Spirit of God is better at this than I am.  Is tolerance such a horrible idea?  The only time Jesus was intolerant was when He was dealing with people who feel like they need to go around pointing at everybody’s sin.

Scott says, “That [believing that Jesus is the Savior of all humanity] means you don’t have to make a lot of enemies.”  Perhaps, for some unknown reason, Scott mentally checked out when I was losing my job, getting kicked out of the band, when I was told that I could not help with or do anything in church other than warming a seat.  Perhaps Scott (like so many others at NorthPointe) forgot that people were approaching me, week after week, to tell me that they didn’t want to have anything to do with me.  No phone calls, no emails, no contact whatsoever.  Scott wasn’t there when my Facebook friends (who I knew personally) dropped me off their friend list.  Scott isn’t there to hear the conversations where I (so far, unsuccessfully) plead with old friends to go to counseling with me and Tim so that perhaps our friendships can be healed and reconciled in LOVE, even if we never agree about doctrine.  Scott would have you believe it is a cakewalk to live out 1 Timothy 4:10-11.  Does Scott ever drive by our old house on Rose Street and remember that we might have been able to scrape up the money to make a house payment and avoid foreclosure if I had been treated like someone who was good at her job (for five years, there were few complaints, then suspiciously, when my doctrine changed, I couldn’t do anything right).  Has Scott forgotten about my year of HELL, when I tried to suppress the truth for the sake of the so-called “authority” of the pastor? Was Scott out of town on the Sunday that I stood silently while I was publicly humiliated by the pastor?  Does Scott have any idea how much people don’t know about, the stuff that I will likely NEVER talk about, because I’m saving it for the day that God Himself gets to set the record straight?  Readers, if you are people who attend church regularly, please know that what Scott says about everything being okay, no enemies, easy, etc regarding my open proclamation of Jesus Christ’s COMPLETE victory of sin and death is simply, well, bullshit.  I’m not calling Scott a liar, I’m calling him ignorant, in the same way Christ did when he looked over the faces of all the people who stood by and allowed Him to be crucified, even those who actually did the dirty deed.  Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.  And for those who might have known exactly what they were doing (God is the judge), remember that God DELIGHTS in judgment.  You will not continue to get away with spiritual bullying forever.  There will come a day when God will put a stop to what you are doing.  You just sit and think about that for a while.

Scott calls universalism a “trap, because it’s very palatable…” Embracing or rejecting a doctrine on the basis of palatability is foolish.  It’s palatable, because its true.  “Taste ye and see that Jehovah is good, O the happiness of the man who trusteth in Him.”

According to Scott, I have embraced a doctrine that “ignores core scriptures that totally go against that [eternal torment proof-texts].”  I don’t ignore eternal torment proof texts.  Nor do I, as Scott says, “explain them away.”  It’s funny; the same thing could be said of universalist proof-texts in the hands of people who believe eternal torment.  The Greek and Hebrew have a way of pulling back the veil and exposing truth, which, in turn, has a way of explaining how the violent greed and corruption that marks church history (and orthodoxy = church history) found its way into Bible translations.  And this, finally, explains why people have been believing some pretty screwed up ideas for such a long time.  Thank God for easy access to Hebrew and Greek word study materials these days.  People are having their eyes opened, and it scares the hell out of churchianity.

According to Scott, at some point, I have or will “become super-tolerant of sin in [myself]. Because [I] have painted this God that is just love, unconditional love, unconditional love, I can do anything I want, unconditional love, unconditional love, and pretty soon, [I’m] like, ‘Well, you know what?  It’s okay if I sin, because after all, God just loves me.'”  I am so thankful that I lost my job and HAD to move out of my glass house in Umatilla.  I’m so thankful that my current friends love me and accept me, even if I screw up.  I’m so thankful that God’s love for people doesn’t depend on their performance.  “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Admittedly, these days, sin and my awareness of it are becoming less important in light of other, more important things.  I don’t think this is a fault, though.  I think it is evidence of what the apostle Paul concerning maturing as a Christian.  He wrote:

So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God… God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that [not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, etc]. But there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it!

There’s much more to be said about living in fear of sin, but that’s another blog for another day.

I would like to introduce this blog with a prayer I wrote in my journal in August, 2008:

I know that I barely even know the tiniest bit about Your power and Your plans.  You know that I have recently prayed and asked for the privilege of knowing Your thoughts.  You have been so gentle to only give me what I am capable of comprehending.  I know that there is so much more, but I am afraid to become more emphasized on the wonder of You than of Yourself, Who You are.  Your works are great, it is addictive to be included in the supernatural nature of You, but I don’t want to allow my idol to be what You do.  That is why I am thankful that You are careful with me… I am special because I am chosen by my Creator, but I am not chosen because I am special.  If it were not for Your unmerited favor toward me, I would be lost so deep in the filth of my own sin.  You keep Your promises of love toward me, even when I sin.  I have moments of wickedness and rebellion, yet You do not discard me or write me off as a lost cause.

As the body of Christ, I confess our failures, our hatred toward one another, our pride, and our selfishness.  Please help me to get it right, and help me to help my brothers and sisters in Christ to get it right.  Our current state is shameful.  You deserve… a faithful servant and a whole world that is bowed down and confessing “Jesus Christ is Lord.”  The church has been scattered and confused because of unfaithfulness to You, and our disobedience to the two greatest commandments [love God, love others].  We have turned away from You and each other, all because we thing we know better than You.  How stupid!  It amazes me that You have such mercy, patience, and forgiveness toward 2000+ years of childish, ignorant, rebellious people.  Yet there have been sparks of revival.  Every now and then, someone comes along who recognizes their own depravity and believes that You are bigger than their sin.  Every once in a while, someone stirs things up by the power of Your Spirit.  I pray that this generation will be and is Your chosen generation, where those sparks are fanned into full blaze.

You have allowed Your bride to sink to such depths and be overtaken almost to destruction.  Churches are dying all around.  But I know that You have only done this so that we would see the error of our ways and feel the consequences of our bad decisions.  On behalf of Your people, I pray that You will pour Your Spirit out once again, that sleeping Christians will wake up… You have not allowed us to be utterly ruined.  You have set aside a faithful remnant in each of us individually and corporately.  Lord, I am seeking Your favor on me and on Your church.  Help us turn from our sins.  Help us to know the truth about how we are to love You and each other.  It is no wonder the world ridicules Your followers.  We are a screwed up bunch.  But we are chosen, and so I ask that You make a name for Yourself that will strike awe in the hearts of unbelievers.  Let our religion be the true religion of loving You and loving each other.  Break it down into practical language that everyone can understand, and bless us with teachable hearts that desire to be obedient to You.

Right now, God, Creator of the Universe, one of Your created ones calls out to You to hear this prayer.  For Your sake, and for Your glory, look at your bride with favor.  See our desolate state and have pity on us.  Listen.  Read.  These words are not just ink and paper, they are offered to You in faith that You will return Your bride to a glorious state… I pray, “How long?” for your church.  I an not asking You to do this because we are so great, I am asking You to do this because we are so desperate!  You are merciful.  Throughout the generations, You have shown local and temporary demonstrations of Your glory, the glory of healing and restoration that can only come from the One True God.  I pray that You will show Yourself like never before in my life, in my family and friend’s lives, at church, in Umatilla, in Florida, in the United States, and in the world.  Worldwide, lasting revival that continues…

The enemy has had enough fun toying with us, lying to us, tempting us, and undermining all of Your work.  I pray that you will raise up a church that knows the authority it possesses in Jesus Christ, that does not grieve Your Holy Spirit or fight against You.  But, Lord, we don’t have what it takes.  I am believing You, that You will decide to turn the hearts of Your people back to You.  We need You to work this miracle in us.  We are helpless without Your Spirit giving us the will to obey You.  Please hear my request and act on it.  Do not delay.  Send revival to us.

Oh Lord, give me insight and understanding.  Let it be for me like it was for Daniel.  Let it be that as soon as I set pen to paper [in prayer], You already answered [my prayer].  Let me be highly esteemed by You like Daniel was [Daniel 10:11].  I know he was a man, and therefore a sinner, like me.  I believe that You can choose me like You chose him.  Give me something to think about.  Give me understanding.  Is it the time of the end? [Here, when I write “the end,” I refer to Daniel 12:4, not the end of the world.] Fill me with mourning, if that’s what it takes.  Instruct me to fast for three weeks.  Please do whatever You want with me.  But, enable me, because I am weak.  Make me fall into a deep sleep with my face to the ground [Daniel 10:9].  Tell me that since the first day that I set my mind to gain understanding and humble myself before you that my words have been heard [Daniel 10:12].  Respond to me.  Explain to me what will happen.  Touch me and give me strength to handle all that You want to dish out… I pray that the people who know their God will firmly resist the enemy by the power of Your Spirit.  You said “those who are wise instruct many” [Daniel 12:3] – this sounds to me like the early church.  They fell by the sword, were burned, captured, and plundered.  They received a little help with this [Constantine] and were joined by the insincere.  The wise have stumbled.  We are in the process of being refined, purified, and made spotless.

Is it the time of the end? [Again, here, when I write “the end,” I refer to Daniel 12:4, not the end of the world.]  It is an appointed time.  Lord, let this generation be the one to see the appointed time! …Deliver Your people!  The words have been sealed to the time of the end [Daniel 12:4].  Is it that time?  I pray Lord that is is!  All of the human race cries out for resolution… Some don’t know it, but it is in each of us.  You said those who are wise will understand.  Lord, let me be wise.  Let me understand.  Don’t send me on my way…

I know I don’t deserve it, but let me live to see all of this and to know and live according to the wisdom You give me.  Lord, You said that You have determined times and places for each person.  What do You want me to do?  I have an intense desire to get in on Your plans, to pray for Your will to done on earth as it is in Heaven, and to join You in the work of Your Spirit in the name of Your Son.  I want to look back on my life and know that You have used this unworthy vessel, made worthy by the blood of Jesus’s crucified body, to do amazing things in my time and my place, appointed by You from the beginning.  I am writing everything down, because I believe You will and are showing me… the work of Your hands.  I want to give You glory in such a way that no one who reads the words can remain unchanged in some way.

One of the reasons I wrote my prayers down on a regular basis was that God was telling me that I would need to refer back to them later, I would need to remember what it was like to not know His plan, because He would reveal it, and then I might forget how it happened.  He told me that He was doing something new, but something old, and that my journey of discovery would be “a book.”  For the longest time, I thought that this meant a published hardcover or paperback.  I suppose that is still a possibility, but I’m beginning to wonder if this “book” is actually www.whatgoddoes.com.  Time will tell.  The point I’m getting at, though, is that I knew then that I was on to something with amazing spiritual significance.  The more God opened my eyes, the more inclusive my prayers became.  I wasn’t just praying for MY church or for local churches or churches in general, I began praying for this organic, dynamic, entity – the body of Christ.  I wasn’t praying for my plans, I was praying for His plan of the ages, without even realizing that was what I was praying for.  The walls of the churches were disappearing, and I was seeing the people trapped inside the system, the people who were starving, like me.  And I even dared to pray for the whole world.  The whole world!  Sure, I had prayed for the world before, but I had always done it with a defeated frame of mind, because I had been taught from a very young age that most of the world would reject the “offer” of salvation and go to hell or be annihilated.  In other words, when I prayed for the world, I prayed without hope, not believing that my prayers would make much difference.  My prayers were becoming more daring.  Sometimes I would finish praying and wonder if God was mad at me for asking too much, for expecting too much out of Him.

This is the fourth blog in this series.  Here are the links for the first blog, the second blog, and the third blog.

This blog series is inspired by a sermon called “Barbie God” by Pastor Scott Wiens.  Usually, when I quote verbal or written messages by people who believe in eternal torment, these people accuse me of taking their words out of context.  Since I will quote from “Barbie God” throughout this blog, I encourage you to click here and listen to the message in its entirety.  That way you can be a fair judge of whether I have taken Scott’s words out of context.

When Scott was warning the sheep about how dangerous universalism is, he described it as “one of the most dangerous doctrines that’s now in another cycle.”  I’d like to address the “now in another cycle” portion of his comments.  I’ve heard pastors respond in all sorts of ways to Christian Universalism – the belief that Jesus actually accomplishes His mission to “seek and save the lost.”  Often, pastors say, “Oh, this is nothing new.”  Scott’s comment is very similar to this, and here’s how.  Orthodox Christianity has systematically suppressed the idea that Jesus “is the Savior of all mankind, especially those who believe.”  You can read about some of this history here.  I wrote a blog about “shifts” in the spiritual question-asking/question-answering environment throughout church history, and you can read it here.  Perhaps my “shifts” are similar to Scott’s “now in another cycle” idea.  Here’s the kicker, though – we are living in an age that is remarkably different from all of human history:

…The third shift is happening now.  Really it has been happening all along, only no one knew it, because anyone who dared speak up about it was quickly labeled heretic and put out of the church.  This is still the standard approach in most congregations, but something else happened that the institutional church never expected, something that if they had known ahead of time they still would not have been able to prevent.  Something remarkably similar in potential to the printing press, that is, the internet.  Social media.  The ability for people to easily and anonymously access information.  We are living during a pivotal time in history.  God is turning the institutional church upside down and inside out, shaking it to see what falls out and what sticks.  The wineskin is bursting with Good News that really is good.  People are remembering Who God is and what God does, how His plan of the ages involves calling out a “firstfruit” people for Himself, and that this firstfruit harvest is just the beginning of the entire harvest.  The year of Jubilee is on the horizon – out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.

Part of the reason that the very first youtube video I ever created, Jesus Saves Everyone, says, “the internet belongs to God” is that God is using the internet as a means to open up the vision that was sealed shut in the book of Daniel:

And thou, O Daniel, hide the things, and seal the book till the time of the end, many do go to and fro, and knowledge is multiplied… at the completion of the scattering of power of the holy people…

In the past, people who were labeled heretic and put out of the church effectively “disappeared” from among others who might have benefitted from hearing what they had to say.  In the past, it was very difficult for someone to look up scriptures in many different translations, find out where translations came from, study the Hebrew and Greek words, study etymology, and most importantly, study church history to find out who, what, where, when, and how the beliefs of the early church were lost in the unholy alliance between the church and Rome (and all its violent and oppressive consequences that persisted until just a few hundred years ago).  But things have changed.  Heretics don’t just disappear, because with social networks, their peers can anonymously look into the so-called heresy and form their own opinions about whether the church authorities should have reacted so strongly.  Yes, thank God, things have changed.  Now, people have many useful tools for Bible study at their fingertips.  And if they dig into church history, they aren’t just reading church-approved or church-recommended sources.  They can find out what really happened and why.  In the blog, Why Chan Can’t Erase Hell, I write more extensively on suspiciously hidden or omitted information in orthodox study materials.  I would like to believe that it is simply an oversight by orthodox authors and publishers, but my good sense tells me there’s a sinister power at work – the power of darkness.  And I’m not talking about demons, here.  I’m talking about ordinary, normally fair-minded people in high places going out of their way to make sure the average church attender doesn’t find out about certain information.  Information that makes orthodoxy look stupid and corrupt.  Only God knows whether this is subconscious or intentional.  He can judge fairly, and, in fact, He may already have, considering that way back in Daniel’s time He already had in mind “at the completion of the scattering of power of the holy people…”  Here’s an excerpt from the blog I mentioned:

I remember doing some early research on church history (this was going on before I realized Jesus succeeded in His mission as Savior of the whole world) and seeing that Origen taught universalism.  I glossed straight past it.  Do you know why?  Because it was accompanied by an explanation about how Origen’s beliefs were condemned as heretical.  That’s how my mind worked before God’s five year overhaul.  I figured that if church leaders all agreed that his teaching was bogus, then it must be true.  I never even bothered looking up the word, “universalism”, until years later.  It wasn’t even part of my vocabulary.

Fast forward to the time when all the pieces were starting to fit, when I discovered how much political corruption was taking place in the upper tiers of the church heirarchy, when I knew that the people in positions of authority who had the power to decide if other people were heretics were not these holy, nearly-infallible leaders I had imagined them to be.  I picked up the very same book, and read the very same words, but this time, I saw the reference in tiny print to see the notes section in the back of the book.  So I turned to the back of the book and discovered that Origen’s teaching on universalism was not considered heretical until HUNDREDS of years after he died.  Doesn’t that sound a bit suspicious?  What took them so long?  Furthermore, why was this information tucked away, instead of right there next to Origen’s name in the chapter?  Were current Christian publishers not also wondering why it took them so long to condemn universalism?  If so, why are they being so cryptic about it?  If not, why not?  This was a turning point in my research, because I began second guessing all the experts, checking and double checking everything they claimed.  I didn’t trust them any more.  I had to know and learn for myself, instead of taking their word for it.

If I had been born 100 years ago, it would have taken me a lot longer to find what I was looking for.  But, like I said, things have changed.  And I have some BAD NEWS FOR CHURCHIANITY (but it’s really good news for them eventually).  You know how in the past, that pesky heresy just went away until it was time for another cycle?  Guess what?!  It’s NOT GOING AWAY any more.  Here’s the latest media attention to the subject of Hell: http://www.hellboundthemovie.com/.

The house of cards is collapsing.  People are finding out about how the system has kept them in the dark for so long.

It’s kind of funny.  Someone posted a comment on one of my youtube vids that said, “Rob Bell, is that you?”  Fundamentalist Christians accuse me all the time of being a disciple of Rob Bell.  I always refer them to the date of my first youtube vid, so that they can see that Bell’s book, Love Wins, was published March 15, 2011.  My first youtube vid was posted December 28, 2009.  How easy it would be for the system, if this were a Rob Bell thing or an Alice Spicer thing.  The system could just present it is if it were the insanely twisted views of a renegade heretic, everyone would believe the system, and that’s the end of that.  But this isn’t about isolated spiritual weirdos in crisis – this is God doing a new thing, but its an old thing.  And it’s happening all around the world.  It isn’t going away.  God finishes what He starts.  He may take His good old time, but He will accomplish His purpose, even *gasp* without churchianity’s permission.  He is rescuing His church from those who suppress the Spirit and inadvertently or intentionally become spiritual bullies.  What is done in the dark is being brought into the light.  The days of private conversations and private meetings with “heretics” are coming to an end.  Get ready to abandon your beloved doctrine or defend it in the light of God’s glory!

Today’s religious system is the modern day version of the Pharisaical system, as is evidenced by the content of Scott’s sermon. 

Christian Universalism is a dangerous doctrine, according to Scott and orthodox theology in general.  I agree.  It is VERY dangerous.  Dangerous to the system.  It isn’t dangerous to the church – the real church – the church that may or may not show up on Sunday morning in a building.  God’s spies are everywhere.

Christian Universalism is a dangerous doctrine.  The Pharisees said the same of Jesus’s doctrine (John 11:48-53):

If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

…So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

The system no longer has the power to take a heretic’s life, but there are emotional ways of “killing” people.  I’ve replaced just a few words in John 11:48-53, to give you an idea of what goes on in those private meetings, when church leaders discuss the “heretic” who is trying to introduce “dangerous doctrine” into their little spiritual kingdom:

If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the bank will come and take away both our building and our jobs.”

Then one of them, named Rock Hart, who was Elder Deacon that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man is disciplined for the people than that the whole church be divided.”

…So from that day on they plotted to shut him up.

This is the final blog in a series to the believers at Whistling Pines.  Here are the links for the first blog, the second blog, the third blog, and the fourth blog.  This blog series is inspired by a sermon called “Barbie God” by Pastor Scott Wiens. Usually, when I quote verbal or written messages by people who believe in eternal torment, these people accuse me of taking their words out of context.  Since I will quote from “Barbie God” throughout this blog, I encourage you to click here and listen to the message in its entirety.  That way you can be a fair judge of whether I have taken Scott’s words out of context.

Here’s some encouragement for people within the institutional church system or outside of it:

The almighty power of God completely transcends the system.

This is an excerpt from a letter I wrote in October, 2008, to the pastor of the system (NorthPointe Fellowship) where I regularly attended, that best describes how the almighty power of God completely transcends the system.

I know I’ve said this to you before, but I must repeat it again and again until you understand how far-reaching it is… not everyone sees what God is doing, because they are so bogged down by their own traditions.  They hold tightly to the comfort of the way things have always been… This kind of thing is going on all over the place.  There is a power struggle between God’s people who want to earn [take credit for] their salvation… and God’s people who bask in His grace and want to share hope with the world…

You [invited] the Holy Spirit into our midst, into us, to teach us, to open our eyes, to help us know God and believe God.  Think about it.  To KNOW God and BELIEVE God.  This can be uncomfortable… What if God shows Himself to you in a way that you did not expect?  …If God outgrows the box you’ve been keeping Him in, then you have a decision to buy a bigger box, or be rid of the damn thing.

God wants to do amazing things with NPF, but the hard part is getting His people to stop seeing His work as a… threat, but a blessing and opportunity to really make a difference… Here’s the hard part, where God is telling me to say things that may not be received, and I might end up looking like a fool.

God has given me a vision.  So far, the only way I have been able to describe it is that He is doing something different and new that will have impact throughout churches across the world.  I told you that God told me to start writing everything down… that what He does at NPF is something that every church has the potential to do, but they just didn’t know it… that God has me on a personal journey, but I didn’t know what it was yet.  All He would say when I asked Him was that it was “preparation.”

I’ll tell you what that preparation has looked like… God show[ed] me things, and I didn’t believe Him.  When they happened just like He said, I was ashamed at how little I really believe Him… I have been carefully watching and documenting everything I see God doing and everything He has told me for about two and a half years now.  Each page I write is like a puzzle piece.  Up until recently, they did not connect. Now, they have connected.  Now, I know what God is doing in me, and I know what God is doing in NPF.  If I gave you every detail, it would be a book.  In fact, it will be a book, but I’ve only got the first half of it right now.  How the second half goes will depend on how you receive what I am about to tell you…

God [is] giving you just enough light for your next step.  You’ve been told by more than one person that the reason God is doing this is because if He told you the extent of it, you might not believe Him, or you might be too overwhelmed by it.  Think about it…  You might not BELIEVE it.  If God showed you a mega-church, I think you could wrap your brain around that.  After all, you are an ambitious man with heavy influence.  Given enough resources and God’s blessing, you have to admit that YOU COULD BELIEVE in this.  So what is it that you might not be willing to believe?  What is it that God is doing at NPF that is so different from what He is doing in other thriving churches?  What is this grand success for the Kingdom of God that God keeps promising?  What is going on at NPF that is not going on in another church?

Ask the other churches that share our passion for the unchurched and dechurched.  Music?  BEEN THERE, DONE THAT.  Missions?  DITTO.  Dress?  OH, PLEASE.  Website?  GOT IT.  Baptism in the Holy Spirit?  YUP.  Healings?  YUP.  Cool publications?  DONE.  Children’s ministry that rocks?  YES, YES, YES, NOTHING AT NPF THAT CAN’T BE FOUND ELSEWHERE.

Ask yourself this – what if God is doing something that we never thought He was doing?  What if He is doing something that requires no participation or help from us?  What if what He is doing at NPF is completely HIS WORK that will be done whether we cooperate or not?  What if this work, being completely God’s, will have such a huge impact on NPF that it could not possibly be limited to NPF?  What if the reason this thing is going to go county, state, nation, and global, is because it is such a powerful work of God that no one can stop it?

Let me refer… to [Martin] Luther for a moment.  Obviously, God ordained what happened in the Reformation.  If Luther choked on his Wheaties the morning of the day he planned to post his 95 Theses or if he just willfully disobeyed God because of his fear of men, the Reformation would still have taken place.  The Reformation is often viewed as a closely integrated movement.  But it actually took place in many ways through many people in many areas.  The reason God chose to use Luther as a spark to ignite the carefully kindled and gasoline-soaked church is beyond me.  But I do know that God looks and searches the whole earth to find people who believe Him, and He blesses them with the privilege of participating in His work.

So why not you? …Why not us?  God uses people because He feels like it.  We’re not chosen because we’re worthy, we’re worthy because we’re chosen.

Let me get to the point.  I think God is ready to peel back the layers we’ve been adding to His onion for 1500 years.  I believe He wants us to understand Who He is.  The work of Christ on the cross explains Who He is.  If we are to follow Christ and do as Christ does, then we better have full understanding of what happened the day He poured out His blood for us.  It’s no accident that you are seeking revelation from the Holy Spirit.

Here, I must go on a little bunny trail, to give readers a bit more insight on that last sentence.  The pastor preached a sermon series that was completely frustrating to him, because it seemed like he was preaching about stuff everyone already knew.  His sermon actually reminds me very much of certain portions of Scott’s sermon at Whistling Pines, except without all the condemnation.  Please understand, there are many things Christians assume they already know, already have all figured out, when in reality, they don’t have a clue. This message was one of the most well-timed and significant messages I’ve ever heard.  It applies to all people in all situations, really, but this particular group of believers at this particular time, it was exactly the message God wanted us to hear.  Here’s an excerpt:

Receiving the Holy Spirit does not mean you are a spiritual person.  Can you see that?  Just because you receive the Holy Spirit at salvation doesn’t mean you are a spiritual person, because we can ignore the Holy Spirit.  The Bible says we can grieve the Holy Spirit… We can operate that way, and when we operate that way, we are not ready for the deeper things of God.

It will only take us so far, and frankly, it’s not very far.

And so Paul says the key is you’ve got to be taught by the Spirit.  How does that happen?  …I’m supposed to be taught by the Spirit?  Yes.  Why?  Because… the Holy Spirit… can lead us into a real intimate knowledge of God.  Only the Holy Spirit can do that.  There is a knowledge of God that goes beyond studying and learning and observation.

 There is.  Just like there’s all kinds of light in this room right now that you can’t see.

There are things that have got to be spiritually discerned.  You say, what do you mean, discerned?  I mean be able to penetrate beyond the surface and see things as they really are.  See your life as it really is.  We have been doing this Holy Spirit exploration… every week, He keeps taking me to places I didn’t think it was necessary to go.  Two sermons ago, that was not my deal.  Last week, not my deal.  Not what I would have preached.

I’ve got other stuff in the wings that I have been waiting to get into.  This week, same thing.  I’m like, Lord, I don’t understand why is it so important for us to understand this.  I don’t get it.  It seems so obvious.

Even in my own life, God convicted me and said well, it can’t possibly be that obvious because look at that way you live.  Look at how much of the light… you just totally disregard.  Look how much you plough through your day, never stopping to consider what I am doing around you that you can’t see with your eyes and you can’t hear with your ears… Look at how little you are spiritually discerning your life.

See, I just believe that God wants to give us revelation.  Real revelation.  Not pastor revelation.  Not the kind of revelation we are used to, which is when we come in and we take a passage of scripture and we learn about it and say ooo I didn’t know that meant that, that’s really good.  Thanks!  And you walk out, give me a high five…

Jesus said… “When He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.”  I don’t know if we believe that.  Maybe we think we can guide ourselves into the truth…  “He will tell you what is yet to come.”  …Why would I need to know what is yet to come?  So you can pray.  So you can better discern what God is doing.  Do we really believe that, when Jesus said the Spirit would guide us into all truth? If we don’t believe it, then what are we doing?

 Either it is real or it’s not.

 Dare we?  Dare you?  Really?

Sadly, this pastor did NOT trust the Holy Spirit.  If he did, he would have believed what the Spirit was saying.  The congregation went the way of the pastor, by default, I suppose, because of the way the system is set up so that anyone who challenges the pastor supposedly challenges God.  It doesn’t have to be that way, though.  You can grow some spiritual balls and speak the truth if the Spirit of God teaches you.  You can transcend the system.  These believers at NPF, who genuinely wanted to be taught by the Spirit,  stiff-armed the Spirit when He showed up.  They ignored the Spirit.  They grieved the Spirit.  And because of it, they were spiritually starving.  A month or two after I was fired, the pastor preached a sermon about death being the cut-off for salvation.  That’s like crucifying the Spirit of God, basically.  Crucifying Him right there in His temple – your heart.  You can’t do that without going rotten inside for while.

Jesus said you will know them by their fruits.  Perhaps we should consider that the sermons pastors give could be fruits of the Spirit or the sermons could be fruits of the Adam nature that is crucified with Christ, but not quite dead yet.  A pastor is a fallible human being.  Do you understand what I am saying?  Pastors can walk in the Spirit and speak truth for long enough that people expect nothing but truth from them, and then turn around and walk in their own desires and speak death.  Some readers will be able to read between the lines, here.  That’s all I have to say about that right now.

It would be so wonderful if you people who used to attend FBCU and NPF learned that even pastors can and do fool themselves.  (What?!  Not MY pastor!), but apparently, you haven’t learned that yet.   Arrogance, rebellion, and spiritual abuse were just a few of the Adam-fruits produced by the stiff-arming the Spirit at NPF.  These same people are now listening to Scott preach that Christians need to point out people’s sins AND stop being so tolerant AND Christians have to share the BAD NEWS.  I’m not making this up, people.  It’s in Scott’s sermon.  Listen to it here, for yourself.  Maybe by appearance things haven’t gone from bad to worse in my old stomping grounds, but God isn’t fooled by appearance.  He sees straight to the starving heart.  I’ll write to the believers at Whistling Pines the same thing I wrote to the pastor at NPF, “It’s no accident that you are seeking revelation from the Holy Spirit.” Continuing with the letter:

But when He gives [revelation], will you BELIEVE Him?  Or will you find comfort in the traditions of men?  This is the challenge I’m putting in front of you, because I believe this is the will of God and truth… Choose God or the god that you want to preach… Teach NPF to be holy as God is holy, to be conformed to His likeness (but what is His likeness?), love our enemies the way God loves His enemies…

[Has] God… not given us the answers… or [does] the orthodox, mainline Christian church… not like the answers God has given?  If you knew that God had revealed something to us in His Word [Jesus Christ] so that we may have a clearer picture as to Who He is, and this revelation brings Him more glory, why would Christians not think it is important?… Do you think that I have been deceived?  Will you dismiss all of this as [me] being fanatical about a nonissue, or will you give it careful consideration?  Will the second half of the book God told me to write have a happy ending, or will it end like the story of the older brother of the prodigal son or Jonah after Ninevah?

Now, I had no idea when I heard the sermon at NPF or when I wrote the letter to the pastor that there would be this ironic twist.  God is sneaky like that.  For example, I wrote, “If God outgrows the box you’ve been keeping Him in, then you have a decision to buy a bigger box, or be rid of the damn thing.”  Here’s the ironic twist – the pastor chose to set his sights on the bigger box, but God got rid of the damn thing anyhow.  I also wrote, “what [God] does at NPF is something that every church has the potential to do.”  NPF is no more.  If God does at other churches what He did at NPF, then one of two things will happen in the institutional church:

  1. Repentance
  2. Rebellion

Repentance means “change afterward” + “realize.”  The only way one can spiritually “realize” anything is if one is taught by the Spirit.  This realizing produces a “change afterward.”  The outward manifestation of that inward change is what Jesus calls “fruits.”  The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  This is new wine that bursts the old wineskin.  The institutional church is stripped of its pretenses when it is viewed through the eyes of the Spirit.  The way things have always been is no longer good enough, and slowly but surely, the system of death is swallowed up in victory.

Rebellion is like the polar opposite of repentance.  It means “speak against” or “oppose.”  I and many other believers around the world are proclaiming the GOOD NEWS of great joy for all people, that the world has a Savior – God with us.  The Spirit of God has taught us Who God is and what God does.  Scott and other pastors and people in the upper hierarchy of the system speak against the Spirit of God and oppose the teaching of the Spirit.  It’s no wonder that even though three years have passed since NPF stiff-armed the Spirit, the same people are still praying that same old starving prayer, God we want to know you, start us on a new track, start us asking tough questions, we don’t want to be guilty of idolatry so clear our minds and hearts, etc.  God answers that prayer before it is asked, while it is asked, after it is asked.  His people speak against their Teacher by speaking against those He sends (slapped with labels like “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and “false prophet”), and they oppose His Teaching (with labels like “heresy” and “dangerous doctrine” and “tempting trap”).  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  The fruits of rebellion are not always as easy to spot as the fruits of the Spirit, because the Pharisaical system, according to Jesus, is like a beautiful cup full of dead, rotting stuff.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  But only on the outside.  Ever washing, never getting clean.  There’s not a realization about what is currently in the cup nor what ought to be in the cup.  There’s certainly not a “change afterward.”  This is old wine in a patched-up wineskin.  The institutional church will fortify its pretenses.  The rotting dead stuff will be increasingly exposed.  The way things have always been will become increasingly difficult to maintain.  How does it end?  I don’t know yet.  But as I see church after church fold, sheep swapping increase, pastors giving new meaning to “do as I say, not as I do,” and the like, I suspect it may end the way of the law-covenant temple in Jerusalem.  Destroyed by a violent entitlement of self-preservation.

But there’s hope, no matter what’s in store for the system.  Do you know why?  Because “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.'”  The building and the programs and the hierarchy and the religious bullshit have no place in His temple.  His temple is made of people, not judgmental doctrines and complicated bylaws and tax-exempt statuses.  The system, whether it bursts with new wine or destroys itself slowly from within, is NOT the body of Christ.  People are.

And the apostle Peter is a beautiful demonstration of how Jesus deals with the elect, His rebellious Ministers of Reconciliation, His wayward believers:

Jesus told Peter that Peter would deny Him three times.  Spirit-led believers tell other believers they are opposing the Spirit.

Peter didn’t think he was capable of denying Christ.  Believers don’t think they are capable of opposing the Spirit.

Peter trusted his own instincts over the Truth.  Believers trust their own traditions over the Truth.

Peter was surrounded by people (disciples) who agreed with him.  Believers surround themselves with other believers who agree with them.

Peter exchanged his integrity as a follower of Christ so that he could feel safe.  Believers exchange their integrity as Christ-followers so that they can feel safe.

Peter’s fear was a sign that he had not yet been made perfect in love.  Believer’s fear is a sign that they have not yet been made perfect in love.

Peter denied Christ three times.  Believers keep on opposing the Spirit.

The people who agreed with Peter didn’t see Peter’s denial-“fruits.”  The people who always just agree with whatever the believers in authority say often don’t see the “fruits” that opposing the Spirit produces.

Peter broke down and wept when Jesus “looked” at him.  Believers, if they do not break down and weep for denying the power of Jesus Christ in this age, when Jesus “looks” at them in the age to come they will be broken, realize, change after (and lose rewards, blessings).

Jesus was ridiculed and beaten by people obeying orders.  Spirit-led believers are ridiculed and punished by believers “defending doctrine.”

Peter returned to business as usual (fishing).  Believers so easily return to business as usual once the Spirit-led believer has been shunned out of their presence.

Peter was surrounded by people (disciples) who returned to business as usual with him.  Believers surround themselves with other believers who return to business as usual with them.

Peter’s fishing was unproductive.  Believers functioning apart from the Spirit are spiritually unproductive.

Jesus stood on the shore but no one in the boat recognized Him.  Spirit-led people speak wisdom from the Spirit, but believers still don’t recognize their Savior.

Jesus calls them friends.  The Spirit has good intentions even toward those who don’t recognize the Truth.

When Jesus asked them if they had caught any fish, they answered truthfully, no.  Spirit-led believers appeal to believers-in-denial to evaluate their efforts and answer truthfully that any accomplishments done in their own strength are worthless in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus tells them where to put the net and the fish fill the net.  Believers who do not oppose the Spirit of God are taught by the Spirit, trust the Spirit, obey the Spirit, and have an over-abundance of spiritual food.

John brought Peter’s attention to Jesus, and Peter went to Jesus.  Believers who are no longer spiritually starving cooperate with each other and draw closer to God.

Jesus feeds them.  The Spirit feeds believers.

And finally, to any believer in any institutional church who finds him/herself in a situation where he/she, by the Spirit of God, has the privilege of serving spiritual “food” to others, the words of Christ are for you.  Be like Peter, who realized and changed after he denied the Truth about Who Christ is and who we are in Christ:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”


 

UPDATE 10/13/14

I decided to include this last bit as an update to an already-posted blog instead of posting a brand new blog. May God direct the people who need to see it most here, in His own time and in His own way. My heart is broken. You’d think my skin would be thicker by now, but it still comes as such a shock when someone I’ve been friends with for over a decade no longer wants to speak to me.

In (Part One) Book Review: Raising Hell I wrote:

I believe the intended audience for this book to be the orthodox, mainline Christian. Unfortunately, studies have shown and my personal experience has proven that this audience is not receptive to exposure to belief-opposing information, at least when others are watching.

In The Light of Scrutiny I wrote:

Have you ever driven down the road to see someone honking and pointing at your car?  That happened to me the other night.  I stopped and looked my car over, expecting a flat tire or smoke or some other major problem.  It turns out that I forgot to turn on the headlights.  Suppose I were to get angry that some stranger had the audacity to point out a flaw in my driving methods instead of realizing that the stranger was only trying to help me?  What if I was so hung up on the fact that someone was scrutinizing me or my car, that I kept driving?  I could have caused an accident.  People could have been injured.  Yet this is exactly what happens when I try to discuss belief-opposing information with fundamentalists.  They are so caught up in the idea that I am challenging centuries of cherished beliefs that they don’t stop to consider there could be a genuine problem that needs to be addressed.  They are so accustomed to driving around in the dark and so entrenched in the idea that they have already got all the answers, that they flat out refuse to allow any formal, public consideration of opposing views to take place within the church walls.

In Fear of Comments I wrote:

The CARM forum, by definition, is a heterogeneous community, but in nature, it is a filtered, self-protected extension of the CARM website, as is evidenced in forum rule number 25 part D, which states, “This is a Christian website, if you want to promote liberal propaganda, take it elsewhere.”  The conversational bridge between “believers” and “unbelievers” is effectively burned through a doctrinal filtering process, which either bans outright or eliminates discussion that threatens to test CARM’s own stated forum objective: Christianity “should be able to stand up under scrutiny.”  With that objective in mind, it is odd that Universalism and Satanism (polar opposites not welcome in the lukewarm middle?) are now banned.  Go figure.

I’ve seen this play out on Facebook and other social media sites, as well.  It goes something like this:

  • Orthodox Thinker: General statement.
  • Unorthodox Thinker: Comment on general statement.
  • Orthodox Thinker: Fear-based emotional reaction.
  • Unorthodox Thinker: Question/comment about fear-based emotional reaction.
  • Orthodox Thinker: Bans/deletes/unfriends Unorthodox Thinker.

In The Dispossessed I wrote:

When I read this portion of the book, I thought of how great it would have been if one person in my church would have stopped and said, “Wait a minute.  We’ve known Alice for over a decade, and she doesn’t just go running off believing crazy stuff.  She thinks things through, questions, and asks God to teach her.  If this is how she is going to be treated, then (fill in the blank with whatever the appropriate response is).”  But I also realize that this is not what God had in mind for me at the time.  What He had in mind was to be left with no one willing to defend me, because it wasn’t about me at all.  It was about Him.  And it still is.  Earlier I said that the religious elite have their hands tied, but what I didn’t say is that this happens voluntarily.  For example, one person privately told me how upset she was about everything, but when I told her that she can stand against spiritual oppression, her response was, “If I say anything or do anything then I am setting myself up against the God ordained authority in this church…”  So you see that those chains are made of fear.

And if you’re a blog skimmer, I implore you to slow down and completely read these next two paragraphs…

In Driscoll, Mars Hill, and Why the Problem is Much Bigger Than One Church I wrote:

When wise counsel and discipline fail, maintaining power becomes difficult, but still possible, with good information management. If the offender is an employee, threat of unpaid leave or termination may be used to maintain power. If the offender is not an employee, threat of losing status or influence in the church may have the same effect. With offenders who just won’t go away quietly, shunning can be a last resort. The problem with these and other methods is that pastors and high-level elders are only powerful in the church world. Even people who are fully assimilated into the schema of perception sometimes spot broken threads in the web of consensus. They begin to wonder whether the voice of consensus is actually just the voice of their institutional master  pastor and his bouncers elders.

In this situation, the small, power-holding group becomes especially vulnerable, and information management becomes extremely critical.  In the past, this stage of power-maintenance was not very difficult. The offender would change churches or move or stop going to church, and the congregation would only have access to information deemed relevant or necessary by upper leadership. Pray for them. Forget about them. As long as unfavorable information could be eliminated or severely restrained, the web of consensus would be repaired, and the schema of perception would be strengthened.

The reason for this blog post is to remind people in leadership of the way the system breeds rotten fruit, even in the most kind-hearted, Jesus-loving people, as is evidenced in the following exchange. I posted it in full, so as not to “misconstrue” it.

Doctrinal Disagreement