Watch Aaron in the film Holy Wars

Thursday, August 31, 2006

White trash, hookers, and corporate fat cats

This post was written on 05/17/06. I am recycling it because it recaps very well the theme I have been writing about for the past month about the nature of the gospel.

Just a quick thought for the day. What do white trash, hookers, and corporate fat cats all have in common? All of them are people that Jesus would rather hang out with than self righteous religious people. You don't believe me? Read the gospels and see what I'm talking about. Jesus was acccused of being a "glutton and a wine bibber " precisely because He preferred to hang out with the riff-raff of society rather than the religious establishment of His day. Here is another thought, the very fact that Jesus ate and drank with sinners signified that He accepted them just the way they were. If Jesus is any indication of the heart of the Father toward lost people (and He is), then perhaps the gospel that He introduced to the world is precisely this- God loves sinners! It is in opening our hearts to the unconditional love of Jesus Christ that we ourselves are saved and transformed into what we could never be on our own. The problem is that most of us are too proud of ourselves to recognize that we do, in fact, need this unconditional love. This is why Jesus said that tax collectors and harlots (aka crooked lawyers and prostitutes) would enter the kingdom of heaven faster than the pharisees (aka...dignified and proud churchgoers). Let's keep this in mind as we relate to the world around us. It is only when we receive the grace of Christ for ourselves that we can give the same grace away to others.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Skinhead philosophy

I was watching Primetime last week and they were showing how white supremacists went to southern Mississippi last year to bring aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. At first glance, it seemed like a nice gesture. There was only one little problem. They were only offering food and clothes to white people! I was pleasantly surprised to find out that not a single person accepted their offer. The people were repulsed by such overt racism. This is excellent news because 50 -80 years ago this same part of the country was known for lynching black people for no other reason than the color of their skin. I was glad to see that things have changed since then.

As I was taking my walk yesterday I began to think about the incident further (most of my philosophizing is done while I am doing my power walk, but you probably didn't want to know that, there I go again revealing my secrets). First, I began to think to myself. Why was the act so repulsive? At least they were trying to help some people. Then I began to think to myself "what if God was like that?" What if God for mysterious reasons known only to Himself decided that He only loved some of humanity and not all?. Just like the skinheads only giving aid to white people, what if God decided that He was only interested in helping some people by saving them from their sins and not all?

Thankfully, I don't have to speculate any further on this question. The Bible says about Jesus Christ, "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2). Is there any part of this that is unclear? If "God is love" (I John 4:8)as the Bible says, then love is who He is. That means that He loves everybody and wants everybody to be saved. That is why Jesus "tasted death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9). I am glad I can confidently say that God loves everybody, not just some people. Although in the end there will be some who will refuse His love and suffer the eternal consequences, God's heart is open to everybody. I am glad about this. Skinhead philosophy will one day be extinct, God's love will not.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Aaron's personal tooth fairy religion

I've been thinking lately about starting my own religion. It goes something like this. The tooth fairy is real. I know we have all been told that the tooth fairy is actually our parents, but that is exactly what the tooth fairy wants us to believe. What actually happened when our parents put money under our pillows was the tooth fairy invaded our parents minds and bodies and gave us the money substitutionally through them. Both parents and their children have been unaware of the presence of the tooth fairy for all these years, but the tooth fairy is now wanting all people to know the truth.

Any volunteers for this new religion? I didn't think so. I remember when I used to work at Steak N Shake a coworker, who was a Wiccan, told me that she believed that everyone should have the right to believe what they want to believe. I remember thinking to myself-sure I should have the right to believe that the moon is made of cheeze, but that doesn't make it so. But in our brave new postmodern society, religious truth is viewed as something that autonomous individuals determine, not as an objective reality. As author Dan Scott points out in his book The Emerging American Church, the autonomous self is the new American religion.

The problem with the doctrine of the autonomous self is this. On what authority can I claim that the tooth fairy is real or that the moon is made of cheeze? Is this something that has been revealed to me? Does my believing it make it so? When it comes down to it, all propositions are either true or false based on their conformity to objective reality. This is equally true with religious inquiries as it is with scientific inquiries. Most people view science as objective and religion as subjective. I question this premise. If anything, religion is more objective because science can only tell us how nature behaves, not what nature is.

The strength of the Christian faith is that it makes claims that are either true or false based on historical events. Either Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead or He didn't. I believe He did and have good reasons to do so based on the historical evidence. And because I believe this, I have sufficient authority to claim that the hope of eternal life that Jesus came to give is objectively true. It sure beats believing in the tooth fairy.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A healthy debate with a Pastor on the Middle East crisis

I thought you all might enjoy a healthy debate between myself and a pastor in central Missouri. Pastor Tim sent an article about doctored photos in Lebanon that falsify civilian casualties. I thought the article was a bit one-sided so I wrote him an e-mail. Below is the correspondance that took place.

Hello Pastor Tim,

Thank you for your e-mail about doctored photos. I
don't mean to be contentious here, but does this
really change anything? If you look at "Kevin's sites
in the Hot Zone" at you will see that,
despite some misinformation in the media, many
civilians were actually targeted in Lebanon. I'm not
taking sides here. I just think that Christians
should be objective in evaluating the suffering on
both sides of the conflict.

Blessings to you and your ministry.



Thanks for the dialogue. It is so hard to get all the points that need
be said into a 30 sentence article. :)

I like to share my article with as many contacts as possible, but, of
course, it is written for the general secular public in a secular
The reason for this article was to point out the doctored photo by Mr.
and several other unethical journalistic snafoos concerning the Lebanon
crisis. I find many people are not aware of how biased their news can
coming from CNN, New York Times, Reuters and others and are just simply
informed about some of these facts.

Of course we are hurting for Lebanon as a country. This conflict has
destroyed much of what they worked for for the last 25 years. And, of
course, there are deaths of innocent civilians. Many are just
caught in the middle of something they don't want to be part of.

And you are right. While in the secular world, people tend to be hard
Israel because of what they hear in the media, people in the church
are a little overboard in their Zionism. The Israeli troops, like all
troops, are not always innocent in their conduct of war. But here are
other enlightening things to consider...

1. The country of Lebanon decided over the last 20 years to
with Hezbollah. They were officially represented in the military and
in cabinet posts. Whether this was by choice or by intimidation is
hard to
determine. The reality is that their country harbored terrorists.

2. Would Hezbollah kill civilians themselves and blame it on Israelis
order to sway public opinion? Of course they would. They are
Killing innocent civilians is part of what they do. There is evidence
this has, in fact, occurred in some instances in Lebanon.

3. Would Hezbollah kill civilians who are deemed political opponents
the chaos of conflict? You bet they would. In fact, they
do. Some analysts expect to find a couple mass graves in the future
attributed to Hezbollah actions during this conflict.

4. Israel views the death of her civilians as tragedy. Hezbollah
views the
death of "her" civilians as opportunity. That is why Hezbollah will
purposefully imbed their troops with civilians (often unwilling
There is a clash here of world-views.

5. While it is tragic many civilians were injured or killed attempting
flee the conflict (like the bus), we must also realize that many of
were given days to leave through repeated warnings by the Israelis.
Many of
them refused based on their solidarity with Hezbollah. They were
willing to
be human shields.

6. Cease Fire? The only reason Hezbollah or any other Islamic
group ever yields to a cease fire is to re-arm and re-organize. They
no intention of a lasting peace. This principle is imbedded in Islam
Mohammed himself who signed a peace treaty with a city he could not
After 2 years of strengthening his position, he broke the treaty and
the city.

7. The news media tends to say, "what everyone really wants is an end
the hostilities." But that is not true. What many of us want is an
end to
Hezbollah. That would be good for everybody.

Does the reality of doctored photos change anything? I respectfully
that it does. The doctored photos would lead one to believe that
human suffering in this situation is to stop the "bad guys" the
The real way to end human suffering here is to end Hezbollah.

Blessings and appreciation for all you do,
Pastor Tim

Hello Pastor Tim,

Thank you for your response. I am in full agreement
with you that Hizbollah is a terrorist organization
who should not be equated with the Israeli army nor
the Israeli government. Any thinking person would
recognize that if Hizbollah did not exist and there
were no attacks on Israeli soil coming from inside
Lebanon, then Israel would mind its own business and
live at peace with the people of Lebanon. I also
think that it is hypocritical on Lebanon's part to
shoot rockets into Israel targetting Israeli citizens
and then cry foul when Israel retaliates. I also agree
that any thinking person should recognize that the
cause of Israel, which is self-defense, is just and
the cause of Hizbollah (annihilation of Israel) is
unjust. So no one can question the end result
intended by Israel with any moral integrity (so long
as the end result is self-preservation and not
an encroachment on other sovereign nations)

This does not mean, however, that the means in which
Israel carries out its self-defence is closed to moral
examination. Although, as you point out, the media
does distort the facts at times, I think Christians
are a bit too self-defensive when a clear thinking
person in the media raises the issue of
proportionality. Although I can not say for sure
either way if Israel has applied Biblical
principles of morality in their tacticts, I think the question is
an appropriate one.

I also think that any lasting peace in the region
should deal with the land mines on Lebanese soil
placed by Israel during their earlier occupation.
Just as Israelis have a right to live in security
without being bombarded by rockets from Hizbollah, so
the people of Lebanon should have a right to walk on
their own soil without being blown to pieces by a land

Bottom line- Hizbollah should be disarmed and the land
mines should be removed. Christians, while not being
naive to the evils of Hizbollah's cause, should make
every attempt to make peace on both sides of the

I appreciate your convictions on this issue. You
raise some good points. Blessings to you and your


Thursday, August 24, 2006

The gospel of condemnation

I was watching Prime Time last night and they did a segment on twins at war in the womb. They showed the story of a young woman and her husband who were expecting identical twins. Everything was going well until the mother sensed she was having problems. It turned out in the ultrasound that one of the fetuses was stealing blood from the other fetus. In order to correct the situation, the doctors performed a surgery, but to no avail. The couple was then faced with a heart-wrenching choice. Should they abort one baby and save the other or should they risk losing both children by doing nothing?

Understandably, both parents were in agony over the decision. How could they choose one child over the other? At the same time, how could they risk losing both lives when they could save one? The father, evidently God-conscious, prayed that God would make the decision for him. The next day, one of the babies died. He never had to make that decision. After the other baby was born, it died a few days later.

Not only did my heart go out to this couple, this indicident also gave me an opportunity for a little moral reflection. What could this couple have done? I imagine if they had chosen to abort one of the fetuses to save the other, some in the Christian right would have screamed bloody murder. But then, what about the other side? I imagine that some on the far left would have practically accused them of double homicide if they had made a conscious choice not to abort one baby to save the other. The far left would have accused them of sacrificing both of their babies at the altar of their moral convictions.

And then I imagine there are some Christians who would say that if the young couple would have had enough faith, then God would have healed both babies. They take the wonderful Scriptures that inspire faith for miracles and then turn them around to bash the heads of those who seem unable to put their faith muscles to work.

What is my point in all this? My point is that in our search for moral and spiritual absolutes, we can easily miss the heart of Jesus who came "not to condemn the world, but to save the world." We also forget that, according to Jesus, mercy is one of the "weightier matters of the law." As long as we are on this side of eternity, life will not only be filled with black and white decisions, but every shade of grey in between. Somehow, I think God understands this much better than we humans who are ever too eager to assert our moral superiority over others.

The gospel of salvation can easily become the gospel of condemnation on both sides of the current culture war. The good news is that Jesus died and rose again to give this couple the hope that they will one day see both their babies again. It's about time we Christians drop our superiority complexes and start pointing people to the good news.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Should Christians tithe off their gross or net income?

Question: What's your take on tithing on gross income vs tithing on net income? Just interested in your opinion, not trying to trick or trap you.

Answer: The answer is whichever one you believe in more. Tithing should be done as an act of faith, not obligation. Here is an article which deals with every verse in the Bible on tithing. It is long, but well worth reading. I hope you find this helpful.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Adding to Scripture

As much as all of us hate to admit it, we tend to read the Bible with pre-conceived ideas and assumptions. When we read Scripture, our brain is not only recording what we are reading, but also recalling every sermon we have ever heard or every book we have ever read regarding a certain passage.

Here is an example from the book of Revelation 20:11-15. Here is how the passage is written in the New King James Version:

"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."

That is what the passage actually says. Here is how I have always read this passage: All who face the Great White Throne Judgment will be cast into the lake of fire. I am sure if you have been a Christian for a while you have heard this interpretation and, like me, you have never challenged it.

But is that what this passage actually says? Read it again. Pay special attention to verse 15. For your convenience, I have provided several translations for this verse so you don't miss the point.

Do you see it? Does this open up doors to possibilities most of us have never considered? I don't know. But what I do know is all of us need to review our assumptions from time to time. I'd rather challenge my assumptions than add to Scripture. I can be wrong. Scripture can not.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Adding to the gospel

I would like to give my readers a little pop quiz. What must a person believe to be a Christian? This is a multiple choice quiz.

A. The universe is less than 10,000 years old.
B. You must tithe off your gross income, not your net income.
C. Women are created to be subjugated to men.
D. Global warming is a left-wing conspiracy.
E. God wants the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights to be annexed to the State of Israel and all remaining peoples to be either driven out or in subjugation to the Jewish people.
F. Everyone in the Western Hemisphere who lived and died before 1492 will be in hell for eternity.
G. God tortures people endlessly in literal flames.
H. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

Only one of these statements is the correct answer. Can you guess which one? Everything else, if made compulsory to become a Christian, is adding to the gospel. Is it any wonder why the world doesn't want to hear our "good news?"

Friday, August 18, 2006

The day I became Knight Rider

Here is a little something you probably did not want to know about me, but since I am already in the habit of revealing way too much about myself to my readers anyway, I'm going to embarrass myself even more. goes. When I was 7 years old, I was a huge fan of Davd Hasselhoff. Of course I didn't know his name back then, all I knew is that I really wanted to be Knight Rider. I guess that is understandable. After all, what 7 year old would not want a talking trans-am? It wasn't till I was 24 and watching a rerun of Knight Rider that I discovered that Hasselhoff's acting was substandard. I actually saw a rerun of Knight Rider when I was in Uganda and thought to myself, I never realized this guy couldn't act. But then again, who cares about acting skills when you are 7 years old?

When I graduated from high school my parents displayed a story on a poster board that I had written in the second grade. In the story I took a magic pill and turned 21. Not only did I have hair under my arm pits (I'm not making this up. That is actually in the story) but I was Knight Rider as well. My exact words at 7 years old was -"Okay Kit-actervate turbo booster!" Notice that I spelled the word "activate" just how it sounded to me.

Believe it or not, I actually have a point to this embarrassing story. Sometimes I think to myself, what if things actually worked that way?" What if I could have taken a magic pill at 7 years old and all of the sudden skip the next 14 years, develop big muscles, and become a totally hip crime fighting machine? As ridiculous as this sounds, I think that is exactly what a lot of us try to do with God. We have this crazy notion that, somehow, God is going to turn us into superhero Christians without the process of growth in between. I don't know about you, but now that I am 28, I am sure glad that God did not answer the request of my fanciful 7-year old imagination. I wouldn't trade any of those 14 years that I would have rather skipped at the time, and neither would I trade the last 7 years of my life for all the treasures of the world. I think we would all do well if we could learn to enjoy where we are in life as God moves us forward to our final destination. After all, even superheroes start out in diapers.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

So you think you can preach?

I was watching "America's Got Talent" with my wife last night and I made a silly comment that I wonder what would have happened if I had auditioned for the show by preaching a five minute sermon. Of course, I would have been booed off the stage, but the thought occurred to me that preaching is as much of an art form as singing or dancing. It cuts to the human heart and calls for change.

It's unfortunate that we live in a society that says, "Don't preach to me." "You can't force your religion on anybody." A friend at my high school reunion jokingly asked if I had brought bats and clubs with me that night. I replied that I had left them in the trunk of my car. I find it interesting that the Bible says, "God has in due time manifested His Word through preaching." God has blessed me to be friends with many preachers from all over the world. I know red-neck hillbilly preachers in America, low caste preachers in India, persecuted preachers in Pakistan and China, outcast preachers in Muslim dominated West Africa, as well as refined preachers who preach to the upper classes of society. And I can say in my heart-I love them all.

Whether we like it or not, preachers are here to stay because they are the conscience of society. I know that some white men actually can dance, but I can not. So I think I will stick to my preaching profession. Perhaps I'll start a new reality show on Fox called "So you think you can preach?"

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Why don't Christians follow Orthodox Jewish law?

Question: I have a theological question, completely unrelated to your post. I was reading this passage in the Bible: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Why don’t Christians follow the same 613 Commandments of the Orthodox Jews? How much of Jewish law did Jesus say should no longer be followed? Or did he?

Answer: This is an excellent question and deserves a carefully thought out answer. First of all, when Jesus said that he came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill the law, I believe He was saying that through His life and teachings, He represented everything the law was intended to convey. When He said, "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of Heaven," He was referring to the moral teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, which was His interpretation of the law.

Also I believe He was saying that His sacrificial death on the cross would fulfill the types and shadows that were represented in the Jewish sacrificial system. In the Law, God required the blood of innocent animals to atone for the sins of the Jewish people. (Lev 17:11) Interestingly, Jesus was crucified on the day of Passover and his bones were not broken, fulfilling exactly the type and shadow of the Jewish Passover in the Old Testament. This is but one way that Jesus fulfilled the types and shadows in the Old Testament. There are many others and I would encourage you to read the New Testament events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus and compare them to the Jewish sacrificial system in the Torah. You are sure to find some surprises if you read the Torah with this in view.

As to your question of why Christians do not follow Orthodox Jewish law, the simple answer is, according to the New Testament, God no longer requires it from people any more. The law was never intended to actually make man righteous before God because it is impossible to follow it perfectly (Galatians 2:21,3:21). If one could follow the law perfectly (which is impossible) it would only lead to self righteousness, something that God condemns. Therefore, the Bible says, "By the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified, for by the law comes the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20) The New Testament teaches that God has provided a way to justify all men by faith in Jesus Christ, apart from the works of the law (Galatians 2:16, Romans 3:28).

This does not mean that Christians are not under moral constraints. Here is the general rule in the New Testament. Everything in the law of Moses is abrogated except for that which the New Testament says still applies. I conclude this because the Bible says the law, which used to divide Jews and Gentiles, was abolished at the cross (Ephesians 2:14-16). The Apostle Paul also told the Roman Christians, "You are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14)

As far as I understand what is taught in the New Testament,the moral law as revealed in the 10 commandments, still applies. This does not mean that one is justified by how well he or she keeps the law, but it does say that those who make a genuine effort to keep the moral law have demonstrated true repentance. So, to answer your question as to which parts of the Jewish law are applicable for Christians today (or, I would add, for all people), as far as I know, each one of the 10 commandments is enforced in the New Testament except for the command to keep the Sabbath. Although most Christians worship on Sunday, the New Testament, in reference to the Sabbath, teaches to not be overly concerned about which days are more important than others. This would also include Jewish holidays and feasts (see Colossians 2:16). Although it is certainly not wrong to follow the Jewish customs of the Old Testament, as many messianic Jews do today, it is no longer required and can never be a substitute for genuine repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. From the New Testament perspective, this applies to all people, Jews and Gentiles alike.

This is a longer answer than usual. I encourage you to look up the Scripture references I gave you to see if I am telling the truth. I hope this answer helps you along the way in your spiritual journey.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

High School Reunion

Last Saturday, I attended my official rite of passage into adulthood-my high school reunion. Although I had a lot of friends in high school, I had lost contact with all of them until last Saturday. Surprisingly, it was nothing like the stereotypical surprises that everyone says happens at reunions such as these. There was no "beauty queen turned homely" kind of person there. In fact, I would say that those who were good looking in high school were even better looking 10 years later.

Also absent was the status issue. It was nothing like the movie Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion. Most of those who were there were happy with their wives and kids and seemed to be content that they had found reasonable employment. Some had careers in their chosen fields and I was very happy for them. Others were pleasantly surprised at what they were doing since they had little to no direction for their lives during their high school years.

I was happy to see that most of my fellow classmates had found a certain degree of meaning for their lives through their relationships with their spouses and the enjoyment of their work. The Bible teaches us to "enjoy the fruits of our labor." Simplicity is not a patronizing word, rather it's a Biblical concept. As the Apostle Paul said, "Aspire to lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and reverence."

So for what it's worth. Congradulations class of 96. We did it!

Monday, August 14, 2006

No laughing matter

A few weeks ago, as I was flying to Brazil, I saw a cartoon in Newsweek that depicted Kenneth Lay, former Enron CEO, as standing before a bearded man (perhaps St. Peter or Moses?) in an obvious state of anxiety as to whether he will make it into heaven. The bearded man says rather flippantly, "You're lucky I never had any Enron stock."

Something about this cartoon disturbed me. Poking fun about a man's eternal destiny is no laughing matter. Especially in light of what the Bible says, "Judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy." I realize that I might feel differently if I had lost my pension due to Lay's moral failings, but, nevertheless I think that in light of what Jesus said regarding judgment- "For with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.", I might just hold my tongue and leave Kenneth Lay's fate in the hands of God.

After all, Jesus ate with the tax collectors of his day who were fleecing their people and receiving kickbacks from the Romans. In fact, many of them were his friends. Even more surprising, he told the pharisees of his day that tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the kingdom of heaven before them! And these were the religious people of his day! Most people feel that ,while others deserve justice, they deserve mercy. I believe those who turn that thinking around will be far better off on judgment day.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The wider hope question

Below is a response to an article written by Stephen Marshall, the director of the film, "Holy Wars" a feature length documentary coming out next year in which I am one of the four main characters. To read the article first, click here

Hey Stephen,

Thank you for letting me see the article. Just to
raise the stakes a little so you don't get too
comfortable. The Bible does clearly teach that all
who willfilly, persistently, and finally make a "no"
decision regarding repentance and faith in Christ will
be among those ultimately lost. Jesus Christ died for
the sins of the whole world and that means
everybody-except for those who willfully trample on
His grace and say "no thank you."

Since the Bible makes it clear that people are judged
by the light that they are given, there are many of us
who believe that those who respond correctly to the
light of nature and conscience, they will be saved by
the light that they have, not on the light that they
don't have. Jesus also indicated that those who
believe His gospel do so because their hearts are
already inclined towards the truth. So is it possible
that God judges people on how they "would have"
responded" had they been given a clear presentation of
the gospel? Jesus certainly opened up the door to
this possibility when He told the people of Chorazin
and Bethsaida that it would be more tolerable for
Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for
them because they "would have" repented had Jesus gone
to their cities in their day. `

The real question is -what constitutes as a willful,
persistent, and final decision on behalf of the
individual? The Bible is clearly ambiguous on this
issue, and that is why there are some of us who are
looking into the possibility of a wider hope for
non-Christians. Not because of the latest "end time
theories" but because there are numerous verses in the
Bible that indicate the death of Christ on the cross
not just provides the "possibility" of salvation for
all men, but actually "saves" all men.

Because the Bible says, "God is the Saviour of all
men" it appears that the death of Christ actually
effects a salvation for all who are savable-meaning
those who have not finally rejected the good news and
restructured their lives out of heartfelt gratitude.
The question is-what renders a person "unsavable"?
That I don't know and the Bible does not give a
clear-cut answer.

Bottom line: The Russian roulette analogy still
stands. Jesus is who He says He is and no one comes
to the Father except through Him. When it is all said
and done, the only reason why anyone will be in heaven
is because of what Jesus Christ accomplished through
His death and resurrection.

God bless you Stephen. I hope to see you in heaven
when it is all said and done. Feel free to post this
on your website.

Your friend,


P.S. For those interested, here are some Scripture
references related to this subject:

3:23-24,5:18,11:32,I Corinthians 15:22, II Corinthians
5:14-21,Philippians 2:10-11, Colossians 1:19-20,I
Timothy 2:6,4:10, Titus 2:11, Hebrews 2:9, I John 2:2

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Pre-trib rapture vs Dominion theology

Question: How do you think a person's view of the end times affects their passion for taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth? For instance, does the currently popular pre-trib rapture eschatology make for more eager missionaries
or maybe the older, but currently less popular dominion theology?

Answer: First, I think it would be helpful to define the two terms for my readers. The "pre-trip rapture eschatology" is the idea that Jesus is going to appear in the clouds to remove His followers from the earth and to take them to Heaven before a literal 7 year period of tribulation on the earth. The less popular "dominion theology" which is found in some Pentecostal/Charismatic circles as well as Reformed theology circles (where it is called reconstructionism) is the idea that before Christ comes back to the earth, the Church has to prepare the way for Him by Christianizing the world, not only in the hearts and minds of people, but also in the political realm.

Speaking from personal experience, I can say that the Pre-trib rapture eschatology produces a far greater motivation for world evangelism, primarily becauase it emphasizes that Jesus could come back at any moment, or as the Apostle Paul says, "in the twinkling of an eye." This idea, better known as the doctrine of immanence, has helped to give me the motivation to not take one day for granted and to make the most out of my life before it is too late. I think that dominion theology is misguided because it fails to take into account that Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world" and, in my view, it tries to emphasize creating an earthly kingdom for Jesus to come back to.

The pre-trib eschatology is not without its problems, however. Since it comes from a larger system known as dispensationalism which, in today's parlance, is virtually synomynous with Christian Zionism, the idea that the Church is obligated to help the Jews reclaim the Biblical promised land. For some Christians in this camp, it is more important to help the State of Israel take over the Middle East than it is to "preach the gospel to every creature." This view fails to take into account that Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, is perfectly capable of settling border disputes in the Middle East when He returns to establish His 1,000 year kingdom on earth. It also fails to take into account that nowhere in the New Testament are Christians told to help the Jews reclaim the promised land.

The most sensible approach is to obey the instructions of the Apostle Paul to "eagerly wait for the Savior" and the words of Jesus to "occupy until I come" at the same time. This provides motivation for Christian evangelism and a healthy and robust social action at the same time.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lessons from Mel Gibson

Now that the story of Mel Gibson's anti-semitic remarks is over a week old, I think I'll take time to write about it. I know I'm a bit behind on this one, but bare with me. Although this is not primarily a news driven blog, if I find something in the news that is interesting and I feel that I can relate it to the gospel somehow, then I'll write about it.

So here goes. What are we to make of Mel Gibson's remarks? Well, first of all, I don't think we can honestly say that his remarks cast a shadow on "The Passion of the Christ." Gibson took great measures to preserve the scriptural integrity of the film and he equally portrayed the Roman soldiers as monsters as he did the Pharisees as self-righteous hypocrites. He also left out the "His blood be upon us and our children" part in the subtitles although it was kept in the original language of Aramaic, which is still spoken today by the Assyrian Christians in modern day Iraq.

As far as his remarks, I think that Gibson was surprised by his own words. Given the wording of his apology, I think that it is clear that even he was surprised at the anti-semitism that lied dormant in his heart until it was exposed to the world.

But isn't that a lesson for us all? I imagine that most of us are largely unaware of the deep rooted secrets of our hearts. The Bible says there will be a time when the "secrets of the heart are revealed" on judgment day. This is why David prayed, "Cleanse me from my secret sins." I think we could all use a little inner cleansing from time to time. This is why it is so important to daily ask the Lord to reveal to us the areas where our lives are not fully submitted to Him. The good news is that when we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us based on the blood that Jesus Christ shed on the cross for our sins. The bad news is that we still might have to face the logical consequences for our actions in this life. Most of us will not have our dirty laundry exposed to the world as in the case of Mel Gibson. But that doesn't really matter. I'll take an angry press over a holy and righteous God any day.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Releasing my inner sissy

Picture this. I am 11 years old. I go to a small private Christian school that threw parties for sixth grade graduations at the time. I am in a limo with my 11 classmates and the girl that I had liked for three years was in the arms of another man(At least that is how it felt at that time, in reality all 11 year olds are kids, but I didn't know that at the time) What did I do? Yep. You guessed it. I let out my inner sissy and balled like a baby. It was the most embarrassing experience of my life. Here is the even more embarrassing part. Another girl in the class felt sorry for me and decided to "go out" with me. It wasn't until several weeks later that I realized our relationship was a sham. Come to think of it, that was a really nice gesture on her part.

Why am I telling this to you? Well, apparently, confession is the "in" thing right now. All over the country, people are sharing their embarrassing stories through websites, blogs,coffee-houses, and various other venues. I've seen it on the Today Show and read about it in Newsweek. Everyone is telling their secrets. The question is-why?

Well, I can tell you one reason-it's Biblical. The Bible says that Christians should, "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." It seems that the secular world is catching up to what the Bible has been saying all along. We live in an age where people say, "I'm a spiritual person, but I don't believe in institutional religion." My response is -why not? None of us were created for isolation and all of us need to have people around us who love us and will not judge us for who we are and what we have done. If the Church really is an institution of redeemed sinners, what better place could there be to bare your soul? At least, that is how things should be. Let's give the world a run for its money. Confession time!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Why is Balaam considered a false prophet?

Question: What's your take on the story of balaam? Not the angel and the donkey, but King Balak and Balaam and why Balaam is later referred to as a false prophet?

Answer: As far as Balak is concerned, the answer is quite simple. He was a king who hated the children of Israel and wanted to see them cursed. The only problem with that was the fact that God had already said that He would bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel(Genesis 12:3). (Just a quick note of distinction here before I go any further. If you read the book of Galatians, you will see that this warning of blessing and cursing now applies to the Church as well as the Jews and doesn't necessarily refer to the modern state of Israel.)

As far as Balaam is concerned, the answer to this is rather frightening for me as a minister of God who believes in the perpetuity of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit as listed in I Corinthians chapter 12:7-10, which includes prophecy. The reason why Balaam is considered a false prophet is not because his prophecies were false. In fact, his prophecies were accurate. Balaam is a false prophet because he was motivated by greed and eventually formulated a plan to entice the children of Israel into idolatry (see 2 Peter 2:14-16 and Revelation 2:14).

Here is what is scary about this. While Balaam's soul was in darkness, he continued to be used by God in the gift of prophecy. Why is this? Well, one reason is because the Bible says, "The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29) This explains why people continue to receive miracles from ministers who are outwardly righteous, but inwardly corrupt. Consider that Jesus said,"Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:22-23) According to Jesus, it is possible for someone to be on their way to hell, but still do great miracles in the name of Christ.

I think the number one thing that ministers need to be cautious of is greed. Greed was the downfall of Balaam, a man with a genuine gift from God, and it will be the downfall of all who are in the ministry to get rich. The sad truth is this. There are those who think nothing of fleecing the ignorant masses by selling blessings from God. (Put in one dollar and get back ten! Give me $100 dollars for a specially annointed prayer cloth to heal your Aunt Suzie!) The sobering truth is this. Aunt Suzie may get healed, but the minister of God may lose his or her soul in the process.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Your sins are forgiven!

As promised, I said that I would be writing posts over the next month about the nature of the gospel and its relationship to today's society. It would be helpful to start with one simple question. What is the gospel? We know that the word "gospel" means "good news", but what precisely is this "good news" that Christians are supposed to share with the world?

I remember one day in Bible School when a woman named Sally Green suggested to my School of Missions class that the message we are suppose to share with the world is "Your sins are forgiven!" I remember that almost as soon as these words left her mouth, most of the class immediately turned against her. The common objection was, "What about the need to repent? Don't people need to be made to feel like they are sinners first? What about hell, wrath, and judgement?"

All of these are good questions, but they betray a basic misunderstanding regarding the gospel. The way most people understand the gospel is, "Repent so that your sins can be forgiven." Although this sounds Biblical, the truth is actually the other way around. The true gospel is, "Repent because you have been forgiven."

Don't take my word for it though. The Apostle Paul is a far better guide on these matters than I am. Let's hear what he has to say about what precisely is the message of the gospel.

"Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses against them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)

According to the Apostle Paul, the message of the gospel is, "God is not counting your sins against you. He has reconciled you to Himself. So, therefore, repent and be reconciled to God." Remember that Jesus Himself said that His message to the world is, "To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." (Luke 4:19)

Think also about the parable that Jesus gave to Simon, one of the religious leaders of His day. Jesus said, "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" (Luke 7:41-42)

Notice that Jesus said the man freely forgave the two debtors. Jesus then asks the question of which man will love more in return, the man who owed little or the man who owed much? You see, when God forgives, He forgives freely. His call to repent and to be reconciled to Him is in light of the fact that He has already freely forgiven you. Remember that Jesus did not ask the woman who was caught in the act of adultery to tell Him that she was sorry and that she would never do it again before He forgave her. He simply told her, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." (John 8:11) Notice that Jesus forgave her first, and then He told her to repent. That is how it is suppose to be.

Bottom line: Sally Green was right. The gospel is in fact, "Your sins have been forgiven!" In light of this, God is now calling men and women everywhere to repent, believe the good news, and enter into a wonderful new relationship with Him based on love, grace, and truth. Now that's good news!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The people you meet on the field

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a missionary evangelist is the people you meet on the job in foreign countries. This trip was no exception. One of my interpreters was a man who, at one time, was one of the wealthiest men in Brazil with over 1,600 employees working for him. Due to a drug and alcohol problem, he lost all his wealth along with his wife and children. He even moved to Houston Texas and spent time there as a drug dealer. When he finally came face to face with the sin in his life, He met Jesus Christ and was changed forever. Now he is remarried, has two beautiful children, pastors a small church and has a new vision for life. He believes God is going to use him to preach evangelistic crusades in his country and around the world. The night he interpreted for me, he was very nervous because his English was limited. But when I gave the altar call and he saw people coming forward in repentance, his heart was encouraged when I told him that he could do this as well.

Another one of my interpreters had a similar story, only in reverse. Although her dad was the pastor of a large church in America, he began to take an interest more in philosophy than the gospel and eventually abandoned the Christian faith. This was when she was 17 years old. When she was 20, she was offered a record deal with Sony as an international singer (she had lived half her life in Brazil and the other half in America) but since the contract told her that she could not say that she was married, she turned it down and instead decided to spend her life as a missionary in Brazil. Now she is a teacher in a Christian school teaching young people about the character of Christ.

Another one of my interpreters was a 29 year old woman whose father, who was her best friend at the time, committed suicide when she was 17 years old. After two years of drinking and partying, she finally committed her life to Christ and now she is a worship leader who is getting married in November to a man in Chicago. She plans to live the rest of her life in the U.S.A. pursuing a call to ministry along with her fiance.

Another evangelist I met was a former terrorist with the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland. His life was radically changed when some of the people he was terrorizing demonstrated the love and compassion of Christ to him. Now he travels his country and preaches a message of peace and hope to both Catholics and Protestants. He also has a powerful ministry of healing and miracles around the world.

Lastly, I met an evangelist from England who was terrorized by a demon for 27 years (the demon came into him while he was watching a scary movie). During these years, he would lay awake at night with his bed soaked in sweat because of the fear that seized him. Although he knew little to nothing about Christ, one day he went to church and gave his heart to Christ. Shortly after, he was Baptized in the Holy Spirit and begand to speak in tongues (even though he did not know what it was at the time because he had never heard of it before). Now he pastors a church in England and has a powerful ministry of healing and deliverance from demons around the world.

After meeting all these people and hearing their stories, is there any way I could possibly believe that Christ does not actually make a difference in people's lives? No way Jose!