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Going Gaga* for False Justice (and Digital Farms, Apparently)

So I was going about my own business the other day, clicking a link to YouTube, when — as often happens on YouTube these days — a commercial began playing. Before I had any indication of what I was in for, I first noticed that this commercial was several minutes long. I thought that surely nothing on earth could be so awesome that some advertising company should presume that people would actually be willing to sit through almost two and a half minutes of YouTube commercial for it. Ha ha. Silly advertising company.

So, naturally, I proceeded to watch the whole thing.

Score one for the marketing team.

At first, I wasn’t clear on what the commercial was for. There was a very pleasant, homey feel about the opening scenes. There was an interview of a pleasant, laid-back farmer, a man who seemed to emanate the down-to-earth simple wisdom of someone who’s spent a lot of time behind a plow making an honest living. “I’m John,” he says. “I have lived here my whole life.”

Aww, that’s nice. At this point, I’m anticipating an ad for either butter, sausage, biscuits, organic foods, or a documentary about organic food.

John proceeds to tell us that he and the neighbors weren’t exactly too sure what to think of Lady Gaga when she first came to town.

Hang on, what?

Now I haven’t the slightest clue what to do with what I’m seeing and hearing. Maybe Lady Gaga is releasing a new album. Like, a country album. Maybe she’s trying to prove she’s not just for the young, crazy teens. Maybe she’s doing a concert tour of rural America. Maybe farm folk are trying to prove that they really can run with the hip young kids. Maybe Lady Gaga did some kind of community outreach thing in a small town where she helped pick soy beans and milk cows and pose with a tractor or something to support local growers.

Oh, how wrong I was. How very, very wrong. Nothing could have prepared me for the fact that what I was watching was an ad for…

GagaVille.

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Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Other Guy’s Judgment ≠ A Statement on My Righteousness

I’m sure no one reading this needs to be told that two days ago, Osama bin Laden was reported dead, killed by the U.S. military. I don’t want to write in too much length about it, seeing as the wonders of Web 2.0 have brought us no end of happy, sad, preachy, jubilant, furious, defensive, and/or judgmental opinions regarding the matter.

However, I do want to briefly share what’s been on my heart since I heard the announcement.

It can hardly be argued but that bin Laden committed crimes deserving of death. Stopping Al Qaeda is important for national security — surely all Americans can affirm this. I’d strongly suspect that, if pushed, everyone quoting Proverbs 24:17-18 (“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls”) would nonetheless agree it is a good thing for bin Laden to be taken out of commission. Many would even say this is the judgment of God on the man. I myself would agree with all of those statements.

What concerns me, though, is the wave of national pride sweeping across the U.S. in response to his death. At one level, this is understandable. But on a much more serious level, bin Laden finally reaping the consequences of his wickedness does not make this country any more righteous. Even though our enemy was evil, it does not therefore follow that we are good. I love my nation, and pray for it often, but as we’re riotously celebrating the death of this terrorist, I can’t help but think of Romans 2:1:

“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”

We judge bin Laden for killing three thousand people in one day. We, as a nation, kill four thousand per day, innocent babies who die with the full sanction of our government. We judge bin Laden for stirring up Islamic youth to throw their lives away in violence. We think nothing of throwing away our own youth to fantasies of violence in video games, movies, and music (though we still manage to be surprised when they act on it). We may even judge bin Laden for his worship of demons. Strange, then, that our own country should be so obsessed with the occult and nearly completely uninvolved with the true God.

With the measure we judge, it will be measured back to us (Matt 7:2). I’m not saying we can’t rightly call bin Laden wicked, or truthfully say he got what he deserved in the end. What I am saying is that we don’t have the moral leverage to crow about it. Osama bin Laden got what all of us deserve apart from the grace of God. Before we rejoice in a sinful man getting his comeuppance, we need to tremble at the mercy of the God who has not yet given us ours.

We can be relieved the manhunt is over. We can thank God for removing bin Laden from power. But we don’t dare start gloating about how superior our nation is to him — because when push comes to shove, it isn’t. A nation whose hands are bloodstained cannot rightly judge a murderer. A nation who rebels against God cannot judge a terrorist who does the same.

As believers, we are not personally under God’s wrath. We can evaluate rightly and speak truth from a kingdom perspective. But that means we can’t be blind to the condition of our own nation. The cries coming from our lips should sound less like “USA! USA!” and more like “God, have mercy on us.” If God did not withhold His judgment from Al Qaeda forever, He will not withhold it from America forever, either. Pride — national or otherwise — is the exact opposite of what we need in this hour. We have all the more reason to ask God to send an awakening and turn the hearts of this country to Himself, to remember mercy in the time of wrath (Hab 3:2).

We need revival. We need deliverance. We need to be saved. And none of that changed with one less madman in the world. May we remain sober and watchful in this day, trusting in and glorifying God alone, earnestly interceding for the nation that we love.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2011 in My Two Cents

 

The Offensiveness of Truth and the Truth about Offense

Seeker-friendly. That title alone is enough to induce a bitter taste in the mouths of a lot of Bible-believing Christians. While no one will argue against increasing accessibility for those who want to be saved, that goal has been pursued in a lot of unhelpful ways. Too often, churches have compromised or abandoned their message in order to avoid accidentally offending someone. Too many preachers have focused so hard on making their hearers feel comfortable that they neglect to actually say anything of substance.

In reality, there is an inherently offensive dimension to the Gospel. Self-righteous, independent humans don’t like being told they’re lost sinners who must cast themselves on the mercy of a God they’ve never seen, and thereafter obey Him. People overly concerned with being nice and inclusive chafe at the idea that there is only one Way to the Father. Naturalistic intellectuals will scoff at the idea that some God-Man will come in the sky and set up a thousand-year kingdom. God Himself, speaking of the first coming of His Son, said, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense…” (Rom 9:33). He knew that many pride-blinded sinners would not be willing to receive Him.

Thus, it is more than fair to say that the Gospel — undiluted and straightforward — is offensive to the unredeemed human heart. It may even be fair to say that a presentation of the Gospel that does not strike that chord of, “Wait… what?!” very well may have missed the way Scripture speaks of it.

Truth is often offensive. Messengers and leaders in the Body of Christ ought not to shrink back from being truthful for fear of bothering someone.

However, and equally importantly, not all that offends is truth. Messengers and leaders in the Body of Christ (especially the younger ones) do well to take this seriously. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in My Two Cents, Theology

 

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“Always Learning” is not Always Good

While reading through the book of 2 Timothy recently, I was struck with a peculiar phrase. Paul was in the middle of warning Timothy about the deception that would come in the perilous times of the last days (2 Tim 3:1). He was simultaneously warning about the deception, as well as about the kind of people who would spread this deception. He provides a lengthy list of their vices in verses 2-5, and urges Timothy to have nothing to do with them. My interest perked up significantly in verse 6, as he warned, “For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women…”

I haven’t written much about the topic lately, but having done some study on the Bible’s view on women, I was paying particular attention to this. It endeared me to Paul to see that he was repulsed by the ways that these false teachers would prey on women. It also made me curious to learn more about these end-time “gullible women”, and how much relation that might have to what was already happening among the the women in Ephesus (the city where Timothy was currently stationed).

These women would be gullible. They would be loaded down with sins. They would be led astray by various lusts. (This is sounding awfully familiar to the idle widows of 1 Timothy 5…)

What really hit me, though, was verse 7: “…always learning“.

Hang on, what?

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Posted by on April 12, 2011 in 2 Timothy, Bible, Theology

 

When a Culture of Honor Stands for Truth

I’ve been keeping loose tabs on the debate surrounding Rob Bell’s theological position as presented in his new book, Love Wins. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, give a glimpse to my previous post. I don’t really intend to hash out the theology more than is already being done all over the evangelical blogosphere — I trust we can simply state at this point, “Universalism is bad” and leave it alone.

What I have been increasingly troubled by, though, is the backlash I’ve seen against anyone coming against Bell’s position. I expected there to be some squabbling, but I also expected it mostly to arise from loyal fans who have watched every NOOMA video ten times, memorized half of them, own every book, and go to every conference available. But I’ve been surprised by the vast kickback from people who have no particular allegiance to either Bell or universalism, but nonetheless can’t stomach the idea that major evangelical leaders are criticizing him — or in other words, saying, “He’s written universalistic things. Universalism is bad.” Which, to me, seems like a pretty far cry from a public tar and feathering, but you wouldn’t know it from the reactionary comments.

This has started me thinking of a teaching Mike Bickle did a couple of years ago about establishing a “culture of honor”. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2011 in Theology

 

What it Looks Like when “Love Wins”

I’m going to hazard a guess that most readers of this blog are familiar with the recent uproar caused by Rob Bell’s promotion of his newest book, titled, Love Wins. If you’re not, let me give you the brief version:

Rob Bell is a popular teacher, most famous for his NOOMA videos where he gives short, poignant teachings, usually framed with lots of probing questions. Young adults especially are attracted to his tendency towards unconventional methods of teaching and his very vocal belief that we should be living like Jesus lived, being kind and compassionate to all sorts of people. However, he has also been viewed with concern by many church leaders for quite some time, who have felt that he has been worryingly silent on some major theological issues (such as the need for conversion) and carelessly dismissive of others (such as the virgin birth) [source]. Judging from the promotional material for his recently-announced book, it appears to many people that this book is going to clarify Bell’s position as a universalist. Universalism claims that there is no such thing as eternal punishment, and that all people eventually are saved and spend eternity in heaven. This is a serious enough break with the Bible to qualify as heresy.

While the book has not yet been released, and it is thus too early to say for sure if that’s Bell’s position, current indicators are not looking good. The promo video has him asking incredulously if we can know for sure that Gandhi (a Buddhist) is in Hell. He asks how a God who sends people to Hell could possibly be good. From that line of thought, he directly transitions into stating that people are often repelled by Christianity because “they see it as an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies”. He wraps up with saying that “…whatever we have been told and been taught, the good news is actually better than that, better than we could ever imagine. The good news is that love wins” [YouTube source]. While a shadow of reasonable doubt concerning his theological stance can be upheld, it’s awfully hard not to worry.

Though I will firmly reject Bell’s theology if he turns out to deny eternal punishment — and will be profoundly unimpressed with his misleading marketing if he doesn’t — he is certainly right about one thing: Love does win. Of course love wins.

We just need to know what that looks like.

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Posted by on March 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Hey, look! It’s a theme I like, and it even uses capital letters in the title!

That’s all, really. But I’m geeked about it.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Uncategorized