Why I’m More “Emergent/Progressive” But Am Not Going To Hell Or Leading Others There

Aguirre-Wrath-of-God-006I grew up hearing and believing one explanation of “the good old fashioned gospel.”  And, in truth, I hold a rock solid position that Jesus is the Way, Truth, and Life. 

I am also so thankful to have been able to “join the conversation” with men and women of faith that have enlarged the “faith conversation.”

What Conversations Have I Paid Attention To?

“Emergent/Progressives: like Brian McLaren, Robb Bell, N.T, Wright, and Gregory Boyd to name a few.  I am also thankful for my heritage of those from the “Faith and Prosperity Camp like Kenneth Hagin, Joyce Myers, Marylin Hickey, and Kenneth Copeland.

Then let’s add the “Prophetic/Revival Culture” of Bill Johnson and company.  And, let’s not forget the “Purpose Driven” folks like Rick Warren.  And just for good measure, I’ve learned some great perspectives on faith from several Catholic brothers and sisters.

I’ve Gone “Liberal” and Probably Never Was a True Christian to Begin With.

The Good Old Fashioned Gospel

That’s what my “good old fashioned fundamentalist gospel preachers” would say.  That I’ve gone liberal and probably never was a true Christian to begin with.  To them, I’ve compromised the message of Jesus. 

Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross because all men are under the wrath of God until they turn away from their sinful ways and accept Jesus, lest they die and spend an eternity in hell.    If that isn’t the heart of your message”, they say, “you’ve compromised the Gospel.”  

I almost wrote here than I’ve been converted from that “good old fashioned gospel” message.  But that wouldn’t be the truth.  I still believe the essence of man’s need of a Savior.  Jesus and what He did is that Salvation.  An Important part.  Vital.  But only part.

Not Inaccurate But Oh So Incomplete

I began listening to the “Emergent” folks because, as they said, it wasn’t a movement.  It was “a conversation.”  And, I welcomed times of challenge to my thinking.  Perhaps I would have been satisfied to stay with the “Good old fashioned gospel camp” if they’d been willing to have a conversation.  But, they weren’t.  Any time I’d try….they’d go all glassy eyed and call men like McClaren and Bell, “serpents in the grass.”

Some of them would give me, personally, a right to look into their teachings.  If.  It was to learn how to refute them.  Really?  I see.

I remember when Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins” came out.  The thing that actually motivated me to read it was the utterly unfair criticisms being levied by people who hadn’t even read the book themselves.  They were simply going on what their favorite critics were saying Bell was saying, and passing it on like a personally read, pondered, and prayed through response.

So, I thought…Okay…at least If this Bell guy is so far off, I want to see why for myself.  So, I read it.  (To tell the truth, it took me awhile to admit to having read it around some of my friends)  What I found.  Rob Bell was asking legitimate questions.  He was not making absolute statements.  Those questions deserved some open hearted pondering.  He was not trying to corrupt the minds and faith of the innocent, naive, baby christian!  Sheeesh!

Then I’d try to explain what I thought “prosperity guys” were saying, and…CONVERSATION OVER.  “Kenneth Copeland is on his way to hell, and he’s leading millions there with him.”  Then I would be pointed to internet web sites of critics that would damn anyone that even sniffed of a “prosperity” aroma.

Problem was, these snippets would be loaded with out of context quotes!  I, myself, didn’t and don’t agree with the emphasis of some of the things these folks teach…but, come on!  Let’s have just a smidgen of integrity here.  Let’s deal with real issues IN CONTEXT.

Did You Know That Jesus Taught Reincarnation?

HERE’S THE PROOF> “And Jesus said to Nicodemus, you must be born again…”

Well, obviously – in context – that is not what Jesus was saying at all.  Thing is, you can prove anything with pieces of bible verses…or even whole passages…out of context.

So, What’s the Point of My Rant?

We must learn to listen to each other.  We must have conversations.  We must not be afraid to “test our truth.”  We must not be so freaking arrogant with closed minded (and hearted)  “us and them” judgements.   And, we must stop being parrots.  We must become seekers and teachable at heart.  We must be humble enough to learn more than we think we already know.

The Gospel that Jesus preached was about the full flavor of God’s Kingdom.  In the world to come, and in the here and now.

It’s about honoring and worshiping Almighty God.  It’s also about paying attention to and doing what He said in fuller measure in the world He has given us to steward.

We must never arrive!  Instead we must walk by faith.  That’s a journey not a destination.  As we go (the real meaning of “Go”) into all the world and fashion maturing followers of Jesus.  Journey. Journey, Journey.

P.S.  Oh, yes…I almost forgot.  I’ve learned a great deal of rich understanding from “Messianic Roots” teaching.  I do not believe some of the positions of “Torah Pursuant” brothers and sisters, but my faith has been greatly enriched by looking to the roots of language and cultural understandings.

What teaching sources have been a blessing to you?  Let us know in the comments:

Gary

 

 

What Jesus Doesn’t Call Us To

a keyboard question mark key under warm colour lighting

Jesus invites His “believing ones” to many wonderful things.  Challenging things.  Happy things.  Hard things.  One thing He doesn’t invite us to participate in is…(wait for it)…

Although our life is to be a walk of faith…a good fight of faith…it’s not meant to be a life of blind faith.

Instead of blind faith, Jesus calls His believing ones to a life of childlike faith.  Jesus instructed His followers that His Kingdom was like little children.

I’ve heard and delivered several teachings to illustrate what Jesus was declaring.  But one of the clearest pictures of a “believing one’s” Kingdom life I saw was in the first word uttered by my oldest daughter, Julie.  Her first syllables weren’t mommy or daddy.  The first sound that intelligibly fell from her tiny lips was the question, “Why?”  [At least that’s the way I remember it.]  She was the poster child for being inquisitive.

Childlike faith is questioning faith.  Although that sounds like an oxymoron to far too many Christ followers, asking the hard, uncomfortable, difficult questions is more or less a necessity for taking our own balloon of faith and filling it with the air of life.

As my own Christian life experience has expanded and grown, I’ve gone from my beginnings as a Baptist, then a Charismatic (neo pentecostal), on to what was labeled, Word of Faith, then to the Revival Culture label and what some may perceive as Post Evangelical or Emergent leanings.

The things is….and this is a very important “the thing is”… I still embrace the basic core or heart of all of the systems of faith I just labeled. 

I realize that I have some readers who are, more than likely, scandalized that I declared an affinity to Emergent or Post Evangelical considerations.  Others may be declaring with sinking heart, “Oh, no!  You no longer believe in Revival Culture.!?”  To that I would respond to both, “Did you read the last part of the previous bolded paragraph?

You see, I haven’t left anything important in any of the expressions listed.  They all hold Jesus in common as the Way, Truth, and Life.  I also believe (and always will) that “He went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed…”  I have not “grown past” the foundational realities that hold true as expressed by all of them.  I believe we are called to be His re-presenters and it’s a part of our privilege to raise the dead, heal the sick, and cleanse the “leper.” I believe Jesus provides forgiveness from sins.  I believe God’s design is for us to prosper in all our ways. I have also become convinced that any man made explanation or definition of the Jesus life is not necessarily inaccurate, but most certainly is incomplete.  I have embraced the quality of choosing the intellectual elasticity and authenticity of being teachable.

I appreciate many teachers, male and female, contemporary and vintage, denominational and non denominational, conservative and fundamental.  I also relish the fact that I must believe in a God that is bigger than my brain.  I am skeptical about phrases that are presented with an air of authority declaring something is or isn’t biblical or scriptural.  In my personal opinion, statements like that would actually be better stated, “From my understanding (this or that is or isn’t) biblical/scriptural.”  Otherwise, as a declarative, “that’s God’s final answer” statement on what is scriptural/biblical or not, the attitude is bordering on arrogant, religious, self deception.

When my daughter, Julie, asked so many questions, she wasn’t denying her love for me, or her faith in me.  As a matter of fact, quite the opposite.  She was desiring to learn.  She had confidence that I loved her and that she could ask me anything. 

So, if you desire growth and maturity in your own faith, don’t run away from the hard, uncomfortable, difficult questions.  Also don’t be afraid to not have the answers quickly or ever on this side of forever.

Finally, be a safe place where others can ask you the hard, uncomfortable, difficult questions.  Earn their respect by listening and telling them you don’t know when you don’t.  Make sure to always affirm them by telling them that you appreciate their question.  That it’s a good one.  See…the thing is…they don’t always expect you to know everything.  What they do hope for is your respect and honesty.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions…even the one’s you are afraid to ask out loud in front of your other Christian friends at church.  God isn’t threatened.  He likes it that you want to be authentic and realin your faith.  He loves for you to grow by coming to conclusions from your own questioning.

Like Paul said, “I don’t know if I got this from the Holy Spirit or not”…but….I really don’t think He’s very keen on His kids demonizing people who don’t see things in the Bible and about faith the way they do.  Nope.  Not so much.

I heard a self proclaimed conservative protector of the faith say recently, “One big problem I have with guys like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren is that they ask a lot of questions but never give any answers.”  Okay, I appreciate being made to wrestle with hard questions.  And, I think these men ask some good, challenging ones that can’t be easily dismissed and deserve thoughtful prayer and pondering.  That doesn’t make them “snakes in the grass” like I’ve heard some comment.  That’s what I mean by “demonizing” people who don’t color on your page.

What do you think?  Or, is that beyond your comfort zone?

Gary

 

 

Becoming Content With Uncertainty

Ummm…content with uncertainty? Is that really possible? Or, is this going to be “pie in the sky” that “preaches” well, but isn’t really achievable?

Yes, I am discovering it is a do-able deal.  It’s not easy because there are so many mental habits to retrain.  But, it is obtainable if…

We begin to understand that the word obtainable is seen as a process and not a destination.

Let me share with you some thoughts that I’ve found very helpful and have led me in my journey to increasing peace, joy, and faith.  Let’s look at Philippians 4:11-12:

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Although the Apostle Paul is speaking specifically here of material things, I believe the Holy Spirit is revealing a much broader application of living truth and practical reality.

Paul also said to the Corinthian church, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;” (2 Cor. 4:8).

Just a little bit later in his letter, Paul said, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

If you put just these three verses together, I believe it is safe to say that Paul –flesh and blood just like you or me– was in the place in his journey of becoming content with uncertainty…because he was convinced in the truth and character of what (Who) he could not see.

We are a people obsessed with goals and achievements.  However, relationships don’t really unfold and mature that way.  Relationship is a process of learning, experiencing, and knowing.  It can be messy.  There’s a proverb that says, “Where the stall is clean there is no ox.”  As Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church, Redding, CA says, “There are no poopless cows.”   He also says, “If you want the peace that passes understanding, you have to give up your right to understand.”  I personally applaud and am learning to live with the truth of both of those statements.

Living with uncertainty is living with mystery.  Becoming content with mystery is becoming content with the God of mystery. 

The “fear” of the Lord that’s the beginning of wisdom can be rightly understood as, living in the “mystery” of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  We, as Christ followers, have a desperate need to return to the mysteries of God.  He is awesome.  To be such, you and I have to deeply trust Him in the many, many things we don’t understand.  We must abandon the demand to get our heads around everything.  We must embrace the “I don’t knows” of circumstances because God knows all things and is working them for our good.

Gary

 

 

 


 

Depression Killer

I don’t want to over-generalize here.  Depression is a common ailment of our emotions that has a variety of causes.  But, so many times it is easier to kill depression than we realize when we have been struggling with the gray side of life. 

Bill Johnson, a man I greatly respect for his insight, once said, “I am only about 10 minutes away from depression at any point in every day.”  He went on to explain that every one of us have that vulnerability.  What it ultimately boils down to is where we allow our thoughts to dwell.

I tested those words and have found them to be true time and time again.  What I personally discovered from Bill’s counsel is this:

Only allow your thoughts to dwell on what God has done, and what He is doing.

Never permit your mind to entertain what it appears He has not yet done!

I’ve discovered there are a variety of ways to say that same thing.  You may wish to put it this way…

“I will only allow my mind to rehearse and re-joy-ce over what has been accomplished.”  “I will not spend time worrying over what it seems I’ve not yet been able to do.”

It works!  It really works!!

What can you recall to mind that God (and you) have accomplished up to this moment?  What good (and great) things have you witnessed that you’ve been a part of?  What positive, powerful works are part of your history with God?   What things are not completed but certainly are in progress?

Meditate, ponder, muse, rehash, rejoice over those things.  Leave the rest in trust to God.  He’s the One who sees your heart, and desires.  He’s the One who sees what you can’t see.  He knows what you can’t know.  Leave all that “stuff” to Him.

It works!  It really works!!

If your current thoughts aren’t taking you to a place of peace, joy, love, patience (the fruit of the Spirit)…

Start thinking other thoughts that will!

Gary


 

You Can Defeat Depression

Depression is no light matter.  However, whether it’s experienced occasionally or chronically, the emotional weight can be lifted.

Even though emotional bondages can be complex issues, there are a couple of practical tools I’d like to share with you that work!  How do I know?  I and many other people I know successfully “work” them.  Here they are:

  • Don’t Think
  • Thank
I guess that needs some explanation, right?  Of course, right!
When I say, “Don’t Think,” I don’t mean never.  I have a brain and I need to use it…as long as it’s engaged in guiding me in God given, productive, powerful, potential thoughts.  The problem with depression is the fact that it stems from “stinkin’ thinkin’.”  Thoughts that are occupied with…..too often…..”somebody done me wrong songs.”  The depressed thoughts also focus us on the subjects of…

“What I still need and God has taken care of for me”

I heard Bill Johnson, the Senior Leader at Bethel Church, Redding, CA, first say several years ago, “I’m only about 10 minutes from depression any given day of my life.”  It was in context of Bill also saying, “I’ve discovered the key to never living life depressed.”

This was the key:  Only allow yourself to think on these two areas…

  1. What God has done
  2. What God is doing

Never allow your brain to walk the “what God has not yet done” path.

It’s an acquired mental taste.  It won’t come easily or naturally at first if you’re used to eating mental spoiled bologna.  However, just like taste buds literally change every 10 days, so can the flavor of one’s thoughts.

Here’s where the “Thank” part comes in.  It’s much easier to develop a new mental palette if you add the component of thanking God for what He has done and what He is doing.  Thanksgiving is like adding a super vitamin to your diet.

As I said earlier, I’ve “worked” it.  Others I know have done the same.  And…IT WORKS!  Up to you, but I highly recommend it!

Gary

Stressing The Devil – by Gary Ellis

To stress the devil or be stressed by him.  That’s the question.  Which is the child of God’s true, authentic destiny?

I believe the Kingdom answer to that question is…

Our redeemed privilege and position is to “stress the devil.” 

Now, let me take a second to clarify.  I don’t mean to put stress or emphasis on the demonic pressures being brought to bear on one’s life.  Lots of sincere Christians focus on what they believe to be demonic stressors. Truth be told, the demonic spiritual world does attempt to bring torment to the house of the believer. 

Unfortunately, too often we’ve played right into his wiles and schemes.  We’ve fallen prey to his tactics.  However…

I’m not talking about stressing – or putting focus on the junk he’s attempting to bring to bear in our lives.  I’m saying…

Our privilege and authority is to go on the offensive and take the stress to his house!

How do we do that?  Here’s just a couple of ways:

  1. Choose to never be offended with God over the things we don’t understand.

One of the demonic world’s chief goals is to tempt God’s children to become offended with Him.  Jesus spoke of this when John the Baptist asked the question, “Are we to continue to follow Jesus or should be be looking for another?”  You see, it was promised that Jesus would open prison doors.  Yet, he was in prison and as it turns out would never be released.  It was in that context that Jesus said, “Blessed is he who is not offended in me.”  Bill Johnson says, “We receive the peace that passes understanding when we give up our right to understand.”

B.  Take your eyes off of the devil and put them on your true Kingdom identity as a royal child of God.

The more you believe who you are and who the devil is not, the more you bring stress to the devil’s house because he can’t control the mind and emotions of a Kingdom Kid…and he knows it!

Seek first (make your highest priority) to be familiar and intimate with God’s Kingdom (your homeland).  

Being stressed by the devil’s antics is a sure sign that we have much more to learn about our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom.  The more we know and embrace Kingdom truth, the more we become like Jesus who was able to sleep in the back of a boat that was tumbling in the turmoil of a storm.  Abundant revival culture living is being able to walk in the privilege of righteousness, peace, and joy that is increasingly free of fear, stress, and turmoil. 

I’ve discovered that it boils down to a matter of choice.  Often times that choice is made in the face of natural contradiction and lack of understanding.  But the more I make those important choices of belief, and the more my faith becomes resilient, the larger my understanding of my Kingdom authority grows in my heart.  With that the smaller the devil becomes in my perceptions.

I hope this post will jog my readers to re-evaluate their spiritual focus.  I urge you to move the direction that brings stress to the devil’s house and neutralizes his unwarranted tension and torment in your lives.

Gary


 

 

 

Give Up 4 Freedom by Gary Ellis

Giving up just isn’t in our dna.  It seems so weak. It seems to contradict faith.

However, is there a “giving up” that leads one down the path to true freedom?  Are there kinds of “giving up” that will release one from their own prison of stress and strife?  I believe and have experienced at least two areas of “giving up” that brought me peace and opened the door to fresh wisdom.

  • Giving up the need to understand.

I think the first time I heard this “giving up” truth was from Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, CA.  I don’t know whether it’s original with him or he was repeating it, but it doesn’t matter.  The truth of the phrase is powerful.

“To have the peace that passes understanding, you have to give up your right to understand”

Somehow we think that understanding a negative issue that’s facing us will give us peace as a by-product.  There may be times when that is true.  Or, it might begin to help.  But, in my experience, it simply brings more questions that I can’t answer.

Besides that, a good dose of “I don’t know” is often just what the doctor ordered.  We seem to be so obsessed with understanding (or think we understand) why God seems to be doing what He is doing.  So much of the effort is a mind game under the guise of spirituality.  Too much of it turns into “belly button gazing” instead of trusting.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but when something “bad” happens, the “what is God trying to say” question enters the picture.  Why doesn’t that question ever come up when good things are happening in a person’s life?

I better get to the next “give up” point.  This article will soon be too long for good internet reading, so here it is.

  • Love is found where one gives up their right to be right.

I believe Joyce Meyers said this (or something like it).  It is also extremely powerful.  Giving up our rights is at the core of both truths.  For the Kingdom of God to be manifest, we don’t have to be able to prove ourselves “right.”  We don’t have to understand everything that’s going on.  God does.  That’s sufficient.  Trusting that brings freedom and peace.

Haven’t many of us spent far too long on the “my rights” battlefield?  God is smarter than we are.  That’s where trust begins.  He’ll give you wisdom of understanding if and when you need it.  In the meantime, let’s rest in Jesus.

Gary

     

     

     

    The Repentance God Loves – by Gary Ellis

    Many Christians have come to believe that repentance is an act of sorrow over our sins.  Preferably at an altar.   But that’s not the repentance God loves unless it’s the result of something else.  Bill Johnson has a quote that hits the nail on the head.  This is the repentance that God loves:

    That which is unseen can be realized only through repentance. It was as though He said, ‘If you don’t change the way you perceive things, you’ll live your whole life thinking that what you see in the natural is the superior reality. Without changing the way you think you’ll never see the world that is right in front of you. It’s My world [says God], and it fulfills every dream you’ve ever had. – Bill Johnson

    Sorrow only means something if it’s the result of realizing how far off our perceptions have been and how much of God those perceptions have robbed us of God’s Kingdom life.

    The Quad Cities School of Supernatural Ministry founding first year class of 11 students began this week.  For the next 9 months we’ll be in the process of deep repentance.  We’ll be changing the perceptions that have blocked us from the life that God planned, and Jesus purchased for us (and the world) with a huge price.

    God loves true sorrow for sins…if it’s the result of a changed way of thinking.  Changing our perception.  That’s the repentance God loves.

    Gary

     

    Bill Johnson On Fasting – by Gary Ellis

    “I’m not a good faster. My friends have visions of God, I have visions of hamburgers. The only time I watch the Food Channel is when I’m fasting. It’s pitiful. We did a 40 day fast. I bought 29 cookbooks. I don’t cook, but the pictures! I bought a deep-fryer and we don’t eat deep-fried food!”
    – Bill Johnson at “Manifest Presence 2011 Conference”

    I love this guy.  He’s so down-to-earth….transparent…open…vulnerable.

    Of course, FASTING, is just one facet of the whole life and food issue.  Healthy eating is another.  People I highly respect for their practical spiritual insights come down in very different places on what our diets should consist of.  In fact, recent discussions with one of them sent me on the investigation trail regarding the healthy vs. not healthy investigation.  My friend eats as raw food as possible and her slogan is, “If it has a face or a mother” it shouldn’t be consumed…or at least as little as possible.

    My wife, Karen, and I were talking about this today, and I believe she had a good piece of wisdom…as she very often does.  She said, “I don’t think God is as concerned about what we consume as He is about what consumes us.”

    We don’t believe that a “Que Sera Sera” (what will be will be) attitude on the subject is healthy.  Taking care of the bodies we’ve been given is an important endeavor.  However, (and you have to be the judge for yourself), if anything consumes your attention to a “tipping point” it’s become an idol.

    The “tipping point” in this issue would be where you are consumed with “right eating” to the point that you fear getting sick unless you are obeying the 10 Commandments of Proper Nutrition.  One more quick story that illustrates this:

    When my wife was diagnosed with colon cancer (from which she triumphed) we did some significant changes in diet.  We began consuming as little refined sugar as possible.  We ate a lot more fruits and vegetables.  We took supplements (I keep saying “we” because it was also good for me).  And, we began drinking PH based ionized water.  But, we also came to what I called a “tipping point.” 

    We found ourselves, at times, out of the good water.  We were going to have to drink “normal” water for 3 days because we couldn’t get the PH water.  A quiver of fear arose within us.  That reaction alerted us to the fact that we’d gone beyond a choice based on health and were slipping into a realm based on fear.  Fear and faith cannot occupy the same space.

    My conclusion:  Do your best to learn about and eat as healthy as possible.  I couple that with Karen’s wisdom:  God is less concerned about what we consume as He is about what consumes us.

    Gary

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    The Devil Made Me Do It – by Gary Ellis

    Let me start out by saying, “I don’t believe in the power of the devil.”  Let me say something else.  I believe that the devil is real and active.  However, I also believe too many sincere Christians give the devil waaaay…I said…waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much attention!

    I believe in the power of God.  I believe in the power He’s given each of His sons and daughters.

    Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, CA made this statement, “The church has way too big a devil.”  I wholeheartedly believe those words.

    According to the Scriptures, “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.”  From what I hear being said so much of the time, you’d think the Scriptures say, “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the devil.”

    Truth be told, the devil cannot countermand anything that comes from the mouth of God.  Only God’s sons and daughters can.  That’s why the devil skulks about in the mind tempting people to believe their present circumstances and feelings rather than the clear Word of God.

    Then the child of God has the choice of deciding what he or she is going to agree with.  Wherever the agreement rests is where the power will reside and activate.

    One final thought for your consideration:  Even the Word of God has no practical power in one’s life until that person agrees with it.  Whatever one agrees with in his or her heart determines what will be released in his or her life.  Whatever one disagrees with in his or her heart determines what will be deactivated. 

    Do you have too big a devil?  Do you have a big enough God?  Who are you agreeing with?

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    Gary