"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

gates of hell

Jesus said of his church, that the gates of hell will not stand against it (Mt. 16:18). A high profile and controversial book recently said that the gates of hell are a defensive stance, that is, the gates stand defensively, so we followers of Christ need not be concerned about them. That is to say, the gates of hell are stationary and cannot come after us, and so, not to worry. However, in Greek culture and language, gates were seen as synonymous with rulers, or those in power (see Vines), so could easily have been a reference to the powers of hell, which will not prevail against the church in the end. As such, they need not be defensive at all, but may in fact be offensive in strategy. A similar figure of speech today might be, for example "pillars of the faith" in reference to leaders and scholars.

In any case, one has to take scripture as a whole, not in part, before arriving at such conclusions. To that end, please consider the following passages written to Christians:

1 Peter 5:8 "Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."

1 Tim. 3:7 "He (an overseer) must have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and the devil's trap."

1 Tim. 5:15 "Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan."

2 Cor 2:11 "In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes."

Ephesians 6:12 "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

Beloved, we owe it to ourselves, and to future generations, to search the scriptures to see whether what we are being taught is accurate (Acts 17:11). Many things sound right at first blush, and so error is introduced to a generation, and each generation can drift a few inches farther from truth. God forbid! Let each generation represented take seriously their responsibility to guard both the grace and the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only then can we, the church, prevail against the very gates of hell.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Last weekend I spent several hours at a large Christian event, NightVision, with world class Christian artists, musicians and speakers present. There were nearly 20,000 in attendance on Saturday alone. In our rural area, over 5 hours from the nearest significant metro area, this is kind of a big deal. Because I am reflective by nature, and maybe because I am growing older, I came away with mixed impressions. I am sharing some of them here. They are not gospel, just one man's impressions.

First, what a gift! That someone, that some people, have listened to God's call to put this thing on, in the middle-of-nowhere Colorado, is beyond great. Thank you thank you thank you to God, to Victoria Hearst, to all the dedicated board members, volunteers and community members who cooperate (a miracle in itself) to make this thing happen year after year!

Other positive impressions, the happy faces of so many. lifted in bliss, forgetting themselves in Praise of Jesus. Young and old, people of all races, socio-economic, educational and genders united, differences insignificant for a while. A slice, perhaps, of what heaven might be like, I imagine. The artists (I have decided not to get into parsing out favorites or reviewing performances) who impressed me were those who talked less about the (title of their group) and more about the name of Jesus. Very telling, I think. And the glory went where the glory was assigned, in both cases.

When the speakers were sharing their hearts, it was remarkable to me and somewhat disappointing, that the much of the crowd acted as if the platform was a movie screen or a television that could simply be ignored without consequence to anyone's feelings. Agree or disagree with the message, these are real people who came at expense and difficulty to present something from the heart for you to consider. Have your conversations at home or in the car. Control yourselves. Listen. But we are not good at listening when we are not being entertained. And that is a concern that I came away with. Even here in rural Colorado, I fear that what I saw is this: We have confused worship with being entertained. We have disdained being equipped for service.

On the way back to the parking lot, we witnessed people dragging their toddlers with harsh indifference, cussing, honking at one another with impatience, and generally demonstrating lack of spiritual and emotional maturity. As a counselor and a prodigal son, I know more than most, that the church is made of people at various stages of growth. I realize that Jesus wants everyone to hear the good news, especially those who need it most. My concern is this, especially for those of us who have been around a while, are we going to such places, including church, with selfish intentions of being entertained and somehow confusing this with worship?

Scripture defines worship as a lifestyle. The lifestyle of worship is characterized by self sacrificial love. This means service. That means we will need to be equipped for service, so we will need to be taught some things. We will have to (excuse the bluntness) shut up and listen from time to time. What passes for worship does not please the Lord if it is anything less.

This post is not meant to rain on anyone's parade. Rather, it is meant to call some of us out of a state of double-mindedness. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot worship Him and our selfish natures at the same time. He will have none of that. He is Lord of all, or He is Lord of nothing at all. Let's make Him Lord of All. Let's worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Let's present our bodies as living sacrifices, for this is our reasonable and spiritual act of worship!

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship." Romans 12:1