Life in the Blood

By Fran Gardner Mora

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 9:22

Have you ever watched an animal sacrifice scene in a historical documentary or show and marveled at just how horribly pagan and offensive the ritual was – and then thought, “These people were barbaric! What kind of god would …”

… And then you’re tracking along through Exodus and Leviticus and [insert the sound of screeching tires here] you come right up into chapters of scripture that detail the exact order of events when offering sacrifices to our God – and they include animal slaughter, catching blood in bowls, and sprinkling people and surfaces with the blood!

Because of my love for understanding God’s Word and my analytical nature, I found myself doing a deep dive into the possible answers to the question, “Why?” I didn’t hit the Internet or check the commentaries because I wanted the Holy Spirit to place His illumination on the subject.

I saw that the blood was sprinkled on people and smeared on specific parts of the body (ears, thumbs, big toes, etc.), which means that the blood of the sacrificial animal would have, undoubtedly, gotten on their clothes. Also, when men brought animals to be sacrificed, they had to slaughter them at the place where they burnt the offerings, which was a messy task! At this time in history, clothes were not washed very often, so these people would have walked around for days, or maybe weeks, with the stains – and the smell – of the blood on their person. Very disgusting! The priests, however, were told to wash their garments if they got blood on them.

Scripture also tells us that life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:14). But once the blood leaves the body, life leaves the blood, and it becomes putrid. So, sin causes this cycle of death and waste that destroys both the innocent and the innocence. In the sequence of events that were prescribed for sacrificial atonement, it seems that God wanted us to be conscious of His blood covenant with us. But, perhaps God was also demonstrating that atonement for sin is very costly and that we should bear the smell of the sacrifice in our nostrils as a reminder that life is sacred. It’s no small thing for one life to be slain for another, whether it’s a full-growth bull or a tiny dove.

But Jesus ended the requirement of wearing the stench and shame of our own sin. By pouring out His righteous and precious blood and taking the cup of the sins of humanity, He placed the seal of redemption on us and gave us the only way back into the Fathers holy presence. His blood carries eternal life, washes away all other blood and guilt, and restores our purity and innocence. We are free to hope because we are validated by this new covenant and not bound by lies. We are free to love because we can move in the graciousness of God and not be bound by fear. We can live to the fullest because we can drink from the flow of living water and not be limited by thirst.

Oh, Jesus, I love you. The only thing that I can ever do to thank you for my salvation is to serve You by humbly serving others, to honor You by being a reflection of You to those around me, and to glorify You by making Your influence over my life known. Holy Spirit, help me to do this well. Increase my measures of faith and perseverance, place before me anointed opportunities, and breathe into me a mighty, fresh wind. Amen.

And to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12:24

January 6th Two Years Later

By: Jeff Sutherland

Two years ago, on January 6th congress was counting electoral votes to decide the election. There has been over 1000 lawsuits brought against the votes claiming fraud and despite that, these were ignored, and Biden was elected President.

Uncountable millions of hours on media and social media have backed that President Trump incited an insurrection, calling people to kill and destroy our democracy. But in reality, our democracy is a constitutional republic where the winner of the electoral college in each state ultimately decides the outcome of the election and congress approves the vote.

A committee was formed to look into the happenings on that day but only those who hated Trump were allowed to be on the committee. When one side or other controls the media, education, congress, and the Presidency, where it is considered almost unlawful to discuss anything, we are turning Marxist in our government thinking. The first amendment is being butchered.

While in college I ran around with the people in the Debate Club. At the time they were discussing nuclear armament. You would get up and argue for disarmament then thirty minutes later you were required to argue for armament. Imagine if school was still taught this way where both sides are exposed, discussed and thought through rather than just decided that your side is right and everyone who doesn’t believe that is wrong. Even if you are right and the other side is wrong, we can be civil and discuss the issues. This has not happened.

One side hates Trump and will do anything to make sure he is never able to run for President again. The other side believes that Biden has done well, heading our country in the right direction, determined to shut up the right and their thinking.

In the founding of our country, over the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, there was much debate that lasted for months. However, there was one agreement, a general consensus that no matter what direction we took as a country, that God, not government was the giver of our rights. This thinking lasted well into the 20th century where President Eisenhower began his inaugural address with a prayer to God that we would continue to look to Him for answers, for security and that He would lead and guide us as a country of believers. January 20, 1953. He was a general in world war two and was determined to keep our country focused not on arguing with the other side but focusing together on our walk with the Lord. He is the one who added “one nation, under God” in our pledge of allegiance. He determined to put, ‘in God we trust’ on our money. He was not considered a radical but a man who wanted to continue to lead this country as our founding fathers did, focusing on putting God first in everything.

Everything about January 6th 2021flies in the face of this thinking. It is a small tip of a huge iceberg headed right at our capitol. This isn’t even about politics, there is a much deeper more sinister root to this malodorous bloom that started in the 20th century.

But how do we fix the problem? As a former landscaper, I can tell you that if the real problem is in the roots of a plant, you will never fix it by pruning, fertilizing, or doing anything to the top of the plant. Our country wants to focus on everything but the roots.

There is a great example in the Bible of how to deal with problems. It is found in John 8.

 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the temple area, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began teaching them. Now the scribes and the Pharisees *brought a woman caught in the act of adultery, and after placing her in the center of the courtyard, they *said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” Now they were saying this to test Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. When they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Now when they heard this, they began leaving, one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman where she was, in the center of the courtyard. 10 And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, [a]Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on do not sin any longer.”

Consider the Pharisees. They thought it would be great to show Jesus this woman caught in sin. They may have thought that He would bless them for exposing this ‘evil’ woman. He didn’t. His statement hit right at the heart of the problem. He who is without sin, cast the first stone. None did. Jesus is the only one who could have but He didn’t either. He simply told her to go and sin no more.

This small teaching, if applied to January 6, our government and those involved, would simply realize our own sin, drop the stones we are ready to throw at others we could make a huge repentant turn across this whole country.

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Resurrection is Coming

By: Tresa Walker

Think about that feeling of waiting expectantly for something. Christmas and birthdays as a child, your wedding day, the birth of a baby, a long anticipated visit or trip, milestone birthdays (maybe when you were younger, now you probably dread those big birthdays). Most of the time, our wait is a few short weeks, months or maybe even years. But there is coming a day that Christians have awaited for nearly 2,000 years! John 5:28-29 says, “A time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come out — those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment.” For believers, there is a glorious new life in our future that is much more than anything this earthly life can provide. The joy will far surpass anything we have anticipated here on earth, and it will be a joy that endures through eternity!

Easter is a time of celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but the events prior to the resurrection were heartbreaking for those who witnessed the events. Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tortured, and then crucified on a rugged cross and died for all to see. The Gospels retell the details of these events leading to the death of Jesus.  After His death, His body was wrapped in linen cloth and placed in an empty tomb which was sealed with a heavy stone. The tomb was then secured by guards to ensure that no one could attempt to steal His body under cover of night and then falsely claim that Jesus had risen from the dead. But no stone or army of guards could have compromised God’s perfect plan!

On the third day, an angel appeared at the tomb and removed the stone causing the guards to collapse in shock.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James went to the tomb to anoint His body with burial spices, and the angel announced that Jesus had risen from the grave. The tomb was empty! Imagine the confusion the women must have felt. In Matthew 28:6, the angel said to the women, “He is not here! For he has been resurrected, just as he said.”

Just as He said! Jesus had predicted His own death and resurrection and tried to prepare His disciples for this moment on three different occasions. Matthew 16:21 says, “From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” Similar statements are also found in Matthew 17:23 and 20:18-19. This idea was completely incomprehensible to them, so they did not grasp the concept of resurrection and His future return.

The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of Christian belief. If Jesus had not resurrected from the grave, He would have simply been a great teacher. But He conquered death just as He predicted and as had been prophesied many times in the Old Testament 700 years prior to His crucifixion!  Jesus was truly the long awaited Messiah, the Savior of the World which was precisely who He claimed to be! Everything prophesied had come to fruition. Everything believers of that time had trusted, shared, and held onto had become reality because death could not hold our Savior in the grave! And everything that we hope for today is irrevocable truth!

The story of Jesus did not end at the tomb. He arose victoriously from the grave! Therefore, the story of a Christian’s life doesn’t end at the grave either. This is confirmed in John 3:16-17 which says, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” His resurrection changed everything! It finalizes God’s promise of eternal life for those who believe. If there had been no resurrection, there would be no basis for our belief as Christians.

After hearing from the angel that Jesus had been raised from the grave and seeing the empty tomb, the two women left full of joy and ran to tell the good news of the resurrection. Jesus then met them on the road, and they immediately fell at His feet in worship. What a moment! Their beloved Jesus was alive! He had conquered death and rose from the grave just as he claimed he would do!

His resurrection gives us confidence that there is more to our existence than just this earthly life of pain and sorrow. It gives us hope of everlasting life with the almighty God. It gives us assurance that what we hope for is real. The resurrection fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament and secured the promise that followers of Jesus would have everlasting life. John 11:25 states, “Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.’”  Because Jesus is life, those who believe will be resurrected to new life with Him. Even when we die, death will not defeat believers; we will have eternal life. We will be raised to everlasting glory!

As Easter draws near, make time to reflect on the resurrection. Death did not win the victory. Jesus did! Reflect on the empty tomb that could not hold our Savior. Reflect on the witnesses who saw Him, touched Him, and worshiped Jesus in all His glory. Reflect on the love of a Savior who took onto himself every sin that you have ever committed and then suffered and died in your place so that you could have eternal life. Reflect on the promises of a resurrection to a new life in glory that we have been promised as believers. The resurrection for believers is coming! Until that day, worship Him, teach about Him so that others may believe, and faithfully wait with joy and anticipation for that day! What a day, glorious day that will be!

Will The Asbury Revival Transform America?

By: Stuart Kellogg

The revival that began during the regular February 8th chapel service at Asbury University in Wilmore, KY caught the imagination of not just the church, but the country as a whole.  For those unfamiliar with revivals, it was a strange occurrence, seeing young men and women for hours, days and eventually, more than two weeks, praying and worshipping.  (“Isn’t that supposed to be something you do once a week?”)  For the evangelical church it was a promise of an awakening within an increasingly secular and hostile culture.  We won’t know the real impact for years.  The question of whether it will go down as a localized experience, or the start of something much, much bigger will depend not on the thousands who were part of the outpouring.  It will depend on those of us who heard about it and then responded or did nothing.

Whether an awakening or revival, it was a powerful event that began with young Generation Z members and touched many more than those who witnessed it in person, including several residents.

Now, America is certainly no stranger to revivals, being part of world-wide awakenings since before we became a nation.    Some examples:  The First Great Awakening in the 1700s, The Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s, and the 1970 Asbury Revival which occurred at the beginning of the so-called Jesus Movement and is popularized in the current hit movie Jesus Revolution.

These large movements are a testament to the Holy Spirit moving among His people, and drawing in those thirsting for more than what the culture offers.  Dr. Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Seminary (a separate school across the street from Asbury University), prefers to call the event an awakening.  It will be a revival, he believes, if something more permanent comes of it.  As he wrote on his blog, “It is first, last and foremost a tribute to the grace of God to reveal himself and to call a new generation to faithfulness at a time when we most needed it….However, a deeper look at this outpouring reveals that it has the same elements which are found in any authentic revival:  people repenting of their sins; people being filled with the Holy Spirit; men and women finding reconciliation with God and their neighbor; people capturing a renewed love for Jesus, the gospel and the Holy Scriptures.”

“The Presence of the Spirit”

A Baldwin County pastor, Dr. Barry Carpenter who leads Resurrection Church in Daphne AL., experienced the power with five others who travelled with him to Kentucky.  What made the time special?  “One word.  Presence.  That’s the word that captures me, captives me,” Dr. Carpenter told me.  “The presence of the spirit.  It was gentle.  There was no leader.  He was the leader.”

Started during chapel service February 8th and lasting 16 days, Asbury University president Dr. Kevin Brown told The Christian Post that 50,000 students and visitors came to the campus to pray from more than 260 colleges and universities.  Similar outpourings of prayer were reported at other colleges and universities across the country.

For Loxley, AL resident Tim Philpot, the revival was a reminder of the powerful work of the Spirit in 1970 at that Asbury Revival.  Tim was a freshman at the time.  The son of evangelist Ford Philpot, Tim was not a Christian.  He told me the revival 53 years ago transformed his life.  As he wrote on his blog when this awakening broke out, “About sixty hours into the revival, I knew it was my time. I located a friend and said, ‘I know you wont believe this, but I am not a Christian.’ She smiled and said, ‘Thats no surprise. Five of your friends are in the basement right now praying for you.’

As Tim witnessed the incredible moving of the Holy Spirit in February, he was taken back to his own earth-moving experience.  “This was my moment — one divine moment. I slithered to the altar, hoping no one would see me but also believing that this was the biggest moment of my life. And sure enough, it happened. I experienced God. I wrestled with God and He won.  He redeemed me. He washed me.  He healed me.”

The key, however, is not just the powerful experience, but the fruit of those awakenings.  For Tim, he wrote that the change was immediate.  “For starters, when I stood up from the altar, I loved people that I hated the day before.   I am thinking of two very specific young people. It was a juvenile eighteen-year-old teenager rivalry, but very real at the time.  Next, the incredible burden of sin was gone. It was like going from being a caddie carrying a 100-pound tour bag full of thirty clubs and junk up a hill to being the a tour playerwith God Himself on the bag, carrying all my burdens for me. Essentially, it is the freedom that comes from being forgiven!”

That encounter with Christ didn’t just change Tim, it’s changed the hundreds of lost souls touched around the world through his one-on-one discipleship and various ministries he’s been involved with and led for more than half a century.

Lasting Transformation?

As Dr. Tennent from Asbury Seminary wrote, “Only if we see lasting transformation which shakes the comfortable foundations of the church and truly brings us all to a new and deeper place can we look back, in hindsight and say ‘yes, this has been a revival.’”

What is your church doing in the wake of this outpouring?  What are we doing individually?  If we simply cheer and go back to our everyday lives—-a little bit of Jesus mixed with a lot of other stuff—-odds are there will be little fruit.  If, however, Christ followers become more engaged with Christ, listening, and obeying the work of the Holy Spirit, well, watch out world!

The fruit of those earlier revivals, or awakenings, is obvious.  Elmer Towns and Douglas Porter wrote The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever, and noted that each  movement had a lasting impact because of major changes in the church and the culture.   “The First Great Awakening in England, for example, resulted in Sunday school and educational reform, changes to labor and child welfare laws, significant prison reforms, and the abolition of slavery,” they wrote.  “During the Welsh Revival, the culture was so transformed that new mules had to be secured to work in the coal mines: The old mules wouldn’tt respond to miners who no longer cursed and abused the animals! In these and many other ways, revivals in England, America, and other nations have historically shaped those societies into more Christian communities.”

The Second Great Awakening birthed many great evangelistic organizations, such as the Baptist Missionary society, along with the modern missionary and Sunday school movements.   Calvary Chapel is credited with planting more than 1400 churches in the wake of the Jesus Movement of the late 60s and early 70s that began at that small church.

In other words, there was no “going back to normal.”  It was a wonderful new normal, with a revived church plus many, many new followers.  You know what term didn’t rule the day after these revivals?  “We’ve never done that before!”

Will the awakening/revival at Asbury University be more than a fondly remembered event in a year or two?  It all depends on us.  There has never been a greater need for Christ and what He can do to heal the wounds, repair relationships, and lead a country full of sinners to repentance and a new life.  What are we willing to do to make that revival a reality?

Stuart Kellogg, author of The Post Covid Church: An Action Plan to Thrive Not Just Survive ( is host of What Now? The Post Covid Church Podcast, available on your favorite podcast platform.  (Contact:

What Real Love looks like

What real love looks like…

By: Jeff Sutherland

I almost walked out of church last night. One of my favorite pastors started speaking and asked if we remembered Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid, and a few people in the congregation were quick to google and share what Maslow taught. At this point I was getting angry. This is supposed to be church not psychology class.

But quickly our pastor asked, where is God in that pyramid? And he wondered what our needs pyramid should look like if God is the center of our life. At that point not only did I want to stay and hear what he had to say but I wanted to create a ‘God’s hierarchy of our needs pyramid’.

In Maslow’s pyramid and in the world’s view love is all about ME. Most people only think about love being the good things that happen to me but the Bible stands this whole idea on its head. Consider being sold into slavery, false accusations, imprisonment and other horrible things that happened to Joseph yet in the end he was able to say, ‘you meant it for evil but God meant it for good’.

Consider 400 years of slavery for God’s chosen people followed by 40 years wondering in the wilderness before they made it to the promised land and only two of those original two million people actually crossed the Jordan into Israel.

And to see what real love looks like we only need to look at Jesus.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, anyparticipation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Philippians 2


What real love looks like is not pleasing ourselves and getting what we want so we can move up the ladder toward self-actualization. God showed us the way. He did the opposite, He climbed down the ladder, all the way down. His focus was on our real needs, the only need that matters. Life. His death gave us life and He require those who believe Him to follow His example to die to self and live for others.

Ephesians 5 says to walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. Husbands love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies, and they shall become one flesh.

This totally destroys Maslow’s hierarchy. Life isn’t supposed to be about me and getting what I need, it is about following Christ’s example and dying to self and living for others.

Next time your pastor wants to make his sermon into a psychology lesson, walk out. Run from that church. I am so thankful for a man of God who preaches the Word. Those who follow Maslow sound a lot like the lesson plan for church last night in Proverbs 4.

Do not enter the path of the wicked,
and do not walk in the way of the evil.
15  Avoid it; do not go on it;
turn away from it and pass on.
16  For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
17  For they eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.

We can’t worship the world’s ways or worship self while putting God first. Quit trying to blend psychology and the Bible. Thank you pastor!

Below is Maslow’s pyramid. God provides our needs. If we are having trouble breathing, eating, sleeping He has a greater purpose. God is our security and if we lose a job, or a house He has a better purpose. If we show love, others may not show it back but we will grow in our love for God. Our achievement, our confidence, our status is based on what He has done for us, Godly esteem. Our potential rests not on our effort but on His.

This pyramid should be turned upside down and the cross should be the pinnacle and focus of our lives and others should see that in us.

That is what real love looks like.

Cynicism: An Enemy to Defeat

By: Donald Ward – Elder, United Church of God

Society has been trained to be cynical. No one trusts anyone else. We are continually reminded of our dishonesty. Leaders in virtually every institution you can name have had suspicion cast on their behavior. We have been taught to lampoon and poke fun at time-honored traditions and values. Nothing is sacred—everyone and everything is fair game for critical review. Unbridled criticism is the precursor of cynicism.

Are you cynical? Do you sit in the seat of the scornful (Psalms 1:1)? The Free Dictionarydefines cynicism as an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others. One of the key words in the definition is the word “motive,” which can be defined as the reason and cause for one’s actions. The cynic believes that actions taken by organizations, and/or individuals are based on ulterior motives.

Is it any wonder that cynicism is one of the nation’s deadliest diseases?

Within the Church of God, we’ve had so many ups and downs in recent years that it would be easy to take up a seat with the scornful. But cynicism is a very insidious affliction and will result in eternal death unless we repent of it. For some people, cynicism is part of their being—their psychological make-up. They have a need to be cynical and critical in order to feel complete.

Cynicism is in fact a form of self-righteousness, in that the cynic always knows a better way. If the cynic were in charge, we wouldn’t be where we are today. The cynic criticizes and becomes bitter in his heart.

Respecting the Messenger

What would it take for you to become cynical and sit in the seat of the scornful? God’s Word says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful” (Psalms 1:1). The Hebrew word translated as “scornful” means to talk boastfully, to mock and to deride. It is the equivalent of cynical. God pronounces a blessing on the man that does not sit in the seat of the scornful—in the seat of the cynic.

But sadly, the pages of the Bible are filled with men who sat in the seat of the scornful and became cynical. God identifies these people in Jude’s epistle to the Church of God. “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousand of His saints, ‘to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’ These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage” (Jude 14-16).

One major reason people become cynical is because they perceive that there are double standards at work. Yet there will be double standards as long as humans are in the flesh. By contrast, there are no double standards with God. The standards of God and Jesus Christ as revealed in the Word of God do not change. He is faithful. With Him there is no variation nor shadow of turning (James 1:17).

Paul wrote, “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). In other words, the truth of God (the faithfulness of God) does not change because of the actions of men.

Will you let the actions or words of imperfect men take your crown? It’s a terrible irony that for a cynic, it is often the very person or situation they are cynical about who takes their crown. They become so cynical that they cannot separate the Word of God from the messenger. It can be easy to think that if the messenger is imperfect, it nullifies the message. Jesus’ detractors used this tactic against Him. They called him illegitimate and accused him of being demon-possessed.

But when the Word of God is spoken and you hear it, you had better take heed. Isaiah wrote down the proper view of His Word: “For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2).

You may not respect the messenger, but you had better respect the message—the Word of God. Cynicism toward the messenger can be forgiven if repented of, but to be cynical toward God’s message is to flirt with the unpardonable sin.

Respecting the Message

In each generation, people think that if God were to speak to them, they would listen. But when the Living Word was on the earth and speaking directly to them, they would not listen and take heed. Christ warned the cynical Pharisees to clean up their act—to stop trying to impute evil motives, to stop trying to trap Him (Matthew 23:29-33).

Time after time they came to Him with a statement, or a question filled with double meaning. “Master, we know,” or “the law says”; “show us a sign”; “by what power…” They were speaking cryptically, with hidden meanings. They spoke with nuance and innuendo, saying one thing, but meaning another. God’s warning against double talk is very clear: “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes,’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment” (James 5:12).

Love of God

Another reason people become cynics is because they have not developed a loving, sincere relationship with God and Jesus Christ. They allow the various ups and downs of organizations and men stand in their way. And sadly, oftentimes they are looking for an excuse to criticize and justify their actions. But we must never allow any excuse, reason, or cause to separate us from being faithful to our covenant relationship with God and Christ.

When you repent of your sins, are convicted of the truth by the Spirit and Word of God, are baptized, and exercise faith in the sacrifice of Christ for remission of sin, you enter into a covenant with God and Christ. You make the commitment to crucify the flesh and live by the Word of God. If you persevere and finish the race, a crown awaits you in the resurrection.

Cynicism’s Insidious Results

In the first chapter of Job, Satan comes before the throne of God. God asks Satan if he has considered His servant Job, who He says fears God and shuns evil. Satan replies: “Yes, Job fears God, but not without good reason!…But take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” (Job 1:9, Job 1:11, New Living Translation). In other words, Satan cynically accuses Job of serving God because of ulterior motives.

Satan’s cynicism began long before the days of Job. He was at the very throne of God as the anointed cherub that covered (Ezekiel 28:14-17). He looked at his self-perceived importance, beauty and wisdom, and said in his heart that he shouldn’t play second fiddle to anyone in the universe. Revelation 12 reveals that he drew one third of the angels with him in his rebellion. Rebellion can be caused by dropping words of doubt and by becoming cynical and bitter.

After Cain murdered his brother because of jealousy, God asked him, “Where is your brother?” Cain cynically replied: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). But God clearly instructs throughout His word that we are our brother’s keeper. And we should love one another fervently with no ulterior motives. Note the words of the apostle Peter, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

Cynicism Can Be Defeated

All the enemies of faith can be defeated. And every excuse for being cynical can be conquered. We can develop the same mindset that is in Jesus Christ. In fact, we are exhorted to have the same mindset as Jesus Christ and follow his example (Philippians 2:5).

Having the mind of Christ begins with examining ourselves in God’s spiritual mirror. We can hide the Word of God in our hearts and meditate on it. We can control our thought patterns and focus on the things that edify, exhort and comfort.

We can follow the admonition given by the apostle Paul, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).


 “Cynicism: An Enemy to Defeat” ©2023 United Church of God, an International Association


Neo-Paganism/Harry Potter/WICCA

By Rev. Clete Hux

Another area in which Christians have taken license is with the Harry Potter phenomenon. Through the vehicle of creative imagination and encouraging reading among the young, the Neo-Pagan and Wiccan worldviews have been on display in Potter films and books for a long time. By the way, did you know that in addition to Harry Potter merchandise, you can get Wicca & Witchcraft for Dummies at That’s right, and not only this, you can get many other “how to” books on the same topics from this same retailer known as “America’s store.” (10) This alone should alert us not only to how prevalent occultism has become in our culture, but also to how enamored our culture has become with witchcraft.

As to whether or not Harry Potter stories promote witchcraft, there should be little doubt about it. Those trying to draw Christian parallels with the series seem to be straining to make a bona fide case. The very name Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry ought to be a dead giveaway. What flows from J.K. Rowling’s books and movies, the number of which is unsurpassed in the area of children’s literature, is an occult worldview that has been glamorized and marketed specifically for children.

The proponents have said, “Oh, no! You’ve got it all wrong, Harry Potter is not real witchcraft, it’s fictional fantasy and Christian allegory!” If that is the case why use messages and symbols aligned with paganism and witchcraft rather than with Christianity? Using that which best aligns with paganism and witchcraft yet calling it Christian is nothing more than the baptism of paganism.

A warning sign to parents should be the vast number of pagan and witchcraft websites over the years that have promoted Harry Potter as representing occult practices and beliefs accurately. Consider a few of these endorsements:

“[The Harry Potter series], both as books and in movie form are a wonderful metaphor of how we, as witches/Wiccans/Pagans/Magical people, perceive our own spirituality/works/studies, and our vision of the world. The symbolism is so strong and I have found myself reacting so many times…positively, mostly thinking, “this is SO right!” Even, as I think Quirrell himself has said it so plainly…, ‘There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it…’ This might actually offend some, but it hides one of the great truths of Witchcraft, that there is no White or Black Magick, there is only Magick, and it is the use we make of it that defines its purpose, although we usually see a dark use of Magick as weakness, rather than strength.”(11)

“Sure you are seeing witches in Harry Potter…But it is positive. They are friendly. They are good. The book may change the way people feel about us.” (12)

“Harry Potter happens to be one of the best things for witchcraft, and the understanding of it.”(13)

Claiming to be Christian as Rowling does and claiming that Harry Potter has a Christian allegorical meaning, while at the same time promoting a worldview contrary to Christianity, defeats the purpose of any purported Christian message. Claiming to be Christian yet promoting a worldview hostile to Christianity is contradictory. We do not promote witchcraft in order to lead someone to Christ.  We do not promote something contrary to a Biblical worldview in order to promote a Biblical worldview.

While Rowling’s works can be considered fiction, they do not fit the fantasy genre. Some have likened Harry Potter to C.S. Lewis’ stories which are true fantasy. In Lewis’ stories, the setting is an alternate reality quite different from our own. Have you met any talking beavers or talking lions lately? Do people enter alternate realities through a wardrobe? Of course not, that is fantasy. However, in Harry Potter, the stories take place in our present reality. While Harry Potter may be fictional, actual occult practices are being performed by Harry, who was born a wizard from his witch mother and wizard father who also attended Hogwarts, a school very similar to the modern day boarding schools found in England. It is there that Harry, like his parents before him, is in training to learn sorcery, complete with the casting of spells, learning to use potions, rituals and divination, similar to those who participate in these practices today.

There are plenty more instances of reality-based sorcery illustrations including a real historical character, Nicholas Flamel, in the book and movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The students have conversations with the dead Flamel as he walks the halls of Hogwarts, endorsing necromancy, communication with the dead. Flamel was a French alchemist who supposedly succeeded in making the Philosopher’s Stone in the late 1300’s. Students of alchemy know that the Philosopher’s Stone is a metaphor for turning our base, physical natures into our more metaphysical self’s, attaining self-actualization with the Higher Self. This inner transformation supposedly produces everlasting life. (14)

While I do not endorse Catholicism, I do however, endorse Catholic writer, Michael O’Brien, for his excellent critique of Potter. He compares Rowling’s’ Potter world to being gnostic in essence and practice saying, “The wizard world is about the pursuit of power and esoteric knowledge, and in this sense it is a modern representation of Gnosticism, the cult that came close to undermining Christianity at its birth. The so-called “Christian Gnostics” of the 2nd century were in no way Christian, for they attempted to neutralize the incarnation and to distort the concept of salvation along traditional Gnostic lines: man saves himself by obtaining secret knowledge and power.”(15)

Using gnostic-like power as ideal magical power seems to be the modus operandi in Potter. O’Brien further states, “This is consistent with the author’s confused notions of authority. In reality, magic is an attempt to bypass the limitations of human nature and the authority of God, in order to obtain power over material creation and the will of others through manipulation of the supernatural. Magic is about taking control. It is the fundamental rejection of the divine order in creation. In the first book of Samuel ({1 Sam. 15:23}) divination is equated with the spirit of rebellion.”(16) I agree with O’Brien about this being a rejection of the fundamental order in divine creation. The occult/pagan/witchcraft worldview is an upside down world. One should get a sense of this from the beginning of Harry Potter. The natural has traded places with the superstitious, the normal for the abnormal. Witchcraft is portrayed as normal while the “real” or normal (the “muggle” world) is portrayed as abnormal.

Again, this is another example where intention does not change meaning. The problem that most Christians have in trying to Christianize Harry Potter may not be that they do not understand that the Bible speaks against witchcraft and sorcery. Their problem is twofold: They really do not understand witchcraft and they really do not understand the Biblical teaching against such pagan practices. It needs to be said that we are not given Biblical liberty to mimic forbidden practices. To be honest, this is where the church has failed. It is not enough to say “stay away from witchcraft” if believers do not understand what they are supposed to stay away from. It appears that believers have not been properly warned enough to “abstain from all forms of evil” or that light does not fellowship with darkness.


In closing, Yoga and Harry Potter are just two of many examples that fit the mold of the “Trojan Horse” that has been camping out in Christian circles for a number of years. In Part Two, we will look at the Enneagram craze and the Contemplative Prayer Movement, both of which are penetrating the church.

Scriptures both warn and encourage us to see things from a Biblical perspective. God, through the prophet Isaiah says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9). Judges 21:25 tells us “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Proverbs 21:2 says, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.” Further, Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Against such warnings we are encouraged to “Trust in the LORD with all our hearts, and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Prov.3:5-6).

It is easy to get off base when popular human opinion or experience has become the reference point for interpreting life instead of the scriptures being the only rule of faith and practice. Unfortunately, some are using the Bible as merely one rule and not the only rule of faith and practice. It was for freedom that Christ has set us free. But we are set free to do His will, not ours! Since we have been set free, we are to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (II Cor. 10:5).


1Rev. Clete Hux. Attempts to Secularize Yoga in Alabama Schools.

2Dr Peter Jones. Confronting Neo-Paganism Part 1.

3Swami Param, New age yoga: Old age theft and surrender. The Costal News Group March 25, 2013. (internet article accessed at )


4Alabama Administrative Code (AAC), Rule 290-040-040-.02, Certain Teaching Techniques, (1) d, e.



6 Ibid

7 Hans Ulrich Rieker, The Yoga of Light: Hatha Yoga Pradipika, New York: Seabury Press, 1971, p. 101, ( cited in Ankerberg and Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 606. )

8Rev. Clete Hux, The Evangelical Dictionary of World Religions. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Kundalini p. 295

9 Swami Param, New age yoga: Old age theft and surrender. The Costal News Group March 25, 2013. (internet article accessed at )

10 Diane Smith, Wicca and Witchcraft for Dummies.

11 Richard Abanes, Fantasy and Your Family (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 2002), 194-195.

12Phyllis Curott, witch, as quoted in Buck Wolfe, “Witches Bless Harry Potter,” ABC Newscom. August 18,1999.

13quote from by “Heather.” Message #1432, November 24, 2001

14 Richard Abanes, Harry Potter and the Bible (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 2001), 26.

15Michael O’Brien’s Harry Potter and the Paganization of Children’s Culture

16 Ibid

The Perfect Valentine

By: Tresa Walker

As Valentine’s Day approaches and store shelves are covered with red hearts and quips of love, I can’t help but reflect on the lack of love displayed daily in our society today. We live in a world that is fostering attitudes of hostility and hatred. It seems that people have become more hostile and less patient, more judgmental and less kind, more selfish and less caring. Proverbs 10:12 says, Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses. In spite of all of the negative influences, God has called His people to influence the world with His love and mercy. Imagine how much better this world would be if we, as Christians, faithfully showed God’s love rather than acting and living like the world.

It is special to have a day to recognize those that we love. But we should also recognize the One who truly and forever loves us and remember the true definition of love which is shown in John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Relationships are complicated, and many do not survive the test of time. Whether you are single, married, or in a committed relationship, Jesus will always be the perfect Valentine. How can you know that Jesus loves you?

  • He gave his life for you.This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. 1 John 3:16
  • The bible tells me so. – Jesus says, As the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. John 15:9
  • He offers salvation and hope. –  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28
  • He cares for you. – Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
  • His love never fails. His faithful love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34
  • He never changes. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8
  • He pursues you. – For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10
  • He is faithful. –  Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! Lamentations 3:22-24
  • He is the only way to heaven. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6

The love of Jesus is for all people! 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 defines love: Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. We may live in a world full of hatred, but we have a perfect love in Jesus!

Because we do live in a negative world, it is important to consider the world’s influence in our personal life as well as that of our churches. We are surrounded by unholy influences every day, so we must be careful that while we are in the world we are not also of the world. Romans 12:2 says, Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. If we are not careful, we may find that we have conformed to the ways of the world, so we must be on guard to keep our attitudes and actions in check. On the flip side, we can also impact those around us, but in order for us to be a godly influence, we must daily renew our mind by reading and studying God’s word and also maintaining an active relationship with Him.

As Christians, we are called to love others because He first loved us. In John 15:12, Jesus says, This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. Instead of being influenced by the negativity in the world around us and reacting as the world would, we are called to love. We must be sharing the love of Jesus in hopes of giving others the salvation and hope that can only be found in Him. It is not always easy to love people as Jesus does or to avoid reacting as the world does; this is why the renewing of our minds and daily interaction with Him is so important. The more time we spend with Him, the more we will begin to look like Him.

Ephesians 3:17-19 says, I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Valentine’s Day is only one out of 365 days in a year, but there is One who shows us love 365 out of 365 days. There will never be anyone who loves you more than Jesus Christ


Christian Liberties: A Road to Paganism?

By Rev. Clete Hux

The area of doctrine concerning Christian liberty is known as adiaphora, meaning “things indifferent”– things in personal choices that should not affect an individual’s salvation one way or the other if a person chooses to exercise those choices. These should be things the Bible neither condemns nor approves because they are considered to be non-essentials of salvation. For most believers, these choices have centered around issues like eating and drinking.

Quite often the scriptures, “All things are lawful for me, …” (I Cor. 6:12; 10:23) and, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31), are used to justify a personal choice. As a matter of opinion, the “all things are lawful” statement is often used as a mantra and taken too far by being wrongly applied to things condemned by scripture. When this happens, Christian liberty becomes libertinism that ignores biblical limitations. And, let’s face it, only the naive would believe that professing Christians limit their liberty to the physical appetite alone. That being said, the “all things are lawful” attitude has gone awry, drifted off base, and is leading people into worldviews that are contrary to the Christian faith. This should be a concern for all Christians and a warning that paganism could not only be knocking at the door, but could be camping out in the living room.

It has been said that the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. It can also be said that the road to paganism is often paved with pragmatism, which interprets not just eating and drinking, but all things as being neutrally indifferent and their use to be determined by individual choice. Yes, I know – this borders on the attitude of relativism, “you’ve got your truth and I’ve got mine” and “who are you to interfere with my truth?” We’ve become a society of experience-oriented truth seekers, but only defining and confirming as true that which will correspond to our individual experience. This aligns closely to narcissism with its out of control fixation on self.

The out of control personal experience oriented mindset is manifest in areas too numerous to count. My original intention was to cover four or five areas in this article, but I soon realized that it would be too long. So, the article will be in two parts. For the sake of space, Part One will cover the first two areas that I believe Christians have wrongly deemed “indifferent” and are now fully endorsing.


There is a fad floating around on social media right now encouraging people to choose their avatar. All in fun, some are choosing an electronic image of what newly incarnated body they would like to have rather than the one they are presently stuck with. It is doubtful that people using the term this way ever heard of its Hindu roots. Avatar is a Sanskrit word referring to an incarnation of a Hindu deity. When this is pointed out, the response is, “Well I don’t mean it that way”. In other words, “Let me tell you what I think it means.” The implication is that a person can take something out of its original context and redefine it to suit that individual’s likes or dislikes.

Due to applying Christian liberty beyond its Biblically intended boundaries, questionable areas have become like a smorgasbord for the choosing. Sadly, to many it does not seem to matter if such things “ripe for the pickin” represent a worldview that is diametrically opposed to the Christian worldview. This is certainly the case with Yoga. There is no getting around the fact that Yoga is religious by nature and a form of Hindu worship. Yet for years, there have been attempts to distance the practice of Yoga from its religious essence. The Hindu American Foundation knows this well and is upset with pragmatists who try to redefine Yoga as merely physical exercise. The result is not only a redefining of Yoga, but also a covering up of its religious heritage and meaning. (1)

From the Sanskrit word meaning “yoke” or “union,” Yoga defines and promotes a monistic (all is one/one is all) worldview that teaches there are no separations as those recognized in a Biblical worldview such as a personal God who exists apart from His creation. My good friend, Peter Jones, illustrates this difference in what he calls a One-ism versus Two-ism worldview. Two-ism represents the Biblical Creator/creature distinction, while One-ism represents paganism which does away with separations.(2)

Because there is no Yoga without Hinduism, Yoga is consistent with a Hindu pagan worldview that divinizes creation (Rom.1:23-25). As such, it promotes both pantheistic (all is God/God is all) and polytheistic (many gods) worldviews. All the millions of gods in Hinduism are part of the one supreme being called Brahman. All is Brahman and Brahman is all. This is paganism, pure and simple. Yet, this does not seem to bother pragmatists, including Christians, who intentionally or notare baptizing paganism by redefining Yoga, all the while assuming they have the liberty to do so.

It has become a fad in America to reduce Yoga to what “pop” culture wants it to be. This is exactly what is happening today with Hatha Yoga, based on bodily postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dyana). In response to the distortion of Yoga by the commercialization and simplistic use of the asanas, Swami Param, President of the Classical Yoga Hindu Academy, explains that asanas represent a specifically Hindu worldview and the word Hatha refers not only to nature worship (moon; sun:tha) but also to the Hindu deities Siva, Vishnu (Hara:Hari).(3)

These contextual historical understandings of Yoga’s religious history are completely ignored and cast aside. This “pop” culture treatment of Yoga has found its way into many contours of society including public education. Many states are already teaching yoga in their schools. Others may follow. Alabama’s legislature is considering a bill that would lift a ban on practicing Yoga in its K-12 schools. The Alabama Administrative Code (AAC), Rule 290-040-040-.2 that bans the practice of yoga and meditation in its public school system has been in place for twenty-seven years.(4)

Perhaps if school administrators and politicians better understood the religious teachings of Hinduism concerning the practice of Yoga they would uphold the application issue concerning the establishment clause of religion in the First Amendment. Better yet, if they understood that they may be subjecting students to possible spiritual danger they may think it best not to allow Yoga to be taught in schools. This certainly would be the wiser choice.

Dr. Candy Gunther Brown, in an article for Psychology Today, talks about a Christian and former Yoga instructor who makes the argument that simply relabeling Yoga as Christian fails to make it so because “authorship implies ownership”, and “ownership implies right of possession and control.” Yoga is “not just a human invention” but “coauthored” with the “spirit realm.”(5)

Further pointed out was that no matter what Christians call Yoga postures, they are a “moving liturgy, an embodied form of worship, a physical offering to the Hindu gods” who are “attracted to the offering.” By analogy, the owners of a “stolen Lexus” won’t be fooled” if a “thief removes the license plate.” Likewise, the “Hindu spirits” who own Yoga retain the “title deed, so to speak. They’ll get back in the vehicle while you’re driving it.”(6)

Hinduism teaches that there exists in all forms of Yoga something known as Kundalini energy and is, as Hans Rieker puts it, “…the mainstay of all yoga practices.”(7) Taken from kundal (coiled up), kundalini refers to the Hindu belief that a “serpent power” lies coiled up at the base of the spine. It is revered as a goddess who begins to evolve in a person’s first incarnation (in the reincarnation cycle), being fed by the other six chakras on the spine and by the cosmic energy entering through the feet from the earth. Starting at the lowest chakra, she is aroused through yoga practice and travels up through the other chakras, finally reaching the crown. In Tantric Yoga, which is more sexual than other forms of yoga, Kundalini is a part of Shakti, the divine female energy and consort of Shiva (male deity).(8)

There are a number of websites alerting people to dangerous exposure to the demonic spiritual realm that exists in yoga. One website actually quotes the non-Christian renowned psychoanalyst Carl Jung in his warning about yoga:

“One often hears and reads about the dangers of Yoga, particularly of the ill-reputed Kundalini Yoga. The deliberately induced psychotic state, with certain unstable individuals might easily lead to a real psychosis, is a danger that needs to be taken very seriously indeed. These things really are dangerous and ought not be meddled with in our typical Western way. It is a meddling with Fate, which strikes at the very roots of human existence and can let loose a flood of sufferings of which no sane person ever dreamed. These sufferings correspond to the hellish torments of the chönyid state…” (see

I cannot believe that any politician, administrator, or any school authority, if they really understood the implications of allowing Yoga, would want to open such a “pandora’s box.” Why choose Yoga when there are hundreds if not thousands of other exercise programs that are available? It is not wise to promote a practice that is an inherently religious and spiritual by relabeling it. We must remember that intent does not change meaning. Regardless of intention, there is no Yoga without Hinduism and there is no Hinduism without Yoga. I agree with Swami Param when he says, “If one wants to learn Hinduism/Yoga (and perhaps become a Hindu), do that. If one wants to stretch and relax, be thoughtful and considerate, but don’t call it Yoga!

Why Are You Here?

By: Stuart Kellogg

“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?  Therefore whoever wished to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

—James 4:04

Hmmm.  James is pretty straightforward there.  Kind of like Paul.

“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?  Or am I striving the please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”  Galatians 1:10

Or, like Jesus.

“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”  John 15:06

Unfortunately, far too many Christians in America choose to leave out the “hard stuff” and mold their beliefs to fit the cultural definition of the good life. Now, don’t get me wrong, that IS human nature.  There are, however, a couple of problems with this approach.

First, our decision to follow Christ means we are giving UP our “human nature”, in the sense that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature” (12 Corinthians 5:17).  That means the fruit of our faith is to be so different from the world’s fruit that those lost without Christ will naturally wonder, “What is it that person has?  I WANT that too!”

Second, far too many church leaders are only too happy to play along and not rock the boat. The result is the slow drift from the biblical foundational faith that is happening throughout the church.

Almost half of those attending evangelical churches believe salvation is earned.

Here’s one example:  A recent survey from Arizona Christian University’s George Barna, the  nation’s preeminent researcher on the Christian faith, showed that almost half of those attending evangelical churches believe that salvation is earned by being good enough, or doing good works.  Almost as many believe Jesus sinned while on earth.

The American church, yes the evangelical American church, has become far, far too much like the culture around it.  Just look at the approach to church growth.  Too much emphasis on numbers in the seats, little or no emphasis on Jesus’ call to make disciples.

The mention of sin, salvation and sanctification were taboo and replaced by Starbucks, strategy and sensitivity.

There is no better illustration than Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago area.  Since it’s founding in 1975 this mega church didn’t just grow exponentially—hitting a peak of  25-thousand attendees each weekend in 2015—it sponsored workshops on how you too could lead a mega church.  Then, leaders 15 years ago did a gutsy thing that few “successful” church pastors (or corporate CEOs) would do:  Look under the hood, while the numbers are good, to see if something is wrong.

Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Cally Parkinson and executive pastor Greg Hawkins, concluded that the “seeker sensitive” model wasn’t biblical.  Not talking about sin, because it might turn folks away, and instead focusing on “needs programming” and slick marketing filled the seats and the bank accounts.  The congregation, however, was a mile wide an inch thick.  As columnist Bob Barney noted, “Doctrine didnt matter nearly as much as innovation. If it wasnt ‘cutting edge’ and consumer friendly it was doomed. The mention of sin, salvation and sanctification were taboo and replaced by Starbucks, strategy and sensitivity.”

Founding pastor Bill Hybel’s conclusion, We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become self feeders.We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their Bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.”

Now, about a year after the report Hybels resigned in disgrace as did others who covered up his sexual misconduct.  It’s clear that the foundation of that organization was badly cracked.

If the church is to live up to its calling, it must look backwards.

The Christian church was founded in the Roman Empire, a culture that worshipped power and cared little for children, women or the poor.  Imagine the impact when these followers of Christ rescued and adopted unwanted babies thrown on the garbage dump to die.  Or helped heal the plague sufferers rather than escape the pestilence for the safety of the country.

Another illustration of the church losing its way is for the Body to be so focused on helping those in need that they leave out the essential element of faith.  Yes, yes, yes, Jesus called on us to help the hurting.  BUT, He never meant to do it without calling the lost to faith.  Look at the life of 18th century pastor and the father of Methodism, John Wesley.   He travelled a quarter million miles on horseback preaching the Gospel while also serving the poor and ministering in the prisons.  He never separated the work for the least of these from sharing the Good News.

The promise of the faith is exactly the opposite of comfort, prosperity or security.  The promise is that following Christ will, by definition, be countercultural.  Now, that doesn’t mean followers necessarily will be jailed and humiliated.  It just means our focus must be on living a life following Christ, knowing that it MAY mean those things.

The church isn’t a bazaar or buffet, set up to feed the followers’ emotional and practical needs. Nor is it set up to simply offer a ticket to heaven.  Now, the wonderful promise of eternal life is real.  The call is, however, much, much bigger.  The call is for us to give ourselves to Christ, become new creations and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us constantly so that, as Peter wrote, quoting God through Moses, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  The Lord calls us to be set apart, with a love that is complete.  Jesus also quotes the Old Testament, telling us “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  We are called to love fellow men and women with the same other-serving love God showed us by allowing His Son to take our sins to the cross.  In short, we’re called to live a life of love that looks like God’s:  Choosing to do what is best for another, without regard to whether they deserve it, nor what it costs us.

Wow.  Not easy for me.  Not easy for you.  If we’re to be followers of Christ, however, there isn’t a choice and there is no place for a “soft sell” from a church looking to be a comfortable place to hang out.  The “Good News”; living a life as Christ demands will result in the best reward, a well-lived life.

Stuart Kellogg, author of The Post Covid Church, is host of The Post Covid Church: What Now? Podcast, available wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

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