My thoughts on Hillsong

I was asked late last year by a former attender of the church I led what I thought of Hillsong. I’ll try and keep it short! I have friends that are on staff at Hillsong, I’ve met Brian personally and I’ve attended three or four Hillsong conferences so you can decide if I’m biased or just better able to make some comments!

Hillsong is THE flagship Australian church in terms of profile and impact. It’s broken all the mindsets about church size and dynamics. It’s really reinvented the landscape of Christianity in Australia and shown us what’s possible. I’m fairly certain Shout to the Lord is probably THE most popular christian worship song in the world – which, coming from Australia says something. There aren’t many churches in our country that you can attend that won’t be singing one or two Hillsong choruses (even if they don’t like Hillsong – ah the irony of it).

Hillsong really pushed the envelope in making Christianity contemporary – i.e. music, language, services, buildings, programs etc. that speak to ordinary people. It’s been a wake-up call to churches that are a victim of stodgy, boring traditionalism. Much of the resentment toward Hillsong comes from churches who hate to see their “success”. Hillsong is one of the very few Australian churches that are actually growing with a good proportion of new commitments.

I have loved Hillsong conference. It’s really exciting and can be life changing. I’d certainly recommend everyone goes at least once!

Every church has its downside though. Hillsong is huge and that has it’s own disadvantages. It runs very much like a corporate machine. The stress on staff is massive. They have huge vision so the budgets are enormous which always attracts attention from outside. It’s a fairly controlled environment – they do that by establishing a “Hillsong” culture (again this is a corporate/business idea) so there are certain ways to talk, certain language, dress and behavior that’s subliminally peer reinforced, which suits some people I guess, but can be a bit restricting for others. I for one, would never work there under any circumstance. Staff are required to attend a minimum of three weekend services and I simply wouldn’t ever want to do that.

As far as any “scandals” go, there aren’t really any (sadly for the media) – well, no more than any other church with flawed people in it. As with any organisation, there are always people who do stupid things but aren’t necessarily the fault or responsibility of the organisation itself. Brian Houston had to deal with his dads moral failing before he passed away. No fault of Hillsongs’ there. They did get some grant money for certain projects and had to return it because a third party organisation they partnered with folded. Now it looks like Gloria Jeans might be facing insolvency, but the only connection with Hillsong is that they share a board member (very common in big business to share board members with other companies). Mercy ministries folded last year and the directors have been ordered to pay every consumer that was in the program, but again, Mercy is a US organisation that Hillsong partnered with. They got burned there, but it wasn’t necessarily their responsibility.

One prominent homosexual has been trying to paint Hillsong as homophobic, but I don’t think he’s gained too much traction in mainstream church circles, perhaps only in the gay community and the media. He obviously had a pretty bad experience, but homophobia is not actually the position of Hillsong. Never has been, and never will be. No doubt there will be homophobic believers there (church attenders are fairly representative of the population), and believers who embrace homosexuals, just like any other church.

I think Hillsong spends around $1.5m on meeting practical needs in their area (my figures are probably rusty, but that’s the order of things), so it would be nice if the media also covered the good things they’re doing.

The issues that make the media are usually about money. You need to know that no church prints money, and no church is “for-profit”. That means money in = money out. They spend whatever they get on growing the church and meeting needs. It’s not accumulating anywhere. Sure Brian and Bobby, and Darlene etc. are quite wealthy compared to the average Australian but that’s from royalties from songs – good luck to them. The reality is that the top echelon of Hillsong are extremely talented entrepreneurial individuals. If they weren’t working in the church arena, they’d probably be wealthier working in big business. They certainly have that X factor that organisations pay big bucks for. They give plenty of their blood, sweat and tears, so they do earn every dollar.

Personally I wouldn’t be part of Hillsong if I lived next door to it. It is a certain model of doing church that is very “successful”, but is fairly unique to Brian Houston and a small handful of others. I respect him for that – he’s built a church fairly and squarely on his gifts and talents. He’s been his own man and refused to listen to the naysayers and done what he’s felt God has called him to do…. that’s the lesson that other pastors should be learning – not trying to copy Hillsong (which usually results in fairly lame churches). I don’t think the Hillsong model is very reproducible because it’s built around Brian. Trying to replicate it is just that! Very trying. So many pastors out there are awkwardly staggering about like David wearing Saul’s armor. I don’t think even Brian’s top guys pull it off that well. Imitating Brian is quite painful to watch and it will be interesting to see what happens when he retires.

The model is too corporate for me, built on leadership principles transferred from the business world. I’m looking for something more organic, less directive, less top-down, more “ground up”, less pretentious, less structure, less like hard work. More freedom, less about buildings and appearances (Hillsong are notorious for their fashion). It’s quite an institutional model which I think has been taken to the limit and is a bit maxed out. It’s pretty hierarchical. There are important people there, and no so important ones. The important ones are very hard to even get to and seem to have a fairly privileged life (although they pay for it ultimately). I’m not sure that numbers or prominence or great music equals success, I guess everyone differs on how to define success in the church setting.

The ones to watch (if you want to watch at all) are Hillsong United (Joel Houston and his scruffy looking pals). I think Brian realises he’s taken the Hillsong paradigm to its limit (I secretly think he’s over it actually), and if the church in Australia is going to continue to engage grass-roots (non-sydney) Aussies in a more real, authentic “Australian” post-modern way, then the next generation are going to have to figure that out – just like he did 30 years ago. Hillsong United have been given a huge amount of freedom to basically reinvent church again. These guys seem to be respectful, non-conformists focused on music, media, social justice, and more into tapping into the psyche of Gen Y than Hillsong ever has. They’re becoming more a “movement” than a “church” – which is probably what church was always intended to be…. Watch this space!

Mark Tindall takes a dimmer view in his blog post after attending a morning service, and to be honest, I totally get where he’s coming from and can more than empathise with his perspective. I think his thoughts are fairly representative of those who aren’t fans of Hillsong. But then again, there are loads of stories of people who feel Hillsong has been great for them.


40 Responses

  1. What a fascinating review of Hillsong. For the longest time, that organization was one of the bright lights in my world, for sure, for precisely the reasons you’ve stated. It broke out of the traditional mindset of churchianity, at a time when people were searching for a breath of fresh air.

    Here in Canada we had a similar organization which billed itself “Catacombs” at one point, and then later morphed into something called “A Christian Church on a Hill”. The former was built around a couple: Merv and Merla Watson. The latter was framed around Jim and Mae McCallister (mostly Jim though). Much like HIllsong was built around Brian Houston.

    In my entire Christian experience, there was nothing to compare with “A Christian Church on a Hill”. I’ve written about it, and find that I often repeat myself – giving credence to the notion that people tend to repeat things that are of particular importance to them. CCOAH was an oasis in the life of this troubled teen; a place where the maxims and mores of traditional churchianity just did not belong. Witness the varied lifestyles which, while judged harshly in the traditional church, were not just tolerated but mostly ignored in CCOAH. It didn’t matter. What mattered was the music, the dance, the worship. Jim McCallister was an interesting dude: his spoken word was soft and seeming without rebuke or agenda, other than the embracing of all humanity. And that isn’t an exaggeration burped from a starry-eyed young teen either. At the time anyway, it was real. Coming from a completely structured environment, my eyes saw the types of people who would have been ostracized at our local church, but were embraced and included at this one. More the point, however, was the amazing use of space and sound and resonance in the large airy and dark cathedral, down there on Bloor St. in Toronto. The music from the varied instruments, played both from the altar, and from within the pews, filled that place to magnificent effect. At times it was difficult to differentiate between congregation and worship team. In spite of the lack of obvious structure, there was an order to it all, though it seemed to emanate from an innovative type of improvisation, agreed upon by all.

    You stated: “he’s built a church fairly and squarely on his gifts and talents. He’s been his own man and refused to listen to the naysayers and done what he’s felt God has called him to do…. that’s the lesson that other pastors should be learning – not trying to copy Hillsong (which usually results in fairly lame churches).” And in so saying, you nailed it. People down through the years have tried to emulate Church on a Hill too – but to utterly lame effect.

    I do know this: in spite of my avoidance of the typical structured church in which I grew up, if ever I found a congregation as free-flowing and as without judgement as Church on a Hill, I would be intrigued enough to attend it. At least out of curiosity, but with an undercurrent of hope.

    • I love the sound of it WS! The structured church is great at ostracising the kind of people it doesn’t want. I love the innovation, improvisation, creativity, embracing and free wheeling nature of what you’re describing. I think I’d definitely be inspired to visit too!

    • My friend, Hillsong church is the devil’s playground. They have successfully merged the world and Christianity together into one ungodly alliance that is presiding like wildfire throughout the world. How can any bible believing Christian follow pastors that’s lifestyle is not inline with Christianity? Is it ok for pastors to go to secular concerts, that does not glorify God?

      Hillsong is creating consumers and not followers of our Savior Jesus Christ.

      • Hello,
        I’ve been to HIllsong a few times and something just doesn’t feel right about it, or about me being there. Do the pastors attend secular concerts? I’m more than a little gobsmacked if they do, but on the other hand, it kinda stands to reason given the hesitation in my spirit about the whole HIllsong thing.

      • keep away from churches guys.. they become bad once u in it..

      • I would like to respectfully disagree with you “Truth”. My child was wildly resentful and rebellious until she went to a Hillsong Summercamp – where she gave her life to Christ. She has been mentored in that church (we go to a different church) and has become a biblically literate, respectful, Jesus-loving teen with a remarkable heart “for the least of these”.
        Sure – you can go there and hide in the crowd if you want, but the difference it has made to my family is incalculable.

  2. You wrote a balanced and informed post. Tindall’s post is full of rubbish: Hillsong does not own the shopping centre next door; Hillsong does not own any houses in Baulkham Hills and Bella Vista; The conference was not $150; Jesus is never mentioned as a boyfriend; The first thing you see as you walk in the door is a sign ‘Welcome Home’, not Brian’s CDs and DVDs; Visitors can get a free coffee and biscuits after the service at the Welcome Lounge if they ask. Tindall seemed to go in with negative attitude, and it shows.

    • Yes I guess Mark did go in with some pre-conceived ideas about it. It’s amazing how polarising Hillsong is and it’s really hard not to absorb various perspectives from others depending on what stream you swim in.

      With regard to the “Jesus is my boyfriend” comment, he is pushing back on the current status of songwriting which is almost becoming Top-40-love-song-dedication pop romance. I think Sydney author Michael Frost has unpacked that phenomenon quite well. I tend to agree it’s getting a bit over the top.

      • Just looking at HIllsong’s website at the moment, the price for the 2014 conference is $329 per adult, $279 for early registration. That is absolutely shameful, abominable. I emailed the Church last year asking if they make any allowances for poor Christians who can barely afford the train fare to get there and of course, there was no response.
        None of this is going unnoticed to the Lord, He will justify those of us who seek HIm with everything that is within us.

  3. Hi there Jack…..just came across your blog/journal….and read your thoughtful response to the criticisms some have had about Hillsong

    You mentioned

    “One prominent homosexual has been trying to paint Hillsong as homophobic, but I don’t think he’s gained too much traction in mainstream church circles, perhaps only in the gay community and the media”.

    I thought I should check to see if this is actually referring to me…..if so then we may need we probably need to have a chat and see if we can sort out some of the facts.

    if that is okay with you.

    If its not me being referred to I’d be interested to know who has been painting HIllsong as homophobic.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    • Yes Tony, I’d love to hear more about your story!

      What happened to you I think was some time ago (or at least that’s what I’m led to believe), but from the AOG perspective it’s all behind them. I’ve certainly changed my perspective from a fundamental pentecostal one to what would be considered liberal now regarding homosexuality. I have witnessed some of the pain that believing homosexuals experience at the hands of believers and it beggars belief.

      • so it wasn’t me that was being referred to????????

        Yep I resigned 20 years ago this year. Its been an interesting journey. I often say I have had four miracles. I am still alive. I have no major mental health issues (I am aware of). I am not bitter and twisted. And I still have my faith (not for the first 6 years after I came out though).

        I say they are miracles because I have been working in this field now for over 10 years and I find so many gay and lesbian people from my background seem to have one or several of the above. Not quite sure how I got here and others haven’t. I have some ideas.

        What would you like to know Jack. I am not doing a plug for my book but there is an autobiography…..A Life of Unlearning – a journey to find the truth. Amazon only has a few copies left of the second edition. Alternatively you can read some chapters here

        Happy to dialogue with you……if you would prefer to do that off line you can email me directly

        When I read your about page here I very much related to a lot of what you were saying. have you ever heard Bill Hybles (Willow Creek) message on the time he got burnt out. I heard him preach it the first time I visited Willow Creek in 1988…..I have never forgotten it.

      • Hey there Tony, yes I was referring to you in my original post. I think sadly you’re experience and what you’ve learned and the message you have, hasn’t gained traction in the contemporary modern church… I’d love to read more of your story because I feel like the church has inflicted untold pain on believing GLBT christians when they should have been embracing them. I’m so glad you’re working at making sense of it all and helping others do the same. Now that I work in mental health I’m aware of just how tough it can be for GLBT so I would definitely agree that all four of those are indeed miracles! I think as a result, you really have something to say that needs to be heard.

        I did read about Hybels burnout and also heard about Wayne Corderio’s burnout. But it seems to me these guys make some adjustments but then just soldier on. I would so love to see someone with that kind of profile burnout and then look systemically at the church and why it seems to consume the people who run it and look for a better way.

        By way of question, how were you treated at Hillsong, was it systemic and do you think it was more because of being gay, or was it because of “disunity”? Do you think they have learned from their mistakes and are they better at embracing GLBT believers now? Do you think fundamental pentecostalism will ever be able to embrace GLBT’s or will it need to change its fundamentalism?

  4. thanks Jack. I loved Bill’s concept of the three dials….I often share it with clients and has helped me get out or burnout mode relatively quickly myself on more than one occasion.

    If you don’t mind I do need to correct some statements you have made concerning me. there are enough misconceptions out there already…..hehe….. so I’d like to sort out a couple created here.

    The statements following are what I am referring to…. “One prominent homosexual has been trying to paint Hillsong as homophobic, but I don’t think he’s gained too much traction in mainstream church circles, perhaps only in the gay community and the media. He obviously had a pretty bad experience, but homophobia is not actually the position of Hillsong.

    I have never tried to paint Hillsong as homophobic. .Anyone could search the internet or read my autobiography and never find any comment which even resembles that. I have actually gone out of my way to do the opposite. A regularly used quote of mine is ‘The enemy is not individuals. churches, denominations or political parties. The enemy is ignorance and when we attack the former we reinforce the latter. You will find that on some of the interviews I’ve done

    I am not sure if we have met or what you denominational background is so forgive me if it sounds like the obvious. I was of course ordained Assemblies of God. I was never employed by Hillsong. Frank Houston allowed me to use office space (early 80’s) in Darlinghurst when I commenced my evangelistic ministry but I was never on staff or paid.

    As my ministry grew I did preach regularly for Frank and Brian….in fact all the major churches around Australia along with the country churches. My dealings when resigning from the ministry were always with the Executive of the Assemblies of God not Hillsong.

    Hope that clears up some things. I have also had to clear up some other assumptions people have made about me before….lol

    To get back to your question. I think Hillsong is like so many of our churches today regarding the ‘gay issue’……you will find a spectrum of beliefs and attitudes from gays go to hell through to being a gay Christian is not an oxymoron. As you know there was a time when the former totally accepted and the latter inconceivable. One of the contributing factors that has created this shift is the fact that so many people today are connected to out/openly gay and lesbian people either through friendship, family or work and know these people live relatively normal lives like themselves. The other contributing factor has been the exponential growth of the gay Christian movement and the 1000’s like myself who, despite opposition in the church have found complete resolution of our faith and sexuality. This will only increase not decrease. It’s a generational thing. The older people are the less likely they are to be ill-informed or uneducated about sexual orientation. For many many young people today it isn’t even an issue.

    To answer your question “Do you think fundamental pentecostalism will ever be able to embrace GLBT’s or will it need to change its fundamentalism?”……..I think this article I wrote some time ago will answer that.

    Bit of a long winded post eh…..sorry.

    • I think it would be good also for people to see the model I created and work with ….

    • Sorry your comment didn’t post immediately Tony, not sure what happened there. The normal setting is for all comments to be approved automatically and I just noticed this one in the queue for some strange reason.
      Thanks for clarifying those things and for the great work you’re doing. As far as painting Hillsong as homophobic, that’s their perspective obviously from what I’ve heard there and I think it’s brilliant the nuanced way you see things, instead of being black or white about it. At the end of the day, we really only vilify things we don’t understand or are afraid of. It’s pretty hard to vilify homosexuality once we have a homosexual friend and have some insight into some of the challenges they grapple with, which is sobering indeed.
      It was interesting to see (from arms length) how Phil Baker struggled with his theology and teaching once his father came out and I guess these are the struggles pastor’s put off until it’s forced upon them.
      I hope all GLBT Christians can find the resolution between their faith and sexuality that you have been able to.

  5. People I’m gay myself and iread the bible very well, you can’t integrate homosexuality with the church of God under no combination of circumstances, the bible plainly and openly and directly condemn it as abomination and sin, so the church should accept homosexuals as long as they stop practicing it on whether they can change I honestly don’t know

  6. Hi there,
    I am a member of hillsong church and have been since 2005. I am a strong christian and have been since 1994. I went to a smaller AOG church before hillsong.

    Hillsong creates such a positive and electric atmosphere! Surrounded by loving people who do nothing but support and encourage you for being you, and also in regards to your faith!

    A large majority of Aussies find it hard to believe that a church thats members actually enjoy going, are reaching the youth of the city, giving generously. And sacrifice their time so the community can benifit. Remember, The heart of hillsong is jesus, and jesus loved everyone, he has the authority and power to change anyone!
    Dan Smith

  7. Very interesting insights.

    God bless everyone.

  8. this is complete heresy..embracing GLBT?? we should love the person, but not their sin….and yes, it is sin. anyone who says otherwise has never read through the scriptures. or is twisting the scriptures to their own perdition. wake up people!!

    • You cite the scriptures, Kate. Our Lord was asked about his command to “love thy neighbour”. His disciples questioned him about it. “Who is my neighbour?” they asked. In response, he cited the story of the good Samaritan.

      At the time, the Samaritan was not considered a full out and out Jew. In fact, they were ostracized from the Jewish people. Yet he chose an example from that particular group to make his point. Do you see the parallel here? People they considered – as you do the gays and transgendered – outcasts, were what he used to illustrate the overwhelming necessity of universal love.

      Do you consider yourself the oracle of God, able to discern who is and who is not sinning in the eyes of God? Is everything you do absolutely angelic in His eyes?

      Somehow I doubt it. We are a varied people, created on purpose to be different from each other. Different in so many ways as to be seen either as offensive to each other, or as an addition to the mosaic of humanity. I pray to God that you change your view and begin to appreciate the differences that make us all uniques and lovely in His eyes.

      Being gay is as offensive to God as being imperfect in our body type (over which we have no control). Do you eat too much? Do you thrust your fingers down your throat to purge, so as to appear thin? Do you gossip? Do you dislike someone for no valid reason? Do you honk your horn in traffic at someone when they inadvertently cut you off? Do you ever get angry? Ever?

      If you answer yes to any of the above, then you are as offensive to God – an absolute stink to His nostrils – as gays are to you. I say that with ironic intent here. The fact is: He knows our frame. He knows our comings and our goings. Ultimately He knows one thing: we are all of us His children. Created to be His heirs. Not created to be cast off into hell. He created us to be unique.

      Look at your children (if you have any). If they make choices not to your liking, are they any less your children? Do you consider their untraditional choices as “sin”? Or do you revel in their uniqueness? Their creativity?

      Understand that God loves you with an abundance of grace and overwhelming affection. Understand also that gays, transgendered, the sick, the imprisoned and that person you despise the most is as loved by Him as you are. None of us are judges. None of us can afford to set ourselves up as superior to others in any way. The thing you call sin, God calls precious in His eyes.

      Sexuality in hetero or homosexual relationship is indicative of love. And our Lord is the embodiment of love in all of its glory. You might not be able to intellectually absorb and appreciate that but rest assured: He does.

      • Wolfshades, I respectfully disagree with nearly all that you are saying. You either have a lack of understanding of the Scriptures or are attempting to morph them to fit your ideology. Either way you are in error.

        I agree that we are all different. Each with differing personalities, likes, and dislikes. God created each of us uniquely. I will also agree that the “Lord is the embodiment of love in all of it’s glory”. I agree that God is gracious, merciful, patient, kind, faithful and slow to anger. I agree God is all of those things and more, but the issue that I have with your post is that you neglect to remember that God is also a Vengeful and jealous God. He is Righteous and Just. Though He is slow to anger, He still gets angry and it is clear throughout Scripture that He is a God of wrath and Judgment and will not be mocked.

        Our uniqueness doesn’t give us the liberty to sin. You mentioned Jesus’ definition of “neighbor” to which I agree. However you are twisting the meaning to include accepting the sinful life styles that comes with that neighbor. Jesus, no where in Scripture commands this. He called on everyone to repent and to separate ourselves from those life styles, Paul goes further in telling us to stay away from such people as to not be influenced by them. This theme of repentance and separation from evil runs throughout Scripture. This applies to all sin, however, since homosexuality seems to be the issue pertinent to this discussion I will stay on topic.

        You stated that “Being gay is as offensive to God as being imperfect in our body type (over which we have no control)”. First off, you imply that people are born gay and have no control over their desire. I ask you where your evidence is to support this claim? The mere premise of being born a homosexual defies evolution and its processes and purposes. So scientifically, this is an impossibility. Which means it is a state of mind, a mental issue, a behavioral issue. To be born a homosexual is like saying I was born a thief. The only truth in either statement is that because of Adam we have a natural disposition to sin. Secondly, this statement defies what God stated in Leviticus 18:22 where God calls it an “abomination” and states in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that they cannot enter into His kingdom. God has made it clear that He hates sin. God has made it clear that homosexuality is sin and thus can be repented of and should be repented of. 1 Corinthians 6:11 details this as a reality. Although God did not create us “to be cast off into hell”, unfortunately this is a reality for anyone who chooses to ignore God’s warnings of repentance and reject the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ through whom salvation comes. God NEVER calls sin “precious in His eyes”. He loathes it, detests it, and will NEVER tolerate it. It is not part of His nature and thus His nature requires His separation from it AND the person. Homosexual relationships my be “indicative of love” from a human perspective, but it is an abomination in God’s eyes and a perversion of what true love is and of who He is.

        I disagree that “none of us are judges”. None of us are the JUDGE, but we are called to judge. John 7:24 and Proverbs 31:9 says to judge with “right judgment” or “righteously”, 1 Corinthians 2:15 tells us to “judge all things”, and Galatians 6:1 says to restore with gentleness those caught in transgression. How can you restore with gentleness, unless you rightly judge that a person has sinned? Is judging the sin, judging the person? No it isn’t. It is calling sin what it is and holding people accountable for it. Paul did this in 1 Corinthians 5 when he told the Corinthians to throw the man having sex with his stepmother out of the church and hand him over to Satan. Why? So that he could be restored and he was as we see in 2 Corinthians 2. Is this setting “ourselves up as superior to others”? No. It means we are recognizing what sin is and when done in love trying to help someone recongnize it as well so that they can repent and be restored. That is love. That is what Jesus taught. That is what Jesus did.

        I do understand that God “loves you with an abundance of grace and overwhelming affection”. That is why He sent Jesus to die in our place. But we still have to accept that love and receive the sacrifice that was placed before us. Not all of us are His children as you proclaim. Jesus made that clear when He spoke to the pharisees in John 8:44 saying “you are of your father the devil and the lusts of your father you will do”. To be a child of God requires us to receive His Son Jesus. John 1:12 “to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”. Romans 8:9 “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” Belonging to Christ is prerequisite to being “His heirs”. Romans 8:13-17 “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory”.

        I challenge you to re-evaluate your position and approach this with the totality of Scripture, not a cliff notes, watered down view that has been twisted to support ones own ideology. Satan has been twisting God’s word to do this very thing since he spoke with Eve in the garden (Genesis 3).

        May God bless you on your search for truth.

      • John, the number of assumptions you’ve made about me, all in an effort to refute my thoughts, is interesting.

        You cite my “lack of understanding of the scriptures”. So let’s start with that one. The truth is it’s not that I lack understanding so much as I disagree with your interpretation of the scriptures. Also, truth to be told, you and I don’t share the same insular and self-referencing attitude toward scriptures. In other words, I’m grateful for them, in the sense that one is grateful for a driving manual for a car. However, I prefer to take the car out for a drive, with the knowledge that the manual covers the basic but not the entire range of possibilities for the car ride.

        I see our Father as being not just the Father of the saved, or the Father of the Christian even. He’s the Father of all. And I believe with all my heart that His DNA flows through all of us. I think that our sense of humour, our ability to reason and think, our ability to create all manifest as aspects of His being. There is no greater creator than Him, and yet we not only mimic Him in that regard, but we take passionate joy in the creation of buildings, music and thought (amongst many other things). It’s for that reason I don’t believe the atheists among us don’t belong to him (as misguided as they are): instead, I think He values their love of logic and truth.

        I’m fairly certain you would disagree with the above, and cite the scriptures around “what we do with Jesus” etc. So I doubt you and I will ever agree. My solace is in the fact that “on that day” Jesus will talk with each of us about whether we visited Him in prison, or fed Him when he was hungry….dividing the chaff from the wheat.

        I think being born of the Spirit of God is absolutely important – but I don’t think it revolves around what much of the fundamentalist Christian church seems to agree that entails – with a verbal acknowledgement of Him. I think it’s far more subtle than that, in many cases. I think many native Indians, in their observance of Him as a higher power, have already been born again by virtue of them opening their eyes and embracing Him in nature.

        The central theme to Jesus’ stories and admonishments is love. I don’t see love as an ephemeral “feel good” thing either. I think it’s an active thing, and I think that one either has compassion for others (irrespective of their feelings and attitude towards us) or one is entirely self-serving. In that, there is no middle ground, and I can’t find a better fruit of the “born again” person than that: whether the person is acting out of love and empathy for others, or not.

        Jesus always talked to his disciples about his relationship with the Father, and in turn our relationship to him. He used allegories and stories to paint a wonderful picture of what that’s all about. The prodigal son story in particular seems to stick out as important: even though the one son went off and did his thing, he never stopped being the man’s son did he? His father never condemned him, not even once. His father in fact didn’t even wait for him to finish telling him how sorry he was: he basically shushed him and immediately made arrangements for a feast.

        I think of our Father exactly like that, and in fact, I think of my own family, and my own children and the relationship I have with them as a microcosm of the relationship we have with our Father. If me, being a faulty man, can love my children regardless of the directions they take in life, and not stop loving them, and never condemn them or disown them (I can’t even imagine doing that!), then how much more does our perfect Father observe and love us?

        There is no way we’re not going to make mistakes in this walk of ours: in fact it almost seems a mandatory deal for us, so that we grow. If I see my son cross the road despite my warnings, and get hit by a car – for sure he’s learned (while my heart was in my throat), and likely has come away with a bit of wisdom he needed to experience for himself.

        When it comes to the topic of gays, we almost fall ourselves trying to find scriptures to condemn it. Why? Because those of us who are straight can’t comprehend it. It makes so many of us uncomfortable. That’s why you see so many nodding heads in church when the pastor expounds on Reasons This is Not Natural.

        Let me ask you something. You ask me where my evidence is to support the notion that being gay is not something over which they have control. Your question implies that having sexual feelings for members of the same sex is a choice. So let me ask: do you ever recall a moment in your own life when you thought you had an option over which sex excites you? Was there a moment (honest question here) that you knew you could get down and dirty either with a guy or a girl? That you had that choice, that option of either/or?

        I tell you quite frankly that I don’t. It was embarrassing actually: when I was an adolescent and first noticed those stirrings I didn’t want anyone to notice. And it happened despite my wishes just to “be normal”. I couldn’t help being excited by girls back then. And, despite my many sports related activities, I definitely do NOT recall ever having that problem with the naked guys in the gym locker room. In fact, quite the opposite: I didn’t want to see them and I didn’t want them seeing me either. Having a shower was an exercise in being uncomfortable: I couldn’t wait to be done and back into my clothes.

        Now put the shoe on the other foot: what about those adolescent guys who have the same problems with erections when they’re with other males? Can you imagine their own horror and need to keep their secret? Does it make any logical sense to you that they would actually *choose* to be excited? Especially at a time when being found out as gay could result in them getting ostracized and physically beaten?

        You talk about Leviticus where God calls it “an abomination” – yet you don’t reference the other scriptures, where daughters who had premarital sex were to be stoned. It’s in there, John – if you pick one you have to pick the other. Frankly, this is why I take such passages with a grain of salt.

        I don’t doubt you’ll continue to disagree with me. It’s an uncomfortable topic. But please don’t make the mistake of dismissing what I’m saying here: I’m positive Jesus looks upon how we handle the gays in our midst the same way he looks at how we handle the poor, the sick and the imprisoned. I have no doubt that on “that day” He will say to some of us “I was gay and you condemned me”.

        Also, be careful about labelling your brother with thoughts about “Satan twisting God’s word”. That’s a dangerous path, my friend.

    • Hey Kate, the problem is that people do not read the Bible for themselves. They leave it up to the pastor to feed them spiritually. Hillsong Is preaching another Jesus that says its ok to be gay, its okay to drink, smoke and use drugs, its ok to go to secular concerts and clubbing, as long as you confess that Jesus is who He is then all is ok. They don’t preach repentance and if you serve in church it makes you a better Christian. Hillsong is shutting the gates of heaven to the people. You will be appalled at what is currently happening in Hillsong Cape Town. They play secular music during services, Rihanna, drake, etc. Gays and lesbians are allowed to ‘be themselves’ in church. They are leaders in church as well…

      And yes, I know this to be true as I am one of the lucky ones to escape hillsong.

      Please pray for them.

      God Bless

  9. Wolfshades,

    I appreciate your willingness to debate this issue. Let me start by saying that I appreciate your obvious love of people. We are called to love all people regardless of who they are. This is the example that Jesus set. I do agree that we all have “DNA” of God imprinted in our lives. Bible says that Adam and Eve were created in His likeness. We are decendants of Adam so this is a given. We must also remember that we carry traits that God does not as a result of this relationship with Adam. I think we can agree that God is Holy and Righteous and we are not. I believe that this is where you and I have opposing viewpoints. I interpret Scripture in it’s literal, historical context. I view the Scriptures as the inerrant, infallible Word of God inspired by God Himself through the Holy Spirit. You may or may not view the Word in this light. Based upon your “drivers manual” viewpoint, I’m guessing not. So that understood, here’s where we begin. We have to make decision concerning the Word of God as its validity and reliability. If it is truth, then it is all True and we must consider its teachings as truth and thus be held accountable to its teachings. If one part is not truth, then all of it is held in question and it is unreliable. These are the only 2 viewpoints that you can hold, in other words, it is either the Word of God or it is not and if not then it is just a nice piece of ancient literature with no real value other than some historical insights into Jewish culture and a few good things we can glean to help us become better people, ie…love your neighbor, do unto others…etc….I don’t know which camp you are in my friend, but I believe it is the Word of God. Because I believe this when God says “I am the Lord, there is no other”, I take Him at His word. This then eliminates Budha, Allah, Isis, Mother Earth, Pharoah, Emporer, or whatever else or whomever we’ve chosen to deem a god as viable options for God. I think we can agree on this point. Thus when someone calls someone else or something else God, they are not referring to the Creator, but rather something they’ve decided to make and attribute His attributes to. You mentioned Native Americans in their observance of Him, yet they attribute His works to the natural, others create idols and attribute those same works to them…etc….My point is that if you believe the Word of God, then you must believe what it says and it says “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me” John 14:6. Jesus left no room for faulty interpretation in that statement. There is only ONE way to the Father and that is through Him. So if you reject Him, you reject the Father. What does the Father then do with those who have rejected Him? Lake of Fire – Revelation 19. What did Jesus say, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into to the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him.” here’s the part I want you to understand “whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands CONDEMNED already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:16-18. Jesus’ words eliminate any room for question as to how we are to come to the Father. Thus Native Americans can come to Him through their gods or buhdists through the little fat gold dude with the diaper. They can only come to Him through Jesus. As a Christian, you cannot hold any other viewpoint and still maintain that you are one of His. Jesus made it clear, not all will be saved. In that day, many will say Lord, Lord and Jesus will say depart from me ye worker of iniquity and they are cast into the fire that cannot be quenched where the worm does not die and there is gnashing of teeth. That doesn’t sound like heaven to me. Does it to you? You cannot have a popcorn view of Scripture. It is either all true or none of it is true. So depending upon your viewpoint, depends upon where this conversation can go. For the sake of this discussion, I will assume that you hold to the totality of Scripture as being infallible and inerrant Word of God. This leads me to your assertion that I’m picking on Gays by only choosing Leviticus and neglecting the other sins that God condemned. A careful reading of my original argument did address this in the 2nd paragraph. I said ” This applies to all sin, however, since homosexuality seems to be the issue pertinent to this discussion I will stay on topic.” All sin is separation from God and is thus condemned. But the topic at hand was homosexuality, thus there was no need to bring in the women who were to be stoned, or theft, or witchcraft, or fornication, or any unlimited number of sins that we have committed. Keep in mind though that NONE of these sins that I just mentioned or you’ve mentioned did God call an “abomination”. The entire point of the topic is that despite the sin, repentance is required. How can you repent of something that you do not view as a sin? I was born that way you say so I’m not accountable for my actions. I got an erection in the boys locker room, but it’s not my fault. I got erections because the wind blew, did that mean I was attracted to the wind? That seems to happen to boys in adolescence. Bottom line is that we’re dismissing or rationalizing the sin. A psychopath could recon his condition to being born that way. There was a chemical imbalance at birth and thus he decided that it was ok to kill people. The problem with this line of thinking is that it eliminates the Laws of God. We cannot be held accountable for actions that we were born with right? This makes all law subjective. What is sin, it is lawlessness. Our society is trying to justify a behavior that is contrary to what God deems as acceptable in His sight because of our desire to not offend. This is contrary to what Jesus did. He was incredibly offensive. Jesus called sin for what it was sin. As Christians, we need to do the same and stop turning a blind eye so that we can become politically correct. Jesus will not condemn a man or woman because they are gay or because they didn’t like those who are, He will condemn them because they did not follow Him and repent of their sins. But in order to repent, they must understand that it is sin. To deny this is to deny Him. As for “Satan twisting God’s word”. He did it the Garden of Eden, he did it in the wilderness with Jesus, he used Peter right after he confessed Jesus as the Christ, and he’s still doing it today. The only dangerous path is to not know how to wield the Sword that God has given to us or worse ignore it.

    As I stated at the onset of this, I don’t know which camp you are in. I hope that you reconsider your “drivers manual” view of Scripture and begin to take it all seriously and not just “with the grain of salt”.

  10. John, I empathize with you. Almost sympathize with you, actually, because I have an idea what you’re facing when you talk with someone like me. If you’re trying to talk to somebody who doesn’t share the same standard as you, it’s like trying to herd cats. You can’t really nail down their arguments unless you first agree on a set of common assumptions. Am I a back-slidden Christian? A Gnostic? A humanist? A Buddhist? What? Frankly – I haven’t bothered looking for a label for what I believe about God. It doesn’t seem important. I know that when I was on the other side of the fence, working from within the fundamentalist viewpoint, I always needed to know who I was talking with – as mirrored by your determined effort to get some sort of sense of what I think of the Bible. It’s all so familiar to me: I’ve been there.

    You need to know there was a time when I shared the assumptions that you have now. I’m not interested in tearing down anyone’s faith or structures of belief. But at the same time, I kind of want to share where I’ve been, a little bit, so that you understand where I’m coming from.

    If you were to ask me what the standard of my belief about God is, I would have to point to the latter part of the book of Job. That’s where I first peeked outside the traditional self-referencing fundamentalist dynamic of the Christian church. I peeked outside the door because of the verses where God sets Job straight (Job 38 and following). Actually He doesn’t set him straight, and in fact He never tells Job and his friends and wife the real reason he had to suffer all those things. He never tells them about Satan looking to challenge Job’s loyalty, or any of it.

    What He does do is challenge them on their common assumptions – many of which modern day fundamentalist Christians do with each other today. Jobs friends and even his wife accused Job of not following certain dogmas; he didn’t pray hard enough or he harboured resentment in his heart – stuff you’d hear in a sermon on a Sunday morning in any number of churches. In a nutshell, He tells them that they know pretty close to nothing about God or His motivations or reasons. To his credit, Job does the only wise thing he can: he tells God that he’ll not only shut up now, but that he will cover his mouth. He’s afraid he might say something else. God wanted him to know he didn’t know everything and that he shouldn’t pretend to be something he was not (such as an oracle of God, able to explain everything).

    I thought then that we do the same with the Bible. We think it explains everything about everything, and that we can use it in such a manner as Job might have done.

    This either/or thing that you espouse that either the Bible is the infallible Word of God or it’s not and therefore unreliable, is a notion with which I disagree. It’s a premise that has no root: parts of the Bible are certainly inspired by God, parts of it I believe are man-made notions (Paul alluded to this at one point). Faulty men put that compendium of books together. It’s easy to assume that the Bible is the be-all and end-all; far harder to keep questing for God throughout life, and concluding that as the older one gets, the greater the realization of one’s paucity of knowledge about Him.

    God wasn’t satisfied with Job’s understanding that he knew next to nothing: He continued to rant at them about nature, and the myriad things that go on in it, and He asked them all to explain it all to Him. (The sarcasm of our Lord was fairly strong here).

    I came away from that thinking about all of the things we “know for sure” and realized that ultimately we don’t know half as much as we think we do. I believe the scriptures paint a rather hazy picture – and I recall that Jesus said some fairly vague things too, along the way. In fact, he was deliberately obscure with much of what he said, and this confused the religious scholars of his day, big time. And these were well versed in the OT: they knew every verse, and could recite what each one meant. These were old school Bible scholars (if one can say that of Old Testament experts), and they were simply confounded.

    He turned their world upside down.

    And instead of talking about the hundreds of Jewish laws, and what each one meant, He described two laws: love God; love your neighbour as yourself. That’s it, and that’s all.

    I have to go back to the passage where He discusses the surprise of folk who come before him, where he describes what the dead did or didn’t do to/for him. “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me”. In no part of that passage does Jesus talk about rhetoric or dogma. He talks about actions alone.

    Like I said earlier, I doubt we’ll agree on any of this. However I did laugh at your characterization of my thoughts as “popcorn view of scripture”. I think I’ve heard that before, as it was uttered by an old friend of mine (also named John) when he pastored a church he was in.

    • Wolf,

      I appreciate your response and giving me some background on your journey. I will however respectfully disagree as you assumed that I would and we’ll likely have to agree to disagree on our positions. I do feel that although the Bible was written and compiled by imperfect human beings, our God is big enough and capable enough to guide those same humans to a perfect representation of His message and sustain that throughout history. The issue that I have with the partially inspired position is simply this, how do imperfect human beings discern what parts are inspired and what parts are not. Without having the knowledge that God has, we cannot possibly discern what is and what is not inspired by God. So when Jesus said, “love God and love your neighbor”, you can say that is inspired by God, I could say that is not so It now is not a teaching I should lend any credibility to. You say, well Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy, that wasn’t inspired either… understand my point. It calls the totality of Scripture into question. God would have known this when he had the writers pen the words. Is it without error? Define error……did it have a few misspellings or a number that wasn’t quite legible, was there an fingerprint or a smudge on the parchment or are the translations perfect? I can’t answer that, nor can anyone else for that matter without the autographs to study. But based upon the diligence with how Scripture was copied and the care given to it, among a whole host of evidence, I am convinced that the message that was given, which is the point of the writing, is perfect. You can speak a phrase “I am going to the park” and then write it “I am gong to th parc” and still have the same meaning to the listener. The sentence does not lose credibility because of a misspelled word. I find it ironic that your basis for your belief was founded in the Word of God. You also proved my point in what you said. Job did not know, according to the Scriptures, about dailogue between God and Satan, yet the interaction between them was recorded. Now I am in the camp that everything that transpired and that God has done, has not been fully recorded. John tells us that the world could not contain the volumes of books that would be written. But what has been recorded is a sufficient basis for having a relationship with God through Jesus. Without inspiration, no one would have known the interaction between God and Satan concerning Job. So in the example of Scripture that you have given, it is either inspired or it is poetry developed in the creative minds of men. The events themselves, such as Judas Iscariot hanging himself, may not have been inspired, though I believe that nothing happens by chance, but the recording of those events and the words used to record them I believe are. I am not familiar with where Paul alluded that some scripture was inspired and some are not, I know in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 he writes that “all scripture is God breathed” other translations say “inspired” or “given by inspiration”, the greek word Pneu means literally to blow. This certainly seems contradictory. Now you could argue that “Scripture” as Paul is referring to here could mean the Old Testament because of context……however 2 Peter 3:15-16 Peter tells us that Paul’s letters are Scripture. So I’ve concluded that the “all Scripture” that Paul is referring to by inspiration of the Holy Spirit is both Old and New Testaments Canons. What books were chosen and how they were chosen, I believe was also by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. If God ordains it, it happens. And for whatever reason, known to Him, He chooses to use man to accomplish His will. I do agree with you that we are called to action. James said to be “doers of the word, not hearers only”. The purpose of Scripture is to give us the message and have us act upon it. Even before there was Scripture, God called people to action, but that action was ALWAYS in response to His word. How can you be obedient to God and know what action to take, if you don’t know the command to begin with? God told Abraham to leave Ur and go to a place where He would tell Him. Had God not told Abraham to “go”, Abraham would have likely stayed where he was. Had Adam obeyed God’s Word and ate from the tree of life, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Do I believe that God still speaks to us today apart from the Bible? Absolutely. But He’s given us the Bible as a bench mark so that the “voices” in our head are discernable. He’d never contradict His Word. When Jesus said “Love God and Love your neighbor”, he wasn’t changing anything. He wasn’t trying to confuse the scholars of His day, we was simply repeating what was already written. Things those scholars should have already known (Deut 6, Ex 20) as Jesus went on to say that all of the Law are derived on those 2 commandments so that if you obey those 2 things you are obeying the law. Jesus simplified the Law for those who weren’t scholarly. The problem with many scholars at that time as well as today is that they cannot see forrest from the wood or vise versa. The hardness of their hearts and their trust in their own resources prevented them from understanding the truth. Even if they had understood the parables, they wouldn’t have agreed with them because they had already determined he was wrong before he spoke. You see the same thing today, only now it’s science. God doesn’t exist so no matter what evidence that I find that supports that he does exist will be ignored. Thus the FACT that at the time of the earth’s beginning the conditions for life to spontaneously appear have been proven to have not existed, leads me to believe that a meteor containing life somehow entered the earths atmosphere, survived the extreme cold of outerspace and the extreme heat of entering and spawned this fragile life as we now know it. Proverbs 3:5 says “trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding”, The writer goes on to say in verse 7 “do not be wise in your own eyes”. Psalm 118:8 says “it is better to take refuge (some translations say trust) in the Lord than to trust (put confidence) in man”. Jesus mission wasn’t to confuse the Pharisees, it was to seek and to save the lost. He made His message easily understandable to those who could or rather would understand. He was relatable to those who were not “wise in their own eyes”. You must remember that God wishes that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth but the reality is that arrogance and pride keep many from understanding such basic principles and thus taking action based upon those principles, and even denying their own common sense. They know better and nobody is smarter and can tell them differently. All the more reason to have a Standard, something given from God to compare our decisions to. No not every little decision we face is spelled out in Scripture. If we’re deciding whether or not to purchase the latest Big Screen Television, we won’t find the “go to Best Buy and purchase a 72″ Television and neglect your monthly house payment so that you can afford it because you deserve it” in Scripture, however, you will find the basic principles to guide you in making the right decision and finding what God’s will is concerning the purchase of that TV, but it requires an open mind to what He may tell you, a willingness to be obedient to God when He does speak, and a sincere desire to know Him more and to please Him and the basic understanding that life is not really about us. Only then can the action that Jesus spoke of take place. Many of whom Jesus will say “depart from me ye worker of iniquity” have done good deeds, have clothed the needy, fed the hungry, and taken care of the least of these. People donate to these organizations all of the time, and sometimes might even help an old lady cross the street. But if they don’t know Jesus it is all for not. “it is by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works so that no one may boast” Ephesians 2:8-9

      I don’t mean to sermonize, so I apologize for the length of this post. It is important to me to share the truth and defend my faith even if I know ahead of time that we will likely not come to an agreement on the points we are making. I appreciate your sincerity, candidness, and respectfullness of my position as well as the way in which you have engaged in this conversation. I admire those qualities. May the Lord bless you on your search for truth.

  11. It’s a pleasure talking with you too, John. (P.S. You wouldn’t be John P. from Oshawa/Courtice would you? I ask because you both seem to have the same voice)

    The same Paul who talked about scripture also said “slaves obey your masters” – by which I think we can agree he was referring to actual slaves and not just the dynamic preached from so many pulpits today of “employers and employees”. That’s an aberration in today’s environment, yet……I’ll bet you dollars to donuts it was used by the South years ago to justify the ownership of slaves. It’s the little things like that which cause me to reject the notion of the Bible being the total sum of what God has to say to us. That, and the fact that so many people seem to think that the Bible is absolute because it says it’s absolute. Kind of like trying to play “catch the thumb” there. It’s a logical fallacy which can never be resolved.

    I have faith in God that He is able to show Himself and His truths in so many different ways, not just the Bible. Hence, I believe with my whole heart that there are going to be some pretty surprised atheists in heaven. “This can’t be! ” *grin*

  12. My pleasure as well. I am John P, but not the one from Oshawa/Courtice…..I’m in Indiana…….a Hoosier whatever that is.

    I think the employer/employee relationship is a good analogy for us to understand the slave/master relationship, though I agree it isn’t an accurate one. Don’t get me wrong, they were slaves, but no more so than I am a slave to my Visa or Mastercard company. Most “biblical” slavery in the sense Paul was speaking of was voluntarily entered into and for the purpose of paying off debt. Now there was involutary slavery, but it was usually the result of a conquered people. The Great thing about the Bible is that it is historical… get the good, the bad, and the ugly. That’s the beauty of it. You get to see the Sovereignty of God, His holiness, and the reality of a fallen and deprived people. God, in his perfect knowledge and wisdom, knew that man would incur debt and allowed provisions to pay off the debt, but he also restricted how long they could be enslaved to pay off the debt. After 7 years they were to be set free and the debt would be reconed Paid in Full. If the “slave” chose to continue as a slave, largely because they were being taken care of, then provisions were made for that. The key here is that the slavery was voluntary. Now are there abuses? Absolutely. Do people use God’s word to try and justify those abuses? Absolutely. Goes back to what I said earlier about Satan using God’s word and twisting it to either deceive or to try to justify sinful behavior. Obviously the slavery of the South was not “Biblical” slavery in the sense that it was allowed. Conquered slavery was a part of life in that time period and naturally because it was, it is spoken of in Scripture. Slavery though isn’t the theme that is the focal point and isn’t the message that is given. With a fallen mankind, you will have sin. The message that is given is 2 fold, either it is the overcoming of the enemy or the captives (slaves) being set free with God as the Conqueror and Savior. That is the message and Theme. That should be the focal point. Not the sin that man commits. If anything, just because the sin is included in the writing of Scripture should lend credibility, validity, and divine inspiration. If I were writing about myself, I surely wouldn’t include all of the dirt. Look what that did for Paula Deen. Usually doesn’t work out in our favor. I suppose that most writers in Biblical times, whether of God or not, would have had the same reservations. One more thing on the Bible and then I’ll shut up…..(Yeah Finally)…..It is true that God can show Himself as He wishes. He can reveal Himself in dreams, through Nature, etc…..but there has to be a Standard. The thing about the Bible is that it never states, that I can remember, that “The Bible” or even “Scripture” for that matter is absolute. It was always God’s Word that’s absolute. To that I think we can agree. If God is the Creator and I believe that there is a God then His Word would have to be absolute. There can be no other way around this, unless we choose to ignore Him or His word. His Word could reference the Law or in Paul’s case the Old Testament. Could be Jesus’ word, or you can see His word through His Creation (knowing that it didn’t just happen by happenstance, or through direct revelation…etc…But the bottom line is that there has to be a Standard to which we judge whether that revelation is of God or not. From the beginning, it’s been His word that has been under attack. It was His word that Satan twisted to deceive Eve and start this mess to begin with. (Lesson, never listen to your wife :), funny I tell my wife that all the time, in jest of course) It is no different today. Satan hasn’t changed his tactics. God’s word is still under attack, being twisted, etc….Here’s the deal and Paul said it best, without the Law there is no sin. Romans 5, I think. Without God’s word, there is no right or wrong. It all becomes subjective in our eyes. That doesn’t mean sin didn’t exist, it means that we wouldn’t know what we’re doing is wrong because there would be no Standard. The Bible is our Standard, good, the bad, and the ugly. It shows us what to do, what not to do, and how to live a life that is pleasing to God, our faults and all. It is the total sum of what God has to say to us, maybe not on a personal individual level, such as buying the big screen tv, but certainly on a corporate level and yes I believe also the personal level. God is real when he deals with us. So why wouldn’t His written word be any different? It’s the little things like Slavery, etc….that show His hatred of Sin and the consequences for it. Kind of like the hot stove that you don’t want your children to touch. In that case it’s the spoken word, but it’s still the word that warns them if they touch it, they will get burned. They still have the choice to obey or disobey and then have to deal with the consequences of that choice. But not only do they have to deal with the consequences, as a parent, you have to deal with those consequences as well. Your child got burnt, you now have to discipline and nurture your child. Your child listened, you give him praise so that they continue in that behavior. The Bible shows you the relationship that God wants with man and the consequences of sinful behavior. He shows you mans depravity. Just look to Syria and you can see man’s depravity or just down the street at your neighbor yelling at his son, and if we are truly honest we can look in our own homes (at our wives of course, never want to point the finger at our selves……just kidding). Bottom line is that God is real in His dealings with us. The Bible is a record of those dealings. When we understand it in that light, slavery and the other stuff that people have issues with, become less about God and more about the stupid things that a depraved people do and how God deals with the problem.

    Ok, I’m done preaching, the wife comments were free….:). I kid with my wife all the time about that, glad she knows I’m only joking otherwise she’d think I was a chauvenist pig or something and I’d be looking at divorce……As for the Atheists in heaven comment, I’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one…..;)

    • One more thing to kind of drive the voluntary slavery thing home because that usually is a sticking point for many who have issues with the Bible. Do you remember the story of how Jacob got his first wife in Genesis 25 through 31? He voluntarily entered into an agreement “slavery” with Laban for the right to marry Rachel. He worked for 7 years for her. Then Laban, the deceitful man that he was, gave him Leah his first born instead. Jacob then worked another 7 years for Rachel. This is just one example of what Biblical slavery was and the kind that Paul was speaking of. You see Jacob paying off a debt through slavery that he entered into volutarily and the sinfulness of man in the actions of both Jacob and Laban. Another great thing about the Bible is that it usually answers its own problems…….coincidence? Probably not.

      • Hi everyone, wow you guys must have a lot of time on your hands.. Jesus says; If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that jesus Christ is Lord you will be saved!.. But you cant be a homosexual,smoke,be addicted to drugs,break the law, commit Adultery, murder… No wait thats right I just remembered.. There are no ifs or buts with God thats where his grace comes in to ccover all that stuff.. Its not up to me to lecture someone on how they should or shouldnt live… God calling on his people to humble themselves and pray… To come together in unity and love for one another.. Its very easy to have a faceless debate.. This is why the world doesnt like Christians.. We are too busy fighting amongst ourselves…

      • Who’s fighting? That’s not what’s going on here. We’re just discussing differing viewpoints. We can have differing opinions and yet still be unified. Our unifying factor is Christ. Whether we agree or disagree on our interpretation is irrelevant as long as He is the unifying factor. There are differences of opinion in every family, saved and unsaved. Does this mean they don’t love or respect each other? Does it mean they are not unified? The apostles themselves had disagreements. What did Paul say about Peter? He said that he had confronted Peter about his behavior because he needed loving correction. How about Paul and Barnabas, the two of them had a falling out and yet they were both unified in teaching and spreading the Gospel and I’ll go out on a limb here and say that they still loved and respected each other. Differing opinions does not equal division, although in some cases it can if not handled correctly. The world could care less about discussions such as this one. The world doesn’t hate or dislike Christians because of our differences in doctrine, or because we discuss those differences. The world hates or dislikes Christians simply because they “follow” or associate themselves with Christ. Jesus said the world will hate you because of Me. Do you care about the Atheists rants and raves amongst themselves about how we evolved or even if we evolved? No. They don’t care about what we think about predestination or when the rapture will occur either. They only care about what may affect their world view.
        Now to the heart of your post, dealing with sin and grace. What did Paul say in Romans 6:1? He said “should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”. Peter said in Acts 2:38 “Each of you must repent of your sins”. Jesus takes it up a notch further paraphrasing Leviticus 11:44a in Matthew 5:48 when He said “but you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. If that isn’t enough, in the entire book of Malachi, God chastises the priests for turning away from him and cautions them to return to Him. You say, I’m not a preist. Peter says that we are in 1 Peter 2:5,9. In fact the writer of Hebrews calls Jesus our High Priest after the order of Melchisadek and goes as far as to say in Hebrews 6:4-6 that “those who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.” and in Hebrews 10:26 “if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies”. Who is the enemy of God? The unsaved, Romans 5:10 “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son”. My point in all of this is that GOD REQUIRES REPENTANCE AND OBEDIENCE! Grace doesn’t give us liberty to sin. You see Grace doesn’t lower the standard……..IT ELEVATES THE STANDARD. What is the standard…….CHRIST. We are to continually change, each day by dying to our selves, killing off the sin or as Paul put it in Hebrews 12:1-2 “Stripping off the weight” or the “sin that so easily trips us up” and “renew our minds” (Romans 12:1-2) that our sanctification can take place. You say well that’s just the work of the Spirit. It is a work of the Spirit, however, we are called to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” in Philippians 2:12-13. We still have a free will and we can choose daily to follow Jesus or conform to the ways of this world. GOD does not change, Hebrews 13:8 and Malachi 3:6, His standards have not changed. His requirement for salvation has not changed. Only God provided the perfect sacrifice. HE STILL REQUIRES REPENTANCE. Posts like these annoy me, because too many Christians want to use Grace as their get out of jail free card thinking that it gives them the liberty to do what they want. That’s the hypocrisy that you speak of when you say the “world doesn’t like Christians”. The world understands the standard that we preach and then see us do the same things they are doing. What does that say to you? Are we not to be different? Christians need to stop justifying their sinful behavior, repent, and turn to God. That is the Message of the Gospel. Jesus’ first words when beginning His ministry that were ever recorded were what? “REPENT” Matthew 4:17. Those were the first words that He spoke to the people after his temptation in the wilderness and the beginning of His 3 year ministry leading up to the cross. It’s time that we start taking His words seriously and to heart and stop justifying sinful behavior. We justify because we don’t want to conform to God’s ways, even though His way is better, and give up the lifestyle that we have made to be an idol. In other words, we don’t want to be a hypocrite so we justify it using Grace or that’s your interpretation, or that doesn’t apply to us as our way out. The Bible is plain on how God feels about all of the sins that you listed. You are right there are no “ifs or buts with God”, that is all the more reason we are to take His word seriously and act in accordance with His word. God says that He finds homosexuality as an abomination. Does that change because of His grace? No. Does God give us liberty to commit murder and turn a blind eye because of His grace? No. There are always consequences, both physical and spiritual. Smoking there’s cancer. Drugs there’s a host of natural consequences. Adultery, murder, theft, fornication, etc…. do we really need to continue? If you don’t think that there are spiritual consequences then you are fooling yourself. The bottom line is we need to repent of our sins. That includes the sin of homosexuality. There is no denying God’s standard. There is only whether you are willing to conform to it.

  13. Hi john, thankyou for your post. What a fast reply, I want to start off by saying what a wealth of knowledge you have of the bible. If everyone new their bible as well as you do, wow what a church we would have.
    I want to encourage you my brother in Christ .A mind like yours was created to do extraudinary things.. Inventions that are yet to be invented,scientific breakthroughs,exceeding wealth to bless the church of god,… What a great university/college Professor you would make. I know that God has amazing plans for you! Gods love is
    showering over you like a waterfall that never stops flowing!… I can see god putting his arms around you as your loving father, I can see him encouraging you and reassuring you… Wow what it would be like
    to be hugged by the very sorce of love!. You would not want it to end… I hope
    and pray that every dream you ever
    dreamed comes to pass.. I dont know
    what you experienced from your earthly

    father but your heavenly father loves
    you so much it hurts. When you cry he
    crys with you, when you feel hurt he
    feels it too.. I know a great big blessing

    is on its way get ready for it! Because I ve just been praying for you. I am just a simple and ordinary guy who loves god and loves people. God bless you my brother!

    • The transforming power and love of god is astounding!.. I am a fool for jeseus!.. And proud of it!.. Who can measure the depth,width or height of the love of god? His kindness leads us to repentance. Truth without love is just a noise… I hope that I never speak or act outside the power of gods love for his people and the world… John its a good thing you know your bible so well! God is going to use you in a way that you are not expecting!.. God has the keys to your heart and mind… And he REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY LOVES YOU!.. He sees you and he knows every disappointment and heart ache. He is always with you and always will be! God created you just the way you are! God gave you that wonderful interlect.. I know god is going to do amazing things with you brother! Sincerely! Dan

      • Thank you Dan for your wonderful comments. I too am a fool for Jesus as well as a simple and ordinary guy who loves God and loves people. Don’t underestimate the power of being simple and ordinary. Those are the one’s that God uses to do great things. He looks at our heart and our willingness to be obedient to Him. Whether He chooses to use me or not only He knows how or when. I know that whatever role, however big or small, that I play is undeserved. His grace truly is amazing. You are right that truth without love is just noise……I forget that at times and come with mostly truth. It is generally in love but in forums such as this one can seem harsh even when it’s not intended and the love appears to fade in the print. I apologize if my last reply seemed harsh. It wasn’t intended to be. It’s very hard to convey emotion in printed words. I can be very passionate about certain things. This topic, namely the justification of sin by Christians (not homosexuality), is one of those things I’m passionate about. The reality is that we have all justified our actions at some point or another. I am fearful though of those who do it to justify a sinful lifestyle. That justification is a dangerous thing. We all commit sinful acts, however, there is a big difference between acknowledging your sinful act while going to the Father with sorrow and simply brushing it under the rug saying that it’s only a sin if so and so does it. I had a good reason or this situation doesn’t apply to me for x reason. The latter are lukewarm and as Jesus said need to pick a side. My fear is that when they meet Jesus and tell him all the wonderful things that they did, that He will say “depart from me ye worker of iniquity”. Though they know all that they have done, and even in their justification of their actions know deep down it is wrong, I can only imagine what their response would be in that moment. For me I want to hear “well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into my rest”. I love my Father and my deepest desire is to please Him, though I don’t show Him the respect and perfection that He deserves or requires. God knows we are imperfect, but despite how much He loves us, His righteousness requires His separation from that imperfection. Jesus blood covers our imperfection. But just as Adam and Eve had to put on the sacrifice that God made for them to cover their nakedness, so we too must put on Christ to cover ours. We do that through repentance and obedience to His will, trusting in His sacrifice to thoroughly cleanse us and trying to live a life pleasing to Him. In short it is recognizing who we are, who He is, our need for Him, and completely submitting our will to His. The Bible says a “repentant heart God will not despise”. God has made us our coat, but unless we put it on we will remain uncovered. God has extended His grace, but unless we accept that grace and allow it to change us, it does us no good. That is why I am passionate. I know there are many Christians who are living a lie. They acknowledge Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. And what’s worse is that they don’t even realize it and think that they are ok. Why? because someone has told them they are. I’ve heard Pastors time and again when preaching on God’s grace say from the pulpit how we are going to sin and there is no way around it. Though that is true, they neglect to inform of God’s expectation for us. So well intended people walk away from that thinking that whatever I do, I shouldn’t worry about it, God’s got me covered. There’s not sorrow, no repentance. They are bound in chains and don’t even realize it, or worse the chains have dropped but they are refusing to leave the prison and move on to the blessings that God has for them. At any rate, Thanks again Dan for your kind words. God has things planned for you as well. May you walk in the calling that He has for you. May the Love of the Lord Jesus bless you abundantly and may His love shine through you.

  14. To one and all … we all have varied experiences in connecting with Jesus, God in the form of man, who came to us to show us the way to everlasting life. When we engage Jesus it is a personal experience that could occur sitting by yourself in a park or in the stalls at a huge conference. Jesus is not resident in just one place but omnipresent. If you connect with Jesus in a religious based church or in a bible based church then praise the Lord our God for it. As a Christian I have spent time in many churches including Catholic, Uniting, Presbyterian, Greek Orthodox to name a few and travelled the globe visiting churches in different countries of differing denominations. I have invited people from many walks of life to different churches and outings discussing the bible and life in general. The thing for me is that I was once lost and was saved in a place called Hillsong … married attended many different churches in my walk of faith and now have returned to my church …. Hillsong. Why? Well that was simple for me. The people I met at Hillsong this second time around were real in their humanity and faith. My friends keep an open mind, you can find Jesus anywhere and that’s what really matters. Your home church should just be where YOU feel fulfilled in building and practising your faith. For some that place is at home with family and close friends sharing their experiences in Christ. For others it is in some place you may feel inadequate. Never the less, the bible shows many examples where the faithful have encountered Jesus in the most unexpected environments. Stay focused on Jesus not the building, environment or religious procedures employed by some. Our faith resides in the promise of our God who is three in one. Let’s keep on the one true mission that is common to all of us. Seek the truth and bless you all.

    • Brilliant!

      Sent from my iPad

      • Nice, Bless you Donna and friends. Hope to meet you & family one day. MikeH. Hillsong, Burwood extension. I just love the way our youth are so filled with a passion for our God. The young and free are great because the X,Y gen don’t hold back. They tell it like it is and enjoy their faith life. So glad that there is no doubt in my mind that our church will be bigger, better and stronger as time goes by. Praise the Lord.

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