What Your Reaction to This Kid’s Lie May Just Reveal About Your Christianity

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“Nearly five years after it hit best-seller lists, a book that purported to be a 6-year-old boy’s story of visiting angels and heaven after being injured in a bad car crash is being pulled from shelves. The young man at the center of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, Alex Malarkey, said this week that the story was all made up.”
-NPR News

After much prayerful soul searching, I have arrived at a deep, heartfelt reflection to this gut wrenching story . . .

 

 

 

 

 

. . . So what?

I mean seriously, who cares?

From hearing all the buzz, there seems to be two groups that have made the biggest deal about this: Atheists . . . And Christians.

For the atheist, this is of course a chance to pounce on the, “See! I told ya so! The supernatural is bogus!” train. But then you have Christians saying, “See! I told ya so! The supernatural is bogus!” riding the caboose.

Believers, denying the extraordinary? Well, unless you’ve been living in a protective bubble your entire church life, this should come as no surprise.

 

Gut Check Time

 

Late last year I wrote a piece that challenged the Body of Christ with a very difficult question: do we really believe the Bible?

Our reaction to this recent story, I’m afraid, adds more evidence to the contrary.

How so?

There are some severe inconsistencies in how we are treating the testimonies that we hear from other Christians. If a guy claims God delivered him from fifteen years of drug addiction we celebrate and shout, hallelujah. If someone else gets up in front of the congregation and says they had to go in for minor surgery with a 98% success rate and came out of it alive, we say, praise The Lord!

But . . .  If someone claims they went to heaven—  we get all puffed up like a toad fro1g, holding our Bibles in one hand and the world’s largest microscope in the other and the interrogation begins.

“Hmph! Well, it’s because their experience of what they saw in heaven does not match the biblical description.”

Sigh.

I don’t want to be offensive or rude here so I’m going to attempt to say this nicely . . .

Can we all stop pretending like the Bible gives any real expository description of heaven?  The idea of these experiences, “largely not aligning with what the Bible says” is baloney and we all know it.

Now, if you want to attempt to make an argument from silence by claiming these stories give descriptions of things not mentioned in the Bible, I can at least respect that. But this is where we run into the inconsistencies.

There is no Bible verse that mentions God delivering anyone from drugs. Nor anything about God, “guiding the physician’s hand” during a routine surgery. Yet we accept these stories without giving them a second thought.

So . . . What’s going on? How do we condemn a story in one breath because it’s, “not in the Bible” but then very clearly accept others?

Let me introduce one thought here that will cause all of this to come into crystal clear focus: The question of whether or not a story will be scrutinized and rejected among Christians does not depend on it being biblical, but supernatural. If it sounds like something that you would read in the book of Acts, it’s criticized and largely dismissed. If it sounds like something you’d hear at a Tony Robbins’ convention, we welcome it with open arms. “Wow it’s so normal and boring. It could have happened in any other religion on the planet. What a great testimony.”

 

Ugh . . .

 

Can you imagine replacing all the supernatural events in the book of Acts with the testimonies of today? “Good news everyone. Brother Philip passed his last kidney stone. And finally, after two weeks, The Lord saw fit to heal James of that nasty flu. Praise be to God.”

 

Ugh, again . . .

 

So . . . What does all this have to do with a kid who lied about going to heaven? Simply that if his story had been more, “normal” we wouldn’t even be talking about it. If we discovered that someone had lied about being delivered from drugs or someone else had never really had hand surgery, how many of us would gasp and say, “well, there you have it. God doesn’t do that stuff. All these others must have been lying about it too”?

None.

The double standard in our treatment of these things is so glaring, it literally hurts to think about.

Here’s the thing . . .  I can’t read people’s minds or hearts, but I suspect that there are folks in our ranks that, regardless of what the Bible says, do not believe in the supernatural today. And rather than admit it, they cover it up with long, drawn out explanations that really just amount to excuses.

If you’re one of these people—–and again I’ll attempt to say this nicely— please just own up to your true beliefs and stop adding confusion to the Body of Christ with wonky justifications for them.

You’re making the rest of us look bad.

Why a, “Compromised” Gospel is Necessary

 

 

Christians are touting that the greatest compromise of the Church today is a spineless, watered down Gospel. Instead of telling people about the dangers of sin and impending judgement, we talk about how to achieve success and happiness with the help of God. Instead of calling on the sinner to repent, we simply say, “Jesus loves you and has a plan for your life.”

There’s no lack of critics for ministers like Joel Osteen or, “seeker sensitive” churches that, “fail” to present the Word of God in it’s entirety. The great outcry has been for a return to a preaching as seen in the New Testament demonstrated by Jesus and the apostles.

Yet when we raise the question about another missing aspect in modern evangelism, the silence is deafening:

What about the signs and wonders?

The Church, by in large, has not earned the right to preach fire and brimstone like we see preached in the Bible. Why? Because we are not backing it up with the miraculous like we see in the Bible. We go on and on about how necessary it is that we stay biblically accurate in our preaching yet we ignore that the biblical presentation nearly always had signs following the message.signs

Think about it. Miracles and healings are what set the stage for the Gospel to be preached. It gave Christians a platform. It set them apart from other religions that only had words. This is what’s missing in our modern attempts to preach the same message they did. We have not shown ourselves to be an authority on the issue. We want people to listen but we don’t give them any reason to.

“Well, the Gospel itself is the power of God. We have the Holy Spirit as our authority.”

Cop-out. The early church had both the Holy Spirit and the Gospel too yet it didn’t stop there. Are we saying that we don’t need something that was so central in the ministry of Jesus and His apostles?

 

Drawing Attention to Ourselves

 

People want to criticize me for talking like this because they say we shouldn’t be focusing on signs. I’m not focusing on signs. I’m focusing on preaching the Gospel in the manner the Bible says it should be preached.

“Healings and miracles will only draw attention to yourself.”Philip

Yes! That is EXACTLY what needs to happen.

F.F. Bosworth used to say that healing is the dinner bell. The sinner is no different today than he was 2000 years ago. He will be drawn to the extraordinary and consider the Message like never before when it is confirmed. Christians are the sign post that points to Christ. But people only pay attention to sign posts that are backed by authority.

 

Does the Bible Really Say It?

 

Some argue that the bottom line is we are commanded to preach the Gospel in it’s entirety and we have failed to do so.

I know this may throw a huge theological monkey wrench into our previously tidy doctrine but . . . Where does the Bible even tell the average Christian to preach the Gospel?

“In the Great Commission! Right before Jesus left He told us to go into all the world and preach it.

No, He told His apostles that. If we want to take what He told them and apply it to us, I’m all for it—as long as we are consistent.

Matthew 10:5-8
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying . . . go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”

See, if you want to run with the big boys and wear the big boy pants, you better have the underwear.

Otherwise, maybe we should stop criticizing Christians for spreading the message about Jesus in their own way.  The, “watered down” and, “compromised” Gospel is often just an unconscious recognition that we’re missing something. I don’t think most of us are even able to pinpoint what it is,  but we notice it’s missing and we’re trying to compensate for it.

Then there are those who ignore this aspect of the Bible, go out anyway and try to preach like the apostles—And fall flat on their faces. They can’t grab the attention of the sinner like the men of God in the Bible did and instead end up crosssounding like raving lunatics that people avoid. Then they blame the unbeliever and say, “these people have closed their ears and hardened their hearts just like they did in Jesus’ time  . . .” Here’s another thought– maybe they haven’t closed their ears or hardened their hearts. Maybe they’re just tired of hearing a bunch of talk and are wondering what sets our message apart from any other religion.

 

Be Ready to Give an Answer, Not Necessarily a Sermon

 

Does that mean we are not supposed to tell people about Jesus? Of course not. Christians are exhorted to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in them. That is a broad statement though. It does not say, “be ready to tell people about how sinful they are, the wrath of God, and genuine repentance.” Don’t get me wrong, that may be the answer some Christians have to the question (although it seems a bit forced), but it is definitely not a command to lay it out that way. We are demanding things of one another that God does not demand.

There is definitely a place and time that the sinner should know the whole truth, but since the Scriptures do not specifically tell us WHEN or WHERE then we all individually must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us in this area.

As for the fire and brimstone preaching, I believe it is needed. But it must be presented in a manner of power and authority as we see in the Scriptures otherwise people will just tune you out. Unfortunately, the spiritual nursery is running at full capacity in this area and no one wants to give up their bottle.

So until we are willing to look in the mirror and admit we have already compromised the biblical presentation of the Gospel, then we’ll just have to make due with a watered down one.

Considering the Unthinkable: Do we Really Believe the Bible?

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When Bill Wiese released his book that recollected a vision he claimed to have had of hell, a wild  fire of criticism from the Christian community  erupted.

When the film, “Heaven is For Real” hit theaters last Easter it was met with much the same reaction.

These are only two recent examples of what has been a long standing tradition of the Church to be critical of supernatural experiences.

We could go back further naming some of the early charismatic leaders such as Kenneth E. Hagin, John G. Lake, or Smith lakeWigglesworth, who claimed to have witnessed many miracles and the onslaught of criticism they were met with.

When asked the reason for such critical attitudes, Christians will usually respond with something along the lines of, “well, the experiences were unbiblical. What these people claim to have witnessed can’t be found in the Bible.”

One person I talked to concerning Bill Wiese’s story said they doubted it because, though much of his description did seem to match the biblical hell, Mr. Wiese claimed to have seen demons torturing humans. And since the Bible does not say anything about this (at least we think it doesn’t), the experience was highly suspect.

Others said, “nowhere in the Bible does it say God would show people visions of hell.” And this, they felt,  justified them rejecting the claim.

When someone purports to have been supernaturally healed by prayer, there is a large portion of the Body of Christ that comes forward demanding documented, medical  proof. When proof is not forthcoming, they declare the whole thing to be a sham.

Two Noteworthy Observations

Having spent the greater part of my Christian life witnessing the Church do this time and again,  I have made two observations:

Firstly, the logic surrounding the rejection of these accounts seems, for lack of a better word, a bit odd.

For example, we start by saying the experience is unbiblical. When probed for why, the answer is, “The Bible does not ever record anyone getting sick, being taken to heaven, then coming back to tell about it.”

. . . Well, it doesn’t.

So  I guess, the rule here is that the experience has to be in the Bible?  I mean, it’s not enough that it says in the last days people would have dreams and visions. It has to be a specific kind of vision?

. . . Alllllllllright.

So what do we do with the other testimonies that are not found in the Bible? . . . You know, the every day kind like the bum who stumbles into a church service and finds Jesus. Shouldn’t we scrutinize that story just as much,  demanding evidence that it went down the way he says it did?

Or how about the person who tells us God completely delivered them from drug abuse? I don’t know of any Scripture that says God did that for someone.

I know people who say they got saved when they raised their hand in a church service and said a prayer. There is no Scripture that records this practice.

Where is the outcry from the Christian community over these kinds of testimonies? Why are we not demanding proof or additional evidence to support the claims being made? If it isn’t enough that the Bible mentions signs, wonders, and visions, in order for us to accept those other accounts, then should it be enough for the  Bible to mention people being saved, for us to accept these?

 . . . A little weird, right?

The other phenomena I’ve observed over the years is that no matter what the claim is, even if it sounds like it came right out of the Gospels or Book of Acts, the majority of the Body of Christ still seem to reject it. If it isn’t rejected, every aspect of it is meticulously critiqued, rigorously questioned and at best labeled,  “suspicious.” In addition, whoever makes the claim is subject to a thorough (and often unfair) investigation into their character, what kind of doctrines they believe, and if there is any sin in their life.

Because, . . . You know, . . . God only does supernatural things for good Christians with the right denominational beliefs . . . Like those folks in Corinth who were getting drunk at communion and boasting about the incest among them . . . wait . . . I meant Galatia where they were falling for a different gospel . . . or, uh . . . Peter who had to be rebuked by Paul—hold on, hold on . . .

 . . . eh, I got nothing.

Say It Ain’t So . . .

I’ve thought long and hard on this and when considering all the factors, there really is no explanation for the bizarre and seemingly contradicting behavior among Christians.

None of it makes sense.

Until we introduce the unthinkable.

Is it possible that even though we claim to believe in the supernatural, deep down, we kind of, sort of, in all actuality, don’t?

People may object insisting they believe in the creation account,  Jesus as the Son of God, the hope of heaven, and everything else in the Bible.

All of these have one thing in common–none are tangible in the here and now.  You know as well as I do that when it comes to things past, future, or unseen, they’re just easier to believe. Or at least easier to convince ourselves that we believe.

Intangible things don’t quite put the same stretch on our natural reasoning that an extraordinary, observable  claim does. When someone says, “Aren’t you glad you’re going to heaven when you die?” We can say, “Amen!” without skipping a beat. But if the same person says, “I just raised my grandma from the dead” All of a sudden things change, don’t they?

We go from church cliche’s to . . . .

(press play)

And so while no one seems to want to admit it, this is where I have found we have drawn the unspoken line.

The Test

If the extraordinary is to be believed  among the majority of Christians today, it must fall under one of these categories:

Either,

a. Something that happened in the distant past

b. Something that will happen at an unknown date in the future

Or

c. Something that is spiritual in nature, thus abstract and cannot be quantified.

In other words, if it can’t effect us in any measurable way, Christians are more prone to be accepting of it. If, on the other hand, it has sensational overtones and wreaks of something out of the Book of Acts, it’s suspicious.

Over the years I have quietly kept this criteria in mind and observed that I can actually make predictions with it as to whether an idea will be accepted or rejected by a majority of Christians.

The Conclusion?

This is by no means an open and shut case. In science, a phenomena is referred to as a theory if you can use it to make predictions. So that’s what I would call this—a theory for consideration.

It isn’t meant to condemn anyone. Lets not forget all of Jesus’ disciples were unwilling to believe He had been raised when they first heard it. It’s natural to be skeptical of things and I am not at all suggesting we should be gullible. That being said, I think we need to be willing to consider the possibility that we have, in some areas, allowed unbelief to creep in and become a driving force in our Christian lives.

Lets not forget, everything in Christianity from start to finish is amazing.

It’s supernatural.

It’s freaking extraordinary!

All I’m saying is maybe it’s time we start expecting a little something extra in our ordinary.