Erasing Hell: Thoughts on Francis Chan and his new book

Francis Chan’s new book Erasing Hell will be coming out July 5th.

That isn’t important though, the more important thing is that this post is better than the JesusneedsnewPR blog. Teehee, I’ll delete that sentence later, but anyway–I can’t say I’m a fanatical fan of Francis Chan, I’m excited with what he says and what an influence he has on other people. Ask any youth group who their favourite preacher is and it most likely will be either Rob Bell or Francis Chan. I much prefer the latter by a long shot, and indeed, Francis Chan has, since the release of “Crazy Love”, exploded in popularity. I’m currently listening to Crazy Love through audiobook, and I’m about halfway through it and I can see why. There is a certain humility in his work, that is relevant and relatable to the audience to whom he is addressing. This is further amplified listening to him speak, he speaks with utmost conviction, which comes across, you’ll see in the video below. Reading that he has given all royalties from Crazy Love to a ministry to children trapped in sex trafficking — his ambition and convictions are ever clearer.

There is another side to Francis Chan that makes me uncomfortable though. I’ve read Forgotten God before–actually I’ve read it a couple of times because I was blessed by it a lot the first time. It undeniably has had a great influence on my Christian walk actually. Yet for all its importance and relevance, what is distressing to me so is how little was dedicated to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I’m not doubting he knows his material about the Holy Spirit, but he jumps quickly to the application of the Scripture without addressing the subject where he drew it from. Without creating that Scriptural foundation, his applications seem bare and according to his own agenda. Why yes, in case you were wondering, I do have complaints about every single author out there! Naw, I truly do like Francis Chan, he’s a great guy. I truly hope you get to the time to watch the video and purchase his new book though — you won’t regret it.

Nevertheless, I always look forward with anticipation to any new project of his. This one seems in a direct reaction to he-who-shall-not-be-mentioned. There is a simple honesty and down-to earth attitude that pervades everything that he says, and I admire that in him above all else that he does. Apparently in the youtube comments, his honesty and fervour is taken as over-acting and false, but I would argue otherwise. I see his willingness to engage and provoke thought in people is wonderful.

There is a moment in the video where he muses the relationship between God and men described by Paul as the relationship between a clay and a potter. He laments how he is a piece of clay, and it is expected of him to teach other pieces of clay about the Potter, and what he is like. At about 1 minutes in, his genuine nature comes through especially in this scene. I wonder what depth that statement truly means in our own lives–perhaps with greater humility we do need to approach things.

There was an interview I read where Francis Chan was asked about the emergent church, a potential hot potato that no one wants to own up to or reject often. This is what he said: “As a pastor I hear a lot of emergent leaders talk about what is wrong with the church. It comes across as someone who doesn’t love the church. I’m a pastor first and foremost, and I’m trying to offer a solution or a model of what church should look like. I’m going back to scripture and seeing what the church was in its simplest form and trying to recreate that in my own church. I’m not coming up with anything new. I’m calling people to go back to the way it was. I’m not bashing the church. I’m loving it.”

What do you think about Francis Chan, which books of his have you read? Would you be purchasing Erasing Hell? Does he have a lesser emphasis on doctrine and understanding, and greater emphasis on the application of bible verses? Do you see this in his writing, and how does it compare to other authors who have written on similar topics like “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper or even, “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne?

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The Wisdom of the Young Ruler

Many people think of the young ruler as an idiot.

In many ways I find him very wise, but ultimately lacking perspective. I don’t know, I do very much understand why he would run away from Christ when asked to give up all he had, it is reminiscent of something of that inside of myself. Maybe I’m the only person that takes seriously what a fantastic claim that Jesus gives when he asks of us to give up everything we have, and follow Him. What a huge decision that is, to be asked to give up everything we trust in for something we cannot be totally sure of. It is hardly the things that could be decided in the moment’s thought of the altar call. That is somewhat undercutting what a great sacrifice this is, I have been thinking and mulling over this proposition for a very long time. Slowly and slowly, the caverns of my heart are opening up as the Holy Spirit comes and airs every room of my heart.

In some ways, the young ruler was the wisest of us all, such a huge decision cannot be made with such lightness. Externally, we may have the greatest ambition, but internally we know nothing of Jesus. To walk away in my eyes was a more righteous action than committing a part of our hearts. Anaias and Sapphira would have profited greater from not giving their share to the apostle than giving short of everything.

Reading from an outsider’s perspective of the calling of the disciples, it is simple to think it obvious to drop the nets to follow Jesus. A book is still somewhat a disconnection from reality, and it is easy to read of faith of other peoples within the Bible. Yet, when the rubber hits the road, when Christ demands of YOU, to give up everything that we hold dear, I find that an entirely different proposition more difficult than reading of other people who had done so before.

There is a disconnection I think we feel from the young ruler, that we are somehow better than him. This decision is without realising how much of a sacrifice, that is, without having experienced poverty in life. For one, I feel like him more often that not torn between what I can see and what I cannot understand.

The sermon at church today was of Simon Peter and his redemption through Christ in the last few verses of the Gospel of John:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.””(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”” John 21:18-19 (English Standard Version)

What church history tells us, is that the death that Simon Peter suffered was one of cruxifiction. Origen said of his death, “Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer.” As one who would not consider himself worthy to die the same way as Jesus. There is an intense humility in that, that I do not possess at this time.

To be brought continually to that place where we realise we have nothing, we deserve nothing and we are nothing is a place of continual rejoicing for me. To some, it might be reprehensable but to know the insurmountable riches in Christ, and that perhaps that is something of worth. To reach that place in my heart, I need faith, more than I have now. To know that assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things not seen.

I am increasingly becoming sure that if there was just one righteous man on earth like Jesus, then the world would be changed. But in the meantime, we have billions of young rulers too scared to step outside of their comfort zone. I am a young ruler, tempered to what the world proclaims as success, chained to the desires of the heart. More than not, I am scared of what is hidden behind closed doors, than wanting people to see what I do when eyes are not closed.

Effecting Effectual Change

“Grace is what taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.”

These words from the famous hymn Amazing Grace  by John Newton was always a curious one for me. The concept of grace teaching our hearts to fear was one of the concepts that I am not familiar with, and something perhaps uncomfortable to modern Christians today. But I think it a lot along the lines of what needs to be relieved must first be revealed. Only when Jesus opens up our hearts to our sin only then, all the same, Jesus will be the one who calms our fears. Maybe there is a tendency for us today to focus solely on the latter, with our fears relieved today, that we forget how what insecurity we have to begin with. If we are taking away only the symptoms, then perhaps we are not curing the sickness.

I am reminded of a story from a sermon from Charles Spurgeon, that I will just recount through memory because I don’t remember the number among thousands, and the text I recall is quite lengthy. There once was a rich prince who walked through his kingdom for a pleasurable stroll. He passed through town and went through to countryside. Down the mighty river which ran through his kingdom, where he spotted a farmer squatting down by a muddy river. The farmer was slowly and carefully sifting out the dirt from the bucket of water for his flock of sheep to drink from. The prince was much agrieved by this because he led the farmer into his palace located at the top of the river. He pointed out to the young farmer, the cause of his problems: a tree fallen over the mouth of the river, dirtying everything in the river. The farmer was aghast when he realised that he had been cleaning out all the dirt from the water when the more effective way was to remove the tree from dirtying the water.

We may have control over what we see in ourselves, but sin manifests itself in a multitude of ways that we could ever imagine. One moment, we could be suffering from depression, while the next we may have the greatest pride in ourselves. There is an importance then, in moving from an abstinence from sin, to an appreciation of God and all his love for us. Because only when we can appreciate God’s extravagant love for us, can we begin to truly repent from our sins, and enjoy God more and more.

If we remove our dependency on sin, we must replace it with something else or we are merely translating our addictions to another idols. Jesus says in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” The context of Jesus saying this is important, the parable is concerning the interaction between earthly and heavenly things, he is talking about holding onto things of this earth, greater than the heavenly revelation that we have been given.

The idea is that if we are to remove ourselves from the world, we would need to replace the world with something else. Where we are broken away from association with earthly people, we must replace it with communion with the Church. Where we crucify our pride, we need to replace it with humility which comes from God lest we grow bitter. Where we crucify our self-esteem, we must replace it with trust in Christ lest we grow spiritually depressed. When we take our eyes aways from idols, we must turn our eyes upon Christ on the cross. Without these things, our change will only be temporary.

 

Remembering the Anointed One

Since it’s getting to Christmas almost, I thought I should start writing some Christmas themed posts.

“But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” Mark 14:6 (English Standard Version)

Christmas is the remembrance of the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem. The name, Christmas, being derived from the Christ, a name of Jesus meaning “the anointed one”.

In the Old Testament, anointing was important for many leaders of Israel. David was found by Samuel and immediately anointed, Solomon was anointed by the priest Zadok in his inauguration before whole nation of Israel. “The specific practice of anointing by pouring oil on the head was used as asymbolic act for officially, designating and setting apart a person for a certain, public,leadership function in the community.” (source) All throughout the Old Testament, there were only three groups of people that were anointed: priests, prophets and kings. The Old Testament dictates that anointing someone involves pouring oil over the head of the one concerned, perhaps not unintentionally similar to the act of cleansing. The aim of anointing giving to the one anointed power, strength, or majesty.

In Christmas, we are remembering someone who was anointed by God, his holy oil poured on his head. But mankind only put a crown of thorns on his head, and killed him on a cross. Only once was Jesus anointed on earth, by a poor woman in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus was eating at the house of a leper, his name was Simon. The unnamed woman opened an alabaster flask pouring it over her head. She was no Levite, her anointing meant nothing, at his feet and she wiped them with her tears.

She was one who had sinned all her life, but she came with a great gift, and put it on his feet. To put the bottle of alabaster in context, a denarii was the pay for a day’s wages to a Roman soldier and the bottle was worth 300 denariis. The disciples naturally were vicious towards her, asking why she didn’t sell the bottle and give the money to the poor. But Jesus defends her, that he would not be with them always, but the poor shall be.

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14:8-9 (English Standard Version)

This event occurs close to the end of his life, he knew that the end was coming where Judas betray him and hand him over to the authorities. Everything he said was a reference to his coming death, he states that she will be told in memory of him. His humility and shame in dying on the cross, is mirrored clearly her through the undying devotion, and total sacrifice of her heart to Jesus.

And through this birth of Jesus Christ, no longer was anointing for only those who were of the tribe of Levi, or kings of Israel even only those prophets which preached God’s Word. But now, even to the poorest of women and the tax collectors, they could be anointed and even that be received as children of God. Jesus was born so we could be anointed, and be cleansed and restored to our original state. “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us” (2 Corinthians 1v.21)

*note some other gospels give a different account especially john which gives the woman the name, Mary, who is presumably sister of Lazarus. there is a bit of debate among scholars whether the accounts are related and if the two stories refer to the same event.

Love the sinner, hate your own sin.

“That’s just the opposite of what Jesus said. Jesus never said love the sinner and hate the sin. Here’s what Jesus said, love the sinner, and hate your own sin, and after you have taken care of that sin, you can talk about the sin in your brother.”

-Tony Campolo

I was listening to Campolo’s keynote speech at the Christian Gay Conference 2009 the other day. While I didn’t agree with much that he had to say, he often seems like a sensationalist too much of the time. I was interested in how he would give the message seeing as he holds a traditionalist position in that he thought that homosexuality was a sin, and homosexual should be eunuchs the rest of their lives. I’m not going to comment on what he had to say, but he did say the above quote during the talk. I quite like it to be honest. It is still a slogan, but what he points out is of greater impact and accuracy than the more popular: “love the sinner and hate the sin”.

I find so often I am at a loss as to how to react to homosexuals. I find it frustrating trying to discuss the biblical principles behind marriage and the explicit references towards what marriage is supposed to be. It seems that while I am trying to be open-minded and considering what they have to say, there also seems to be a certain amount of closemindedness among homosexuals as well. I don’t on the one hand want to be hateful which is how I’ve reacted in the past, with much malice out of frustration. But I find not only in myself, but a lot of Christians don’t want to bring homosexuals gently out of sin, but seek more to objectify them with hate to elevate themselves as not that bad at all. What I think about the quote from Campolo is effective in is the movement of the condemnation from others unto ourselves. The object of hate should be our own sin, and our own malice should be our depravity.

I read a very telling comment from Travis the other day, on lonelywanderer‘s blog. I’ve been thinking how much truth is in the comment:

“Build relationships, show love, and invite them into the kingdom of God (which requires repentance). Relationships are much harder than boycotts and protests. It’s easy as hell to hold up a sign. It’s hard as heaven to get humble and love people you have difficulty understanding or appreciating.” 8/27/2010 9:36 PM

The context of the comment is different from the topic at hand and was in reference to strippers protesting outside churches in revenge for loss of business for their protesting. I think the same principle applies here, Travis was saying is that we must be engaged with others if we hope to change them instead of distancing ourselves from them. When Jesus sums up the Law and the Prophets in Matthew 6, he outlines the two subjects, firstly God, and then others, both of which are movement of a focus from yourself, to others. These two actions are love. And love shouldn’t be extended to homosexual exclusively, but also to the heterosexual because we are all of the same flesh. The same flesh that is tarnished by the sin of Adam, and cleansed and renewed by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Second Adam.

Therefore, we should constantly be in remembrance of our own sins, and our own shortcomings. This removes any arrogance in our hearts, and any pride that may make us irrelevant to these people. Whenever the gospel is preached it is founded on the illumination of the Word of God, not the works of the preacher. The transfer in focus from us to God, would help us begin to relate to homosexuals on the same horizontal plane.

“”Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 (English Standard Version)

I have this “knowledge”, the reality is that I know so little, I try to cover up this with being overly critical with others. While I think they are totally wrong, I don’t do it with love, I don’t do it because I want them to be stronger in Christ. I want to pull them down to my level, by invoking a response and creating anger, I show it with a tirade of cuss words against people I dislike because of their tendencies towards eisegesis.

So, if we can begin to make sense of that, we should be loving people. I don’t mean love in the sense of tolerance that anything goes, but also so intolerable that we will not reason. I mean love in humility as a bold tool for spreading the Gospel, meek and gracious, bending but not breaking. I believe that homosexuality is a sin, reasonably clear in Scriptures like 1Corinthians6 and Romans1, even in the larger context people argue that it is a rhetoric technique used by Paul. Yet, though I know this knowledge, there is no love in my message. I don’t want the homosexuals to change, they just want to show they are better than them. But I what I should do is focus on myself, and my own struggle with other sins and translate that to a relatable and more cohesive message.

So, of utmost importance in relationships with homosexuals is humility because we are hardly any better. Understanding their struggle is imperative to begin to influence their lives to become more like Christ, who resisted all the temptations we experienced and did not fall.

At some thoughts a man stands perplexed, above all at the sight of human sin, and he wonders whether to combat it by force or by humble love. Always decide: ‘I will combat it by humble love.’ If you resolve on that once for all, you can conquer the whole world. Loving humility is a terrible force: it is the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.”-Zosima (from Starets, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

What sins do you see in others that you don’t see in yourself?