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As I read the Christian Post article Obama Points to Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes as Models for Faith-Driven Action I began thinking about how much the church and its focus has changed since the time I accepted Christ. Barack Obama sees segments of the church as aligning with him and his views of faith:

From Willow Creek to the ’emerging church,’ from the Southern Baptist Convention to the National Association of Evangelicals, folks are realizing that the four walls of the church are too small for a big God. ‘God is still speaking’

He mentioned his friends, Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes. Warren to my knowledge embraces the doctrine of the Trinity and is opposed to Word Faith theology. Jakes is a Oneness Pentecostal (a Foruth Century heresy) and Word Faith teacher. What they both seem to share in common with Barack is placing essential doctrine aside in order to satisfy “man’s need.” The article also outlines the denominational views of Obama’s church:

The UCC, which celebrated its 50th anniversary on Saturday, is holding its biennial General Synod in Hartford, Conn., June 22-26. The liberal denomination, which prides itself on being the first denomination to ordain openly gay and lesbian ministers, emphasizes progressive causes and also began to endorse same-sex “marriage” starting in 2005 – a decision which caused a rift in the denomination and the departure of about 100 churches from the UCC.

These strange alliances are made possible through a gradual shift in the view of the gospel. In the 1970’s, although much of the church teaching had been gravitating toward an anthropocentric (man centered) theology there still remained the understanding that we are sinners separated from a holy God. One of the popular tracts of that time was titled “Steps to Peace with God.” It was clear that God loved us individually but sin separated us from Him. Jesus Christ Who was fully God incarnated and was fully man in order to live, die and be resurrected and become the bridge between us and God. Redemption was promised by calling on His name. There were no promises of an easy life and, at least in some circles, there was a caution that life may actually be more difficult.

Today the claim is that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” The way that is heard and acted on is that God is primarily concerned about our personal happiness and fulfillment. But is that true?

It is true that God loves us. The Apostle John writes:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

The Apostle Paul makes a similar statement in Romans 5:8:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Earlier the Apostle emphasized that our justification is by faith and through faith in Jesus Christ we have peace with God. The theme of the preaching of the gospel is Shalom or peace with God. In other words it is God centered and not a matter of what do I get out of it in this life. Paul makes another very interesting observation which bears on the second part of today’s claim “God has a wonderful plan for your life”? He wrote:

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;( Romans 5:3)

Wait a minute!! “Exult in our tribulations”? What sort of a “wonderful plan “is that???? It surely doesn’t sound like ending poverty and AIDS in this lifetime. It certainly doesn’t come across as speaking wealth or physical healing in to existence. Tribulation sounds an awful lot like suffering and that doesn’t sound too wonderful but there it is in holy writ. In 2nd Corinthians Paul gives an overview of his life after coming to faith:

Are they servants of Christ?–I speak as if insane–I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)

As he continues he talks about his “thorn in the flesh,” his asking God to remove it and response:

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

God’s “wonderful plan” may well include suffering on our part. There clearly is no guarantee of the abolition of sickness, poverty or even peace between countries. There are does not appear to be allowances to make alliances with others who endorse and promote the very sins (homosexuality, abortion, etc) which cause separation from God in order alleviate suffering and replace it with personal comfort. Oddly, the heroes of faith are described in terms that most Christians today would not only not recognize but would abhor:

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:32-38).

“Men of whom the world was not worthy” It is difficult for me to read these words much less type them without weeping. Clearly God’s idea of a wonderful plan for our lives is very different from what is being promoted by much of the church today.