Musings on Repentance 1: Glen Beck’s Call for Awakening versus Biblical Repentance

Glen Beck has made the news because of a speech he gave on the Washington Mall on 8/28/2010 which was an Anniversary date of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream speech.  The speech was part of a rally hosted by Glen Beck that when by the title of Restoring Honor.  The speech made the news because Glen called for the nation to return to God.  The speech garnered varied reactions ranging from unqualified support, skepticism, or criticism. Many Christians were alarmed that such a call came from a person known to be a member of a Latter Day Saints (Mormon) congregation.  Some have spoken with Glen Beck and have come away convinced he understands and embraces the idea of atonement.  Well, given all the reactions this writer decided to listen to the speech and having done so have found it to be quite disturbing.  Yes, Glen Beck calls for an Awakening and a turning to God by acts of faith, hope, and Charity. He spent time pointing at the need for firm reliance on divine providence as written in founding father documents. However, his call for Awakening does not match the Biblical view of awakening or repentance. Let’s examine a bit closer what he stands for as indicated in his speech. You may want to take the time to view the speech for your self before you read the further commentary in this article. The speech can be found at:

In listening the speech there were four concepts espoused by Glen Beck that do not correspond to Biblical principles or Biblical repentance.  Glen Beck did use some words that have an element of truth, but the truth he spoke simply served as a means of accepting the other content of his message as true.  There are four key message elements of his speech that are in direct contrast to Biblical repentance and awakening. 

The first element that is in contrast to Biblical repentance is that Glen Beck emphasized the importance of self-determination. He opened the speech with a comment “One man can change the world.” “It is you.”  He made frequent references to Moses and his staff.  He encouraged people over and over to “pick up the stick.” Meaning get involved in the efforts to alter the course of the nation. He used the metaphor even of Egypt and slavery to make his point. However, the slavery he refers to is not being involved in political action and having restrains to self-determination.  True, he does reference seeking God and acting in faith, hope, and charity. Yet, it is all for the building up of self.  He even alluded to his being a broken man and having made changes. Yet, he points to political actions to “set people free.” 

The second element that is in contrast to Biblical repentance is that while he hearkens to engaging in prayer and engaging in firm reliance on divine providence, he emphasizes the importance of “America.”  He clearly espouses the concept of America as a “special nation.”  He referred to the documents from the founding fathers of the country as being “American Scripture.”  He indicated that if “America” does not change the course it is on, then there will be no one to step in when the “world” is in trouble. In essence, he elevates “America” to a savior of the world status.  This is elevating the country of the United States to an unhealthy level and looking for human element to saving the world.  The perspective of the Christian faith is that nothing will be made right until Jesus returns and everything will continue to get worse.

Another disturbing element of Glen Beck’s speech was the frequent references to “looking within.” He made comments such as we need to “strengthen our spirits” and we need to explore “inner space.”  The need for such “inner exploration” is not part and parcel to the Christian concept of awakening and repentance but rather calls to finding what you are sure of and finding some form of spiritual guidance for inner strengthening.  And while it was not directly said, it suggests pointing to some inner element of “the divine.” For Glen Beck made constant references of to humility. He even declared God as King, yet he frequently focused on self effort.  Even his push for “faith, hope, and charity” really seem inclined to being found in looking within in and choices made.  Yes,  Glen Beck did proclaim that we need to look to God and look to love, yet the direction he pointed folks to look was within.

The last disturbing element of Glen Beck’s speech  is that  what he pointed to is everyone needs to know what they believe. He indicated that belief is important, he stated truth was important but only as elements of self.  In terms of truth, a person needs to be truthful and have no lies in your life.  He proclaimed  “truth shall set you free” but the determiner of truth is self and what you believe. He emphasized that what was important were the “universal principles” of the varied faiths, not absolute truth.  His embracing nebulous universal truths was highlighted even by his action as he called for a “Black Robe Brigade” of people of varied “faiths” that were standing for advocating political answers with a human moral base centered on universal principles.  This is not by any shape turning to submission to a Holy God and Jesus who is “THE WAY,” rather it is being actively involved and engaged in solutions of this world to change moral behavior and political focus. It is quite different that biblical awakening and repentance.

At the core, Biblical repentance is not turning to self or elevating self with the aim of some political world changing purpose. Biblical repentance is turning away from self-effort and following God’s ways. Yes, that involves loving God and others. Yes, it involves turning to Jesus as King.  But it is something that is not about elevation of self or society but simply doing what is right before God and turning away from that which is self.  The Bible is filled with evidence of what repentance looks like.  The story of the Prodigal son is one example.  It is a coming to an end of self and turning to God.  True repentance will result in a turning to Jesus.  The attitude seen in Biblical repentance is shown in James 4:6-9 (ESV) “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”   There really is stark contrast.  Look at Zacchaeus for a Biblical example of repentance. He was crooked, greedy man. He met Jesus and he changed his life to the point of even returning more than he stole.  He was called and he followed. Biblical repentance involves two actions, a turning from self and turning to God.  It is leaving the old way for a new.

Glen Beck offers ways to arrange the world and life to best accommodate desires. It is holding on own life in a way, it is far different from the self-surrender of scripture.  There is a verse passage in Ephesians that really sums up the difference between what Glen Beck is promoting and the Biblical view.

Ephesians 5:6-17 (ESV) Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  

 This passage  exposes those  appear  to proclaim a turning to God yet really are elevating self.  The passage also commands to have nothing to do with those who are deceptive.   For there is always really two ways, the way of God and the way of the world.  There is Godly sorrow and repentance that leads to salvation as those who lose their life will gain it. Then there is the way of the world, the works of flesh, the elevation of self that has no life and leads to death and destruction.  One is real, one is but illusion.  Glen Beck’s call is to that of illusion leading to death. There is no life there.

Post State of the Union Musings

Tonight the President of the United States gave his State of the Union address. This yearly speech is the one that the President set the legislative goals for the year ahead or uses to set or declare the vision, direction, and agenda for the country in the year  ahead.  Now, the things the President spoke about will please some, anger others.  Certainly those that hold to Judeo-Christian morality will be unhappy with some elements of what the President spoke about.  Personally, it ultimately is irrelevant.

The irrelevancy is not because it will not impact me personally. Certainly it will as this country is where I live and am subject to the laws.  The irrelevancy comes because what matters for me is the state of a different union.  What matters to me is what God is establishing and working in my own life.  What directions is he leading me, am I following his will.  Am I walking fully under His authority.  Do I exercise and walk in adequately the authority of being an ambassador of the Kingdom of God?  What steps do I need to take in the areas God is working in my life? Am I following God’s agenda and in his time or am I off doing my own thing.  Am I sitting passive when I should be active?    For me these matters are far more weighty than the machinations of government and  elements of the power of sword that will be coming ahead. 

Now the questions and reflections are admittedly self-focused.  God does ask us to think and move beyond self.  So there are other questions related to the state of the church as a whole.  The church as a whole, much like this country, is in trouble.  The church is in trouble because of lost focus.  Rather than focus on simply making disciples there get to be other distractions including self-focused Christianity, political enmeshment,  Gospel vacated acts of outreach, and institutional stagnation.  The state of the church is one in need of waking up and remember all that God has revealed and focus on spiritual and eternal matters.  

Now unlike change in this country, changes in the state of relationship with God and in the state of the Church can happen. It involves surrendering to God’s will, walking in faith, and actively pursuing the directions God’s lead in His time.  If you are uncertain of what God is leading, simply pray for wisdom and God will supply, but the answers always involve faith and acting regardless of what is seen.  All in all we need to grow in being aligned and aware with what God is doing with a focus not on the things of this world, but on the eternal matters of God’s Kingdom.

Question of Week 9-9-9: Do you focus on God or something else?

This question comes from the very fact of todays date. In the man made calendar today is 9/9/9.  It is the kind of thing people can focus on and come up with all sorts of thoughts and ideas about.  It is but numbers and mankind created numbers.  Yet, it can be read to have a lot more meaning.  It is something else people can focus on outside of God and Jesus.  Other things that people can focus on include politics, family, prophecy, healing, pain, entertainment, work, and so on.  We easily can get sidetracked from that which is most important.  These other things can be good things to focus on and attend to, the problem is when it becomes the primary focus and actually supplants the pursuit of relationship with God and making disciples.  So where is your focus?

News commentary: Annointing Oil and Prayer over American Automobile Industry?

Recently took a stop by and learned of a news article describing an event at a local Detroit church. The article is Titled, “SUVs at altar, Detroit church prays for a bailout.” After reading the article provokes sadness and incredulity.  In reading of the event there are two areas worth commenting on.

     The first area to comment about is that the event  seems to be a turning to God and begging for help in times of trouble approach. Economic times are tough, and the American automotive industry is in peril.  Yet, in the plea for help, there is no turning to God in repentance. There is no self-examination of sin. There is only begging God.   There is a recognition of failed self-effort but it becomes  “so lets turn to God to get what I want since I cannot.” This is demonstrated in this quote from General Holiefield, “We have done all we can do in this union, so I’m going to turn it over to the Lord.”   So apparently the idea is to turn to God to ask for help with what you want from the American government because of an inability to accomplish in own effort.  God is not about granting prayer because we cannot expand or fix things by own effort.  God blesses and helps to bring Glory to His Kingdom, not our own.

Another concern is that these people while exhibiting some hope, are placing hope in the wrong place.  The hope expressed is that God will change the hearts and minds of members of Congress.  Reverend Charles Ellis stated “It’s all about hope. You can’t dictate how people will think, how they will respond, how they will vote. But you can look to God. We believe he can change the minds and hearts of men and women in power, and that’s what we tried to do today.”  When God changes the minds and hearts of people, it is to change their heart and mind toward Him.   Biblically it is clear that when a nation is in times of struggle, that people of God need to do two things, humble themselves and pray  (2 Chronicles 7: 13-14).  Now, Reverend Ellis states “I pray in good times and in bad times, but I pray these days because it’s something that directly affects our lives. Politicians forgot autoworkers for ages. You can’t just forget them. We’re also part of the country.” And I ask, where is the humility in the statement?  Where is the surrender to the King of Kings. The appearance here is one of missing the humility part.  The asking is apparent but James 4:3 is relevant: “When you ask, you do not receive,because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” 

     The thing that really cause head shaking, is that when Congress sees fit to put together a package to assist the automotive industry, this prayer session and anointing SUV’s with oil will seem pivotal.  God though is more interested in what is going on with each individual and desire a turning for our own self-seeking and a turning to Him in humility and surrender, not in demands for him to fix what we broke.

Reaction to Mac Hammond’s defense

        In a previous post the situation with the IRS and Pastor Mac Hammond of Living Word Christian Center was discussed.  Since then Pastor Mac Hammond has issued a defense of what is going on with the IRS and the allegations.  Ultimately, through due process, they will be able to have their say and defend themselves against any allegations brought for by the investigation.

     In his defense, Pastor Hammond argues that the audit was only opened for political reasons.  He states an IRS official illegally opened the audit and did so at the behest of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington based on the perceived Michelle Bachmann endorsement.  This article isn’t really getting into delving into those facts.  It is worth pointing out again that Pastor Mac Hammond did state he would “almost welcome an IRS audit.” 

     The main concern is that a good portion of Pastor Mac Hammond’s defense is really a defense of the prosperity gospel.  He points to a national conspiracy to attack ministries involve in what he states has come to be called the “prosperity gospel.”  He even states “the gospel-the good news that God is good and our covenant of blessing will provide increase in every area of our life.”  However, that is NOT the Gospel.  The Gospel is John 3:16 (KJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth him shall have eternal life.

     Pastor Mac Hammond goes on to suggest that what is happening is politically motivated because the “enemies of the gospel” are afraid of wealthy Christians and the influence that they may weild.  He states that to limit the influence of the church, the wealth needs to be limited, and that is done by decreasing the willingness to donate.  Pastor Mac Hammond clearly delineates that “clergy” can and should be wealthy and that the media and enemies of the gospel want to keep them poor, and as such keep the church poor.  Pastor Mac goes on to state that God can do anything and that the only limits on what God can and will do is our faith.  In essence, it reads to me that our faith becomes the means by which to get God to do what we want, which usually is increasing our personal kingdoms such as by wealth. 

   The question again comes down to what Kingdom is really being built.  Do we give our all.  Pastor Mac Hammond in is defense graciously offered to sell all and give it to the church. Great, but until that happens it is just words that can make one look good.  Actions speak louder then words. Now Pastor Mac Hammond indicates he donates a large sum to the church which he indicates is how a person avoids the temptations of lukewarmness and decreased God-depenency.   The generosity is good, and praise God for that. Only God and Pastor Mac Hammond know what is at the core of the giving.  Only God and Pastor Mac Hammond truely know what kingdom he is really serving.  However, the defense Pastor Mac Hammond gives leaves me troubled, regardless of the facts. The defense is all about emphasizing prosperity and the church needs to be prosperous to influence society.

    The church is called to be salt and light to a community. But the influence of salt and light come not from the influence of wealth or from involvement in the political realm.  The influence of the church is in changing hearts and minds and drawing people into surrender to Yeshua.  It is about turning from self. There is a reason Jesus stated that it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, yet with God all things are possible.