"All truth passes through three stages: first, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; and third, it is accepted as self-evident." – Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860). "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information infotainment tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and partisan activist opinion/commentary reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell
The Bible echoes with great battle cries: “Raise a signal on a bare hill, lift up your voice to them; wave the hand.… A sound of the roar of the kingdoms, of nations gathering! Yahweh of hosts is mustering an army for battle” (Isa 13:4).
In this proclamation, God declares war on Babylon for their brutal and evil deeds against His people. Yet He calls for “a signal” to be raised so that the Babylonians might repent from their great wickedness. They have an opportunity to surrender to Yahweh before it’s too late—and we must do the same.
We tend to see ourselves as less evil than the infamous sinners of the past, but in a way we all carry shades of Babylon in ourselves. Just as the Babylonians did, we set up and worship idols instead of loving Yahweh with our entire being. Similarly, we attack others instead of loving them the way God has loved us. If we search our hearts, we find that painting ourselves as more righteous than past sinners doesn’t work: We’re all in need of a Savior. We’ve all fallen short (Rom 3:21–26). In that sense, we all come from Babylon.
Although most of us are willing to identify our private idols—such as money, power or fame—few of us realize the depth of our betrayal. When Isaiah portrays the sinner that is Babylon, he is neither tolerant nor sympathetic (Isa 13:19). Instead, he issues a harsh warning that the day of Yahweh’s coming—the time of reckoning is near (Isa 13:6). It’s no different for us today. When the nt writers depict sin, they do not underestimate how much it inhibits God’s work in us and in the world (2 Pet 1:8–15). With the same urgency that Isaiah expressed, they note that now is the time to repent and do God’s will (2 Pet 3).
God has called us to join Him in the battle against evil by living Spirit-filled lives in accordance with His will—lives of loving others, despite how hard that might be sometimes (Eph 4:1–6; 6:11–20). We must answer God’s urgent call upon us. There is no time to waste.
How can you express love today as a sign of God’s war against evil?
“If I have the gift of prophecy … but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2).
Love is an indispensable ingredient in the learning process.
I have the privilege of spending time each week with hundreds of young people who attend The Master’s College. As I observe their progress, I see the impact godly teachers have had on their lives, and I’m convinced that students learn best when they know that their teachers genuinely care about them.
Isn’t that true in any relationship? Don’t you respond more readily to those who love you and have your best interests at heart? That’s certainly true in ministry. Think of the pastors and teachers who have meant the most to you over the years. They’re probably the ones who have loved you and ministered to you in special ways.
Whether it’s a pastor, teacher, family member, or friend, whoever speaks to people on behalf of God must do so with genuine love and concern. That’s the positive side of Paul’s negative statement in 1 Corinthians 13:2. Jeremiah was such a man. He loved the people of Israel deeply and was grieved at their apostasy and impending judgment. “O that my head were waters,” he said, “and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9:1). That’s the spirit of a loving prophet, and this was typical of Jeremiah’s lament over his people’s sin.
Loveless preaching and teaching misrepresent God’s character and hinder the gospel; loving proclamation is winsome and effective. That doesn’t mean that all who hear you will respond positively; quite the contrary. The people of Judah didn’t listen to Jeremiah, so they incurred severe judgment. Similarly, some to whom you speak will politely reject what you say; others will react with hostility. But those who respond in faith will appreciate your loving concern for their spiritual well-being.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for those who have ministered to you in love. Seek to follow their example as you reach out to others.
For Further Study: Read Acts 20:19, 31, Romans 9:2–3, and 2 Corinthians 2:4, noting the things that prompted Paul to weep for the people to whom he ministered.
Kanye West. Kim Kardashian. Russell Wilson. Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Justin Bieber. I know that if you hear these names you think, “solid Christian believers.”
No? The influence of charismaticism’s prosperity-driven moralistic, therapeutic deism in Hollywood has been well-established. In particular, the influence of Hillsong has been explored by major media. Like the Church of Scientology, Hillsong has thrived primarily by celebrity influence. And so, Carl Lentz – the pastor of Hillsong New York – has been seen taking shots with addiction-riddled Justin Beiber. Beiber and his one-time sweetheart, Selena Gomez, have visited pastor of Hillsong’s affiliate church in Seattle, Judah Smith via private jet.
Other celebrity evangelical pastors, like Rich Wilkerson, have been featured in Kardashian reality shows. These preaching superstars have made in-roads into Hollywood’s elite culture.
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. – Luke 6:40
No doubt, there are countless good Bible teachers exhorting Los Angeles-area residents to repent of their sins and believe the Gospel. In fact, Grace Community Church, the home of John MacArthur in Sun Valley is only about 30 minutes in traffic from Los Angeles. However, these particular pastors (above) are not known for producing disciples that in any way, shape, form or fashion resemble authentic believers in Christ. Chris Pratt, who vaguely (but commendably) referenced the Gospel amidst his recent divorce at the 2018 MTV Music Awards, might be the exception to the outright overt ungodliness for which the rest of these celebrities are famously known.
While none of this is new, what is absolutely fascinating is the article that surfaced yesterday from The Cut, entitled, A Guide to the Evangelical Celebrities and Pastors Dominating Hollywood. From a polemics perspective, it’s a case in very real intrigue to see how the secular mind views these evangelical leaders from a cultural rather than theological perspective.
Allie Jones writes…
When Justin Bieber, the 24-year-old oft-troubled pop star, announced his engagement to Hailey Baldwin, the 21-year-old model daughter of Stephen Baldwin, the first thing he mentioned was their shared faith. “I promise to lead our family with honor and integrity letting Jesus through his Holy Spirit guide us in everything we do and every decision we make,” he wrote on Instagram. “Gods timing really is literally perfect, we got engaged on the seventh day of the seventh month, the number seven is the number of spiritual perfection, it’s true GOOGLE IT!”
Even if they did not Google this factoid, Bieber’s proclamation reminded the 12.8 million casual fans who liked this Instagram of his devotion to evangelical Christianity. For the past few years, he has been a regular attendee at Hillsong, the Pentecostal megachurch founded in Australia in the early 1980s and imported to the States by the “rock-star pastor” Carl Lentz in 2014. Lentz has been a personal mentor to Bieber, while his wife, Laura Lentz, is close with Baldwin, who, of course, attends Hillsong services regularly.
You’ve probably heard about Hillsong because of Bieber — before he proposed to Baldwin, he was photographed taking several different girlfriends to Sunday services, and he often posted about Lentz on Instagram and Twitter. Hillsong, however, is not the only influential church currently catering to pop stars looking to repent for past sins.
There are several youth-focused, Pentecostal megachurches springing up across the country, and Bieber has attended just about all of them. In addition to Lentz, he has close relationships with Chad Veach, a pastor who wears cool glasses and founded Zoe Church in L.A., Judah Smith, another pastor who wears cool glasses and leads the congregation at Churchome in L.A. and Seattle, and Rich Wilkerson Jr., who does not wear cool glasses but who officiated the wedding of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. He presides over Vous Church in Miami.
These stylish, white evangelical pastors are leading a new religious organization in Hollywood, which looks cool and casual — everybody’s wearing streetwear and waving their hands to Christian pop-rock bands — but actually stems from the traditional Pentecostal movement. In each of these churches, there is a heavy focus on baptism, tithing (most now have convenient iPhone apps for this purpose), and the Bible. But the Pentecostal interpretation of the Bible is not always what millennials want to hear. Media outlets have questioned Lentz, Veach, Smith, and Wilkerson about their views on marriage equality and abortion, which more traditional Pentecostal churches rail against. The cool pastors, however, prefer not to share their opinions on these issues.
When the New York Times questioned Veach about abortion rights earlier this year, he said he doesn’t like to talk about politics, but offered, “At the end of the day I am a Bible guy.” Wilkerson and Smith have been similarly withholding in interviews when asked about social issues. (“I do not like blanket statements,” Smith told MTV, when asked whether or not he’d officiate a same-sex wedding.) Lentz, under pressure, has said he believes homosexuality and abortion to be sins, but that he welcomes all sinners to his church.
Despite these equivocations, thousands upon thousands of stylish young people have chosen to follow the pastors and donate their earnings to build their churches. Lentz and his peers can thank Bieber: In the past four years, he’s done for Pentecostal megachurches what Tom Cruise did for Scientology and Madonna did for Kabbalah. When he posts about Bible study at Hillsong or is photographed attended a Zoe Church conference, more millennial celebrities (and celebrity-obsessed millennials) join the flock.
To illustrate how influential and interconnected this world is, we’ve made a map of the four most famous, Bieber-approved pastors and the A-listers who follow them.
Lead pastor at Hillsong in New York City Instagram followers: 612,000
Carl Lentz is currently the pastor best known for ministering to Bieber. The 39-year-old father of three leads the New York City branch of Hillsong, which currently serves about 8,000 worshippers every Sunday in the Hammerstein Ballroom near Penn Station. Hillsong is famous for its pop-rock worship songs (Selena Gomez performed one on her “Revival” tour in 2017) and a fun, millennial-friendly attitude that belies its more traditional views. (The church’s founding Australian pastor Brian Houston fired a choir director when he announced his engagement to another man.) One thing that is totally okay in the eyes of the Lord, according to Hillsong, is the pursuit of cash, which makes the church especially friendly to celebrities. Pastors do not take a vow of poverty, and as such, they can lead lifestyles similar to those of the pop stars they serve. Lentz has been seen wearing Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton x Supreme.
Lentz’s relationship with Bieber goes back to at least 2014, when he baptized the then-repentant pop star in NBA player Tyson Chandler’s bathtub. (You can read about that moment in Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s 2015 GQ feature on Lentz and Hillsong.) Since then, Lentz has become a regular fixture on Bieber’s preferred gossip outlet, TMZ. Last summer, after Bieber cancelled the remaining dates on his “Purpose” tour to focus on his “soul and well-being,” TMZ reported that Lentz was stepping in to support Bieber as a “second father.”
Lentz popped up in the tabloids again in January, when TMZ and People reported that he was personally offering Christian couples counseling to Bieber and Gomez, who briefly reunited at the end of 2017. Sometime after Bieber and Gomez broke up in March, however, Bieber and Lentz had a “major falling out,” according, again, to TMZ. No outlet has managed to report out any details of the split, but if this video of Lentz begrudgingly congratulating Bieber and Baldwin on their engagement is any indication, the relationship is currently pretty frosty.
Lentz has plenty of other celebrities to minister to, thank God. Bieber’s ex-girlfriends Gomez and Baskin Champion, remain, by all accounts, devoted followers of the church. Kendall and Kylie Jenner have been photographed attending services, as have several NBA players including Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (Lentz played college basketball and has been the chaplain for the Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets). Lentz may not get to officiate Bieber’s wedding, but he could do the honors for Hillsong follower Nick Jonas, who just got engaged to Priyanka Chopra.
So who will officiate Bieber and Baldwin’s wedding? They have a few options.
Founding pastor of Zoe Church in L.A. Instagram followers: 180,000
Lately, Bieber has been hanging out a lot with Chad Veach, a 38-year-old father of four who founded Zoe Church in 2015. The congregation first met in the celebrity hotspot 1 Oak (yes, a nightclub) before moving to the El Rey Theatre on Wilshire. Veach told the New York Times in a recent profile that he believes social media brings 1,600 worshippers to the popular music venue each Sunday. “Instagram built our church,” he said. “Isn’t that fascinating?”
Bieber also probably had something to do with it. Veach joined Bieber for part of his “Purpose” tour in 2017, and the two are often photographed running around together wearing matching streetwear. (In a story about “Hypepriests,”GQ praised Veach’s “Fear of God” ballcaps.) And Veach has plenty of other celebrity fans, too. The Pretty Little Liars actress Ashley Benson and Baldwin both have tattoos to honor Veach’s daughter, Georgia, who was born in 2012 with lissencephaly (Veach wrote a book about her condition calledUnreasonable Hope).
Plus: Veach may have had a hand in introducing a new Hollywood couple. In June, the tabloids reported that Chris Pratt and Katherine Schwarzenegger, the daughter of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, started dating after connecting at church. Pratt is a regular attendee at Zoe, and according to an interview Shriver did with Veach last December, Veach regularly comes to the Shriver home to meet with Katherine and her siblings. Earlier this week, Pratt and Schwarzenegger were photographed kissing for the first time … outside of a Sunday service at Zoe. They were also photographed with Veach in the parking garage.
Katherine’s brother Patrick Schwarzenegger has expressed his support for Veach, but he’s also been spotted attending services at Hillsong with Bieber. Schwarzenegger dates the model Abby Champion, who is the sister of one of Bieber’s Hillsong exes Baskin Champion.
Lead pastor of Churchome (formerly City Church) based in Seattle and L.A., alongside his wife Chelsea Smith Instagram followers: 575,000
Judah Smith, a 39-year-old father of three, was one of the first pastors to minister to Bieber. He introduced Bieber to both Lentz and Veach. (Veach used to work for Smith before starting his own church — all of these guys are friendly and connected, and they often preach at each other’s churches. But they compete for followers — and donations — too.) Smith presides over Churchome, which his parents founded as City Church in Seattle in the 1990s. Smith and his wife, Chelsea, took over the congregation in 2009 and launched a celebrity-friendly location in L.A. in 2013. (They meet in the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, a ten-minute drive from Zoe.)
Though Bieber has plenty of pastors to hang out with at this point, he remains close to Smith. Last December, during his brief reunion with Gomez, the couple boarded a private jet to Seattle just to hear Smith’s Sunday sermon.
The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
When Jesus walked and taught in Galilee 2,000 years ago, many asked, “Who is that Man?”
The Bible’s answer is clear: That Man walking in Galilee was God, acting like God! It was God, limited deliberately, having crossed the wide, mysterious gulf between God and not God, between God and creature. No man had seen God at any time.
In John 1:18, the English translators have said, “The only begotten Son…hath declared him.” Other versions skirt around it, doing everything to try to say what the Holy Spirit said, but when we have used up our words and synonyms, we still have not said all that God revealed when He said, “Nobody has ever looked at God, but when Jesus Christ came He showed us what God is like” (paraphrase of John 1:18).
He has revealed Him—He has shown us what God is like!
He has declared Him! He has set Him forth! He has revealed Him!
He is in the Father’s bosom. It is stated in present, perpetual tense, the language of continuation. Therefore, when Jesus hung on the cross, He did not leave the bosom of the Father!
Lord Jesus, that You are the Son of God is the bedrock of our faith. Thank You for revealing what God is like during Your brief sojourn on earth.
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