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Rob Bell and a New American Christianity (Musing about the non-existence of Hell)
Ministry Matters ^ | 11/15/2012 | By James K. Wellman, Jr.

Posted on 11/18/2012 5:44:01 PM PST by SeekAndFind

The face of American Christianity is in transition, and Rob Bell, with his evolving look and artistry, has opened a window on this hybrid horizon. Known to many for his Nooma films, a series of twenty-four twelve-minute sermons and his controversial 2011 book, titled Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, his person and work provoke visceral reactions that range from adoration to repulsion, while raising profound questions. In 2011 he was named to the Time 100 list—the 100 most influential people in the world. That same year, Bell left Mars Hill, the megachurch he founded in 1999, to pursue broader opportunities in Hollywood to, as he explained, “Compellingly share the gospel.”

As a pastor and an artist, Bell exhibits the irrepressible spirit of the American religious entrepreneur, but his story also serves as a frame to explore deeper patterns within the seismic shifts in modern American culture. His story and life function as a leading indicator of what it means to be a Christian in the changing modern American religious landscape.

By hailing from a conservative Christian background, Bell has maintained the core attribute of the faith—a passion for Jesus—but has built a career and a philosophy of life that is more complex than what we usually attribute to American evangelical circles. For much of his pastoral career he has been a superstar in the evangelical world, but his appeal is much broader, including the “spiritual but not religious,” liberal Christians across the spectrum, and even folks who simply admire his artistry as a communicator.

Bell is well-known for using various forms of media to circulate his view of Christianity. He makes his teachings easily accessible through new mediums, including film, while concurrently never shrinking from complicated discussions. In the 2007 film, Everything is Spiritual, he describes the evolutionary story of creation, mixing a dense but clear explication of the scientific origins of the universe, all framed within a wider worldview that humans, by nature, are spiritual—there is nothing humans do that is not spiritual. In fact, what makes Bell’s voice so unique is that he is willing to use every medium and discipline to convey that the Christian story is by its nature fundamental to every aspect of life, regardless of what others might think, or how interpreters, whether religious or not, might react.

A thirty-year-old volunteer at Mars Hill who had tried out a bunch of different churches explained her experience to me like this: “I was looking for a form of Christianity that is real, gritty, and matches the experience of my life—and I found what I was looking for here. We talk about the issues that we all face here and how faith makes a difference; it’s real, it’s powerful and it gives me hope for the church.”

What makes Bell so attractive? Many pastors and leaders want to create this kind of devotion. While attendees of megachurches often say that the pastor is not the reason they attend, there is little doubt that these “energy stars” attract and create a fusion of joy, delight, and motivation that create congregations that glow with what they call the “spirit” of God. My interest in the work of Rob Bell stemmed from my work as a sociologist; I know that skilled leaders generate a collective effervescence that buoys groups and charges crowds with a kind of delirium that humans want—and even need. This can happen in any group, but not every leader can produce this kind of multisensory mélange of input that is often called the “feeling of the spirit of God,” or “the touch of God.” Whatever language you use to describe it, I’ve seen it lift people out of their seats.

Despite his popularity, Bell’s rock star persona repulses many people. Outsiders, particularly those from non-religious backgrounds, find it manipulative or dangerous. Evangelicals frequently discount Bell’s efforts as “fluff,” and “pabulum,” consumed by unknowing and uneducated young people. One evangelical pastor told me, “He is one of the most dangerous figures on the Christian landscape today.” Still others in evangelical circles have dismissed him as a heretic or worse.

Mark Driscoll, the equally controversial and popular evangelical pastor, who planted a church called Mars Hill just a year before Bell’s, rails against Bell as some sort of biblical heretic: “I don’t know him; he’s a creative guy and an amazing communicator, but he holds up rabbinical authority as a key to Bible interpretation. If a Rabbi doesn’t love Jesus, they have a bad interpretation. Bell argues that the Bible sets into motion a direction that while it appears to contradict the Bible literally, we should nonetheless embrace it. This came out when he shifted from male elders on his board to female elders. It’s not biblical.”

John Piper, the godfather of the neo-Reformed movement in American evangelical Christianity, tweeted in response to Love Wins, “Farewell Rob Bell,” which he later said was meant as a friendly remark. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called Bell’s views on hell an “unscriptural sentimentalism . . . incompatible with [God’s] hatred of sin.” And book after book have detailed Bell’s heretical ways.

So, is Rob Bell a heretic? Does this question even make sense in an American culture that has so many kinds of Christianity? Just what kind of Christian is he? Whatever one thinks of Rob Bell, there is no denying the intense controversy surrounding him in the American religious landscape—and that these contentions raise important questions for multiple audiences:

Should evangelicals be afraid of him?

Should young Reformed evangelicals see him as their mentor? Should Wesleyans call him one of their own?

Should pastors, of whatever label, take him as a model?

Should the spiritual but not religious see him as a kind of spiritual avatar?

The onrush of responses to his work indicates that many see him as a voice of faith. Increasing numbers of evangelicals, particularly young evangelicals, are asking questions about the faith. In David Kinnaman’s You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking the Faith, the author gives six typical reasons for why young Christians are leaving the church: churches are overprotective; shallow; anti-science; simplistic about sexuality; exclusivistic, and unfriendly to doubt. Young people are questioning the exclusive claims of Christianity and hoping for a more fruitful relationship with cultures outside the faith community; they want answers to their toughest questions.

As a scholar of American religion, I believe that the decline and even the end of the Protestant establishment is an inevitable outcome of our religious history. The Protestant mainline is no longer mainline; establishment Protestantism simply doesn’t attract a large audience any more. The evangelical networks don’t fare much better. It, too, is fragmented, and some argue that we’ve seen the “End of Evangelicalism.” The center of American Christianity no longer holds, if it ever did. Is Bell’s work and person catalyzing a new kind of American Christianity?


TOPICS: Evangelical Christian; Religion & Culture; Theology
KEYWORDS: hell; robbell

1 posted on 11/18/2012 5:44:07 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Bell is a buffoon. Even Martin Bashear tore him a new one.


2 posted on 11/18/2012 5:45:48 PM PST by polkajello
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To: SeekAndFind

So he’s got a better version that only he knows.

He’s a heretic and a false teacher.


3 posted on 11/18/2012 5:50:11 PM PST by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Fool!


4 posted on 11/18/2012 5:50:51 PM PST by KC_Lion (Build the America you want to live in at your address, and keep looking up.-Sarah Palin)
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To: driftdiver

He is most definitely teaching FALSE doctrine.
Sadly , at one point he was a Evangelical Conservative...really goes to show how satan can deceive!!


5 posted on 11/18/2012 5:54:28 PM PST by pollywog ("O Thou who changest not, abide with me.".......)
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To: polkajello

2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; . . “


6 posted on 11/18/2012 5:55:44 PM PST by captmar-vell
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To: pollywog

You cannot trust someone just because they are a pastor, priest or minister. I had a pastor once tell me that very high percentage of pastors didn’t believe the bible was 100% true, that Jesus wasn’t really the son of God, and that he isn’t the living God.


7 posted on 11/18/2012 5:58:05 PM PST by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Satan is loose and increasing. Be thankful to God when you recognize, by His grace, the instruments and the works of the Enemy.

It is no longer simple politics we in America are suffering, but spiritual warfare. It is time to get ourselves ready, stay ready and be able to stand, as we set ourselves to endure.

VIVA CHRISTO REY!


8 posted on 11/18/2012 6:02:28 PM PST by RitaOK ( VIVA CHRISTO REY / Public education is the farm team for more Marxists coming.)
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To: SeekAndFind
The face of American Christianity is in transition, and Rob Bell, with his evolving look and artistry, has opened a window on this hybrid horizon. Known to many for his Nooma films, a series of twenty-four twelve-minute sermons and his controversial 2011 book, titled Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, his person and work provoke visceral reactions that range from adoration to repulsion, while raising profound questions. In 2011 he was named to the Time 100 list—the 100 most influential people in the world. That same year, Bell left Mars Hill, the megachurch he founded in 1999, to pursue broader opportunities in Hollywood to, as he explained, “Compellingly share the gospel.”

Uh, he is drifting from orthodoxy. He may very well be teaching heresy.

Universalism, the idea that all men go to heaven, is not biblical. God's justice is erased and his mercy is denigrated by such a philosophy.

9 posted on 11/18/2012 6:02:37 PM PST by SoFloFreeper
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To: SeekAndFind
Musing???

He must have a reading comprehension problem.

10 posted on 11/18/2012 6:03:04 PM PST by rawcatslyentist ("Behold, I am against you, O arrogant one," Jeremiah 50:31)
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To: driftdiver
You cannot trust someone just because they are a pastor, priest or minister. I had a pastor once tell me that very high percentage of pastors didn’t believe the bible was 100% true, that Jesus wasn’t really the son of God, and that he isn’t the living God.

You are so right!! If what they are saying behind the pulpit doesn't square away with God's Word, walk, no RUN away FAST!!!

11 posted on 11/18/2012 6:03:52 PM PST by pollywog ("O Thou who changest not, abide with me.".......)
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To: SeekAndFind
Is Bell’s work and person catalyzing a new kind of American Christianity?

No.

Bell, McLaren and the rest of the self-named "Emergents" are to post-modernism, what liberal mainline Christianity is to modernism--accommodation and compromise to contemporary people's secular beliefs, in an effort to reach them.

Problem is, if you're not certain what the Gospel really is, you'll accommodate and compromise on that to make it more palatable. Then you end up with Churches made up of folks not really surrendered to Christ and His Word--led by men (and women) not really surrendered to Christ and His Word.

Such fellowships may be big...but, "Ichabod."

12 posted on 11/18/2012 6:05:04 PM PST by AnalogReigns (because the real world is not digital...)
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To: SeekAndFind

In the Gospels, Christ speaks more often of Hell than He does of Heaven. Christ is warning mankind of its fate without Him.


13 posted on 11/18/2012 6:18:24 PM PST by SkyPilot
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To: SeekAndFind
I suspect that Ted Kennedy was a trailblazer in living,and preaching,this “new” American “Christianity”.
14 posted on 11/18/2012 6:23:25 PM PST by Gay State Conservative (Benghazi: What Did Baraq Know And When Did He Know It?)
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To: SoFloFreeper

A professor of theology I once knew said that the trajectory of Protestantism historically is toward unitarianism and universalism. He didn’t approve of it. It was just an observation that I think has some truth to it.


15 posted on 11/18/2012 6:27:55 PM PST by Southside_Chicago_Republican (If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.)
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To: SeekAndFind
"exclusivistic" Well, that's a new one. Seems time that we hear "complaineristic," for someone whose life revolves around complaining.

Not likely to happen, though. The system of modern government was set up to be complaint-driven, so the most obvious way to grow it is to come up with more complaints and complainers.

16 posted on 11/18/2012 6:39:36 PM PST by danielmryan
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To: driftdiver

Yep


17 posted on 11/18/2012 6:39:58 PM PST by F15Eagle (1 John 5:4-5, 4:15, 5:13; John 3:17-18, 6:69, 11:25, 14:6, 20:31; Rom10:8-11; 1 Tim 2:5; Titus 3:4-5)
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To: SoFloFreeper

“Universalism, the idea that all men go to heaven, is not biblical.”

And that was taught by some very popular people. Most don’t want to admit it.

And still is. Like “Biblical faith not necessary for Salvation -— just be a good member of your community”.

Well, unless John 3:17-18 is true. Which it is, of course.


18 posted on 11/18/2012 6:44:10 PM PST by F15Eagle (1 John 5:4-5, 4:15, 5:13; John 3:17-18, 6:69, 11:25, 14:6, 20:31; Rom10:8-11; 1 Tim 2:5; Titus 3:4-5)
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To: SoFloFreeper; SeekAndFind
In 2011 he was named to the Time 100 list—the 100 most influential people in the world.

And who is the Prince of this world?

19 posted on 11/18/2012 6:46:35 PM PST by thecodont
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To: thecodont

And Satan is the “god of this world” as well.

2nd Corinthians 4:3-4

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20corinthians%204:3-4&version=KJV

2 Corinthians 4:3-4

King James Version (KJV)

3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.


20 posted on 11/18/2012 6:49:32 PM PST by F15Eagle (1 John 5:4-5, 4:15, 5:13; John 3:17-18, 6:69, 11:25, 14:6, 20:31; Rom10:8-11; 1 Tim 2:5; Titus 3:4-5)
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To: danielmryan

why young Christians are leaving the church: churches are overprotective; shallow; anti-science; simplistic about sexuality; exclusivistic, and unfriendly to doubt.

I think the young need to stay with it long enough to see the other sides. I didn’t leave when I was young, however, I did have MY ideas and thoughts and wanted to push them as most of us do. Now what I see from those older and those who have gone on is a faithfulness to God, and doing what they knew best to follow him. It humbles me. So, I see in cases a chip on the shoulder of the young. I think it goes along with the current secular, societal view of the young knowing it all. Running away from the Church and the Lord is not going to bring one closer to God. What is there to run to? The culture??? If you are young and reading this....DO NOT QUIT on your church and God.


21 posted on 11/18/2012 6:58:17 PM PST by taterjay
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To: SeekAndFind
The face of American Christianity is in transition

Do people say this when they don't have anything to say? The face of Am. Christianity is always changing.

Much of this piece seems like, honestly, blather.

As a pastor and an artist, Bell exhibits the irrepressible irresponsible spirit of the American religious entrepreneur,

Fixed it.

And, for people's edification through amusment, a parody of a Rob Bell video: Robbed Hell. It's really quite good. Enjoy.

"And the good news is, no one hast to know about the zit."

22 posted on 11/18/2012 7:00:15 PM PST by Lee N. Field ("Eschatology preceeds soteriology" --G. Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 1930)
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To: SeekAndFind
You don't have to believe in Hell to go there.

John 14:6

23 posted on 11/18/2012 7:04:29 PM PST by Licensed-To-Carry (Hey Obama! It's all your fault now, you own it.)
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To: Southside_Chicago_Republican
A professor of theology I once knew said that the trajectory of Protestantism historically is toward unitarianism and universalism. He didn’t approve of it. It was just an observation that I think has some truth to it.

He didn't approve of what, unitarianism and universalism, or protestantism?

Yes, there is some truth to his statement. It's been seen before. Fortunately, protestantism is not a monolithic thing.

24 posted on 11/18/2012 7:08:29 PM PST by Lee N. Field ("Eschatology preceeds soteriology" --G. Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 1930)
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To: SeekAndFind

Church, inclusive of sin, is much more interesting for “young people” raised in amoral public schools pushing homosexuality, abortion, feminism, divorce and sluthood and fed a steady diet of materialism’s gangsta rap, occultism and reality tee vee.

It would be wise for Evangelicals to turn from materialism (wracking up building debt and big pay for ministers) and focus on doing what Jesus told Christians to do. No one who belongs to a Christian church should feel alone in life while surrounded by brothers and sisters who know and love them.

For example, there should be talk about problems and wise advice, support and healing for confused minds and broken hearts. Charity, in word and deed, begins at home in the congregation and moves out from there within the members. Charity does not begin in the local, godless humanist feeding center for socialist browny points.

Real Christians are going to be hated and ghettoized as the dummies become more and more intolerant of Christian faith, morality and wisdom. They are going to demand you sin with them and deny Christ in order to work or operate in their society. This is the real problem that young Christians face. They stick out like a light in the darkness and the darkness is tolerant of light.

Young Christians are outcasts in the public culture and institutions. If an Evangelical avoids the humanists in early education, they will catch up on your child at college or the workplace making him feel like a foreigner in his own country. If they don’t get them in the public schools, they will get to them in video games, movies, song and dance. Liberals are into TOTAL darkness for any aspect of society they control.


25 posted on 11/18/2012 7:16:41 PM PST by SaraJohnson
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To: Lee N. Field

He used to sing “A Mighty Fortress” in German on Reformation Day, so he certainly approved of Protestantism! This was 30 years ago. And he had the mainline denominations in mind. Even a single denomination is not monolithic, but where there has been a departure from orthodoxy among denominations or individuals, it is generally in the areas of christology and soteriology.


26 posted on 11/18/2012 7:27:23 PM PST by Southside_Chicago_Republican (If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.)
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To: RitaOK

Take confort, the King of Kings is coming back, “soon and very soon.”


27 posted on 11/18/2012 7:59:19 PM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: SaraJohnson

Look for the USA to become a mission field again, with devout Christians from the “global south” nations who are on fire for the Lord. As the USA once sent missionaries out to the global south, so the global south in turn do the same and they wlll send the missionaries.


28 posted on 11/18/2012 8:05:57 PM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: SkyPilot

I do have a question, how much more did Christ teach on Hell then on Heaven, the precentage? Thank-you for your answer.


29 posted on 11/18/2012 8:10:52 PM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: SeekAndFind
I've never heard of this Rob Bell, and of all the types of christianity that are taught 'Universalism' is most definitely in the top 5 of "christian" scourges that corrupt the weak minded.
Mixing and matching doctrines from different times and versions of "christianity" breeds pure ignorance.
Neither a Mount Olympus/Asgard "heaven" exist nor does a Hades/Inferno "hell". The fact will always be that those concepts are not "judeo-christian" in origin and do not nor ever have originated in the "Old Testament" nor the "New Testament.
Neither Sheol nor Gehenna are "hell" and outside of mystical pagan versions of Judaism have they ever equaled "hell".
Both false concepts were introduced at least a 100 years after the death of Jesus. The Latin Vulgate and the Original King James translations were the most corrupted translations of G-d's Word ever put to pen and paper or printing press. Absolute travesties.
The fact that the corrupt doctrines of "heaven and hell" are not biblical, and were never taught by G-d, His prophets, nor Jesus, doesn't mean salvation is "universal"....again that too is ignorant. That nonsense goes right along with the stupid phrase "G-d hates the sin, but loves the sinner". What an absolute corruption of such simple teachings from G-d and Jesus.
Besides the Hebrew Tanakh there are many bibles that don't use the mythological iconography as well:
Hanson’s New Covenant, Young’s Literal Translation, Twentieth Century New Testament, Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible, Weymouth’s New Testament, Jewish Publication Society Bible OT, Emphatic Diaglott Greek /English Int., Tanakh/The Complete Jewish Bible to name a few.
She'ol, The Pit, The Abyss, Gehenna, these are not "hebrew terms" for hell, they are names and titles that have specific meaning and have nothing to do with a mythological "hades-realm full of fire".
Reading Tanakh & Revelation reveals that upon the final resurrection at the End-of-the Age, His(G-d's) Wrath will be like a Refiner's Fire sweeping away Death, The Adversary, and all the Wicked forever. They don't go to a mythological hades-realm full of fire, they get burnt out of existence altogether....by G-d's fiery wrath.
You either end up in G-d's Restored Kingdom (that would be restored on earth) or you get blotted out of existence altogether. People don't have separate magical souls that go to a magical Mount Olympus in the sky. Your breath is owned by G-d it goes back to Him and you turn back to the dust of the earth (you sleep with everyone else). At the End-of-the-Age when the Restoration happens you get your body and breath back.
Besides the gross mistranslation and corruptions of "heaven and hell" the mistranslation and corruptions of the biblical concepts of G-d's finite Ages (End-of-the-Age, Age-to-come, and Age-lasting) their corruptions into substituting "FOREVER" and "ETERNAL" and "EVERLASTING" instead of the actual concepts of G-d's Ages is downright idiotic and blasphemous.
Egads, no matter what flavor of "christianity" it is, each and every one is corrupted.
30 posted on 11/18/2012 10:36:22 PM PST by brent13a
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To: brent13a

Yet to “correct you” the Christian faith is the fastest growing faith there is despite what you wrote.


31 posted on 11/19/2012 2:51:25 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: brent13a

Plus “paragrapsh” is your friend.


32 posted on 11/19/2012 2:52:18 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: brent13a

Sorry, paragraphs is your friend.


33 posted on 11/19/2012 2:57:44 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: brent13a

Reads like a Gnostic teaching here.


34 posted on 11/19/2012 3:00:21 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: brent13a

Links PLEASE. Thank-you.


35 posted on 11/19/2012 3:09:14 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: Biggirl
Sorry, paragraphs is your friend.

Paragraphs are your friend.
36 posted on 11/19/2012 5:44:16 AM PST by Lee N. Field ("Eschatology preceeds soteriology" --G. Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 1930)
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To: Lee N. Field

That was me before first cup of coffee this morning. :)


37 posted on 11/19/2012 5:47:26 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: SeekAndFind

This is a good example of why Jesus said that i preach freely but the hirelings would flee when the wolf comes.

Take the money out of preaching and it will be amazing how many preachers will no longer be preaching.

It may also be amazing who you will see doing the preaching for nothing.

Take the money and or monetary benefits out of preaching and you will know who the true servants of God really are.


38 posted on 11/19/2012 8:21:35 AM PST by ravenwolf
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To: SeekAndFind

He is a wolf leading a pack of goats... the sheep leave


39 posted on 11/19/2012 8:50:54 AM PST by RnMomof7
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To: Biggirl

Yeah, I should talk. I’m pretty bad with typos, and “thinkos” (think one thing, something not quite that gets typed).


40 posted on 11/19/2012 1:06:59 PM PST by Lee N. Field ("Eschatology preceeds soteriology" --G. Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 1930)
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