31 May 2010

Should Christians "Name Names"?

This is a topic that comes up frequently, especially when you engage in discernment ministry. Some Christians just don't like it when others "name names" and call a wolf a wolf. My feeling is, if it looks like a sheep and talks like a wolf, then it's probably a false teacher according to Jesus in Matthew 7:15. Should we, then, call out these false teachers by name? Some will argue that this is divisive and is not the call of a Christian. What is interesting, though, is that people who feel this way often will take no issue with calling someone such as, say, Joel Osteen, a false teacher, but when it comes to those who are a bit more subtle in their deception, these people want to keep quiet.

But is speaking out really a divisive maneuver? Or is it actually a necessary, loving thing for a Christian to do? Just as honestly approaching an unrepentant sinner and sharing the Gospel is the most loving thing a Christian can do, so is boldly speaking out against false prophets in warning to our Christian brothers and sisters. In fact, I would argue that Scripture actually commands us to be so bold! Contrary to the common argument, pointing out a false teacher is not the divisive act. If you closely examine the reaction of devout followers of certain teachers, you will see that it is these wolves and their fruit that is actually causing division.
"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them." Romans 16:17
Okay, so I spot a false teacher and I decide to avoid him or her based upon Romans 16:17. But my Bible study friend thinks that this teacher is "anointed" by God and is the greatest Bible teacher since Paul. Do I sit back and watch her be misled by this false teacher? Or do I lovingly tell her the truth about the person she deems so gifted? The answer should be obvious. Who will you answer to at the Judgment? Do you really want to tell God that you kept quiet because you didn't want to hurt someone's feelings or didn't want to "cause division"? If that is the case, then we should never share the Gospel either because nothing is more divisive than telling someone that they are a wretched, hopeless sinner in need of a perfect Savior!

Let this not be entirely an opinion piece, however. Where is my biblical basis for blatantly calling a false teacher out by name? Well, in this situation (and in many situations) I take my cue from the apostle Paul. Paul named names. Don't believe me? Skim through the book of 2 Timothy. It's only four chapters, so it won't take you long. Start counting. Paul names 8 individuals who are false teachers. Yes, he names them by name. He doesn't say "a certain popular Bible teacher..." Nope, he says it like it is. Still don't believe me? Well, then you haven't skimmed 2 Timothy yet! Let me help you out:
  1. "You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes." 2 Timothy 1:15
  2. "But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” 2 Timothy 2:16-19 (I added verse 19 in for good measure).
  3. "Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith." 2 Timothy 3:8
  4. "For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica." 2 Timothy 4:10
  5. "Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message." 2 Timothy 4:14-15
Notice that last verse, 2 Timothy 4:15, "Beware of him [Alexander the coppersmith] yourself, for he strongly opposed our message." Now, tell me again why a Christian shouldn't "name names"? If Paul felt it necessary to warn his fellow Christians about the false teachers and opponents of the Gospel in his day, shouldn't we then follow this example and warn others today? To be a "watchman on the wall" spans many areas. It means that we should share the Gospel, warning others that Christ is returning soon and without Him, they will be lost and condemned for all of eternity. Being a watchman also means that we are sounding the warning when those thieves of God's sheep, those false shepherds who do not enter the sheepfold through the door are on the loose and are actively spewing deception. Just because the truth is inconvenient or uncomfortable does not mean that it shouldn't be told. Will you be bold for Christ, or will you cower before men?
"But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand." Ezekiel 33:6

30 May 2010

We Remember the Fallen



In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

To read the story behind the above poem, "Flanders Field," see AMERICAN LEGION'S POPPIES over at the blog Sanity in an Upside Down World.

Sunday Morning Praise

I pray everyone is restfully enjoying their weekend! Being that this is a holiday weekend, and considering that the following hymn "popped" into my head "coincidentally" last evening, I thought that the hymn "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" otherwise known as the Naval Hymn, would be appropriate. My grandfather was in the navy in World War II, so that branch of the armed services has a special place in my heart! As if our prayer lists aren't long enough, I would ask that you remember our servicemen and pray for their protection and, for many, for their salvation. I cannot imagine fighting a war without Jesus and the assurance of eternal life with Him, yet many do. No war is more perilous than a life...and death...without Christ.
Eternal Father, Strong to Save
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
Who walked on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoever we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

29 May 2010

Emergent Quote of the Day

"[I]n the world we live in now, facts alone are not adequate. They never were. And the artists, poets, prophets, contemplatives, and mystics among us have been witnessing to this from the margins for a long time. Artists and poets and others in our midst are in tune with the collective, intuitive, and spiritual. They have honored and then honed their senses and intuitive capacities in a way that allows for a radical engagement with the environment, with reality, to reflect, respond, and create something that is true and vital and defining. They are leading us somewhere." -Tim Keel, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope
Uh-huh, they're "leading us somewhere" alright. These "mystics" and "contemplatives" and "prophets" are leading people wandering down a path that leads away from the true God.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared[...] 1 Timothy 4:1-2

28 May 2010

Justified by Love?

When I see Christian organizations in America making agreements with the Chinese government in order to give their ministry the freedom to expand in China I have to ask, what is being compromised? Unfortunately, I already know the answer: the Gospel.

The article below mentions the difference between the government-controlled church in China and the underground churches. The church sanctioned by the government teaches a Gospel of justification by love, not justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The job of the government-run churches is to promote unity and anyone thought to be challenging that goal is to be reported to the authorities. So if we all love everyone and join hands around a campfire, be we Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Wiccan, or whatever, then we should be good to go and Heaven is just one final breath away. To preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified though, well, that may be just a bit too divisive for the tastes of the communist government in China. Could that be why the true Christians are meeting secretly and illegally in underground churches and, when discovered, why they are arrested? Could it be that the Gospel being taught in these house churches is just different--and just true--enough to be an offense and a threat to the "unity" that is sought?

From the blog of Scott Thunder of Bible League (bold emphasis mine):
To the Church in Smyrna...and China...  
Cyrus and Daphne are a very well-educated couple who oversee several ‘clubs’ (house churches) in the city of Beijing. We met at a local shopping mall outside of a coffee shop, and they gave me a real education. I’ve already shared that the underground church in China suffers from many of the same deficiencies as the church in Corinth: lack of a teachable spirit, factions, judgementalism, envy, power struggles and so forth. Why is this so? Because there is a lack of good pastors and lay leaders…and because although many of the urban Christians have Bibles, they don’t really know how to use them.
Cyrus began to talk about the official registered church in China, the so-called ”Three Self Patriotic Movement” church. When we speak of the church in China, there are really two varieties: the official, government sanctioned and monitored “Three Self” church, and the unregistered, unofficial and illegal “house church”. Many people choose to worship in the underground house church system, as they find the fullness of the Christian experience and body life in fellowship there. Because they are not monitored or controlled by the government, they are free to preach, teach, evangelize, worship and function as they please. The “Three Self” church is much less free to do the same. While I was in China, I attended services in both underground and Three Self churches, and I will speak to the differences in an upcoming post.
“Let me give you a theological example of the difference between the Three Self Church and the underground church,” Cyrus told me. “The Three Self churches don’t teach people that we are ‘justified by faith’; they teach ‘justified by love’. Just love people and you’ll be saved.” A small but extremely significant deviation from the true faith!
Before I go any further, a caveat; many Christians have visited China, and have had their own experiences with the church there, and their experience may have been different from mine. I do not suggest that my experience is representative or definitive, but it is an actual, truthful account of what I heard and saw when I was there.
Cyrus explained to me that over the years there have been changes in the government’s attitude toward ‘religion’, and that the climate is more friendly than in the past. Complete freedom of religion does not exist, but there is less active persecution of Christians than before; it still happens, but it happens less. Not all persecution comes from the government or the police, by the way. Cyrus told me in some cases, it comes from the Three Self Church.
“Pastors in the Three Self Churches are actually paid by the government, ” he told me. “Because of that, they are basically agents for them. Now, they are to promote unity among the people, which is one of the main social goals of the Chinese government. These Three Self pastors then have a duty to monitor the communications within the church, and if they hear of anything that is counter to ‘unity’, they need to report it back to the authorities. If these pastors hear news of underground churches, it is their duty to report it as a threat to unity.”
Persecution also comes from cults like “Eastern Lightning”. They believe that God has returned to earth as a woman, “born to an ordinary family in the Northern part of China” to guide mankind for the third and last time. Members and leaders of this cult have been known to kidnaps house church pastors in order to steal members to their cult. According to Cyrus, their methods include beatings, extortion, seduction and embedding themselves in legitimate house churches to lure others away.
Mormons are active in China as well; they conduct free English classes and then teach their doctrines to those who attend. Jehovah’s Witnesses are also active in China.
What does all this mean? It means that getting Bibles and training materials in to the hands of the underground church in China is imperative for the spiritual health of its members. Without a firm grounding in doctrinal truths, and discipleship instruction, believers are more likely to fall away during times of persecution or to be lured away by deceptive heretical doctrines.
As of today, Bible League International’s nationwide effort to send Bibles into China stands at 78,864. The goal is to have 105,000 funded by the end of June. A Bible for a Chinese Christian is just $4.00. Could you make 10 available for $40.00? If so, go tohttp://www.1800yesword.com and make a gift safely and securely online. Christians in China want them and need them, but probably won’t get them unless the body of Christ in the United States makes a deliberate effort to send them. You can be an answer to their prayers today!
You'll note that I did highlight the fact that, though religious freedom is still limited, the attitude is a bit more friendly toward Christians than in the past. That's wonderful. However, when house churches are still being stormed by government officials and members are being arrested, I have to conclude that the Chinese government is still one of the worst friends a Christian church can have. I would like to encourage you, as I have in the past, to pray for the persecuted church in China. Pray also for those Christian organizations who have, perhaps selfishly and naively, made a deal with the Chinese government in order to grow their numbers and their prestige. Pray that the leaders of these organizations may see the danger of their compromise before it's too late. And if, through prayer and God's leading, you feel a call to help spread God's TRUE Gospel in China, I would encourage you to visit the website of Bible League International for ways that you can help get Bibles into the hands of Chinese Christians who are hungry for Truth.

See also: PRAY FOR...

27 May 2010

Did You Know?

Did you know that even if we didn't have any of the more than 5,600 partial or complete manuscripts of the New Testament writings we would still be able to reconstruct the entire New Testament save for 11 verses from the works of the early church fathers prior to 325 AD, and many of those written prior to 150 AD? Who says the Bible isn't reliable?


For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:18

A Little Extra Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from an article in the October 1887 issue of The Sword and the Trowel entitled "The Case Proved." It was written to further address "The Downgrade Controversy" that was running rampant in Spurgeon's day. It speaks just as well to the growing apostasy we see even today in our so-called "Christian" churches.
The most conclusive evidence that we are correct in our statement, that "the new theology" is rampant among us, is supplied by The Christian World. To this paper is largely due the prevalence of this mischief; and it by no means hides its hand. Whoever else may hesitate, we have in this paper plain and bold avowals of its faith, or want of faith. Its articles and the letters which it has inserted prove our position up to the hilt; nay, more, they lead us into inner "chambers of imagery" into which little light has as yet been admitted. What is meant by the allusion to the doctrine of the Trinity in the extract which is now before us? We forbear further comment, the paragraph speaks very plainly for itself:— 
"We are now at the parting of the ways, and the younger ministers especially must decide whether or not they will embrace and undisguisedly proclaim that 'modern thought' which in Mr. Spurgeon's eyes is a 'deadly cobra,' while in ours it is the glory of the century. It discards many of the doctrines dear to Mr. Spurgeon and his school, not only as untrue and unscriptural, but as in the strictest sense immoral; for it cannot recognize the moral possibility of imputing either guilt or goodness, or the justice of inflicting everlasting punishment for temporary sin. It is not so irrational as to pin its faith to verbal inspiration, or so idolatrous as to make its acceptance of a true Trinity of divine manifestation cover polytheism." 
[...]
Very unwillingly have we fulfilled our unhappy task of justifying a warning which we felt bound to utter; we deplore the necessity of doing so; but if we have not in this paper given overwhelming evidence, it is from want of space, and want of will, and not from want of power. Those who have made up their minds to ignore the gravity of the crisis, would not be aroused from their composure though we told our tale in miles of mournful detail.
Some words have been used which call the writer a Pope, and speak of this enquiry as an Inquisition. Nothing can be more silly. Is it come to this, that if we use our freedom to speak our mind we must needs be charged with arrogance? Is decision the same thing as Popery? It is playing with edged tools when the advanced men introduce that word, for we would remind them that there is another phase of Popery of which a portion of them have furnished us grievous examples. To hide your beliefs, to bring out your opinions cautiously, to use expressions in other senses than those in which they are usually understood, to "show," as The Christian World so honestly puts it, "a good deal of trimming, and a balancing of opposite opinions in a way that is confusing and unsatisfactory to the hearer," is a meaner sort of Popery than even the arrogance which is so gratuitously imputed to us. It is, however, very suggestive that the letting in of light upon men should be to them a torment equal to an Inquisition, and that open discussion should so spoil their schemes that they regard it as a torture comparable to the rack and the stake. What other harm have we done them? We would not touch a hair of their heads, or deprive them of an inch of liberty. Let them speak, that we may know them; but let them not deny us the same freedom; neither let them denounce us for defending what they are so eager to assail.
What action is to be taken we leave to those who can see more plainly than we do what Israel ought to do. One thing is clear to us: we cannot be expected to meet in any Union which comprehends those whose teaching is upon fundamental points exactly the reverse of that which we hold dear. Those who can do so will, no doubt, have weighty reasons with which to justify their action, and we will not sit in judgment upon those reasons: they may judge that a minority should not drive them out. To us it appears that there are many things upon which compromise is possible, but there are others in which it would be an act of treason to pretend to fellowship. With deep regret we abstain from assembling with those whom we dearly love and heartily respect, since it would involve us in a confederacy with those with whom we can have no communion in the Lord. Garibaldi complained that, by the cession of Nice to France, he had been made a foreigner in his native land; and our heart is burdened with a like sorrow; but those who banish us may yet be of another mind, and enable us to return. 
Read the article in its entirety here
I wonder what Mr. Spurgeon would think, then, of Chuck Colson's 1994 Evangelicals and Catholics Together or his 1997 Evangelicals and Catholics Together II? What would be Spurgeon's response to last year's Manhattan Declaration (signed by men like Mohler and Colson alongside Catholic and Orthodox leaders, who clearly preach a different gospel, namely a gospel of works-salvation) or of progressive "Pastor" Jim Wallis' latest, The Covenant for Civility (also signed by Colson and by well-known "evangelicals" such as Max Lucado)?

"One thing is clear to us: we cannot be expected to meet in any Union which comprehends those whose teaching is upon fundamental points exactly the reverse of that which we hold dear."


Well, I guess I have my answer.

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from a sermon entitled "Creation's Groans and Saints' Sighs" delivered January 5, 1868.
We were once an undistinguished part of the creation, subject to the same curse as the rest of the world, "heirs of wrath, even as others." But distinguishing grace has made a difference where no difference naturally was; we are now no longer treated as criminals condemned, but as children and heirs of God. We have received a divine life, by which we are made partakers of the divine nature, having "escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust." The Spirit of God has come unto us so that our "bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost." God dwelleth in us, and we are one with Christ. We have at this present moment in us certain priceless things which distinguish us as believers in Christ from all the rest of God's creatures. "We have," says the text, not "we hope and trust sometimes we have," nor yet "possibly we may have," but "we have, we know we have, we are sure we have." Believing in Jesus, we speak confidently, we have unspeakable blessings given to us by the Father of spirits. Not we shall have, but we have.True, many things are yet in the future, but even at this present moment, we have obtained an inheritance; we have already in our possession a heritage divine which is the beginning of our eternal portion. This is called "the first-fruits of the Spirit," by which I understand the first works of the Spirit in our souls. Brethren, we have repentance, that gem of the first water. We have faith, that priceless, precious jewel. We have hope, which sparkles, a hope most sure and steadfast. We have love, which sweetens all the rest. We have that work of the Spirit within our souls which always comes before admittance into glory. We are already made "new creatures in Christ Jesus," by the effectual working of the mighty lower of God the Holy Ghost. This is called the first-fruit because it comes first. As the wave-sheaf was the first of the harvest, so the spiritual life which we have, and all the graces which adorn that life, are the first gifts, the first operations of the Spirit of God in our souls. We have this.

26 May 2010

Really Reformed?

The following article from Apprising Ministries is a bit lengthy, but I urge you to skim it at the very least. Far from a "bashing" of Acts 29 Network, Mark Driscoll, or Matt Chandler, the article offers great insight into the dangers of Contemplative Spirituality that is subtly infiltrating our churches, beginning with the youth programs. If your pastor or any church leader has ever recommended that you read the works of Richard Foster or Dallas Willard, you will want to read this article. It seems to me that today's young, hip "reformed" pastors like Driscoll and Chandler are nothing more than Emergents with an ESV Bible.
ACTS 29 NETWORK AND REFORMED COUNTER REFORMATION SPIRITUALITY?
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11, ESV)
Could A New Postmodern Form Of Calvinism Be Emerging?
In a little bit of a follow-up to Acts 29 Pastor Matt Chandler On Being A Reformed Charismatic here at Apprising Ministries I point you to the Resurgence blog of the Acts 29 Network of Mark Driscoll.
There under Recommended Reading: Coaching & Leadership Development, Leadership Development Pastor at Mars Hill Church Dave Kraft shares that which is recommended for Faith:

 
(Online source)
Let’s leave aside the Arminian A.W. Tozer; notice this leading organization of what’s being called New Calvinism is recommending books by sinfully ecumenical Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster, the leading purveyor of corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM), along with his spiritual twin and Southern Baptist minister Dallas Willard. Know this; what Foster teaches, Willard also teaches, and pastor Bob DeWaay of the excellent online apologetics and discernment ministry Critical Issues Commentary quite correctly lists them as “key proponents of mysticism.” [1]
Seriously, New Calvinism couldn’t find any better authors in the Reformed camp to teach us about the important topic of faith in Reformation theology? Now consider the following from Dr. Gary Gilley, who also has an fine online apologetics and discernment ministry called Think On These Things Ministries, concerning so-called spiritual disciplines that Foster supposedly recovered and taught in his magnum opus Celebration of Discipline:
The Disciplines recommended by Foster, as well as his whole spiritual formation system, are derived from the mystics.  His list of recommended spiritual masters is witness to this:  Ignatius of Loyola (p. 66); Teresa of Avila (p. 166); Jeremy Taylor; William Law; Dallas Willard (pp. 24, 80, 153); Henri Nouwen (pp. 64-65, 110); Father Anthony of Sourozh (p. 77); Phoebe Palmer (p. 114); Gregory the Great (p. 115); Hildegard of Bingen (p. 115); Francis of Assisi (pp. 115, 166, 168); Aimee Semple McPherson (p. 115); John Wimber (p. 115); David Yonggi Cho (p. 115); Brother Lawrence (pp. 126, 166); Flannery O’Conner (p. 126); Walter Rauschenbusch (p. 128); John Woolman (pp. 149ff); Julian of Norwich (p. 166); Mother Teresa (pp. 192-196) and Soren Kierkegaard (pp. 189-190)…  (Online source)
More than enough reason for very serious concern; when people who claim to adhere to Reformation theology, then also encourage the younger sector, whom they are particularly popular with, to embrace the spurious spirituality of e.g. Ignatius of Loyola. For actual history shows he founded the Jesuits who were functioning during the Reformation, on order of the Pope, as a militantly pro-Roman Catholic Church spiritual Gestapo Unit. Let’s also keep in mind here that Richard Foster’s spiritual teachings are watered-down enough that he’s even included with the Living Spiritual Teachers Project alongside New Age mystics like Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson and even The Dalai Lama.
Yet as of today Foster’s books are still recommended at The Village Church, the Acts 29 church where Matt Chandler is pastor:
 

(Online source)
Turning To Those Who Are Opposed To Sola Scriptura For Proper Christian Spirituality?
First of all, I find myself wondering when were Quakers ever Protestant evangelicals; their mytic founder George Fox rejected Reformation theology, particularly Sola Scriptura. In his Richard Foster—Celebration of Deception pastor Bob DeWaay tells us about “a glowing cover story about Evangelicalism’s recent embrace of medieval Roman Catholic mysticism entitled The Future lies in the Past” in the February 2008 edition of Christianity Astray magazine. Then DeWaay notes:
The article traced the beginning of the movement as follows: “The movement seems to have exploded in a 24-month period in 1977-1978, which saw the publication of Richard Foster’s bestselling Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth and Robert Webber’s Common Roots: A Call to Evangelical Maturity.”
The article views Foster as one who continues to guide the movement: “From Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, and living practicing monks and nuns, they [those going back to Roman Catholic mysticism] must learn both the strengths and the limits of the historical ascetic disciplines. So Foster was instrumental in starting a movement that is still growing 30-plus years later. (Online source)
Foster’s brand of CSM first rooted within the now nearly dead mainline denominations; as a pastor-teacher myself, I encourage you to begin examining the fruit it’s been producing through these years. It’s also an incontrovertible fact that Foster and Willard were key mentors of the neo-liberal cult of the Emerging Church [2], and their whole shtick is spurious CSM, so the wise person is also going to examine the fruit it’s been producing there. As far as I’m concerned, it’s beyond question for those with eyes that see, that there’s a very serious blurring of important doctrinal lines going on today within largely pretending to be Protestant evanjellyfish; not to mention an ever increasing ecumenicism aggressively spearedheaded by this same Emergent Church.
I also shared this before from Dr. Gary Gilley:
Celebration of Discipline alone, not even referencing Foster’s other writings and teachings and ministries, is a virtual encyclopedia of theological error.  We would be hard pressed to find in one so-called evangelical volume such a composite of false teaching.  These include faulty views on the subjective leading of God (pp. 10, 16-17, 18, 50, 95, 98, 108-109, 128, 139-140, 149-150, 162, 167, 182); approval of New Age teachers (see Thomas Merton); occultic use of imagination (pp. 25-26, 40-43, 163, 198); open theism (p. 35); misunderstanding of the will of God in prayer (p. 37); promotion of visions, revelations and charismatic gifts (pp. 108, 165, 168-169, 171, 193); endorsement of rosary and prayer wheel use (p. 64); misunderstanding of the Old Testament Law for today (pp. 82, 87); mystical journaling (p. 108); embracing pop-psychology (pp. 113-120); promoting Roman Catholic practices such as use of “spiritual directors,” confession and penance (pp. 146-150, 156, 185); and affirming of aberrant charismatic practices (pp. 158-174, 198).
(Online source
As one who personally holds to the 5 Solas of the Reformation I say this is, at the very least, a rather odd collection of spiritual skubalon for men who adhere to Reformation theology to be helped by and/or to recommend. DeWaay also shares some very pertinent information in his Foster critique:
The irony about this particular CIC regarding Foster’s 1978 book is that in 1978 I myself was living in a Christian community committed to practicing much of what he promotes in Celebration of Discipline (even though we had not learned it from him directly). So I am not criticizing a practice about which I know nothing (or one in which I have no experience). I am criticizing a practice I foolishly allowed to deceive me for a significant portion of my early Christian life.
When it comes to being deceived by mysticism, I have had abundant involvement. The only way I escaped it was through discovering and adopting the Reformation principle of sola scriptura. In this article I will show that Foster’s “journey inward” is unbiblical and dangerous. I will show that most of the spiritual disciplines that he calls “means of grace” are no means of grace at all—but a means of putting oneself under spiritual deception. (Online source)
Very serious business; the point we make here is this: Does God set the boundaries around the way we approach Him in worship, i.e. what Reformation theology refers to as the means of grace, or do we as His creation get to set our own? To clear up any possible confusion I’m personally not addressing whether or not one is a cessationist or would consider themselves charismatic; my point is, the recommendation of e.g. Richard Foster’s works appear to reveal a lean within this New Calvinism toward Counter Reformation spirituality. And that runs counter to what the Reformers taught concerning Sola Scriptura.
Within Acts 29 it also seems to be leading toward a decrease of Bible study in favor of the pietism which results from CSM with its confusion of Law and Gospel. As an example consider the below from Mike Crowe, “responsible for the development of new Community Group leaders” for the Midtown Campus of Sojourn Community Church, an Acts 29 church in Louisville, KY. In the combox of a post entitled Getting Ready For Sunday: How To Prepare For Sojourn Gathered, May 16, 2010 a reader asks:
Where does the purpose of “Learners” come into this church? Small group is not Bible study and the sermons coast over the scriptures. (Online source)
Crowe responds:
The biblical concept of “learning” goes beyond what we often equate with it – study or the accumulation of knowledge. Biblical learning involves learning to follow Jesus, as an apprentice (or a disciple),… Thus, discipleship = apprenticeship. That means it’s no less than but much, much more than studying the Bible or attending classes…
That means the key discipleship question then isn’t necessarily how much Bible we’re getting but whether or not we’re responding to what we receive with repentance, faith, and a joyfully obedient heart. No matter whether we’re going verse-by-verse through an entire book or getting a birds-eye view of the whole so that we have a better idea how the whole of Scripture fits together as God’s redemptive story (both of which are helpful means to studying and understanding the Bible), the goal is obedience to the Lord in response to what the Lord teaches us. (Online source)
Unfortunately, and using the kind of argumentation I often see posited in Emergent Church circles, above Mike Crowe erects a straw man; no one is arguing that we should study the Bible apart from a willingness to obey what we learn, the issue centers upon the fact that the study of Scripture is an actual means of grace. Yet this kind of de-emphasis upon study of the revealed word of God, coupled with the encouragement in Acts 29 churches to read books by authors who are, in very fact, actually hostile to Reformation theology certainly seems to be at odds with those who would call themselves Calvinists.
In closing this for now, it’s not over, here are two examples of where CSM has led Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. First we have Foster from a 2005 piece in Quaker Life called The With God Life: An Interview with Richard Foster.  The following comes while hawking The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible, which had just come out; the Quaker mystic tells us how the experience-oriented Quakers subjectively approach God “in the gathered silence.” This is mystic-speak for the primary vehicle of CSM, meditation in an altered state of consciousness, which is also known as Contemplative/Centering Prayer.
And while explaining this to us Foster also reveals that he personally does not hold to the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture:
“The Immanuel Principle is ultimately cosmic,” according to Foster. “We are to reign with God and be with God forever and forever. In the past God worked first directly, then indirectly with his people. Since Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection, God works both directly and indirectly. Quakers in the gathered silence experience God both directly and indirectly.” 
I noticed that the focus on the with-God life circumnavigates inconsistencies found in Scripture and differing opinions about theology. By looking at how God revealed himself to people throughout Biblical history negates all those arguments. “You bypass it all,” stated Foster. “You put your focus on how God has been with a person and what does that say to me, now? What are their strengths and weaknesses and how does that apply to me? It’s all about developing charact — character that goes on into the future where we will reign with God and be with God eternally. (Online source, emphasis mine) 
We bring to your attention this is not at all in line with Reformation theology; and it is highly existential and very subjective, which brings us nicely to Foster’s spiritual twin Dallas Willard. In an earlier AM post Is Dallas Willard A Christian? I embed a segment of the Fighting for the Faith program of Christian apologist Chris Rosebrough from Pirate Christian Radio. At 07:22 therein you’ll hear Willard share his law-based non-gospel as he muses, “Now, I believe that everyone who deserves to be saved will be saved no matter where they are or what they do.” Where’s that taught in Scripture you may ask? Answer: Nowhere.
And Willard then goes on flatly contradicting God’s Word in the Bible when he opines:
It’s so important to understand that God is not biased about these matters [being saved and devout] and He is open and in touch with everyone in the world, and for all who seek them with all of their heart—and that is defined in terms of coming to love Him, and not just have the right beliefs about Him—but coming to love Him, and loving their neighbor as themselves.
Being that Willard is a minster, as am I (for now), in the Southern Baptist Convention I can tell you the above is not in accord with the SBC’s revered The Baptist Faith & Message, let alone being in line with Reformation theology; and it sure isn’t biblical theology. [3] However, I can tell you from years of studying the subject of mysticism that longtime practitioners of transcendental meditation, even the TM-lite of so-called Christian contemplative aka centering prayer, will eventually come to believe that mankind is basically good and is already indwelt by God; precisely as did Quaker founder George Fox. [4]
________________________________________________________________________________
Endnotes:
1. http://tinyurl.com/2ag3spk, accessed 5/26/10.
2. http://tinyurl.com/2c4hnxe, accessed 5/26/10.
3. e.g. Romans 3:10-12.
4. The teaching of “the Inner Light,” i.e. Christ, dwelling within all men by Fox is a variant of what one normally sees—even within Christian mysticism—referred to as “a spark of the divine” or “a divine spark”; this is thought to be the literal presence of God, which mystics believe is already within all of mankind, whether he is regenerate or not. Shane Hipps, co-teaching pastor with Rob Bell at Mars Hill Bible Church, recently taught this as you can see in Rob Bell And Shane Hipps Teaching Mysticism. I refute this heretical teaching, which negates the doctrine of regeneration, from the Bible in Understanding the New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind.

23 May 2010

Why the Global Day of Prayer Does Not Conform to Scripture

The following article was posted yesterday at the blog Daniel's Place - (Reformata et semper reformanda):

Why the GDOP does not conform to Scripture

Tomorrow (May 23rd 2010) would be the Global Day of Prayer 2010. Tomorrow, millions of professing Christians from many denominations and sects (including apostate Roman Catholicism) would come together supposedly to create a spiritual wave of prayer. Tomorrow, the forces of hell would be laughing at the mass delusion of these millions of Christians who are unwittingly acting out in preparation of the growing darkness of the New Apostolic Reformation. On Pentecost Sunday the darkness of hell grows as a spiritual tsunami that had begun almost 10 years ago picks up force.
Started by South African businessman Graham Powers in 2001, the Global Day of Prayer (GDOP) event has spread to all corners of the globe. Based as it is on the heretical doctrines of the Latter-rain cult (being denounced by the Assemblies of God in 1949 as heresy), the event is part of the idea of "transformation", in which the supposed Dominion Mandate [1] would come to pass as the new apostles exercise their supposed apostleship over the seven mountains or spheres of society. Though the supposed power of prayer, the GDOP event hopes to "pray down" the kingdom of God and bring heaven down to earth through the power of intercession, thus bringing about societal transformation for the better. [2]
The terrible reality however is that the entire GDOP event is not of God and is in fact an abomination before Him. The New Order of the Latter Rain (NOLR) and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) are heretical groups that are way off from any semblance of biblical Christianity, as Pastor Bob DeWaay has shown [3]. The roots of the GDOP are therefore rotten. Such doctrines as the Manifest Sons of God heresy (based upon the phrasing of Rom. 8:19 in the KJV), and the idea of the "Joshua generation", the "Elijah Company" and "Joel's Army" are concepts utterly foreign to Scripture and so repugnant that to believe them would almost destroy one's spiritual life, as this present author can testify to.
Read the article in its entirety here

Sunday Morning Praise

I know I've posted a different version of this song before, but this song has been in my head all weekend. In the times in which we now live, may we all resoundingly say, "just give me Jesus"!
 

21 May 2010

Thursday's Spurgeon (on Friday)

I apologize for not posting the weekly Spurgeon excerpt yesterday. But what better way to wrap up the week than with a little Spurgeon on Friday? The following excerpt is from a sermon entitled Hold Fast Your Shield. It was posted earlier this week on the Pyromaniacs blog.

Some persons appear to think that a state of doubt is the very best which we can possibly reach. They are very wise and highly cultured individuals, and they imagine that by their advanced judgments nothing in the world can be regarded as assuredly true.

Some of the broad church school would seem to believe that no doctrine in the Bible is worth dying for, or worth anybody's losing over and above a halfpenny for. They do not feel sure of any doctrine: it may be true, and there is a good deal to be said for it, but then a good deal may be said on the other side, and you must hold your mind "receptive," and be ready to accept "new truth."

Some Robinson or other said something about new truth, as if there ever could be such a thing, and, under cover of his probably misinterpreted speech, like chameleons, they are always taking their clue from the particular light that falls upon them. They have no light in themselves and no truth which they hold to be vital.

Such people cannot understand this confidence, but the veriest babes in the family of faith know what it means. Here are certain things which God has taught me; I believe them and am sure about them.

"Dogmatical," says one.

Exactly so; call it what you like, but we are bold to confess that there remains no doubt to us after God has spoken. The question is solved by God's word; the doubt is laid to sleep for ever by the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Oh, to know the grand truths of the gospel, and to know them infallibly. For instance, the grand doctrine of the substitutionary sacrifice of the Son of God —to know it and hold it and say, "Let others question and quibble, but I must believe it; it is my only hope, it is all my salvation. I stake my soul upon it: if that be not true then am I lost." And so with regard to all the other grand truths of revelation, the thing is to know them and grasp them firmly. There must be leverage if we would move men, and to have a leverage you must have a fixed point.

There must be certain undoubted truths about which you can sing, "O God, my heart is fixed; my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise "—things which you perceive to be plainly taught in the Scriptures—things brought home by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Henri Nouwen's "The Living Reminder"

This past weekend, I was rearranging all of my books, deciding which to keep, which to donate, and which to keep at the front of the bookcase for quick and easy reference! As it turns out, I have kept many of my books from my college years. I majored in Religious Studies and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also knew that someday I may want to go back and reference these books and my marginal notes. Interestingly enough, though, many of my "Christian" religion courses found us reading books that left me uneasy. Though I didn't possess enough discernment at the time to understand why, God did protect me so that I felt enough uncertainty so as to question my professors and also to completely stay away from some of the books that I was instructed to read. For example, one of my first reading assignments was Richard Foster's Streams of Living Water. My disdain for flowery, touchy-feely, emotional appeal caused me to loathe reading that book and I couldn't wait to sell it back at the end of the semester. Other books, though, were treated as though they were essentials to the Christian faith and I was made to feel as though I would be an idiot if I didn't find them to be inspiring and crucial to my walk with God. One of those books was Henri Nouwen's The Living Reminder. It's a very small book, but now I can see how full it is of mystical ideas! I praise God for His glorious protection, as I opened this book today and found it filled with my underlines and asterisks. Thank you, Lord, that I did not further investigate Nouwen's ideas of meditation and prayer and "spiritual formation." It really is true that sometimes we do not see God's hand in our situation until years later. Yet He has so intricately woven together the details! I see now that 4 years in a liberal "Christian" college were preparing me for the heart for discernment that He has given me today. Oh, God is so good!

The sad thing is, I believe I can safely say that Nouwen's books are sitting on the shelves of the majority of our pastors today. Yes, even the more conservative pastors will recommend the works of Nouwen, Foster, and the like. This is why we cannot blindly accept everything that our church leaders tell us. We must test everything against Scripture!

Some words from Nouwen on the pastor as the "guiding reminder." My comments are interspersed in blue:
How then can we be spiritual people through whom God's divine counselor and guide can become manifest? If we really want to be living memories, offering guidance to a new land, the word of God must be engraved in our hearts; it must become our flesh and blood. That means much more than intellectual reflection. It means meditating and ruminating on God's word--chewing it or, as the Psalmist puts it, "murmuring" it day and night. In this way the word of God can slowly descend from our mind into our heart and so fill us with the life-giving Spirit. This "total" meditation on the Word of God lies deeply embedded in the rabbinic as well as the Christian tradition. Jean Leclercq, the Benedictine medieval scholar, writes:
 "...to meditate is to read a text and to learn it "by heart" in the fullest sense of this expression, that is, with one's whole being: with the body since the mouth pronounced it, with the memory which fixes it, with the intelligence which understands its meaning and with the will which desires to put it in practice."
This meditation on God's Word is indispensable if we want to be reminders of God and not of ourselves, if we want to radiate hope and not despair, joy and not sadness, life and not death. [...]
While any specific prayer technique is secondary to our obligation to meditate, and although every individual has to find his own way, a disregard for techniques in prayer is just as unwise as a disregard for techniques and skill in pastoral care. The history of Jewish and Christian spirituality shows that our most precious relationship, our relationship with God, cannot simply be left to our spontaneous outpourings (the "history of Jewish and Christian spirituality? What about the Bible?). Precisely because God is central to our lives, our relationship with him calls for formation and training, including skills and methods. [...] 
Perhaps the 1970s offer us a unique chance to reclaim the rich tradition of schooling in prayer. All spiritual writers, from the desert fathers to Teresa of Avila, Evelyn Underhill, and Thomas Merton, have stressed the great power and central importance of prayer in our lives. (All of these writers practice mystical, New-Age, eastern meditation techniques. They do not teach Biblical prayer. Teresa of Avila was so demon-possessed that she eventually could not control when or where she would go into her "trances.") Theophan the Recluse expresses this forcefully when he says: 
"Prayer is the test of everything; prayer is also the source of everything; prayer is the driving force of everything; prayer is also the director of everything. If prayer is right, everything is right. For prayer will not allow anything to go wrong." (What about God? Does He direct anything?)
If this is true, then it is obvious that prayer requires supervision and direction. Just as verbatim reports of our conversations with patients can help us to deepen our interpersonal sensitivities, so a continuing evaluation of our spiritual life can lead us closer to God. [...] The fact that many of the spiritual movements of our day seem to be irresponsible, manipulative, and even downright dangerous for the mental and physical health of the people involved, makes it urgent that the spiritual life of ministers and future ministers not be left to their own uninformed experimentations. [...]
Thus the spiritual life of the minster, formed and trained in a school of prayer, is the core of spiritual leadership. When we have lost the vision, we have nothing to show; when we have forgotten the word of God, we have nothing to remember; when we have buried the blueprint of our life, we have nothing to build. But when we keep in touch with the life-giving spirit within us (notice this is a small "s" and is not referring to the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is a New Age idea of getting in touch with the god inside of each one of us), we can lead people out of their captivity and become hope-giving guides. (Page 68-73, bold emphasis mine).
So there you have it. An appeal for meditation as a required, necessary act in order to have a successful ministry and spiritual life. This is what a Christian university fed me in my supposedly Christian courses. Parents, make sure your children are grounded before they venture into the world! And make sure you know what your pastor is reading. Ask questions. A solid, grounded church and pastor should be elated to have an inquiring congregation rather than pews filled with mindless lemmings. And pray. Pray for your own discernment and the discernment of your church leaders. And pray for protection because our churches are only going to be less and less feeding the Word of God and more and more offering the "doctrines of demons."

16 May 2010

Getting Relevant with Rick Warren

Few "pastors" can twist Scripture as skillfully as can lead Purpose-Driven pastor goat-herder Rick Warren. A couple of his Sunday morning "tweets" include:
"The large crowd listened to Him WITH DELIGHT" Mk12:37 Christlike preaching is always Attractive(big crowd) & Interesting
Hm...may want to check that verse in context there, Rick. I feel really bad for all of those pastors of small churches who get up and preach the actual Gospel each week. Are we to assume that they are not engaging in "Christlike preaching" simply because their congregation is a small one? Seems to me the smaller the crowd, the bigger the chance that the truth is actually being preached! And let's not forget the story in John 6, following Christ's "Bread of Life" discourse, when many of His followers left Him upon hearing the TRUTH.

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:60-66, ESV)
But perhaps my favorite Warren quote of the morning was the following:
Jesus always taught the truth. But he chose the truth THAT specific audience needed at THAT moment. It was relevant truth.
Uh-huh. So am I to believe that the truth that Jesus spoke to "THAT specific audience" at "THAT moment" is not relevant to me today? Then why bother with the Bible, "pastor"? I'm waiting for the next tweet to tell me that truth is not only relevant, it's also relative. 

Sunday Morning Praise

All the Way My Savior Leads Me was composed by Fanny Crosby as a response to a tangibly answered prayer. As I enter a period where God is stretching my faith and my trust further in handing all things over to Him, I am clinging to the picture of the Good Shepherd leading and protecting His sheep. Yes, all the way will my Savior lead me!
All the Way My Savior Leads Me
All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
(The second verse isn't included in the above video, but I still wanted to share it!)
All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.
All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way.
**Updated** After my initial posting this morning, the song Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us "popped" into my head. While the version below only contains one verse, it still offers that beautiful picture of Jesus as our Shepherd. Enjoy!

14 May 2010

Pray for...

Pray for the persecuted church in China. I was listening to a clip from yesterday's Wretched Radio wherein Todd Friel interviewed Scott Thunder from Bible League International. I found the brief interview interesting for various reasons as they discussed the persecuted church in China. From the Bible League International website:
If you were vacationing in China, you might be surprised to see Christians openly worshiping in churches without fear of punishment. You might be puzzled to learn that the government, infamous for its religious restrictions, recognizes 17 million Christians. You might even conclude that religious freedom exists in communist China. But you would be mistaken.
[...]
[T]he Chinese government is cracking down: Recently, the National People’s Congress launched a “Strike Hard” campaign against all “unauthorized” groups. That’s when they declared unregistered churches “illegal cults.” To enforce the campaign, Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers may at any time disrupt a house church, close it down, and arrest its leaders.
Read more here.
This confirms my suspicions (not that they really needed confirmation) that any compromise by Christians with the Chinese government should be given a second glance. Read this story of persecution by the government against a group of Christians worshiping at an underground, "unauthorized" church and then explain to me why we should ever assume that this communist nation would ever sympathize with the Christian mission.

13 May 2010

Why I Deleted My Facebook Account (Permanently!)

Last month as I begin my struggle with a new, overwhelming schedule (be careful about asking God to show you what He wants you to be doing, you just might get your answer in a BIG way!) I decided that I needed to eliminate the non-necessities, at least temporarily. The first thing to go was Facebook. Yes, I enjoyed sending and receiving encouraging notes to my friends each day and having an easy way to stay in touch, but it was far too easy for me to waste my precious time following conversations and reading all the articles everyone was posting. So I figured I would "deactivate" my account for a time, perhaps "reactivating" it in the summer when things calmed down a bit. Then, not long after I took the plunge and while I was still experiencing some social-networking withdrawal symptoms, I came across this article wherein it stated:
Facebook is about to get a lot more personal and dig deeper into you and your friends' likes, dislikes, and what you do online. This week at a Facebook developers conference called F8, the company pulled the curtain back on some very cool and soon to be available features.
Needless to say, I took this as a strong sign that I, and any other Facebook user who enjoys his or her privacy, would probably be removing ourselves permanently from the social networking site. Since I came across that article a couple weeks ago, I've been following the progress of Facebook's newest, privacy-invading features. I've seen many people getting very upset over them (my source here is Twitter. Yes, I realize the irony of this). Tonight I decided that enough was enough. I know I will never "reactivate" my Facebook account because I could never feel safe using it again. So I logged back in for one final time, and promptly deleted my account. Permanently. Gone. Well, within 14 days. Don't you love that? I tell them I want to delete my account, but it still takes 14 days just in case I change my mind. And the sad/scary part is that anything that was posted there is not really gone. Even for all the time I spent deleting my posts (which consisted mainly of daily Bible verses and links to this blog) I know that, out there in cyberspace, my posts are still stored somewhere. And that's something to think about before you type. Before you post those adorable pictures of your kids, ask yourself who else, besides your list of "friends" may be looking. We don't live in a "Leave it to Beaver" world anymore. Google is tracking our every click and Facebook has jumped on the wagon with them. Let's be honest, nothing we do on the Internet is truly private. If you think it is, well, I'll just wait for a moment while you shake the sand out of your hair...

PC World has published several good articles detailing Facebook's latest scheme. I suggest you take a moment to skim them and then decide for yourself if commenting on your friend's picture of his dog or if announcing to the world that you are currently eating dinner is really worth the invasion of your privacy. And if you think that you just can't live without sending all of those engaging hour-to-hour updates to your "friends," I'll let you in on a little secret: very few of them actually care what you are doing right now!

FACEBOOK'S NEW FEATURES AND YOUR PRIVACY: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

4 REASONS TO WORRY ABOUT PRIVACY ON FACEBOOK

FACEBOOK PRIVACY COMPLAINT: A COMPLETE BREAKDOWN

FACEBOOK AND PRIVACY: WHAT A MESS

Things like this are only going to get worse. Soon we won't be able to remember what the word "privacy" even meant! Until then, be aware. And pray. Because with this invasion of our privacy will come a complete and outright loss of freedom, especially for Christians. And so pray for strength, pray for wisdom, pray for protection, and most of all pray with the Apostle John, "Come, Lord Jesus!"

Thursday's Spurgeon

I love when my fellow bloggers do my work for me! Earlier this week, over at the Slaughter of the Sheep blog, Chrystal posted a marvelous Spurgeon excerpt that speaks to the entertainment that now passes as worship in our churches. I couldn't think of a more timely message!

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

Charles Haddon Spurgeon
(1834-1892)

An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it during the past few years. It has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.
From speaking out as the Puritans did, the church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.
My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church. If it is a Christian work, why did not Christ speak of it? “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). That is clear enough. So it would have been if He had added, “and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.” No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him.
Then again, “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers .., for the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:11-12). Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.
Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all his apostles. What was the attitude of the church to the world? Ye are the salt” (Matt. 5:13), not the sugar candy—something the world will spit out not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, “Let the dead bury their dead” (Matt. 8:22) He was in awful earnestness.
Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into his mission, he would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of His teaching. I do not hear him say, “Run after these people Peter and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick Peter, we must get the people somehow.” Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them.
In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of this gospel of amusement! Their message is, “Come out, keep out, keep clean out!” Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon.
After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the church had a prayer meeting but they did not pray, “Lord grant unto thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are.” If they ceased not from preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). That is the only difference! Lord, clear the church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods.
Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment has been God’s link in the chain of the conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today’s ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.  (Source)
You can see the original post here.

11 May 2010

The Message Distorts the Most Beloved Bible Verse

Almost anyone who has spent any time in a typical Sunday School class is able to recite John 3:16, "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. (NASB)" What a promise! Well, over at Suspicious Berean, we get a little glimpse of Eugene Peterson's (the man who wrote this distorted paraphrase of God's Holy Word) idea of what this verse means:
The Message distorts John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3:16-17, KJV

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. John 3:16-17, The Message

Some Bereans, such as Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon at The Berean Call, have commented about how Eugene Peterson in The Message alters the meaning of John 3:17. "That the world through him might be saved" is changed to "put the world right again," which makes Jesus Christ sound more a social reformer than a saviour.

However, it’s also worth taking a look at what Mr. Peterson does to John 3:16. This is perhaps the most beloved verse in the Bible, and one that directly led me to put my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as my saviour. The word rendered as "everlasting" in the King James Version and "eternal" in most modern versions is the Greek word aionios. According to An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W.E. Vine (1940), "...it is used of persons and things which are in their nature endless..." Which is to say, "everlasting" or "eternal" are correct renderings of the word. However, The Message changes "everlasting life" to "a whole and lasting life." "Whole and lasting" sounds a lot less impressive to me than "everlasting" or "eternal." It sounds as though Mr. Peterson is more interested in promoting a better life on Earth than in preparing people for eternity.

The reader will also note the absence of the word "begotten" from verse 16. I haven’t time to reprint it here, but Mr. Vine’s dictionary has a lengthy explanation of the phrase "only begotten," which is the Greek word monogenes. The phrase is unique to the writings of John, and is found five times (John 1:14; 1:18; 3:16; 3:18; and I John 4:9), always in reference to Christ as the Son of God. I’ve already posted on The Message’s refusal to use the phrases "Lord Jesus" and "Lord Jesus Christ," and I don’t understand how such a perverse paraphrase can be seriously regarded as a "Bible."
If you click here, you can see how The Message "conveniently" omits all references to the Lord Jesus and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is absolutely mind-boggling to me how Christians who are strong in their faith can view The Message as a valid, viable Bible translation. A few quick tests of the fruit of The Message shows that it is lacking in nourishment. Just look at the churches who frequently quote from it: Willow Creek, Saddleback Church, and just about every Purpose-Driven, seeker-sensitive church that opens up its auditorium doors and puts on a show, not a church service, every weekend. Another quick study of New Age undertones of The Message  should send every Christian running in the other direction. When a supposed Bible "translation" twists the Lord's Prayer to include one of the most common phrases in New Age terminology, then we have a serious problem. The Message may be teaching a message all right, but it isn't God's message. There are several true Bible translations in print that, through scholarship and true translation of the original texts have managed to create an understandable, easy-to-read English version of God's Word. Though it is not my personal favorite, I would point anyone to the NIV translation if they are having difficulty comprehending some of the text. My recommendation would be to utilize either the ESV or NASB translation. But whatever you do, do not put The Message into the hands of one of God's precious little lambs lest you aid in leading that little lamb to the slaughter.

See also:
HERETICAL QUOTE OF THE DAY
TWISTING THE MESSAGE

09 May 2010

Sunday Morning Praise

'
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart
Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.
All laud we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee,
And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.

Happy Mother's Day!

I want to wish all of you mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, moms-to-be, and "like-a-mom"s a very Happy Mother's Day! May you feel loved and be blessed this day by those whose lives you've helped mold and shape in mighty ways...your children (and grandchildren, great-grandchildren, you get the idea)! I can say only from observation that mothers work harder than anyone else and they truly deserve not just one day of recognition, but our admiration all year! On a personal note, I can't even begin to express how thankful I am for the mom God gave me...I truly am blessed! Love you, Mom! Happy Mother's Day!

07 May 2010

Archie Comics Introduces Gay Character "Kevin Keller"

I was going to comment on this bit of news, but since the marvelous Sola Sisters blog has already done so, I'll just copy their post here:

Archie Comics Introduces Gay Character "Kevin Keller"

There's a new kid on the block in Riverdale, the fictitious home of the lovable characters of the Archie Comics.  His name is Kevin Keller and he's the comic strip series' first openly gay character.

From the official press release:
"Kevin will appear in September's VERONICA #202, in a story called "Isn't it Bromantic?" Kevin Keller is the new hunk in town and Veronica just has to have him. After Kevin defeats Jughead in a burger eating contest at Pop's Chocklit Shoppe, she desperately latches onto him. Mayhem and hilarity ensue as Kevin desperately attempts to let Veronica down easy and her flirtations only become increasingly persistent."
Jon Goldwater, co-CEO of Archie Comics, released the following statement about this new character:
"The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. Archie's hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books."
I often hear people questioning if God will soon judge America.  Well, a plain reading of Romans 1 reveals that we are already under God's judgment and wrath.  In this chapter, there is first a suppression of truth, then a disdainful arrogance that neither acknowledges nor praises God, then comes worship of the creation rather than the Creator, and after that a sexual revolution, followed by a homosexual revolution. Have we not had God removed from classrooms, football fields, lunch meetings, courtrooms, etc.?  And how about Earth Day, with its strident pleadings to "go green" and "live sustainably?"  (Imagine if the reverse of this were true, and the Creator was worshiped instead of the creation, with the same level of media intensity given to pastors and Christian leaders pleading for God to be glorified and lifted up. Hard to imagine a reversal so profound, isn't it?) As for a sexual revolution, we've had that, beginning in the 1960s and followed by, yes, a homosexual revolution that continues today. So no, these aren't indicators that judgment is coming, as some people think; they are indicators that judgment is already here.