31 October 2010

Sunday Morning Praise - Reformation Day Edition

In honor of today being Reformation Day, I thought I'd post a couple of hymns written by Martin Luther.

I cannot get over how much this first hymn pertains to today! According to Martin Luther: Hymns, Ballads, Chants, Truth (page 26-27), this hymn is "a paraphrase of Psalm 12." It was written in 1523 and was published in the first Lutheran hymnal, Achtliederbuch in 1524.




"O Lord, Look Down from Heaven, Behold"


1. O Lord, look down from heaven, behold
And let Thy pity waken:
How few are we within Thy Fold,
Thy saints by men forsaken!
True faith seems quenched on every hand,
Men suffer not Thy Word to stand;
Dark times have us o'ertaken.


2. With fraud which they themselves invent
Thy truth they have confounded;
Their hearts are not with one consent
On Thy pure doctrine grounded.
While they parade with outward show,
They lead the people to and fro,
In error's maze astounded.

3. May God root out all heresy
And of false teachers rid us
Who proudly say: "Now, where is he
That shall our speech forbid us?
By right or might we shall prevail;
What we determine cannot fail;
We own no lord and master."


4. Therefore saith God, "I must arise,
The poor My help are needing;
To Me ascend My people's cries,
And I have heard their pleading.
For them My saving Word shall fight
And fearlessly and sharply smite,
The poor with might defending."


5. As silver tried by fire is pure
From all adulteration,
So through God's Word shall men endure
Each trial and temptation.
Its light beams brighter through the cross,
And, purified from human dross,
It shines through every nation.

6. Thy truth defend, O God, and stay
This evil generation;
And from the error of their way
Keep Thine own congregation.
The wicked everywhere abound
And would Thy little flock confound;
But Thou art our Salvation.


This second hymn needs no introduction, because I've posted it before and many of you know it's one of my favorites! But did you know that "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" is a paraphrase of Psalm 46?








"A Mighty Fortress is Our God''



A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Happy Reformation Day!

It's October 31...what are you and your family commemorating today? Will you paint the kids' faces, load up the car and head over to the local church's "harvest party"? Will your kids go from car to car doing "trunk or treat" as Christians once again attempt to Christianize a pagan celebration? I'll pause here and say that, if I had children, I honestly don't know how I'd handle Halloween. There's nothing innately wrong with dressing your kid up like Superman and sending him around the neighborhood to beg sugar off of your neighbors. What bothers me is the church, recognizing that Halloween is a celebration of death, gore, and Satan, still feels like they need to honor the day! Here's a thought--instead of holding your "harvest party" on October 31, why not hold it the week after, and completely ignore the day of Halloween? Instead, all of these harvest parties are one step away from those who claim that yoga can be Christian simply by breathing the names of Jesus while you're sitting in a position worshipping the Hindu sun god.

I wonder if any churches recognize October 31 as being "Reformation Day," a day to remember Martin Luther's boldness as he nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517? Or are we too busy teaching our children that if you slap a Christian name on something--even something pagan--it is suddenly Christian? I would challenge you today to talk to your kids about what Martin Luther did on this day all those centuries ago. Perhaps you could choose a couple of his 95 points to discuss and explain. I will post some of Luther's theses below, but if you'd like to see the 95 Theses in their entirety, you can visit this site. Was Martin Luther perfect? Nope. Were any of the Reformers? Nope. Are you? Nope. Am I? Nope. But without Luther's courage and voice, we could very well all be sitting around, praying to Mary, paying indulgences, and worshipping statues and the pope instead of the One True God. So as far as I'm concerned, we owe Martin Luther a great deal. And we ought to remember the roots of the Reformation today, rather than the roots of satan and evil.
1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent," He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one's heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.
4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.
32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them.
35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins.
36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.
40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men's consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties.
94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells.
95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace. 

Update on Bob DeWaay

It's with a heavy heart that I post this update on Bob DeWaay. This is directly from the Twin City Fellowship website:
10/28/2010 — Update regarding Bob DeWaay:
We now have a clear picture regarding Bob DeWaay’s health issues. He has been diagnosed with Alcoholic Hepatitis. He is currently being treated and is making progress; the long-term effects to his health are yet unknown.

It is with great sadness that we have to report that Bob will no longer be a part of the leadership of Twin City Fellowship. Please keep Bob, his family, and Twin City Fellowship in your prayers.
Before you cast judgment, I urge you to pause and remember that no one, not even our spiritual leaders, is free from sin. We must remember that drinking in and of itself is not a sin, however drunkenness and addiction (whether it creates a "buzz" or not) is very much a sin that holds many people in bondage. Bob DeWaay has done much in the way of discernment for the church, and we are not to disregard his work or his teachings. Here we have a man who was trapped in secret sin for quite some time. We cannot judge the state of his salvation or faith. What we are to do is to pray for repentance and healing in this situation. It is reassuring to see that the church is taking the proper steps for church discipline. It is my understanding that the entire church was updated on this a week ago, and they have been working out the next steps since that time.

My prayers will be with Bob DeWaay and his family. I hope that yours will be as well.

28 October 2010

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from a sermon entitled Preach the Gospel, preached August 5, 1855.
To preach the gospel is to state every doctrine contained in God's Word, and to give every truth its proper prominence. Men may preach a part of the gospel; they may only preach one single doctrine of it; and I would not say that a man did not preach the gospel at all if he did but maintain the doctrine of justification by faith—"By grace are ye saved through faith." I should put him down for a gospel minister, but not for one who preached the whole gospel. No man can be said to preach the whole gospel of God if he leaves it out, knowingly and intentionally, one single truth of the blessed God. This remark of mine must be a very cutting one, and ought to strike into the consciences of many who make it almost a matter of principle to keep back certain truths from the people, because they are afraid of them. In conversation, a week or two ago, with an eminent professor, he said to me, "Sir, we know that we ought not to preach the doctrine of election, because it is not calculated to convert sinners." "But," said I to him, "who is the men that dares to find fault with the truth of God? You admit, with me, that it is a truth, and yet you say it must not be preached. I dare not have said that thing. I should reckon it supreme arrogance to have ventured to say that a doctrine ought not to be preached when the all-wise God has seen fit to reveal it. Besides, is the whole gospel intended to convert sinners? There are some truths which God blesses to the conversion of sinners; but are there not other portions which were intended for the comfort of the saint? and ought not these to be a subject of gospel ministry as well as the others? And shall I look at one and disregard the other? No: if God says, 'Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people' if election comforts God's people, then must I preach it." But I am not quite so sure, that after all, that doctrine is not calculated to convert sinners. For the great Jonathan Edwardes tells us, that in the greatest excitement of one of his revivals, he preached the sovereignty of God in the salvation or condemnation of man, and showed that God was infinitely just if he sent men to hell! that he was infinitely merciful if he saved any; and that it was all of his own free grace, and he said, "I found no doctrine caused more thought nothing entered more deeply into the heart than the proclamation of that truth." The same might be said of other doctrines. There are certain truths in God's word which are condemned to silence; they, forsooth, are not to be uttered, because, according to the theories of certain persons, looking at these doctrines, they are not calculated to promote certain ends. But is it for me to judge God's truth? Am I to put his words in the scale, and say, "This is good, and that is evil?' Am I to take God's Bible, and sever it and say, "this is husk, and this is wheat?" Am I to cast away any one truth, and say, "I dare not preach it?" No: God forbid. Whatsoever is written in God's Word is written for our instruction: and the whole of it is profitable, either for reproof, or for consolation, or for edification in righteousness. No truth of God's Word ought to be withheld, but every portion of it preached in its own proper order.

27 October 2010

Peaceful Protestors Arrested

Most of you know that, for the most part, I prefer to stay away from strict political and social issues on this blog. But did you hear about this? Did this story make the evening news early in October when several Carleton University students were arrested for peacefully protesting abortion on campus? Their campus, might I add--these are tuition paying students who were denied their right to free speech simply because they were saying something that the university did not want to hear. I have no idea as to the state of the salvation of these students, but I think it would be gracious of us to add them to our prayer list. Watch the video below. I am amazed at how articulate the young lady is who took center stage and defended her rights. And at the risk of sounding like Tyra Banks...you go, girl!



HT: Carleton Lifeline (note, this website contains some graphic images as concerns abortion).

24 October 2010

**REPOST** Alpha Exposed: Part 2

Before I go any further in my discussion of Nicky Gumbel, I want to pause and examine the content of the Alpha Course. Is this course wholly, completely, and correctly presenting the full Gospel of repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ? As an “introduction to the Christian faith” one would hope that it is doing this rather boldly. However, as I mentioned in Alpha Exposed: Part 1, the Alpha course is readily accepted and endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church. Hm. A works-based religion is endorsing Alpha? It seems to me that, if anything is proclaiming the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, Roman Catholicism would be nearly the last group to support it, second only maybe to Islam and atheists. So what about Alpha is so terribly non-threatening? The Gospel that I believe and share is actually quite offensive. I’ve lost “friends” for speaking the Truth of Jesus Christ. Since the Bible promises such a response, I’m confused how Alpha can be so friendly with the world and with false religions.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 1 Peter 4:12-14

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:18-19

For your reference, below is a list of the titles of the 15 talks of the Alpha Course. You’ll note that there are only two which discuss Jesus, while several others discuss the Holy Spirit or present an obvious charismatic approach to the “good news.”

• Christianity: Boring, Untrue and Irrelevant?

• Who Is Jesus?

• Why Did Jesus Die?

• How Can I Be Sure of My Faith?

• Why and How Should I Read the Bible?

• Why and How Do I Pray?

• How Does God Guide Us?

• Who Is the Holy Spirit?

• What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

• How Can I Be Filled With the Spirit?

• How Can I Resist Evil?

• Why and How Should We Tell Others?

• Does God Heal Today?

• What About the Church?

• How Can I Make the Most of the Rest of My Life?

Chris Hand of The Christian Research Network Journal (CRN) offers six major criticisms of the Alpha Course:

“The God of Alpha is not the God of the Bible. …it does not present us with the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible. … It simply fails to tell us anything we need to know about God.

The plight of man in Alpha is not as serious as in the Bible. … Alpha does not use strong terms and leaves us rather unclear about where we stand. As one follows its argument, sin is more to be seen in the way we have ‘messed up our lives.’ … For all the gravity of sin, Alpha never allows us to feel too bad about ourselves. It never permits us to see ourselves in God’s sight. That is a big omission. (Just a personal note here: I have watched one of Gumbel’s “teachings” and was astounded to hear him refer to sin not as sin, but as “mistakes” that we may make. The depravity of man is downplayed terribly. I can only assume that this is one of the “non-threatening” tactics of Alpha. But without a full realization of man’s absolute and utter disgusting sinfulness, one can never come to full repentance before the throne of God.)

The Jesus Christ of Alpha is not the Jesus Christ of the Bible. … despite having part of the course titled ‘Why did Jesus die?’, it is unable in the final analysis to answer this question.

The love of God in Alpha is not the love of God of the Bible. … The God of the Bible is love but it is love that is seen in His willingness to save sinners. … without the context of God’s holiness and absolute perfection, the meaning of love is lost to us.

The Holy Spirit of Alpha is not the Holy Spirit of the Bible. … Alpha’s “Spirit” appears to work in ways that lie outside the confines of Scripture. Whoever it is that people are ‘introduced’ to at the Alpha Weekend, it is not the Holy Spirit. But whoever this mysterious guest is, he is equally at home with the ecstatic gatherings of New Age enthusiasts and non-Christian religions alike.

Conversions in Alpha are not like the conversions in the Bible. … More often than not it is an emotional experience about the love of God but without any understanding of holiness or the need to be saved from our sins. … For all its efforts, Alpha does not help us to know God. It does not describe the true and living God for us. It does not diagnose man’s condition accurately enough. … it is unable to supply us with the ‘good news.”

In this post, I am only going to tackle a few of the issues above and, as is noted by several of my sources, the list above is in no way an exhaustive list of the discrepancies and errors of the Alpha Course.

I want to first briefly examine the Jesus of the Alpha Course. Dusty Peterson and Elizabeth McDonald of Bayith Ministries have done extensive research into the Alpha Course and Nicky Gumbel, and they will be my main resource for this particular point. First, let’s look at ‘Was Jesus Sinless?’ Well, the Bible clearly states that Jesus was “without sin” (Heb 4:15, 1 John 3:5b). Obviously, this is a foundational belief of the gospel because, were Jesus not without blemish, He could not have been the perfect sacrifice that was required for the forgiveness of the sins of mankind. However, in the Alpha videos, Gumbel fails to properly explain Jesus’ sinless nature. What he actually says is “Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are. Jesus had evil thoughts.” Now, earlier in this discussion, Gumbel has explained to the course participant that ‘evil thoughts’ come “from within, out of your hearts.” Doesn’t this present just a bit of a problem? An innocent listener of this teaching would walk away assuming that Christ had evil thoughts which came from out of his heart! Perish the thought! As Peterson and McDonald clarify, “Jesus was offered temptations, He was offered evil thoughts by the enemy, but He rejected them all instantly.” How sad it is that Gumbel fails to make this distinction. In fact, throughout his talks and teachings, Gumbel consistently fails to use the term “sinless” choosing instead less blunt phrases such as “Jesus never did anything wrong.”

Without going into detail (although, if you would like to see my references, please feel free to contact me), let me briefly list some other areas where Peterson and McDonald feel Gumbel and Alpha are lacking in their teaching and presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Gumbel seems to inappropriately present Jesus’ infallibility. In Talk 13, he almost seems to indicate that it was Jesus’ lack of faith that required a second try for him to heal the blind man in Mark 8.

Was Jesus righteous and holy? “Although Alpha does employ the word ‘righteous’ in several places, it is never categorically applied to the Lord Jesus except to say that he shared the ‘human’ emotion of ‘righteous anger’” Throughout the only two Alpha talks that are devoted to our Savior, Gumbel fails to refer to Jesus as being “holy.”

Was Jesus perfect? Gumbel tells us that “Jesus himself set us a great example.” Where am I, the land of “Jesus was a great guy, but…”? Why dance around it, Gumbel? Didn’t Jesus set the perfect example?

Most critics of Alpha concede that Gumbel’s presentation of Christ, sin, and God the Father are not necessarily incorrect in their entirety. However, the same critics reveal that Gumbel’s presentation of these truths seems to be lacking, especially in comparison to the attention given to the Holy Spirit. As noted earlier, the Alpha Course contains more “teachings” dedicated to the Holy Spirit than to Jesus Christ! While I certainly recognize the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the bottom line is that without Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice and victorious resurrection, Christians have nothing, our faith is in vain!

The Personal Freedom Outreach (PFO) article “The Alpha Course—Final Answer or Fatal Attraction?” states, “The Holy Spirit of Alpha is not the Comforter who assists us in the development of the fruit of the Spirit and practical Christian living but is a capricious being who makes us do all kinds of weird and crazy things. His [Gumbel’s] theme song could well be “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” If one could speak of heresies in sanctification, it would be here. If there are converts, they are now thrown into the briars and thickets of pure speculation, human imagination and emotional excess.” The article continues, “The ‘believer is inundated with teaching about tongues-speaking and burning body parts. […] We are instructed to seek guidance in visions, voices and dreams.”

Alpha resources also see Gumbel claiming that “The Church is meant to be a party…” He uses the well-known parable of the prodigal son to explain that our Sunday worship services should be like a “party.” “Jesus was saying that…the Church is like…a feast and a celebration, and at a party everyone has a good time. There’s fun, there’s laughter…Why shouldn’t there be laughter at the biggest party of all? And that’s what we’re seeing today, laughter and fun, and people getting drunk—not with wine, Paul says ‘don’t get drunk with wine—be filled with the Spirit, Come to a party where you can get drunk on God…”

Does anyone else feel blasphemous just reading that? Yes, the Church will celebrate at the great Marriage Supper of the Lamb upon Christ’s return, but when I wrote “Partying for Jesus?” I was remiss to find any Scripture references that feature the Christian life as one big party. And I have even more difficulty finding any Biblical reference for getting “drunk” with the Holy Spirit. I fear that this explanation is another attempt of Gumbel’s to be relevant and attractive to today’s culture, as well as a method to help justify those “holy laughter” incidents.

Perhaps by taking the emphasis off of Jesus Christ and onto other, more mystical practices and elements, Alpha is able to reach across those pesky denomination barriers. It is obvious from the many “visions” of the virgin Mary across the world that the Catholic Church is rooted in mysticism, not to mention idol worship and false teaching. However, Alpha claims to be “adaptable across tradition and denominations.” Really? How is that? If Alpha is presenting the true historical and theological facts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then how could it possibly be adaptable to the Catholic Church? Gumbel tells Alpha participants in Talk 8 that the differences between Protestants and Catholics are “totally insignificant compared to the things that unite us.” Really? Really? I tend to find A LOT of differences that make it impossible for a true Christian to unite in any way with the Catholic Church! Worship of idols and a failure to acknowledge the believer’s direct access to God through our only High Priest, Jesus Christ, would be two with which to start.

What I see in the Alpha course is a desire to include Catholics, not convert them. But if we as Christians are aware that someone is involved in, to be blunt, the largest cult in the world today, shouldn’t we seek to share the true Gospel with them rather than water it down, removing a few potentially “offensive” thoughts in efforts to merely “include” them in our little social gathering? I can only conclude that this is not the goal of Alpha but that it is instead all about numbers for Gumbel. How many Alpha offices can we have? We can have a dedicated Catholic office? Great! How many people can we get to come this weekend? And, most dangerously, with Gumbel’s practice of the “Toronto Blessing,” and his belief in “holy laughter” and being “drunk in the Spirit” his goal may not be to see people come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, but to instead expose as many unaware souls as possible to whatever spirits are controlling him.

In the Alpha resource Telling Others Gumbel says “we make it a rule on Alpha never to criticize another denomination, another Christian church or a Christian leader.” Great. Apparently Gumbel lives in that imaginary land where we’re never supposed to rebuke false teachers because it might make someone mad or sad. The article “The Dangers of the Alpha Course” from the website Deception in the Church responds to Gumbel’s statement, “[…] there are times when failure to criticize—or rather rebuke and correct (2 Tim 3:16; 4:2-5)—is actually to be disobedient to the Word of God. […] [W]e are to test all teachings, prophesies and practices against Scripture and judge whether they are true or false (1 Cor. 2:15, 16; 1 John 4:1).”

Having not attended the full course myself, it is only through research that I can conclude that Alpha offers a muddy view of the Gospel at best. And if someone who has been a Christian for quite some time is confused by Gumbel’s presentation, how much more confused must an unbeliever be! The acceptance of Alpha by such a false religion as the Roman Catholic Church leads me to the logical conclusion that the Alpha Course is not adequately presenting the full Gospel of Jesus Christ. If it did, the Catholic Church in its works-based righteousness would be offended and would denounce Alpha’s teaching rather than embrace it. Finally, I cannot comprehend a course that spends more time on the Holy Spirit (outside the realm of the Biblical definition of the Holy Spirit, no less) than it does on Jesus Christ. Jesus is our Lord, He is our Savior! His perfect sacrifice is the very core of the Gospel that Gumbel claims to believe! So how can Gumbel dedicate such little time and such poor, incomplete teaching to our Lord? I daresay, (and please forgive the understatement) that Gumbel has his priorities a bit skewed.

See Also:
ALPHA EXPOSED: PART 1
ALPHA EXPOSED: PART 3

"Do Not Be Surprised" Spam Alert

It's come to my attention that some email service providers have begun sifting the automatic email subscription of Do Not Be Surprised into the Spam folder. I know for certain that this is happening with Yahoo. Unless you consider the email updates to be Spam, please go into your Spam or Junk Mail folder, and add the address for this blog to your list of safe sites. If you know that someone subscribes through Yahoo, they may not be aware of this yet, so please let them know to check their Spam folder as well! I am seeing this happen with more and more Christian sites and subscriptions. Gee, I wonder if someone doesn't want the information that we're sharing to get out?

To fix this problem in Yahoo, go into your Spam folder, highlight one of the messages from Do Not Be Surprised, and click the "Not Spam" button.


Thank you to all who faithfully follow. I pray this blog is a blessing to you as it is for me to share it with you!

Sunday Morning Praise



"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

23 October 2010

Free ESV Bible for Kindle

Have a Kindle? Today, on Amazon you can download the entire ESV Bible for FREE. Don't miss out!

22 October 2010

Update on Pastor Bob DeWaay

The following has been posted on the Twin City Fellowship website:
10/21/2010 — Update on Pastor Bob’s health:
Pastor Bob has had a number of tests this past week and a half and his doctor has been able to eliminate most of the original concerns. Some liver dysfunction has been detected, and further tests are underway to determine how big a problem he faces and what treatment should be initiated. Also, in the next two weeks he is scheduled to undergo tests to determine if he has sleep apnea. Please continue to pray for Bob that his upcoming test results will be favorable and that the doctors will be able to outline a proper plan for treatment. Also keep his wife Diane in prayer for strength and wisdom as she ministers to Bob.
Please continue to pray for this great man of God.

**REPOST** Alpha Exposed: Part 1

From time to time, the topic of the Alpha Course arises. Since it was research into the dangers of the Alpha Course that originally inspired me to begin this blog, and since I've acquired new readers since the original posting of these articles over a year ago, I decided to do a series of reposts. Over the next week or so, I will be reposting the main articles from my "Alpha Exposed" series. You'll find that the roots of the Alpha Course lie in the dangerous and the demonic. If your church hosts this program, I urge you to go to them with the information that follows.

ALPHA EXPOSED: PART 1

Please know that I do not take the following subject matter lightly. I struggled for months over whether I should even explore the perils of the Alpha Course, because doing so means risking a personal loss. But when God first opened my eyes to this deception, He made it very clear to me that I had to speak up and forsake the hesitation that accompanies the possibility of any negative outcome or backlash. May God be honored in what follows.

In the post Bill, Bono, and Blair: An Unholy Trinity? I alluded to providing further information regarding Nicky Gumbel, the Anglican who is a member of Tony Blair's Faith Foundation. My main goal, however, is to expose the dangers of the Alpha Course, of which Gumbel is the head.

You may or may not have heard of the Alpha Course. In the past two decades or so, it has swept across the UK, finding particular success amongst Roman Catholics (right there--you should be raising an eyebrow!) Alpha likes to describe itself as "a practical introduction to the Christian faith." Interesting, but if it is truly introducing the Christian faith, then why do Catholics who participate continue to attend their Catholic churches after they've completed the course? But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Alpha Course has found moderate success in America as well, with evangelical churches hurrying to include it as a new, non-threatening way to present the Gospel. But why do we need a catchy logo and an elaborately developed program to present the Gospel? Funny, but it seems to me that Jesus and the apostles just preached the Gospel, plain and simple. No tactics or techniques required. And we can be certain that they offended people in the process because the Gospel of Christ is offensive and foolish to those who are perishing! Oh, silly me, I guess that straight preaching just wouldn't be relevant enough to today's culture. I keep forgetting that God's Word nowadays has to conform to society rather than the other way around!

I want to start with a brief history of Alpha because the history that Alpha itself provides is terribly lacking in truth and detail. It's true, Alpha began in the 1970s at Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London. But it's not Alpha's early history I want to focus on so much as it's recent history, namely since Nicky Gumbel took the stage as leader and head. I've decided to tackle this topic in multiple posts in the interest of time and attention. Throughout these posts I hope to present the idea that the Alpha Course does not teach the Gospel as presented by Jesus Christ and the apostles and, as if that wasn't dangerous enough, that it's roots lie in New Age, anti-Biblical practices. Putting it bluntly, I believe that the Alpha Course is being used as a tool of Satan, with a "Christian" mask of "Christian" terms and "Christian" supporters. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to share my research with you.

Alpha likes to tout and advertise that "Over thirteen million people have explored the Christian faith at Alpha courses all over the world." Well, that's great. So how many of those people genuinely accepted Christ and continue to serve Him today? Numbers mean absolutely nothing, especially when it comes to true faith in Christ. Was it not Jesus Himself who said, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it."?

Nicky Gumbel took over Alpha in 1990 and is the main architect of the course as it now exists. He happens to be Vicar at Holy Trinity Brompton church in London. HTB is an Anglican church, a denomination that has been widely accepting and tolerant of error (ordination of women and moral issues to start) for quite some time. This leads to my first hesitation: If Nicky Gumbel is so faithful to the Word and Truth of God, then why does he continue to hold a position in an Anglican church?

But my bigger issue with HTB is that it was this church that helped spread the Toronto Blessing across England. While I don't wish to go into great detail about the Toronto Blessing here, a brief examination is required in order to realize the gravity of the reality that this is where Alpha's roots lie.

The Toronto Blessing is a New Age movement that infiltrated some churches in the early nineties. With a few Christian terms tossed in to aid in the deception, the Toronto Blessing emphasizes experience and a realization of a higher self as truth. In fact, those who receive "the blessing" find themselves "drunk" with laughter in a "slaying of the spirit" experience. Once Gumbel received "the blessing" himself from Eleanor Mumford (who is greatly responsible for bringing "the blessing" to England from Toronto) he wasted no time effecting the same phenomenon in his own church. Author and apologist Dave Hunt wrote that HTB "...became the center of holy laughter for England and Europe." Following services and prayer meetings, the church would provide taxis for those in attendance who were too "drunk in the Spirit" to even drive home!

A 1994 Time Magazine article entitled "Laughing for the Lord" says:
"It's Sunday evening in London's fashionable Knightsbridge neighborhood. Though pathetically tiny flocks of Londoners attend many Anglican services, Holy Trinity Brompton has a standing-room-only turnout of 1500. After the usual Scripture readings, prayers and singing, the chairs are cleared away. Curate Nicky Gumbel prays that the Holy Spirit will come upon the congregation. Soon a woman begins laughing. Others gradually join her with hearty belly laughs. A young worshipper falls to the floor, hands twitching. Another falls, then another and another. Within half an hour there are bodies everywhere as supplicants sob, shake, roar like lions, and strangest of all laugh uncontrollably. This frenzied display has become known as the 'laughing revival' or 'Toronto Blessing'. After first appearing at Holy Trinity only last May, laughing revivals have been reported in Anglican parishes from Manchester to York to Brighton. At London's Holy Trinity, schoolteacher Denise Williams says she 'came here a little skeptical' but soon was caught up in the fervor. 'There was a lovely feeling of warmth and peace.' Lines outside Holy Trinity now start forming an hour and a half before services."
I ask you, does this sound like the services of the early church as described by the apostle Paul? This description sounds like the exact opposite of the type of orderly worship that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 14.

Those of you who may be willing to give Gumbel the benefit of the doubt are saying, "Okay, but that's the church, not Alpha per se." Well, to begin with, Alpha is 100% linked with Holy Trinity Brompton (if you follow this link you will see that their International Head Office is located at the church). Secondly, Gumbel has most assuredly brought these same practices into the Alpha Course proper. Not only does the course focus greatly on the Holy Spirit (as opposed to the repentance of sins and Christ crucified and resurrected for our salvation) but Alpha culminates into one great weekend experience known as the Holy Spirit Weekend. Let's be honest, if his religious beliefs lie in something as ensnaring as the Toronto Blessing, surely those beliefs will filter into his other religious endeavors!

In the Personal Freedom Outreach article "The Alpha Course - Final Answer or Fatal Attraction?" the author indicates, "Gumbel unashamedly is trying to move people into esoteric experiences, altered states of consciousness, self-hypnosis and mindless emotionalism and then tell his followers it is all of God. Gumbel uses "God's words" to move people toward the ultimate end which is hysteria, loss of control, and mindlessness."

Gumbel himself has stated that the purpose of these weekends is to expect and experience various types of odd manifestations and loss of control of one's own body. In the same article, Gumbel himself is quoted as saying, "Sometimes, when people are filled, they shake like a leaf in the wind. Others find themselves breathing deeply, as if almost physically breathing in the Spirit...Physical heat sometimes accompanies the filling of the Spirit and people experience it in their hands or some other part of their bodies." This loss of control seems to directly contradict the God of the Bible, "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace." 1 Corinthians 14:33. In fact, I would challenge Gumbel to present Scripture in defense of this loss of bodily control as a necessary effect of the Holy Spirit upon the believer.

Sounds to me like Gumbel could be great friends with Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Phyllis Tickle, and the like. All of these individuals draw from New Age thoughts and practices and dangerously emphasize feeling and experience over the Truth of God's Word. As long as it feels like God is making me warm and tingly it must really be Him, right? So who needs Scripture if I have a warm fuzzy feeling and I'm shaking uncontrollably? Christian, beware of ANYTHING that promotes feeling over God's already spoken truth. Realization of Alpha's approach to "truth" leads to the conclusion that any conversions that are supposedly taking place are wholly emotional and stand little chance of actually passing the test of true faith and a true walk with God.

An article at Deception in the Church entitled "The Dangers of the Alpha Course" quotes Gumbel as admitting, "I have found on Alpha that those from an essentially enlightened background feel at home with the parts of the course which appeal to the mind, but often have difficulty in experiencing the Holy Spirit. Others coming from the New Age movement find that rational and historical explanations leave them cold, but at the weekend away they are on more familiar territory in experiencing the Holy Spirit." Is anyone else concerned by that quote? The Alpha training manual and videos tell the participant that "We live in the age of the Spirit." Really? Where is that in Scripture? Quite the opposite of God's Word, this instead sounds very reminiscent of the New Age idea of the Age of Aquarius.

(If I may take a slight but brief detour: Indeed, far from being a brief fad of the eighties, New Age practices and ideas have been running rampant for centuries--even in the early church--and they continue to impact and infiltrate our churches today. For more information on the dangers of the New Age, email me and I can send you a list of resources for further research.)

A quick glance at some of the "great" men who endorse Alpha should also cause eyebrows to raise. Men like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and Tony Campolo among others. It should come as no surprise that apostates such as these would give high praise to a "Christian" course that elevates emotion over truth and that focuses more on meeting a temporary felt need than on the true unregenerate spiritual condition of a person's heart.

On Saturday evening of the Holy Spirit weekend, Gumbel will pray for the participants and for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. So how do we know that they have actually received the true Holy Spirit. Well, I would argue that we don't know which spirit these people are receiving. Believers are clearly called to test the spirits (1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.) and it is quite obvious that Gumbel has chosen to ignore this call of Scripture. But for Gumbel and proponents of the Alpha Course, one of the signs that the Holy Spirit has descended is that the people begin to speak in tongues. I think it is safe to say, however, that there are many true, Bible-believing Christians walking around today who have never spoken in tongues, so from my perspective this can hardly be a definitive sign of the Holy Spirit.

How do we test the spirits? We use God's Word and if what is said or experienced is contrary to God's Word, then we must reject it. And if it is contrary to God's Word, then we can only conclude that the spirits being called upon and descending are anything but the Holy Spirit. In his book Questions of Life Gumbel uses 1 Corinthians 14:2 as his proof that speaking in tongues is a form of prayer. He does us a great favor here by perfectly illustrating the dangers of taking Scripture out of context! Let's look at the verse in context:
1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.
According to my study, the gift of speaking in tongues as imparted in Acts 2 was actually the ability to speak in a foreign language. Interestingly, the term used here in Corinthians to refer to speaking in tongues was a word commonly used in the culture to speak of "pagan ecstasy, going out of the body, connecting with the deity and, in a mystical way, beginning to speak the language of the gods," (John MacArthur, "The Truth About Tongues, Part 1"). The Corinthian church was one that was embroiled in it's pagan surroundings and they foolishly had allowed pagan beliefs and practices to filter into their church. Of the Charismatic movement and churches today, MacArthur says, "We have developed a sensual, feeling, experiential, erotic kind of approach to Christianity, only we call it the work of the Holy Spirit when, in fact it is the counterfeit of Satan."

Back to the passage, we see that Paul is teaching that the gift of tongues is secondary. Why? Speaking in tongues will not build up and edify the church, which is the sole purpose of the church! And certainly the Corinthians' use of fake, pagan tongues will be even more detrimental to the edification of the church. Instead, in verse 1, Paul urges the Corinthians to earnestly desire and pursue after love and the greater gifts that edify rather than the showy, dramatic, ego-building gifts.

MacArthur elaborates, "The obvious reason for the inferiority of tongues is that nobody could understand what was being said." Furthermore, in verse 2 (Gumbel's proof-verse), "For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit," the Greek literally says "But to a god". MacArthur explains, "What Paul is saying is, 'You people with your pagan ecstasies are not doing what all spiritual gifts were given to do, that is speak to men. Rather, your ecstasies are speaking to a god, nobody can even understand what you're saying, you are all wrapped up in speaking pagan mysteries!' Do you see what he's saying? Those aren't the mysteries...of God that Paul gave, those are the mysteries of paganism. He that speaks in a tongue speaks not unto men."

MacArthur continues by explaining that spiritual gifts are given for us to minister to men, not to God. God doesn't need us to minister to Him because He is complete! So, contrary to what Gumbel is teaching, this passage is condemning speaking in tongues as a private prayer language to God. These people may be communing and communicating with a god, but it is certainly not the God of the Bible! MacArthur points out that in every prayer in the Bible, not once do we see a suggestion that they were prayed in unintelligible gibberish. Actually, in Matthew 6:7, Jesus himself condemned prayer that resembled that of the pagans!

So why does Paul say in verse 5 "Now I want you all to speak in tongues"? MacArthur feels that Paul is exaggerating to make a point. We know from 1 Corinthians 12 that not all Christians will be granted the same spiritual gift. So Paul is saying in verse 5 that while it would be wonderful if all Christians could speak in (true) tongues, he knows that it's not going to happen.

As a final examination of this passage, read the following from MacArthur's sermon:
There's an interesting little footnote here that's just kind of snuck in there. Notice in verse 2 and in verse 4 where it says 'tongues,' that the King James translators put the word 'unknown' in there. But in verse 5 where it says 'tongues, the word isn't there. Do you know why? It seems that the translators put the word 'unknown' in with the singular and left it out with the plural. Some Bible scholars believe that's because when Paul was using the singular, he was referring to their ecstatic gibberish (which was all one kind, a tongue, a gibberish) but when he refers to the true gift, it's languages. Like in Acts, where every man heard him in his own language. So in verses 1-4 he's saying, "Your false gift is all wrong." But in verse 5 he's saying, "The right thing is all right when it's interpreted in its place."
I think that the above exegesis completely and correctly explains the true meaning of this passage, and illustrates how terribly dangerous Gumbel's interpreation of it is.

It is terribly erroneous to presume that an experience in calling down the Holy Spirit that manifests itself in tongues and shaking and laughter is necessary for conversion. Were that true, then I must count myself among the millions of Christians who dearly love our Savior but who have apparently missed the point of true conversion without this spirit experience. Instead, I am inclined to boldly assert that these experiences are not with God the Holy Spirit but are instead manifestations of evil spirits--demons. To invoke these spirits is to open wide the door for the blatant and direct influence of Satan in your life.
From this brief peek into the New Age roots of the Alpha Course, one must acknowledge that Gumbel has succeeded in twisting the Word of God in order to fit his own agenda. As a "Christian" leader he has failed miserably to filter what he has been exposed to through the never-changing lens of Scripture. He has succumbed to the New Age philosophy of experience over Truth and he has woven this into his curriculum in order to lure young Christians and nonbelievers far away from the Word of God and into the dangerous depths of demonic practices. He has strategically placed a few good "Christian" terms here and there, with a brief out-of-context use of Scripture now and again and has succeeded in deceiving countless unassuming, trusting believers.

The Alpha Course may be offered at your church even now. The sad reality is that even our church leaders fail to test every program against the light of Scripture. And so it has become increasingly easy for Satan to slip into God's house unannounced and unnoticed. We trust our church leaders, but the time has come when we can no longer place our blind faith in these men. Test everything against Scripture. Even the weekly sermon--does it measure up to God's Word? Christian, God never intended for us to put all of our faith into a mere man. He provided His Word to us so that we could all study it for ourselves and see and understand it's clear meaning! Do you realize what a phenomenal gift that is? That God would trust all of us with His Word--whether we are formally educated in theology or not--is amazing! Don't take that gift lightly. Read God's Word. Study it. Thrive on it. Treasure it. And when you are down on your knees, pray for discernment in all things--especially in matters of the church. Do not allow Satan to deceive you in your faith.

In Parts 2 and 3, I hope to examine the odd acceptance of Alpha by Roman Catholics as well as Alpha's stress on unity and Gumbel's connection with Tony Blair, followed by a brief examination of the difference between Nicky Gumbel's gospel and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
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, 1 Timothy 4:1
Below are some videos capturing the effects of the Toronto Blessing. I imagine that many of the Alpha Holy Spirit weekends culminate in the same behavior. I want to warn you that these videos may be disturbing. At the risk of sounding extreme, I feel as though evil almost eminates from them. At the same time, I feel it is necessary to share this in order for the reader to achieve a full comprehension of the perils about which I just wrote.







See Also:
ALPHA EXPOSED: PART 2
ALPHA EXPOSED: PART 3

21 October 2010

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from a sermon entitled The Essence of the Gospel, delivered December 4, 1870.
Is yonder person a condemned or uncondemned man? Ask him what he thinks of Christ. If he replies honestly, he says, “I do not accept God’s testimony about Jesus Christ; I do not receive Jesus as my Savior.” Either he claims that he does not need a Savior or else he does not feel that Jesus is the Savior he needs. He rejects the testimony of God concerning Christ. Is not that enough to condemn a man?
If a man in the very presence of the judge committed theft or murder, he would condemn himself; but is it not a still higher offense than this, in the very presence of God to do despite to his Son, by practically declaring his work and blood to have been unnecessary? Is it not the height of daring that a soul should stand in the presence of the God of mercy and hear him say in his word, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” and that the soul should reply, “I have nothing to do with the Lamb of God”? What further witness do we want with regard to your enmity to God? He that will not believe in Christ would murder God if he could. His not believing in Christ is virtually to make God a liar.
HT: The Daily Spurgeon

20 October 2010

God's Transforming Word

From the October 18 entry in John MacArthur's devotional, Drawing Near. You can read this devotional daily here.
God's Transforming Word 

"The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul" (Ps. 19:7).

Many today doubt the power of Scripture in dealing with the deeper aspects of the human heart and mind. The Bible may be helpful for certain superficial or "spiritual" problems, they say, but it's too simplistic and inadequate for the more complex psychological issues of modern man. The truth is, however, the best psychology can do is modify external behavior. It cannot redeem and transform the soul. Only God can do that through the power of His Word.

That's the truth behind Psalm 19:7, which calls Scripture "the law of the Lord," thus emphasizing its didactic nature. It is the sum of God's instruction to man, whether for creed (what we believe), character (what we are), or conduct (what we do).

The law of the Lord is "perfect." That represents a common Hebrew word that speaks of wholeness, completeness, or sufficiency. Commentator Albert Barnes wrote that Scripture

lacks nothing [for] its completeness; nothing in order that it might be what it should be. It is complete as a revelation of Divine truth; it is complete as a rule of conduct. . . . It is absolutely true; it is adapted with consummate wisdom to the [needs] of man; it is an unerring guide of conduct. There is nothing there which would lead men into error or sin; there is nothing essential for man to know which may not be found there (Notes on the Old Testament: Psalms, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974], p. 171).

Man's reasoning is imperfect, but God's Word is perfect, containing everything necessary for your spiritual life. It is so comprehensive that it can restore your soul. That is, convert, revive, refresh, and transform every aspect of your being to make you precisely the person God wants you to be.
Don't look to impotent human alternatives when God's Word stands ready to minister to your every need. Spiritual warfare is fought with spiritual weapons, not fleshly techniques, theories, or therapies (2 Cor. 10:4).

Suggestions for Prayer:
Ask God to keep you focused on His counsel regarding every situation you face today.

For Further Study:
Memorize 2 Corinthians 9:8 as a reminder of God's super- abounding grace to you.


From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.

Interfaith Movement Brings World Closer to Global Religious System

From the Canada Bible Prophecy Examiner:
During the last days prior to the return of Jesus Christ, one of the many signs heralding His return will be a global apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3) coinciding with a global cry for peace.(1 Thessalonians 5:3) Globalized communications of our day facilitate the rise and speed of this falling away from the faith, and have also been prophesied since the Bible foretells the world will see certain events come to pass. (Revelation 11:9-10; 17:8)
With nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons technology, terrorist threats, combined with several nations increasingly more hungry for power and domination than for true peace, the capability of mankind destroying all life on earth today, is real. Over 2000 years ago, Jesus predicted this capability for world destruction at a time when only spears and swords were the weapons used. (Matthew 24:21-22)
All these factors and more, play into the role of fulfilling the prophecy found in Revelation chapter 13, the time coming when the Antichrist , or 'false messiah' forms his one world religion (Revelation 13:12)
To get to the point of global worship of the Antichrist who will rule the world temporarily during the tribulation prior to the return of Jesus Christ , the true Messiah, there must (logically) be a global 'conditioning' or preparation, and this begins with apostasy, or the 'falling away' from the true faith in Jesus Christ in much of the Christian world. This is happening right now and increasingly so, with the global cry for peace. Jesus Christ is denied as being the 'only way, truth, and life' (John 14:6) and in many churches, this truth is excluded (subtly in many cases with a weak gospel) in the name of 'peace and tolerance.' How can this happen? What is the motive or inspiration? This is an examination of only a few factors working together to bring about this change.
Read the full article here.

Ephesians 2?

Wondering what's going on in Cape Town at the Lausanne Congress? Take a look. Apparently this "dance" is expressing "the theme of Ephesians 2, illustrating that Christ has broken down the dividing wall of hostility." (Online Source).


Bible Exposition: Drama "Reach" (Ephesians 2) from Lausanne Movement on Vimeo.

Who needs to read the Bible when you can see it danced?! Oh my...

19 October 2010

Pray For...

Please pray for Pastor Bob DeWaay. He is the senior pastor of Twin City Fellowship in Minneapolis. He also maintains the wonderful ministry of Critical Issues Commentary. I don't have any details other than the tweet below from Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio:
I personally have benefitted greatly from Pastor DeWaay's work and ministry. He is a remarkable man of God who stands firmly on the Truth of God's Holy Word. Please put him at the top of your prayer lists! If I receive any additional information, I will keep you updated.

18 October 2010

Lausanne Congress Paper Throws Stones at "End Times" Christians

I've been holding my tongue, or my fingers as the case may be, on the Lausanne Congress for awhile now. The Congress is currently taking place in Cape Town, South Africa and, from everything I have seen, it is yet another ecumenical effort to perpetuate the social gospel. I will go into more detail about some of Cape Town's board members at another time.

The article below is from the website Watcher's Lamp. It is speaking of an advance paper that was written for this Lausanne Congress by Os Guinness and David Wells. Their problem seems to be us pesky, "End Times" Christians. Apparently those of us who believe that the Bible is true when it says that globalization is a sign of the final days before Christ returns are a hindrance to all of these ecumenical efforts. Naturally this would be a problem for such an organization as Lausanne, whose entire purpose is globalization.

Oh, and just a final note: Susie Rowan, the newest Executive Director of Bible Study Fellowship, is in attendance at this year's Lausanne conference. Apparently Susie is one of the special "elect" who was chosen to attend. That shouldn't surprise us considering Susie's favorite quote from The Message, "I'm setting you up as a light for the nations so that my salvation becomes global!" (Isaiah 49:5, supposedly). You can see this quote in BSF's May 2010 magazine. Perhaps these globalist motives help explain why this year's study of Isaiah is focused on whatever warm-fuzzies it can find while it barely acknowledges the Messianic prophecies contained in the book.
In the Capetown 2010 / Lausanne Congress advance paper, Global Gospel, Global Era, authored by Os Guiness and David Wells, Christians who recognize globalism as an end times sign are cast as pit-fallen curmudgeons who apparently hold a distorted view of Christianity.
Ironically, the authors reference the need for "accuracy and humility", yet exercise neither as they marginalize believers with the following statement:

"...Needless to say, globalization poses a sharp challenge to both accuracy and humility, and we need to start by avoiding the two equal and opposite pitfalls into which so many fall: the excessive “Wow!” attitudes of the cheerleaders and the excessive “gloom and doom” of the curmudgeons (who in their Christian form view globalization as the precursor to “the end times”) In any age, there are three tasks facing Christians who would wrestle with the world of their day and live faithfully as followers of the Way of Jesus."

The authors cast an aberrant shadow on these "curmudgeons" by intimating that these Christians hold a distorted view of Chrisitianity because "they" associate globalism with end times prophecy.

Really?

The end times framing of globalism is not a figment of "the curmudgeons" imaginations. The authors err in crediting these "curmudgeons" with the origination of this "Christian form". The real credit belongs to the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation.
These Books reveal the Rise of the Fourth Kingdom. These Books define a one-world government to be ruled by the Anti-Christ who makes war with the saints.
The authors write: "The first task is to discern, and so to make an accurate description of the realities of the world in which we find ourselves." Though the authors encourage a biblical worldview, they fail to point the reader to the Scriptures to discern today's realities and the signs of the times.

Instead, the case is made for the authors' form of Christianity to undergird globalism and how to serve the world. A form of Christianity void of the prophetic portions of Scripture that warn of the very threat the authors are petitioning other Christians to embrace.

Daniel 7:23

"...there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms,and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. 24 As for the ten horns,out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them;he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. 25 He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High...

17 October 2010

Sunday Morning Praise

I'm certain I've posted this song multiple times, but it's a magnificent hymn! Sing along and praise our great and mighty God!



How Great Thou Art


O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars; I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

16 October 2010

BSF Hears God's Audible Voice

Those of you who are in Bible Study Fellowship may or may not have noticed the subtly injected  reference to God's audible voice in last week's notes. In Lesson 5, the BSF notes are discussing Isaiah 6. On page 3, if you read carefully, you will notice the following. Forgive the lengthy quotation, but I want to make sure that I offer this in context.
"There are applications from Isaiah's life to the way God calls individuals today. He gives a high view of Himself for His servants. He gives a sense of need for the called ("I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips"). He cleanses before He calls. He calls those who are humble and willing. He issues an invitation and allows men the privilege to respond willingly. Sometimes His call may come in rhetorical questions that stir the heart of a listener. True, God usually does not use an audible voice as He has used here, but the call is no less definite if it comes from reading God's Word, by way of circumstances, or from the events in one's life."
Isn't that oh-so-sneaky how they slipped in their acknowledgment that God may speak in an audible voice today? I'm so glad that BSF is trying their very best not to offend anybody. It would be a shame if their 50+ years of ecumenical efforts were thwarted now. In actuality, if they have been so dedicated to the truth of God's Word for over 50 years, then they should be aware of Hebrews 1, wherein we learn that Jesus Christ was the final revelation.
"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world." Hebrews 1:1-2
And if the leadership at BSF would simply re-read the lesson that was taught to junior high students last week, they would remember that, "The only clear and saving knowledge of God comes from the written revelation of the Holy Scriptures."

BSFers, I urge you this week to offer an answer for Question 2 of your lesson. This question will ask you, "What was interesting, challenging, or informative in the notes?" Raise your hand and mention this erroneous teaching that was in the notes! I regret that I was unable to provide my answer to this question at my discussion group this morning. I was a victim of peripheral vision and was seated out of the leader's view. (For the record, I did challenge Question 15 which asks, "Give specific examples of how God might use you to point others to or away from the Lord Jesus.") But wouldn't it be great if those who are discerning, who are not drinking the BSF Kool-Aid, would speak up and challenge this organization which seems to think that it sits on a throne just barely lower than God's?

The leadership at BSF has made it clear by their silence that they endorse The Message, as well as contemplative authors Tim Keller, Dan Allender and, worst of all, Dallas Willard. I've been informed that BSF headquarters will never make a statement either in defense of or in rejection of these works. Their apparent position is that "it takes two to argue" and so they will remain silent in hopes that the "troublemakers" will just go away. It saddens me that they do not realize that those of us who are speaking up are not doing so in search of an argument, but are doing so out of concern! Most of us have seen God use BSF in a mighty way in our lives or the lives of our family, and so it is with heavy hearts that we raise these issues. But as the deception grows stronger the darkness deepens. At some point, we will all have to dust off our feet and leave BSF because we will be continually silenced. But until that time comes, keep being a very noisy "watchman on the wall!"
"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
"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 

14 October 2010

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is from Charles Spurgeon's daily devotion Morning and Evening.
"And be not conformed to this world."—Romans 12:2.

If a Christian can by possibility be saved while he conforms to this world, at any rate it must be so as by fire. Such a bare salvation is almost as much to be dreaded as desired. Reader, would you wish to leave this world in the darkness of a desponding death bed, and enter heaven as a shipwrecked mariner climbs the rocks of his native country? then be worldly; be mixed up with Mammonites, and refuse to go without the camp bearing Christ's reproach. But would you have a heaven below as well as a heaven above? Would you comprehend with all saints what are the heights and depths, and know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge? Would you receive an abundant entrance into the joy of your Lord? Then come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing. Would you attain the full assurance of faith? you cannot gain it while you commune with sinners. Would you flame with vehement love? your love will be damped by the drenchings of godless society. You cannot become a great Christian—you may be a babe in grace, but you never can be a perfect man in Christ Jesus while you yield yourself to the worldly maxims and modes of business of men of the world. It is ill for an heir of heaven to be a great friend with the heirs of hell. It has a bad look when a courtier is too intimate with his king's enemies. Even small inconsistencies are dangerous. Little thorns make great blisters, little moths destroy fine garments, and little frivolities and little rogueries will rob religion of a thousand joys. O professor, too little separated from sinners, you know not what you lose by your conformity to the world. It cuts the tendons of your strength, and makes you creep where you ought to run. Then, for your own comfort's sake, and for the sake of your growth in grace, if you be a Christian, be a Christian, and be a marked and distinct one.

12 October 2010

Harvest, We Have a Problem

I don't even know where to begin. It was obvious that Harvest Bible Chapel and James MacDonald were easing down the slippery seeker-sensitive slope rather subtly and comfortably. This grew increasingly clear to me as I sat in the auditorium (you heard me) and watched the happenings on the stage (yes, you heard me). Being fairly uninvolved in the church, and knowing that my voice would be ignored, I stopped attending Harvest about a year ago. Why didn't I stay and contend? Because when I attempted to contact Pastor MacDonald regarding dangerous errors in his preaching, I was ignored and brushed aside by another pastor on staff. Sometimes you're just too big and important to listen to your church members, I guess. But I've been watching from a distance and over the past two weeks I believe I have watched Pastor James MacDonald dive head first into the seeker-driven, emergent stream.

Let's begin with his latest sermon series, "Get Healthy." The first official sermon in this series was entitled, "I AM: Finding Your Identity in God." I don't know about you, but the first word that comes to my mind when I see that title is: BLASPHEMY. Only God is I AM and how dare you equate man with anything even resembling this title of the high, holy, and mighty God! I admit, when I first saw this title a week and a half ago, I wrote up a somewhat scathing article. Not having listened to the sermon yet, though, I did not publish it. Later, I listened to this message taken from Exodus 3 and while I agree with MacDonald's statement that we can never have a right view of ourself until we have a right view of God, I was nevertheless appalled to discover that Moses had an identity crisis. Did you know that? Yes, that is how Pastor MacDonald EIS-egeted Exodus 4. Now, any good Bible student knows that eisegesis, the act of reading your own ideas back into the biblical text--is wrong and dangerous. What your pastor should be doing is practicing exegesis, interpreting the text as it is and delivering a sermon based upon what the text actually says. Eisegesis leads to sermons that address your audience's (yes, I said audience) felt-needs, while exegesis, proper interpretation, leads to sermons that tell us what God is saying to us in the biblical text.

Since I know that James MacDonald is capable of delivering fine, exegetical sermons, I was shocked to hear him tell his congregation that in Exodus 3:11 (or part of it), when Moses says, "Who am I...?" he was actually suffering from some sort of identity crisis (my words) and asking God, not only "Who am I?" but, "Who am I?" Do you see the difference in emphasis here? When I read this story, in context, I see the man Moses asking God, "but who am I that anyone, especially Pharoah, would listen to me?" Not, "Who am I, God? What is my meaning, what is my purpose?" However, with this identity-crisis driven interpretation, we can address the felt needs of the audience and be a lot more relevant.

Moving on. This past weekend's sermon at Harvest Bible Chapel was entitled, "Conquering Insecurity." Ah, yes, insecurity. Such a deep, probing theological issue. Question for you: what is Exodus 4 about? Go read it right now. I'll wait.....

Done? Okay, so what is Exodus 4 about? Moses' insecurity? Or God's equipping of His messenger for the mission upon which He is sending Moses? Is it about Moses' low self-esteem and God building him up and making him feel all warm and fuzzy and needed and wanted? Or is it about God displaying his power? Bottom line: is Exodus 4 about Moses or about God? I think you know the answer to that. This sermon was filled with law and "do, do, do."

We continue. Today I saw two incredibly disappointing tweets from James MacDonald. I'm going to post them here out of the order which they appeared, but the time stamp is visible on each. So, the second tweet I saw that made me cringe was this:

I've talked about Steven Furtick enough that I don't think I need to repeat myself here. Sounds a little like Mark Driscoll, doesn't it? It is appalling that this pastor, Steven Furtick, would preach such a thing! It is even more appalling that James MacDonald would repeat it and think that it is funny! I was shocked and disturbed. But notice that this particular tweet was "retweeted" by 6 other people. Why? Because Christians today have no concept of holiness and they continue to laugh and giggle at the world's humor--especially when it is spouted off by a so-called pastor.

The first tweet that I saw today really clinched any doubts I'd been having about the direction of MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel:

So what's the problem here? The problem is that James MacDonald is consulting Ben Arment for a "new concept" for Harvest. Why is this a problem? Because Ben Arment is a member of the emergent movement. Since this post is already too long and I've probably lost all but one of my readers, I won't go into details here. I will direct you to Ben Arment's website for his "Dream Year" program. According to the site,
Dream Year was created in 2009 as a way to help 24 people achieve one dream over the course of 12 months. These individuals went on to launch a number of impactful organizations, causes, and projects. This is what happens with the support of a coach, a community, and a process to turn dreams into reality.
Many people fail to accomplish their dreams because they lack the confidence, encouragement, accountability and know-how. Dream Year is designed to provide all of these conditions.
Oh yes, that sounds so....relevant! Let's see, where in the Bible did Jesus talk about our Dream Year? I'll have to get back to you on that one. Arment also produced Story. In the article, Spectacles for Spectators, Pastor Larry Debruyn addresses this film. Debruyn says of Story
Believing that the way most pastors communicate the Gospel is too “mummified,” one young Emerging ex-pastor has assembled a cast and crew to present to audiences of church leaders and workers what he calls Story. Note: the title is not The Story, but just Story. Story is just another of the ongoing narratives of the Gospel metanarrative. Used in the formation of compound words (like metanarrative), the word meta is “a learned borrowing from Greek meaning ‘after,’ ‘along with,’ ‘beyond,’ ‘among,’ ‘behind,’ and often denoting change . . .”[1] A key idea in defining the word metanarrative is, “denoting change.” To the Emerging church, it’s all about the synthesizingstory below to affect the evolving story above. The narrative on earth--story--influences the metanarrative above--The Story. The comprehensible experiences of the continuing story below mystically contribute to the incomprehensible, but still evolving, metanarrative. The change is necessary for as the emerging pastor states, “story-telling, along with passion, is greatly lacking in churches and ministry today.”[2] But just what is Story?

Inspired by the imaginary tales of C.S. Lewis, emerging ex-pastor Ben Arment remarks of his version of Story, that, “I believe in the power of stories. Stories captivate us. They awaken our hearts and release our imaginations.”[3] So he is assembling a number of “master” communicators to one stage for what he calls a “theatrical conference experience.” Scheduled to debut this fall, Story will, in addition to the master communicators, “feature music, drama, comedy and interactive exchanges with attendees. The goal is to create a place where Gospel communicators can be inspired to be better and more effective at what they do.”[4] Arment explains, “We’re setting it in the context of a theatrical environment to play up the storytelling elements of the Gospel to make it more exciting, more appealing and draw out the essence of what our story is . . . think of it as a dinner theater.”[5]
Read Pastor Debruyn's entire article here
So, you see, collaborating with a man like Ben Arment is not something that a solid, grounded, biblical pastor should be doing! And yet here we see a well-respected pastor of a large, multi-campus mega-church (the first clue that we should be tuning our discernment antennas when we walk in the door) jumping onto the seeker-sensitive, emergent, relevancy bandwagon. I can't wait to see what this"bold new concept" is, but I assure you I'll keep you updated. Please pray for Harvest Bible Chapel and for Pastor MacDonald. I know many wonderful people who attend this church but who are sadly lacking in discernment. They will be led down the wide, seeker-driven path by this now-misguided leadership.

If you're still reading, thank you. I apologize for the lengthy post, but I had so much to share and it all needed to be said. Christians, we must be SO, SO discerning and aware these days! Never fall into a comfort zone in your church, no matter how grounded it has been in the past! Test everything against Scripture. Just because it is said from the pulpit or worse, the stage, does not mean that it is true! Only if it is confirmed by the Word of God can it be trusted. In fact, let me close with the basic truth that we taught the junior high students in BSF this week. (Oddly enough, the BSF school program is emphasizing some really good truths so far this year). Last night, we taught the children the following:
The only clear and saving knowledge of God comes from the written revelation of the Holy Scriptures.
I couldn't agree more. We took the children to the following four Scriptures for this truth:
"The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether." Psalm 19:7-9
 
"Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

And my personal favorite:
"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:14-17
Amen and amen.