30 September 2011

Set Your DVR - Rob Bell's Coming to TV

Well, sort of. Looks like one of the projects Bell will be working on upon leaving his "church" is a television series for ABC based loosely on his own life. Ah, can you feel the humility?

New York Magazine reports:
If you were a fan of the more spiritual elements in Lost, the following news may just be of interest. Vulture hears that Carlton Cuse, one-half of the Darlton duo which ran ABC's six-year magical mystery tour, has closed a deal with ABC to write and exec produce a potential new show called Stronger. Plot summary: It's about a musician named Tom Stronger who ends up becoming a benefactor and spiritual guide. Cuse is not diving into this world blindly, however: He's teaming with bestselling author Rob Bell ("Love Wins"), who will write the pilot with Cuse and also exec produce. So how'd the two men connect?

According to our spies, Bell and Cuse first met up a few years back, at Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world dinner. They kept in touch and ultimately came up with the idea of a series that would be loosely based on Bell's own life story as a musician who ended up founding his own church, Michigan's Mars Hill Bible Church. While based on biblical principles, Bell's brand of spirituality is not about hard-core evangelical, fire-and-brimstone teachings. Instead, his goal is to service folks' spiritual needs without the overlay of religious dogma (see also: Oprah). Stronger is similarly expected to explore spiritual themes but without being as on-the-nose as other recent series that have tackled these issues, such as 7th Heaven and Touched by an Angel. There's also expected to be a narrative twist to the project that will make it a bit unconventional, but for now, that detail is being kept secret (this show is from a Lost-ie after all). (Online Source)
As of this morning, Twitter is abuzz with suggestions for a title for this new series. My favorite thus far has been Nobody's Lost. Yes, that would just about sum up Rob Bell's theology and "spirituality!"

HT: 5 Point Salt

29 September 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

From Barbed Arrows from the Quiver of C. H. Spurgeon:
As the Roman sentinel in Pompeii stood to his post even when the city was destroyed, so do I stand to the truth of the atonement though the Church is being buried beneath the boiling mud-showers of modern heresy. Everything else can wait, but this one truth must be proclaimed with a voice of thunder. Others may preach as they will, but as for this pulpit, it shall always resound with the substitution of Christ. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Some may continually preach Christ as an example, and others may perpetually discourse upon His coming to glory: we also preach both of these, but mainly we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but to them that are saved Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

27 September 2011

Relevant Repost: Is Your Pastor Preaching Biblical Tithing?

The post below was originally posted in December of 2009. Even though it's not quite the time of year for that annual tithing sermon to roll off your pastor's tongue, I still felt that this was an appropriate and important repost, modified only slightly from the original:

Since this is the time of year when pastors pull out the annual "Did you tithe this year because if you didn't God isn't going to bless you" sermon, I thought the following article from John MacArthur was appropriate. (I become especially irritated with pastor's who improperly preach Malachi 3:6-12, and challenge the congregation to "prove" or "test" God in their giving.) I've always felt that giving to the Lord should come from our heart, and of course 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 demonstrates that truth. Otherwise we run the risk of giving out of obligation, perhaps confusing it as an additional means of salvation. If you can't give 10% of your income, don't allow your pastor to immerse you in a guilt-trip inducing sermon. If you can give more than 10%, give freely and without doubt. Whatever you give, give in faith that the Lord will provide always. I've seen it. 

The following appears here at Grace To You as part of a Q&A with Dr. John MacArthur.

Does God require me to give a tithe of all I earn?

Leviticus 27:30-33Deuteronomy 14:22-29Exodus 25:21 Chronicles 29:9

John MacArthur 

Two kinds of giving are taught consistently throughout Scripture: giving to the government (always compulsory), and giving to God (always voluntary). 

The issue has been greatly confused, however, by some who misunderstand the nature of the Old Testament tithes. Tithes were not primarily gifts to God, but taxes for funding the national budget in Israel. 

Because Israel was a theocracy, the Levitical priests acted as the civil government. So the Levite's tithe (Leviticus 27:30-33) was a precursor to today's income tax, as was a second annual tithe required by God to fund a national festival (Deuteronomy 14:22-29). Smaller taxes were also imposed on the people by the law (Leviticus 19:9-10Exodus 23:10-11). So the total giving required of the Israelites was not 10 percent, but well over 20 percent. All that money was used to operate the nation. 

All giving apart from that required to run the government was purely voluntary (cf. Exodus 25:21 Chronicles 29:9). Each person gave whatever was in his heart to give; no percentage or amount was specified. 

New Testament believers are never commanded to tithe. Matthew 22:15-22 and Romans 13:1-7 tell us about the only required giving in the church age, which is the paying of taxes to the government. Interestingly enough, we in America presently pay between 20 and 30 percent of our income to the government--a figure very similar to the requirement under the theocracy of Israel. 

The guideline for our giving to God and His work is found in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7: "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver."

Should the Church Seek to "Take this Nation Back?"

Answer: No. It is the church's job to proclaim the Gospel, repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is not the job of the church to "reclaim America" for God. Souls are saved individually, not corporately. The only thing that will change this nation or any other is the clear proclamation of the Gospel. Political campaigns, protests, and mass prayers on the steps of government buildings, though perhaps well-intentioned, are often focused merely upon outward moral change. Yet many good, moral people will still find themselves in an eternity of torment because they never repented and trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Whether you live in a "Christian" nation or not will not matter one iota on judgment day. Unfortunately, some surely well-meaning Christians seemingly have lost sight of this.

According to One News Now:
ST. PAUL, MN - Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann's evangelical pastor is joining her on the campaign trail.

Rev. Mac Hammond told members of Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, Sunday that he and his wife will campaign with Bachmann, and that he may chair a national faith council for her, too. He called Bachmann "a sister in the Lord" who is committed to the Bible. He added that he's been Bachmann's "personal pastor" for some time.

The pastor said he and his wife have already made a campaign appearance for Bachmann. He introduced her on Friday in Nashville at a gathering of about 300 pastors, where he says he "got an opportunity to talk about the vital importance of the church rising up to take this nation back. Amen."

Hammond said his campaign work would be as a private citizen and not on behalf of the church.
(emphasis mine)
Bachmann apparently attends Living Word Christian Center in the Minneapolis area. Upon visiting their website, one will discover that they've invited quasi-prosperity preacher John Hagee to preach October 21 - 23.
(Online Source)

Hagee fits right in with the Word Faith crowd on TBN, and you can read a bit more about that here and here for starters. He also seems to espouse a form of dual covenant theology, as the article "The Other Gospel of John Hagee" found at Personal Freedom Outreach points out:
In short, Hagee believes that some Jews are not saved by the cross of Christ but by prior election and their pedigree in Abraham. There is a way of salvation in Christ and an election of grace for the Jew apart from Christ. No matter how you nuance it or define it, this is “Two Covenant” theology. This can be classified technically as a modified “Dual Covenant” idea regardless of what Hagee wants to call it or not call it. Hagee believes that two covenants are in force: A covenant of election for the Jew and a covenant of grace for the Gentile. This is an attack on the very Gospel as presented by Jesus and Paul, as we’ll see. And then what about half Jews or Jewish converts? Where do they stand? (Online source. I suggest you visit PFO's site and read this entire article).
Just one more thing for us to be mindful of as the worries of this world continue to take our focus off of Jesus Christ and onto earthly and temporal matters.

"He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20)

Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

26 September 2011

What is a "Church Unique Vision Kit?"

Is your church lost in a sea of mediocrity due to its copy-cat vision and mission? Well, flounder no more! "Clarity Evangelist" Will Mancini has developed exactly what you need to develop "stunningly clear" vision for your church.

Unfortunately, this isn't a joke. Mancini's website boasts that he "has served as vision architect for hundreds of churches across the country including the leading churches within Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Non-denominational settings, and notable pastors Chuck Swindoll and Max Lucado. Will’s style blends the best of three worlds: the process thinking from the discipline of engineering, the communications savvy as an ad agency executive, and the practical theology as a pastoral leader."

The "Unique Vision Kit" includes: 
  • CHURCH UNIQUE BOOK: (1) Written to help you find your Church Unique and live a vision that creates a stunningly unique, movement-oriented church. (The Church Unique Vision Kit includes one copy of the book.)  
  • LEADERS GUIDE: (1) Step by step instructions for the leader of the Church Unique Vision Pathway process. Everything you need to lead 8 vision clarifying team sessions.
  • DVD: (1) Video teaching from Will Mancini provides insight, encouragement, and inspiration. 
  • PARTICIPANT GUIDE: (9) Map, journal, and sketch book to help each team member participate effectively in the vision clarifcation process. (Pick up your own 3 ring binders at your favorite office supply retailer.) 
  • VISION DECK:  (1) 52 optional exercises to inspire visionary teams. 
  • JOE GROW: (9) Bendable figure empowers teams to explore the impact of vision on real people.
  • COMPASS KEY CHAIN: (9) Take home object lesson for team members. 
  • COLLABORATION CUBES: (9) Table top team interaction style reminders for team members. 
  • VISION FRAMES: (9) Customizable frame for team participants to record the vision outcomes. 
  • ALIGNMENT RING: (1) Illustrates the power of a unifed vision and momentum. 
  • ROLE CARDS: (9) One laminated role card with key responsibilities for each team member. 
  • MISSION CARDS: (9) One wallet sized card for each person to record your unique mission. 
  • WALL CHARTS: (18) Posters that illustrate key concepts in the Vision Pathway Process as well as charts to capture your unique vision. (Pick up additional flip charts or blank sheets of newsprint to record ideas at your favorite office supply retailer.)
Perhaps my favorite in the list above is the "Joe Grow" bendable figure. Really? Are they serious? When did Gumby become the mascot for church "vision?"

What is most grievous, however, is that the idea of a special, unique "vision" from God is not something that we see in the Bible at all. Read Acts and tell me which chapter talks about Peter "casting vision" for those first believers. It's not there. If these seeker-driven pastors would trash their dreams of popularity and earthly success, they would come to realize God's true "vision" for His Church: That the Gospel of salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ be proclaimed to all and that His Word be taught boldly, correctly, and without compromise. Pastors, you are not "vision casters," you are shepherds. You are under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd Himself, Jesus Christ. He has entrusted you with a portion of His flock and has commanded you to "feed My sheep." What an amazingly humbling, daunting, yet all-important call. If this is your call, please don't forsake it for "vision casting" and gimmicks. Please, pastor, just preach the Word. Let God take care of the rest.

25 September 2011

The 180 Movie

Do you realize that many young people today do not even know who Adolf Hitler was? Why does it surprise us, then, that our own legalized holocaust is taking place right in our own neighborhoods? The film below is well worth 33 minutes of your time. I urge you to watch it and to pass it along for others to view as well.

WARNING: This movie contains graphic images that are not suitable for younger children. Viewer discretion is advised.
Please visit this website for more information.

Sunday Morning Praise

All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name! 

As an extra bonus, I thought this version was really beautiful also:

24 September 2011

Ed Young Jr. & C3 Global: An Introduction

I want to introduce you to Ed Young, Jr. and C3 Global. The reason for this introduction will become apparent in a future post. There is certainly a lot that can be said about Young, and I have no intention of detailing everything here. Most of you are probably at the very least vaguely familiar with him and for those who aren't, well, that's what Google is for! You may remember Ed Young, Jr. for such...ahem...notable things as:

And, if none of those are ringing a bell, perhaps this will spark your memory:

Yes, that was Ed Young's promo video for last year's Hillsong Conference.

Young also boasts a friendship with men like Joel Osteen, and his yearly gathering of Word Faith preachers at the Creative Church Conference (C3) almost always seems to include Oneness Pentecostal "Bishop" T.D. Jakes. In commenting on the video below, which is a recap of C3 2010, Apprising Ministries asks a few questions and offers some commentary:
Among the questions I have would be: When did the Body of Christ decide Sabellianism is no longer heresy? And who gave Ed Young, Jr the authority to definitely say that Oneness Pentecostals like T.D. Jakes are “in the Church”?
Despite the man-centered emphasis in the video on “unity,” and a “big vision because we have a big God,” the genuine Christian truly has no unity with people like Jakes who worship a god who doesn’t exist. You should be asking, which Jesus Christ are these people being urged to “give their lives” to in the video below, which  has every look of a Praise The Lord program on the infamous Trinity Broadcasting Network.
You’ll watch as Jakes speaks to those “who sense this is a destiny and a turning point”; and then Jakes tells them to “rush down” because he wants to “pray” for their “soul” and for their “life.” But the crucial question remains: How can a god who doesn’t even exist ever be of any help to anybody? (Online Source)

C3 2010 Recap from Fellowship Church on Vimeo.

Interestingly, as of February 2011, the SBC was asking of Young "When Did the Trinity Become Non-Essential Doctrine?" but I'm sure the writer of that article is still waiting for a response. Back in 2007, Young declared that C3 was a conference about leadership, and was not a theological conference. But unless that changed between 2007 and 2010, we'd have to wonder why "Bishop" Jakes was wanting to pray for people in the video above. Further, if the nature of the conference did change, then we would have to wonder why Jakes, who does not worship the God of the Bible, was still a featured speaker. But all of that has been discussed at length by others, and so I don't desire to get into that here.

In a promotional video for the 2011 C3 Conference, Steven Furtick declared that "no conference has had a greater impact on my life and the life of our church than C3." Furtick must have delivered a great speech at the last event, because he is speaking again at the 2012 C3 Conference, along with plenty of other seemingly wolfish characters. According to this, Young also serves as a fashion icon for the young Furtick.
(Online Source)
What I want to look at now is the evolution of Young's "C3" from a simply a yearly conference into what is now also a separate entity called C3 Global. C3 Global calls itself "an alliance of churches committed to change the world." Interestingly enough, there is not an available list of churches that have jumped on this latest bandwagon, though I've no doubt it's lengthy. A look at the leadership, though, is enough cause for concern:
Again, I won't take the time or space to detail all of these men. Let's just look briefly at Bil Cornelius. His biography on his church website reads as follows:
Bil Cornelius is the founder and Lead Pastor of Bay Area Fellowship, which he and his wife Jessica founded in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1998.  Bil's life calling has been to create a movement that is reaching into the lives of the lost and unchurched of the next generation and beyond. Bil leads Bay Area Fellowship with his unique brand of encouragement and wit, a teaching style and personality that allows him to engage a diverse audience. Now, more than 12 years later, Bay Area Fellowship has grown to over 8,000 people between 7 campuses, making it one of Outreach Magazine’s Top 100 fastest-growing churches.
Bil is the co-author of Go Big: Lead Your Church to Explosive Growth, which he wrote alongside Bill Easum. In 2007, Bil founded the Exponential Business Conference, where he teaches and mentors business leaders and investors on how to expand their business and real estate holdings.  He recently expanded this to a ministry called Expo Coaching, where he works one-on-one with pastors and business leaders through personal consultation and tele-conference meetings. In September of this year, Bil’s latest book, I Dare You to Change!, will launch nationally in all major bookstores.
In 2008, seeking to reach the lost beyond Texas, Bil took his teaching to television and launched Bil Cornelius Ministries. By the end of 2009, the program expanded worldwide through Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), Daystar and The Church Channel and is currently reaching millions across the globe.
Bil travels around the country speaking and consulting on church health and growth. In 2004, Bil received the Purpose-Driven Health Award, from Rick Warren and Saddleback Church.  Bil thrives on helping people reach their full potential in Christ and taking the limits off their life.  Bil is the proud father of Mason, Cole, and Sophie, and is still madly in love with his wife Jessica after 17 years, which is second only to his love for the Lord. (Online source)
Sounds just a little seeker-driven, and even a bit word faith-y, doesn't it? The foreword to Cornelius' book, I Dare You to Change, was written by Craig Groeschel, which should speak quite a bit to the content of the work. Below is a brief snippet of the audio version of Cornelius' book, as he seeks to help people move beyond just dreaming of a better life and onto living it:

Cornelius has also served as a mentor to Seeker-Driven prophet-pastor Eric Dykstra of The Crossing Church in Elk River, MN. This is documented on Kelly Dykstra's blog:
[2010] This was the year Eric met Bil Cornelius, who would become his mentor and facilitator of hooking us up with wise pastors all over the country, who have given us wisdom on everything from preaching the offering (Brad White) to creative resources (Pace Hartfield) to awesome series ideas (Mac Richard, Kevin Gerald). (Online Source)
(If you are unfamiliar with the story and controversy of Dykstra, I suggest you read this article, as well as those that precede it. Once familiar with that story, it may interest you to know that Eric Dykstra has attended the C3 Conference every year since 2007. That fact certainly speaks to the fruit that is emerging from this conference.)

Returning again to C3 Global itself, a look at the Benefits page unveils what each church will receive in return for it's respective membership fees. With everything from insurance to discounted or free resources from CreativePastor.com to free or discounted conference attendance, being a member of C3 Global, though not cheap, certainly does come with its perks, if you consider sermon resources from Ed Young something to be desired. Late last year, Ed Young was excited to announce that C3 Global would be "joining forces" with Steven and Holly Furtick, so it may be safe to assume that Furtick and Young are steering this ship together. Young is also a scheduled speaker for Furtick's upcoming Code Orange Revival.
(Online Source)
C3 Global's most recent attempt to "change the world" took the form of a trip to Haiti for pastor's wives.
(Online Source)
While there, the women visited C3 sponsored orphanages, most certainly a heart-warming endeavor. No one is going to challenge the heart of this trip, however, it seems natural to assume that those participating in this trip did so because they are in agreement with the overall mission and purpose of C3 Global, and hence are in alignment with the leaders of C3. After all, why would someone spend so much money on a trip unless they believed that the parent organization was one worth supporting? In a forthcoming post, I want to look a little closer at this trip to Haiti. As I mentioned at the outset, the reason for this introductory post will then become more clear.

 We will pick up, then, en route to Haiti.

How Did Jesus Do Evangelism?

"Never did Jesus call for a short, easy prayer to receive eternal life. Never did He call on people to make an emotional decision induced by some pleadings by someone or some music or some environment. Never did Jesus offer an easy forgiveness and an easy way to Heaven. The door was always narrow, hard to find and there were always distractions to lead people away. [...] In fact, if you look at the evangelism of Jesus it's amazingly contrary to what we are used to. The Lord did everything He could, said everything He could to stop would-be, shallow, superficial followers...to literally stop them dead in their tracks. He put up barrier after barrier after barrier. He kept articulating these extreme standards for coming to Him to receive salvation. And this is just completely contrary to what we are used to in our environment and getting even more used to because it's more and more common. Evangelists today and pastors and people in church ministry seek mass responses. I mean, the idea is to reach as many people as you possibly can and so you've got to figure out what is the attraction for the masses and then you've got to decide what are the barriers that prevent people from confessing Christ, praying a prayer, seeking salvation. And you get all those barriers clarified and eliminate them all. You want to make this decision as easy as possible for the most people possible. So you remove anything you think would stand in the way, anything that would prevent people from praying this prayer or acknowledging this simple faith and responding to the message. Jesus did absolutely the opposite of that. He did everything He could to put up barriers constantly by making statements that were absolute and exclusive and extreme. He sought no superficial followers whatsoever. [..] Never would He give anyone an easy way to secure a false sense of salvation. If only we would go back to understanding how Jesus did evangelism...extreme demands that were not ambiguous, that were crystal clear and would deter the superficial and would thwart the fickle." 
-John MacArthur, excerpted from The Extreme Nature of True Discipleship, Part 1

22 September 2011

Is Contemplative Prayer Christian?

The article below was written by Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure and is reprinted here with permission. I thought it would be a valuable follow-up to yesterday's post, as it explains well the danger and deception of contemplative prayer.

Is Contemplative Prayer Christian?

by Mike Ratliff
19 καὶ ἔχομεν βεβαιότερον τὸν προφητικὸν λόγον, ᾧ καλῶς ποιεῖτε προσέχοντες ὡς λύχνῳ φαίνοντι ἐν αὐχμηρῷ τόπῳ, ἕως οὗ ἡμέρα διαυγάσῃ καὶ φωσφόρος ἀνατείλῃ ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν, 20 τοῦτο πρῶτον γινώσκοντες ὅτι πᾶσα προφητεία γραφῆς ἰδίας ἐπιλύσεως οὐ γίνεται· 21 οὐ γὰρ θελήματι ἀνθρώπου ἠνέχθη προφητεία ποτέ, ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ πνεύματος ἁγίου φερόμενοι ἐλάλησαν ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι. (2 Peter 1:19-21 NA27)
19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic Word to which you do well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing first that every prophecy of scripture is not of ones own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever brought by the will of man at any time, but men spoke from God being carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
I received an email from friends about today’s tweet from Pete Scazzero, which says, “There is a mysterious attraction to interior silence in the depth of our beings. The attraction is like a magnet… Here is the link. Of course, he is quoting Roman Catholic Monk Thomas Keating, a proponent of Contemplative Prayer. In these days where post-modernist thinking has contaminated nearly everything including deeply into the visible church, we must have clear understanding of what Contemplative Prayer, or CSM, really is. Some seemly very solid Christian leaders give it a pass as if it is just another form of Christian meditation, but is it? Let’s see. 
Here is a recent article discussing the spread of contemplative prayer from Roman Catholic mystics into protestant circles. The following are quotes from that article:
While contemplative prayer has been taught over centuries by Catholic mystics like St. Bernard, St. Teresa of Avila and Thomas Merton, its most recent revival came through people like the Rev. Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk, and the Rev. Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest who died in 1996.
Its spread to non-Catholic corners has been spurred by Protestant thinkers like Richard Foster, a Quaker teacher; the Rev. Rick Warren of “Purpose-Driven” fame; and Brennan Manning, a former Catholic priest popular among evangelicals.
“This is really a very old Christian form of prayer which does not use words or active intellectual meditation,” said Sister Marianne Burkhard, who leads a class in contemplative prayer at Holy Family Catholic Parish. “It is what is often called the ‘receptive form of prayer’ which cultivates stillness and interior silence.”
The head of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria’s tribunal isn’t surprised that Protestant interest in contemplative prayer has grown.
“It’s really a Christian prayer,” she said. “It was developed mostly before the Reformation and it’s based on Scripture. You can practice this from whatever denomination you come from. (Protestants) have found that this spirituality coming from the old Catholic tradition or even the newer one is very compatible with their own expression of their own denominational faith.”
Should we be surprised to find the names of Foster, Warren, and Manning as promoters of CSM? These people say it is “Christian,” but is it? One of the products of the Protestant Reformation was the Westminster Catechism. It defines prayer this way.
Q. 98. What is prayer?
A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God,[200] for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.
On the other hand, even the proponents of CSM tell us that it is thought to be a way of obtaining knowledge of God by emptying one’s mind and receiving/experiencing:
Burkhard defined contemplative prayer as “the growing and deepening knowledge of God.”
“At some point, you realize you’re starting to understand faith better or that you get insight into your life or the difficulties of your life, so that contemplation is often something that works slowly in you. At some point, you realize, ‘Oh my goodness, I have really learned a lot and see things differently.’”
Contemplative prayer is usually preceded by centering prayer, Burkhard said, a period typically lasting 20 minutes during which the person praying clears away active thinking.
“You try to get away from all your thoughts and emotions and perceptions and images that float constantly through our minds,” Burkhard said. “The teaching is that you choose a word which is called the ‘sacred word,’ which can be something like ‘Jesus,’ ‘Mary,’ ‘Let go,’ ‘Listening,’ anything that is simple and signifies my intention to be present to God.”
The person praying then silently says that word in order to “let these other thoughts go,” the sister said.
No matter how it is stated, that is not how prayer is defined in God’s Word. How do Christians come to know God? Is it through these emotional/experiential methodologies taught nowhere in Sacred Scripture? No, we come to know God by being transformed through the renewing of our minds by being living sacrifices, that is, through faith, living in the Word of God, as the Holy Spirit imparts to us knowledge. (Romans 12:1,2)
Our knowledge of God begins through the Gospel as revealed in His Word (1 Corinthians 1:18). That passages tells us that those who are perishing view the message of the cross as foolishness, but to those of us being saved by it, it is the power of God.
We can only know God as He makes Himself known to us. God has communicated Himself in person, words, and propositions that have been recorded for us in Sacred Scripture. He is not silent but has accommodated Himself to our lowly capacity that we might apprehend His purpose. Our faith is not based upon any man-made philosophy or a mere man, but upon the historic Christian faith, which is recorded in the completed canon of Sacred Scripture.
In light of that my brethren, we should shun false teachers like Perry Noble who tell those who follow him that those who want to go deeper into the Word are “Jackasses.” How do we come to know God? It isn’t through CSM or going silent and looking inside, but by seeking him in His Word by faith. As we do this, we should do so with the full understanding that the Scriptures are without error (inerrant and infallible) in the original manuscripts, and represent the supreme and final authority for our faith and practice. The Bible is our guide in all matters regarding doctrine, church practice, counseling and individual behavior. We should, therefore, always be reforming our thoughts of God in order to be more God-honoring & consistent with the Word of God. The Scriptures were written by divinely inspired humans and are God’s revelation of Himself to everyone. (Exodus 24:4;Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21)
Now my brethren, I know that some may be offended by I have said in this post. I am not sorry about saying what I said because what I said was the truth, but I am sorry that some may be offended for that means they are deceived and have believed the lie that men can know God outside of the only way He has given us. The CSM route is of the devil and will only lead to bondage and deeper deception. Consider yourselves warned.
Soli Deo Gloria!

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from an article entitled, "Reasons for Seeking God," published in the April 1870 edition of The Sword and Trowel:
[H]ow easy it is for men to be idolaters of themselves! What is self-reliance, understood as too many understand it, but idolatry of self? It is the opposite of dependence upon the living God, the great source of power and wisdom. Reliance upon my own wisdom, upon my own resolution, upon my own strength of mind—these are idolatries in a subtle and attractive shape. What is much of our overweening affection to our children and to our relatives? What is our unsubmissive repining but idolatry? How is it that we rebel against God if our friends are suddenly taken from us? O man, why is it that thy God has so little of thy love and the creature so much? There is a lawful affection; up to that point thou shouldst go. There is an unlawful affection, when by any means the creature comes before the Creator, to this thou mayst not descend. Unlawful love, love which idolises its object, is to be avoided with all our might. Then, again, perhaps a less excusable form of idolatry, though no excuse is to be offered for any, is that in which men idolise their estates, and put their confidence in their accumulations, living only to acquire wealth and position, straggling in the race not to win the crown which is immortal, but that poor wreath with which men crown the wealthy merchant, the diligent student, the eloquent barrister, the valiant man of arms. This is idolatry again, for it is setting up an earthly object in the place of the Creator. To God is due all my love, my trust, my fear. He made me, I am bound to serve him, and whenever I lay down at the feet of any person or object, dominion over my powers, apart from God, I am at once guilty of idolatry.

21 September 2011

Blessed in Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

(Ephesians 1:3-14)

16 September 2011

This 'n' That

This looks uncomfortable, but multi-funcional!

Once again, I'm sure most of you are very thankful that it's finally Friday. Around here, it seems like a perfect day to curl up in a chair with a warm blanket and a good book. But, before you disconnect from the world, here's your week in review (kind of):

  • A little funny for your Friday:

15 September 2011

Thursday's Spurgeon

Beloved, since we have, then, a way of coming to God that is appointed by God, and that is so fit a way, let us also be glad that it is so available a way. Any soul here that wishes to come to God by Christ may come. There is no embargo in Scripture against any man’s coming. “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me”; but whoever will come that way may come, and he may come as he is. He may come without any other help than that which God has provided. That is a sweet thought. You do want a mediator between your soul and God, but you do not want any mediator between your souls and Christ. You cannot come to God except through the intervention of another, but you may come to Jesus just as you are, whoever you may be, and in whatever state of heart you may be. If God the Holy Ghost do but give thee the will now to come, and thou desirest to approach to God like a poor prodigal, saying, “Father, I have sinned,” come along the blood-stained way of the Redeemer’s sacrifice, and there shall be no lion there to stop thee, but all along it the sweet bells of Heaven shall ring, “Come and welcome! Come and welcome! Come and welcome!” Every soul may come that cometh to God by Jesus Christ. That is the limit; but come by Him, and those that come unto Him He will in no wise cast out. (
(from Able to the Uttermost: Twenty Gospel Sermons) 

14 September 2011

The Preeminence of Christ

Amidst all the wackiness, only Scripture provides a desperately needed dose of sanity. I pray this brings our great Lord and Savior back into your focus this morning.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:15-23)

13 September 2011

PastorMark.tv: A One-Stop Driscoll Shop

Mars Hill Church. The Resurgence. Acts 29. Churches Helping Churches. And now…PastorMark.tv. These are all websites representing the various intertwining ministries of Mark Driscoll. Now, no one can fault him for having multiple websites. If that’s what he wants to do and he has the time, the people and the means to maintain them, then go for it.

Driscoll has been flaunting the launch of this website for days, and now that it’s here we can finally all see why he’s been so excited. The “About” page is less about the site and more about Mark Driscoll. Let’s hope Driscoll didn’t write this spiel himself, as we read in the final paragraph:
“With a skillful mix of bold presentation, clear biblical teaching, and compassion for those who are hurting the most—in particular, women who are victims of sexual and physical abuse and assault—Driscoll has taken biblical Christianity into cultural corners previously unexplored by evangelicals. In the same year that he spoke at a Gospel Coalition conference with notable contemporary theologians like John Piper and Tim Keller, he also discussed biblical sexuality as a guest on Loveline with Dr. Drew, was featured on Nightline, and preached for Rick Warren at Saddleback Community Church.”
Hm, I’m not sure I’d be boasting about all of those, especially that last point, Pastor Mark. But that’s just me.

Back to the homepage, right away we can guess by the first picture that appears that there will be some mention of and involvement by Driscoll’s family:

Indeed, it seems that Driscoll’s wife and daughter will be contributing to the content of the site. On the Welcome page, we read:
"I’m happy to have my family join me. Grace, my wife of 19 years, will be writing here as well. She will be focusing on issues related to being a Godly woman, wife, mother, and friend—things she’s particularly passionate about. She is very sweet and helpful, and will help balance out my occasional moods.   
And, our oldest daughter Ashley, who is now entering high school, will be writing as well. She’ll be doing book reviews for young girls and talking about practical ways to grow spiritually as a teenage girl. Her heart is to encourage young women to follow Jesus. As our other four children get older, they may write some too—we’ll have to wait and see."
Well that’s nice, it’s a family affair. Nothing wrong with that. But, why do we need another Mark Driscoll website? All of his resources can be found on one or more of his other sites so what makes “PastorMark.tv” so special?
“The site will serve to provide more personal information such as what I’m doing with my family and how the Holy Spirit is changing me by the grace of God to be more like Jesus.Through various posts, I’ll cover the theological and the practical, doctrine and life, what Christians believe and how Christians behave, and the text of Scripture and context of life. The big idea is that we need both a theology of something (e.g., marriage, parenting, sex, joy, suffering) and a reality of that thing.”
It seems, then, that this site will serve as a great Driscoll catch-all where we can find everything he ever does or says:

·       Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more
·       Media interviews
·       Washington Post and Newsweek blogs
·       Mars Hill Church, Resurgence, Leadership Coaching, and Acts 29 church planting 
·       My speaking schedule 
·       Books I’m reading and writing, and books I’ve published
·       Prize giveaways
·       Free ebooks I’ve written
·       and more

All Mark Driscoll, all the time. Super. But hey, for the Driscoll fan this is good news. A one-stop shop for all of his sermon series, Driscoll waxing eloquent on current events and sports (kind of), resources on one of Driscoll’s favorite topics, masculinity, and of course a link to one of his latest books, Real Marriage.

Speaking of books, when you click the “Books” tab at the top of the website, you are immediately brought to a page littered with “Books by Pastor Mark.” That’s great, but I’m more interested in the books that have influenced Mark Driscoll, so let’s take a look at the “Recommended” tab. Several books here are perfectly fine pieces of literature. Things become concerning, however, when we see names such as Donald Whitney appear.

In his well-written and well-researched article, “Donald Whitney and Spiritual Disciplines,” Bob DeWaay points us to some of the dangers of Whitney’s book.
“I am very alarmed about Donald Whitney bringing spiritual disciplines and implied human ability into Reformed theology. If the trend for syncretistic spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation takes over the Reformed versions of evangelical education there will be very few options for young people who want an education grounded in the solas of the Reformation. Scripture alone and grace alone are compromised—if not rejected outright—when spiritual disciplines are adopted.”
As Apprising Ministries has adeptly pointed out in articles such as “Calvinist Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism?” and “Mark Driscoll and Neo-Reformed New Calvinist Contemplative Spirituality” this teaching of the “spiritual disciplines” and all of the baggage that comes with it (i.e., contemplative/centering prayer and the like) has already permeated today’s so-called “Reformed” circles, especially Driscoll's Acts 29 Network, and thus is having a great impact on the young people who have found themselves following after leaders like Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, and John Piper.

Also on the Recommended Reading page of MarkDriscoll.tv is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. Promotion of this book ought to concern us because, as this article points out, Gary Thomas is an advocate of the unbiblical practice of mantra meditation. 

These aren’t the only two instances of promotion of contemplative spirituality on Driscoll’s site, however. Being that this newest website is intricately linked with all of Driscoll’s other ministries, a quick type of “Richard Foster” into the search bar leads one to this article at The Resurgence entitled “Spiritual Disciplines: Solitude & Fellowship, Part 2,” wherein Driscoll recommends the work of 4 quasi-contemplative mystics:
The same books (with the exception of Bonhoeffer's Life Together) are recommended by Driscoll in this article about Christian obedience. The obedience called for by Scripture, however, and the “disciplines” set forth in these books are not equal. As Bob DeWaay states in the article referenced above, “Since Scripture alone reveals how we come to God and grow in God, then Scripture alone must reveal sanctifying practices. Unless God said (through Scripture), "If you come to me in faith according to these terms and means, I will meet you," then we cannot proceed validly in faith by any particular practice (online source).”

Again, as previously stated, Driscoll’s newest website easily links to all content from his other sites. A veritable Driscoll vending machine, you can easily find links to everything he has written, including his Resurgence blog post on “Helpful books on the History of Atonement Theology” where he lists Jürgen Moltmann’s The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology among others. In 2009, Emergent Village hosted an event, “The Moltmann Conversation.” It was attended by Christian apologist Chris Rosebrough and Bob DeWaay. Their discussion of the event can be found here (Part 1) and here (Part 2). In short, it would be an understatement to say that Jürgen Moltmann has had a profound impact upon the Emergent Church and various areas of their [bad] doctrine.

In addition to promoting contemplative spirituality through teaching and books, this new site has become a resource for Mars Hill Church campaigns.

Just what will this offer?
“With Campaigns, we'll make available to any church—free of charge—access to the materials, notes, and research for future Mars Hill sermon series. Think of it as a free marketing and research staff for your church and as if I was a volunteer for your ministry.
 What you get
  • Sermon Research BriefAccess to hundreds of pages of top-level research from Docent Research Group
  • Preaching Strategies: My personal preaching suggestions and research to help you prepare your own sermons
  • Full Marketing and Branding: Branding, design, and marketing plans that you can edit for your local church
  • DVD Sermon Downloads: Free use of my sermons for the series via DVD download if you want a week off
  • Counseling Guide: Helpful strategies and research specific to the sermon content to help your pastors and volunteers help hurting people
  • Worship Guide: Suggestions and tips on how to prepare every aspect of your worship service to compliment—not compete—with the sermons
In addition to these free resources, extra resources will be available for purchase from time to time: 
  • Book: A major trade book published in advance for the larger campaigns, launching every January
  • Small Group Curriculum: A comprehensive DVD and written curriculum for your small groups”
Sounds like a great way to create “mini-Mars Hills” across the country and, perhaps an even more daunting thought, “mini-Mark Driscolls.” The spirit behind this offering is perhaps commendable, offering free help and resources to those who simply do not have the time to turn their church into an entertainment venue for each new sermon series. After all, it takes a lot of time and energy to “cast your vision” while at the same time developing sermons and corresponding decorations. Something has to give somewhere. Yet, God has not gifted each preacher the same. Have you ever tried to deliver a speech or presentation that somebody else wrote? I have (no, I didn’t steal it, I was asked to deliver a presentation in a colleague’s absence) and it is difficult to effectively deliver information that somebody else has compiled and organized according to their own way of thinking. Considering the newest campaign being offered is Real Marriage, to coincide with the above-mentioned book, I sincerely hope that nobody buys into this! The last thing we need is another blast of “perfect marriage, perfect love, perfect sex” sermon series to sweep this country!

According to this page, the idea for offering these “campaigns” came upon the realization that:
“At Mars Hill, our desire is to see people come, meet Jesus, and grow as disciples. In the past, we didn’t do this as well as we should. We had growth numerically, but not spiritually.  Through much prayer and planning, we realized that we were not doing a good job discipling our people in every aspect of life. We were relying too much on good music and sermons from the pulpit. The message wasn’t translating.”
It’s laudable that they recognized a deficiency and are seeking to correct it. However, I’m not sure that the end result of campaigns as more than a sermon series. Rather, it’s linking your entire church up to your pulpit and pushing one big idea through every aspect of your church” is necessarily the answer. Preach the Word. Teach your congregation how to study the Word for themselves. Posters and flyers and catchy small-group themes may bring cohesiveness to your church’s culture, but is it ultimately going to make your people more learned in God’s Word? Are you creating disciples of Mars Hill Church or disciples of Jesus Christ? Driscoll states that the proof that campaigns work is:

“Last year alone, we saw over a thousand people baptized and 14% of our growth was due to conversions. Additionally, we’re seeing many people grow as disciples, join as members, start serving the church, and join our Community Groups—over 80% of our church is involved one.”
Okay, so “campaigns work.” Work how? What do they accomplish? Can the people in your church articulate the Gospel clearly? Do they speak it loudly, boldly and often? Or do they invite friends to church because the sermon series and accompanying campaign are so catchy and cool? I hope the proof is in the former.

As I said at the outset, I’m not trying to bash Mark Driscoll for having another website (a fifth website, to be exact). The existence of such a website, however, simply speaks to this man’s influence in the “evangelical” community. In yesterday’s post, Is “God” Still Talking to Mark Driscoll? I pointed out that Driscoll is a current member of The Gospel Coalition (in fact, Driscoll links to TGC from his site), a group of men whose supposed conservative approach to Scripture should not align with much of what Driscoll advocates. There is no room for extra-biblical revelation (especially of an X-rated nature) or the promotion of contemplative spirituality (which is nothing more than Eastern mysticism in a chintzy Christian costume) among a group that supposedly adheres to the Reformation cry of sola Scriptura. It would not be unfounded or over reactive of us to fear that the launch of this latest website will serve to propagate further some of the dangerous teachings that we have heard from Driscoll. Do we really need yet more resources from the man who thinks that the “gift of discernment” means that he has a television in his head playing out other people’s violent sins? But then, who am I? After all, I must confess, I am still waiting for that first voicemail from God.