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

This 'n' That

Well, for those of you who were expecting the Rapture this week with Rosh Hashanah, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, we are not yet living in glory with our Lord. The good news is, Scripture wasn't lying, and while we can most certainly read the signs of the season, we really don't know the day of Christ's return for His Church! (And before you get sore at me, let me be clear that I am eagerly awaiting this event myself, but am simply making light of our natural tendency to want to know definitively when it will occur! Please don't send angry emails.) With that, and since we are still living on this fallen earth, here's your week in review (kind of):
  • James MacDonald continues his attempts to clarify what he's said.
  • Steven Furtick shares with us the pastors he regularly listens to and learns from. Isn't there an old saying about garbage in, garbage out? But don't worry, he included Spurgeon, so he must be okay.
  • I may have shared this in the past, but if so, it's worth watching again. If I could embed video into my latest research paper, it would be this one, because it so aptly addresses my chosen topic.

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.

28 September 2011

"Unity" at the Expense of Truth? Never.

It seems that lately I find myself repeating three words over and over again (besides "Come quickly, Lord") and those are, "Make it stop." Even though Jesus Himself warned us that we would witness such compromise, that fact that it is happening so blatantly, even being flaunted, is still astounding. This is real. Truth is being cast aside in the name of "unity." Yet, where the clear doctrines of Scripture are concerned, there can be no concession. Unity without a foundation of truth is useless. This is happening in "mainstream evangelicalism," and perhaps the most tragic aspect of all is that there are still many who are choosing to remain blissfully ignorant. Does the whole house really need to burn down before some will admit that it was on fire in the first place?

When the announcement was posted on the Elephant Room website that T.D. Jakes would be joining the 2012 panel, the comment string was a flurry of concern over the fact that Jakes is a modalist. Interestingly enough, the comments on that as well as all other posts have now been turned off. Then yesterday, this article entitled "Association vs. Discernment and is James MacDonald Changing?" was posted at James MacDonald's Vertical Church blog. While I could offer my own analysis of MacDonald's post, Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries has already masterfully done so:


by Ken Silva 
The nauseating New Downgrade No-Controversy is looking to be in full swing as the online apologetics and discernment work Apprising Ministriescontinues surveying the evangelical landscape.
You are about to see that not even the non-negotiable cardinal doctrine of the Holy Trinity will be safe from attack, even from within the Reformed sectors of the church visible.
By now you probably know that Oneness Pentecostal and Word Faith mogul “Bishop” T.D. Jakes will be in Elephant Room 2 (ER2), which I discussed earlier in James MacDonald, T.D. Jakes & The Trinity.
Then in T.D. Jakes And The Trinity I brought together into one piece the evidence, including Jakes’ own admission, that the heretical Word Faith mogul is indeed associated with Oneness Pentecostalism.
With this as our backdrop we turn now to a very telling tactical error today by Gospel Coalition Council member James MacDonald with his post Association vs. Discernment and Is James MacDonald Changing? Let me state at the outset I’m not interested in a point-by-point rebuttal.
My main concern is to interact most specifically with his statements concerning the doctrine of the Trinity and with what MacDonald has to say about T.D Jakes. With this in mind then, I’ll simply say that the last question is a red herring so we’ll leave that lie and focus on the actual matter.
MacDonald begins by stating the obvious, “The Bible prescribes a body of truth to be believed and an ethic of behavior to be practiced—both are related to our great salvation.” Then an interesting admission, “I am learning a lot these days by listening.” I don’t doubt he is; the problem is, who he’s not listening to.
He then tells us “neither my doctrine nor my practice has changed—NOT ONE BIT!” I’ve always considered MacDonald as part of the New Calvinist camp, which is I see as an oxymoronic postmodern form of Calvinism—marrying some Reformation theology with Counter Spirituality.
So, I wouldn’t say that it has. After this bit of commercial MacDonald next moves into four points he hopes would be “helpful” in some way. First, he tells us, “I do not agree that association is the same as categoric endorsement.” I would concur. That said, it can however, often send mixed signals.
MacDonald then says in language very similar to that used by those in the neoliberal cult within the Emerging Church:
I grew up with this separatist centerpiece of fundamentalist thinking, and I rejected it many years ago. I do not agree that speaking at someone’s church or having them preach in our church is the same as agreeing with everything they have ever said or done. (Online source)
This is actually a bit of a straw man. You see, no one outside of independent blogs by self-appointed critics—who shouldn’t be doing this kind of discernment work anyway—is saying that speaking at someone’s church, or having them speak at yours, is always to be construed as blanket approval.
What we’re addressing here is the wisdom, and effects of, doing so. This next part should be a bit disturbing to you as MacDonald discusses criticism he’s received for some dubious decisions like his promotion, and defense, of dangerous prophet-pastors like Perry Noble and his disciple Steven Furtick:
Interestingly, most opposition comes from outside our own church. Our folks have been taught that love is the fulfillment of the law and the truest expression of biblical fidelity. (Online source)
1) This is curiously close to the cult-like churches of the Seeker Driven prophet-pastor model of e.g. Noble, Furtick and Eric Dykstra, and 2) who’s saying love isn’t the fulfillment and the truest expression of Biblical fidelity? Certainly not me; and one can’t find a Truer expression than Jesus.
Since God is love (cf. 1 John 4:8), and Jesus is God (cf. John 1:1), here’s Love in human flesh to misguided and divisive religious leaders, which is exactly what these prophet-pastors are:
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. 
“Woe to you, blind guides,… You blind men!… Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!… Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Matthew 23:13-16, 19, 23, 27-30)
You should get the point: James MacDonald has seemingly placed himself in the camp of those who have decided a priori that criticism is unloving, which you now can see from the perfect Example of Christ Jesus, is not true. MacDonald then opines:
Gospel belief without gospel behavior is what I refer to as ‘religious.’ Every minister of the gospel should welcome and learn from criticism, but critics that act like pagans are probably just that and bring little benefit to the hearer. (Online source)
In this particular case, MacDonald’s comments above are now shown to be ad hominem because the criticism has been coming from Christian apologists like Todd Friel and Chris Rosebrough, of Wretched Radio and Pirate Christian Radio respectively, and pastor-teachers like Phil Johnson and myself.
We’re hardly acting like pagans to adhere to Biblical fidelity ala 2 Timothy 4:2 and offer Christian correction. You see, these issues involve more than mere methodology; they involve doctrinal issues, which will now lead us right into James MacDonald’s second point of contention.
As he tells us what it is, in my opinion, MacDonald makes a bad tactical error and actually begins to tip his hand as to something he likely aims to accomplish with ER2. MacDonald now tells us, “I do not agree that T.D. Jakes is a Modalist.” Then he begins what I see as postmodern obfuscation:
I affirm the doctrine of the Trinity as I find it in Scripture. I believe it is clearly presented but not detailed or nuanced. I believe God is very happy with His Word as given to us and does not wish to update or clarify anything that He has purposefully left opaque.
Somethings are stark and immensely clear, such as the deity of Jesus Christ; others are taught but shrouded in mystery, such as the Trinity. I do not trace my beliefs to credal statements that seek clarity on things the Bible clouds with mystery. (Online source)
Having studied postmodernism, let me put its basic tenets as simply as I can: Think of a thirteen-year-old child who sees the world as revolving around his/her ideas. Not quite adult enough to make consistent rational decisions, but who at the same time, still insists that they “know-it-all.”
You try to instruct them they are wrong, only to watch them storm away into their rooms to slam the door and then blast their music in order to drown out the mean ol’ world. Now, James MacDonald seems like a sincere man; and I’d be the first to insist he has every right to believe whatever he wants.
With this out of the way, it matters not one whit what MacDonald—or anyone else including me—affirms or believes when it comes to the Bible; it matters what the text of God’s Word says. Quite obviously the early church saw the doctrine of the Trinity clearly enough in Scripture to reject modalism.
James MacDonald says that the Trinity is clearly presented in Scripture, though not detailed or nuanced; but rather, is shrouded with mystery. Ask yourself: Is MacDonald’s view consistent with the Christians who, based upon Biblical texts, put the modalist Sabellius out of Christian fellowship? The answer is: No.
And as Carl Trueman of Reformation 21 said today in his commentary upon this matter:
the language of manifestation is vulnerable to being seen as modalist; and a modalist God cannot save… for an evangelical leader to argue that creedal developments on Trinitarianism are of little importance is a fascinating glimpse into the doctrinal make-up of what constitutes contemporary evangelical leadership in the United States as it connects to catholic Christianity and, indeed, any tradition which regards the insights of Nicene Christianity as of importance in the overall transmission and articulation of the identity of Jesus Christ and thus his gospel. (Online source)
Now the question is: Why would James MacDonald apparently attempt to try and shroud in mystery this non-negotiable cardinal doctrine of the Christian Church? As I see it, here’s where he begins tipping his hand; to open the door for Oneness Pentecostal T.D. Jakes into full fellowship within evangelicalism.
If you think I’m being unfair, then I encourage you to look very carefully at what MacDonald says next:
I do not require T.D. Jakes or anyone else to define the details of Trinitarianism the way that I might. His website states clearly that he believes God has existed eternally in three manifestations. I am looking forward to hearing him explain what he means by that.
(Online source)
The way I’m reading all of this, and keeping in mind what I believe to be an unbiblical stress on “community” within postmodern New Calvinism, we’re getting a hint where ER2 is headed: Unity is more important than doctrinal purity. Again, we don’t require anyone to define anything; God’s Word does.
In getting ready to close this, for now, here isn’t the place to argue against Oneness Pentecostalism. So, I’m only going to tell you that if T.D. Jakes is a modalist—and the evidence in T.D. Jakes And The Trinity proves conclusively he’s associated with it—he couldn’t have chosen clearer language to say so.
As noble as it may sound that MacDonald and his fellow Gospel Coalition Council member Mark Driscoll want hear T.D. Jakes explain what is meant by the word manifestations, the fact remains that Jakes has already had years to clear it up; but he has seemingly chosen the route of obfuscation himself.
From my research into Oneness Pentecostalism, as well as into the doctrine of T.D. Jakes, I’ll give you my considered opinion. Oneness Pentecostals have always formed a large part of Jakes’ fan base. So even if he doesn’t personally hold to modalism, there’s little chance he’d ever come out and repudiate it.
If T.D. Jakes ever wants to be accepted as a Christian brother, this is precisely what he will need to do.
T.D. Jakes and the Trinity (by Apprising Ministries)
Is Nicene Christianity that Important? An Historical-Ecumenical Note (by Carl Trueman and referenced above. I suggest you read this entire article)
T.D. Jakes to Appear at the Elephant Room Round 2

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!

T.D. Jakes to Appear at the Elephant Room Round 2

Well, the latest speaker to be announced for the upcoming Elephant Room Conference, hosted by James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll is none other than Oneness Pentecostal T.D. Jakes.

Apprising Ministries has more in the article "James MacDonald, T.D. Jakes and the Trinity."

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.

Phil Johnson Weighs In

Over at Pyromaniacs, Phil Johnson has weighed in on the whole Perry Noble / James MacDonald scenario with a fitting and masterful response.

Read Phil Johnson's thoughts on the subject here.

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

23 September 2011

This 'n' That

Quick, somebody play a doctrinally sound hymn! This morning I've had the misfortune of getting the horrendous "praise" song "Draw Me Close to You" stuck in my head. So while I try fervently to replace those icky lyrics with something more God-honoring, here's your week in review (kind of):

  • For those of you who got a little...uppity...over Wednesday's post on MacDonald and Moore (I know you're there, I can hear you seething!), I suggest you go back to this post from March 2010 and listen to the audio embedded there. You'll be able to hear Moore's Scripture-twisting for yourself.
  • Rob Bell is leaving the "church" that he founded. In his absence, much of the teaching will be conducted by current co-teaching pastor Shane Hipps, who earlier this month was excited to see communion offered to a Muslim woman at Mars Hill Church.
  •  Do you desire God?

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

James MacDonald Thinks Beth Moore Studies are "Pretty Phenomenal"

That's right, according to James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel and Walk in the Word, Beth Moore studies are "pretty phenomenal:"

There's much that could be discussed from this brief clip, not the least of which is the apparent dismissal of the importance of knowing the truth. It's true that "head knowledge" does not a true convert make. But without that knowledge of the Truth, the heart can never begin to change. "We do need to learn the Word," says MacDonald, but "information is not the key." Okay, but how can someone ever hope to be saved without hearing, without knowing, without being informed about the Word of God? How many individuals, upon having the truth of the Gospel explained to them, have been brought to a saving, repentant faith in Christ? Faith does come by hearing, after all, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Faith does not come by having accountability to a small group leader, nor does spiritual maturity. Rather, faith comes through God's own Word, and spiritual maturity comes through the study of that Word. Growing in knowledge of the Truth holds one accountable to the only One who matters - God.
"Bible study is the most essential ingredient in the believer's spiritual life, because it is only in study of the Bible as that is blessed by the Holy Spirit that Christians hear Christ and discover what it means to follow Him." - James Montgomery Boice, Christ's Call to Discipleship
Nevertheless, without the context of the entire sermon, we can set this conversation aside and focus on the rather stunning declaration by James MacDonald that he thinks Beth Moore studies are "pretty phenomenal."

The clip above was taken from a sermon preached just this past weekend, September 17-18, 2011, at Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC). Beth Moore "Bible studies" have been welcome at this church for quite some time, however. For instance, according to HBC's "Small Group Curriculum," any study by Beth Moore is acceptable:

Quite honestly, it's disheartening to see Beth Moore studies placed on the same level as those written by John MacArthur, but I suppose having MacArthur on the list gives validity to the others. It is interesting that MacDonald preached above that small groups are more about "accountability" than "studies." It causes one to wonder why they would have produced a 3-page PDF listing of approved studies if the aim of the small groups is "accountability" rather than growing in biblical truth and knowledge?

Why should we be concerned that James MacDonald is endorsing, and apparently has endorsed for some time, the work of Beth Moore? Longtime readers will know that we have discussed the dangers of Beth Moore at length on this blog. Moore, a Southern Baptist Bible teacher, has shown herself to be a proponent of the contemplative spirituality, aka mysticism that is rapidly infiltrating the church visible. This is most evident, though not exclusive, in her participation in the Be Still DVD. Her seemingly consistent claims of special revelation from God should cause any Bible-believing Christian to pause and step away.

In the article "Believing Beth About Believing God," written by M. Kurt Goedelman and Glenn E. Chatfield and published in the January-March 2009 edition of the Personal Freedom Outreach Quarterly Journal, it states:
Moore often talks of how God "shows" her things and "speaks" to her. While this type of language is regrettably common among Christians, it can begin to sound like claims of special revelation. Leaders who hold to the sufficiency of Scripture and who rely upon the Bible alone for words from God will take issue with the "God told me" methodology used by Moore. And actually, in Moore's case, it would be quite imprecise to suggest the idea that she merely borders on a claim of special revelation. Listening to her preach, one is repeatedly inundated with reports that God speaks to and through her. At times, Moore herself appears to be electrified by such divine disclosure:
"Boy, this is the heart of our study. This is the heart of our study. Listen carefully. What God began to say to me about five years ago, and I'm telling you it sent me on such a trek with Him, that my head is still whirling over it. He began to say to me, 'I'm going to tell you something right now, Beth, and boy you write this one down and you say it as often as I give you utterance to say it.'" (Quoted from Moore's DVD study Believing God)
Over and over again, Moore emphasizes her teaching by declaring that "God told her." Well, clearly one cannot argue with someone who has a direct line to God, now can they? And so her dangerous, mystical teachings, complimented by her bubbly and apparently likable personality, cause her popularity to rise and her error to propagate. In this same article, Goedelman and Chatfield share that Moore claims that her daughter shares this same "prophet gift," receiving words from the Lord. It's not just a family affair, however, as Moore promises that her followers will also hear from God. Goedelman and Chatfield continue:
But the benefit for those devoted to Moore and her teaching resources is that they too will receive a fresh word from God. "But I'm telling you, He's going to speak through that homework, so hang in there with it. Use those tools and do it, because He will speak such an individual word over your life as you do that," she told her faithful viewers. 
The authors of this article then go on to list some examples of Moore teaching her "students" to listen for the voice of God. Perhaps most unsettling is the following quote from Moore's Believing God study, Session 7:
"That when He gives us a word, when He commands us to do something, that with that revealed word to us, comes the empowerment to obey. Now listen carefully. I believe with all my heart, when an anointed word comes to us personally - every single time you believe God has just spoken a word over you, He has revealed an anointed word to you, with that anointing comes the power to obey it."
 Do you have a Bible verse to go with that claim, Beth? It doesn't matter what Beth Moore believes "with all her heart" nor does it matter if you think that "God has just spoken a word over you." What matters is what the black and white, clear, all-sufficient truths of Scripture teach. Unfortunately, Beth Moore has proven herself to rely much more on personal experience than upon the sure Word of God.

So why would a trusted pastor such as James MacDonald endorse such a mystical "Bible teacher" as Beth Moore? This is a question that truly needs to be asked, and done so seriously. We would do well to notice also that Harvest Bible Chapel has long maintained a suggested 5-year reading plan for it's members. It can be found here and, while many of the titles on this lengthy list are indeed well-written and godly works, others must be called into question. For instance, why is the book The Practice of the Presence of God by the Roman Catholic mystic monk Brother Lawrence on the list, a man who is praised by Beth Moore on the Be Still DVD? Also of note on this "Year 2 Reading List" is the book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life/Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by quasi-contemplative author Donald Whitney.

Further cause for concern can be found in the "Year 4 Reading List," where the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas is listed. Why should this raise a red flag? As Apprising Ministries informs us, "[Gary] Thomas, who happens to be a preaching pastor at the Southern Baptist megachurch Second Baptist Church of Dr. Ed Young, also comes highly recommended by the SBC flagship Saddleback Church of Rick Warren as well." (Online Source)Further, this article from Lighthouse Trails documents that Gary Thomas is an advocate of such unbiblical practices as mantra meditation.

Again it is fair - and at this point it is necessary - that James MacDonald and HBC be asked why they are endorsing and promoting authors who teach contemplative prayer/meditation, which is really nothing more than Eastern mystic meditation in a chintzy Christian costume. How can such things possibly resonate with the biblical Gospel which MacDonald, HBC and Walk in the Word claim to stand for? The answer: they cannot. You either stand for truth or you stand for error. It's time to make a choice.
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)

A Biblical Evaluation of Beth Moore's Teachings - Claims of Direct Revelation (Dr. Sam Kurien)
Christianity Today Acknowledges the Contemplative Prayer Controversy...And the Role of Beth More as an Influential Promoter
Still More on Moore
A Most Peaceful Deception