30 August 2011

Jesus' Macho Makeover

Words escape me. The Guardian (UK) reports (Note: I've strategically edited out some unnecessary language in the article below. If you visit the original link, be warned that there are two instances of vulgarity in the article):
Photograph: Copyright Stephen Sawyer/ART4GOD.com
When you hear the name Jesus, is the first image that comes to mind a dewy-eyed pretty boy with flowing locks? If so, think again. After 2,000 years, the Messiah is getting a makeover.
This time he's less "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" and more of a[n] ... action hero – a Chuck Norris in sandals.
No more cissy Kumbaya stuff. In this testosterone-fuelled theology, the Saviour finally has the rippling biceps he would have developed as a carpenter from a working-class home in Nazareth.
The macho Jesus movement has been bolstered by books like No More Mr Christian Nice Guy and The Church Impotent – the Feminisation of Christianity. But it's artist Stephen Sawyer, whose paintings of the Son of God as a tattooed biker and boxer have captured the imagination of Christian men searching for a more manly role model.
As Kentucky-based Sawyer, 58, points out: "I scarcely think Jesus could have overturned the tables of the money-lenders and driven them from the temple if he was a wimp. The model I use for my paintings is a surfer guy who's built like a brick [...]."
But while you might expect this thinking to flourish in the American South, it's probably more surprising that it's gaining ground in the UK.
According to recent polls, the ratio of women to men worshippers in this country is 65% to 35% – and too much girliness is getting the blame for the gender imbalance.
Hence the rising number of conferences and sermons aimed at men that present a more muscular version of Jesus, along with the continuing success of Christian lad's mag Sorted.
As the Rev Eric Delve, vicar of St Luke's, Maidstone, Kent points out: "Men are looking for action figures. That's why they follow footballers." With the Messiah looking like a midfielder, David Beckham could be in for some competition. (Online Source)

This may be "flourishing" in the UK, but it's not entirely without voice in America, either. Many churches have traipsed their men’s groups out into the wilderness for a weekend of macho “male bonding.” Mark Driscoll among others has, in my opinion, certainly helped drive this “macho Jesus” idea in the church. But when we're drawing men into the building merely by making Jesus look "like a midfielder," we're not doing anything to help the state of the church. Just because "men are looking for action figures" doesn't mean we should give them what they're looking for. We may be bringing more testosterone into the building, but we're not strengthening male leadership and we're certainly not growing and maturing Christian men.


To be sure, the picture of a girly, lovey-dovey, well-manicured Jesus who couldn’t even lift a gallon of water without getting a muscle strain is a far cry from the Jesus of the Bible. But why do we have to develop an image of Jesus based upon what a certain fan-base wants to see? You want a picture of Jesus, read the Bible. I suspect that those who think that Jesus only walks around with a baby lamb in His arms will be a bit shocked when they finally see Him face to face and realize that John wasn’t exaggerating when he wrote Revelation:
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Revelation 1:12-16)
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16)
But our Lord was and is gentle and loving at the same time to those who love and fear Him. This focus on His physical appearance completely misses the point. Focus on His intangible attributes: His holiness, His justice, His righteousness, and yes His purifying love. But to advertise Jesus as either a tattooed biker or a member of a boy band is nothing short of idolatry and blasphemy.

We need to stop worrying about directing people to a mere image that only reflects the attributes of our Lord that we like. If a church only preaches a feminine Jesus of love, then they will undoubtedly fill their pews with more women than men. The theology of the church will be squishy and incomplete. If a church only preaches a macho fighter Jesus, then they may gain a male attendance, though I suspect those men will only continue coming if additional perks like football parties and hunting weekends are offered. Even with a church full of "macho men," the theology will be squishy and incomplete. Unless a church is teaching the whole counsel of God and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then no clever marketing technique can help transform it into what the church should be. Only the Word of God transforms.

So here is a proposal from someone who’s never read a church-growth book: Just preach the Jesus of the Bible. If the passage you are preaching emphasizes Jesus’ love, great. If it speaks to His judgment and wrath, great. Preach the Word. Please stop marketing Jesus.

28 August 2011

A Reversal of Today's Reformed Revival? John MacArthur Weighs In

These brief videos are well worth 10 minutes of your time. John MacArthur speaks out against those in the YRR (Young, Restless, and Reformed) crowd who think that "just because they affirm the doctrine of substitution, they get a 'free pass' on everything else."





HT: Apprising Ministries

Sunday Morning Praise

Amazing Love (How Can it Be?)

26 August 2011

What is at Risk?

"This is a day when pluralism is popular. However, although everyone may have the right to his own opinion, it does not follow that every opinion is right. To some it will appear terribly intolerant even to speak of "false" prophets; yet that is Jesus' designation of would-be spokesmen for God who do not teach what Jesus himself teaches. 'Watch out for false prophets,' he says; 'by their fruit you will recognize them.' The kingdom of God is the issue. Failure to heed Jesus' warning means that the threat of judgment looming over the heads of the false teachers becomes a threat to others as well. Not only their destiny, but ours, yours and mine, are at risk, if we fail to identify and avoid the false prophets." - D.A. Carson, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World, page 137.

James MacDonald on Criticism (from Apprising Ministries)

Pastor Ken Silva with some important observations:

JAMES MACDONALD ON CRITICISM

by Ken Silva
In “The Steven Furtick Show” Played At Harvest Bible Chapel Of James MacDonald Erin Benziger, special correspondent of Apprising Ministries who blogs at Do Not Be Surprised…, shared her eyewitness account of Seeker Driven prophet-pastor Steven Furtick taking the pulpit at MacDonald’s HBC.
Understandably this led to some surprise in Reformed circles concerning this dubious decision by James MacDonald; in addition, in Steven Furtick And James MacDonald I showed you he’s decided to be keynote speaker for Furtick’s upcoming conference next January:
When this news became known surprise turned to mild criticism, which seems to have been the cause of MacDonald’s tweet below:
It seems to me that James MacDonald hasn’t realized “total conformity” isn’t the issue; no rather, the issue has to do with lending his credibility to a people-pleasing prophet pastor like Steven Furtick.
As you’ll see in Steven Furtick And T.D. Jakes, Furtick is about to bring in Oneness Pentecostal heretic T.D. Jakesto speak at that same conference MacDonald will be closing.
Well, it appears MacDonald’s still a bit sensitive about all of this when about a half hour ago, as of this writing, he tweeted:
Being I’m among those who’ve been respectfully critical of James MacDonald’s growing association with Steve Furtick I responded:
This is the heart of the matter: Intel that I have leads me to be fearful  that while James MacDonald may believe he’s mentoring Steven Furtick, I’d say its nuch more probable he’ll be played if not careful.
Furtick is quite possibly maneuvering to use MacDonald’s credibility to make himself appear more legit; particularly with the lower end of the YRR demographic, which he’d likely skew very well within.
You need to know that Steven Furtick is very sharp; he’s a real Leadership Network type who’s been studying business leadership books for years; and one of his mentors is prosperity mogul T.D. Jakes.
In her well-researched post Steven Furtick is Lookin’ for the Favor Erin Benziger clearly shows that Furtick, who’s a real fan of WF properity preacher Joel Osteen, is also making a move into that camp.
To me, Furtick gives every appearance of having, shall we say, just a bit of an ego. After-all, as a prophet-pastor claiming direct revelation and “visions,” he fits right in with spiritual flakes in the WF crowd.
Right now, with Osteen getting older and John Crowder too “out there,” at least for now, it’s pretty clear that the WF camp is very ripe for a young, and driven, charismatic (in both senses) leader.
A growing darling within evangelicalism, with enough clout already to have the attention of Word Faith superstar “Bishop” T. D. Jakes, my guess is Steven Furtick is making a play to become the next big thing.

This 'n' That


How is it that you can get up 40 minutes earlier than usual and still arrive at work at the same time? That happened to me this week. The lesson? Don't bother getting up early! Anyway, it's the last Friday in August, so while we lament the all too quick passing of summer, here's your week in review (kind of):
  • We knew this day would come. Steve Jobs has stepped down as the CEO of Apple and will be continuing on as chairman of the board. Personally, I think Apple as a company will continue to do just fine. What we should be more concerned about is Jobs himself. His health struggles are no secret, and so let's be praying that this man who has been so gifted by God would turn to his Lord in repentance and faith.
  • Astronomers have discovered a planet that appears to be made of diamond. More proof of our magnificent Creator!
    • If you're an animal lover, this story will especially cause a little choking up. The dog of a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan wouldn't leave his owner's side, even during the funeral.
    • God crushed Jesus Christ:

    25 August 2011

    Steven Furtick is Lookin' for the Favor

    (Online Source)
    It seems that Steven Furtick is jumping on the “favor” train. Hey, that’s understandable. Who wouldn’t want to get an awesome parking space at the mall? Let’s face it, Furtick’s approach to preaching seems to have long hinted at a base form of Word-Faith. After all, what better reason to have “audacious faith” than to be able to exercise it in one's own favor (no pun intended)? When Steven Furtick started tweeting about “favor” yesterday, then, I really wasn’t surprised.

    (Online Source)
    So “favor follows expectancy.” Really? What if I’m looking for favor at work, but when I show up one day, it turns out that I am one of the employees being laid off? What if I’m looking for favor at the doctor’s office but the tests come back abnormal? What about all those Christians being brutally murdered for their faith in other countries? Are they not looking expectantly enough? To be fair, a 140-character “tweet” is hardly enough space to elaborate on biblical “favor.” But Furtick’s second tweet yesterday on the topic gives some insight into the angle he’ll be taking as he looks to preach on favor “later this year.”
    (Online Source)
    Citing Kevin Gerald (who will be speaking at Furtick’s 2012 “Code Orange Revival”) and his series on the topic of favor, Furtick claims that it has blessed him. If you’d like to see and hear this Furtick-approved preaching for yourself, you can visit Gerald’s site and listen to his 3 messages on "Favor Forever." You’ll hear such biblically ignorant teachings as Christians may “expect preferential treatment” because of our association with God. Hm. Funny, seems to me to be the opposite in today’s world! Gerald teaches in his first message that we can expect favor from both God and man! I guess Paul had it all wrong when he said, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10). In Part 2 of this series, which is loaded with law and works-righteousness, Gerald says that our “thoughts attract and draw like magnetic forces,” which is why we need to be cautious about negative thoughts. After all, he says, God created us to be “very powerful” beings. But, Kevin Gerald’s Scripture-twisting shouldn't surprise us when we see that he endorses a product like Joel Osteen’s book, Becoming a Better You.




    Now, who else likes Joel Osteen? Dr. Dave Martin. At least, I assume he likes Osteen since he’s preached at Lakewood Church. And, according to the below tweet, Steven Furtick is quite a fan of Dr. Dave Martin, as is also evidenced by this video of Furtick endorsing Martin’s latest book, The 12 Traits of the Greats.
    (Online Source)
    But wait, I’m not just drawing up some elaborate, guilt-by-association spider web. As you probably recall, Steven Furtick has called Joel Osteen a “great man of God.” The casual observer, then, would tend to notice a trend here.  Mr. “Audacious Faith” seems to be building himself quite a circle of friends. The circumference of this circle widens when we see that Steven Furtick will be preaching at Faith Church in Saint Louis this coming October. Pastor David and Pastrix Nicole Crank lead this church where they “are reaching the lost and encouraging the hopeless with messages that are inspirational, timely, relevant and oftentimes very humorous.” Well, I know that’s everything that I look for in a church! As if the husband-wife “co-pastor” wasn’t enough to send red flags flying, all one need do is look at some of the glowing endorsements of Faith Church. Endorsements by men like Joel Osteen and Ed Young. And young Pastor Furtick will be preaching there in just a few weeks. Interesting.



    Why does any of this matter, though? Why can’t we just write Furtick off and worry about the next thing? Answer: Because Steven Furtick has suddenly become influential in more than just the seeker-driven circles. He’s expanding not just to these Word-Faith arenas, but to supposedly conservative, Bible-teaching churches, most namely and most recently of course, Harvest Bible Chapel. When James MacDonald invited Steven Furtick into his pulpit he did much more than merely provide entertainment for his flock for one Sunday. His invitation to Furtick – and MacDonald’s own appearance at Elevation Church earlier this year as well as his future participation in Furtick’s 2012 “Code Orange Revival” appears to be equivalent to giving approval to Steven Furtick, his ministry, and everything that goes along with it.

    As the Church visible continues to slide down an increasingly slippery slope, we can be so grateful that God has given each one of us access to His perfect and unfailing Word. Use it. Search it. Test all that you hear by it.

    SEE ALSO:
    The Prodigy in Me?
    "The Steven Furtick Show" Now Playing at Harvest Bible Chapel
    Steven Furtick and James MacDonald (from Apprising Ministries)

    Thursday's Spurgeon

    What is the truth? There is the point. Is the truth that which I imagine to be revealed to me by some private communication? Am I to fancy that I enjoy some special revelation, and am I to order my life by voices, dreams, and impressions?

    Brethren, fall not into this common delusion. God's word to us is in Holy Scripture. All the truth that sanctifies men is in God's Word. Do not listen to those who cry, "Lo here!" and "Lo there!"

    I am plucked by the sleeve almost every day by crazy persons and pretenders who have revelations. One man tells me that God has sent a message to me by him; and I reply, "No, sir, the Lord knows where I dwell, and he is so near to me that he would not need to send to me by you."

    Another man announces in God's name a dogma which, on the face of it, is a lie against the Holy Ghost. He says the Spirit of God told him so-and-so; but we know that the Holy Ghost never contradicts himself.

    If your imaginary revelation is not according to this Word, it has no weight with us; and if it is according to this Word, it is no new thing.

    Brethren, this Bible is enough if the Lord does but use it, and quicken it by his Spirit in our hearts. Truth is neither your opinion, nor mine; your message, nor mine. Jesus says, "Thy word is truth." That which sanctifies men is not only truth, but it is the particular truth which is revealed in God's Word—"Thy word is truth."

    What a blessing it is that all the truth that is necessary to sanctify us is revealed in the Word of God, so that we have not to expend our energies upon discovering truth, but may, to our far greater profit, use revealed truth for its divine ends and purposes! There will be no more revelations; no more are needed. The canon is fixed and complete, and he that adds to it shall have added to him the plagues that are written in this Book.

    What need of more when here is enough for every practical purpose? "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
    HT: Pyromaniacs

    22 August 2011

    BSF, a "Truly Ecumenical Fellowship"

    "From the earliest days Bible Study Fellowship has been completely interdenominational. Classes are comprised of members from almost all Christian denominations. Discussion leaders are instructed never to encourage members to switch churches. A Catholic priest attended my class for six weeks, and we developed a real friendship. Sometime during the 1960s after Pope John advocated Bible reading, we noticed a great increase in Catholic membership. Priests in one of the Bay Area churches were so impressed with Bible Study Fellowship that any one who taught catechism on Saturday had to be a current member of a Bible Study Fellowship class. Members from Jewish, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and other congregations have become interested in Bible study. Seeing that all denominations are welcome, Bible Study Fellowship has a truly ecumenical fellowship." - A. Wetherell Johson, founder of Bible Study Fellowship, Created for Commitment, page 224 (emphasis mine).
    It's one thing for a Bible study to welcome anyone to come and study God's Word. We have to seriously question an organization, however, that not only boasts in its ecumenism, but also instructs its leadership to never encourage its members to switch churches. What if a Roman Catholic is attending and begins to question the teaching of the Catholic Church? She comes to her discussion leader, as she has been instructed to do, and the discussion leader not only cannot encourage her to leave her apostate church, but it seems as though the policy of BSF is to actually encourage members to stay in their church and to serve, regardless of denomination or, it would seem, theology! With the soft, watered-down gospel that is taught by BSF, it is little wonder that many who come to the study from "other congregations" (meaning, not Protestant) are never convicted to leave their erroneous fellowships.

    Interestingly enough, BSF has done far more than merely welcome Catholics openly and without fear of their false doctrine being exposed. It seems that, back in the 1970s, Bible Study Fellowship actually gave permission and blessing to a strictly Catholic study that was developed and modeled after the BSF style. In the Little Rock Scripture Study, "Leaders and participants receive direction in the Roman Catholic Church's approach to biblical understanding and interpretation."

    This study was developed by a small group of Catholics, including a young married couple named Fred and Tammy Woell. While living in Little Rock, they were invited to attend a local BSF. Tammy was hesitant, however, because she had "just joined the Catholic Church after three years of discernment and did not want to become confused again." But the Woells soon came to appreciate what they saw at BSF: "Once they became involved in BSF they were impressed with the way so many Protestants were living out the Christian message." (online source)

    But wait. The Woells didn't leave the Catholic Church. This appears quite confusing considering that, if the Gospel was being preached at this BSF class, it would undoubtedly offend a faithful Catholic either to the point of conviction and repentance, or to the point of rejection. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of grace through faith, a gift from God. The gospel of the Catholic Church is one of "Jesus plus;" a gospel of works. Yet, we know that an unoffensive gospel that welcomes all faiths with open arms and never tells the Truth is no gospel at all. A big, ecumenical bear hug will do no one any good if it hugs those people all the way to Hell.

    Rather than leave the Catholic Church, it seems the Woells desired to bring this type of Bible study to their own fellowship. With the caveat, apparently, that it would be based upon the "Roman Catholic Church's approach to biblical understanding and interpretation." BSF is very strict about the use of anything that they have developed, however, and so permission was sought to use their format.
    Meetings followed between the Woells, Fr. Schneider, Fr. Jerome, Fr. James Mancini, and the staff of the diocesan Office of Religious Education. With the permission of Bible Study Fellowship, they developed a format that was similar in some ways, including study questions, small group discussion, and lectures. They found a method of prayer they felt would best lead people to a level of authentic sharing and adopted the principles taught by Rosalind Rinker in her book Conversational Prayer. Finally, they knew that the strength of such a process of Bible study would be found in well-trained leaders or facilitators. With some guidance from Dr. and Mrs. Carl Wengar of BSF, the Woells put together what was originally a five-week leadership training component that could be used in local communities. (Online source, emphasis mine)
    So, Bible Study Fellowship granted permission for a Catholic knock-off of their study. This seems odd for a group that supposedly desires to advance the gospel of Christ. Why would they approve, seemingly giving their blessing, to a study that would, it would seem, be teaching the heretical doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church? Well, I suppose Miss Johnson already gave us the answer to that when she said, "Bible Study Fellowship has a truly ecumenical fellowship." 

    Ecumenical indeed. Swing wide that gate, for there are many goats in line to pass through.

    SEE ALSO:
    Serve in Your Church...But First Ensure Your Church is Serving the Gospel of Christ
    BSF Hears God's Audible Voice
    Signs of a Toxic Movement
    Another Concerned BSF-er

    The Prodigy in Me?

    When did we start needing movie trailers for sermon series? Stupid question. I suppose that happened around the same time that the sermons became more about entertainment than about the clear teaching of God's Word. That said, Elevation Church offers us a sneak peek into their latest sermon series, beginning August 27. At the Elevation Church website, you can view the trailer for The Prodigy in Me. That's right, the prodigy in you.



    When we think of a "prodigy" we think of someone or something great, amazing even. Words like "extraordinary" and "talented" pop instantly into our mind. Interesting that this trailer, then, would lead one to assume that there is something great and wonderful in all of us, yet Scripture tells us that we are dead in our sin unless we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit through the work of Christ. Ah, so perhaps this sermon will tackle the Holy Spirit within those who have been saved. Perhaps it will discuss how the ability and even the desire for holy living comes through the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. How the only way we could be considered any sort of "prodigy" would be by seeing the righteousness of Christ in us, rather than the filthiness of ourselves, for "we" could never be extraordinary but Christ exceeds even that. But then, that sermon would have to be directed at believers, which would be odd for a church that has told it's attendees that if they "know Jesus," then Elevation Church is no longer for them.

    Giving Elevation the benefit of the doubt, there is one final angle to suggest. Perhaps this sermon will discuss how we are all, every one of us, great prodigies when it comes to sinning. Oh yes, every man is remarkably talented when it comes to sin, and each of us excels in our very own area of transgression. Perhaps this message of man's total depravity and total inability to do any good, let alone to save himself from eternal damnation, will send shivers of conviction through the spines of each "Elevator." Then perhaps it will necessarily be followed by the great and glorious proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That the perfect, sinless, God-man came to earth, was beaten and murdered and buried, and rose again three days later in magnificent victory over sin, death and Satan. With only a 57-second trailer to go on, I guess we'll all just have to wait and see and eagerly anticipate learning more about the prodigy within each one of us.

    21 August 2011

    Sunday Morning Praise

    "Lift High the Cross"

    The Doctrines of Grace - Part "P"

    Admit it, you never thought I'd finish my series on the doctrines of grace, did you? I began this series nearly a year ago, and so it seems fitting to ensure that I conclude it before that year expires. To begin with, I want to point you to my original introductory post and explanation for taking the time to examine these wonderful doctrines of grace.
    "It's the end of the world as we know it!" Maybe. Or Jesus could tarry for another 10 or 20 years. Personally I don't think He will, but it's a possibility.

    "We have to get as many people saved as possible!" Umm...kind of, but we desperately need to change this terminology. The concept of evangelism and "saving souls" is important regardless of where we are in the prophetic timeline. Whether Christ is returning tonight, next week, or when your grandchildren have grandchildren, we need to be preaching Christ and Him crucified. But we cannot get anybody saved, and herein lies the problem with modern-day evangelism. Instead of striving to "get people saved" let's focus on what we are called to do: let's preach the Gospel. If we do our part, we can leave the saving up to God and the Holy Spirit. But today's squishy, warm-fuzzy gospel of "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" isn't going to suffice. Without correct doctrine, we cannot have a correct gospel. And without a correct gospel, nobody is going to truly get saved.
    That's why I wrote this series in the first place, to address the common errors that we see in evangelism today. Truth be told, there are far more resources one could access which would detail these doctrines in a far deeper and more scholarly manner than I have been able to handle them. As I explained early on, this series was more for myself than for my readers, as I was working through these in my own personal study and simply opted to "study out loud."Reflecting back as I reach this final point of the "tulip" I realize that it was truly the doctrines of unconditional election and particular redemption, or limited atonement, that I most had to untangle in my own mind, and I am thankful for the clarity God granted in the process. And whether you're a "5 pointer" or a "4 pointer" or whether you have no idea what I'm talking about, the truth always boils down to this: God is sovereign; Jesus is Lord.

    So this final doctrine is one that I won't dwell on long. I suspect there are few of my readers, if any, who would argue against it. It is the "P" in TULIP: Perseverance of the Saints. And, I would like to add, the preservation of the saints.

    This doctrine has absolutely nothing to do with working to earn or to keep salvation. Rather, it has everything to do with the promises of God to keep those whom He has sovereignly elected until the time of glorification. Honestly, with a promise like that, how can we not rest in our salvation? Oftentimes this doctrine is boiled down to the catchphrase, "Once Saved, Always Saved" (OSAS). Personally, I do everything I can to avoid that phrase, not because it's inherently wrong, but because it seems as though it's been hijacked by the moment-of-decision crowd. OSAS seems to be softened up just enough that those who are banking on that moment in time when they "asked Jesus into their heart" can fall back on it even when their lives are failing to reveal any holy fruit, but they are instead living in direct opposition to God. Yet the idea of the saints persevering as we walk as aliens on this earth is far weightier than "once saved always saved." We do not work our way to Heaven, but if our lives do not reflect the holiness of our Father (1 Peter 1:14-16), then we ought to seriously question whether we are truly legitimate children. While the seed thrown on the rocky soil or among the thorns may have sprouted for a moment, it was only the seed sown in fertile soil which yielded a crop and was not squelched by outward persecution.

    When thinking about how best to approach this final installment, I decided that no one could speak better on this subject than the Lord Himself. Following, then, is a handful of Scriptures that preach God's promise to keep His own. I pray these Scriptures bring you joy and praise as they do me.

    If God has called you and He has saved you and He is sanctifying you, then He will most certainly ensure that you are brought to full and final glorification.
    And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
    All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40)
    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7)
    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. (John 10:27-29)
    Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) 
    Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)
    And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
    Does God's promise to preserve His chosen ones exempt them from holy living? To quote the words of Paul, "May it never be!" Our desire to live holy lives, reflecting the will and Word of our Father, is proof that our faith and salvation is true and granted by God.
    For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26-27)
    If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:6-10)
    Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
    I think it's fitting to end here with one of the most beautiful benedictions in all of the New Testament:
    Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)
    AMEN!


    SEE ALSO:
    The Doctrines of Grace: An Introduction
    The Doctrines of Grace: Part "T"
    The Doctrines of Grace: Part "U"
    The Doctrines of Grace: Part "U" Follow-up
    The Doctrines of Grace: Part "L"
    The Doctrines of Grace: Part "I"
    Perseverance of the Saints (from Pyromaniacs)

    19 August 2011

    This 'n' That

    It's been a very...strange week. It started with this, which led to this, and then this. It is definitely time for the weekend! But, before you start planning that big Saturday morning breakfast for tomorrow, here's your week in review (kind of):
    • I remember when Buffy, the Vampire Slayer was at the peak of its popularity. So when I saw this headline, I thought that there was a new, knock-off television drama hitting the airwaves. Nope. Turns out "Qualified Teenage Demon Slayers" is a new job title. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up. The End Time blog offers a good commentary on this demon slayer debacle.
    • Jesse Johnson wrote a great article at The Cripplegate earlier this week entitled "Dispensationalism, Keller, and the Poor" about the errors of elevating a gospel of social justice over and above the true biblical Gospel. My favorite quote: "The Bible simply never commands the church to give anything to the poor of the world, other than the gospel." Amen.
      • BREAKING NEWS!! Exercise improves your health. Seriously, who paid for this research to be done? In other news, eating food helps you live longer than if you starve yourself. Honestly.
      • Sound Doctrine, Sound Words:

      18 August 2011

      "Normalizing" Depravity

      Honestly, there are no words. Life Site News reports:
      Academic conference seeks to normalize pedophilia
      by Jeremy Kryn

      BALTIMORE, MD, August 16, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Researchers from several prominent U.S. universities will participate tomorrow in a Baltimore conference reportedly aiming to normalize pedophilia.  According to the sponsoring organization’s website, the event will examine ways in which “minor-attracted persons” can be involved in a revision of the American Psychological Association (APA) classification of pedophilia.  
      B4U-ACT, a group of pro-pedophile activists and mental health professionals, is behind the August 17 conference, which will include panelists from Harvard University, the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Louisville, and the University of Illinois. 
      B4U-ACT science director Howard Kline has criticized the definition of pedophilia by the American Psychological Association, describing its treatment of “minor-attracted persons” as “inaccurate” and “misleading."
      "Minor-attracted persons?" This is what we've come to. So many have been warning that the legalization, tolerance, and acceptance of gay marriage would only drive us deeper into a pit of depravity and here we are. A group of "researchers" is seeking to "normalize" pedophilia. How do you normalize a crime against innocent children?
      On their website B4U-ACT classifies pedophilia as simply another sexual orientation and decries the “stigma” attached to pedophilia, observing: “No one chooses to be emotionally and sexually attracted to children or adolescents. The cause is unknown; in fact, the development of attraction to adults is not understood.” The group says that it does not advocate treatment to change feelings of attraction to children or adolescents.
      Oh yes, far be it from anyone to place a stigma on people whose besetting sin is the desire to have inappropriate relationships with children! Isn't it interesting how this article claims that "the development of attraction to adults is not understood?" I can solve that mystery right now:
      So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
      “This at last is bone of my bones
      and flesh of my flesh;
      she shall be called Woman,
      because she was taken out of Man.”
      Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:21-25)
      Adult men are attracted to adult women because God ordained it to be so. Anything outside of that original plan is sin, plain and simple. And what do sinners need? The Gospel. These pedophiles don't need to be told they are normal, they need to be told that they are sinners! And then they need to be told that there is a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, and if they will repent of their sin and turn to Him for salvation, then even the gross sin of pedophilia can be forgiven.

      Yet, we have long been living in a Romans 1 America, so this should not surprise us. Interesting that this has not been widely reported, yet I suspect it won't be long before such a thing is finally "normalized" into our society. Parents, hold tight to your children and join me in praying, Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

      The Latest Driscoll Debacle

      Have you been keeping up with the latest Mark Driscoll controversy? If not, below is my Cliff's Notes version with links. Hopefully this will catch you up and, more importantly, sound another much-needed warning as to the danger of following Mark Driscoll too closely.

      • First, Mark Driscoll posted this video of a talk he delivered earlier this year at his Resurgence conference wherein he makes the claim that cessationism is worldly. With this and other comments he makes in his speech, he is essentially declaring that men like John MacArthur are worldly deists. We can't be sure, but Driscoll may have posted this in response to John MacArthur's recent series about the Young, Restless and Reformed movement on the Grace to You blog (if you haven't been following this series, I highly suggest you take a few minutes to read through MacArthur's well-intentioned warnings). The timing certainly was interesting.
      • Since this conversation was continuing and heating up in the blogosphere, Johnson responded again with a very important, eye-opening post which demonstrates how dangerous and disconcerting Driscoll's preposterous claims that he receives lewd, inappropriate visions from God really are.
      There are a number of issues to be taken with Driscoll's claims. First, he is claiming extra-biblical, personal revelation. Second, these visions that are supposedly given to him by the Holy Spirit, are of other people's sinful, disgusting, crude acts. I find it absolutely incredible that we are supposed to believe that the Holy Spirit, who is Himself our pure and undefiled God, would place such wicked sin before the eyes of any Christian. Thirdly, Driscoll encourages his audiences to cultivate this same gift of visions if they think they have it. Fourthly, Driscoll is calling this "gift" a "gift of discernment." Sorry, Mark, but this is anything but discernment! Biblical discernment is being able to distinguish truth from error and real truth from half-truth. Biblical discernment is knowing when to cry, "WOLF!" What this debate has demonstrated is the incredible need for Christians to be discerning of what their leaders are teaching, whoever that leader happens to be. If the Bereans examined and tested the teachings of Paul against Scripture, then surely we ought to do the same!

      Thursday's Spurgeon

      The following sermon is entitled Preach the Gospel and was delivered on August 5, 1855.
      [T]o preach the gospel is to exalt Jesus Christ. Perhaps this is the best answer that I could give. I am very sorry to see very often how little the gospel is understood even by some of the best Christians. Some time ago there was a young woman under great distress of soul; she came to a very pious Christian man, who said "My dear girl, you must go home and pray." Well I thought within myself, that is not the Bible way at all. It never says, "Go home and pray." The poor girl went home; she did pray, and she still continued in distress. Said he, "You must wait, you must read the Scriptures and study them." That is not the Bible way; that is not exalting Christ; find a great many preachers are preaching that kind of doctrine. They tell a poor convinced sinner, "You must go home and pray, and read the Scriptures; you must attend the ministry;" and so on. Works, works, works—instead of "By grace are ye saved through faith," If a penitent should come and ask me, "What must I do to be saved?" I would say, "Christ must save you—believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." I would neither direct to prayer, nor reading of the Scriptures nor attending God's house; but simply direct to faith, naked faith on God's gospel. Not that I despise prayer—that must come after faith. Not that I speak a word against the searching of the Scriptures—that is an infallible mark of God's children. Not that I find fault with attendance on God's word—God forbid! I love to see people there. But none of those things are the way of salvation. It is nowhere written—"He that attendeth chapel shall be saved," or, "He that readeth the Bible shall be saved." Nor do I read—"He that prayeth and is baptised shall be saved;" but, "He that believeth,"—he that has a naked faith on the "Man Christ Jesus,"—on his Godhead, on his manhood, is delivered from sin. To preach that faith alone saves, is to preach God's truth. Nor will I for one moment concede to any man the name of a gospel minister, if he preaches anything as the plan of salvation except faith in Jesus Christ, faith, faith, nothing but faith in his name. But we are, most of us, very much muddled in our ideas. We get so much work stored into our brain, such an idea of merit and of doing, wrought into our hearts, that it is almost impossible for us to preach justification by faith clearly and fully; and when we do, our people won't receive it. We tell them, "Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." But they have a notion that faith is something so wonderful, so mysterious, that it is quite impossible that without doing something else they can ever get it. Now, that faith which unites to the Lamb is an instantaneous gift of God, and he who believes on the Lord Jesus is that moment saved, without anything else whatsoever. Ah! my friends, do we not want more exalting Christ in our preaching, and more exalting Christ in our living? Poor Mary said, "They have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid him," And she might say so now-a-days if she could rise from the grave. Oh! to have a Christ-exalting ministry! Oh! to have preaching that magnifies Christ in his person, that extols his divinity, that loves his humanity; to have preaching that shows him as prophet, priest, and king to his people! to have preaching whereby the spirit manifests the Son of God unto his children: to have preaching that says, "Look unto him and be ye saved all the ends of the earth,"—Calvary preaching, Calvary theology, Calvary books, Calvary sermons! These are the things we want, and in proportion as we have Calvary exalted and Christ magnified, the gospel is preached in our midst.

      17 August 2011

      Discussing Steven Furtick's Favorite Topic...Steven Furtick

      Earlier today, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith and Pirate Christian Radio. We discussed Steven Furtick's appearance this past weekend at Harvest Bible Chapel, as well as examined a few soundbites from the Elevation Steven Furtick documentary, This is How We Change the World. During the second half of the show, you'll hear Chris review the sermon Furtick delivered this weekend at Harvest, entitled "Perhaps." As usual, Chris does a great job of demonstrating how Furtick mishandled the Scripture and completely missed the point of the text. Rosebrough also calculated just how much of the sermon was dedicated to preaching about Jesus and how much was preaching about...Steven Furtick. I don't want to spoil the surprise, so you'll have to listen to see who won that contest.

      Listen to "Steven Furtick Preaches About Steven Furtick...Again" here.


      SEE ALSO:
      "The Steven Furtick Show" Now Playing at Harvest Bible Chapel
      Is Harvest Bible Chapel Being Fed to the Wolves?
      Steven Furtick to Preach at Harvest Bible Chapel
      One Week Only!

      From Apprising Ministries:
      "THE STEVEN FURTICK SHOW" PLAYED AT HARVEST BIBLE CHAPEL OF JAMES MACDONALD
      STEVEN FURTICK DOCUMENTARY
      STEVEN FURTICK SENDS KEN SILVA MESSAGE
      STEVEN FURTICK CALLS JOEL OSTEEN GREAT MAN OF GOD

      Preach the Word

      Pastors, I am not one of you. I am merely representative of the members of your flock. I am one of those who sits before you on Sunday, looking to you to lay open the Word of God. You have been called by God, trained by God, gifted by God. You have been given the great and terrifying responsibility of preaching His Word unapologetically both in season and out of season. The responsibility that you have been given is not an easy one, yet it is an amazing privilege! Who would not want to teach such a Word?

      The law of the LORD is perfect,
      reviving the soul;
      the testimony of the LORD is sure,
      making wise the simple;
      the precepts of the LORD are right,
      rejoicing the heart;
      the commandment of the LORD is pure,
      enlightening the eyes;
      the fear of the LORD is clean,
      enduring forever;
      the rules of the LORD are true,
      and righteous altogether.
      More to be desired are they than gold,
      even much fine gold;
      sweeter also than honey
      and drippings of the honeycomb.
      Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
      in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)

      Please, pastor, please just preach the Word.

      15 August 2011

      Be On Guard

      Let us be on our guard against false doctrine. Unsound faith will never be the mother of really sound practice, and in these latter days, departures from the faith abound. See then that your loins be girded about with truth, and be very jealous of receiving anything which cannot be proved by the Bible. Do not think for a moment that false doctrine will meet you face to face, saying, “I am false doctrine, and I want to come into your heart.” Satan does not go to work in that way. He dresses up false doctrine like Jezebel — he paints her face and attires her hair, and tries to make her like truth. Do not think that those who preach error will never preach anything that is true. Error would do little harm if that was the case. No! Error will come before you mingled with much that is sound and scriptural.
      ~ J.C. Ryle

      Many things combine to make the present inroad of false doctrine peculiarly dangerous.
      1. There is an undeniable zeal in some of the teachers of error: their “earnestness” makes many think they must be right.
      2. There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge: many fancy that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe guides.
      3. There is a general tendency to free thought and free inquiry in these latter days: many like to prove their independence of judgment, by believing novelties.
      4. There is a wide-spread desire to appear charitable and liberal-minded: many seem half ashamed of saying that anybody can be in the wrong.
      5. There is a quantity of half-truth taught by the modern false teachers: they are incessantly using. Scriptural terms and phrases in an unscriptural sense.
      6. There is a morbid craving in the public mind for a more sensuous, ceremonial, sensational, showy worship: men are impatient of inward, invisible heart-work.
      7. There is a silly readiness in every direction to believe everybody who talks cleverly, lovingly and earnestly, and a determination to forget that Satan often masquerades himself “as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
      8. There is a wide-spread “gullibility” among professing Christians: every heretic who tells his story plausibly is sure to be believed, and everybody who doubts him is called a persecutor and a narrow-minded man.
      All these things are peculiar symptoms of our times. I defy any observing person to deny them. They tend to make the assaults of false doctrine in our day peculiarly dangerous. They make it more than ever needful to cry aloud, “Do not be carried away!”
      ~ J.C. Ryle
      Warnings to the Churches, “Divers and Strange Doctrines”, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1967], 76, 77.
      HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes

      14 August 2011

      Sunday Morning Praise

      "The Steven Furtick Show" Now Playing at Harvest Bible Chapel

      Misery loves company and so I am going to share my miserable morning with you. I tried to be optimistic. I prayed for discernment and for wisdom, and then I shuttled on over to Harvest Bible Chapel to hear guest pastor Steven Furtick "preach."

      My initial plan was to drive to the main campus in Rolling Meadows, IL, but after thinking about it (and looking at the ominous sky), I opted to stick with my local Harvest campus. Sure, I would miss out on the lasers and lights and excitement of the main campus, but I admit, I was a little selfish, not wanting to give up that much time driving there and back just to listen to Steven Furtick. I knew his sermon would be just as enlightening (whether good or bad) on a big screen at the local campus. I arrived about 5 minutes before the service started and nabbed a seat in the aisle before an usher could force me to sit in the middle (they have an annoying habit at Harvest of ordering you where to sit). At this point, the church was still pretty empty, but I knew that would soon change. Looking up at the screen, I saw a clock counting down the seconds until the service began. Oh boy.

      With about 45 seconds left on the clock, the worship team emerged. I immediately hoped they weren't on staff, because they all appeared to be about 15 years old. They later announced that they were indeed one of the student bands, so that allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief. (Side note: Parents, please do not allow your teenage son to wear tight, skinny jeans and clingy shirts. And for heaven's sake, please feed your sons so that they don't walk around with that emaciated look that is apparently so trendy right now!) When the music began, it took my breath away. Not because it was so spectacularly beautiful, but because the drums were so unbelievingly intense. Now, let's remember that I used to attend Harvest regularly, so I'm not just some life-long prude who doesn't like drums. The intensity of the loud, banging music, however, is something that I am convinced is simply not God-honoring. I tend to have very low blood pressure, so when it rises, I know it, especially because of the accompanying symptoms. The music this morning almost brought me to a point where I had to leave because it was making me ill. This is the music that the kids are singing in their worship services.

      I did not write down which songs were sung, but they were far more about the beat and the melody and the choruses than they were about being didactic and doctrinal. It wasn't long before everyone was standing and jumping and swaying to the music. I am ashamed to say that used to be me. Led by the beat and my emotions, I was convinced that true worship meant that I needed to put on a show. God, forgive me. As for me this morning, I sat and tried to read my Bible while everyone around me was lost in this "worship experience." God's Word seems to me to offer a far better "worship experience" than any crooning rock band. Before the final song, the bass player shared the moment when God "woke him up." With his family suffering financially, he became convinced that they would have more money without him around, so he typed out a suicide note. While reading it back to himself, he said that "a voice came over me and said, 'I have so much here for you; I do not want you to go.'" And so he tore up the note and, I guess the implication is that meant he was saved. There was no mention of repentance of sin and faith and trust in Jesus Christ, however, so it seems like a lacking salvation story.

      Next, there were announcements. Since Harvest is one of the more "hip" churches, they're starting to do those by video. The main announcement was to guilt people into working at the church. The tone seemed to be, "If you're not working every week..." then you are failing as a church member because you're "missing out." Turns out this attitude would be revisited later in the service. Then they showed a video of Camp Harvest summer camp for the kids. The interviews with the children? "It's really fun!" "I like the water slides!" Hm. I guess water slides are more fun than the Bible. But don't worry, lots of children said that they "asked Jesus into their hearts" and the claim is that there were 187 "commitments to Christ." We'll see how strong those commitments are as these young children grow up.

      Okay, finally we're getting to the sermon (which you may be able to hear later this week online). Before Furtick came on stage, James MacDonald introduced him via a pre-recorded video (MacDonald is preaching this week at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Texas). In this video, MacDonald drove up on his motorcycle, decked out in his leather vest, with his wife behind him and introduced Furtick. Then he and all his motorcycle buddies drove away. Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with riding a motorcycle (although for the life of me I can't imagine why you would want to, but admittedly they scare me!). But can you honestly tell me that this is the most reverent and honorable way to run a church? Somehow I just can't see the Apostle Peter doing that, but maybe he had a really fast horse or something.

      After that introduction, Steven Furtick looked at the crowd, awe-struck (even though we all know he saw the same video last night) and exclaimed, "That's your pastor! He preaches like Spurgeon and then rides away on a motorcycle!" (Personal note: MacDonald may be a gifted speaker, but he is hardly anything like Spurgeon, most especially in the content of his messages.) Furtick then went on to praise MacDonald and Harvest and at some point mentioned that his wife was "hot." This comment, of course, was completely unnecessary, but that's what these young, rock star pastors do. I guess you can't even become a young mega-church pastor unless you have a "hot" wife. It's some sort of prerequisite.

      I won't have to spend much time telling you about the sermon because it can be summed up in one phrase: The Steven Furtick Show. First, he wanted everyone to clap and holler if they believe Jesus. He then proceeded to insult those of us who chose not to react that way by saying, "sometimes people who are biblically based have no passion or heart." Really? Is that really true? Or is it just that not all of us think that hooting and hollering is the only way to put our "passion and heart" on display? He did say that he liked that the congregation audience all had their Bibles, and admitted that his church does not bring their Bibles like they ought. Well no, why bother? When the pastor isn't actually preaching from the Bible, what's the point? But I digress...

      Furtick supposedly preached from 1 Samuel 14:1-7. Here is that text:
      One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah in the pomegranate cave at Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men, including Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the LORD in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people did not know that Jonathan had gone. Within the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a rocky crag on the one side and a rocky crag on the other side. The name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. The one crag rose on the north in front of Michmash, and the other on the south in front of Geba.
      Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.” And his armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.” (1 Samuel 14:1-7)
      Furtick read the text, then told everyone to shout out the phrase "one day" because he believes in the power of a moment. I started to feel like I was watching a younger version of Joel Osteen with more hair gel and less hair spray. This led to a 5 minute diatribe about how Furtick was saved and supposedly called into ministry. Let me insert here that while I can't be sure, it seems to me that Furtick may think that people audibly hear from God. If he doesn't then he needs to drastically clean up his language. He talked about God "planting a vision" in his heart and on and on. If you want to hear the whole story, go watch the documentary about the life of Elevation Church. This morning's sermon was a Cliff's Notes version.

      Skipping over the text, Furtick brought someone up to play the keyboard while he talked about the inspirational phrase spoken by Jonathan, "nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few." He proceeded to get everyone fired up and then moved backward in the text. "It may be that the LORD will work for us." Or, in Furtick's version, "Perhaps" the LORD will work. This brought him to the catch phrase of his message: God's promise is bigger than my perhaps. Huh? Okay. The "meat" of the message was then Furtick running back and forth on the stage interspersing stories about his own life with things like, "this is to encourage someone who is trying to believe God's promise! Maybe you heard God speak to you a promise...Maybe you heard God's voice..." but the devil is always getting in there with his "perhaps." Uh-huh. This got the crowd going. Amens, claps, and hollers of affirmation abounded. In a nutshell, this 40 minute "sermon" was supposed to inspire the audience to "audacious" faith by feeding off of the miraculous story of how Furtick got saved, how his father got saved (when telling this story, the glory seemed to go to Furtick and the sermon that he preached to which his father responded. There was no mention of God or the Holy Spirit working to bring his father to repentance and faith. However, I praise God if He did save Steven's father), and how he started Elevation Church.

      Furtick concluded his message with the words of Jonathan's armor-bearer, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.” These words, he said, are words that everyone at Harvest should speak to Pastor James. "But aren't we supposed to be only for Jesus," Furtick mocked? Well, yes, but we are the hands and feet of Jesus, so...and that's about all the explanation he gave. His final admonishment to the church was in essence to pledge absolute allegiance to Harvest and to James MacDonald. He told everyone who had a Twitter account to, when they left, "tweet" James MacDonald "I am with you, heart and soul." His emphasis on allegiance to the organization of Harvest and to its leader was reminiscent of what is required of those who attend Elevation. It wouldn't surprise me at all if, within a year or so, we see Harvest come up with it's own "Code" that everyone must abide by. Should we support our church and our pastor? Of course! But we should never pledge allegiance to the point where we will follow them without question and without examining and filtering everything through the lens of God's Word.

      In the end, I was not at all surprised by what I heard and saw this morning. As I suspected, Harvest has grown more and more seeker-driven since I left and Scripture is being contorted more readily. A perfect example of this was on the back of the bulletin under the "2011 Stewardship Update." The needs were listed alongside the actuals, and then the verse Exodus 35:5 was beside the numbers: "Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD's contribution: gold, silver, and bronze." Call me crazy, but isn't that verse about the construction of the tabernacle? It has absolutely nothing to do with the Church giving offerings to the Lord! Of course we give out of our hearts, but let's not pull a verse completely out of context in order to guilt people into doing so! But I fear that this is common place today at Harvest. Steven Furtick did not disappoint in his sermon, either. I wholly expected him to grab a verse and then focus on only a few words in that verse in order to somehow talk about his favorite topic of being "audacious."

      This is sad. Harvest Bible Chapel is an organization (and it is an organization, I can no longer call it a church) that is rapidly becoming more and more influential. It truly has taken over the Chicagoland area, as it is nearly impossible to find a church that has not modeled itself after either Harvest or Willow Creek. James MacDonald is growing more and more popular and if he does not return to Scripture soon, then he, too, will become a dangerous influence on so many pastors. I grieve for the thousands of people who have heard or who will hear this weekend's message at Harvest. God was not glorified, Steven Furtick was. God's Word was not taught, and while not everything Furtick said was necessarily a lie, it nevertheless was a danger and an insult to the Gospel because God's Word was not faithfully preached and proclaimed. Thousands of people heard a message of do good and you will get good things. Believe harder, have audacious faith. No conviction of sin, no indication that maybe, just maybe, our lives will be worse in earthly terms if we are living for Christ. Yet the message scratched those itchy ears, and so it was received with glowing praise. As for Furtick's command to tweet James MacDonald our absolute allegiance to him? I'll let the screenshot speak for itself:

      As for me, I will serve God and Him alone.
      For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

      SEE ALSO:
      Is Harvest Bible Chapel Being Fed to the Wolves? 
      Steven Furtick to Preach at Harvest Bible Chapel