28 January 2012

The Credentials of the Apostle Paul

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God's gospel to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!
But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
(2 Corinthians 11:3-31)
Yes, Paul, this is nice, but how many people "asked Jesus into their heart" at your last "spontaneous baptism" event?

26 January 2012

The God of Scripture

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:7-8)
And we now declare that the God of Holy Scripture is a God of inflexible justice, He is not the God Whom some of you adore.
You adore a god who winks at great sins; you believe in a god who calls your crimes peccadillos and little faults. Some of you worship a god who does not punish sin but who is so weakly merciful, and mercilessly weak, that he passes by transgressions and iniquity and never enacts a punishment.
You believe in a god who, if man sins, does not demand punishment for his offense. You think that a few good works of your own will pacify him, that he is so weak a ruler that a few good words uttered before him in prayer will win sufficient merit to reverse the sentence, if indeed you think he ever passes a sentence at all.
Your god is no God; he is as much a false god of the Greeks or of ancient Nineveh. The God of Scripture is one who is inflexibly severe in justice and will by no means clear the guilty. “The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3).
The God of Scripture is a Ruler who, when His subjects rebel, marks their crime and never forgives them until He has punished it, either upon them or upon their Substitute.
Charles Spurgeon
 HT: Apprising Ministries

22 January 2012

A Biblical Critique of T.D. Jakes' Code Orange Revival Sermon

The following was written by Daniel Neades of Better Than Sacrifice. I urge the reader to visit the original post and to read it in full. Neades has provided a much-needed, biblical perspective of the message that was delivered by T.D. Jakes this past Friday evening at the Code Orange Revival.


This article is a review of T.D. Jakes’ Code Orange Revival sermon, preached on 20 January 2012 at Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
T.D. Jakes is the leader of The Potter’s House, a 30,000 member congregation located in southern Dallas, Texas. I had never heard a T.D. Jakes sermon before, though I knew of his reputation. I was curious to see – if only via an Internet video stream – the man that Elevation Church reminded us was named ‘America’s Best Preacher’ by Time Magazine. Would I be able to uncover the secret of his mystique? And would he preach the Biblical Gospel?
After 40 minutes or so of emotionally intense praise and worship, Steven Furtick, founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church, introduces Jakes to the manifestly ecstatic, cheering crowd. Furtick promises that God is about to speak to us, that our lives will never be the same:
God’s gonna honour your faith. He’s going to shake you, and He’s gonna remake you. And He’s gonna do things in your life that will blow your mind. And we’re believing that for you tonight.
We’re in revival. If you’re joining us from all over the world, you need to know that this is night 10 of Code Orange Revival. We’re coming to you live from Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, reaching over a 100 countries all over the world. And God has made an appointment with you tonight. He’s about to speak something to you. Your life will never be the same. In His presence is fullness of joy.
These things are not being done in a corner.
Furtick is on a roll:
If you’ve never heard T.D. Jakes preach, listen, you have heard Bishop T.D. Jakes preach. Let me explain that. Every preacher who has anything to say rips off Bishop T.D. Jakes. Bishop T.D. Jakes is the preacher, if you attend this church, who feeds your soul every single week. And you didn’t even ever know to write him a thank you note. Most of us quit apologising for how much we ripped-off Bishop T.D. Jakes a long time ago, because we were taking more time in our sermons attributing the credit to him for the way he fed our souls than we were actually preaching. So when Bishop Jakes said that he would be with us at Code Orange Revival, I just made up my mind that we would sing just enough to get you ready, and not show any videos or anything like that, and that I would sit down on my orange chair on the stage, and I would have the best night of my life listening to my favourite preacher in the world.
That’s some build-up. But Furtick has not yet finished:
When someone has touched your soul and been an instrument of God that speaks so deeply to you, and then, he agrees to come and share with your church, and help build your church, that’s gotta be one of the most meaningful moments of your life.
I want you to know, Bishop Jakes, that there’s a whole generation of younger pastors who, because you’ve been a pioneer to stay faithful to God’s word, and to preach with such power, that we’re now charging forward in the name of Jesus. And I want to let you know personally, that I’m gonna do my best to make you proud.
Furtick concludes his panegyric:
I appreciate the fact that you would come and be with us tonight. But, more importantly, I appreciate the fact that you’ve got a bunch of hungry people in here, who are about to lose their minds. Elevation Church, at every location, I want you to stand up on your feet right now, and let’s welcome to the stage the Greatest Preacher of Our Time – Bishop T.D. Jakes. Come on, let’s show him some embarrassing love.
Jakes takes the stage. He acknowledges the crowd’s standing ovation.
His charisma is immediately apparent.
He courts the crowd with some gentle banter. He is approachable. He is humorous. He is the embodiment of the idealized kindly grandfather.
He is your grandfather.
The audience cheer and offer their applause. This is the one whom those camping outside on the streets came to see.
Jakes praises Steven Furtick and Elevation Church. The Elevators love him. And Jakes makes sure that they know their love is reciprocated.
Jakes impresses with his modesty. With a suddenly faltering vulnerability, he declares:
I’m gonna spend most of my time just going right, er, er, to, to the word of God. I’m, er, um, honoured and appreciative of all of His goodness in my life. And, er, [I’m] trying to seek Him, trying to serve Him, trying to learn more of His grace and power. I, I think that I am more fascinated with Him now than I have ever been in my life.
Jakes carefully modulates his speech.
He starts softly, then builds to a minor crescendo, as he demonstrates that he is steeped in the knowledge and language of the Scriptures, the result of 33 years of ministry. With a rhythmic cadence, Jakes proclaims the praises of a majestic God:
It will never grow old. It will never grow weary. You will never reach the end of Him. From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. His, His riches are unsearchable. His love incomprehensible. His ways past finding out. You will grow old and wither away, and still be searching the newness of God. His mercies are new every morning. Aren’t you glad you’re washed in the blood of the Lamb?
The cheering audience is enraptured. Surely, this is how a man of God must speak.
Please continue reading here.

Sunday Morning Praise

Grace Greater Than Our Sin

20 January 2012

This 'n' That

Well, it has been a most interesting week. It seems from every angle, things have been rather busy over the past few days! Of course, few things have been as prominent in the blogging world as the now infamous Code Orange Revival. Tonight T.D. Jakes will take the stage. Word is that people actually camped out overnight at Elevation Church to ensure that they could get a seat for this monumental event. Really? I guess I didn't realize that seeing a heretic live and in person was such a great occasion.

As I pondered the ramifications of Code Orange Revival (and there are and will continue to be many!), I did arrive at one conclusion. There will be some good come from this event. In the case of the missing Matt Chandler sermon, how ironic it is that the one good, Gospel-centered sermon, the one that Elevation Church attempted to censor, is actually the one sermon that people are searching for and waiting to hear? (It can be viewed here). I love that. In other cases, I cannot help but think that Code Orange might actually send some people further into God's Word. Hear me out. For those who are watching and whom God has drawn or is drawing to Himself, it is impossible to listen to these speakers and not seethe with frustration and anger over the twisting of the Biblical text. Yet, what does this overload of narcigesis result in? I pray that it is resulting in many opening their Bibles for themselves and delving into the whole context of these passages, in an attempt to discern what God is truly saying in His Word. Those who are enjoying having their ears tickled will walk away from this event content that they are more spiritual simply for having attended and/or watched. Those whose ears were not itching for such teaching in the first place will be driven back to God's Word in search of the Truth. And might I remind you, dear reader, that the Bible is where we ought to turn in our search for the truth. Scripture: always true, always relevant, and always, always, pointing us back to Jesus Christ, our Lord.

With that, here's your week in review (kind of):
  • Not entirely sure I agree with Voddie Baucham on this one.
  • In 2009, Perry Noble mocked the idea of planning a revival. Hm, he must have forgotten he said this.
  • Hey Haters! (Max Holiday Birdcage Theater Edition). Just watch it. It's worth it:

19 January 2012

The World Cools Holy Affections

Take heed of too much pursuit after the world. The
world cools holy affections. The earth puts out the fire.

The world hindered the young man from following Christ,
"he went away sorrowful!" Whereupon, says our Savior,
"How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
Luke 18:24. Demas' piety was buried in the earth,
"Demas has forsaken me—having loved this present
world." 2 Timothy 4:10
The world so blinds men's eyes—that they do not see the
narrow way to heaven! It so fetters their feet—that they
do not run in the way of God's commandments.

Mithridates, king of Pontus, being beaten by the Romans,
and fearing he would not escape them—he caused a great
deal of silver and gold to be scattered in the way, which
while the Roman soldiers were busy gathering, he got
away from them. Satan uses a similar strategy; knowing
what tempting things riches are—he throws them as baits,
in men's way, that while they are eagerly gathering these,
he may hinder them in their pursuit of eternal happiness!

It would hinder a man to climb up a steep rock, with
heavy weights tied to his legs. Men's golden weights
hinder them in climbing up this steep rock which leads
to salvation!

A man cannot seek both Heaven and earth at the same time.
He cannot love both Christ and the world, 1 John 2:15. He
who is all on fire for the world—will be all ice for Heaven!
Take heed of engaging your affections too far in these earthly
things. Use the world as your servant—but do not follow it as
your master.
- Thomas Watson, The Christian Soldier

16 January 2012

Bible Study Fellowship: "Pray for Your Pastor ... Him OR Her"

Susie Rowan, the Executive Director of Bible Study Fellowship International is seen in the video below giving a presentation to pastors. As she encourages them to consider offering their church to be a "host" church for a local BSF class, she explains to them the BSF process for dealing with any criticisms a BSF leader may hear about a local pastor.
"We train our leaders to say first, pray for your pastor. Just begin to pray for him or her, and about the situation..."

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Timothy 2:11-14)
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. (1 Timothy 3:1-3)

15 January 2012

Sunday Morning Praise

If you've been watching the Code Orange Revival, then you've been exposed to a lot of narcissistic preaching and singing over the past few days. Personally, I'm weary of hearing people sing about themselves. Only God is worthy of praise!

How Great Thou Art

Holy, Holy, Holy

13 January 2012

A Stark Contrast to the Church Today

A timely and stark contrast to the world of entertainment that passes for Christianity today in America. Watch a few minutes of the Code Orange Revival, and then watch this.

Notice a difference? Oh, God, forgive us!

Are You Praying for Those at the Code Orange Revival?

In viewing the first two evenings of the Code Orange Revival, I get the sinking feeling that our steadfast enemy is roaming around, seeking to devour the youth who are easily enraptured by loud music, flashy lights, and charismatic, but narcissistic preaching. Today's world is eager to tell us how wonderful we are, because we are far more easily led and enamored of those who stroke our ego than those who tell us, well, the truth. Young people, especially, are susceptible to this mindset, as they have been indoctrinated throughout years of education, television, magazines and books to believe that they are #1.  This actually works out quite well. Showy, narcissistic pastors preach to their young audience, teaching them how to interpret the Bible to be all about them (FYI, it's about Jesus), and they in return offer glory and praise to the pastor who has scratched their itching ears and told them exactly what they wanted to hear. I suppose, then, that at the very least the Seeker-Driven model is a type of give-and-take relationship. Unfortunately, it's a bit off-balance, as the pastor inevitably preaches sermon after law-filled sermon about mandatory giving, audacious faith and radical living, that all result in a call to "step out in faith" and fill the offering plate. Considering all the congregation is getting out of it is abysmal Scripture twisting and faulty doctrine, it seems like an unfair deal. Nevertheless, at times God does give us exactly what we ask for, and those who chase after doctrines of men (and demons) are often granted exactly what they seek.
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)
Yet, in the midst of the absolute absurdity that is American Christianity, but especially as we endure 10 more days of the Code Orange Revival, I urge you, dear reader, to pray. Pray for God to open the eyes of the deceived - and even the eyes of the deceivers. Pray that, in the middle of a man-concocted "revival," a true revival may take place. And I don't necessarily mean a "revival" as measured by numbers. Pray that young men and women would come to see the truth of what is actually being preached. Pray that, as some of the men on the stage ramble on about themselves, those listening would have ears to hear, and discernment to differentiate between the Truth and error. And even if just one is brought to the realization of the Truth, and is saved out of a dangerous and deceptive movement, then that, my friends, is a revival worth celebrating.
"Christ is still standing among many who neither see, nor know, nor believe. Christ is passing by in many a parish and many a congregation and the vast majority have neither an eye to see him, nor an ear to hear him. The spirit of slumber seems poured out upon them. Money and pleasure and the world they know, but they know not Christ. the Kingdom of God is close to them, but they sleep. Salvation is within their reach, but they sleep." -J.C. Ryle 

Listen To:

This 'n' That

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things for a blogger is to have a draft post disappear after it's nearly completed. So, that makes this writer a slightly frustrated blogger right now! This post was completed and nearly ready for publication hours ago, but disappeared before it posted. So, I'm left trying to re-create this week's wit, and will likely fail miserably. If I was superstitious, I'd attribute this to today's date, but I fear instead that I probably have to blame myself. Chances are, in the middle of multitasking, I failed to hit "Save" and therefore am fully responsible for my current annoying position!

On a weather-related note, it looks like much of the Midwest will spend the weekend bundled up and trudging through snow. In Nashville, it seems a light dusting of snow (that has now disappeared) has caused many schools to close for the day. Oh, what a difference a few states makes! It always amazes me how, even in those states that are accustomed to winter weather and snow, things are brought to a near standstill with the first snowfall of the season. Even "lifers" who were born and raised in the cold and snow seem to forget how to drive when that first snowflake hits their windshield. Indeed, it makes for some rather interesting commutes! But, as I look out my own window, I see a beautiful white blanket and am reminded of the goodness of God, and of the amazing incomprehensible truth of the greatness of salvation. Thank You, Lord, for Your cleansing.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
So, whether you live somewhere that will find you and your dog utilizing your Snuggies today or not, I hope you'll enjoy today's week in review (kind of):
  • Ed Young and his wife are currently on the roof of their church. In a bed.
  • The Code Orange Revival kicked off Wednesday night with Craig Groeschel. His message was...well, we learned a lot about Craig Groeschel.
  • Herescope continues their series regarding communication with the dead. Read Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
  • Patricia King has received 5 prophetic insights about the coming year. Coincidentally, she also has products for sale that will help with each one.
  • Still not sure what to think about Lectio Divina and the whole "listening for the voice of God" and "hearing from God" thing? Perhaps this will help:

12 January 2012

Weekly Wisdom

With the new year, I've decided to change the format of the weekly "Thursday's Spurgeon" post to "Weekly Wisdom." Rather than featuring Spurgeon quotes only, I'll be sharing words, thoughts and devotions from other wise, learned, God-fearing men. I pray you'll find it edifying.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. (John 1:14-18)
It is Christ alone who has revealed God the Father to man. It is written that "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."
The eye of mortal man has never beheld God the Father. No man could bear the sight. Even to Moses it was said, "Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live" (Exodus 33:20). Yet all that mortal man is capable of knowing about God the Father is fully revealed to us by God the Son. He, who was in the bosom of the Father from all eternity, has been pleased to take our nature upon him and to exhibit to us, in the form of a man, all that our minds can comprehend of the Father's perfections. In Christ's words and deeds and life and death we learn as much concerning God the Father as our feeble minds can at present bear. His perfect wisdom, his almighty power, his unspeakable love to sinners, his incomparable holiness, his hatred of sin could never be represented to our eyes more clearly than we see them in Christ's life and death. In truth, "God was manifest in the flesh," when the Word took on him a body (1 Tim. 3:16). He was "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person" (Heb. 1:3). He says himself, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). These are deep and mysterious things. But they are true.
And now, after reading this passage, can we ever give too much honour to Christ? Can we ever think too highly of him? Let us banish the unworthy thought from our minds forever. Let us learn to exalt Him more in our hearts, and to rest more confidingly the whole weight of our souls in His hands. Men may easily fall into error about the three Persons in the holy Trinity, if they do not carefully adhere to the teaching of Scripture. But no man ever errs on the side of giving too much honour to God the Son. Christ is the meeting-point between the Trinity and the sinner's soul. "He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which sent Him" (John 5:23).
-J.C. Ryle,  Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 1, 37-38.

11 January 2012

Beth Moore Had "No Idea" She Would Be Labeled a Mystic

This morning, I happened to notice Beth Moore "tweet" the following message:
(Online Source)
While we do not want to be presumptuous, the question remains: what are we supposed to think when Beth Moore makes claims such as this? 

Partial Transcript:
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 gonna 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:"My Bride is paralyzed by unbelief. My Bride is paralyzed by unbelief." And He said, "Startin’ with you.” (HT: Apprising Ministries, emphasis mine).
And what are we to think when we hear Moore says things like this?

to beg to differ with people that are ten times smarter than I am. But I want to say to you I see something different than that. I see God doing something huge in the body of Christ.  
I do not know why I have had the privilege to get to travel around, see one church after another…one group of believers after another, interdenominationally, all over this country, but I have gotten to see something that I think is huge. 
And I’ll also suggest to you I am not the only one. And tonight I’m going to do my absolute best to illustrate to you something that God showed me out on that back porch. He put a picture…I’ve explained to you before I am a very visual person…so He speaks to me very often of putting a picture in my head.
And it was as if I was raised up looking down on a community, as I saw the Church in that particular dimension- certainly not all dimensions, not even in many, but in what we will discuss tonight, the church, as Jesus sees itin a particular dimension.”
(Online source, emphasis added, HT: Apprising Ministries)
There's little mistaking what Beth Moore is saying here. She is very clearly not speaking about anything that she gleaned from reading the clear, objective Word of God. So yes, Ms. Moore, unfortunately, using language like this will earn you the label of "mystic." The label could be removed if the claims of direct revelation were renounced. Many are praying that such a thing might occur.

Please also read the following article addressing this situation: Beth Moore the Mystic.

10 January 2012

Desiring God Quietly Pulls Lectio Divina Recommendation

In the post, "Biblical Silence vs. Mystical Silence and What Really Happened at Passion 2012?" we offered evidence and argument against engaging in contemplative spirituality, i.e., mystical practices such as centering/contemplative prayer, breath prayer, or the Roman Catholic practice of Lectio Divina. In that post, it was reported that a December 31, 2011 post at the Desiring God website (the ministry of John Piper), recommended Lectio Divina as a viable prayer practice. At that time, part of that article, written by Jonathan Parnell, read as follows:
Lectio Divina 
Kenneth Boa,Conformed to His Image, (Zondervan, 2001), 96-97. 
The ancient art of lectio divina, or sacred reading, was introduced to the West by the Eastern desert father John Cassian early in the fifth century.
It consists of four elements.
  1. Lectio (reading). Select a very short text and ingest it by reading it several times. I normally choose a verse or a brief passage from the chapters I read from the Old and New Testaments in my morning Bible reading.
  2. Meditatio (meditation). Take a few minutes to relfect on the words and phrases in the text you have read. Ponder the passage by asking questions and using your imagination.
  3. Oratio (prayer). Having internalized the passage, offer it back to God in the form of personalized prayer.
  4. Contemplatio (contemplation). For the most of us, this will be the most difficult part, since it consists of silence and yieldedness in the presence of God. Comtemplation is the fruit of the dialogue of the first three elements; it is the communion that is born out of our reception of divine truth in our minds and hearts.
(Online Source, emphasis mine) 
Knowing that Piper has spoken against contemplative prayer in the past, many were rather confused by this obvious endorsement of a Roman Catholic, mystical practice, admittedly "introduced to the West by the Eastern desert father John Cassian," who was in fact a Roman Catholic monk. This recommendation did not go unnoticed and we now see that the mention of Lectio Divina has since been removed from this post at Desiring God and has been replaced with the following:
(Online Source)
If the desire was simply to recommend using Scripture as "an organizer for our prayers," then why wasn't that stated so simply in the first place? Why turn instead to Kenneth Boa, who readily quotes mystic Thomas Merton, the man who said that he wanted "to become as good a Buddhist as I can?" It's little wonder that the original post caused "confusion."

07 January 2012

Biblical Silence vs. Mystical Silence and What Really Went On at Passion 2012?

There's no shortage of teaching and perspectives on prayer today in the "Christian" world. As they have for centuries, people who "feel far from God" continue to seek more "spiritual" experiences, and as such fall into dangerous, demonic deceptions. One such devilish device is the perversion of biblical prayer through the practice known in "Christian" circles as contemplative or centering prayer. As has been noted multiple times on this site, the practice of contemplative prayer has come into the evangelical world via the Roman Catholic Church, and it is no different than the meditation practiced by Eastern religions. As such, it is decidedly not a practice in which a born-again believer should engage. Contemplative prayer takes many names and forms, yet all strive for the same end result: to empty one's mind and enter an altered state of consciousness in an effort to "hear" from God. The differences and dangers of this are summed up rather succinctly in the David Cloud article, "Silence vs. The Silence." While we do not share Cloud's opinions in all things, on this topic his words are appropriately accurate:
There is a vast difference between biblical contemplation and the Roman Catholic contemplative prayer that is sweeping through evangelicalism. It is the difference between “silence” and “the silence.”
The silence of biblical contemplation refers simply to a quiet place in which the soul can effectively seek the Lord. In Scripture it is called seeking the Lord (Psalm 105:3; Isaiah 55:6), waiting on the Lord (Psalm 69:6), meditating on the Lord (Psalm 104:34), meditating on God’s Word (Psalm 1:2). In these times, when most of us use computers and smart phones and our waking hours are filled to the brim with distracting busyness, it is important to have daily periods of silence for spiritual devotion. During these times we don’t sit with an empty mind and DO NOTHING; rather we open the Bible and read and meditate on it and we pray IN WORDS to God the Father through Jesus Christ the one Mediator by the wisdom and direction of the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, “THE silence” of contemplative prayer refers to pursuing God beyond the Bible, beyond thinking. It refers to putting aside thoughts through mechanisms such as mantras. 
It has been popularized by contemplative gurus such as Richard Foster and Dallas Willard and is promoted by many evangelical leaders today, including Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Chuck Swindoll, David Jeremiah, Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Max Lucado, Ed Young, Gary Thomas, Philip Yancy, Lee Strobel, and Charles Stanley. (See “Evangelicals Turning to Roman Catholic Contemplative Spirituality” at the Way of Life web site.)
Harry Plantinga, director of Christian Classics Ethereal Library, describes contemplative prayer as follows: “As I was growing up, my church experience seemed somewhat heady to me--concerned more about correct belief than about actually loving God. Whether or not that was a correct perception, I wanted more. I wanted not just to know about God, I wanted to know God ... Christian mysticism addresses that longing of the heart. ... Webster defines mysticism as ‘the doctrine that it is possible to achieve communion with God through contemplation and love WITHOUT THE MEDIUM OF HUMAN REASON.’ That definition captures what I have in mind by the term” (CCEL Times, April 1, 2008). 
In his pursuit of contemplative mysticism, Plantinga promotes Roman Catholic mystic writings such as The Cloud of Unknowing. This book, which came out of the darkness of Roman Catholic monasticism, encourages the use of a mantra to drive away conscious thoughts with the objective of entering into an experiential communion with God in “the nothingness.” The Cloud of Unknowing says: 
“... dismiss every clever or subtle thought no matter how holy or valuable. Cover it over with a thick cloud of forgetting because in this life only love can touch God as he is in himself, never knowledge” (chapter 8, pp. 59, 60). 
“Focus your attention on a simple word such as sin or God ... and WITHOUT THE INTERVENTION OF ANALYTICAL THOUGHT allow yourself to experience directly the reality it signifies” (chapter 36, p. 94). 
“For in this darkness we experience an intuitive understanding of everything material and spiritual without giving special attention to anything in particular” (chapter 68). 
Richard Foster, one of the most prominent gurus of contemplative mysticism, says repetitious prayers such as breath prayers “BIND THE MIND” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 124). 
This is not biblical meditation; it is a dangerous recipe for demonic delusion. We must seek God through faith, and faith comes only by God’s Word.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
If we try to know and “experience” God beyond the pages of Scripture, beyond the teaching of the Bible, we are walking in disobedience and unbelief and are setting ourselves up for spiritual deception from the hands of the one who appears as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). 
The late Roman Catholic-Buddhist Thomas Merton, one of the most influential contemplative writers, described his own delusion in these frightful words: “In the end the contemplative suffers the anguish of realizing that he no longer knows what God is” (Merton, The New Seeds of Contemplation). 
Contemplative practices such as the Jesus Prayer, visualizing prayer, breath prayer, and centering prayer are exceedingly dangerous. Many who practice these things end up believing in a pagan concept of God such as pantheism (God is everything) and panentheism (God is in everything). Through these practices people typically become increasingly ecumenical and interfaith in thinking. 
One does not have to choose between knowing about God and knowing God personally. GOD IS KNOWN IN CHRIST THROUGH HIS WORD. The study of the Bible is not an end in itself and should never be a mere dry intellectual exercise; it is the means whereby we know God and this is something we grow in year by year as long as we don’t lose our first love. 
“But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). 
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4). (Online Source, HT: The Beardsley Ministry)
One such form of contemplative prayer that is directly derived from the Roman Catholic Church is known as Lectio Divina. Note the following definition of contemplative prayer as acknowledged by the Contemplative Center for Mind in Society (a decidedly non-Christian website):
Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970’s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts.
Centering Prayer is a method which prepares us to receive the gift of God's presence. It consists of responding to the Spirit of Christ by consenting to God’s presence and action within. It furthers the development of contemplative prayer by quieting our faculties to cooperate with the gift of God’s presence. (Online Source)
Notice that it is readily acknowledged that this practice was delivered to Christianity by the Roman Catholics. We ought to be all the more concerned, then, when we realize that trusted Christian ministries are actually promoting this unbiblical practice. Yesterday, I was alerted by my friend Ken Silva of the following article, posted on December 31, 2011 at the Desiring God website. For those who are unaware, Desiring God is the ministry of John Piper. This post offers the reader several different "systems for praying"in the new year. At the end of the list, we see the following, listed as a viable method of prayer for the Christian:
Lectio Divina
Kenneth Boa,Conformed to His Image, (Zondervan, 2001), 96-97.
The ancient art of lectio divina, or sacred reading, was introduced to the West by the Eastern desert father John Cassian early in the fifth century.
It consists of four elements.
  1. Lectio (reading). Select a very short text and ingest it by reading it several times. I normally choose a verse or a brief passage from the chapters I read from the Old and New Testaments in my morning Bible reading.
  2. Meditatio (meditation). Take a few minutes to relfect on the words and phrases in the text you have read. Ponder the passage by asking questions and using your imagination.
  3. Oratio (prayer). Having internalized the passage, offer it back to God in the form of personalized prayer.
  4. Contemplatio (contemplation). For the most of us, this will be the most difficult part, since it consists of silence and yieldedness in the presence of God. Comtemplation is the fruit of the dialogue of the first three elements; it is the communion that is born out of our reception of divine truth in our minds and hearts.
(Online Source, emphasis mine) 
For the record, "Eastern desert father John Cassian" was a Roman Catholic monk. Friends, this is not how how our Lord taught us to pray. Quite the contrary, Jesus taught us the following:
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
(Matthew 6:7-13)
Sadly, Lectio Divina is not just being promoted on the Desiring God website. No, this past week it was put into practice by over 40,000 people as they gathered for the Passion 2012 conference. Courtesy of Apprising Ministries, what follows are clips from Session 5 of the Passion 2012 conference as teachers John Piper, Beth Moore, Louie Giglio and others each took turns reading from the book of Ephesians. After each reading, the entire stadium was asked to "be still" as all waited to "hear" from Jesus.

Here you see Beth Moore:

Here you see John Piper:

Finally, to close the session, Passion founder Louie Giglio stood and declared the following:
How many of you heard the voice of God speak specifically, clearly, directly, and personally, to you? Can you just put a hand up? I’d like you to share it. Can you put a hand up for a minute? 
Just want you to look around; that’s people saying, “God Almighty (pause) the Maker of heaven (pause) the one Who’s sitting on the only throne (pause) that’s not under threat (long pause, audience cheers)—He spoke to me. He spoke to me.” 
“God spoke to me.” (long pause) Don’t let the voice of the darkness, tell you that you are not (pause) worth (pause) that God would not speak to you. (pause) Don’t let him tell you, you don’t matter. (pause) God spoke to you.

When did Protestant leaders begin to teach that we have the Bible "plus" anything? God has spoken, dear ones. He has graciously, clearly, and perfectly spoken in His Word. We have no need to be still and wait for His voice. He has not stuttered. He has not stammered. He has not whispered. If you want to hear from God Almighty, open your Bible and read.

Beth Moore and John Piper Lead Lectio-Divina Lite at Passion 2012 (Apprising Ministries)
What John Piper and Jim Wallis Have in Common and Why the Pope Will Be Delighted (Apprising Ministries)
John Piper Encouraging Lectio Divina (Sola Sisters)