31 July 2012

Grab Onto the Lifeline of Prayer

I found the following teaching about prayer especially encouraging and appropriate this week. Written by Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries, it is republished here with permission.

And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” (Exodus 33:15-17)

As A Child Of God You May Always Cast All Your Cares On The Lord

Moses, a man who’d been leading the Israelite people—someone with 40 years of experience as a shepherd—did not just place trust in himself that he should handle the situation his own way. No, he seeks God in prayer about how he was to lead the Lord’s precious people to the Promised Land. Verse 15— Then Moses said, “If Your presence does not go with us” — in other words, if You don’t lead us — “do not send us up from here.”

In verse 1 of this passage God had told Moses — “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land.” Moses, a man with a deeply intimate relationship with God, the mighty leader of Israel, could have immediately gone and drawn up the plans for this big move; after-all, he’d had much experience. However, Moses put all that aside and went to the Lord in prayer for God’s perfect plan. Moses wasn’t about to move until God told him that He’d be with them.

Because he was a humble man, Moses didn’t just assume: “Well, God gave me a mind so I’d better use it to figure out for myself what I think is the best way to handle this situation.” And yet, within Church leadership today, there are so many people who use the kind of thinking I’ve just conveyed here as if it actually pleases the Lord. But, what it really shows is a very subtle type of pride. However, Moses wasn’t too proud to seek God’s way; he knew better, so he prayed asking the Lord to make the way and to go with him. Again he’s saying, “Lord, if You aren’t Personally involved in this; no matter how I may feel, or how noble my idea might seem to me—if You don’t go with me, then I don’t want to make a move.” And one isn’t going to know what God is doing around him if he isn’t talking with the Lord in prayer. Make sense.

Now think with me for a minute; when Moses went to God in prayer as we read in our text today, did this offend God? Did the Lord say, “Come on now Moses, stop your whining, be a man; pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and figure these things out for yourself.” Look at verse 17 — “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you.” The King James Version reads — for thou hast found grace in my sight. The Hebrew here is chen and means “favor, goodwill”. So God is saying to Moses, “I will be gracious enough to show you favor as I go with you because it pleases Me that you asked Me, and chose to depend on Me.” And Isaiah 40:31 tells us what happens to people who depend upon the Lord — those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Yet how many times today do we go without the Lord’s grace, favor, and blessing because we don’t go to Jesus in prayer? James 4:2 informs us — You do not have, because you do not ask God. I want you to understand that it doesn’t offend the Lord when His children pray and cry out to Him for help and guidance; in fact, it’s really quite the opposite. If we are foolish enough to ignore the wisdom and assistance of our loving Father in Heaven, it’s then when we offend Him. Let’s look quickly at 1 Peter, chapter 5, because I want to show you something concerning whether or not we should pray only about the “big stuff”; and then, go ahead and take care of the so-called little things ourselves. I want you to see for yourself what God the Holy Spirit tells us in 1 Peter 5:7. Does it say, “Cast only the big problems” — no; it says — Cast all your anxiety — i.e. your cares; your worries — upon Him — upon God.

Why — because He cares for you. Did you notice that the Bible says we should give Jesus all of our cares and anxieties, not just some; but all that encompasses your life. You see, if you’re a child of the living God by His grace alone; through faith alone, in Christ alone, then all that would concern you, concerns Him because He cares for you. In fact, if you were to read this passage in the original Greek it says, because to Him it matters concerning you. Also keep in mind that the passage has a couple of different meanings here; 1) the Lord “cares” for you in the sense of being attentive when you are upset, and 2) God is “concerned” because He is in charge of your life. As the Great Shepherd He’s your provider. Either way, we win in this deal! In other words, God loves His children so much, and is so concerned for each of us, that all we care about, or need, He also cares about, and then takes care of.

Let me give you one quick personal example concerning this message. One morning a few years back I noticed a tiny baby prairie dog lying on its side just outside my back door. I took a small stick and touched him very lightly, and there was slight movement so I knew he was still alive. I put the tiny prairie dog gently into a box and brought him inside. For a long time I watched over the little fella, but there was no further movement. I was worried; but then, I started to think. “it was Jesus Who created me with a love for animals. In addition, the Lord created this baby prairie dog as well; He must have guided me to it, so I’ll ask God to heal him.” In faith that the Lord did indeed tell us that what we humans care about, He also cares about, I began to talk to God about this helpless little creature. Shortly afterward He gave me the idea to put a drop of water on the tiny prairie dog’s mouth, and sure enough he moved to get at it.

No one will ever convince me that the Almighty God of the universe didn’t heal that injured baby animal. I believe the Lord used me as His hands to raise that little guy to full strength while I had the pleasure of taking care of him for the next few months. Finally the little fella let me know he was healthy enough when he chewed through the heavy plastic of the clothes basket I had been using for his home. It’s also interesting that when I let him loose he quickly went right down into a hole in the ground. But then, he immediately reappeared; popping his little head up out of the hole, as if to reassure me that he was going to be okay, and he darted right back down into his new home. Perhaps the little guy was on a mission; I don’t know, but I do know that Jesus cares, and that the Lord answers prayer. Now maybe this little animal might not have mattered to someone else, but Jesus knew that it was of intimate concern for me, and He answered my prayer.

There are other examples I could give you, and I venture to guess that you would also have your own accounts of similar answers to prayer, over what some might call “little things.” But after-all, who’s to decide what is, or isn’t, “big” enough to pray about? Still some say: O, God’s too big to care about your lost car keys or things like that. Well quite frankly, the Lord Who created the entire universe out of nothing simply by speaking it into existence is too big to care about us period; but, we’ll be eternally grateful that in His mercy God has chosen to care about us—even though we didn’t first choose Him. Does the incredible sacrifice Jesus made by becoming a man, choosing to grow up on this earth just the same as you and I do, suffering the rejection of His own creations, being cruelly scourged until the flesh of His back lay open, and then nailed to a rugged Roman cross where He died a real physical death for sinners, even enduring Hell—a time He was separated from the Father—become a little clearer for you now?

He is a great and loving God attentive to your every need, if, you’ll just ask Him. The Apostle Paul, once a fierce persecutor of the early Christian Church, who went on to develop an intensely intimate relationship with Jesus, understood how much God cares—and because the Lord cares—He threw us the “lifeline” of prayer. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in Philippians 4:6, Paul writes — Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything — notice here; not just some things, but as Peter also told us — in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And how about what the Apostle John tells us — This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him (1 John 5:14-15).

Did you catch the exact same theme concerning prayer with each Biblical author? But what’s so sad is how this lifeline of prayer is so neglected. Now just imagine for a moment what this world could be like if we’d only firmly grab onto that lifeline today and begin to fervently pray.

30 July 2012

An Interview with Phil Johnson, Part 1

Photo: GraceLife Pulpit
On a sunny Southern California Wednesday afternoon, I had the privilege of spending the noon hour in conversation with Phil Johnson.

Johnson is the Executive Director of Grace to You, former blogger at Pyromaniacs and keeper of the online treasure trove known as The Spurgeon Archive. He also is an elder at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and pastors the GraceLife fellowship group there.
When I informed Phil that I would be visiting Southern California, he graciously agreed to an interview. What follows is a transcription of our conversation. We spoke for quite awhile and covered several topics, so this interview will be presented in two parts. Today we will gain some insight into Phil’s life since he retired from the Internet and hear some of his thoughts on the role of discernment ministries. Tomorrow’s post will discuss the growing problem of women in leadership in the church. Continue reading at Christian Research Network

29 July 2012

Examining the Gospel Presentation of 'The Harbinger'

The Harbinger continues to grow in popularity among some segments of evangelical Christianity. It has been the subject of both criticism and praise. Supporters and fans of the bestselling book may be heard arguing that it is a message of repentance, and that the Gospel is clearly and unashamedly presented. Consequently, any other minor quibbles having to do with proper hermeneutics and exegesis ought to be handled lightly. After all, if the book is calling people to repent and come to Christ, then ultimately it must be of God. To question the contents or the message of the book is to find oneself quickly labeled as a 'Pharisee' or worse.

Having read the book, this writer noticed three primary problems as it regards the issue of its Gospel presentation (there are far more concerning details that arise when reading the book, but those are not the purpose of this post). What follows is this writer's perception and opinion, and ought not be perceived as an attack upon the author of The Harbinger.

Sunday Morning Praise

Blessed Assurance

Blessed Assurance was written by Fanny Crosby, who, despite being blind is estimated to have written "more than 8,000 gospel song texts in her lifetime."
The music for [Blessed Assurance] was composed by Mrs. Joseph Knapp, an amateur musician, wife of the founder of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and a close personal friend of Fanny Crosby. One day Mrs. Knapp played this melody for the blind poetess and asked, "What does this tune say?" Fanny responded immediately, "Why, that says: 'Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine.'" (Kenneth Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories, [Kregel Publications: 1982], 43).

27 July 2012

This 'n' That

I love Chick-fil-A. Yes, I am guilty as charged. I loved their chicken nuggets before it was cool to love their chicken nuggets. Take that, relevance!

So, here's your Chick-fil-A controversy recap: Dan Cathy, president of the fast-food chain, was interviewed by the Baptist Press, wherein he stated:
Some have opposed the company's support of the traditional family. "Well, guilty as charged," said Cathy when asked about the company's position. 
"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.
The mainstream media took this and, employing a masterful spin as only the mainstream media can, suddenly declared that the Chick-Fil-A corporation is "anti-gay". Call me crazy, but when I read that article, I see nothing even remotely close to this.

Last I checked, Chick-fil-A served all paying customers. In fact, they stated this clearly on their Facebook page. Dan Cathy does not even proclaim his restaurant chain to be a "Christian" company, but rather one that operates on biblical principles.
"We don't claim to be a Christian business," Cathy told the Biblical Recorder in a recent visit to North Carolina. He attended a business leadership conference many years ago where he heard Christian businessman Fred Roach say, "There is no such thing as a Christian business."  

"That got my attention," Cathy said. Roach went on to say, "Christ never died for a corporation. He died for you and me." 

"In that spirit ... [Christianity] is about a personal relationship. Companies are not lost or saved, but certainly individuals are," Cathy added.
So, here's my advice to the Chick-Fil-A "haters," to the mayor of Boston (by the way, is anyone else amused that he's now backing off?), and to the Chicago mayor and alderman: Get over it. Get in your car, drive to the nearest Chick-fil-A, order some chicken nuggets and a peach shake and just enjoy it. I don't think you'll regret the decision.

Okay, so that takes care of my stroll into politics for the next decade. Now that your mouth is watering for some Chick-fil-A goodness, enjoy your baked, not fried, week in review (kind of):
  • Rob Bell is gay affirming. Yeah, I know, no big shock. But, like his universalism, this is one of those things that he rarely stated outright. Until now.
  • Megachurch pastor Dino Rizzo has been asked by his "spirituality board" to take a sabbatical.
  • If the Olympics are your thing, you can watch every event via live stream here.
  • Phil Johnson on the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit:

21 July 2012

Gospel Mimes. Yes, Really.

This gives new meaning to the tired adage, "Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words."
Gospel mimes to ‘preach’ at Detroit gathering
Detroit — When James Hayes began performing mime in churches more than a decade ago, some congregations turned him away, saying the art form "was not of God."
But now, the artistry of silent film actor Charlie Chaplin and French mime artist Marcel Marceau has given way to an increasingly popular art form being used to preach the Gospel in pulpits across the country.
"We want to take the songs and bring them to life," said Hayes, founder and chief executive officer of Run the Race Performing Arts Ministry, which teaches mime to churches.
Hayes, a Detroit resident, is organizing a conference called the Gathering of the Mimes in the city, bringing together more than 200 performers and an estimated 1,000 observers.
Unfortunately, the Gathering of the Mimes has passed for 2012.

The more "gospel mime" YouTube videos I searched, the more convinced I became that "mime ministry" appears to be an excuse to get up on stage and dance. Of course, it is quite possible that the deeper meaning of this activity is escaping me, or is being hindered by the silliness of it all.

The above-quoted article from the Detroit News continued with an interesting observation from gospel mime James Hayes:
"In the past, churches were like, 'What is it?'" said 31-year-old Hayes, a member of Second Canaan Missionary Baptist Church on the city's east side. "But now you can't go into a church without mimes being there. They're everywhere." (Source)
Speaking for myself, I can honestly say that with all of the churches I've attended and visited in my life, including several megachurches from various parts of the country, I have never seen a mime performing. However, I can think of a few megachurch pastors who may want to try miming their sermon one week. After all, they do say silence is golden.

HT: Suspicious Berean

20 July 2012

Ken Silva Responds to Discernment Drama Created by 'The Harbinger'

If you've been following the soap opera that's been generated within the online discernment and apologetic community by bestselling book, The Harbinger (TH), then you know that some strong accusations have been leveled toward critics of the book. Most notably, TH supporter Jan Markell and her panel at Understanding the Times have dedicated quite a bit of air time to lamenting the criticisms this book has received. That, of course, is their right, and no one is claiming otherwise.

Last month at Christian Research Network, I weighed in with my own article, "Implications of the Harbinger." In that post, I primarily based my concerns upon statements that have been made by author Jonathan Cahn in various interviews. In short, as a student of God's Word, I cannot accept Cahn's claim that Isaiah 9:10 sets forth a principle and a pattern that is now being carried out in America. Until such a thing can be demonstrated by Scripture (through use of a proper biblical hermeneutic) and history, then the foundation of this book must be rejected as faulty.

All of this I write by means of introduction. At Apprising Ministries, pastor-teacher Ken Silva has formulated a careful and measured response to the Harbinger hullabaloo, including part of his email exchange with Jonathan Cahn, who contacted Silva and Christian Research Network in regard to my aforementioned article. Silva writes:
Remember, even Satan can read and our Lord did warn us — “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Matthew 12:25). Well, as you’re about to see, sadly even within this community of online apologetics and discernment ministries we see a possible coming divide. 
What would appear to be at the root of this particular difference is a book called The Harbinger (TH) by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. For more background I point you to The Harbinger: Prophetic Fact Or Fickle Fiction? There I referred you to three different well-written reviews of TH by Gary Gilley, Larry DeBruyn, and David James.
 View article →

Additional Resources
Implications of The Harbinger
Chris Rosebrough's 2¢ on The Harbinger
Is The Harbinger Fact or Fiction?

This 'n' That

I appreciate everyone's patience with me in last week's absence, and again this week as I get back in the blogging groove. You see, every year bloggers are required to attend one week of Blogging Bootcamp. This is where we learn the best blogging tips and secrets. In fact, if you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I shared a couple of those tips yesterday with my followers.

At Blogging Bootcamp, we learn about and refine such things as: proper beanbag chair posture, how to eat Cheetos without staining your fingers, and how to redecorate our parents' basement to look like a real home. We engage in fun and helpful debates such as, Mac vs. PC, and have fruitful discussions over the longterm health benefits of a diet full of overly-processed snack foods. We also learn how to create better and more intriguing titles for our blog posts and how to irritate people without really trying. As you can imagine, it is a busy and exciting week!

Okay, confession time...I wasn't really at Blogging Bootcamp. I know, I know, shocking. I've every confidence that all of you were fully convinced until this moment. While you nurse your wounded gullibility, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • As of this writing, at least 12 people are dead and 50 injured when a gunmen opened fire at a midnight screening of the movie, The Dark Night Rises. Our prayers go out for the victims and their families. Let this be another tragic reminder of man's depravity and man's hopelessness without the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • A balanced account of one man's recent visit to Perry Noble's Newspring Church.
  • It's been 16 months since Rob Bell's Love Wins debuted. Pastor Jesse Johnson reflects.
  • File this under: "Isn't it Ironic?" Members of the Crystal Cathedral are upset because a "false prophet" will be speaking there tomorrow.
  • I loathe the cartoon Family Guy. The mere fact that it's been on the air so long is a sad, pathetic commentary on our society. At the same time, it's a perfect example of the total depravity of man. This latest gimmick is no exception.
  • Voddie Baucham teaches, "What is the Gospel?" This is the full sermon audio from the clip posted earlier this week.

19 July 2012

Max Lucado Likens Christine Caine to Paul, Mary and Esther

The popularity of speaker and teacher Christine Caine has grown immensely in recent months as she seemingly has gained significant influence in the seeker-driven circles. Caine is the director of Equip & Empower Ministries, founder of the A21 Campaign, and a worship leader at Hillsong Church. A glance at her Twitter stream reveals a blossoming friendship with popular Bible teacher Beth Moore, and she has earned the praises of SBC megachurch pastor, Jack Graham. Her obvious bubbly personality and charismatic speaking style make it easy to see why she has become so popular.


Caine also is an ordained minister (as documented here), and her teaching, both in her sermons and in 
her books, reveals an obvious proclivity for the teachings of Word Faith. It comes as no surprise, then, that Caine says that she loves Word Faith preacher Joyce Meyer, has declared that Sheryl Brady, pastrix of The Potter's House North Dallas, is "flat out the best chick PREACHER of the word!" and that she recently was "honored" to speak at a youth conference at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church.

Caine's latest motivational publication, Undaunted, is due out in September 2012. The website description reads:

One hopes that, in declaring that "Each of us possesses all it takes to...live completely for Christ," Caine is referring to believers. It is only through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit that Christians are capable of any good work of mention, and even then it is impossible to "live completely for Christ" on this side of Heaven. That is, of course, unless one is sinless, and we can safely assume that Christine Caine is not.

The foreword for Caine's book is written by popular author and pastor Max Lucado. Lucado pastors Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, and is the author of such books as Just Like Jesus, In the Grip of Grace and When God Whispers Your Name. He also participated in the Be Still DVD with the aforementioned Beth Moore. Many know that Be Still featured contemplatives Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Apprising Ministries tells us more about this DVD:
In the section of the Be Still…And Know That I Am God DVD entitled "Cloud of Witnesses: Contemplative Figures Throughout History" renowned SBC “Bible teacher” Beth Moore gives us some very revealing information concerning the growing apostasy of sinful ecumenicism advanced by those supportive of a form of meditation in an altered state of consciousness known as Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP). This so-called prayer is the crown jewel of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM), which is actually a romaticized version of neo-Gnostic Roman Catholic mysticism. (Source)
Nevertheless, Lucado is a well-known, popular and respected name among many evangelical Christians. One might wonder, then, how it is that he would enthusiastically endorse a book written by Christine Caine? Caine, in addition to demonstrating an inability to properly handle God's Word, also has shown a disregard for the biblical admonition against female pastors. Yet Lucado heartily encourages his followers to read her latest book, Undaunted:
On Caine's official website, a quote from Max Lucado likens the effervescent motivational speaker to the Apostle Paul, to Mary and to Esther, further revealing his excitement not only about the book, but about Caine herself:
There is little doubt that Caine has been gifted with a talent for public speaking, but her demonstrably poor exegetical skills, as well as her apparent disregard for certain portions of the Word, ought to quickly eliminate her from any sort of comparison with the three biblical names above.

As the popularity of teachers like Christine Caine grows, the Christian community ought to sit up and take notice. It may not be long before women pastors are filling more than just the pulpits of wayward, liberal mainline denominations, but are dominating the stages of favorite evangelical churches. Even less time may pass before the heretical Word Faith gospel, even if in its "lite" version, replaces the squishy, semi-Pelagian seeker-driven gospel that is now so popular. In a fit of itchiness, many were not careful in their requests. Now it seems that God is granting the people exactly what they asked.
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)
Further Reading
"Code Orange" Speaker Christine Caine

18 July 2012

Voddie Baucham: You Cannot Live the Gospel

Voddie Baucham swiftly denounces the well-worn idea that the Gospel is something that believers must do:

HT: Tim Challies

Further Reading:
The Gospel is Not Something We Do
Gabe Lyons, Q, and "Restoring Cultures"

13 July 2012

This 'n' That

Photo: WikiMedia
As you probably have noticed, I've been a bit preoccupied this week. Hopefully it won't be too much longer before things are back to normal. Or, at least what passes for normal around here.

I trust that in my absence everyone has been diligently monitoring the ongoing silliness of the visible church, as well as the continuous downward spiral of the culture.

Since I've not had time this week to compile my usual list of the weird, wacky and woeful, I have an abbreviated This 'n' That for you. Take the extra time to wash your car, read a book, catch up on Dr. Phil or bake me a peach pie. Just remember that we are called to do all things as unto the Lord, bringing glory to Him, which means that Dr. Phil reruns may have to be crossed off the list. I did receive a word that baking a peach pie for your favorite blogger is one of the most anointed activities in which one can engage. Do with that information what you will.

With that, please enjoy your abbreviated week in review (kind of):
  • Ken Silva provides some helpful background on prosperity preacher Joseph Prince.
  • God's own defense of Scripture:

08 July 2012

Sunday Morning Praise

Repost from 11 March 2012:

'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

This hymn was written by Louisa M.R. Stead. The lyrics are a result of perhaps one of the darkest hours of Stead's life, the drowning of her husband.
While eating their picnic lunch, they suddenly heard cries of help and spotted a drowning boy in the sea. Mr. Stead charged into the water. As often happens, however, the struggling boy pulled his rescuer under the water with him, and both drowned before the terrified eyes of wife and daughter. Out of her "why?" struggle with God during the ensuing days flowed these meaningful words from the soul of Lisa Stead. (Kenneth Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories, 288).
Indeed, is any trial too great for our Savior? Perish the thought! What a sweet, sovereign Savior we serve.

04 July 2012

True Freedom is Slavery to Jesus Christ

Photo: GTY
On this day, many Americans celebrate their earthly liberty with family gatherings, parades, barbecues and fireworks. No doubt many will also spend this day decrying what they perceive to be a loss of their long-held freedoms. The liberties we enjoy as Americans, however, are fleeting, and so it is important for the Christian to understand where his true freedom lies. Christian Research Network shares an excerpt from Dr. John MacArthur's book, Slave, wherein he reminds the Christian that the only freedom that truly matters is found in Christ Jesus. Continue reading here.

03 July 2012

Steven Furtick, Hillsong Conference, and 'Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire'

It recently was reported that the 2012 Hillsong Conference was scheduled to begin this past Monday, 2 July. Thus far, all things seem to be going according to plan and, as Christian apologist and radio host Chris Rosebrough pointed out in the tweet below, it seems that thousands have gathered onto this "wide ride":
Hillsong 2012 has been a success, then, at least by Hillsong's and the world's standards. The event even garnered the attention of reporter Alex Murashko at The Christian Post as he reported on Steven Furtick's sermon. Furtick, who was the second speaker of the event, had already gushed over Word Faith preacher Joseph Prince's earlier message:
Writes Murashko:
Elevation Church Pastor Steven Furtick preached at a Hillsong Conference in Sydney for the first time on Tuesday, telling thousands of people in attendance and an online audience that God doesn't need anyone to "feel ready" to answer their calling.
The 32-year-old pastor, who leads the Charlotte, N.C., church of more than 10,000 members, said it was one sentence from the book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, that gave him the inspiration to start a church.
"The sentence was 'I despaired at the thought that my life might slip by without God moving greatly on our behalf,'" Furtick said. "The Lord used that one sentence because when the word of the Lord comes to you like it came to Jeremiah, it doesn't have to say much to do a lot. In one sentence God put a desire in my heart – 'one day you're going to start a big church to reach a lot of people who are far from God in a big city somewhere in the United States of America.'"
It is interesting that Murashko emphasized Furtick's recounting of the impact of Jim Cymbala's book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, upon his life and ministry. This is a story that Furtick has told numerous times before, including at the 2011 Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit:

Jim Cymbala is the pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, and his book referenced above is widely known. While there may be points within the book worth commending, there also are many which may not only give cause for concern, but which may offer insight into Steven Furtick's ministry and philosophy.

Gary Gilley, pastor of Southern View Chapel in Springfield, IL, has written a brief but helpful review of Cymbala's book. While Gilley acknowledges the book's positive contributions, he nevertheless shares many concerns which are worth noting. Gilley's review will not be published in full here, but there is one section that is of special interest. About Cymbala's view of the revelation of the Holy Spirit, Gilley writes:
Cymbala supports the increasingly accepted view that one can hear from God in the inner spirit. "I sensed God speaking. . . . I knew I had heard from God. . . . His word to me was. . ." (p.25). "Brothers and sisters, I really feel that I’ve heard from God about the future of our church" (p.27). "The Holy Spirit stopped me. ‘No!’ a voice seemed to say. ‘Fight for him! Cry out to me!’" "The Holy Spirit spoke to one of the choir members" (p.103). "As I spoke, the Holy Spirit seemed to prompt me to add" (p.160). Of course what God had to say to Cymbala was what every pastor would love to hear, "If you and your wife will lead my people to pray and call upon my name, you will never lack for something fresh to preach. I will supply all the money that’s needed, both for the church and for your family, and you will never have a building large enough to contain the crowds I will send in response" (p.25).
Reviewer’s Comment: Where in Scripture does one find this concept? That God has communicated audibly, in dreams and visions, through prophets and apostles, we are in agreement, but this "inner voice" is not to be found. Even the Vineyard theologian Jack Deere claims that the concept of God guiding through promptings, impressions, and insights has no biblical base. He says, "The word ‘prompt’ never appears in Scripture with God as the subject. [We are being] asked to believe in a form of guidance that can’t even be found in the Bible" (Surprised by the Voice of God, pp.283,284). When men like Deere can poke holes in our understanding of revelation, we had better take a second look.
When reading this portion of Gilley's review, a particular sermon clip came to mind immediately. Listen to Steven Furtick as he preached earlier this year at the Presence Conference:

Note the multiple instances within this short teaching that Steven Furtick claims to have received direct revelation from God. The reader is encouraged to view the video again, and observe the following:
  • At 2:48, Furtick says to the leaders of C3, "The Lord told me to give you $7,000 for your Brooklyn church."
  • At 6:04 , he states that, following this offering, the great things of which he had spoken "are gonna happen for somebody" due to that person's obedience that night. Really? How does Steven Furtick know this?
  • At 8:44, Furtick begins his next few statements by declaring that, "Somebody needed to hear me say..." Again, how is he aware of this? Who is telling him these things so definitively?
  • Finally, at approximately 9:50, Steven Furtick begins to describe how he and his wife had saved up a $5,000 emergency fund early in their marriage. Says Furtick, "God told me to give it," and so he wrote five $1,000 checks. He continues, "As soon as I had written the last one, God said, 'I will never allow you to lack for anything you need to do My will if you keep your hands open to Me in this way.'" 
Those who have listened to many of Steven Furtick's sermons know that this type of language and these types of claims actually are fairly common. There seems to be a great deal of similarity, then, between the method by which Steven Furtick claims to receive divine revelation and what Cymbala teaches in his book. Does this merit concern?

Gary Gilley also points out that Cymbala appears to have been greatly influenced by Charles Finney:
Cymbala promotes the currently popular and highly unbiblical view of revival as per Charles Finney style. Finney, who did more to cheapen evangelism than any one individual I can think of, is apparently Cymbala’s greatest hero, and is often quoted (e.g. p.58, p.115, and pp.174ff). Finney, the 19th Century evangelist and theologian, was the well-known author of "means" or special methods that he believed could produce conversions, as well as revival. All the church needed to do, so taught Finney, was to use the right means and the results were guaranteed, with or without help from the Holy Spirit. His evangelistic inventions are legion and lethal. Even prayer was seen as a "means" to an end (see p.58). God could be manipulated to send revival if only the church prayed hard enough. Evidence of Finneyism is rampant in evangelism today. Finney and his views need to be exposed, not endorsed. (Source)
Of course, much of Finney's methodology is running rampant in the seeker-driven church today. If Steven Furtick was so influenced by Cymbala's book, and Cymbala was so greatly influenced by Finney, the methodology of Steven Furtick and his Elevation Church ought not surprise us. It should, however, continue to cause the Body of Christ to speak out against those doctrines and methods which run contrary to Scripture.

It certainly appears as though Steven Furtick was a hit at his first Sydney, Australia Hillsong Conference. While it seems that the 2013 speaker lineup already has been determined, perhaps he will be placed at the top of the list for 2014. For now, the 2012 event rolls on throughout this week, with further messages from the prosperity preacher packed lineup.

Further Reading
Louie Giglio to Join Word Faith Lineup at 2012 Hillsong Conference
Steven Furtick, Hillsong Heresy Conference & Rick Warren (Apprising Ministries)
Steven Furtick Twists Scripture, Claims to Hear from God at Presence 2012

01 July 2012

The State of the 'Almost Christian'

From J.C. Ryle Quotes:
There are many whom I must call “almost Christians,” for I know no other expression in the Bible, which so exactly describes their state. They have many things about them which are right, good and praiseworthy in the sight of God. They are regular and moral in their lives. They are free from glaring outward sins. They keep up many decent and proper habits. They appear to love the preaching of the Gospel. They are not offended at the truth as it is in Jesus, however plainly it may be spoken. They have no objection to religious company, religious books, and religious talk. They agree to all you say when you speak to them about their souls. And all this is well.
But still there is no movement in the hearts of these people that even a microscope can detect. They are like those who stand still. Weeks after weeks, years after years roll over their heads, and they are just where they were. They sit under our pulpits. They approve of our sermons. And yet, like Pharaoh’s lean cows, they are nothing the better, apparently, for all they receive. There is always the same regularity about them—the same constant attendance on means of grace—the same wishing and hoping—the same way of talking about religion—but there is nothing more. There is no going forward in their Christianity. There is no life, and heart, and reality in it. Their souls seem to be at a deadlock. And all this is sadly wrong.
~ J.C. Ryle
Tract: Where Are You?

Sunday Morning Praise

It was only about a month ago that I posted this video. However, this is one of the best hymns written, and it was a Twitter request, so enjoy it once more!

A Mighty Fortress