31 August 2012

This 'n' That

This picture has nothing to do with the topic at hand. 
I just thought it was really cute.
If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that politics aren't really my thing. I admit, I did attend a Palin rally back in 2008, but that's as active as I've ever been or ever will be again. At the risk of some religious right-ers thinking that I'm not actually saved, I have to say...I don't even watch Fox News on a regular basis. I know, I know, that's a sin in the eyes of some professing Christians in America.

As such, I did not initially intend to watch any of the Republican National Convention last night, but ended up catching a few moments. Unfortunately, I happened to tune in right before Clint Eastwood spoke. Now, I don't know whose idea it was to book Clint Eastwood, but I have to wonder if that person still has a job today. That was painful. Honestly, I think I'd rather watch this. The Romney home movies were pleasant enough to watch, though. And yes, there is a lot that could be said regarding Romney's Mormon faith and religion and the many references to "God" throughout the evening but...well, perhaps another time. If you're under the impression that Mormonism is a form of Christianity, then I suggest taking a look at this.

Okay, enough of my political commentary. I hope that this week's list makes your day (bad pun intended). Go ahead, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Michael Kruger has completed his series on 10 misconceptions about the New Testament canon.
  • Last weekend, Perry Noble and his Newspring Church were praying for 3,000 salvations. The final number of "salvations" only totaled around 1,300, however. Perhaps if they'd opened the service by covering the Rolling Stones instead of Kiss the numbers would have been larger.
  • Owners of a bed and breakfast in Vermont have been fined $10,000 and must pay a lesbian couple an additional $20,000 in settlement funds for objecting to same-sex civil union ceremonies being held on their property.
  • I'm not one to watch movies, and I have not nor do I plan to see the latest Batman film. I am even less an advocate of getting too introspective with anything created by Hollywood. Yet, I have to admit that I found this scene from the newest Batman movie to be rather thought-provoking. Surely there is not one among us who has not wrestled with the same inner conflict and turmoil with which we see Batman struggling in these brief moments.
  • Okay, okay, I can't leave you with that for the week! Here's Steve Lawson on preaching Christ crucified:

29 August 2012

Steven Furtick to Preach at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church

The heretical Word Faith gospel continues to subtly weave itself into the fabric of the visible church. It seems that James MacDonald's Elephant Room 2 and the subsequent embracing of prosperity preacher T.D. Jakes opened the door and welcomed these aberrant teachings into the mainstream.

It is no secret that Steven "Audacious Faith" Furtick greatly admires many of the most famous propagators of the Word Faith heresy. In January 2012, we saw him gush over T.D. Jakes, calling him "my favorite preacher in the world."

He also seems to be impressed with Joyce Meyer, perhaps the most successful female prosperity preacher in America today:

Most recently, we saw that Steven Furtick was visited by Word Faith heretic Rod Parsley, who called Furtick "one of the nation's most influential young leaders."
 Steven Furtick, in turn, praised Parsley by calling him a "preaching machine."

Considering that Steven Furtick finds Rod Parsley to be such a wonderful preacher, let us be reminded of just what kind of teaching this "machine" produces:

Another great influence upon Steven Furtick, however, has been the most well-known teacher of Word Faith in America, Joel Osteen. This pastor of America's largest "church" has been deemed by Furtick as a "great man of God."

In fact, Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries tells us that Joel Osteen has influenced Steven Furtick longer than we may know:
As far as Joel Osteen is concerned, actually Steven Furtick has been quite enamored with this 4 Star WF General since at least 2007. Our first clue is Furtick’s June 4th blog post Please Stop Picking On Joel:
As in, Osteen. As in, the pastor of the largest church in America… Osteen preaches to 40,000 people weekly… You couldn’t get 40,000 people to come hear you preach if you gave away free Escalades at the door…don’t hate on a man you’ve never met and analyze the entire content of his ministry based on a 27 minute weekly broadcast.
That’s illogical, narrow, and unfair, and you know it. Don’t hurl insults at someone with a big church simply because you can’t make your church grow, and although you’d never admit it, you’re jealous. That’s right… most of the time the motive isn’t defense of the Gospel… it’s jealousy and presumption. (source)
In September of 2007,  just a few months after writing the above blog post, Furtick would begin his first venture into Sun Stand Still territory. When his church was not yet 2 years old, he first preached the sermon series for which he would become most well known.

By 2010, Steven Furtick again was preaching Sun Stand Still, which by this time also had been published in book form, to his Elevation Church, as well as at other churches and various conferences. It is this first attempt at the sermon series in 2007, however, that gives us a peek into just how Osteen-esque Steven Furtick's preaching has been seemingly from the beginning of his ministry. Furtick appears to tell us exactly why this is as he describes for us his very own "sun stand still moment" on the stage of Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church:

It seems that Furtick's praise for Joel Osteen has not gone unnoticed as tonight, 29 August 2012, he will preach at Osteen's Lakewood Church. Judging from the Lakewood's tweet and Steven Furtick's retweet below, the audacious pastor is excited for the opportunity:
It was not that long ago that Word Faith pastrix Christine Caine preached at Lakewood Church's youth conference, so Furtick finds himself in familiar company. In fact, Caine, who was one of the speakers at Furtick's Code Orange Revival, actually preached the Sunday service at Elevation Church in January of this year. This only aids in affirming Steven Furtick's affinity for the aberrant Word Faith gospel, of which Christine Caine is also a promoter.

Perhaps none of this would be of interest if it were not for the continual mainstreaming of the Word Faith teachings. Steven Furtick, who once was only an up-and-coming pastor, now has the ears and endorsement of men like Elephant Room curators James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll. These two also have embraced prosperity preacher T.D. Jakes, despite some lingering questions following ER2. Their support of Furtick has allowed his seeker-driven teaching to infiltrate mainstream evangelicalism. As a result, the more that Steven Furtick allows the Word Faith heresy to seep into his own teachings, the more likely it is to be found in evangelical churches across America, if only even in its basest form. 

This reminds us of the importance of remaining faithful to the Word of God, and of forsaking ear-tickling sermons of "big, bold prayers" and "audacious faith" if they are found to be self-serving and erroneous. The heretical Word Faith gospel was once a fringe movement, existing for most of us only on television. Today it resides in a great number of evangelical churches. Those who truly belong to Christ must nurture and exercise their God-given discernment in order to avoid being swayed by these devilish teachings.
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
WF Heretic Rod Parsley Calls Steven Furtick "One of Nation's Most Influential Young Leaders"
James MacDonald Celebrates 35 Years of T.D. Jakes
Learning to Pray with Steven Furtick and Joel Osteen

26 August 2012

24 August 2012

Elephant Room 3 Is Coming

That's right, in spite of the continuing fallout from ER2, James MacDonald confirmed this morning via Twitter that there will indeed be an ER3.
Ken Silva shares additional thoughts at Apprising Ministries. He writes:
Like interlocking concentric circles we’ve seen the same names now appearing over and over again at each others’ revivals and conferences. However, the wording of James MacDonald’s tweet today would seem to indicate that ER3 isn’t likely generate anywhere near the interest of, say, Elephant Room 2.
Rather, it reads like ER3′s likely to be a snooze-fest. Unless of course they decide to invite some of the pastors who left Acts 29 and Harvest Bible Fellowship over ER2. Not likely.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Further Reading
James MacDonald Proud to Have Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll & Bill Hybels Endorse 'Vertical Church' Book
Learning to Pray with Steven Furtick & Joel Osteen
True Woman Conference Speaker Priscilla Shirer Hears God's Still, Small Voice

This 'n' That

What is wrong with the picture painted by this story?
A tourist attraction in lower Galilee that seeks to recreate daily life as it was in ancient Israel recently got a technological upgrade when it began putting Wi-Fi hotspots around the necks of donkeys so tourists can have access to the Internet.
The Kfar Kedem park is located in the hills of Galilee in view of the city of Nazareth, and offers tourists the opportunity to wear the same clothes, make the same foods and ride the same animals as did those who lived in ancient times.
According to the attraction's website, "Kfar Kedem creates a holistic experience using all your senses ... connecting these tangible experiences with the values and spirit of the ages from the time of the Bible and the Mishnah, that are still part of our lives today."
So, since this is recreating daily life "as it was in ancient Israel," I guess we can assume that donkeys had Wi-Fi back then? Excellent. I had no idea. You truly do learn something new everyday.

While some of you lament the fact that you're still struggling with an outdated cellphone, and these donkeys are equipped with traveling Internet access, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):

(Oh, and if anyone is reading this from the back of a donkey, please leave a comment and send me a picture).
  • I love these pics of some of the tiniest of God's creatures.
  • Well, it seems that everyone is all riled up over the fact that Lance Armstrong will be stripped of his Tour de France titles by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. James MacDonald's Director of Media, Dallas Jenkins (son of author Jerry Jenkins), even took to Twitter with some less-than-desirable language to express his disgust for Armstrong. Some will say this is an admission of guilt on Armstrong's part, while others will elevate him even higher for refusing to allow the debate to continue. Whatever your opinion, just remember: all idols fall.
  • The world and the Church:

23 August 2012

True Woman Conference Speaker Priscilla Shirer Hears God's Still, Small Voice

The True Woman '12 conference, scheduled for 20–22 September in Indianapolis, is an event sponsored by popular Bible teacher Nancy Leigh DeMoss and her ministry, Revive Our Hearts. Many women see this as a time to fellowship with old friends and new, as well as an opportunity to hear from some of their favorite trusted and conservative Bible teachers. No doubt that many would place most of the speakers for this year's event in that category, with one exception:
Priscilla Shirer, friend of SBC Bible teacher Beth Moore and a professed Bible teacher herself, is someone whose teachings ought to be approached with extreme caution.

While Shirer does not bear the title of "pastor," she nevertheless appears to sanction this role as one that is acceptable for women to fill. Shirer's biography on her Going Beyond Ministries web page informs us that she is well-educated, though from the content of her work, it appears that her "expository teaching of the Word of God" may be debatable:
The charismatic Bible teacher Shirer also participated in the Be Still DVD, which openly promotes contemplative/centering prayer. Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries provides additional thoughts:
I explained further that this Be Still project was openly advocating a form of meditation in an altered state of consciousness known as Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP).
And this is easily corroborated, for example, from a pro-contemplative prayer article entitled “Be Still” Invites Viewers to Discover Contemplative Prayer, which was carried by the mainstream evangelical website Crosswalk.com. You also saw that Shirer’s ministry, Going Beyond Ministries (GBM), arose from what Shirer called her “inner revival,” which involved the Lord “speaking” to her:
In her case, God was speaking to her about going to “the place of abundant living–an experiential relationship with God.” “He said: ‘Priscilla, you’ve been at this mountain long enough. There is a new place that I want to take you to,’” Shirer says. In light of God’s challenge, Shirer naturally desired to “go beyond” personally. (Online source)
Like I’ve said before, as soon as you hear someone claiming to teach in the Name of Jesus Christ use the term “go beyond” your discernment radar needs to kick in. The key question to ask is: Go beyond, what? As I’ve pointed out previously, invariably where we’re headed is going beyond Scripture. Again, here’s the bottom line: In the Bible we know we hear God’s Voice; but as soon as we go beyond into “inner,” i.e highly subjective, experiences we then open a door that is leading so many today into such spiritual deception.
Shirer has responded on her website to questions surrounding her involvement in the Be Still project. Her vague answer reads in part:

In light of Shirer's praise of solitude and silence, we do well to consider Pastor Gary Gilley's recent article on the topic:
Of course every mystic’s favorite passage on this subject is Elijah’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12-13). For example, Ruth Haley Barton tells us, “Elijah’s willingness to enter into solitude and silence opened room for God to minister to him in ways he had not yet experienced” (p. 19). Even a cursory reading of the account finds that Elijah had no desire to enter into solitude and silence as Barton describes it. He was running for his life from Jezebel, depressed and ready to entirely give up his life as a prophet. God graciously reached out and restored His man, but Elijah wasn’t looking for an experience with God. Additionally there is no command anywhere in Scripture to try to duplicate Elijah’s example. Simply put, while seeking a quiet place to be alone with God is without question a good idea and is exemplified in Scripture, it is not commanded and is never taught as essential for discipleship.
It is important to understand that in using the discipline of silence/solitude, spiritual formation leaders are looking for something beyond discipleship; they are looking for a personal word, a message, a revelation, from the Lord. This is why Elijah’s experience is so prominent in all contemplative writings. The idea is, if Elijah went alone and heard the “still small voice of God,” then if we follow in his footsteps we will experience the same.
Gilley's observations will be important to keep in mind throughout the remainder of this article.

It appears from the above that Shirer may be open to direct communication from God to the believer through more than the reading of His Word. In answering another question, "How can I really hear God speak to me personally?" Shirer answered in part:

This response seems to imply that those who are not "hearing" the voice of God are immature and weak in their faith and in their walk with the Lord. It is this type of dangerous teaching that leads so many to feel hopeless and confused when they find that God isn't "talking" to them in the same way that others claim He speaks.

Now, some may argue that Shirer is not speaking here of an audible or even an inner voice from God, but of His speaking through His Word and through guidance of the Holy Spirit. For further clarification regarding Priscilla Shirer's thoughts and teachings on this subject, let us turn to one of her own writings.  

Is That You, God? is a booklet that contains material from Shirer's full-length book, Discerning the Voice of God. This booklet is published by and is available for purchase from any SBC Lifeway bookstore.

Only two paragraphs into the introduction of this booklet, Shirer writes:
Before you read any further, let me assure you of an important point. To not speak contradicts God's nature. The second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, is called the Word (see John 1:1). That designation stands at odds with silence. God loved you enough to die for you; He loves you enough to communicate with you. The Lord can and will speak to you if you've placed your faith in Jesus. First, however, you must expect and anticipate that the divine voice of God can ring in your ears and heart. (Priscilla Shirer, Is That You, God? [Lifeway Press: 2009], 6).
So, if one is not appropriately "expecting" and "anticipating" God to speak, will He then stay silent? Is God so controlled by the actions of man?

What Shirer fails to acknowledge here is that God has spoken, finally and fully, in His Word. For us to expect additional revelation from Him is to indicate that His Word is not enough. Shirer bases her argument on a misunderstanding of John 10:27, wherein Jesus states, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." A fuller look at the context of this verse helps one to better understand what our Lord is saying:
So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 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. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:24-30)
It is clear that our Lord is teaching here about His Father's divine, sovereign election, and the assurance of the saints. Christ's sheep "hear [His] voice," not in an audible manner, but those who have been elected by God will come to know Christ, be saved by Him and thus be enabled to do His will. Only those who are Christ's sheep will believe and follow Him, and He alone has the power to keep them safe. Of John 10:27, J. C. Ryle noted,
He says, "They hear my voice." By this He means that they listen to His invitation, when He calls them to repent, believe, and come to Him. This supposes that Christ first speaks, and then they hear. Grace begins the work: they, through grace, obey His calling, and willingly do as He bids them. The ears of unconverted people are deaf to Christ's call, but true Christians hear and obey (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, vol. 2 [The Banner of Truth Trust: 2009], 236).
Remember, when Christ first spoke these words, all who were in earshot audibly heard Him. It was only those who had been chosen and effectually called, however, who truly heard Him, and who knew and understood the Truth which He proclaimed.

Shirer continues in this booklet to inform her readers of her own personal experiences of "hearing" God's voice.
I often wish that a visible sign, like the cloud that led the children of Israel by day or the pillar of fire that led them by night, would supernaturally appear in my life when I need to make a decision. So far, that hasn't happened. I have, however, heard a still small voice speaking to my heart over various situations.
Interestingly, when God chose to speak in the Bible, those who heard didn't doubt whether God had spoken or what He was asking them to do. He made His Word clear as He spoke to "our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways" (Heb. 1:1, NIV). Just as He did in times long past, God wants us to hear, recognize, and obey His voice today. We too can walk in the assurance that what we hear comes from Him. But before we can do that, we need to understand the Messenger and the primary method through which He chooses to communicate today: the Holy Spirit.
(Shirer, 12–13, emphasis added).
It is true that God speaks and works today through the Holy Spirit, especially as the Spirit reveals and illumines the Word of God for every Christian. It is unfortunate that Shirer did not choose to quote verse 2 of the first chapter of Hebrews. If she had, she may have come to understand why it is that the canon is closed, and that God has spoken to us fully and finally through His Word and Son, Jesus Christ.
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2)
Those who believe that God is continuing to offer new revelation today deny the sufficiency of Scripture. Priscilla Shirer does just this in the following quote:
But, as author Dallas Willard said, "Far be it from me to deny that spectacular experiences occur or that they are, sometimes at least, given by God." I believe as he, however, that "the still small voice–or the interior or inner voice, as it is also called–is the preferred and most valuable form of individualized communication for God's purposes. (Shirer, 16, emphasis added).
Shirer here not only has undermined the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, but she has begun to tread on dangerous, mystical ground. Throughout her booklet, Is That You, God?, Shirer seems to indicate that the Christian need not fear hearing from anyone or anything other than the Almighty. Yet, how is she to know if she is conversing with God, with herself, or with another spiritual entity? Even those who promote and teach these aberrant ideas of spiritual formation, contemplative prayer and meditation warn about the possibility of hearing from something or someone other than God. Consider the quotes below from contemplative prayer proponents Dallas Willard and Richard Foster, respectively:
There are other ‘spiritual voices,’ too…. Satan … too will speak in our heart once he sees he no longer holds us in his hand. Only if we learn to recognize this voice as well can we … correctly identify and firmly resist him and make him flee from us (1 Pet. 5:9; Eph. 6:11). (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, [InterVarsity Press: 1999], 181).
I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! … But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection. (Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home [HarperCollins, 1992], 157).
Speaking specifically of Ruth Haley Barton, Gary Gilley draws out a point that nevertheless is applicable to all who would maintain that God speaks in the silence through a "still small voice":
Therefore, in order to support an unwarranted and biblically indefensible idea that God speaks to us apart from Scripture, and often without words in our inner being, the best that Barton can offer is that eventually we will be able to distinguish God’s voice from our own if we just keep practicing. This is disappointing at best. But to make things worse, apparently God “is speaking to us all the time” and we are obligated to obey what He says. This puts an unsustainable burden on those who accept Barton’s ideas as they must not only hear the inner, wordless voice of God, they must also obey it. If they do not they would of course be in sin. (Source)
Not only must one obey this inner voice so as to not be in sin, but, as we have seen from Shirer's own words and implications, one may not even be in Christ if he or she is failing to hear and distinguish the voice of God. To hear a "still small voice" never has and never will be a test of genuine faith and salvation. To imply otherwise is exceedingly dangerous.

Perhaps knowing all of this about the teachings of Priscilla Shirer helps to better understand why she calls her ministry Going Beyond. Regardless, those who support the True Woman conference ought to be  concerned about Shirer's appearance at the upcoming event. As was stated at the outset, this does not intend to imply that the other speakers at this conference also would hold to Shirer's faulty and deceptive teachings. However, Shirer's mere presence in this speaker lineup will lead many to believe that the other trusted women present might endorse and encourage her teachings.

While sources tell us that the organizers of the event have received concerns and complaints regarding Shirer's scheduled appearance, it is clear that these concerns were not enough to remove her from the conference lineup for this year. Those who plan to attend this event, then, are to be warned and must pray for wisdom and discernment prior to listening to Priscilla Shirer teach. We most certainly pray that future True Woman conferences will forgo such speakers for those who are biblically strong and faithful.

To conclude this, we turn to Dr. John MacArthur as he aptly answers the question, "Does God give us personal direction through a still small voice?"

Further Reading 
Women Pastors, Priscilla Shirer and the Southern Baptist Convention (Apprising Ministries)
Priscilla Shirer and Contemplative/Centering Prayer (Apprising Ministries)
Contemplative Prayer (Christian Research Network)
Christine Caine "Honored" to Speak at Lakewood Church Youth Conference

19 August 2012

Tweet a Proverb, Make the Headlines

*This article originally appeared here at Christian Research Network.

More and more it seems that when a secular celebrity takes to Twitter and mentions God or Jesus, it suddenly makes headlines in the Christian media. One "retweet" of a popular "Christian" such as T.D. Jakes or Joyce Meyer, and the secular artist is portrayed in a whole new light. Seldom, however, is the logical follow-up question asked: Does the public life of this person demonstrate Christian fruit? If the answer to this is negative, then should they be applauded simply because they decided to tweet out a verse from Proverbs?

A primary example of this is the recording artist Rihanna, who has appeared more than once in the headlines of popular Christian publication, The Christian Post (CP). In an article entitled, "Rihanna Shares Joyce Meyer's Teachings With Fans, Calls Christian Speaker 'Awesome'," CP reporter Christine Thomasos writes,
Rihanna's spiritual beliefs may have raised questions for some in the past, but the 24-year-old singer is not afraid to admit that she is a fan of Christian minister and author Joyce Meyer.
This month, the record-breaking Barbadian singer has been using her Twitter account to spread Meyer's teachings.
In a 31 July article, "Rihanna Visits 'Jesus' Before Ending European Yacht Trip," Thomasos again details Rihanna's "retweeting" of Word Faith teacher Joyce Meyer:
Last month, the record-breaking Barbadian singer used her Twitter account to spread Meyer's teachings. "If Satan can defeat you in your thoughts then he can defeat you anywhere else as well," reads a message written by Meyer and re-tweeted by Rihanna on June 4.
To underline her point, the singer sent a tweet to Meyer directly.
"@JoyceMeyer you're awesome," Rihanna told the minister via Twitter the following day.
In "Rihanna Focuses on Obeying God, Sharing Scripture with Fans," published this week, we learn:
Most recently, the singer followed Meyer's path and shared a scripture with her Twitter followers.
In a message titled "Don't Be Lazy" Rihanna shared a biblical proverb with her followers.
"Do you see a man diligent and skillful in his business? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men," the Barbadian pop star tweeted from Proverbs 22:29.
Each of these articles is written with a neutral tone, simply reporting the Scripture and Meyer-quoting Twitter antics of singer Rihanna. Nevertheless, they may leave some readers with the impression that Rihanna is a legitimate artist for people to follow. Articles such as these fail to acknowledge two very important details.

Before Rihanna is lauded for her use of Scripture, perhaps one ought to take a close look at some of the lyrics from, as one example, her album, "Talk That Talk." The album actually carries a parental advisory for use of explicit language, and thus the lyrics cannot be printed here. One cannot help but conclude that the "talk" to which the album title refers is not the wholesome speech spoken of in Scripture.

Further, it seems as though Joyce Meyer is the go-to "Christian" leader for singer Rihanna. Yet, it has been well-documented and long argued that Meyer is a teacher of the Word Faith heresy, and thus hardly a wholesome or legitimate Christian influence.

This brief commentary is not meant as an attack on these CP articles or even on Rihanna or Joyce Meyer. It is, however, intended as an alert and call for discernment as we read even Christian publications. It would most certainly be wonderful if someone such as Rihanna would repent, put her faith in Christ alone for salvation, and then demonstrate that repentance by denouncing some of the vile music that she has created and helped place into the minds of children and teenagers. Until this happens, however, let us be careful of applauding something that may be a feeble example of an appearance of godliness that nevertheless denies its power (2 Tim. 3:5).

Sunday Morning Praise

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

17 August 2012

Patriotic Idolatry: 'America for Jesus,' the NAR and Jonathan Cahn

Jonathan Cahn, author of the bestselling book, The Harbinger, continues to make the rounds in the media, as well as in churches and at various events and conferences. His book has garnered both praise and criticism. Critics of the book believe that it demonstrates a poor and potentially dangerous biblical hermeneutic as well as a weak and unhelpful Gospel presentation. Supporters overlook such details and laud its message of repentance for America.

Calling America "Back to God"

Photo: Wikimedia
It seems to be the "return America to God" crowd that is making the most favorable noise about The Harbinger. While there certainly is nothing wrong with acknowledging and lamenting the moral degeneration and depravity of this nation, nevertheless we must recognize that America never was a "Christian nation." Yes, its founders largely heeded biblical morality, and perhaps tossed a few Bible verses onto their monuments, but America never was and never will be in covenant with God. She is not chosen by Him as was Israel. She has been blessed by the Creator, but in the end, she will fall like the rest.

How, then, ought the Church respond? Scripture tells us that we should we present to individual sinners the Gospel of forgiveness through the perfect work and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So should we seek to outwardly whitewash a nation? Or should we desire to see individual hearts changed with repentance, regeneration and faith?

In spite of the biblical command to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and call each man to repentance, a number of professing Christian groups have begun to arrange national prayer rallies in attempts to "call America back to God." In this time of election season, such activity is at its most rampant. Unfortunately, the powers behind many of these events actually stand in opposition to Scripture, and thus present even greater danger than merely possessing an unhealthy and incorrect focus on this temporary world.

America for Jesus

One such example of this is America for Jesus (AFJ), an event set to take place on 28 and 29 September at Independence Mall in Philadelphia. The video advertisement below aptly states its purpose:

It seems that September's gathering is largely being justified by use of the well-known Scripture in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron. 7:14)
This is indeed a lovely promise by God to His people Israel, but should it also be regarded as a promise for America?

The intention of AFJ is to "bring the salt" to America per 2 Kings 2:19–22:
AFJ is a continuation of what was known as One Nation Under God and its events, which were called Washington for Jesus. These events took place in 1980, 1988, 1996 and 2004. The AFJ website explains:
As you can see, the movement began when "God" allegedly spoke to bishop John Gimenez. Gimenez passed away in 2008, but his ministry and church, Rock Church International in Virginia Beach, continue on under the leadership of his wife. Anne Gimenez, who claims her own special anointing, was ordained at the age of 19.

Rock Church International claims to be an "apostolic ministry" and is part of the broader Rock Ministerial Fellowship, which also was founded by the couple. The purpose of Rock Ministerial Fellowship "is to provide apostolic covering to local churches and ministries" (source). Not only, then, is this organization as well as Rock Church led by a woman in direct violation of Scripture, but they also purport that the office of apostle continues today.

Anne Gimenez is the National Director for the AFJ 2012 event. A quick glance at the leadership team for AFJ reveals an unmistakable reality that many of these individuals are associated with what is known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).
While there is not time here to detail each or even a few of these names, the reader may be familiar with such names as Jim Garlow, Samuel Rodriguez, Lou Engle and Cindy Jacobs. The discernment website, Herescope, notes in a well-documented 2010 article the association of Garlow and Jacobs with the NAR:
The open association of David Barton and Jim Garlow with the New Apostolic Reformation leaders goes back several years at least. Cindy Jacobs, one of the leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation and her organization, Generals International, featured a "Raise Up An Army Convergence '09" conference[5] in which Barton and Garlow were keynote speakers along with Chuck Pierce and Dutch Sheets, key "apostles" under C. Peter Wagner in the NAR. This conference was promoted on The Elijah List,[6] which is the chief media organ for the leaders, doctrines and events of the NAR. The event's purpose was described by Cindy Jacobs: "to raise up a prayer army to both awaken and reform this nation," and used all of the strident military rhetoric of the NAR's prayer warfare agenda.[7] The Convergence '09 appeared to have the full trapping of the extreme "worship" style that characterizes the leaders of the NAR. (Source)
As a means of demonstration, and to break up the great length of this article, below is a brief video of Cindy Jacobs prophesying. Jacobs sits on the leadership team of AFJ.

What is the NAR?

In his article, "The Roots and Fruits of the New Apostolic Reformation," apologist Bob DeWaay details how this "new" movement is little more than a resurrection of the Latter Rain movement.
The differences between the Latter Rain Movement and the New Apostolic Reformation mostly have to do with terminology, not doctrine. In the 1980s, a teaching circulated amongst those who attend conferences put on by those in the prophetic movement called “a new breed of man.” The basic idea is that ordinary Christians throughout church history had been colossal failures and that God was going to fall upon certain persons by His Holy Spirit and “impregnate” them so that they could “give birth” to something entirely new. The “new breed of man” would be exalted saints with holiness and power never known before. (Source)
DeWaay notes how the NAR has reintroduced the former Latter Rain heresies of "Joel's Army" and "Kingdom Now" teaching:
The claim was that Joel 2:1-11 predicts that the end time church will be “Joel’s Army” that will execute God’s judgments on the earth. This is another false Latter Rain teaching that Bill Hamon still propagates. Here is his claim:
The saints are being trained now in the military bases of international training centers and their local church armories. The goal is to have them taught, equipped and field trained to be the officers that lead God’s army of prophetic evangelist saints during the coming Saints Movement. They will minister under the covering and leadership of fivefold apostolic and prophetic generals who trained them. These saints will function like God’s army prophetically described by Prophet Joel (Joel 2:1-11).
According to NOLR and NAR teachers, the kingdom of God is established by the church during history and before the parousia. Hamon writes, “Now let us begin to pray earnestly that the full dominion of His literal kingdom be established in all reality over all nations and people of the earth. . . They will pray and declare that it is time for God’s kingdom to be established over all the earth by the divine delegated authority and ministry of Christ’s Church.
In his October 2011 sermon, "The Modern Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit," Dr. John MacArthur said of the NAR:

We can see the danger, then, of this type of thought being the force behind an event known as America for Jesus.

What does this have to do with Jonathan Cahn?

In April 2012, Jonathan Cahn appeared at the Passover 2012 event, which was hosted by prominent NAR "apostle" Chuck Pierce.
Cahn was questioned about this appearance by radio host Brannon Howse of Worldview Weekend on his 3 July 2012 show and replied that he was unaware of the beliefs of the people hosting the event, or of the beliefs of the other speakers present. Cahn also noted that he was unfamiliar with the teachings of the New Apostolic Reformation. He was there, he said, to deliver his message of The Harbinger, and he left after doing so.

This is most certainly an acceptable explanation, and this article does not intend to imply that Jonathan Cahn is actively involved with or in agreement with the heretical teachings of the NAR. Unfortunately, too many people are unaware of precisely what the NAR is and are ignorant of the names associated with this dangerous movement. However, one would hope that, after being confronted and challenged about his appearance at Passover 2012, Jonathan Cahn would have taken some time to re-evaluate and research the New Apostolic Reformation. One would also presume that he might be a bit more careful about the events he promotes in the future. However, it seems as though this may not be the case, as America for Jesus asked Cahn to create a promotional video for their event:

AFJ also was excited to announce that Jonathan Cahn will be speaking at their September event:
Beyond this, Jonathan Cahn recently preached at Rock Church, where Anne Gimenez is lead pastor. The full video of Cahn's message is housed at Rock Church's Vimeo site and is entitled, "Jonathan Cahn Ties The Harbinger to America for Jesus." Indeed, this sermon contained minimal Scriptural teaching, but was rife with stories about Jonathan Cahn, America, The Harbinger and the Gimenez efforts through Washington for Jesus and AFJ. In the clip below, Cahn speaks about his experience with the original Washington for Jesus, as well as his recent invitation to participate in America for Jesus. He also demonstrates his tendency to read America back into the Bible through unsubstantiated and speculative symbolism.

Are we really to believe that a mass gathering of professing Christians, led by a female pastor and other members of the heretical NAR movement is going to cause true and biblical revival?

What's the Point?

The point is that Christians in this country need to take their eyes off of America and put them back where they belong, on Jesus Christ.

Now, while his comparison of America to Israel is greatly stretched, some of what Cahn stated above is true. If the Church was behaving as the salt and light it is called to be and had been loudly and boldly sharing the Gospel of Christ, perhaps morality would not have plunged into such darkness in this country. We must remember, however, that it is not the job of the Church to save America from her immorality. The purpose of the Church is to proclaim repentance and faith in Christ alone for salvation. Whether we do that in a Romans 1 country or not is completely irrelevant.

A whitewashed America will not do anyone any good on Judgment Day. While Cahn's sincerity is not in question, what is of concern is his approach and message, which often is advertised as "the message of The Harbinger."

God does not need an outwardly moral America to accomplish His purposes. In fact, it could be argued that His work would actually be furthered by the downfall of this once-great nation. When the false god that is America finally falls, perhaps many will repent of their patriotic idolatry and truly turn to the One Who saves, Jesus Christ.

Further Reading
Examining the Gospel Presentation of 'The Harbinger'
"God" Talks to Benny Hinn about Revival upon Billy Graham's Death
True Freedom is Slavery to Jesus Christ

This 'n' That

Today, I'm going to hand the "monologue" portion of the post over to J.C. Ryle. I trust I won't receive any arguments.
Photo: Wikimedia
The Lord Jesus is willing to save sinners. “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9). “He would have all men saved and come to the knowledge of the truth,” (1 Tim. 2:4). This is a mighty principle of the Gospel, and one which sorely perplexes narrow-minded and shallow theologians. But what says the Scripture? The words before us, no less than the texts just quoted, are distinct and express. “I would have gathered thy children,” says Christ, “and ye would not.” The will of poor hardened unbelieving man, and not the will of Christ, is the cause why sinners are lost for evermore. Christ “would” save them, but they will “not be” saved.
Let the truth before us sink down into our hearts, and bear fruit in our lives. Let us thoroughly understand that if we die in our sins and go to hell, our blood will be upon our own heads. We cannot lay the blame on God the Father, nor on Jesus Christ the Redeemer, nor on the Holy Ghost the Comforter. The promises of the Gospel are wide, broad, and general. The readiness of Christ to save sinners is unmistakably declared. If we are lost, we shall have none to find fault with but ourselves. The words of Christ will be our condemnation: “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).
Let us take heed, with such a passage as this before us, that we are not more systematic than Scripture. It is a serious thing to be “wise above that which is written.” Our salvation is wholly of God. Let that never be forgotten. None but the elect shall be finally saved. “No man can come unto Christ except the Father draw him (John 6:44). But our ruin, if we are lost, will be wholly of ourselves. We shall reap the fruit of our own choice. We shall find that we have lost our own souls. Linked between these two principles lies truth which we must maintain firmly, and never let go. There is doubtless deep mystery about it. Our minds are too feeble to understand it now. But we shall understand it all hereafter. God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility shall appear perfectly harmonious one day. In the meantime, whatever we doubt, let us never doubt Christ’s infinite willingness to save.
Now, wasn't that better than anything I've written? As you ponder these truths, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • If I ever find myself in Roanoke, I will be stopping at Crumb & Get It bakery.
  • More Romans 1, anyone? This story is almost too disgusting to share.
  • Look, Saudi Arabia is becoming more *ahem* "progressive".
  • Speaking of progressive, now men are allowed to wear skirts at Oxford University.
  • The LEGO story. (Warning, there is one expletive used at about 10 minutes in. Just cover your ears, because the rest of this thing is really interesting...if you like Legos.)
  • An amazing story of God's providence:

13 August 2012

Rick Warren Harnesses the Power of Social Habits, but where Is the Holy Spirit?

*This article originally appeared here at Christian Research Network.

Wikimedia user: UpstateNYer
A recent article appearing in Christianity Today offers a small peek into Rick Warren's strategies for success. Excerpted from the book, The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, the article, "How Rick Warren Harnessed the Power of Social Habits" provides interesting insight into the inner workings of Saddleback Church and its leader.

First, the reader is informed that God directly told Rick Warren to plant his church in the Saddleback Valley of Orange County, California:
"In the dusty, dimly lit basement of that university library, I heard God speak to me: 'That's where I want you to plant a church!'" Warren later wrote. "From that moment on, our destination was a settled issue." Source
Later, this same recollection is referred to as an "epiphany," yet it nevertheless is inferred that God spoke to Rick Warren, not only in this "dimly lit" library basement, but also later in his ministry, while visiting the desert of Arizona:
Warren, as befitting a pastor, is a man prone to epiphanies. They had occurred when he found the magazine article about McGavran, and in the library in Texas. Walking through the desert, another one struck. "You focus on building people," the Lord told him. "And I will build the church." Source
Such bold declaration of direct revelation from God naturally presumes that whatever else Rick Warren has done to follow these words of the Lord cannot be questioned. After all, to do so would be akin to questioning God Himself.

So it is that one must wonder if what follows is something that would be encouraged, commanded or enjoyed by God?
Warren's focus on building a congregation among the unchurched had begun five years earlier, when, as a missionary in Japan, he had discovered an old copy of a Christian magazine with an article headlined "Why Is This Man Dangerous?" It was about Donald McGavran, a controversial author focused on building churches in nations where most people hadn't accepted Christ. At the center of McGavran's philosophy was an admonition that missionaries should imitate the tactics of other successful movements— including the civil rights campaign—by appealing to people's social habits. "The steady goal must be the Christianization of the entire fabric which is the people, or large enough parts of it that the social life of the individual is not destroyed," McGavran had written in one of his books. Only the evangelist who helps people "to become followers of Christ in their normal social relationship has any chance of liberating multitudes."

That article—and, later, McGavran's books—were a revelation to Rick Warren. Here, finally, was someone applying a rational logic to a topic that was usually couched in the language of miracles. Here was someone who understood that religion had to be, for lack of a better word, marketed.

Yet, does our Lord tell us that His Gospel must be "marketed"? Does He instruct His followers to make His truth as appealing as possible, as much like the world as possible, as a means of luring them into the faith?
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
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Rom. 12:2
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:14–19
This final verse especially teaches that true Christians, though in the world, will be hated by the world because of Christ and the very message that they proclaim. What, then, would lead one to think that the Gospel of Jesus Christ needs to be "marketed" in order to be more appealing?
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. John 15:18–21
The article further elaborates:
McGavran laid out a strategy that instructed church builders to speak to people in their "own languages," to create places of worship where congregants saw their friends, heard the kinds of music they already listened to, and experienced the Bible's lessons in digestible metaphors. Most important, McGavran said, ministers needed to convert groups of people, rather than individuals, so that a community's social habits would encourage religious participation, rather than pulling people away. Source
Does the Word of God indicate anywhere that "groups of people" must be converted over individuals? Is repentance and faith a group effort, or an individual one? Does the Holy Spirit save people or communities? Should we seek to alter a "community’s social habits" that it might "encourage religious participation," or should we desire to see people, even if only one, brought to repentance and faith in Christ alone? Surely the message of salvation may be preached to the multitudes, and many may believe at one time, but conversion is not a group activity. To be humbled and broken before God, to be brought to repentance and faith in Christ alone for salvation, is something that may only be accomplished on an individual level. The gate of salvation is narrow not only because it is walked through at a cost, but also because it is walked through individually.

The Christianity Today article continues, explaining how it is that Warren came to develop small groups in his church as a means of taking some of the responsibility off of himself as pastor. Warren shares his methodology for small groups, which ultimately seems to reveal that they are little more than a means of producing small cells of whitewashed tombs.
"If you want to have Christ-like character, then you just develop the habits that Christ had," one of Saddleback's course manuals reads. "All of us are simply a bundle of habits. … Our goal is to help you replace some bad habits with some good habits that will help you grow in Christ's likeness." Every Saddleback member is asked to sign a "maturity covenant card" promising to adhere to three habits: daily quiet time for reflection and prayer, tithing 10 percent of their income, and membership in a small group. Giving everyone new habits has become a focus of the church. Source
Again, one may be led to ask, is this what Christ taught us in His Word? Or is this mere moralism? If a person lives a moral life, is he necessarily saved? If so, Jesus may have rebuked the Pharisees in error, as they were chief among men when it came to outward moralism and pious behavior.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matt. 23:25–28
Who needs regeneration and sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit when it is just as easy to write a check every week? Who needs the perfect work and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and faith in Him alone for salvation when signing a "maturity covenant card" will also do the trick? Who needs these things? Every man needs these things if he is to be genuinely saved by Christ.
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:3–6
While Duhigg's article does not delve into the intricacies of things such as the influence of Peter Drucker upon Rick Warren (for further study on this, it is suggested that the reader listen to apologist Chris Rosebrough's presentation, Resistance is Futile: You Will Be Assimilated into the Community), or further pragmatic practices that have been introduced by Warren to the detriment of the visible church, it nevertheless reveals a troubling reality. Here is a man who has been deemed "America's pastor" and yet, based upon what is revealed in Duhigg's paragraphs, many of Warren's ministry practices do not seem to be based upon Scripture, and some even appear to contradict the Word. Sadly, this is greatly representative of the state of the visible church today. As it continues to slide downward, with its leaders beginning to proudly flaunt their reliance upon worldly methods over the Word of God, let us rest and hope in the truth that our Lord warned us such things would happen, and it can only mean that He is that much closer to returning for His own.

Further Reading
James MacDonald Proud to Have Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll & Bill Hybels Endorse 'Vertical Church' Book
The Resurgence Revives Rick Warren's Man-Centered Mythology
The State of the Almost Christian

12 August 2012

American Flag Falls at Olympic Ceremony, Wm. Tapley Predicts World War III

Who needs Jonathan Cahn and his elusive harbingers when we have William Tapley, the self-proclaimed "third eagle of the Apocalypse" and the "co-prophet of the End Times"? Who among us has time to embark on Cahn's scavenger hunt, especially when William Tapley, his impressive green screen and his fail-proof prophecies are there to illuminate our future?

This all began when the American flag fell during the Olympic gold medal ceremony for Serena Williams. While most people would simply consider this an unfortunate coincidence, there are others, like William Tapley, who know what this really means. After listening to him, it is so clear and obvious: this falling flag was God's final warning! This means that we are about to enter World War III and Russia is going to win.

Just in case you are not familiar with William Tapley, let me clarify one thing: he is not joking; he actually believes what he is saying. Let us hope that no one else believes him.

Further Reading
Examining the Gospel Presentation of 'The Harbinger'
Implications of 'The Harbinger'
Ken Silva Responds to Discernment Drama Created by 'The Harbinger'

Sunday Morning Praise

It seems that any search for a video of the hymn, O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, yields a multitude of videos featuring the contemporary version by David Crowder Band. It is almost as if the contemplative, wild-haired Crowder and his crew have hijacked this great hymn. One must wonder if today's younger generation even knows that it was written by Charles Wesley and that it had life before guitars and drums.

With that, while it may seem a bit ironic to share an instrumental version of a song entitled, O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, I found this rendition quite beautiful.

10 August 2012

This 'n' That

Photo: Wikimedia
Amid a crazy and hectic week, I came to the unhappy realization that I needed to telephone Macy's to ask them something about my account. So I dialed, and immediately knew that I would soon be filled with frustration. You know, if everyone is so worried about unemployment in this country, why don't we bring back actual, real, live customer service representatives? They couldn't possibly annoy me any more than the computerized woman on the other end of the line.

Still, this phone call to Macy's did result in a wonderful discovery. Allow me to relay an abbreviated version of this "conversation:"

Macy's Automated Voice (MAV): Thank you for calling Macy's. Your call may be monitored. Please say or key your 419 digit account number now. 
...419 digits later... 
MAV: Thank you. How can I help you today? Simply say what it is you are calling about. For example, if you'd like to know your account balance, simply say, "account balance." 
Me: I would like to speak with a real person. 
MAV: I'm sorry, I did not understand your request. Simply say what it is you are calling about. For example, if you'd like to know your account balance, simply say, "account balance." 
Me: (with audible frustration). I want to talk to a person. 
MAV: I'm sorry, I did not understand your request. Simply say what it is you are calling about. For example, if you'd like to know your account balance, simply say, "account balance." 
Me: mmm....Sha na lak ti hop si ko nu muksu ti la ti do sha ni ta da dooby 
MAV: Please hold while I transfer you to a customer service representative.
Lesson: if you pretend to speak in unbiblical tongues and gibberish, automated answering services will quickly transfer you to an actual person. Do with this information what you will. Before you give it a try, though, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Just once, I'd like to see Jesus show up in a healthy meal. What does he have against salads and tofu?
  • A new survey shows that religiosity has declined worldwide. I'm shocked. Wait, wait...never mind.
  • A friend of mine reviews John MacArthur's The Truth About Grace.
  • This newest article by Gary Gilley about the spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence is a must read.
  • The Second Coming: