30 September 2012

'America for Jesus' Rally Draws Both Crowds and Concerns

Photo: Wikimedia
We have been warning of the patriotic idolatry that seemingly is consuming America, especially during this election season. As one example, last month some concerns were shared regarding the ‘America for Jesus’ rally that was held from 28–29 September. Now that this event has concluded, Christian News Network offers a balanced report of what took place, and more interestingly, relates some of the concerns that were expressed about ‘America for Jesus.’
Thousands gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this weekend for a large-scale prayer event called America for Jesus. While some openly welcomed the gathering, others expressed concern over the apostasy of a number of the scheduled speakers.
“[T]he sickening reality is more and more so-called Christians are so enamored by well-known preachers that they are choosing to close their eyes as the blood of Jesus is trampled upon and the Spirit of grace is insulted, rather than have the reputation of their beloved men of God tarnished in any way,” stated Tom Tomasella of Safeguard Your Soul.
View article →

Further Reading
Patriotic Idolatry: 'America for Jesus,' the NAR and Jonathan Cahn
True Freedom is Slavery to Jesus Christ
Examining the Gospel Presentation of 'The Harbinger'

Sunday Morning Praise

My Faith Has Found a Resting Place

28 September 2012

Apologist and Radio Host Chris Rosebrough Calls for Mark Driscoll to Repent

Christian apologist Chris Rosebrough, host of the daily radio show Fighting for the Faith, has sounded an impassioned plea for pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle to repent per his own instruction as delivered in this past weekend’s sermon. Continue reading →

Further Reading
Being Catapulted Off of Your Pastor-Führer's Vision Bus
The Resurgence Reminds Us of the Piper-Warren Embrace
No Compromise Ever: Episode 1

This 'n' That

In our Sunday Best
Photo: Wikimedia
Is it possible that the tradition of attending church on Sunday morning is becoming more antiquated than we realize? Two Sundays ago, I returned home from church and a few errands and posed the question on Twitter: "Does anyone else get strange looks when running errands in church clothes?" The tweet elicited a couple of interesting responses. One person feigned shock at my failure to be "missional," while another follower asked if I wore a monk's robe to church.

By posing this question, I did not mean to imply that I wear extra-special or fancy clothes to show off. No, my church attire is the same as it once was Monday through Friday when I spent my days in a corporate office. Were I to don the same outfit at the grocery store at 5:30 pm on a Thursday, it would not elicit the same odd stares that it did on Sunday at noon. Why? Because I fear that the idea of spending one's Sunday morning in church is rapidly becoming extinct.

To be sure, the effect likely is not spread equally across all areas of this country, but let's face it, the degeneration of the visible church into just another social club has infiltrated the expectations of secular society. Unbelievers aren't blind. They know that our churches have become little more than weekend rock concerts with third-rate cover bands. They know that we've ramped up attendance on Saturday night so that we, too, can sleep in on Sunday morning and then go out to Sunday brunch in our flip flops and sweats. They know that we treat the worship of our Heavenly Father with as much respect as we treat a movie night with friends, if that.

I am not saying that if you don't wear your "Sunday best" then you aren't really saved. I'm not even saying that you shouldn't attend that Saturday night service. I am saying that the world is watching, and it is watching carefully. Lost, unsaved souls have no thoughts of attending church, but should they be shocked when they come to realize that Christians still do? We are imperfect ambassadors, but we are ambassadors of Christ nonetheless. If nothing else, this incident reminded me of that fact. Dear Christian, the world may look at you sideways, but remember that it is looking.

Okay, as I prepare for the backlash of comments from those who will completely miss the point and call me a Pharisee for not wearing jeans and flip flops to church, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Speaking of Trueman, he writes about the Christian and the "hyperconnectivity" of today's world.
  • Does it seem like the mainstream media has adopted Islam as America's religion? Ben Stein thinks so, too, and says that something is wrong about that.
  • This testimony from a former abortionist is graphic, but perhaps necessary to hear.
  • I never thought I'd say this, but I wish some evangelical churches would take a cue from this Catholic church and ban any 'spiritual yoga' classes in their church.
  • I Love Lucy still is earning big money for CBS. I don't care how many quirky gay characters you put on a show, you just can't beat clean, classic comedy.
  • Do you wear a cross around your neck? What does your atheist coworker wear?
  • Andy Williams passed away earlier this week. I remember him best for his rendition of It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. And yes, I've been tempted to turn on my Christmas music early in honor and memory of Mr. Williams (you may be happy to know that thus far I've resisted that temptation). Yes, I am that person who actually likes [good] Christmas music. Watch your comments; don't make me go all Matthew 7:1 on you.
  • Johnathan: The Man Who Would Not Be King:

27 September 2012

The Ecumenical Compromise of the Alpha Course

What is the meaning of life? This is the question that many seek to answer and that the internationally known Alpha Course allows people to explore. Having attracted 18.5 million guests since 1993, the Alpha Course is advertised as a non-confrontational means of sharing the truths of the Christian faith. The website of Alpha USA states:
Alpha gives everyone the opportunity to explore the meaning of life in a relaxed, friendly setting. Alpha is for anyone and people attend from all backgrounds, religions, and viewpoints. They come to investigate questions about the existence of God, the purpose of life, the afterlife, the claims of Jesus and more. Some people want to get beyond religion and find a relationship with God that really changes life. Others come for the close, long-lasting friendships that are built during the Alpha course. (Source)
The Alpha Course and its origins have not been without critique in the past. In fact, with a little research, it should not take long for the discerning Christian to find several issues of concern with the course and its current director, Nicky Gumbel, who also is the vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London. This article, however, will focus on only one of these issues, that of the ecumenical nature of the Alpha Course. Continue reading →

25 September 2012

Will the Son of Man Find Faith on Earth?

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)
Photo: Wikimedia
These verses teach us...that true faith will be found very scarce at the end of the world. The Lord Jesus shows this by asking a very solemn question, "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?"
The question before us is a very humbling one. It shows the uselessness of expecting that all the world will be converted before Christ comes again. It shows the foolishness of supposing that all persons are "good," and that though differing in outward matters, they are all right at heart, and all going to heaven. Such notions find no countenance in the text before us.
Where is the use, after all, of ignoring facts under our own eyes—facts in the world—facts in the churches—facts in the congregations we belong to—facts by our own doors and firesides? Where is faith to be seen? How many around us really believe what the Bible contains? How many live as if they believed that Christ died for them, and that there is a judgment, a heaven, and a hell? These are most painful and serious inquiries. But they demand and deserve an answer.
Have we faith ourselves? If we have, let us bless God for it. It is a great thing to believe all the Bible. It is matter for daily thankfulness if we feel our sins, and really trust in Jesus. We may be weak, frail, erring, short-coming sinners. But do we believe? That is the grand question. If we believe, we shall be saved. But he that believeth not, shall not see life, and shall die in his sins (John 3:36, 8:24).
J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke 

22 September 2012

Counted Worthy to Suffer

The book of Acts is one of my favorites in God's Word. To be sure, I've heard many pastors twist and butcher it to fit their own church growth agenda, but when you sit down and read it for the history that it is, it's...well, it's fantastic. My morning study time has found me in Acts recently, and today I was excited to read one of my favorite passages:
But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
(Acts 5:17-42, emphasis added)
Those final two verses are simultaneously humbling, convicting, challenging and comforting. In a place where we do not (yet) risk imprisonment for preaching Christ, do we consider it a privilege to face the persecution that does confront us? If we found ourselves suffering—truly suffering—for the name of Christ, would we rejoice, and carry on in the ministry and calling to which He has called us? Might we even pray that, if or when the time comes, He would consider us worthy to suffer earthly dishonor for His name? Oh, Lord, it would be a privilege!

21 September 2012

This 'n' That

Photo: Wikimedia
As we quickly approach our 1 year anniversary, we thought it would be an appropriate time to share with you some of the new, exciting goings-on here at Escalator Church. (For those of you who are new to the concept of Escalator Church, please see here, here, here and here. Oh, and here.) Though this photograph was not actually taken at Escalator Church, rest assured that we have grown quite a bit in the past few months.

With Autumn almost officially upon us, we will be wrapping up our Cinema September sermon series next Sunday, 30 September. The final two sermons in this series promise to be memorable and relevant, as pastor plans to exegete that 1958 classic, The Blob. The theological treasures are so plentiful in this film that it will be a two-parter, so don't miss either week!

Speaking of blobs, we know how easy it is to quickly fall away from exercise and nutrition once the weather cools down and the holidays begin to come into view. Always thinking of our members first, we here at Escalator Church intend to stop that Fall flab before it starts. Don't miss church on 7 October, when we begin our new Fall series: Exercise Exegesis. We'll be focusing on basic, old school calisthenics in our first sermon, so come ready for toe touches and jumping jacks! If you forget your tennis shoes, we will have all sizes available for purchase at the Escalator store.

Okay, now that you're caught up on those important announcements, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Oops. Elevation Church, your Semi-Pelagianism might be showing. The gang of Elevation Worship says that Steven Furtick's book Greater, as well as the corresponding sermons were the inspiration for their new worship album. That's good, because using the Bible as inspiration is so passé.
  • Oh, dear. A little tiny piece of papyrus might indicate that Jesus was married. My world is shattered. I'm off to try Buddhism instead. Nah, but the new Gnostics sure do like to poke their heads up now and then, don't they? Michael Kruger has the best response and examination of this latest attack on the truths of Christianity.
  • Speaking of Gnostics, Elizabeth Prata has written a series of posts on the subject. Start here.
  • Remember back in the 90s when there would be a movie of the week every Friday night? Sometimes even a miniseries? I'm thinking they could revive that tradition with the story of TBN and the Crouch family.
  • Do you have a teenage daughter? Better make sure you know what her doctor is telling her.
  • Steve Lawson on the invisible war:

19 September 2012

Judging a Book by Its Cover

You know, sometimes you really can judge a book by its cover:

Let's not forget that this is the man who has inspired celebrity pastor Steven Furtick. Think about that.

From Christian Research Network:

Today marks the release of Joel Osteen's latest book, I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life. The description on Osteen's website reads:
The words we speak set the course for our life. If you want to know what you're going to be like in five years, listen to the words you are saying about yourself today. Now you can take charge of your future with the help of Joel Osteen's latest book-I Declare. Filled with 31 written declarations-one for each day-you can declare, in faith, God's powerful Word over your life and watch your surroundings change in incredible ways. You will move forward to a promising future from the fruit of your words! (Source)
While it has been said that one cannot judge a book by its cover, it seems a safe speculation to expect that this latest literary endeavor once again finds Osteen in the realm of the heretical Word Faith gospel. As was noted in a CBS interview conducted with Osteen earlier today, the book's introduction states that, "The key is you've got to send your words out in the direction that you want your life to go." This idea that one's words have creative power if only they are supported by enough faith is crucial in the Word Faith movement. Pastor Gary Gilley sums up this teaching thusly:
As is implied by the title "Word of Faith," the supporters of this movement believe that faith works like a mighty power or force. Through faith we can obtain anything we want — health, wealth, success, whatever. However, this force is only released through the spoken word. As we speak the words of faith, power is discharged to accomplish our desires. (Source)
Just as the Word Faith movement teaches that positive words create positive results, it is also taught that negative words will likewise yield unpleasant outcomes.
[Kenneth] Hagin informs us that if you confess sickness you get sickness, if you confess health you get health, whatever you say you get. "This spoken word. . . releases power — power for good or power for evil," is the commonly held view of the movement. It is easy to see why the title "Positive Confession" is often applied to this group. (Source)
In the video referenced above, Osteen appears to agree with this doctrine as he reveals his reason for writing this newest book:
A lot of people have had negative things spoken over them—they weren't raised in a good environment like I was—and they get up every morning and they're speaking defeat: 'I'm not attractive, nothing good ever happens to me.' I just believe the words that we speak set the course for our lives. (Source)
Generally it is unfair to proffer an opinion on a book without reading it. Yet, in this particular instance Joel Osteen's own words ironically seem to have allowed for an exception. If this is not sufficient, a glance at the preview of the book offered on Amazon may aid one in arriving at the same conclusion. Thus, it seems prudent (if not obvious) to warn against spending any money or time on this publication.

Further Reading
Learning to Pray with Steven Furtick & Joel Osteen
Steven Furtick Thanks Word Faith Heretic Joel Osteen for Inspiration
Joel Osteen Has Influenced Steven Furtick Longer than You May Know

17 September 2012

Christine Caine Says Word Faith Teacher Joyce Meyer Is Her "Spiritual Mother"

We first were introduced to Christine Caine on this site in "Code Orange" Speaker Christine Caine,  and since that time she quickly has become a darling among professing evangelicals, especially the seeker-driven segment. Having won the praises of men like SBC megachurch pastor Jack Graham and popular SBC Bible teacher Beth Moore, Christine Caine is rapidly gaining influence. Pastor and author Max Lucado has likened her to Esther, Paul and Mary, and Steven Furtick went so far as to allow Caine to preach the Sunday morning service at Elevation Church this past January.

With this burgeoning popularity, then, it ought to behoove us to learn some of the sources of Christine Caine's inspiration. What pastors influence her?

We know that, in the recent past, Caine has expressed admiration for pastrix Sheryl Brady of The Potter's House North Dallas. In fact, Caine went so far as to deem Brady "flat out the best chick PREACHER of the word!"
As was documented in Vice-Prelate T.D. Jakes to Speak at 'Holy Convocation' of Oneness Pentecostal Organization, Brady is considered by Word Faith heretic T.D. Jakes to be one of his "spiritual daughters." Perhaps it is preaching like this that Caine finds so electrifying and Jakes finds so praiseworthy: 

Further influencing Christine Caine, however, is well-known Word Faith teacher Joyce Meyer. Caine already has told us that she loves Joyce Meyer, but today we learned just how deep that affection may run.

In a two-part tweet earlier today, Caine would reveal that she actually considers Joyce Meyer to be her "spiritual mother."


Caine is speaking here about preparing a message for the upcoming Love Life women's conference held each year by Joyce Meyer Ministries. This year's conference features Christine Caine and Joel Osteen as speakers, among others.

If Caine considers Joyce Meyer to be her "spiritual mother," then, just what type of spiritual nourishment is being provided by Meyer? While she may be slightly more subtle in her approach to Word Faith teachings than others, there is little doubt that Joyce Meyer nevertheless is guilty of propagating some of these heresies.

As an example, here we can hear Joyce Meyer teaching the heretical "little gods" doctrine:

And here she can be heard teaching the unbiblical notion of positive confession:

Why is any of this significant? As was stated out the outset, Christine Caine has rapidly gained influence with some of evangelicalism's most popular and influential leaders. Yet, if she herself is being influenced by someone like Joyce Meyer, to the point that she would deem Meyer to be her "spiritual mother," then this ought to cause raised eyebrows and growing concern. It has been demonstrated that Caine herself mishandles Scripture, so when we add to this fact a glowing endorsement of Joyce Meyer, we ought to be nearly blinded by the mass of red flags raised.

Further Reading

16 September 2012

Sunday Morning Praise

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o'er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

15 September 2012

Total Depravity in Action: "Pedophilia Is a Sexual Orientation"

It is not uncommon to hear Christians comment that today we are living in a “Romans 1 society.” Often this statement is made in reference to the rapidity with which we have come to not only tolerate homosexuality, but to celebrate it, and to persecute those who would be bold enough to condemn it. Now, in this tolerance, what God has labeled as immoral and unnatural is praised as the new normal. Can such a depraved society sink any lower? It can and it already has begun.

An article published last week on the Gawker website has garnered attention. Entitled, “Born This Way: Sympathy and Science for Those Who Want to Have Sex with Children,” these paragraphs ought to incite shock, sadness and urgency in every Christian. Continue reading →

14 September 2012

This 'n' That

Screenshot: YouTube
Last evening taught me a valuable lesson that I'd like to pass along: Do not read anything written by John Shelby Spong before bed. If you do, there is an excellent chance that you'll find yourself righteously (and rightfully) angry enough to have difficulty falling asleep.

Who is John Shelby Spong? The short answer: he is a heretic. (For a quick example of this, you can visit the YouTube video linked to in the photo caption, or watch this conversation between Spong and Dr. James White). Unfortunately, he is a heretic who has had a lot of influence. Spong is a liberal theologian and former Episcopal bishop. He has greatly influenced the Emergent Church movement and its leaders. In fact, apologist Chris Rosebrough has gone so far as to deem Spong the First Emergent, and I think he may be correct.

Though he claims to be a Christian, Spong denies many of the core doctrines of the Christian faith. To give you an idea, here are just a few choice quotes:
If the resurrection of Jesus cannot be believed except by assenting to the fantastic descriptions included in the Gospels, then Christianity is doomed. For that view of resurrection is not believable, and if that is all there is, then Christianity, which depends upon the truth and authenticity of Jesus' resurrection, also is not believable....
...We can reject the literal narratives about the resurrection and still not reject the truth and power of the resurrection event itself. That is the distinction that must be made. We would not have the legends unless there had been a moment so indescribable that legends became necessary to explain it....
For me the Gospel traditions are pointers toward the truth. They are not the truth....
...How long was Jesus on the cross before he died? I do not think anyone knows. Remember, those who might have noticed and relayed that information had all forsaken him and fled. The appearance of Joseph of Arimathea, the darkness over the land, the split in the temple veil, the ecstatic cry of faith from the centurion—all were elements of the developing legend. Thus no one knows how long Jesus lived on the cross, how he died, when he was taken down, or where he was buried, "for they all forsook him and fled." That means there was no first-day-of-the-week visit to the tomb by the women to anoint him, since there was no tomb and no sense of when he died or of where he was buried.
-John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? 238, 241. 
See what I mean? Now that you're potentially as riled up as I was last evening, take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • helpful review of Ian Murray's book, Evangelicalism Divided. I agree with the author when he says, "This is one of those books that every American Christian needs to read."
  • What did America's founders really believe? Read the transcript of Albert Mohler's conversation about this topic with historian Gregg Frazer.
  • John Shelby Spong vs. Dr. Walter Martin on issues of sexual ethics:

13 September 2012

How Cool Can a Christian Be at Harvest Bible Chapel?

The Director of Women's Ministry at Harvest Bible Chapel offered some pertinent and, in the eyes of some professing Christians, controversial thoughts yesterday on her blog, Living With Power. In a post entitled, "How Cool can a Christian be?" Lina AbuJamra opened her post with a picture of a girl whose arm is covered in tattoos. She then wrote:
Christians everywhere want to be cool for Jesus.
It’s like they think if they can blend into the world – look like everyone else, sound like everyone else, live like everyone else – then one day, Bam, they can hit the lost soul with the gospel, and tada, that person will make the leap of faith into an eternity with Jesus.
I’m not sure when being “cool” became the standard of all Christian behavior.
The truth is that the more you think about it, the more you’ll realize that cool and Christian are often mutually exclusive.
In other words, there is no place for cool in Christ’s version of Christianity...
She then went on to list four reasons for this statement:
  1. Holiness is not cool.
  2. The cross is not cool.
  3. The disciples were not cool.
  4. Jesus is not cool.
She makes good points. After all, Scripture very clearly states over and over that the cross is folly to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18), that God uses the weak and foolish (read: uncool) things of this world to shame the strong and the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). You can barely skim a Proverb without noting that there are only two choices in this life: God's wisdom or the world's folly, and that the wisdom from above will always appear foolish to a sinful, dying world.

AbuJamra concludes her post: 
I don’t mean to burst your cool bubble, or sound like your standard party pooper, but if you still think you can be cool and follow Jesus, I think you may be confusing Biblical Christianity with your cheerleading squad. 
Simple and direct. It was interesting, though, that this was posted just one day after this video was released by The Resurgence:

As you can see, in that video James MacDonald, who is AbuJamra's pastor, boasts about his new Vertical Church tattoo. Opinions about the freedom of a Christian to get a tattoo aside, this, along with some of MacDonald's other recent behavior, may be an action that would be perceived by some as one who is trying to be "culturally cool," the very thing that AbuJamra's post appeared to speak against. 
YouTube screenshot
The irony of this was not lost on some readers of Living With Power, as a comment from "Joe" soon was posted:
Source no longer available
Unfortunately, it was not long before Joe's comments and others apparently were removed and this was left by the blog author as an explanation:
Additional discussion has ensued on that comment string since. Of course, the author of this blog has every right to remove any comments that she finds offensive, inappropriate or unhelpful. As a fellow blogger, I would never deny one this right.

The fact remains, however, that "Joe" did raise a valid observation and a legitimate question. But hey, there's already so many elephants in the room, what's one more?

Further Reading
James MacDonald Gets Inked for the Kingdom?
James MacDonald Proud to Have Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll & Bill Hybels Endorse 'Vertical Church' Book
The Resurgence Revives Rick Warren's Man-Centered Mythology

12 September 2012

John MacArthur on Spiritual Formation and Biblical Sanctification

From the Grace to You blog:

This week, the Grace to You blog will be featuring a discussion about this topic, exploring the dangers of mystical, subjective methods of so-called 'spiritual formation,' and comparing that to the biblical model of sanctification. I encourage you to follow the series here.

For additional information about Spiritual Formation, please visit Christian Research Network's page on the topic.

11 September 2012

Sweep the House of the Leaven of Worldliness

Oh for a great and general revival of true religion! Not a burst of mere excitement, but a real awakening, a work of the Eternal Spirit. This would be a glorious reply to skepticism, and would act like a strong wind in clearing the air, and driving away the miasmata which lurk in the stagnant atmosphere. There would then be small honor paid to men who mar the gospel of our Lord, and truth, which has fallen in our streets, would again ascend her throne. Let us pray for such a visitation of the Holy Ghost with our whole souls. It is not only desirable, it is essential; we must either be revived by the Lord himself, or the churches will descend until error and ungodliness swallow them up. This calamity shall not happen but only divine grace can avert it.

At the same time, we cannot expect a gracious revival till we are clear of complicity with the deadening influences which are all around us. A man of God writes us: "You cannot well overstate the spiritual death and dearth which prevail in the provinces. Where the 'minister is successful' no Unitarian would be offended with the preaching, and where 'not successful,' we see a miserably superficial handling of the Word, without power. Of course there are valuable exceptions. What can be expected as to spirituality in the church when deacons are better acquainted with 'Hamlet,' and Irving's actings, than with the Word of God? And what about the next age, when the children are treated to pantomimes, and a taste is created for these things?" This brother's lamentation is of a piece with hosts of others which load our table. They come from men who are second to none in spiritual weight. Either these brethren are dreaming, or they are located in specially bad places; or else there is grievous cause for humiliation. We will not go deep into this question, it is too painful. The extent to which sheer frivolity and utterly inane amusement have been carried in connection with some places of worship would almost exceed belief. We call the attention of our readers to the fact that doctrine has been the ground of battle in the Down-Grade struggle which has been chosen by our opponents, but on the matter of prayer-meetings and worldliness they have been prudently silent. Certain of them have in this affair exhibited that discretion which is the better part of valor.

If any of our churches have been guilty in this respect, how can they expect the divine Spirit to work with them? Wherever the statement which we have quoted, or a similar one, can be proved, we are at a loss to know how conversions can be looked for. The Lord our God is holy, and he cannot compromise his own glorious name by working with persons whose groveling tastes lead them to go to Egypt—we had almost said to Sodom—for their recreations. Is this walking with God? Is this the manner in which Enochs are produced?

It is a heart-sorrow to have to mention such things, but the work of the Lord must be done faithfully, and this evil must be laid bare. There can be no doubt that all sorts of entertainments, as nearly as possible approximating to stage-plays, have been carried on in connection with places of worship, and are, at this present time, in high favor. Can these things promote holiness, or help in communion with God? Can men come away from such things and plead with God for the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of believers? We loathe to touch the unhallowed subject; it seems so far removed from the walk of faith, and the way of heavenly fellowship. In some cases the follies complained of are even beneath the dignity of manhood, and fitter for the region of the imbecile than for thoughtful men.

Brethren in Christ, in every church let us purge out the things which weaken and pollute. It is clear to every one who is willing to see it that laxity of doctrine is either the parent of worldliness, or is in some other way very near akin to it. The men who give up the old faith are the same persons who plead for latitude as to general conduct. The Puritan is not more notorious for his orthodoxy than for his separateness from the world. Liberal divines do not always command the respect of the public, but they gain a certain popularity by pandering to prevailing tastes. The ungodly world is so far on their side that it commends them for their liberality, and rails at the orthodox as bigots and kill-joys. It is a very suspicious circumstance that very often the less a man knows of the inner life, and the less he even cares to speak of it, the more heartily he is for the new theology, the theory of evolution, and the condemnation of all settled doctrine. Those who would have a blessing from the Lord must avoid all this, and determine to follow the Lord fully. Not only must they quit false doctrine, but they must receive the gospel, not as dogma, but as vital truth. Only as the truth is attended with living faith will it prove its own royal power. Believers must also sweep the house of the leaven of worldliness, and the frivolities of a giddy generation. The evil which is now current eats as doth a canker, and there is no hope for healthy godliness until it is cut out of the body of the church by her again repenting, and doing her first works.

-C.H. Spurgeon, Restoration of Truth and Revival

James MacDonald Gets Inked for the Kingdom?

The Resurgence has just posted a short video discussion between Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald. Below the video, we read:
Down with horizontal helpfulness, and up with the vertical manifestation presence of God in the presence of his church. That's the motto for James MacDonald's Vertical Church Tour—he even got a tattoo to represent it. (Source)
Now, I'm not quite sure what that first sentence is supposed to mean. The rest of the brief post attempts to explain it, but I think they were just trying to impress us with multisyllabic words (watch out, Rick Warren) and alliteration.

Regardless, the second sentence is true. Yes, Vertical Church is here to stay...on James MacDonald's arm:
Screenshot: YouTube
Screenshot: YouTube
Are we to suppose that James MacDonald plans to walk around with his hand raised up in the air most of the time (as a friend pointed out, perhaps he's planning on challenging this man)? I hope so, otherwise this artwork will be pointing downward which, if I'm not mistaken, runs a bit contrary to what MacDonald claims Vertical Church is all about.

And is it just my imagination, or does it look a bit crooked? Bummer.

Further Reading
The Resurgence Reminds Us of the Piper-Warren Embrace
No Compromise Ever: Episode 1
Learning to Pray with Steven Furtick and Joel Osteen

Never Forget

Photo: Wikimedia
One year ago, I shared some thoughts on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Another year later, I wouldn't say anything differently:
I don't remember precisely what my first thought was that day. Shock, probably. Fright, confusion, sadness. It really doesn't matter. What I do know is which emotion was admittedly and shamefully absent: agonizing grief over the many souls that instantly stood before their Creator without ever having known Him in this life. Ten Eleven years later, it is this thought that consumes my thoughts surrounding this day.
Every year we remember the horrific events of September 11, 2001. Yet every year they get a little more distant and while perhaps they do not become foggier, they nevertheless become more intangible. So let me take you back. I do not want to write about terrorism or Islam, because neither of those things (which seem to go hand-in-hand) is going away any time soon. Let me simply remind you what happened that day. Continue reading →

The Resurgence Reminds Us of the Piper-Warren Embrace

It may only be September, but the snowball-effect is in full swing as the visible church continues its steady tumble down the slippery slope of compromise.

Mark Driscoll's The Resurgence, which "services Christian leaders through books, blog posts, conferences, and classes," continues to build publicity for its upcoming conference. The conference, scheduled for 9–10 October 2012, boasts a curious lineup of speakers, especially for the New Calvinist Driscoll and his ministry. Many who follow Driscoll and The Resurgence may be surprised to find a schedule full of seeker-driven motivational speakers:
Perhaps it is this walk down the seeker-sensitive path that scheduled speaker James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel was referring to when he noted:
The Resurgence conference is not going to be another tribal gathering but a gathering of tribes, united by grace as one body in Christ. We want to bring together different voices, traditions, and backgrounds to show that the most significant, life-changing, can’t-miss, unifying theme of first importance for the church across all time, all countries, and all peoples is Jesus Christ. The conference will be an invitation to pastors, church leaders, and Christians everywhere to make it all about Jesus in life and in ministry. (Source)
As the visible church continues to weaken and compromise its stand for biblical truth, the call for unity at all costs grows stronger and louder. Accompanying this seems to be a revival of the same man-centered, "purpose-driven" doctrinal obfuscation which has been infiltrating the visible church for some time.

We saw in July that The Resurgence was aiding in this effort with its blog post, "You're Created with a Purpose." In that post was shared a clip of Rick Warren speaking at the 2006 TED Conference. Courtesy of Apprising Ministries, below are the final minutes of Warren's lecture at TED. When listening, the reader would do well to remember that the TED talks are not a Christian event, and thus Warren's audience likely would have included people of all religions and faiths as he stated:
Some people have the misguided idea that God only gets excited when you’re doing “spiritual things,” like going to church or helping the poor, or, you know, confessing or doing something like that. The bottom line is, God gets pleasure watching you be you. (Source)

It is interesting that the supposedly conservative Resurgence would promote such teaching. Yet, it truly does appear as though a new, ecumenical evangelical magisterium is forming as these leaders continue to influence and promote one another.

In New Calvinist Mark Driscoll Hangout with Seeker Driven Rick Warren, Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries shares video from Driscoll's recent Google Hangout event with the propagator of Purpose Driven-ism. Though Driscoll recorded the event as if he and Warren were in two different locations, it seems that, at the time, he actually was at Saddleback Church. We know this because, as Silva shares, later that day Driscoll would teach at a Saddleback staff meeting:
This brings us, then, to yesterday's post at The Resurgence website entitled, "What does Rick Warren think about doctrinal depth?" Here we are directed to a 3-minute excerpt from John Piper's 2011 interview with Rick Warren. At the time of this interview it was the opinion of some that Piper's attempt to welcome Warren into the mainstream as a sound and orthodox teacher was a dangerous and detrimental decision. As a leader in the New Calvinist movement, Piper's acceptance of Warren would be noticeably influential. Even before this 2011 interview, Piper openly declared that he believed Rick Warren to be "theological and doctrinal and sound," a statement which earned Piper a fair amount of criticism. With the consistent promotion of Rick Warren by groups such as The Resurgence, it seems that the fruit of this Piper-Warren embrace is beginning to ripen.

[PIPER]: [D]octrinal depth .You say worship—page 102, “Worship must be both accurate and authentic. God pleasing worship is deeply emotional and deeply doctrinal.” 
[WARREN]: Doctrinal, that’s right. 
[PIPER]: And 146, “Many church fellowships and small groups remain superficial because they are afraid of conflict.” So you are committed to deepening doctrine and not being afraid of conflict. 
[WARREN]: Not at all. 
[PIPER]: But Sunday morning is not tend to where you see that, the deepening of doctrine? 
[WARREN]: Sunday morning—a lot of people think it’s not deep because I don’t use theological terms. I once taught a 12-week series on sanctification without ever using the word. I taught an eight-week series on incarnation without ever using the word. I did a 12-week series on grace—obviously, grace was an easy word to use—but when I did the names of God, you can use the names of God without having to dig into explaining now Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Tiskenu, Jehovah Rapha, let’s explain all these terms. So what I like to do, as I’ve said, I like to teach theology without telling people it’s theology and without using theological terms. But here is my question, what creates deep preaching? That’s my question, what is deep preaching? And I would say it’s not deep until it gets to the heart and the character of the person. That I could teach through Revelation— 
[PIPER]: Including God. 
[WARREN]: Including God, that’s what I’m talking about. If you get to the heart and nature of God, you get to the heart and nature of God, I could teach through Revelation and explain all of the meaning of everything and not be deep. Today, a lot of people equate deep preaching, meaning I explain the background. Well, that’s not deep at all. Deep is life transforming. Simple does not mean shallow. Simple does not mean simplistic. Simple does not mean, you know, it’s lightweight. Simple means it’s clear. Paul says, “I’m afraid you’ve complicated the Gospel. I’m afraid that you get away from the simplicity of the Gospel.” And actually, you can—it’s easy to complicated the Gospel and it’s easy to confuse people. And I could—you know, I’ve got a doctorate and I could easily preach in a way people would walk out and go, Whew, boy, that was deep. Well, that wasn’t deep, it was just muddy. 
[PIPER]: Yeah, confusing. 
[WARREN]: Okay. Here is the difference between simple and simplistic. Simplistic is—simple is,“This is the day the Lord has made. Let’s rejoice and be glad.” Simplistic is, “Have a nice day.” There is deep theological truth behind this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad. Simplistic is, have a nice day.
(Source, emphasis added) 
One really must wonder how it is that a pastor—an under-shepherd of the Lord Jesus Christ—would admit to attempting to "teach theology without telling people it's theology." When did 'theology' become a bad word, especially for Christians? What is so off-putting about studying God and His nature and characteristics?

And, as an aside, why would one desire to teach a lengthy course on sanctification, and yet not use the very word as found in the Bible? If our English translations of Scripture, none of which are written at a particularly scholarly reading level (the KJV is said to be written at a grade 12 reading level, the NIV at grade 7; most other popular translations fall between or below these two), can use the actual word 'sanctification' (e.g. Rom. 6:19, 22; 1 Cor. 1:30; 1 Thess. 4:3; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2), then why does a pastor, a man whose duty it is to preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:2), recoil from this and other "theological terms"?

A teaching does not have to be "muddy" or "confusing" simply because it includes defining and using theological terms with multiple syllables. Unless, perhaps, the recipients of that teaching are more accustomed to a pragmatic, me-centered approach to Christianity and the Bible. To imply that the average Christian cannot or does not want to learn these terms, which have been used throughout history to adequately explain the great truths of Scripture, is in fact a bit insulting. The true Christian ought not shy away from learning the rich truths of God's Word. To whom, then, is Rick Warren catering?

The Resurgence has asked the question, "What does Rick Warren think about doctrinal depth?" In spite of his protests to the contrary, the answer as provided through Warren's pragmatic practices appears to be: not much.

Further Reading
The Resurgence Revives Rick Warren's Man-Centered Mythology
Rick Warren Harnesses the Power of Social Habits, but where Is the Holy Spirit?
No Compromise Ever: Episode 1

08 September 2012

07 September 2012

This 'n' That

Photo: Apprising Ministries
There has been quite a bit of conversation this week about God speaking to individuals via special and direct revelation. I blame this helpful post by Dan Phillips at Pyromaniacs.

In addition to various articles on the subject popping up everywhere I turn, we have claims such as Steven Furtick made during his "Greater" sermon at Liberty University earlier this week. In that message, Furtick claimed that God spoke to him while he was watching the television show The Voice. Now, I'm not sure how it is that Furtick thinks God was speaking to him, but I do know this: God was not using The Voice to deliver deep theological truths to Steven Furtick. It would be my guess that if God is going to speak to anyone watching that show, it would be to say, "Stop watching this sinful, worldly garbage! Repent and put your mind on those things that are godly!"

Lord willing, I hope to address this topic of hearing from God in more detail in the days to come. This is always a tricky subject to write about, though. One must be prepared for the interesting backlash that comes with the subject of God speaking and us hearing. Think about it–the people who get upset and who respond with the most venom are those who think they hear God talking to them regularly, usually via an audible voice or vision. *Cue Twilight Zone sound effect.* There are few things more creepy than having a conversation with someone who thinks that God showed up at their front door.

For now, though, let's leave that topic aside and dive into what I know so many of you have been anxiously awaiting all week. Yes, it's that time again...please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • A study conducted by LifeWay Research reveals that most churchgoers don't even read the Bible. Friend, if you don't have a hunger and a desire for the Word of God, you may want to exercise a little 2 Corinthians 13:5. 
  • Turns out organic foods may not be anymore nutritious or safe than conventional foods. They are, however, more expensive.
  • I don't know about you, but I really enjoyed the big speech last night. Here's a clip of my favorite part.
  • David's Tent DC is another example of patriotic idolatry as exemplified by the New Apostolic Reformation.
  • You may recall that a recent study discussed the "addicting experience" of worshiping in a megachurch. Pastor Larry DeBruyn has written a new article about this idea of "getting high" on God.
  • This made the rounds a couple of weeks ago, but for those of you who haven't seen it yet, here's Voddie Baucham on adapting to the culture...or not:

Review of Steven Furtick's "Greater" Sermon at Liberty University

Photo: Wikimedia
On Wednesday, 5 September 2012, Steven Furtick preached the convocation service at Liberty University. On this, his second visit to Liberty, Furtick delivered a sermon based upon his newly released book, Greater. In an article on Liberty University's website entitled, "Pastor Steven Furtick speaks on the 'greater' power within," writer Bethany Pico notes,
Furtick focused his message on John 14:12 where Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” “You and I live so often in this place called ‘good enough’,” Furtick said, adding that oftentimes people are caught up in waiting to be ready to follow God rather than just doing it. (Source)
Chris Rosebrough, Christian apologist and host of the radio program, Fighting for the Faith, spent a portion of his program this past Wednesday reviewing the sermon delivered by Furtick at Liberty University. Rosebrough carefully critiques Furtick's twisting of John 14:12, and demonstrates that the young pastor's explanation of the story of the calling of Elisha is a shameful example of what Rosebrough has labeled "narcissistic eisegesis." You can listen to Rosebrough's review here.

Further Reading
'Greater Day' with Steven Furtick
Steven Furtick to Preach at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church
True Woman Conference Speaker Priscilla Shirer Hears God's Still, Small Voice

05 September 2012

Artwork Likens Obama to Jesus

*This article originally appeared here at Christian Research Network.

Todd Starnes of Fox News offers some disturbing insight into man's ability and willingness to idolize and worship other men. He writes:
Street vendors across downtown Charlotte are selling posters and artwork depicting President Obama as Jesus Christ and the Democratic National Convention is expected to feature a stained-glass window backdrop during their meeting.
Photo: Fox News
One poster features an image of the president in prayer with the headline, “Prophecy Fulfilled.”
“Barak is of Hebrew origin and its meaning is ‘flash of lightning,” the poster notes, referencing a passage in in the Old Testament book of Judges.
Hussein, they allege, is a Biblical word meaning “good and handsome.”
“So you see, Barak was destined to be a good and handsome man that would rise like a flash of lightning to win victory in a battle against overwhelming odds,” the poster read.
Starnes clearly points out that these items have not been sanctioned by the DNC. Nevertheless, it is important for American Christians to realize that this mindset exists, if even only among a minority. Likening any mere man to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, is blasphemy.

It may indeed be that God is using the president to fulfill prophecy, but if so, it is not in the way that these individuals propose. One need only look at the rapid moral degeneration of America, and the role of the government in this decline, to know that Romans 1 is unfolding before our eyes. Those looking and waiting for the return of Christ need not worry, however, for there will be no doubt about His identity when He comes again. All men, believers and unbelievers alike, will see and know that He alone is Lord.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matt. 24:29–30)
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Rev. 19:11–16)