30 November 2012

Christine Caine Thanks Her 'Spiritual Mother,' Joyce Meyer

We learned back in September that popular speaker Christine Caine of Hillsong considers Word Faith teacher Joyce Meyer to be her 'spiritual mother.' Today she reminds us again of this fact:
Further Reading
Christine Caine Says Word Faith Teacher Joyce Meyer Is Her "Spiritual Mother"
Christine Caine to Preach Weekend Services at Saddleback Church
Caine, Moore and Bevere Teach Thessaloniki Women at "Be the Change" Conference

This 'n' That

Well, Thanksgiving is over. Black Friday is over. Cyber Monday is long gone. And everyone has redeemed the selfishness of last weekend by participating in 'Giving Tuesday,' right?

It's pretty much not a Christmas carol without the costumes.
All of this can mean only one thing—it's finally acceptable to play Christmas music. Of course, no doubt there are some of you who still will refuse to do so until the calendar hits December. Then there are those of us you who began listening over two weeks ago to your favorite jolly tunes.

This is the only time of year that I turn on the radio in my car or in my house, and then only because the local station is playing Christmas music. Of course, they seem to have a playlist of only 12 songs or so, and more than half of those are atrocious. I mean, 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' Really? Even the guy who wrote that song admits that it's terrible! So why do radio stations foist it upon us each and every year, and then as frequently as once an hour? Don't even get me started on 'Dominic the Donkey' or 'Feliz Navidad.' And I hope that whoever suggested that the Beach Boys record a Christmas album was fired the day after it released. 'Little Saint Nick' is not my idea of a Merry Christmas. But then, who doesn't love hearing Wham!'s 'Last Christmas'?

I know, you're wondering why I even bother with the radio then? Yeah, so am I. Perhaps this explains why I've resorted more to my own iTunes Christmas playlist thus far this year. And no, I am not going to tell you how many songs are on that list.

What I do love about Christmas music, though—the good Christmas music, the Christian hymns and carols that we all love—is that the Gospel is proclaimed, even on secular radio or in the middle of the grocery store. Sure, it's doubtful that people are repenting in droves simply because they heard 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing' while perusing the cereal shelves, but I don't doubt that, when you and I hear it, we smile. After all, here is a world that loathes Christ, and yet, for the sake of the season, it proclaims Him as King, even if in ignorance. But one day all will bow the knee to Him, and it will not be in ignorance (Phil. 2:9-11). All will acknowledge that Christ is King for all of eternity, whether in Heaven with Him, or whether in agony in Hell. Let us not miss the opportunity to share today with those who are perishing that Christ is Lord.

Oh, and as I'm sure you've guessed, this means that you can prepare for an onslaught of my favorite Christmas carols over the coming weeks. Hey, it's only once a year. And with that, please turn up your favorite Christmas song, sit back, and enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • This year's must-have gift: Godbaby.
  • I hate to break it to everyone who is in a tizzy over the new Starbucks drink, but $7 is nothing for those of us who order soy milk by necessity and extra shots of espresso by, well, necessity.
  • The UN now officially recognizes a Palestinian state. The U.S. objected to this, as did Israel. Of course, America no longer holds the authority she once did among the other nations, and has the UN ever liked Israel? No reason to be surprised by this.
  • Worried about the impending December 21 apocalypse? No worries, NASA is here to put your mind at ease. I mean, what else do they have to do these days?
  • I still think the best cup of hot chocolate is the one that you drink in the comfort of your own home, in your jammies and slippers, while curled up with a good book.
  • This guy wants to open a "gay-friendly" mosque in Paris. So...do you think he actually knows what his religion teaches?
  • Steven Furtick is training the church's future. Help.
  • A village in Serbia thinks an ancient vampire may be on the loose. No, really.
  • So...I'm gathering that a "faitheist" is someone who seeks after common ground. Now, where have I heard that before? *cough*Rick Warren*cough*
  • Still trying to use up that iTunes gift card from last Christmas? Why not download some of Todd Bentley's soaking music? So soothing and tranquil, you can't help but be visited by an angel of light.
  • I try not to post videos that I've not had a chance to watch in entirety, but I'm confident that this one, entitled "Church of Tares," is an important one to watch. 

photo credit: andy castro via photopin cc

29 November 2012

Warren Discusses Homosexuality, Says It's Not a Sin to Love Somebody, "It Might Be a Sin to Have Sex with Them"

Wow, two Rick Warren posts in a row. Well, he is out on a publicity tour this week, so I'm happy to oblige. The following appears here at Christian Research Network:

Rick Warren, author and pastor of Saddleback Church, has in recent days been making the media rounds in promotion of the 10th anniversary of his popular book, The Purpose Driven Life. In an interview with the Huffington Post yesterday, Warren was approached regarding his views on homosexuality. Some are arguing that the megachurch pastor appeared uncertain as to whether homosexual behavior actually is sinful. Continue reading →

Further Reading
Today's Christianity has Emasculated the Message of Salvation
Kay Warren and Mark Driscoll to Preach Weekend Services at Saddleback Church
Moody Radio's Janet Parshall Praises The Alpha Course

27 November 2012

Rick Warren, Gangnam Style and Missing the Point of a "Kingdom Win"

The Chicago Now website carries a column called "A Daily Miracle." Recently, writer "Sister Christian" blogged there about pastor Rick Warren's Twitter confession that, "Gangnam Style has been my ringtone since July 20."
It would not be out of line to question whether or not this particular tweet of Warren's can even be considered newsworthy. These days, few people really care what someone else has chosen for their ringtone. The novelty of personalized ringtones wore off years ago. What is perhaps of greater interest is the perspective with which Sister Christian views Warren's announcement.
This is big news, as “Gangnam Style,” a song by South Korean artist Psy, recently became the most-viewed YouTube video EVER, with over 826 million views as of this month (overtaking my man, J Biebs', "Baby" video). The “Gangnam Style” dance is now a global phenomenon, with thousands buying, playing, and dancing to it on a weekly basis. 
The fact that a popular evangelical pastor chose to publicly support a trend some more conservative individuals deem "idolatrous" and "unbiblical" intrigues me. "Pastor Rick" has an astonishing 794,000+ Twitter followers who interact with him on a regular basis - even though he claims in his Twitter bio that he "doesn't wear socks." Perhaps it's these quirky statements that make him personable and popular - two things Jesus was (thousands attended his sermons on a regular basis). 
Sister Christian seems to have missed the point, especially with the statement that Jesus was both "personable and popular" based upon the fact that his preaching occasions were so well attended. It's true, thousands did gather to hear Christ. And who could dislike a man who healed the sick, raised the dead and miraculously fed the masses? Yet, in the end, Christ was disliked—no, He was disdained—to the point that the masses called for his bloody and brutal murder.

Yes, a great many came to hear Him preach. Yet when He shared with them the hard truth about what it means to follow Him, what happened?
And He was saying, "for this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father."
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. (John 6:65, 66, emphasis added)
Personable and popular so long as "felt needs" were being met. Rejected and abandoned when the truth of the Gospel was proclaimed (read the passage in its broader context, John 6:26—71). The article at "A Daily Miracle" continues:
Even though the song/dance has no Christian themes whatsoever, it's engaging millions of viewers worldwide - and Rick Warren has entered the conversation. Which makes him and his ministry relevant to culture at large.
The bottom line? That even though "Gangnam Style" is an overtly secular song, Pastor Rick's engagement with it is a kingdom win. 
Rick Warren's ringtone is not going to bring anyone to Christ, or even necessarily to church, for that matter. Relevance is nice, but it is not what the church should be seeking. Rather, the church should be striving to proclaim the Truth regardless of how the culture views it. Further, to "engage the culture" to the point that the church cannot be distinguished from the world is not only disobedient to the calls of Scripture to come out of the world, but it also will find the visible church hopelessly irrelevant to the only kingdom that matters—God's.

It is quite disturbing that a "pastor" would boast about his ringtone being that of a secular song whose video and lyrics are worldly and inappropriate. What also is unfortunate is that the author of this article at Chicago Now seems to see this means of engaging the culture as a "kingdom win" with no mention of the proclamation of the Gospel, which is the only thing that can ever be considered a true "kingdom win."

*For those who are completely clueless about 'Gangnam Style,' two things: first, consider yourself blessed. Second, if you must be informed, here's a link to the video, if you dare.

Further Reading
Kay Warren and Mark Driscoll to Preach Weekend Services at Saddleback Church
Caine, Moore and Bevere Teach Thessaloniki Women at "Be the Change" Conference
Church-Going Gimmicks

25 November 2012

Today's Christianity Has Emasculated the Message of Salvation

Photo: GTY
Twentieth-century Christianity has tended to take a minimalist approach to the gospel. Unfortunately, the legitimate desire to express the heart of the gospel clearly has given way to a less wholesome endeavor. It is a campaign to distill the essentials of the message to the barest possible terms. The glorious gospel of Christ—which Paul called "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16)—includes all the truth about Christ. But American evangelicalism tends to regard the gospel as a "plan of salvation." We have reduced the message to a list of facts stated in the fewest possible words—and getting fewer all the time. You've probably seen these prepackaged "plans of salvation": "Six Steps to Peace with God"; "Five Things God Wants You to Know"; "Four Spiritual Laws"; "Three Truths You Can't Live Without"; "Two Issues You Must Settle"; or "One Way to Heaven."

Christians today are often cautioned not to say too much to the lost. Certain spiritual issues are labeled taboo when speaking to the unconverted: God's law, Christ's lordship, turning from sin, surrender, obedience, judgment, and hell. Such things are not to be mentioned, lest we "add something to the offer of God's free gift." Proponents of no-lordship evangelism take the reductionist trend to its furthest extreme. Wrongly applying the Reformed doctrine of sola fide ("faith alone"), they make faith the only permissible topic when speaking to non-Christians about their duty before God. Then they render faith utterly meaningless by stripping it of everything but its notional aspects.

This, some believe, preserves the purity of the gospel.

What it actually has done is emasculate the message of salvation. It has also populated the church with "converts" whose faith is counterfeit and whose hope hangs on a bogus promise. Numbly saying they "accept Christ as Savior," they brazenly reject His rightful claim as Lord. Paying Him glib lip service, they utterly scorn Him with their hearts (Mark 7:6). Casually affirming Him with their mouths, they deliberately deny Him with their deeds (Titus 1:16). Addressing Him superficially as "Lord, Lord," they stubbornly decline to do His bidding (Luke 6:46). Such people fit the tragic description of the "many" in Matthew 7 who will one day be stunned to hear Him say, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (v. 23, emphasis added).

The gospel is not primarily news about a "plan," but a call to trust in a Person. It is not a formula that must be prescribed to sinners in a series of steps. It does not call for a mere decision of the mind, but a surrender of the heart, mind, and will—the whole person—to Christ. It is not a message that can be capsulized, abridged, and shrink-wrapped, then offered as a generic remedy for every kind of sinner. Ignorant sinners need to be instructed about who He is and why He has the right to demand their obedience. Self-righteous sinners need to have their sin exposed by the demands of God's law. Careless sinners need to be confronted with the reality of God's impending judgment. Fearful sinners need to hear that God in His mercy has provided a way of deliverance. All sinners must understand how utterly holy God is. They must comprehend the basic truths of Christ's sacrificial death and the triumph of His resurrection. They need to be confronted with God's demand that they turn from their sin to embrace Christ as Lord and Savior.

The form of the message will vary in each case. But the content must always drive home the reality of God's holiness and the sinner's helpless condition. Then it points sinners to Christ as a sovereign but merciful Lord who has purchased full atonement for all who will turn to Him in faith.

— John MacArthur, The Gospel According to the Apostles, (Thomas Nelson: 2000), 172—174.

Further Reading
Church-Going Gimmicks
The World's Propitiation
The Alpha Course Receives Praise from Moody Radio's Janet Parshall

Sunday Morning Praise

Jesus Shall Reign

23 November 2012

This 'n' That

Photo: The Blaze
Well, it's Black Friday, the high holy day of the religion of materialism. The day when otherwise (mostly) civilized people see fit to scream, scratch, claw and injure others all in an attempt to purchase a poorly manufactured item that likely will find a place in the next garage sale. What is so appalling to me is how many Christians fail to recognize the problems with this day. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a good deal, but if you're that desperate for stuff, then you may need to reevaluate your priorities. Keep in mind that I say this as someone who likes nice things and who likes new things, but who nevertheless fails to see how the materialistic idolatry displayed on Black Friday and throughout the commercialized Christmas season can ever coexist with the Christian's command to not befriend the world.

Then again, who am I? After all, us professional bloggers really only need a cushy beanbag chair, a bag of Cheetos and a case of Mountain Dew to keep us happy. So carry on. And before you bundle up to venture out for Round 2 of your Black Friday shopping (because you know Round 1 began at 4 am), please pause for a moment to enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Oh dear. Is Joel Osteen hearing voices? Because that would explain a lot.
  • Unborn babies yawn in the womb. Think of this next time you want to shout about a "woman's right to choose." She's choosing alright—she's choosing to murder her child.
  • CNN points out (with its own liberal bias of course) the significance of Israel's 'Operation Pillar of Cloud.' Elizabeth Prata chimes in with a Christian perspective on the Israel-Hamas conflict.
  • In honor of Black Friday, here are some toy commercials from years gone by. I'm hoping to find the Swing Wing under my Christmas tree, but the Belly Bongo sure does look like it provides a great workout.
  • I've heard a lot of good things about the new book, A Puritan Theology. For a short time, it's available for only $9.99 on Kindle. Hey, like I said, I do love a good deal. 
  • Face it, the world views Christianity as a cranky sect. Now keep calm and carry on.
  • Speaking of limited atonement, Spurgeon sums it up succinctly.
  • Sharia law is on the rise in the UK. How much longer till it hits America?
  • Convicted of manslaughter, and this teen is sentenced to ten years of church attendance. Is this a wise or effective punishment?
  • Good grief. Would somebody please tell the atheists that they aren't allowed to celebrate Christmas? And that they need to just leave Charlie Brown alone?
  • Phil Johnson reminds us that we are in a spiritual battle.

Kay Warren and Mark Driscoll to Preach Weekend Services at Saddleback Church

As December approaches, Saddleback Church appears poised, like many churches, to deliver appropriately themed sermons throughout the month. It seems as though Saddleback's sermon series will be titled, "Christmas Is..." and will feature not only lead pastor Rick Warren, but also Warren's wife, Kay, and Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll.

This past Sunday, a Saddleback attender would tweet, and Saddleback Church would retweet, the following:
While it does not seem that Saddleback's website is yet sharing its upcoming schedule of speakers, the fact that their official Twitter account not only retweeted this comment and picture, but also responded to it, appears to validate its accuracy.
Once again, then, Saddleback will welcome a woman to preach weekend services on 1 and 2 December. It was not too long ago that Christine Caine took to the Saddleback stage for this task. It also was demonstrated that, earlier this year, Kay Warren herself preached an entire series at her home church. As was noted in the Christian Research Network article "Kay Warren Preaches Sunday Services at Saddleback Church,"
The Bible is not ambiguous in describing the necessary qualifications and characteristics that must be met by a man who desires to hold the role of pastor, or elder, within a church. In Titus 1:5–9 and 1 Tim. 3:1–7, Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, clearly outlines these requirements.

The Apostle Paul also delivered instruction regarding the role of women within the church:
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Tim. 2:11–14)
This is the biblical admonition against a woman being ordained to the role of pastor in the church. While passages such as Titus 2:3–5 encourage women to live godly lives and to mentor and teach other women, Scripture is clear in its call for the role of pastor to be held by a man who has met the biblical qualifications. Though women are equally gifted and important to the vitality of a church, God is clear that they may not hold any authoritative position over the men of the church. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) agrees with this biblical standard. This is the SBC's official position on the role of women in the church (emphasis added):
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.  
(The Baptist Faith & Message, VI. The Church)
While other SBC documents may offer a perceived loophole in this instruction, most Southern Baptists would affirm the position stated above. Saddleback Church in Southern California is officially registered with the Southern Baptist Convention. 
It seems odd, then, that this large SBC church would continue to blatantly defy the clear commands of Scripture by continuing to allow women to preach to mixed audiences during weekend services. Will the SBC, as well as the larger body of Christ, continue to remain silent in the face of such blatant disregard for the Word of God?

The invitation of Driscoll to Saddleback also ought not surprise. Last month, Warren was a featured speaker at Driscoll's 2012 Resurgence conference. Prior to that event, it was noted by Apprising Ministries that Driscoll actually was present at Saddleback to teach at a staff meeting.
As has been noted in the past, there is a new, ecumenical, evangelical magisterium that appears to be forming, and it undoubtedly includes the overwhelming personalities of Warren and Driscoll. With Warren's obvious influence, then, we wonder: how long will it be before some of these other magisterium members begin to see fit to invite women into their own pulpits? The slope of compromise is a slippery one indeed.

Further Reading
Kay Warren Preaches Sunday Services at Northwood Church in Texas
Saddleback Church Wants You to Know: "God Knows How Great You Are"
Rick Warren Says Annual Campaign Is the "Single Most Important Ingredient" in Saddleback's Growth

22 November 2012

It Is Good to Give Thanks to the Lord

These are days of turmoil. Turmoil in our world, in our country and in our personal lives. Wars and rumors of wars, moral degeneration and depravity such as many never thought they might witness, and a hatred of God that transcends all of the world's talk of 'love' and 'tolerance'. People have lost jobs, homes, children, freedoms. Man's love for himself and deep loathing for Christ has reached a point that, even in America, many Christians wonder how much longer they may be able to speak the name of their Savior without fear. Tumult and unrest seem to dominate, and even define, this time. In the midst of such darkness, for what can we be thankful?
Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD, or declare all his praise? (Psalm 106:1-2)
The Lord is good. Even in the midst of uncertainty, He is sovereign. He is immutable (Heb. 13:8; Mal. 3:6). He reigns (Heb. 1:8; Rev. 19:6). He is eternal (Heb. 13:8). He is holy (Is. 6:3). He is righteous and just (Ps. 7:11). He is Creator (Gen. 1:1). He is Sustainer (Heb. 1:3). He is Lord (Acts 10:36; 1 Cor. 8:6). For all of these things we are thankful.

These things are true and they are marvelous. Yet there is another great reality for which we remain speechlessly grateful. The Lord Jesus Christ is the one and only Savior (Luke 2:11; Acts 13:23; Eph. 5:23; Phil. 3:20; Titus 2:13; 1 John 4:14). He alone provides salvation from the wrath of a holy God (John 14:6). But we do not remain content to be thankful for this reality alone. If we have been saved by this great Savior, we must pause and offer thanks that, though we were sinners, He chose to save us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)
Further still, we must on our knees thank God for revealing Himself to us. It is only because He chose to disclose Himself that anyone has been saved. Christian, God has shown you great mercy because He has shown you who He is. You did not come to know Him on your own accord. Apart from Him, you never could know Him.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:15-17)
Here is where mercy begins! In the gracious act of God revealing Himself to lost, condemned sinners. Here is where mercy continues—in the unending compassion of a holy God granting to His enemies repentance and faith in the only One who can truly save (Acts 11:18). Here is where mercy culminates—in the final act of salvation won by Christ's death on the cross.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:13-15)
When we clasp our hands in prayer, do we thank God for the whole of our salvation? Not just for forgiveness and a clean heart, but for bringing us to a place of brokenness and dismay over our own sin? Do we thank Him for persistently revealing Himself by the heavens (Ps. 19:1) and by His Word (Ps. 19:7ff)? Do we give Him thanks and praise for choosing to make known to us, as He did to Peter, that He is not merely a great prophet and teacher, but the very Son of the living God? It is good to give thanks to the Lord, for without Him we would perish both in this life and the next. In the midst of the turmoil, give thanks.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. (Psalm 92:1-4)
Happy Thanksgiving.

Further Reading
Thankful for the Word
All Dressed Up and No One to Thank
The Thanksgiving that Jesus Despises

21 November 2012

"The Bible Knows of No Such Grotesque Creature as One Who Is Saved but Unrepentant"

In the small book, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? Walter Chantry uses the story of the rich, young ruler as told in Mark 10:17—27 to illustrate the idea that evangelism today often presents a deficient gospel message. Originally written in 1970, Chantry’s work and the concerns set forth within it unfortunately still ring true. The excerpt below is taken from the chapter entitled, “Preaching Repentance Toward God,” wherein Chantry emphasizes the great need of sharing with lost sinners the absolute necessity of repentance of sin before a holy God.
Our ears have grown accustomed to hearing men told to 'accept Jesus as your personal Saviour,' a form of words which is not found in Scripture. It has become an empty phrase. These may be precious words to the Christian—'personal Saviour.' But they are wholly inadequate to instruct a sinner in the way to eternal life. They wholly ignore an essential element of the gospel, namely repentance. And that necessary ingredient of gospel preaching is swiftly fading from evangelical pulpits, though the New Testament is filled with it.
When Jesus began his public ministry, his message was, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel' (Mark 1:15). As he met the woman at the well, his gospel insisted that she turn from adultery. Encountering Zacchaeus, Jesus turned him from thievery to philanthropy. Now the demand to the ruler is, 'Turn from your lust for riches. Repent!'

20 November 2012

Moody Radio's Janet Parshall Praises The Alpha Course

Yesterday I was contacted by some readers who had listened to Moody Radio's In the Market with Janet Parshall, and were concerned by what appeared to be her endorsement of the ecumenical Alpha Course. After listening to the segment myself, I felt it worth addressing, especially considering my documented concerns with Alpha. The post below originally appeared here at Christian Research Network.

Recent months have seen an increase in publicity for the international phenomenon known as the Alpha Course. That is why it came as no surprise when Alpha recently was featured on Moody Radio's In the Market with Janet Parshall.

On Monday, 19 November, Parshall interviewed Gerard Long, the executive director of Alpha USA. The conservative Parshall had only praises for the Alpha Course, stating that its results have been "absolutely amazing" and essentially offering her endorsement as she declared that she is "very comfortable with the Alpha Course."

At one point, Parshall questioned Long about the criticisms that have been leveled at Alpha, namely that the movement may be viewed as an "ecumenical compromise." In response, Long appealed to the vast numbers that have been tallied by the organization. Citing the fact that Alpha is now in 169 countries with nearly 19 million people having attended over the years, Long conjectured that perhaps "hundreds, maybe millions" have come to Christ through the Alpha Course.

While it certainly is likely that some have been brought to repentance and faith in Christ through Alpha, and those salvations are to be celebrated, the number of true conversions cannot be ascertained. Mere attendance numbers, then, cannot be appealed to as proof of spiritual, or eternal, success. After all, the false religions of Islam and Mormonism also draw great numbers of attendees to their gatherings. The road of deception is a wide one and the way of salvation is narrow (Matt. 7:13).

In addressing the allegations of Alpha's "ecumenical compromise," Long maintained that the teachings of the Alpha Course are "based absolutely on Scripture" and "the clear message of Jesus Christ," a message, he says, that all agree on across denominations. Parshall probed, questioning Long about Alpha's approach when the inevitable "theological land mines" appear. To this Long replied that Alpha keeps "to the core of the gospel, where there's unity." The two then quipped about where the Methodists and the Baptists may be standing in Heaven, a joke which unfortunately appeared to belittle the legitimate concerns that have been raised regarding Alpha's ecumenism.

In the 26 September article, The Ecumenical Compromise of the Alpha Course, CRN noted the following:
CRN has been informed by a leader within Alpha for Catholics that, “It is not necessary to change the Alpha course for Catholics.” Unfortunately, this is greater cause for concern because examination of some of the core doctrines of the RCC demonstrates that it actually teaches much that is contrary to biblical Christianity. How then can the two be compatible? In the quote above, Nicky Gumbel noted that, “In Alpha, we stick to the foundational pieces of the Christian faith we all agree upon: Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, the Bible, prayer. What unites us is infinitely greater than what divides us.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Gumbel has made a grievous and erroneous statement here, for what divides the Roman Catholic Church and orthodox Christianity is the very Gospel itself.
While discussing the idea of ecumenism, Long and Parshall never addressed the existence of Alpha for Catholics, a reality which seems to imply that Alpha recognizes Roman Catholicism as a genuine arm of Christianity. Unfortunately, as is stated above, Roman Catholicism and orthodox Christianity are divided by the true Gospel of Christ. It is impossible, then, to achieve true unity between the two groups based upon the "core of the gospel" unless that gospel is one that has been compromised.

CRN has demonstrated that at the Council of Trent, held from 1545-1563, the Roman Catholic Church effectively condemned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. If the true Gospel of Christ is being taught at each Alpha Course (the same Gospel that was anathematized at Trent), then it seems that the content ought to be an offense to the Roman Catholic Church. Yet instead, Alpha is quite popular among Roman Catholics and, as quoted above, it has been confirmed by a leader within Alpha for Catholics that the same material is presented across all Alpha Courses. This is the ecumenical compromise against which some have spoken. It is disappointing that such valid concerns were glossed over by Parshall and her guest.

Also left unaddressed were the concerns of some surrounding charismatic teaching and behavior during Alpha's Holy Spirit weekend. Of course, it is quite possible that Parshall is unaware of these claims. Perhaps Parshall also is uninformed about the fact that Alpha leader Nicky Gumbel once led his Holy Trinity Brompton Church in one of London's largest outbreaks of the aberrant Toronto Blessing. Time Magazine covered this phenomenon of "holy laughter" in 1994:
It's Sunday evening in London's fashionable Knightsbridge neighborhood. Though pathetically tiny flocks of Londoners attend many Anglican services, Holy Trinity Brompton has a standing-room-only turnout of 1,500. Oblivious to the hot, airless sanctuary, the youthful throng buzzes with an anticipation more common at a rock concert or rugby match. After the usual Scripture readings, prayers and singing, the chairs are cleared away. Curate Nicky Gumbel prays that the Holy Spirit will come upon the congregation. Soon a woman begins laughing. Others gradually join her with hearty belly laughs. A young worshipper falls to the floor, hands twitching. Another falls, then another... (Source)
Such realities ought to raise enough concerns that one would not offer praise and endorsement of the Alpha Course without a concurrent warning.

Those interested in or involved with the Alpha Course may find it helpful to investigate some of the concerns that have been voiced by various ministries. It is hoped that Moody Radio and Ms. Parshall will conduct such research as well if they have not done so already. Above all, everything must be tested against Scripture (1 John 4:1), and Christians must strive never to compromise the truth that was delivered by Christ Himself (Gal. 1:11–12), for a compromised gospel cannot save.

Further Reading
The World's Propitiation
Please Stop Trying to Convert Me with an Incomplete Gospel
Church-Going Gimmicks

16 November 2012

This 'n' That

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that yesterday I tweeted out a picture of my "Lazarus plant." I've had this plant about four years. It's traveled with me from cubicle to cubicle, and I finally brought it home this past Spring. It hasn't been the same since. In the comforts of my house, it never flowered which, strange as it may sound, made me a little sad. It's flowers were unique and beautiful.

What I always loved and depended on with this plant, however, was its ability to resurrect itself. If I neglected to water it, it would droop to the point where I was certain it was dead. Yet, with a little fresh water, it would perk up and resurrect, hence my naming it the Lazarus plant.

Sadly, my poor little plant perks up no more. Unexpectedly out of town for a few days last week, I was unable to water it and it seems it has embarked on its final droop. Ah, well. Even Lazarus did eventually die again.

We as Christians can allow ourselves to droop due to malnourishment. Without a steady diet of the Word of God, we cannot flourish and eventually we will wither. Is it not true, though, that in this state of starvation, when we finally come to feast on His Word, we are immediately revitalized and resurrected from our dismal, stunted state? Do not let yourself begin to droop even for a moment, dear Christian. The days ahead of us are bleak, but we look forward to a greater hope.

Now, go water your plants, sing them a little song, then come back here and enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • John MacArthur responds to the 2012 election.
  • Justin Edwards of airĊ shares a brief review of the book, Christ's Prophetic Plans and highly recommends it for anyone desiring to study more about biblical prophecy. I second that recommendation.
  • Like I said, leave it to Chicago. The mindset of Chicagoans truly is unsettling (and sadly is representative of much of the country, I'm afraid.) I guess you can't say 'defeat Jihad' without being accused of hate speech. 
  • In a recent post at The Cripplegate, Nathan Busenitz responds to a reader’s question regarding the claim that Charles Spurgeon was a cessationist, yet himself admitted to receiving subjective impressions from the Holy Spirit on rare occasions. Is this the same as the New Testament gift of prophecy?
  • Have you heard the latest story out of IHOP (the prayer place, not the pancake place)? Ken Silva has the story on the IHOP University student who has confessed to murdering a former IHOP intern. He also has the follow up story as the murder suspect now says the victim's husband put him up to it. Today we find out that more information continues to emerge. Sadly, many people view IHOP as representative of true Christianity, so we find that there is more than one victim in this situation.
  • France will be teaching primary school children about gay issues. Uh huh. Great. Of course, schools here in America aren't any better.
  • The Freedom From Religion Foundation wants to remove God from the presidential oath of office. 
  • Franklin Graham is "shocked" that his site of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association ever called Mormonism a cult in the first place. No, I'm not joking
  • The Gospel is trustworthy:

15 November 2012

Israel and Hamas on the Verge of War

*This article originally appears here at Christian Research Network.

Multiple news outlets are reporting that Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas are on the brink of war following recent bombings.

On Thursday, 15 November, Hamas fired a rocket that killed three Israelis north of the Gaza strip. The attack reportedly was a response to Israel's Wednesday assault, which resulted in the death of the top military commander of Hamas. Israel launched Wednesday's attack following persistent rocket fire from the Palestinian group, which at one point culminated in over 100 rockets pounding Israel within a 24 hour period. The Jerusalem Post offers more information on today's attacks:
A rocket from the Gaza Strip exploded in an open field outside of Rishon Lezion on Thursday evening, marking the first hit in the center of the country in renewed violence from the Gaza Strip. The rocket, one of over 240 fired from Gaza into the South since the IDF launched Operation Pillar of Defense Wednesday to root out the terror infrastructure in the coastal territory, landed less than 15 km south of Tel Aviv. The operation began with the Wednesday afternoon targeted killing of Ahmed Jabari, the chief of Hamas's military wing. (Source)
These recent attacks have revived a longtime conflict in the region. Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who was helped into office by the Muslim Brotherhood, has condemned Israel's action and sided with Hamas in the matter. The Christian Post elaborates:
"The Israelis must realize that this aggression is unacceptable and would only lead to instability in the region and would negatively and greatly impact the security of the region," Morsi said, although he did not specify whether Egypt would in any way interfere on behalf of Hamas. 
Although Morsi has pledged his commitment to Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the fresh conflict is causing concern in the region. The Muslim Brotherhood, which was key in installing Morsi to power and has been called the "spiritual mentors" of Hamas, has called for a "Day of Rage" in Arab capitals on Friday in protest of Israel's attacks on Gaza. 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said, however, that Israel is "prepared to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people." The Jerusalem Post provides more insight into Israel's plans:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak hinted Thursday that Operation Pillar of Defense against Gaza-based terrorists could be a lengthy battle, as rocket fire from the Strip continued to batter communities in the South. 
"We're in the middle of a struggle that's not easy and probably won't be short," Barak said during a visit to the site of an Iron Dome battery in Beersheba. 
"We're determined to return the situation [in the South] to its previous, quiet state, and will do that with whatever is demanded to accomplish that. This is just the beginning." 
Both groups also are utilizing the social media platform Twitter to provide updates on their operations, causing some to wonder if such behavior violates Twitter's terms of service.

This conflict no doubt causes many to reflect on our Lord's promise of many wars and rumors of wars in places such as Matthew 24:6, and it is hoped that Christians around the world will be in prayer for this tenuous situation in the Middle East. As this earth continues to groan in anticipation of the return of Christ, such headlines as these ought to cause each believer to make haste in urgently and boldly proclaiming the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Further Reading
If Not for Amazing Grace
The World's Propitiation
Jesus Christ Is King

12 November 2012

Please Stop Trying to Convert Me with an Incomplete Gospel

An interesting article at the Huffington Post blog entitled, "Please Stop Trying to Convert Me," written by Penn State University student Remy M. Maisel, offered insight into what may be coursing through the minds of those who are stopped on the street by well-meaning Christians seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Unfortunately, what may strike the reader as intriguing is not only the hypocrisy of those lost souls who find themselves a target for street evangelism, but also the apparent misdirected endeavors of some of these eager believers. Continue reading →

Further Reading
Doctrine Matters
Muslim Woman Concludes "Islam Is all about Living a Purpose-Driven Life" After Hearing Rick Warren on 'Lifeclass'
If God Does Not Watch Over Our Heart and Tongue

11 November 2012

Caine, Moore and Bevere Teach Thessaloniki Women at 'Be the Change' Conference

Earlier this week, on 9 and 10 November, a multitude of women gathered in Thessaloniki, Greece to learn how to "Be the Change" with speakers Beth Moore, Christine Caine and Lisa Bevere. These three women, especially Caine, were abuzz on Twitter throughout the event, letting those who were not in attendance know just what they were missing. Be the Change is described as:
Yet, knowing what we do about some of these speakers, one is left wondering just what was taught to this large gathering of women. Just what type of change did they learn to be?

For popular SBC Bible teacher Beth Moore, the adventure began even before the conference, as she entered the local headquarters of friend Christine Caine's A21 Campaign and discovered that the girls there were studying her "Breaking Free" materials:
Moore has been discussed at length here and at other reputable online apologetic and discernment sites such as Apprising Ministries. Not only is her participation in the Passion 2012 conference wherein she and others engaged in a type of "Lectio Divina-lite" concerning, but it has been demonstrated in the past that Moore has seemingly endorsed contemplative practices and other dangerous resources such as the book, Jesus Calling.

In posts such as Beth Moore the Mystic, pastor-teacher Ken Silva also has revealed that Moore claims to receive direct revelation from God. Perhaps not coincidentally, then, in her 2002 teaching series, the Southern Baptist Bible teacher explains that she does not hold to cessationism which, according to her is an "extreme teaching in the Body of Christ:"

We got a lot of things going in our current religious culture. And we’ve got two extremes I want to address tonight so that we can understand them. First of all I want you to look over to this side. We have the religious culture of the extreme that I’m going to call Cessationism.
Now I’m making up a word with that -ism. But you know the word cessation and it a word that comes from cease. And this particular extreme teaching in the Body of Christ says all miracles have ceased. For all practical purposes, God no longer works miracles in our day. Now most of them still believe that He will in the end of times.
But most of their stands, and I need to tell you something, I have served all over this spectrum. And I have very good friends and people I love very, very much who stand exactly right here. This was much of my early teaching. In so many ways, much of what they taught me I still live on every single day of my life.
It is truth to me that there is one place where it goes that I cannot go with it and that is to the extreme of miracles have ceased. That’s what we’re calling for our practical purposes, Cessationism.
And, though Moore has said that she had "no idea" that one would be labeled a mystic if "you felt God had spoken something specific to you," one's eyebrows certainly must raise when she is heard teaching ideas such as the following:

Partial Transcript: 
What God began to say to me about five years ago, and I’m telling you it sent me on such a trek with Him, that my head is still whirling over it. He began to say to me, ‘I’m gonna tell you something right now, Beth, and boy you write this one down, and you say it as often as I give you utterance to say it:"My Bride is paralyzed by unbelief. My Bride is paralyzed by unbelief." And He said, "Startin’ with you.”
to beg to differ with people that are ten times smarter than I am. But I want to say to you I see something different than that. I see God doing something huge in the body of Christ.
I do not know why I have had the privilege to get to travel around, see one church after another…one group of believers after another, interdenominationally, all over this country, but I have gotten to see something that I think is huge.
And I’ll also suggest to you I am not the only one. And tonight I’m going to do my absolute best to illustrate to you something that God showed me out on that back porch. He put a picture…I’ve explained to you before I am a very visual person…so He speaks to me very often of putting a picture in my head.
And it was as if I was raised up looking down on a community, as I saw the Church in that particular dimension- certainly not all dimensions, not even in many, but in what we will discuss tonight, the church, as Jesus sees it, in a particular dimension.”
Note that Moore above claimed that she had been shown the church "as Jesus sees it." What is additionally disturbing, then is that Moore apparently thinks that God has shown her that the apostate Roman Catholic Church is part of the true Church.

It seems highly unlikely that God would contradict Himself and include within the true Body of Christ a church that teaches a false gospel of works righteousness. Thus, Moore's claims of visions and revelation must be deemed as misunderstood and/or false.

Nevertheless, it seems as though Moore made quite an impact at the Be the Change conference as Lisa Bevere would tweet:
And Christine Caine would share:

Like Beth Moore, Christine Caine has been discussed at length on this blog and others. We recently wondered if perhaps God is telling Christine Caine secrets that she is not to share with others. It also has been demonstrated that Caine has apparent disregard for the biblical admonition against women preachers, as she has joyfully taught weekend services at such megachurches as Steven Furtick's Elevation Church and, most recently, Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California.

Christine Caine has revealed that she has been influenced by some of America's most spurious female Bible teachers. She has called Sheryl Brady of The Potter's House North Dallas, "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:

As concerning as Brady's influence may be, of even greater interest is that Christine Caine claims that popular Word Faith teacher Joyce Meyer is her "spiritual mother." In September of this year, Caine was preparing her message for the annual Joyce Meyers Ministries Love Life women's conference and would tweet:

Joyce Meyer teaches such common Word Faith doctrines as the power of words and the idea that men are "little gods." Her influence over Christine Caine, then, is concerning at best if not demonstrably dangerous. Indeed, as apologist Chris Rosebrough has revealed through a critique of Caine's Code Orange Revival sermon, Christine Caine is a woman who is adept at mishandling the Word of God.

What, then, of the third mentioned Be the Change speaker, Lisa Bevere? Little has been said on this site of Bevere and her husband, John. It was noted, however, that John Bevere was a featured speaker, along with young megachurch pastor Steven Furtick, at the Presence Conference held earlier this year, and hosted by Phil Pringle of C3 Church in Australia.

Lisa and John Bevere are the founders of Messengers International (MI) which,
exists to help individuals, families, churches, and nations realize and experience the transforming power of God’s Word. This realization will result in lives empowered, communities transformed, and a dynamic response to the injustices plaguing our world. (Source)
According to the MI website, "The ministry began with a mandate to see nations transformed by the power of God’s Word." One necessarily presumes that this so-called "mandate" must have been given by "God" Himself, if it was powerful enough to spur the Beveres into creating an entire ministry. Unfortunately, we learn little of how doctrinally sound is this ministry, as its Statement of Faith appears to consist only of the following:
Lisa Bevere is the author of such books as Lioness Arising: Wake Up and Change Your World, The True Measure Of A Woman: Discover Your Intrinsic Value and See Yourself as God Does, and Kissed the Girls and Made Them Cry: Why Women Lose When We Give In. We learn more about Bevere from this video posted on her own YouTube channel:

Note some of the interesting claims and teachings Bevere espouses:
It's your time. It's time for the gift of God in your life to come forth. It's time for the things that you have in your life to be released. Father, I speak to the gifts. I speak to the talents. I speak to the anointing. I speak to what you have given them to steward. I speak release. I bless these hands, Father, with the power of dominion.
Dominion? What does Lisa Bevere mean when she says this? Perhaps this clip will help us to understand.

Bevere appears here to mishandle Luke 19:10, wherein Jesus says, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." This verse concludes the story of the conversion of Zacchaeus, and in the broader context, it is evident that Jesus Christ is declaring not only what becomes the theme of Luke's gospel, but what is the purpose of Christ's incarnation and ministry: to save lost sinners. Of this verse, Dr. John MacArthur notes:
Verse 10 states THE most blessed truth, no truth more wondrous, more beneficial than this one. This is at the very heart of the existence of the universe. God actually created the universe so that in the universe He could create the Earth so that on the earth He could create the human race so that out of the human race He could seek and save lost sinners...this for His own everlasting joy and glory. This is what it's all about. What's going on on Earth is not incidental in the infinity of this universe, it is the focal point of this entire universe. It is true that the vast and infinite heavens declare the glory of God and the rest of the creation shows His handiwork, and that all together collectively it manifests His mighty power and Godhead.
So when you ask the question, "Why is the universe here? And why is the Earth here? And why is the human race here?" The answer is so that God might for His own eternal joy and glory seek and save lost sinners. This again reminds us that God is by nature a saving God.
Later in this same sermon, Bevere claims to receive a message directly from the Holy Spirit. Divine, personal prophecy? It seems as though Lisa Bevere's Bible may not end with Revelation 22:21.

We've not heard what Bevere specifically taught this week in Thessaloniki, but according to Christine Caine, the perky speaker spoke "powerful & prophetic words into this region."

Prophetic words? Divine, extrabiblical revelation? We can only wonder.

We ask then, exactly what type of teaching was shared this past week at Be the Change? We can only surmise, but according to speaker Beth Moore, the conference was a genuine "move of God."

Apparently, at the conclusion of this event, many women streamed to the front of the auditorium to "receive Jesus."
It actually grieves us to realize that the question must be asked: which Jesus did they receive?