31 October 2012

A Brief Reformation Day History and Some Reformation Resources

*This article largely is adapted from Steve Lawson's book, Pillars of Grace, Chapter 20, "Fortress for Truth."

Introduction

By the sixteenth century, God had uniquely positioned and prepared the Western world for what would come to be known as the Protestant Reformation. Closing out the Middle Ages and ushering in the beginning of modernity, the Reformation has been called the greatest event in history, next to the introduction of Christianity.1 Not only was the church, which at this time was the Roman Catholic Church, in dire need of reform, but at this point in history, even the secular world sat poised for a new beginning.

Exploration was expanding, trade was increasing and the middle class was gaining ground. Educational opportunities were increasing and, by God’s great grace, Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press allowed for a far greater dissemination of ideas. The Renaissance was at its peak and, in the midst of all this, God chose to raise up several well educated, godly, strong-willed, Christ-centered and Scripture-focused men.

Among these men was an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther. On October 31, 1517, Luther nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany his 95 Theses against the Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences. With this swing of a mallet, Martin Luther launched the Reformation.2

30 October 2012

Who Is the Real I AM?

Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith writes:
On a recent episode of Oprah’s Life Class, Joel Osteen discussed the topic of I AM. Unfortunately for everyone tuning in they were not introduced to the I AM of the Holy Bible. Instead, they were taught to declare I AM affirmations over their lives and their futures as if their words possessed magical properties that could change their destinies. Not only is this teaching silly and shallow it is also woefully narcissistic and instructs people to trust in themselves rather than the I AM who is revealed in the scripture.
To counter these self-exalting affirmations set forth by Joel Osteen, Rosebrough took time on a recent episode of Fighting for the Faith to teach his listeners about the true I AM as revealed in Scripture. View article →

Further Reading
If Not for Amazing Grace
Doctrine Matters
Only One Truth

29 October 2012

T.D. Jakes Bringing MegaFest to Dallas in 2013

The ministry of well-known prosperity preacher T.D. Jakes produces multiple conferences each year. Among these are the annual Woman, Thou Art Loosed conference for women, as well as the Manpower conference, which of course is attended by men. Also very popular, and very large, in years past has been the conference known as MegaFest. Continue reading →

Further Reading
T.D. Jakes Tells 25,000 Women "Believing in God Is Not Enough," You Must Believe in Yourself
God Forbid that We Should Begin to Depreciate Preaching
Steven Furtick on Praying for God's Will

If Not for Amazing Grace

In talking with a friend recently, I was reminded of a reality that does not strike me often enough. Though this truth crosses my mind almost daily, even such frequency fails to unfold its full and total greatness.
There but for the grace of God, go I.
No, this is not Scripture. Rather, it is said to be a quote from John Bradford.
When others sin, godly men see what they themselves were before conversion; or what they would have been-- but for the restraints of God's grace.
Bradford, an eminent servant of Christ, seeing a criminal led to execution said, "There goes John Bradford--but for the grace of God!"
—William Plumer, "Sinners Saved by Unmerited Kindness," 1853.
Yet, though this specific phrase may not be found in the pages of our Bible, is not the truth, the principle, of it written throughout?
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11) 
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:17)
I was not always a new creation in Christ. Though for quite some time I claimed to be, the fruit of my life revealed the false nature of that profession. When I see so many professing Christians claiming the name of Christ, yet living in bondage to this world's system, I cannot help but praise and thank my God. After all, if not for His gracious and merciful salvation, I too still would be trapped and traveling the condemned road of a false convert.

How many of us, grieved by the sin of lost family or friends—sin that clearly entangles them, and prevents the scales from being lifted from their eyes—cannot look back at our own life and say, "There but for the grace of God, go I"?

So when we reach a point of frustration in our witnessing or in our prayer, should we not remember that such were some of us...and yet God saved us anyway? Should we not remember that, were we not justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God, we, too would be unworthy to inherit the kingdom of God?

Should we not have ever before us the stark, pride-diminishing reality that we, of ourselves, are nothing more than wretched sinners? It is only by the perfect work and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ that we can even stand before God with hope and a promise of eternal life! It is not by our own work or merit or goodness that we were washed, but by the blood of Christ.

So then, since such were some of us, so should we go to those who still remain in this state of bondage to sin. Since we have been given so great a salvation, since we have been made a new creation, let us go to those who are still old, stagnant, rotting and dead. Let us bring the news of Life with joy and with humble acknowledgment that every witnessing scenario upon which we embark could just as easily have been reversed. The lost person before us could be bursting with the good news of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ, sharing with us. We could just as easily be rotting and dead in our sins, seemingly apathetic to the message. But for the grace of God. Indeed. Amazing grace may just be the sweetest sound.

Further Reading
Sunday Morning Praise: Amazing Grace
Scripture is the Fountainhead of Truth
Reformation Must Begin in the Pulpit

28 October 2012

Sunday Morning Praise

It's Reformation Sunday, so it would be remiss of me to post any hymn other than Martin Luther's A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.



A Mighty Fortress is Our God

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

26 October 2012

Can We Do Better Than God?

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported on a rather disturbing scientific advancement:
Scientists in Oregon have created embryos with genes from one man and two women, using a provocative technique that could someday be used to prevent babies from inheriting certain rare incurable diseases.
The researchers at Oregon Health & Sciences University said they are not using the embryos to produce children, and it is not clear when or even if this technique will be put to use. But it has already stirred a debate over its risks and ethics in Britain, where scientists did similar work a few years ago.
...
The genes they want to replace aren't the kind most people think of, which are found in the nucleus of cells and influence traits such as eye color and height. Rather, these genes reside outside the nucleus in energy-producing structures called mitochondria. These genes are passed along only by mothers, not fathers.
About 1 in every 5,000 children inherits a disease caused by defective mitochondrial genes. The defects can cause many rare diseases with a host of symptoms, including strokes, epilepsy, dementia, blindness, deafness, kidney failure and heart disease. The new technique, if approved someday for routine use, would allow a woman to give birth to a baby who inherits her nucleus DNA but not her mitochondrial DNA. Here's how it would work:
Doctors would need unfertilized eggs from the patient and a healthy donor. They would remove the nucleus DNA from the donor eggs and replace it with nucleus DNA from the patient's eggs. So, they would end up with eggs that have the prospective mother's nucleus DNA, but the donor's healthy mitochondrial DNA.
Disease, sickness, these are tragic results of the Fall. We cannot escape them this side of Heaven. Such endeavors as described above are akin to playing God. Of course, no one wishes for an unhealthy child, but that does not nullify the fact that God creates all children, allowing some to be born healthy and allowing others to be born unhealthy. God long ago ordained how it is children would be conceived between one man and one woman. And it is God who intricately designs each and every baby. Every person, known by God before the beginning of time, is created exactly as He determines:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)
Because of the Fall, some children are born with illness, just as, because of the Fall, some men and women suffer illness in their later years. Because of the Fall, some children may even be the product of horrific circumstances, but this does not make them any less of a creation of God. This does not make them unworthy of life.

Earlier this week, controversy arose when Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock stated that when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape "that's something God intended." It is impossible to not acknowledge the fact that Mourdock terrifically garbled his words in this instance. As Al Mohler stated, "The cause of defending the unborn is harmed when the argument for that defense is expressed badly and recklessly, and Mourdock’s answer was both reckless and catastrophically incomplete." Nevertheless, even some liberal media realized that, taken in context, Mourdock did not in any way intend to condone rape, but rather was affirming that all life, even when created in tragedy, is intentionally created by God.

Mourdock clarified his intended meaning and later said,
"I think that God can see beauty in every life," Mourdock said. "Certainly, I did not intend to suggest that God wants rape, that God pushes people to rape, that God wants to support or condone evil in any way." (Source)
Of course, what this man intended to say was that, in spite of the atrocious and tragic circumstances by which a child of rape is brought into this world, it nevertheless is still a human child. That child cannot help how it was conceived, and it does not deserve to be punished with death for the sins of its father.

When we read the above verses from Psalm 139, we can almost see in our mind's eye the delicate manner in which our Lord created each precious child. And yet we as a nation do not even flinch at the idea of instantly and violently ripping that life away before it even has a chance to open its eyes in this fallen, yet still beautiful world.

When we read those verses, we cannot help but gasp in utter awe and wonder at the perfect design wrought by God as He brings together the genes of one man and one woman. Yet now we are willing to push God aside, take the reigns ourselves, and attempt to do better.

God, forgive us for our prideful, idolatrous, self-elevating aspirations. We are not You. Forgive us for thinking that we are.

Further Reading
Professing Christian Obstetrician Explains "Why I Perform Abortions"
Doctrine Matters
Repentance and Faith: The Two Cannot Be Separate

This 'n' That

I replaced my toothbrush this week. (Stick with me). Every time I do this, I lament the fact that my favorite toothbrushes of years past are no longer being made. Now I'm using some fancy Oral-B contraption with rubber bristles on the side (I had a coupon). Rubber bristles? Really? Whose idea was that? I would love to have heard that conversation in the Oral-B monthly brainstorming meeting. Nothing I love more than brushing my teeth with recycled tires.

If all of these newfangled and fancy toothbrushes and flossing devices are so fantastic, then why are dentists still around? And did you ever notice that when your dentist gives you that free toothbrush at the end of your visit, it's one of those "old-fashioned" tried and true, plain jane toothbrushes? No fancy ridges or rubber, just the normal, soft bristles with which we all grew up. If those old school toothbrushes are so awful, why is our dentist giving them to us? Are these new, ritzy toothbrushes really that much better?

Okay, it's time for the lame transition from an awkward toothbrush conversation into a church-related application...

Just as we're jazzing up toothbrushes to raise prices and gain customers, so we're spicing up our churches to increase tithes and fill seats. But when it comes down to it, we don't need those ridiculous rubber bristles—we don't need the flashing lights, smoke machine and loud music. All we need is the "old-fashioned," tried and true, plain jane Gospel. Pastor, if you are faithful to the Word of God, then don't worry whether you have entire sections of empty pews or standing room only. God will bring in His sheep. That is, after all, to whom you are preaching. The Gospel doesn't need to be fancied up. Trust me, God does not need your help in making His awesome message of salvation and forgiveness of sins more palatable or exciting. Just preach the Word.

Yeah, yeah, I know that analogy broke down in multiple places, but you get the idea. Now, go brush your teeth, come back and enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Ken Silva walks us back through some of the, ahem, highlights(?) of the James MacDonald, T.D. Jakes, ER2 controversy.
  • Okay, this is a snake video, so it's a little disturbing. I loathe snakes. Still, in watching this I couldn't help but be amazed by yet another creature made by the hands of God.
  • Bloggers, beware! Buy all of the Flamin' Hot Cheetos that you can now, before they're stripped from the shelves!
  • If you've heard some of the hoopla surrounding "Christian" feminist Rachel Held Evans' new book, then you need to read Sarah Flashing's review of the work. Masterful.
  • 'King of kings' and 'Lord of lords'—Mormonism Research Ministry shows us what Brigham Young taught about these phrases. (Hint: It's blasphemous and wrong).
  • Hey, Jimmy Carter—Israel doesn't have to move towards a two-state solution...it's their land!
  • These wildlife photos are amazing (no snakes here!).
  • Mitt Romney's jab about the president's "Apology Tour" during Monday's debate was classic. Yet, the president was quick to call it the "biggest whopper of the campaign." Was it?
  • I've been weaning myself off of an afternoon cup (or three) of coffee and onto a more healthier option—tea. I found this article on the health benefits of tea really helpful. Oh, and if you're a tea drinker, feel free to leave any suggestions of favorite teas in the comments.
  • Brian McLaren will be touring the UK to promote his new book. His focus? Interfaith relations. Shocking.
  • S. Lewis Johnson on being a slave of Christ:

24 October 2012

Joel Osteen and Oprah Winfrey Set to Blaspheme God...Again

Only a few weeks ago, Joel Osteen joined Oprah Winfrey in Houston for a taping of her show, Lifeclass. This Sunday, an episode from that taping will air. Notice anything particularly troubling?
Source
I Am. This is the name of the Almighty God of the universe. It is not some magical, mystical mantra that we speak when things aren't going particularly well in our lives. A look at the comments on Oprah's Facebook page reveals that her viewers know exactly what Joel Osteen means by this phrase, however. To them, to Oprah, and to Joel Osteen, "I am" is a way to speak things into existence. It is the idea that your words have power and it is a grievous heresy. What Joel Osteen and Oprah Winfrey are engaging in is blatant, unapologetic blasphemy. Since both profess to be Christians (though neither one teaches anything remotely biblically orthodox), then both Osteen and Oprah need to repent of their blasphemous beliefs.

Of course, we won't hold our breath waiting for that to happen. Rather, perhaps the best weapon here is prayer—prayer that God would open the eyes of some who have thus far been tragically deceived by this New Age nonsense.

Further Reading

23 October 2012

Doctrine Matters

*The following article originally appeared here at Christian Research Network.

Photo: Wikimedia
Doctrine matters. Regardless of the common seeker-driven battle cry that "doctrine divides" or "Jesus didn't die for correct theology," the reality is that doctrine matters. In spite of the postmodern attempt to eschew the importance of doctrine and of truth, the genuine Christian knows that, without a right knowledge of the truth, a person cannot be saved. Doctrine matters.

Doctrine matters because, encompassed in that word, "doctrine," we see the teaching and the knowledge of such things as the nature and character of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. We see the truths of justification, regeneration, repentance and sanctification. Where would we be, for example, without the amazing doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement? In a 2003 article, Dr. Al Mohler defined doctrine thusly:
Doctrine is, quite literally, the teaching of the church--what the church understands to be the substance of its faith. It is no substitute for personal experience. Evangelical Christians have given clear witness to the necessity of personal faith in Jesus Christ, but that personal faith is based in some specific understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished on the cross. After all, we do not call persons to profess faith in faith, but faith in Christ. (Source)
Sound doctrine has been under attack from the beginning. It is evident even in the New Testament epistles that false teachers already had begun to rise up and challenge the precious, vital doctrines of the Church. Perhaps this is why Paul so often stressed the importance of sound doctrine, especially in his pastoral epistles:
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. (1 Tim. 4:6)
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (1 Tim. 6:3–5)
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Tim. 4:2–4)
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:9)
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1)
Even our Lord, with His final words on this Earth, commissioned His disciples to go into all the earth, make disciples, and teach them to observe all that He had commanded (Matt. 28:20). Jesus Christ taught doctrine. Would it not be expected per this command, then, that Christians would continue to teach those truths? Dr. John MacArthur has said,
God holds us accountable for what we believe as well as how we think about the truth He has revealed. All Scripture testifies to the fact that God wants us to know and understand the truth. He wants us to be wise. His will is that we use our minds. We are supposed to think, meditate, and above all, to be discerning. (Source)
Ultimately, doctrine may indeed divide, but it will divide because the truths taught by Jesus Christ are not always palatable to the prideful human heart and mind. Those who express contempt for sound doctrine may actually be revealing a graver condition of their heart. Dr. Mohler's article continues:
Those who sow disdain and disinterest in biblical doctrine will reap a harvest of rootless and fruitless Christians. Doctrine is not a challenge to experiential religion; it testifies to the content of that experience. The church is charged to call persons to Christ and to root them in a mature knowledge of Christian faith. (Source)
Doctrine matters because it is not merely enough to intellectually assent to a belief in Jesus. Did not the brother of our Lord state that even the demons believe and tremble (Jas. 2:19)? Dr. MacArthur has stated that, "Sound, biblical doctrine is a necessary aspect of true wisdom and authentic faith." The content and the substance of one's faith matters. If it did not, then countless men and women throughout Church history died in vain as they firmly opposed what they knew to be false doctrine. If doctrine did not matter, then there would be little need for that treasured book, the Bible.

To be sure, a full and complete understanding of every great truth is not necessary before one can be saved. Mere "head knowledge" of correct doctrine cannot save either. Nevertheless, without correct doctrine about the person and work of Jesus Christ, one cannot be saved. Without a proper understanding of who Jesus Christ is, namely, the Lord of all and the Savior of men, salvation simply is out of reach.

Doctrine matters.

Further Reading
Repentance and Faith: The Two Cannot Be Separate
Rome Killed Women, Too
Counted Worthy to Suffer

Saddleback Church Wants You to Know: "God Knows How Great You Are"

That's right, you are great. You may even be fabulous with a capital "F." And the best part? God thinks so too.
Source
This is not just erroneous, it is dangerous. Perhaps part of the problem is that the folks behind Saddleback Church's Facebook page have chosen to take a half-verse out of its appropriate and full context.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:1-10)
When one looks at the full context of this verse, Saddleback's conclusion of "God knows how great you are" does not even make sense. We are not great, God is great! It is He who has saved us, He who has granted us faith, He who empowers us to do good works, not to earn salvation, but as a result of salvation. It is God who ordained before the beginning of time what each believer's sanctification and good works would look like. These verses glorify God, they do not elevate man!

This is not the first time that Rick Warren's Saddleback Church has shared some rather atrocious theology. On Christmas Day of last year, Saddleback tweeted out the following:
Source
These offer ideal examples of why doctrine is so important. Saddleback is exhibiting in these messages a dangerous doctrine of man. The truth is, no man is great. Further, God is mad, in a sense, with those who have not repented and placed their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. While He does not wish for any man to perish (2 Pet. 3:9), those who cannot stand before God covered with the imputed righteousness of Christ, those who have not been forgiven of their sins, are enemies of Him.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Col. 1:21-23, emphasis added)
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4) 
There are only two choices available to man: darkness or light. Those who have not been saved by Christ live in darkness, and thus live as hostile enemies to God.

If we do nothing more than tell people that God thinks they are wonderful, without delivering to them the bad news that, short of repentance and faith in Christ, they are on their way to eternal damnation, then we demean the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we aid in the condemnation of sinners. Saddleback Church is one of the largest churches in America, and undoubtedly among the most influential. Yet they appear to stand ignorant of the truths surrounding salvation. Saddleback Church should repent of twisting God's Word and of leading astray those who are lost and dead in their sin. Jesus Christ does not offer easy truth, but He does offer the only truth that can save.

Further Reading
Saddleback Church: God Is Mad About You
Rick Warren Says Annual Campaign Is the "Single-Most Important Ingredient" in Saddleback's Growth
Muslim Woman Concludes "Islam Is all about Living a Purpose-Driven Life" After Hearing Rick Warren on 'Lifeclass'

22 October 2012

Rome Killed Women, Too

Photo: Wikimedia
We often hear of the great martyrs of the faith throughout church history. Yet, so often these lists contain primarily the names of men—great, revered men, to whom Christians today owe a great deal. It is important to remember, however, that many women also have died for their faith throughout history. Foxe's Book of Martyrs tells many of these stories, and I share only one of them with you today for your consideration—the story of Mrs. Cicely Ormes:
This young martyr, aged twenty-two, was the wife of Mr. Edmund Ormes, worsted weaver of St. Lawrence, Norwich. At the death of Miller and Elizabeth Cooper, before mentioned, she had said that she would pledge them of the same cup they drank of. For these words she was brought to the chancellor, who would have discharged her upon promising to go to church, and to keep her belief to herself. As she would not consent to this, the chancellor urged that he had shown more lenity to her than any other person, and was unwilling to condemn her, because she was an ignorant foolish woman; to this she replied, (perhaps with more shrewdness than he expected), that, however great his desire might be to spare her sinful flesh, it could not equal her inclination to surrender it up in so great a quarrel. The chancellor then pronounced the fiery sentence, and, September 23, 1557, she was brought to the stake, at eight o'clock in the morning.
After declaring her faith to the people, she laid her hand on the stake, and said, "Welcome thou cross of Christ." Her hand was sooted in doing this, (for it was the same stake at which Miller and Cooper were burnt), and she at first wiped it; but directly after again welcomed and embraced it as the "sweet cross of Christ." After the tormentors had kindled the fire, she said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Saviour." Then crossing her hands upon her breast, and looking upwards with the utmost serenity, she stood the fiery furnace. Her hands continued gradually to rise till the sinews were dried, and then they fell. She uttered no sigh of pain, but yielded her life, an emblem of that celestial paradise in which is the presence of God, blessed for ever.
It might be contended that this martyr voluntarily sought her own death, as the chancellor scarcely exacted any other penance of her than to keep her belief to herself; yet it should seem in this instance as if God had chosen her to be a shining light, for a twelve-month before she was taken, she had recanted; but she was wretched till the chancellor was informed, by letter, that she repented of her recantation from the bottom of her heart. As if to compensate for her former apostasy, and to convince the Catholics that she meant no more to compromise for her personal security, she boldly refused his friendly offer of permitting her to temporize. Her courage in such a cause deserves commendation—the cause of Him who has said, Whoever is ashamed of me on earth, of such will I be ashamed in heaven.
John Foxe. Foxe's Book of Martyrs, Kindle edition (Kindle Locations 5200-5217). 
Further Reading
The Ecumenical Compromise of the Alpha Course
BSF, a "Truly Ecumenical Fellowship"
Muslim Woman Concludes "Islam Is all about Living a Purpose-Driven Life" After Hearing Rick Warren on 'Lifeclass'

20 October 2012

Author and Pastor Max Lucado to Preach at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church

The name of Max Lucado is known to most anyone who has ever wandered the aisles of a so-called Christian bookstore. Along with former Willow Creek pastor Randy Frazee, Lucado pastors Oak Hills Church in San Antonio. He also is the author of such books as Fearless, Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference, God's Story, Your Story: When His Becomes Yours, and When God Whispers Your Name and participated in the Be Still DVD with popular SBC Bible teacher Beth Moore. Many know that Be Still featured contemplatives Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. In 2004, Christianity Today went so far as to name Lucado "America's Pastor."

That title, of course, appears today to be shared by two different men, namely Rick Warren and Joel Osteen. It seems fitting, then, that Max Lucado would be pleased to announce today on Twitter that he will be preaching this weekend at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church:
Source
Indeed, Lakewood Church does not want you to miss this weekend:
Source
In recent months, Lakewood Church has invited some rather interesting names to grace its stage. Not quite two months ago, the Osteens welcomed Seeker-Driven superstar Steven Furtick to preach the weekend services at Lakewood.

Earlier this summer, Word Faith pastrix Christine Caine of Hillsong Church was invited to speak at Lakewood's Youth Conference, an invitation that she was "honored" to accept. Interestingly, Caine also was found to be preaching the weekend services at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church earlier this month.

Lucado and Caine have a history of mutual appreciation, as he recently endorsed and even wrote the forward for Caine's new book, Undaunted
Source
On Caine's official website, a quote from Max Lucado likens the effervescent motivational speaker to the Apostle Paul, to Mary and to Esther, further revealing his excitement not only about the book, but about Caine herself:
Source
This decision by Lucado to eagerly accept an invitation to speak at the church of this nation's greatest proponent of the prosperity gospel may not surprise in light of the above information. Still, many will continue to readily devour the words of Lucado, whether in his preaching or in his books, ignoring these cautionary flags.

This reminds us of the importance of remaining faithful to the Word of God, and of forsaking ear-tickling sermons of warm, fuzzy feelings if they are found to be self-serving and erroneous. Today error runs rampant in a great number of evangelical churches. Those who truly belong to Christ must nurture and exercise their God-given discernment in order to avoid being swayed by these devilish teachings.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Further Reading
Rick Warren Says Annual Campaign Is the "Single Most Important Ingredient" in Saddleback's Growth
Learning to Pray with Steven Furtick and Joel Osteen
Christine Caine to Preach Weekend Services at Saddleback Church 

Flagship Churches Consider Leaving Sovereign Grace Ministries

Earlier this week, a lawsuit was brought against C.J. Mahaney's Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) alleging that leaders within the network participated in covering up multiple incidents of child sexual abuse. SGM is a network of churches in 21 different countries and is not without controversy. Just last year, founder and president of SGM, C.J. Mahaney, was the subject of an internal investigation as some accused him of "various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hypocrisy."

Now that SGM has moved its headquarters from Maryland to Louisville, it faces a new and solemn challenge in responding to this lawsuit. Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries updates us further in his latest article on the topic. View article →

19 October 2012

This 'n' That

I've always loved opening the mailbox and getting mail. Once I became an adult and started receiving and paying my own bills, the mail became a lot less fun, but I still love mail. Except for those obnoxious perfume samples that always arrive in the Macy's ads, those are annoying. So okay, I like mail.

Yesterday I walked down to my mailbox to find only one lonely item: the latest catalog for Family Christian Store (FCS). Really? This is disappointing because every time I visit my local FCS, I'm treated poorly and left wondering if they even bother to hire people who at least profess Christ. Add to that the abysmal resources offered by this store and, well, you get the idea. I'm not a fan.

So, as is to be expected, I flipped through the catalog. The first few pages are filled with trinkets and Jesus Junk. My personal favorite (as in, I love to hate it) is the kneeling Santa figurine. You know, the one where Santa Claus is kneeling and praying over the baby Jesus? Yeah, now there's a biblical, orthodox expression of the Christian faith.

A few more pages in and you find some Roman Catholic resources. I mean, really, the "Christian" store is selling rosaries? Perhaps they ought to consider a name change.

I won't even get started on the books except to say that, upon a quick glance, I only saw one redeeming one, and that was MacArthur's Twelve Unlikely Heroes. Unfortunately, it's surrounded by Perry Stone, David Jeremiah, Charles Stanley, John Ortberg, Max Lucado and Wayne Cordeiro, among others. Apparently FCS's "Book of the Year" is Sarah Young's mystical and occult-esque Jesus Calling. Ah, don't you feel that your soul is safe just walking into this store?

Okay, as you struggle to find some item on which to spend your FCS 25% off coupon, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Make sure you're checking the home page of The Elephant's Debt for updates to the situation at Harvest Bible Chapel.
  • I appreciate that Victoria Jackson takes a strong stand for what she believes, but I wish she'd work on her approach to apologetics. "Because that would make God mad" is not a convincing argument for those who hate Him.
  • Is it just me, or does the Virgin Mary always show up in New Jersey? Anybody else wondering why she's being punished like that?
  • So, Oprah invites "America's pastors" Osteen and Warren onto her show, Lifeclass, then days later an interview is released revealing that she is inspired by Sufism. Hm. I wonder if Rick Warren is regretting affirming Oprah in her damning beliefs in a false god? 
  • In Scotland, girls as young as 13 are being given the morning-after pill without parents' knowledge.
  • Closet Calvinist reviews Dan Phillips' The World-Tilting Gospel.
  • This Christianity Today article on 50 Christian Women You Should Know maybe should read, 50 professing Christian women you should know because, let's face it, there are quite a few dangerous teachers on that list.
  • Pastor Mike Abendroth of Bethlehem Bible Church and No Compromise Radio preaches on 1 Corinthians 15, discussing resurrection and that passage about baptism for the dead.
  • This is a great story (except for the fact that a 12 year old has a Facebook page). Parents, be involved in your children's lives—and make sure you know what they're doing on the internet!
  • I know a lot of Christians like to say we have liberty when it comes to celebrating things like Halloween, but I have a really good reason why we shouldn't.
  • It was a sad week as charges were filed against C.J. Mahaney's Sovereign Grace Ministries for covering up instances of child abuse. Some 14,500 pages of files on the Boy Scouts covering up abuse also were released. Perversion abounds in this country, even in the "safest" of corners. How twisted man must be to think that it is more important to protect an abuser, and a group's image, than to protect our innocent children!
  • Billy Graham: The Man and His Message

18 October 2012

17 October 2012

Rick Warren Says Annual Campaign Is the "Single-Most Important Ingredient" in Saddleback's Growth

Screenshot: PurposeDriven.com
In a new video at PurposeDriven.com, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church invites pastors and churches to embark with him on a new 40-day campaign. Behind this latest endeavor is the re-release of Warren’s bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life (PDL).

“If you want to help your church,” says Warren, “become stronger, healthier, more stable and experience exponential growth,” then joining this campaign is the way to achieve such goals. The implication seems to be that, in participating in such a campaign, a church may experience similar growth as Saddleback Church. Most pastors would claim to give God the glory for such explosive church growth as Warren has seen, even if such declarations were merely lip service. In this video, however, Rick Warren unequivocally states that the “single-most important ingredient in the growth of Saddleback Church” has been “the power of the annual campaign.” Continue reading →

15 October 2012

Muslim Woman Concludes "Islam Is all about Living a Purpose-Driven Life" After Hearing Rick Warren on 'Lifeclass'

“I am going there to preach the Gospel.” This is the reason that frequently is offered when a well-known Christian leader ventures into a forum where some think he ought not go. Oftentimes the Gospel is preached, and Christians rejoice that the lost were able to hear the good news of salvation and forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. Other times, however, the Gospel is diluted, or not presented at all, in spite of ample opportunities to share it. These instances are unfortunate and grievous.

Prior to appearing on Oprah’s Lifeclass last Friday, 5 October, pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church would tweet:
Source
The Apostle Paul preached the Gospel wherever he went, so it seems safe to assume that Warren here was implying that he would boldly preach the Gospel and speak the truth about Jesus Christ during his appearance on Lifeclass. Those who watched the live stream of the three-hour taping know, however, that Warren missed multiple opportunities to share the life-saving Good News of Christ. Continue reading →

Further Reading
Christine Caine to Preach Weekend Services at Saddleback Church
T.D. Jakes Tells 25,000 Women "Believing in God is Not Enough," You Must Believe in Yourself
Neurosurgeon's 'Proof of Heaven' Differs from God's as Found in Scripture

14 October 2012

Sunday Morning Praise

Why do we only sing this song on Resurrection Sunday? Jesus Christ is alive even today!

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

13 October 2012

Neurosurgeon's 'Proof of Heaven' Differs from God's as Found in Scripture

*This article originally appeared here at Christian Research Network.

There is no shortage today of fanciful tales of heavenly visits and "near death experiences." We all are familiar with the claims of a calming, bright, white light and the inevitable subsequent book that will follow a person's return from this brief sojourn to eternity. It seems that, just as one person's alleged story of a heavenly field trip fades from the mind of the public, another appears to take its place. This week, the media is reporting on the story of neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, who purportedly visited heaven while in a coma for seven days in 2008. Of course, most will not be surprised to know that Alexander has recorded his experience in a book entitled, Proof of Heaven.

Alexander, who prior to the event considered himself a "faithful Christian...more in name than in actual belief" (a concept that seems to be self-contradictory), has landed himself a cover story in Newsweek magazine, wherein he tells the tale of this seemingly inexplicable event. Dr. Alexander writes:
Very early one morning four years ago, I awoke with an extremely intense headache. Within hours, my entire cortex—the part of the brain that controls thought and emotion and that in essence makes us human—had shut down. Doctors at Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia, a hospital where I myself worked as a neurosurgeon, determined that I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain. 
When I entered the emergency room that morning, my chances of survival in anything beyond a vegetative state were already low. They soon sank to near nonexistent. For seven days I lay in a deep coma, my body unresponsive, my higher-order brain functions totally offline. 
(Source)
While in this state, however, Alexander claims that his "inner self" was "alive and well."
It took me months to come to terms with what happened to me. Not just the medical impossibility that I had been conscious during my coma, but—more importantly—the things that happened during that time. Toward the beginning of my adventure, I was in a place of clouds. Big, puffy, pink-white ones that showed up sharply against the deep blue-black sky. 
Higher than the clouds—immeasurably higher—flocks of transparent, shimmering beings arced across the sky, leaving long, streamerlike lines behind them. 
(Source)
Yet, the doctor was not alone on this journey. He claims that he was accompanied by a woman who communicated with him, though not with words, and shared with him a three-part message:
It gets stranger still. For most of my journey, someone else was with me. A woman....When first I saw her, we were riding along together on an intricately patterned surface, which after a moment I recognized as the wing of a butterfly. In fact, millions of butterflies were all around us—vast fluttering waves of them, dipping down into the woods and coming back up around us again.... 
Without using any words, she spoke to me. 
The message went through me like a wind, and I instantly understood that it was true. The message had three parts, and if I had to translate them into earthly language, I’d say they ran something like this: 
“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.” 
“You have nothing to fear.” 
“There is nothing you can do wrong.” 
(Source)
Let us pause here and reflect on the claim this neurosurgeon has made. Here is a man who admits that, when this coma and the subsequent "near death experience" occurred, was a Christian in name only, not in belief. In fact, Alexander himself states of his spiritual condition in 2008:
I sympathized deeply with those who wanted to believe that there was a God somewhere out there who loved us unconditionally. In fact, I envied such people the security that those beliefs no doubt provided. But as a scientist, I simply knew better than to believe them myself. (Source)
This profession of unbelief leads the reader to conclude that this man suffered a very serious, nearly fatal medical event seemingly as an unsaved individual. Yet, "heaven," as he experienced it, was little more than unconditional love and acceptance for a man who, based upon his own assertions, actually was an enemy of God. Unfortunately for Alexander, this runs quite contrary to Scripture. Those who are Christians "in name only" are false professors, and do not know God. When these "in name only" Christians meet the Lord face to face, they will hear some of the most heart-wrenching and terrifying words imaginable: "Depart from me, I never knew you" (Matt. 7:23).

Now, let us go back and consider Dr. Alexander's description of this "heaven" with its butterfly transportation, pink clouds and female tour guide. Does any of this agree with Scripture? What, if any, descriptions of Heaven exist in God's Word? After all, if anyone would know what Heaven is like, it ought to be God Almighty, Creator of the universe (Gen. 1:1; Rev. 10:6). Further, what are the reactions of some of those in Scripture who were privileged to see the heavenly realm?
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa. 6:1–5)
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. (Dan. 7:9–10)
But he [Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55–56)
At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald (Rev. 4:2–3)
Not one of these biblical accounts speaks of a wordless woman on an oversized butterfly. No, these great men, when blessed to peek into the heavenly realm, could focus on one thing only: Jesus Christ. 

Of further note is that the Apostle Paul, when "caught up to the third heaven" was not even allowed to speak of what he saw (2 Cor. 12:2–4). Yet how interesting it is that those who today claim to have visited "heaven" not only write about their adventures, but endlessly promote their books through talk show appearances, live speaking engagements and other outlets. How is it that the Apostle Paul was given a "thorn in the flesh" to maintain his humility in light of his heavenly visit, and these individuals increase in popularity and notoriety because of their so-called experiences?

Perhaps what is most interesting, however, is that not one of these alleged heavenly visits is the same as another. Dr. Eben Alexander, Don Piper (90 Minutes in Heaven) and Colton Burpo (Heaven is For Real) are some of the most well-known propagators of these heavenly tales in recent years, yet their stories do not align with one another. This is most curious, since the Bible gives no indication that each person will experience Heaven in a different manner. More vital to note, though, is that not one of these accounts coincides with what God's Word says about Heaven. If we desire to know more about the afterlife, then, it seems most obvious that we ought to turn to the Bible for our information, and not man-made mystical tales.

What, then, could be the purpose of this latest deceptive endeavor? Whether he realizes it or not, Dr. Alexander reveals this objective in the Newsweek article:
Not only is the universe defined by unity, it is also—I now know—defined by love. The universe as I experienced it in my coma is—I have come to see with both shock and joy—the same one that both Einstein and Jesus were speaking of in their (very) different ways. (Source)
It seems fair to propose that this is one of the primary goals of the Great Deceiver. To convince the world that sin, judgment and condemnation are not actual or final is one of Satan's greatest ploys. To unite the world in a circle of love, while denigrating and diminishing truth is no doubt a plan that has long been in place by the enemy of our souls.

There can be only one Truth, however, and that is Jesus Christ (John 14:6). This truth, the reality of the Gospel, will divide—our Lord warned us that it would (Luke 12:49–53). Christians must be mindful not to be swept away in the glimmer and glitz of yet another story of one man's purported excursion to "heaven." Rather, believers must remain in the Word and on their knees in prayer, that God would protect them from such deception, and expose such tales for what they are—lies spewed from the depths of Hell.

Further Reading
Heaven Is for Real
A Postmodern Interpretation of John 14:6
The Ecumenical Compromise of the Alpha Course
Will the Son of Man Find Faith on Earth?

12 October 2012

This 'n' That

"Clarity evangelist" Will Mancini is well-known for his contributions to the ideas of leadership and "vision" for church leaders. He has been featured here before, as we asked the question, "What Is a 'Church Unique Vision Kit?'" As far as I know, we're still waiting for an actual answer to that question.

In spite of his title as a "clarity evangelist," a tweet sent out this morning by Mancini is rather, well, unclear:
Source
So, "vision casting," which has no biblical basis whatsoever, now must take a backseat to "vision dripping," which also cannot be found in Scripture. This knowledge leads us to ask an extremely important question: Is your pastor a drip? Does your pastor drip? When you find yourself in the front pew on those Sunday mornings when you arrive a bit late, do you find yourself drenched in vision drips?

These are questions which must be asked and answered. After all, we must presume that if your vision casting pastor isn't also dripping vision, then clearly he is failing in his self-declared mission. Nobody wants a pastor who isn't walking around with a hanky in his pocket to catch the excess vision drips.

As for you, the mere pew-sitter and church member, if you do not wish to drip vision yourself, we suggest a simple antihistamine. That should dry it right up.

Okay, you can thank Chris Rosebrough for bringing the above tweet to my attention, and thus for inspiring the bizarre commentary that followed. With that, please enjoy this beautiful Fall day, as well as your week in review (kind of):
  • A new website went live early this week: The Elephant's Debt. It likely will be of great interest to those who have been affected by the fallout of Elephant Room 2, as well as those who have been following the recent wretched decline of Harvest Bible Chapel and pastor James MacDonald, much of which has been covered here at Do Not Be Surprised.
  • No doubt that many expected to see some fanfare on this site for The Elephant's Debt. In lieu of that for now, I offer you some thoughts shared by pastor Ken Silva. Chris Rosebrough also discussed these issues on his radio show, Fighting for the Faith. At this time, I've not much more to add to what these two men have said.
  • About a day or so after The Elephant's Debt began to make the usual rounds, Carl Trueman posted a rather timely piece at Reformation 21. Methinks he may have caught wind of some elephant stench.
  • Marsha West has written a good article on last week's live taping of Oprah's Lifeclass with Joel Osteen and Rick Warren.
  • Speaking of Osteen, have you ever noticed how he loves to use Proverbs to propagate his false teaching that everyone deserves to be rich and prosperous? Yeah, that would be a misinterpretation of wisdom literature.
  • Repentance is important. Don't share the Gospel without it. In fact, you can't preach the true Gospel without it.
  • Pastor Don Green preaches on Psalm 90. You might want to sit down for this one.  

10 October 2012

If God Does Not Watch Over Our Heart and Tongue

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies! (Psalm 141:3-4)
For the two things stand connected the being silent, and the being free from the charge of evil thoughts. It is very possible that although he observed silence, he had many ungodly thoughts, and these are worse than vain words. We have simply alluded in passing to this foolish notion, as what may convince the reader of the possibility of persons running away with a word torn from its connection, and overlooking the scope of the writer. In committing himself to the guidance of God, both as to thoughts and words, David acknowledges the need of the influence of the Spirit for the regulation of his tongue and of his mind, particularly when tempted to be exasperated by the insolence of opposition. If, on the one hand, the tongue be liable to slip and too fast of utterance, unless continually watched and guarded by God; on the other, there are disorderly affections of an inward kind which require to be restrained. What a busy workshop is the heart of man, and what a host of devices is there manufactured every moment! If God do not watch over our heart and tongue, there will confessedly be no bounds to words and thoughts of a sinful kind, — so rare a gift of the Spirit is moderation in language.

– John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries: Psalms

HT: The Old Guys

Further Reading
Repentance and Faith: The Two Cannot Be Separate
Reformation Must Begin in the Pulpit
Only One Truth

09 October 2012

Twenty Year Member of Redeemer Presbyterian Shares Concerns About Tim Keller

On 5 October 2012, Brannon Howse interviewed writer Jonathan Cousar on his daily talk show, Worldview Weekend. Cousar attended Tim Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian Church for twenty years. In this interview, Cousar shares with Howse some of the concerning trends he witnessed at Redeemer, including the promotion and teaching of mysticism and contemplative prayer. Cousar has voiced his concerns to Tim Keller personally, and shares some of those reactions.

The show may be heard in its entirety here (audio is available free for 14 days).


Further Reading