28 February 2013

The Word Made . . . for Television?

Is there any greater book than the Bible? Is there any greater treasure than that Truth which has been handed to the Christian by God? Is there anything more relevant, more life-changing, more convicting, more comforting, than the very Word of God. No, beloved, there is not.

Photo: Wikimedia
Yet, for reasons that far exceed the rationale of the regenerate, there are those who seek to twist and change this great Word so that it might be more relevant, more exciting, more enjoyed by those who stand as enemies of its Author. In this sad and unfortunate quest for more, the Truth becomes untruth and any benefit that may be derived from this Word is lost.

One may rightly inquire, what more could possibly be desired? Is it adventure the reader seeks? What greater adventure is there than the story of a nation wandering in the wilderness for 40 years before being allowed to enter the land promised to them by God? What young boy does not delight to hear his father read to him the story of David and Goliath? Oh, yes, the Bible has adventure.

Perhaps you are of a more lyrical bent. Why, there is an entire book of poems to be enjoyed in the Psalms! And far from sharing thoughts of temporal whims, these Psalms proclaim and praise the very God Who inspired them.

Is it love you seek? Then that search is over when you open the pages of Scripture, for it reveals not a fleeting version of man's emotion, but the greatest love ever demonstrated: the love of a holy and perfect God extended to sinners.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:13-14)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)
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. (Rom. 5:6-11)
This great book is no ordinary tome to be perused, enjoyed once and then placed on the shelf for a rainy day. No, this is the very Word of God, and while it contains all of those elements described above, it is not to be enjoyed piecemeal, but in its entirety as it tells the story of redemption through Jesus Christ the Lord.

This splendid, God-breathed Word is not merely a thing to be observed, but a thing to be obeyed. It is sufficient for all matters pertaining to life and godliness.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
Penned by men, yet inspired by the Holy Spirit, all that is contained within the pages of Scripture is true and trustworthy.
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet. 1:16-21)
And so this magnificent work, this great gift from a holy God to His children, cannot be improved upon. Yes, to enjoy it, to learn from it, to be convicted by its truths, to be overjoyed by the salvation of which it speaks, one must open it, one must read it, one must understand it. But, oh, what reward the Christian gleans upon immersing himself in the pages of the words of his Lord, even if for a few moments!

Why, then, would anyone seek to enhance this already perfect Word? A valid reason cannot be imagined, except perhaps that one desires to share what he thinks Scripture should teach rather than what the Word truly says.

Here one cannot help but think of The History Channel's upcoming miniseries, The Bible, set to air on 3 March 2013. Praised by men such as Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes, the film is being called 'epic', which is indeed quite a claim. Produced by Mark Burnett of Survivor fame and his wife, Touched By An Angel star Roma Downey, already books, studies, devotionals and other resources are available based upon this production.

The FAQ section of The Bible website answers a question about which many may be wondering:
Not only, then, were seeker-driven and Word Faith pastors such as Warren, Osteen and Jakes consulted, but others of questionable convictions like Erwin McManus, Craig Groeschel, Gabe Lyons, Samuel Rodriguez and others. Time and space prevent from examining here each of these names in depth.

The producers of The Bible even have consulted with Tom Peterson, founder and president of Catholics Come Home. The inclusion of Peterson is most interesting when one considers that the Roman Catholic Church preaches a false and deceptive gospel, having anathematized the true gospel as found in Scripture.

The official Board of Advisors for the miniseries also includes such troubling names as Richard Mouw and Miroslav Volf. One cannot help but wonder, with the consultation and input of so many differing theological views (albeit most of them liberal), can this production actually be an accurate representation of inspired Scripture?

Having viewed an extended preview (50 minutes in length) of the production, this writer would honestly like to ask the producers and consultants of this miniseries: Was the Bible itself consulted, or was this written using vague memories from stories learned in Sunday School years ago?

While the film no doubt will engage its viewers, creative license most certainly has been used. This can be seen in the story of Abraham as he prepares to sacrifice Isaac, yet stopped by God at the last moment, he turns and sees a lamb standing next to a tree. All the while, Sarah is seen running and calling frantically for Isaac as though she knows what her husband is about to do. As God Himself, through Moses, tells this story, however,  Abraham, upon being stopped by God, raises his eyes to see "a ram caught in the thicket by his horns" (Gen. 22:13), and Scripture offers no indication that Sarah engaged in such a frantic search for her son during this time. Some may consider this a minor issue, but if such a small and simple detail has not been accurately followed, what other errors may exist?

This same creative license is quite evident when Jesus calls Peter to be a disciple. Jesus asks Peter to "just give Me an hour, and I will give you a whole new life." Later, Jesus asks Peter to come with him so that He may make him a fisher of men, to which Peter asks, "What are we going to do?" Replies Jesus, "Change the world."

Looking at the synoptic gospels, both Matthew and Mark record few details regarding the call of Peter, though both note that Christ says to him and to Andrew his brother, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matt. 4:19; Mark 1:17). Luke shares more particulars, however the story recorded in Scripture differs greatly from that which was presented in this preview of The Bible miniseries:
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)
Similarly, in the film, the Apostle Paul, upon his dramatic conversion, is baptized by Ananias so that he may "change the world in [Jesus'] name." To be sure, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is life-changing, and the apostles may have turned the world upside down with their message (Acts 17:6–7), but the mission of the apostles, and of Christians throughout the ages, is to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins and salvation through Jesus Christ (Luke 24:47). Men are only saved one soul at a time, and though those souls are saved on this earth and in this life, Jesus Christ Himself declares that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

So the curious viewer of The Bible may ask, how does Scripture relay the exchange between Paul and Ananias?
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. (Acts 9:10-19, emphasis added)
“And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22:12-16)
Ah, but what does all of this matter? It is, after all, merely a television miniseries. Indeed. But what does one do when a church decides to take this television miniseries, with its creative and dramatic licenses, and use it as the theme of a sermon series? Rick Warren has decided to do just that with his new sermon series, History Makers. Based upon the brief description of the series provided on the Saddleback blog, one may wonder if the focus of these sermons will be Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2), or man's selfish need to feel 'extraordinary'.
Is this not the ideal illustration of the tragic state of the visible church today? To base one's sermons upon a television show that purports to be about the Bible rather than to preach from the Bible itself seems ignorant and insulting at best. The deceived, professing Christians of today, however, would much prefer to hear the twisted truth of the Bible that scratches their itching ears rather than to hear the piercing truth that actually is conveyed through Scripture.
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, (2 Tim. 4:3)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:12-13)
God did not share His Word so that it could be relegated to a cable television show to be enjoyed with popcorn and soda. He did not compose 66 books so that they could be contorted to soothe man's worldly notions. So if viewing The Bible miniseries, do so with the true Bible in hand, and do not place any trust in the workings of men or in a Jesus proclaimed from the screen. Trust rather in the true, living and sanctifying Word (John 17:17) and Jesus Christ who is that Word made flesh. 
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
(Psalm 19:7-11)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)
Additional Resources
The Sufficiency of Scripture
God's Own Defense of Scripture, Part 1
God's Own Defense of Scripture, Part 2

27 February 2013

NoCo90: Broken and Wounded

If you have an idea or suggestion for an episode of NoCo90, contact No Compromise Radio on their Facebook page or via email at: info then @ then nocompromiseradio.com.

Additional Resources
No Compromise Ever: Episode 2
NoCo90: Where Is Beth Moore's Husband?
A 'No Compromise' Conversation

Emerging Church Leader Tony Jones Discusses 'A Better Atonement'

*This article originally appeared here at Christian Research Network.

The doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement is made quite clear in Scripture and has been affirmed by Christians throughout church history. In a recent interview with Drew Sumrall of The Harvest Show, emerging church leader and author Tony Jones, in typical postmodern fashion, seeks to question and redefine this core tenet of the Christian faith. During the interview, Jones and Sumrall discuss Jones' newest ebook, A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin. Jones claims that the idea of the penal substitutionary atonement is a modern one that "began with Anselm in the Middle Ages" and that the first 1,000 years of church history knew nothing of the doctrine of the atonement as most Christians understand it today.

Below, Christian apologist and host of Fighting for the Faith, Chris Rosebrough, addresses the bold and erroneous claims of Jones:

Tony Jones is not the first to deny or question the atonement of Jesus Christ. Most recently, gay-affirming "evangelical punk preacher" Jay Bakker acknowledged in an interview with the Christian Post that he is "definitely questioning the atonement and trying to discover how we can see it in a different way."

Further Reading
Replacing the 'Violent' Cross
The World's Propitiation
Doctrine Matters

25 February 2013

Lydia's Conversion and God's Irresistible Grace

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14, NASB)
The manner of Lydia's conversion is a fine illustration of how God always redeems lost souls. From our human perspective, we may think we are seeking Him, that trusting Christ is merely a "decision" that lies within the power of our own will to choose, or that we are sovereign over our own hearts and affections. In reality, wherever you see a soul like Lydia's truly seeking God, you can be certain God is drawing her. Whenever someone trusts Christ, it is God who opens the heart to believe. If God Himself did not draw us to Christ, we would never come at all. Jesus was quite clear about this: "No man can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44). "No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father" (John 6:45).

The fallen human heart is in absolute bondage to sin. Every sinner is just as helpless as Mary Magdalene was under the possession of those seven demons. Romans 8:7–8 says, "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God." We are powerless to change our own hearts or turn from evil in order to do good: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil?" (Jer. 13:23). The love of evil is part of our fallen nature, and it is the very thing that makes it impossible for us to choose good over evil. Our wills are bent in accordance with what we love. We are in bondage to our own corruption. Scripture portrays the condition of every fallen sinner as a state of hopeless enslavement to sin.

Actually, it's even worse than that. it is a kind of death—an utter spiritual barrenness that leaves us totally at the mercy of the sinful lusts of our own flesh (Eph. 2:1–3). We are helpless to change our own hearts for the better....

[Lydia's] heart was truly open. She was a genuine seeker of God. But notice Luke's whole point: it was not that Lydia opened her own heart and ears to the truth. Yes, she was seeking, but even that was because God was drawing her. She was listening, but it was God who gave her ears to hear. She had an open heart, but it was God who opened her heart. Luke expressly affirms the sovereignty of God in Lydia's salvation....

If it were not for God's sovereign work drawing and opening the hearts of sinners to believe, no one would ever be saved. This is the very thing Paul has in mind in Ephesians 2, after stressing the utter spiritual deadness of sinners, when he says salvation—all of it—is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8–9).

Did you realize that even faith is God's gift to the believer? We don't reach down into our own hearts and summon faith from within by sheer willpower. God is the one who opens our hearts to believe. Repentance is something He graciously bestows (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25).

I think all Christians have some intuitive understanding of this truth....We know in our hearts that our salvation is wholly and completely the work of God's grace, and not in any sense our own doing. All believers, like Lydia, must confess that it was God who first opened our hearts to believe.

...Grace doesn't push sinners against their wills toward Christ; it draws them willingly to Him—by first opening their hearts. It enables them to see their sin for what it is and empowers them to despise what they formerly loved. It also equips them to see Christ for who He truly is. Someone whose heart has been opened like that will inevitably find Christ Himself irresistible. That is precisely the meaning of the expression "irresistible grace." That is how God draws sinners to Himself. Luke's description of Lydia's conversion captures it beautifully. The Lord simply opened her heart to believe—and she did.

– John MacArthur, Twelve Extraordinary Women, (Thomas Nelson: 2005), 192–194.

Further Reading
John MacArthur on the New Birth
Replacing the 'Violent' Cross
Halftime and the Renewed Mind

23 February 2013

Bethel Church's Jesus Culture to Plant New Church in Sacramento

Since it was brought to the attention of many that Jesus Culture, a band originating from Bethel Church in Redding, California, was on the schedule of entertainers for Louie Giglio's Passion 2013, concerned Christians have been speaking out and warning about the dangers of this popular worship band. When asked by Todd Friel of Wretched Radio about Jesus Culture and the teachings of Bethel Church, Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You, stated:
These are false prophets who are ushering people into Hell. Bad theology is an infinitely worse problem than bad politics, and we need to get our priorities straight. (Source)
Bethel Church is pastored by Bill Johnson, a well-known and influential member of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement. In addition to perpetuating the false and aberrant teachings of the NAR, members of Bethel also claim "signs and wonders" such as miraculous healings, and glittering glory clouds spontaneously appearing during their worship services. Upon visiting Bethel Church in Redding, one may also have the chance to participate in a so-called "fire tunnel" as seen below:

Any ministry arising out of this church, then, necessarily raises red flags of warning for the watchful Christian.

Jesus Culture claims to be more than merely a worship band, calling itself a "global movement." The band's official website explains its history in more detail:

A closer examination of this history reveals that the members of Jesus Culture claim to have received direct revelation from God Himself:

Based upon these assertions, then, one cannot question, doubt or challenge any of the activities, claims or teachings set forth by the members of Jesus Culture. To do so would be akin to questioning God Himself. This would include stories of personal encounters with Jesus Christ and God the Father, just like the story told below by lead singer Kim Walker-Smith:

The shocking and even blasphemous claims of Walker-Smith already have been tested against Scripture here. It should come as little surprise that her spectacular story failed that test. Nevertheless, the popularity of the group continues to grow, with that growth no doubt aided by their appearance earlier this year at Giglio's Passion 2013.

Jesus Culture's own events feature talks and teachings from some of the NAR's most prominent leaders, including Cindy Jacobs, Lou Engle and Dutch Sheets. Thus, not only did the group emerge out of a heretical church, but it perpetuates similar heretical teachings at its own events. Because this band is internationally known and popular, the Christian must face the sobering reality that the dangerous beliefs of Jesus Culture and its members have taken root across the globe. Indeed, just as their Facebook page states, they are a "global movement." It just so happens that it is a very perilous, detrimental movement.

An interesting announcement recently was made, however, on the website of Bethel Church. Lead pastor Bill Johnson proudly announced that he was sending out Jesus Culture director Banning Liebscher, and the entire Jesus Culture group, to plant a new church in Sacramento, California. The official video can be seen below:

Jesus Culture also has shared the following video on their own Facebook page. In it they explain that Bethel Church is sending them to Sacramento to "establish the Jesus Culture ministry, and as well in the future to plant a local expression of who we are as Jesus Culture." It may also be noted that at about 5:30, Banning Liebscher proclaims that they began contemplating this move last year when God started "stirring their hearts" through a "dream somebody sent" to Liebscher.

And so, while the permanent presence of Jesus Culture will remain in the Golden State, it seems likely that this church planting effort will bolster the global Jesus Culture movement. A movement, it is important to note, that is aimed predominantly at the youth, even as Louie Giglio's Passion conferences are designed primarily for those between the ages of 18 and 25.

Indeed, these young ones are the future of the visible church. This is all the more reason for them not to be exposed to emotionally manipulative music, a false gospel of love and supernatural experiences without any mention of sin, wrath, righteousness or justice and manufactured "signs and wonders." 
Instead, these young people need the clear and unambiguous proclamation of the Word of God, even if that means that they feel conviction of sin rather than a warm, fuzzy tingling from their toes to their nose. 

Professing young Christians need to be nourished (1 Tim. 4:6) by the feeding of the Word from faithful shepherds, not wolves who themselves labor under the bondage of deception and a false gospel (2 Tim. 4:1–4). What the younger generation needs is no different than what Christians of every age need—the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in His perfect and holy Word.

Further Reading
Jesus Culture and Judah Smith to Join Piper, Chan, Moore and Others at Giglio's Passion 2013
Thank You, Lord. Reader Is Led "to the Truth I Tried to Reject"
The Modern Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit
The Authority of the Apostles

22 February 2013

This 'n' That

Japanese Macaque
It seems I'm a bit short on wit and thoughts worth pondering for a Friday morning. I composed several of these 'monologues' in my head before sitting down to actually type it out, and for whatever reason none of them seem worthy of being elevated to This 'n' That intro status. So I'll take a cue from Proverbs and assume that to refrain from many words today may be an exercise in wisdom.

I do, however, have another lengthy list of links (how's that for alliteration?) for you today. If you live in the Midwest, there's a good chance you're home bound after yesterday's winter storm, so you have no excuse not to read every single link. And if you live in New England and are preparing for the coming onslaught of yet more snow, well, you can save this post and peruse it over the weekend. It'll help you recover from shoveling all of that snow. So, as is the custom around here, pour yourself a piping hot cup of tea or coffee, sit back and enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Beginning next week, the Grace to You blog will be running a timely critique of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • I've not seen the extremely controversial and blasphemous Saturday Night Live skit that everyone has been talking about all week. I'm pretty confident that I don't want to, nor do I need to see it in order to condemn it.
  • Massachusetts public schools must now allow so-called 'transgender' students to use whichever bathroom they would like. Oh yes, this seems like a totally fool-proof plan.
  • The Unification Church recently held its first mass wedding ceremony since the death of the cult's founder and self-proclaimed messiah.
  • Drum roll please...Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt have started a podcast. If you're thinking to yourself that you already listen to too many podcasts, then may I suggest that it's time to rearrange your podcast priorities? "The Mortification of Spin" is only a bi-weekly bit, so I think you can squeeze it in. 
  • The Cripplegate ran a fantastic 3-part series this week entitled, "Why Reformed Pastors Need Not Be Charismatic." It was a refutation to a recent talk given at the Desiring God conference by pastor Tope Koleoso. Start here at Part 1. Then go here, then here.
  • That brings me to my new favorite Twitter account: Fascinating Pictures. They're responsible for the cute pic above of a Japanese macaque. If you're on Twitter, you'll love following this account.
  • It was big news this week that Justin Bieber endorsed Judah Smith's new book. Just so we have this in writing, if I ever write a book (not that I plan to) and Justin Bieber endorses it, do not let me write anything else ever. Are we clear? Good.
  • Dr. Steve Lawson on the Five Solas of the Reformation:

21 February 2013

NoCo90: No Arminians in Heaven

The title of this post undoubtedly already has some people ready to throw darts. Please watch the video before you do.

If you have an idea or suggestion for an episode of NoCo90, contact No Compromise Radio on their Facebook page or via email at: info then @ then nocompromiseradio.com.

Additional Resources
NoCo90: Where Is Beth Moore's Husband?
Beth Moore's 'Sabbath Moment' Playdate with God
Jesus Culture and Judah Smith to Join Piper, Moore, Chan and Others at Giglio's Passion 2013

Hillsong Church Scrutinized for Vast Income; Brian Houston Responds to "Same Old False Claims"

*This article originally appears here at Christian Research Network.

Australian tabloid television show, A Current Affair (ACA), recently ran a story questioning the vast income of Brian and Bobbie Houston, their Hillsong Church and its affiliated ministries. The show claims to have obtained "copies of Hillsong's most recent financial documents" that show that, in 2011, the ministry reported a tax-free revenue of $55 million between the church, the music ministry, conferences and Bible college courses. At the core of the report is the question: should non-profit entities such as Hillsong Church pay taxes on profits that do not go to charity?

This is not the first time such accusations have been levied at the Hillsong Church empire. In 2010, Brian Houston posted a lengthy letter on the Hillsong website responding to criticism about their finances and income. Houston concludes his letter by stating:
Bobbie and I are grateful to God for His blessing, have both worked hard for over 35 years and I believe it has been through wise investment and consistency that we have seen our lives grow. We are very committed to living by the same principles of giving and generosity that we teach others and one of the great blessings of LMI [Leadership Ministries Incorporated] has been to enable us each year to contribute significantly to the Hillsong Foundation and other missions, causes and outreaches that are passionately focused on helping people. We are blessed and I would want the same for anyone else in our position and stage of life. When, 27 years ago, we started Hillsong Church, the furthest thing from our mind was financial gain, in fact, we put everything on the line then and we have that same view today.
Upon the airing of the 18 February 2013 A Current Affair report, Brian Houston was quick to respond again, both on Twitter and on the church website. He claims that the accusations are nothing more than recycled allegations from this previous investigation. In the post, "Statement from Hillsong Church Re: A Current Affair 18 Feb, 2013," Houston writes:
This story was nothing more than a rehash of the same old false claims that have been discredited in the past. It was full of misinformation and clearly had an anti-church agenda. Fortunately most Australians view stories like this on tabloid TV as void of all credibility and will rightly dismiss this for what it is – a grab at television ratings at the expense of the beliefs of millions of Christians across the nation. (Source)
Though presented in typical tabloid-TV manner, the ACA report does rightly identify some of the tactics used by some churches to convince their members to tithe 10% of their income "to God." One such teaching may be that one is "robbing God" if he does not give his tithe or that blessing necessarily will follow upon the contribution of one's 10%. These appear to be common teachings among those who teach a mandatory tithe.

Brian Houston also has faced criticism in the past for his prosperity teaching. Chris Rosebrough, Christian apologist and host of Fighting for the Faith, has said of Hillsong:
This is a church that is having profound influence and impact on American evangelicalism. But this is not a Christian church....Because they preach a false gospel. A church can call itself a Christian church all it wants, but if it doesn’t present the historic Christian faith and the biblical gospel of Christ and Him crucified for our sins, repentance and the forgiveness of sins, but gives you a different gospel, then according to God’s Word—if it preaches a different gospel, gives you a different gospel—then the pastor doing that is anathema. That means eternally condemned. Read Galatians 1. I cannot emphasize enough that Hillsong is not a church that we should embrace as full of people who are Christian brothers and sisters, especially the leaders of Hillsong. They really are instead like the TBN prosperity preachers of the United States. They are the same stripe, they are scratching itching ears, telling people what they want to hear and making a ton of money doing it. (Source)
Perhaps the more crucial question for the Christian, then, is not whether organizations such as Hillsong should pay taxes, but whether the strategies and preaching that are used to motivate members' giving are of a sound, biblical nature. In other words, is the Word of God being twisted and misused as a means of manipulative financial gain? If so, then perhaps that is the greater sin.

Further Reading
John MacArthur on the New Birth
John Mark Comer Clarifies Charges of Polytheism
Alpha Course’s Gumbel Invites Vineyard UK Founder Eleanor Mumford & Furtick, Hybels to Leadership Conference

20 February 2013

John MacArthur on the New Birth

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?
(John 3:1–10)
From start to finish, salvation is wholly a monergistic work of God. Just as no man contributes to his physical birth, so also does no sinner contribute to his second, spiritual birth. The new birth, then, is something that happens to a man, not by a man. It is the power, work and grace of God that enables a dead sinner to repent and believe upon Christ. When that sinner is 'born again,' he is 'born from above,' and thus all glory for that salvation must necessarily be lavished upon God for His saving work.

Pastor John MacArthur recently preached through John 3:1–10 in a series of four sermons. His teaching about the new birth and regeneration is vital and is not to be missed.

Further Reading
Ten Minutes with John MacArthur
No Compromise Ever: Episode 2
Thank You, Lord. Reader Is Led "to the Truth I Tried to Reject"

19 February 2013

A Life that is Becoming to the Gospel

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ... (Phil 1:27a)
Now that is the way the New Testament appeals to us to live the Christian life. It does not put us under rules and regulations, or merely say that we ought to be living this kind of life because it is better than any other. Rather, it comes with its own inevitable logic and reasons. You say you are a Christian, you say you believe the gospel of Christ, very well, all I ask of you, is to live your life in the way that is becoming to that gospel. All I say is, if you believe in the fact of sin, show that you hate it; if you believe in the death of Christ, then demonstrate it. If you believe in the rebirth and the power of the Holy Spirit, let it be evident to all that this is a fact; if you really say you believe in that glory that is to come, well do you not think that it is only reasonable and logical that you should be setting your affection there and not here, and that you should be gazing on those things rather than on these? Should you not rather be hasting on to it and purifying yourself and doing your utmost to be ready for it? Only exercise your citizenship in a manner that shall be worthy of the gospel of Christ.

– D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Life of Joy: An Exposition of Philippians 1 and 2, (Baker Book House: 1989), 120–121.

Further Reading
Women Elders: the World vs. the Word
Ten Minutes with John MacArthur
Even the Demons Believe

16 February 2013

Gay-Affirming Pastor Jay Bakker: "I Am Definitely Questioning the Atonement"

*This article originally appeared here at Christian Research Network.

Self-labeled "evangelical punk preacher" Jay Bakker, son of televangelists Jim Bakker and the late Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, has released a new book that calls into question many of orthodox Christianity's long-held beliefs.

According to the Christian Post (CP), which recently ran a rather lengthy article and interview with the 37-year-old pastor of Revolution Church NYC, Bakker's new book will encourage "Christians to doubt, question and re-examine their beliefs and the Bible in pursuit of the 'unknown God of limitless grace' that [Bakker's] come to know through his own faith journey." Faith, Doubt and Other Lines I've Crossed is, according to CP, "heavy on love and grace and selective in its assessment of Scripture."

Writes CP reporter Nicola Menzie:
Although Bakker's theology may cause some readers to bristle, his demands for a more biblically literate, compassionate and socially-conscious Christian Church certainly hold merit. As the preacher explained to The Christian Post this week, there is plenty that the Church has gotten right in terms of combating poverty and hunger, but he also insists Christians need to re-think the issues he believes much of the community has gotten wrong – especially when it comes to gays and lesbians. (Source)
Of course, that Jay Bakker is LGBTQ-affirming is no surprise to most Christians. Neither, then, does it shock that Bakker would seek to persuade believers to "doubt, question and re-examine their beliefs and the Bible." Yet, Amy Spreeman of Stand Up for the Truth draws attention to a graver statement made by Bakker in this CP interview: Jay Bakker, perhaps unsurprisingly to some, appears to deny the atonement.

15 February 2013

This 'n' That

I love February 15. Why? Because this is the day that I can run over to the drug store and buy Brach's JuJu Hearts for 50% off. A bag or two allows me to remain in juju bliss until next February 15. My dentist probably appreciates this, too. After all, nothing can cause cavities like gummi candy! I'm not sure what it is about these chewy, cherry heart-shaped sugar bombs, but they quite possibly may be one of the best non-chocolate candies out there.

Of course, with Easter coming kind of early this year, the Valentine's candy is quickly being phased out and replaced with Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs and those chocolate-covered marshmallow bunnies that taste a little like styrofoam in spite of their deceptive chocolate smile. As much as I love the Easter season (for the celebration of Christ's resurrection, not for the candy), I cannot wait for it to be over simply because we need a break from all this candy! Beginning with Halloween, it's one sugar-laden holiday after another until we finally get past Easter. I'm convinced that, between the months of October and April, many Americans are just walking around in sugar comas. When can we get a holiday that's celebrated by steaming vegetables?

Well, before you head on over to CVS to look for your own bag of JuJu Hearts (be careful not to get the cinnamon flavor), take a moment first to enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • I'm actually surprised it's taken this long for Illinois to pursue gay marriage.
  • Did you hear about the meteor explosion in Russia? They're reporting at least 1,000 injured.
  • Some people were able to get their 'ashes to go' on Wednesday.
  • Well, it's good to know that if Trader Joe's insists on no longer carrying my very favorite brand of chocolate sorbet, I can at least attempt to make my own.
  • The Master's Seminary has launched its Theological Resource Center. Forget the JuJu hearts, this makes me feel like a kid in a candy store!
  • This German ad campaign may have been a little bit mean, but it's pretty funny. Besides, nobody was hurt and free deodorant was given to unsuspecting victims, so I think it's okay to laugh.
  • You know what we need more of in church? Pom-pons.
  • A Texas teen is suing her parents to stop them from forcing her to have an abortion.
  • Ready...Set...Awww! Your weekly dose of adorable.
  • There's an 11-year-old kid who has been ordained and who claims God speaks to him. And now his ego is being inflated more as he's featured in an episode of the 'Prodigies' web series.
  • Well, I know I'd hate it if Tennessee had confiscated my pastor's venomous snakes. You know, if my pastor was a snake-handler.
  • In the mood to hear an excellent, Christ-centered sermon? Then you'll want to listen to "He Gave Them New Clothes," a sermon preached this past Sunday evening by my friend Daniel Neades.
  • Rick Warren announced this week that he'll begin a daily radio show later this year. He says it will begin the first week of April. For the record, April 1 is on a Monday this year. Am I the only one who finds this amusing?
  • Don Green preaches on 1 John 4:7–12, and why we love one another:

14 February 2013

Watch Your Step this Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day and I find myself reminded of a quote from Wild at Heart author John Eldredge. (No, this is not in any way an endorsement of that book or of Eldredge). Tim Challies posted this bizarre story from Eldredge's book Beautiful Outlaw back in October 2011, but somehow it just seems more appropriately marveled at on February 14:
I was going to call this book 'Jesus of a Thousand Hearts', because of the way he continually breaks into my life. He “speaks” to me through hearts. I’ll find stones in the shape of hearts in rivers where I’m fishing. I’ve seen them almost step-by-step up a mountainside when on a grueling climb. Praying in the morning I’ll look out the window and passing by will be a heart-shaped cloud. Dinner rolls, seashells, stains on my jeans. I’ve won the lottery when it comes to hearts from Jesus. But I am ashamed to admit that last summer, I grew a little impatient with them. I was going through a trying time and seeking God for the answer to many questions. Often, he would simply give me a heart in reply. I’d be walking down the sidewalk, and there in the cement see a heart-shaped hole, made by a bubble when they poured the sidewalk.
I actually grew a little dismissive of them. I didn’t want hearts—I wanted answers.
So, Jesus stopped giving these treasures of our friendship.
Last fall, while walking through an alpine meadow bow hunting, I was asking him, 'How come you don’t give me hearts anymore?' I asked it in a pouting kind of way. At that moment something gray caught my eye. I looked down midstride, and there in the grass, about as big as a dinner plate, was a dried piece of cow manure—in the perfect shape of a heart.
If I didn’t know Jesus adores me, if I didn’t know he is playful, and if our relationship didn’t allow me to receive a playful tease, I might have misinterpreted the icon. But I loved it. It was both, 'Oh, so now you want a heart?' and, 'I adore you still.' A cow-pie heart. That is so Jesus. Wish I’d taken a photo of it—we could have put it on the cover of this book.
As Challies declared: Worst. Gift. Ever.

So this Valentine's Day, watch your step, I guess.

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day to all my fellow five-pointers (and anyone else who just likes tulips).

photo credit: McBeth via photopin cc

Further Reading

13 February 2013

Rob Bell's New Book "Tackles Misconceptions about God"

Rob Bell is back with a new book. What We Talk About When We Talk About God is set to release in March 2013. The publisher of the book, HarperCollins, says that in this book, Rob Bell "does for the concept of God what he did for heaven and hell in his book Love Wins."

Well, that sums it up. If Bell's new book "does for the concept of God" what Love Wins did for Heaven and Hell, then this new tome must completely distort the truth about God that He has revealed to us in His Word, thereby blaspheming the very One Who gives us breath. Of course, the publisher has a different view:
Pastor Rob Bell explains why both culture and the church resist talking about God, and shows how we can reconnect with the God who is pulling us forward into a better future. Bell uses his characteristic evocative storytelling to challenge everything you think you know about God. What We Talk About When We Talk About God tackles the misconceptions about God and reveals how God is with us, for us, ahead of us, and how understanding this could change the entire course of our lives. (Source)
One wonders: did anyone ask Rob Bell to "challenge everything" we thought we knew about God? It seems that the Bible, the place where Christians go to learn about God, does not stutter when it addresses this subject. Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM) offers a helpful, but certainly not comprehensive, list of verses that answer the question, "Who is God?"
  1. God Is One - Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4
  2. God Is Truth -Psalm 117:2; Jer. 10:10
  3. God is Light - 1 John 1:5
  4. God is Love - 1 John 4:8,16
  5. God Is Infinite - Jer. 23:24; Psalm 147:5
  6. God is All Knowing - 1 John 3:20
  7. God is Everywhere - Psalm 139:7-12
  8. God is All Powerful - Jer. 32:17,27
  9. God is Unequaled - Isaiah 40:13-25
  10. God Is Perfect - 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139
  11. God Is A Most Pure Spirit - John 4:24
  12. God Is Invisible - 1 Tim. 1:17
  13. God Does Not Have A Human Body - Luke 24:39; Deut. 4:15-16
  14. God Does Not Change - Num. 23:19; Mal. 3:6; James 1:17
  15. God Is Without Limit - 1 Kings 8:27; Jer. 23:23-24
  16. God Is Eternal - Psalm 90:2; 1 Tim. 1:17
  17. God Is Incomprehensible - Rom. 11:33; Psalm 145:3
  18. God Is The Almighty One - Rev. 1:8; Rev. 4:8
  19. God Is Most Wise - Rom. 16:27; Jude 1:25
  20. God Is Most Holy - Isaiah 6:3; Rev. 4:8
  21. God Is Most Free - Psalm 115:3
  22. God Is Most Absolute - Isaiah 44:6; Acts 17:24-25
  23. God Works According To His Will - Eph. 1:11; Rom. 8:28
  24. God Receives Glory - Rom. 8:36; Rev. 4:11
  25. God Is Most Loving - 1 John 4:8-10
  26. God Is Gracious - Exodus 33:19; 1 Pet. 2:3
  27. God Is Merciful - Exodus 34:6; Psalm 67:1; James 5:11
  28. God Is Long-suffering - Psalm 86:15; 2 Pet. 3:15
  29. God Abounds In Goodness - Psalm 31:19; Psalm 52:1; Rom. 11:22
  30. God Is Forgiving - Dan. 9:9; Eph. 1:7; Psalm 86:5
  31. God Rewards Those Who Seek Him - Heb. 11:6
  32. God Is Just In All His Judgments - Neh. 9:32-33; 2 Thess. 1:6
  33. God Hates Sin - Psalm 5:5-6; Hab. 1:13
  34. God Is the Creator - Isaiah 40:12, 22, 26
  35. God Is Shepherd - Gen. 49:24
Nevertheless, it is quite kind of Rob Bell to help us "tackle" these outdated and fallacious ideas about the Almighty. After all, what kind of naïve, unsophisticated people would we be if we actually trusted God and His Word?

As Carl Trueman so aptly stated, this forthcoming book of Bell's looks to be
its own refutation and should be called out for what it is: laughable, self-important gibberish. To build on a phrase from Niebuhr, for these chaps "A God of their own invention brought people just like them into a kingdom without clear definition through the ministrations of a Christ who looks like an over-indulged American thirty-something." So, yes, people will take it seriously and the book will no doubt sell in vast quantities. As the old song has it: Find out what they like and how they like it and let them have it just that way. (Source)
And as Owen Strachan projects:
It looks like it will be another epistle for the “spiritual, but not religious” crowd, and at least the book trailer is–well, confusing. I’m guessing the book will be about getting in touch with God without all the trappings of organized evangelicalism, all the unpopular stuff. (Source)
Yes, I'd say that just about sums it up.

photo credit: feyip via photopin cc

Further Reading
Even the Demons Believe
The Authority of the Apostles
No Compromise Ever: Episode 2

NoCo90: "We're Known for What We're For, Not What We're Against"

Further Reading
NoCo90: God Told Me...
Even the Demons Believe
No Compromise Ever: Episode 2

12 February 2013

No Compromise Ever: Episode 2

Mike Abendroth, James White, Phil Johnson and Carl Trueman discuss the importance of Sola Scriptura, especially in a day when mysticism continues to gain popularity within the visible church.

Additional Resources:
No Compromise Ever: Episode 1
A 'No Compromise' Conversation
Doctrine Matters

11 February 2013

Even the Demons Believe

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
(Jas. 2:14–26)
The Bible tells us that there are many counterfeits in the world: counterfeit Christs, counterfeit gospels, counterfeit prophets, counterfeit Christians and counterfeit faith. It is a sad reality that the pews (or stadium seats) of many churches are filled with those who profess to know Christ and to have been saved by Him, but whose lives fail to bear even the tiniest speck of fruit to demonstrate that faith. Rather, their lives stand in direct contradiction to the Gospel by which they claim to be saved. Not that men are saved by their works, but that good works necessarily will be found in the life of a true believer. The glorious truth of Ephesians 2:8–9 stands strong and true, that it is by grace that men are saved through faith—not by the work of men, but by the person and work of Christ, a merciful gift from God to sinners. Yet, as dearly as the believer loves those verses, how often the following verse is forgotten:
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. 2:8–10)
photo: herzogbr via photopin cc
True salvation wrought within a sinner by the power of the Holy Spirit will result in a changed life. Those who have not been changed by Him have not been saved by Him. How tragic it is to watch those whom we love walk down a wide path of destruction, misled by a false conversion and a counterfeit faith. Christians must understand the gravity of such deception and be prepared to confront it.

May you find the following sermon, delivered Sunday, February 10, by Pastor Mike Abendroth of Bethlehem Bible Church, to be a helpful and motivating tool in developing a greater understanding of and zeal to challenge counterfeit faith. Each one of us knows someone who professes Christ with his lips but denies the Lord with his life. May we not stand silent when faced with such false faith...faith that is worse than that of the demons.

Click here to listen to the sermon, "Worse than Demon Faith."

Further Reading
The Subtle Deeds of Satan and the Saving Truth of the Holy Spirit
We Trust in Jesus for What We Cannot Do Ourselves
Halftime and the Renewed Mind

09 February 2013

The Subtle Deeds of Satan and the Saving Truth of the Holy Spirit

Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Man today, as we have been saying, and as we know full well, not only believes he is being led by his mind; he rejects God because of his mind and understanding. He laughs at religion, he laughs at those who denounce this worldly view of life. He lives for the present; it is the one thing that counts. And he believes that to be a rational point of view to take. He proves it to his own satisfaction and is convinced that he is led by his mind. He does not realize that the light that is in him has become dark. He does not see that his faculties have become upset because of sin. He does not see that various forces are controlling and drugging his mind which is therefore no longer operating freely and rationally. But at the end he will come to see it; at the end he will come to himself like the Prodigal Son of old. Suddenly he will see that the things in which he trusted were dark, and have misled him, and that he has lost everything—the light in him is darkness and how great is that darkness! There is nothing worse than that, to discover at the end that the very thing to which you pinned your faith is the one thing that has let you down.

All this can be seen in that picture of Dives and Lazarus in Luke 16. That man, I am sure, justified himself day by day and said, 'It is all right.' But after he died and found himself there in hell, he suddenly saw it. He saw that he had been a fool all his life. He had done it all deliberately, and it had led him to this. He saw what a fool he had been, and he pleaded with Abraham to send somebody to his brethren who were doing the same thing. He discovered that the light that was in him was darkness and that it was great darkness. That is one of the most subtle deeds of Satan. He persuades a man that by denying God he is being rational; but, as we have seen already several times, what is really happening is that he makes him a creature of lust and desire whose mind is blinded and whose eye is no longer single. The greatest faculty of all has become perverted.

If you are not a Christian do not trust your mind; it is the most dangerous thing you can do. But when you become a Christian your mind is put back in the center and you become a rational being....Truth must be received with the mind, and the Holy Spirit enables the mind to become clear. That is conversion, that is what happens as the result of regeneration. The mind is delivered from this bias of evil and darkness; it sees the truth and loves and desires it above everything else. That is it. There is nothing more tragic than for a man to find at the end of his life that he has been entirely wrong all the time.

...Sin is a total loss. If you are not living to serve Him, then that will be your fate. You will have nothing at all, and you will dwell in that negativity, that hopeless negativity through all eternity. God forbid that that should be the fate of anyone within reach of these words. If you want to avoid it, go to God and confess to Him that you have been serving earthly things, and laying up for yourselves treasures upon earth. Confess it to Him, give yourself to Him, place yourself unreservedly in His hands and above all ask Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit who alone can enlighten the mind, clear the understanding, make the eye single and enable us to see the truth—the truth about sin, and the only way of salvation by the blood of Christ—the Holy Spirit who can show us how to be delivered from the perversion and the pollution of sin, and to become new men and women, created after the fashion and pattern of the Son of God Himself, loving the things of God and serving Him, and Him alone.

(D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, [Eerdmans: 1976], 375–377.)

Further Reading
Women Elders: the World vs. the Word
Halftime and the Renewed Mind
Thank You, Lord. Reader Is Led "to the Truth I Tried to Reject"