31 January 2013

Pithy Puritan Quotes About Christ

"When Christ reveals Himself there is satisfaction in the slenderest portion, and without Christ there is emptiness in the greatest fullness." — Alexander Grosse

"It is a destructive addition to add anything to Christ." — Richard Sibbbes

"To forsake Christ for the world is to leave a treasure for a trifle....eternity for a moment, reality for a shadow." — William Jenkyn

Further Reading
Women Elders: the World vs. the Word
Thank You, Lord. Reader Is Led to "the Truth I Tried to Reject"
Doctrine Matters

NoCo90: Miracles and iPhones

29 January 2013

Seeker-Driven Pastor Brings Polytheism into the Mainstream

Christianity is, by necessity, a monotheistic religion. The God that Christians worship—the one, true God—tells His own that this is so:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Deut. 6:4)
The idea of polytheism—that there exists in the universe a plurality of gods—has been throughout the ages a concept set forth by pagan religions. In fact, it is because of the pagan, polytheistic beliefs of Israel's Canaanite neighbors that God issues the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4. This is not the only place in Scripture where God affirms His exclusivity:
To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. (Deut. 4:35)
Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. (Isaiah 44:6)
It is shocking to think, then, that the pagan idea of polytheism would ever begin to creep into mainstream evangelicalism. Yet such a transgression recently was committed by John Mark Comer, pastor of Solid Rock Church in Portland, Oregon.

26 January 2013

Women Elders: the World vs. the Word

photo credit: TechSavi via photopin cc
From its fashion to its technology to its leadership, the seeker-driven movement is known for modeling the church after the culture so that the lost will not feel out of place when there. The idea of "doing church for the unchurched" necessarily leads to pragmatism and even compromise as a group of professing Christians seeks to entice the unsaved with ear-tickling relevance. As the seeker-friendly movement gained momentum, it redefined "church" by ignoring God's purposes for the same.

This was an ideal setup for the father of lies, however, as he now had ample opportunity to undermine the clear Word of God with his distorted version of the truth. And so, as pragmatism and worldly influence came to define the gathering known as "church," so too did liberalism sneak into the pew. As with other worldly trends, the church was a few years behind the culture, but still did the sinful, upside-down ideals of feminism creep into the church where they have been nurtured and thus continue to flourish today.

Preaching in 1986, Dr. John MacArthur would say:
The dialogue and debate and even conflict that goes on over the issue of the role of women in the church has reached massive proportions. It is amazing to me that it all began with a sort of self-justifying effort on the part of a group of lesbians who wanted to have their day in the sun and gave birth to the modern feminist movement. Feminism rises out of sinful perversion and yet in spite of its origin it has found its way into the culture of our society in almost every area and even lately into the church. And the church for years committed to certain standards of behavior for men and women is systematically and rather progressively throwing aside all of its former doctrines in favor of newer ones. I am amazed at how many evangelical churches, schools and even seminaries are fast jettisoning things that they have for all their life long held to be biblical truths.
Books are coming out written by people who have for all their ministry been known as evangelicals now denying the things they've always believed and affirming new truth regarding the role of women. They're going back to passages in the Scripture and saying they have to be reinterpreted. Some are saying they have to be ignored, they reflect only Paul's anti-female bias. Others are saying they were added later by editors and they do not reflect the intent of the biblical writer or even his own verbiage. One or another kind of approach is used to do away with what has been the traditional interpretation of the Word of God. In fact, interpreting passages which are so patently obvious that even a rather brief reading of the passage, as I have just done, leaves you in little doubt as to the intent of its meaning.
But nonetheless, the church which is to be the last bastion of the truth of God is falling fast to the march of the feminist army. 1
Photo: Wikimedia
And so it continues. No longer reserved for the liberal-leaning denominations, women in positions of authority and leadership slowly is becoming commonplace and accepted among so-called evangelical Christians, churches and organizations. As one example, popular SBC Bible teacher Beth Moore willingly filled the pulpit of Passion City Church when pastor Louie Giglio was away speaking at a Hillsong conference. It seems to be expected that, at some point throughout the year, the wives of pastors like Steven Furtick will take to the stage for a Sunday service or two. Kay Warren, wife of "America's pastor," SBC pastor Rick Warren, has not only preached weekend services at her own Saddleback Church, but at other churches as well. The darling of Hillsong, Christine Caine, has no apparent concerns about presiding over weekend services at various churches throughout the world.

These are not pastors and leaders who sit on the fringes of Christianity, rather these are the celebrities of the evangelical world. These are those who are setting a precedent for the 'ordinary' and unknown Christian woman. Throughout the visible church, women are usurping the roles of men and forsaking their own God-given roles within the Body of Christ. This is not simply happening in one-off occurrences when a pastor is away and invites a guest speaker to preach. This is not simply a matter of women preaching to mixed audiences at conferences. This is not even only about the role of the primary preaching elder in the church. Everyday women (meaning, not celebrities like Beth Moore or Christine Caine), have usurped the leadership roles of men even within the local church. Why? Because the culture fosters feminism, and thus so does the pragmatic church as it seeks to appeal to the world rather than desiring to obey the clear Word of God.

25 January 2013

This 'n' That

By God's grace, I am daily reminded of one of my favorite verses about the promises of God's provision:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matt. 6:25–26)
This reminder comes not just from the fact that my personal needs are met each day, but in that God has graciously allowed me to be one of the means by which He provides food for these seemingly insignificant birds.

I am the only one of my neighbors who is feeding the birds throughout the winter. This makes three groups of creatures happy: the birds, my cats, and me. It is amazing to me how relaxing it can be to just sit for a few moments and watch God's creation. In a fast-moving world filled with fanciful entertainment, it ought to come as no surprise to the Christian that nature is the most edifying and enjoyable "show" to watch. Though there are many genius filmmakers in the world, there is only one God, one Creator and one Sustainer. I fear I take His precious gift of nature for granted far too often.

Another passage that daily greets me as I watch the birds is Matthew 10:29–31:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matt. 10:29–31)
This verse is ever-present in my mind because the majority of my feathered diners are sparrows. Though they may not be as glamorous as the cardinal, they are my favorite bird. Viewed as plain and insignificant, God not only created them, He cares for them.

Even in the most seemingly trivial events of our lives, God is sovereign. Not only does God provide for even the smallest sparrow, but He, in His omniscience, knows all about that sparrow. Not one dies without our Father knowing. Just as He cares for their daily needs, so does He order each moment of their lives. How much more for His own children! How much more will God provide for those whom He has called? And if He has ordained even the days of the sparrow, has He not ordained every moment of our lives as well? And so whatever the trial or the triumph your day brings, your God knows. And though persecution will come for the Christian, do you not think that God knows what you are enduring or will endure? Rest in knowing that He will provide the strength you need in that day.

As you revel in God's sovereignty and perfectly designed providence, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • I'm so sorry, but I forgot to offer you your weekly dose of adorable in last week's post! Please accept my apologies, as well as this extra big helping of cuteness.
  • Some pastors seem to specialize in preaching about sex (*cough* Driscoll, Ed Young *cough*). Reformation 21 has a wonderful article demonstrating how the Apostle Paul dealt with the issue of sexual morality with both clarity and discretion.
  • John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul discuss abortion.
  • Anybody out there been considering in vitro fertilization? Because this scientist would like to find an 'adventurous woman' willing to give birth to a neanderthal baby. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.
  • Al Roker. He's not just for weather anymore. Kind of makes you wonder if he was forced to forfeit his dignity when he signed his contract with NBC.
  • Speaking of all this adorable cuteness, before you check out those links above, make sure you don't suffer from cute aggression.
  • Carl Trueman on reading Luther well. This article is definitely worth your time, if for no other reason than quotes like this: "Does it not seem only yesterday that Mel Gibson's film, The Passion, was being trumpeted by evangelicals as 'the greatest outreach opportunity of the century'? In retrospect, The Passion surely stands somewhere between A Muppet Christmas Carol and Dave and the Giant Pickle in the honour roll of celluloid contributions to world evangelisation."
  • Producer Mark Burnett (of Survivor fame) is making a new Bible miniseries. (His wife, Roma Downey, will be playing Mary. Nepotism, anyone?) He just finished promoting it at Joel Osteen's church, so I'm sure that it will stand as a beacon of theological accuracy.
  • They're planning to renovate Wrigley Field. Wrigley Field is a landmark. Alteration of said landmark should not be taken lightly. But then, I suppose if the Cubs are going to lose, they may as well lose in a shiny, new venue. We'll have to see how this goes. I have no further comment until I see the results. 
  • A transgender 11-year-old is proud of the president, but says there's still work to be done. Um, parents—if your kid wants to dress and behave like the opposite sex, here's something to try: say 'no'.
  • There's two things in this world that are beyond scary: Hello Kitty and bubbles. It makes perfect sense, then, to suspend a five-year-old from school for possessing both.
  • Steven Furtick's Elevation Church tried to summarize the New Testament in 60 seconds...and completely missed the gospel.
  • Fascinating. Now what about all the headaches I get when there's no lightning?
  • Here's another sermon recently delivered by John MacArthur that is not to be missed
  • When you're done listening to that, you may enjoy this Q&A with Dr. MacArthur.
  • Elizabeth Prata beat me to the punch in recommending a wonderful recent sermon delivered by Pastor Don Green on the topic of discernment. Here's the message in its entirety:
photo credit: Eric Bégin via photopin cc

23 January 2013

We Trust in Jesus for What We Cannot Do Ourselves

Why should we make a difficulty where there can be none? If one statement assures us of the necessity to salvation of a something, which only God can give, and if another assures us that the Lord will save us upon our believing in Jesus, then we may safely conclude that the Lord will give to those who believe all that is declared to be necessary to salvation. The Lord does, in fact, produce the new birth in all who believe in Jesus; and their believing is the surest evidence that they are born again.

We trust in Jesus for what we cannot do ourselves: if it were in our own power, what need of looking to Him? It is ours to believe, it is the Lord's to create us anew. He will not believe for us, neither are we to do regenerating work for Him. It is enough for us to obey the gracious command; it is for the Lord to work the new birth in us. He who could go so far as to die on the cross for us, can and will give us all things that are needful for our eternal safety. "But a saving change of heart is the work of the Holy Spirit." This also is most true, and let it be far from us to question it, or to forget it. But the work of the Holy Spirit is secret and mysterious, and it can only be perceived by its results. There are mysteries about our natural birth into which it would be an unhallowed curiosity to pry: still more is this the case with the sacred operations of the Spirit of God. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit." This much, however, we do know--the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit cannot be a reason for refusing to believe in Jesus to whom that same Spirit beareth witness....

Some truths which it is hard to explain in words are simple enough in actual experience. There is no discrepancy between the truth that the sinner believes, and that his faith is wrought in him by the Holy Spirit. Only folly can lead men to puzzle themselves about plain matters while their souls are in danger. No man would refuse to enter a lifeboat because he did not know the specific gravity of bodies; neither would a starving man decline to eat till he understood the whole process of mutrition. If you, my reader, will not believe till you can understand all mysteries, you will never be saved at all; and if you allow self-invented difficulties to keep you from accepting pardon through your Lord and Saviour, you will perish in a condemnation which will be richly deserved. Do not commit spiritual suicide through a passion for discussing metaphysical subtleties.

— Charles Spurgeon, Christian Classics: Five Books by Charles Spurgeon, (B&R Samizdat Express: 2009), Kindle Locations 1752-1804.

Further Reading
As Interest in Spiritual Directors Grows, Christians Must Be Wary and Armed with Truth
Doctrine Matters
Charles Spurgeon on Pride

NoCo90: 12 Words Summarizing the Gospel



Further Reading:
NoCo90: Where Is Beth Moore's Husband?
A 'No Compromise' Conversation
No Compromise Ever: Episode 1

Andy Stanley Tells President Obama He Should Be Called "Pastor-in-Chief"

*This article originally appears here at Christian Research Network.

Pastor Andy Stanley
While Louie Giglio withdrew from delivering the benediction at the presidential inauguration, another Georgia pastor, Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church, proceeded with his duty of delivering the pre-inauguration sermon at a church service held prior to the inaugural ceremony. The ecumenical service was held at St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House and included hymns, prayers, Scripture reading and a performance by R&B singer Ledisi. The sermon, delivered by Stanley, discussed how a person may "leverage power" for the benefit of others.

To begin his sermon, Stanley had the gumption to declare that the president should perhaps wear the title of "pastor-in-chief." The Washington Examiner shares more details:
President Obama’s recent response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., convinced the pastor who preached at this morning’s pre-inaugural church service that the president has the cleric’s touch. Obama should be called “Pastor in Chief,” said Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., after he “thanked POTUS for work after Newtown shooting tragedy when he spoke to mourners.” (Source)
Some Christians understandably bristle at such a statement, as there is far more to being a pastor than merely extending kindness to those in grief. It certainly is not the duty of the president to act as a pastor, especially when that president has demonstrated that his platform is based upon the sins of Romans 1. Ironically, it is the very fact that a vote for a presidential candidate is not a vote for a "pastor-in-chief" that allowed many Christians to support the Republican candidate, Mormon Mitt Romney, in November's election. There is little doubt that many would have preferred that, rather than complimenting the president in this manner, evangelical pastor Stanley would instead have called him to repent for his support of the sins of abortion and homosexuality, among others.

According to reports, Andy Stanley transitioned his sermon from this statement to telling the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples as found in John 13. Stanley then stated,
The takeaway: What do you do when in a position of power? You leverage that power for the benefit of other people in the room. Mr. President, you have an awfully big room. (Source)
The Apostle John's record of this event leaves one with many truths. One may focus on Peter's reluctance to have his feet washed by his Master. If so, then one may learn that, while the cleansing of salvation is eternal and complete, even those who have been saved must still repent of their sins before God and be cleansed of daily sin as they continue to be sanctified. If one focuses instead on the picture of the Savior of the world stooping to wash the filthy feet of His disciples, as Stanley apparently did, then one ought to walk away with an incredible sense of the humility and love demonstrated by Christ Jesus toward His own. Is the true "takeaway" from this story that Jesus knew how to "leverage His power"? Or is it instead a model of selfless service and humility rooted not in one's position, but in love for one another?

Interestingly, Stanley, like Louie Giglio, last year came under fire over a sermon discussing homosexuality. In April 2012, Stanley delivered a sermon entitled, "When Gracie Met Truthy," in which he described a "microcosm of the church." In an anecdote shared by Stanley, this "microcosm" included a woman, her boyfriend, her boyfriend's daughter, her own daughter, her ex-husband, and her ex-husband's homosexual partner. It was claimed by some, including Dr. Al Mohler, that Stanley appeared to normalize the sin of unrepentant homosexuality within this message. Stanley's response to the criticism was to ask people to listen to his sermon series in its entirety, however even upon the conclusion of the messages, some remained unclear as to Andy Stanley's stance on the subject.

Further Reading
Andy Stanley's "Microcosm of the Church"
Ignorance of the Bible Is the Root of All Error
Louie Giglio, Living Martyr?

22 January 2013

As Interest in Spiritual Directors Grows, Christians Must Be Wary and Armed with Truth

*This article originally appears here at Christian Research Network.

It seems that men and women often are searching for the next great experience. Whether this is religious or purely carnal, mankind's affinity for the subjective often overwhelms his reason. No doubt this has largely contributed to the popularity of such things as contemplative prayer and other spiritual formation practices among professing Christians. Because many of the elements of spiritual formation have their roots in Roman Catholic mysticism, it comes as no surprise when yet another popular Roman Catholic trend trickles into evangelicalism. Such may be the case with the concept of spiritual direction and spiritual directors.

A recent Christian Post (CP) article states that,
If your resolution this year is to have a better relationship with God, a spiritual director might just help you keep it. (Source)
What CP neglects to mention is that one's faith does not come by means of a spiritual director, but from God Himself (Eph. 2:8–9). Not only that, it is God Who keeps the Christian in his faith (Jude 24), sanctifying him by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:13). Perhaps a more effective approach to "a better relationship with God" would be for one to seek to know Him through the Word that He has provided.

Nevertheless, to support this statement, CP turns to Roman Catholic Dan Burke, executive director of the National Catholic Register and author of the book, Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. According to the book's website, spiritual direction is
  • Understanding the general direction or trajectory of one’s soul
  • Working with a spiritual guide to help unite one’s soul to God and find peace and joy through the pursuit of His will and ways
  • A process of growing in holiness
(Source)
Spiritual direction is quite popular within Roman Catholicism, with the Catholic Encyclopedia offering the following:
In the technical sense of the term, spiritual direction is that function of the sacred ministry by which the Church guides the faithful to the attainment of eternal happiness. It is part of the commission given to her in the words of Christ: "Going, therefore, teach ye all nations . . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19 sq.). She exercises this function both in her public teaching, whether in word or writing, and in the private guidance of souls according to their individual needs; but it is the private guidance that is generally understood by the term "spiritual direction". (Source)
The Catholic Encyclopedia further addresses the potential mystical elements of spiritual direction:
Another marked difference in the direction of souls arises from the presence or absence of the mystical element in the life of the person to be directed. Mysticism involves peculiar modes of action by which the Holy Ghost illumines a soul in ways which transcend the normal use of the reasoning powers. (Source)
Once this mystical element is acknowledged, the Christian who relies upon God's Word as the sole source of objective truth must pause in rightful caution. Yet could it be that it is this very appeal to emotional experiences that allows for the growing popularity of spiritual direction, even beyond the so-called Christian realm?

18 January 2013

This 'n' That

A couple days ago, the radio woke me by playing that most irksome praise song, "I Will Worship" (thanks a lot, Moody). The remainder of my day perfectly demonstrated why I loathe these catchy, theologically pathetic, self-exalting tunes. Why? Because I ended up humming or singing that stupid song all day. It was awful. No matter what I did, it kept popping back into my head (by now you may have noticed that I easily get annoying songs stuck in my head—is there a name for this condition? And, lest you think I'm the only one with this problem, please note that Thabiti Anyabwile had a worse song stuck in his head this morning.) It wasn't just the fact that I had an annoying melody running through my brain, though, it was the fact that I ended up singing about myself all day because of it.

Let's look at some of these stellar lyrics:

I will give you all my worship
I will give you all my praise
You alone I long to worship
You alone are worthy of my praise

I will worship (I will worship)
With all of my heart (With all of my heart)
I will praise you (I will praise you)
With all of my strength (With all my strength)
I will seek you (I will seek you)
All of my days (All of my days)
I will follow (I will follow)
Follow all of your ways (All your ways)

I will give you all my worship
I will give you all my praise
You alone I long to worship
You alone are worthy of my praise

What a perfect example of the narcissistic mindset that encompasses and defines not only our culture, but our churches! If you are singing this song in church, look closely and you'll discover with very little difficulty (I hope) that you're singing about yourself, not God. You may as well be singing these lyrics:

I am really, really awesome
I'm so awesome, it amazes me
You're so lucky to receive my worship
You're so blessed to receive my praise

I am awesome (I am awesome)
Every ounce of me (Every ounce of me)
Knows I'm awesome (Knows I'm awesome)
Can't you see? (Can't you see?)
I have sought you (I have sought you)
All on my own (All on my own)
And now I'll follow (And now I'll follow)
Trusting in me alone (Me alone)

I am really, really awesome
I'm so awesome, it amazes me
You're so lucky to receive my worship
You're so blessed to receive my praise

Me-centered worship. It's been the one of the great contributors to the downfall of the visible church. And it's not just our songs that are glorifying man, but our sermons and our interpretation of Scripture. One day, when the wheat and the tares are separated, oh what a surprise some will receive! Ah, well, no matter, so long as it feels good while we're here, right?

Now that I have you in a proper state of lamenting (and hopefully praying for) the visible church and it's continual assaults upon Christ, please take a few moments and enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Dan Phillips takes an interesting look at the life of A.W. Pink, making some salient observations regarding the contradiction between Pink's life and words. Also don't miss the comments on this post, as a rather good conversation ensued.
  • Do not miss this wonderful sermon by Pastor John MacArthur on John 3:1–3. When the video is available, you'll probably see it posted here again.
  • Is your pastor too reverent? Do you wish that he would take the name of the Lord in vain more often? Then perhaps you should consider attending Judah Smith's church, because he seems to be quite skilled in carelessly misusing the name of God. Kind of makes you wonder how else he's blaspheming the Lord in his life, doesn't it? I mean, besides twisting the Scriptures to fit his own agenda.
  • There's only one Carl Trueman, so don't miss his thoughts here about the shortfalls of theistic evolution (and men like Tim Keller who promote such a theory). 
  • Mark Driscoll was bemoaning the existence of bloggers. Again. Ironically, he was doing so on Twitter. Really? Here's a well-written response.
    • I've not seen Les Miserables. I've not read the book. I don't want to. I don't plan to. I am, however, already weary of countless Christians extolling the great virtues of the film because of what they believe is a story of conversion. It baffles me how a conversion to a false gospel of works and good deeds can be so praised by believers. To make matters worse, it's doing so in song. Lots of songs. Thabiti Anyabwile was unfortunate enough to view the movie, and he shares his thoughts on it, many of which I suspect I would share were I ever to be tricked into seeing it. 
    • The Grace to You blog ran a series this week about the importance of being in a local church. To wrap it up, today they posted an acknowledgement and some encouragement for the many people who have found that, much to their dismay, there simply is not a faithful, Bible-teaching church in their community.
    • Lately, Christianity Today has been pushing the Muslim "Insider Movement." Stand Up for the Truth has an excellent article refuting some of CT's claims.
    • While millions of Hindus sought to wash away their own sins in some bizarre ceremony, some American Hindus are working to get the Bhagavad Gita in hotel nightstands across the country.
    • Jesus Christ is the perfect mediator:

    Underground at the Code Orange Revival

    We learned earlier this week that Steven Furtick had decided to bring back his Code Orange Revival for 2013. This time, however, he's taken it 'underground,' making the event invitation-only for leaders of Elevation Church:
    Source
    The first of eight events scheduled throughout the year occurred on 15 January, and a quick glance at the Twitter hashtag #CodeOrangeUnderground offers plenty of details into the evening's activities:
    Source
    Source
    None of these pictures compare to video of the event, however, and thanks to one Code Orange Underground attendee, we can take a peek into some of the dancing that is pictured above:

    I'm sure the Apostles would have liked to hire aerialists at Pentecost, too, but I suspect such entertainers were in short supply back then. Of course, this video ought not surprise us, especially if we remember Elevation's Code Orange Christmas Dance of the past.
    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)
    HT: Fighting for the Faith
    Further Reading
    Steven Furtick Takes the Code Orange Revival Underground
    Wretched: Jesus Culture Is More Dangerous than Bad Politics
    Beth Moore's 'Sabbath Moment' Playdate with God

    17 January 2013

    Ignorance of the Bible Is the Root of All Error

    Does any one ask me, 'What is the best safeguard against false doctrine?' I answer in one word, 'The Bible: the Bible regularly read, regularly prayed over, regularly studied.' We must go back to the old prescription of our Master: 'Search the Scriptures' (John 5:39). If we want a weapon to wield against the devices of Satan, there is nothing like 'the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.' But to wield it successfully, we must read it habitually, diligently, intelligently, and prayerfully. This is a point on which, I fear, many fail. In an age of hurry and bustle, few read their Bibles as much as they should. More books perhaps are read than ever, but less of the one Book which makes man wise unto salvation. Rome and neology could never have made such havoc in the church in the last fifty years if there had not been a most superficial knowledge of the Scriptures throughout the land. A Bible-reading laity is the strength of a church....

    If we would not be carried about by 'diverse and strange doctrines,' we must remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: 'Search the Scriptures.' Ignorance of the Bible is the root of all error. Knowledge of the Bible is the best antidote against modern heresies.

    — J.C. Ryle, Warnings to the Churches, (Banner of Truth Trust: 2007), 77–79.

    Further Reading
    Doctrine Matters
    Hopeless Hindu Ceremony Seeks to Wash Away Sins without the Blood of the Lamb
    A 'No Compromise' Conversation

    16 January 2013

    Steven Furtick Takes the Code Orange Revival Underground

    Steven Furtick and his Elevation Church kicked off 2012 with a bang. The Code Orange Revival was twelve nights of celebrity preachers, loud worship music and subsequent emotional highs. Speakers ran from across the spectrum of professing Christianity—from New Calvinist Matt Chandler and his gospel-centered message to Word Faith preacher T.D. Jakes with his typical performance and prosperity theatrics. Last year's event also featured Elephant Room Curator James MacDonald, Hillsong darling Christine Caine, seeming prosperity preachers Jentezen Franklin and Stovall Weems, Furtick's personal pastor, Craig Groeschel, Joel Osteen's worship leader, Israel Houghton, and seeker-driven favorites Perry Noble, Kevin Gerald and Ed Young, Jr. Scripture was twisted, hands were raised, and every night of the event was broadcast live online for the entire world to view.

    It seems that Furtick has revitalized the Code Orange Revival for 2013. This time, however, there is a twist: this "revival" is by invitation only as evidenced by the Code Orange Underground website:
    Source
    In order to access this page further, one must enter his email address. Those not on the exclusive invitation list, however, will receive this message:
    Source
    Nevertheless, Code Orange Underground does not seem to be a very well-kept secret. One glance at the Twitter hashtag #CodeOrangeUnderground offers many details about the event. For instance, Steven Furtick himself tells us that there will be eight meetings total and that the first of these occurred on 15 January:
    Source
    Furtick also shares that the featured speakers for this first evening were his friends and Code Orange veterans Perry Noble and Jentezen Franklin:
    Source
    Others in attendance clearly were moved by the theatrics of the event:

    Source

    Source

    Source

    Source
    Based upon this picture tweeted out by Steven Furtick's wife, Holly, one cannot help but notice that, for an exclusive, invitation-only event, this was quite a massive gathering:

    Source
    Perhaps some of the most curious tweets about the event were sent out by Steven Furtick himself:
    Source
    Not having heard the teachings presented at this first gathering of the Code Orange Underground, it is uncertain exactly what is meant by these rather charismatic phrases. Perhaps once the details crawl out of the sewer more will be known.


    Wretched: Jesus Culture Is More Dangerous than Bad Politics


    To understand more about the dangers of Jesus Culture, the band being discussed in this brief clip, please read this post.

    Further Reading
    Jesus Culture and Judah Smith to Join Piper, Moore, Chan and Others at Giglio's Passion 2013
    Louie Giglio, Living Martyr?
    Beth Moore's 'Sabbath Moment' Playdate with God

    15 January 2013

    Hopeless Hindu Ceremony Seeks to Wash Away Sins Without the Blood of the Lamb

    It has been rightly said that, in spite of the numerous religions present in the world today, all of them can be reduced to one of two lines of thinking. There is Christianity, which teaches that no work of man can earn his salvation or allow him to stand blameless and righteous before the holy God of the universe, but that man must turn to Christ to be saved. Then, there is every other religion, teaching that man must do something, or a series of works, to secure his own salvation. The latter is on display at every turn, whether it is in churches that profess to be Christian, yet require that men add their own works to that of Christ's to gain salvation, or whether it is in the mind and actions of the professing atheist who strives to "be a good person" just in case there may indeed be some sort of afterlife.

    Photo credit below
    Rarely is the mindset of salvation by works on such clear display as it currently is in India, where a massive gathering of Hindus finds the devout engaging in an extreme ritual in an effort to wash away their own sins.

    The Blaze reports on this gathering:
    Millions of devout Hindus led by naked ascetics with ash smeared on their bodies plunged into the frigid waters of India’s holy Ganges River on Monday in a ritual they believe can wash away their sins. The religious spectacle, starkly different from the method that other faiths use to cope with personal sin, is a massive gathering. The ceremony in the northern city of Allahabad took place on the most auspicious day of the Kumbh Mela, or Pitcher Festival, one of the world’s largest religious gatherings that lasts 55 days. (Source)
    It is noted that over 110 million people are expected to participate in this bathing ritual. The ceremony takes place at the Sangam, which is where the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers all meet. "There are six auspicious bathing days, decided by the alignment of stars, when the Hindu devout bathe to wash away their sins and free themselves from the cycle of death and rebirth."

    The article continues, explaining the belief behind this ritual:
    According to Hindu mythology, the Kumbh Mela celebrates the victory of gods over demons in a furious battle over a nectar that would give them immortality. As one of the gods fled with a pitcher of the nectar across the skies, it spilled on four Indian towns — Allahabad, Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar. The Kumbh Mela is organized four times every 12 years in those towns. Hindus believe that sins accumulated in past and current lives require them to continue the cycle of death and rebirth until they are cleansed. If they bathe at Ganges on the most auspicious day of the festival, believers say they can rid themselves of their sins. (Source)
    It may perhaps be this last sentence that most grieves the Christian, namely that these devout Hindus believe "they can rid themselves of their sins" if they bathe in a certain river on a certain day in a certain year. This dedication is simultaneously impressive yet sobering and grievous to the believer who knows that such devotion to a system of lies will still result in one's eternal condemnation. Why? Because man cannot rid himself of sin.

    All men have sinned against God, the Creator of the universe. All men are destined to stand before Him condemned unless they can somehow become clothed in righteousness. One problem remains, though, and that is that no man can be seen as righteous before God on the basis of his own merits.
    as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Rom. 3:10–12)
    for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Rom. 3:23)
    Even those who believe themselves to be a "good person" cannot perfectly keep God's law, and to fail to keep even one point of the law is to be "accountable for all of it" (Jas. 2:10). Further, God's Word clearly states that the wages of this sin is death (Rom. 6:23) and that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin (Heb. 9:22).

    What then? Are all men doomed? Based upon the words of Scripture, even this extreme ritual of the Hindus will fail to save a man from being judged for his sins. Thus follows the good news of the gospel. Jesus Christ, the God-man, came to earth, lived the sinless life that man cannot (Heb. 4:15; 1 John 3:5), was crucified as the perfect sacrifice for sin (Heb. 9:11–14, 26) and was raised again, defeating death, sin and Satan and demonstrating that His sacrifice had been accepted by God (Heb. 10:12–14).

    Man's works, no matter how extreme, never can atone for his sins. Yet if a man will repent of those sins and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15), trusting in Christ and His work alone for salvation, then that man will be saved. When a man believes, he is regenerated and clothed in the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Those seeking to "wash away their sins" can only do so by bathing in the blood of the Lamb.
    But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb. 9:11–14)
    and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood... (Rev. 1:5)
    knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Pet. 1:18–19)
    But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
    And, once washed and regenerated, sinful man may stand before the holy God justified, not by his own works, but by the work of Jesus Christ.
    But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4–7)
    But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:21–26)
    All of salvation is a free gift of God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Eph. 2:8–9). So while millions of Hindus stand desperately deceived, striving to scrub away the dirt of their own sins, let this pagan ritual be a reminder to the Christian of the urgency with which he must share the true and saving gospel of Jesus Christ. While most believers likely will never encounter one of these devout Hindus, it is nevertheless true that one's atheist neighbor or Mormon coworker or agnostic family member are just as deceived and are engaging in similarly hopeless efforts to save themselves. Let the Christian then always go about with the name of Jesus Christ, His work and His salvation freely and joyfully escaping from his lips. Let him gratefully follow the command of his Lord to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations (Luke 24:47).

    *This article originally appeared here at Christian Research Network.
    photo credit: Alexandre Marchand via photopin cc

    Further Reading
    Replacing the 'Violent' Cross
    Charles Spurgeon on Pride
    Nicky Gumbel to Alpha Course Attendees: "Go Back to Your Catholic Parish"

    11 January 2013

    This 'n' That

    Since my post earlier today was a bit severe, let's keep this lighthearted, shall we? In my driving years, I've had the unfortunate opportunity to experience some of the most poorly devised and designed systems of roadways imaginable. For quite awhile I assumed that Western Pennsylvania was by far the worst in this regard until I recently found myself bombarded with roundabouts. Yes, roundabouts. If you don't know what the roundabout is, consider yourself immensely blessed, and then check out this clip from National Lampoon's European Vacation (I do not recommend the rest of the movie). It is my contention that the man who invented the roundabout should be forced to circle one non-stop for the remainder of his living days.

    I approach an intersection. I need to turn left. Instead, I am forced to wait for scads of oncoming traffic before I can enter into the circular fray, essentially turning right, then circle a big piece of concrete to ultimately achieve my goal of "turning" left. How does this make sense? The argument is that this design betters traffic flow, but anyone who has ever been stuck waiting and waiting and waiting to jump into the great circular herd knows otherwise. Roundabouts are particularly life-threatening in the winter, when ice covers the ground. Think about it: circles and ice. Not normally a pleasant combination.

    Ah, well, I suppose there is little that can be done to stop the roundabout madness, so let's just circle back to what matters and please, enjoy your week in review (kind of):
    • The president is going to take the inaugural oath on a stack of historic Bibles. I'll let you go ahead and write your own punchline.
    • Remember when Rick Warren was taping a few episodes of Oprah's Lifeclass a couple of months ago? Well, they're finally airing on television (a good reason to cancel your cable if you ask me).
    • Looking for a Bible reading plan for your children?
    • I used to work for a company that designed and built churches, especially big, fancy relevant churches with bookstores and coffee kiosks. Today, the club and coffeehouse atmosphere is still drawing people to the church building. Too bad they aren't being drawn by the preaching of the Word.
    • The students of Sandy Hook Elementary returned to school late last week, and were welcomed by Lutheran 'comfort dogs', as opposed, I'm assuming, to Presbyterian comfort dogs.
    • DNBS is honored to have been included in 'The Seven' this week at the Dead Pastors Society blog.
    • 'Abba,' 'Daddy,' it's all the same...or is it?
    • Illegal immigrants can now obtain a drivers license in Illinois. The reasoning behind this absolutely eludes me.
    • Diet soda has been linked to all kinds of bad things. Now we can add depression to that list.
    • How can you tell if you've been born again?

    Louie Giglio, Living Martyr?

    It was announced on 8 January that Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta and founder of the Passion conferences, had accepted an invitation to deliver the benediction at President Obama's inauguration on 21 January.

    Immediately following that announcement, someone dug up a 15–20 year old sermon of Giglio's wherein he made comments about homosexuality that didn't sit so well with the loudest voices in this country. By the morning of 10 January, Giglio had withdrawn his acceptance of the invitation.

    With this news, Louie Giglio immediately became a living martyr among evangelicals. Indeed, the backlash and response to the contents of his sermon was unfortunate—there is little arguing that fact. At the same time, it really should not surprise the Christian who does not have his head stuck in the sand. America is, after all, a Romans 1 nation. We love our sin. We love our sexual sin. We revel in it. We celebrate it. So what do you expect?

    But, is Giglio's withdrawal from the inauguration ceremony worthy of the praise and commendation of Christians? Has he taken the strong stance that so many evangelical leaders would have us believe? Is he a victim, taken to the figurative stake and burned for his adherence to God's Word?

    Now, the argument is swirling based upon a New York Times (NYT) article that Giglio was asked to step aside, that he in essence was ousted. This was the scenario painted at Denny Burk's blog, however the quote in question has since been removed from the original NYT article.

    If one looks at the pastor's own words, though, Giglio says, "I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President’s invitation." So if Louie Giglio was asked to step aside, then that needs to be said by Louie Giglio. Otherwise, we should take him at his word. He is, after all, a Christian pastor, and thus his word should be able to be trusted, should it not?

    With that, and because Louie Giglio wears the title of Christian pastor, it behooves the Christian to examine the statement he has made regarding this decision to withdraw. The remainder of this post will look at that statement in its entirety, as it was shared with Louie Giglio's own church.

    10 January 2013

    A 'No Compromise' Conversation


    I recently had the privilege of being a guest on No Compromise Radio, hosted by Pastor Mike Abendroth. Being the first female guest ever to appear on the show, it seems fitting that we discussed things such as women's ministries, the importance of women to seek to be discerning and a little bit of what it's like to be a female blogger. Many thanks to NoCo and to Pastor Mike for the opportunity.

    You can listen to that interview here.

    Further Reading
    No Compromise Ever: Episode 1
    Replacing the 'Violent' Cross
    Doctrine Matters

    08 January 2013

    Nicky Gumbel to Alpha Course Attendees: "Go Back to Your Catholic Parish"

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

    Alpha Course director Nicky Gumbel
    Christian Research Network has expressed in the past its concern over the ecumenical nature of The Alpha Course, the program that purports to offer a non-confrontational introduction to the Christian faith. Having attracted nearly 19 million guests since 1993, over the years The Alpha Course has greatly grown in popularity among Roman Catholics. Alpha for Catholics began in 1996 and, says Alpha director Nicky Gumbel in a recent article appearing at The Spectator, "we hardly had to change anything when we developed Alpha for Catholics."

    The origins of Alpha for Catholics are readily accessible at Alpha's own website. Its history is summarized this way:
    Alpha first ran in a Catholic context after Cardinal Basil Hume invited Alpha pioneers Nicky Gumbel and Sandy Millar to a lead an Alpha conference in 1996 at Westminster Cathedral. In the years following this conference, Alpha was launched in Catholic parishes across the world. Alpha is now running in the Catholic Church in over 65 countries. (Source)
    Nicky Gumbel, who also is the vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London, often affirms the popularity of Alpha among Roman Catholics, as well as the identical nature of the program across denominations. In a 2012 interview with the Catalyst ministry at Willow Creek Church, Gumbel stated,
    Alpha runs in every arm of the Church. It’s growing the fastest in the Catholic church. There are a billion Catholics in the world—many in Latin America, and in France where 99% are Catholic. But the course runs exactly the same no matter the denomination. In Alpha, we stick to the foundational pieces of the Christian faith we all agree upon: Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, the Bible, prayer. What unites us is infinitely greater than what divides us. We focus on what unites us. We present a united front to the world. In every different part of the body of Christ—Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, non-denominational, Catholic, Pentecostals, Bulgarian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox—Alpha crosses all divides. No matter the church, Alpha sticks to the same key ingredients: food, a presentation of the gospel, and talking. The gospel is unchanging. It’s the power of God. The key part of Alpha’s success is the work of the Holy Spirit. We’re still not sure why Alpha works. But it does. (Source)
    In the article, "The Ecumenical Compromise of The Alpha Course," it was noted that, "CRN has been informed by a leader within Alpha for Catholics that, 'It is not necessary to change the Alpha course for Catholics.'" Indeed, this reality has been affirmed time again, most recently by Gumbel himself in the aforementioned article found in The Spectator.

    Yet, as has been demonstrated at length here at CRN, the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church stand in direct opposition to those of orthodox Christianity. It seems remarkable that The Alpha Course has not had to change its program for Catholics when the Roman Catholic Church in fact anathematized the biblical doctrine of justification at the Council of Trent, which was held from 1545–1563. As one example, Canon 9 as decreed by the Council of Trent reads:
    If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema. (Source)
    Contrarily, Scripture teaches that man’s deeds are as filthy rags before the Lord (Isa. 64:6), and that men are saved not by works of their own hands, but by the grace of God (Eph. 2:8–9). This is just one of numerous contradictions that exist between biblical, orthodox Christianity and the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, yet it is a fatal one. Its reality means that Rome stands in opposition to God’s Word, and thus to God Himself.

    If, then, The Alpha Course truly teaches the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, that men are saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, how is it that it is found to be acceptable by a group that has condemned this same gospel? Further, how is it that a Christian leader, as Gumbel proclaims to be, would send individuals back into the Roman Catholic Church, a group that denies justification by faith alone and thus is by definition apostate? In his interview with Nicky Gumbel, reporter Damian Thompson of The Spectator relates this portion of their conversation:
    But doesn’t Holy Trinity sometimes use the Alpha Course to poach Catholics? ‘No! When they do Alpha I [Gumbel] say to them: do not come to HTB but go back to your Catholic parish. It’s part of the Church and I love the whole Church.’ (Source)
    It seems irrefutable, then, that Nicky Gumbel would affirm that an apostate denomination, the Roman Catholic Church, is part of the true Body of Christ. Yet, how can such a group be a part of the true Church when it denies the basic tenets of salvation that offer one entrance into that true Church?

    Christians cannot knowingly and willingly walk alongside those who are enemies of the Gospel in supposed gospel efforts. Gumbel's affirmation of the Roman Catholic Church as part of the true Body of Christ reveals that he either is ignorant of the true gospel, ignorant of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, or is aware of both and yet chooses to ignore and deny the truth in favor of peace and unity. Yet, in the end, Christ cannot have fellowship with Belial (2 Cor. 6:14–15).

    There is another anathema worthy of consideration. It is found in God's Word and was written by the Apostle Paul as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit:
    But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:8–9)
    Further Reading
    The Ecumenical Compromise of The Alpha Course
    The Influence of Christian Mystics Morton Kelsey and John Wimber on The Alpha Course
    Moody Radio's Janet Parshall Praises The Alpha Course