Category Archives: discernment

Empires come and go

Challenging words for American believers from Paul Proctor:

….As if our declining economy and currency weren’t enough to bear, we Americans are losing our country as well, along with all the rights, freedoms, privileges and responsibilities that came with being a citizen. In fact, it would appear the United States no longer belongs to its citizens. Even the word “citizen” has lost its meaning here. No, our country belongs to men of great wealth, power and privilege who rule from the shadows, recognize no borders and fear little in life but the light of truth.

From the pew to the pulpit – from Main Street to Wall Street and from the voting booth to Capitol Hill – it’s mostly a charade now – driven by “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1st John 2:16)

Should we be surprised? After all, this isn’t the Garden of Eden – nor is it the Promised Land. That means we have no eternal guarantee from God that He’ll sustain us as a nation indefinitely though He did give warning long ago about the hell that awaits nations that forget Him. But, as great and powerful as America once was, I have yet to find any mention of it in scripture. That ought to be humbling and a little disquieting for professing Christians here.

You see, empires come and go. History has taught us that their “15 minutes of fame” is a little over two hundred years which means America has statistically run its course.

So, what do we do now?

Do we take up the sword and our own perceived morality to exact vengeance on those we believe are to blame for the fall of our kingdom or do we take up our cross and follow Jesus to His?

(http://www.newswithviews.com/PaulProctor/proctor189.htm)

The challenge, as I see it, is to face the brutality of reality with an unwavering faith in God and great expectations for eternity – to find joy and gratitude even in our sorrow and grief – not as orphans without a home, but as adopted children of the King, knowing our Father in Heaven still lives and reigns with or without the America we grew up in.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

http://www.newswithviews.com/PaulProctor/proctor191.htm

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Name-calling, ostracizing, ridiculing

Interesting post at Herescope in light of  many people’s concern about an increasing intolerance of Biblical Christianity.  Exerpt:

Preparing for suffering is an anomaly in our modern era, particularly since we are so offended at suffering. If we can’t handle the minor stigmas, scorn, rejections, psycho-social and peer-driven mechanisms that cause others to reproach us for the cause of Christ, how can we possibly handle the rougher waters of outright persecution? If we are so readily charmed, schmoozed, persuaded and cajoled into compromises of our faith, how shall we endure? And if we fear and avoid the little darts of name-calling, ostracizing, ridiculing, and other socially punitive pressures, then how shall we stand when the real arrows start flying? Each must answer honestly: How am I seeking to avoid personal suffering? How am I offended by the Gospel? How am I seeking to distance myself from the stumbling block of the Cross?

In our era we also have to contend against systemic peer-driven, psycho-social and marketing methods, which often are quite sophisticated. Some tactics might even be considered brainwashing. See Berit Kjos’s key article “Mysticism & Global Mind Change” and follow the links, for example, or her series “Reinventing the World.” How can believers resist these intensive pressures, structural shifts, reinventions and mind-manipulations? Today’s results-driven (outcome-based, purpose-driven) world is intent on rewarding those who are compliant and penalizing those who aren’t. Again, answer honestly: How am I seeking to fit in with the group?

from http://herescope.blogspot.com/2010/01/people-lovers-or-god-pleasers.html  (See original site to access links)

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Christians, buck up!

Bamboo- the more you cut it, the more it grows.

As I have traveled and talked with a lot of people in the first of my worlds during the last couple of months, many have expressed concern over the way things are going in this country, not just politically and economically but more specifically they find a growing intolerance of the Christian faith. Many feel fearful thinking about what may lie ahead. But today I was challenged that we need to buck up, because we serve a mighty God who is perfectly capable of providing for His own.

Today in Sunday school there was a guy from China speaking. He was apparently raised as an atheist as most Chinese are now days. He said he enjoyed reading western literature (for college?). He noticed there were a lot of quotes from the Bible and references to Jesus in the  literature he was reading. He became curious about the Bible and wanted to get a copy to read. But they had been destroyed during the cultural revolution of 1967-77 and he couldn’t even find a copy in the library. Eventually he did get ahold of an old beat up Bible from a friend, one which had survived the cultural revolution. He read it and began to wonder if maybe there really was a God. He then came in contact with some Christians in one of the Three-Selves church (the gov’t official church) and he became a Christian. A few years later he went to seminary, a Three Selves (3S) church seminary in Nanjing and also studied abroad. Later he became a professor at a seminary and taught for nearly a decade.

There are two kinds of churches in China, the official government sponsored 3S Church (about 15 million people) and the house churches (about 60-70 million). The 3S stands for Self-governing, Self-supporting, Self-propagating. It sounds good but the problem is that it is controlled by communism.

He said that on the surface the 3S church may look to Amerian tourists to be “free” and very similar to American churches with choirs, etc. But the difference is that the 3S churches are government controlled. The government decides who can attend seminary and who can be ordained and even who can be baptized. He said that in the 1990’s came what is called the “reconstruction of theology” movement in the 3S seminaries. It basically changed two things 1) justification by faith and 2) authority of Scripture.

According to this movement, all religions must be compatible with socialist society, and must not be exclusive. So instead of preaching that mankind is sinners and needs to be justified by faith they must preach that the important thing is to be nice to other people. In essence they created a new doctrine: man is justified by love.

The other thing is that they would teach that the Bible is just human words. They are not allowed to preach from Revelation or about the judgment, and not too much about sin.

Anything sounding familiar? It struck me as he talked that perhaps that is where this country is also going – to a centrally controlled or government controlled church, dictating what can and cannot be preached, moving towards a theology of justification by “love” with ridicule, harassment and possibly even persecution for those who do not conform or who believe the Bible is God’s authoratative Word.

He said that he realized that teaching went against the clear teaching of the Bible and eventually he decided that he had to stay true to Scripture and leave the 3S church, and his job. He began meeting in his house with 4 other believers. Eventually they were cramming 60-70 people into their small living room! They divided and became two and those two also eventually divided until now there are 13. He said they focus on Bible training, worship and prayer. They don’t have buildings and they don’t have complex structure.

He also told me later that because of his Hebrew and Greek background he is helping with the new Chinese Standard Bible translation that is being done in simplified Mandarin. The New Testament is now available and the Old Testament is in process.

He didn’t say much about persecution other than to say that it seems less now than it had been in the recent past. When questioned, he said that yes they are monitored, their phones and emails are monitored. He said small groups may stay under the wire as long as they stay small but once a group gets to 100 people or more it gets a lot of attention from the authorities.

One of his companions told me that he doesn’t like to speak about his own persecution, he doesn’t like to think of it as a big deal. But she said he had spent time in prison because he started writing articles against the reconstruction of theology movement. He was also a leader of a group of home churches. When he leaves home he has to always be prepared to possibly not be able to come back. She said he did not call his family on this trip because their phone will be monitored. (I think he will be speaking at a conference next week in Chicago). But his attitude is that he will not be fearful because the God of the universe takes care of him. He will not fear the authorities because he is on the right side and they are the ones in danger.

It is a real encouragement to me to hear Chinese believers like him telling of their ministry and their desire to continue to follow the Lord despite the harassment, and even threat of persecution and imprisonment. I find it humbling and at the same time immensely encouraging and challenging. They have survived communist persecution and thrived. So come on, folks, let’s buck up! Our brothers witness that God is taking care of His children in China. And that same God can certainly take care of His children in this country too, no matter what happens!

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God’s measuring stick is not positivity

positivethinkingThere are various meanings of “positivity” from electrical charges to efforts to be affirming and encouraging to others. But it can also describe a rather unhealthy hyper-positivity found among many Christians nowdays that denounces all things “negative” and praises all things “positive”. They seem to think that ignoring anything we don’t like and only allowing ourselves to think of pleasant things is somehow the key to godliness.

Sometimes it seems as though an 11th commandment has been added – or has even replaced the original 10 commandments: “Thou shalt be positive.” Positivity rejects all criticism with a vehemence that is sometimes, well, not very positive.

I have seen positivity folk in action. Someone brings up a concern, say about an ill-planned policy, and before long Mr or Ms Positivity will jump up in distress demanding that something positive must be said to offset the “negativeness”. What is especially dangerous is when false teachers or corrupt leaders are excused and protected by a squad of positivity police.

Some people quote Philippians 4:8 as a sort of “proof text” that you should refuse to think about anything that is negative:

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

A quick check of a concordance shows that neither “positive” nor “negative” occurs in Scripture. But what Scripture does talk about repeatedly is TRUTH vs falsehood. Truth is the measuring stick. In fact, truth is the first thing on the list in the verse above, and yet it seems many positivity people’s eyes just skip that word.

Psalm 51:6 6     Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will  make me know wisdom.

John 3:22 “But he who  practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

Ephesians 6:14-15 Stand firm therefore,  having girded your loins with truth, and having  put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having  shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

2 Tim 2:25-26 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all,  able to teach, patient when wronged, 25  with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition,  if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to  the knowledge of the truth 26  and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been  held captive by him to do his will.

And more ominously:

2 Thess 2:10-12 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of  Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of  the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason  God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who  did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

It would seem that God’s measuring stick is TRUTH, not positivity. And be sure to note that several of the above verses and others call for truth WITH LOVE. Truth with kindness and gentleness.

Positivity appeals to the flesh, the desire for sweetness and light. We do not want to correct others because we ourselves do not want to be corrected. The desire of our corrupt sin nature is to hide from the light, to hide from truth. Positivity does not acknowledge sin, or hell, or a need for a Savior. Positivity is pride.

It is not always easy for us as fallen people to tell the difference between truth and falsehood. We need practice in discerning the difference because sometimes it can get pretty subtle. But God’s Word is the standard for discerning between truth amd falsehood, between spiritual light and spiritual darkness.

I am NOT saying thet we should delight in negativity and gloom and doom. Being positive is pleasant and can be helpful to us and to others – but not if it is at the expense of truth. We are better off pursuing truth with love. Pursuing positivity can lead us into deception.

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Contextualization

One hears a lot of discussion of the idea of contextualization of the gospel these days. But I am realizing that there is a HUGE range in what people mean by it. 

 Today I saw an article Contextualization Gone Wild by Walt Scalen. Exerpts:

 Contextualism in its most benign form is simply the attempt to communicate with people who are different. Some degree of cultural accommodation is inevitable; it is largely a matter of courtesy and common sense. Extreme forms of contextualism, however, result in wholesale imitation and ultimately diminish ones own identity. One of the little examined assumptions of the rabid contextualism that is driving many “progressive” evangelical Christians to adopt every conceivable cultural form as a means of evangelism is that cultural forms are considered to be largely neutral. For example, heavy metal music is associated with a relatively well defined youth sub culture. To reach this group, it is assumed that the Gospel message can be carried by such cultural forms as skulls and other death symbols and yet the message remains intact, unscathed and unchanged. Thus, the magic bullet of the New Christianity: the methods change, but the message doesn’t. This idea is wildly popular, repeated ad infinitum on a daily basis by the millions who consider it an unquestioned and absolute edict. From “Jesus Mosques” to reach Moslems to “Jesus Meditation” to reach mystics, there are no limits to which so-called “European Christianity” must be reshaped to fit every conceivable cultural form.

 There are several assumptions on which this line of thinking is based: multiculturalism, relativism, and a simplistic understanding of culture. First, multiculturalism is the position that all cultures are equal because there is no objective standard for evaluating them. This idea is based on philosophical relativism which in its crudest form results in the total absence of standards. Ultimately nothing can be determined to be good or evil because all things are just different. These ideas give rise to the notion of cultural neutrality. Since all cultures are equal, since nothing can be seen as superior or better, ergo, any cultural form can “carry” any cultural idea.

 …..Syncretism has always been the danger of excessive contextualism, but somehow the “we are changing the methods not the message” slogan has so resonated with many Christians anxious to see progress in evangelism and growth in numbers that caution has been thrown to the wind. Assuming that all cultural forms are neutral, almost anything is now “worship,” and virtually any outreach method is appropriate for “fishers of men.” This poignant phrase used by Jesus in Matthew 4:19 is widely taken to mean that people should be “lured” into the Kingdom by any means necessary, even deception, in the same fashion that fisherman in the modern era use “lures” to catch fish. The problem with this view is ironically one of context; the fisherman in Biblical times used nets. This approach had much more to do with location and timing than enticement.

 Theologically and Biblically, the key assumption driving many evangelistic techniques and church growth methods is that the work of the Spirit can be accomplished by the means of the flesh. This notion produces much “strange fire;” however, the proponents of this idea claim prodigious numbers. “It works,” they say, “look at the bottom line, many are converted!” But what are they converted to? Is it possible that the methods used are so overwhelmingly powerful and the message communicated is so distorted, that “converts” are responding to the familiar rather than being transformed by the unfamiliar?….

 Rest of article at http://www.sliceoflaodicea.com/?p=1399#more-1399

 Last week I was in a remote area and a pastor was preaching at a closing ceremony. He kind of rambled around on various topics, as is common in his denomination, but one topic was how different it was evangelizing among people of his own aggressive ethnic group as opposed to those of the area we were in. He said, “If I am witnesing to a B___ person I can say ‘Sir, you need to repent or you will go to hell. Look at you drinking and smoking! Don’t you realize that is sin? If you don’t repent you will go to hell!’ ” As he said this he was jabbing his finger, pointing at the imaginary person. He continued, “But if I said that to a D___ person here, I would likely get my throat slit! Here you need to have some sort of a relationship first before you can talk like that.” OK, maybe it’s not exactly my style of witnessing but I would say that is an okay type of contextualization. He most definitely was not changing the message!

 Another example I heard of was from a remote area in Papua New Guinea. Despite years of work by evangelists and pastors, and despite a Bible translation project, the people remained unconvinced and continued in their ways. But one day while translating the geneologies in Genesis, the language helper had an “Aha!” moment. He looked at the translator and said, “Do you mean that this book is TRUE?” It was the geneologies that convinced him. After that he cooked up a huge meal and invited the whole village to eat and then declared to them what he had discovered, namely that the Bible was true and they all needed to repent and follow God’s ways. From that point on the church grew. Again, the message was not changed but they now understood it as true and something they needed to act upon.

 So maybe it can be summarized like this:  Do what it takes for people to understand the whole message. But when you change the message, present only part of the message, or overemphasize part of the message, then you have crossed the line.

 Crossing the line may result in numerical “success” and may be immensely satisfying in this life, but being  “rice Christians”, “skin deep Christians”, “ID card Christians” will be of no value in the life to come.

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Entertainment, the great god

Here’s an article that certainly speaks to today – and what is amazing is that it was written over 50 years ago! I have often noted that the various languages I have learned do not have a real equivalent to the English word “fun”. But the idea of entertainment and “fun”, if not the words, is spreading everywhere. It is like a drug addiction.

Television is probably the number one purveyor of entertainment in the world. Local people have taken to television like a duck takes to water. Rare now is the house in an Asian city that doesn’t have a television. And even in remote areas it is not so uncommon to see a satellite dish propped up on the roof of a rickety house.

But entertainment is also coming into the churches here, faster in some churches than others. A friend goes to what she calls “the dancing church” because it is “fun”. More and more, earplugs are becoming standard equipment for attending church services. You can leave your Bible at home but don’t forget the ear plugs! I’m afraid it is far beyond what Tozer ever imagined…

The Great God Entertainment

by A. W. Tozer

A German philosopher many years ago said something to the effect that the more a man has in his own heart, the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man.

If this is true (and I believe it is) then the present inordinate attachment to every form of entertainment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has no central core of moral assurance, no spring within his own breast, no inner strength to place him above the need for repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to go on living. He has become a parasite on the world, drawing his life from his environment, unable to live a day apart from the stimulation which society affords him.

Schleiermacher held that the feeling of dependence lies at the root of all religious worship, and that however high the spiritual life might rise, it must always begin with a deep sense of a great need which only God could satisfy.

If this sense of need and a feeling of dependence are at the root of natural religion, it is not hard to see why the great god Entertainment is so ardently worshiped by so many. For there are millions who cannot live without amusement; life without some form of entertainment for them is simply intolerable; they look forward to the blessed relief afforded by professional entertainers and other forms of psychological narcotics as a dope addict looks to his daily shot of heroin. Without them they could not summon courage to face existence.

No one with common human feeling will object to the simple pleasures of life, nor to such harmless forms of entertainment as may help to relax the nerves and refresh the mind exhausted by toil. Such things, if used with discretion, may be a blessing along the way. That is one thing, however, the all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which men live is definitely something else again.

The abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin. The growth of the amusement phase of human life to such fantastic proportions is a portent, a threat to the souls of modern men. It has been built into a multimillion dollar racket with greater power over human minds and human character than any other educational influence on earth.

And the ominous thing is that its power is almost exclusively evil, rotting the inner life, crowding out the long eternal thoughts which would fill the souls of men, if they were but worthy to entertain them. The whole thing has grown into a veritable religion which holds its devotees with a strange fascination; and a religion, incidentally, against which it is now dangerous to speak. For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was—a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability.

For this she got herself abused roundly by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has given over the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers.So, today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God.
Many churches these days have become little more than poor theaters where fifth-rate “producers” peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders who can even quote a holy text in defense of their delinquency. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it.

The great god Entertainment amuses his devotees mainly by telling them stories. The love of stories, which is a characteristic of childhood, has taken fast hold of the minds of the retarded saints of our day, so much so that not a few persons manage to make a comfortable living by spinning yarns and serving them up in various disguises to church people.

What is natural and beautiful in a child may be shocking when it persists into adulthood, and more so when it appears in the sanctuary and seeks to pass for true religion. Is it not a strange thing and a wonder that, with the shadow of atomic destruction hanging over the world and with the coming of Christ drawing near, the professed followers of the Lord should be giving themselves up to religious amusements? That in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood and clamor for religious toys?

“Remember, 0 Lord, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach. The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned ! For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim.” AMEN. AMEN.

Taken from Root of the Righteous, Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1955, p. 32-33.

 (seen on www.sliceoflaodicea.com)

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On Christian Government

Some folk talk about “taking over” institutions for God – like education, economics, arts, government, etc. But this is not a new idea. Interesting what some who have gone before thought of the idea:

Voices from the past…
Joseph Augustus Seiss

“Not yet has the sovereignty of this world become the Lord’s (Ref. Revelation 11:15: ‘The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’).

All earthly governments, principalities, and powers, from the beginning until now, are uniformly represented in the Scriptures as wild beasts, having no lawful owner, and full of destructive savageness and offensive uncleanness. A lion with eagle’s wings, a bear crunching bones and flesh, a four-winged and four-headed leopard, a nondescript with many horns, dreadful and terrible and strong exceedingly, having great iron teeth to devour and break in pieces; these are the prophetic symbols of the greatest and most lauded of them. (Cf. Rev. 13:1-2; Daniel 7:2, 7; Rev. 12:3, 9; Dan. 7:8; 11:36; Rev. 17:3; 13:4, 12)

“Even the premiership of Daniel himself in one of them does not alter its general character. It is but folly and fanaticism for men to talk of Christian states and governments in this world. Christian and good men may be concerned in their administration, and Christian ideas may sometimes temper their enactments, but earthly states and governments themselves are not Christian, and in the nature of things cannot be. They are all the products of devastated nature’s wilds, and full of savage nature’s passions and ungodliness. Fix it as we may, such is the result. The best-planned institutions and the wisest laws are ever disappointing their framers. The very law which God Himself promulged from Sinai’s thunder-shaken heights was ‘weak through the flesh,’ and did not serve to keep the Jewish commonwealth from like apostasy to that of other nationalities. To this hour there is nothing so great a desideratum among men as good and just government, nor another department in which the native evilness and God-antagonizing passions of men are so potent and defiant.

“True, the kingdom is by right the Lord’s. All authority and power originates with Him and belongs to Him. Government is His own ordinance. But since the apostasy of the race to Satan’s standard, usurpation, falsehood, and other powers than the rightful sovereign of men and nations, have held and directed the sway in this world. Many revolutions have been wrought, and men have labored, and sacrificed, and bled, and died to achieve them, believing that now they would secure the precious boon for which the race has signed and cried for ages; but it was only the turning of the sick man on his bed, who keeps his pain however he may change his place.

“In our day especially people are looking and laboring for a grand jubilee of nations, shaped to popular rule, and compacted by common laws, interests, and creed, in which enlightened ideas shall be the king, and all the world be one (Editor’s Note: Seiss published his commentary in 1869-1881 in three volumes, but several American libraries give the year of publication as 1865– all the more astounding since it is penned at the close of the American Civil War); but the result will be only a more horrible beast than any that preceded it, a leopard with bear’s feet and a lion’s mouth, full of heads and horns and names of blasphemy; the very embodiment of hell, whose infamies so outrage High Heaven as to bring the great day of God Almighty upon the world. No, no; your revolutions, and reforms, and progress of liberal ideas, and overturning of old creeds, and grand conventionalities in revision of the Decalogue, and internationalities for the redemption of the world without Christ, and glorious philosophies ruling out a personal God and exalting self and passion in His place, and all your glittering ideals to which to reconstruct society and relocate the highest interests of man, much as they may promise, and successfully as they may draw the heart and energy of the world after them, are but the nurslings of Satan’s bosom in which this world lies, and the inspirations of his foul breath.

“Dream, and prate, and preach, and glory as men may, the devil is de facto the god and king of this world. His mantle may be often changed, and every day may exhibit a new garb, but the presiding genius within is still and always the devil, with all his pride, and malice, and spoliating falsities. And so it will go on, ‘wicked men and seducers waxing worse and worse,’ till the last trumpet sounds.

“But then shall come another order; not developed from below, but enforced with sudden and resistless power from above. How, we will see when we come to consider the details of ensuing chapters. Meanwhile, however, the fact itself is sure to the exultant voices in heaven. God is king, and the sovereignty hath He given to His Son, Jesus Christ. And having given the world six thousand years in which to choose and settle upon its proper allegiance, and finding after all only an intenser and more malignant apostasy, He causes the final trump to sound, breaks in with His Almightiness, and enforces His rightful dominion. A kingdom comes which breaks in pieces, and consumes all other kingdoms, and stands forever. Laws are given to be changed no more. And the true Anointed reigns on earth in an empire of sinless, deathless life and peace, to the ages of the ages. The government is changed.” (Joseph Augustus Seiss, 1823-1904, The Apocalypse, An Exposition of the Book of Revelation, Kregel, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI, p. 274.)

from http://www.searchlight-missions.org/7thtrumpetcd15.asp

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Smarter than God Himself

Now here’s a good example of looking at things through the eyes of flesh

McLaren: This is, one of the huge problems is the traditional understanding of hell. Because if the cross is in line with Jesus’ teaching then—I won’t say, the only, and I certainly won’t say even the primary—but a primary meaning of the cross is that the kingdom of God doesn’t come like the kingdoms of the this world, by inflicting violence and coercing people. But that the kingdom of God comes through suffering and willing, voluntary sacrifice. But in an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says, no, that that’s not really true. That in the end, God gets His way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination, just like every other kingdom does. The cross isn’t the center then. The cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God.

Hansen: Oh, Brian, that was just so beautifully said. I was tempted to get on my soap box there and you know—Because as you and I know there are so many illustrations and examples that you could give that show why the tradition view of hell completely falls in the face of—It’s just antithetical to the cross. But the way you put it there, I love that. It’s false advertising. And here, Jesus is saying, turn the other cheek. Love your enemy. Forgive seven times seventy. Return violence with self-sacrificial love. But if we believe the traditional view of hell, it’s like, well, do that for a short amount of time. Because eventually, God’s going to get them.

McLaren: Yeah. And I heard one well-known Christian leader, who—I won’t mention his name, just to protect his reputation. Cause some people would use this against him. But I heard him say it like this: The traditional understanding says that God asks of us something that God is incapable of Himself. God asks us to forgive people. But God is incapable of forgiving. God can’t forgive unless He punishes somebody in place of the person He was going to forgive. God doesn’t say things to you—Forgive your wife, and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive

And there’s a certain sense that, a common understanding of the atonement presents a God who is incapable of forgiving. Unless He kicks somebody else.

(For the rest of the transcript of the original talk see http://www.understandthetimes.org/mclarentrans.shtml )

God: For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Paul: For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1Cor 1.21-25)

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Walking and Quacking like Christians

If it walks like a Christian and quacks like a Christian, is it a Christian?

Can we define a set of actions that a disciple would do and then systematically train people to do those actions? Will they then be Christian disciples?

Does participating in activities produce disciples of Christ?

Gary Gilley recently wrote an article entitled “Willow Creek’s Big Adventure” at:
http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/articles/read_articles.asp?ID=142

In it he discusses Willow Creek’s recent admission that they had been wrong. One of the executive pastors of Willow Creek, Greg Hawkins had this to say:

Hawkins defines Willow’s ministerial goal as “trying to help people who are far from Christ become disciples of Christ characterized by their love for God and other people.” This is a most commendable goal, but how has Willow gone about trying to accomplish this goal? “We do that,” Hawkins states, “by creating a variety of programs and services for people to participate in. Our strategy is to try to get people, far from Christ, engaged in these activities. The more people are participating in these sets of activities with higher levels of frequency it will produce disciples of Christ.”

But they discovered that 1) “increasing levels of participation in these activities does not predict whether a person will become a disciple of Christ.” 2) in every church there is a spiritual continuum ranging from unbelievers to fully devoted followers of Christ. 3) All have different needs but churches most filled needs of unbelievers and new believers, leaving fully devoted believers dissatisfied with church (this survey was done only on seeker friendly churches following Willow’s model.)

The solution?

“…we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become self-feeders. We should have gotten people, taught them how to read their Bibles between services, do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own because what’s happening to these people, the older they get the more they are expecting the church to feed them, when in fact the more mature a Christian becomes the more he becomes a self-feeder.”

Certainly people should know how to feed themselves. But Jesus also told the disciples to feed the flock. Paul told the pastors and elders to shepherd the flock. Will doing “the spiritual practices” produce disciples of Christ??? Somehow I think they still don’t get it.

It’s like we have tried to break down Christian behavior into bytes and then made programs to train people to do those bytes. And we seem to be assuming that it’s the doing of them that makes us Christians, or at least somehow that by training ourselves to do, act, and think like a Christian that we will become one. So we “do” church in ways to engage interest and get people to come to activities and join in the “training” assuming it will produce Christians. But will it? Or are we risking damnably deceiving ourselves??

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Filed under apostasy, discernment, signs of the times, sola scritura

Sermon on the Mount

While reading through the Sermon on the Mount today I jotted down some summary statements. The beatitudes of course listed praiseworthy attitudes: poor in spirit, mourning, gentle, hungry/thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness.

Then we are told to:

1) Let your light shine/ Be salt
2) As to the Law, be perfect. (Ie it is the following the intent of the Law that counts, not just the letter.
3) Practice your righteousness for God (not men)
4) Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (ie do not store up earthly treasure, do not worry about your life)
5) Treat/judge others as you would like them to treat/judge you.
6) Beware of false prophets.

The interesting thing was the last one. It surprised me. It has always been there but somehow it seems to get ignored in sermons and it had escaped my attention that this too is part of the sermon on the mount, part of basic kingdom teaching. It must be important yet we hear so little of it today…..hmmmm, I wonder why????

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Praise: because He is worthy

Praise must never become a pragmatic device for getting blessing from God. Whenever you sincerely praise Him, the blessing will come. Praise changes things – and people.*

I wonder if there is a name for this kind of statement. This is the kind of statement that makes my mind woggle! I agree completely with the first sentence. But the effect of the next two sentences is to reverse what was said in the first! When reading the next 2 sentences the corrupt old man/ sarks/flesh/ sin nature immediately tries to sneak in there and get me to praise God all the while subtly hoping to gain blessing and get things or people changed by doing so, deceiving me by reassuring me that it isn’t a pragmatic device. The result then is that I end up praising God precisely as a pragmatic device for getting blessing! It’s back to me doing good works to gain favor and blessing.

The only reason we should praise God is BECAUSE HE IS WORTHY! It has nothing to do with blessings or changing things or people.

And I would submit that the praising does NOT change anything. HE is the source of all goodness. God is totally and utterly in control. Knowing Who He is, His sovereignty, His righteousness, justice, love, mercy, and grace that gives us comfort, hope, and joy. It is because of His grace that any of us can hope for change, it is because of His mercies that we are not consumed, we are blessed because of His goodness.

*Found in church bulletin – possibly a quote from Warren Wiersbe “With the Word”, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991)? – I don’t have access to the book and so can’t check it out.

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