Wednesday, October 15, 2008

THE WINDS OF CHANGE

The winds of change are blowing. In a few days, we will witness the beginning of change of leadership in our country. Unlike many nations around the world, the citizens will determine the outcome—no dictatorships. Power will be transferred without bloodshed—no military coup d’├ętats. As we approach the Thanksgiving season, we can be grateful for America—with all her flaws—that we still have the freedoms we enjoy.

Yet, those freedoms can be lost. We can be thankful for the brave men and women of our military who sacrifice so much—even their very lives—to preserve these liberties we cherish. We appreciate those blood-bought privileges too much to surrender them.

Or will we?

Many Americans will refuse to participate in the political process. Disenfranchised, disgruntled, disillusioned—all this and more—are reasons (excuses) presented by citizens for dropping out of involvement. No one would argue that real change is hard to come by. Our government features a monstrous, entrenched bureaucracy that is slow to affect. The winds of change required to turn that around would need to be hurricane force! Still, with the help of God, they could be generated by “we the people.”

One of the saddest things is when Christians divorce their faith from their politics. Some will not even register and cast a ballot. When that happens, things still change—for the worse. If God’s people are not influencing the nation by letting their light shine, then darkness will only deepen. Should we fail to be the salt of society, the rottenness will only spread. That is beyond sad—it is sinful! For that is what Christ has demanded we do (Matthew 5:13-16). “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

How can we consider the legal execution of infants inside the “gas chamber” of their mother’s womb through abortion and not be involved in the political process that has given us this holocaust? How can we sit by while fundamental morality is undermined by a government that is giving us same sex marriage? Just days ago, a group of first-grade school children were taken on a “field trip” in San Francisco to “celebrate” the wedding of their teacher and her lesbian lover. How dare we avoid bringing biblical values to bear in our decision-making? Some would protest, “But those are decisions made by judges!” Who appoints those judges? Who holds them accountable? That is the duty of our elected officials. So, who then is responsible for them? Look in a mirror.

If we continue on our current course as a country, the winds of change will blow—and God will generate them. Here will be the results, predicted in Revelation 6:13-17:
13 And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.
14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.
15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains,
16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

I read a bumper sticker the other day, “God is not a Republican.” Of course not—and neither is He a Democrat! Recall how Joshua came to the siege of Jericho with the armies of Israel when a Man with drawn sword appeared. General Joshua’s question was, “Are you for us or against us?” That Man was the Lord, and His answer was basically, “I didn’t come to take sides; I came to take over.” You say Jesus is Lord. That means He is Lord of the polling place, also. Our responsibility isn’t to try to convince God to join our party, but for us to be obedient to Him. Abraham Lincoln said it this way, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

Be informed. Be praying. Be involved. I’m not going to tell you how to cast your vote. You have the freedom to vote for whom you wish. Just remember that we will all give an account to God for all our actions one day.

The winds of change are blowing. Let us set our sails to head in the right direction.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

REVIVAL? OF WHAT?

Well, it's been a while since I posted anything. So, why not come back with a bang! Perhaps you've heard of the revival in Lakeland, Florida? If not, you will. My question is, "What is it a revival of?" Consider the following article:

“BAM! BAM! BAM!” said the false prophet
By Marsha West

Faith evangelist Todd Bentley has drawn hundreds of thousands to his Florida Healing Revival to “soak in the glory and spread the fire.” Before you pack up the car or purchase an airline ticket and head to Lakeland Florida, here’s a word of warning: Christians who play with fire will get burned.

All the controversy over the Lakeland Outpouring is causing deep division within the Church. Some Christians believe Bentley is bringing a long overdue revival. They argue that since people are getting healed it’s a move of God. But a growing number of believers say he’s a fraud. So which is it? Is Todd Bentley a prophet of God, or just another huckster? Let’s examine the evidence to find out if a genuine revival is going on in Lakeland.

There’s a plethora of video clips online that show Bentley in all his raging glory, stalking the stage. In one clip I watched, he’s bragging about “grounding and pounding” people who have come to him for healing. In another clip he declares that God told him to batter a woman’s legs with a baseball bat. He then boasts how he has applied
choking moves on sick people who come to him for help. Then there’s the story of the “Chinese guy” he “hit so hard that a tooth popped out of his mouth.” Bentley’s “healing” is often so brutal that some witnesses compare it to WWF Smackdown! The man may be a wrestling aficionado, but he’s definitely not a prophet of God. No offense, but he is as phony as most professional wrestlers. But don’t take my word for it. Watch the video clips in this article and you’ll discover that I’m not making any of this up. Here’s the first clip: http://youtube.com/watch?v=_K8XjObzfXM

What struck me about this clip is that people in the audience, most of whom are professing Christians, laughed and applauded as Bentley blamed God for telling him to inflict pain on people! The Apostles never behaved in such an appalling manner. Would Paul kick a senior citizen in the head, even with lightweight sandals on his feet? Peter may have been hotheaded, still he would never have resorted to grounding and pounding the sick in order to heal them. Now, imagine John choking someone and saying that God told him to do it! What I have just described is Todd Bentley’s WWF style of healing.

Many of Bentley’s “healings” are not instantaneous, by the way. For example, a man claimed partial restoration of his hearing on Wednesday and on Thursday he claimed his hearing was completely restored. Both Jesus and the Apostle’s healings were instantaneous, and that’s because they were authentic. People were restored to full health. Not in Lakeland, though, where they experience “miracles in progress.”

Something I found odd is how Bentley feigns wide-eyed surprise at some of his “miracle healings.” Since he’s allegedly healed masses of people for a number of years, why does he look so amazed when people are healed? The answer is obvious. He plays the audience! And he’s oh so effective at “priming the pump” to keep their minds engaged.

Restoring someone’s missing eye or severed hand is an outward healing. Todd Bentley’s “healings” are inward. Glaringly absent are restored body parts. Several video clips show people allegedly healed of cancer, heart problems, tumors, diabetes, deafness, asthma, fibromialgia, broken bones, and so on. Again, Bentley’s healings are not outward like the genuine healings of Jesus and the Apostles. Moreover, he claims to have raised people from the dead!

The obvious question is if miraculous healings like the sort Jesus performed are actually taking place in Lakeland, where’s the proof? Photos and videos of people with restored limbs and missing body parts would be splashed all over national TV and the Internet, especially on Christian news sites. Where are the “before” and “after” pictures of burn victims, kids with cleft pallots and other obvious birth defects? Absent are stories from Alzheimer’s sufferers who miraculously regained their memories. One blogger made this astute comment:

“Bentley’s close friend and mentor, Bob Jones is sick with kidney problems and is obese. Todd Bentley is overweight and balding and had a recent heart attack. Quite a few of Todd Bentley’s musicians and singers, as others have remarked, are also very big so there is no miraculous weight loss anointing or healing baldness anointing or any healing anointing working among them -- and Todd claims the anointing drops pounds off fat people and puts hair on heads. James Goll’s wife is seriously ill with cancer. Get my drift?” [1]

In the next clip an eleven-year-old boy with Cerebral Palsey who cannot walk without a walker has a dream of running around the baseball diamond. The boy sincerely believes he’s been healed. (This one brought me to tears.) He struggles to speak as he relays his “healing” experience to the crowd. All the while his mother holds onto his shaky body to keep him from falling. The boy cannot stand alone, let alone run. Yet he’s told by Bentley that he’s a “healing in progress.” Then before the boy knows what hit him, BAM! he’s “slain in the spirit” (pushed to the floor). Watch it and weep:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=dcqmShgqbw8&feature=related

What did Jesus do?

“Then he [Jesus] said to the paralytic, ‘Get up, take your mat and go home.’ And the man got up and went home” (Mat 9:6-7).

What about Peter?

“As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. ‘Aeneas,’ Peter said to him, ‘Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.’ Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord” (Acts 9:32-35).

The obvious question is, does Satan have the power to heal? The answer is that he gives the appearance of healing, but it’s a counterfeit. It’s true that God performs miraculous signs and wonders. And the apostles performed signs and wonders and miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. Sorcerers perform “miraculous lying signs and wonders” that lead people astray and keep them from the truth. But lying signs and wonders may not be miraculous at all. Satan has the power to deceive, “even the elect—if that were possible.” Some faith-healers use social emotional and psychological manipulation to get people to to change their behavior, their attitude, even their morals. In a crowded setting people are more susceptible to manipulation tactics. This is known as peer pressure. Responding to peer pressure is part of human nature.

In his article SOAKING? A spiritual discipline or Eastern Mysticism, Gary Gilley describes psychological manipulation thus:

“John Arnott writes [in his book The Father’s Blessing]: It is no coincidence that we have seen people prophetically acting like lions, oxen, eagles and even warriors. In Steve Witt's church in St. Johns, New Brunswick, I saw all four of those manifestations happening at the same time -- the ox, the eagle, the lion and the man (warrior). The lion and eagle manifestations accompanied prophesying. The man who was acting out the part of the warrior had both hands gripped together around the hilt of a sword, and he was swinging it. These warrior actions give the observer a real feel of battlefield action. The people who were doing this were mostly credible pastors or leaders. I was astonished but sensed the awesome presence of God.

"One lady who played the keyboard and weighed about 115 pounds was on all fours, snorting and pawing the ground like an angry ox or bull. It was obvious that she was surprised and a bit frightened by what was happening, but at the same time she seemed determined to follow the Spirit's leading (p. 178).”

People who follow the “Spirit’s leading” in this way look like they’re crazy, drunk or possessed, which is the reason Scripture doesn’t support foolish behavior! In this next clip a group of people line up to receive the “anointing.” This is actually scary!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTsYSR9kEeg

Scripture never mentions lying supine on the floor sizzling like bacon in a frying pan as Bentley induces people to do. Nor does it mention crying or laughing hysterically, screaming, shaking all over, clucking, mooing, barking and roaring “in the spirit.” This may come as a surprise to some Christians, but being slain in the spirit is not normative in Scripture. Read
1 Cor. 14 to learn what God wants a church service to look like. Paul makes it clear that, “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

I find the next clip disturbing on so many levels. Watch what’s taking place in the Ashrams of India, the cults, the New Age movement, even inside the church! Popular Word of Faith teacher Kenneth Copeland gets in on the act and comes close to mussing his hair: Watch the mindless mind:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtVGxJU-j2I

In Galatians 5:22-25 Paul describes the “fruit of the spirit” and how to live a Spirit-filled life. Ponder these verses and decide for yourself if the fruit produced by the Lakeland Outpouring is fresh or rotten. The fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”

I wonder, are faith-healers recruited by the U.S. military to heal soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who have sustained horrific injuries, from lost limbs to burns to blindness. Benny is always trapsing around the world to bring healing to the sick. One can’t help but wonder how much time he spends bring healing to our brave American soldiers. Our Lord healed the sick in his own backyard:

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied. Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God” (Luke 18:34-43).

Now for more “fire burning heat healings” from Todd Bentley. Only this time he takes credit for a three year-old girl’s resurrection from dead.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=-u56Z2A2NoA&feature=related

According to Charisma Magazine, Arnold Palmer Hospital denied the report. A blogger who believes the girl was healed claims that the she died a second time “under mysterious circumstances.” [2]

After watching Bentley in action, any reasonable person would have to conclude that the Florida Healing Outpouring is not a movement of the Holy Spirit as those involved in it believe. This so-called “revival” was birthed in the pit of hell. And speaking of hell, Bentley claims that the audible voice of God told him to pretend to be demon possessed during a Charismatic Catholic meeting. At first he argues with “God” about it, but then caves in and does as the voice tells him. Suddenly he finds himself “writhing around on the floor like a serpent.” Then a demonic power commences speaking from his mouth and he starts cursing and using profanity. Fortunately for him a first-rate faith-healer is on the scene to grab the bull by the horns. The “healer” proceeds to cast twenty-five demons out of Bentley’s body. Don’t take my word for it, watch the next clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtSK9TyduR4

Bentley has a demon alright -- the demon of heresy! (Naming demons is not biblical, by the way, nor is “binding demons.” But that’s another article.) How can a born again Christian be possessed by demons when the Bible says, “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1John 4:4). The Holy Spirit indwells true Christians. Moreover, the New Testament does not mention that believers should be concerned with becoming demon possessed. So let’s set the “demons can possess believers” myth to rest once and for all. It can’t happen. Oppressed, yes, possessed, never!

Not surprisingly, Todd Bentley is obsessed with angels. Many of his followers have heard his tall tale of how a 14-foot angel “towers in the apartment,” where he lived. Seven days after the “visitation” he went into ministry. Listen to him “telling the honest truth” about a “visitation from heaven” and how it led to his healing ministry in Albany, Oregon:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSlt0_8HwMk&feature=related

It matters not to Bentley’s followers that his angel encounters are unbiblical. He has received “visitations” from the “
Winds of Change” and his money gathering angel, Emma. On money matters Bentley offers this advice in his article, Angels and the Florida Healing Revival:

"So when I need a financial breakthrough I don't just pray and ask God for my financial breakthrough. I go into intercession and become a partner with the angels by petitioning the Father for the angels that are assigned to getting me money: ‘Father, give me the angels in heaven right now that are assigned to get me money and wealth. And let those angels be released on my behalf. Let them go into the four corners of the earth and gather me money.’"

Where do I begin? First, and most importantly, Bentley’s understanding of angels is unbiblical. God does not instruct humans to partner with angels, nor are we to pray to an angel. The word “angel” means “messenger.” God sends messengers to humans via elect-holy angels. Humans are to pray directly to the Father in heaven. Nowhere in the bible are believers instructed to elicit the help of an angel to accumulate wealth! Hence, the “angels” Bentley prays to could not possibly be messengers from God. If you believe that he’s “telling the honest truth” about his “visitations,” understand that the advice he receives is from fallen angels, AKA demons. Had Todd Bentley taken the time to study the Bible to find out what it says about the host of heaven, he’d know that his “visitations” are from the dark side! (Angelology is out of the scope of this article. If you wish to find out what the Bible says about angels, visit
NewsWithViews.com and read my articles on angels 3.)

Todd Bentley says he has conversations with God. He continually spouts, “the Lord told me…” and passes along to the audience what the Lord supposedly said. But would God really instruct him to kick a woman in the face with a biker boot? First of all, if he actually “obeyed” the voice, he’d have been arrested for battery! Or sued!

What’s up with the people Bentley employs? There are a number of them on stage with him at all times. Apparently they stood idly by when he assaulted helpless sick people, even knocked a man’s tooth out! The question Bentley’s devotees must ask themselves is does this sickening behavior in any way glorify the Holy Trinity?

I’m inclined to believe the “voice” Todd Bentley says he hears is not God at all. Either he’s hearing from demons or it’s a figment of his imagination. It is not in God’s character to lie, nor would the Almighty honor someone who blatantly twists Scripture.

Following is an excerpt from an article I wrote,
Found: God’s Will:

“God speaks to us through the pages of Scripture. ‘For all our talk about sola Scriptura,’ says Greg Koukl, ‘many also hold that God speaks to them on a regular basis giving true information about Himself and specific directions for their lives. Their claim is, essentially, “I believe the Bible is a bona fide source of information and the Spirit also gives private information directly to me.” The second step frequently follows the first: The personal, subjective sense of what a person thinks God is telling him trumps the objective Scripture.’

“Koukl makes an important point. Should what we hear in our mind take precedence over what Scripture says? Christians will often toss out the phrase, ‘God told me’ that they should do this or that. Or ‘I felt led,’ or ‘I sensed that God wanted me to___’ You fill in the blank. Televangelists, who pretend to have a direct pipeline to God, prance around in front of the TV camera, claiming to hear a ‘word from the Lord.’ At the risk of sounding negative or divisive, most televangelists teach outright heresy (I can prove it), so why would God speak to them at all? Frauds should not expect to hear from God; they should expect to be rebuked by God.” [4]

And by the way, it’s blasphemous to blame God for giving you instructions that goes against the teaching of Scripture!

Bud Press made this insightful comment about Bentley:

“Bentley has a desire for power and experience, which has become the ruin of many before him. If one takes Bentley’s view as realistic and tries to make it normative for today, then maybe we should continue to write Scripture and add it to the Bible. Because that is exactly what Bentley is doing.” [5]

In their book Overrun By Demons: The Churches New Preoccupation With The Demonic, the authors explain the working of the Holy Spirit:

“The Holy Spirit is the One who works in us and leads us, while the Word of God is the means that He uses to bring this about. They are best friends and never travel alone. In addition, they never have an argument; they always agree. After all, the Holy Spirit is the agent used by the Father to write the Scriptures, so He knows them quite well! Therefore the Holy Spirit would never lead anyone to do anything which conflicts with the written Word of God, no matter how convincing the circumstances or intense the experience” [6]

Satan’s counterfeit signs and wonders have one purpose: To destroy the work of Christ. For those who are all caught up in the “sings and wonders” movement here are a few scriptures to ponder:

“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD” (Jer 13:16)

“A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away” (Mat 16:4).

“Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears” (Acts 20:30-31).

“Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gal 5:7-8).

“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thes 2:9-10).

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim 4.3-4).

There are other verses that support this point, but you get the idea. Video clips exposing the Lakeland Outpouring abound. Some of them are far worse than those few I have selected. Most who watch Todd Bentley in action conclude that the man is a false prophet. In my opinion he’s deeply troubled and in dire need of prayer.

Over the years I’ve corresponded with a number of charismatics who have accused me of “quenching the Holy Spirit.” What I’ve found is that if you don’t share their experiences, you’re considered “outside.” In other words, if you don’t buy into the apostate “signs and wonders” movement you lack “divine revelation.” Since when does “experience” override
Sola Scriptura? “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching [Scripture], you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’" (John 8: 31-32).

This is why committed Christians must be in the Word – so that they will know the truth! Knowing Scripture is the only way to become spiritually attuned enough to spot a counterfeit. False teachers are thriving! But in the end they will lose all they have gained here on earth. In Mat 7:21 our Lord gives this stern warning: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

So when a “miracle” takes place, test what the person is teaching! “Do not believe every spirit,” warned John, “but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1-2).

Now, I don’t claim to know Todd Bentley’s motives, only God knows what he’s up to, but I can certainly judge his words and actions. His words are lies and his actions are dishonoring to God. Thousands are streaming into Lakeland to receive the false anointing. Visitors are treated to a magical mystical experience and a bizarre floorshow – literally! Countless people have found themselves on the floor “sizzling in the spirit.” This is not an authentic revival it is a counterfeit! True revival accompanies preaching about sin, sanctification, and salvation. The unsaved leave Lakeland with no concept of sin and repentance. They have not heard the true gospel from Bentley. “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain” (1 Cor 15:1-2).

After watching Bentley’s performance, I’m convinced this is not a move of God; it’s a move of the Adversary. I’m also convinced that the charismatic revival, hailed as another Great Awakening, is a lying sign and a false revival. I realize that some lost souls are coming to Christ in Lakeland but they’re being saved in spite Todd Bentley, not because of him! This has all come about because of a lack of spiritual depth and transformation among those who claim to be committed Christians.

One last comment. Any pastor who advises his/her flock to visit the Lakeland Outpouring cannot be trusted for the simple reason that he/she is sorely lacking in spiritual discernment. Consider looking for a new church!

Footnotes:
[1]
End Times Prophetic, Prophecy, Visions, Dreams, Revelation, Christian Blog
http://endtimespropheticwords.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/video-of-todd-bentley-choking-the-flock-quite-literally/
[2] Miracles, Part 3, blog http://groups.msn.com/TheConservativeVillage/coffee.msnw?action=get_message&mview=1&ID_Message=51024
[3]
Articles By Marsha West (A slew of angel verses in Additional Reading below)
http://newswithviews.com/West/marshaA.htm
[4] For a biblical understanding of angles, read Unbiblical Ideas About Angels, By Marsha West
http://newswithviews.com/West/marsha59.htm
[5]
An Open Heaven- Todd Bentley's Highway to Heaven, By Bud Press
http://www.letusreason.org/Latrain45.htm
[6] Overrun by Demons: The Churches New Preoccupation With The Demonic, By Thomas Ice and Robert Dean, Jr., page 88, Harvest House Publishers

Additional Reading:
What Is True Revival? Originally published August, 1989, By Charles Woodruff
http://thirdmill.org/newfiles/cha_woodruff/cha_woodruff.whatistruerevival.html

Scriptures on angels from Sola Scriptura Project website: http://solascriptura.com/tp_angels.php

Signs and Wonders, Heresy, and Love for God, By Mike Ratliff http://mikeratliff.wordpress.com/2008/06/11/signs-and-wonders-heresy-and-love-for-god/

Holy Laughter or Strong Delusion, By Warren Smith
http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Holy_Laughter.htm
Other Todd Bentley “healings” on YouTubeDistributed by www.ChristianWorldviewNetwork.com

So there--is this a revival? Of demonism? Spiritism? Charismania? Occultism?

Real revival means--humilty not celebrity; prayer not flair; passion for God not passion for the odd; conviction of sin not confusion of speech--then God hears from heaven, forgives our sin and heals our land (see 2 Chronicles 7:14). That's what we need, and rather than this circus being an evidence of revival, it is an evidence of the need for it! We are so far from God, we can't even recognize where to find Him--but I would suggest you save your time and not look in Lakeland, Florida.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

PAID IN FULL

When Jesus died on the cross, He cried, “It is finished!” It was not the scream of a victim, but the shout of a victor—not resignation, but jubilation. This expression is rich in meaning. It was the word used to declare a prisoner was free to go. It was used by a soldier to state the battle is over. The term meant to set sail for a mariner and to unyoke the oxen for a farmer. To the merchant it said, “The debt is paid in full!”

Our debt is paid. Jesus died so that we may be forgiven.

Still the possibility of forgiveness is conditional—we must receive it. But, there is another condition—I must extend it. If I want to be forgiven, then I must be willing to forgive. Consider the following story.

A visiting professor giving a lecture on stress management, raised
a glass of water and asked the audience, “How heavy do you think this
glass of water is?”

The students answered in a range of very light to 2 pounds. Someone even shouted an ounce and a half!

The professor ignited their curiosity when he said no matter what weight you think the glass of water is—it doesn't matter! He went on with his explanation, “The absolute weight does not matter. It depends on how long you hold it. If I hold this glass of water at arms length for one minute—I'm OK. If I hold it for an hour—an ache will appear in my arm. If I hold it for a day—call 911 and ask them to expedite an ambulance. The weight of the glass of water never changes but the longer I hold it—the heavier it becomes.”

He continued, “un-forgiveness at the moment of confrontation is of no account, but if I hold on to un-forgiveness for a day it begins to drag me down. If I carry un-forgiveness for a month, year or a lifetime I will not be able to carry it—the burden will become increasingly heavier day after day. Like the glass of water that I had to let go to find relief from pain—to find relief from un-forgiveness I must let it
go.”

Jesus definitely said it best in Luke, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”


Are you trying to extract that last pound of flesh from someone who has hurt you, disappointed you, and that perhaps unwittingly? Let it go. Release them of the debt. They’ll be glad—and so will you.

Happy Easter,
Dennis

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

MAXED OUT MEN MASQUERADING AS MAXIMUM MEN

I read this and thought--that hits the nail on the head! Guys, see if this isn't true to life.

How Are Men Doing?By Patrick Morley

This is an excerpt from the book I'm currently writing, Pastoring Men. Please let me know if you see something that doesn't look right to you, or if you have something to add. Thanks!

Demographically, men are quite different. They are black, white, Hispanic, rich, poor, rural, suburban, urban, white collar, blue collar, conservative, liberal. For every man who sits on a Board, another lays on a jail bunk. Some like to ponder over chess, others prefer screaming at touchdowns.
Yet whether I am speaking with men from Alabama or Alaska, at the Pentagon or in prison, executives in New York City or Mennonite farmers in Pennsylvania, cowboys in Texas or Chinese businessmen in Malaysia, I have found that our similarities dwarf our differences.
You’ve heard the numbing statistics about men and the havoc they have created. Instead of recounting those stats, I want to give you a psychographic profile of men of how men are doing. How are men doing, really?
Tired
First, men are tired. If there is one thing you can know for sure about your men, it’s that they’re tired. You know the words that get tossed around: stressed, slammed, weary, in need of relief, wasted, fragile, short-fused. They are all synonyms that add up to “tired.”
The average Christian male is up to his gold cross in debts and duties. He has a “picture” in his mind of what it means to be a “good Christian.” He believes in this picture—it’s what he thinks he “needs” to do to be a “good boy”—to be happy.
I need to spend quality time with my wife.
I need to be a super dad to my kids and attend (maybe coach) all their activities. My dad did (or didn’t) do this for me, and I’m going to be there for them.
I need to make lots of money so my family can live in a beautiful home in a “better” neighborhood, my kids can wear the right labels, there is less pressure on my wife to work, and I can become financially independent.
I need to join a men’s small group where I can grow with some brothers.
I need to attend a weekly home growth and fellowship group.
I need to have a daily quiet time for fellowship with God.
I need to keep the Sabbath and have my family in church to worship God.
I need to serve God through a personal ministry—probably through the church.
I need to be a good citizen and neighbor.
I need to be a star at work if all this is going to happen.
I need a successful and satisfying career.
I need some time for myself.
No wonder men wince when you ask them to do something. No wonder men plop down in front of the television to vegetate instead of read a book or converse with their wives. We have created a culture which requires more energy than men have to give. Sometimes we call this the rat race.

A Lingering Feeling
Second, men often have a lingering feeling that something isn’t quite right about their lives. This is the inevitable result of running the rat race. A woman told me she was having difficulty figuring out how to offer support to her husband. He loves his work. Occasionally, for stretches of months at a time, he will work 12 hour days. Then suddenly his mood will swing, and he will mope around for months.
“What is it that you want?” she asks him. He cannot articulate an answer.
She said, “I can chart these cycles on paper. They're completely predictable. I just don't know what to do for him anymore. He is extremely successful. He has the job he always wanted. We have a beautiful home and two lovely children. What's his problem?”
It does beg the question: How can a man get exactly what he wants and still not be happy?

Life Is Not Turning Out As Planned
Third, men’s lives are not turning out like they planned. Each week, on average, four to eight new men visit the Man in the Mirror Bible Study I teach in Orlando. Our average visitor is typically friendless, over-extended in most areas, has at least seen his Bathsheba, is up to his eardrums in debt, lacks meaning and purpose, feels under a lot of pressure, and is generally miserable. All of this is carefully masked behind a game face because the man knows that if the sharks smell blood it’s over.
Many of these men have made a profession of faith in Christ, but they have not been trained (discipled) to integrate their faith into their daily lives. As a result, they get caught up in the rat race—the conflict between who they are created to be and who they are tempted to be. When they lead unexamined lives, men tend to be Christian in spirit, but secular in practice.

Unglued
Fourth, a lot of men feel like their lives are coming unglued. The problem is not that men are failing to meet their goals. In most cases they are. The problem, it turns out—they’re the wrong goals.
A man in his 30s said, “When I got out of school I made out a list of everything I thought I would need to be happy. Fifteen years later I have everything on my list. Now I realize…it’s the wrong list.” How does a man give his best years to a system that never had any possibility of satisfying the hunger of his soul?
Nobody Cares
Fifth, most men feel like nobody, with the possible exception of family, really cares about them personally. A pastor invited one of his businessmen—a prominent one—to lunch one day. The man took the pastor to his private club. After 45 minutes of eating and exchanging social pleasantries, they finished their meal. The man set down his napkin and said, “So tell me. What’s on your mind? What can I do for you today?”
The pastor said, “Nothing, really. I just wanted to spend some time with you and get to know you better as a person.”
“Well, there must be something I can do for you.”
“No, not really.”
“Are you sure? How are our finances?”
“No, really…I just wanted to get to know you better—man to man.”
Two or three more similar exchanges took place. The man sat there incredulous. Belief slowly crept across his face, and tears welled up in the man’s eyes. He struggled to maintain control of himself. A minute went by. The man regained his composure and said, “In my entire career, no one has ever asked me to lunch unless they wanted something from me.”
Conclusion
No man fails on purpose, but most men are under a lot of pressure. When a man fails it sets powerful forces of bondage and brokenness in motion. It can take several generations to break the cycle. As America staggers beneath the load of a 100 major problems like divorce, fatherlessness, poverty, pornography, adultery, abortion, disrespect for authority, ethical failures, and truancy—where have the men gone? What has happened to our men? At the root of virtually every problem is the failure of a man, ironically a man who got up this morning wishing that his life would make a difference. A man for whom Christ died.
© 2008. Patrick Morley. All rights reserved. This article may be reproduced for non-commercial ministry purposes with proper attribution.
Any thoughts? Can I pray for you about something?
Want to get together for lunch--just to hang out? What about some other guys you know? How can we support and encourage each other as God's men?
DON'T BE A MAXED OUT MAN MASQUERADING AS A MAXIMUM MAN!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

THE BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE, Article Twenty One
This is Part 21 of a continuing series of articles examining the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This statement of faith was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting on June 14, 2000 “to set forth certain teachings which we believe.”

The Family

God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption. Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God's unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord.

Parents are to demonstrate to their children God's pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents.*

Mike Huckabee is a Neanderthal—a leading candidate for his party’s nomination for President of the United States, a former governor of Arkansas, highly educated, very articulate—but a Neanderthal. At least that is what some would conclude because as a former pastor and President of the Arkansas Baptists, he believes the Bible, especially this nonsense about a wife being submissive to her own husband. How could a civilized man hold such archaic thoughts?

Now, this is not an article endorsing Governor Huckabee or criticizing him. It is rather about what the Word of God has to say about the family. Ever since the Southern Baptist Convention adopted this statement of belief concerning the family, our denomination has been classified as a bunch of fundamentalist ayatollahs, members of the Flat Earth Society, knuckle-draggers, and the like, by liberals and egalitarians.

How dare we say what the Bible says? I ask, “How dare we not say it?” Just because something isn’t “politically correct” doesn’t make it wrong.

Family life is broken. Marriage as we know it has been decimated by the forces of hell masquerading as voices of reason, equality and enlightenment. Children are the broken pieces left in the rubble. Do not ask yourself if the above statement is popular; ask yourself is it biblical? If it is, then we ought to believe it, live it and teach it—unashamedly. This is God’s blueprint for the family. It will work! I still believe men and women are different—not one better than the other—just different. I still believe in the institution of marriage—not shacking up, not serial polygamy (divorce, remarriage, divorce, remarriage…), not homosexual love (whatever that is), the need to discipline children, and such ancient truths. Count me among the Neanderthals! Happy Valentine’s Day!

* Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15-25; 3:1-20; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 1:26-28; Psalms 51:5; 78:1-8; 127; 128; 139:13-16; Proverbs 1:8; 5:15-20; 6:20-22; 12:4; 13:24; 14:1; 17:6; 18:22; 22:6,15; 23:13-14; 24:3; 29:15,17; 31:10-31; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; 9:9; Malachi 2:14-16; Matthew 5:31-32; 18:2-5; 19:3-9; Mark 10:6-12; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 7:1-16; Ephesians 5:21-33; 6:1-4; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Timothy 5:8,14; 2 Timothy 1:3-5; Titus 2:3-5; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Peter 3:1-7. (Baptist Faith and Message, 2000)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

HERESY WITH A SMILE
Joel Osteen--he's so...nice. Confused, but nice. Biblically illiterate, but nice. We could call it heresy with a smile. I'm not a heresy hunter by nature, but sometimes duty demands we speak out. Because of his popularity, wide audience, and influence in evangelicalism--likely even among some of our church members--it's important to look beyond the smile and listen to what he says. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Here's an article from Steve Camp:

By Steve Camp Posted: 12/31/2007
How Wide is the Narrow Road at Lakewood Church?...Pastor Osteen believes Mormons are Christians too
"[The Pastor] must hold firm to the trustworthy
word as taught, so that he may be able to
give instruction in sound doctrine
and also to refute those who contradict it."
-Titus 1:9

Pastor
Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX was on Chris Wallace's excellent news broadcast this morning: Fox New Sunday with Chris Wallace.
Once again, Joel speaks sentimentally about spiritual things, but shies away from speaking clearly and biblically about the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And more importantly, speaking against the unorthodox beliefs of those who represent a false gospel dressed in Christian rags - such as Mormonism.. This interview represents the tragedy of unbiblical compassion... resulting in a distortion of the truth, an acceptance of a different gospel, and an ecumenical accommodationalism that defects from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
This interview is disappointing on three levels:
1. Joel is a pastor and failed to speak biblically as a pastor on an essential of the faith: what is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and do Mormon beliefs pass the test of orthodoxy according to the standard of Scripture?
2. Because of Joel's large TV audience (especially among nonbelievers) many folks will surely come away from today's broadcast thinking that Mormons are truly Christian when in fact they are not at all.
3. Mitt Romney, though a fine politician, is now further confirmed in his unbelief and his heart a bit more calloused against the biblical gospel because of Joel's words.
This is serious beloved. What Joel affirmed is nothing short of a compromised gospel worthy only of
eternal damnation. Mormons believe a different gospel than the biblical gospel and cannot be considered as part of orthodox Christianity under any circumstance (here is an excellent apologetic site that has numerous detailed articles about Mormon beliefs and doctrines.)
In the wake of this unfortunate interview, my prayers today are twofold:
1. that Joel Osteen would daily study to show himself approved unto God as a workman unashamed by handling accurately the word of truth. Eight years is a long enough time beloved for any man in pastoral ministry (seminary educated or not) to be thoroughly acquainted with the essentials of the faith - especially the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to clearly represent its truth.And 2. that the Lord would bring truly saved men and women into the Romney household to proclaim to them the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; warning them to flee the wrath to come; compelling them to be reconciled to God; commanding them to repent of their sins; and calling them to deny themselves, take up their cross, and by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone... follow Him as their Lord and Savior.
Below you will find a section of the transcript of the broadcast. The video can be watched
here or read the entire transcript can be read here.
WALLACE: And what about Mitt Romney? And I've got to ask you the question, because it is a question whether it should be or not in this campaign, is a Mormon a true Christian?
OSTEEN: Well, in my mind they are. Mitt Romney has said that he believes in Christ as his savior, and that's what I believe, so, you know, I'm not the one to judge the little details of it. So I believe they are. (emphasis mine).And so, you know, Mitt Romney seems like a man of character and integrity to me, and I don't think he would — anything would stop me from voting for him if that's what I felt like.
WALLACE: So, for instance, when people start talking about Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, and the golden tablets in upstate New York, and God assumes the shape of a man, do you not get hung up in those theological issues?
OSTEEN: I probably don't get hung up in them because I haven't really studied them or thought about them. And you know, I just try to let God be the judge of that. I mean, I don't know.I certainly can't say that I agree with everything that I've heard about it, but from what I've heard from Mitt, when he says that Christ is his savior, to me that's a common bond.
Distributed by www.ChristianWorldviewNetwork.com