Celebrity Pastors, Discernment, False Teachers, Word of Faith Movement

Of Mega-Blogs and Molotov Cocktails

megablogs molotov

I Look Down on Young Women With Husbands and Kids, and I’m Not screaming-womanSorry, screamed the headline. Quite an attention grabber. It certainly grabbed mine. So, of course, I read the article.

It was brash. Extremist. Rude. Rather one dimensional and completely devoid of nuance. And it made me mad, too, since I used to be a young woman with a husband and kids. (“Used to be,” as in, I still have the husband and kids and I’m still a woman, but “young” would be a stretch at this point.)

I was all set to write a blog post in response about the value of wifing, mothering, and working outside the home. You know, whatever God has called you to. So as prep for my article, I read the article again. And again.

And, like a toddler yanking at the hem of my skirt to get my attention, an epiphany pushed and shoved its way into my consciousness.

It wasn’t real.

Or maybe I should say: I suspect it wasn’t 100% sincere.

Have you ever visited a mega-blog like Buzzfeed or Mashable? They churn out tons of cheap content every day, glasscandy-532959which means lots of hits on their web sites and lots of posts that go viral, which means lots of money from advertisers. (Nothing wrong with that, but it’s usually not terribly deep stuff. Sometimes people want a little mind candy, and that’s OK.)

Guess what? Lots of people want a piece of that pie and it’s easier to copycat than to innovate, so there are lots of other upstarts out there trying to become the next mega-blog. Like Thought Catalog, which published the aforementioned article on young women with husbands and kids.

As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and in a PR move that would make even Miley Cyrus chartreuse with envy, Thought Catalog threw out a Molotov cocktail of an article, stood back, and watched the crowd gather. Nearly a quarter of a million shares on Facebook. Almost 2000 re-tweets. Over 11,000 comments. From a PR standpoint, there’s pretty much no choice but to admire them.

Is Amy Glass, the author of the article, a real person? Maybe she is, or maybe it’s a pseudonym for someone who works for Thought Catalog as a content writer. If she’s a real person, are these her genuine thoughts and feelings, or did she throw in a hearty dose of hyperbole to push her readers into clicking, tweeting, sharing, pingback-ing, and writing response articles?

I don’t know.

There’s a lot of deception going on out there these days (I’m not saying Thought Catalog is being deceptive. Honestly, I haven’t poked around over there enough to know.) and it’s not just “out there.” It’s inside the walls of the church, as well.

joel_osteen-false_prophetThere are plenty of “Buzzfeed” pastors, leaders, and Christian authors who are throwing out cheap content and bombshells…

…2014 is going to be the year God turns everything around for you!
…Just say what you want! If you can say it, you can have it!
…God wants you to achieve all your dreams, so reach for the stars!

Joyce-MeyerThe glass breaks, the flames fly, and the crowd gathers. Their churches are overflowing with people. Their books become best sellers. They’re invited to speak at all the big conferences. And when the little guys start copying them and their methods, they know they’ve arrived.

But are they telling you the truth? And if you’re one of their devotees, how do you know whether or not they’re telling you the truth? Do you even want to know, or are you just happy with being entertained or being told what you want to hear?

There’s a way to find out. Get your Bible out and study it. Don’t just give it a surface reading– do the work and dig. Use the brain God gave you and pursue the knowledge of His word. Ask Him to open your eyes to understand the truth of Scripture. Love God with your mind, not just your emotions. Don’t be deceived.

Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.
Proverbs 1:29-33

Apologetics, Marriage, Sunday School, Tough Passages

Tackling Tough Issues: Marriage Between Close Relatives in Genesis ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 1-26-14

sunday schoolThese are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 4 ~ Jan. 19-25
Genesis 22-40
Tackling Tough Issues: Marriage Between Close Relatives in Genesis

Last week’s reading- containing the story of Abraham’s marriage to his half-sister, Sarah -brought up the question of why God permitted close relatives to marry in some situations in the book of  Genesis. As we trek through the Bible this year, we will address some of these issues in an apologetic sub-series, “Tackling Tough Issues.”

NOTE: Incest, as we define it today, is a horrific crime. It is never OK with God (or with me) for one person to victimize another in this way. If anything in this lesson seems to indicate otherwise to you, either I have not written clearly enough or you have misunderstood something. If you need clarification, please comment below with your question.

Part of this lesson is taken from the article Why Did God Allow Incest In the Bible? by GotQuestions.org (an awesome resource for questions about the Bible, which I highly recommend). Quotes from the article are in black. My notes are in blue.

Question: “Why did God allow incest in the Bible?”

GotQuestions.org Answers: There are numerous examples of incest in the Bible. The most commonly thought-of examples are the sons/daughters of Adam and Eve (Genesis 4), Abraham marrying his half-sister Sarah (Genesis 20:12), Lot and his daughters (Genesis 19), Moses’ father Amram who married his aunt Jochebed (Exodus 6:20), and David’s son Amnon with his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13). It is important to note, however, that in two of the above instances (Tamar and Lot) one of the parties involved was an unwilling participant in the incest.

1. When labeling something in the Bible with a current-day word such as “incest,” we must take a look at what we mean by the word, and whether or not the author of the passage of Scripture and the characters in the passage would agree with our characterization of their actions by the use of our current-day words. Today, the word “incest” in our society carries some of the following connotations:

1. Incest is a crime. It is against the law.
2. Incest is considered to be disgusting and morally reprehensible by most of society.
3. Incest is usually predatory, non-consensual rape, and the victim is usually a child. (A parent or older sibling/close relative molesting a child.) It is devastating and damaging to the victim.
4. Even incest between consenting adults is looked upon with disgust (and is illegal). These relationships are nearly always hidden. They are not brought out into the light and legitimized by any normal segment of society or by legal marriage.

This way of thinking, and thus the word “incest,” the way we define it, does not apply to most of the situations listed in the paragraph above. 

2. There are some big differences among the instances cited in the paragraph above. The children of Adam and Eve and the marriages of Abraham/Sarah and Amram/Jochebed were marriages by consent, nowhere condemned by God, which took place before the Law was given. In the case of Adam and Eve’s children, there was no other choice for procreation and populating the earth.

In Biblical times, the marriage of Amram and Jochebed was not, and, indeed, today is not, in many parts of the world, considered incest. (It is genetically the same {25% of genetic material shared} as first cousin marriage, (which is legal in 23 states and Washington, D.C.) and is currently legal in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, France, Malaysia, and Russia.)  In fact, because of the inheritance laws for the Promised Land, people, especially women, generally married someone from their own tribe, to keep their land from being transferred to another tribe and losing their tribe’s inheritance of land (Numbers 36). Someone from one’s own tribe was, by definition, a relative. To the Israelites at that time, aunt/nephew was just a closer relationship than some others would have been. (Please do not misunderstand me. I am not personally advocating or in favor of avunculate or first cousin marriage.)

The incidents with Lot and his daughters and Amnon/Tamar were not marriages and were also non-consensual rape. God did not “allow” (in the sense of giving His approval) this as suggested by the title of the article. In fact, Amnon was murdered by his own brother for raping his sister (2 Samuel 13). Furthermore, the Amnon/Tamar incident occurred long after the Law was given, so Amnon was guilty of breaking the law. Lot’s daughters’ offspring became the Moabites and the Ammonites who later became enemies of Israel.

3. We must remember that any sexuality (lust or sexual acts) that takes place outside the parameters of a marriage between one man and one woman is a sin. (Genesis 2:24, Exodus 20:14) Therefore, if there is no legal marriage in place, any sexual relationship is automatically a sin regardless of the familial relationship between the participants.

4. To my knowledge, we do not see any instances of biological father-daughter or mother-son marriage in the Bible. (Even a step-son/step-mother relationship is condemned in 1 Corinthians 5:1.) The closest biological relationships we know of are brother-sister between Adam and Eve’s children. It is within the realm of possibility that only one such marriage occurred and that after this, marriages were between more distant relatives such as aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

5. Considering that some people lived for many centuries prior to the time of Noah (Genesis 6:3) and that there was often a considerable age difference between husbands and wives, even a marriage between two of Adam and Eve’s children may not have been as emotionally and socially “close” (though still biologically close) as we would think of sibling marriage today. Today, siblings are generally close in age, live under the same roof, and grow up together. We can only speculate, but it is possible that the son(s) of Adam and Eve was grown and out of the house before the sister(s), whom he eventually married, was even born.

6. In the case of Abraham, the dispersion of people across the face of the earth after the flood and after the Tower of Babel may have played a part in his choice of his half sister as a wife. People were spreading out, not every family produces daughters, and Sarah may have been the only woman of marriageable age available at the time Abraham needed to marry. Additionally, at that time, when wealthy men had more than one wife (as Abraham’s father did), the wives often had their own tents/houses, separate from one another, and the children lived with their mothers. So, it is likely that, though living near one another, Sarah and Abraham did not grow up under the same roof.

It is important to distinguish between incestuous relationships prior to God commanding against them (Leviticus 18:6-18), and incest that occurred after God’s commands had been revealed. Until God commanded against it, it was not incest. It was just marrying a close relative. It is undeniable that God allowed incest in the early centuries of humanity.

The article just said it wasn’t “incest” until God commanded against it, so a better wording of that last sentence would be: “It is undeniable that God allowed marriage between close relatives in the early centuries of humanity.” God has never “allowed” (in the sense of “approving of”) incest the way we define it today.

If Adam and Eve were indeed the only two human beings God created, their sons and daughters would have had no other choice but to marry and reproduce with their siblings and close relatives. The second generation would have had to marry their cousins, just as after the flood the grandchildren of Noah would have had to intermarry amongst their cousins. The reason incest is so strongly discouraged in the world today is the understanding that reproduction between closely related individuals has a much higher risk of causing genetic abnormalities. In the early days of humanity, though, this was not a risk due to the fact that the human genetic code was relatively free of defects.

It seems, then, that by the time of Moses, the human genetic code had become polluted enough that close intermarriage was no longer safe. So, God commanded against sexual relations with siblings, half-siblings, parents, and aunts/uncles. It was not until many centuries later that humanity discovered the genetic reason that incest is unsafe and unwise. While the idea of incest is disgusting and abhorrent to us today, as it should be, we have to remember why it is sinful, that is, the genetic problems.

Actually, the reason it is sinful is because it is a perversion of, and rebellion against, God’s law (that’s the reason that anything labeled a “sin” is sinful). Genetics may be part of the reason God laid down the prohibition in the first place, but genetic abnormalities in and of themselves are not the reason it is a sin. Sin is sin because it is a breaking of God’s law.

I am not convinced that genetic problems are God’s entire reason for prohibiting marriage between close relatives. One of the reasons, and perhaps the main reason, maybe, but I think there are additional reasons. Otherwise, why, in the case of the step-mother/step-son relationship (where genetics was not an issue, since these two people were biologically unrelated) in 1 Corinthians 5 does Paul react with such disgust and call it, “sexual immorality… and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife… Ought you not rather to mourn?” (v. 1-2) They didn’t even know the science behind genetic abnormalities back then. Also, medical problems do not generally cause this kind of gut-level disgust. That is normally reserved for moral issues.

I believe (and this is a personal opinion, not a statement of biblical truth) that by the time God gave the Levitical laws, the sinful condition of man had degenerated to the point that relationships between close relatives had not only become dangerous genetically, they had also become harmful emotionally, socially, and familially. We have only to look to people we know who are victims of incest to see the devastation that is caused when people break God’s law against incest.

Perhaps, like Job’s friends, we only have one or two pieces of the puzzle, and God is the only one who knows ALL of His reasons behind making marriages between close relatives a sin.

Since this was not an issue in the early centuries of humanity, what occurred between Adam and Eve’s children, Abraham and Sarah, and Amram and Jochebed, should not be viewed as incest. Again, the key point is that sexual relations between close relatives must be viewed differently pre-Law and post-Law. It did not become “incest” until God commanded against it.
© Copyright 2002-2014 Got Questions Ministries.

When we face difficult biblical issues like this one, it’s important to go back to what we were talking about last week and remember God’s sovereignty. He is all-knowing (omniscient), all-powerful (omnipotent), and everything is under His control.

God is perfect and always does what is right:
The Rock, his work is perfect,
    for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
    just and upright is he.
Deuteronomy 32:4

When we don’t understand God’s ways, it’s not that God is wrong, it’s that (like Job’s friends) we don’t have complete understanding and knowledge of the situation.
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

When we don’t understand something, we are to trust God about it, knowing that He does all things well.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. 
Mark 7:37a

Additional Resource:
Cain’s Wife: Who Was She? by Answers In Genesis

Bible, Church, Creation, Discernment, Evolution, False Teachers, New Apostolic Reformation, Prayer, Word of Faith Movement, Worship

Keep On Keeping Up: 6 More Issues Christians Need Guidance About From Our Pastors ~ Part 2

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Recently, I read a great article by Justin Peters entitled “Ignorance Is Not An Option.” I would call this article a response to that one, but it’s really more of a…well, I guess you could call it a “ricochet”. Last week, in Part 1 of this article, I discussed five current issues in evangelicalism that we folks in the pew need some guidance on from our pastors. Following are six more issues we all, pastors and church members alike, need to learn about and and keep a biblical perspective on.

Creation vs. Evolution:  Sorely missing from some pulpits these days is the exhortation to Christians that the Bible is our final authority on every issue in life and that we are called to believe God’s word- believe it intelligently, yes, but believe it, even in the face of worldly opposition. This admonition does not begin with Genesis 3, it begins with Genesis 1.  We are called to believe that God created the world and that He created it the way the Bible says He created it.

*Resources:
Answers in Genesis– From Creation apologetics to scholarly scientific articles to colleges that teach Creation to VBS curricula, you would be hard put to find a more comprehensive, gospel-centered Creation resource.
The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel

Denominational Differences: Do you know the basics of what the major Christian denominations teach (salvation, baptism, communion, membership, etc.) and the differences between their doctrine and the doctrine of your own denomination? Are you aware that some denominations which are considered by many to be “Christian” hold to doctrines- including soteriology- that conflicts with God’s word? Are you fairly well acquainted with the doctrines of the denomination or religion that is predominant (or secondary if your own denomination predominates) in your area? Pastoral instruction on the basics of other denominational beliefs (as well as their own!) can be quite helpful as we church members relate to friends and family members or help new church members who come from a different denominational background.

Resources: 
GotQuestions.org For a brief overview of most of the major religions and denominations, type “Methodist,” “Mormon,” etc., in the search box.

For more detailed information, find the denomination’s main web site and click on their “statement of faith” or “what we believe” page (Keep in mind that there are several different “flavors” of Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc., whose doctrines and practices may vary significantly from each other.), or get to know local pastors of other denominations and just ask what they teach.

The Word of Faith Movement:  Used almost interchangeably with the term “prosperity gospel,” anti-biblical Word of Faith concepts such as the “little gods” doctrine (we have a divine nature), health and wealth prosperity (it is never God’s will for you to be sick or poor, and if you are, it’s because of your lack of faith), positive confession (Our words have the power to create reality or speak things into existence. Conversely, negative words create negative circumstances.), and twisted teachings about tithing (“sow your seed so God will multiply it back to you”), among others, are infiltrating unsuspecting churches at an alarming rate, and many are being deceived.

Because church members are often introduced to these doctrines by seemingly innocuous, popular speakers and leaders such as Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Christine Caine, Hillsong personnel, Robert Morris, John and Lisa Bevere, John Hagee, Kari Jobe, and Judah Smith, whose materials are sold at Christian stores, conferences, and web sites, church members, and even some pastors, have no way of knowing they’re encountering false teaching unless they understand sound biblical doctrine and have a modicum of discernment skills.  It is now more necessary than ever for Christians to be trained in the basics of hermeneutics and discernment. 

Resources:
A Call for Discernment by Justin Peters
Word Faith Movement at Stand Up For the Truth
Sound the Alarm: The Dangers of the Word of Faith Movement by Emmanuel Davis
A Softer Prosperity Gospel: More Common Than You Think at 9Marks

The New Apostolic ReformationHopefully, your church members have never encountered NAR leaders, doctrines, or manifestations, or, if they have, were immediately turned off by its weirdness and because it is so blatantly anti-biblical. NAR takes the Word of Faith movement, and –BAM!– kicks it up a notch. But, as a gateway drug can lead to addiction and addiction can lead to a fatal overdose, so exposure to Joel Osteen can lead to T.D. Jakes to Benny Hinn to holy laughterstrange “anointings,” glory clouds of gold dust, tremoring, false prophecy, and being “drunk in the Spirit.” This is signs and wonders on steroids.

The NAR is also largely responsible for many of the corrupt teachings on prayer (mainly through Bethel Church in Redding, California) that have become popular in recent years, such as: contemplative/centering prayer, lectio divina, the International House of Prayer, Sozo prayer, healing rooms, and soaking prayer, as well as the false teaching of dominionism.

Resources:
False Spirits Invade the Church: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3  A Documentary by Andrew Strom
What is the New Apostolic Reformation? (And Why Should We Be Concerned About It?) by Christine Pack of Sola Sisters- This article is not only very helpful in and of itself, it provides links to many related articles and resources.
Love and Death in the House of Prayer by Jeff Tietz of Rolling Stone

The Emergent/Emerging Church MovementEver heard the old joke, “The only rule is…there are no rules!” Well, replace the word “rule” with “doctrine” and you’ve got a somewhat loose definition of the emergent church. It’s a post-modern mix of ethereal non-traditionalism, feelings, experiences, and mysticism as a means of worship, anti-absolute truth, ideological inclusivism, and anything goes universalism, topped off with a heaping helping of “did God really say…?“. Everything in the Bible, from moral absolutes to the divinity of Christ to the atonement to every other jot and tittle of the Word is questioned, if not outright denied. The only doctrine is…there is no doctrine. And, unfortunately, we church members can find any number of emergent books and materials on the shelves at our local Christian bookstores.

Resources:
What is the Emerging Church? by CARM.org
Exposing the Emergent Movement by Stand Up For the Truth

Bible Translations and Paraphrases, Study Bibles, and Theme BiblesIf the members of your church are carrying the LOLCat Bible or the KLV (yes, folks, that’s the Klingon Language Version of the Bible {Thanks a lot, Aaron. I’ll never be able to unsee that.}) into the sanctuary every week, you probably need more doctrinal intervention than I’m qualified to offer. But, while there are a number of theologically sound study Bibles and theme Bibles out there, there are some that may be just as theologically off base as the gospel according to kitty cats and Star Trek. Joyce Meyer’s Everyday Life Bible, Joel Osteen’s Hope for Today Bible, Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling Devotional Bible, and T.D. Jakes’ Woman Thou Art Loosed Bible are a few that come to mind. (Notice that these are all sold on a Christian web site right alongside materials that teach sound doctrine.)

Are you somewhat familiar with the most common Bible translations being used today, and which ones are the most accurate? Do your church members understand the difference between a translation and a paraphrase? What about gender neutral Bibles? There is such a variety of Bible options available today that the members of your congregation could likely use some guidance in selecting an accurate translation for studying God’s word.

Resources: 
BibleGateway.com– Just about every Bible translation and paraphrase you can imagine, all on line, all free. Compare a few versions side by side, and, if you’re thinking of buying a new version, try it out at BG before you buy.
Comparison of English Bible Translations
Translation Comparison Charts
How the Use of Some Bible Versions Can Twist God’s Truth at The Sacred Sandwich

*The resources given are obviously not an exhaustive list. For the most part, they are resources I have used myself, found to be helpful, and trust to be generally doctrinally sound. There are many other wonderful resources out there, but our most important resource is to compare all things and people to God’s word in context.

Sanctification, Sovereignty of God, Sunday School

Ishmael and El Roi ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 1-19-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 3 ~ Jan. 12-18
Job 32-42, Genesis 12-21
Ishmael and El Roi

What does “Ishmael” (Genesis 16:11) mean? El Roi (16:13)? Ishmael means “God hears.” El Roi means “the God who sees me.” Today, we’re looking at God’s sovereignty as displayed in the passages we read this week.

What do we mean when we say God is “sovereign”? Omnipotent? Omniscient? “Sovereignty” the way we use the word in the church today, means that God has authority and control over all things, people, and circumstances. He is omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing). Nothing in the universe happens without His knowledge, causation, or permission. We’ll see how God defines His sovereignty towards the end of today’s lesson. Because God is sovereign, we can TRUST Him.

Elihu (Job 32-34, Focal Passage- 33:29-30): God’s knowledge is perfect and complete. Ours is not. Elihu (as well as Job’s other three friends) thought he had God’s reasons for Job’s suffering all figured out: God brings suffering in order to lead men to repentance. Since Job was still suffering, he must still be in unrepentant sin. Elihu (and the others) were partly right. Sometimes, that is why God allows us to suffer. But not in Job’s situation. Each of them had a small piece of the puzzle, but none of them had the whole picture. Job wisely trusted God, who was the only one in this situation who knew the whole story, instead of his friends’ counsel.

42:7-9– Because our knowledge is incomplete, we must be extremely careful what we say about, or on behalf of, God. (Acts 20:26-27; Revelation 22:18-19, 2 Timothy 2:15) We are not to go farther than Scripture, nor stop short of declaring the full counsel of God. We are not to add to nor take away from God’s word. We are to handle God’s word rightly. We are to believe what God’s word says in context. Otherwise, we risk slandering the character of God.

Abram (Genesis 12-21): God isn’t just sovereign over the “big” things. He’s sovereign over the “small” things, too. He can be trusted in all things.

Abram trusted God’s sovereignty in the “big” things (Genesis 12:1-4; 15:1ff; 17:1-14)… Abram trusted God in a lot of “big” things. When God came to him and told him to leave his comfortable home and surroundings for a life of being a nomad, and didn’t even tell him where he was going, Abram went without question. When God told Abram He would give him innumerable descendants even though Sarai was barren, and that He would give Canaan to those descendants hundreds of years later, “he believed the Lord, and [God] counted it to him as righteousness.” (15:6) When God introduced the idea of circumcision to this 99 year old man, Abram didn’t try to talk God out of it or suggest a different way, he trusted God and obeyed.

…but sometimes he had trouble trusting God’s sovereignty in the “small” things (Genesis 12:11-13, 20:1-3; 16:1-2, 17:15-21; So did Lot’s daughters- 19:1ff; Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6) Abram trusted God when He rearranged and relocated his entire life. He trusted God to give him a myriad of descendants when he didn’t even have one child. He trusted that God would give thousands of square miles of land to his greatgreatgreatgreatgreat… grandchildren, yet when it came to protecting him and his wife, Abram gave in to fear and lied not once, but twice, about Sarai being his wife. Then, instead of trusting the God who had made all these great promises to him to cause Sarai to conceive on His timetable, he and Sarai took matters into their own hands with Hagar and violated God’s plan for marriage. Abram “listened to the voice of Sarai,” not the voice of God. (Just because bearing children “through” a handmaid was culturally acceptable at the time and Scripture doesn’t record God’s verbal disapproval of it doesn’t mean it was OK with Him.)

We see the same thing later with Lot’s daughters. Instead of trusting the God who sovereignly protected them from gang rape and the destruction of Sodom to give them husbands and children (or that it was OK with God for them to remain single and childless), they took matters into their own hands in a vile way. It is never God’s will for us to violate God’s word in order to bring about what we think are His purposes.

Hagar (Genesis 16:1ff, 21:8-21): God is sovereign over all circumstances, even the bad ones. His sovereignty brings comfort and shows He is trustworthy. Hagar was a slave. No one asked her if she wanted to sleep with Abram or bear his child. She had no choice. She was a victim of Sarai’s and Abram’s disobedience. But see how tender God is with her in these two passages! God comforts her personally and shows her she can trust Him by telling her a little about how He is going to use her circumstances in the future, and by His provision of the well. She can trust Him because He is sovereign over her situation. He has heard her cry (Ishmael) and is the God who sees her (El Roi).

Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 13:13, 18:22-19:29; Ezekiel 18:23; 2 Peter 3:9): God is gracious and patient, yet sovereign over sin, and sovereign in judgment. We learn as far back as chapter 13 that “the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord,” yet it isn’t until chapter 18 that we learn of God’s imminent plan to destroy the cities. We can’t be sure of the precise timing, but we do learn in chapter 12 (right before chapter 13 when God states that the men of Sodom were wicked) that Abram is 75 years old, and we find in chapter 17 (right before chapter 18 when Abram intercedes for Sodom) that Abraham is 99 years old. If the events are in chronological order, it appears (not knowing how long they had been “wicked” before chapter 13) that God mercifully spared his judgment against Sodom for at least 24 years. We see in other places, such as with Egypt (Exodus 12:40-41) and in our own day (since Christ’s ascension) that God waited hundreds or thousands of years before bringing judgment.

God is kind, gracious, and patient, because of His sovereignty over sin and judgment. He knows the kind of judgment that’s required and what it will be like. Over and over He provides ways for people and nations to repent, escape the penalty for their sin, and turn to Him. But when the time of His patience is fulfilled, He faithfully and righteously executes judgment.

God says, “ Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” and “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” He has provided a way for us to escape judgment- placing our faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to pay the penalty for our sin.

What does God have to say about His sovereignty? (Job 38-42; Focal Passages: 40:1-2,7-14; 42:1-6)

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Or who shut in the sea with doors?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Have you entered the storehouses of the snow?
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
Can you establish their rule on the earth?
Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
    or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
Do you give the horse his might?

Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
He who argues with God, let him answer it.”

“Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
Will you even put me in the wrong?
Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?
Have you an arm like God,
and can you thunder with a voice like his?

“Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity;
clothe yourself with glory and splendor.
Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
and look on everyone who is proud and abase him.
Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low
and tread down the wicked where they stand.
Hide them all in the dust together;
bind their faces in the world below.
Then will I also acknowledge to you
that your own right hand can save you.

Then Job answered the Lord and said:

“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”

Calvinism/Arminianism, Celebrity Pastors, Cessationism/Continuationism, Church, Complementarianism, Homosexuality

Keep On Keeping Up: 5 Issues Christians Need Guidance About from Our Pastors ~ Part 1

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Read Part 2 of this article, “Keep On Keeping Up: 6 More Issues Christians Need Guidance About From Our Pastors” here.

"Ignorance? Of Benny Hinn? A man in Brown’s position claiming ignorance of Benny Hinn would be tantamount to an Olympic swimmer claiming ignorance of Michael Phelps or for a high level employee of Microsoft claiming ignorance of Bill Gates."
“Ignorance? Of Benny Hinn? A man in Brown’s position claiming ignorance of Benny Hinn would be tantamount to an Olympic swimmer claiming ignorance of Michael Phelps or for a high level employee of Microsoft claiming ignorance of Bill Gates.”

Last week, I read a great article by Justin Peters entitled “Ignorance Is Not An Option.” In the article, Dr. Peters addresses a recent incident in which “charismatic theologian, author, and radio host Dr. Michael Brown” claimed not to know about the reputation and heresy of Benny Hinn, one of the most notorious false teachers in the Word of Faith movement. I know about him. You probably know about him. How could someone in Dr. Brown’s position not know at least the basics about Benny Hinn and why no Christian should endorse him?

It got me thinking- “ignorance is not an option” applies to far more than this one, isolated incident. We church members desperately need our pastors to keep up with at least the basics of current trends and thought in evangelicalism, and in theology and doctrine.

Why? There is a tsunami of materials, ideas, and personalities out there, and church members- even though we should seek to keep abreast, ourselves -need help sorting through it all. What’s biblical? What’s not? Also, pastors need to be informed about who and what they endorse (even tacitly), lest they encourage their church members to follow a person or doctrine that is not in line with God’s word.

So, what, specifically, are some of those current trends that we folks in the pew need our pastors to keep up with? Here are a few, along with some great resources to spare pastors some leg work:

Celebrity Pastors and Christian Authors: Do you know who Joyce Meyer, Matt Chandler, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, John Piper, John MacArthur, Andy Stanley, Steven Furtick, Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Tony Campolo, David Platt, and Rachel Held Evans are (just to name a few)?

Do you know why your people should or shouldn’t be listening to/reading them? What about any controversies surrounding them? Do you have a general awareness of whether they have a track record of, and are currently teaching, sound doctrine or false doctrine?

Church members may not know the answers to these questions, but they’re walking into Christian bookstores and buying their books, re-tweeting them, and listening to their podcasts. If a church member comes and asks you about one of these pastors/authors, what will your recommendation be? We church members need our pastors not to go by the pastor/author’s popularity, whether what they write or say sounds pleasing to the ear, how many books they’ve sold, that their stuff is sold at a store you think is trustworthy, or how big their church is. Whether we know it or not, we need your deciding factor to be: Does what they teach consistently match up with God’s word (in context)?

*Resources:
Fighting for the Faith: Listen regularly, or make good use of the search box. Chris Rosebrough has analyzed the teaching of nearly all of the people in the list above as well as many others.
Apprising Ministries: While I sometimes feel Ken Silva’s tone is too sharp, his posts are saturated with links to articles and videos of questionable teachers (plus tons of other resources) that you can check out for yourself.

Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism: In a nutshell, complementarianism is the view that God’s roles for men and women in marriage and in the leadership of the church are different, yet equally important. Wives are to submit to their husbands, and husbands are to lovingly lead their wives and children. The roles of pastor and elder are reserved to men, and women are not to teach the Bible to men or hold authority over men in the church.

Egalitarianism basically says that there are no gender restrictions on any positions in the church, including that of pastor, and that husbands and wives are to be “mutually submissive” to one another, removing any distinctive definition of headship.

The church, and women, especially, have been heavily influenced by culture on this issue, but what does God’s word say about it?

Resources:
Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism- Which View Is Biblicaly Correct? by GotQuestions.org
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Cessationism vs. Continuationism: Did the “miracle” or “sign” gifts such as speaking in tongues/other languages, healing, visions, direct revelation from God, raising the dead, etc., come to an end with the closing of the canon or death of of the last apostle, or do these gifts continue in the same way today?

Resources: 
Strange Fire Conference audio from John MacArthur
Continuationism and Cessationism: An Interview With Dr. Wayne Grudem- Part 1 and Part 2 by Tim Challies

Calvinism vs. Arminianism:  I don’t think I could boil down the tenets of Calvinism or Arminianism to a brief paragraph in any sort of way that wouldn’t have people on both sides hot under the collar. This has been a strenuously debated topic, particularly for Southern Baptists, for the last several years.

So, let me just say, and I’m sure everyone on both sides can agree, it is extremely important to know what the Bible says about our sin nature, free will, election and predestination, and whether or not a person can lose his salvation. These are weighty issues with eternal consequences that shouldn’t be dealt with lightly or in a way that seeks to reinforce our own opinions at the expense of what God’s word says.

Resources: 
Calvinism and Arminianism by Theopedia.com

Homosexuality In the Church: Homosexuality is certainly not the only sin out there, but it’s the sin that’s the hottest topic right now. Do you know the Scriptures that address homosexuality? Do you know how to answer the canard: “Christians say that homosexuality is against God’s law, yet they eat shellfish and wear garments of mixed fabrics, which is also against God’s law,”? What would you tell a church member who thinks it’s not loving to call homosexuals to repent of their sin and trust Christ or that godly “love” means we should validate their sin? Do you know how to help Christians who are former homosexuals deal with temptation to their old sins? Is it biblical to allow unrepentant, practicing homosexuals to serve in leadership positions in the church? Things like this may be going on in your own denomination, so it’s important for church members to be trained in what God’s word actually says.

Resources: 
Homosexuality by CARM.org
How Can We Help Christians Who Are Struggling with Homosexual Desires? by John Piper
Homosexuality and the Modern Church by Robert Gagnon and Tony Reinke

*The resources given are obviously not an exhaustive list. For the most part, they are resources I have used myself, found to be helpful, and trust to be generally doctrinally sound. There are many other wonderful resources out there, but, naturally, our most important resource is to compare all things to God’s word in context.

 

Read Part 2 of this article, “Keep On Keeping Up: 6 More Issues Christians Need Guidance About From Our Pastors” here.