Random Ramblings Ruminations Resources

Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources

Great balls of fire, the world has gone ya ya and we haven’t had a 4R since last July. Goodness. Well, we’ll fix that faster than a Costco shopper on a pallet of toilet paper.

Let’s jump into some Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources, shall we?

Photo Credit

M-m-m-my Corona(virus)

The other day I asked on Facebook if y’all wanted an article about Christians and the Coronavirus or something else. The overwhelming response was, “Something else! Anything else!” It seems many of us have reached out saturation point when it comes to hearing about the virus:
But there were a few hardy souls who wanted to hear a Christian perspective on how we and our churches should be reacting to all the ramifications of quarantines, social distancing, and church closures. So here are a few brief thoughts I had:

😷Wash your hands like your life depends on it, because it might. Instead of singing a song while you’re washing your hands, recite your memory verses. Or if you’re in a public restroom, share the gospel with the poor sap lady who’s washing her hands in the sink next to you. You know she’s going to be there a while- captive audience!

😷You shouldn’t have to be told to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. You should already be doing it. That is basic home training and basic loving and serving your neighbor.

😷Stay home if at all possible (I thought this was just called “being normal, but it turns out I’m an introvert. Or a hermit.). The sooner this thing stops spreading, the sooner we can all get back to church, work, and normal life (which, for me, is staying home if at all possible – it’s the circle of life. Or something.).

😷Christians are not hoarders. Christians are sharers. It’s one thing to lay in a reasonable supply. It’s a whole ‘nother animal to buy into the mindset that purchasing huge amounts of supplies will somehow magically ward off harm. It won’t. That’s superstition. It is failing to trust God to provide for you. Do business with God and discern whether or not you’ve been hoarding. If you have, repent, and make like Zacchaeus and give it away to people who need it. 

😷If you have a godly pastor, he has probably agonized over whether or not to cancel worship service or modify your church’s regular activities. It doesn’t matter what decision he makes, somebody is going to be unhappy about it and give him an earful. Don’t be that person. Give him some love and encouragement (from a safe social distance). He probably needs it now more than usual. And on that same note, whatever decision he makes, just roll with it for the time being, OK? We’re all playing this thing by ear right now, including your pastor. Don’t make me go all Hebrews 13:17 on y’all.

😷If you think nothing of skipping church for frivolous reasons, it’s hypocritical to complain now about your church’s services being canceled or modified for a much more important reason. (I’m not talking about First Amendment stuff here, I’m talking about your heart.)

😷”Online church” can be a blessing in an emergency situation like this, but this virus is going to pass and things are going to get back to normal. Do not fall into the fleshly mindset of, “Online church worked out just fine during the crisis, so I’ll just keep doing that instead of physically going back to church.” Uh uh. That’s spiritually lazy, and it’s sinfully forsaking the assembly. For Christians, Church is Not Optional, and that’s Non-Negotiable.

😷Have you ever stopped to think that this whole quarantine and limiting of meeting sizes thing could be God giving us a dry run of what it’s going to be like when real persecution comes, our church buildings are shuttered for good, and we have to meet in small groups in secret? That’s already real life for many of our brothers and sisters across the world. Maybe we should quit complaining and use this as a drill.

😷Where are Benny Hinn, Todd White, Bethel, and the rest of the faith healing crowd in all this? Time to put up or shut up.

😷Take reasonable precautions, but look for opportunities to help others and to share the gospel. Let your faith in God be greater than your fear of illness.

That’s pretty much my take on the whole shebang. If you haven’t had enough of all things Coronavirus, here are some more good resources:

Coronavirus Articles at The Cripplegate

Coronavirus and the Christian Faith on The Sword and the Trowel Podcast

The Coronavirus Pandemic – Bringing Hope to Those in Fear on Voice of Reason Radio

Q&A Corona Virus, Saturday Podcast, the Bible Project? at When We Understand the Text

Wisdom, Not Worry on Relatable with Allie Beth Stuckey

Kudos to one of my followers, Camille, who has been hard at work curating the best Coronavirus memes on the web, part 1 and part 2. (This is meant to be lighthearted and funny. If you only do serious, please don’t click.)

Get Your Worship On

This kind of goes along with my TBT article from yesterday, God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship. (Also meant to be lighthearted and funny, so please don’t click if that’s not your bag.). And some of you youngsters wonder why us old codgers like hymns so much!

The Real Deal, or the Fake Heal?

I was reading Acts 3, the story of Peter and John healing the lame beggar, and it struck me how starkly different this account is from the chicanery of New Apostolic Reformation “faith healers” today…

💥Peter and John didn’t have a “healing ministry”, they had a “preaching the gospel ministry.”

💥The lame beggar didn’t show up at “church” (i.e. the temple) to be healed, and didn’t seek Peter and John out for healing.

💥The lame beggar asked them for money rather than them asking him for money.

💥Peter and John had no silver, no gold, no Rolexes, no mansions, no private jets…

💥Peter said, “…what I have, I give to you.” The beggar was not asked to “sow a seed” into Peter and John’s ministry.

💥Faith isn’t mentioned once prior to the healing. Peter didn’t tell the beggar that if he just had enough faith, God would heal him.

💥No faith or money was required. The beggar played no part in “earning” his healing with his own good works. God healed him for His own glory.

💥The beggar was healed from a lifelong, obvious, eyewitnessed disability, and his healing was immediate and permanent.

💥Peter downplays both himself and the miracle and points to the Miracle Worker, Jesus.

💥Peter uses the opportunity of the gathered crowd to preach the gospel.

💥The gospel Peter preached was not, “Come to Jesus for miracles,” but “Jesus came to you, and you killed Him. Repent.”

💥Peter didn’t make crazy prophecies that didn’t come true. He pointed to the prophets of Scripture, and their prophecies fulfilled in Christ.

NAR preachers and faith healers want us to think they’re just like the apostles – even calling themselves “apostles” – but their words and actions don’t match up with what the apostles said and did.

They Aren’t Heretics Because You Disagree with Them

Of course not. So I’m not going to call Jared Wilson – who I have no reason to believe is anything other than a good, solid brother in Christ – a heretic because I disagree with the thrust of his article, They Aren’t Heretics Because You Disagree with Them. But, with genuine respect, I am going to call him “perhaps under educated” and “possibly somewhat lacking in experience” when it comes to the depth of the seemingly bottomless pit of false teaching and heresy out there.

Or perhaps our experiences are just different. Perhaps, in his world, there are throngs of people running around calling Presbyterians heretics because they believe in paedo-baptism. Or who cry “Heretic!” on anyone with a different eschatalogical view from their own.

That’s not the world I – and I would guess, most Christians – live in. In my world, the people who get called heretics and false teachers have generally earned the label by their biblically demonstrable false teaching and sinful behavior. There might be a few Baptists calling Presbyterians heretics and vice versa, but in my experience they are the rare exception, not the rule Jared’s article – putting the best possible construction on it – seems to be trying to address. And I get the feeling I swim in these particular waters much more frequently than he does.

I would certainly agree with Jared that the aforementioned types of issues are not matters of heresy, they are secondary issues on which Christians in good standing can disagree. But he lumps in some other issues (the role of women, extra-biblical revelation, yoking in ministry with “people who teach wacky things”) we cannot “agree to disagree” on because they are sin or false teaching that undermine the authority of Scripture, the sufficiency of Scripture, and the spiritual health of the church.

Jared has made the same categorization error regarding “secondary issues” that I believe Al Mohler made in his article on “theological triage” (which Jared links to in his article) – namely, that issues of sin (disobedience to clear Scripture) are not the same thing as secondary theological issues. Sin belongs all in its own category: sin. (I discussed this categorization error at length in my article Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue.)

Jared uses no Scripture used to back up his opinions, making them no more valid than the “opinions” he critiques. He cites the Baptist Faith and Message (the statement of faith of the Southern Baptist Convention), but the BFM is not Scripture, and we are Christians first, Baptists second. We are Bible first, BFM second. So anywhere the BFM might contradict Scripture, go beyond Scripture, or not rise to the level of Scripture (and it does not rise to the level of Scripture regarding the role of women in the church, restricting only the office of pastor, but not the function of preaching), it is moot and useless.

Does Jared not recall that Scripture says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”? And that we are to “cleanse out the old leaven…and celebrate with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth“? Yet the thrust of his article seems to be akin to saying, “Don’t worry about that little misshapen mole on your arm. It’s just your arm having a ‘different view’ of skin. Only rampant, stage 4 cancer should be called cancer and treated.” That is not a biblical approach to false teaching.

How would Jared have advised Old Testament people who had a “different view” of worshiping household gods alongside God? Or offering strange fire in worship? Or syncretism and idol worship taking place inside the house of God? Or marrying and divorcing foreign wives? Or, in the New Testament, Ananias and Saphira? Or those who forbid marriage and certain foods? None of these are soteriological heresies, and yet look how strenuously God dealt with each situation. Most involved the death of the perpetrators.

As much as many Christians would like us all to get along and play nice with anyone and everyone who names the name of Christ, we cannot do that and still be faithful and obedient to the Word of God that tells us to contend for for the faith and silence false teachers. False teaching, even non-soteriological false teaching, is a big deal to God, and it should be to us, too.

Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship

Originally published April 27, 2018

Social media is a strange universe to live in. There’s a lot of stupidity, but there’s also a lot that can be learned from various trending issues.

Such was the case recently when Christian social media was up in arms (and rightly so) about Cory Asbury’s worship song Reckless Love, and whether or not churches should use it in their worship services. Discussion centered around the use of the word “reckless” to describe God’s love for us and whether or not that was a semantically and theologically appropriate adjective. “Relentless” was suggested as an alternative lyric. “Reckless” was defended as an appropriate lyric. And then Cory Asbury’s explanation of the song came to light and did further injury to his doctrinal cause.

It was all a very interesting and helpful discussion, but, to some degree, it was a rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

‘Cause we’ve hit the ice berg, folks. And the ship is taking on water.

Focusing on the word “reckless” missed the point – at least the big picture point. You see, Reckless Love was produced by Bethel Music. And Cory Asbury is a “worship leader, songwriter and pastor” with the Bethel Music Collective. Prior to joining Bethel, he spent eight years as a worship leader with the International House of Prayer (IHOP).

Why is this important? Because Bethel “Church” in Redding, California, and IHOP are, functionally, ground zero for the New Apostolic Reformation heresy. Heresy. Not, “They just have a more expressive, contemporary style of worship,”. Not, “It’s a secondary theological issue we can agree to disagree on.” Heresy. Denial of the deity of Christ. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Demonstrably false prophecy that the head of IHOP, Mike Bickle, has publicly rejoiced in (He estimates that 80% of IHOP’s “prophecies” are false.) And that’s just the tip of our metaphorical ice berg when it comes to the NAR.

IHOP and Bethel are, by biblical definition, not Christian organizations and certainly not Christian churches. They are pagan centers of idol worship just as much as the Old Testament temples of Baal were. The only difference is that, instead of being creative and coming up with their own name for their god, they’ve stolen the name Jesus and blasphemously baptized their idol with that moniker.

The point in this whole debate is not the word “reckless”. The point is that Christian churches should not have anything whatsoever to do with idol worshiping pagans as they approach God in worship. Yet Sunday after Sunday churches use Bethel music, Jesus Culture music, Hillsong music, and the like, in their worship of God.

And it’s not just that churches are using music from the temples of Baal in their worship services. We have women who usurp the teaching and leadership roles in the church that God has reserved for men – many even going so far as to preach to men and/or hold the position of “pastor”. We have men setting themselves up as pastors who do not meet the Bible’s qualifications. We have churches that let anyone – Believer or not – participate in the Lord’s Supper. We have pastors who welcome false teachers and their materials into their churches with open arms and castigate anyone who dares point out the false doctrine being taught. We have preachers who have forsaken God’s mandate to preach the Word and use the sermon time to talk about themselves, deliver self-help tips, or perform a stand up comedy routine.

And everybody seems to think God’s up there in Heaven going, “Cool! Whatever y’all want to do in the name of worship is just fine and dandy with Me. You do you.”

Well, He’s not.

God demands – and has every right to do so – that He be approached properly. In reverence. In awe. In holy fear. With clean hands and a pure heart.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Psalm 24:3-6

Let’s take a stroll through Scripture and be taught by those who learned that lesson the hard way…

Cain

Most of the time, when we read the story of Cain and Abel, we focus on the fact that Cain killed his righteous brother. But we tend to gloss over the event that precipitated the murder. Cain and Abel both brought offerings to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s.

Scripture doesn’t tell us why God found Cain’s offering unacceptable. The Levitical laws delineating offerings and sacrifices hadn’t yet been given, and even if they had, grain offerings and other offerings of vegetation were perfectly appropriate if offered at the right time and for the right reason. Was it because Cain had a wrong attitude or motive when he gave his offering? Or maybe because he offered God leftover produce instead of his firstfruits? We don’t know. What we do know is that God had a standard of how He was to be worshiped, Cain violated it, and God expressed His displeasure.

Aaron and Israel

It’s shortly after the Exodus. The Israelites have seen God perform ten – count them – ten plagues on Pharaoh for his idolatry and failure to bow the knee to God’s command to let Israel go. They saw God destroy the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea. And now, their fearless leader, Moses, has trekked up Mount Sinai and is late getting back. The people are worried and restless.

Does Aaron lead them to pray? Trust God? Be patient? Nope. He fashions an idol for them – a golden calf. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he wasn’t even creative enough to come up with his own name for this idol. He stole God’s character and work and blasphemously baptized the idol with that moniker. He led the people to worship the false god as though it were the true God. (Does that ring any bells?)

“These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings.

Surely God gave them a pass, right? I mean, Moses broke the tablets of the Ten Commandments when he came down from the mountain before they even had a chance to read the first and second Commandments that prohibited what they were doing.

Uh uh. God told Moses to get out of the way so He could fire bomb Israel off the face of the Earth and start over with him. It was only after Moses pleaded with God to stay His hand that God relented and allowed for the lesser punishment of having the Levites kill 3,000 of them with the sword and sent a plague on the rest of them.

Doesn’t exactly sound like an “anything goes in worship” kind of God, does He?

Nadab and Abihu

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

Are you seeing a pattern here? God is so not OK with people approaching Him irreverently, via idol worship, or in any other way He deems inappropriate that He’s willing to kill them.

Saul

God sends Saul and his army on a mission to defeat the Amalekites. His instructions are simple: completely destroy everything. “Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

But Saul’s a smart guy, see? He knows better. He goes in and destroys all the worthless stuff, but saves the good stuff for himself. It’ll be OK with God, he reasons, because he’s going to take some of the really nice sheep and make a big, showy sacrifice. Like a rich man pitching pennies to an urchin shoeshine boy.

And when Samuel confronts Saul about his rebellion, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”, Saul has the temerity to say, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord.” Because he was going to perform an act of worship. And the fact that he was doing it his way instead of God’s way didn’t matter. In Saul’s mind, it was the outward act that counted and God should have accepted it.

God didn’t see it that way:

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”

God is not pleased with worship offered by hands dirtied with sin and rebellion. Saul paid the price: his throne and God’s favor.

Uzziah

Uzziah started off well as king of Judah. He listened to the counsel of Zechariah, obeyed God, and prospered. But after a while, prosperity can make you proud, and that’s just what happened to Uzziah.

He became so proud, in fact, that he took it upon himself to enter the sanctuary of the temple and offer incense to God on the altar. That was a position of leadership restricted to the priests. Uzziah had never been installed as a priest because he wasn’t biblically qualified to hold the office of priest, much like many who take on the role of pastor today.

Bravely, Azariah and eighty of his fellow priests stood up to the presumptuous king – at the risk of their lives, but in defense of proper worship as commanded in God’s Word – rebuked Uzziah, and kicked him out of the temple. “You have done wrong,” they said, “and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.”

Well! Uzziah was hot with anger. How dare these mere priests stop him – the king whom God had blessed and prospered – from worshiping God any way he wanted to!

Guess who God sided with? The priests who were upholding His Word and His standard of worship. God struck Uzziah with leprosy for the remainder of his life, which exiled him from the palace and a royal burial, and effectively ended his reign.

The Pharisees

Hypocrites! Blind guides! Fools! Blind men! Greedy! Self-indulgent! Whitewashed tombs! Lawless! Serpents! Brood of vipers! Murderers!

How would you like to be dressed down like that by Jesus? You’re teaching the Scriptures. You’re tithing to the nth degree. You’re traveling over land and sea to proselytize. You’re behaving with outward righteousness. You’re memorializing the prophets. As far as you can tell, you’re doing pretty well with this holiness thing.

And here comes the Messiah – the One you’re (supposedly) doing all of this for – and He shames you. Publicly. He exposes your blackness of heart to the commoners you want looking up to you. All because God’s way is for you to worship Him in spirit and in truth, but you insist on doing it your way- for all your deeds to be seen by others, and because you love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

You’re approaching God in arrogance and selfishness, and He will have none of it. You won’t die to self, so He – if only temporarily – kills your pride.

The Corinthian Church

You’ve probably never seen a Lord’s Supper as messed up as the way the Corinthian church was doing it. Some people were going without while others were getting drunk. The “important” people got to go first while the poor and lower class went to the back of the line. People were using the Lord’s Table as an opportunity for selfishness rather than putting self aside and focusing on the fact that the purpose of this meal was to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

That wasn’t acceptable to God. He didn’t want the church observing the Lord’s Supper just any old way. It was dishonoring to Christ and shameful to His church.

So God declared that “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord…For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

 

“But all of that was back in Bible times!” you might protest. “God isn’t killing anybody these days for worshiping Him improperly. In fact, some of the worst violators of God’s Word are rich ‘Christian’ celebrities!”

That’s right, they are. Exactly like God said they would be: “teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” And woe betide them when they stand before Christ in judgment. Because judgment is coming for them:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Matthew 7:21-23

God is high and He is holy, and so are His standards for those who approach Him. He expects His people to obey His Word about how He is to be worshiped.

“I, the Lord, do not change,” God says in the Old Testament. The New Testament tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” God hasn’t mellowed out or calmed down or gotten more tolerant. The God who poured out His wrath on those who blasphemed Him with unbiblical worship in the Old Testament is the same God we worship this side of the cross. Nothing escapes His notice. He doesn’t let sin slide. Whether in this life, or the next, or both, there will be a reckoning for unbiblical worship.

When it comes to worship, God is not a “whatever” kind of God.

Testimony Tuesday

Testimony Tuesday: Dorothy’s Story

Dorothy’s Story

I was saved at an early age and always had a heart for the things of God, reading His Word, memorizing it, and prayer. As an adult I was very active in my Baptist church, in children’s ministry or leading Bible studies for women, which I realize now were not actually Bible studies, but rather studying a book about someone’s interpretation of Scripture. I was very intrigued by Henry Blackaby’s book Experiencing God, and began to wonder how I might recognize God at work in my own life, how I might hear his voice. I read books on prayer and fasting by Bill Bright, learning of the “coming revival”.

It wasn’t until I began to read God Chasers by Tommy Tenney, though, that I thought perhaps I was missing something, since I had never felt the “manifest” presence of God. A friend loaned me Surprised by the Power of the Holy Spirit by Jack Deere, A Final Quest by Rick Joyner, and I was off into the world of the NAR (The New Apostolic Reformation), inhaling every book I could on intercessory prayer, especially enjoying Prayer Shield, written by C. Peter Wagner himself, the father of the NAR. I read about past revivals, about The Toronto Blessing. I had no understanding of the history or doctrines behind the movement, but was drawn in by the incredible experiences with God those in the movement seemed to have. Prophetic words, words of knowledge, Holy Spirit manifestations – they all seemed so much more exciting than what I had experienced in my Christian life. Much to my shame, I even went to see Todd Bentley when he was in town. I became convinced revival was on its way.

I thought perhaps I was missing something..

I was especially fascinated by listening prayer. Although I continued to read my Bible and memorize scripture, my focus became my time of contemplative prayer, listening to what I felt God was saying to me personally. This quote from my prayer journal shows the idol that listening prayer had become in my life. “I could die for you right now God, die for more of you.”

I began to assist a Baptist deliverance minister in town as well, in what was called “discernment,” listening to what God told me about the spirits that were impacting a person. I would also listen for a personal prophetic word for each person in ministry.

As my family was now in a Pentecostal church, it was very accepted to be hearing from God personally; I was just “prophetic”. Although I had previously written devotionals for the Proverbs 31 Homemaker, I now felt called to begin typing up my prayer journal notes into devotionals, much in the style of Sarah Young, who wrote her devotionals because she wanted more of God than the Bible. I had 400 in all, hoping to get them published and support different missions organizations.

The Pentecostal church we were attending became progressively more NAR, even having a church plant patterned after Bethel. It wasn’t uncommon to have a pastor from Bethel speak at our church’s conferences. I had never agreed with the doctrine that it was God’s will to heal everyone, which Bethel emphasized, but I had no idea that they actually were preaching a false gospel.

I had no idea they were preaching a false gospel.

Last fall I happened upon a YouTube video on Bethel’s theology by Mike Winger, which God used to begin to remove the scales of deception from my eyes. However, it was reading Angels of Light; False Prophets and Deceiving Spirits at Work Today in the Church & World by Eddie Hyatt, specifically his chapter on contemplative prayer, which made me realize I had been wading in dangerous waters. As I watched the Strange Fire Conference on the internet, I was terribly convicted by the true Holy Spirit. This propelled me into an incredibly intense, painful season of soul-searching – questioning what I believed against biblical doctrine – and a time of repentance. As I listened to YouTube videos of Doreen Virtue and Melissa Dougherty, two wonderful women God has brought out of the New Age, I realized that my “Listening Prayer” had more in common with hearing from Spirit Guides, that my getting “prophetic words” for people had more in common with cold readings, than with either prayer or the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I was convicted by the true Holy Spirit…

Psalm 116 has become very precious to me, especially verse 6: “The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.” Although it truly sickens me that I could have been so deceived, I am very aware of how God’s hand was protecting me and my whole family through the whole process, and know that God is able to use my experience to bring about good.

Classes on listening prayer are becoming rampant in the church today, even in mainstream churches. The following is taken from a non-charismatic church offering such a class. “Learning to hear God’s voice and learning to use the gift of prophecy will be taught in alignment with biblical principles…” “loving and safe community to learn how to hear God’s voice for oneself and for others….designed to provide opportunities to encounter Father God, Jesus and Holy Spirit through a variety of worship experiences and listening exercises.”

If you are practicing listening prayer, or contemplative prayer, I beg you to look into its history, and examine scripture – see that Christ never told us to pray in such a way, either by example or as a teaching. You may think that you are practicing listening prayer, but still holding God’s Word as His revelation to you higher. From experience, I believe it is impossible to practice listening prayer and not have it erode your view of the sufficiency of Scripture as well as erode and distort your view of Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. In the past I believed that what I was hearing from God was completely in line with Scripture. However, not only was it incredibly narcissistic, it began to reflect more and more the NAR teaching I was receiving.

In my spiritual journey, I believed that I was experiencing “revival” when I became involved in contemplative prayer, and extra biblical practices. But in God’s word, biblical revival was accompanied by a renewed love for God through the Scripture. I can honestly say that coming out of the NAR, with all of its deception, as painful as it has been, has brought with it true revival. I have never had such a profound sense of being “saved”, along with a growing hunger for Scripture and true knowledge of God. I realize that I was in NAR lite for several years, even in my Baptist church.

I have never had such a profound sense of being “saved”…

If you diligently seek scripture, you will not lose anything that is true; you will only lose the false. Please, don’t allow fear or pride to keep you from researching thoroughly. I only wish there had been someone to warn me earlier. Although in many NAR books you will be warned away from biblical discernment by being taught that thinking critically is a “critical spirit” or that if you compare a teaching to Scripture you are “religious or have a religious spirit” please follow scripture.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, 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 

You may also have been warned away from “heresy hunters”. As you do research, you may find some websites that go overboard, but there are also many wonderful discernment ministries. A few recommendations: Justin Peter’s Clouds Without Water Seminar, (YouTube version) John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference, and book by the same name, Todd Friel’s Drunk in the Spirit DVD, Costi Hinn’s book Defining Deception, and the movies: American Gospel: Christ Alone and American Gospel: Christ Crucified. For teaching on contemplative prayer, check out Another Jesus Calling. For a great website on a biblical response to the modern prophets and apostles movement see Holly Pivec’s website, Spirit of Error.

Just a gentle word of caution. Do balance your research with time spent in God’s Word. It is easy to become almost obsessive in your quest for truth, in wanting to root out any lies of deception you believe, to be hyper-sensitive about being deceived again. Coming out of deception is a very painful experience. Have patience for yourself, and grace. God is a tremendous rescuer and he will lead you to freedom in His truth, as laid out in Scripture, as you seek Him.


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His Word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Your testimony can be as brief as a few sentences or as long as 1500 words. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should I Say, or Should I Go?

 

My family recently left a church that was embracing more and more New Apostolic Reformation false doctrine. However, we have many friends and family still attending. I’ve tried to lovingly point out that the church is teaching false doctrine, but I have been completely shut down. I don’t want to leave my loved ones where they are, but I feel they don’t want to see or hear the truth. They tell me they’ve searched the Scriptures and feel they are right. They also talk a lot about the feelings and experiences they have had and that, in their eyes, proves it’s God moving. My question is, how much should I engage with them? Should I just walk away and pray or keep talking with them about it?

It’s so heart-wrenching to love someone who blindly rejects the truth. We kind of “get it” on a spiritual level when that person is an atheist or just your run of the mill lost person, but if the person is a self-professed Christian – who is supposed to believe, love, and submit to God’s Word – it can seem especially baffling and difficult.

So how do we handle situations like this? Let’s back all the way up to the very foundation of the issue for those who haven’t yet faced this situation.

We have to start by making sure we have the correct understanding of what’s going on here. Every human being, whether he knows it or not, lives in two worlds: the physical world of everyday “real life” (tangible things, people, and decisions we consciously see,) and the spiritual world (where God moves and works and where demons try to thwart Him by stirring up chaos in the world) that we can’t see and that most people aren’t even aware of.

So the first thing we have to recognize in a situation like this, is that this is primarily a spiritual battle, rather than a tangible one. The fact that, in the physical realm, you clearly recognized the false doctrine in this church and acted upon that knowledge by leaving is the fruit of what God did in your heart in the spiritual realm. The things your loved ones have said to you and their decision to stay in an apostate church in the physical realm is the fruit of the fact that they are deceived, hard of heart, and probably unsaved, in the spiritual realm.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,
1 Timothy 4:1-2

A spiritual realm problem requires a spiritual realm solution, and only God – not us – can effect true change in the spiritual realm. He must change the hearts of your loved ones. And until or unless He does, you can talk to them until you’re blue in the face and they will continue to dig their heels in.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
John 6:44a
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14

So the number one thing you should be doing in this situation is to pray. Ask God to intervene and do the work in their hearts that only He can do. Ask Him to open their eyes. Ask Him to woo them toward studying His Word. Ask Him to save them if they aren’t saved.

And while you’re down there on your knees, pray for yourself and ask God to help you study hard to understand His Word about this situation, and to give you the wisdom to know when to speak up and when to keep silent. Because, while God is the One doing the work, He works through His Word, using instruments like you and me to accomplish His work, much like a doctor uses instruments to perform surgery.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
Ecclesiastes 3:1,7a

Once you’ve asked God to guide you and give you wisdom, believe His Word and trust Him to do so. If you’re with one of these loved ones, and the time seems right to say an appropriate, biblical word, take a second to get your demeanor and tone in order, and then say it.

But, as you’ve said, you’ve already tried to talk biblical sense into your loved ones and they have rejected it. Now what? Should you just walk away and pray, or keep talking with them about it? Yes. There’s actually room for both in situations like this. Let’s take a look at a few biblical passages:

And behold, a man came up to [Jesus], saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,  Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples…
Matthew 19:16-23a
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
1 Peter 3:1-2
If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.
1 Corinthians 7:13-15

What do these passages have in common? They all help us to understand that:

  • not everybody we share the gospel with or impart biblical truth to is going to accept it.
  • we are under no obligation to chase people down or badger and nag them to death with biblical truth once we’ve shared it (and this may even do more harm to our cause than good).
  • it’s OK to share the truth and then back off for a while while, praying fervently, loving well, and setting a godly example.
  • it’s OK to let people to walk away from the truth once you’ve shared it.

It is perfectly OK to say to people who are hostile to the truth, “I love you and I’d like to share more of what the Bible says about this with you. If you’d ever like to talk more about it, just let me know. Now how about a piece of pie?”

And Jesus even goes further than that:

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Matthew 7:6

In Jesus’ day, dogs were not the cute little domesticated pooches we smooch on today. They were wild beasts more akin to a pack of coyotes or wolves. Pigs were the epitome of unclean animals and can be pretty violent when provoked. Jesus used these animals’ violence and uncleanness to represent lost people (regardless of whether or not they call themselves Christians) who respond in blasphemy, unbelief, and anger to the Pearl of Great Price. He’s saying that if you know a person has a history of acting this way and is likely to act this way again (e.g. Paul, prior to conversion), or if you’ve laid out biblical truth to someone and she responds with blasphemy, anger, and unbelief (e.g. your loved ones) it’s OK to climb out of the pig pen or the dog pound (or don’t get in there in the first place), take your pearls, and go home. God is demonstrating to you through this person’s behavior that He has not, at this particular time, softened this particular person’s heart to hear and receive what you’re saying. If He does soften that person’s heart in the future (as evidenced by her distinctly undoglike and unpiglike behavior) you can share the truth with her then.

Every person is different. Every situation is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of when to engage and when to keep silent. And that’s actually a good thing. That keeps us in prayer, completely dependent on the Lord and His Word for guidance.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Discernment, Sermons

Sermon and Videos: Why Our Church No Longer Plays Bethel or Hillsong Music (or Elevation or Jesus Culture), and Neither Should Yours

 

Want to see what it looks like to have a pastor who loves God, God’s Word, and his sheep more than the applause of men? Give this sermon a listen. Pastor David Henneke, of First Baptist Church, Kingsland, Texas, walks his congregation through the Scriptures dealing with false teachers and false doctrine to explain why FBC will no longer use music associated with Bethel and Hillsong. He also warns them away from several other false teachers.

(This is also a good sermon to listen to if you’re confused about expository vs. topical preaching. This is a good example of a biblical topical sermon.)

(Technical difficulties? When you click the Play button on this video, you may get an error message. However, simply click on the line that says “Watch this video on YouTube,” and you’ll be able to watch. If that doesn’t work, copy and paste this link into your browser bar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7R6AKFlWhI& or go to YouTube and search for “‘Why our church no longer plays Bethel or Hillsong Music’ Pastor explains false teachings”.)

 

 

Justin Peters and Todd Friel discuss the theological problems with Bethel, Jesus Culture, Hillsong, and Elevation music and why your church shouldn’t use their music in this video interview: Why Your Church Shouldn’t Play Bethel and Hillsong Music.

 

 

Is it wrong to sing songs from Bethel if they are theologically correct? In this episode of Redeeming Truth, Pastors Costi Hinn, Dale Thackrah, and Kyle Swanson provide insight into the dangers of supporting ministries like Bethel [and Hillsong, Jesus Culture and Elevation Music], that have a false understanding of who Christ is.

If you are looking for theologically accurate worship music to listen to or sing in your church, we have put together a Spotify worship playlist that you can listen to.


Additional Resources

The Mailbag: What Is the New Apostolic Reformation?

The Mailbag: Should Christians Listen to Reckless Love?

God’s Not Like, “Whatever, Dude,” About How He’s Approached in Worship

The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

Hillsong’s Theology of Music and Worship