Monday, August 31, 2015

Why I do not recommend Kendrick Brothers' new movie, "War Room", part 1

Kendricks: L-R: Stephen, Alex, Shannon
For Christians seeking family friendly faith based movies either as entertainment or as ministry the Kendrick Brothers movies from Sherwood Pictures have been the go-to series for many. Originally from Athens GA, the Kendrick Brothers are Shannon, Alex and Stephen. The latter two attended college, were ordained as ministers. Alex accepted a call to Roswell BaptiFst Church as staff, then later to Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany GA as associate minister of media. Stephen joined him there two years later. Shannon completed college and accepted a job at IBM.

It has been a lifelong dream of Alex and Stephen to make full-length Christian movies, and at Sherwood Baptist that dream came to fruition in 2003 with the independent production of their first film collaboration, Flywheel. After that came Facing The Giants, a huge hit in 2006, Fireproof in 2008, a bigger hit which starred their first bona fide professional actor Kirk Cameron, and then Courageous in 2011, yet another hit with secular validations of climbing the NY Times Bestseller lists and gate take to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Movie #5, War Room, is due out Aug. 28, 2015.

After this the brothers split from Sherwood Pictures/Sherwood Baptist as their base for production and formed their own company, Kendrick Brothers Productions. Shannon, the eldest brother who had been working at IBM all this time, resigned to help his siblings with the management of their new company. Along the way much merchandise has been sold under the auspices of each film, notably the Love Dare and the LoveDareTest among LOTS of other merchandise from Fireproof, and the Courageous Resolution from Courageous, among LOTS of other merchandise from the aforementioned film. (2 Peter 2:3)

Many folks are pleased that faith-based honorable movies are being made which they say honor Christ, and are even more pleased that much merchandise is available to re-stock the movie company coffers so that these movies can keep being made. Churches who have been relentlessly pressured hype the films and in their church sanctuaries host previews, events, marital retreats, Courageous ceremonies, and 'bible' lessons accompanied by all the paraphernalia and curricula associated with the movies. Marriages are being saved. Fathers are returning to biblical duty. It's all good.

Isn't it?

I'd like to offer a different view.

My first introduction to the Kendrick Brothers was as a newbie Christian, hapless bystander of the waves of hype when Facing the Giants was released. The Baptist church I'd been attending at the time heavily promoted the film and everyone was encouraged to attend. No doubt, the movie was a tearjerker, a feel good movie that seemed right with Jesus- on the surface. I was discomfited by the thread throughout that when one submits totally to God is when things begin to work in your earthly life and all your temporal wishes will come true, like winning football games and getting a new truck. It seemed to me a kind of slick Christianity. But I was new to the faith and more to the point, new to church life, and didn't know for sure.

Kendrick Brothers' "Movie #5"

Yes, it's true that when one submits to God, we will be blessed, but the biblical Stephen was 'blessed' with a vision of heaven before the last killing stone crushed his head. Paul was 'blessed' with a thorn in his side which tormented him God called sufficient grace. Peter was 'blessed' with a long career preaching in a persecuting world that ended with martyrdom on a cross. Facing the Giants bought into and promoted every Western Christian cliche imaginable. I would like to have seen the coach get fired even if he had won the championships. Or what would have happened to their faith if they hadn't won the championships. Or if they never had gotten pregnant. What then? Would THAT kind of faith hold true? But Facing the Giants isn't that kind of movie.

Then Fireproof came out and I was more discomfited. The hype was louder and tsunami-like this time. I can't tell you the pressure at churches when a new Kendrick Brothers movie is issued. It's like the second coming and this movie is gonna solve everything. I am not exaggerating. It was almost as if I would be blaspheming if I said that I didn't want to watch the movie or if I said that I didn't like it. There were parts in Fireproof I enjoyed but my discomfort with the doctrine in Fireproof was more coalesced this time.

First, I hated Catherine.

I was aghast at her adultery and more aghast that it was never addressed. I was stunned that her act of filing for divorce with her signature on the decree was never addressed as unbiblical. She was never shown as repenting. Much was made of the male actor's pornography viewing but not of her flirtatious adultery in lining up the Doctor as husband #2. I was sorry that her withholding of sex from her husband, unbiblical as it is, was never addressed but all the fault lay at the husband's feet with his porn, anger issues and distancing himself from her. It takes two not to tango, but the woman's culpability was never seen as an issue.

Worse, it was not clear from the hype, plot synopsis, or posters that Catherine was not a Christian. The husband, Caleb, might not have been but it's more sure that Catherine wasn't. The movie took the stance that it was a movie about Christian marriage but if it was, the writers would have to address being unbiblically yoked. If neither was saved when the movie began then it wouldn't have been a Christian movie. Did you realize that? That one or both marital partners are not Christian in the film for most of the running time?

From the script: at the very end-
This may be the second time they've made a commitment to this marriage...     ...it is the first time they've done so on a foundation of faith in Jesus Christ.
So if one or both parties is not of Christ, then we can see that the theme of the movie is how you act (demonstrate unconditional love, and overlook sin) is what brings a marriage together, not Christ. This secular reviewer hit the nail on the head when he wrote:
What about that message? There was really very little, if any, explanation of why Christianity had anything at all to do with the saving of Caleb and Catherine’s marriage. That’s what made the message so weak. All the actions shown from the “love dare” book were secular in nature, except the day where Caleb was supposed to pray for Catherine, which he admitted he didn’t do… which seems to be showing that, even without the religious parts, the marriage was saved.

I enjoyed Dalrock's review of Fireproof but here is an Internet Movie DataBase reviewer who has the same take as Dalrock (and me) but is more detailed, and funnier.
Caleb is a respected leader of a firefighter squad. His wife works in the hospital and flirts with a married doctor. When Caleb comes home, all he gets from his wife is complaining and disrespect. No wonder he resorts to internet porn and is saving money for a boat, probably so that he can sail away and finally enjoy life outside of his work. His wife wants to intercept all the money he has been saving and make him doing household chores, so she constantly nags and shows disrespect. In the meantime, she is working on her backup option, a rich doctor who would likely give her more money than her blue collar husband. Finally she resorts to a divorce threat to break Caleb's spirit. The firefighter would be happily free from the greedy witch, but his father begins a series of preaching sessions and is finally successful in persuading Caleb that he is the one to blame for all the marital disorder. The newly brainwashed firefighter smashes his porn loving computer and starts a program in which he sucks up to his wife every day. He even starts doing household chores. She ignores him and continues to work her charms on the doctor, until she makes sure that Caleb is totally obedient to her, and would accept any crap she gives to him. Finally he gives her (actually her mother) all the money he has been saving for his boat.

The only thing that the wife really goes after is money. She did not care that her hubby was doing his best to please her for 40 days. When she was thinking that the Doc was the one who gave her the money, she was falling for him and was ready for a divorce. When she realized that the money was actually given by her husband, she started loving Caleb again. Basically she acts like a super expensive escort, If the married doctor had given her more money than her husband, she would have followed the money, because this movie blatantly shows that this is the main thing which makes her tick.

The movie basically teaches how to emasculate and brainwash your husband, to get all the money and all the control in the relationship. Well, life is brutal. But wait, why is this called Christian?
Now it's tricky to negatively review Fireproof because it's true that Jesus needs to be the center of marriage. It is true that unconditional love needs to be the way we act in marriage. Mutual submission is the goal but if one is unequally yoked (Caleb converted first) then one needs to make the first move and continue it, as Jesus did no matter the rejection encountered. But I'm offering these alternate views for food for thought. Most aggravating to me is the lack of repentance on the wife's part. She accepted the gifts, the attention, and entered into vows at the end, but never humbled herself as Caleb did.

I chose not to watch the Courageous movie, insulted as I was at the merchandising which turned me off from the outset. In addition, given the trajectory of the previous three movies (counting starting from Flywheel) the likelihood that the movie wouldn't be doctrinally sound was higher. I also did not like the emphasis on the main characters' faith being demonstrated by a public signing of a resolution. It is my contention that making extra vows and resolutions above and beyond what the bible commands is unnecessary and adds man's words to God's. Taking a vow before the LORD is a weighty, weighty matter, not one to be emotionally manipulated into based on peer pressure- which you know happened in churches all across America the months after the movie came out.

Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:33-37)

I am personally highly insulted to be the target of merchandising but I know that is how the world works. But I'm more insulted when churches target me. If I go to a church-led small group session to learn the Bible, if I am given a curriculum from a movie I heatedly resent that.

Now I understand that the intentions of the Kendrick Brothers was to make Jesus-honoring movies that address certain important aspects of Christian life (honesty, faith, marriage, fatherhood, now prayer). And of course fatherhood, faith, prayer and marital commitment are terrific themes for any book, movie, or curriculum. I don't doubt their motives...but they make it harder for me to trust their motives when the lead writer for the movies resigns his pastorate to follow a new calling, abandoning his flock and failing to fulfill his ministry in order to produce more Hollywood-style movies that have more and more merchandising attached. (2 Timothy 4:5).

Worse, as ordained ministers formerly operating under the oversight of their home church, (but no longer) listen to how the brothers decide to move forward with the themes for each of their movies. It isn't from the Bible. God tells them.
We go through the better part of a year, saying, ‘Lord what do you want us to focus on, what do you want the plot be?’ It’s usually near the end of that year. It could be eight months, ten months, or a full year… it’s almost like he downloads something to us. ... It wasn’t something where we sat in a room and said ‘What do you want to do?’ We’ve never done that. 

For the movie Fireproof, Kendrick says his team heard God give them a theme of marriage. For the movie Courageous, fatherhood. And so on. He speculates that upcoming themes may be military faith, motherhood, or teen issues, but says he won’t really know until God downloads. [emphasis mine]
I have previously discussed this approach to decision making. At minimum it is mystical. At maximum it leads to monstrosities like Sarah Young's Jesus Calling and most things false teacher Beth Moore. Do pastors sit in a prayer closet for 10 months and ask the Lord what to preach on, and wait until He downloads a theme? Hardly. (Hopefully).  But this "Ask the Lord and He will tell you" method is all too common today. Is it wrong to seek the Lord in all you do? No. Is it wrong to consult with one another and say, "Let's do a movie on the importance of prayer"? Of course not. Christians have been making decisions this way for millennia. It's called "making a decision." However, attributing the theme of your movie to God because He downloaded it to you or personally revealed it does not inspire my confidence, it diminishes it, because now I'm concerned with their discernment. This concern revolves around three fronts. One, the aforementioned Mystical-Method of Hearing From god. Second, their choice of casting. Third, the Kendrick Brothers associations and partnerships.

In this Youtube interview from several months ago regarding the upcoming release of War Room, the Brothers stated,
  • We pray over every single role
  • We want Christians playing Christians in these movies, we want to know they believe what they are speaking in these roles
  • We want no hypocrisy, [we hire Christians who show that] we believe what this movie is about then live it out, outside the credits
With that in mind, we will look more deeply at the Kendrick Brothers' fifth move's main role, Elizabeth Jordan, played by Priscilla Shirer. What does Mrs Shirer believe? How does she approach prayer and decision making and faith? Did you know that the Resolution for Women in the movie Courageous was written by Shirer?

Part 2 will discuss Mrs Shirer's beliefs, approach to Bible study, and then we will return to a discussion of the Kendrick Brothers' discernment.



Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Homosexuality is the unfailing characteristic of paganism"

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin, 1852
In reading the Word of God, it is such a delight when one re-reads the same passage and yet unearths new insights. It's a delightful mystery to me how this happens, but it is also a wonderful confirmation that the Word is living and active, just as was promised. (Hebrews 4:12).

In reading through Genesis, I'm up to Genesis 19. This is the pivotal chapter where God sends Jesus in a pre-incarnate visit along with two other angels to speak with Abraham and to render destruction onto Sodom (and Gomorrah and Admah and Zeboiim, and apparently Zoar was also slated for destruction but mercy came when Lot pleaded to be allowed to live there).

In searching out the parallel scriptures the Spirit brought the following to mind:

Mrs. Lot. I've always wondered about her turning into a pillar of salt. I've always wondered about the admonition from Jesus to "Remember Lot's wife!" (Luke 17:32).

Well, if you read right before verse 32, Jesus is saying what NOT to do when the day of Destruction comes,

31On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. 32"Remember Lot's wife.

Mrs Lot had turned back. She was already behind, and she did not merely glance back, but had turned back, thus becoming embroiled in the destruction. Also by her action she demonstrated which path she wanted to take (the broad path).

I was also astounded to learn there is another parallel verse which mirrors the language of Genesis 19, in Judges 19. When I read the parallel verses I had to double-check them to make sure I wasn't reading the same incident.

Genesis 19:4-9

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. 5And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” 6Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, 7and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” 9But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down.
That we may know them ..." This is a euphemism for homosexual intercourse. "This is the carnal sin of pederasty, a crime very prevalent among the Canaanites," and also the unfailing characteristic of paganism. ~James Burton Coffman Commentary


Judges 19:22-26. Gibeah’s Crime

22As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” 23And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. 24Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.” 25But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light. (Judges 19:22-26).

James Burton Coffman Commentary says
"Stand back ..." If Lot had thought up until that moment that he enjoyed any real influence in Sodom, it disappeared with this blunt rejection. The gratification of carnal lust is supreme with every homosexual. They would even subject Lot himself to their vile passions. The corollary to this is that, given the size of the sadistic mob converged upon Lot's house, the unhindered gratification of their lust upon three men would inevitably have ended in their murder as well. The insight into this kind of situation which is provided by a similar incident in Judges 19 is all the proof that is needed that murder would have resulted.
And this brought me to pondering human nature. If a society turns away from God, aberrant sexuality always results. This is because giving in to lusts and passions always results. It is our nature. The incident at Gibeah exemplifies the parallel to Romans 1:24-25. The incident at Sodom exemplifies Romans 1:26-27.
the permissive views of the current society are not sufficient grounds for setting aside divine law. Furthermore, it may not be supposed for one moment that God is any more pleased with the sexual aberrations associated with Sodom in our own day than He was then. ~James Burton Coffman Commentary
In another interesting tidbit, Genesis 19 opens with a report that Lot sat at the gate. This means he was an administrator of some sort of the city, enjoying status in adjudicating and enjoying a measure of influence and status.

However that instantly came to naught when Lot asked the men not to gang-rape the angels. First the men revealed what they had thought about him all along, 'you're a foreigner, not one of us!' Despite all of Lot's compromises, all his trying to fit in, 'be relevant' amid a hostile and polluted people, it didn't work. It will go well for us Christians if we remember this. We are aliens, and as much as we may be tempted to dampen the Gospel message, make it 'palatable', drinking beer with the fellows and making crude jokes, being relevant ourselves, it will not work. They know we're not of them, even if we forget this once in a while.

Secondly, the minute Lot asked them not to gang-rape the angels, their next response was "Don't judge us!" Again it will go well for us to remember that no matter how many happy laughs you have shared with unbelievers, the moment you point out their sin they will cry foul. Worse, if you've been a hypocrite and tried to blend in with them, they will have a legitimate complaint against you in saying you're the pot calling the kettle black.

Lot was barely hanging on to righteousness there in Sodom. He was as low as he could go and still be called a righteous man. If he was a New Testament believer he'd be like one of those barely making it in, as through the fire (1 Corinthians 3:15). As for the rest of those in Sodom,
The judgment of the Lord upon Sodom was justified. The apostle Paul stated flatly that proponents and practitioners of the type of sins visible here are "worthy of death" (Romans 1:32), and the permissive views of the current society are not sufficient grounds for setting aside divine law. Furthermore, it may not be supposed for one moment that God is any more pleased with the sexual aberrations associated with Sodom in our own day than He was then. ~James Burton Coffman Commentary
And as I pondered depraved human nature after reading Genesis 19 and Judges 19, it makes me all the more in awe of God. All the scriptures testify about Jesus (Luke 24:27, John 5:39). His love for us even as we are depraved sinners is a profound truth, one that humbles my mind and crushes my heart. What a sinful degradation Sodom was (and Gomorrah and Admah and Zeboiim) yet the Lord spared Lot and his daughters. He spared them even knowing they would incestuously lie with one another and begat a tribe that would be at enmity with Him until the Day of His return. What love! What mercy! What a mystery why our God loves us so. I am tremendously glad He does though.

I am Lot. I am Mrs Lot. Do I have an intercessor pleading for me like Abraham did for Lot? I do. Not just my elder relative as Abraham was to Lot, but the Head of the Family, Jesus. (Romans 8:43, Hebrews 7:25). My High Priest intercedes for His people. What grace there is in that. What comfort there is in salvation.

Yet that comfort should not make us comfortable. The Day of Reckoning will come for the world like it did for Sodom, which is an EXAMPLE of the coming wrath to the ungodly. (2 Peter 2:6). Sodom and Gomorrah are used as warnings, repeatedly in the Old Testament to a rebellious Israel. (Isaiah 1:9; 3:9; 13:19; Jeremiah 23:14; Ezekiel 16:46-49; Amos 4:11; Zephaniah 2:9)

And through it all, Jesus said, Remember Lot's wife!

REMEMBER LOT'S WIFE (Luke 17:32) J. B. Coffman:

I. She is a warning to all who are tempted to sacrifice their safety in order to win or keep more of this world's goods.

II. If we strive to possess the best of both worlds, we are likely to lose both.

III. She is a reminder that being "near safety" is not enough.

IV. She is a warning that having begun to follow the Lord's Word, one may still turn back from the way and be lost.

Yet He protects the righteous. He protects his children.

So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. (Genesis 19:29).

How great is our God.


Friday, August 28, 2015

What about dust and ashes?

then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Genesis 2:7)


Do you realize that in the Creation account in Genesis 1 and 2, the first time God did not speak something into existence but personally and intimately used His own 'hands' was when He created Adam? He spoke the world, the sun, moon, stars, animals, lands, oceans, birds, into existence but made Adam from dust and His own breath. Interesting.

It's also interesting that we are made of the dust from the ground. Dust appears frequently in the Bible. It didn't take long from the gentle creation scene in Genesis 2, to go to a dusty curse in Genesis 3.

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." (Genesis 3:19).

Ever since sin came into the world through Adam we all return to dust.

All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. (Ecclesiastes 3:20)

Ever since God cursed the ground (dust) Adam was made from, dust represents death. The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23). Therefore it is fitting that we repent in dust and ashes.

"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:5-6)

What is the meaning of sackcloth and ashes?
Very simply, sackcloth and ashes were used as an outward sign of one’s inward condition. Such a symbol made one’s change of heart visible and demonstrated the sincerity of one’s grief and/or repentance. It was not the act of putting on sackcloth and ashes itself that moved God to intervene, but the humility that such an action demonstrated (see 1 Samuel 16:7). God’s forgiveness in response to genuine repentance is celebrated by David’s words: “You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:11).
Abraham spoke of dust in a positive way. Knowing one is made of dust and is destined for death (before eternal life in glory) is a simple declaration of an understanding of who we are before a Holy God. We are sinners, part of His creation.

Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, (Genesis 18:27)

But because of the relationship He has entered into with his saints, we can approach Him humbly but boldly like Abraham did.

Though Adam fell short of living a sinless life, Jesus accomplished living that sinless life that's required for dwelling with God. Jesus shed His own blood in a supreme sacrifice to God and died in humiliation on the cross. Buried, Jesus rose to life when God resurrected Him in joy, pleased with Jesus' sacrifice. Jesus is now ascended to the Father, but He is coming again in wrath and glory to judge the living and the dead. This is the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ for sinners.

We may die before He raptures the remaining saints alive to glory, though we may indeed return to dust in that death, He will resurrect us in joy. He will bring His Bride home to celebrate life in heaven with the Father of Lights. There will be no more sin, thus ending the need to repent in dust and ashes. No more sackcloth. There will be no more cursed dust of the ground.
Lars Justinen "Robe of Righteousness"

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, (Psalm 30:11)

Hallelujah, praise the Father!


Scripture photo: A more sincere worship

"O Spirit, help me to delight more in what I receive from Christ." (Valley of Vision).

O Spirit, Help me to worship You, labor for You and delight in You more purely and sincerely.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Jesus gave us His peace

A friend of mine made a plea on Facebook. She said she is sensitive to negativity, and she can hardly stand the awful news that has surfaced this summer. I know what she means. I quit reading the news a while ago and stuck to the headlines only, mostly on Drudge. A quick scan with eyes half closed through spread fingers like at a horror movie is still too much to bear.

She wrote:
stories of thieves, predators and murders. There is so much hate in the hearts of so many. I fear that many people can no longer see the beauty, love and compassion that is around us.
The sad fact is that she is right. Hate is building as apostasy grows. Hate is an outflow of the sinfulness of the earth that is rising to heaven. Worse, people refuse to see the beauty and compassion that is around us, the highest order of which is expressed in Jesus, then the hateful heart darkens even more.

There is not only the rising hate int he hearts of the lost, but rising hate in the heart of those who claim they are of Christ. (Matthew 24:12). This, too, is predicted.

In the Didache, an ancient writing, not inspired but important to church history, we read of the personal and national warning not to quench our lamps: (the emphasis is mine).
Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord comes. But often shall you come together, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you be not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as the Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. (Didache , Didache)
That's the reality. The early church was well aware of how hard it was to live among hate. For most of the world except America, the life of the Christian has been one of targeted hate. Now it's our turn. We're dealing with it from even among the alleged brethren.

So, how do we stay sane, joyful, untouched by pollution of the world that has risen to our very noses? By staying in the word, by praising Jesus, by this:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

You know when you're tired, you have coffee? (Or a sports drink?) When you're extra tired you have espresso (or Turbo Sports Drink). The tired Christian should drink the Drink the Living Water for energy. In these times,  friends, let's just cut to the highest, noblest, most joyful item to ponder: Our Savior. Think of Him, meditate on the word.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Pulpit commentary says of John 14:27,
Then follow the last words as of one who is about to go away, and says 'Good night,' or gives his blessing" (Luther). Peace I leave with (or, to) you. Peace answers to the shalom of ordinary converse and greeting, and signifies prosperity, health of soul, serenity, farewell. This is the sacred bestowment and Divine legacy of the Lord. "Peace" is always the result of equilibrated forces, the poise of antagonistic elements, held in check by one another. Of these the most placid lake, hidden in the hills and reflecting the sunshine and shadows, is a remarkable illustration. So the peace Christ leaves is power to hold the wildest fear in pause, to still a clamor or hush a cry

EPrata photo

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Then and now, compare Baptist publication list from 1870 and 2015

Baptist published book list from 1870



LifeWay is the Southern Baptist Convention's Bookstore arm. To compare Baptist publications from 1870 to Baptist publications in 2015, here is a list of LifeWay's 2015 best sellers. What a difference 145 years makes. Would a Baptist returning today from an extended Rip Van Winkle sleep even recognize his own denomination?

I listed the modern books in the order in which they appeared in the LifeWay list but also included a credible review of the book from a discerning person or organization next to it. Most of these books are complete nonsense. The one or two that aren't are marginal (well, Chan's is marginal, Platt's is good).

LifeWay's Best Selling NonFiction as of July 2015:

#1 Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (review of the book)

#2 Counter Culture by David Platt (review of the book)

#3 Jesus Calling Large Deluxe by Sarah Young (review of the devotional)

#4 The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst (review of TerKeurst and her overall ministry; review of the book)

#5 Before Amen by Max Lucado (review of Lucado's overall fruit)

#6 The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman (review of the book)

#7 The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren, Daniel Amen, Mark Hyman (review of the book)

#8 Waiting on God by Charles Stanley (general review of Stanley himself)

#9 Portraits of Devotion by Beth Moore (review of Moore herself, her statements, and her other teachings)

#10 Agents of the Apocalypse by David Jeremiah (review of D. Jeremiah and his use of the novel Agents of the Apocalypse)

#11 The Mystery of the Shemitah by Jonathan Cahn (review of the book)

#12 You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan (I could not find a review of this book from an organization or person I am familiar with, but Challies gave Chan generally favorable reviews on Chan's other books, such as Multiply, Crazy Love, Forgotten God)

Godlessness in the Last Days

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

I think the 2015 publication list demonstrates a wide-spread love of self, and LifeWay's love of money.

Ever since the world was created, we have been going downhill. Even after the Flood when humanity was re-set in Genesis 9, by Genesis 11 there was the the first polygamist, first dictator, and the first ode to false religion. The LORD confused the languages at Babel and dispersed them. It has been downhill ever since.

However, in a Google Hangout yesterday with Dr John MacArthur, Dr Stephen Nichols and Nathan Bingham hosted by Ligonier, titled "Convictions and Cultural Change: A Google Hangout with John MacArthur" MacArthur said in his nearly 50 years of ministry that despite it all being downhill since the beginning, in his years he has not seen an acceleration of cultural decline this rapid. The general consensus among the three men was that we are near to mirroring the fist century church in terms of idolatry, lack of discernment, disarray, and paganism.

And yet the Lord always keeps a remnant. His people are true, righteous, and working for His name. As for the non-Christians doing these things like writing books filled with doctrines of demons and with all the blasphemies occurring in His name, how He must be storing up his anger.

But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS... (Romans 2:5-6).

And that is our comfort. When I read of a new heretical book coming out, my heart drops and I mourn the gullible and the lost who will be sucked into its world. But I temper that with the knowledge that Jesus is King. He will render to each person according to his deeds, and even reading that, never mind living it, makes my stomach cringe. He is in charge, He is All-Knowing, He is taking care.

If you love the sovereignty of God this will comfort you.

all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)

Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! (Psalm 34:3)


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

John Oliver takes on prosperity televangelists: Why does it take a non-believer to say what Christians all know?

HBO's John Oliver
Yesterday I wrote about a so-called conservative so-called pastor collecting a very large salary. No, it's not Joel Osteen. No, it's not Joyce Meyer, though those two are so-called and are definitely collecting a large salary. Who I wrote about was Billy Graham's son Franklin Graham, whose nearly a million dollar salary from combined corporations Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse was raising eyebrows even among secular CEOs.

Today then, it seems fitting to follow that up with a post about excessive money-grubbing from excessively greedy pastors. But it's really a post about how a pagan is showing us up.

John Oliver is a comedian.You will know him from Jon Stewart's Comedy Central show "The Daily Show" in past years. He's British, he's pagan, and he's finally had enough of the in-your-face money grubbing televangelists begging for money from gullible people.

A few days ago, Oliver performed a sketch on his show "Last Week Tonight" regarding how some televangelists are blatant about seeking money for money's sake from people who watch their show- AND call their organization a church. The following article is from Addicting Info. The sketch is still having its effect.

John Oliver May Have Just Forced The IRS To Consider Taxing Greedy Televangelists
AUTHOR: STEPHEN D FOSTER JR AUGUST 24, 2015 10:42 AM
It could be the end of the line for televangelists who fleece their own flocks to make themselves wealthy, and it’s all thanks to John Oliver.
Last Sunday, Oliver spent 20 minutes eviscerating prosperity gospel televangelists who advocate a sort of trickle-down policy when it comes to donations. According to preachers like Creflo Dollar, the more money people donate so that he can be wealthy and own mansions and private jets, the more likely it is that God will favor them and make them prosper in return.
“They preach something called the prosperity gospel which argues that wealth is a sign of God’s favor and donations will result in wealth coming back to you,” Oliver explained the scam. 
“That idea sometimes takes the form of seed faith – the notion that donations are seeds that you will one day get to harvest. The argument is ‘sow your money into the ground, you will reap returns multiple times over,’ except as an investment you’d be better off burying your money in the actual ground because at least that way there’s a chance your dog may dig it up and give it back to you one day.”
The scam has resulted in a transfer of millions upon millions of dollars from church-goers who are already struggling while their pastor gets to live a wealthy lifestyle completely funded by the congregation. For years, televangelists have gotten away with this by taking advantage of the tax system by declaring their operations as religious organizations. Current tax law allows churches to be tax-exempt and the IRS largely fails to investigate to make sure that churches are churches and not scams by so-called “pastors” designed to make themselves rich. But all of that could now change. According to a new report by CBS, the IRS is under a lot of pressure to tax televangelists in light of John Oliver’s exposure of the corrupt practice of prosperity gospel.


Someone was brave enough to call it what it is...what we all understand and know that it is: a scam.

Now, this behavior is certainly nothing new. Simon the Magician tried to buy the Holy Spirit for this very purpose.

Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. (Acts 8:17-21)

His heart was not right before God. Why?

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

The motivation of a false Christian is money. It is one way to tell if someone is false. Not the fact they have money, it's their love of it that is the telling indicator. Many verse speak to this.

[ Qualifications for Overseers ] The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money... (1 Timothy 3:1-3)

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Since an overseer manages God's household, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. (Titus 1:7)

Paul prophesied that in the time of the end (the time between Jesus' ascension and His return) some within the church will be false and godless and because of this, times will be difficult he said to avoid these people. Some few of the behaviors these godless ones will exhibit are listed, and 'loving money' is one of the traits.

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, (2 Timothy 3:2)

So if all this is laid out in the Bible for us to see clearly, and if it is even prophesied to Christians as a certainty, why is so much of the general Christian population either so undiscerning as not to notice or so cowardly so as not to stand up?

Why does it take a pagan to point this out?

Not that many Christians haven't been doing their part to sound the alarm. Many have. Even many leaders with a platform almost as influential as Oliver's have done tremendous works in the name of Jesus to combat the dangerous doctrines and those who bring them.

But too many others don't wish to "name names", "make waves", or "play hardball." Church discipline has gone by the wayside, or else turned into something the Pharisees would have approved of. (John 9:22)

So how is the Christian to do his or her part to combat creeping prosperity Gospel into their own church? Yes, you. It is up to each individual Christian to do their part with the amount of discernment they have cultivated in and by the Spirit. Though discernment is a spiritual gift given to some, all Christians can and should cultivate a red flag alert by studying the Bible and prayer and constant confession and obedience to Jesus and His commands. Here is John MacArthur in a 2-minute clip explaining "Every Believer's Responsibility." (Though the clip looks dead, it isn't)



It isn't easy. As MacArthur ended the clip, he said to go to the pastor or leader lovingly, privately, but to do it. Sometimes, often times, as a matter of fact in my experience, the reactions are not of love returned. You might get a "reputation". You might be asked to leave the church a la Pharisee-style. you might be gossiped about. You might be ignored. You might be patronized like a little girl with a pat on the head and an admonition not to take it all so seriously. In rare, beautiful cases, you might be listened to and the pastor or leader might actually go back and check through his Bible and see that you're right. The latter case is rare.

So why go through all that if there is a good chance your message won't be listened to? For 4 reasons. This list is certainly not exhaustive.

First, your message might be listened to. You never know. The goal of correcting someone's doctrine is restoration, love, and  drawing them back into the fold. The Spirit might graciously draw that person back through your conversation, especially if you stick to the Word.

Secondly, though we do it out of love and concern for the person teaching or preaching the error, ultimately we have an audience of One. Jesus is the Head of the church and has charged us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8)  and to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). We take witnessing seriously. We take discipling seriously. We don't walk away when a disciple of Jesus Christ begins to wander, or who brings in false doctrine that makes others stumble.

Third, pointing these things out helps to uncover who is true and who is false. A true disciple of Jesus Christ will hear you out and maybe they will become angry. But afterward they will calm down and the message will begin to work in them and they will come back to you in humility to apologize, and to learn more. A false witness of Jesus Christ will perhaps ignore, become dismissive, be angry...but if there is no effect then or later it is a sign that the Spirit perhaps is not in them and it is their flesh doing the driving.

Last, we check against scripture then point out the error so a pagan doesn't have to.


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Further Reading

Who Needs Church Discipline When You Can Have Church Growth Instead? -- or  -- Church growth without church purity