Monday, December 31, 2012

Encouragement for the New Year

These essays are wonderfully encouraging. Happy New Year! His grace abounds, His love is steadfast.

2013: A Year Of The Encourager
"As I read through various blogs and facebook pages I see many people are hoping to have a good new year. It is natural for us to desire to have a better year than what we just experienced, desiring peace and prosperity. But I want to challenge you on something as we stare into the dark abyss of this mysterious brand new year. I challenge you to be determined not to look to what you desire in the new year but instead to desire to make it a good year for other people. I challenge you to be an encourager this year..."

When the Perfect Comes . . .
"Another year is passing away. Thank God. Not only for the massive amounts of unquantifiable grace we have received from him, but also because we are one year closer to the passing away of this partial age and all of its incumbent sorrow and weariness. “When the perfect comes.” Those inspired words stir up deep longings for a time we have never known and yet desperately want."

23 Reasons to Be Joyful (Philippians)
"I am asking the Lord to train me in a pattern of joy. Perhaps this is an area where Christlike growth is needed in your heart and life too. Toward the goal of re-training our hearts, consider the following reasons to be joyful. Let this list be a starting point for you to meditate on the Word of God..."

Enjoy this verse:

"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." (Philippians 3:20-21)

May 2013 be the year.

Earthquake update: how was 2012 compared to previous years?

Now that the last day of 2012 is here, I updated the earthquake chart I'd posted on Dec. 23 to see how many we have had this year, in comparison to previous years. 2012 surprised us by being the first year after three straight years in which the number of quakes in  magnitude categories had exceeded the average number set by the USGS. See for yourself (you can click to enlarge):

You can see that the average number of quakes in the magnitude 5 range far exceeded the United States Geological Survey annual average. The number in the 8 range surpassed the annual average expected quakes for that magnitude. And the number of quakes in the 7 range came close but did not surpass the annual average. And the number of quakes in the 6 range did not come close at all. Data from USGS.

An earthquake shall precede the Great and Terrible Day of the LORD:

"And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. (Zechariah 14:4)

Here is some other earthquake news which indicates some heavy earthquake activity in localized areas of the world:

Over 3,000 Noticeable Quakes Hit Japan In 2012
"Quoting the Japan Meteorological Agency, the NHK broadcaster reported that a total of 3,134 quakes had been felt across Japan until Sunday (December 30) which is about 1,000 more than the annual average from 2001 to 2010."

The article goes on to show that even though Japan endured many quakes in 2012, there was a noticeable decrease in number of quakes from the year prior (when there were 10,000).

Earthquakes are visible tokens of the LORD'S power over the earth and heavens:

"Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven." (Hebrews 12:26)

Costa Rica saw most seismic activity in past 62 years during 2012
"According to the Costa Rican Volcanology and Seismology Observatory (OVSICORI), after the magnitude 7.6 earthquake which occurred on September 5th, 2012, the country registered the highest level of earthquake activity it has seen in 62 years."

Given the numbers of quakes for the last three years reported in the article above, a graph of them would look like this:

Revelation records that in the time of the Tribulation there will be some major, MAJOR quakes. The word in the Greek is mega seismos and you can tell even without using a translator that they are big ones.

Revelation 6:12, Revelation 8:5, Revelation 11:13, Revelation 11:19, Revelation 16:18 record future quakes. The verse in Revelation 16 says that it was a quake such has never been seen on the earth before by man, 'so great was that quake'.

The Guardian Las Vegas reports,  
Don’t panic! Preliminary data suggests earthquakes are indeed increasing worldwide
"Earthquakes and Volcanic eruptions have always been closely related. For instance, if you look at a map of quakes worldwide and compare it to a map of volcanoes, you’ll find that they match closely. ... In recent weeks, earthquakes have exponentially increased in magnitude worldwide, worrying some researchers as they provide the fuse that ignites volcanoes. ... In recent weeks, worldwide earthquake data indicates an increase in the magnitude and a significant increase in the frequency (magnitude > 5.5) of earthquakes."

The bible says that earthquakes are often accompanied by volcanic eruptions:

"He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke." (Psalms 104:32)

So that is your final 2012 earthquake update! (Unless  something happens in the next 5 hours, which I hope it doesn't!)

Summary of the Therapeutic Gospel: Trevin Wax's "Counterfeit Gospels"

In listening to Todd Friel's Drive By Discernment, lecture 55 and 55 today, I was introduced to Pastor Trevin Wax. He has written two books, one is called Holy Subversion and the other is called The Counterfeit Gospels. The two lectures in Drive By Discernment are on one of the six kinds of false gospels Wax writes about. It is called The Therapeutic Gospel.

Here is Pr. Wax being interviewed by on his book. Its short explanation offers an overview of the 6 false Gospels Wax identifies in his book. The 6 are,

1. The Judgment-less Gospel
2. Therapeutic Gospel
3. Moralist Gospel
4. Quietist Gospel
5. Activist Gospel
6. Churchless Gospel

Here is a chart summarizing the 6 false Gospels Wax writes about-
Source, The Gospel Coalition
In a session of the discernment series Drive By Discernment, Trevin explained "The Therapeutic Gospel". We hear much of this Gospel today. It is all about us. It is about our self-esteem. our feelings. What God can do for us to make us happier.

I've included extended excerpts below, but understand that his 2 lectures totaling 30 minutes was tight, well-articulated, and built to a powerful point. It was hard to extract segments and have them make as much sense on their own than the entire lecture did. Even extended excerpts cannot do it justice. But here is a bit of what Pastor Wax said:
The Therapeutic Gospel at its root confuses spiritual symptoms with spiritual disease. Whatever it may be, a troubled marriage, maybe it's anxiety, maybe it's anger issues, perhaps an addiction, we take these symptoms and we confuse the symptoms with the disease - which is sin. Our own evil. Our rebellion. And because the diagnosis is superficial, the treatment is superficial as well.

So what are some of the superficial diagnoses we see in our world? Well here's a few we can spot. One is the Happy Meal Gospel. ... [He talks of his young son here] We realized fairly rapidly that it wasn't the soggy McNuggets and the French fries that our son liked so much but it was enjoying but the happy meal toy and the playground. That's what captures the heart of a child- promise the toy.
I'm concerned that we package the Gospel in a way that makes God out to be a Ronald McDonald type who wants to give kids a Happy Meal. ... When 'God wants me to be happy' becomes the measuring stick for making our decisions, we have fallen for a counterfeit.
Here is the irony in all this- God does want us to be happy. The Therapeutic Gospel takes the right words and puts it in the wrong context. God does want our joy and happiness, but to be found in Him- not in a way that's defined by 21st century American culture. God's desire for our joy goes beyond the Happy Meal.

[In the emphasis on our feelings and the craze for preaching on self-esteem] Notice what has taken place. Instead of understanding that sin may lead to a lack of self esteem, sin has been re-defined as a lack of self esteem. See the difference? It's subtle, but all counterfeits are subtle. It is a confusion of symptom as the real problem. ... Scripture is clear, our biggest problem is not that we feel guilty- it is that we are guilty. We don't have empty hearts in need of fill-up, we have deceitful hearts in need of replacement.

If low self esteem is the problem, then therapy is the solution. But the question for us as Christians is why does this version of Christianity need Jesus? Why is a bloody cross at the center of our faith? If our biggest need is for someone to tell us we're all right, he could have sent Oprah. If our biggest need is to have peace in our family, then God would have done fine sending Dr Phil. No, God sent His son to die a brutal, horrifying death as a payment for human sin. Surely that is the sign that our sin is much more heinous than just, "We feel empty inside." The Therapeutic Gospel can never deliver what it promises because it doesn't recognize the severity of the problem.
The Therapeutic Gospel does something else that's devastating. It leads us to believe that it is our worth that motivates God's action to save us. The thinking is, Jesus came to save us because we are so valuable to God. There is some truth in this. We have an inherent dignity, because we're created in His image. It is a true concept that has a gradual drift. It is more Gnostic than anything else. A good example comes from comparing two parables. [see below]

The true Gospel is Christ centered. The Therapeutic Gospel ultimately fails to satisfy because it switches out the great reward of knowing God for the lesser reward of receiving something from God.
Pastor Wax compares the subtle shift in a counterfeit Gospel from being Christ-centered to man-centered, by comparing the parable of the sheep as they are presented in Luke and in the false Gospel of Thomas. Here is the Gospel of Luke:

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:4-7)

The other is from the non-canonical, false Gospel of Thomas.

"Jesus said, "The kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of them, the largest, went astray. He left the ninety-nine sheep and looked for that one until he found it. When he had gone to such trouble, he said to the sheep, 'I care for you more than the ninety-nine.'" (FALSE, NON-CANONICAL “Gospel of Thomas”)

What has happened here, said Pr. Wax, is that in the counterfeit Gnostic gospel the writer has shifted the emphasis. The point of the parable in the counterfeit is about the worth of the sheep, instead of the work of the Shepherd.


Christ is the ultimate possession. Nothing that the Therapeutic Gospel offers can ever satisfy. Anyway, consider this blog entry a kind of whetting your appetite for being on the alert for false Gospels. I've written and written about staying in the Word. Knowing His word in the bible is the best defense for spotting a false Gospel. Make sure you know the real thing!

Trevin Wax's book is called Counterfeit Gospels.

Here is Tim Challies' review of The Counterfeit Gospels.

Todd Friel's Drive By Discernment is available on instant download, for $19.99. It contains 72 lectures that are under 15 minutes each.

Don't fall for a therapeutic Gospel. Resolve to keep Jesus as the center of everything this year. With Jesus as your glory and your hope, it is the best start for the New Year and every year thereafter. Thanks to God's grace, there will be an eternity of them for the believer.

John the Baptist did no miracles: the Truth is the miracle

File:Mathis Gothart Grünewald 024.jpg
Do you realize that? John the Baptist performed not one miracle. As a matter of fact, until Jesus came and changed the water into wine at Cana, no miracle had been performed in Israel for 800 years! Not since the time of Elijah and Elisha. No prophet had spoken to Israel as the messenger of God for 400 years, not since Malachi! No angel had appeared to the people (as far as we know) for 500 years!

So why was the greatest man who was born of woman until his time, (Mathew 11:11) and who was one of the greatest (and most successful) Old Testament prophets never been given the power to perform one miracle?

Above, Matthias Grünewald, detail of the Isenheim Altarpiece, "He must become greater and I must become less".

I have no great insight, no commentary I've used, and no sermon I can point you to. I just want to focus on the holy Word of God and its effect on hungry, despairing hearts.

John the Baptist was a forerunner to the Messiah, one who was prophesied to come and who did come. (Isaiah 40:3-5; John 1:23). He had one message and one message only: repent and be saved. (Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:4). One would not think that a man with a singular message of sin, sinners, repentance and baptism would be popular. Men who preach that are not popular today. But John the Baptist had throngs of followers who listened to him. He had throngs who followed his preaching with a life choice to become baptised in water, in preparation for the Messiah's coming when they would be baptised by fire. Even King Herod liked to listen to John, even though John was no shirker of his responsibility to point out to the King his sinful actions! (John 6:18).

Giovanni Tiepolo: John the Baptist preaching
"Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." (Matthew 3:5-6).

Of course, some undoubtedly followed John because they loved hearing him charge the religious leaders of the day with hypocrisy. Some undoubtedly followed John because he was the most interesting thing going on. Some undoubtedly were excited to think of their Messiah coming in all glory to rip the Romans from the death-grip they had on the land. But those were likely in the minority.

The fact is, John was filled with the Holy Spirit at birth, and a man speaking truth about the Messiah from a pure, Holy Spirit-filled heart is the most powerful miracle there is.

You can read about how demon-drenched the place was. (Luke 6:17-19). No prophet had spoken. No angel had come. No miracle had occurred. The religious services were saturated with hypocrisy, filthy lucre, and idolatry thanks to the failure of the leaders of the day and the years before and the generations preceding. The people were tired of sin- their own and others'. The whole land was crawling with demons.

St John the Baptist Preaching, Gaulli
So they listened.

In my opinion, John's ministry was miraculous in the way that it shows us what preaching the word does to weary hearts. Weary hearts want the word. They want to hear about the Messiah. They want hope of His coming to enter their hearts and fill them with knowledge of His glory.

Their hearts were hungry for message of hope, and even for a message of hard truths; a message of their sins and the hope of the coming of the Perfect who would deliver them.

You can imagine how hungry hearts are today. And as it was true then, it is true now: the preaching of repentance and the coming of the Messiah prepares us for Him

Though our generations will not be blessed with national revival, but instead be cursed with global apostasy, (Revelation 2:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Timothy 4:3-4), we know that individual hearts are still hungry. Individual hearts still thirst for the Living Water and we still need to proclaim it.

My New Year's wish for us all is that we resolve to cling to the Holy Word by diligent study, knowledge of, and living it out. I pray for us that we resolve to speak it, proclaim it, contend for it. His word, the holy bible, is now the miracle that sustains us and is His sign that He is living and active. (Hebrews 4:21).

Can we resolve to focus on the coming Messiah? Can we dedicate our lives to serving Him? Can we devote ourselves to proclaiming the only message worth sharing? The power of the holy Word has been demonstrated throughout the record of the bible. It has demonstrated itself through its staying power throughout the centuries. It has shown itself powerful by its ability to penetrate hard hearts and claim souls.

Do you know  it? Do you read it? Do you hide it in your heart for the moment the Spirit might prompt you to share a message of sin and repentance?

In most artistic renderings of John, he is shown with a hand or a finger pointing up toward heaven. My New Year's resolution for myself and my hope for all Christians everywhere is that we follow the example of John in pointing our lives toward Jesus. Do not seek after signs and manifestations, but rely on the sure word.

Left, John the Baptist, by Preti, MetMusum. "Saint John the Baptist is shown seated in the wilderness exhorting the viewer to repentance, his right hand pointing heavenwards, his skin tanned through years in the desert. The lamb stands for Christ, the "lamb of God."

Isaiah said that one like John would come--

"A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God." (Isaiah 40:3)

John did come.

"He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said." (John 1:23).

As we view 2013 ahead, we all feel like we are each in the wilderness as John was. I know many of us feel that we try and try but no one is listening. We know from the Word that as each year passes it won't get better, it will get worse. But the truth does have an effect. It does penetrate hearts. Maybe you don't see it right away but the fruits will become visible someday. That's why we can't lose heart and we have to stay true to Him. The Proverbs say for us-

"In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." (Proverbs 3:6)
"The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight," (Proverbs 11:5a)

Keep on the straight and narrow, and always point to Christ. Here is a wonderful New Year's gift to us all:

"And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:16-17)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Theological math


The preaching of the true word of God always pierces hearts.

"So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41)


However, taking away from that word will bring condemnation to those who subtract from it:

"and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." (Revelation 22:19)


We love God's word so much we share it, not sparingly but liberally. To His own glory, the Lord multiplies what is needed in the sower so they can return and multiply their doing good again and again--

"He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness." (2 Corinthians 9:10)

Barnes Notes explains, "Multiply your seed sown - Greatly increase your means of doing good; make the result of all your benefactions so to abound that you may have the means of doing good again, and on a larger scale, as the seed sown in the earth is so increased that the farmer may have the means of sowing more abundantly again."


But make no mistake, proclamation of, living by, and protecting the word will bring division. Doctrine DOES divide.

"Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." (Luke 12:51)

In efforts not to have "division" but a (false) unity based on a watered down version of the Gospel, you really have nothing. Nothing from nothing leaves nothing, said Billy Preston.

John MacArthur on doctrine dividing, from his sermon A Call for Discernment: "When you don’t even lay down clear doctrine at the level of the Gospel, where are you going to go from there? And the cry is, as one man said to me when my book on The Gospel According to Jesus came out, he said, “Your book is divisive!” You want to know something? He’s right. He’s right. Want to know something else? Doctrine divides. People say, “Oh doctrine divides ... doctrine divides.” I say, “Amen, preach it, doctrine divides.” You know what it does? It confronts error. It separates true from false. It makes judgments. Today’s climate, however, of unity in the priority of relationships, that’s not tolerable."

Yes, but many are tolerating it. And this is what he said will happen--

"You know, I believe...I believe that when evangelicals are willing to depreciate doctrine and when they're willing to set aside unpopular convictions, and when they're willing to stay silent on biblical teaching that offends people in error and sin, opposition will disappear and we could all get together. I believe that. I could start a unity movement...eliminate doctrine, set aside unpopular convictions, don't say anything that offends and we'll all get together. That isn't any surprise. But you know some other things are going to disappear too along with doctrine, like truth, conviction, discernment, righteousness, holiness, discipline, true love and spiritual maturity. They're all gone too and then God will disappear, Ichabod. That price is too high. That will produce a church victimized by hell's deceptions."

He preached that 21 years ago and it has come to pass. People too afraid of division fail to add to and multiply God's love.

I pray you are not in a church victimized by hell's deceptions, but are in a church that adds to its numbers because of faithful hearts multiplying His love in fellowship.

But here is the new math of God's kingdom: His infinitely extravagant grace! There is no counting it and no end to it. Praise the Lord that His grace and mercies fall on us every day. I can't add the number of times I've been a grateful recipient of it.

"Our Lord is great, vast in power; His understanding is infinite." (Psalm 147:5)

"Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." (Philippians 3:8)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Revelation 15: God's magnificence in holiness and wrath

I am reading John MacArthur's sermon on Revelation 15:3-8. It is a tremendous picture of God's wrath and His holiness. It is a beautiful exegesis of the verses. Here are a few quotes that moved me. Of course they are better read in context, and better still, heard as the sermon it is. I encourage you to listen to "The Final Wrath of God, Part 1 and Part 2." These are from Part 2.

"In Job chapter 21 and verse 30 it says, "The wicked is reserved for the day of destruction. They shall be brought forth to the day of wrath." God's final wrath is coming."

"God's plan is holiness. God's plan is peace. God's plan is perfection. God's plan is joy. That's indicated to us, as we shall see, when we get to chapter 21 and read of the magnificence of the eternal state. And the One who lives forever and the One who promises eternal joy and eternal peace is not going to allow sin to live forever."

"Those who refuse to drink the cup of salvation will drown in the bowls of wrath." (Revelation 15:3-8; Psalm 116:13)

"And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. ... "The glory cloud will stay until the earth is completely purged and cleansed and prepared for the King and His Kingdom."
"God's Grace", Source

"Once the wrath of God was placed on Jesus Christ because of what He was doing for sinners. In the future, the wrath of God will be placed on sinners because of what they are doing to Jesus Christ."

"After the judgment or the righteous acts of God have been revealed, the elect from all nations will enter the Kingdom to worship the King."

Worship, Source

photo credit: Rennett Stowe via photopin cc
photo credit: dtcchc via photopin cc

Friday, December 28, 2012

Japanese man recognized as oldest male in recorded history

BNO News reports- "A Japanese man was Thursday recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest verified male in recorded history, surpassing a Danish-American man who set the previous record when he died in 1998. The new record-holder is also the world’s oldest living person. Jiroemon Kimura was born on April 19, 1897, when Emperor Meiji ruled Japan as the country rose from a feudal shogunate to become a world power. This made him 115 years and 253 days old on Thursday, one day older than Christian Mortensen when he died in California at the age of 115 years and 252 days in April 1998."

Interesting on what the world calls the official record keeper. Guinness? Give me a break.

Here is the record for oldest living man, ever, a record kept by God:

"When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died." (Genesis 5:25-27)

The Japanese guy is 115 years old? A baby! Methuselah hadn't even become a father yet. And I happen to know on good authority that the bible is an impeccable record of genealogies.

BAM! BOO-yah!

The Vatican wants to vacuum you dry. And other news

Here is some news I thought interesting.

Not a speck of dust! Sistine Chapel visitors to be vacuumed
"In a bid to protect one of Italy’s greatest historical sites that featured frescos by Michelangelo, Raphael and Botticelli the authorities of the Vatican are installing a hi-end vacuum cleaning system in the Sistine Chapel to clean visitors. ­The special equipment will be installed next year at the entrance to the Sistine Chapel, the hall that hosts the cardinals’ conclave when they elect the new Pope, Italian Corriere della Sera newspaper reports. The measure is being taken to preserve the 500-year-old Renaissance masterpiece from the dust, dirt, hair and fibers brought in by visitors. It is one of the most visited attractions inside Italy with four million tourists coming to the Chapel every year."

“The vacuum cleaner will guarantee that all visitors will be clean of dust and other fibers and it will also take away excessive moisture such as sweat,” the director of the Vatican Museum Antonio Paolucci said. “It would involve a system along the final 100 meters before entering the Sistine Chapel which would suck up dust and other debris from people's shoes,” he explained. “At the same time side vents would also draw in dust from clothes and also excessive humidity and dampness from people, in other words sweat, to keep them cool because all these factors combined can damage the frescoes. They are the biggest enemies of artworks,” Paolucci said."

"At the last major cleaning at the Sistine Chapel "several kilos" of dust, hair and man-made fibers were removed from the priceless frescos."


EWWW! is all I can say. I have traveled to Italy numerous times. I saw the fresco degradation first hand. I was surprised to learn how delicate frescoes are, and how breath, humidity, fibers, and dirt stirred up from thousands of feet tramping through take a toll on the art. When I was there the first time, the Last Supper in Milan was covered by scaffolding, obscuring the great work by Da Vinci, because it was being cleaned. It had darkened almost totally.

Another time, I went to Rome and visited Vatican City. Though I was not saved yet, I was still sensitive to the influence of the demonic and the divine. God had put that into me and thus, I could 'feel' things. Yeah, I know, weird. Though we went to the Vatican itself and I skittishly enjoyed St. Peter's Square for its architectural beauty and history, when my husband asked if I wanted to go inside, I refused. I desperately wanted to see the great art, but an external spirit wouldn't let me enter that most deeply demonic place. I got the willies and I turned away.

Eesh, between TSA patting me down and the Vatican Guard vacuuming me dry, I don't think I'll be traveling for a while. Unless it's to COME UP HERE!

The LORD has regard for both the rich and the poor. "The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all." (Proverbs 22:2). The rich and poor alike are appointed so, (1 Samuel 2:7).

However, sometimes poverty comes because of sloth on the part of the person, or drunkenness, (Proverbs 20:13, Proverbs 28:19). In any case, the bible says to work when we can (2 Thessalonians 3:10) and if your circumstances do require you to be on the dole, don't languish there (1 Timothy 5:5-6).

It appears that in reading this next article that there may be many who are languishing there. I am sure that there are many hard-working people who need to receive government welfare, but loiterers on the dole were an issue in Jesus' day and they are an issue in our day. People don't change.

Takers exceeds workers in 11 states
"In 11 different U.S. states, the number of government dependents exceeds the number of private sector workers. This list of states includes some of the biggest states in the country: California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Maine, Kentucky, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, New Mexico and Hawaii. ... In California, there are 139 "takers" for every 100 private sector workers. If you can believe it, entitlements accounted for 62 percent of all federal spending in fiscal year 2012."

This is not sustainable, of course. Which is the point. At a time in the future, a future growing closer each day, God will dismantle the world's economy to make way for the antichrist's infrastructure. The mark of the beast will follow.

Speaking of future dystopian societies, movie director Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuznik say that the ‘US has become an Orwellian state’.

An Owellian state is defined by Wikipedia as "the situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. It connotes an attitude and a policy of control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past, including the "unperson" — a person whose past existence is expunged from the public record and memory, practiced by modern repressive governments. Often, this includes the circumstances depicted in his novels, particularly Nineteen Eighty-Four."

Huh. If that's the definition of Orwellian state, without even reading the news article any further, I can wholeheartedly agree with Stone and Kuznik. But here's the first sentence, and it's a loaded one:

"Americans are living in an Orwellian state argue Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuznick, as they sit down with RT to discuss US foreign policy and the Obama administration’s disregard for the rule of law."

LOL, I told you it was a loaded sentence. Now here's the next one:

­"Both argue that Obama is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and that people have forgiven him a lot because of the “nightmare of the Bush presidency that preceded him.” "

Interesting turn of phrase, 'wolf in sheep's clothing', that. Continuing in the article,

"It is an Orwellian state. It might not be oppressive on the surface, but there is no place to hide. Some part of you is going to end up in the database somewhere,” Stone said. According to Kuznick, American citizens live in a fish tank where their government intercepts more than 1.7 billion messages a day. “That is email, telephone calls, other forms of communication.” "

I was just thinking about this the other day, the fact that there is no place to hide. When my husband and I loaded up on our yacht and took off for live-aboard, blue water cruising, we were expecting freedom, invisibility from government scrutiny and interference, a vagabond devil-may-care kind of living. What we got was far from it. It was a rude awakening for both of us. Far from dropping out of government clutches, we dropped right into them.

Of course, you had to license your boat with the government, just as you do with a car. If you launch from a marina, that's documented. And traveling down the Intracoastal Waterway meant that every bridge you passed under the bridgetender took down the name of your boat and time of passage. Same with passing through a lock.

If you go "outside" the Intracoastal and make a passage in the Atlantic, the US Coast Guard could spot you and approach at any time for any reason. They can and do board your boat for any reason, no permission needed. As a matter of fact, when they board, they hold captain and any crew in the cockpit whilst they search your boat. They are armed, so you don't argue. In a car in the US the police need probable cause to enter your car or they are breaking the law if they do. Not so with a boat.

Weighing anchor in the Bahamas didn't help either. There is a heavy US Coast Guard presence with permission and welcome from the Bahamian government.

We were mariners back in the 1990s so maybe things have changed...but at the time the US was looking for drugs and human trafficking smuggling from The Bahamas and Cuba and they had a long reach. It should be noted that we were two law-abiding citizens with all proper identification and were not nor did we intend to smuggle anything. We were two young yuppies living the husband's dream to sail on the ocean on our own boat to view the sights of coastal America and live the life of minding our own business and seeing a few sunsets.

But I was thinking the other day that of a person wanted to 'drop out' of regular society for personal, law-abiding reasons like we did back in the '90s, that it would be very hard to do so lawfully today. Of course, the criminals have an easier time of it. Which was the opposite point of the Patriot Act. But now we do have that aforementioned Orwellian society of Big this:

California gets face scanners to spy on everyone at once
"In a single second, law enforcement agents can match a suspect against millions upon millions of profiles in vast detailed databases stored on the cloud. It’s all done using facial recognition, and in Southern California it’s already occurring. Imagine the police taking a picture: any picture of a person, anywhere, and matching it on the spot in less than a second to a personalized profile, scanning millions upon millions of entries from within vast, intricate databases stored on the cloud."

This is pretty interesting. I like to think about the practicalities of the mark of the beast. Revelation 13:16-17 says

"Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name."

First, the part where the antichrist "causes all". All means nearly 8 billion people, though that number will have been just about halved by the time Revelation 13 rolls around, due to the rapture taking millions of Christians from the earth, and Revelation 6's plagues and wars. But still, how will the antichrist 'cause' all from Greenland to Chile, from California to Mongolia, to do this thing? My contention is that the people who are unsaved will want to and the Christians who have become saved will try to hide but that they will know they'll be hunted down. (Rev 13:10).

Secondly, how will the checkout person at the point of sale know? It will take a huge database to scan in a person's mark to determine if they are genuinely within the commerce system. The database would need to be extremely rapid, also. However, quantum chips are here so no worries. So it seems the Orwellian nightmare of Big Brother is coming along just fine and its infrastructure to handle the prophesied events is just about in place.

It has been a rapid advance just in my own lifetime. I was born in 1960 and the 60s were a free living time of hippies dropping out and no Big Brother was around to track them. The first commercial bar code was not in use until 1974. Highway scanners weren't invented, cameras on city streets, banks, and other places were not set up yet. In the 1970s, 80s, and 90s it was still fairly easy to travel under the radar from place to place and TSA wasn't set up in the airports yet.

But by now, RFID, face scanners, fingerprinting at banks and other places (like schools), video surveillance, and intrusive monitoring everywhere like Oliver Stone was mentioning are part of a dystopian life. It makes me want to scream in frustration.

But I do not scream because I know the joy that is set before me. Here is the utopian life. Soon Jesus will call us up to heaven, and we will live in a place where we will know just as we are known. (1 Corinthians 13:12). There will be total government involvement in our lives. And it will be a good thing! Our place is called New Jerusalem and the church age saints, us, will live there. Jesus will be the head of the government (Isaiah 9:6). He is perfect and all He does to rule the nations will be perfect. There will be no sin in us because we will live in glorified bodies. We won't have any reason to even want to drop out! We will not worry about scrutiny or wayward governments unjustly reaching into our lives. We will be part of a glorious fellowship of saints from all ages and all nations, melded by Jesus' blood and God's perfect plan into one united body of peoples. We will be His trophies of grace and it will all occur in a place called heaven.

You can be there too, if you believe on the name of Jesus as the resurrected lamb who was slain for our sins.

"Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord..." (Acts 3:19-20a)

Satan, Ezekiel, the prince of Tyre, and magnets

Our lives are dominated by satan until conversion, and influenced by satan thereafter, but the bible explicitly says very little about him. We meet him in Genesis 3, learn a bit more in Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:12-18, he appears in the NT to tempt Christ and indwell Judas, and then there's the big finish in Revelation. Paul and Peter mention a bit more but you get the idea. So what do we know about satan, AKA the devil, the beast, and as originally named, Lucifer?

I read Ezekiel 28 yesterday. An interesting picture came to my mind. In the chapter, the writer pens a prophecy for the Prince of Tyre and a lament for the King of Tyre. Tyre was and still is a city, located in Lebanon according to present day borders. It was a hotbed of commerce but also a place of dirty dealings and unscrupulous merchants. There was great wealth. Wherever there is wealth, greed, commerce and power, satan is at hand to stir the pot.

At God's behest, Ezekiel condemned all this in his prophecy for the Prince of Tyre in verses 1-10. In verses 3-4, Ezekiel wrote
you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you; by your wisdom and your understanding you have made wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries;
The reference to being smarter than Daniel is a sarcastic comment. It is sort of like saying, 'Nice job, Einstein!' The inference is that the ruler of Tyre is being scolded for thinking he, himself, had accumulated great wealth by his own intellect and wisdom. He was being warned not to say he is a god.

The tone continues like that until verse 10, with the ruler of Tyre being reprimanded and warned against his sins. The prophecy was that God would send fierce enemies to smite him, if the ruler of Tyre didn't shape up.

Then halfway through the chapter, the heading changes to "A lament over the King of Tyre." What? Are these two different rulers of Tyre being warned? It seems so at first but then the language of the verses in 11-19 don't totally reflect that. In verse 13 read that he was in Eden, and in verse 14 we read that the King of Tyre was an anointed guardian cherub on the holy mountain of God. In verse 15 it was said he was blameless in his ways since he was created (not born). Ezekiel's language reflects the fact that the warnings have shifted from a prophecy against a human ruler of the earthly city of Tyre, to the celestial influence of the heavenly fallen angel Lucifer, a king with power behind the ruler of Tyre.

Prophecy is a warning as to what will happen. A lament is a grief over what has already occurred. These are obviously two different messages to two different beings.

What struck me was the tie between the two, again as reflected in the language. The prince of Tyre, or as in other translations, ruler, was charged with the same sins as satan was in Isaiah 14. Tyre's ruler was prideful (v. 2a), thought himself a god (v. 2b), enjoyed occupying the high throne (v. 2c) and above all his prideful, deceitful heart is mentioned four times within six verses.

The ruler is charged "by your great wisdom in your trade you have increased your wealth..." (v. 5)

Satan is charged with the same: "In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;" (v.18b)

The ruler of Tyre is charged thus: "Because your heart is proud,"

And satan, the king of Tyre is charged with the same: "Your heart was proud because of your beauty;" (v.17).

Both were charged with having corrupted their wisdom (v. 5 and v. 17b).

From this chapter we can gather important information. Earthly rulers can be and are heavily influenced by satan. Some even say that the ruler of Tyre was indwelled by satan. This act is not unprecedented. Satan indwelled Judas and it is interpreted in Revelation 13 that he is prophesied to indwell the coming antichrist, when he again (and finally) pridefully occupies a throne and calls himself God.

The picture that came to my mind when pondering the fall of the ruler of Tyre and the fall of the King of Tyre is ... magnets.

If you do not have the Holy Spirit in you by having repented and believed on the name of Jesus Christ, then you are influenced to one degree or another by satan. (2 Corinthians 4:4). Of that verse, Sam Storms wrote,

"Before we ever arrive on the scene with the gospel, Satan is exerting a stupefying influence on the mind of the unbeliever."

As a kid, did you ever put a magnet on a table, and put your hand underneath the table with another magnet of same poles, and drag the magnet around on the table by seeming magic? It can be said that the two parts of Ezekiel of the tension between the Prince of Tyre and the King of Tyre are two magnets. Satan is wielding a stupefying influence on the ruler of Tyre, and the ruler of Tyre is taking on more and more of satan's attributes. He cannot free himself from the pull of satan nor escape his magnetism, as satan first draws and and then drags the ruler around.

On the surface of the table, it seems that one magnet is going around of its own free will, here and there. But what is really happening is that underneath the table another, unseen force is influencing the upper magnet's actions and movements. That is what satan does to the unsaved.

There is no way for the unbeliever to withdraw from the magnet's pull. Only if the unseen magnet goes away, will the other magnet be free to roll around where it will go.
Once a believer is saved, the poles reverse. Turning that unseen magnet over, the draw toward will become a push away. There is nothing you can do to force the two magnets together, but satan still tries.

Sam Storms again:
Satan is anything but a passive, innocent bystander. Although he may be invisible to the eye and undetected by physical means, you may rest assured that he is present, employing every imaginable device (and some unimaginable) to undermine the integrity of God’s people and to sow seeds of discord and confusion."

The Holy Spirit is what makes the difference. Oh, satan will still be around, but if you resist Him, and the Spirit helps you do that, He will flee away.

So how do the OT verses in Ezekiel help us today? The prophecy came to pass and the prince of Tyre is gone. Yet there are lessons for us as there are in the entire word of God, whether Old Testament or New.

--Do we think more highly of ourselves than we ought?
--Do we think that we have earned success by our own wisdom?
--Is our heart proud? Remember, that charge was leveled the most frequently against both the earthly ruler and against satan. A proud heart is a dangerous thing to carry.
--Have we made an idol of our achievements, possessions, or perceived power?
--Did we properly acknowledge our Holy God for all we are and all we have?

So that's my thought for today on what I've read recently! Your thoughts and insights are welcome. Let's praise our Holy God that He delivered this wisdom of the bible to us and that we live in a free place where we can read it, pray over it and discuss it all openly and with proper honor to the worthy One!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Discerning Angus Buchan's 'Faith Like Potatoes': it's more like half-baked potatoes

I don't know if you're like I am, but when the movie is over I always want to know more. If it is based on a true story then I look up everything about the person to see how they are doing and to learn more of their journey.

After watching a movie based on the spiritual conversion of Angus Buchan, called Faith Like Potatoes, I searched out more. To that end, I looked up information on Mr Buchan subsequent to the events portrayed in the movie. I watched interviews with him. I watched an hour-long documentary in which Mr Buchan spoke of his spiritual journey. I watched clips on Youtube of his preaching at revivals. I watched interviews, such as a recent one on CBN/700 Club with Pat Robertson.

You can read my review of Faith Like Potatoes. The essay focuses on the movie and alludes to some doctrinal issues I'd had with the faith as it was portrayed. By the end of the movie I'd become concerned that the faith Jesus came to deliver was portrayed more as a 'miracle-based, look what God can do for you' kind of faith rather than the 'I'm a sinner and look what Jesus did on the cross for me' kind of faith.

My Buchan's joy in the Lord is contagious and his faith does seem genuine. He has done many good things, such as start an AIDS orphanage and provide education for local Zulu. Mr Buchan has worked tirelessly and fervently for many decades for the Lord. There are many fine things he has done. I don't question his motivations or his faith.

However I do question his methods and his emphasis.

My subsequent research has shown that the suspicion I'd had was true and is proved to be based on fact. My suspicion was that Mr Buchan relies on miracles to get the attention of unbelievers and then parlays that attention and interest into an altar call. Thousands flock to the stage at his altar calls, but I worry that the seeds he has sown eventually dry up in the hearts of the people who respond because they were superficial to begin with. I worry because his emphasis is more on Charismatic manifestations of miraculous events and less on the Word, though the Word is present at his revivals.

Let me give an example.

As Mr Buchan explains on The 700 Club, an event in Mozambique occurred at one of his revivals. Most of his revivals are "healing revivals", you know. Buchan was preaching to 5000 Muslims. He said, "I was preaching my heart out. Nothing was happening, and the Holy Spirit says to me, 'Stop preaching. They’re not listening to you.' And I looked down, and right in the front row, there was a man sitting there and he had two crutches. He had a stiff leg. I felt the Holy Spirit say, 'Go down and pray for that man. And that miracle will turn the people.' Put my Bible down, told them on the microphone, 'I’m going to stop preaching. I’m going to go down and pray for this man, and God’s going to heal him.'"...


"I went down there and we had instant attention. From 5,000 people that were milling around and moving in and out, there was absolute silence. You could have heard a pin. I anointed him in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And I said, 'Do you want Jesus to heal you?' And he said, 'Yes, please.' We prayed for him. I bent down, 5,000 people watching us, and I took hold of his leg. I tried to bend his knee, and nothing happened. It was solid. [This was because the man had a steel pin in his leg due to a forestry injury].  I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, 'Bend his leg.' And I bent his leg like that, and something gave way inside. His leg came free, and he was moving his leg. He chucked his crutches and was running up and down and jumping and shouting for joy."

Here is Mr Buchan's conclusion to that miracle story: "I want to tell you after that I didn’t have to preach another word. I made the altar call and 5,000 people ran forward to give their life to Christ."

Which Christ did they give their life to? The healing, miracles performing Christ? Or the Christ that delivers us from our own personal sins, which had kept us from reconciling with Him? Of course the man wanted Jesus to heal his leg, but the question a preacher should ask is 'do you want Jesus to heal your depraved, sinning heart via his work on the cross and submit to His resurrected Lordship over you all your life?"

Mr Buchan has said several times in the interviews I've seen, a heartbreaking quote which he triumphantly proclaimed at the conclusion of the Mozambique story: 

"At Shalom we've got a saying: one genuine miracle equals a thousand sermons."

No it doesn't. Every single person Jesus healed is dead now. But millions are still alive by hearing His word and having faith in who He is. We are convicted of our sin by the power of hearing the Word. (Romans 10:17). Not by seeing:

"So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe." (John 4:46-48).

Clarke's Commentary says of that miracles verse-
"Except ye see signs and wonders, etc. - Our Lord does not tell this man that he had no faith, but that he had not enough. If he had had none, he would not have come from Capernaum to Cana, to beg him to heal his son. If he had had enough, he would have been contented with recommending his son to our Lord, without entreating him to go to Capernaum to heal him; which intimates that he did not believe our Lord could do it at a distance. But the words are not addressed to the nobleman alone, but to all the Galilean Jews in general; for our Lord uses the plural number, which he never does when addressing an individual. These people differed widely from the people of Sychar: they had neither a love of the truth, nor simplicity of heart; and would not believe any thing from heaven, unless forced on their minds by the most striking miracles."

"They were favored with the ministry of John Baptist; but, as that was not accompanied with miracles, it was not generally credited. They require the miracles of Christ, in order that they may credit the advent of the Messiah. There are many like these Galileans still in the world: they deny that God can have any influence among men; and as to the operations of the Holy Spirit, they, in the genuine Galilean spirit, boldly assert that they will not credit any man who professes to be made a partaker of them, unless he work a miracle in proof of his pretensions! These persons should know that the grace of working miracles was very different from that by which a man is saved; and that the former might exist, even in the most astonishing measure, where the latter did not."
In his interview with Pat Robertson, Buchan talked of the time in a Zulu hut when Buchan apparently raised a girl from unconsciousness, or the dead, no one is quite sure, Buchan said, "I prayed over her, Pat. I said "It's your reputation here, Jesus."

Jesus's reputation does not rest on whether or not He performs to the satisfaction of onlookers.

In the movie, when the tractor was Buchan driving lurched and his nephew fell off and was crushed under the wheel, the entire family was thrown into a deep grief. Buchan's grief was so deep that his pastor asked Buchan to hand over his gun until the grief lessened, thinking Buchan may commit suicide. However, Buchan and his brother's grief was only lessened after a dream that Buchan's brother Ferguson had three months after the death. Buchan described it in an interview, and it was depicted in the movie.

Buchan's brother Ferguson 'saw' his four-year-old son running across an emerald field. The tyke looked  happy. Fergie picked up his son and asked his son if he was really happy there or if he wanted to come back. The boy said he was happy and that he was just waiting for him, his dad. Ferguson called his brother to tell of this dream-vision, and they both then felt a measure of relief from the grief they shared.
Faith Like Potatoes, p. 63

However I have questions about this event as described by Angus Buchan. It is symptomatic of the charismatic reliance on external manifestations of miracles rather than a knowledge and certainty of internal faith, in my opinion. For example, did Fergie ascend into heaven to see his son? The bible says "No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man." (John 3:13).

Did the boy descend? In no way do the spirits of the dead commune with the living. After death people are either in heaven or in hell (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). And besides, the dead do not have their glorified body yet so the boy was spirit. In that case, how could Fergie have picked him up and hugged him?

Only the evil spirits and the holy ministering spirits are out and about. So who did Ferguson 'see', exactly? And where?

Another question more related to the point of this discernment lesson is that the brothers only got relief from their grief after receiving a sign, which was the dream. Did they need a dream to be comforted? Why was his faith in the knowledge that the boy was with Jesus not enough? It was for David and his example is a model for us to take comfort in. (2 Samuel 12:23). But comfort came to the brothers only after a sign and a wonder.

Faith is already knowing he is safe with Jesus, whether a dream comes or not.

I know that the grief of a parent who has lost his child is among he deepest griefs on earth. I can't speak to having experienced it, and I don't want to belittle it. But what parent wouldn't want to have a sign bestowed to them, a dream in which they could pick up their child one last time? Other parents must wonder, why isn't my faith strong enough to have been the recipient of a dream like that? What is the matter with me that God didn't see fit to send a sign that my son or daughter is all right? It causes jealousy and division rather than a comfort. The greatest comfort we all receive equally is the word itself. For example, scriptures show David's resolute knowledge that he would be with his son again ... Jesus compassion in healing the epileptic boy... examples of surety and grace and compassion from the word should be enough.

Overall, reliance on manifestations and miracles is not good. I'm not saying they don't happen. Relying on them to the exclusion of sermonizing is not good, as Mr Buchan does. Remember, he says, "At Shalom we've got a saying: one genuine miracle equals a thousand sermons."

The problem is the word "genuine." Who confirms the genuineness of the miracle? Who vetoes it? And on what basis? Is there an appeal regarding the validation or vetoing of its genuineness? That is why preaching from the word is always better. It is a more sure word. (2 Peter 1:19). There is no question IT is genuine!

Professor Alan Lester of Grace Unlimited in South Africa attended several of Buchan's revivals. He came away concerned about the overemphasis on miracles and the under-emphasis on preaching. He wrote a 50 page Open Letter to Angus Buchan, and in it, he asked,

Long after the 'wow factor' of miracles pass, the word remains.

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12).

There is always the problem of clinging to Jesus when the miracles are vivid. The problem is that people leave when the miracles dim in memory, or when they are contrasted with a hard lesson from the Word. Years after the revival has folded its tent and the man with the thrown-away crutches has left town, will they still cling to Jesus? When the hard work of the Word convicts their heart, will they hear?  See John 6:60- "On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"

After the disciples heard the hard saying,

"After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him." (John 6:66).

And still others have the problem of seeing miracle after miracle but they do not repent.

"Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent." (Matthew 11:20)

Professor Johan Malan wrote about the lack of lasting fruit from revivals like Buchan's, "A number of case studies on converts during gospel rallies have been conducted in the past. At places where there are no evangelical churches or Bible study groups with high standards where converts can get further instruction, more than 90% of them did not stand by their original commitment. Angus Buchan will seriously have to face this fact. In modern preaching in general, more emphasis is placed upon moralising and human relations than on an improved man-God-relationship."

A shallow conversion rate is the same issue with Billy Graham Crusades. "Observers over the years have noted that Billy Graham, who is considered to be America's premier evangelist, gets a lot of people coming forward in his meetings, but few lasting conversions. Herman Otten, editor of Christian News, stated that "The editor's home congregation participated in the 1957 New York Billy Graham crusade. . .  The editor's home congregation received about 28 [referral cards].  All were visited but none were interested in joining the church. Surveys have shown that Graham's mass crusades have resulted in few ever joining a church."

Graham himself said, "less than five percent of all those who made a confession or profession of faith at his crusades went on to become active members of a church fellowship." (source)

When you combine the treachery of easy beliefism and its low conversion rates with dependence on miracles, it is an even worse situation.

"Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." (Matthew 12:38-39).

I am concerned because Angus Buchan is HUGE. The photos above are recent and real. He is very big in Africa. His revivals and Mighty Men Conferences draw a quarter to a third of a million people at a time, and the crusades last for days. His charismatic approach to sharing the Gospel and his emphasis on miracles, combined with a noted waning of preaching actual scripture, is a very big concern in a continent that has largely escaped the worst of Western prosperity and charismatic emphasis. It is also a concern because of the need of the people to hear the full Gospel. I don't think they receive the full counsel of God at a Buchan crusade.

Prof. Malan wrote in 2010,
"It is obvious that the South African revival preacher, Angus Buchan, does have a relationship with Jesus Christ as his Saviour and experiences Him as a living reality in his life. He also exhorts thousands of people to repent, and helps families to reconcile with each other, which is praiseworthy.  On the other hand, worried voices are being heard that he reveals great ignorance on various aspects of biblical doctrines – to such an extent that he has embarked on the way of kingdom theology, the ecumenical movement, and even the promotion of dubious signs and wonders. On certain occasions he has made positive comments on false prophets such as Benny Hinn and Kathryn Kuhlman. His perceived ignorance on these matters is disturbing and even bewildering."

A former friend of Mr Buchan's, Shaun Willock said, "But then our paths diverged. It was inevitable, for as he embraced the Charismatic movement and became increasingly involved in it, the Lord was opening my eyes to the unbiblical errors of Pentecostalism/Charismatism, culminating ultimately in my departure from it and utter repudiation of it. And in this can be seen the discriminating grace of God.  Separation from all that the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement stood for was what I desired, whereas Angus wanted more of it."

And from the photos above, Angus got more of it. Mr Angus Buchan seems to be a compassionate man who loves the Lord, but he is a Charismatic faith healer who depends on signs rather than the Gospel. He and his teachings are to be avoided. Any miracles he claims to have performed should be looked on with heavy skepticism.

Your own tried and true, bible preaching, caring, hard working pastor might not be as flashy as Angus Buchan, and 350,000 people might not clamor to attend your church, but it is the slow and steady that wins the race. Persevere in a quietly transforming faith, dependent on the word and prayer and a close walk in the ways of Jesus on the narrow road, and you will not hear the dreaded words, "Depart from me, you workers of iniquity." (Matthew 7:23) but instead, you will hear, 'Welcome to the paradise of God'. (Revelation 2:7)


FMI: My Faith Like Potatoes review

Faith Like Potatoes review by Shaun Willock in South Africa

Pastor Conrad Mbewe explains why the Charismatic Movement is thriving in Africa

Faith Like Potatoes: Movie review and a discernment lesson

I have Netflix now. I love Netflix. I love spending an hour looking for something to watch before giving up and going to bed. Ha ha, it's not quite like that but almost. So when I found a film in the religion and spirituality section that seemed solid, and had good reviews, I eagerly queued it up for a viewing last night.

It is called Faith Like Potatoes.

The story is based on a real family and a true spiritual event that began in the mid 1970s in Zambia. The movie is actually based on a book and the real-life story of Scottish farmer Angus Buchan and his struggles in Africa to make a living. Angus Buchan and his pregnant wife Jill and three children had been growing concerned with the rising violence and plunging currency in their adopted country. Selling their huge and good-yielding farm at a severe loss, they packed up and headed to South Africa to start over.

Practically penniless, life was hard and Angus grew more angry and despairing. The work was tough. Having little to no money to pay farm help, it meant long 18 hour days, 7 days per week for Angus as he strove to provide for his family and made slow but agonizing progress.

He began to get into fights, haunt the local bar, and gobble tranquilizers, all to no avail to salve the anger and depression stealing the light in his soul. One day he was invited to a Methodist church service in which other farmers & lay-men were giving testimonies. Struck by a spiritual thunderbolt, he came forward at the invitation and accepted Jesus as Savior.

The film did an excellent job up until this point. His longing for the Savior was evident to all except him, that is, and what he needed was obvious. His conversion was beautifully done. The struggle he evidenced in the pew until that climactic moment when he stood up, grabbed his wife's hand and led her forward had me in tears. Excellent.

Then the movie started to lose me.

In this article from CrossRhythms Angus explains, "The name Faith like Potatoes originated from that great Scottish preacher Peter Marshall. He was the Chaplain to the US Senate. He said that you must have faith that's tangible and simple; faith that's real, faith that you can touch; faith like potatoes. We took that little cliché and used it as our title."

In the movie it is explained, "Feel this potato. Smell it. Your faith in God must be like that. It must be real. You can feel it. You can smell it. Faith has got to be like potatoes." It was said in the movie and he has said in real life, 'faith needs to have flesh and substance.'

However the bible says the opposite.

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1).

The faith of Angus Buchan rests on, and his later preaching emphasizes, tangibility. In the movie, shortly after his conversion (it seemed shortly, in movie terms anyway) the Lord sent a miracle rain to stop a fire from destroying his and a neighbor's farm. Then a lightning bolt stunned (or killed, no one is quite sure) a Zulu farm worker and Buchan raised her from unconsciousness (or death, no one is quite sure). The potatoes were an expensive crop that one was daft to plant in a drought, and many friends and even his pastor tried to talk him out of it. If the potatoes failed, he would be bankrupt, but the harvest yielded potatoes. Big ones, too, it's noted.

People in the movie came to believe based on what God did rather than what they heard. But it is what a person hears and knows that saves him. Not miracles. (Romans 10:17).

As you may know because I've written about it in a three-part series, I am cessationist. I believe God still works miracles and I believe in the supernatural, but I do not believe He endows His believers with miracle producing ability today. The gifts of healing and prophecy and tongues were for a sign and now that the bible is finished we have the bible as a sign. I believe that apostolic miracles ended as the scriptures indicate, sometime during the end of the first generation church when the last of the Apostles died. (1 Corinthians 13:8-12). More to the point, Jesus warned us that in the last days, false christs would come and perform miracles and signs and wonders (Matthew 24:24-25.)

By the time the movie got to the potatoes, it seemed to me that Angus was trying to test God. Further, it seemed to me that his faith rested in miracles rather than solely on the God who could perform them. But that was how the movie presented it. I wanted to learn more about the man and what he preached, directly from the man and not from what could be a twisted version of his beliefs.

To that end, I looked up information on Mr Buchan subsequent to the events portrayed in the movie. I watched interviews with him. I watched an hour-long documentary in which Mr Buchan spoke of his spiritual journey. I watched clips on Youtube of his preaching at revivals. I watched interviews, such as a recent one on CBN/700 Club with Pat Robertson.

I came away from all that more sad than anything because of what I learned.

I will discuss the doctrinal difficulties with Mr Buchan's preaching and his beliefs in the next essay. As for the movie, I still give it a thumbs up. The first half is first rate. The cinematography is gorgeous. It isn't a low-budget Christian movie with low production values, by any means. It is lush. And the acting was good. The final half, if one suspends belief regarding the miracles, is inspiring. For example, I was more struck by the growing relationship between Angus and his foreman Simeon Bhengu. As Angus was called away to preach in distant places more often, Simeon was the trusted one who stayed behind to protect the farm and Angus's family. In another segment, the loss of the child and resulting portrayal of grief through faith was well done.

However, though the final scene where the potatoes are uncovered and Angus and his foreman dance on the plots, then pans to the lane where the wife is leading the entire town down to help harvest was nice. But then she said,

"Did you not think I'd have faith in these potatoes?"

Ultimately, one is left wondering at the end of the movie, what do I put my faith in? Did I hear a message of sin and redemption and a resurrected Jesus? A little but not so much. I heard a lot about miracles and what He can do for me by His miraculous power over disease and over weather.

For me, the miraculous power is salvation. It's regeneration. It is a deposit of the indwelling Holy Spirit to sanctify me all my life-long. It is prayer heard and prayer answered. I wish, O, I wish, these miracles were enough for people!

I compare a movie like Faith Like Potatoes and The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry and to me, the miracles occurred in Sperry and not Potatoes. Why? Because the miracle is in the transforming power of a lifelong faith in a man. The miracle is the beauty of a multiplying faith within a community by the quiet and unseen power of the Word. Flashy manifestations aside, faith in Jesus alone is the real miracle. Sperry has it. Potatoes doesn't.

Go watch the more inspiring Secrets of Jonathan Sperry and leave the miracles to the unseen.


Part 2 next: what exactly is off about Angus Buchan's doctrine, and why is he the biggest evangelist you never heard of?

Value your pastor

I pray for pastors that the Lord would keep their hearts soft. I know that soft hearts receive wounds more deeply than hard hearts, but such is the territory of love. Those with a tender heart toward God feel deeply. (1 Samuel 24:5; 2 Kings 22:19).

Yet they go on, and on, and on; soldiers of truth marching forward unafraid of the evil before them.

"He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD." (Psalms 112:7)

I pray that you have the blessing of a pastor with a heart fixed on the Lord. We receive evil tidings these days, and the pastor is on the front line of all those tidings. Pray for him ceaselessly.

The LORD said “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding." (Jeremiah 3:15). Tender and knowledgeable Pastors who care for their flocks are a gift from God.

GotQuestions explains pastoral care
"Beyond preparing and delivering a sermon, pastors provide biblical counseling, visit the sick and injured in hospitals, and disciple members of the congregation through phone calls, lunch meetings, and other social engagements. Many pastors serve as chaplains in hospitals, the military, workplaces, schools, and prisons. All of these ministries are aspects of pastoral care.

In reality, pastoral-care ministries are just as valuable as the delivery of a sermon. Caring for a person who is struggling with a difficulty, being present during a time of pain, praying with someone in a crisis – these are the moments when spiritual breakthroughs occur. Ministering through a good, biblically sound sermon is absolutely necessary. But ministering through a personal touch, i.e., pastoral care, is just as important."
Do you have a pastor who does all that? Pray for him! And know that the more mature he becomes in sanctification, the more deeply he will feel the hurts of his flock and the sins of the world.

In one way, he is a first responder. It is often said that policemen and firemen rush IN to danger when everyone is running out. Pastors rush in to deal with evil tidings when most would rather run away from them. They are a spiritual first responder. Care for him, love him, do not begrudge him, and above all, pray for him.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Is Obama a Christian?

Are we even allowed to ask that question about people who claim Christianity? Pastor Matt Slick answered a similar question this way - "Is Glenn Beck a Christian?"
"It would not be possible to ascertain if he is really a Christian outside of a direct interview with Glenn Beck where I asked him specific questions about his understanding of Christianity and Mormonism. However, we can look at what Mormonism teaches and compare it to the Bible. ... It may be a shock to many people, but just saying you "believe in Jesus" doesn't make a person Christian. There are many religious groups who have contradictory concepts of who Jesus is. In fact, Jesus warned us that in the last days many false christs and false prophets would arise and deceive many (Matt. 24:24). So, we have to be careful because groups can teach a false Jesus."
In the same way, we can look at what the bible teaches and see if someone is bearing fruit of a regenerated Christian life, and thus determine how to pray for that person.

The man currently occupying the Oval Office, Barack Obama, claimed once again in his speech to the troops on Christmas Day that he is a Christian. Is he? How can we know for sure? Well we can't know the heart for sure but the bible tells us to watch for fruits. James talked about dead faith, which is profession with no Holy Spirit behind that profession. Empty. (James 2:17, 20, 26). Paul warned that in the last days people would adopt a form of Godliness but deny its power. (2 Timothy 3:5).

John MacArthur asked the question "By what criteria do we determine true from empty faith?" and he answered it by listing 7 conditions that do not prove genuine faith and listing 9 conditions which do. I recommend the article.

Obama talked about Jesus in his speech, saying, "For my family and millions of Americans, it's a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, to reflect on His life and learn from His example," Obama, a self-professed Christian, stated. "Every year, we commit to love one another. To give of ourselves. To be our brother's keeper. To be our sister's keeper. But those ideas are not just part of our faith. They're part of all faiths. And they unite us as Americans."

There are several statements in that section of his speech to the troops that are false. We are not to learn from Jesus's example but to submit to His authority as Holy God. There is a difference between intellectual submission to good ideas espoused as philosophy, and obedient submission to a Holy God because He is worthy.

Every year at Christmas we commit to honor Him who came to earth to live a sinless life so He could put away our sin. Yes, we commit to each other, as Christians, but first and foremost we commit to Jesus as Savior. the day is a recognition of the most dramatic moment in the universe, equalled only by the resurrection 33 years later.

Third, the notion that the ideas of brotherly love and commitment to that love are part of all faiths is also false. Buddhism denies love by aiming for release from attachment, including love. (Four Noble Truths). Islam denies love by saying it is all right to lie as long as it advances Islam. (Qur'an 16:106). Muslims are allowed (expected) to kill unbelievers (Quran (2:191-193, 2:216) and anyone who does not join in the killing is called a hypocrite and warned that Allah's wrath is upon them. Mormonism denies love by promoting polygamy. Hinduism emphasizes love as pleasure as one of the four aims of life.

Obama is incorrect when he says that all faiths commit to love one another and be each other's keeper. This is an example of using biblical terminology as a form of godliness but denying its power. That statement uttered by Cain after murdering his brother and disobediently flung at God is ripped apart from its proper context in Genesis 4:9, and thus it is stripped of meaning and devoid of Spirit. They are godly words with no power.

The bottom line is that all other faiths deny love because they deny God, who IS love. (1 John 4:8). The concept of Godly love does not unite us as Americans. It unites us as only as Christians, because brotherly love through Christ is non-existent in all other faiths.

Additionally, in the past, Obama has said that the Muslim Koran is 'holy'. No Christian names a book of satanic lies 'holy'. Only the bible is holy because it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Obama has mocked the bible, satirically denying the authority of several scriptures in the Old Testament and casting doubt on the truth of the word. What a person thinks of the bible is an outward indicator of what he thinks of God.

Obama has said that the prettiest sound on earth is the call to Arabic prayer. In a NY Times interview in 2007, "Mr. Obama recalled the opening lines of the Arabic call to prayer, reciting them with a first-rate accent. In a remark that seemed delightfully uncalculated (it’ll give Alabama voters heart attacks), Mr. Obama described the call to prayer as “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset."

He recited the prayer in that same interview. The prayer states that "Allah is most great, there I bear witness that is none worthy of being worshiped except Allah."

The prayer itself may sound pretty, but the God-hatred behind it in its words is blasphemous in the extreme. No Christian can call that pretty nor would even recite it unless to state immediately afterwards that it is a lie from the pit of hell and that there in truth is none worthy to worship except Jesus.

For example, the Ave Maria is a beautiful aria especially when it's sung by Luciano Pavarotti. But I can't listen to it any more because it is a Catholic prayer which says, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death. Amen."

Mary is not a prayer intercessor in heaven for us. Only Jesus is. (1 Timothy 2:5). If I was to sing it I'd be blaspheming the true Intercessor. The words are what is important. How can one call a particular song or prayer pretty, even though it sounds good, when the words are saying the worst things against God?

He uses scripture when it suits him (Sermon on the Mount) but knocks it when it suits him. (Leviticus)

He has never mentioned his conversion testimony. (Psalm 18:2; Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 3:15). He doesn't speak of sin, submission to a resurrected Jesus, or Jesus as the only way. When presented with an opportunity to let the name of Jesus shine behind him on a pediment from which he was speaking at Georgetown University, Obama instead asked for it to be covered over before he would agree to speak there. Matthew 10:33 says that 'whoever denies Me before people I will deny in heaven.'

Obama believes in and encourages abortion and homosexual marriage. Babies in the womb are people whom God formed and we are commanded not to kill (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13-16, Exodus 21:22-25) and marriage defined by God is a sacred institution designed by God in order to bring Him glory. Whenever marriage is mentioned it is always between a man and a woman. (Genesis 2:24, 1 Corinthians 7:2-16, Ephesians 5:23-33)

He does not attend church, saying it would be a distraction to others. Yet both Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter worshiped regularly when they were President. While a person’s church attendance or involvement does not determine their entrance into heaven, the Bible does emphasize the importance of Christian fellowship in a local church. (Hebrews 10:25).

Does a Christian cover the name of Jesus, call the Koran holy, recite an Allah prayer without accompanying refutation of it as untruth, twist scripture, support abortion and homosexual marriage, mock the holy bible, and equalize all religions?

Is Obama a Muslim? I don't think he is that either. But that's a post for another day.

Ultimately we can use the resources above as guideposts for our own faith. I read Dr. MacArthur's list with myself in mind before I wrote this essay about Obama. We will never know another person's heart nor what the future may bring for them (conversion?! one can hope). The main point here is that just because a person calls himself a Christian, just because they cite Jesus, does not mean that they are a Christian.

We will all have to account to Jesus for every careless word, (Matthew 12:36-37) including any words we spoke that used Jesus as a vehicle for personal, political, or professional glory. So here is a synopsis of the list so you can check your own self, and if you go to the link there are several other resources there too. Check yourself to see if you are in a saving faith of belief in a resurrected Jesus. As for the others whom you suspect are professing an empty, dead faith, pray for them.

Dr. MacArthur's 'Seven conditions that do not prove or disprove genuine saving faith.' I recommend you read the essay for the explanation for each and supporting scriptures.

1. Visible Morality
2. Intellectual Knowledge
3. Religious Involvement
4. Active Ministry
5. Conviction of Sin
6. The Feeling of Assurance
7. A Time of Decision

Nine conditions that prove genuine saving faith. Again, please refer to the original essay for explanation of each and supporting scriptures.

1. Love for God
2. Repentance from Sin
3. Genuine Humility
4. Devotion to God's Glory
5. Continual Prayer
6. Selfless Love
7. Separation from the World
8. Spiritual Growth
9. Obedience

Prata's Place / Graceful Garlands: Gradual Growth

My title comes from Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland ...