Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Greed is good?

We know from Revelation what the very last days will be like; the people respond uniformly to the Antichrist (except for the Christians) and allow him to coalesce the world's broken economy into a one-world economy around his mark. (Revelation 13). All of chapter 18 in Revelation gives the Christian what s/he needs to know about the world economic system run by the Antichrist just prior to Christ's return. It is one that still has a healthy trade in luxuries, despite the desperately impoverished condition in which most of the world's population dwells, and despite the people knowing that it is God sending the judgments! (Revelation 16:9).

For all the politically liberal people's talk of social justice, sharing equally, and helping the poor, we see the stark opposite when push comes to shove during the Tribulation. The poor cry for bread and the rich buy and sell fine flour and wheat, ignoring their cries even as they die in the street.

It's partly why the Tribulation will occur, to allow sin to run its full course, revealing the depths of man's depravity.

We as humans are greedy. Greed defines us. It's a besetting sin that the sinful person lives with every day. The Christian must guard against and slay the remnants of greed still within us. How many Bible verses warn against greed!

Then he said to them, Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. (Luke 12:15 )

The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

Do not put your trust in wealth (1 Timothy 17-18)

Greed is listed among the sins which will prevent one from attaining heaven:

For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (Ephesians 5:5).

It's interesting that the verse connects greed and idolatry. See here in the Tribulation, when money is in short supply and supplies are in short supply, at least for the common person, they still create idols out of gold and silver in order to worship!

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, (Revelation 9:20)

The movie Wall Street came out in 1987. The 80s were a heady time of pell-mell stock surges, whirling real estate flips, dizzying income heights...it seemed that nothing was impossible and money would last forever. In that atmosphere came the movie Wall Street, in which financier and stock raider Michael Douglas's character Gordon Gecko famously gave his 'greed is good' speech. Here it is in part:
I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.
It's easy for us to look back on the 80s and point fingers at the excesses which were fueled by greed. But are the times so different now? We are still greedy, and at least the fictional character Gordon Gecko and the men he was based on were true to their sin. In today's time we have an unhealthy attraction to the Prosperity Gospel, which is just anther 'greed is good' speech cloaked in Jesus' name. Which is worse. Way worse. Yet if the remnants of greed are present in a Christian's heart, the Prosperity Gospel will be attractive to him.

9Marks asks the question, Why Is the Prosperity Gospel Attractive?
Sadly, in spite of the Scriptures’ clear warnings, the prosperity gospel has a large and growing group of followers. This isn’t hard to understand, since the message appeals so directly to our native greed. Yet it is sad and bewildering that many people remain in the movement for a long time, even their whole life, since its preachers cannot fulfill their promises.
'Our native greed'. Greed is not good, ladies and gentlemen. Greed is bad.

The author continues in his interesting essay to briefly present the psychology of the Prosperity Gospel, its effects, and at the end he offers 'immunization instructions.' In America we're plagued with the likes of prosperity theologists Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Hagin, but other continents have their plagues too. Africa and Latin America also are rife with prosperity gospel preachers deluding the unwary.

The 9Marks article ends with this:
Above all, present Christ as the pearl of great price, who infinitely surpasses in value anything that this fleeting world may offer (Mt. 13:44-46; Phil. 3:7-8)
When you have Jesus, you already have everything. When you have Jesus, there's no need for greed. Or a prosperity gospel, which is no gospel at all.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Practical Magic's Resurgence

The NY Times published an article titled The modern charm of practical magic. I found it interesting for many different reasons. I was not saved by grace of the Lord Jesus until I was 42 years old. I spent all of my adulthood prior to the salvation moment, searching for the magic key to the magic in life, the unexplainable, explained. I dabbled in lots of different kinds of magic. Ouija boards, Kirlian aura photography, dreamcatchers, sage burning, Reiki, astral projection, summoning spirits & spirit guides, clairvoyance...

We all want to know what's on the other side. We do enjoy peeking behind the veil, knowing the unknowable. Because, the unsaved person knows there is a higher power. (Romans 1:19-20). They just deny Who it is. 'Oh it can't be God. It must be runes...solstice...labyrinths..."

The NYT article says that they notice more than ever, people seeking answers through magic,
You may have noticed it at work. Perhaps your co-worker has ornamented her cubicle with rose quartz crystals? Has a friend uploaded an I Ching app onto his phone? Or maybe your boyfriend blamed his failure to respond to your text messages on Mercury being in retrograde? 
Why magic, and why now? The lack of religious faith so prevalent in our age is an anomaly in history. Magic, which usually does not demand faith in a particular deity, or the sometimes exclusionary imperatives of organized religion, allows people to access a sense of the miraculous on the level of the quotidian.
The article concedes the yearning for a higher power but subtly warns against it actually being God,
There is relief to be found in simply accepting a higher order, in letting go, but what of appeals to reason? Is it not important to disbelieve things that aren’t real? Might faith in the healing powers of a vibratory sound bath lead the next day to outlandish conspiracy theories?
I liked this NY Times article, for many reasons but mainly for its use of my favorite word, quotidian. Where else are you going to read an essay where the author uses such a fancy word which means mundane?

The Christian is bombarded with practical magic all the time. Did you know that? The fads are part of the devilish worming into your home of these magical activities. Labyrinths, Breath prayer, mantras, prayer beads, Mandala coloring books, the false gospel of telling you your words have power, drawing prayer circles, horoscopes, seeking the Presence (which is actually summoning spirits)...and more, are just different kinds of old magic that satan is using to take your eyes off Jesus.

Beware of the charm of practical magic, brethren. The warning is not just for unbelievers, but for believers. Satan insinuates practical magic into our lives under the guise of it being Christian, but it never is. We have the answers. We have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16). Our answers are in the all-sufficient Bible. We do not need additional practices that promise to deliver information, (but never does), or promises to give added insight (but won't) or gives a special closeness to Jesus (but never does).

Here are some resources about the dangers of Christian magic:

Desiring God: Jesus vs. the Occult

Critical Issues Commentary: Contemporary Christian Divination

GotQuestions: What does the Bible say abut Divination?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

We live our lives in a waiting room

Life is a waiting room

It might seem strange to say this, but we are not living to live. Living is not the point of our living. Waiting is. We live while we're waiting.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, (Titus 2:11-13).

Paul is giving Titus some instructions and reminders as to our duties as Christians, to be done while we wait.

Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible reminds us also that this life is a preparatory for the one to come.
To look for the glories of another world, to which a sober, righteous, and godly life in this is preparative: Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Hope, by a metonymy, is put for the thing hoped for, namely, heaven and the felicities thereof, called emphatically that hope, because it is the great thing we look and long and wait for; and a blessed hope, because, when attained, we shall be completely happy for ever.
In today's time it's not considered mature to speak of prophecy. I believe that's wrong. I believe that because so many verses stress that we are to look forward, to hope in His coming promises, to wait for His return. I can't think of a better encouragement than to dwell on His prophecies. This life is difficult. (John 16:33). It's full of evil people and seducers waxing worse and worse. (2 Timothy 3:13). It's full of disease, strife, challenge, and vigilance. (1 Corinthians 11:30, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Proverbs 28:25, Psalm 46:1,1 Peter 5:8).

We are being trained while we wait. But waiting is our task, our joy, our hope. We should look to His return for encouragement. He is the blessed hope!

Illustration by Chris Powers

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Recommendation on Devotionals

If it helps anyone, here are three devotionals I like, use, and recommend. I'm just some internet lady, so as always, use your discernment when choosing theological material.

I use alternately three particular devotionals. I like them for men and women, but I especially like them for women because we are too often subjected to wispy and insubstantial devotionals aimed at our gender which are light on theology and heavy on the crayon coloring. These are my favorites:

1. Morning & EveningSpurgeon "Charles Haddon Spurgeon's classic Morning and Evening collection of daily devotionals was written in England more than a century ago. For generations, its cherished gems of daily strength and meditation inspired millions."

It is in hard copy and also online, so that if you're  out and about or traveling you can get it on Kindle or just on WiFi and not miss a day. I love Spurgeon's devotionals and I read and post one each morning. His "Faith's Check-book" is another devotional I enjoy, these are even shorter and like the Morning & Evening devotional , are very uplifting.

2. John MacArthur: Any devotional. Heavy on scripture but short enough devotions to help fuel a daily habit and not take so much time one abandons it before beginning. Here is a great overview and review of four of his devotionals which are organized in various ways (daily verse-by-verse through one larger passage, topically, NT, or OT).

3. Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers. Despite being written in Puritan days the language is easily understandable.) I personally consider this book the third most important in the English language, ever (after the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress). I cannot read one and not feel convicted and slain before the throne of Jesus. They're wonderful!! The hard copy is available at Amazon, the online

Blurb: "Draw upon the inspiration of the elegant prayers of such Puritans as John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, David Brainerd, Augustus Toplady, and Charles Spurgeon. The Valley of Vision has been prepared not to simply supply Christians with prayers, but to prompt and encourage them as they walk upon the path of others who've gone before them. You'll relish the elegance of these writings as they transport you to the heavenly throne of grace. Topics include redemption and reconciliation, holy aspirations, penitence, and more."


Friday, February 24, 2017

Why does the LORD allow false prophets?

One question I'm asked a lot is "Why does the Lord allow false teachers?" I ask myself that question a lot! Another question related to it is, "Why do false teachers prosper?" We're not alone in asking this. Job, Jeremiah, and David all asked the same thing. (Job 21:7, Jeremiah 12:1, Psalm 94:3). You and I are in good company!  I think of Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen and other false teachers especially on the African continent, who live high off the hog and rake in millions of dollars, and it grieves me to see the sheep led astray and the false teachers enjoying a comfortable life filled with amenities, acclaim, and comfort. So...why??

He is testing us.

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

Walvoord's The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, "The need to maintain national purity was emphasized by Moses, for the command, 'You must purge the evil,' occurs nine times (13:5; 17:7, 12; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21–22, 24; 24:7)."

In their Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Jamieson, Fausset & Brown title the warning about following false prophets section of Deuteronomy, "Enticement to Idolatry". One can only be enticed, (or seduced as Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:13) if there is some aspect of your (my) flesh that responds to enticement. It's our job to vigilantly slay pockets of sin in us so that the flesh will not seek fulfillment through idols, whatever they may be.

The Commentary says,
If there arise among you a prophet—The special counsels which follow arose out of the general precept contained in De 12:32; and the purport of them is, that every attempt to seduce others from the course of duty which that divine standard of faith and worship prescribes must not only be strenuously resisted, but the seducer punished by the law of the land. This is exemplified in three cases of enticement to idolatry
In the Old Testament Law, false prophets were stoned to death.

In Walvoord's The Bible Knowledge Commentary, we read,
The Israelites were to view each solicitation to idolatry as a test of their love for the LORD. Though there was always the danger that they might succumb to a temptation, with each successful resistance to sin their faith in and love for Him would grow stronger (cf. James 1:2–4). They were to love … follow … revere … obey … serve, and hold fast to Him (cf. Deut. 10:20; 11:22; 30:20). The death penalty for a false prophet was appropriate for if he would successfully seduce people into idolatry he would bring them under God’s judgment (cf. 7:26). Killing a false prophet was a way to purge the evil from Israel
Matthew Henry explains about the testing.
Not only thou shalt not do the thing he tempts thee to, but thou shalt not so much as patiently hear the temptation, but reject it with the utmost disdain and detestation. Such a suggestion as this is not to be so much as parleyed with, but the ear must be stopped against it. "Get thee behind me, Satan." Some temptations are so grossly vile that they will not bear a debate, nor may we so much as give them the hearing.
The need to purge evil hasn't changed. In this Church age, too many people deem it 'tolerant' or 'merciful' or 'non-judgmental' to entertain false teachers, to give the false prophets a hearing, debate them, or to stay quiet about them. We must reject false teachers with the "utmost disdain." In today's time we don't stone the false prophets to death, but we do practice church discipline over the grossly sinning unrepentant ones who claim Christ, we excommunicate them so they will not seduce others, and we mark the false teachers and we avoid the false teachers and we do not receive them into our house, and more.

If we fall for false doctrine put out buy a false teacher, it means we have been seduced. If we've been seduced, it means we have fed the flesh in some form of sinful lust it had wanted. If we succumb to satisfying he flesh, it means we have not loved the Lord with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul, back up to Deuteronomy. Therefore we can see how the LORD tests us. It's our job in Him to stay as pure as possible so we do not follow a false teacher who brings a substitute for God in the form of doctrine which appeals to the flesh. We must not be enticed to idolatry.

The Lord is testing us.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The quality of charisma many wolves possess


This week GraceLife Pulpit's pastor Phil Johnson tweeted out a link to a Nautilus magazine article in a positive light. I usually like what Pastor Johnson likes, so I thought his positive remark to the article might be worth a read. It was. The article is titled "The Anatomy of Charisma".

I first began hearing the word 'charisma' as a very young person. After President Kennedy was assassinated, which occurred when I was nearly three years old, the word became indelibly attached to Kennedy and then the Presidency itself. I used to hear it a lot. This Japan Times article notes that Kennedy set the bar for charisma and the Presidency.

It's interesting to note that 'charisma' and 'presidency' are usually intertwined. Or any national leadership position. Truly charismatic people do not remain unknown. Their peculiar light ends up shining more and more brightly to ever widening audiences, until the top levels of leadership - or notoriety - have been reached. This happens due in part of course to the times, and the man, but also to his possession of the quality we are examining today: charisma.

Defining charisma

So what is charisma?

Laying aside the interesting article above for a moment, we read the straight definition of the word:
compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.
If it sounds like possessing a charismatic personality can be dangerous to others, it is. 'Inspiring devotion' usually means the person receiving the charismatic's shining light makes emotional decisions, not rational ones. The article opens with this paragraph:
For weeks I had been researching what science has to say about the power of charisma. Why do some people so clearly have it and others don’t? Why do we fall so easily under its influence? Charismatics can make us feel charmed and great about ourselves. They can inspire us to excel. But they can also be dangerous. They use charisma for their own purposes, to enhance their power, to manipulate others.
The article goes on to quote a Christian-turned atheist, Bart Campolo, son of  preacher Tony Campolo. Bart uses his charismatic personality for manipulative purposes and in the article Bart plainly tells how.
Humanist chaplain Bart Campolo knows the dark side of charismatic leaders: "The essence of demagoguery is recognizing that appealing to people’s emotions is the most rational way to move them. After all, that’s where people make their moral decisions."
The best way to inoculate one's self against falling for a charismatic personality is to stay in the Word. The word is of the mind, it's where truth resides. An effect from learning the truth can be an emotional one, but the first pass is always the mind. Truth sheds light and clarity on the Christian mind, and if we keep putting the Word in it, we can stay safeguarded against manipulation.

Charismatic people in Christianity

The second straight definition for charisma was: "a divinely conferred power or talent." Many charismatic leaders do seem to infer possession of a divinely conferred gift. At least, they don't deny it when their loyal followers intimate as such. Or say it right out. The Nautilus article goes on,
The early 20th-century German sociologist Max Weber wrote charisma is a quality that sets an individual "apart from ordinary men," and causes others to treat him as "endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities." Such qualities, Weber wrote, "are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader."
Pastor Johnson tweeted out the link to the Nautilus article from the angle of being interested in how one goes apostate. He wrote,
Atheistic "chaplain" Bart Campolo makes some telling analyses of charisma, his dad’s influence, & his own apostasy:
As I read the article though, another famous charismatic leader kept popping into my mind. The antichrist. I began to think how the pinnacle of charismatic leadership will be encapsulated in this man prophesied to come and delude the whole world.

Charismatic Antichrist

I'm fascinated with this figure the Bible prophesies will appear in the very last days of the end time, during the Tribulation. He will delude the entire world, duping men from east to west and leading them into perdition. He will be the devil's best and most successful tool, right until the moment Jesus decides enough is enough and comes back to earth to stop him.

In Daniel 11:21 we learn that the coming world dictator will obtain the kingdom by flatteries. This word actually means slippery. I think we have all read about or even have known someone we dubbed "slippery tongued'. Some say silver tongued. That will be the antichrist, using language to bamboozle and appeal to the emotions, where all rational thought will slide right out of their brains.

He will be a master of intrigue, Daniel 8:23 records. The word means dark intrigue, riddles. Once again the antichrist will use language to manipulate, a feature of all charismatic people.

He will deceive the whole world. (Revelation 13:14).

The fact that the entire world will be deceived (except post-rapture saints) is indicative of his powerfully charismatic personality. The world will be spellbound, taken in by his smooth words, flatteries, facility with language to confuse and deceive them.

Even though the world has not seen THE antichrist yet, many antichrists have already gone out into the world (1 John 2:8). Many charismatic men come along to deceive and twist the Word, to the detriment of the health of the sheep. Paul noted this in Romans 16:17-20,

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. underline mine

In this second Nautilus article about charisma, Why Joel Osteen, “The Smiling Preacher,” Is So Darn Appealing, we learn that charisma is not only an inborn quality, it can also be taught and then used as a tactic.
But there’s a small but growing group of individuals who have another explanation. Using brain-scan technologies and modern statistical techniques, a band of committed academics in recent years have set out to decipher that mysterious quality from which legendary leadership is born. And some have reached what a previous generation of observers might have considered a dubious conclusion: That it’s possible not just to reverse-engineer charisma, but that it’s something, at least in part, we might learn to master.
During the Tribulation, the coming antichrist will delude all the people who do not have Christ. Even today with the church on earth, we see how easy it is to be taken in by wolves, especially charismatic wolves who manipulate your emotions and use rhetorical tactics that confuse the mind. So what's the antidote?

Protecting yourself against charismatic wolves

1. The Word of Christ.

In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:16-17)

The sword of the word of God is both an offensive weapon and a defensive one. Staying in the Word is the best protection against the wolves, no matter who they are, whether they be charismatic or dull.

2. Vigilance

We are also to take heed and be on guard. The Christian life requires vigilance. Many, many verses urge us to be on guard, stay sober, be vigilant. That means admitting that wolves exist, expecting them to come, and testing them against the word, no matter how popular or well-liked they are. Do this every time. It's what vigilance means.

3. Avoid them

Paul said in Romans 16:17 that of those who cause dissensions and strife, and teach what is contrary the Gospel, avoid them. Don't dabble. Don't eat the meat and spit out the bones. Don't entertain them on TV or in books or go to their movies. Don't rationalize that they might be OK. Avoid them. The word actually means 'to turn away from' which is a stronger action that passively avoiding. It's a deliberate turning of your back to the wolves.

4. Submit to elders

Acts 20:28 tells the pastors and overseers to take care for the flock. Hebrews 13:17 tells us to have confidence n the overseers and submit to them. I know that many of you cry out that your elders are not doing their jobs, that they allow false doctrine in all the time. But in any case, the Bible tells us what to do. Pray for them, help them, and submit to them. We know what to do even if they do not. And if they do, all the better. God raised them up for a reason.

I'm sure if we scoured the Bible we'd find lots of directions for how to protect one's self against the false ones. But these are top of the list. Pastors and preachers with charisma come along all the time. They come and go. Osteen has had some staying power, others are flashes in the pan. But there will be one particular religious seeming man who will possess all the charisma and power and signs satan can give him (2 Thess 2:9). He, and the ones preceding him, will be easily spotted if you do what we're supposed to do, and compare what he says to the word of God. Not how he says it, not how he looks when he says it, but his actual words.

As always, it always comes down to God's word. Praise the Lord He revealed Himself in it and to us!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Jesus' predestined life

Predestination is a topic many people either disbelieve or refute. Here is the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry's definition of foreordination:
Foreordination is the same as predestination which means that God ordains what will happen in history and in salvation. It means to appoint beforehand. The word 'foreordained" is used in the KJV in 1 Pet 1:20. Source
It's the difference, for example, of God using the circumstances around Esther's situation to make events come out like He wanted, and causing the circumstances of Esther's situation, in order to work His pre-planned purposes. Understanding Foreordination means you see the God of the universe as the cause of everything for His purposes and will, instead of a bystander scrambling to pick up pieces from man's actions in order to work it all out for the good.

See these two of many verses regarding foreordination-

also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, (Ephesians 1:11).

to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. (Acts 4:28).

I apologize in advance...but I heard a sermon in which I took notes and forgot to credit the source. I did not make the following up. It's from a sermon I was listening to, but sadly I don't remember who spoke it!

In it, we learn that Jesus did not have a problem with foreordination. We also see clearly that foreordination did not nullify Jesus' will and it did not turn Him into an automaton. Here is the sermon excerpt:


Whenever we find a doctrine to be challenging to us [like predestination] the most helpful question we can ask is: 'What did Jesus think of this? How did it work out in his life?' 
When we ask those questions in connection to God's foreordination and predestination, and search the Scriptures to see how they worked out in Jesus' life, what do we discover?
There never was a man so conscious that his life had been predestined by god as the Lord Jesus Christ. But this did not turn him into a an automaton, or a mere puppet. God's predestination is not biological determinism, nor it is a form of fatalism. 
There was, surely, never a freer man, or one more conscious that his actions were his responsibility than our Lord Jesus Christ. He did not become our Saviour by accident on the one hand or merely as a machine n the other. He was destined to be our Saviour; and to that destiny he freely committed himself. He never saw nor felt any contradiction between God's sovereignty in his life and his own responsibility for his actions., neither should we.

That God had planned His his destiny in advance becomes clear from the very beginning - in the first two chapters of his Gospel Matthew mentions five occasions when Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies when he was too young to have had any choice in the matter.
Matthew 1:22-23

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).

Matthew 2:5-6

5 They told him, "in Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 "'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'"

Matthew 2:15

15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Matthew 2:17-18

17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:23

23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.


For me, knowing God is in COMPLETE control is a balm. Understanding that He orchestrates events from before the foundation of the world is a relief. He does not have to play catch-up. He does not have to scramble. He is not surprised.

When you read the genealogies, doesn't it occur to you that God is in control of each and every person meeting and marrying and procreating at the perfect and exact time, so that eventually the line of the Tribe of Judah will produce the Lion? God had to have been behind that since Adam and Eve for the lines to descend in the way He wanted with the bloodlines fulfilling promises and prophecies.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)

If you'd like to learn more about predestination, here is a series by Ligonier. Usually they have a paywall, but not for this series. It's entirely free.

Predestination A Teaching Series by Dr. R.C. Sproul

Here is an essay from Grace To You answering the question: What does the Bible teach about election?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Prata Potpourri: writers, future husbands, the broken way, just silence, post-sermon discouragement...more

Here are some other bloggers for you, their good thoughts and insights. Enjoy!

For all the hand-wringing we do over the immature state of the next biblical generation coming up, their lack of biblical knowledge causes one to wonder, who will be the next generation of authors, bloggers, editors? Samuel D. James makes 4 requests to young evangelical writers
We can be honest about our experiences and how they form us, but making experience authoritative–especially when it empowers broad assumptions and animosity toward others–is deeply deceptive.

Jen Wilkin guest blogs at Christianity Today and explains why it's important what we call our Bible classes. Stop calling everything a Bible Study.
Churches have gradually shifted away from offering basic Bible study in favor of studies that are topical or devotional, adopting formats that more closely resemble a book club discussion than a class that teaches Scripture.

Rebekah Womble at Wise in His Eyes reviews Ann Voskamp's The Broken Way. She insightfully poses the question that the unusual language Voskamp is known for employing may serve a darker purpose than simply poetic (or eccentric) - deliberate biblical confusion and intentional misdirection of the sheep.
The most frightening thought I had while reading was that even an unbeliever could agree with the vast majority of the book. Voskamp’s claims about God, love, suffering, and helping humanity are not far off from those made by any theist who seeks after “world peace” and mankind’s happiness. are I propose that this ambiguity and pretty, poetic language on Voskamp’s part is purposeful? I can’t pretend to guess at her intentions, but she must answer to the way she misguides her readers into unbiblical, mystical, man-centered beliefs.

Many of us are tired of social media, for a variety of reasons. One thing I've noticed personally is that I am weary of being told what to do every time I scan my Facebook wall or skim my Twitter feed. Just note the plethora of tweets or statuses that say 'You must...' and you'll know what I mean. You must vote for this guy, you must not vote for her, you must pray, you must stop being undiscerning, you must use baking soda to clean your counters, you must retweet this meme ... Oy. Even though the advice is usually good, please stop telling me what to do, Social Media. I'm off to read a book instead.

Another wearisome thing is being told what to care about all the time. We must speak out on this social issue, donate to that social issue, pray for social injustice over there, get active about the social injustice over here. Adam Parker has some good ideas in A Just Silence on why it is good to wait before speaking, or sometimes, it's best not to speak up at all.
The insistence of many that all of us need to continually speak out about almost every social issue and make official statements of sympathy or refutation in the court of public opinion--when, in fact, the courts that God has established have not had a chance to run their due course--is, quite frankly, wearing me out. I suspect I'm not alone.

Joel C. Rosenberg has some observations about the immediately warming relations between the infant Presidency of Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and compares to the relations between the two nations during Obama years.
Night and day: President Trump warmly welcomes Israel’s leader & the contrast with the Obama years couldn’t be more vivid. (My observations on the “two-state solution” & other major issues the two leaders discussed.)

After an event toward one had anticipated, worked, struggled, there is often a let-down afterward. Post-partum depression, post-traumatic stress, even post-wedding day blues all demonstrate that while we work toward ascending some great height and labor in love toward a cherished goal, there often comes an anticlimax when it's over. The same is often true for pastors after a sermon. Sunday afternoon and especially Mondays can be tough for your pastor. Here, Richard Caldwell at The Expositor's Blog has some thoughts on Post-Sermon Discouragement. What's a pastor to do when he feels that he's laid an egg?

Kirsten at Point to a Purpose has some thoughts on washing feet, sacrificial love on our knees for others. Anytime I wonder how to love my enemy as Matthew 5:44 says, I think of Jesus lovingly washing Judas' feet on the night Judas goes out to commit the most heinous act in the universe. Convicting.
And even in spite of knowing what Judas was going to do, Jesus was on his knees, washing Judas' feet and loved him anyway. Showed him kindness anyway.
Courtney Reissig at Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood wonders, Have we made too much of submission? (Yes, and no...)
Submission is often seen as a women’s issue. It’s the wife’s role in marriage, we say. And it does pertain to women in the covenant of marriage (I should know. I wrote an entire chapter on it in my book). But it’s not just a women’s issue. Whenever submission in marriage is brought up in Scripture it is always done within a larger conversation about submission for everyone.

Broken-hearted? Crushed in Spirit? Here are some thoughts from Growing Christian Resources showing How God Works In The Lives Of The Broken-Hearted And Crushed In Spirit,
We in American Christianity think it is our heritage to be free from difficulties. When trouble comes, we begin to wonder whether God still loves us or not. We can be doing exactly what He tells us in His Word, be in the center of his will so-to-speak, and yet, find the dryness, crushing weight of circumstances crack us on the inside. In those moments, we ask God: "what is going on?"

Beggar's Daughter reveals that she does not pray for her future husband, and why:
When I speak at college or high school events, sometimes I’ll get asked about the practice of praying for my future husband. More and more I see it addressed on other blogs and by other speakers on the issue. I used to do this, (and write him as well!) but I don’t anymore, nor do I encourage young women to.

David Murray at HeadHeartHand blog asks Are you a deep worker or a shallow worker? (I understnd that the busy pace of life often prevents the time necessary to devote to deep-thought work, but try. Here's why)
It’s what’s necessary not only to wring every last drop of value our of your current intellectual capacity, but it also creates the state of mental strain that is necessary to improve intellectual abilities. ... This contrasts sharply with most modern knowledge workers whose use of digital devices has fragmented their attention span into slivers. Instead they are pre-occupied with “Shallow Work” which Newport defines as...

To that same end, Erik Raymond also asks the question, Are You Suffocating Your Creativity? Oftentimes we stultify our creativity by reducing free time that cuts out time to imagine, wonder, think. Don't.
One such area involves free time to simply think. This is open time when we can allow our minds to wander a bit and latch onto things that we may not normally have the opportunity to think through. I believe this free space is vital and increasingly being diminished. It’s been crowded out by the pace of life; some of this is our fault, and some of it is simply the result of living in our age.

Thank you for reading!


I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
Proverbs 24:30-34

Monday, February 20, 2017

Unpopular the Movie is devastating in a good way, as the Gospel always is

Red Grace media has published Unpopular The Movie, and it's wonderful. This half hour movie is Christ-centric, accurate, clear, and presents the Gospel in a devastatingly biblical way. When you hear/read the Gospel, unvarnished and with open ears and open eyes, it singes the heart and devastates the soul. It is incendiary. Even as a long-saved person, it will try your emotions, and bring you low. We ALL need The Gospel.

Here, Emilio Ramos, Dr James White, and Paul Washer quietly discuss The Gospel. The background music is unobtrusive, the setting is thoughtful, and the presentation of the Gospel is accurate and beautiful. The movie is as much for the saints as it is an evangelism tool for the unsaved. Here is Red Grace Media's synopsis:

Unpopular The Movie is a Evangelism resource for the church. Unpopular is a gospel presentation by Emilio Ramos, Dr James White of Aomin.org, and Paul Washer from Heart Cry Missionary Society. Unpopular is meant to serve as a tool to evangelize non-Christians with the gospel of Jesus Christ. To stay up to date visit http://www.unpopularthemovie.com

Mr Ramos said,
We live in a culture that glorifies sin. That trivializes sin, that makes sin less heinous than it is. It is very deceptive to look at sin in a way that makes sense to us. If we see ourselves in the way that the culture tells us to see ourselves, then man can remedy his condition through technique. But if we see ourselves the way the Bible tells us we really are, then the only remedy for our sin is the work of the Savior.
This is good. Watch it!

Sin, repentance, the cross...are the most upsetting and controversial doctrines on the entire earth. They are presented here, along with God's love and mercy.

Listen and watch for yourself. We all need the Gospel, all the time. Let its truth and the majesty of a holy and righteous God who accepts sinners into His family through His slain and resurrected Son, Jesus. Then share.


Further Reading

The Gospel According to Jesus, by John MacArthur

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Why we must oppose false teachers: They shut heaven's door in people's faces

In the sermon The Characteristics of False Spiritual Leaders, Part 1, John MacArthur said,
There have always been and there always will be in this world false spiritual leaders who pretend to represent God, but in fact do not represent God. The Old Testament talks about them, identifies them, and warns people to stay away from them. The New Testament does the same. In fact, Moses was in conflict with them in Egypt. Jeremiah was fighting with them in Judah. Ezekiel faced them and called them foolish prophets that followed their own spirit and have seen nothing. Our Lord warned of them as false Christ's and false prophets who shall show great signs and wonders. The apostle Paul struggled against them as preachers of another gospel in Galatians Chapter 1, and purveyors of the doctrine of demons he called them in writing to Timothy. 
Peter said they were false preachers who secretly bring in damnable heresies and they are like dogs who return to lick up their own vomit. John, the apostle, saw a coming anti-Christ and many anti-christs already present who denied Jesus as the true Christ. Jude saw them and called them deluded dreamers who defile the flesh. And Paul may have summed it up well when he said they are wolves whose desire is to enter in not sparing the flock. They're always present and they're always eager to counterfeit the work of God.
There is a story recorded by many a historical church father all the way through to twentieth century scholars like Henry Wace and Phillip Schaff, about the false teacher Cerinthus, a contemporary of the Apostle John. Here, Phillip Schaff tells it in his momentous book Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,
But Irenæus, in the first book of his work Against Heresies, gives some more abominable false doctrines of the same man, [Cerinthus] and in the third book relates a story which deserves to be recorded. He says, on the authority of Polycarp, that the apostle John once entered a bath to bathe; but, learning that Cerinthus was within, he sprang from the place and rushed out of the door, for he could not bear to remain under the same roof with him. And he advised those that were with him to do the same, saying, "Let us flee, lest the bath fall; for Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within."
It's a traditional story, not well documented, as Schaff notes,
This story is repeated by Eusebius, in Bk. IV. chap. 14. There is nothing impossible in it. The occurrence fits well the character of John as a "son of thunder," and shows the same spirit exhibited by Polycarp in his encounter with Marcion ... But the story is not very well authenticated, as Irenæus did not himself hear it from Polycarp, but only from others to whom Polycarp had told it. 
Yet, two thousand years later, we still tell it. How different things are in our millennial times. Far from shouting that an enemy of God is present and all must flee lest they die under the tumbling stones of the house in which he enters, credible teachers and pastors partner with them! Rarely are false teachers excoriated from the pulpit by pastors, (or at all) thus transferring the same alarm and discernment to their sheep. Instead, if the false teachers are spoken of at any time, the subject is approached by such pastors and teachers as a deer mincing carefully up to the brook for a sip of water, delicately mentioning in general terms some vague notion that 'False teaching is bad. Thank you for listening.'

Can you imagine the outcry if a teacher or pastor or blogger said, "Let us flee, lest the bath fall in while Beth Moore, the enemy of the truth, is there."

Yet as MacArthur noted above, false teachers have always been a plague and a scourge upon the ministers and saints of the truth. They bring disrepute to the name of Jesus and worse, prevent people from entering the kingdom. In Matthew 23, we read of the devastating effects of their evil work. Jesus said bluntly reserving his worst woes and strident speech for the religious hypocrites,

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

This is an incredible statement.

False teachers shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces.

Let that sink in.

For those people who decry discernment work and refuse to be discerning, speak of discerning things, or mark false teachers for the benefit of others, you are actually participating in helping to shut others out of the kingdom.

In the second sentence, we see that false teachers disallow people to go into the kingdom. This is the first woe repeated in different words. Jesus is stressing the result of false teachers' work. In addition, he confirmed the false teachers (hypocrites') ultimate destination.

Thirdly, false teachers make their students and followers twice as much a child of hell as they were. If you understand compounding interest, you understand that the student will grow up to be a false believer or a false teacher and then turn around and make their students twice the sons of hell they were, which will be...well, let's look at this short definition of negatively compounding interest.
A $1000 investment which loses 50% of its value will need to work twice as hard (i.e. grow 100%) just to get back to it original value. An investment that loses 50% in the first year and 20% in the second year will have to grow 150 % in the third year to recoup its starting value.
And that is only losing half the value. Jesus said the next generation will be twice as bad, not just half as bad. Even if you don't like numbers, you can see what the negative impact of succeeding generations of unaddressed false teachers will have on the overall health of the faith.

Later in his sermon The Characteristics of False Spiritual Leaders, Part 1,  John MacArthur said,
Now in looking at verses 1 to 12, I want to suggest to you that a good way to see this section is to see it as a description of the characteristic of a false spiritual leader. And there are five elements that false spiritual leaders lack and I believe the Lord gives them to us right here. They lack authority, they lack integrity, they lack sympathy, they lack spirituality, and they lack humility.
Go on and read of listen to the sermon, which is part of a series. There is a related series called Exposing False Spiritual Leaders, which is also good. Remember the key verse today, Matthew 23:13,

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in

It is serious, sisters. Serious. False teachers are not to be coddled, ignored, overlooked, tolerated, or treated non-judgmentally. They attack the sheep, prevent them from entering heaven, and make them children of hell twice as bad as they are.


Further reading

Challies: 7 False teachers in the Church Today
The history of Christ’s church is inseparable from the history of Satan’s attempts to destroy her. While difficult challenges have arisen from outside the church, the most dangerous have always been from within. For from within arise the false teachers, the peddlers of error who masquerade as teachers of truth. False teachers take on many forms, custom-crafted to times, cultures, and contexts. Here are seven of them you will find carrying out their deceptive, destructive work in the church today. 

Challies: The False Teachers: Arius
This morning I am setting out on a new series of articles that will scan the history of the church—from its earliest days all the way to the present time—and pause to examine some of Christianity’s most notorious false teachers. Along the way we will visit such figures as Pelagius, Servetus, Fosdick, and even a few you might find on television today. We will begin this morning with one of the very first, and certainly one of the most dangerous, false teachers: Arius.

S. Lewis Johnson: Basic Biblical Doctrine, sermon series, read and/or listen. The first sermon,
How Do We Know Spiritual Truth

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Visual Theology: My Sheep Hear My Voice

Another powerful expression of verse through art by Chris Powers. I found this so moving.

Artist's Statement:
I went back a chapter in my John reading to Jesus' discussion of Himself as the Good Shepherd. He talks quite a bit here about His 'shepeople' hearing "His voice," in fact, to hear His "voice" and discern it to be the voice of the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (1 Peter 2:25) is to prove ourselves to have been one of His own. 
In chapter 10, Jesus' "voice" seems to be most immediately connected to the works that He is doing, works that the Father has given Him to do, works that bear witness to His identity as the Son and revealer of the Father (See especially John 10:24-27). Well--what is His climactic work? What is the ultimate work that Jesus does? The ultimate work that bears witness to His identity? He tells us in 10:17-18, His death and resurrection.

So, I take this to mean that the ultimate place that Jesus' sheep hear "His voice" is at the cross. If we see the crucified and risen Lord and are enabled to discern in His life-laying down, life-taking up work the identity of our Lord and God and Shepherd--then we have heard His voice and are His sheep.... 
John 10:27, "My sheep hear my voice..." 
If we've heard the voice of our Shepherd calling our name in the love of Calvary, we are His sheep.

You can support Chris, even at $1 per month, at Patreon

Friday, February 17, 2017

The great thing about Jesus is...

There are so many great things about Jesus. They are innumerable. Today let's look at two passages, one from the Old Testament and one from the New. God isn't one way in the OT and another in the NT. The two testaments are linked and it is a unified whole. Both Testaments reveal the same God, Son, and Spirit.

In Numbers 6:22-27 we read,

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.

God told Moses to tell Aaron to bless the Israelite people with His name. What a great, GREAT thing, for the God of the universe to put His name on people! In the New Testament, John 17:12, Jesus is praying the High Priestly prayer,

While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

God has given to Jesus His name, which in turn Jesus has kept God's people (protected from the world). Giving His name is such a gift. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible explains,
Keep them through thine own name. That is, [1.] Keep them for thy name’s sake; so some. “Thy name and honour are concerned in their preservation as well as mine, for both will suffer by it if they either revolt or sink.” The Old Testament saints often pleaded, for thy name’s sake; and those may with comfort plead it that are indeed more concerned for the honour of God’s name than for any interest of their own

In the High Priestly Prayer we read that Jesus is the manifestation of God's name, in which he keeps God's people.

I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. (John 17:6).

I know that people are careful with their name. We protect our reputation, and if someone says or does something in our name or impugns our reputation of our name, we become angry. We're protective of our lineage, our family name. Imagine how God feels! His name is the highest name above all names! Yet He gave His name to His Son, to manifest to the people whom He elected, to share, and come under the family name. I'ts one of the reasons our ambassadorship is so precious. The God of all glory shares His glorious name with His Son, who He keeps us in the name, ns in whose name we will be brought home.

God is so great.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mail Call #6: What can you tell me about Australian Prophecy Teacher David Asscherick?

Mail Call was always exciting on the TV show M*A*S*H
Occasionally I receive email or Facebook messages asking questions about various topics and issues within the faith. Here is a question I received recently about a phenomenally popular teacher Down Under, David Asscherick.

Though the United States has been a main culprit in exporting false doctrine and heightening the popularity of various kinds of teachers and charismatics, sadly, other areas of the globe have put up their fair share, too. David Prince out of Singapore and Angus Buchan out of South Africa come immediately to mind. Now from Australia comes American-turned-Australian David Asscherick. Asscherick is known for his teachings on prophecy, always a hugely interesting topic and one that seems to garner the biggest audiences. His popularity is also propelled by the fact that he had a rough beginning (as a punk rocker) loves to skateboard, is loud with an outsized personality, and offers a 'new kind' of approach. Asscherick is a hugely popular pastor packing the pews, or so this news article says.
His "God-given" ability to communicate the Christian message in a fresh way, minus religious jargon, has built him a large following. The 43-year-old's sermons are aired on TV and radio and his YouTube videos rack up tens of thousands of hits. He is a published author. ... He and his raucous punk-rocker friends started patronising a new vegan eatery that opened in their hometown of Rapid City, South Dakota. It was run by members of the SDA church, a denomination for whom health and a plant-based diet play a big role. 
We take a brief aside to read this from Wikipedia about Seventh Day Adventists' dietary restrictions:
Since the 1860s when the church began, wholeness and health have been an emphasis of the Adventist church. Adventists are known for presenting a "health message" that recommends vegetarianism and advocate adherence to the kosher laws in Leviticus 11. The observance of which means, abstinence from pork, shellfish, and other animals proscribed as "unclean". 
In Mark 7:19, Jesus declared all foods clean. In Acts 10:15, God gave the Peter a vision in which He declared that formerly unclean animals could now be eaten. When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled the Old Testament law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24-26; Ephesians 2:15) which also includes the laws regarding clean and unclean foods. (Though if a brethren is weak in the faith we may restrict ourselves so as not to make him stumble, Romans 14:1-23).

Now back to the Australian news article about Asscherick:
Members of the Kingscliff Seventh Day Adventist Church at Phillip St, Chinderah, say the congregation has grown since Pastor David Asscherick's arrival. Katie Bonello, who has attended for four years, said: "He has a very energetic kind of contagious personality and he's able to really succinctly explain the gospel." The 30-year-old said the pastor was transparent about his life and not afraid of admitting to his mistakes. That included the collection of speeding tickets he's racked up since moving to Australia. David North from Limpinwood, who has attended the church for 11 years, said Pastor Asscherick had brought both a gift for speaking and for teaching. Pastor Asscherick says the congregation is now at 95% capacity...
Please be suspicious when it's the personality that is remarked about (and Asscherick's was in several of the articles I'd read). It is not the pastor's personality that should be a draw, but his "ability to teach". (2 Timothy 2:24).

I am going to be a realist and say from the start, that especially in this day and age, when you see a pastor or religious personality suddenly become hugely popular and their church or organization starts taking off like a rocket, in all likelihood it's cause to be suspicious. With the exceptions of Pentecost, the Reformation and perhaps the Awakenings, Christianity is not a mass-appeal religion that draws hordes and becomes popular in the world. Jesus said for us to watch out for that-

Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26)

When I received my mail question, I was not familiar with Pastor Asscherick at all. So in order to research an answer to the reader's question, I plugged David Asscherick's name into Google. Whenever you are considering following a new teacher, sisters, do your diligence and research him or her first, please, looking into his background, origins, credentials, etc. That's discernment lesson #1. Then compare what he or she teaches to the Bible. Discernment lesson #2.

The first entry that came up from my search is that he currently pastors a Seventh Day Adventist church and his previous church was Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) also. So we ask, 'What does the SDA church believe? Is it a solid denomination, or even Christian at all?'

GotQuestions outlines SDA beliefs, here with an excerpt below. They are being generous in my opinion. CARM is stronger regarding the SDA.

In addition, we find that Pastor Asscherick is also for female ordination as pastors. In 2012, Spectrum Magazine, The Journal of the Association of Adventist Forums, remarked on a interview held with several religious leaders, Asscherick being one. In it, Asscherick reportedly said, according to Spectrum's transcript,
When it comes to the issue of women's ordination, I don't see anything in the New Testament that prohibits the ordination of women to the pastoral ministry. That what I'm looking for. If there was a plain text that said, 'do not do this.' Then we would find a prohibition and we would say 'no.'  ... And I personally am persuaded at this time, though I am open to all and any Biblical data, that there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits the ordination of women to any of the offices that could be occupied by a man. 
By his standard, we could say "I don't see anything in the New Testament that says God is three-in-one. If there was a plain text that said He is, then we'd be all set. But I don't." Now, isn't that a ridiculous approach to biblical interpretation?

As for female pastors, this scripture indicates the biblical stance is quite the opposite-

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 2:11–12)

So immediately we see that there are three concerns with this pastor working in Australia.

1. Hugely and quickly popular
2. Seventh Day Adventist
3. Wrong interpretation of the scriptures regarding women's roles.

Continuing in research, Pr Asscherick is known for his work in teaching prophecy. He has a series of teaching videos, of which clips and some whole teaching are  available for free. It's always god in discernment work to actually watch, listen, or read their work. To that end, I watched several of his video teachings.

In his first video titled Discover Prophecy Asscherick outlines 4 reasons why his ministry goes to great trouble and expense to teach prophecy. Reason #1, he said, was they they believe the time of the end is near. "The world is coming apart at the seams", he said, & "that there is abundant evidence to show that."

Well, yes and no. The time has been near since Jesus ascended and was promised He would return. We have been in The End Time since the ascension. As for signs, the world has always been coming apart. There have always been war and rumors of war and earthquakes and signs. That is because of sin. The next prophetic event is the rapture, and that is signless because it does not depend on a sign but on a number (Romans 11:25) of when the church is complete. Only God knows that number.

So on the one hand I agree that the time does seem near in that sin seems to be deepening, but that was promised to us anyway and besides, we get closer every day anyway! On the other hand, using signs we see with our human eyes and interpreting via our finite minds them as omens of what God is doing is always fraught with danger, because simply, we are not God and we don't know the full extent of what He is doing.

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer... (Deuteronomy 18:10).

You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. (Leviticus 19:26).

When I was first saved I was entranced with signs. But the Lord in His grace grew me quickly out of that. My delight in prophecy remains, but the burden of trying to understand it through signs is gone. The upshot is, since I've been on both sides, I'm suspicious of sign-driven ministries.

Third, being SDA I'm abundantly cautious for the simple reason is that their religion is founded on FAILED prophecies by a prophetess, Ellen G. White. SDA members have always looked to prophecy and signs, and have always accepted extra-biblical revelation. Here is GotQuestions on the matter,

Here is a GotQuestions excerpt-
GOTQUESTIONS--Of serious concern among all SDA adherents is that they "should seriously consider the following: a recognized prophetess in their church was a teacher of aberrant doctrine, and their church has its roots in the failed prophecies of William Miller.But all Seventh-Day Adventists should seriously consider the following: a recognized prophetess in their church was a teacher of aberrant doctrine, and their church has its roots in the failed prophecies of William Miller. 
So, should a Christian attend a Seventh-day Adventist church? Due to the penchant of Adventists to accept extra-biblical revelation and the doctrinal issues mentioned above, we would strongly encourage believers to not get involved in Seventh-day Adventism. Yes, a person can be an advocate of Seventh-day Adventism and still be a believer. At the same time, there are enough potential risks to warn us against joining a Seventh-day Adventist church.
People like Asscherick, who spend the bulk of their ministry on prophetic signs, often have taken their eyes off Jesus and put them onto signs. I can't say for sure that Asscherick IS one of those, because I have not listened to a wide range of his work nor have I followed him for a period of time. I've just noticed that tends to be the pattern. Prophetic ministries rarely stay exclusively on the Word and often tie in signs to their outlook. But we know what the Bible says about signs. And, SDAs do not have the greatest track record with prophecies...as noted just above.

Of specific concern regarding Asscherick's ministry, is that in one of the Asscherick study guides of a lesson later on toward the end of the series, #16, Asscherick teaches the typical SDA doctrine of "soul sleep", that when we die we become unconscious until the resurrection. This is not true. (SDA also teaches annhilationism, not eternal torment). Here is Matt Slick at CARM explaining the SDA (and Jehovah's Witness) version of soul sleep.

His unorthodox and unbiblical views will stream throughout the prophetic lessons since prophecy directly deals with hell, judgment, torment/punishment, sin etc. Are you willing to stand on your discernment strength to parse when Asscherick is teaching wrongly and rightly? Because he DOES teach wrongly on at least one occasion I detected just in reading several of his study guides. There's bound to be more.

Prophecy is always a big draw. I love prophecy too and I'm glad people are so interested in it! Jesus confirmed its importance to us because His Spirit inspired nearly a fourth of the Bible AS prophecy. However, it seems near impossible to find a pastor or teacher teaching it well, and credibly.

I'd strongly advise that that the best way to learn the prophetic scriptures is NOT from people like Asscherick due to his misunderstanding of plain scriptures like the 1 Timothy or Leviticus food verses, not to mention his teaching of soul sleep. Learning about prophecy even as a stand-alone doctrine is also fraught with hazards. The best way to learn prophecy is the same as learning any other part of the word- in context. If you can find a credible Bible teacher going through a prophetic book of the Bible, that is best. Here are some recommendations-

I like James Montgomery Boice, he taught through all the prophets, including Daniel and Zechariah. Zechariah pound for pound has more end time prophecies than even Revelation, Boice's sermons are online & free.

The best book I've read on Revelation is MacArthur's Because the Time is Near, it's short, readable, and totally inspiring. It's also understandable. H.A. Ironside also has a good commentary on Revelation. S. Lewis Johnson also goes through the prophecies. He is online too, here, as is his successor to Believer's Chapel pastorate, Dan Duncan.

John MacArthur preached through every book of the New Testament, including Revelation and Thessalonians with the rapture verses, in context, which I liked. John Walvoord is considered premier on Bible prophecy as a credible scholar. Here is Walvoord's book The Nations in Prophecy, online.

If you enjoy prophecy, my recommendation is to abandon Asscherick and to find a good pastor online and go through the prophetic books in context with him (not her!)


Further Reading:

Mail Call #5: My friend is following a false teacher

Mail Call #4: Why do some women discern false teachers and others accept false teachers?

Mail Call #3: Why can't people who follow false teachers bear to hear disagreement about them?

Mail Call #2: How can some good pastors be so off-track and not see doctrinal error in materials they use/promote?

Mail Call #1: Why don't they check against the Bible?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Knitted with Christ

He will never, ever, never, ever NOT love us!

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

"For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Old Testament Briefs: The Ark was a box

I love the Old Testament and I study it a lot. I'm blessed with a great teaching pastor who loves it too. He frequently exposits chapters from the OT. When he's in the NT, he always makes connections to the Old. As a matter of fact, our church held a community-wide seminar last Saturday called "Christ in Context", where our teaching pastor and one of our elders led us in three sessions that connected Christ from the OT to the New:

CHRIST IN CONTEXT: New Birth and the Free Will of God’s Spirit (John 2-3)
Perhaps the most damaging teaching of the American church in the last hundred years is a low view of what it means to become a Christian. It's hard to imagine many biblical topics that are more significant to teach well...especially to our youth. When we compare the radical nature of what the Bible teaches conversion actually is to what is often (normally?) taught in the American church, we begin to see a stark contrast. What did Jesus teach happens at the new birth? How does the new birth occur in anyone's life?

CHRIST IN CONTEXT: The Majesty and Mercy of Jesus (Luke 7)
Scott talked about the transcendent holiness of Jesus and the sinfulness of us His people. He also covered the forgiving mercy of God in Christ and how this should create a response of deep love for Him. For, it is those who are forgiven much who love much.

CHRIST IN CONTEXT: What is Saving Faith? (John 5-6)
False faith can look outwardly a lot like the real thing. How can we tell the difference? False converts pursues Jesus because He gives bread; genuine believers pursue Jesus because he is Bread. Do you know how to spot the difference in your life? How is God's sovereignty involved in granting faith to His sheep?

The last week or two I've been publishing lengthy, academic treatises on big subjects. I was trained as an academic and I write that way. However, I was also trained as a journalist and I know it's important to vary topics and styles! I'd like to add a new, shorter series to my writing, and I'm calling my new series Old Testament Briefs or OT Briefs. When I learn a nugget from the OT, I'd like to briefly post it now and then.

Like the one below, from John MacArthur's sermon, Noah, a Preacher of Faith. In this OT Brief, we learn the profound meaning behind a seemingly innocent word. In Genesis 6, God told Noah to build an ark. The word in Hebrew is tebah. It does not mean what you think it means...
So at the beginning, God says to Noah, Build a big box, ark, tebah in Hebrew. The word is used throughout the flood narrative and it really means box, or chest. It’s not shaped like a boat, it’s not shaped like a ship. It has no propeller. It has no pilot. It has no sails. It has no rudder. It has no captain. It has no navigator. It’s a box. 
And, by the way, it’s only used this word one other time in the Old Testament and it is used in Exodus chapter 2:3 through 5 to describe the box that baby Moses was put in, to float down the Nile. God used a box to save Moses so he could save Israel. God used a box to save Noah so Noah could save the human race. 
In both cases, the box was a refuge from death to provide a future in one case for Israel, and another case for the human race. The Ark of the Covenant is a different Hebrew word all together.
From Strong's Concordance, we read of the two instances and the only two instances this word is used: "Genesis 6:14; Exodus 2:3; — vessel in which infant Moses was laid among reeds".

God is so great! SDG

Sydney Morning Herald

Moody Bible Stories

Monday, February 13, 2017

Book Review: Memoirs of a Medieval Woman (Margery Kempe)

In doing my New Year reading challenge, my first book was one called Memoirs of a Medieval Woman, written by historian Louise Collis.

The medieval woman in question was Margery Kempe. Margery was born around 1373 and died sometime after 1438. She was a wife, daughter of a noted mayor, then a mystic, pilgrim, and finally, through her autobiography which she dictated, a commenter on medieval mores and religion. She had become a Catholic Mystic during the time of the rise of Wycliffe and his followers, the Lollards. She was a contemporary of another noted female mystic, Julian of Norwich.

The Freelance History Writer has a synopsis of the book at
her page here

Hers is an interesting book on socioeconomic, cultural, and religious insights. The Book of Margery Kempe is considered to the first autobiography in the English language. It's also written in middle English and is nearly incomprehensible.

That's where Collis comes in. She writes about Margery in her book Memoirs of a Medieval Woman, and uses a healthy sprinkling of Margery's original words, but fills in the background with historical contexts and explanations. Collis never intrudes on Margery's voice, but Collis' writing enhances the contextual picture we get of Margery as she goes about her extraordinary life during a turbulent political and religious time.

Though there are many aspects from which we can jump off in delving into Margery's life, I was struck by the religious contexts. Margery lived in The Late Middle Ages (c. 1301–1500). Wikipedia synopsizes the period thus,
Around 1300, centuries of prosperity and growth in Europe came to a halt. A series of famines and plagues, including the Great Famine of 1315–1317 and the Black Death, reduced the population to around half of what it was before the calamities. Along with depopulation came social unrest and endemic warfare. France and England experienced serious peasant uprisings, such as the Jacquerie and the Peasants' Revolt, as well as over a century of intermittent conflict in the Hundred Years' War. To add to the many problems of the period, the unity of the Catholic Church was shattered by the Western Schism. Collectively these events are sometimes called the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages.
Frustration with the Roman Catholic Church, empty pocketbooks, demands for excessive tithes and indulgences to Rome, the rise of the Lollards (Wycliffe followers), the Church's reaction by burning them at the stake, the Council of Constance, all formed the dominating religious landscape in which Margery lived.

As for the Council of Constance, this was a pivotal moment in Catholic church history. Jan Hus was a forerunner to Wycliffe and both men are considered the first, early reformers of the Church prior to Martin Luther. Hus had preached against the excesses of Rome and had used Wycliffe's writings from the pulpit. These incendiary preachings came at a time during Margery's life when the great Papal schism occurred. There were three popes at one time and the church was under heavy attack, splintered and staggering under its corruption and lack of direction. The Council of Constance was the RCC's answer to this attack on its power. Remember, the Roman Catholic Church was a governmental authority, not just ecclesiastical. Kings and Popes were in league.
The Council of Constance is the 15th century ecumenical council recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, held from 1414 to 1418. The council ended the Western Schism, by deposing or accepting the resignation of the remaining papal claimants and electing Pope Martin V.  The Council also condemned Jan Hus as a heretic and facilitated his execution by the civil authority. source
Against that backdrop, we read in Collis' book some reasons why Mystics had become so popular,
The king used the church as a way of paying the civil service. As [ecclesiastical] incumbents were often ambassadors, ministers, or secretaries, deputies had to be found to look after the souls theoretically in their care. Perhaps, in some cases, the deputies were good and conscientious servants, but such a system made the church seem even more distant, wrapped away in a huge organization, far from everyday needs. 
Under these circumstances, the late medieval mystics on the one hand, and the Lollards on the other, became very popular. They brought God close to the individual. One could communicate with Him directly. He would listen to one's troubles in a sympathetic manner. Advice could be obtained, the tedious and often incomprehensible rituals of the church could be by-passed. Private devotions became a habit amongst many of the new middle class, to which Margery belonged. Such people were accustomed to rely on their own judgment in the business world. 
There had always been a place in the church for the hermit or anchorite. [Anchorites remained in their cells, studying and praying. They spoke only through a window. Hermits came out to preach and were often responsible for the upkeep of a bridge or a piece of road.] Anyone could apply to be enclosed. Their prayers brought them near to God. Sometimes they could foretell the future, or heal diseases. They could guide their disciples toward those visions which were a foretaste of paradise. Their doctrine was personal and emotional. One must adore God  with all the strength of one's being and meditate steadily on the Passion, that example of Christ's love of man. By means of assiduous prayer, fasting and contemplation, some reached a stage where they heard strange melodies played, as it were, in heaven by the angels. Others felt an extraordinary warmth, as of divine fire, suffuse them. Others wept uncontrollably. 
A few, who were capable of further progress, despised these outward symptoms as mere irrelevance. For God had whispered to them in words they tried afterwards to understand and never quite explained. They only knew they had somehow stumbled on a transcendent happiness. [pp. 24-25]

If the descriptions of the Mystics' experiences of hearing voices & whispers, singing, and feeling a warmth running through their body sound familiar, it is because the modern day mystics such as Sarah Young (author of Jesus Calling) et al have said they experienced those exact things too. Satan does not vary his schemes, though a solid Christian is aware of them. (2 Corinthians 2:11).

The RCC had become so remote and distant, so cold and demanding, so corrupt and perverse, that the people didn't equate the Church with divine solace or a relationship with Jesus at all. They still desired a personal relationship with God, though, because it is in man to worship...something. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

In Collis' explanation of the people's medieval search for God, we read there were those who were interested in Wycliffe's approach, and there were those who were Mystics or who followed Mystics. As the Bible says, there are the two paths, one leading to perdition and punishment, and the other to Jesus and eternal peace. We can see how the Lord prepared the ground to receive Wycliffe and Hus' appeals to read the Bible directly in order to know God. We can also see why Mystics (and anchorites and hermits) had become so popular. They filled the roles of fellowship and wisdom the people needed, as wrong-headed as these all were. The Mystics offered a personal religion so different from the incomprehensible rituals and coldness of the Church. It's no wonder people were drawn to them.

In Margery's case, pride and vanity had been her besetting sins prior to her demonically led mystical life. In her book she at times mused that she hoped she would become more famous than Julian of Norwich or as well-regarded as a Mystic who had lived in an earlier time, Bridgit of Sweden. She was obsessed with accumulating relics. Relics were the religious items sold at holy sites which purported to be, for example, a splinter from the true cross, John the Baptist's true finger, a brick from the true home in which Mary lied, Jesus' actual blood, and so on.

Margery exuded enough holiness to the authorities to have received their blessing and support. She was tried several times for heresy but always found innocent. However, the lay-people were split. Some said she was demon-possessed, others admired her seeming sincerity. And she was sincere, but sincerely misguided. Her fits of crying and constant blunt exhortations to all hearers to straighten up their lives and live right, grated. She was evicted from her traveling group on pilgrimage many times yet these evictions never altered her unteachable spirit to become more introspective.

The Lollards on the other hand were well-regarded by the people. They preached the word, lived simply and honestly, and went about on the true pilgrimage with all love and appeals to win people to Christ. Margery Kempe was definitely a force to be reckoned with. She was loud, noisy, rebellious to the true Christ, intrepid, fearless, and most likely totally shocked when she died at a healthy old age (unusual for medieval times) and faced the true Christ.

Aside from learning of the ripe ground onto which Wycliffe and Hus' blood spilled in their effort to bring God's word to the people, I learned just how persevering the devil is in getting someone to believe they are truly saved and then gets them to move mountains. Margery was an anti-Lydia, and anti-Dorcas. She accomplished much for satan's kingdom, turning the lives of all she encountered upside down. If we who have the Spirit in us were half as single-minded and dedicated to the true cause as Margery was to her false cause, we would all turn our worlds upside down.

Memoirs of a Medieval Woman: recommended

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