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 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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

What you seek after, you will be conformed to...

Chris Powers of creates a picture verse every day. His work in animation, illustration, tracts, and other manner of visual theology (as well as writing study guides to accompany the graphical work) is astounding and encouraging. Here is yesterday's entry. Please share, his work is free and meant to be shared. If you feel led, contribute on Patreon.

Sharing Destinies

By Chris Powers-

Here's the picture for today. I'm reading through Revelation as part of my morning times and was struck today by the truth that we will share the destiny of our God (big or little "g"). Humans seemed to be created such that, whatever they worship, they image (theologian GK Beale presents this idea most clearly)....

So, our sanctification (becoming like Christ) is fueled by our beholding and enjoying the glory of God in Christ (2 Cor.3:18), while our "diabolification" is fueled by our beholding and enjoying the God-opposing things of the world (Romans 6:19a, 2 Peter 2:19-20, etc.).

In like manner, we will share the eternal destiny of our God....either the joy of fellowship within the Trinity that has eternal been the gladness of God Himself (John 17) OR the horrors of being eternally an enemy of God, eternally the object of His love's war against all that opposes the Beloved, aka, of His wrath.

An awesome, hopeful and sobering truth.

So, below are the relevant verses and short explanation.


Revelation 20 "(10)...the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire...(15) And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

Revelation 3:21, "The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne."

To our joy or horror, we share the destiny of the one we worship.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The problem with evil is its beauty. Part 2

In part 1, I began with a reminder that evil exists. This reminder is necessary nowadays due to the increasing penchant of people to deny the fundamentals of the faith.

I also established that though we are all evil pre-salvation, there are degrees of evil within people that are more deadly than others. Not everyone is as bad as they could be, but some people are. These essays are about how not to be deluded if you unfortunately encounter one of these more evil people.

I ended the previous essay by showing that two of the most beautiful living organisms in the world are also beautiful, the very deadly water hemlock plant, and the deadly but beautiful cone snail. Oftentimes it is the most beautiful that is the most deadly.

In this essay, we will discuss specifically how evil comes in a beautiful package, and then end with a final warning not to be deceived.

The world wants you to think that evil is only the malevolently grinning jack-o-lantern on the left. However, it is actually the handsome and charismatic serial killer on the right. (Ted Bundy)

In this post-modern society with saturating images coming at us 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, we're told by image-makers that evil looks like a Joker with smeared makeup, like a Jason with a hockey mask, or bloody axes with screaming teenagers in the background. Satan is the universe's most subtle creature and he knows that's just too easy.

Evil is actually not a cartoon character on the left but the gentle, wannabe artist Adolph Hitler on the right.

Left, cartoon character evil Joker. Right, all too real Adolph Hitler as a boy
In fact, evil is the soft-spoken, meek priest who molests your children. Evil is the diligent and organized masterful orator named Adolph Hitler who secretly hates Jews and will burn them in ovens. Evil is not the cartoon character Cruella De Ville, but the Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who was beautiful, of the nobility, but history's worst female murderer.

Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed (August 1560 – 21 August 1614) was a Hungarian noblewoman and alleged serial killer from the Báthory family of nobility in the Kingdom of Hungary. She has been labelled by Guinness World Records as the most prolific female murderer, though the precise number of her victims is debated. Báthory and four collaborators were accused of torturing and killing hundreds of young women between 1585 and 1609. The highest number of victims cited during Báthory's trial was 650. Wikipedia

Genesis 6:5 says that The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

So by this we know that all non-saved people are evil. However, does it surprise you when I say that some people are working in league with satan more closely than others? That all have sinned, but there are degrees of sin? And if there are degrees of sin, there are degrees of sinner? As is stated in this Ligonier essay,
It’s clear that we have different degrees of sin when we consider the warnings of Scripture. There are at least twenty-two references in the New Testament to degrees of rewards that are given to the saints in heaven. There are different levels, different rewards, and different roles in heaven. The Bible warns us against adding to the severity of our judgment. Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, “He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11). Jesus measures and evaluates guilt, and with the greater guilt and greater responsibility comes the greater judgment. It’s a motif that permeates the New Testament. RC Sproul, Are There Degrees of Sin?
These are the personality-disordered narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths of the society. In no case that I know of do these evil people approach us with ragged clothes smelling of sulfur and gripping a bloody axe. In no case that I know of does an evil woman wearing a Dalmatian coat and smoking an elongated cigarette cruelly cackle to your face, thus alerting you to her evil. These more evil people will always appear as kind, beautiful, and helpful. They will appear never to hurt a fly and will tell you with all apparent sincerity that they want the best for you.

These more evil people are people with no conscience. These are the people who actually revel in the chaos they create, and they do it on purpose. These are the people who never murder, never cheat on their wives or husbands, never seem to do a harmful thing. Yet these are the people who make absolutely no attempt to apologize, reach agreement, be conciliatory, strive for peaceable harmony, or anything close to the normal relationship currency we're used to. They lie, manipulate, gaslight, control, and they do it all with a smile.

They will seem to be kind, but they will not be. If unfortunately encountering one of these people, we will ask ourselves,

'Did my friend just lie to me, again? Can't be, probably a mistake.'
'Their actions show that they hate children, but that can't be, I must be mistaken.'
'They don't seem to even care that they are causing chaos and upset in our marriage. Can't be, I am likely be wrong on this.'

It's not a communication error, it's not your fault, it's not just a mistake that can be cleared up. It's that the person is evil. Though we strive to give people the benefit of the doubt, and we should, some people are just plain evil. Fact. They won't murder you, but they like to hurt you in just as evil ways, in the sweetest manner possible. Not just once, but every day, as a life goal.

Though I don't normally seek wisdom regarding the human condition from Psychology, in the case of extremely evil people, the following 16 key behavioral characteristics that define psychopathy may prove helpful. We infrequently encounter evil in daily life in the fuller force I'm speaking of here, and our minds always will want to reject that that is what's happening.

From Psychology Today, we read that Hervey Cleckley's clinical profiles of How to Spot a Psychopath include:
  • Superficial charm and good intelligence
  • Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
  • Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations
  • Unreliability
  • Untruthfulness and insincerity
  • Lack of remorse and shame
  • Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
  • Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
  • Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
  • General poverty in major affective reactions
  • Specific loss of insight
  • Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
  • Fantastic and uninviting behavior with alcohol and sometimes without
  • Suicide threats rarely carried out
  • Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
  • Failure to follow any life plan

In my life I've encountered incompetent boobs, maniacal windbags, effective liars, grande cheats, and unrepentant adulterers. I myself was an unrepentant sinner for 42 years prior to salvation. Those sins can be dealt with in a different way than the purer evil of the psychopath, sociopath, and disordered narcissist can. In addition to being a sinner and encountering sinners every day, I have also unfortunately encountered a couple of psychopaths. These evil people are rarer but they do exist. I read a good book a many years ago called The Sociopath Next Door. In that book, author Dr. Martha Stout offers helpful advice. Even though I am not an expert on these more evil people, I optimistically tend to disagree with her statistic that 1-in-4 people are sociopaths. At least, I hope not! Dr. Stout writes,
How do we recognize the remorseless? One of their chief characteristics is a kind of glow or charisma that makes sociopaths more charming or interesting than the other people around them. They’re more spontaneous, more intense, more complex, or even sexier than everyone else, making them tricky to identify and leaving us easily seduced.
Their masquerade is helped by their personal charm, beauty, winsomeness, and intelligence. Years ago, when I came across one, it took me a long time to settle on the fact that their evil was in fact evil. By then a lot of damage was done.

But enough of personal comment and psychological theories. What does the Bible have to say about evil? It does come in a beautiful package. Don't be lulled by Hollywood's depiction of it and don't be fooled if you unfortunately meet up with this kind of beautiful and deadly evil

The most evil person in the universe is also the most beautiful. It is said in of Lucifer through the lament in Ezekiel 28:12 that:

You had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.

Satan masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Light is beautiful, light is good. But the key word is masquerade. You must be able to see what is under the light and not be fooled by appearances.

So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:15.)

Here, the servants of which the Bible speaks are not only satan's unholy angels who followed him into rebellion but also people falsely claiming to be followers of Jesus, but who aren't. They disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, too.

The 2 Corinthians 11:15 verse
Suggests these servants, who may be the false apostles, actually serve Satan and stand as a threat to the Church (compare 2 Corinthians 11:13). Source, Faithlife Study Bible
These evil ones are disguised. The key words in the two verses for the purpose of this essay are that satan masquerades, and his henchmen (and women) disguise themselves. What they disguise themselves with are beauty, kindness, intelligence, righteousness, and light. Too often, people are reluctant to peer under the mask. Even more frequently when they do peer, they deny what they plainly see. That's in defiance of what the Bible says to do. "For we are not unaware of satan's schemes so that he would get an advantage over us." (2 Corinthians 2:11). Don't be unaware, lest satan outwit you and gain an advantage.

We are reminded again that Jesus warned in Matthew 7:15 that these especially evil ones will come in sheep's clothing. They won't appear to you in rags, or bloody tatters like the movies show, but in fluffy, pretty, white sheep's clothing. Why are they especially evil? Because they do this under cover of Jesus' name. Unsaved people are just sinners, evil in what they do but they cannot help it. (1 Cor 5:12). These especially evil ones I'm talking of come in the name of Jesus and use His name to perform their deeds. And they do it beautifully. Because they're sociopaths. Charming, beautiful, and kind.

Satan made his evil look good and delightful, didn't he?

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes...(Genesis 3:6a).

When I was in Europe, I never saw an ugly Catholic cathedral.

Milan Duomo. EPrata photo

Pisa, 'Piazza Del Miracoli' plaza of miracles, so named
because of the architectural beauty of the structures
built by genius and capabilities of man. EPrata photo
I am sure that the Asherah poles were beautiful too. They were hewn and carved idols, mentioned often in the Old Testament.
Asherah poles were located at sacred sites. They are often mentioned in the context of Canaanite worship on "every high hill and under every luxuriant tree" (1 Kgs 14:23; 2 Kgs 21:7; Jer 17:2). An asherah pole is sometimes explicitly related to an altar of Baal—a Canaanite fertility deity (Judg 6:25, 28, 30; 2 Kgs 17:16; 21:3–4). Source-The Lexham Bible Dictionary.
Sociopaths are remorseless and cannot love anyone except themselves. They have no conscience. They do not operate in the interpersonal the same way we do, in good faith, love, kindness, and repentance. Even sinners try to be good in their own way and attempt acts of kindness from a motivation to have a successful interpersonal relationship.

We seek peace, the especially evil one seeks chaos. We love harmony, they love destruction. They are accomplished at reaching their goals and they do it with a smile and a kind word. They kill joy, they annihilate faithfulness, they reject goodness. They do it all in beauty, and often, under the name of Jesus.

But God is beautiful too. So are his people. It takes diligence and discernment to detect the difference between the beautiful sociopath's evil and the beautiful sister who's simply stumbling. Between the psychopath's gorgeousness and the sinner who just does what he does because he doesn't know better.

Ultimately, God is Good and He will remove forever from His presence all evil and the people who bring evil. Pity the evil person and pray for their deliverance but do not tolerate their evil. Resist it. Rejoice that their evil deeds will be recompensed. Evil has a purpose, if merely to sharpen the Christian or greatly glorify God - and everything in between.

John Frame said in his book Apologetics to the Glory of God,
We cannot always understand why God has chosen evil events to accomplish these good purposes. We do know that God never foreordains an evil event without a good purpose (Rom. 8:28). There may be other reasons than the ones we have mentioned, either to be found in Scripture or to remain locked up in God's own mind. We know that God has a reason for everything he does. Everything he does reflects his wisdom. But he is under no obligation to give us his reasons. 
Nevertheless, as we see evil used for good again and again in Scripture, can we not accept in faith that those evils which are yet unexplained also have a purpose in the depths of God's mind? Again, we do not have a complete theoretical answer to the problem of evil. What we do have is a strong encouragement to trust God even amid unexplained suffering. Indeed, the encouragement is so strong that one would be foolish not to accept it.

Thus, the beautiful but deadly flower water hemlock, the gorgeous and intricately barbed cone shell, the charismatic serial killer, the remorseless but kindly-acting sociopath in your circle, all have their purpose. Do not deny that evil exists, do not forget that it comes in a beautiful package, do not avoid acknowledging it if it appears, but always remember, that all things work to your good and the glory of God. The psychopath with no conscience will be seared in hell forever, and we will be dining with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in joy and peace. Let his remorselessness be eternal. Let our gratitude be forever.


Further Reading:


 "What does the Bible say about a person who is a sociopath / psychopath?"

Answer: The terms sociopath and psychopath do not appear in the Bible. However, the Bible does mention behaviors that are characteristic of those that today are described by the nearly synonymous terms sociopathic and psychopathic.

In today’s criminal and psychological literature, a sociopath or psychopath is identified as one who is characterized by extreme self-centeredness and immaturity, shallow emotions (including reduced fear, a lack of empathy and remorse, low tolerance for stress, and little response to positive motivations), cold-heartedness, superficial charm, irresponsibility, impulsivity, criminality, a parasitic lifestyle and a desire to manipulate others. A psychopath is one who compulsively performs criminally selfish acts with no apparent conscience or concern about the welfare of his victims.

The Bible identifies such sociopathic and psychopathic behavior as among the severest moral and spiritual effects of man’s fall into sin. Jesus described such sins as arising from evil hearts (Mark 7:20–23). The apostle Paul identified godlessness as the root of such a deadly heart (Romans 1:28–32). The sociopathic heart produces the worst characteristics of sinful man’s nature (Romans 8:5–8), the worst effects of both genetic and environmental moral degradation. Early in human history, God wiped out all but eight people because of such universally incorrigible behavior (Genesis 6:5–13). Deuteronomy 21:18–21 prescribes for the Old Testament nation of Israel the legal consequence of such behavior: execution by stoning. Apparently, such behavior was considered by God to be so disruptive and damaging to the family and to society, so contrary to the character of the people that bore His name and supposedly reflected His image, as to be intolerable.

The New Testament does not offer specifics on civic dealing with these serious problems. Its teachings about morality and immorality of every kind, and its hopeful appeals and invitations to repentance, conversion, and transformed life in Christ, certainly apply to a psychopath as to any sinner. Paul, describing conduct that included sociopathic characteristics, wrote to one congregation of believers in Jesus Christ, “Such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:9–11, emphasis added). God is able to rescue and restore to righteousness the most corrupt heart. See Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:1–17; Romans 7; Romans 8:1–17 and 28–30.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The problem with evil is, its beauty. Part 1.

One of the problems with evil is that too often we have a disconnect between what we understand about evil in theory and what we see in real life. This two-part essay is about how to spot evil in real life, and includes warnings not to be lulled by the beauty of the vehicle bringing it.

First, let us be clear about the underlying premise. Evil exists. The Bible declares that evil exists. We must say that out loud because we live in the post-modern age. The faith is riddled with a skewed perspective that God is love, but that He is only love (and not holiness, wrath, or justice.) To listen to some, one would think that the faith is populated by people hand-holding along candyland stepping stones amid rainbows and unicorns. But the faith is a bloody, constant battle to vanquish evil, including the evil in ourselves. Evil's lifelong effort is to besmirch, blot, and destroy the goodness of God. It's to supplant God. Ours is a lifelong effort to overcome evil, to work to expand God's kingdom, and to give glory to the Goodness of His Name.

We also remind ourselves that evil exists in order to rebut the skewed definition of the word tolerance in today's faith. Sin is evil. Yet we're told that tolerance means to accept one's sin without remark. Like this on a Facebook Community Board:

In the old days that statement would mean that a person is looking for a church filled with saints who strive to be holy (nice), who do not judge one's past as a sinner because they recognize they are sinners too (non-judgmental) and is populated with an inter-generational demographic because the Bible gives commands that apply to every age group, and the Spirit installs people in local churches from all ages in order to edify each other (young couples).

Nowadays that statement has come to mean the person would be looking for like-minded liberal people (nice) who won't enact church discipline, preach against sin, or warn me about my attitude (non-judgmental), with young couples (because I select my church based on a 'shopper' mentality' and not by leading of the Holy Spirit, or doctrine, or truth).

To rebut the modern culture, we must constantly remind ourselves of the basics. Today the basic reminder is ... evil exists. Here are just a few verses from God's word regarding evil.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13)

We are told that fearing the Lord begins with hating the evil that he hates.

To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. (Proverbs 8:13)

We are told to turn away from evil.

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)

We are told how to struggle against it.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
(Ephesians 6:12).

We read in Romans 12:21,

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Evil exists. It's not the occasional Hitler or Stalin. Evil haunts the Christian every day. The Bible gives clear instructions about how to deal with it.

We know all this. We read the Bible and any sensible Christian understands what evil is, the hazards that it poses and the need to resist, struggle, and overcome it. However that is not the problem. The problem is applying the Bible's verses to life. This is especially hard to do it seems, when it comes to acknowledging that evil is in one's midst. In our minds, evil is historical (Hitler). Evil is 'out there' (Chicago. Cambodia. The city. The country. Elsewhere...). But evil can be and is in your church. Your family. Your circle of friends. Your co-workers. It's here and it's everywhere.

Evil is beautiful.

Water hemlock is the deadliest plant in North America. Yet, so beautiful! Do not be deceived!

So pretty! So deadly! Source Alderleaf Wilderness College
Water hemlock is the most violently toxic plant that grows in North America. Only a small amount of the toxic substance in the plant is needed to produce poisoning in livestock or in humans. Livestock usually show signs of poisoning 15 minutes to 6 hours after they eat the plant; they may die within 15 minutes to 2 hours after signs appear. Cicutoxin is a severe convulsant and most animals die as a result of the asphyxia and cardiovascular collapse that occurs during the convulsions. Source: USDA

The cone snail is so pretty! But so deadly!

The bright colors and patterns of cone snails are attractive to the eye, and therefore people sometimes pick up the live animals and hold them in their hand for a while. This is risky, because the snail often fires its harpoon in these situations. In the case of the larger species of cone snail, the harpoon is sometimes capable of penetrating the skin, even through gloves or wetsuits. The sting of many of the smallest cone species may be no worse than that of a bee or hornet sting, but in the case of a few of the larger tropical fish-eating species, especially Conus geographus, Conus tulipa and Conus striatus, a sting can sometimes have fatal consequences. Source Wikipedia

Because we all sin, we're all evil. (Genesis 6:5). As RC Sproul said,
When I sin, I choose my will over the will of God Almighty. By implication I’m essentially saying that I’m more intelligent, wise, righteous, and powerful than God Himself." ~RC Sproul

That's evil. But today I note that there is a special kind of evil that revels in the chaos it foments. It's purposeful, gleeful, and in a league with satan that goes deeper than the stumbling Christian or the unknowing pagan. Often it's in the midst of the most benign of situations, the most gentle of churches, the kindest-seeming of people.

When we encounter thise deeper kind of evil, our minds want to suppress the truth of it. So, what does that kind of evil look like? More in part 2.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

How fast does satan propagate false doctrines? THIS fast

Three years ago I published an essay discussing the new female-founded, social justice, discipling organization called "IF:Gathering". Jennie Allen , founder, decided to start a discipling organization which Allen revealed was based on a command from a voice from the sky. Her words.

Allen, along with Lindsey Nobles and several other women, started this 'movement,' as they describe it, to gather women for purposes of discussing their feelings about the Bible. This is accomplished outside of the auspices of the local church. Several participating IF:Leaders admit they actually abandoned their own ongoing church ministries to do form this non-church organization and focus on the global movement they hoped to incite. Their intentions are full of self-stated hubris. They plan to 'disciple a generation'. They intend to 'heal the nations'. They will 'reconcile the world'. They will 'unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose'. And so on. You can read about my concerns with the IF movement here, and here.

IF was born from a direct revelation given by a voice in the sky to Jennie Allen sometime in 2007. The movement perpetuates twisted hermeneutics, unbiblical lifestyles, social justice, and a warped view of the Gospel that is based on doubt. That's the synopsis of concerns regarding IF:Gathering. That it is unhealthy is to say the least. Please read the previous essays for scriptural foundations supporting these concerns.

Today I want to shift focus and show you in pictures just how quickly satan propagates his false doctrines and unbiblical lifestyles.

The first IF:Gathering was held in February 2014. At this writing, exactly three years have passed since then. The movement has indeed caught on. Its activity is mostly hidden. If you haven't heard about IF that's because the gatherings are announced via social media and many of them are private. This activity is all going on out of sight for the most part (aside from the annual convention). Three years ago I'd posted a shocking map that showed how many of these public and private gatherings were taking place all around us. Here is the map showing IF:Gatherings three years ago when it began.

By 2017, the gathering's teachings have spread worldwide. Look how many gatherings are held locally now:

Map from IF:Local, 2/2017

From Paraguay to Nova Scotia, from Rwanda to Thailand, From Australia to Denmark, there are IF:locals everywhere. It is a global force by now and it didn't take satan long to do it.

This fact should primarily remind us that women are vulnerable to satan's wiles. IF is a female movement through and through. The IF:Locals that are held are mainly held in homes, not churches. Many of them are private parties, so accountability and oversight is very much more difficult to ensure.

For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, (2 Timothy 3:6)

The sad fact of the IF:map fact should also bring to mind the verse where Paul tells us how fast false doctrine spreads. Paul said that false teachings are like gangrene. Gangrene is a fast-spreading condition that occurs when healthy body tissue dies because the disease obstructs blood to it! How apt as a metaphor for the healthy body of the church and its lifeblood from Jesus obstructed and infected by false teachings and teachers!!

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. (2 Timothy 2:16-17a).

Do you see the progression? There IS a progression.

Irreverent babble...
leads people into more and more ungodliness...
the talk spreads like gangrene...
gangrene infects even the healthy tissue.

As Barnes' Notes explains of the effects of gangrene:
will spread over and consume the healthful parts. It will not merely destroy the parts immediately affected, but will extend into the surrounding healthy parts and destroy them also. 
I know that some people find discernment work distasteful. They do not see the necessity of one of the important activities of how we defend the faith. I consider the importance of defending the faith by both exalting Jesus AND naming false doctrines and teachers. They do not like to name false teachers, they do not emphasize exercising the skill, or they simply overlook rooting it out, hoping it will go away. Many pastors never even preach on the importance of discernment from the pulpit, or if they do, they make aw shucks apologies. And sadly, many others do not practice it themselves.

I've seen many false doctrines and movements come and take root. I know you have too. However, in my experience, (which granted, isn't lengthy, just 14 years in the faith), I have never seen a doctrine, movement, or pseudo-Christian 'celebrity' culture embed itself so fast. Whether that speaks to the low levels of discernment, the bloated pseudo-church, or the lateness of the times, the fact that it's aimed at women, (or all of the above) I do not know. But this thing is wildfire and it is growing faster even than Charismania or prosperity Gospel. Its tentacles have gone deep.

Notably, in 2012, Pastor Jim Murphy of First Baptist Church of Johnson City, NY found to his dismay how quickly satan's tentacles embedded themselves into his church when he overlooked some areas he knew he should address but simply hadn't. Eventually he preached a powerful message to his congregation that took himself to task, and them too. He asked their forgiveness. Then he said,
Now is the time for clarity. No more messing around. No more experimentation. No more dabbling into these dangerous practices. Now is the time for clarity and that clarity comes through discernment: this ability to think Biblically. The ability to read a book and see what it is saying aside from the warm fuzzy you got from it. Discernment takes time and it takes work and shame on you for not taking the time and effort. Shame on you.
In that sermon, Pastor Murphy said that satan's tentacles had spread so fast and deep, he was saddened and shocked. He took on the guilt himself, saying that he knew the Sunday School and the Church Library held some off-ideas but he didn't address it because he was so busy and wrongly handed off total responsibility to underlings. He was wrong to do that he said, because false doctrine does not come in only at the pulpit. It comes in the small groups, the library, the women's ministry. It takes vigilance to combat it.

Please listen to the sermon, it is so good and encouraging!

We see by the map that false doctrine comes through the para-church groups, gatherings, and conventions/conferences your women are participating in. Men, satan targeted Eve. It spreads fast. Don't think for a moment that satan isn't working through every means he can to get to your people. Stay strong.

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (Romans 16:17)


Further reading

Essay: The Five Tests of False Doctrine (Challies)

Essay: False Teachers and Deadly Doctrines(Challies)

Sermon: How to treat false teachers part 1(J. MacArthur)

Sermon: How to treat false teachers part 2(J. MacArthur)

Essay: The Danger in Women's Ministries (Aimee Byrd)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Fathers and their effect

My father died in 2014. He was 81. He had never said "I love you" to his daughter.

Now he never will.

It's a truth that doesn't get any easier the older one gets. It's actually harder to get used to the longer one drifts in time away from his death date, not easier.

He was a hard working man. He was a gifted raconteur. He was a wealthy man. He was a lot of things. But a father? Not so much. His ignoring of his kids as they grew, his intermittent but frequent abandonment of them as adults, his final, legal disownment of them as he aged all were stunning betrayals in the lives of three children, with untold consequences.

Every daughter can tell a different story about her father. Some stories are good, some are bad. Some are neutral. Some are bitter and some are sweet. Fathers, dear reader, have an effect.

There is a short film called The Father Effect. It is good.

The producer of this movie lost his own father to suicide when he was a boy. As he stated in the movie's Mission page, the resulting film is his attempt
to educate, equip, & encourage men to be the dads God created them to be
Many of the people with whom I am connected through media and in real life have great parents who they honor and feel blessed to have grown up under. Others have disappointing stories they share, either freely or privately. Whatever the case with you, you know fathers have an effect on you for life. I worry for the fatherless who don't have the solace of Jesus. For those among you who have had a less than blessed childhood, but are now safely home under Jesus' wings, you know you have a REAL father. Jesus will love you forever, never abandon you, and is in fact, perfect. What a blessing this is. He is not only as Prophet, Priest, and King, but friend, brother, and Father.

The Father Effect movie also has an EncouragingDads project.
The Encouraging Dads Project was an idea that came out of John's experience in making The Father Effect Movie.  As John talked to dads from all walks of life, he heard heartbreaking stories about how dads feel beat up, discouraged, and frustrated with their lives as dads. John was moved to do something to help encourage and inspire dads and The Encouraging Dads Project was born. 
Take some time to encourage your Dad. Encourage a dad. Encourage a man who was a dad to you. Encouragement is free, and only takes a few moments. Send a letter, make a phone call, send a text, make a date to take him out for coffee. Tell him how special he is to you.

Dads, do the same for your daughters. If some time has gone by since you talked to her, take a moment to let her know how much she means to you, how proud of her you are, that you love her. My dad in all probability never confessed and repented and probably died outside of Christ. It was a sudden hit in a car crash. Boom. Gone.

He and I will not meet again, and I'm sorrowful for that. Eternity will go on and I will be loved perfectly by many fathers, and THE Father. I will forget the former troubling things, including Dad. He will remember everything, forever. If there is sorrow over your relationship with your dad, if you are on opposite sides of the salvation fence, let that fact weigh on you, and as the men in The Father Effect say, forgive.

Caption: "Our purpose in making this film is to create an awareness in fathers about the significant impact their words and actions have on their children and to help them become better fathers."

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29).

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Prophecy: They sang the song of Moses in Exodus AND Revelation

When the Israelites were miraculously delivered from their bondage to the Egyptians, they sang a song of praise. This is known as the Song of Moses. It's an ode to the one True God, who is all-powerful. The Israelites, led by Moses and Aaron, knew that God was God. They knew who He is.

He is a man of war, who smites enemies. He is a God of wrath,  and power, and salvation. He does wonders that make His people tremble. He is King of Kings, who dismays the kings of the earth. He is mighty. He is to be exalted.

Please read this wonderful song.

The Song of Moses, Exodus 15:1-18

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
2 The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father's God, and I will exalt him.
3 The Lord is a man of war;
the Lord is his name.
4 “Pharaoh's chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
5 The floods covered them;
they went down into the depths like a stone.
6 Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
7 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
8 At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
the floods stood up in a heap;
the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
10 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
they sank like lead in the mighty waters.
11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand;
the earth swallowed them.
13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
14 The peoples have heard; they tremble;
pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
16 Terror and dread fall upon them;
because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,
till your people, O Lord, pass by,
till the people pass by whom you have purchased.
17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

You might recall the ten plagues of Egypt that God placed on Pharaoh and his people. They were step-for-step dethronings of the Egyptian gods. God demonstrated He is the One True God with power over all the false gods the Egyptians worshiped. The plagues were also punishment for rebelling against God.

God has promised that after the rapture, when all the earth's people who rebel against Him, from kings on down to slaves, they will be punished in wrath for their rejection of Him. (Revelation 6:15-16). At that time He will dethrone not only all false gods, but the false god of all time- satan. God will send to people of the earth plagues that are in like kind to the plagues God sent to Egypt. In Exodus, the plagues occurred just to the Egyptians. Even when the sun was darkened, the Israelites had light inside their own homes. (Exodus 10:23). Even when the Egyptian cattle died, the Israelite cattle lived. (Exodus 9:6). God is that precise.

During this post-rapture time of wrath, called The Tribulation (Or The Time of Jacob's Trouble, Jeremiah 30:7), all the earth will be affected by these plagues. Everyone. During that time many will come to Christ and be saved, but most of the newly saved believers will be martyred. We read in Revelation, that just as the Egyptians sang the song of Moses in praise to God after their deliverance, the martyred will also sing the Song of Moses. We read this in Revelation 15:2-4

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. 3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and amazing are your deeds,
    O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
    O King of the nations!
4 Who will not fear, O Lord,
    and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
    All nations will come
    and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Here is a side by side comparison of the plagues of Egypt with the plagues of the tribulation, in both cases, God's people were delivered from bondage. Click to enlarge.

Barnes' Notes explains the parallels between the two circumstances of the singing of the song of Moses, at the commentary of Revelation 15:3,
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God - A song of thanksgiving and praise, such as Moses taught the Hebrew people to sing after their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. See Exodus 15. The meaning here is, not that they would sing that identical song, but that, as Moses taught the people to celebrate their deliverance with an appropriate hymn of praise, the redeemed would celebrate their delivery and redemption in a similar manner. There is an obvious propriety here in referring to the "song of Moses," because the circumstances are very similar; the occasion of the redemption from that formidable anti-Christian power here referred to, had a strong resemblance to the rescue from Egyptian bondage.

As does Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
song of Moses … and … the Lamb—The New Testament song of the Lamb (that is, the song which the Lamb shall lead, as being "the Captain of our salvation," just as Moses was leader of the Israelites, the song in which those who conquer through Him [Ro 8:37] shall join, Re 12:11) is the antitype to the triumphant Old Testament song of Moses and the Israelites at the Red Sea (Ex 15:1-21). The Churches of the Old and New Testament are essentially one in their conflicts and triumphs. The two appear joined in this phrase, as they are in the twenty-four elders.

Our pastor preached on the Exodus plagues and the majesty of God this past Sunday. Our pastor has a Spirit-given talent for bringing the listener up to heights to glimpse up close the power and glory of God, which is itself if breathtaking and humbling. One becomes crushed after glimpsing Him through the exposition of scripture in sch a powerful way. After the sermon, I realized that as difficult as it is for me, who is saved, to see God as He really is (through scripture) that the lost people I know will meet Him in their own flesh. How like grass the flesh is! How they will be brought low, to wither as a match against a universal conflagration! When we 'see' God, we understand our own position in relation to Him, first as sinner worthy of all punishment, and then gratefully, as adopted sons and daughters of righteousness.

I recommend the sermon, if you have 40 minutes. It's worth listening to. As for God's work between the Old Testament and the New, from Egypt to the Tribulation-

But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." (John 5:17)

Exodus and the Glory of God
What is the book of Exodus really about? We covered the heart of the book (with a brief summary of the whole) this week. Exodus is about God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment.

May God and God alone be praised!!