Creepy White Vans

 

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As Daddy to three beautiful daughters, I worry. Now that 2 of them are teenagers, one of whom is driving, I worry a LOT.  I’d probably worry less if they looked like me, but unfortunately for me (and very fortunately for them) all three got my wife’s good looks.

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While the role of Father has always been that of protector, these days we don’t get much call to bar the door and ride out on horseback to meet the coming threat. No, we perform the mundane heroism of “waiting” and “picking up”.  Knowing when an event ends and when and where I need to be waiting in my truck to pick them up is a big part of what I do now.  And I’m glad to do it.  And all goes well as long as…

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1. I tell them where to find me.

2. They come to where I’ve told them I’ll be.

3. They get in my truck.

 

That’s pretty simple, right?  This is a text exchange I think most of us can relate to:

Me: “Be there in 10min”

Girls: K 🙂

Me: “I’ll be in the parking lot to your right when you walk out.”

Girls: k

And it works. I mean, how could you mess that up? But what if, Lord forbid, they decided to “meet me” somewhere else? Somewhere I never said I’d be? What if they decided to look for me in the alley behind the restaurant? What if they somehow got into the wrong car and rode with someone else? What if the intentionally got into another vehicle because they were promised something, like candy?

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What if they got into a creepy white van?

If the thought is chilling, good. I want the weight of this subject to rest heavily on you. What we’re talking about here is no less serious, or dangerous.

As we look around, we see many in the church lined up to climb into an endless stream of creepy white vans, to their peril.

See, God is, well GOD; Completely beyond our comprehension. Yet, he has revealed Himself to us and agreed to meet us. But we can only meet Him where He’s told us He would be found, and on His terms.

Where has God told us that He would meet us?  What are some of the creepy white vans we have chosen to climb into instead?

God has graciously condescended to be found among men. (Notice that He CON-descended and DE-scended.. we never, ever, ever A-scend.)  and He’s told us he could be found…

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In the Word:

God has revealed Himself to us in His word. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ.  And the means by which we come to be changed by the Holy Spirit is through the spoken words of the Gospel:

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken
to you are spirit and life.
John 15:3-5 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me,
and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can
you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I
in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Acts 10:44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the
word.

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to
everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of
God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through
wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

Galatians 3:2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by
hearing with faith?

Galatians 3:5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by
works of the law, or by hearing with faith–

Ephesians 1:13 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your
salvation; in who also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

James 1:18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind
of firstfruits of his creatures.

1 Peter 1:23-25 …since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable,
through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the
flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains
forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

He meets us in the Waters of Baptism, and the Bread and Wine of Communion:

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Baptism is water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word; or as St. Paul says in Holy Scripture, “The washing of water with the word.” Through Baptism, we are made partakers of Christ’s death and resurrection. Since Baptism is connected to the Word and promise of God, it is truly a life-giving water, rich in grace—a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. – John 3:1-8

3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit – Titus 3:3-5

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyonewhom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. – Acts 2:37-41

In Holy Communion God offers believers His body and blood under forms of bread and wine for Christians to eat and drink (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

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And at the table of Communion, where we receive His Body and Blood:

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” – Matthew 26:26-29

54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” – John 6:54-58

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[e] you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

So God has told us, clearly, where He would meet us; The Word, The Waters of Baptism, and The Communion table.  As long as we meet Him there, in the Christ-instituted, objective, means of grace we’ll find Him. Let that sink in.. God has CON-descended to be found by us. He’s told us where he’ll be, not through an oracle on the top of a remote mountain, not in a remote temple, but with us in the common means of word and water, bread and wine… and He’s there. We will FIND Him. What grace!

There’s nothing “magic” or “mystical” about these things. Words. Water. Bread. Wine. Nothing in and of themselves that makes them special, except… that God has promised to meet us there. The same dark parking lot which would terrify my daughters when they walk out of a restaurante becomes a place of safety when I flash my lights to let them know that I’m there. I’m where I told them they would find me.

Now, my girls are about as obedient as a Dad could ever hope for.  Sure, they’re still battling their sinful nature just like the rest of us, but what if in complete disobedience they decided to reach their destination by riding with a stranger? What about someone who offered them candy in the old “creepy white van”? How crazy would one have to be to make that decision? To trade the safety of their Father for the danger of a stranger, simply on the offer of something “more”.

Yet we see it every day. Rather than the simple means of grace, rather than meeting their Father in the assigned location, people chase something “better” by climbing into the creepy white van of…

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Mysticism:

Mysticism is the belief that you can find God inside yourself through “feeling” or “emotion”.  And that God has agreed to meet you “immediately”. (By immediate, I mean without a mediator; A direct, internal connection with God without the mediation of Christ or the means of grace.) God has not agreed to meet you as you jump around and work yourself into a frenzy. Sorry. I’ve done it, and frankly it’s fun, but God never agreed to meet you in your emotion.  You can put yourself into an emotional state and be open to subconscious suggestion, but those “voices” you hear? Are they wrong? Even once? Then guess what, it might be a lot of things, but the Holy Spirit it is most certainly not.

And we climb into this van because rather than listening to our Father, we’ve listened to someone (or in this case, something) trying to lure us away… our heart.

“God laid this on my heart.”  “I feel in my heart that….”

Your heart?  You mean this heart?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery

He that trusts in his own heart is a fool – Proverbs 28:26

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5

That heart? That’s where you’re looking for God to speak? For His voice?

God has revealed himself to us objectively, in things that are real, that we can see, hear, touch, and taste.  They are unchanging and concrete, regardless of your changing heart or emotions.

Are we to respond to His grace in worship? YES! I’ve wept over the beauty of the Gospel and the grace shown to me, but when I attempt to work into this state and THEN hear from God, i’ve gotten it completely backward!

God objectively works from outside of us to change us inside. We can’t start by closing our eyes, making a constipated face, and feeling our way to God. When we do, we’re attempting to climb toward God on the ladder of mysticism.

Word, Water, Bread and Wine? Yes.

Rolling around on the ground or sitting quietly in a chair and waiting to hear voices? No. That’s straight-up mysticism.

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Nature: 

Yes, God has in general revelation shown His wonders in the beauty of His creation.  The problem is, the gospel isn’t there. What you see is, even in it’s beauty, fallen… and it’s all law. You may “feel at one” with God on the lake or hiking in the mountains, but nowhere there will you discover Christ crucified for your sins. For the gospel you need the Word.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll stop here. I’ll spend the next couple of weeks working through how we attempt to climb various ladders to A-scend to God.  For now, let’s focus on not climbing into those two creepy white vans. The promises are empty lies.. there is no “candy”, just very real danger.  If it’s worse to lose your soul than your life, the white van of mysticism is worse than any creepy white van the movies have ever shown us.

 

Don’t talk to strangers!

 

Marc

 

 

The Epidemic of Leadership

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Leadership. I like it. I’m interested in it. At the risk of sounding like Paul in his letter to the Philippians, let me throw this out there;

I’m a C-level executive. I work with a Lakewood Church sized budget. I have the formal education and training. I speak at executive conferences. I do the seminars. I read the books. I mentor promising junior executives. I’m certainly not opposed to leadership.

But that’s because my charter is clear, and it’s defined by the stakeholders of my company. It’s measurable, and it’s pragmatic.  It has a cash-value bottom line. I’m asked to create strategic and “vision” documents to chart the course for my organization.

So… why is there such a fascination with leadership in the church? Why would your pastor be reading the same books and following the same leadership blogs that I am?

There is a drought of leadership in the church, but it’s not due to the lack of leadership training at the pastoral level.

The problem is that we’ve forgotten our charter.

Sure, for the sake of mission we get the “to do” right:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching themto observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV)

 

So, with the “do” (imperative) in hand, we default to doing what our heart desires… taking the reins, rolling up our sleeves and doing it ourselves.

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So, we look for the tools of the trade around us: leadership, marketing, demographics, techniques, etc.  And these tools work for their intended purposes. They work well in my chosen career. They can certainly mobilize, organize and energize a group of people to unite behind a cause.  Unfortunately, that cause could be anything from building a new city library, to creating a terrorist organization. There is nothing inherently Christian about these tools.

But what if we look at the “why” (imperative) of the great commission?

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV)

We find no “bottom line” pragmatism here. No call to “hit our numbers” for the quarter. Our charter is clear: All authority has been given to Jesus (the why) so we are sent to make disciples, baptize, and teach.

And we’ve even been given the “how” (means) of how we will fulfill this call: Jesus will be with us. And so He is, in the preached word of His gospel. In the body and blood of communion. And in the water of baptism.

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So, we have an epidemic of leadership in the church. Not because we value leadership, but because we have a current obsession with being leaders.

The leadership position has been filled: All authority is given to Christ.

The mission has been made clear: Make disciples, baptize, and teach the scriptures.

The means has been made clear: Christ with us in word and sacrament.

So to jump on the latest leadership fad, to replace the activities of discipleship, baptism, and teaching of scripture with anything else, and to use the tools of western business is to replace the authority of Christ, the Great Commission, and the Means of Grace.

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You may be successful by the metrics of business, but the “performance” review may go really, really poorly for you when you are called to give an account for your performance.

I’m NOT saying that we don’t have church leadership. We not only need, but are directed by scripture to have church leadership to whom we are to model as they model Christ. Please don’t see this as a screed against “leaders”. I’m simply trying to challenge the notion that “leadership” in a wester business model (with it’s method, measure, and metric) is for the church.

So, do you believe that all authority has been given to Jesus?

Do you believe He is mighty to save His people and send you to disciple, baptize, and teach scripture?

Do you believe He will do so with the simple means of grace?

Do your actions show this, or do you really.. deep down.. believe that you need to employ the better technique, the better plan, the better program to really get it done?

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I can certainly tell you how I would handle a subordinate who took over my office, replaced my gameplan with their own, and did so under their own power.  How much more accountable are we to Jesus and His Great Commission?

Just a thought.

Marc

 

 

 

 

Does God Get it Wrong?

 

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There seems to be a never-ending parade of folks hearing from God. I would say “these days” but it has been happening from the beginning of time.  There are those who sit at the bus stop  claiming to talk to Jesus (or BE Jesus). Those guys are mentally unstable, right? What about the guy in the suit standing behind a lectern who tells you that God told him something? Crazy? Prophetic?

Let’s look at a few, actual, historical examples. The pattern is obvious and changes little over the course of history. Some of this might surprise you. If you thought a guy in a suit is more credible, what about 3 of the largest religious affiliations on the planet? Are there lessons to be learned here? Let’s take a look:

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1. In 610 AD, nearly 6 centuries after the death of Christ, a 40-year-old prophet from the Arabian Peninsula began receiving messages from God from the angel Gabriel.  He was believed (and his followers continue to believe today) to have been the restorer of the original monotheistic faith; that of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

The problem? The information supposedly imparted in this direct revelation, when speaking of the errors of Christianity, is inaccurate in regard to what Christianity actually teaches. When these writings speak to matters of historically objective Christianity, they don’t contain what is written in the Old and New Testaments, rather what was understood about these writings in the Arabian peninsula during this period in history.  If you want to quickly identify a man-made historical document, you can validate (or disprove it) in light of information which would have been available to a *man* at the time, and contrast that with what was actually true yet little known, but would be known to an omniscient *God* at that point.  How does this play out?

In the content above, we have descriptions of christianity which are not only inaccurate, but in direct conflict with the christian faith.  Without going into the errors of the infancy gospels or the divinity of Christ, here’s an example that should be obvious to anyone: In condemning the teaching of the trinity, the Koran identifies the trinity as God (the father), Jesus, and Mary.

So, either God somehow changed (or forgot) the persons of the trinity, or the author of this content had a historically limited view of the christian faith.

The result? Islam, the second largest religion on the planet and it’s revelation from God, The Koran.

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How about on the American shores?

In 1835, a 30-year-old New York man, who had previously received direct revelation, multiple times from God himself and angels, began translation work on what would later be known as “The Book of Abraham”.  This translation was from ancient Egyptian Papyri which had been found, sent to America, and purchased by the young man.  Even more surprisingly, this young man was enabled to not only translate the ancient text, but to codify the alphabet and grammar from this single document.  Quite impressive!

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The problem?  While egyptian hieroglyphy was unknown in the mid 1800’s, it was later developed substantially and experts were able to go back and view both the papyri and the supposed translation.  In 1912, these documents were sent to 8 scholars who all identified the papyri to be an ordinary funerary document.  Their feedback on the young man’s supposed translation:

Egyptologist Dr. James H. Breasted of the University of Chicago noted:

“… these three facsimiles of Egyptian documents in the ‘Pearl of Great Price’ depict the most common objects in the Mortuary religion of Egypt. (his) interpretations of them as part of a unique revelation through Abraham, therefore, very clearly demonstrates that he was totally unacquainted with the significance of these documents and absolutely ignorant of the simplest facts of Egyptian writing and civilization.”

Dr. W.M. Flinders Petrie of London University wrote:

“It may be safely said that there is not one single word that is true in these explanations”

Dr. A.H. Sayce, Oxford professor of Egyptology,

“It is difficult to deal seriously with (his) impudent fraud…. (he) has turned the goddess [Isis in Facsimile No. 3] into a king and Osiris into Abraham.”

 

The problem? The author is Joseph Smith, founder of the 3rd largest religious denomination in the United States, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), better known as “Mormons”.

 

And finally, one that may surprise you as it hits within “mainstream” Christianity:

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In October of 1900, a 27 year old Kansas man named Charles Fox Parham formed a Bible College in Topeka, Kansas.  The only textbook was the Bible and the only teacher was the Holy Spirit, with Parham acting as the spirit’s “mouthpiece”.

In December 1900, Parham sent his students (who had been at the Bible College less than 3 months) to diligently search the scriptures for the Biblical evidence for his theory of the “baptism in the Holy Spirit”.  The students returned with the view that “baptism in the Holy Sprit” was evidenced by speaking in unknown tongues.

With this view, Parham called a “watch night” prayer service on December 31, 1900 to pray fervently through the night.  According to Parham, after midnight on January 1, 1901, a student named Agnes Ozman asked that hands be laid upon her in prayer.

“I had scarcely repeated three dozen sentences when a glory fell upon her, a halo seemed to surround her head and face, and she began speaking in the Chinese language, and was unable to speak English for three days. When she tried to write in English to tell us of her experience she wrote the Chinese, copies of which we still have in newspapers printed at that time.” – Charles Fox Parham

I’m sure you can guess where this is going.  Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your view) we DO still have copies of what Agnes wrote during those three days:

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The problem is predictable and follows the pattern. While Chinese was obscure on the Kansas plains in 1901, it is not obscure today.  What you see above is most certainly not chinese.  I personally submitted this paper, with no background story, to a colleague who holds a PhD in Chinese from The University of Texas at Austin as well as several Chinese chinese co-workers. Their responses were uniform:

“This is gibberish.”

 “This isn’t Chinese.”  

“This is actually quite funny. Someone said this was Chinese?”

The problem?

The woman, Agnes Ozman was a student of Charles Fox Parham and her experience is now known as the Topeka Revival which began the modern Pentecostal-Holiness movement. Parham’s ministry moved several times to areas which continue to this day to be hotbeds of the pentecostal movement, notably southwest Missouri and Houston, Texas and in 1914, Parham’s “Apostolic Faith Movement” merged with several other pentecostal groups to form The General Councils of the Assemblies of God, the largest pentecostal denomination in the world.

Parham’s view of this “baptism in the Holy Spirit” was its necessity for assurance of the salvation of the believer and that ONLY those exhibiting this baptism would be raptured at Christ’s second coming ,whose total number would be 144,000. (A view later rejected by the Assemblies of God.)  The problems here are obvious and many as there are significantly more than 144,000 people speaking in tongues. There are more than 280 million pentecostals globally. 1 in 4 professing Christians identify themselves as pentecostal.

Of interest is the fact that Parham believed these utterances to be literal, known, human languages which would eliminate the need for missionaries to receive language training prior to their placement on the mission field. Parham labeled this as “xenoglossae”, or “foreign languages”.

The most notable and documented cases of this belief was of A.G. Garr.

The following is from Dr. Gary McGee (Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church History and Pentecostal Studies at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary):

“God is solving the missionary problem,” trumpeted the Apostolic Faith newspaper,published by the Azusa Street mission in Los Angeles, California. Indeed, “the Lord has givenlanguages to the unlearned, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Zulu and languages of Africa, Hindu and Bengali and dialects of India, Chippewa and other languages ofthe Indians, Esquimaux, the deaf mute language and . . . the Holy Ghost speaks all the languages of the world through His children.”

The best-known attempt to demonstrate this proficiency came when Alfred G. (“A. G.”) Garr, pastor of the Metropolitan Holiness Church in the city, and his wife Lillian, left for the east coast in July 1906 to board ship for India, the first missionaries to leave Azusa for the “regions beyond.”

Unlike their Protestant missionary counterparts who often struggled to learn the necessary languages for mission work, the Garrs insisted they had already received the ones they needed directly from the Holy Spirit before they even left the shores of America. They could now avoid the time-consuming delay of formal language study—usually requiring several years—and begin preaching once they arrived. 

Though a missionary to India visiting Los Angeles had challenged Alfred’s ability to speak Bengali, he went still confidant that he could not only speak the language, but Chinese as well. Lillian claimed Tibetan and Chinese.

Early in the Calcutta revival, A. G. Garr not only had to face his inability to speak Bengali, but also had to re-examin the actual meaning of speaking in tongues. 

The young student, Agens Ozman later spoke of her experience, which began the modern Pentecostal-Holiness movement (which birthed the Assemblies of God, Church of God, Church of God in Christ, and the United Pentecostal Church) and summed up the problem with the errors we see in the following article published in 1909:

“Some time ago I tried but failed to have an article printed which I wrote calling attention to what I am sure God showed me was error. The article maintained that tongues was not the only evidence of the Spirit’s Baptism. When that article was refused I was much tempted by Satan, but God again graciously showed me He had revealed it to me, and satisfied my heart in praying that He might reveal this truth to others who would spread it abroad. For awhile after the baptism I got into spiritual darkness, because I did as I see so many others are doing these days, rested and reveled in tongues and other demonstrations instead of resting alone in God.” 

And here we see the common thread in all “direct revelation” from God. At best, it leads to unorthodox theology and a misfocus on the “new” message over the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, such as…

“The biggest thing for us in our exegesis of Scripture is that we believe in baptism in the Holy Spirit.” – Greg Mundis, executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions

…and at worst leads to outright rejection of Christ’s atoning work (Islam and Mormonism).

I challenge you to look at the message of any ministry which received such “direct revelation” from God, do they point to Christ’s atoning work on the cross for the forgiveness of sin? Do they confront the unbelievers with their sin and plead for their repentance, salvation, and rest in Christ?

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I believe that you’ll find, as the Mother of the Pentecostal movement herself found and repented of later in life that they do not.  “New Revelation” will always, always, replace the gospel.. and it will replace it with faith in yourself; your “feelings” and your works. If these revelations are truly “from God” then they would, be definition, be on par with commands of scripture. In other words, they would be law and to disobey them would be sin. These “new revelations” may be as seemingly obvious as someone claiming that a 900 foot Jesus appeared  and commanded them to build a medical center which would be a success (and which actually closed 8 years later) like Oral Roberts.

Others, like the current “Vision Casting” phenomenon are a bit more subtle.  Either way, looking for direct/extra-biblical revelation is a recipe for disaster.  Either way, we’re obscuring the gospel taught by the apostles, and putting people under new “law” outside of scripture.. all because of a “vision” or something “in our spirit” or “laid on our heart”.

God speaks to you. He speaks to you every time you open scripture and begin to read of the faith once and all delivered to the saints.

Don’t be deceived by your subjective emotion. The heart is wicked above all things and certainly not the place to look for “nudges”.  Open the word, the very “breath of God”.

Marc

 

 

And She Rang Her Bell….

 

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If you’ve never heard the term “Bike Rodeo”, let me explain this little joy to you; Every year, our local Police Department partners with local schools to sponsor an event in which young children are encouraged to bring their bikes to school for a safety inspection and to practice riding through an obstacle course.  It really is a lot of fun.  This year, my 2nd grade daughter was ready for her first Bike Rodeo. We spent time installing all of the necessary safety equipment; Horn, Bell, Headlights, and Taillights (Where was all this stuff when we were kids?!?).

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Next up, practicing and riding through our little neighborhood. Picture a giggling 8 year old proudly shouting, “Daddy, watch!”, “Daddy look!” as she peddled down each cul de sac.  Showing off her safety training, she would stop at each stop sign and in exaggerated fashion look both directions for traffic.  And then, peddle off again as I walked a few yards behind.

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“Car!” I’d shout, and she would stop peddling and pull to the curb as a car would slowly pass and wave.

All was well until I saw it… and it all seemed to happen in slow motion… a large black SUV backing out of an elevated driveway, unable to see my little girl.

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Baby, stop.. car.

She kept peddling.

Baby, stop!

She kept peddling.

STOP!!!!!!!!!

She turned quickly, lost her balance and toppled over, unhurt, but frightened at my tone.

Baby, whey didn’t you stop?!? You saw the car, you heard me yelling for you to stop!

“Daddy, I saw the car. I was ringing my bell so they would stop!”

It hit me like a ton of bricks. She was trying, as hard as she could, doing the “right thing” and ringing her little bell to stop the suburban that would have crushed her as she rang it.

But her peril wasn’t subjective. It wasn’t dependent on her effort or use of what she thought to be the right tool. Her little barbie bicycle bell was, simply worthless to stop the impending threat.

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I want you to hold onto that image as we look at a threat even greater to people even more helpless.

There is an event coming which, to paraphrase John Piper is 10,000 times 10,000 times more certain and heavy than the threat of a truck backing out of a driveway. It’s arrival is certain, and its impact will be felt by every man, woman, and child who has ever lived.

We will all be judged by the perfect, holy standard of God.

I want to challenge you, individually, to know that this event is a certainty. It’s coming. And the only salvation is repentance and faith in Christ’s sacrifice for your sin. There is no other salvation.  You can ring your little bell, you can use any other name, faith, or excuse.

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The church is full of hypocrites.

Ring. Ring.

I believe that all roads lead to the same truth.

Ring. Ring.

There is no God. I am my own truth.

Ring… Ring… Ring.

And for those of us in Christ, I want to present this challenge to you in a different manner. I hear the bell ringing in the modern church going on every day. There is one thing, and one thing alone which will stop those who do not know Christ from peddling into the path of their destruction, ringing their bells as they go;

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The gospel.

The good news that God has reconciled sinners to himself by grace through faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

But we don’t believe that, really. Sure, we’ll throw that up on a webpage somewhere under the “Word of God” section on our “What We Believe” tab under the “About Us” page.  But do we really believe that? Or do we ring our bells? Our bells of pragmatism, our bells of technique, or bells of attraction, our bells of relevancy, and our bells of “mission”.

I think the American church is still orthodox enough to believe and confess that WE are saved by grace through faith in Christ and not works, but our actions seem to indicate that we believe “THEY” are saved by our works and not the power of the Gospel (well, not without our help, anyway.)

So, the church rings its bells, to ourselves and to “them”.

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To ourselves:

Be still and listen to what God is speaking to your heart.  (Mysticism)

Ring. Ring.

Give your best to God and He’ll give His best to you! (Moralism)

Ring. Ring.

God loves everyone and would never judge people for being who he made them to be. (Rationalism)

Ring. Ring. Ring.

And to “THEM”?

Put on a show they will want to see to attract “them”

Ring. Ring.

Build relationships with “them” and win them to our community.

Ring. Ring.

Build missional models, employ leadership techniques,  and leverage demographic research to cast vision to “reach them” for Christ.

Ring. Ring.

Give them messages which will create “life change” through being better parents, and better spouses. Tell them how to live their best life now! Tell them that God has an incredible purpose for them, to “release the champion within them” if they’ll just be “audacious” enough to “go for it”!

Ring…Ring…Ring.

Our actions speak louder than our words. We simply do not believe that God will use the simple, foolish, offensive message of the gospel to change hearts of stone to hearts of flesh and save sinners from God’s just wrath.

God has promised in his word to use the simple means of grace; Word, Water, Bread and Wine to save and feed his sheep.

Preach the word. Shout it out until they stop and topple. Or they will keep ringing their bells, and we along with them, as they are crushed.

“They” don’t reject Christ because we lack the model, the technique, or the “hook”.  Scripture clearly tells us that “they” reject Christ because they are at enmity with God.  So you can build the model, master the technique, and design the ultimate “hook”.. and join with them in ringing a new bell headed for the same truck.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

 

Marc

 

Dear Church, My Plea

One of the real joys of the “Top 10” article going viral is that it’s given me a chance to hear from young believers who are hungry for the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Or, as Paul wrote in Galatians, the ONLY gospel.) rather than any of the replacement/false gospels so prevalent in the church today; who long to hear (and have difficulty finding) about Christ crucified for sinners.

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This week, I’d like to post a poem written and sent to me by an American college student at a large, public university.

As a short bio, the following:

“Scared of Hell. Walked the aisle. Said a prayer. Baptized. Felt some feelings.

Only recently learned how Law & Gospel are appropriately separated.

& have learned about the external Word and sacraments.

I am currently studying at the University of Arkansas. I’m 21.”

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Dear Church,  My Plea

We don’t want modernity.

We don’t want your empty promises.

We don’t want your self-help sermons.

We don’t want to find security inside of ourselves.

Stop telling me that Christ needs my commitment.

Stop telling me that I’m good.

Stop giving me new law to keep.

Stop idolizing youth.

Stop dumbing down the message.

Stop sugar-coating truth.

Stop feeding me donuts.

I need His body and blood.

Point me not to a prayer.

Point me to His Word.

Teach me His promises.

Teach me His Law.

Tell me I can’t keep it.

Tell me He fulfilled it.

I am a sinner. Just like you.

You tell me what to do.

& leave out what’s been done.

Care not about my entertainment.

Care about His message rightly proclaimed.

You give me a purity ring.

I need armor.

I need this message of reconciliation.

I need Christ crucified for sinners.

This news is good.

This Word brings life.

Rebuke this moralism.

Rebuke this mysticism.

If moralism is the message,

I don’t need Jesus.

If mysticism is the message,

I’ll get high on something else.

I’m done with this pretending.

I need solid food.

If my best life is now, I’m going to hell.

I don’t care about Friday.

I don’t care about feelings.

I’m a sinner like you.

I need Christ.

He brings life.

This fake smile’s getting old.

My Sunday clothes are wearing thin.

My heart is growing numb.

I’m broken by sin.

I need conviction from the Law.

& healing from the Lord.

My strivings are futile.

The Law leaves me condemned.

Please talk about sin.

Let your message be bloody.

Place the cross in the center.

For Christ, He alone is worthy.

Amen and Amen! Nothing for me to add here. This is poignant, passionate, and absolutely overflowing with the gospel. Fantastic!
Marc