Monday, July 20, 2015

Teaching Audio

Recently I had the privilege of teaching my church's adult Sunday School class for a few weeks. If you care to listen, here is the audio from four of the five lessons (the second was not uploaded).

Week 1 - Creation, and what it tells us about God and ourselves

Week 3 - Sin and Atonement in Exodus 32-34, and intro to Leviticus

Week 4 - Substitutionary Atonement in Leviticus

Week 5 - The Supremacy of Christ in the book of Hebrews

I hope this will be a blessing to you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Lamest "God Told Me"

This weekend there's a conference in Houston that I would have loved to attend, but will be unable to. The theme of the Sufficient Fire conference is the sufficiency of the Word of God, which stands in stark contrast to the constant barrage of "God told me" theology plaguing evangelicalism. But just because I can't go doesn't mean I can't participate my own unique way - by compiling the lamest examples of someone playing the "God told me" card anywhere on the internet.

I'm not looking for the usual suspects and low-hanging fruit. I mean, any day now Pat Robertson will come down from the mountain with prophecies God gave him for 2015 (much like last year, and every year). We're only a few weeks removed from Perry Noble claiming God told him to preach a sermon against the Ten Commandments and the gospel. That stuff - it's just too easy and obvious, and far better people write far better responses to it.

No, the niche I'm going for here is the utterly lame. The times when someone claims "God told me" or "God is leading me to", and you just can't believe they would waste such a trump card on something so incredibly trivial or stupid. For example:

About ten years ago I was leading a Bible study for my church's singles group. My friend Mitch, the leader of the group as a whole, had been trying to get his old friend Jon to come, and one week he finally agreed. Jon missed that study, and the next time we saw him, we asked what happened.
"Well, I was planning on going to Bible study, but God told me not to."
Oh really?
"Yeah, I was going to go, but I heard God say, 'Jon, I want you to go to the video store instead.'"
Oh, I bet. So what did the Almighty tell you to get a the video store, pray tell?
"A History of Violence. Don't ever watch that, it was awful!"

There you have it. A guy claimed God told him to skip Bible study to rent an awful movie. But at least we were warned not to see a movie we already had no intention of watching!

I would like to think it can't get any lamer than that. But this is your chance to prove me wrong. Put your examples of the most ridiculously pathetic times someone has thrown out a "God told me" around you. And then we can all thank God for the Bible, so we don't need to engage in such nonsense.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

No Bad Malarkey Puns

Unless you only get your news exclusively from official Southern Baptist sources or Charisma Magazine, you've probably heard that Alex Malarkey, the boy whose 'visit to heaven' was chronicled in the book "The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven", has finally gotten word out that the book is his father's embellishing of stories he told to get attention. In other words, he never went to heaven (duh), told some wild stories, his dad turned them into a book and made off with loads of cash. Also, we found out that the publishers and bookstores knew this years ago, but continued to peddle it for filthy lucre.

Many pixels have been and will continue to be darkened over this saga, and frankly there will be better places to get news and commentary than here. My main contribution here will be to clarify one talking point and preemptively shoot down another that's sure to come out.

1) The publishers/bookstores just found out this was a fraud. I've already linked Phil Johnson's documentation showing that Tyndale House knew that Alex disputed the book as far back as 2011, despite their claims that they just found out last week. But that's not what I mean here.

I mean that they knew it was a complete load of garbage the instant they saw a manuscript, or even heard a pitch for the book. Seriously, this isn't Discernment 101, this is like the intro to the syllabus for Remedial Discernment.

Did Alex Malarkey die, go to heaven, and come back with a report for us? No. Did Colton Burpo or Don Piper? No. Did the next person to make this claim, or the next, or the next? No, no, and no. And so on.

They didn't just find out this was a fraud. They just found out (in 2011) that Alex was recanting his story. But they should have known all along this story was a bucket of horse manure. (On the bookstore side, the SBC officially condemns this type of book as heretical nonsense, yet their bookstore chain (Lifeway) continues to sell them. This is one of the major driving forces of #the15, a push to call elites to account for things like peddling heresy for profit.)

2) Unbelievers are slandering the church because of this. I have seen this lament, due to how many news and faux-news organizations are covering this and how the reprobate are openly mocking. But what I anticipate - I'm surprised I haven't seen it yet - is that this will be thrown at #the15 and the like. That is, they will say that the reason people are mocking Christ and his church is that they pushed to get the truth and make it known. If we had been content to leave things be, they would have no cause to mock.

I would suggest they take it back a step further - the cause for mocking here isn't that the truth came out, it's that the book was produced at all, then peddled and bought en masse. The problem isn't that Pulpit and Pen got the backstory to the book, it's that Tyndale House published it as if it were a Christian book at all. The problem isn't that people pushed Lifeway to discontinue the book, but that they ever sold it in the first place.

My crazy idea is that there would be less to mock if Christian publishers and bookstores showed as much discernment as a moldy tangerine, and reject obviously anti-Christian books like this outright. People aren't mocking because we've spoken when we should be silent, but because they were silent when they needed to speak.

Monday, December 15, 2014

What Downgrade Looks Like

Early 2008, we had just moved to the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Once we realized that it wouldn't be feasible to stay with our church downtown, we decided to check out the large church about three blocks away, Harvest Bible Chapel, pastored by James MacDonald, whose teaching I was somewhat familiar with from the Walk in the Word radio broadcasts and some small group material. Long story short, we stayed for a few years, until the pachyderms moved in.

Around that time, the local "Christian" TV station started broadcasting Walk in the Word, just some simple video recordings of his sermons. Maybe a few months later, the station put up a bunch of billboards around town advertising their lineup. Imagine my surprise when I was driving past O'Hare airport to see my pastor looking over I-90, sandwiched between Joyce Meyer and (I think) Kenneth Copeland! Other billboards around town featured the likes of Creflo Dollar, Joseph Prince, and someone you may have heard of named TD Jakes.

That Sunday during the sermon, there was a brief aside about the billboards. Essentially, James said that we were pulling Walk in the Word off that station immediately. He said that he and the elders had agreed to go on that station because they had determined to preach the gospel anytime, anywhere - but they had a condition for the station. They were not supposed to use him or the church to make it look like we endorsed the other preachers. Why? He made it very clear that they all - everyone featured on those billboards except Greg Laurie - preached a false, damnable heresy called the prosperity gospel, or some other heresy such as antinomianism. And he wanted nothing to do with that sort of preaching, or even looking like he endorsed its adherents.

Fast-forward to 2014, and we get this:

(Or see it here if the embed didn't work)

Fun fact: that TV studio was acquired shortly before we left (without our catapult ride, unfortunately). When it was announced, aside from lying to us about our financial status, James claimed the purpose was to make movies/shows/broadcasts to counter the poison that typically fills supposedly-Christian TV. Now he's handed it over to the chief distributor of spiritual ricin.

All that to say, this is another knife twist, and it's gut-wrenching to see someone fall so far so fast dive headfirst into the abyss.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Theology? Ain't Nobody Got Time For That!

Over the weekend I saw numerous reports of the death of Myles Munroe. At first I thought they were talking about this guy:

...which is odd, since I thought he died before the 138th episode spectacular, but I digress. Myles Munroe was a prosperity shill and heretic extraordinaire; your soul would probably have been in better hands with the incompetent Simpsons psychiatrist.

One of the clips making the rounds in the wake of Munroe's death puts the heretical focus of his prosperity teaching on full display:

Pure evil. This is prosperity teaching showing its true wickedness: Christ is at best a bit player in your quest for kingdom authority and blessing. Reprehensible.

Now that we have that out there, let me ask: just how different is that from the ministry philosophy of many churches in America today? This isn't an issue just in the extreme fringe that comprises 99.44% of Charismania; a (milder?) form of this problem hits even ostensibly orthodox churches all around us.

Preaching about "felt needs" at the expense of doctrine. The Willow Creek model of saccharine bare-minimum (aiming down to the lowest denominator, and often overshooting) sermons on Sunday, withholding any imitation of doctrine for mid-week services for the super-spiritual. The Saddleback model wherein everything is about you finding your special purpose, where somehow the book of Daniel is about dieting.

Youth ministries where scripture, if taught at all, takes a backseat to games and fluff messages 'to help them get through school this week'. Churches that never preach anything but how to have a better life - better friendships, a better marriage, doing better at work, better sex, better sleep, better breathing, better fitness, better whatever.

If I remember correctly, I was once told not to bother teaching about the doctrine of providence because people don't care about that, they just want to know how they're going to make it through the week.

So yeah, this Munroe character was a reprehensible heretic, and his idea that we shouldn't tell people about Christ and the cross is poison from the deepest pits of hell. But don't be fooled into thinking he was alone, or that his heresy died with him. That same wicked attitude permeates the church all around us.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Find the Baby in this Bathwater

In the most recent edition of Hither and Thither 2.0, Dan Phillips linked to two articles from Charisma magazine online. Morbidly curious, I checked them out and - wow. Have a look for yourself:

Zechariah 1 Holds a Key to a Third Great Awakening, where the author mangles Zechariah before telling about the time he supposedly spent six hours with God in his sanctuary.

Prophecy: Posture Your Hearts to Receive Power at 5:55, which is written by a faux-apostle, features a mix of dreams, numerology, awful word study, sappy Disney movies, utter nonsense, and false prophecy. It's a real tour-de-force.

The sidebar of each article has links to other featured content at the site, and it all looked pretty special, too. But I wasn't sure if that was really representative of what was at this site, so I went to the front page, spun the mouse wheel to scroll down a random amount, and this is what I saw:


Three articles, three examples of utter unbiblical nonsense. How to Command Your Angels? An interview on Practical Strategies to Defeat the Devil? Both were garbage. But the sheer stupidity of What the Python Spirit Really Wants stands apart as witchcraft with a thin veneer of Christian language (do read Lyndon Unger's comments, the term "Wiccangelicalism" needs to catch on).

Look, all through the run-up to the Strange Fire conference, the main complaint was about throwing the baby out with the bathwater, of attacking the "fringe" at the expense of the sane, actually-Christian mainstream. I have to ask, is Charisma Magazine part of the fringe, and somehow not mainstream? Because at Charisma, there's no baby, there's not even bathwater, there's just a big tub of toxic sludge.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Awesome Power of The Word

Not long ago I heard an entertainer-type give his testimony, telling his story of how he was brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. He had almost zero exposure to Christianity or scripture until he was 30-ish, when a friend suggested he should read some of the Bible. He chose at random, and read Ecclesiastes. Then he read it again, and again. Solomon's writings cut him to the core, laying low his pride and self-righteousness, and exposing his absolute need for a savior.

RC Sproul has half-joked that he may be the only person in history who was saved through the preaching of Ecclesiastes 11:3: "Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there will it lie." Read more of the story of his conversion here.

I was a freshman in college, thinking I was saved because I went to church a lot when I was a kid, but completely lost. I was hypocritically involved in a Christian group on campus, because hey, what better way to soothe my conscience after a week of wanton sin? I was reading the Bible for some reason, got to Ephesians 4:17ff, and was crushed. This passage describes the night-and-day difference between those who are reborn in Christ and those who remain dead in sin, and there was absolutely no doubt which group's description I fit. At that point the choice was to repent and come to faith in Christ, or walk away entirely; either way, continuing to pretend was not an option. Thankfully, God raised me and brought me to faith.

What do all these vignettes have in common? In each case, someone was brought to repentance and faith through scripture that will never be described as evangelistic. I mean, Fred Butler will write Jar Jar Binks fan fic before someone puts Ecclesiastes 11:3 in an evangelistic presentation. Every evangelism class will have you learn Ephesians 2:8-9, but I can't imagine one having you learn Ephesians 4:19. Yet these passages, being the Word of God, are fully capable of convicting of sin and the need for Jesus, the only Savior.

"All Scripture is breathed out by God" (2 Tim 3:16) - and as our Arminian friends uncritically say, all means all. And this scripture, as Paul says, is "the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 3:15).

The Word of God is powerful. Preach it.