Thursday, December 15, 2011

Unbelief is Ever Present

"Unbelief is one of the commonest spiritual diseases in these latter days. It meets us at every turn, and in every company. Like the Egyptian plague of frogs, it makes its way into every family and home, and there seems no keeping it out. Among high and low, and rich and poor, in town and in country, in universities and manufacturing towns, in castles and in cottages, you will continually find some form of unbelief. It is no longer a pestilence which walks in darkness, but a destruction which wastes at noonday. Unbelief is even thought clever and intellectual, and a mark of a thoughtful mind. Society seems leavened with it. He who avows his belief of everything contained in the Bible, must make up his mind in many companies to be smiled at contemptuously, and thought an ignorant and weak man." (J.C. Ryle)

 Additional Resources 

Daily J. C. Ryle Quotes

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bestseller "Experiencing God" Misleading Christians With "Soft" Mysticism?

Posted by Christine Pack

Reverend Jack Hughes and Reverend Justin Peters recently gave an interview in which they discussed their concerns with bestseller Experiencing (by Henry Blackaby and Claude King). This is such an important topic because this book is HUGE - beyond huge, really - in evangelical circles. My sister has a theory that the soft mysticism as taught by Blackaby leads to the hardcore mysticism of Richard Foster, Dallas Willard and the Spiritual Disciplines so big in evangelicalism today. In other words, Blackaby's Experiencing God book has primed the pump, so to speak, in helping Christians become attuned to the idea that they should be "hearing from God." In fact, in this interview, Reverend Justin Peters makes the point that Blackaby goes so far as to say that if you are not hearing from God, then something is wrong with your Christian walk! This is terrible teaching for the Christian, and absolutely not true. But once Christians have become opened up to this idea that they can and should be hearing from God on a regular basis, then they will be all the more open to the techniques and practices offered up in the Spiritual Disciplines of the Spiritual Formation movement that is so popular today, and which will ensure some kind of spiritual experience. But please note that while the experiences achieved through these techniques will be spiritual in nature, the fact remains that the techniques themselves are pagan and occultic in origin, and are thus forbidden to Christians. And that means that God will not reveal himself to man through occultic means......therefore, any "spirit" encountered through these techniques will not be of God.

In fact, a general rule of thumb for the Christian is this: we don't need any techniques or tricks for getting to God. We already have access to God, knowing that we can go boldly before the throne of grace because of the shed blood of Jesus. We also are counseled by the book of Hebrews (and elsewhere) that we are a people who are to walk by faith, not by sight, and that we must guard against the human tendency to insist upon tangibility in our encounters with God.

 Additional Resources 

Unbiblical Teachings on Prayer and Experiencing God: How Mysticism Misleads Christians by Bob DeWaay

God's Will and Christian Liberty - Part 1 and Part 2

Pastor Gary Gilley Reviews Experiencing God - Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Glory of Jesus

Posted by Christine Pack

When I was growing up, the church my family attended organized many activities for celebrating Christmas and the birth of Jesus. Our church was large enough to boast several opera trained singers and even a few musicians who were members of our city's world-class symphony; excellent Christmas programs were always offered up by the choir director. There was a magnificent tree in the main hall that the ladies of the church put up each year that was splendidly decorated with beautiful, carefully crafted hand-made ornaments, a labor of love that had taken several years to complete. There were sing-alongs, bonfires, food and clothing drives to help the poor, and of course, the Christmas play.

But when I think back to the actual theology taught to me about Jesus by this church, I am sad to say that I remember an overemphasis upon Jesus' humanity, and an under-emphasis of his Deity. Jesus was taught as a good teacher and a good man, a man who lived a life so virtuous that we should strive to model our own lives after it. The crucifixion was taught as the ultimate act of Jesus identifying with mankind in his suffering. All in all, this church presented what I now regard as a very "small" view of Jesus. Yes, Jesus did live as a man, He did live a very good and virtuous life, and He did identify with mankind. We should, by God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, seek to honor the Lord with our lives. But that is not the entire story. There is much more!

A few nights ago, my sons and I were watching The Nativity Story (my all time favorite Christmas movie ever-ever-ever). My boys are now at ages where their questions have become very deep and very challenging. While watching this movie about Jesus' first Incarnation, one of them was prompted to ask about Jesus' second coming. What a glorious thought! I began to tell them about the oft-neglected book of Revelation, which is the only book in the Bible that gives a very specific promise to those who study this book:
"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." Rev 1:3
According to Revelation, someday Jesus will come back in might and glory, to judge all the earth. He will not be Jesus "meek and mild," as He was the first time He came to earth......He will be glorious, and his magnificence and Deity will be unveiled for all the world to see!

Revelation 1:14 describes Jesus as having eyes like blazing fire....but these are the same eyes that looked with compassionate tenderness upon the diseased and crippled before He reached forth to heal them.

Revelation 1:15 says that his voice had the sound of many rushing waters, like a mighty ocean....but this is the same voice that spoke to the dead Lazarus and bid him to live and come forth.

Revelation 19:12 says that when He returns, He will have many crowns upon his head......but this is the same head that once wore a painful crown of thorns as Jesus did when He was mocked and tortured on his way to the Cross.

Revelation 1:15 says that his feet are like "bronze glowing in a furnace," while Revelation 19:15 says that his feet will tread the winepress of the Lord's fury against all unrighteousness......but these are the same feet that were nailed to a Roman cross as Jesus willingly gave his life as a ransom for many.

Revelation 19:15 also says that out of his mouth comes a sharp sword which He will use in judgment to strike down the nations....but this is also the mouth that spoke the words "It is finished" after He had suffered the agonies of hell for the undeserving and the unrighteous.

Someday He will return. Are you ready to meet the Lord? What stops you from running to the Savior and falling at his feet? Today can be the day of to Jesus! He bids you come to him. He is just and holy and pure.....but He is also filled with mercy and love for you. He has made a way for you to be saved. Will you go to him today?

photo credit: (ノಥ益ಥ)ノ uɐp~ via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? (Dr. John MacArthur, GTY)

God Came Near (Sola Sisters)

The Glory of Jesus (Sola Sisters)

Should We Have A Christmas Tree? (Got Questions?)

Christian Christmas Grinches (Kevin DeYoung)

Christmas is Just A Christianized Pagan Celebration? Not So Fast..... (Sola Sisters)

Exposé of Alexander Hislop's The Two Babylons (UK Apologetics)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Prayers Appreciated

Posted by Christine Pack

Effective immediately, the Sola Sisters blog will be on hiatus for an indefinite period of time due to family concerns.

Blessings to all the saints out there.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

10/10/10 - Proving Once Again that Paganism is the Natural Default Setting of the Human Mind

Posted by Christine Pack

Before anyone gets all excited about tomorrow being 11/11/11, let's just settle down and recognize that looking for patterns in circumstances or nature is a pagan practice! I'm reposting an article I wrote last year (right before last year's "big" numerological event - 10/10/10). This numerology stuff is big in the New Age, but it has no place among Christians! God gives us all that we need for life and godliness in his Word (2 Peter 1:3).

Original post dated 10/7/2010.

Lots of people are abuzz right now with 10/10/10 fever.  This Sunday, October 10, 2010 - 10/10/10 -  people all over the world are marking this unusual date in interesting ways.  In London, a recent article reported:
"Brides and grooms across the UK are staging a romantic rush to tie the knot on the most memorable date of the year.....10-10-10.  All around the world, the attraction of saying 'I do' on an unforgettable date has sparked a massive rush by couples to organise their big day for the 10th day of the 10th month of the 10th year of the century.  Bride to be Alice Huo said: 'A good beginning is half the success of a marriage. We believe that a good date will allow us a good beginning.'  Brides magazine says that last year, 9-9-9 was particularly desirable, especially with the Chinese, as in their culture, every single digit number has a meaning, and for them, 9 stands for longevity.  Also, three digit numbers are preferred over two or four digits, because three is a yang number and it stands for liveliness in Cantonese. "(Daily Mail UK/online source)
One website attempts to imbue this date with significance by claiming a link to the paranormal, metaphysics, chaos theory, destiny, fractals, etc.

Another website promotes an enter-to-win giveaway package, in which 10 lucky couples will win a trip to Las Vegas for the weekend of 10/10/10. That's right, gamblers - who are also romantics! - can get hitched and try to hit the jackpot on one lucky weekend.

Getting married on a "lucky numbers" day?  "Seeing" supernatural significance in numbers that coincide? Scheduling special trips to commemorate the date?  In spite of our supposed sophistication today, isn't this kind of thing, well, suspiciously superstitious...and dare I even say, somewhat pagan?

In today's world, paganism is often regarded as a nature religion, far removed from the civilized, highly developed culture we inhabit, with its multi-billion dollar economy, 24/7 television programming and Starbucks coffee.  Pagans are thought to be primitive types who sift through the natural landscape, searching for clues about who God is and what he requires of them in the hopes of coming up with a system that makes sense of what they see. As for us, we view ourselves as sophisticated, complex, intellectual.  We carry ipods and iphones and walk busy city streets, with nary a carved idol or grass hut in sight.  And yet, when people are buzzing about "lucky 10/10/10" - even to the point of planning life events around this date - are we not every bit as superstitious, even pagan, as those natives in grass huts we imagine ourselves so superior to?

The reality is that the natural default setting of the human brain is paganism.  As John MacArthur has said, there are really only two religions in the world: the kind where we reach up or the kind where God reaches down.  When we are "reaching up," it's all about trying ourselves to find the ways in which we make ourselves fit for the Kingdom of God, whatever cultural "flavor" that takes on:
Hinduism/Buddhism - yoga, meditation, fasting 
Catholicism - sacraments, baptism, good works 
Islam - mecca, prayers, Jihad 
Wicca - meditation, energy work, spells 
Native American Indians - drumming, peyote, rains dances 
Militant Environmentalism - sustainable living, vegetarianism, wearing hemp clothes
All false religions and cults have a rat wheel for its adherents to get on - and "works" for them to start churning out - in an effort to have peace.  You see, innately, all humans have eternity written on their hearts.  People instinctively know that there is a sovereign Creator God to whom they are beholden.  But how to have peace with this God? That's the eternal question.  Of all the world's religions, only Christianity answers this question satisfactorily.  We have peace with our Maker only through the means provided by Him, by God.  After all, if a Hindu or a Buddhist could achieve peace through yoga and meditation and fasting; if a Muslem could achieve peace through jihad or mecca; if a Catholic could achieve peace through the sacraments or good works, then what would be the point of the Cross?  None of the practices of other religions can bring peace because all they are are man's pitiful attempts to figure out a way to have peace with God. The systems of "works" generated by western civilization may be a little more sophisticated than the system of works designed by cultures that do rain dances and sacrifice village maidens, but they're still just works. They're still just another rat wheel to get on in an attempt to assuage our consciences.

The Cross stands as a monument to the exclusivity of Christianity - and the futility of works. Christianity is different in that Christians understand that salvation - peace with God - comes only from God, through the Cross, and not from themselves.  Peace comes from God reaching down to us, and never from us reaching up to Him.  Scripture tells us that there is "no one who is righteous," and "none who seek God."  Salvation is a gift from God, and comes not by works, so that no one can boast.

If all other religions could make a way for peace with God through adherence to some system of works, then the mantra of today's Oprah-fied culture ("All paths lead to God") would be true.  But we know it is not.  We know that only those who have been born again through repentance of their sins and faith in Christ's sacrifice on their behalf will be given that oh-so-elusive inner peace.  A true and lasting peace, rather than a cheap kind of temporary peace that comes from doing "good works" or through generating some kind of mystical religious experience.  Christianity alone offers the kind of peace that comes from knowing that - regardless of life's circumstances - we have peace with our Maker.  Makes lucky numbers and four leaf clovers seem rather small by comparison, doesn't it?

Right about now you might be thinking, "But I'm a Christian not a pagan.  I don't do any of that superstitious pagan stuff."  But remember that paganism has always tried to worm its way into the Christian church.  Think of Paul's warrning to the churches at Ephesus, Colossae and Galatia, for they were being influenced by the pagan cultures surrounding them, which were causing them to stray from the purity of the gospel.
"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority." (Col 2:8-10)
"Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.  Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence." (Col 2:18-23)
"And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you." (Gal 2:4-5)
"[T]hat we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—" (Eph 4:14-15)
So what does paganism in the modern American churches look like? It's all of the above practices, strategies, doctrines, including yoga, mantra meditation, binding demons and breaking so-called demonic spells, asceticism, dream interpretation and a fascination with numbers and dates.  But, it can also be more subtle, as in a Christian form of "works righteousness," with never-ending "how to" lists, tips, 5-point plans, and do's and don'ts.

But it is Christ who is the One who has done the work of salvation - not us.  Nor can we add to it.  Paul reminds us:
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Gal 5:1-6)
And then Jesus himself spoke to us these words:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
If you are a Christian, and you have become ensnared by any worldly teachings, works righteousness or superstitions - even perhaps while sitting under very popular or well-liked pastors or teachers - I urge you not to put your hope in pagan superstitions or your own work, and turn back to the purity of the gospel.  Repent, and run to Christ, where you can receive forgiveness and be freed from the bondage of "futile thinking" and "vain imaginations." (2 Cor. 10:5, Rom 1:21-22).

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

photo credit: 10b travelling via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Rick Warren "Decade of Destiny" - Kickoff 10/10/10

Rick Warren Promotes LaVerne Adams "Driven By Destiny" - Release Date 10/10/10

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Review of David Platt's "Radical"

Posted by Christine Pack

Gary Gilley, pastor of Southern View Chapel, has recently reviewed pastor David Platt's bestselling book Radical. In his review, Gilley takes issue with Platt's "two-tiered" gospel......i.e., a true gospel message that has been combined with a social justice mandate. Writes Gilley:
"(T)oday evangelism is losing its way in the maze of the social agenda as more and more time and resources are being poured into alleviating physical suffering rather than uprooting the cause through the gospel."
Pastor Gilley's entire review can be read here.

For what it's worthy, here are some of my thoughts on Radical, a book, incidentally, which is sweeping through churches and communities like a hot knife through butter (but don't we all remember the other Great New Things to come along in evangelicalism? Prayer of Jabez......Experiencing God.......Purpose Driven Life.....Blue Like Jazz........The Shack.......Crazy Love......etc., etc., etc.)

My issue with Platt's book is that there seems to be a subtle form of "missions pietism" undergirding this book. I get a sense from Radical that unless you sell everything to go take care of orphans behind enemy lines while taking incoming fire, you're sort of a "second-tier Christian." I'm kind of kidding with my analogy there, but then again, kind of not.... As Gary Gilley wrote above, there are definitely mixed messages in this book. The ordinary Christians who live in America and take care of their families and work at their jobs are just as "Christian" as the behind-enemy-lines "Super Christians."

Bottom line for me: Doing good things in Third World countries is not the gospel. The gospel is a distinct message that gives life to the spiritually dead. The whole world will rush to love you and embrace you and give you kudos for digging wells, dispensing medicine and helping set up infrastructure (being "Missional"). And please understand what I'm saying here: none of these things are wrong to do. We should help the poor, we should help the widowed, we should help the orphaned. But these things are not the gospel. Missions must ALWAYS be done for the purpose of gaining a platform for sharing the gospel message.

And for some Christians, the harder thing might actually be to stay here in the U.S. and do the less dramatic - but still Godly - things: lovingly and faithfully serving our families, raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the LORD, working at a less-than-exciting job to pay the bills, etc.

Are the mixed messages from David Platt's book Radical contributing to a kind of "Missions Pietism" in the making? It seems that way to me.

 Additional Resources 

The Social Gospel, Yesterday and Today - Part 1 (Pastor Gary Gilley)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Interview With A Former Professional Astrologer

Posted by Christine Pack

Former professional astrologer Marcia Montenegro wrote an excellent pamphlet several years ago for the well respected Rose Publishing group. Marcia also recently gave a radio interview discussing the information in this pamphlet which can be listened to here.

This pamphlet is an excellent resource for any Christian to have, given that even many professing Christians today engage in some of the activities listed in the pamphlet. From the Rose Publishing website:
What does the Bible teach about various forms of the occult like magic and spells? The bestselling 10 Q & A on Magic, Spells & Divination pamphlet explains the attraction of the occult in today's society and addresses 10 popular questions with the truth of God's Word. Full color and glossy, the 14-panel resource covers a breadth of topics such as white magick, casting spells, witches, psychics, and much more. 10 Q & A on Magic, Spells & Divination pamphlet is an excellent teaching tool for youth and adult Bible study groups seeking biblical answers about the occult. 
The 10 Q & A on Magic, Spells & Divination pamphlet explains the contemporary rise of occult elements in the media and in games, and the lure of the occult. Written by a former astrologer who is now a Christian, the pamphlet answers these questions: 
■ Is white magick OK since it is using powers for good? 
■ Does casting spells really work? 
■ Are witches also Satanists? What's the difference? 
■ Does astrology work? 
■ Is it OK to read your horoscope just for fun? 
■ What's the difference between a psychic and a biblical prophet, since both foretell the future? 
■ Is it OK to contact the dead? 
■ Are there such things as ghosts and haunted houses? 
■ What about the Ouija boards®--isn't it just a game? 
■ Can we use crystals as a source of spiritual power? 
10 Q & A on Magic, Spells & Divination provides answers to 10 of the most important questions regarding the occult. Here are a few interesting facts revealed in the pamphlet: 
■ Witchcraft and Wicca are modern religions and are a subset of Neopaganism 
■ A growing number of Goths follow Wicca and call themselves "Goth –Wiccans" 
■ Astrologers are often guided by spirit beings like demons who give them information 
■ God forbids any effort to communicate with the dead or other spirits 
■  Ouija® board was designed as a tool to contact the dead 
This 10 Q & A on Magic, Spells & Divination includes a "Glossary of Definitions." The glossary explains the following terms and many others— 
■ Ankh: From Egyptian paganism, a cross topped by a loop. Used in occultism to signify immortality or eternal life; also represents the union of male and female. 
■ Pantheism: The belief that God and creation are essentially one, and that the universe and its inhabitants share in God's divine nature. 
The resource also offers a listing of additional resources for learning more about magic, the occult, Wicca, and New Age beliefs, as well as "You Should Also Know" sections with additional insights and information that improve understanding and equip people for outreach. 
"Talking Tips" provides some do's and don'ts for witnessing to people involved in the occult: 
■ Do remember that people in the occult have a different worldview and may have had negative experiences with churches or Christians. 
■ Don't be fearful. God "has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7 NASB). 
■ Do keep the main focus on what the person believes about God and Jesus.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Gospel Coalition and Mystic Thomas Merton?

Posted by Christine Pack

Speaking as a former mystic who was saved, by God's grace and mercy, out of mysticism, I am quite shocked to hear that a group as well regarded as The Gospel Coalition would have a writer who openly, and admiringly, quotes from one of the all-time best known mystics to have ever lived, Thomas Merton (“(I want) to become as good a Buddhist as I can”), as contributing TGC author Mike Cosper does in a recent post.

And so questions must be asked again: Is this okay with all the members of The Gospel Coalition? Mightn't someone among the men who comprise The Gospel Coalition feel compelled to correct this young man about the heretical nature of the Roman Catholic system he is delighting in (as evidenced by his frequent retreats to a Roman Catholic monastery)?

Anyone with concerns should address their questions to any of the current Council Members of The Gospel Coalition. They are shown below.

 Additional Resources 

Tim Keller Teaching Lectio Divina, Mind-Emptying Mantra Meditation (by mystic Jan Johnson) at Redeemer

Tim Keller's "Trained Spiritual Director" Jan Johnson Recommends Mystic Richard Foster and Mystic Ignatius Loyola

Friday, October 28, 2011

“Blessed are you when men cast insults at you and persecute you.”

by Jeremy Clarke, Legacy Baptist Church, Northwest Arkansas
The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. (Acts 16:22-25)
As you may recall, Luke is giving an account of Paul’s second missionary journey and recent entrance into Philippi of Macedonia.  Paul and Silas have just seen the conversion of Lydia, and shortly thereafter are met by a demon-possessed slave girl who has chosen to follow them in an effort to discredit their ministry…namely, by incessantly barking a feigned expression of the gospel. Paul, in exasperation, finally orders the demon to evacuate the young girl, much to the disappointment of the girl’s masters who were profiting from her demon-possessed antics.  Being none too happy about Paul’s vindication of their human side-show, they apprehended Paul and Silas and literally drag them to the marketplace to stand before the chief magistrates where they begin issuing accusations against Paul and Silas, even suggesting that they have somehow brought the entire city to a point of chaos (v20) in their proclamation of the gospel.  By this time a frenzied mob begins to form with an insatiable appetite for injustice, it would seem.

With this context in mind, we pick up Luke’s account now in verse 22: “And the crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them, and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods.  And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”

Well, to the untrained eye it would seem that these wicked masters have had their way. They’ve incited the entire town to rise up against our two missionaries...and by now, Paul and Silas must have been saying between themselves, “How in the world has all of this come about?” I mean, they’ve only been in town a few days (v12). Now, all of a sudden, they find themselves naked (disrobed), encircled by a frenzied, boiling mob in the center of town…and the magistrates (supreme officials; towns usually had 2 of them) have just “order[ed] them to be beaten with rods.” And what is the indictment brought against them? Well, verse 21 says they were accused of “proclaiming unacceptable customs.”  Interestingly, the indictment is not that they’ve vindicated the slave-girl, but rather, that they are proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ…and for their testimony of Jesus Christ they have come under this severe persecution and punishment.

Now this should not surprise us, should it?  Paul said to his protégé Timothy in Phil 1:29, “To you it has been granted for Christ’s sake not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”  That seems pretty clear to me.  In other words, union with in Christ will be accompanied by suffering for Christ in the world…and both have been granted to the Christian for the sake of Christ.  The Lord Jesus Himself spoke of our imminent persecution in Matthew 5: “Blessed are you when [not if] men cast insults at you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:11).  Now listen, the persecution of a Christian by the world is the world’s response to the Christian’s message of Jesus Christ; of repentance, and faith, and purity.  Paul states it as clear as it can be stated: “All who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12). It is the inescapable lot for the genuine Christian.

As one theologian said, “A wolf is not going to devour a plastic sheep.” How true!  In other words, the world may dislike, but it will not persecute a counterfeit Christian.  The world may scorn but it will not martyr a hypocrite.  Make no mistake, beloved, persecution is a testimony to the genuineness and reality of the Christian faith.  And I’ll say further, if you profess Christ and have never come into the experience of some level of persecution, you can at least doubt the genuineness of your outward testimony and you may have reason to doubt your profession. It is folly to suggest that God’s people and can be distributed throughout a godless world system and not experience the hostilities of that system against the testimony and message they bring. You must expect to find some form of scorn from the world.

Well, Paul and Silas don’t need anyone to tell them that.  They come into intimate proximity with scorn and persecution under these magistrates who have just ordered their flailing and beating. And for that special task of punishment they deploy some very hardened men known in these ancient communities as the “Lictors.” Allow me to introduce you to them.

Lictors were Roman civil servants assigned with the task of serving as bodyguards for the local magistrates (officials).  And to aid his work, a Lictor carried a “peacemaker” of sorts; a bundle of individual birch rods approximately 4 feet in length which he bound together by a red leather ribbon to form one tight column of solid rod.  In the center was a small ax that was carried in order to carry out impromptu executions.  So picture something like a meter-foot long nightstick weighing 4-5 pounds with a small ax head protruding outward. Now, these Lictors would lean these rods up against the shoulders much the same way a rifle might be carried today, and 10 to 12 of them would form a collective rank in front of the magistrate to which the were assigned.  Wherever the magistrate went, the rank of Lictors went, escorting him like special police entrusted to ensure the magistrate’s safety, and also to keep the local peace within the community. On occasions when civic conflict arose, these Lictors would become instruments of punishment by the magistrate’s command, and were often ordered to arrest and punish (or punish, then arrest, as we’ll see shortly) citizens that were appeared to be creating unrest.

Well with that context in mind, we see more clearly what is taking place on the occasion that Luke records here for us.  The local magistrates, with this growing mob looking on, has ordered their 10-12 Lictors to beat Paul and Silas with these meter-long, 5 lbs rods (ax heads removed).  Further, verse 23 states that our missionaries were struck, not a few times, but rather, “…they had inflicted many blows upon them.”  The word “many” literally suggests the idea that someone had lost count.  It speaks of a great number.  Further the world “blows” speaks to what is called a “stripe” or a heavily inflicted wound.  So Paul and Silas were beaten times without number in a way that inflicted very deep/heavy wounds…as one might expect when being flogged by a 4-5 pound, 4-foot long column of tightly wound birch rods.

Verses 23 and 24 go on to state that, following their beating, the magistrates had Paul and Silas “...thrown into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks.”  That word “thrown” is also interesting.  It means “to let go of a thing without caring where it falls.”  So that’s Paul and Silas’ introduction to their new quarters – they’re just thrown in wherever they may land – didn’t matter; just tossed in the hole – that’s the picture here.  I can assure you that in those days, prisoners there had far more reason to talk about prisoners’ rights than prisoners do today.  The inner prison noted here is nothing more than a large, dark hole carved out of rock.  The sanitary conditions, rodents and insects alone would have made this imprisonment unbearable. And keep in mind, Paul and Silas have probably had their backs beaten to a very threatening point, medically speaking, and are now placed in this dark, filthy hole, the floor of which is no doubt covered by a thick layer of human excrement. Further, their feet have been placed into stocks, which I learned were wooden holes situated in a way that stretched the legs so that they would cramp constantly.   Miserable, miserable conditions for a healthy man…let alone two severely beaten men.

But verse 25 reveals the testimony of 2 men who, by God’s grace, saw every circumstance through the grid of God’s providential purpose.  That is, they considered themselves prisoners of the Lord, not of these magistrates…and in that mind-set, verse 25 records: “But about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” I don’t have the white space to go into this verse in detail.  We’ll have to dedicate doing so to next week’s article. The short of it is this: These two men endured their circumstances by turning to our all-sufficient Lord in prayer, and by reminding themselves of His intimate love for them by way of singing hymns that saturated their minds with reminders of the care and concern of God for His people.  And soon, God would transform the circumstances of these men to place them as conduits through which to bring about the conversion of their contemporary hardened Roman jailer….and one of God’s elect. How instructive for us, beloved.

photo credit: Image courtesy Bizzell Bible Collection, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

 Additional Resources 

On Serving One Another In Love

Discontentment Is A Sin

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sola Sisters Interview

Posted by Christine Pack

Thank you to Amy Spreeman and Mike LeMay of Q90-FM's "Stand Up For the Truth" radio program for having both the Sola Sisters on their radio show....including the mostly silent Sola Sister (Cathy Mathews). We shared our testimonies of coming out of the New Age and occultism, and we also discussed how we are seeing some of the same things we did in the New Age creeping into the church, only now, these practices have been cleverly repackaged with Christian terminology.

The program can be listened to in its entirety here.

After the Darkness, Light

Posted by Christine Pack (another essay on the Reformation, this one by my younger son)

From the 5th century to the 15th century, a spiritual darkness gripped  the world. This period of time was known as the Dark Ages (sometimes also known as the Middle Ages), and was a time of war, disease, and famine. Centuries before this time, God's own Son, Jesus, the light of the world, had come to offer his life for the sins of mankind.  But now the true Church, the one set up by Jesus, had been persecuted horribly and driven underground. So the greatest problem for the people who lived in this period was not their suffering.  It was Satan's spiritual deception—the Catholic Church which had come to dominate the world, masquerading as Christ's true Church.

The Catholic Church looked in many ways like the true church.  It taught some true things of God: the biblical timeline, the creation, the fall, and the death and resurrection of Jesus. There was, however, one important flaw amongst the teachings of the Catholic Church, one mistake that was sending thousands of people to Hell.  The Catholics believed that Jesus had NOT paid it all.  The way to get to heaven, they taught, was to get there through works.  The Bible says this is wrong.

During the Dark Ages, the Bible was only viewable by priests, and then only the most highly educated ones could even understand it.  But, from about 1400-1550, some brave men started smuggling Bibles into Europe and other countries, and translating the Bible into different languages.  This was called the Reformation.

Martin Luther
Martin Luther was one of the best known characters of the Reformation.  Luther became a monk after he prayed during a frightening thunderstorm, asking for God to protect him.  God brought him through the storm, and Luther kep his promise to God.  While he was a monk, he wrote 95 challenges to the Roman Catholic Church, or theses, as most people tend to call them.  He understood from reading the Bible that the Catholic Church was wrong in what they were teaching the people. What the priests taught the people kept them in spiritual darkness.

John Wycliffe, John Huss, William Tyndale and others also played important parts in the Reformation, but Martin Luther is the one that we know best today, because of the dramatic thunderstorm, the 95 Theses, and his part in God's plan to pierce the spiritual darkness of the Catholic Church, letting the light of God's truth into the world.

 Additional Resources 

The Reformation (a short paper on the Reformation by my older son)

"Luther" - the full length movie available at Amazon

The Reformation: Post Tenebras Lux

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mark Driscoll speaking to demons: "I want to know who all is involved here and what we're dealing with."

Posted by Christine Pack and Cathy Mathews

According to the video above, Mark Driscoll has embraced a dangerous false teaching in which Christians are taught what amounts to hand-to-hand combat with demons. This bizarre teaching was once confined to the hyper-charismatic denominations but has now invaded mainstream evangelical Christianity. (Incidentally, this teaching is also pervasive in C. Peter Wagner's New Apostolic Reformation.) This teaching instructs that Christians are authorized by God to deal directly with so-called territorial demons, in which a Christian must "reclaim" dominion over a territory (spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, etc.) that has been given over to demons due to personal sin. A recently published book (by Karl Payne) that is endorsed by Mark Driscoll might give us some insight into how and why Driscoll thinks the demon world should be directly engaged. From the publisher's notes:
"Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization and Deliverance is a transferable, step-by-step training manual on spiritual warfare. It focuses on clarifying and explaining "how to's" for recognizing and resolving attacks from the world, the flesh and the devil." (online source, Amazon)
Mark Driscoll's endorsement of Karl Payne's Spiritual Warfare book:

From the Appendices, Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization and Deliverance (pp 240-242)

On a personal note, my sister and I both have had first-hand experience with so called Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance Ministries, having both been personally involved with these ministries as very new Christians. We will be writing more on this in upcoming posts, but suffice it to say, we both came out of those experiences strongly committed to warning others about the unbiblical nature of such ministries.

While we both recognize and affirm that there IS a spiritual battle raging all around us in the unseen realm, we strongly disagree with those who believe and teach that the Bible instructs us to engage demons directly, as Mark Driscoll is discussing in the video above.

At the end of this article are a number of resources which were extremely beneficial in helping both me and my sister form a more biblical worldview. Coming out of the occult as we both did, we were virtually sitting ducks for deliverance ministries. Although we were true, born again Christians, realizing how much occultic stuff we had done - and at the same time having a very high view of God and not wanting to sin against Him - rendered us very vulnerable to suggestions to get rid of past curses, generational sin, etc. through unbiblical binding/loosing and deliverance ministries. These ministries, however, instead of helping us, led us into darkness and despair.

More to come on this....


 Radio Series 

Spiritual Warfare According to the Warfare Worldview - Part 1, presented by Bob DeWaay & Dick Kuffel
C. Peter Wagner, Bob Larson, Greg Boyd and others teach a worldview in which the well-being of Christians depends on interactions between spirits and humans. They claim there is a spiritual legal system that must be uncovered and used to fight the spirits.

Spiritual Warfare According to the Warfare Worldview - Part 2, presented by Bob DeWaay & Dick Kuffel
We examine the claims of proponents of the warfare worldview that suggest we need to gain information from shamans, New Agers, and even demons themselves in order to do battle with spirits. They create a spiritual technology based on secret information.

Spiritual Warfare According to the Warfare Worldview - Part 3, presented by Bob DeWaay &  Dick Kuffel
C. Peter Wagner says that we need to use "relatively new spiritual technology" based on information not found in the Bible. He says that we need to take this secret information and do "field tests" in the world of the spirits.

Spiritual Warfare According to the Warfare Worldview - Part 4, presented by Bob DeWaay & Dick Kuffel
In this final message, we summarize the claims of the warfare worldview and show that the only logical conclusion one can come to from that perspective is that he or she is cursed and it is hopeless. We give the alternative.

False Spiritual Warfare Teachings - Part 1, presented by Bob DeWaay & Dick Kuffel
This program examines the claims of those who teach that Adam gave world dominion to Satan and that the church has to get it back through unbiblical spiritual warfare techniques. We show the dangers of dominion theology.

False Spiritual Warfare Teachings - Part 2, presented by Bob DeWaay & Dick Kuffel
This program examines shows how unbiblical spiritual warfare teachings deny God's sovereignty over all things. We show that denying God's sovereignty leads to many unbiblical errors and creates confusion in the minds of Christians.

The Bondage Makers - Part 1, presented by Bob DeWaay & Dick Kuffel
Pastor Bob offers a frank discussion of the years he spent in deliverance ministry during the 1970's, the problems with such ministries, and how God helped him out of his errors. He explains the differences between the warfare and providential worldviews.

The Bondage Makers - Part 2, presented by Bob DeWaay & Dick Kuffel
Pastor Bob offers a frank discussion of the years he spent in deliverance ministry during the 1970's, the problems with such ministries, and how God helped him out of his errors. He explains the differences between the warfare and providential worldviews.


False Spiritual Warfare Teachings: How the Church Becomes Pagan

How Deliverance Ministries Lead People to Bondage: A Warning Against the Warfare Worldview

The Dishonoring of God in Popular Spiritual Warfare Teaching: Refuting the Bad Theology Espoused by Spiritual Warfare Teachers

Binding and Loosing, Part 1: False Spiritual Warfare Teachings

Binding and Loosing, Part 2: False Spiritual Warfare Teachings

Generational Curses: Biblical Answers to Questions Raised by the phrase "visit the inquities to the third and fourth generation"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Reformation

Posted by Christine Pack (a short paper written by my oldest son)

After Christ's death and resurrection, the true church was driven underground by fierce persecution. During the Middle Ages, Satan's counterfeit church (the Roman Catholic church) began to gain control over the citizens of Europe. This happened because of the deceit of the Catholic church and its leaders. Many lies spread by the Catholic church served to keep the people in spiritual bondage. One lie was that the priests could pray to help deceased loved ones enter into heaven. The church was “selling” these prayers for money. Another lie of the false church was that dying people should deed their properties to the priests. This lie also served to enrich the Catholic church. Unsurprisingly, at this time, the Catholic church grew in power and control over the people.

The printing press
The beginning of the Reformation was, surprisingly, the printing press. Who would have thought such a humble invention would bring about such great things? Soon, the Bible and other books were being spread throughout Europe. Yet, there was another problem. The Bible had not been translated into the common languages of the people of Europe. Only priests and trained scholars could read the Bible, and they weren't exactly about to spread the Good News of how man was reconciled to God. They were too entrenched in their luxurious lifestyles. This is why the printing press did not bring about dramatic changes at first; that is, until a certain man came along. This man was Martin Luther. Martin Luther was a scholar born into a highly educated family, whose father desired for him to become a lawyer. At one point in his life, being afraid of a fierce storm, Martin Luther prayed and vowed that he would be God's servant if God would deliver him from the storm. God spared his life and Luther became a monk. But Luther became angry at the Catholic church because he read in the Bible that salvation was through grace alone by faith alone in Christ's atoning death – and this was radically different from what the priests taught the people.

Martin Luther acted boldly to free the people from spiritual bondage. He wrote ninety-five points (or theses, as they came to be known) that directly challenged the teachings of the Catholic church, and which explained to the citizens the treachery of the church leaders. He then nailed these Ninety-Five Theses on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany! This act was the spark that ignited what came to be known as The Reformation. Martin Luther, along with others, worked to translate the Bible into the languages of the people. Those who fought for truth, and against the teachings of the Catholic church, were called “Protest-ants,” (because they were protesting against Rome) and eventually became known as Protestants, a designation still used today. The Reformation was the way that God brought the light of truth into the darkness that characterized most of the known world during the Middle Ages. To God be the glory!

 Additional Resources 

After The Darkness, Light (another short paper written by my youngest son)

Answers in Genesis FREE Weekly Download - "The New Answers DVD"

Posted by Christine Pack, from the Answers in Genesis website:
What do you really believe—and why does it matter to your life, your family, and your faith? 
We live in a culture with more questions than ever—questions that affect one’s acceptance of the Bible as authoritative and trustworthy. This video download features easy to understand answers to some of the most important apologetics quandaries of today. You’ll love these highly stylized mini-interviews, featuring authors from the best-selling books. This DVD contains twelve answers, each about 4-minutes in length. 
This DVD answers the following questions: 
- Did Humans Really Evolve from Apelike Creatures? (Menton) 
- Does the Big Bang Fit with the Bible? (Lisle) 
- What’s Wrong with Progressive Creation? (Mortenson) 
- Is the Intelligent Design Movement Christian? (Purdom) 
- Can Creationists Be “Real” Scientists? (Lisle) 
- What’s the Best “Proof” of Creation? (Ham) 
- Doesn’t the Order of Fossils in the Rock Record Favor Long Ages? (Snelling) 
- Why Is the Scopes Trial Significant? (Menton) 
- Was the Dispersion at Babel a Real Event? (Hodge) 
- When Does Life Begin? (Mitchell) 
- Does Radiometric Dating Prove the Earth Is Old? (Snelling) 
- How To Respond to Someone Who Asks, “Why Is This Important?” (Ham) 
Concise and fast-paced, this cutting-edge video download is especially great for teens and young adults. (Ten of the answers are based on topics in The New Answers Book 2, and two are totally new.)
Go here to access your FREE video download.

 Special Note to Readers 

I can't even begin to express how instrumental Answers in Genesis was in helping to form my biblical worldview. As a new Christian, I was still pretty evolutionary in my thinking. Then along came AIG.  I remember going through their LONG list of scientists on staff and just being amazed! And here's why: I had always been told and taught, from grade school all the way up through college, that science had "proved" evolution. Evolution was "fact." So, having had this life-long indoctrination, the first time I ever heard of "Young Earthers" as a new Christian, I immediately thought "cult!" But then several years later, along came Answers in Genesis, and here were all these scientists on staff, many of them with multiple and advanced degrees in the sciences.  In other words, it's not like these were guys with their PhDs in Literature or something, weighing in on subjects they hadn't studied. These were scientists who had studied Archaeology, Biology, Zoology, Geology, Physics, Chemistry, Palaeontology, etc., etc., and who, after studying the evidence, were saying, "It points to Young Earth, and here's why...." Bottom line: I just really like how these scientists, working alongside Answers in Genesis, have turned that condescending, worldly dismissal of the Young Earth view on its ear. There are no "village idiots" in this bunch, my friends. You can say a lot of things about this group of scientists, but one thing you can't say is that they're stupid. In fact, I believe that God is using the ministry of Answers in Genesis to respond to the mockers of this age:
"It is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.' Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Corinthians 1:19-20)

 Additional Resources 

Answers in Genesis FREE Weekly Download - "Why Won't They Listen?"

Radioactive and Radiocarbon Dating with Dr. Andrew Snelling

The Grand Canyon: A Trickle of Water Over Millions of Years? Or A Deluge of Water Over a Brief Period?

Answers in Genesis

Answers in Genesis Curricula

Answers in Genesis for Kids

Answers in Genesis Articles Archive

The Creation Museum

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On The "Faith" of Mother Teresa: John Ortberg Strikes Out

Posted by Christine Pack

In a recent article for Christianity Today (10/17/11), John Ortberg, senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, addressed the issue of "When God Seems Far Away" with an account of Mother Teresa's life. Ortberg talks about Mother Teresa having an on-fire faith for Jesus as a young woman...but then at some point, suddenly and inexplicably, the "fire" goes away. And not only goes away, but stays away. In her struggle to understand why her "God" had deserted her, Mother Teresa wrote a number of letters over a long period of time (50 years), letters which were published posthumously, and which, rightfully, raised questions about Mother Teresa's spiritual status when she died.

Ortberg writes that during this period of spiritual desolation, "a wise spiritual counselor told (Mother Teresa) three things she needed to hear." These three things were:
First, that there was no human remedy for this darkness. (So she could not control it.) 
Second, that "feeling" the presence of Jesus was not the only or even the primary evidence of his presence. (Jesus himself said that by their fruit—not their feelings—you shall know his true followers.) In fact, the very craving for God was a "sure sign" that God was present—though in a hidden way—in her life. 
Third, that the pain she was going through could be redemptive. That Jesus himself had to experience the agony of the Absence of God: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" His suffering redeemed us. Like him, Mother Teresa could suffer redemptively by clinging to God in the midst of darkness. (online source)
While this person who counseled Mother Teresa might have been considered wise by the world's standards, let's look at this counsel as compared to the Word of God:
(1) "(T)here was no human remedy for this darkness." 
This is actually a true statement in that there is no human remedy for the kind of spiritual darkness experienced by Mother Teresa. However, we know from Scripture that not only is Jesus light, and brings spiritual light to his followers, but that his followers are also characterized by this light: 
“Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) 
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
(2) "(T)he very craving for God was a 'sure sign' that God was present—though in a hidden way—in her life."
In my own life, sadly, I can attest that before being born again I had a deep craving to know God and be connected to God. But my heart was not oriented toward the true God of the Bible. However, we know from Scripture that we are made in the image of God, and because of this, we are all - lost and saved alike - spiritual beings who are oriented toward worship (or, "craving" for God). And being thusly made, we all can, and will, worship. The question is: is our worship rightfully oriented toward God? or is it oriented toward the false god(s) conjured up in our vain imaginations? Having a "craving for God" does not prove that the true God of the Bible is present; it merely proves that one is human and is spiritually oriented toward some kind of worship. Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Hindus and Buddhists all seek after God, or so they think. But their "sincerity" does not somehow transform their seeking into true worship. And as Mother Teresa was a practicing Roman Catholic, what evidence is there that she sought the God of the Bible, as opposed to the false, and changeable, "God" of the Roman Catholic church?
(3) "(T)he pain she was going through could be redemptive."
This idea of redemption-through-suffering is far more Roman Catholic than it is Christian. Writes Tim Challies in his article The Myth of Mother Teresa:  
“The common belief is that Mother Teresa worked with the sick and destitute to lovingly return them to health. An examination of her missions will show that this is far from the case. Mother Teresa believed that there is spiritual value in suffering. Once, when tending to a patient dying of cancer, she said 'You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you.' (Christoper Hitchens - The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, p. 41). For this reason she would not prescribe pain killers in her clinics, choosing instead to allow her patients to experience the suffering that she believed would bring them closer to Christ. (my emphasis)
So Mother Teresa apparently "ministered" to people in her care by allowing them to suffer pain unrelieved by pain medication under the Roman Catholic delusion that their suffering had redemptive powers. But from Scripture we know that redemption comes through repentance and faith in Christ's atoning death for the forgiveness of sins, and no other way.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  (John 14:6)
There is also, more importantly, evidence that Mother Teresa withheld the life-giving truth of the gospel message from those in her care who were dying, and would instead encourage them to pray to the "god" of their particular religious faith, whatever that might be. Here is even more troubling evidence that Mother Teresa herself was in all likelihood not saved herself.
I consider this article by Pastor John Ortberg to be a big swing and a miss, and also a real missed opportunity to exhort Catholics to reject the teaching of salvation by sacraments/works/suffering (as taught by the Catholic church) and come out from that dark, spiritual bondage and into the light - the true Light - that only comes by hearing the true gospel message and being born again by faith in Christ alone.

photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Mother Teresa
The Myth of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa A Lost Soul

Mother Teresa in Her Own Words

Testimony of a Former Roman Catholic Priest....From Darkness to Light

Far From Rome, Near to God

Proclaiming the Gospel: The Ministry of Mike Gendron (former Roman Catholic)

CNN Reports That Mother Teresa Underwent Exorcism

BBC Reports About Exorcism Performed on Mother Teresa

A Chart With Christian/Catholic Views Side-By-Side (courtesy of former Roman Catholic priest Richard Bennett)