Saturday, November 13, 2010

On The Scriptures

by Jeremy Clarke
Legacy Baptist Church, Northwest Arkansas

The Bible is a treasure of inestimable worth, preserved through the ages so that it might be the steady and cherished companion of God’s people.  To that end, the believer is commanded to search the Scriptures, to feed on the truths therein, and to saturate his/her mind with their unfailing instructions.  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” (Colossians 3) said the apostle Paul to the church at Colossae.

The word of God is, of course, the reflection of the pristine mind of God, and therefore ought to arrest our devout attention. It ought to be desired as the source of our nourishment and growth in Christ.  “As new-borne babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” (1 Peter 2) To be sure, those pilgrims who have shone with the brightest luster for Christ, those who radiate joy inexpressible are those who have loved and esteemed most the word of God.  And why would we not cherish this inexhaustible treasure??  It is the message from God Himself pertaining to the gravest of issues.  It expounds an imminent judgment, thus soberly and authoritatively revealing Jehovah as an infinitely holy, deathless, sovereign, omnipotent Spirit to whom all must appear and give an account in order to be actualized into an eternal state that can never, ever be altered.  So too the word of God discloses the adorable Christ, reveals a second life, uncovers an eternal world, and depicts a colony of redeemed humanity triumphing in the fullness of joy and in the glory of the presence of their Savior for all eternity.  What sort of treasure is this book compassionately preserved for our discovery!

To that end, the Lord Jesus said “It is these [the Scriptures] that bear witness of me.”  (John 5:39) Oh, how important is such a statement by our Lord!  The word of God guides a man  to eternal life, diffusing life-giving light when made effectual by the Spirit of God, to reveal Jesus Christ as He alone who provides the righteousness that God demands.  Rest assured, then, we cannot prize the word of God sufficiently.  It was David who said, “Thy testimonies are wonderful!” and “My eyes fail with longing for Thy word.” (Psalm 119)…..and rightly so, Christian!   The Scriptures lead our thoughts beyond the temporal; beyond the concerns of a few vain, mortal years; beyond the circumstances and issues of this life to those awful and glorious scenes that await a man after the advent of his certain death.

How foolish then is preoccupation with the wisdom of this world and with its “books?”  “Be warned, the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.  The conclusion when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.  For God will bring every act to judgment; everything which is hidden, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12). Vain is that transient knowledge that can catalogue all of the world’s discoveries, and yet has rendered itself ignorant and barren to the precepts of the infinitely wise and immortal God.

The Scripture exceeds all that could ever be commended by human wisdom in this fleeting world.  How foolish it is then, particularly for that man or woman who, having tasted God’s redemptive grace, shuns the very written expression of His grace, preferring instead to relegate it to a mere fancied, half-hearted reading….and even that on rare occasions.  Let the word of God be your continual delight, Christian! Let it receive your continual reverence.  “Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool; but to this man I will look, to Him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at MY word.” (Isaiah 66)

photo credit: knowhimonline via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

For the Christian: "I Will Never LeaveYou Nor Forsake You"

On Serving One Another In Love

On Serving One Another In Love

Discontentment Is A Sin

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Too Low A View of Regeneration

Posted by Christine Pack

" 'Well, I was out here on the highway, and I was driving and I had a flat tire and I got out to change the tire, and when I was changing the tire, the lug nut fell off, and I wasn't paying attention that I was on the middle of the highway.  I stood up and there was a 30-ton logging truck going 120 miles an hour about ten yards in front of me, and it ran me over and that's why I'm late.'  Now, there would only be two logical conclusions. One, I'm a liar or two, I'm a madman. You would say, 'Brother Paul, it's absolutely absurd. It is impossible, Brother Paul, to have an encounter with something as large as a logging truck and not be changed.' And then my question would be to you, What is larger? A logging truck or God? How is it that so many people today profess to have had an encounter with Jesus Christ, and yet, they are not permanently changed?"

- Paul Washer, Having Too Low A View of Regeneration

photo credit: TranBC via photopin cc

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hereafter, A Review

The following is a great review by my friend (and former New Ager) Marcia Montenegro, of the current movie Hereafter. The thing that jumped out at me in Marcia's review was her commentary on a line from the movie about a "conspiracy of silence" that supposedly surrounds the supernatural realm with regards to what happens to people "on the other side." It's really almost laughable to me that Clint Eastwood would proffer such a theory: after all, as a culture, we are almost insatiable when it comes to having an appetite for the supernatural.  There is no shortage today of supernaturally-themed movies / TV programs / games / toys / books / etc.  And while we may be somewhat more sophisticated in our "paganess" today, in that we don't wear bones through our noses and do rain dances, the underlying sin is the same....and that is a desire for hidden knowledge, and a rebellion against God's revealed truth in his Word. God's Word tells us plainly that astrology, communicating with spirits, communicating with the dead, divination, reading signs, etc. are all off-limits...and yet what fascinates our culture and our youth today? Exactly those things. This is a movie that Christians should steer clear of.  And now, for my friend Marcia's more in-depth review......

by Marcia Montenegro,

This movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, is a rather understated meditation on what lies beyond death. There are three stories around this theme that converge at the end. The movie offers no clear answers but does promote a belief that one can contact the dead.

One story revolves around a well-known French journalist, Marie, who has a near death experience when she is hit on the head and goes underwater in a tsunami, almost dying, or perhaps dying and coming back. It is not clear which. However, the film shows this as a fleeting episode and all Marie sees is a bright light and some shadowy figures. It is more of a dreamlike vision than what is normally thought of as a near death experience.  This experience sends her on a quest to understand what happened, and to begin to believe that there is life after death. Her obsession with this finally leads her to talk to a hospice doctor who gives her some documents and then to write a book about it.

Matt Damon stars as George, a former psychic in San Francisco who gave it up because he considers it a curse. He is persuaded by his brother to do a reading for a friend. When he briefly holds the man’s hands, he gets visions and is able to tell the man about his dead wife and give him a message from her. Trying to live a normal life, George takes a cooking class where he meets a beautiful woman. Later at his place, she finds out about his past. George tells her that he had an illness as a child that affected his brain and he had to have several operations, during which he died and came back. He tells her that after this he had migraines and nightmares, and then started seeing dead people. Thinking this was a mental illness, pills were given to him. They took away this ability but also deadened him in other ways, so he stopped taking the pills.

The woman talks George into doing a reading. He is very reluctant but does it anyway. He gets a message from her father about something her dead father did to her in her past that is emotionally devastating. She flees and George never sees her again.

The third story involves a young boy and his twin brother in London whose mother is alcoholic and a drug addict. This bonds the boys even more closely together.  After the older twin, Jason, dies in an accident,  the younger twin, Marcus, deeply grieving, is moved to a foster home (due to the mother’s need to go into rehab). Marcus searches the Internet for psychics and mediums, and then steals money from the foster parents so he is able to consult several of them. None of them give a message from Jason. One day, Marcus sees George’s former website and this leads to the intersection of stories at the end.

Marie ends up in London at a book fair to read portions of her book, which is titled “Hereafter: A Conspiracy of Silence.” George leaves San Francisco after losing his job and travels to London to see the home of his favorite author, Charles Dickens. He, too, ends up at the book fair in order to hear a famous actor read Dickens. Marcus is taken to the book fair by his foster parents, whose son works there as a security guard.

At the book fair, George comes across Marie and is captivated by her. When his hand accidentally brushes hers, he has a vision. She is also taken with him, though no reason for this is given. Marcus sees George at the fair and recognizes him: “You’re that psychic, aren’t you?” George denies it and tries to get away, but Marcus follows him, loudly declaring, “Yes, you’re that psychic! I saw you on the Internet!”

Marcus ends up waiting outside George’s hotel. Taking pity on him, George lets him into his room where, once again, he gives in to someone’s desire to contact a dead loved one.  It is no surprise to the viewer when George gets a message from Jason for Marcus since George has been accurate in the other readings. Jason has few words to say about how he is doing, “weightlessness” being one of them, an attribute he thinks is “cool.” Jason urges Marcus to live his own life and to stop wearing Jason’s cap. The final words from Jason are, according to George, “If you’re worried about being on your own, don’t be, because he [Jason] is you and you are him.” I do not find this message comforting at all but apparently it is supposed to be a profound revelation.

Marcus asks George where Jason is but George admits he does not know, even after all the readings he has done.  So there are some things even George does not know about life after death. Getting messages from the dead may bring comfort, or sometimes grief (as it does to the woman in the cooking class), but George is clueless as to the location of these dead people.

Although George is called a psychic, he is more technically a medium, someone who claims to contact or hear from the dead.  All mediums are psychics, but not all psychics are mediums.

The fact that George gets all his information by merely touching the person’s hands is not in keeping with the way most psychics and mediums operate. Normally, they go into an altered state (similar to a light hypnotic trance) in order to receive the information.  Also, they are not as accurate on all details as George is.  No psychic that I know of claims 100 percent accuracy.

It is interesting that the three stories converge in London, which is known as a center of spiritualism, a belief in and practice of contacting the dead.

Marie’s book title, “Hereafter:  A Conspiracy of Silence,” is a joke. Marie states that no one wants to talk about this topic. But what conspiracy or what silence do we see in our culture about near death experiences or life after death? In fact, we see the opposite! There is a surfeit of books, television shows, movies, and internet sites devoted to these topics, such as the movie “The Sixth Sense,” and others, and popular television shows like “Medium,” and “Ghost Whisperer.” A surplus of psychics and mediums offer to contact the dead. Sylvia Browne, James Van Praagh, and John Edward, who have all written bestsellers (and Browne and Van Praagh continue to write), are just a few of many. Books speculating on life after death, claiming to document messages from the dead, and proffering accounts of so-called near death experiences fill the bookstore shelves.

What is lacking in today’s culture is the truth: that God condemns calling up the dead or even consulting a medium and denounces it as spiritual adultery (Lev. 19:31, 20:6; Deut. 18:11; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chron. 33:6; Isaiah 8:19).

Any information on a dead person from a medium, if not coincidental or discovered through fraud, is coming from demons. All psychics and mediums have spirit guides whom they consider benevolent. Sylvia Browne often talks about hers, Francine, and has said that most of her (Browne’s) information about what she calls “the other side” comes from Francine. Naturally, these guides are demons and may be what the Bible calls “familiar spirits.” Mediums, psychics, astrologers, card readers, palm readers, and others cannot operate without them.

The movie, in providing a main character who seemingly can contact the dead, gives not a valid message about the dead or about life after death, but rather a deadly message: contact with the dead is possible and is acceptable.  This is a message that opposes God’s word and should be rejected.

 Additional Resources 

Marcia Montenegro's Testimony

Thursday, November 4, 2010

For the Christian: “I Will Never Leave You Nor Forsake You”

by Jeremy Clarke, Legacy Baptist Church, Northwest Arkansas

On Trials:

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the circumstances that confront us; of the state we find ourselves in from time-to-time, and of those seasons in life when the issues of life seem to overwhelm and dishearten us. I suppose the frequent prayer requests as of late have served to renew my appreciation for all of this.  I have been reminded that, of those insulated from affliction, the children of God are not numbered among them.  Common and diverse are the trials that we encounter.  Whether a suffering child or an estranged family hostile to the gospel… adversity and affliction seem to abound.  And while the issues of life may not belong exclusively to the children of God, their divine and joyful purposes most certainly do.

“But if you are without chastisement, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” says the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews.  Shortly thereafter, Hebrews records that God chastens “...for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.” (Heb 12:10).  The annals of Christianity reveal that the greatest models of the faith; those who shone brightest for Christ, were intimately acquainted with trials and suffering.  Take a moment to catalogue them if you like: Job, Joseph, Elijah, the prophets, Paul and the entire company of Christ’s apostles. Each one groomed for eternity in the great furnace of adversity.  Job himself, in the midst of incomprehensible affliction said, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23)  Again, God may intend any number of outcomes for the trials that confront us.  As mentioned above, they may be directed in order to purify us.  At other times they may be intended to develop perseverance/strength, as James affirms for us: “…knowing the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1).  Still, at other times, the Lord may see fit to leverage adversity in order to develop within us the spiritual discipline of resignation, submission and contentment.  Of this lesson, even the great apostle Paul learned, uttering “I am well content with weaknesses…distresses… difficulties” (2 Cor 12).

While the Lord may have many reasons for our adversity, for each one the child of God has as many reasons to rejoice.  Each one is sent compassionately. Each one accompanied by His limitless grace. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Further, each one will end ultimately in….what? Good (Rom 8).  What wonder!  Listen, would our Father in heaven ordain that which does not benefit His blood-bought child? Scripture clearly tell us that if God has given the Lord Jesus for us….His own Son….He will not refuse us any real good (Rom 8:32).  Is a loved one sick?  Can’t God heal the sick? Surely then if He has not brought health, then He must see it best to appoint sickness.  Apply this perspective to every one of your circumstances.  If it is a season of great pain that you endure, then it is a season appointed by the Lord….and it must be a good one that He appoints because “Every good thing bestowed, and every perfect gift is from…..where? Above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1).

There is a story of a little girl standing at a street corner, seeking tentatively to cross the street.  Looking at path before her, and realizing the danger, she trembled.  A kind policeman happening by and seeing the fear on her face, casually approached her and took her hand into his….and together they began to cross the divide.  Occasionally, a honking horn or passing car would cause her to flinch a bit and hesitate, but each time the policeman would strengthen his grip on her hand to reassure her, until finally they reached the other side, together.

The man who tells that story, makes this point: “It's not our grasp of the Lord that matters, it's His grasp of us.  Let me draw my comfort no more from my frail grasp of Thee.  Let me henceforth rejoice with awe in Thy strong grasp of me.” 

Beloved, no matter what your trial today, the grip of Christ is ever strengthening around your hand to assure you of His presence….and He will not let go.  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  The times and seasons of life are fleeting, friend.  Adversity only hastens our eternity.  And once steeping across into our eternal rest, your faith and mine will only give way to sight; today’s affliction will give way to peace, and this dark day will be resigned to a bright eternity in the resplendent presence of Our great Comforter and Friend…..where sorrow and pain and suffering all must say their farewell. Even so, come Lord Jesus…

photo credit: camil tulcan via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

On Serving One Another In Love

Discontentment Is A Sin

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Monvee: “You Don’t Just Become Holier...You Become “You-ier!” ”

"The Me I Want To Be" is a book and teaching program written by John Ortberg for Monvee.  Monvee, a program that bills itself as "the future of spiritual formation" is a product designed to help people "experience handcrafted spiritual growth," but which dangerously teaches and promotes occultic mantra meditation practices.  And sadly, it also encourages people to continue in narcissistic self-centeredness, with teaching like this:
"You don't just become become 'you-ier'!
Well, besides being a little cheesy, this nugget of man-made wisdom from Monvee is in direct opposition to what the Scripture tells us about the self, which is that:
We must die to self (1 Cor 15:31)
We must crucify the flesh (Gal 5:24)
We must decrease and Christ must increase (John 3:30)
Monvee promises an individualized self-evaluation for the purpose of crafting a "personalized Spiritual Formation plan" for each participant.  But really, by the time we truly come to Christ, aren't we just done with "self?" I know I was.  I was done with the navel-gazing, the constant fixation on my wants, my fears, my desires, my issues, my goals, my likes, my dislikes, my wounds, my plans, my dreams, my......well, you get the idea.  By the time God reached down and mercifully saved me, I was completely done with "me" - and that's saying a lot for someone as narcissistically self-absorbed as I was.

And is it just "me," or does anyone else notice anything strange about the cover of John Ortberg's book, supposedly a Christian book?  Well, we can all see a nice big ME, front and center, right?  But what (or should I say, Who?) is conspicuously absent from this book cover?  It's Christ....our Lord and Savior, who brought us a salvation so magnificent, so profound, that even the angels long to look into its mysteries (1 Peter 1:10-12).

Sadly, John Ortberg has brought us just another ear-tickling message designed to cater to our pampered, self-indulgent flesh.  I don't know about anyone else, but like one of my favorite bands (MercyMe), I'm weary of "self."  Go ahead, feel free to sing along - the lyrics are below.

"So Long, Self" - by MercyMe

Well if I come across a little bit distant / It's just because I am / Things just seem to feel a little bit different / You understand / Believe it or not but life is not apparently / About me anyways / But I have met the One who really is worthy / So let me say

So long self
Well it's been fun, but I have found somebody else
So long self
There's just no room for two
So you are gonna have to move
So long self
Don't take this wrong but you are wrong for me, farewell
Oh well, goodbye, don't cry
So long self

Stop right there because I know what you're thinking / But no we can't be friends / And even though I know your heart is breaking / This has to end / And come to think of it the blame for all of this / Simply falls on me / For wanting something more in life than all of this / Can't you see

Don't feel so bad  / There'll be better days  / Don't go away mad (but by all means) / Just go away, go away

 Additional Resources 

Monvee—The New Evangelicalism about Me: A Review of John Ortberg's The Me I Want to Be

Spiritual Growth? There's An App For That

Monvee: The New Evangelicalism About Me - A Review of John Ortberg's "The Me I Want To Be" 

Monvee: Mysticism For The Masses

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

John Ortberg Quotes Thomas Merton

Ed Young: "Routing number and account number...write that down."

Posted by Christine Pack

(We'll file this one under the subheading of, "Well, that's ONE way to raise money.")

Ed Young, the founder and Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church (Dallas, TX), recently had the following message for his congregation:

Ed Young Goes After Access to Bank Accounts of Church Members from FBCJax Watchdog on Vimeo.

Partial Transcript:

“How do you bring the first to God?  It's very simple. It's all about the automatic withdrawal.  Say it with me (crowd joins in) 'Automatic Withdrawal!' If you don't have one of these cards, you're gonna be lookin' pretty foolish......we've got security cameras that are awesome that you can't see, and we'll put this on YouTube........How do you guys show up here and expect a blessing without (giving)?  You're wasting your time and God's time....All right fill this information......routing number and account number.  Write that down.”