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