Thursday, December 27, 2012

We're All Hindus Now?

Posted by Christine Pack

Dr. Peter Jones
Truth Xchange
Christian talk show host Janet Mefferd recently had Dr. Peter Jones of the Truth Xchange on her show to discuss the growing influence of Hinduism in America, even among professing Christians. This is a very important topic, because in my experience, many Christians today seem to grasp the religious syncretism and idolatry of the Old Testament at only an intellectual level. You would get head nodding all 'round if you brought up the topic of religious syncretism, with your Christian friends affirming oh yes, that would be bad, very bad indeed, if Christians today were to try to syncretize their religious practices with forbidden pagan religious practices! Of course, the problem is that they might say this while they're tucking their yoga mats under their arms and heading out the door for a yoga class. This is the kind of disconnect that Dr. Jones addresses in this very informative interview. From the show:
"(Newsweek author) Lisa Miller cited polling data (in the 2009 article We Are All Hindus Now) showing that, conceptually at least, (Americans) are slowly becoming more like Hindus and less like traditional Christians in the ways we think about God, ourselves, each other and eternity. We do see it on a superficial level, of course, with our culture mainstreaming terms like karma, and yoga, and nirvana, avatar, and mantra.......How did this happen? And where is this trend headed? And most importantly, how should Christians think biblically in this day and age to avoid the spiritual pitfalls of openly - or unwittingly - embracing Hinduism." 
Janet Mefferd's interview with Peter Jones can be listened to in its entirety here.

 Additional Resources 

"Christian" Yoga?

Julia Roberts: "I'm Definitely A Practicing Hindu"

Doctor Prescribes "Therapeutic" Yoga For A Christian Woman

Yoga Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

Yoga Alliance Shows Its Hindu Teeth

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sarah Leslie on the Mayan Doomsday Prophecy

Posted by Christine Pack

Mike LeMay and Amy Spreeman of Stand Up For The Truth radio interviewed Christian researcher Sarah Leslie of the Herescope website regarding the so-called Mayan Doomsday Prophecy and how New Age teachings have infiltrated today's church.

Many Christians have become swept up in the supposed doomsday hysteria, so for those who have, or for those who know someone who has, this interview is recommended listening.

This interview can be listened to in its entirety here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

God Came Down

Posted by Christine Pack

(Note: This article was originally published December 26, 2010)

Have you ever stopped to ponder why it is that, when the world attempts to portray what it would look like for the supernatural world to intersect with the natural world, the things they come up with are most often frightening and perverted in some way? Many examples of this come to mind: werewolves, vampires, Frankenstein, zombies, aliens, mummies, and so on. The human mind seems predisposed to think of the supernatural in a way that is scary, frightening, and most often a horrific perversion of what is normal and natural. From a Christian perspective, though, doesn't it make sense that the natural, unregenerated mind - in its sin-darkened state - can only conjure up a darker, more frightening version of what it "knows" (humans and human-ess) when attempting to make sense of the world? After all, the Bible tells us that man is darkened in his understanding, his wisdom is foolishness.

The truth is that, without benefit of the special revelation of God's Word, the Bible, the human view of that which is supernatural seems to default to the freakish and the frightening.

But what does it really look like for God to enter into time and space, and intersect with the natural world by taking on flesh and dwelling among us?

Scripture tells us the story rather simply:
“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,  to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”
(Luke 1:26-38)
God, our omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign Creator, chose to enter into our world as.....what? As a magnificent archangel, so that everyone would know how glorious He was? No. Well, then, perhaps as a mighty king, as a sort of preview of Christ's eternal kingdom to come? No. God's own Son, God in flesh, entered into our world as a baby. A tiny baby, born to a poor carpenter and his betrothed, tucked away in a small town that was considered insignificant.

Let's first consider the fact that Jesus was even able to be born, live among us, and interact with throngs of people during his ministry in a way that wasn't, well, frightening. Think about it. Of all the supernatural beings ever imagined or conjured up in the imagination of man, Jesus was the most supernatural of all supernatural beings ever to walk among us. How was it possible that he even could walk among us without people falling to the ground in abject terror over his glory? How could people be in his presence without being consumed?  How could a mere mortal - Mary - carry him in her body?

There are glimpses of his glory and magnificence throughout the gospels: most notably, his miracles, Peter recognizing his Lordship and falling at his feet on the fishing boat, his transfiguration, his power over nature, his resurrection.

 God Came Near 

Among other things, I was a practicing Hindu before God saved me.  I actually ventured into a number of different religions and religious practices before being saved, but Hinduism seemed to make the most sense to me.  And even though I had very profound mystical experiences as a Hindu, I can't say that the God I wanted so desperately to reach and connect with ever felt near.  For me as a Hindu, "God" was remote, inaccessible, impersonal.  The idea of God "coming near" was too much for my mind to grasp.

What great love, then, had God the Father that He would make a way for Jesus to dwell among us.  And not only did Jesus, the most supernatural being ever to step foot on this earth, dwell among us, but He wasn't frightening. He wasn't grotesque or strange or freaky or odd, and His face didn't throw off beams of light (contrary to what the carol "Silent Night" claims).  In Jesus, God came near in an immensely personal way.  He was born as a baby, who grew to be a man. He entered into the mire of our human existence by becoming one of us, fully experiencing life as a human, suffering pain and sadness and temptation just as we do.

But why?  Why did God come near?

The elegant book of Hebrews unfolds much of this mystery for us, explaining that Jesus was tempted and yet never sinned:
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin." (Hebrews 4:15)
Again, why?  Why was it important for God to record in his Word that Jesus was tempted, yet did not sin?  It is because of this:

If Jesus came to earth and was not fully man, he would never have been able to make atonement for us.  The first man - Adam - acted on behalf of all mankind when he first sinned, way back in the Garden of Eden.  Thus, we inherited his - Adam's - sinful, fallen nature, which means that we are born into sin and we choose to sin.  And because of our sin, we are doomed:
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
But Jesus came as the "second Adam" to represent all mankind in the way that the first Adam failed to.  He lived a perfect, sinless life, never sinning in thought, word or deed.   And then He willingly offered his life as an atoning payment for all who would repent and place their faith in his perfect sacrifice made on their behalf:
"For as in Adam all die, so those in Christ will be made alive." (1 Cor 15:22)
What greater love is there in all the world than this?  A sovereign creator God, who made us and has a righteous claim over our lives....and yet is intensely personal, and desires that all might come to repentance:
"The Lord is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
What great, good news this is!  This is the message of Jesus and Christmas and the Nativity and the Cross.  God came near.  God made a way for sinful, wretched men to be reconciled to a high and holy God.

For all those who are struggling with deep and difficult ideas of man and God and truth and eternity, and who have not yet bent the knee in humble submission to an infinitely holy - and yet merciful - God who has made a way for sinful men to be forgiven, may today truly be the day of salvation for you:
"For God says, 'In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Cor 6:2)
photo credit: Martin LaBar via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

God Came Near

Monday, December 17, 2012

God Came Near....It Really Is True

Posted by Christine Pack
(Note: This article was originally published December 10, 2010)

Christmas was always my guilty pleasure every year as a New Ager. My wiccan-pagan-hindu friends would give me a hard time for putting up a tree and decorating, and not having the "strength of my convictions." But I just always loved the gaiety of the season: the parties, the food, the sparkle, the fun, the decorating. And it seemed so hopeful at heart, this idea that God could have actually come into the world. Impossible, of course, but hopeful.

Once I was born again, of course, Christmas became the most wondrous time of year to me because it was TRUE......God did step into humanity, piercing the veil between the natural and the supernatural, but even more than that, He did it so that wretched men and women could be reconciled to a high and holy God.  Amazing!

Soli Deo Gloria.

photo credit: via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

To Christmas or Not To Christmas.....That Is the Question (Sola Sisters)

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

God Came Near (Sola Sisters)

The Glory of Jesus (Sola Sisters)

Christmas Prophecies Fulfilled (Grace To You)

How Christmas Solves The Prophetic Puzzle (Grace To You)

Is There Anything Inherently Sinful or Dangerous in Delebrating Christmas? (Grace To You)

Should Christians Have Christmas Trees? (Grace To You)

The Attack on Christmas (Answers in Genesis)

 4 Part Series by Dr. Richard P. Bucher 

Christmas Is Not Pagan, Part 1 , Overview

Christmas Is Not Pagan, Part 2, Answering the Argument: "Christmas is obviously pagan because there is neither Biblical command nor precedent for celebrating Christ's birth."

Christmas Is Not Pagan, Part 3, Answering the Argument: "The first Christians never observed the celebration of Christ's birth until emperor Constantine in 313 AD officially tolerated Christians."

Christmas Is Not Pagan, Part 4, Answering the Argument:  "The date of Christmas (December 25), and its many customs all come from pagan sources. Therefore Christmas is pagan."

 Resources Specifically Refuting the Errors of Alexander Hislop 

Myths From Hislop: A Call To Examine Facts (Marcia Montenegro, CANA)

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

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Every Tongue Will Confess

Posted by Christine Pack

To celebrate our anniversary, my sweet husband took me to hear the Atlanta Symphony and the Atlanta Choral Society perform their annual Christmas program. There is a longstanding tradition in our country that, when the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah is performed, the audience, wherever they are, rises to their feet during the performance. I love this part! And at the same time, it made me sad last night to look around at that audience in downtown Atlanta and know that most of those in the audience who were standing at this majestic song are lost, and do not even know it. And yet, God's truth, so powerfully delivered in this choral piece, almost cannot be denied. I think this must be why people, even lost people, get to their feet.
"The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground." Ezekiel 38:20 
"Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:9-11

 Additional Resources 

God Came Near

God Came Down

The Glory of Jesus

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ann Voskamp Gets Original Sin Wrong

Posted by Christine Pack

“What that first and catastrophic sin of ingratitude ruptured…union…can be repaired by exact inverse of the Garden: lifestyle gratitude …” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p220)

A friend of mine read the above quote and observed thusly:
"The Doctrines of Ann Voskamp: 
Original sin = ingratitude
Result = broken union
Answer = "lifestyle gratitude"  
Let's see anyone support THAT with Scripture."
I am inclined to agree. On the subject of Ann Voskamp,  what I keep hearing is, Hey look, nobody has perfect doctrine, why are you picking on poor Ann? And my point is.....doctrine matters. As another friend noted on a rather frisky discussion thread on Facebook:
"Ann Voskamp makes it seem like Adam/Eve were ungrateful for all the Lord had given them. When in reality they were disobeying God's clear command to not eat of the tree - they listened to the serpent twist God's words and the doubt placed in their minds caused them to think they knew better for themselves than God did. Voskamp seems to be saying that just by living a life of gratitude, that will restore the union between God and man. There is nothing in regard to repentance for sinning against a holy God. Thankfulness does not bring escape from the wrath of God. True repentance brought by the Holy Spirit brings forgiveness and life. She done got the gospel wrong."
 Additional Resources 

An Open Letter To Tim Challies about Ann Voskamp (Sola Sisters)

Tim Challies Reviews One Thousand Gifts (Sola Sisters)

In Which I Ask Ann Voskamp's Forgiveness... (Tim Challies)

An Interview With Sarah Flashing About Our Open Letter To Tim Challies (Sola Sisters)

Concerning One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (by Ken Silva)

Ann Voskamp: Mystical Estrogen (Fighting For The Faith radio show)

A Commentary On Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts" (by Marcia Montenegro)

Romantic Panentheism, a review of One Thousand Gifts (by Bob DeWaay)

What Is Panentheism? (Apprising)

Panentheism Is Not A Gift (Amy Spreeman)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Church of Tares A Must-Watch Video

Posted by Christine Pack

The following video, by producer Elliot Nesch, is a must-watch video for Christians today who are alarmed over the state of the church today, and want to know why the church is the way it is. This film includes in-depth analysis from radio talk show host Chris Rosebrough, pastor Gary Gilley, pastor Bob DeWaay, Christian researcher Ray Yungen, and others. From the producer's website (my emphasis added):
"Can the Church borrow the marketing tools of the world and apply them to the Church? What is the history of the Church Growth movement and its false premises? Who is involved in the new evangelicalism and second reformation? Why are these movements embracing contemplative mysticism? How does this movement play into the New World Order? These questions and more are answered in Church of Tares: Purpose Driven, Seeker-Sensitive, Church Growth & New World Order. 
Church of Tares chronicles the man-centered pragmatism of these evangelical Christian movements in comparison to the Bible’s instruction for building the Church of Jesus Christ. As a sequel to The Real Roots of the Emergent Church, Church of Tares documents the connections between the liberal Emergent Church movement and the Church Growth movement. Both movements’ leadership were discipled by business management guru Peter Drucker, who was attracted to the megachurch movement as a social phenomenon that could bring about his 'new society' and New World Order. Megachurch pastors Rick Warren and Bill Hybels as well as Leadership Network founder Bob Buford all acknowledge Drucker (who professed not to be a Christian) as their mentor and have built their organizations upon his secular business management philosophies rather than the foundation of Jesus Christ. 
The fruit of these movements is great compromise of the Gospel and the Great Commission. Rick Warren claims to be ushering in a new spiritual awakening and second reformation with his P.E.A.C.E. Plan. But this reform appears to be a social reformation rather than a spiritual one by joining together in ministry with unbelievers to fight global giants. Such compromise has led to the affirming response letter to the Common Word document which declares Muhammad to be a prophet and the Bible and Qur’an to be of the 'same Divine origin.'"

 Additional Resources 

Holy Bible Prophecy (Elliott Nesch)

Fighting For The Faith (Chris Rosebrough)

Southern View Chapel - Articles and Book Reviews (Gary Gilley)

Critical Issues Commentaries - Radio Shows and Articles (Bob DeWaay)

Resistance Is Futile: You Will Be Assimilated Into The Community

Interview With Peter Drucker

Fascism Reborn

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ve Heff Our Vays Of Making You Comply, Ja?

Posted by Christine Pack

From Mark Driscoll's recent article Do You Trust Your Pilot?
"The senior leaders are up front getting data from private channels and have a perspective out the windshield that no one else has....Assume that (your leaders) have way more data and training than you." (my emphasis)
Does anyone else besides me have the eerie feeling that we could be watching a cult form before our very eyes?

photo credit: Mars Hill Church via photopin cc

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

All Is Not Lost

Article by guest writer Jim Pack, Jr.

I've thought a good deal about the election results over the past few weeks. I've spoken with many Christians and non-Christians who are upset and worried for the future of our great country. In more than one conversation, the concept of Romans 1 has come up:
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:20-28 ESV)
In the modern age, we have exchanged the true God for a lie, for a lesser god. A majority of Americans, in spite of our God-centered heritage, have become corrupt and no longer look to God for guidance and protection, and certainly don't give thanks for all He has provided. We have so much: wealth that extends even to the poorest among us, freedom to debate in the square our views, and a diversity unmatched among all the nations. Our government provides for those that either cannot or will not work. Indeed, the freedom we enjoy and the prosperity, even now and even in the worst of economic times, is the envy of the world. But, with all these blessings, a majority of our people no longer worship the true God. For many, theirs is a god of their own choosing... a made up version of "God" that incorporates some of the attributes of God mixed with their own self-righteous viewpoint of what a loving god should be.

 Is America doomed? 

I have very little interest in debating the future place of America, or lack thereof, in the end times prophecies. Suffice it to say, there's a strong chance that this great country of ours doesn't exist when Jesus returns. But this does not lessen our duty to America. Let's say America is now or already has been "turned over" and we that worship the true God are now the remnant, much as there was a remnant in Israel. If this is true, are we to remove ourselves from society and prepare for America's judgment? I think not. No, Christian. We are to be salt and light to a world growing darker and darker.

And who are we to think we know God's plan for our country? We cannot know the mind of God. Therefore, we must do all we can to give Him glory and to try to save all we are able from the lie that permeates our land. Perhaps God will provide some relief from the decline. A time where there might be many who come to know the truth......

 All is not lost 

Our nation's history is full of dark periods and misguided leadership. More than once, God has provided great leaders and there has been reform.The Republican party lost the Presidential election, but remains in control of the House.This should help to control the ambitions of an administration whose ideology is anti-Christian and downright dangerous in its view on debt. However, things could continue to slide downhill. The next election or the one after could bring even worse leadership. The debt crisis in this country and the growing unrest throughout the world could lead to war, anarchy and revolutions. American soil has been mostly untouched by war, but that could all change. And one has to question whether God will continue to protect a country that dishonors Him, that kills the unborn and defiles the sanctity of marriage. It could get ugly... See Jeremiah and Isaiah for an idea of just how rough it could become.

Scary and discouraging to say the least!  But one truth keeps coming to my mind... Jesus Christ has secured for those who belong to him the peace that passes all understanding: peace with God! For those who have repented of their sins, truly know Jesus as their Savior and understand their complete need of His sacrifice for their justification, there is one truth, one reality that cannot be forgotten - Jesus will save us!  So, brothers and sisters in Christ, let's share the good news, let's work hard to elect Godly leaders, fight the good fight and use the difficulties that are most certainly coming to spread the Gospel.  When we speak to those that are hurting and they share their concerns about the future, challenge them that this life is but a vapor and now is the time to repent and put their faith in Christ's atoning death before it's too late.  Show them that come what may, you have peace and explain why you are resting in the Lord.

 God is on his throne! 

God is on his throne, and is sovereign over all the affairs of man. He, and He alone, knows our future.  Let us pray daily for Godly leaders and for a new Great Awakening.  And never cease to praise the Lord, for His blessings are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness.

photo credit: abcdz2000 via photopin cc

Friday, November 9, 2012

Warning About Popular Book "Jesus Calling"

Posted by Christine Pack

In a recent interview, Pastor Justin Peters addressed his concerns about the best-selling book by Sarah Young, Jesus Calling. Peters carefully and biblically laid out the problems with this book, which has spawned many derivatives: devotionals, teen and children's versions, even a study Bible. The author of this book has talked about being influenced by a book written by two mystics. After she read their book, she decided to follow their example and sit, pen in hand, waiting to hear and record what God was "telling" her in audible words. Beware-beware-beware those who claim audible words from God today......this is NOT how God speaks to his people.

Justin Peters also does a great job of explaining the theological implications of the term "the sufficiency of Scripture." He also explains that many professing Christians today know enough to recognize that they should affirm this concept, but they then turn around and deny it by their actions (i.e., chasing after mystical, extra-biblical "words from God," such as those in this book by Sarah Young).
"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world." Hebrews 1:1-2
In looking through Jesus Calling myself, the more appalled I am that this book is sweeping through the evangelical church. What Sarah Young describes, about taking pen in hand and waited for God to speak to her, is an occultic activity called "automatic writing." I learned to do this years ago before I was a Christian, and it's a very, very dark practice that opens the practitioner up to all sorts of spiritual evil and wickedness. And one thing I almost hesitate to mention, because I know how creepy it's going to sound, is that the messages supposedly given by the "Jesus" of the book Jesus Calling are eerily similar to messages I remember writing down from "spirit guides" I learned to contact through occultic means so many years ago. I almost can't emphasize that enough: the messages are very similar. I remember very well that "voice," with its message of easygoing love, with soothing exhortations to simply rest in the presence of God, to love others, to be at peace and know that God loves you. But this "voice," the one that is emanating from the pages of Jesus Calling, is NOT the authoritative voice of the God of the Bible. Yes, God does reveal through his word that born again believers are loved by him and reconciled to him, but his is a holy, purifying love. Believers are continually exhorted to holiness and purity, to put off sin and put on Christ, to be on guard for false teaching and false teachers, to study the Bible to show themselves approved, and of course, the gospel message is everywhere in the Bible. That is the overarching theme: man is sinful and without hope, and yet God, in his mercy, made a way for man to be reconciled to himself. This is not a small thing, this is the main thing. And yet, in Jesus Calling, there is nothing of God's pure holiness, his wrath against sin, man's inability to save himself, and thus his desperate need for a Savior, nothing of the Cross, and no call for repentance. That is a serious problem. After looking through this book, I am more convinced than ever that Sarah Young has indeed made contact with the spiritual realm with this book. Only, it's not the Jesus of the Bible she's talking to.
"And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." (2 Cor 11:14)
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12)
It could be, as some have suggested, that this book was the result of an over-active imagination. I do think that is a possibility. However, because Young engaged in an occultic practice, and because she has clearly said that knowing God from the pages of the Bible was not "enough" for her, I am inclined to believe that she has gotten more than she bargained for, spiritually speaking. It appears that Young has gotten in touch with the demonic realm, all the while assuming (mistakenly so) that it is the true Jesus of the Bible communicating with her, when in all likelihood she is being toyed with by demonic beings.

 Additional Resources 

Tim Challies Reviews Jesus Calling

Beth Moore Recommends Jesus Calling Book

False Teachings About Hearing Audible Words From God Taking Even Deeper Root in Today's Church

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities..." Rom 13

Posted by Christine Pack

Up until yesterday, I was discussing American politics, particularly, who would be leading our nation for the next four years after all was said and done with the campaigning, debating, and voting. I hoped it would be the conservative non-Christian candidate whose moral values most closely reflected my own (as opposed to the more liberal candidate whose moral values most decidedly did not). Turns out, it didn't happen that way.
"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." (Romans 13:1-2)
But, Christians, this world is not our home. We are sojourners on our way to heaven, where we will be forevermore governed by the King of kings and Lord of lords. And yet, until that time comes, the Bible has some very practical and direct things to say about what our earthly lives should look like, specifically with respect to bearing up under governments and kingdoms with which we disagree. Unfortunately, there have always been a very small (but very vocal) minority of Christians who insist that we shouldn't pay taxes to a corrupt world system, we mustn't honor the corrupt leaders because they are wicked, etc., etc. But not only is this foolish thinking (and unnecessarily makes Christians a target over the wrong things), it is unbiblical thinking. We are clearly, plainly and unambiguously told in Scripture that we should pay taxes and honor our rulers. Even President Obama?? some say. Well, yes, even President Obama. He's our governing authority, right?

So maybe we could all just take a breath, and go back to our cornerstone, God's word, and get our bearings again, where we will be reminded that......

.....the Apostle Paul exhorted fellow Christians to submit to their governing authorities. And lest we think poor long ago Paul couldn't possibly understand what it meant to bear up under wicked and corrupt leaders, let's remember that Emperor Nero, the emperor who was ruling Rome when Paul wrote Romans 13, liked to impale Christians from poles leading into Rome and light them on fire to let travelers coming into the city know what he thought of Christians (not much).

......the prophet Daniel modeled with his behavior and his words great respect for the wicked king Nebuchednezzar, before and after King Nebuchednezzar had Daniel's friends thrown into a fiery furnace, and even after King Nebuchednezzar, much later, had Daniel himself thrown into a lion's den.
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." (Colossians 3:1)
So, Barack Hussein Obama has been re-elected President. According to Scripture, which cannot fail, cannot lie, and is the inerrant, inspired word of God, we are to honor this leader. We are to pay taxes to the government under him. And not only that, we are to do so from "sincerity of heart," as unto the Lord:
"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him...... Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." (Col 3:17, 22-24)
Will this be easy? No, it will not be easy. In fact, it will be impossible, unless we are intentionally praying about this and abiding in Christ, asking that the Holy Spirit might guide us and strengthen us in our thoughts and actions. And always of course, with the undergirding thoughts that our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), and that, until God calls us home and into our heavenly citizenship, we are meant to reflect something of God's purity and holiness, however imperfectly, to the lost and dying world around us.
"Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world." (Philippians 2:15)

 Additional Resources 

Christians, Let's Honor The President (by Dr. Russel Moore, Dean of Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Aftermath: Lessons From the 2012 Election (by Dr. Al Mohler, President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Heart of a King

Posted by Christine Pack

“The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD;
he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.”
Proverbs 21:1

photo credit: ecstaticist via photopin cc

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Election 2012: Is it Wrong to Vote for the Lesser of Evils? Shouldn’t We Instead Vote for a Third Party Candidate?

Article by Randy Alcorn, reprinted in full from the original
(Note: This article is Part 5 in a series. Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 here)

I’ve received many comments from those who believe that we should vote for a third party candidate. Why? Because voting between President Obama and Governor Romney involves choosing between the lesser of two evils, which means choosing evil, something no Christian should do.
First, let me say that I appreciate the vigorous exchange in the blog comments and take no offense at those who disagree with me. I appreciate it when Christians can make their arguments without painting those who disagree as stupid, less spiritual, or lacking an eternal perspective. I was very encouraged to see some asking each other’s forgiveness for what they said. Godly people land on different sides of this issue, but still love the same Jesus.
To begin with, I think there are radically different understandings of what a vote is. In this presidential election, what does your vote mean to you? Is it:
1) The expression of your highest hopes and ideals
2) An affirmation of doctrinal agreement
3) A statement to the world about your Christian convictions
4) An unqualified endorsement of a candidate’s character and wisdom
5) A means of protest against the established parties that have both failed miserably
6) A choice of the better of the only two viable candidates who remain, both of them very flawed, and one of whom will be president
Your answer to this question will largely determine your voting choices. Do you view voting like choosing a marriage partner? (Be extremely choosy.) Or like choosing a school or job? (Choose wisely, but know you can change schools or jobs.) Or like choosing a seat on the bus? (The best seats are already taken, but you choose the best alternative that’s left.)
What will you do in this election? Here are some options:
1) Abstain from voting because you are so disillusioned, and/or your citizenship is in Heaven, not earth.
2) Vote for a candidate you know has no chance of winning, but you’ll sleep better knowing you didn’t vote for the lesser of evils.
3) Vote for whichever one of the two electable candidates you believe will do the most good for the most people and inflict the least amount of harm; who will most uphold and least undermine our moral base and liberties.
Years ago, dissatisfied with the Republican and Democratic candidates, in two elections I wrote in Alan Keyes. Once I voted for Howard Philips. So I understand that perspective.
When voting within a party, I’ve chosen my closest-to-ideal candidate in the primaries. I don’t care whether anyone thinks he’s electable. But in the general election, things have shaken out and it usually comes down to only two candidates who can win. In recent years, I’ve voted for the one I think would do better than the other, despite my serious reservations about both.
So I’ve done it different ways at different times, always following my conscience and asking the Lord’s leading. I think what pushes me away from the third party options in this election is the stark nature of a few of the issues. Yes, there is abortion and the Mexico City Policy and the Supreme Court nominations. And there is the changing definition of marriage. (See Does the Fight for Marriage Really Matter?).
But what sticks out to me most is the urgency created by the dramatic erosion ofreligious liberties. I seriously wonder if the continued dismantling of our religious freedoms for another four years might permanently strip us of the very rights we will need if we are to influence our country’s direction—including through third party politics, pastors still being able to pass out voter’s guides, etc. This is one of the main reasons I’m determined to make my vote count this time.
Probably a dozen commenters wrote, “Voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil.”
I understand the logic. I’ve used it. But there is another way to look at it: To vote for the lesser of evils is to vote for less evil.
Think about it. Don’t we want less evil? Doesn’t less evil mean more good? I’m voting for the greater good my children and grandchildren and this country will experience than if the only other viable choice were elected. (Please don’t write saying others were far better candidates and Christians should have supported them. The only point I’m making is, regardless of the reasons, none of them will win the election.)
Yes, I don’t like either candidate. But, for instance, let’s say I believe only one single claim Governor Romney has made. A few blog posters have claimed everything Romney has ever said is a lie, which is quite a trick if you think about it, but I’m 99.9% sure this one is true: If elected, he will reinstate the Mexico City Policy, so that American taxes no longer pay for abortions overseas. If he failed to follow through on appointing prolife justices, and everything else, that one single thing is compelling, isn’t it? What makes me think he would keep that promise? Because every Republican since Ronald Reagan has implemented it, and every Democrat has rescinded it. Even if you believe Romney cares about nothing but trying to make himself look good (as one person commented), he would look very bad to break his promise to reinstate the Mexico City Policy. Does it matter to you that your taxes are paying for abortions around the world? It matters to me.
So this is one clear demonstration of how a vote for “the lesser of evils” is a vote for less evil. By voting for the third party, and not voting for the only person who can and will reinstate the Mexico City Policy, isn’t the voter in effect making more likely the greater of evils?
If there are two men and I’m choosing between them, unless their degree of good and evil is exactly the same, and their commitment to religious liberty, human rights, morality, sanctity of marriage and financial responsibility is identical, then righteousness is at stake in my vote.   
“But by definition, the lesser of evils is still evil.” Yes, and also by definition, the lesser of evils isless evil.
We all know that the ideal is no evil. If we lived in Eden or on the New Earth, as all who know Christ one day will, there would be no evil. But that’s not where we live. And no party, candidate or vote will get rid of all evil. The best we can do is vote for less evil and more justice than the other electable candidate offers.
“But that’s just thinking pragmatically.” Or is it simply thinking logically, and trying to make a positive difference with the only power now left to me? Is voting my individualized expression of ideals? Or is it bringing my ideals to bear on the messy choice between two very flawed alternatives?
One woman commented on a previous blog: “I am going to cast my vote for Jesus Christ.” It’s a nice gesture, but I think Jesus wants us to use our vote in a way that matters. Jesus is not running for president. He already sits on a throne. A year ago there were more than two electable people, but now that there are two, shouldn’t we try to choose the one likely to do the most good and the least evil?
There’s something very flawed in the argument that “choosing the lesser of evils is always evil.” Scripture says every man is a sinner, an evil-doer (Romans 3:23). Even born-again Christians struggle with evil-doing (Romans 7:14-25).
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it…We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect.” (James 2:103:2) To deny our sin is to call God a liar (1 John 1:10).
What does this mean? It means—wait for it—that your third party candidate is also a sinner, a doer of evil. Maybe you think he is a Christian, but then, consider how many Christians have made terrible decisions and have become corrupt when put into positions of power they weren’t prepared to handle.
Presumably you believe your man would do less evil than the Republican or Democratic candidates. I understand that. You’re probably right. But do not imagine you are taking the high road by refusing to vote for the lesser of two evils. In fact, by voting for your third party candidate, you are choosing the lesser of three evils.
And if your candidate cannot win, your vote is effectively insuring the victory of thegreater of three evils.
Frank Turk, in “Math and Elections”, makes what I believe is a compelling argument that demonstrates how voting for a third party, if enough people do it, assures that the greater of evils will win. He argues, “You have to vote for someone with a mathematical likelihood of winning if you really want to affect change… a vote against Obama but not for Romney ensures Obama’s victory.” (Read it if you don’t understand why.)
Some say, “But my principles compel me to vote for the best possible candidate, even if he can’t win.” If a vote is only a statement of best-case-scenario ideals, that’s understandable. But what if instead you view your vote as a practical tool that wouldn’t violate your principles because it can actually reduce evil, which should be one of your principles? Someone commented, “Logically, a vote for a third party candidate is as much not a vote for Obama as it is not a vote for Romney.” That sounds logical until you look at the math, then you see it isn’t true. If you are serious about thinking this through, please do not dismiss Frank Turk’s logic without actually reading him.
No matter how pure our intentions, votes can be used strategically or counterproductively. When we think we are taking the moral high ground, we may inadvertently help bring about a less moral result. If you are thinking of not voting or of voting for a third party candidate I would encourage you also to read the provocative article by Dan Philips.
Now, both Turk and Philips can be blunt. Philips is at times downright insulting. (I give more benefit of the doubt to third party voters and candidates than he does, perhaps because I’ve voted that way myself.) However, something can be insulting but also largely true, even if overstated. I have learned from the logic of those who have insulted me, and you can too. I would ask that you listen with an open mind, and ask God to guide you. “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20-21).
I just read an argument against pragmatism, from the Constitution Party. Much of it is very good, biblical quotes and all. But it’s reasonable to ask whether enough people can or will get behind this or any party for it to become a political force. Is it possible that our secular nation, or nominally religious nation, would elect a man from this party to the White House?  Years ago I thought there might be a chance, so I voted for the party’s founder, Howard Philips. Now, apart from a widespread Great Awakening, I don’t believe it’s going to happen. (I truly hope I am wrong.) But if that great awakening does happen, it won’t come through political parties, but through the Holy Spirit of God working through his people, as churches and families. Meanwhile I try to faithfully serve Jesus, reach people with the gospel, serve in my local church, and exercise my vote to the limited extent that it reduces evil and increases good.
Jesus said, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). The person who lives his life in doctrinal and moral compromise needs to be reminded to be as innocent as a dove. The person who lives his life expecting of his country a degree of Christian spirituality that can’t be realized in a fallen world (e.g. returning or moving a post-Christian society to biblical values across the board), needs to be reminded to be as shrewd as a serpent.
To be shrewd is to be wise in the sense of Proverbs, which means being pragmatic not by compromising doctrine but by realizing which strategies work and which don’t. (More on that in the next blog.) The innocent dove may have noble ideals, but he must realize that sometimes his choices are limited. He must not think only of what could be done in the best of all possible societies, but also what can be done in his society as it is now, to make it better instead of worse.   
“Follow your conscience,” many commenters say. I agree. My conscience once told me not to vote for a candidate unless he was the best of all. My conscience now tells me, in this general election, to vote for the better of the only two candidates who can win. My convictions haven’t changed. But my life experiences, including my long conversations with Americans whose worldviews are radically different than mine, have changed my views on what’s realistically possible in a post-Christian nation.   
One caution for some who disagree. Isn’t it a bit presumptuous and condescending to believe you are listening to your conscience and following the Lord by “not voting for the lesser of evils,” but your brothers and sisters are not listening to their conscience or following the Lord by using their votes to “vote for less evil”?  
One person said, “I want to send a message with my vote.” I understand. What I want to do is make a difference with my vote.
Is there truth to the old saying, “Politics is the art of the Possible”? Are some of us trying to do what is impossible? Ask yourself what is actually possible on Election Day. Ask yourself which of the only two candidates who can win might do a better job.
In Monday’s blog I will address what I believe is a highly inaccurate charge stated in the blog comments: “There is no difference between the candidates.” Really? Not on the tax funding of abortions overseas? Not on gay marriage? Not on religious liberties, which are of deep concern to any member of a religious minority that could be persecuted?
I’ll also address the questions related to pragmatism, compromise, whether God wants America to get the candidate it deserves, whether your view of the end times relates to voting, and  whether it’s right to vote for someone who supports abortion in some cases (e.g. rape and incest), even if he opposes it in the great majority of cases.
I’ll conclude by saying I disagree with the comments saying if you have an eternal perspective you will never vote for the lesser of evils. Choosing to endure torture rather than deny Christ, seeing God at work in your worst adversity, laying claim to God’s promises of a New Heavens and New Earth (2 Peter 3;13)—all these involve eternal perspective. But an eternal perspective may also motivate you to vote for less evil and more good that could actually happen, as compared to the more idealistic positions of a candidate who is supported by 3% of the country.
Because you know this world is not your home, and that it is terribly fallen, you put your hope in Christ, not in this country. But as a steward of your American citizenship, you try your best to support good and resist evil, realizing how that is best done in politics isn’t spelled out in Scripture, and godly people will see it differently. Then, together with those who agree on Christ who is primary and disagree on what’s secondary, you trust God and serve him and hold up Jesus Christ and the gospel of grace as the only hope for this nation and this world.
photo credit: ladybugbkt via photopin cc

Sunday, October 28, 2012

On the Wings of Eagles

Posted by Christine Pack

I would like to point our readers to a wonderful and encouraging sermon by Pastor Gary Gilley of Southern View Chapel. Pastor Gilley gave this sermon while visiting Twin City Fellowship in Minneapolis, MN.  The sermon is titled On The Wings of Eagles and the text is taken from Isaiah 40. This is a wonderfully edifying sermon that extols the greatness and the sovereignty of God.

The sermon can be listened to in its entirety here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Attorney Susan Burke On the Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against Sovereign Grace: SGM Church Leaders Told Parents "Not To Call The Police"

Posted by Christine Pack

Attorney Susan Burke
Talk show host Janet Mefferd recently interviewed Susan Burke, the attorney heading up the lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries. The allegations in this lawsuit are that Sovereign Grace Ministries concealed sex abuse allegations in Maryland and Virginia. Sovereign Grace Ministries is headed by popular pastor/author/speaker C.J. Mahaney. Mahaney is currently a member of The Gospel Coalition, and has also been very influential in the Charismatic Calvinists/New Calvinists/Young-Restless-Reformed movement.

During the interview, Susan Burke who filed on behalf of the plaintiffs in this case had this to say about a potential class action suit:
"We have three families, three families have kind of stepped forward and are willing to serve as representative plaintiffs. I've heard from and been in touch with many other victims as well. So we decided that this would be, because of the subject matter and how traumatic it is for people to come forward, we thought that the most protective device here would be a class action. And even just since we've filed, we've had a few more folks reach out to us as well. So, sadly, it's not just the three."
Burke also made the following allegations:
· The Sovereign Grace pastors protected the perpetrators. 
· They kept the incidents quiet and did not alert others in the church. 
· They used intimidation to enforce the silence. 
· It appears they were more concerned about the reputation and the finances of the church. 
· They portrayed the civil authorities as untrustworthy. 
· They portrayed the pastors as being trustworthy to handle the situation. 
· They emphasized homeschooling and created fear and distrust of secular authorities. 
· The pastors had little training for their position, either in seminary or otherwise. 
· The parents were led to believe that they were the only ones that had had this happen, due to the culture of silence. 
· Various blogs helped people to find one another and realize that they were not the only ones who experienced these events. 
· These incidents fall well within the statute of limitations. 
· More people are coming forward so the class action suit is the most logical way to help those coming forward. 
· She emphasized the story of a 3 year old child who was made to meet with and "forgive" her abuser. The poor child was so afraid she hid under a chair. 
· The son of a high level church official was involved in some form of predation.
(Thank you to The Wartburg Watch for compiling the above list)

More interviews by Janet Mefferd documenting the progress of the SGM class action lawsuit:

 Additional Resources 

The Sex-Abuse Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch (The Washingtonian)

Flagship Churches Prepare To Leave As Lawsuit Charges C.J. Mahaney's Sovereign Grace Ministries With Coveirng Up Child Sex Abuse

Copy of Lawsuit Filed Against Sovereign Grace Ministries

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Does Mysticism Lead Us To God?

Posted by Christine Pack

Tomorrow's New Age Global Oneness Summit is proclaiming that spiritual growth and peace can be achieved on earth, in our time, through meditation and people on earth awakening to their own inner divinity (a panentheistic concept).  From the promotional materials:
"Mystics teach us our sense of separation is an illusion perpetuated by the fear-driven mind. However, a deep sense of oneness is within reach, if only we can move beyond habitual thinking and patterns."
As I have written in the past, this is the New Age/New Spirituality concept of salvation: that all human beings are already connected to "Divinity." Divinity is the New Age concept of "God" and is known by different names: Divinity, Source, God, Essence, Vibration, etc. This God/Divinity is thought to be something, as I noted above, that all humans, regardless of spiritual background or beliefs, can "awaken" to or evolve to through meditation and positive self-talk.

Translation: If you are a born again Christian, your ideas of "sin" and "separateness" from God without Christ are "fear-driven" and based just on "habitual thinking and patterns." If you oddball Christians could just get with the program, the whole planet could evolve to a better place, a more peaceful place, you see...
"Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Cor 1:20) 
"Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become 'fools' so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: 'He catches the wise in their craftiness'." (1 Cor 3:18-19)
Fellow believers, the truth is that mysticism does not and cannot lead us into union with God. The carnal "wisdom" of a man-made utopia without the God of the Bible, the one true God who alone determines how it is that man is reconciled to God, is a lie that dies very hard. This is a modern day version of "'Peace! Peace!' when there is no peace." (Jeremiah 6:14). Peace does not come from "awakening" to one's own divinity, because this is not truth. We don't need to awaken to the fact that we are already God....we need to awaken to the fact that we are eternally separated by our sins from God, and we desperately need a Savior. Only then can peace be achieved, true peace, the peace that comes by repenting and placing our faith in Christ's atoning death for the forgiveness of sins.

Incidentally, this Global Oneness Summit features a round-up of today's most prominent New Agers and mystics:
- Neale Donald Walsche (author of the Conversations With God books) 
- Jean Houston - one of the founders of the Human Potential Movement, a New Age movement based on eastern mysticism and occultism 
- Barbara Marx Hubbard (author of the book The Revelation, her New Age version of the last book of the Bible by the same name) 
- Ken Wilber (a New Age mystic, and also the author of a book filled with New Age concepts that popular Emergent Church Movement author Rob Bell highly recommends to his own readers) 
- Michael Beckwith (a New Thought teacher who has been on Oprah many times, and who teaches that your words and your thoughts create your reality, an idea contrary to biblical truth, and similar to Word of Faith teaching) 
- Jack Canfield (author of the Chicken Soup For the Soul books) 
The reason this is an important event for Christians to be aware of is because most, if not all, of these New Age/New Spirituality/New Thought concepts are now coming into the church in "Christianized" forms: contemplative prayer, Lectio Divina, labyrinth, prayer circles, breath prayers, Word of Faith "name it and claim it," etc.

 Additional Resources 

Mysticism: A Counterfeit Holy Spirit

Interview With A Former Mystic

What Is New Age Eschatology?

Conversations With (an Occult) God - a critique of Neale Donald Walsche

Conversations With (an Occult) God - quotes from Neal Donald Walshe's books

Conversations with God - a critique by Russ Wise (Christian Information Ministries)

Can Mysticism Lead To God?

Barbara Marx Hubbard - What does she believe?

What Is Mysticism?

Chicken Soup For The Soul - a Review

Rob Bell Recommends New Age teacher Ken Wilber to His Readers