Those Who Resist

The following excerpt is from a book I have been reading by Kevin Reaves, “The Other Side of the River”, and how he came out of some serious delusion that nearly destroyed his faith:

Those Who Resist (from Lighthouse Trails Publishing)

These are critical days for the body of Christ. We are in the epoch of church history spoken of by the apostle Paul as “perilous times” (II Timothy 3:1). What makes the danger all the more imminent is that not much of the church believes it. Many of us have owned the glorious but erroneous vision of an end-times remnant walking in unconquerable power, transforming entire societies. The result has been nothing short of catastrophic. How soon we forget. Every cult in the world has sprouted from the fertile soil of deception, always initiated by a drastic move away from the primacy of the Word of God into the nebulous, self-defining atmosphere of experience. At New Covenant, our desire to accumulate otherworldly wealth (i.e., supernatural power) had ushered us into a contrived system of personal spiritual elevation much like such active cults as Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In the case of my former congregation, our pre-supposed love of the Word of God, along with our ignorance of and opposition to nearly every scriptural warning about false doctrine and seducing spirits in the church, left us open to bizarre teachings and practices. As we embraced mysticism, our biblical parameters melted away. Yes, we were sincere, but what we were wanting was diametrically opposed to our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Like physical signs of pain, there were signs in our church that something was terribly wrong.But just like the person who ignores the pain and avoids going to the doctor, we too ignored what should have been so obvious. That is, until it got so bad that avoidance was no longer an option.

Why do people ignore warning signs? It’s like a motorist painting over his oil pressure gauge so he won’t notice the depleting measure. But the reality of the situation will become evident enough when his engine seizes up, and the car comes to a sudden halt. I’ve discovered that in the spiritual arena most people will do exactly this: they take pains to look the other way when something bumps up against their doctrine. As a Christian, there’s no quicker way to start a fight with a friend than to tell him that some of his most fervent beliefs are wrong. I know. I’ve lost my share of friendships that way. The problem comes when folks aren’t willing to deal with the uncomfortable. And the horror of it is that in spiritual matters, we’re dealing with eternal things. While the person who ruins his vehicle can at least purchase another, the human soul is irreplaceable….

In my own case, association with a cutting-edge group offered me security and personal power, and for years, the paranoia of offending God kept me from asking too many unsettling questions. It’s ironic that, in a fellowship that taught a watered-down version of the fear of the Lord, it was fear that motivated me to stay put.

Many other Christians find themselves in this same predicament, especially those with a genuine heart for the truth. When some doctrine foreign to biblical Christianity is introduced into the congregation, they want to inquire about its origin and validity, but fear holds them in check. If it comes from the pastor, who surely must be more spiritual than the rest of the group, then God must simply have approved it. Therefore, questioning or opposing the pastor or church leadership is seen as opposing the Lord Himself.

But God doesn’t work that way. Throughout the Bible are examples of those who love the Lord who questioned authority when it was wrong. And what’s more, “prove all things” is clearly God’s instruction to the believer (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

This manipulative pastoral attitude of squelching sincere inquiries was recently brought home in a frightening way. A friend of mine attended a local church service, knowing that the pastor was fully in support of the so-called Brownsville revival. She was nonetheless unprepared for the chilling threat from the pulpit. After reminding the congregation of the judgment deaths of Ananias and Sapphira for opposing the Holy Spirit, the pastor looked directly at the congregation and said, “If you think about questioning anything that goes on in this service … well, you just be careful!”

Two plus two still equals four. His meaning was quite plain. If you want to end up like that evil-hearted couple, just go ahead and do some serious inquiry into the teachings or manifestations of this group.

Brothers and sisters, something is seriously wrong here. Brutalizing the saints with a threat from an angry heart is not the Bible way. But it is becoming quite a fashionable pastime for leadership to silence even well-intentioned criticism with threats and ridicule. It has been going on from both the Toronto and Brownsville pulpits for years and has spilled over into many other groups in the church today. Name calling and ostracizing are common methods to silence critics. Names like hypocrites, Sanhedrin, and God mockers are merely a sampling of the invective aimed at Christians who are concerned about doctrinal error. Nobody wants to be labeled a Pharisee or heresy hunter. But that is often the penalty for daring to step out and ask for a public, biblical accounting of doctrine and practice.

I know the feeling first hand. I have more than once been called legalistic and have been accused of “going down a hard path”–one of my own making, of course. I had been told repeatedly that I was spiritually immature and had not understood the importance of such works as Rick Joyner’s The Final Quest –despite its un-biblical concepts and many outright contradictions to Scripture.

A current river is flowing, which many believe to be of God. Removed from its proper setting in the 47th chapter of Ezekiel, which speaks of a stream gushing out from the Temple of God, this passage in Scripture is today used to promote a last days vision for the church. In its proper context in Ezekiel, this wonderful prophecy is an encouragement that God has not forgotten His covenant people of Israel. But overstepping the sanctity of scriptural boundaries, this passage has been reshaped into the comfortable doctrines of the easy believism and sensual manifestations that mark a massive shift in the church. As believers, we have taken a hairpin turn from the preeminence of the Word of God to a relative, experiential, and terribly apostate faith.

The River Revival movement–encompassing the Toronto Blessing, Brownsville Revival (or Pensacola Outpouring), Dominion, Latter Rain, Word of Faith, Rodney Howard-Browne’s laughing revival, the Kansas City prophets, and an arbitrary mix of all or some of the aforementioned–is flowing into congregations worldwide. Given impetus by these major doctrinal tributaries, this movement’s teachings have led multitudes away from the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into a dangerous realm of subjective experiences, mysticism, and blatant heresy. Closely follow the curves of this river and you’ll find spiritual deviations at first overlooked. After all the hype, the wild manifestations, the wonderful testimonies, the flamboyant prophecies, and the earth-shaking visions, the discerning eye will gaze upon a farther shore, where an entirely different, frightening story unfolds–a story of broken lives and shattered faith, of rebellion and of merchandising a substitute “anointing.”

There is another side to all the fanfare, a glaring something that for the most part remains unspoken or deliberately avoided. There is indeed another side to the River. As believers, it is time we cross over and take a long, hard look. (from The Other Side of the River, by Kevin Reeves)


Rob Bell: More Messed Up Emergent Theology

Emergent Church false teacher Rob Bell, who as I have said before is particularly a danger for youth of today with his rock star-like qualities, hypnotic way of speaking and engaging personality, has a new book out.  It deals much with the topic of human suffering, and Bell offers his solutions, but are they scripturally sound?  This review by Mike Stanwood exposes more of his false theology masquerading as Christianity.  Parents, beware- is Rob Bell being introduced to your children somewhere?

Review of Rob Bell’s book, Drops Like Stars:
Book Review: Rob Bell’s  Drops Like Stars

Drops Like Stars
by Mike Stanwood

Free-lance writer and researcher for the Gospel of Jesus Christ
(From Lighthouse Trails Research)

What has red gilded pages, a hard cover, and costs more than the average person might pay for a book that can be read in one sitting? From a distance, Rob Bell’s gigantic new book Drops like Stars is reminiscent of the Twilight Series look, with red flower and broken petals falling and shattering to pieces against a black backdrop. It looks like something you might find on a table in the corner of your favorite trendy coffee shop.

Drops Like Stars is Rob Bell’s fourth book and much different from the others (Velvet Elvis, Sex God and Jesus Wants to Save Christians)–I couldn’t help wonder how environmentally incorrect it would be considered by the earth-hugging culture, as many pages are blank, or contain a few words at best. The book is basically what they say it’s about. A few thoughts on suffering–short on words, big on paper. It reads like a Nooma DVD script. Artsy and unique, the empty pages are the pauses; the full page photographs are meant to draw the reader in visually to stories or ideas said to be deep and stunning by some, overly simplistic by others. In between the pauses are various short stories about suffering, chopped and mixed together with quotes and commentaries by Bell.

The book opens with the story of the two sons, which we know as a beautiful, timeless picture of the Father’s grace toward the prodigal son. But in the retelling of this story, Rob Bell (pastor of Mars Hill church in Grand Rapids, MI) turns the perspective to how the story doesn’t end. How the older son doesn’t put his arm around the father, and Bell says, “You’re right, Dad … I’ve been such an ass. Can I get you a beer?”(p. 011). Bell laments that “we never find what the older brother decides to do,” and how “some elder brothers never join the party,” and that “lots of parties are missing somebody.” (Bell leaves his readers with a recommendation in his endnotes to discover more perspectives on Jesus’ story of 2 sons by reading Timothy Keller’s book The Prodigal God and The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen.)

As the subject turns to suffering, the question Bell asks is not the usual “why does God allow suffering,” but “what now?” From here, the train of thought shifts to the topic of “out of the box” thinking. When we suffer, we are “out of the box” because our “insulators” are dismantled and there is “disruption”–these are keywords repeated often on the next pages. The key word for dealing with new realities, Bell writes, is “imagine.”

Bell presents the young Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) as an example as one who coped, his insulators being smashed as a young man when his entire family died. There are many more tragic stories in this book about people who have had their boxes smashed, their insulators removed, the empty places inside of them opened up; but in answering his own question of “what now?,” does Rob Bell offer the hope of a Savior as a solution to such suffering in the world, as the Bible instructs? Of this, he falls short.

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:15

Countless Christians can attest to the fact that God has used suffering to bring them face to face with their own mortality, leading them to salvation in Christ. In fact, the Bible tells us that our salvation is made perfect in suffering (Hebrews 2:10). But instead of giving an answer for the reason of the hope that lies within the Christian heart, Bell offers the reader the philosophy that suffering unites. Like those who have been affected by cancer, Bell’s book says suffering unites us in compassion, empathy, solidarity, connection, and love. He sees pain as a necessary way to get to God (none get to God but through trouble), and honesty as the process to really feel alive.

However, our suffering is not so much about getting to God through trouble, but about His conforming us–bringing us into alignment with His will when we realize our weakness and utter hopelessness without Him, and our great need for Him. The Bible tells us there will be suffering until the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:22). But what Bell does not say is that true unity can be found in Christ alone, and the only way any of us can receive new life and final redemption is to be born again by faith through His grace.

It’s all about the art of the ache and expressing feelings, the ache being the universal factor that reassures us we are not alone. There is a bond in suffering that unites–this is the art of solidarity (p 65). Like Jesus when he hung on the cross, “feeling what we feel, aching how we ache, suffering like us” (p 67).

But did Christ suffer “like us”? The Bible says he suffered and was marred more than any man (Isaiah 52:14). He took our punishment so we don’t have to suffer as He did on the cross. Even so, Bell wonders (p 69) if the cross is God’s way of saying “I know how you feel.” The Bible says we are one in Christ Jesus, through the sacrificial blood atonement of the Lamb of God, our substitute. This is the unity Jesus prayed for in His High Priestly prayer before He was crucified (John 17).

Rob Bell never gets to that. Instead he mixes it up with more insulators being destroyed and more boxes smashed, and a quote from Susan Howatch’s fictional Starbridge series (p 68) about the whole point of the incarnation being someone else (God) coming into the world and screaming alongside of us. But the Bible tells us that God’s only Son was sent into the world to save us, and suffer in our place, not just feel our pain and scream with us. (John 3:16,17)

This view of the cross brings God to our level. While Jesus Christ became a man and bore our sins upon Himself, it wasn’t simply to feel what we feel, but to break the power of sin and death in order that we might have eternal life in Him. It is through his suffering, death AND resurrection that we are now united in Christ. Tragically, Bell has not given his readers the whole truth.

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

In a recent interview Bell said: “The most powerful thing is when somebody joins us in our suffering … In some ways the gospel, or the story of Jesus, is like a cosmic act of solidarity.”–Mars Hill founding pastor to speak in Winnipeg, By Aaron Epp, Friday, July 24, 2009,

Did God send His Son so that we could stand together in the solidarity of our sufferings? No. Not our sufferings … Those in Christ Jesus find fellowship in and around HIS sufferings: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10).

Jesus Christ conquered the power of sin and death, but has yet to return and put an end to suffering. There are only two choices for all of humanity–eternal life in Christ in heaven, or eternity without Him in Hell. Of these two realities, Bell gives no warning or makes no distinction.

Bell’s frequent use of the word solidarity is curious–this is a term associated with unions and political socialism, as if we are all fractals, or parts of a whole without the finished work of Christ.

According to wikipedia, a fractal is “a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is … a reduced-size copy of the whole,”… a property called self-similarity.

Like the fragmented flower petals pictured in Drops Like Stars?

How coincidental that a similar new view is finding its way into the current emerging church of which Bell is part–this is a new emerging world-view based on the “new science’s” research on fractals.

“… the term “fractal” is directly related to what are being called the “new sciences” of “Chaos Theory” and “Fractal Theory.” (p. 141, “Fractals, Chaos Theory, Quantum Spirituality, and The Shack,” A Wonderful Deception)

“Teilhard de Chardin, Matthew Fox, Leonard Sweet, and others with New Age affections are teaching the world and the church that God is “in” every atom–therefore God is “in” everything–therefore we are all One–“As above, so below.” But in the Bible, the apostle Paul made it very clear to the Greek unbelievers on Mars Hill that while humanity shares one blood (Acts 17:26)–and all the cellular similarity that infers–humanity is still in need of a Savior.” (p. 148, “Fractals, Chaos Theory, Quantum Spirituality, and The Shack,” A Wonderful Deception)

But nowhere in Drops Like Stars does Rob Bell mention the need for a Savior for our suffering. The Apostle Paul, on the other hand, never stopped talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and continued in spite of his sufferings to bear witness that not only did Christ suffer, but was also the first to rise from the dead.

As the pages of Drops Like Stars are turned from thoughts on the cross, we are carried into the art world. Once again, Bell relays that there’s a key element of imagination and creativity in suffering, and the art of elimination is a big part of that. For example, a sculptor’s most important work is knowing what to take away. (Is this the same method that Bell has used to reimagine, sculpt and take away the truth, revealing his humanistic views?)

After more quotes and visuals (Van Gogh, Mark Twain, Michelangelo, Nike swoosh) the reader finds himself staring at a full page picture of a bar of soap, followed by various soap carvings over the next few pages because sculptors remove, eliminating the superficial and trivial in the same way that suffering reveals what matters most.

Here would have been a great opportunity to share with the reader how it is God, the ultimate sculptor, who in His mercy cleanses and refines us through suffering and trials in order to mold us into His image.

“But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap.” Malachi 3:2

“But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” Isaiah 64:8

Instead we read in Drops Like Stars that there is greatness in you, and it takes suffering to get at it (p. 91). But is this what the Bible says?

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

We have no greatness in us, but God has great plans for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, and His power is made perfect in our weakness. This is what Bell completely misses.

Bell does put some Bible references to suffering in his book, and we are reminded that the apostle Paul suffered, having nothing but possessing everything (p 94). This brings up more short stories–of Rwanda, AIDS, David Letterman, Warren Zevon, and how when we suffer we become grateful for what we formerly took for granted. Such as the unemployed Argentineans that Bell observed in his travels who sang with passion. This was solidarity and hope. Not in God, but in their poverty and suffering.

On page 115 of Drops Like Stars, Bell quotes Franciscan priest and contemplative mystic Richard Rohr who tells of the native Americans who have a tradition of leaving a blemish in the rug they are weaving because that’s where the spirit enters. Bell repeats this idea, saying it’s in the blemish that the Spirit enters, relating this to coming to the end of ourselves through pain, and God turning our fragments into something new that we could never create on our own. Bell concludes that “it turns out that a Navajo rug and a Roman cross have a lot in common” (p 117).

Speaking of Richard Rohr, it is not unusual for emergent writers to turn to Rohr. His beliefs fit very well together with those in the emerging camp. In a Lighthouse Trails report on Mike Erre’s book, Death by Church, it states:

Rohr is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation. His spirituality would be in the same camp as someone like Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ) who believes in pantheism (God is all) and panentheism (God in all). Rohr wrote the foreword to a 2007 book called How Big is Your God? by Jesuit priest (from India) Paul Coutinho. In Coutinho’s book, he describes an interspiritual community where people of all religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity) worship the same God.

There are differing traditions about the blemish in the Navajo rug. Called the “Weaver’s Pathway,” or “Spirit Line,” it may have come from a legend of a Spider Woman spirit being. Some say the Spirit Line is where the weaver’s spirit leaves the rug so that she can create other rugs, preventing her spirit from being trapped. Others say the Weaver’s Pathway counters negative symbolism in the pattern, and allows any evil spirits or energy residing in the rug to be released into energy and imagination for more rugs.

Instead of explaining this connection further, Rob Bell leaves his readers hanging by a thread, wondering exactly what native spirituality and spirits have in common with a Roman cross.

A little further along in his book, Bell quotes Abraham Joshua Heschel (a rabbi who believed that no religion had a monopoly on truth) who said that one should “live life as if it were a work of art called your own existence” (p 126). This reminds Bell of another Susan Howatch quote regarding the creative process that is the reward, and that nothing is wasted or without significance (p 128). These quotes support an emerging thought that it’s the journey that counts and not the destination, as Bell has said before, “The way of Jesus is a journey, not a destination” (p 168 Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell).

This is a journey where hell is a present reality and our final destination is not “somewhere out there.” Isn’t this what mystic proponent Ken Wilber believes, that the truth cannot be found in truth but in the journey of seeking it? (Rob Bell did recommend his readers spend 3 months reading Wilber in his book Velvet Elvis, p 192.) The unbiblical goal of this emergent journey is to find a way for all truths to fit together, making the journey the important goal, not the destination.

Near the end of the book, we are told that Drops Like Stars got its name because of Bell’s nephew who thought raindrops hitting the ground were stars. Oddly enough, even though this book does not give the biblical reason for suffering, the title is pointing to it. Dropping like stars is not an uncommon theme in the Bible, as when Jesus spoke of what he saw fall from heaven.

“And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” Luke 10:18

And throughout the Bible, it talks about various messengers coming down from heaven. In the book of Revelation, there is a star that drops from heaven, to whom was given a key to open the bottomless pit (Rev. 9:1,2). According to God’s Word, there will be one more time when all will see Satan drop like a star, and that will be when Satan, formerly the most beautiful angel of all, and his followers are finally thrown into the lake of fire. That’s where solidarity in suffering will be a reality–forever (Rev.20:10).

But this does not fit into Bell’s theology. God’s eternal plan for mankind should be central to a book with this theme, from the beginning of creation to the end of all time, as God has laid out His plan for salvation for us in His Word. Instead of answers, Bell offers a humanist perspective of life and a shallow version of hope that our culture would easily accept. And no wonder, as his own words recently revealed:

“Asking questions, engaging the wider culture and connecting with people are important aspects of his ministry, but the key, he says, is hope.”–Ibid. Mars Hill founding pastor to speak in Winnipeg, by Aaron Epp, Friday, July 24, 2009

In conclusion–if it’s a coffee table book with worldly wisdom and emerging spirituality you seek, this book may be just the one. You will not find much godly counsel within these spacious pages, but plenty of name dropping quotes from famous musicians, writers, artists, movies and celebrities to whom the world will gladly listen. In Bell’s attempt to engage the culture, he has drawn from the philosophy and wisdom of the world and abdicated his responsibility as an evangelical pastor to represent the Gospel.

And what a shame. Far more important than the wasting of trees and paper with nearly blank pages in a book, there is an eternal significance–a wasted opportunity to share God’s hope to a dying world. Our hope, our solidarity, and our unity is not in suffering, but in the resurrection power of our living Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Hope of the world.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.
1 Peter 1:3,4

Does The Bible Call Christians To Defend The Faith / Argue For The Faith?


The classic verse promoting apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith) is 1 Peter 3:15, which basically says that believers are to make a defense “for the hope that you have.” The only way to do this effectively is to study the reasons for why we believe what we believe. This will prepare us to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” as Paul said we should (2 Corinthians 10:5). Paul practiced what he preached; in fact, doing apologetics was his regular activity (Philippians 1:7). He refers to apologetics as an aspect of his mission in the same passage (v.16). He also made apologetics a requirement for church leadership in Titus 1:9. Jude, an apostle of Jesus, wrote that “although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (v.3).

Where did the apostles get these ideas? From the Master Himself. Jesus was His own apologetic as He stated time and again that we should believe in Him because of the evidence He provided for what He taught (John 2:23; 10:25; 10:38; 14:29). In fact, the whole Bible is full of miracles specifically being done by God to confirm what He wanted us to believe (Exodus 4:1-8; 1Kings 18:36-39; Acts 2:22-43; Hebrews 2:3-4; 2 Corinthians 12:12). People rightly refuse to believe something without evidence. Since God created humans as rational beings, we should not be surprised when He expects us to live rationally. As Norman Geisler says, “This does not mean there is no room for faith. But God wants us to take a step of faith in the light of evidence, rather than to leap in the dark.”

Those who oppose these clear biblical teachings and examples may say things like “the Word of God does not need to be defended!” But which of the world’s writings are the word of God? As soon as someone answers that, he is doing apologetics. (How well he does it might be another story!) Some claim that human reason cannot tell us anything about God—but isn’t that a “reasonable” statement about God? If not, then there is no reason to believe it, and if so, then they have contradicted themselves. A favorite saying is, “If someone can talk you into Christianity, then someone else can talk you out.” Why is this a problem? Did not Paul himself give a criterion by which Christianity should be accepted or rejected in 1 Corinthians 15? It is only misplaced piety that answers in the negative.

Now, none of this is to say that bare apologetics, free from the influence of the Holy Spirit, can bring someone to saving faith. This creates a false dilemma in the minds of many. But it does not have to be “Spirit vs. Logic.” Why not both? We must not confuse the fact that the Holy Spirit is required to move one into a position of belief with how He accomplishes this feat. With some people God uses trials; in others it is an emotional experience; in others it is through reason. God can use whatever means He wants. We, however, are commanded to use apologetics in as many or more places as we are told to preach the gospel. How is it then that all churches affirm the latter but so many ignore the former?


Are You A Church Worshipper?

(by Paul Proctor, Aug 11, 2009, News With Views)

Well, another Leadership Summit has come and gone at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois – a yearly conference led by its senior pastor and Willow Creek Association’s Chairman of the Board, Bill Hybels. They reportedly drew over 6000 attendees this year with some 60,000 watching a live broadcast of the event. They’ve been holding these annual gatherings for 13 years.

In a recent Christian Post article, Hybels once again revealed the humanist nature of the infamous seeker-sensitive church growth movement by posing the question:

“Do we still believe the local church is the hope of the world?”

You see, many Christians might look at that and not realize they’ve been subjected to a dialectic question designed to alter their spiritual priorities and get them on board an alternative agenda. This is what trained facilitators do under the radar in many churches today.

But I would ask: Is that where your hope lies – in the local church?

Do you believe your church can save the world?

Did it save you?

There are a lot of misguided Christians today who have a misplaced faith and hope in their church. This makes them easy targets for church growth consultants who know all too well how to play on the egos, ambitions and insecurities of both laymen and staff wanting their church to be bigger and better than the one across town.

When we covet the “success” of others, we make ourselves vulnerable to smooth-talking opportunists who will gladly step in and exploit our weaknesses and shortcomings upon invitation. The result is that we end up depending on them and their programs, techniques, strategies and surveys instead of God and His Word.

But the Church cannot save.

The Church is the saved.

Did the members of your local congregation live perfect lives, heal the sick, raise the dead and die on a cross for your sins and mine and then rise from the grave three days later? Did they also ascend into Heaven and sit at the right hand of God the Father to make intercession for you and me there?

Does John 3:16 read: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Church, that whosoever believeth in them should not perish, but have everlasting life?”

If not, then, why should you and I rest our hope in a local church – especially in the compromised, corrupt and declining state that many of them now find themselves? If you haven’t been keeping up – more folks are leaving churches now than are joining. That tells me they aren’t finding much hope in them anymore.

With one little question, Bill Hybels took his audience’s attention and focus off of Jesus Christ – a lost world’s only real hope – and placed it on a group of mere mortals calling them the “hope of the world.”

Shall we give honor, glory and praise to the Bridegroom or the bride?

Will we follow the Good Shepherd or His sheep?

Am I suggesting that the local church is no place for Christians?

Absolutely not!

They are the Christians! Or at least they are supposed to be.

What I am saying is that we need to stop putting our hope and faith in people and their self-exalting, self-justifying, self-serving organizations and institutions, local or otherwise. It’s time to start reading, learning, obeying and proclaiming God’s Word – all of it – instead of snappy slogans, corny clichés, vain visions and the silly strategies of men.

We ought to be about seeking God’s face first and new faces for our sanctuary second. It’s as if we believe manually growing our congregation somehow enlarges our God. But that’s church worship, not God worship! And if we declare our church, man-made or not, to be “the hope of the world,” then we are little more than idolaters.

Jesus rebuked religious leaders for putting their hope in the Temple. Are we any less guilty today for putting our hope in a religious building’s inhabitants? If that isn’t humanism, I don’t know what is.

It doesn’t surprise me that Bill Hybels believes that though. He’s in the church business. He’s a salesman and that’s his product.

I should also point out that according to Christian Today, Saddleback Church’s Purpose Driven pastor, Rick Warren, is currently writing a new book entitled: The Hope of the World.


I doubt it.

The church growth movement, you see, worships a two-headed god called “Results” and “Relationships” where nothing gets in the way of either – even God’s Word. It was first encountered in the Garden of Eden.

The religion of Results persuades us to, like Eve, take and eat of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” even when the Lord says: “Thou shalt not.” But we do anyway because we believe the end justifies the means – and we’re convinced it’s for a “good cause.”

Today, many trained facilitators in leadership positions have infiltrated the church and convinced gullible and covetous Christians that if they rely on market principles and surveys, they’ll get the Results they’re after – which may or may not have anything to do with the Word and Will of God.

We call that “pragmatism.”

God calls it sin.

The religion of Relationships teaches us to, like Adam, “hearken unto the voice” of those we love rather than the One Who created them – especially if it keeps the “unity of the body” – contrived and illicit that unity may be. So, we take the experiential advice of well-meaning friends, loved ones and associates and treat it as authoritative – especially when it is what we want to hear – instead of praying, waiting and laboring in the Word for wisdom and truth. In the end, God’s Will is, at best, relegated to one of many opinions.

We call that “consensus.”

God calls it sin.

The Christian Post went on to say that Hybels “encouraged leaders to re-invent new strategies that would serve as self-replenishment.”

No word yet on where he found that in scripture.

Doesn’t sound anything like the 23rd Psalm though – that old strategy that says: “He restoreth my soul” and “leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Paul Proctor, Forgotten

For an excellent related article by Paul, please read:  Is Christianity All About Relationships?

Why Bible Prophecy Should Be More Important To The Church Today

This is a study on Bible prophesy contributed by my friend Brad White.  The study of prophesy is a very vital topic for our times, and this issue is one that is downplayed much by the emergent church today.

When I bring up the subject of the Rapture of the Church to my friends and others, it seems I find myself answering the same question.  It is answering the question of why the word rapture isn’t in the Bible if there’s going to be one.

Did you know that the word Bible isn’t in the Bible either?

One of my favorite Bible passages concerning the rapture is 1st Thessalonians 4:16-18: (NLT)

16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died[h] will rise from their graves.

17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.
18 So encourage each other with these words.

Nowhere in this passage do we find the word rapture, but is it there? Yes it is.

The phrase “caught up” is harpazo in the original Greek text. When the Greek text was translated into Latin, the word harpazo was translated into raptus, rapiemur and rapturo from which we adopted an English version of the Latin words and came up with the word rapture as a term descriptive of the Lord’s catching up of the saints.

Simply because the word rapture isn’t found in English translations of the Bible doesn’t mean the event isn’t described in the text.

If we believe the Rapture will take us away before all the End Times events occur, then why do we need to study prophecy?

Is bible prophecy really important? And if so, how important? And aren’t people who expend more than a passing moment examining bible prophecy simply uneducated crackpots and lunatics yearning for the destruction of the world? These are just a few of the questions bombarding today’s Christians when it comes to the study of bible prophecy.

That bible prophecy is irrelevant to the Gospel or a mere playground for the mentally unstable is a message we constantly receive from the media, pop culture, and many so-called church leaders. It’s unfortunate, because this false image of bible prophecy has succeeded in turning many Christians away from the Gospel. Although recent history is marked by an untold number of date setters and false prophets claiming to speak for God, this is no reason to ignore bible prophecy. Such people were never true Christians, but rather enemies of God in disguise.

So instead of relying on the words of ministers, priests, journalists, and other humans, let’s examine the primary source. Here’s what the bible says about prophecy, including every verse of God’s Holy Word:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)

The word “all” includes bible prophecy, and that’s good, considering more than 25% of the bible is fulfilled or yet to be fulfilled prophecy. Why is so much of the bible dedicated to prophecy? There are many reasons, but in the end, there is only one purpose: to direct the attention of the human race to Jesus Christ.

“For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus.” Revelation 19:10 (NLT)

Previously fulfilled prophecies lend unprecedented credibility to the bible’s claim to be the Word of God, and the Messianic prophecies fulfilled by the birth, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth authenticate his claim to be the one true Christ. In essence, bible prophecy is the most powerful witness to the divinity of Christ. So don’t listen to those who claim that bible prophecy distracts us from the true Christian mission. Quite to the contrary, all bible prophecy points to Jesus Christ Himself.

Jesus Instructs Us

Despite its many detractors, the study of bible prophecy is an essential aspect of proper Christian living. The Lord Himself expected his disciples to carefully examine the Word of God and to be prepared for His return:

“So be prepared, because you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:42 (NLT)

In fact, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for not recognizing the signs of the times, for the religious leaders of His day had full knowledge of the prophecies of the Messiah, yet they still chose not to believe in Him.

“One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus’ claims by asking him to show them a miraculous sign from heaven. He replied, ‘You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow, red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You are good at reading the weather signs in the sky, but you can’t read the obvious signs of the times!’” Matthew 16:1-3 (NLT)

Jesus expected the people of His day to fully recognize and eagerly await the time of His first coming. As we patiently await His second coming, he holds our generation to the same standard of accountability.

There are many reasons for the Lord’s repeated command to study bible prophecy, but three of the most significant are found below:

1) Authentication of the Bible

Bible prophecy offers the clearest indication that the bible is the verifiable Word of God. Yet despite the millions of people who attend church and synagogue every week and the existence of countless books on the subject, most people are simply unaware of these prophecies. They feverishly search through the writings of Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, the Koran, and countless other “sacred texts” in hope of finding a profound truth or revelation concerning the future, only to be disappointed time and again.

Somehow, the most credible source of information on future events, the Bible, escapes notice. Yet the fulfilled prophecies of the bible are backed by mountains of historical data, archaeological evidence, and the staggering mathematical probability of their occurrence merely being the result of chance. No other source of historical knowledge can make the same claims, and for good reason. No other source is the inspired Word of God.

“And do not forget the things I have done throughout history. For I am God – I alone! I am God, and there is no one else like me. Only I can tell you what is going to happen even before it happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” Isaiah 46:9-11 (NLT)

The very definition of God includes His unique ability to see from the distant past to the distant future, from the beginning to the end. He alone can foresee world events with 100% accuracy centuries in advance. The apostle Peter testified to this fact:

“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophets themselves or because they wanted to prophesy. It was the Holy Spirit who moved the prophets to speak from God.” 2 Peter 1:20 (NLT)

Unlike other sacred texts that claim divine origin, the bible can point to its unprecedented track record in foreseeing future events. This is because the bible is not the product of imaginative men, but rather the testimony of prophets who were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak from God. Fulfilled prophecy authenticates the bible, proving it to be the Word of God. For this reason alone, bible prophecy is worth every iota of our attention.

However, when it comes to spreading the Word of God, there is no greater tool of evangelism than bible prophecy.

2) Assistance in Spreading the Gospel

One of the easiest and most natural methods for spreading the Gospel is the sharing of bible prophecy. In fact, in the early days of the Church, sharing of fulfilled bible prophecy was the primary method for spreading the Gospel. On the day of Pentecost, Peter gave a rousing speech in Jerusalem in which he cited fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies as clear proof that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah (Acts 2:14-42). This speech led to three thousand people devoting their lives to Jesus Christ. Later in the same book, we learn the story of Philip and the Eunuch, in which Philip uses a fulfilled prophecy from the Book of Isaiah in order to explain the Gospel to an Ethiopian traveler (Acts 8:26-39). These are just two of many instances in which the early church emphasized bible prophecy as a tool for evangelism.

In one of the New Testament books which bear his name, Peter underscores the important role of bible prophecy:

“For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and his coming again. We have seen his majestic splendor with our own eyes. And he received honor and glory from God the Father when God’s glorious, majestic voice called down from heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son; I am fully pleased with him.’ We ourselves heard the voice when we were there with him on the holy mountain. Because of that, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. Pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a light shining in a dark place – until the day Christ appears and his brilliant light shines in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:16-19 (NLT)

In Peter’s words, bible prophecy is “like a light shining in a dark place.” Bible prophecy provides us with confidence in the coming glory of Christ and the necessary hope to see us through the daily rigors of life until that day appears. He further proclaims his confidence in the words of the prophets, both fulfilled and unfulfilled, because he has witnessed firsthand the authenticity of the scriptures.

Therefore, we should afford the utmost respect for the words of the prophets, and rejoice in the fact that we are able to understand their fulfillment in the life of Christ:

“This salvation was something the prophets wanted to know more about. They prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you, even though they had many questions as to what it all could mean. They wondered what the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward. They wondered when and to whom all this would happen. They were told that these things would not happen during their lifetime, but many years later, during yours. And now this Good News has been announced by those who preached to you in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.” 1 Peter 1:10-12 (NLT)

The prophets yearned to know more about bible prophecy, and the Spirit of Christ was within them. Even the angels are eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of bible prophecy. If this is true, then how can we say bible prophecy is insignificant or of secondary importance?

3) Encouragement of Holy Living

In the end, dedicated study of bible prophecy leads to holy living. Fulfilled prophecy is a constant reminder of God’s awesome power, the glory of Jesus Christ, and the absolute certainty that promises yet unfulfilled will come to be. This breeds a number of Christ-like characteristics in the life of a Christian, a fact attested to by Paul:

“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.” Titus 2:11-13 (NLT)

If we acknowledge the prophecies of the Second Coming as well as the command of Jesus to stay awake and alert, we will be driven to live godly lives. Paul also emphasized this in his letter to the Romans:

“Another reason for right living is that you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Romans 13:11 (NLT)

Peter also recognized the power of prophecy to motivate Christians toward holy living, citing faith in the imminent return of Christ (unfulfilled prophecy) as reason for modifying behavior and living a life in harmony with God:

“So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the special blessings that will come to you at the return of Jesus Christ. Obey God because you are his children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of doing evil; you didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God – who chose you to be his children – is holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-15 (NLT)

James underlined the important role of bible prophecy in fostering patience in the life of Christ’s followers:

“Dear brothers and sisters, you must be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who eagerly look for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They patiently wait for the precious harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. And take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.” James 5:7-8 (NLT)

Harboring the hope that Christ can return at any moment encourages patience in our daily lives.

In addition, Paul points out the importance of studying bible prophecy in order to identify false prophets and recognize evil:

“Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Keep away from every kind of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NLT)

If a Christian ignores bible prophecy, that Christian is ignoring a large portion of God’s Word. As a result, they will be unable to adequately counter arguments and false doctrines put forth by false prophets and enemies of God. Like the people of Berea (Acts 17:11), we are encouraged to personally examine the Word of God and use it as the yardstick by which we measure truth. A Christian who lacks knowledge of bible prophecy will be severely lacking in this area, and as a result, they will be more susceptible to errant teachings.

Reward Awaits

As if the above reasons weren’t enough, the bible promises special blessings to those who faithfully examine bible prophecy. As an example, one of the most prophetic books in the bible, the Book of Revelation, promises a special blessing to those who merely read it. Moreover, God further blesses those who listen to what this book has to say and take it to heart:

“God blesses the one who reads this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to it and obey what it says. For the time is near when these things will happen.” Revelation 1:3 (NLT)

Remember, the Book of Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Despite what some think, it’s not the revelation of John, or the imaginative writings of a cave dweller. It is direct correspondence from Jesus to His followers, and although some of it is difficult to understand, it contains some of the most wonderful promises from God to man in the entire bible. As Paul states:

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’ But we know these things because God has revealed them to us by his Spirit, and his Spirit searches out everything and shows us even God’s deep secrets.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (NLT)

Paul knew the importance of bible prophecy and the significant role it played in the daily life of a Christian. In fact, he earnestly looked forward to the day when he would be rewarded for his hope in an unfulfilled bible prophecy – the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ:

“And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return.” 2 Timothy 4:8 (NLT)

This crown of righteousness is not just for Paul, but for all who “eagerly look forward to His glorious return,” providing those who receive it with an eternal reward. Still think bible prophecy is unimportant?


Remember, the early church warned the last generation that unfulfilled prophecies would be a source of derision:

“First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. This will be their argument: ‘Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created.’” 2 Peter 3:3 (NLT)

Our generation has done more to fulfill Peter’s prophecy than any generation before. Today, bible prophecy and those who study it are mocked and ridiculed. And it’s not just the general population attempting to marginalize prophecy. In most cases, it’s prominent leaders of mainstream Christian denominations – ministers, priests, and community leaders of all types.

Such people attempt to justify their personal disdain for prophecy by relegating it to second tier status behind salvation and evangelism. They say, why waste time studying bible prophecy when it detracts from good works and spreading the gospel message? They fail to realize that prophecy is the essence of the gospel message.

Almost every one of the promises Christians hold near and dear are based on prophecy. The promise of heaven is. The hope of salvation is. The joy of eternity with Christ is. Each of these is a promise from God guaranteeing our future. And what is a prophecy if not a guaranteed future event? So don’t let the mockery of others discourage you from studying bible prophecy.

Remember, Jesus Christ Himself was mocked and ridiculed by this world. If you want to follow Him, He says you must be willing to be mocked and ridiculed yourself. Bible prophecy is the message of Jesus, and as Christians, we must be willing to endure persecution for it:

“Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose or forfeit your own soul in the process? If a person is ashamed of me and my message, I, the Son of Man, will be ashamed of that person when I return in my glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.’” Luke 9:23-26 (NLT)

Brad White

GO To Church and BE The Church

This post is from my friend over at Ex-Nazarene.  A response to a growing trend of some Nazarene churches to actually cancel Sunday services in order to go out and do community service projects- but they don’t even focus on presenting the gospel!   Reminds me of the quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, which says “Preach the gospel at al times, and, if necessary, use words.”  How wrong, and even unbiblical that is.  That is a silent evangelism which does not work if you do not explain the gospel to people.  We surely must live our lives in a way that does not discredit our witness, but we cannot really draw people to the Lord simply by living a good life and showing Jesus-like behavior, because even non-believers can show Jesus-like behavior.

Instead of failing to present the gospel, here are examples of how to stay true to the gospel and actually bring it to the lost.

October 5, 2009 by exnazarene

This past Sunday, while many churches in the Southwest Ohio Nazarene District were canceling services in order to go out and do community service projects, wearing “Don’t Go to Church –  Be the Church” tee shirts with press coverage in tow, so as to gain community approval, my church had service.

This particular Sunday was given over to the Deaf Ministry to honor 20 years of outreach to the deaf community.  The worship, preaching, testimonies, and altar call, were all led by a deaf minister who is a member of the church.  The Deaf Ministry is not separate from the hearing church, but is incorporated into the whole life of the church through dedicated workers who interpret every week and minister to those who are marginalized in society and forgotten by most churches.

I was moved as I watched men and women of all ages from the deaf community, some with additional handicaps, stand on the platform and sign the music for the hearing audience.  This Sunday, we had an interpreter telling us what was being said, not the other way around.  The deaf minister testified that at his other church, where he was on staff, he shared with the hearing pastor his passion for getting the gospel to the deaf community so that they too could know of forgiveness of sins and of God’s saving power through Jesus.  The hearing pastor told him that it wasn’t important to get the gospel to the deaf community because they would all be allowed in heaven without ever hearing the gospel.  He was shocked by such a view and left that church.  The deaf minister had/has a clear understanding of  the power of the gospel to change the hearts of men and women.  Deaf people are sinners too, in need of the saving grace of the Lord.  A repentant heart means a changed life, even for the deaf.

As I watched all this, I thought that this was a clear picture of the works that we were to be engaged in to further the Kingdom of God.   Works that clearly and unapologetically present the gospel….not a gospel of fluff and grace, and easy believism,…..but a gospel that presents the bad news first, our need for salvation and then the good news of God’s mercy and grace.  I watched as the interpreters were recognized for 20 years of service.  No TV cameras or press coverage was there.  These were good works.   This was furthering the Kingdom of God.

I listened to the announcement about the last details coming together for the Family Life Ministry which is to open soon for unwed mothers.  A home which the church wants to use to  serve those who are unwed and expecting, so as to save the life of the child from abortion and to just as importantly present the gospel to an unwed mother so that the Holy Spirit would change her life.  This is a good work.  This is what the Kingdom of God is about, sharing the gospel, the bad news and the good news, so to change hearts, so that Jesus is served and Jesus is Lord.  Many people have been working for months to get this ministry ready, and many people are ready to work once the ministry is open.  This is the work we are to be engaged in for the good of the community.

I thought of the five bus routes, and dedicated bus workers,  who each week get up early to get on  buses and go out to some of the poorer areas around our community to pick up mostly kids, and a few adults,  to bring them to church and Sunday School to teach them the Word of God and to present the gospel.  Periodically, one of the bus kids comes forward in church for baptism testifying to the saving grace of Jesus Christ in their life.  Permission is secured first from their home and many times, other family members end up coming to church and staying because a dedicated bus worker picked up their child week after week to bring them to church.  This is a good work.  The gospel changes hearts, changes families, and changes communities.  This is the Kingdom of God.

I thought back to this past summer, to the Vacation Bible School program in which five different satellite locations were also used to take the Word and work of God into the poorer communities.  The church holds the larger VBS on its grounds, but there are workers who take VBS to other locations at the same time, so that kids in the poorer neighborhoods, can be given a Bible and hear a clear presentation of the gospel every night along with VBS activities.  I recall seeing some of the adult men share the gospel one on one with some of the adults who came to ask questions.  There is no glitz or glamour in this. No press coverage.  There is an element of danger from the gangs.  This a good work; this is the Kingdom of God being built to change hearts, to call people to repentance.

There are many more daily ongoing works that I could list, the Food Pantry, those who go door to door on Visitation night to present the gospel to those whose names were given by others for follow-up work, funeral meals for grieving families, works for widows, etc.  All this is done weekly at the church.  All these works are done in conjunction with a clear presentation of the gospel, not in lieu of hearing the gospel.

We don’t have to cancel church services to try to get the attention of a community to do a “social gospel”.  We understand that the gospel has the power to change lives and we use every opportunity to spread its message whenever we can, not with bait and switch techniques, or to follow after John Ortberg of Willow Creek’s fame, Faith In Action Sunday Program, that wants churches to shut their doors and call the TV stations.

We are not to seek after the world’s approval.  But this is exactly what is taking place with The Don’t Go To Church, Be The Church campaign.  Those who follow such a market-driven format seek the world’s approval.   Jesus warned us that the world would hate us because of the gospel.  He said that we would endure persecution because of it and some would lose their life.  That’s why I gave a couple of examples in my  previous article of Nazarene pastors being executed for presenting the gospel.

To lead congregations into believing the Kingdom of God is about cancelling services and doing social services for a community, is an insult to the blood of these Nazarene pastors and their families and to those who are faithful to verbalize the message of the gospel to those in their community without compromise.

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”