What the Bible says about light and seed

The True Light "In him, (the Lord Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world,…the world didn’t recognize him." John 1:4,9.

The Good Seed and the Weeds “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seeds in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. Matthew 13:24,25.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Men of the Church: Are You Sober?


Reblogged from Elizabeth Prata: the-end-time.blogspot.com

When you read the New Testament you'd be surprised to read how many times men (and women) are called to be sober. And most time when the word sober is used, it means not only 'not drunk' of course, but mentally alert, sharp, thinking clearly with right judgment. Women are called to be sober as well. In many cases for both sexes, particularly church leaders, it's meant as athe-end-time.blogspot.com.br  call to be dignified. (Proverbs 31:25; 1 Timothy 2:2).

Three years ago, when I first posted about Beth Moore and the trouble I was having with her teaching, one of the things I took issue with is that she isn't dignified when she teaches. I'd written,

She isn't dignified. Yes, that's what I said. Beth Moore is not dignified on her stage. She moves around a lot, quickly delivering scriptures and her interpretations in rapid-fire fashion. She will use tricks like having a wastebasket prop to "throw away" negative behaviors, she presses participants to wear bracelets that supposedly mean certain things (I read this from three blogs) and she will contort, kneel, dance, and generally cut up, sometimes while holding the bible. Laughter is frequent.
A bible lesson is not a comedy routine. I am all for laughter. Our pastor says some funny things sometimes and the congregation will of course laugh. I am among those who laugh loud and I'm sure even the choir can hear me from where I sit. But teaching the bible with respect requires some gravitas. It requires some dignity. It isn't a prop or a party trick. I shun antics as the main behavior of the teaching session. Funny sometimes, yes. Zany bible teachers? No.
Call me staid (Decorous? Sedate?) but I don't think Paul hung "I AM" posters
around the necks of hapless volunteers in the synagogues
when he was reasoning with them
"Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things." (1 Timothy 3:11)

I took a lot of flak from people about that rebuke. Many people thought I was being too picky, or too staid, or too Northern. Most of those people who said I was wrong had overlooked the clear commands in the bible about behaving soberly in church and out. Even though I posted them, lol. But it's pretty simple. We're commanded again and again to be sober.

Many people these days don't like it when we remind ourselves of a doctrinal standard. (2 Tim 4:3). They really hate it when we remind ourselves that there are behavioral standards, too. 'Who are you to judge how someone should act?!' Etc. But it's not me, it's God. They are His standards, both doctrinal and behavioral (moral).

As you read all the verses in the NT which mention sobriety, you begin to notice a pattern. Sobriety in behavior comes first because we are clear in our thinking. 'Be sober-minded' 'Exercise sober judgment'. 'Don't be drunk, so you can think clearly.' Like that. We are called to act this way because we hold Jesus up as the highest and most important Person in the universe, worthy to be worshiped. We are serious about this and we are dignified about it too. We want to think clearly, witness accurately, show self-control, love, and patience, and be serious about the King so we can make good decisions. We also do this because we do not want to be a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Corinthians 8:9, Romans 14:21).

With all this in mind, let's take a look at the spectacle that Christian worship services have become. Are these men sober-minded? Exercising good judgment?


"Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness..." (Titus 2:2)
source

In the above picture, 'Pastor' Troy Gramling set himself ablaze to demonstrate something from his preaching series "Daredevil." (Why any Christian would want to say he is anything like a devil is beyond me...Christ bought us away from the devil). When Paul wrote to Timothy about the behavioral qualifications of pastors, and thought he had covered it with 'exercise good judgment ' and 'be sober,' I don't think he would have thought he'd have needed to spell it out: "Do not set yourself on fire."

In the photo below, 'Pastor' Ed Young decided to preach about sex. Young and his wife Lisa staged a 24-hour bed-in on the church’s roof to discuss truths about sex before a live Internet audience. When Paul wrote the following words to Timothy...

"As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:5)

...I am sure he did not think to include prohibitions about silly stunts in the sun and sex talk in front of the world. 'Fulfill your ministry by being immodest, a stumbling block to the young and intemperate, and say  things in public that would embarrass your mother. G'wan. Jesus is 'kay with it."



'Pastor' Rod Parlsey is pastor of World Harvest Church, a large Pentecostal church in Columbus, Ohio. As Stand Up For the Truth describes the now deleted video, "Is it a bird? Is it Tom Cruise? No, it is a pastor! Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church is raising some eyebrows by releasing this now-viral video of himself zip lining through the air over his cheering congregation, and landing onto his pulpit. His band is playing the “Mission Impossible” theme music to kick off its “Mission Possible” sermon series leading into Easter."

Easter!!!


source

"The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers." (1 Peter 4:7)

At the revelation of Jesus Christ, do you think the Head of our church will look favorably on the ziplining pastor making a mockery out of his House of Prayer? Well, how did He like it the first time? (Matthew 21:13)

"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:13)

In this next example, we're told not to think more highly of ourselves than we should, but 'Pastor' Steven Furtick thinks just as highly of himself as Jesus thinks of the Father.

"For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." (Romans 12:3).


source
Furtick is building the church? I thought Jesus was doing that. Building it upon a vision Furtick had? I thought the church was being built on the fact that Jesus is savior. And uniting around Furtick's vision? I thought we were supposed to unite around the Spirit. (Ephesians 4:3)

"Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. ... And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:16, 18)

Blasphemy. And remember, Furtick was the one who perverted the worship service by seeding planted people in the audience to manipulate congregants into coming forward for a baptism he called spontaneous, but was anything but. It was a total manipulation from start to finish, including the music, teaching the planted people how fast or slow to walk down the aisle and what to say to the baptizees coming forward. Spontaneous, my eye.

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." ~Inigo Montoya

Strong's numbered Greek words in the lexicon explain that in most cases in the above verses, 'sober' means for the believer to "think shrewdly", reflecting what God defines is true moderation. In the other cases, it means don't be drunk. 'Be sober, unintoxicated' refers to having presence of mind (clear judgment), enabling someone to be temperate (self-controlled)".

Jesus is the head of the church. If we can't picture Jesus doing something or saying something behind the pulpit, then His under-shepherd shouldn't do it.

I'm not talking about never smiling, never having fun, or never relaxing. In fellowship or casual settings away from church, sure, have fun. Even then, don't be so wild as to give cause to the unbelievers to slander us. (1 Tim 5:14). But in church or in bible teaching settings, such antics have no place. Why? Because of this verse:

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)

Obey. Fear. Trembling. It is all joined at verse 13- 'for it is God...' God is in us, working out His will and plan and we work out our salvation because we obey in fear and trembling. Why? Again, because He's God.

We feel utter joy in knowing He is God and utter gratitude for our salvation. We do feel joy and love and we exhibit it, but it is all rooted in the fear and trembling because He is God, and there is no other. We aren't flippant, casual, irreverent, zany, 'devilish', foolish, or outrageous. Our joy comes from the fear and trembling, the fear of sinning against the Lord, of not being active in our sanctification, and fear of loss of rewards

If you would like to listen to an excellent sermon on the Christian life centered around an exposition of the above Philippians verse, please do so. It is by Dr Steven Lawson, "Christian Living 101: Part 1" Here it is

Meanwhile, remember worship is not a party! Be sober, be mindful, be dignified. This will please Jesus.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pentecostal Turned Catholic Ulf Ekman Illustrates in His Conversion the Role of Authority

Christopher ConeBy Dr. Christopher Cone Tyndale Theological Seminary  
   
In a Christianity Today article entitled, "Sweden's Pentecostal Megapastor Converts to Catholicism," Ruth Moon provides several recent quotes from pastor Ulf Ekman as he informed the 3,300 members of Word of Life Church in Uppsala, Sweden, that he had converted to Catholicism. Ekman's announcement included one particularly insightful comment, that is worth noting here:
"We have seen a great love for Jesus and a sound theology, founded on the Bible and classic dogma. We have experienced the richness of sacramental life. We have seen the logic in having a solid structure for priesthood, that keeps the faith of the church and passes it on from one generation to the next. We have met an ethical and moral strength and consistency that dare to face up to the general opinion, and a kindness towards the poor and the weak. And, last but not least, we have come in contact with representatives for millions of charismatic Catholics and we have seen their living faith..." [emphasis mine]
Notice the bases of authority for Ekman's newly preferred "sound" theology. He acknowledges two: (1) the Bible, and (2) classic dogma (i.e., the historical teaching of the Catholic church). Here Ekman is alluding to the Catholic doctrine that the Bible is to be understood through the lens of the historical understanding of the church. [1] In other words, (Catholic) historical theology is the proper grid for understanding the Bible. Consequently, classic dogma, not the Bible is the final authority. But classic dogma has two other interesting partners in Ekman's decision:

The first is evident in his statement that, "We have experienced the richness of sacramental life." Experience is an important arbiter of truth, in this instance. The sacramental life prescribed by classic dogma is confirmed to be rich by Ekman's experience, and therefore is worthy of turning to.

The second is underscored by the statement, "We have seen the logic in having a solid structure for priesthood..." Logic or reason is the authoritative basis here. The "solid structure for the priesthood" is not a Biblical conception, but is derived of classical dogma. Since it passes the logic test for Ekman, it is the worthy alternative.
Ulf Ekman

"Jesus led us to unite with the Catholic Church"

I find Ekman's transparency both fascinating and helpful. First, it is fascinating to see how he strategically dismisses the Bible as sole and final authority, relying on classic dogma as his final authoritative mechanism for assessment. Once the Bible is pushed aside, what are the means whereby the decision can be tested? Experience and reason. In finding Catholicism to be experientially and rationally appealing, Ekman concludes it is the better choice, even going so far as to say that, "it was actually Jesus who led us to unite with the Catholic Church." Ekman dismisses the Bible, preferring experience and reason, and concludes the result was Jesus' leading. Fascinating.

Finally, I find Ekman's transparency helpful in that it underscores the role of epistemological authority in our everyday decisions. We may either consider the Bible as the final arbiter of truth, or we rely on our experience and reason—but one of these has to be the ultimate arbiter of truth when there is apparent conflict between them. In this case, Ekman relies on experience and reason as supreme, and interprets the Bible as a secondary authority through those two subjective devices. Objectivity is lost in favor of the subjective.

Ekman's process is illustrative of the processes we all deal with every day, and the authority questions we must answer with each step. What is the ultimate arbiter of truth? Is it reason, as it was for Descartes? Is it experience, as it was for Hume? Or is it the Way, the Truth, and the Life—Jesus, Himself—as revealed in the Bible alone? When these three are in conflict, how will you settle the debate?

As Ekman moves from heavily experiential Pentecostalism to the historical theology of Catholicism, I pray for his clarity regarding the bases of authority in his life, because those bases of authority have much to do with whether our choices are good ones or not. Those bases are dispositive factors in the trajectory of our journey.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Endnotes
[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York: Doubleday, 1995), Prologue III:11; Part 1, Article 2:III:92; and especially Part 1, Article 3:III:113

Friday, March 7, 2014

The coddled bullies won in Arizona

Reblogged from http://www.wnd.com/2014/03/the-coddled-bullies-won-in-arizona/



Such was the case in Arizona when Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a most reasonable bill updating the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act to clarify two ambiguities in the state’s law, which was modeled after the federal REFRA signed by Bill Clinton. Specifically, this new version made it clear that one’s “free exercise of religion” does not stop when you run a business. And that this “free exercise” not only protects you against the government but civil legal action as well.

Recently, business owners have been forced to go to great expense to defend their right to operate in a way that will nor compromise the moral values they hold dear. The lawsuits brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods against Obamacare’s birth control mandate are two of the most visible. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide these case next summer. 

Ready or not, this issue is headed your way.  CONTINUE READING

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cognitive Dissonance


Cognitive Dissonance
Commentary by Jack Kelley

“Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all? (Ezekiel 14:3)
The dictionary defines cognitive dissonance as an anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes or beliefs. To relieve this anxiety the human mind will strive to diminish the relative importance of one of those beliefs in favor of the other.


Jesus warned us that no man can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24) and James said when we pray we must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind and should not think he will receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-8).

God was rhetorically asking Ezekiel if He should let people with idols in their hearts even pray to Him, Jesus was warning us about becoming distracted by wealth and James was referring to wavering faith, but the principle is the same in all three instances. A close personal relationship with God requires wholehearted devotion to Him. These are the prayers God is sure to answer. There can be no cognitive dissonance found in us.
We love the promise from Romans 8:28, “God is working everything together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” But how many of us know that the word translated “love” in that verse is agape? It’s the highest form of love in the Greek language and it means to be totally given over to the object of one’s love regardless of the outcome. 


Jesus loved us that way. He gave up His life for us, remember?  Romans 12:1 says we should be willing to do the same for Him.   Of course, I’m not talking about our physical life. I’m talking about giving up our version of our future in favor of His. As long as we retain any willfulness or self-determination we’re not offering our whole beings as living sacrifices.  That’s why Paul told us not to conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). We’re not to pattern our lives according to the things of this world, but according to His will for us.

Well There’s Your Problem

Let others lament over our deplorable behavior and our weak faith. I’m going to suggest that the area where Christians in the US today are the most vulnerable has to do with the cognitive dissonance we’ve developed between our desire for the Lord’s return for us and our love of the life we enjoy here. The anxiety this creates in our sub-conscious has caused our longing for the next life to be diminished relative to our desire for the Lord to restore this life to its former levels of enjoyment.

To a degree, this is understandable. For the past 65 years or so the US has been the most preferred place to live anywhere on Earth. Even people who hate America have dreamed of living here. The benefits of American life have been as generous as they have been numerous. Average Americans have typically enjoyed a standard of living that’s beyond the reach of even the privileged few in many countries.

By contrast, the benefits of eternal life with the Lord are undefined and don’t seem real to many. For them, the phrase “pie in the sky by and by” defines the extent of their understanding. I see evidence of this in the letters I get from well meaning people who are afraid we’ll be “confined” to the New Jerusalem, as some have put it, and won’t be able to visit the Earth we’ve grown to love. Others are concerned there won’t be enough room for all of us there, and still others can’t imagine how their new life could be as nice as their current one. If they knew what the Bible says they would have no such concerns.

Whose Fault Is That?

This lack of knowledge is due primarily to the Church’s terrible failure to teach believers about the blessings of the life to come. After all, it is the fulfillment of our life’s purpose. Therefore I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that asking God to save our country is a more popular thing to do than preparing to be taken away to begin our eternal adventure with Him. For many of us, returning to the good old days here seems like a better deal than longing for the bliss that lies ahead. But while the Lord never promised to save the USA, He did promise a reward to all who long for His appearing.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Tim. 4:8)

I often wonder how bad things will have to get before people stop dreaming about the past here and start yearning for our future there. I guess time will tell.
To use Ezekiel’s words, The “American way of life” has become an idol we’ve set up in our hearts. We’ve become double minded because of it and if the Lord isn’t already doing so, He’ll soon be wondering if He should even let us pray to Him about it. And remember, no matter how beautiful and desirable something appears to us, if it interferes with our whole-hearted desire to follow God’s will it’s an idol and a wicked stumbling block from His perspective.

Asking Him to extend our time here rather than hasten the day of our departure is a clear sign that we’re not loving Him as He has loved us. It means we haven’t given ourselves completely to Him. When push comes to shove we don’t really want to put aside our plans for the future in favor of His. We’ve enjoyed our time here too much and don’t want to leave just yet.

When Are We Going To Learn?

Paul said everything that was written in the past was written to teach us (Romans 15:4). One lesson we should learn from our study of the Old Testament is that when Israel lined up behind God’s will He blessed them beyond all measure. But when they positioned themselves in opposition, His response was to take away everything they desired more than Him until He was all they had left. It doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to see that happening in the US today. (Maybe the best way to make life easier for ourselves now is to abandon our version of the future and get behind His).

According to Bible Prophecy God’s plan for our times is to completely destroy all the nations to which His people have been scattered (Jeremiah 30:11) and give Israel the Kingdom He promised them. In the process He’ll restore Heaven and Earth to provide them with a life that’s vastly superior to anything they’ve ever experienced. But before He can begin these things, He has promised to take the Church to a place filled with wealth and happiness beyond measure where we can be protected from the wrath that’s coming against the unbelieving world (Isaiah 26:20-21, John 14:2-3).

Saying that we want to be raptured before things get bad on one hand, but praying that He will heal our land so we can enjoy a few more years of the “good life” on the other is as clear a case of cognitive dissonance as I’ve ever seen. It’s a wonder He doesn’t just shake His head in utter amazement and walk away forever.

But He won’t. Ready or not He’ll come one day soon and whisk us all away to our mansions in the sky. He’ll do that, not because we’ve longed for it to happen, but because He promised He would. He is God after all. He can’t do anything else. You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah. 06-23-12

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Obama Threatens Netanyahu: Make Peace with the "Palestinians," or Else

Reblogged from: http://www.bibleprophecyblog.com/
Robert SpencerBy Robert Spencer Jihad Watch   
Obama is pressuring Israel to accept a "contiguous" Palestinian state, which would mean an Israel that is non-contiguous or severely diminished in size. Note that he has never, not even once, pressured the "Palestinians" to recognize the existence and legitimacy of Israel, or paid more than cursory lip service to the idea that they need to do so. He has never asked them to curb the genocidal rhetoric that is regularly featured on "Palestinian" TV, or to stop referring to jihad mass murderers as "heroes," etc.

Obama has been an inveterate and unwavering foe of Israel ever since he became President. He will not end his presidency without trying to administer a death blow to the Jewish State.
Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu

Obama warns of 'fallout' for Israel if peace effort fails

WASHINGTON (Reuters)—President Barack Obama, issuing a veiled warning to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the eve of talks, said in an interview published on Sunday it would be harder for Washington to defend Israel against efforts to isolate it internationally if U.S.-led Middle East peace talks fail.
Obama, speaking to Bloomberg View, also made clear that he would press Netanyahu to allow him the time needed to test Iran's willingness to curb its nuclear ambitions, despite the Israeli leader's deep skepticism of the West's diplomatic engagement with Tehran.
Responding to the interview, a senior Israeli cabinet minister said the Netanyahu government was serious about peace but would not be pressured into endangering the Jewish state.
Obama said the "the window is closing" for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and called on Netanyahu to "seize the moment" to help achieve a framework agreement that Secretary John Kerry is trying to forge to extend peace talks.
Obama said his message to Netanyahu in a White House meeting scheduled for Monday would be: "If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?"
Obama said if peace talks fail and Israel presses ahead with expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied land in the West Bank, then Washington would have limited ability to protect it from "international fallout."
Though he did not specify what kind of actions Israel might face, Palestinians have threatened to try to join international tribunals where they could make their case against Israel.
The Jewish state is also facing a boycott and divestiture movement that has made some inroads in Europe but has had little impact in the United States.
"What I do believe is that if you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction and … if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited," Obama said….
In the interview, Obama repeated his opposition to any congressional move to impose further sanctions on Iran while it is engaged in talks with Washington and other world powers.
"It is profoundly in all of our interests to let this process play itself out," Obama said. "Let us test whether or not Iran can move far enough to give us assurances that their program is peaceful."
Saying that new sanctions would derail diplomacy, Obama said: "You don't start shooting in the middle of the room during the course of negotiations."
However, Obama did not touch on the main point of contention—Netanyahu's demand that Iran be forced, in a final nuclear deal, to dismantle all of its uranium enrichment centrifuges, compared to the president's suggestion that Tehran could be allowed a small program for civilian purposes.Steinitz said the current course of the diplomacy could turn Iran into a "nuclear threshold state"—with the required infrastructure to get the bomb in short order.
Obama insisted that, contrary to Netanyahu's assertions, existing sanctions on Iran are largely holding. He also expressed confidence that Tehran was convinced he was keeping all options on the table, including military action, should diplomacy fail and Iran seek to develop a nuclear weapon.
"I know they take it seriously," Obama said….
Oh yes, they take it very seriously. And they're keeping options on the table, too. As Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati recently told a crowd in Tehran: "Death to America is the first option on our table."

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Where did Bible’s verse numbers come from?

Reblogged from: http://www.wnd.com
The editors of Leben
  
In 1524, the son of a Parisian printer took over his father’s business at the age of 21. There is nothing particularly unusual about a son taking over the family business, but the previous year, Robert Estienne had revised the Latin edition of the New Testament. Its subsequent publication was the first occasion of years of controversy that were to follow.

The controversy? Estienne had run afoul of the powerful and influential Roman Catholic faculty of the Sorbonne who thought it was a dangerous thing to have the Bible in the hands of ordinary farmers and shopkeepers.

Estienne was undeterred and continued to publish editions of the Bible for sale and distribution as well as to speak approvingly of the Reformers’ theological views that were then being circulated. He even published many of Melanchthon’s works, further antagonizing his opponents. Continue reading

The pursuit of emptiness - Greg Laurie

 
Pastor Greg Laurie compares millennials to prideful Syrian general

I am a member of the baby boom generation. My generation thought the problem with the world was low self-esteem and that people needed to learn to love themselves more. There was a lot of emphasis on this so-called problem, but it didn't turn out so well.

The offspring of the baby boomers are the millennials, or the Me Generation. They received so many participation trophies growing up that, according to a recent study, 40 percent believe they should be promoted every two years on the job, regardless of performance. They don't believe they have to work hard or be resourceful; everything should be given to them because they are so wonderful. It is called a sense of entitlement, and it is a big problem in our nation today.

Consider these statistics from the cover article entitled "Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation" for the May 20, 2013, issue of Time: "The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that's now 65 or older." The article goes on to say that 58 percent of college students in 2009 scored higher on a narcissism scale than college students in 1982.

If you're still skeptical, just watch a few auditions for "The X-Factor" or "American Idol." Contestants with no vocal ability whatsoever are completely oblivious to that fact. And when a judge has the audacity to suggest that a professional singing career isn't what they ought to do with their lives, they of course get upset.

When a recent poll asked 18 to 25-year-olds what their goal in life was, 51 percent said their goal was to be famous, 30 percent said their goal was to help people who needed help, and 22 percent said their goal was to be leaders in their community. Ten percent said their goal was to be more spiritual.

Our No. 1 goal should be to know God. If we chase after fame and fortune, then we will end up like all the others who have done so. Just take a look at a man called Naaman, whose story is told in the Old Testament book of 2 Kings. He was rich and famous and powerful. But he had a problem - a life-threatening problem that all of his money and fame and power could not fix.

Naaman was a general in the Syrian army. We hear a lot about Syria these days with all of their internal conflicts. But at this time Syria was a great world power. Because of his position, Naaman was a powerful and influential man. He had everything the world says you ought to have to make you happy: power, fame and great wealth in keeping with his position. He had the trust and friendship of the king himself. He was loved by his people. He had everything a person would dream of.

But one day, Naaman - and I am just imagining for a moment - might have noticed a little spot on his hand that he had never seen before. He probably thought nothing of it. The next day, he saw four or five more spots. Before he knew it, there were others spreading on his arms and legs. He thought, What is happening to me? So he went to his doctor for a checkup. Then he was given news that no man of that century ever wanted to hear: "I regret to inform you that you have leprosy." It would have been like hearing that you not only were going to die, but you were going to die a painful death.

Leprosy at that time was incurable. So there was Naaman with all of his power and fame and fortune - and an incurable disease. He would become one of the walking dead. Maybe he stepped onto the beautiful balcony of his home overlooking Syria and thought about all his accomplishments and victories on the battlefield and asked himself, Now what? He was going to die for sure. It's as though God was tapping him on the shoulder.

So whom did God handpick to reach the great Syrian war general? It was a young, unnamed slave girl who was strong in her faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This girl somehow had heard about a prophet named Elisha. He didn't send out tweets or have a Facebook page, but she had heard stories about him. But there she was, in a foreign land, waiting on Naaman's wife, and her heart went out to the general. She said she wished that he could go and meet that prophet in Israel.

So Naaman went to the king of Syria, the king of Assyria contacted the king of Israel, and they found out where Elisha lived. Naaman showed up at Elisha's house, looking for a healing. But Elisha's servant Gehazi simply delivered a message from the prophet: Naaman was to go down to the Jordan River, immerse himself seven times, and he would be healed. Naaman's pride was wounded. Initially, his leprosy was the enemy of his personal happiness, but then his pride became the greater enemy. So one of his officers reasoned with him. He said, "Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn't you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, 'Go and wash and be cured!'" (2 Kings 5:13 NLT).

Naaman swallowed his pride and followed Elisha's instructions. He went to the Jordan River, removed his armor and then immersed himself - once, then twice, then a third time, and a fourth, and so on. I wonder if he stayed underwater just a little bit longer the seventh time? Sure enough, when he came up that time the leprosy was gone. In fact, the Bible says that his skin was like that of a baby's.

There is no life without its share of problems. If you don't have much, you always think about how to have more. If you have a lot, there always will be someone who has more than you. If you have the most, you are worried about how you are going to keep it. You can have it all and still have something missing in your life.

Yet this is what so many people aspire to. They want to be like the rich people, the famous people, the successful people. But the rich, the famous and the successful have their troubles, too. Everyone feels empty. Everyone feels lonely. Everyone feels guilty. Everyone is afraid to die. Whether you talk to someone on skid row or on Rodeo Drive, the problems of humanity are effectively the same.

The remedy for Naaman was to go down to the Jordan River, peel off his armor and immerse himself seven times. The solution for us is to realize that we need God's forgiveness. Just because God's forgiveness is a free gift, it doesn't mean that it came cheap. God had to send his son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place so we could be forgiven of our sin. And we find eternal life by believing in him.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

How To Discern, Test & Judge Rightly

Reblogged from http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/discerntestjudge.html
by Sandy Simpson, 7/30/02

In running a web site with over 900+ articles, thousands of hits per month from all over the world, and hundreds of e-mails per week, I have come to realize, with time, that there is a terrible problem in Christendom today. The problem stems from an existential subjective view of the world that has filtered into the church from secular society, but also from the teachings of heretical wolves who have taught an entire generation of churchgoers completely unbiblical methods of discernment or to get rid of any discernment altogether.
 
Let me start out this chapter by telling you what methods are being used for "discernment" today that don't have biblical support, then I will move on to the ways in which the Bible does tell us to test teaching, prophecy and actions.
 
The following criteria are what many people who call themselves Christians are using to test reality and truth today:
(1) Experiences, manifestations
(2) Feelings, emotions
(3) Numbers of followers
(4) Numbers of people who claim to be saved
(5) The size of a church or movement
(6) Signs and wonders, purported miracles (whether real or false)
(7) Subjective testimonies
(8) Hearsay and rumors
(9) How successful and rich a teacher is
(10) If a person speaks with authority
(11) The atmosphere of a meeting

None of the above criteria being used by many churchgoers today are cited in the Bible as ways we are to test, discern and judge rightly.
Experiences
Experiences and manifestations can be from many sources; physical, emotional, mental, paranormal/demonic, or from the Lord. ALL experiences need to be tested against the testimony and teachings of the tried and true written word of God. "Slain in the spirit" is an occult technique imported into Christianity, and has nothing to do with what we are taught in the Scriptures. The prophets, Apostles and Jesus Christ did not do it or teach it as something that should be done. If you have an experience, you had better check the source. Think twice before you submit to people laying hands on you for whatever reason.
Feelings
Mormons made the "burning in the breast" standard fare for their followers, but now a large cross section of Christendom has been taught to judge everything by similar criteria. Modern Christians are, for the most part, not being taught to submit to the Word of God -- but rather to the way they feel emotionally. The phrase "I think" has been replace by the phrase "I feel". This is partially due to influences from the New Age through movies like Star Wars. But in the last twenty years teachers in the Church have taught a whole generation to rely on their feelings.
 
Emotions are a part of the realm of the flesh and the mind (soul). Emotions can be used by God, but often they are a way for the enemy to get Christians away from the truths of the Bible and gain a foothold in their lives.
Numbers Of Followers
Many leaders have large numbers of followers, including cultists and other religious "gurus". In fact some of the most popular leaders, who have the most followers, are not Christian. Numbers of followers is not a good test of the authenticity of a leader or his ministry.
Numbers Claiming Salvation
Ultimately, only God knows who is saved. Believers can certainly tell if people are false prophets and heretics and must be rejected, but we are not the ultimate judge of their salvation. One fact is certain. When someone claims to be saved they will evidence the fruit of the Spirit, believe in and teach sound doctrine, and not make false prophesies.
Church Size
Church size means nothing in the realm of discernment. God looks for quality over quantity, regardless of what "apostles" like C. Peter Wagner claim:
"... we ought to see clearly that the end DOES justify the means. What else possible could justify the means? If the method I am using accomplishes the goal I am aiming at, it is for that reason a good method. If, on the other hand, my method is not accomplishing the goal, how can I be justified in continuing to use it?" (C. Peter Wagner, "Your Church Can Grow - Seven Vital Signs Of A Healthy Church", 1976, pg. 137. - emphasis in original)
Quantitative judgments are of men. The size of a church could be due to God blessing a ministry and people being truly saved or due to the oratorical skills of a preacher. Big clubs are not necessarily good clubs. Church size is no way to test a ministry.
Signs And Wonders
Signs and wonders are a dime a dozen today and have just as many evidences in false churches the occult as they do in biblical Christianity. Jesus did state that those who saw him perform miracles should have believed, though for the most part they did not. They couldn't even tell the signs of the times (Matt. 16;1-4). People today love to be able to claim they saw or experienced a wonder or miracle from God. Perhaps this is because they want to feel like they have been touched by God personally, are holy, or simply want to be accepted by their peers. If you are going to claim you have seen or experienced a miracle from God, then that miracle must be held up to biblical criteria to prove it is a biblical Divine healing as opposed to many other forms of healing. I cover this subject later on in the chapter called "Test Everything". True believers are careful not to use deceptive methods, to lie about experiences and signs, in order to gain converts.
2 Corinthians 4:2  Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

Subjective Testimonies
Testimonies are nice and can even be an inspiration (if they are true), but they are also inherently subjective. In other words, they are hard, if not impossible, to prove objectively, unless incontrovertible proof exists. Don't allow testimonies, uplifting as they may be, to get in the way of biblical methods of testing. Don't rely on testimonies to shape your belief system. Just as you would test a cake to see if it is done by manually inserting a toothpick, instead of relying on the good smell of the cake and the feelings you get from it's aroma, don't use subjective methods to test stories--use the objective Word of God.
Hearsay
Most stories are being passed along today as hearsay. They often gain a little here and there until they have been blown all the way out of proportion from the original account. Don't pass along rumors, gossip and stories unless you check them out thoroughly. In this day and age of the Internet, that has become a much easier task, so there is no excuse to avoid researching claims from all angles. Don't just take people's word for it. Do the math yourself.
Success Of A Teacher
Anyone can be successful given the tools, the gifts, the right connections and the right circumstances. Some of the most godly men and women in the church have been dirt poor. Don't be swayed by rich televangelists. They have often raised their money off the backs of the less fortunate, the naïve, the hopeless, the poor, the fatherless, the widows. True success is not measured by money, power, number of followers, or any of the criteria of the "American Dream". Man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart. We can get a pretty clear picture of the heart of a person if we test what they say and what they do against the Scriptures.
Apparent Authority
Many men and women are capable of speaking with authority. It can be a natural gift, a demonic gift or a gift from God. But it is no way to test whether a person is a true or false teacher. Authority can be put on, learned, acted. True authority from God is accompanied by true teaching, true prophecy and the fruit of the Spirit.
Atmosphere
Benny Hinn claims he needs an "atmosphere" to do his "miracles".
Interviewer: If Benny Hinn is real, he'll go into the hospitals and cure everyone there.
Benny Hinn: "I've been told that many times. What I tell them is quite simple. Healing most times needs an atmosphere of faith. I have gone to hospitals. I've done it actually many times or people's homes and pray for them. Most times, they cannot get healed. … God's people make it happen; bring this atmosphere of faith ..." (Benny Hinn, interview by Marla Weech, of WFTV , "Inside Central Florida")
When did the Apostles need an atmosphere to heal? Beware of testing meetings by the atmosphere created there. Like and Amway meeting or halftime at a football game, an atmosphere can be manipulated. God does not need an stadium full of screaming Benny Hinn fans burning with fleshly passion to move. What He requires is simple obedience to His Word.
BIBLICAL DISCERNMENT
There are three important biblical ways in which we are to use discernment.
(1) Test all teaching for sound doctrine, and especially against the core doctrines of the Faith as laid down in the sixty six books of the Bible (see the chapter "Know What You Believe").
(2) Test all prophesies to see if they are biblical and if the predictions of a prophet all come true.
(3) Test their lives, words and actions for the fruit of the Spirit.
 
TEST THEIR TEACHINGS
The Church and individual Christians, are commanded by the Lord to reject false teachers -- heretics.
Titus 3:10  A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; (KJV)
A heretic is defined by Peter as one who lays error alongside of truth, secretly introducing destructive heresies.
2 Peter 2:1  But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-- bringing swift destruction on themselves.
Christians are to reject those who preach a false gospel because they are condemned by the Lord..
Galatians 1:8-9  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
Even Paul, a foundational Apostle, encouraged his listeners to test his teaching against the written Word of God, and he stated that those who teach must not "go beyond what is written.".
Acts 17:11  Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
1 Corinthians 4:6  Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.
Believers are to be discerning.
Phil. 1:9-11 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-- to the glory and praise of God.
Proverbs 15:14  The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.
Proverbs 17:24  A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth.
Proverbs 18:15  The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.
Proverbs 28:7  He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father
Proverbs 3:21  My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight;
Why do we test teaching against the Scriptures? Because we are commanded to remain in sound doctrine, to keep the faith, to follow the teachings of the prophets, Apostles and Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 4:3  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
Titus 1:9  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
Titus 2:1  You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.
False teachers are liars and do not remain in sound doctrine.
1 Timothy 1:10  for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers -- and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine

TEST THE SPIRITS
We are warned by the Lord to test every spirit because many false prophets have gone out.
1 John 4:1  Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
How do we test the spirits? By comparing what they are teaching and prophesying to the Scriptures, and if they are living in the fruit of the Spirit. How do we do that? First we must be a believer in Christ to test anything rightly.
Romans 12:2  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will.
2 Corinthians 13:5  Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-- unless, of course, you fail the test?
Then we test our own words and actions to be sure we are in the Faith and in sound doctrine.
Galatians 6:4  Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else,
How much are we supposed to test? Everything.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.

JUDGE RIGHTLY
Are we to judge? Certainly. We are not to judge hypercritically (Matt. 7:1) -- in other words, judging someone while doing the same thing ourselves. We are not the final judge of anyone's salvation. But we are to judge what people teach and prophesy. Paul commanded those who listened to him to judge what he was saying.
1 Corinthians 10:15  I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.
We must learn to judge rightly, now, because someday we will judge the earth and the angels with Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:3  Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!
We are told by the Lord to judge those inside the Church because God judges those outside. We are to reject heretics and expel wicked men from the assembly of believers because if they are allowed to remain they will leaven the whole lump.
1 Corinthians 5:12-13  What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

TEST THEIR PROPHECY
We are to test prophecy to see if it comes true and is biblical. A true prophet is 100% accurate because he worships God in Spirit and in truth and speaks the truth. We must reject false prophets and remove them from the assembly of believers.
Duet. 13:1-5  If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.
False prophets may have a good track record, but they are never 100% accurate. However, they may be able to fool people into thinking they do.  That's where the teaching test comes in, and why it is listed as the first test of discernment.  Some prophets can look really good, but if they are teaching heresy you can be sure it is a test from God to see if you will "love Him with all your heart".  John tells us that if we love the Lord we will obey His commands (John 14:21, 15:10; 1 John 5:2-3; 2 John 1:6).  The Bible commands us over and over again to test, discern and judge teaching, prophecy and fruit.  We must reject heretics who are unrepentant.  If we do not obey the Lord in this, we are proving that we do not really love Him.
Deuteronomy 18:20  But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death."
We don't put false prophets to death today, but we are to remove ourselves from their presence.
Deuteronomy 18:22  If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.
The Lord is against those who give false prophesies.
Jeremiah 23:32  Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," declares the LORD. "They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least," declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 27:15 'I have not sent them,' declares the LORD. 'They are prophesying lies in my name. Therefore, I will banish you and you will perish, both you and the prophets who prophesy to you.'"
Those who follow false prophets will share in their judgment.
Jeremiah 5:31  The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?
Jeremiah 23:31  Yes," declares the LORD, "I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, 'The LORD declares.'
Jeremiah 27:15  'I have not sent them,' declares the LORD. 'They are prophesying lies in my name. Therefore, I will banish you and you will perish, both you and the prophets who prophesy to you.'"
Ezekiel 13:9  My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.
We are not to even listen to false prophecy.
Jeremiah 23:16  This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.
False prophets are often those who claim they had a dream or a vision of the Lord or from the Lord.
Jeremiah 23:25  "I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, 'I had a dream! I had a dream!'
False prophets are actually using divination and the delusion of their own minds instead of communicating with God.
Jeremiah 14:14  Then the LORD said to me, "The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.
Ezekiel 22:28  Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says'-- when the LORD has not spoken.

TEST THEIR FRUIT

Matt. 7:15-20 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
The final test is to compare the words and actions of any teacher or prophet with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:18-25. Notice that the passage above comes right after the passage most "Christians" quote today to try to make a case that we are not to judge at all, namely Matt. 7:1.  If you read on you realize that "judge not" is not to be applied to every situation.  The Bible has specific criteria on how to judge and how not to judge.  In judging fruit, it is also helpful to look at the list of things in Galatians 5:18-25 that are the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. If a person falsely prophesies, even once, they are likely using divination and false visions. Are they trying to build a following and promote themselves, gaining fame? Then they likely have "selfish ambition". Do they promote "drunk in the Spirit"? That's the sin of "drunkenness". If they are stripping the poor of their money with crooked money-raising schemes, that's not the fruit of kindness. If their meetings are marked by wild manifestations, they do not have the fruit of peace or self-control. If they are cocky mockers they do not have the fruit of gentleness.
Gal. 5:18-25  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
The Lord will cut off anyone who does not bear fruit. This means anyone who does not have the fruit of the Spirit and has not been doing the will of the Father.
John 15:2  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

CONCLUSION
Finally, we must understand that those who are false teachers, false prophets, without the fruit of the Spirit are a blight on true Christianity. We must separate ourselves from them.
Rom. 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them
Eph. 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them
2 Thess. 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh DISORDERLY, and not after the tradition which ye received of us 2 Tim. 3:5,7 Concerning the last days, he says that some will have "a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. From such turn away" for such people are "never able to come to the knowledge of the truth"
2 John 10:11 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds "
2 Cor. 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch no the unclean thing; and I will receive you
Jude 1:12  These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm-- shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted-- twice dead.
We all were once in darkness. Now that we are in the light we must walk in the light, rejecting darkness.
Eph. 5:8  For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
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