Can We Add to God’s Word?

Can We Add to God’s Word?

Matthew 24:24; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 John 4:1; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19
by John MacArthur

Over the last hundred years, the church has seen an explosion of interest in the Holy Spirit—particularly in His work of empowering God’s people and revealing His truth. This renewed interest in the Spirit’s role in our daily lives has injected excitement and enthusiasm into many churches, as the Lord seems to be revealing Himself and His power in wonderful ways.

But for believers caught up in tales of a fresh unleashing of the Spirit, it may be hard to see the difference between what God is saying and doing today and what He said and did in the days when Scripture was being written. We must ask the question: Is there a difference between God’s Word as given then and the word He is supposedly speaking to and through believers today?

I think there is a major difference, and it’s something we must keep in mind if we are to keep the authority and infallibility of the Bible in proper perspective.

The Canon Is Closed

The truth is there is no fresher or more intimate revelation than Scripture. God doesn’t need to give us private revelation to help us in our walk with Him. “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 Timothy 3:16-17, emphasis added). Scripture is sufficient. It offers all we need for every good work.

Christians—particularly charismatics, as well as those who are merely “open but cautious”must realize a vital truth: God’s revelation is complete for good. The canon of Scripture is closed. As the apostle John penned the final words of the last book of the New Testament, he recorded this warning:

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

When the Old Testament canon closed after the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, there followed four hundred silent years when no prophet spoke God’s revelation in any form.

That silence was broken by John the Baptist as God spoke once more prior to the New Testament age. God then moved various men to record the books of the New Testament, and the last of these was Revelation. By the second century A.D., the complete canon—exactly as we have it today—was popularly recognized. Church councils in the fourth century verified and made official what the church has universally affirmed, that the sixty-six books in our Bibles are the only true Scripture inspired by God. The canon is complete.

Just as the close of the Old Testament canon was followed by silence, so the close of the New Testament has been followed by the utter absence of new revelation in any form. Since the book of Revelation was completed, no new written or verbal prophecy has ever been universally recognized by Christians as divine truth from God.

Dividing Truth and Error

Jude 3 is a crucial passage on the completeness of our Bibles. This statement, penned by Jude before the New Testament was complete, nevertheless looked forward to the completion of the entire canon:

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (Jude 3)

In the Greek text, the definite article preceding “faith” points to the one and only faith: “the faith.” There is no other. Such passages as Galatians 1:23 and 1 Timothy 4:1 indicate this objective use of the expression “the faith” was common in apostolic times. Greek scholar Henry Alford wrote that the faith is “objective here: the sum of that which Christians believe.” [1] Henry Alford, Alford’s Greek Testament, vol 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980), 530.

Note also the crucial phrase “once for all” in Jude 3. The Greek word here is hapax, which refers to something done for all time, with lasting results, never needing repetition. Nothing needs to be added to the faith that has been delivered “once for all.”

George Lawlor, who has written an excellent work on Jude, made the following comment:

The Christian faith is unchangeable, which is not to say that men and women of every generation do not need to find it, experience it, and live it; but it does mean that every new doctrine that arises, even though the legitimacy may be plausibly asserted, is a false doctrine. All claims to convey some additional revelation to that which has been given by God in this body of truth are false claims and must be rejected. [2] George L. Lawlor, Translation and Exposition of the Epistle of Jude (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1972), 45.

Also important in Jude 3 is the word translated in our English Bibles as “handed down” or “delivered.” In the Greek it is an aorist passive participle, which in this context indicates an act completed in the past with no continuing element. In this instance the passive voice means the faith was not discovered by men, but given to men by God. How did He do that? Through His Word—the Bible.

And so through the Scriptures God has given us a body of teaching that is final and complete. Our Christian faith rests on historical, objective revelation. That rules out all inspired prophecies, seers, and other forms of new revelation until God speaks again at the return of Christ (cf. Acts 2:16-21; Revelation 11:1-13).

In the meantime, Scripture warns us to be wary of false prophets. Jesus said that in our age “false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). Even extraordinary signs and wonders are no proof that a person speaks for God. John wrote, “Beloved, 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” (1 John 4:1).

Ultimately, Scripture is the test for everything; it is the Christians’ standard. In fact, the word canon means, “a rule, standard, or measuring rod.” The canon of Scripture is the measuring rod of the Christian faith, and it is complete.

(Adapted from Why Believe the Bible? and Charismatic Chaos.)

http://www.gty.org/blog/B160720

Praying Circles

Praying Circles

by Gary Gilley
July 19, 2016

Prayer is surely one of the most blessed of all privileges afforded the child of God. Just to think that sinners, even forgiven sinners, are invited to approach the throne of grace where we will receive mercy and grace in our time of need (Heb 4:14-16) is nothing short of astounding. In prayer we worship and praise our Lord (Psalm 34:1-3); in prayer we call on God to fulfill His great purposes (Matt 6:10), ask for our daily provisions (Matt 6:11), request forgiveness (Matt 6:12), and plea for protection from temptation (Matt 6:13). In prayer we ask for deliverance from the wickedness of others (Psalm 31:1-2), make our requests known (Phil 4:6), cast all our anxiety on the Lord (1 Pet 5:7), and much more. Christians love prayer, even when they foolishly do not take time for it. No believer is against prayer and anything that will encourage and inform us about prayer is welcomed. Anything, that is, which is biblical.

Unfortunately, it is often because of the very benefits and blessings of prayer that the people of God seem so easily deceived in its use. Two of the books I have written have substantially addressed this very issue. My first book, “I Just Wanted More Land,” Jabez, challenged the prayer of Jabez craze that had been invented by Bruce Wilkinson. Wilkinson, who should have known better given his theological training and ministerial background, ripped an obscure prayer out of the Old Testament and offered it as a model which, when prayed, “correctly,” virtually guaranteed a life of miracles and prosperity, or so he said. His book (The Prayer of Jabez) sold tens of millions of copies and generated a cottage industry of other books, products and ministries. My book challenged the whole premise behind Wilkinson’s application of the prayer of Jabez as well as the misguided hermeneutics Wilkinson used to come up with such an off-based interpretation of Scripture. What staggered me at the time (15 years ago), and still does today, is how many people, many of whom were/are surely Christians who love the Lord, could be taken in by such obviously misguided and deceitful claims. My most recent book, Out of Formation, examined the Spiritual Formation Movement which promotes numerous biblically unfounded disciplines that are supposed to enhance the believer’s spiritual life. The central discipline within the movement founded by Richard Foster and Dallas Willard is contemplative prayer, which is a form of mystical praying found nowhere in Scripture and yet proclaimed by the adherents of this movement to be the highest form of prayer. Today millions of those who would consider themselves Christians practice some form of contemplative prayer.

What unites the prayer of Jabez and contemplative prayer is that neither is taught in Scripture as a form of biblical praying and yet both have been embraced by great numbers of Christians. Believers are being duped on a regular basis because of their lack of discernment. And now they are being introduced to praying circles which, like the Prayer of Jabez and contemplative prayer, lacks biblical foundation.

The Circle Maker

This latest prayer fad stems from the teachings of Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C., and in particular his 2011 book, The Circle Maker. The publisher claims that Batterson is offering a new way of praying (see advertisement on page 233 of The Circle Maker) based on a Jewish legend of Honi the Rainmaker, also called Honi the Circle Maker (pp. 11-13, 226). Honi, who lived a century before the ministry of Christ, supposedly drew a circle in the dirt, stepped into that circle and prayed for rain to end a devastating drought. He told God that he would not leave the circle until the Lord sent rain and, according to the myth, God soon sent rain. It should be noted that the story of Honi is at best a legend and most likely a myth. There is no independent or historical evidence that anything like this event ever took place. Even more importantly, this account is not drawn from Scripture. Nevertheless, when Batterson discovered the story he claimed it forever changed the way he prayed (p. 21). Now he circles his prayers, either by stepping into a drawn circle (it is recommended that a circle be drawn on the ground with chalk) like Honi, or by walking around the object of his desire, as the Jews walked around Jericho in the Old Testament. Batterson teaches that circling our prayers will result in God responding by producing a miracle. If my count is correct, and I am sure I missed a few, the word “miracle” shows up some 166 times, averaging almost one appearance per page of actual text. While certainly God can and does bring about miracles today, Batterson has cheapened the meaning and reduced it to the accomplishment of an improbability rather than the reversal or defiance of the laws of nature that the Lord set in place. Walking on water is a miracle, the purchase of a piece of property that was hard to get is not. Batterson does not distinguish between the two. Despite these obvious issues, on the back cover of the book it is boldly stated:

In The Circle Maker, Pastor Mark Batterson shares powerful insights from the true legend of Honi the circle maker, a first-century Jewish sage whose bold prayer ended a drought and saved a generation. Drawing inspiration from his own experiences as a circle maker, Batterson will teach you how to pray in a new way by drawing prayer circles around your dreams, your family, your problems and most importantly, God’s promises. In the process, you’ll discover this simple yet life changing truth.

There are numerous red flags in this short blurb. Two that should be noted immediately is that the author is “drawing inspiration from his own experiences,” not from Scripture. Experiences are not inspired, the Bible is. Therefore personal experience, not backed by the Word, is of little value at best and highly dangerous and destructive at times. We must never base our lives and theology on experience but on God’s revealed truth. Secondly is the word “new.” Batterson is offering us a “new” way to pray, which means it is not taught in Scripture. When someone offers us something new as a way of living the Christian life, the wise believer runs the other way. If it is new, it is not of God. If the Lord wanted us to incorporate something into our lives He revealed it in the Bible. The Circle Maker is much like The Prayer of Jabez. Both promise miracles if we will but follow little known and obscure prayers found in the past. Despite the fact that these prayers are not taught or mandated in Scripture, and not even drawn from Scripture as in the case with Honi, a unique system of prayer is based on these stories. It should not take a theologian, or even a very mature Christian, long to realize that something is wrong with drawing circles as part of our prayer life, and especially making outlandish promises in connecting with this method.

The very fact that a church leader and author is attempting to instruct fellow believers how to practice the Christian life, especially in a vital area such as prayer, based on an extra-biblical myth rather than Scripture, should be all a discerning believer needs to know to walk away from his teachings on the subject. But it might prove helpful to dig a little deeper into Batterson’s theology. This is especially true given that Christian notables such as John Ortberg, Ruth Graham, and Rich Wilkerson (founder of Peacemakers) endorse The Circle Maker, and that Batterson considers Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio among his close friends. In fact, he has spoken at Stanley’s Catalysis Conference on a number of occasions. [1] And his teachings on prayer have been adopted by Nancy Leigh DeMoss of Life Action Ministries (more on this later).

Below are some concerns about Batterson’s approach to Scripture and his theological teachings, in addition to the fact that the whole circle prayer methodology is based on an ancient myth and not Scripture:

We are told that every promise in the Bible is ours to claim, no matter the context. For example, Batterson was reading from the book of Joshua concerning the Lord’s promise to Joshua that he would give “you every square inch of land you set your foot on – just as I promised Moses.” As he read this promise given specifically to a biblical character he felt that God wanted him to stake claim to the land that he believed God was giving him and his church (p. 17). Such misuse of Scripture and misappropriation of biblical promises to others, but claimed for himself, are found throughout the book (see pp. 15, 41, 53-55, 59, 89-90, 100-101, 128, 131, 151, 199). Batterson is even willing to mistranslate Scripture to make his point. The most blatant example is Habakkuk 2:1, in which the author inserts “circle” into the verse to support his theology, translating, “I will stand upon my watch, and station me within a circle” (p. 159). The NASB reads, “I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me…” Batterson claims that Habakkuk and this text were the inspiration for Honi: “His inspiration for the prayer circle was Habakkuk. He simply did what the prophet Habakkuk had done” (p. 159). This clearly is not true. At no time did the Old Testament prophet (or any other personage in Scripture) draw a circle and then step into it to pray.
Prosperity theology abounds. In addition to the constant use of the word miracle to describe answers to prayer, statements like the following are common: “I’m confident that you are only one prayer away from a dream fulfilled, a promise kept, or a miracle performed” (p. 15), and “[God] allows our small plans to fail so that His big dream for us can prevail” (p. 71). Nor are these mere cheerleading slogans which echo the preaching of Joel Osteen and other prosperity teachers, (pp. 15, 51, 71, 180-188, 197-198); Batterson obviously embraces the theology behind the prosperity gospel which is that visualization plus faith plus verbalization lead to miracles. At one point he tells his readers to record their vision (visualization), have faith and verbalize (pp. 184-185).
Following prosperity methods, He adds that drawing a circle and stepping into it in prayer are the keys to getting what we want from God. Batterson often promises that by drawing circles around what we want will lead to miracles and fulfilled dreams (e.g. p. 16). After all, “God said it, I’ve circled it, and that settles it” (p. 94). This quote is found in the context of a story of a young boy who is unable to talk. A pastor claimed Isaiah 59:21 as a promise from God that someday the boy will be able to speak. Apparently the promise has not been fulfilled ten years later, but his parents have circled it in their Bible and are convinced that God will one day deliver on His promise. The tragedy of accepting false teachings becomes real when a story such as this is read. It is more than a bit irritating that people buy into these deceptions; it is heart breaking (cf. pp. 23, 37, 64, 79-80, 129, 138).
Much of Batterson’s understanding about how God directs us is based upon the idea that the Lord will speak to us directly apart from Scripture. Batterson assures us that we should expect God to prompt us regularly, giving us revelations which carry the full weight of His promises. It is these subjective promises that we can claim, not just biblical promises. In addition to the story above we can expect God to give us the name of our child (p. 26), define our specific purpose in life (p. 29), give us revelation about the purchase of property (pp.40-41, 107), show us how much money He will give us (pp. 63, 67-68), and tell us when to take wool socks to work (p.115). He will occasionally tell us what to preach (p. 131) and prompt us to make phone calls (pp. 200-202). And despite the fact that there is no clear way that these so-called voices can be discerned to be the Lord’s (something he admits), still we need to obey these promptings as we would Scripture (pp. 117-121, 125, cf. p. 208).

Given the obvious problems with the exaggerated claims of Batterson and the clearly unbiblical basis and assertions in reference to prayer circles, what is the attraction? Apparently, the incredible promises given coupled with such little effort (praying inside a drawn circle or walking around the object of one’s desires while praying) are just too much to resist. After all Batterson tells his readers, “The Circle Maker will show you how to claim God-given promises, pursue God-sized dreams, and seize God-ordained opportunities. You’ll learn how to draw prayer circles around your family, your job, your problems, and your goals” (p. 16). In a YouTube video Batterson adds, “You can’t just read the Bible, you need to start praying circles around the promises.”[2] I guess such an offer is just too good to refuse for many Christians. Of course, those who actually analyze Batterson’s promises in light of Scripture, especially that the basis of prayer circles is an ancient myth and not the authoritative Word of God, will see through the deception.

The Influence of Prayer Circles

Batterson is clearly misguided in The Circle Maker. And after critiquing his many other theological problems, his embracing of the prosperity gospel, his emphasis on the subjective, and belief in additional revelations to believers today, his atrocious hermeneutics and misuse of Scripture, it would be easy to dismiss him as a confused pastor who will affect only those already in his theological camp. If that were the case, I would not have bothered to write this analysis. I have already mentioned that Andy Stanley has promoted Batterson and his errant teachings to tens of thousands of Christian leaders and young adults by inviting him to preach at his conferences. Even Glenn Beck is promoting The Circle Maker. [3] But it gets worse. At Revive Our Hearts women’s conferences sponsored by Life Action Ministries and led by Nancy Leigh Demoss, unsuspecting Christian women, mostly from the conservative end of evangelicalism, have been introduced to prayer circles as an acceptable and biblical method of praying. Nancy DeMoss has been on the staff of Life Action Ministries since 1980. She is the author of numerous books and a sought-after conference speaker. She is also the host and teacher for Revive our Hearts and Seeking Him, two nationally syndicated radio programs. In an article found on Revive Our Hearts’ website, DeMoss writes:

It’s a challenge Life Action has issued repeatedly to men, women, teens, and even children. It’s a simple expression of a heart prepared for God’s work—and no matter how many times it’s done, it keeps illustrating something critical about the revival we are praying and pleading for God to send. It involves a simple piece of chalk. This piece of chalk represents a turning point, a moment of surrender, a change of heart. It marks the difference between those who would pray, “Lord, change them” and those with humility to plead, “Lord change me!” It is a piece of chalk with which we kneel and draw a circle around ourselves and then look to heaven expectantly and pray, “Lord God, send revival, and begin it right here in this circle.” [4]

Shortly after writing this short piece DeMoss spoke at a True Woman Conference in Indianapolis in September of 2012. There chalk circles were drawn throughout the conference room and the ladies at the conference were told to step into these circles for prayer. An article on the website states:

On the very first night Nancy Leigh DeMoss opened the conference by sharing an illustration of a British evangelist of the 1860s, who encouraged people to “Go home, lock yourself in your room, draw a circle around yourself, and pray fervently that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.” Throughout the convention center white circles had been applied to the floor. Women were encouraged to step into the circle to ask God to start His work of revival in their heart first. It was thrilling to see that occurring throughout the conference. [5]

Pictures of participants doing so can be found at the conference’s web address as well as below: https://www.reviveourhearts.com/radio/revive-our-hearts/report-true-woma…. Those attending the conference were also sent home with little bags containing chalk so that they could immediately begin drawing prayer circles at home and perhaps at their churches.

A dialogue among the main speakers including Jan Parshall, Priscilla Shirer, Joni Eareckson Tada and DeMoss is recorded below. Over 8000 women attended the conference from all over the country and many other parts of the world:

Leslie (interviewing the others): This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, October 1. Today, we’ll hear highlights from the conference and we’ll hear from some of the True Woman speakers. They’ll describe the work God did in their own hearts as they sought the Lord for personal revival.

Bob: We began the event first thing by asking all of the speakers who were going to be speaking in the main session to come up on the platform.

Nancy (conf): There was an old-time revivalist whose name was Gypsy Smith. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. The story is told that Gypsy Smith would go to a town to preach—he was an itinerant preacher. He would come to the town where he had been invited, and he would come to the outskirts of the town. He would stand and draw a circle in the ground, in the dirt on the outskirts of town. Then he would step inside that circle, and he would begin to pray for God to move in that town. He would say, “Lord, please send revival to this community. But, oh God, let the revival start inside this circle. Let it begin in me.”

Holly Elliff: I loved that during the conference around the auditorium and in various places there were circles. And those circles were symbolic because they represented the fact that every woman wanted to put herself there, draw a circle around her own life and say, “God, what do You want to do in me?”

Nancy (conf): And as you pass by those in the days ahead, I want to encourage you, if there is room, to just step inside one of those circles.

Bill Elliff (conf): And those circles just remind us that it’s always personal . We can get real theoretical about revival and awakening. But it starts with me. And if it doesn’t start with me, if it doesn’t start with you, then it doesn’t start.

Leslie Bennett: I can’t live on yesterday’s revival. The white chalk circles all around this conference center were a constant reminder that I need revival. Every moment of every day I must humble myself before God and ask Him to come into my heart to do what only He can do as I seek Him and I’m repentant before Him—that He will make my heart afresh. He will make my heart anew and fan the flames of my heart for Jesus. I so appreciated that reminder as we went about the conference all weekend long. Revival starts with me.

Nancy (conf): Your face, Lord, I will seek.

Leslie: Not with anybody else. It’s not them. It’s me.

Nancy (conf): It’s not my brother, not my sister, not my mother, not my pastor, not my friend who came with me. It’s me, oh, Lord, standing in the need of You.

Bob (conf): One of the unique things about the way the stage is set up this year is that the speaker’s podium, the platform podium, there’s a large white circle around it.

Nancy (conf): Because seeking Him starts right here in our hearts as we’re speaking.

Bob (conf): And so as we’re calling women to seek God and to seek Him for revival in their own lives and then in their churches and then in our nation, we’ve drawn a circle around the podium.

Joni : Because all the speakers had an opportunity to stand in it. And of course, I had an opportunity to wheel inside that circle. May revival begin with me.

Juli: I’m preaching to myself first. I’m the first one who needs the very messages coming out of my mouth.

Bob (conf): You can’t go and call women to a place if you’re not ready to go there yourself. That’s hypocrisy.

Joni: May renewal in the church begin with me inside that circle.

Nancy (conf): And to step inside that circle and say, “Lord, would You send revival to my family? Would You send revival to my church? Would You send awakening to our nation, to our world? We desperately need it. But oh, Lord, would You start the revival inside this circle? Let it begin in me.”

Janet: So let me tell you what happened for me as a speaker when I stepped into that circle. I was under very strong conviction. David said, “My sins are ever before me.” That’s what I felt when I was in that circle. I thought, “Lord, I’m not here to teach these women. I’m here to seek Your face.” [6]

There is no desire here to question the sincerity of these women, nor their Christian character, nor is their doctrinal content as a whole being challenged. But this is just the point. Even among Christian leaders who take solid theological stands, and who are well-respected within conservative circles we are finding a strange acceptance of a practice found nowhere in Scripture. Unfortunately, however, prayer circles can be found in many pagan religions. American Indians, Muslims, Hindus and Mormons all practice prayer circles. [7] And even Wiccans use circles in their practice of magic. [8] This is not an accusation that those using prayer circles are participating in witchcraft or pagan religions. It is to say that there is nothing distinctively Christian about prayer circles. As a matter of fact, there is nothing Christian about them at all since they do not stem from Scripture.

Biblical Prayer

To hear all the praise being poured out on Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker and prayer circles, the unaware child of God might swear that this kind of prayer is what Jesus practiced and taught His disciples. But this is not true. As a matter of fact, circle prayers are not mentioned in the Bible at all. David did not write a psalm about them, Jesus did not mention them, and the epistles, while calling on us to pray without ceasing, are silent on the subject. Paul, in his marvelous New Testament prayers (e.g. Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-21; Colossians 1:9-14) ignores them. At no time or place in all of the Word of God are we commanded, told to examine, follow as a model, or use circles for our prayers.

It would be good to close this paper with a very brief overview of what the Bible teaches about prayer. It is not as if the Bible has no instruction concerning how to pray. And it is always of utmost importance to begin with Scripture on any subject and let it inform us before we jump in another direction. What do we know about prayer from God’s Word? There is so much mentioned concerning prayer in the Bible that whole volumes could not do it justice, so we will narrow our scope to just one incident in the life of Jesus. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1), what did He say? Did He say, “Well, boys, first you draw a circle in the sand; next you stand in the circle and pray for what you want”? Not at all. In Luke 11:2-4 He gives them what we often call the Lord’s Prayer. It begins with God and His greatness. Next it focuses on the big picture of God’s plan for the future – His kingdom. Concerning the individual the requests are simple. While there is certainly nothing wrong with bold prayers, and there are many found in Scripture, most are not “big, audacious, and hairy” as Batterson calls for (p. 179). The disciples were taught to ask for daily physical needs, “Give us each day our daily bread.” And they were to seek the forgiveness of their sins even as they forgave others. And finally they were to ask for deliverance from temptation. While other prayers in the Bible, especially the prayers found in the epistles mentioned above, line out many other things for which we are to pray, it is most instructive to read Jesus’ answer to a direct question about how to pray. How simple, clear, free of gimmicks, and authentic is this example of prayer. No true Christian wants to minimize the power of prayer, but it must be prayer as taught in Scripture not based on myth and/or invented by people.

[1] https://catalystconference.com/read/seven-hard-earned-lessons-about-calling/

http://catalystconference.com/read/the-rule-breaker/

http://catalystconference.com/read/catalyst-atlanta-speaker-spotlight-mark-batterson/

[2] www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg6ymCcIFDE

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcpP-H2IRKQ

[4] www.

[5] http://www.truewoman.com/?id=2250

[6] https://www.reviveourhearts.com/radio/revive-our-hearts/report-true-woman-12/

Only portions of this dialogue are recorded. The full conversation can be read on the link above.

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_circle

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_circle

 

 

 

http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/133-spiritual-formation-movement/941-praying-circles

The Dividing Doctrines of Grace

The Dividing Doctrines of Grace

April 27, 2016

Have you ever met a theological fence-sitter? These are those who like to have their proverbial cake and eat it too. They epitomize the old adage, “love the one you are with” so as not to anger any.

This phenomenon is found in various circles and even in many professing Christian circles, but the ones of whom I write today are those who waver with the wind in regard to their soteriological profession. One can almost imagine the Apostle Paul shaking his head at the mere thought.
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

The word ‘Calvinism’ is divisive

We have all heard this feeble argument, haven’t we? “I don’t believe everything Calvin taught, so I do not say that I am a Calvinist,” say some. At face value, this sounds reasonable, but might it be a cop-out?

It seems fair to state that when the majority of Christians hear the word “Calvinist,” they assume that what is implied are the “five points” of Calvinism (i.e., total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints). Quite simply, most who claim the name of Calvinist do not claim to believe everything the man John Calvin taught.

Another common argument set forth by these fence sitters might be: “I don’t follow a man, I follow the Bible.” This ought to be a great insult to all who hold to the doctrines of grace, for it is an unjust accusation of idolatry.

S. Lewis Johnson was one of the twentieth century’s great expositors of Scripture. Of Johnson, Dr. John MacArthur has said, “Through the years I have listened to the preaching of S. Lewis Johnson far more than any other preacher.” With that in mind, in his exposition of Romans 8, Johnson states that John Calvin “was one of the greatest interpreters of the Bible down through the centuries.” He goes on and explains,
Now, I want to make something very plain, because unfortunately all of the people who listen to the word of God are not well taught in the Bible. When we talk about the five points of Calvinism, we are talking about soteriological truth, salvation truth. Now, it is possible for a man to hold this doctrine and not necessarily hold to all that John Calvin taught and believed. For example I would stand there myself. I don’t believe everything that Calvin wrote. He was a man and he made some mistakes, on the other hand, these are important teachings in the doctrine of salvation. [1]

In short, over the course of Church history, the word “Calvinism” has come to be synonymous with these five soteriological truths. The word itself, then, is a mere shortcut, a nickname, a brief way in which to refer to these doctrines. If the Christian would simply search the scriptures, he would find that the word of God exalts and proclaims these doctrines over and over again:*

Total depravity — Jeremiah 17:9; Jeremiah 13:23; Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 3:10-12; Romans 8:6-8
Unconditional election — Matthew 22:14; John 6:37, 65; John 10:27-30; Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Peter 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:4
Limited (or actual) atonement — Matthew 1:21; John 6:37-40, 10:11, 15, 19:30; Ephesians 5:25; Titus 2:13; Romans 5:17, 19
Irresistible grace— John 6:37-40, 44; Romans 8:30; Acts 16:14;
Perseverance of the saints— Philippians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Timothy 2:13; Jude 24
The Bible teaches both!
Now, very often one of the primary points of contention for these fence-sitting individuals is the doctrine of unconditional election. The Bible teaches free will and election so I believe them both!” is their exclamation.

Well, it is true that the Bible speaks greatly about the free will of God (i.e., His sovereign will) to do as He pleases. But what of man’s so-called “free will”? Says John MacArthur,
[T]here’s a way to understand free will that is very important. Man’s will is free to choose the form of sin that most appeals to him, but that’s the limit of his freedom….
We’re depraved…our nature is fallen, it is dead, we are blind, we are alienated from God. We do not possess the life of God. We are dead in trespasses and sins, to borrow the language of Ephesians chapter 2. But within the framework of our sinfulness we could pick our poison.
When you talk about free will, we’re talking about the freedom that the sinner has to choose his iniquity. That’s what his freedom is, that’s the sum and substance of his freedom. The one thing he’s not free to do is to choose salvation, or to choose righteousness, or to choose holiness, or to choose God, or to choose Christ unaided and on his own.
The natural man understandeth not the things of God, they are foolishness to him, the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing. The Jews are looking at it and it’s a stumbling block and it’s folly and foolishness to the Gentiles. All that the Bible says about the fallen man is that this man has no capacity to make the righteous choice. So…the will is bound by sin so that mingling around in the reality of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, you can pick your sin. But the one thing you can’t do is extricate yourself from that condition of sin and death. [2]
Man is only free to choose according to his nature. Apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, sinful man is enslaved and in bondage to his sinful nature:*
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” (John 8:34)
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23)
Now, a paradox does exist as regards the role of man’s responsibility. What many do not seem to understand, however, is that one can believe in the sovereignty of God over all things and still affirm human responsibility as he walks and grows in faith. This is simply done by examining the Scripture in context:*
All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:27-28)
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
The realities of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility rest side-by-side in Scripture; however, as we have already seen, man is not in control of his own salvation. He cannot be, else no one would ever be saved!*
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
As much as it may offend our human sensibilities, salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Wholly. Entirely. Woe to those who would say otherwise.

So pay attention to your favorite Christian personality. Is he or she doing a doctrinal tap dance?

God’s Word declares difficult but glorious truths. May we never falter or fail to stand upon them simply because we seek to please men. We serve Christ alone.

___________________________________________
* The scripture verses presented serve only as a sampling of the myriad of texts that could be given.
[1] S. Lewis Johnson, “The Divine Purpose: Romans 8:28-30,” accessed 02 April 2016.
[2] John MacArthur and Phil Johnson, “Answering the Key Questions About the Doctrine of Election,” accessed 02 April 2016.

http://www.donotbesurprised.com/2016/04/the-dividing-doctrines-of-grace.html

War Room: A Review

War Room: A Review

by Justin Peters
Posted on September 10, 2015

If you do not know the Kendrick brothers by name, you almost certainly know them by their films: Flywheel (2003),Facing the Giants (2006), Fireproof (2008), and Courageous (2011). Stephen, Alex, and Shannon Kendrick have just released their fifth faith-based film, War Room. War Room, starring popular (DTT:FALSE TEACHERS) Bible teachers Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore, looks like it may well be the most successful of their films to date bringing in $11 million just on its opening weekend; more than triple it’s $3 million production budget.

Given the popularity of Christian themed films and the considerable buzz about this one in particular, my wife, Kathy, and I went to see War Room on the evening of September 3rd so that I could write a review. For those of you who read my review of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s movie, Son of God, you know that I am a bit skeptical of the Christian movie genre as a whole. Nonetheless, I do want to offer what I hope to be a fair review. This review will not touch on every single facet of the movie or even on every theme it presents, but I do hope to address what I believe to be the most important of them.

Plot Overview

War Room is centered around Tony and Elizabeth Jordan, their ten year old daughter, Danielle, and Elizabeth’s real estate client-turned Christian friend, Mrs. Clara. The Jordan marriage is in serious trouble. Tony, a pharmaceutical salesman who travels extensively in his work, is the kind of husband and father one loves to hate. Though a hard worker, he shows little interest in his daughter and pursues a female work interest behind his wife’s back. Elizabeth, played by Priscilla Shirer, goes to Mrs. Clara’s home discuss the particulars of putting it on the market. The meeting, however, went far beyond deciding on a listing price for the house.

Mrs. Clara, an older widow, is a Christian fiercely devoted to prayer which she does in a closet she has dubbed her “War Room.” Mrs. Clara goes to war here, battling Satan who is portrayed as the source of every form of evil plaguing mankind. Rather than plotting troop positions on a military map, Mrs. Clara pins prayer requests and Scripture verses on the wall of her war room, prays to God, and rebukes the Enemy.
Mrs. Clara begins to ask Elizabeth some probing questions about her family, marriage, and church attendance. Upon learning that the Jordan family is at the point of collapse, Mrs. Clara exhorts Elizabeth to fight for her marriage in her own war room.
Slowly but surely, Elizabeth is changed by her newly found prayer life and by reading the Bible. One day in her war room, she discovers via a friend’s text that Tony has been seen in a restaurant with another woman. Elizabeth immediately prays for her husband and asks God to stop him. God gives Tony a stomach ache in the restaurant preventing him from following through with his adulterous plans.

Shortly after this, Tony is fired from his job. Rather than the anger and sarcasm he expected to receive from Elizabeth upon hearing this news, she offered him love and support. The change he sees in his wife eventually changes Tony as well. He confesses his sin and turns back to God. He seeks and is granted forgiveness from both Elizabeth and Danielle, and the Jordan family is on the fast track of restoration.

Despite his new life, Tony is fired from his job. What his boss did not know, though, was that Tony had been stealing drugs from the company, selling them and pocketing the profits. Though he had gotten away with it, his now sensitive conscience drove him to return to meet with his former boss, confess his theft and make restitution. His boss could easily have turned Tony in to the authorities to face prison but chose not to do so. The Jordan family was spared the loss of being torn apart again just as it had begun to heal. Tony eventually found a new, though less lucrative job, his family grew closer to one another and the Lord, Mrs. Clara’s house sold to a pastor and his wife, and all was well because of the battles fought in the War Room.

Strengths

The movie was, of course, clean. There was neither foul language nor any innuendos (other than what was about to happen between Tony and his almost-mistress at the restaurant) anywhere to be found.

War Room emphasized the importance of fidelity to one’s spouse and cutting off any potential threats to the sanctity of the marital covenant. The film championed the virtues of character, integrity, and selflessness. The importance of family, and the need for regular church attendance were stressed. Mrs. Clara (a very winsome character in the film) taught Elizabeth the importance of reading Scripture and, of course, prayer. The movie did teach the biblical truth that man is unable to reform himself. “You can’t fix Tony. Only God can.” said Mrs. Clara to Elizabeth.

The Gospel was, well, mostly there. Mrs. Clara presented the Gospel to Elizabeth in one of their meetings and she talked about sin, that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of sin, was raised from the dead and that a person must believe in Jesus and repent. These are all essential elements of the Gospel and I am glad that they were included. That having been said, even though the proper biblical terms were used, often these terms were not explained. The term “repent,” for example, was used but never fleshed out. The lingo was there to be sure, but without a biblical understanding of these terms they are just that, lingo.

Weaknesses

As I’m sure you are expecting, I did find much with which to be concerned. Some of the film’s failures could have been avoided with more careful attention to doctrine and theology and some of the failures, as I will explain in the conclusion, are inherent to the genre itself and unavoidable. I will outline my concerns in a series of “Outs:” Out of Home, Out of Order, Out of Focus, Out of Bounds and Out of Context.

Out of Home

I may as well begin with the most politically incorrect and probably the most controversial point I will make in this review and get it out of the way. Not everyone reading this will agree, but truth is truth.

That men and women are of equal value before God is beyond dispute (Gal. 3: 28-29). That having been said, men and women do have different roles and the role of a young wife and mother is to be a worker in the home. The Apostle Paul writes that older women are to teach “the young women…to love their husbands, love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:4-5). Note the “workers at home” part.

The context makes it quite clear that the “young women” are those who are married and have children in the home. This text makes it quite clear that such women’s primary place of service is not to be outside of the home but within.

Pastor and teacher Dr. John MacArthur has written that if a young woman is adequately fulfilling all seven of the requirements listed in this passage then she “will probably be a very busy individual” and have little time for work outside of the home. If, however, “she still has time left over, then she would be free to pursue enterprising and creative activities outside the home.”1 It is not that a young woman should never engage in wage earning work of any kind. Proverbs 31, in fact, depicts the godly woman who may do some enterprising work from within the home.

One of the first things I noticed in the film is that Elizabeth worked outside of the home as a real estate agent. Had she been adequately fulfilling all of her duties inside the home, then the case could have been made that this was permissible. This was not the case, however. In fact, the movie actually makes a point that Elizabeth was so involved at her job that she did not know what her daughter, Danielle, was doing at school or in her jump-rope team.

The sad reality is that the fallen world in which we live often requires young women to work outside of the home. Some “young women”2 have been abandoned by their husbands and some may have husbands unable to work due to some type of infirmity. In situations such as these work outside of the home is, unfortunately, unavoidable.

When a young woman can avoid working outside of the home, though, she should. If a young woman works outside of the home out of preference rather than absolute necessity, then a biblical principle has been violated. The issue is not a minor one. Note that if a young woman works outside of the home at the expense of her biblical household duties, then the result is that the Word of God is βλασφημῆται (blasphemetai), literally, blasphemed.

Writes Dr. MacArthur:

The home is where a wife can provide the best expressions of love for her husband. It is where she teaches and guides and sets a godly example for her children. It is where she is protected from abusive and immoral relationships with other men and where, especially in our day, she still has greater protection from worldly influences—despite the many lurid TV programs, magazines, and other ungodly intrusions. The home is where she has special opportunity to show hospitality and devote herself to other good works. The home is where she can find authentic and satisfying fulfillment, as a Christian and as a woman.3

Out of Order

War Room is a theological train wreck chronologically speaking. In other words, it totally gets out of order the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration in a person with the fruits of regeneration.

In their first meeting, Elizabeth tells Mrs. Clara of the distressed state of her marriage to Tony. Upon hearing this, Mrs. Clara asked her, “Have you prayed for him?” There is nothing, of course, wrong with this in and of itself except the fact that Mrs. Clara made this inquiry without having first made certain that Elizabeth understood the Gospel herself. Though Elizabeth certainly was not guilty of the overtly egregious sins of her husband, like he, she displayed little understanding of the Gospel. She attended church only “occasionally” and was biblically illiterate. There was no discernible spiritual fruit in her life to indicate that she was a believer.
Another example occurs after Elizabeth hears the Gospel (most of it anyway) from Mrs. Clara and begins to get on the straight and narrow. Shortly after Elizabeth found out about Tony’s attempt to cheat on her, he came home from his failed dalliance to a meal she had prepared for him. She looked at her husband and asked, “You wanna pray?” At this point in the movie there is absolutely no reason to believe that Tony had been converted. He had little interest in Danielle and he did not love his wife.4 He was selfish, arrogant, was a thief, and had no conviction over his sin. He cared only for himself, had no godly sorrow, and showed no affections for things holy and pure. He was ignorant of Scripture and comfortably so. That Elizabeth, by this time walking with the Lord, would ask her husband to pray assumes that this is something he could do which, as a lost man, he could not.
Save the prayer that one may prayer at conversion, prayer is a spiritual discipline that can only be done by the saved. The movie gives the impression that praying for one’s spouse or asking God to bless the evening meal can be done by one who is lost. This, of course, is an impossibility. Before coming to Christ we are enemies of God (Col. 1:21), dead in our sins (Eph. 2:8-9), and cannot seek Him (Rom. 3:10-11); a condition which precludes any ability to pray (Is. 59:2).

Now, this having been said, I am not saying that this was the intention of the Kendrick brothers. It is probably the case that they were simply portraying how people normally speak. I am not at all saying that theologically they would believe that lost people can pray. The problem, though, is the vagueness in which it was portrayed.

Additionally, and even more worrisome is that the film gives the impression that one can live a life of habitual, unrepentant sin and still be a believer. In her own war room, Elizabeth petitioned “Lord, I pray for Tony that you would turn his heart back to you.”

My issue here is not that Elizabeth is praying for her husband, but that her prayer gives the viewer the impression that Tony was a just backslidden Christian.5 “Turn his heart back to You,” she prayed. Again, Tony was an absolutely loathsome individual at this point in the movie who displayed zero evidence he had ever experienced regeneration.

Christians can and do sin (1 Jn. 1:8) but their lives are not to be characterized by sin. It has been said that a Christian can stumble into sin, but he cannot swim in it. A believer is a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God Who produces in him good fruit (Gal. 5:22-23). Many people living lives of habitual sin are told they are just “backslidden” when they’ve never slid forward in the first place. Charles Spurgeon stated, “Unless our faith makes us pine after holiness and pant after conformity to God, it is no better than the faith of the devils, and perhaps it is not even so good as that.” Whether intentional or not, there is a danger of this film giving some of its viewers a false assurance of their salvation.

Out of Focus

War Room certainly did deal with sin, but it did so, I thought, primarily on a horizontal basis. In other words, though it showed the damaging consequences of sin in relation to our fellow human beings, it did not focus nearly so much on sin’s deadly consequences in our relationship to God.

Tony and Elizabeth both sinned in that they focused on their employment at the expense of their daughter, Danielle. Tony, of course, sinned in his pursuit of a woman who was not his wife. Eventually both came to see how their sin hurt others and they repented. In and of itself, this is good.

What I did not see – or at least what I believed was not emphasized nearly enough – was the vertical nature of sin. There was no mention anywhere in the film of the wrath of God that our sin incurs. There was no mention of God’s wrath abiding on the unbeliever (Jn. 3:36) or that we are saved from it (Rom. 5:9). There was no mention of eternal judgment for those who die in their sins (Lk. 16:19-31).

Without first understanding the wrath of God, one cannot rightly understand the mercy of God. Without first realizing that our sins are storing up God’s wrath (Rom. 2:5) which will be poured out on the ungodly for all of eternity (Rev. 14:10), we cannot truly appreciate His mercy. It is only in understanding God’s deserved wrath that we can fully understand His undeserved mercy. It is His wrath that makes His mercy so precious.

In watching the film both my wife and I were looking for one thing which is a hallmark of every genuine believer: a godly sorrow over sin.

The Bible speaks of two types of sorrow over sin. There is a worldly sorrow which is merely a guilty conscience. A worldly sorrow is one that is concerned only for the horizontal consequences of sin and it leads to death (2 Cor. 7:10).

The other type of sorrow, however, is a godly sorrow. A godly sorrow comes about when we understand that our sin is first and foremost against God. A godly sorrow is when we grieve over our sin because we understand that our sin grieves God and we desire to turn from sin because we do not want to grieve Him. It is this godly sorrow which “produces a repentance without regret leading to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10).

Unless we both missed it, neither Kathy nor I saw any godly sorrow evidenced in either Tony or Elizabeth’s life. There definitely was sorrow over hurting others, but nowhere in the film did we see the kind of godly sorrow exhibited by David when he humbled himself before the Lord and said to Him, “Against You and You alone have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (Ps. 51:4).

Out of Bounds

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:6 exhorts the immature believers in Corinth “not to exceed what is written.” In other words, we as believers are not to exceed biblical parameters. Whether in our theology or in our practice we are to stay safely within biblical parameters for when we exceed these God-given parameters we are opening ourselves up to demonic influence and demonic deception.

Sadly, biblical parameters dealing with spiritual warfare are exceeded throughout the movie. The entire film is saturated with Word-Faith/N.A.R. (New Apostolic Reformation) spiritual warfare lingo.6 There seemed to be as much time and effort expended in binding, rebuking and casting out Satan by Mrs. Clara and Elizabeth in their respective war rooms as there was praying to God.

In one of the more emotionally rousing scenes of the film, upon discovering her husband’s philandering ways, Elizabeth retreats to her war room. As she repeatedly cites to herself James 4:7b, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you,” indignation swells within her and she begins to talk to the devil. “No more, you are done! Jesus is Lord of this house and there is no room for you anymore! Go back to Hell where you belong and leave my family alone!” she shouts.

There are at least two significant problems with this. First, Satan is not in Hell. Only when the eschatological events of Revelation 20 take place will he be thrown into the lake of fire and “tormented day and night forever and ever” (vs. 10).7 The Bible makes it very clear that, for now at least, Satan is quite free “prowling about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

Secondly, and more significantly, we as believers are not to be addressing Satan. Ever!

Consider that in Jude we have the record of Michael the archangel disputing with the devil and arguing over the body of Moses. Jude records for us that when he disputed with the devil, Michael the archangel “did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” Think about that for just a moment and let it sink in. If Michael the archangel – the archangel – did not “dare” to rebuke Satan then I think it’s probably a safe bet that we should not do so either. Pastor Jim Osman in his excellent book Truth or Territory writes, “What God’s highest holy angel would not dare to do, sinful, fallen men presume the authority to do. It is unthinkable. I have been in the presence of Christians who boldly declare, ‘Satan, I rebuke you in the name of Jesus,’ and I wonder, ‘Who do you think you are?’ Rebuking, commanding, or ridiculing the devil are not tools of effective spiritual warfare; they are marks of prideful, arrogant, self-willed false teachers.”8

It is troubling that noted Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer does not know this and would model such a dangerous and unbiblical practice. By exceeding biblical parameters, people are exposing themselves to the very enemy that they fancy themselves as rebuking.9

Incidentally, given that so many people are rebuking and binding Satan, have you ever wondered how he seems to keep getting back out? It seems that as soon as someone binds him, he’s free again. All of these people binding Satan don’t seem to be tying him up very tightly. And if we can bind and rebuke Satan (Be sure to bind him first. The last thing you’d want to do is rebuke an unbound Satan as he might give you a nasty uppercut when you’re not looking.), why not just bind him from all places at all times and be done with it?

But I digress.

The movie also has a decidedly mystical bent. Towards the end of the film, an older pastor named Charles and his wife, clients of Elizabeth, are shown the home. Charles notices the closed door to the “war room,” opens it and slowly walks inside. He looks around, pauses, backs out of the closet, and then walks back in as though he feels something different in the atmosphere. His wife asks him what he is doing and he says that there has been a lot of praying in this room. “It’s almost like it’s baked in,” said the old pastor.

This is pure mysticism. God speaks to us through the Bible and we speak to Him through prayer. Prayer is an act of obedience that serves to conform our will to that of the Father but it in no way changes the atmosphere in a closet, house, hospital, gymnasium, state or country. This is hyper-charismatic, Word-Faith mysticism.

In another scene Mrs. Clara, Elizabeth and Danielle were on their way to get ice cream when their trip was interrupted by a knife wielding thug demanding their money. The unflappable Mrs. Clara stared him in the eye and commanded, “You put that knife right down in the name of Jesus.” All of the sudden the thug looked dazed and confused. Powerless to follow through with his criminal plans, he fled the scene. Saying “in the name of Jesus” to this miscreant was like giving Kryptonite to Superman.

Throughout the film the name of Jesus is used in this way. It is used almost like a magical incantation, a Christianized version of Abracadabra, to manipulate the physical realm toward one’s desired outcome. Whether used in prayer to restore a marriage or to thwart a mugging, the name of Jesus always got results in War Room.

Contrary to the way in which it is portrayed in the film, saying “in the name of Jesus” is not like putting in coins in some theological vending machine. The name of Jesus is synonymous with the will of Jesus. When we pray for things in Jesus’ name rightly, we are praying for Jesus’ will to be done (Jn. 14:13-14; 1 John 5:14-15). Using the name of Jesus does not always bring the results we desire.

It was fidelity to the name of Jesus that led nearly all of the Apostles to gruesome deaths. It is fidelity to the name of Jesus that has brought horrific persecution to untold millions of Christians during the last two thousand years. Many Christians throughout the world face persecution to this day because of the name of Jesus. Sometimes the name of Jesus gets us not what we want, but what we may not want. Often it is in times of trial and persecution for the believer that God is most glorified.

Out of Context

The thief comes to steal, kill and to destroy; I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10) was quoted several times throughout the movie. In War Room the “thief” is identified as Satan who has come to steal people’s joy and marriages.

While it is not necessarily incorrect to identify the thief in John 10:10 as Satan, the context of the passage argues for a much broader view. The context indicates that the thief includes not only Satan, but any false teacher who claims any way of salvation other than that which is found exclusively in Christ. What the “thief” is attempting to steal is not one’s joy or marriage but rather one’s reception of the Gospel itself. The context is that of salvation, not one of life enhancement.

The movie concluded with one of the most familiar, beloved, and yet taken out of context passages in the Old Testament, 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The text was shown superimposed on a shot of the United States capitol the insinuation, of course, being that if we will repent that God will heal our nation’s many societal ills.

Though a thorough treatment of this passage is beyond the scope of this article, to apply this verse to the United States of America (or any other country for that matter) is to employ poor hermeneutics. The context of this verse is that it is God’s answer to Solomon’s prayer dedicating the temple recorded in the previous chapter. There has only been, is now, and only will be one country in a covenant relationship with God – Israel.

Another aspect of the movie that was out of context is the entire premise of having a prayer closet in the first place. The film portrayed this room almost as having magical powers. If you want your prayers to be effective, it’s best to pray them in a closet emptied of its contents. Upon first consideration, this idea appears to have biblical support:

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father Who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. – Matthew 6:5-6.

As we were driving home from the theater that night, Kathy and I talked about how we would be willing to bet that thousands of people will see this film and then go to their homes, clean out a closet and make their own “war rooms” believing that their prayers will become more effective.

Sure enough, just this morning as I was writing this piece, I was watching the Daystar channel as presidents and hosts Marcus and Joni Lamb played a clip from Eyewitness New Fox 58 as Aaran Perlman interviewed two of the Kendrick brothers. A visibly emotional Perlman said, “I saw this movie last weekend with a group of people, I’m gonna start crying before I even get into this. It changed my life so much. This movie, it’s about prayer. It’s about finding a room called the war room and immediately after this movie I went home and ripped everything out of my closet and made my own war room.” “Wow, that’s incredible, awesome! You will see a difference in the days ahead. Write ‘em down so you can keep up with them. It’s great to be able to check off those prayer requests to realize God is alive and well and at work in your life,” Stephen Kendrick responded.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with praying in a closet if that is what one wants to do, the location is not the point. The point Jesus made in this text was not about location but attitude. The point is that we are not to make a show of our prayers as did the scribes and Pharisees and should remove any distractions which may divert our attention away from the One to Whom we are praying. Sincere, humble prayers offered in a living room, a backyard, or in an airplane at 40,000 feet halfway across the Pacific Ocean are heard just as well as those offered in an empty closet. Believing that there is some special power in the location itself is not only mystical, but borders on idolatry. The Object of our prayers and the condition of our hearts are the important things – not the location.

Conclusion

Some will read this review and undoubtedly think that I am being too nitpicky and critical. I have talked to some who have seen War Room and thought that it was great and that it had a solid biblical message. There is no doubt that the film was Christian themed – an element that has drawn the ire of numerous secular critics – but we are enjoined to “test all things” (1 Thess. 5:21) through the lens of Scripture and to “study to show ourselves approved unto God” (2 Tim. 2:15). Charles Spurgeon once said, “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”

Finally, as I hinted at the beginning of this piece, I am not a fan of the whole Christian movie (I am not including documentaries in this) thing in general. It is not that I am inherently opposed to the genre per se, but rather that I believe there to be an inherent danger in them. For one, in order to be successful at the box office, Christian movies must be intentionally vague when it comes to many doctrinal matters. Christian films never really go past the basics of the Gospel and, sadly, often even fail at that. Yet the Bible says that we are to pay close attention to doctrine (1 Tim. 4:13) and to persevere in it (vs. 16).

Additionally, these movies are highly emotional. They tug at our heart strings. There is nothing wrong in and of itself with emotion, but emotion cannot be a substitute for obedience to objective biblical truth. Movies in and of themselves cannot bring lasting change to anyone’s life. It seems that every few years or so something new is introduced to the evangelical masses and is portrayed as the next great evangelistic super-tool. Whether it’s a blockbuster movie like the Passion of the Christ, or best-selling books like The Purpose-Driven Life, or Jesus Calling, 10 people get all excited. Spin-off products follow and incredible amounts of money are spent chasing after the latest fads. But they are just that – fads. Recall the Prayer of Jabez craze about fifteen years ago? Remember how everyone was praying for God to enlarge their territory? Do you have any friends still praying the prayer of Jabez? Me neither. Without a foundation of sound doctrine, without a constant and proper hermeneutic, all of these things are the spiritual equivalent of a sugar pill.

It is a sad commentary, in my estimation, that so many professing believers get so excited about the latest thing to come down the evangelical pike, but show little enthusiasm in and put precious little effort into reading, studying and obeying God’s Word. Watching a movie is easy. Laboring in the Word is not. But only the latter will bear fruit that remains.

Sources

1 Source: http://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA188/is-it-wrong-for-wives-to-work

2 For the purposes of this article when I write “young women” I am referring to the biblical definition of the term per Titus 2.

3 Source: https://www.gty.org/resources/bible-qna/BQ101712/Does-Scripture-Permit-Women-to-Work-Outside-the-Home

Adult Coloring and Meditation –What Every Christian Should Know

Adult Coloring and Meditation –What Every Christian Should Know

by Jessica Pickowicz

March 15, 2016

Last February, during our family staycation, I bought my first adult coloring book… And I even colored in it…. Phew… There. I
said it. I feel so relieved to get that off my chest!

It seems a bit crazy that I would be even a little ashamed or intimidated to admit that publicly. But here it is. And right now there
is an argument peppering Twitter and the blogosphere regarding Christians and the adult coloring fad. Some are mocking; others
are getting offended; and still others are sitting back with popcorn in one hand and a stick in the other; poking the bear! Even I
have, regretfully, thrown my hat into the ring. I say regretfully because (though hilarious) it seems somewhat petty and snarky
and self-righteous to bash adult coloring. After all, as Tim Challies articulates in his recent article on the topic, it is just a hobby –
like golfing, knitting, tennis, or painting “happy little trees”. Furthermore, it can very well be exercised all to the glory of God.
And I, lover of adult coloring, respond with a hearty, “Amen!”
Challies is right. When it is just a hobby, adult coloring is a perfectly innocent past-time. It’s fun. It’s calming. It’s clean! It’s a great
mommy alternative to the My Little Pony and Ninja Turtle coloring books when coloring with the kids. It’s even occupational and
physical therapy, bringing vibrancy, joy, and art into the hands of people struggling with dementia, depression, ADHD, Autism,
and those with fine-motor and sensory struggles brought on by neurological diseases such as ALS, MS, and Parkinson’s — just to
name a few. By itself, adult coloring is a beautiful thing!
Sadly, what many people don’t know is that there is another fad sweeping the nation, and adult coloring books are at the heart of
it. The fad is meditative coloring. And it’s infiltrating the prayer lives of Christian women everywhere.
Meditative coloring is the practice of coloring specific patterns while emptying the mind, allowing thoughts to roam free, and
achieving spiritual enlightenment. Some of these specific patterns are called mandalas. Mandalas are spiritual symbols and
patterns used by Eastern religions for meditation purposes “allowing the individual meditating to become one with the
Universe.”¹ And it’s a challenge to find an adult coloring book that isn’t riddled with them. Gaining popularity, a few laps ahead of meditative coloring, is the practice among Christians of contemplative prayer. I don’t
have the space here to go into a detailed explanation of this heresy. But it’s important to educate yourself, and you can read about
it here. With the rise of the Word of Faith movement, the Prosperity movement, the increasing popularity of women authors such
as Priscilla Shirer and Sarah Young, and movies such as War Room; prayer as defined by and commanded in the Bible has been
grossly shirked aside (by women especially) in favor of a more ecstatic, meditative, emotional, new-age, and downright heretical
experience.

I conflate meditative coloring and contemplative prayer in this article because I feel that contemplative prayer is a very slippery
slope that lends itself too easily to the practice of meditative coloring, especially with the massive output of Christian and
Inspirational themed adult coloring books.

A warning to Christian women dabbling in these practices:
My aim is not to be harsh here, but I must be serious for a moment. The Bible teaches us how to pray. Moreover, it commands us
to pray and meditate in very specific terms — the only right way according to God. If we are not praying as Scripture commands,
we are not obeying God and are therefore in sin.

Please do not use these coloring books in conjunction with prayer and meditation, contemplative or otherwise. Do not empty
your mind. Ladies, please do not sit down to color and wait for a word fromGod! Please do not chant over and over (as in a mantra) a declarative “life-verse” from a page in your Scripture coloring book. Donot allow yourself to be entranced through the exercise of meditative coloring. These practices are pagan. They are the very thingScripture warns against.

How the Bible Commands us to pray and meditate:

1. Don’t empty your mind. Fill your mind with the Truth of God’s Holy Word!
Meditation as practiced by Eastern religions is much different than the meditation commanded in the Bible. While Eastern
meditation focuses on emptying the mind and a spiritual ascension into enlightenment; Scriptural meditation focuses on setting
the mind on a biblical truth and a realized application of that truth.
In Romans 12:1-2, the apostle Paul instructs us not to conform with the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our
minds. Our minds are renewed through the study of His Word. We must store up His word in our hearts, and let it dwell in us
richly, so that we don’t sin against Him (Colossians 3:16 and Psalm 119:11).

2. Don’t let your thoughts wander. Take your thoughts captive and put them in obedience to Christ!
When we allow our thoughts to wander, the carnal mind, which is enmity toward God (Romans 8:7) roams to fleshly desires and
frightening depths; and the deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9) cannot discern sin on its own. Therefore, we must take our thoughts
captive and put them into submission to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)!
So you see, a deceitful heart and a wandering mind are the perfect ingredients for a false prophetic word from God. Today, in the
Church Age, God speaks to us through his Word not meditative prayer!

3. Don’t chant things over and over as a mantra. Memorize his word. Having a controlled mind is a spiritual discipline
commanded in Scripture.

In Matthew 6:7, Jesus instructs, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetition as the heathen [Pagans] do. For they think that
they will be heard for their many words.”

In 1 Peter 1:13, Peter instructs Christians further to “gird up the loins [the loose fabric] of your mind,
be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (See also Ephesians
6:14); and to be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers (1 Peter 4:7).”

4. Do not attempt to manipulate God through positive confession. Instead, ask Him.

We must not assume anything upon God. We must not treat Him like a Genie and demand His blessings according to what is
right in our own eyes (Proverbs 21:2). For His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9)!

In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul instructs, “Do not be anxious about anything,but in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard
your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

5. Finally, Jesus and the faithful heroes/heroines of Scripture provides us with the best models of prayer. Be imitators of them!

John 17:1-26 – Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.

Luke 11:1-13 – Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray.

Luke 1:46-55 – Mary’s prayer, The Magnificat.

Ephesians 3:14-21 – Here, the Apostle Paul models prayer, along with many other places in the Bible.

Hebrews 12:1-2 – “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so
easily ensnares us, and and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of
our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of
the throne of God.”

Prayer is powerful when practiced as God commands in His Word. Use it wisely. For the prayer of the righteous accomplishes
much (James 5:16).

All this to say, let’s keep our prayers and our coloring hobbies separate.

¹”MANDALAS, WHAT ARE THEY?” at  Spiritual Awakening
Jessica is wife to New England pastor Nate Pickowicz. She is a homeschooling mom of two. She is a passionate writer who has a
big heart for biblical teaching and women’s ministry.

Guest Post: Adult Coloring and Meditation – What Every Christian Should Know

LOTZ … Of Nonsense

LOTZ … Of Nonsense

Bud Ahlheim14 –Apr, 2016

Facebook-Anne-Graham-Lotz-prayer

While discernment is a mandated chore for every Christian, one that can only be finely honed by the Spirit-illuminated study of Scripture, sometimes it doesn’t take a whole bunch of that skill to recognize the smell of hermeneutical road kill that’s trying to be passed off as spiritual barbecue.

Such is the case with Anne Graham Lotz. That she has parlayed her father’s almost hallowed name within evangelicalism into what some see as a reputable “ministry” is probably no surprise, especially when viewed from a, shall we say, more pragmatic fiscal perspective. That hers is a “reputable” ministry, one “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) is another matter altogether. Then, of course, there’s the even more fundamental question,Should SHE even be doing this?” (1 Timothy 2:12)

In any case, Lotz has a nifty name for her endeavor that, no doubt for her, is imbued with significant spiritual meaning – AnGeL Ministries. You’ll note, in what can only be seen, perhaps, as divine providence, that the word “angel” is built around her monogram. Neat-o, huh?

Lotz, though, has a substantial history of “imbuing” things with spiritual meaning that, most often, represent bonafide violence to both the text and tenor of Scripture. She ought imbue less, methinks, and abide more in the Word.

From Lassoing Baptists With Wiccan Prayer Circles by promoting a Jewish Mystic to now emphasizing a prophetic “word from the Lord” about the woeful spiritual condition of America, Lotz has made herself into a modern day prophetess.

From her own website, Lotz, in April 2015, advised her followers that, as a result of studying the Book of Joel, and because “the messages almost made the hair stand up on the back of my neck,” (always a valid hermeneutic) she was certain Jesus “is soon to return to take all His followers to heaven.” You may ask how she knows this. “Because God was clearly warning that His judgment is coming on America and on our world, and it’s going to be ugly. I knew it then, and I know it now.”  (God was, you understand, talking about America back there in the days of Joel.  Try to keep up, okay?)

Okay, well, hmmm. Yes, we are told, by Jesus, no less, to be ready. “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)  Well, Lotz didn’t prophesy a date and time, so maybe she’s in the clear on this one.

But, “it’s going to be ugly?” Sadly, for many people, the righteous wrath of God as He judges sin will be ugly. It will be ugly, terminal, and eternal. But not for believers, since we tend to believe that we have been justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Any warnings of ugliness should be to motivate us to “preach the Gospel,” not shudder in fear of a judgment for which Christ has paid our ransom.

Lotz points out the ugliness in her 2015 blog because she wanted to offer “a prayer I have written personally for each of the 9 days,” … “for those who sign up.” The “9 days” are the dates she identifies as May 15 – May 23, the days “between the Day of the Ascension of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost.” You see, those have “traditionally been days of prayer and fasting for an outpouring of God’s Spirit.” Oh, yeah, sure.

(Insert sound of annoying discernment tocsin here … again.)

Most believers understand the Pentecost event from Acts 2. What most tend to disregard is that this event was not the only “outpouring of the Holy Spirit” recorded in Acts. Similar events occurred with each of the geographic people groups Christ included in Acts 1:8. An outpouring occurred in Jerusalem and Judea with Jewish believers. (See Acts 2) It also occurred for the Samaritans and “God fearers.” (See Acts 8:14-17; Acts 10:44-48, Acts 11:13). Finally, it came to the Gentiles, notably under the ministry of the Apostle Paul. (See Acts 19:1-7)  Plus, that last outpouring?  Yeah, it was the last outpouring.  Not something happening in our day.

I don’t mean to be picky, but when Lotz offers special prayers based on those “9 days,” she disregards all those other days between the Acts 2 outpouring and the final outpouring in Acts 19 (which technically would be the dating most appropriate for a largely Gentile America, one would think) Still, she encouraged her followers to sign up, “Before it’s too late and judgment falls on our nation.” Plus, Lotz further specified her “Mayday! Mayday!” prayers of urgency as also being tied to the “days following three blood moons and a total solar eclipse.” (Somebody get Hagee on the phone cuz I thought there were four blood moons!)

Perhaps if you’ve not been comatose, even over the last week, and happened to turn to any national news broadcast, you’ve probably noticed what looks an awful lot like God “giving them up.” Being “given up,” as Paul describes in Romans 1, is judgment. And it’s not something that’s coming. It’s something that’s here.

Fast forward to this past January and Lotz is featured in Charisma News, Anne Graham Lotz Gives Prophetic Warning About 2016. Nice. “A prophetic warning.” I personally prefer Biblical prophetic warnings, but many seem to take a shine to “the daughter of a preacher man” when she takes on the mantle of prophetess.

Not commenting on why her 9 days of personally written prayers from 2015 did not change God’s mind as to His apparent judgment on America, Lotz wrote,  “I can feel the encroaching darkness of evil that is like a heavy moral and spiritual fog.” (Yep, and I can feel something encroaching, too … the disregard of Scripture.)

“I have been repeatedly warned in my spirit that the enemy is advancing,” she says. (Whump, there it is!  She gets extra-biblical warnings. I don’t.) Well, if you must know, I have been repeatedly warned that he is too … in Scripture. Plus, I’ve also been warned about being indiscriminately gullible. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

In consistent fashion, she goes on to reference texts of Scripture that apply to the Old Testament nation of Israel and proceeds to nationalistically narcigete them into messages from God for America. (Umm, no. We don’t do that.)

Again today, Lotz is back in the prophetic headlines in an article on The Christian Post, Anne Graham Lotz: God is Hiding From America, His Anger and Judgment Are Coming.  Honestly, it’s just surprising to me that God would be hiding from America. I mean, we’ve got terrestrial enemies that aren’t even afraid of us these days. What’s got God spooked?

Lotz thinks God may be “purposefully hiding himself from America in preparation for a coming judgment on the nation.” So now she ponders whether or not we’re in a Romans 1 judgment?  And that’s what sent our Sovereign God skulking away?  He is not a kitten hiding before pouncing on a ball of yarn, you know.  (Just a disclaimer, I’m not a prophet or genetically linked to a world famous evangelist or anything, but, yeah, judgment is here. And I knew it before today, too.)

“Billy Graham’s daughter has warned,” the article reads, “on numerous occasions in the past couple of years that God’s judgment on America is coming with the return of Jesus Christ to earth.” Well, much as I hate to see America go, I’m more in the “come Lord Jesus” camp. I’d like to see souls saved before that, of course, but they and I would eagerly forego the “America is the New Israel” salvation Lotz seems to want us to pray for.

Still, Lotz points out one thing going for her that most prophets and prophetesses don’t have. Imbuing herself, again, with providentially aligned spiritual significance, she says, “I was born just a week apart from the time when Israel was reborn as a nation [1948]. We are the same age.”  One time I looked at the moon at the very same time someone else was looking at the moon. That didn’t mean anything either.

Nothing like self-defined spiritual significance AND a tad of chronological numerology to give an air of credence to one’s Scriptural disregard and poor hermeneutics. Oh, yeah, and that last name thing doesn’t hurt either.

All in all, Lotz of nonsense. Stick to Scripture. That’s a bonafide “word from the Lord.”  The rest, though it seems like satire, is most assuredly NOT such a word.  “Test the spirits …”

[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]

pulpitandpen.org

Darrin Patrick Removed from Acts 29 Megachurch for ‘Historical Pattern of Sin’

Darrin Patrick Removed from Acts 29 Megachurch for ‘Historical Pattern of Sin’

Investigation by The Journey found ‘pastoral misconduct’ in several areas of his life.
Darrin Patrick Removed from Acts 29 Megachurch for ‘Historical Pattern of Sin’Southeastern Seminary / Flickr

Darrin Patrick, vice president of the Acts 29 church planting network and founding pastor of The Journey megachurch in St. Louis, has been fired for violating his duties as a pastor.

The Journey cited a range of ongoing sinful behaviors over the past few years including manipulation, domineering, lack of biblical community, and “a history of building his identity through ministry and media platforms.”

In a letter announcing its lead pastor’s removal after 14 years of leadership, the church clarified that adultery was not a factor, though elders looked into inappropriate interactions with two women.

“In short, I am a completely devastated man, utterly broken by my sin and in need of deep healing,” said Patrick in an apology to his 3,000-person congregation. “The way that the Journey elders have demonstrated their desire to see me restored to Jesus, as well as their love for me, Amie, and our family is nothing short of miraculous and beyond gracious.”

Patrick, the author of The Dude’s Guide to Manhood and Church Planter, will no longer hold any internal or external leadership positions. He has accepted financial support from the church for an undisclosed period of time, and he and his wife will undergo counseling. The 45-year-old pastor also served as a council member for The Gospel Coalition, St. Louis Cardinals chaplain, and Acts 29 podcast host. Patrick’s bio has been removed from the Acts 29 site.

Regarding his misconduct, The Journey elders wrote:

We have experienced and confronted these issues regularly and intentionally over the past few years. Each time, these confrontations have been followed by initial confession with short-term changes but quickly receded into unfulfilled promises, reversion to old patterns, and broken trust with pastors/elders. Though we all stumble in many ways, those called to teaching and preaching carry the weighty responsibility of setting an example of a Christ honoring lifestyle with the consequence of stricter judgment (James 3:1).

The Journey invites members of its community to send their questions to leaders and their support to the Patrick family through a page on its website. The multisite church has six locations in St. Louis and has launched seven church plants.

Patrick joins several other prominent evangelical leaders who CT noted left office for reasons outside of financial or sexual impropriety.

John Piper took leave from his church in 2010, citing his need for “a reality check from the Holy Spirit.” The following year, Sovereign Grace Ministries president C. J. Mahaney stepped down due to “various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hypocrisy.” Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll resigned in 2014, after his church found him guilty of arrogance and domineering leadership. Patrick was part of the Acts 29 board that removed Driscoll, its founder, from leadership and membership.

A full copy of The Journey’s letter regarding Patrick’s removal can be found here. CT blogger Ed Stetzer interviewed Patrick about church planting in 2010. He has also written about discipleship for Leadership Journal.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/april/darrin-patrick-removed-acts-29-megachurch-journey.html/

SOLI DEO GLORIA