How do you assess a prosperity gospel church?
The first nine years of my walk with Christ were spent in such an environment, followed by two years in theological rehab, which prepared me for the next six years of pastoring in the urban context. What’s become clear to me is that the nine marks of a healthy church provide a useful grid for assessing any church, including those that teach the prosperity gospel.
And what we find is that a prosperity gospel church is a purely anti-nine marks church.
Some of the examples in what follows are specific and may not identify with you the reader. Many however are universal and are propagated by preachers on the internet, radio, and television. Since the prosperity gospel movement is inter-denominational, the teachings expressed in this article are not to be associated with any one denomination within evangelical Christianity.
While the sound of my voice might reach a lot of ears, it’s the biblical content that merits the attention, not me. My own ideas and opinions don’t contain “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Neither do yours.
Preaching the Bible establishes the authority of God over the mind and the soul. When a pastor faithfully preaches the Word of God, his people understand who has sovereignty over their souls—that it is God alone who reigns over their thoughts and their actions.
I never want to be guilty of giving people the impression that they have heard from God when in fact they have only heard from me. When I step into the pulpit, the expectation is that I’m the messenger of God. I speak on His behalf, not my own.
I remember having dinner with the owner of nationally known newspaper who had come to our church out of curiosity. He was not a Christian. And he asked me, “Why don’t you ever give your opinion about anything?”
I responded by asking him: “Do you really need another opinion? You have a newspaper full of opinions every day. But, as a pastor, I’m not called to give my opinion. I’m here to represent the Word of the living God. I have no desire to write my own opinion column, but if you would be willing to give me a column where I can express what God says on all these issues, I’d be glad to do that.” Needless to say, he didn’t take me up on that offer. But I think he understood my point.
As ambassadors for God, our task is not to promote our own ideas, but rather to represent our King rightly. That means that all we should be doing is bringing the revealed truth of God to bear on the minds of men. Even our thinking has to be biblical. My prayer is that what Spurgeon said of Bunyan might be true of us today: “Why, this man is a living Bible! Prick him anywhere; his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God.” (Charles Spurgeon, “The Last Words of Christ on the Cross,” #2644, on Luke 23:46. Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 45.) Simply put, we should be the voice of God on every issue in every place and era.
(Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church.)
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Why care about something written about a debate that hasn’t happened yet? Well frankly, because you need to be prepared for whatever happens afterwards, and the best way to do so is to reflect upon the issue at hand. I decided to do a little research, and I put together this post to help frame the upcoming debate. I also have a few comments on it throughout.
Fellow Christians, we need to be prepared for this debate. We need to be posting on it beforehand, during, and afterwards. Why? A simple look at Google Trends shows that the search traffic for Ken Ham has spiked hugely since the debate was announced. Side-by-side comparison of Bill Nye and Ken Ham shows both have seen an increase of search traffic from it. To put it simply: people are talking and thinking about this. We need to have a response…
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Accountability has gotten a bad rap. It is easy to see why, I guess. When it comes to battling against sin, and especially those stubborn, addictive sins, accountability relationships are sometimes held up as a cure-all, a near guarantee of success. Yet often they end up being a means of commiseration more than challenge, a time when Christians sit around feeling sorry for one another rather than full-on battling against sin.
Yet I believe the Bible promotes and even demands accountability relationships for Christians who want to battle hard against a dogged sin. Paul writes, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2). Accountability is a specific—and if done right, helpful—form of bearing one another’s burdens.
However, for accountability to be successful, it must be done well. In his book Finally Free, Heath Lambert includes some helpful principles about effective accountability. He writes in the context of battling against pornography, but the points he makes are equally applicable to any sin.
Here are seven principles for effective accountability; each is further explained by showing what effective accountability is and is not.
A day does not pass that I do not hear from a hurting pastor. Serving in that role has to be one of the most challenging vocations today. Sure, there are some bad and immoral pastors. But the vast majority of our pastors serve their congregations in a way that honors God and makes a difference in the community.
But both anecdotally and by objective research, we learn that pastors are trusted less and held in lower esteem each year. A recent Pew Research poll found that the favorable view of clergy had declined to 37 percent of those surveyed.
Why are pastors no longer held in high esteem? What is behind the precipitous drop in favorable ratings almost every year? Allow me to offer eleven possible reasons. As you will see, they are not mutually exclusive.
The combined wealth of the world’s richest 85 people is now equivalent to that owned by half of the world’s population – or 3.5 billion of the poorest people – according to a new report from Oxfam.
In a report titled “Working for the Few” released Monday, the global aid and development organization detailed the extent of global economic inequality created by the rapidly increasing wealth of the richest, warning of the major risks it poses to “human progress.”
According to the report, 210 people have become billionaires in the past year, joining a select group of 1,426 individuals with a combined net worth of $5.4 trillion.
It added that the wealth of the richest one percent of people in the world now amounts to $110 trillion, or 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.
(Washington, D.C.) — The Obama administration and the rest of the P5+1 leaders are adamant that the interim nuclear deal on the table is:
A) the best that can be accomplished; and
B) will make it much harder for Iran to build the Bomb.
Are either of these things true?
Not according to a former senior IAEA nuclear official who says Iran could break the deal at any time and be just two to three weeks away from building operational nuclear warheads.
“One day before Iran began implementing its nuclear deal with world powers, a former United Nations watchdog said the Islamic Republic would only be two to three weeks away from a nuclear weapon if the agreement were broken,” reports Haaretz.
“Olli Heinonen, former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, appeared on a Sunday radio show, where he discussed recent remarks from Iran’s top nuclear negotiator,”…
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In his latest Marked Urgent post, “Faith and Freedom in the Public Square: An Evening I Will Share with Dennis Prager and Ross Douthat,” Dr. Mohler invites us all to a “respectful conversation on the most controversial issues of our day.” The event is on Tuesday, January 28, at 7:00 pm in the Alumni Chapel on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Read the full announcement here.
Fox News reports:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo believes that pro-life activists along with anti-gay activists, and supporters of the Second Amendment, are not welcome in his state.
During a radio interview on Friday, Cuomo pointed out that Republicans were in the midst of a schism, where conservatives worked against moderate Republicans.
“Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves,” he said. “Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”
Apprising Ministries offers you hear less and less about Him today. As you’ll see here, He’s not the God more and more professing Christians worship.
The question “Can God save me?” has been asked by millions of people over the years. Not only can God save you, but only God can save you. To understand why the answer to “Can God save me?” is “yes!”, we have to understand why we need saving in the first place. When Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, his sin poisoned the rest of creation (Romans 5:12), and sinful nature we inherited from Adam has therefore separated us from God. Because of God’s great love for us, however, He had a plan (Genesis 3:15). He would come to earth as a human being in the person of Jesus Christ and willingly lay down His life for us, taking the punishment we deserved. When our Savior cried out His final words from the cross “it is finished” (John 19:30), our sin debt was forever paid in full. Jesus Christ saved us from a certain and horrible eternal destiny.
In order for us to experience the benefit of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, however, we must believe and trust in Him and His sacrifice alone as payment for sin (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). And God will cover us with the righteousness of Christ the moment we do this (Romans 3:22). But for this imputed righteousness, we would not even be able to enter into the presence of our holy God (Hebrews 10:19–25).
Even though we are only one heartbeat away from our eternal destiny, we tend to think of this eventuality as far off and therefore are often more concerned with the adverse impact that our sinful cravings and worldly desires are having on our day-to-day living. So, whether our concerns of “being saved” are immediate or eternal, the good news is that Christ’s finished work on the cross not only saved us from eternal separation from God, but it also saved us from the power that sin has over us. Once we accept Christ, His Spirit indwells us and we are no longer controlled by the sinful nature (Romans 8:9) which makes it possible for us to say “no” to sin and defeat our enslavement to the sinful desires of this world.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), and we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and not one of us is outside the reach of God’s saving grace. The apostle Paul is a great example. He spent his life hating, imprisoning, persecuting and even killing Christians, and one encounter with Jesus Christ turned him into one of the greatest Christians who ever lived. Indeed, we are the crown jewel of His creation, made in His image (Genesis 1:26), and God wants all of us to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), and none of us to perish (2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:32). Now, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12), and what He will do for His children is poignantly described by God Himself in Psalm 91: “’Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him’ ” (Psalm 91:14–16).
Answer: The Bible has much to say about the human body, which was not only created perfect by God, but also created unclothed. Adam and Eve were innocent in their nakedness, but when they sinned, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7). Never before had they realized they were unclothed—the concepts of “clothed” and “unclothed” were meaningless to them. But sin affected their hearts and minds, creating vulnerability, guilt, and shame, and these things produced fear (verse 10). In their attempt to cover their spiritual shame, Adam and Eve intuitively covered their bodies. We should note that, when God took away their fig leaves—a sadly inadequate covering—He replaced them with something more permanent—animal skins (verse 21). Thus, God regarded clothing as appropriate and necessary in a fallen world.
We are not saying that the naked body is evil or repulsive; on the contrary, we see the body as a beautiful part of God’s creation. However, due to the fall, nudity now has implications of sinfulness attached to it. With few exceptions, the Bible presents nakedness as shameful and degrading (Genesis 9:21; Exodus 20:26; 32:25; 2 Chronicles 28:19; Isaiah 47:3; Ezekiel 16:35–36; Luke 8:27; Revelation 3:17; 16:15; 17:16). The only passages in which nudity is free of shame are those that describe Eden’s idyllic setting or that deal with marital relations (Proverbs 5:18–19; Song of Solomon 4).
In concert with biblical principles, most societies attach negative connotations to public nudity and place taboos on it. It is interesting, then, and somewhat puzzling, that those same societal taboos do not apply to artistic displays; a gallery may be full of nude statues, but the people viewing those statutes are required to be clothed.
So, Western culture has determined that nudity in art is permissible. What is the Christian perspective? Can nudity be used in a valid presentation of truth? Can artistic nudity be part of making a larger, legitimate point? For the Christian, does exercising “artistic license” justify portrayals of the nude human form?
Of course, all sorts of tangential questions also arise: What about partial nudity? Is a bare leg too suggestive? What about cleavage? If someone paints a scene from the Garden of Eden, how much shrubbery should surround the carefree couple? Does Michelangelo’s David need underwear? Where does “art” end and “pornography” begin? If lust occurs, whose fault is it—the artist’s, the viewer’s, or both?
We can’t answer these questions in all their particulars—we’ll leave that to individual conviction and conscience—but we can lay out some general principles concerning nudity in art. The first two we’ve already touched on:
1) The naked human body is not inherently sinful.
2) The Bible portrays public nudity as disgraceful.
To these we would add the following:
3) Lust is sin (Matthew 5:28; 1 John 2:16). We are responsible to guard our own hearts against lust. “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14–15). We should make every effort to avoid whatever causes us to sin and make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14). This means that, if a visit to the art gallery arouses lust in the heart, then, by all means, stay out of the art gallery.
Related to this is our responsibility to guard against inciting lust in others. We realize that some Christian artists draw, paint or sculpt nudes, and they do so with a clear conscience. We are loath to pass judgment on anyone’s personal convictions; however, Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 are powerful passages on conviction, freedom, and stumbling blocks. We all bear a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the Christian artist must find a way to balance “artistic integrity” with his obligation not to obstruct the spiritual growth of others. To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 8:13, “If the art I create causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never create art again, so that I will not cause him to fall.”
4) Christians have been called to modesty (1 Timothy 2:9). In this matter, we wish to strike a balance between legalism and licentiousness. We don’t want an “anything goes” attitude, but neither do we want to wrap women in burqas. The basic guideline is for Christian women to dress “modestly, with decency and propriety.” Of course, this instruction is for living people and not for art, but perhaps there is a connection, if indeed art imitates life. Why would a Christian artist paint a model—who is to dress modestly—in an immodest way? Why should Christian art be held to a lower standard than the Christian himself?
5) Christians should have nothing to do with the evil that is pornography. It is true that our culture differentiates art and pornography, and we understand that artistic nudity does not necessarily equal pornography. But we must remember that we live in a fallen world. The legal definition of pornography—the attempt to quantify “obscenity” and gauge “salacious intent”—becomes meaningless when someone is lusting at a picture. It does not matter what the intent of the picture is—if it incites lust in someone’s heart, then there is a problem.
Some artists attempt to disassociate nudity from its sexual connotations and thereby justify depictions of the nude human form. These artists may be attempting to portray vulnerability or recapture a lost purity; they may be trying to promote an innocent appreciation of beauty or glorify the Creator of the body. We agree that humanity could use a little more recaptured purity and recognition of beauty, but we question whether artistic nudity is helpful in a society saturated with sex.
Jeremiah 17:9 warns us that “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.” Part of the heart’s deceit is self-deception, as we try to convince ourselves that we are not affected by sin, that we are somehow uncommonly resistant to the temptations “common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13). That fact is, none of us are free from the influence of the flesh (Romans 7). It’s easy to say, objectively, that a certain nude image has artistic merit and communicates truth, but as fallen human beings, we all bring a measure of subjectivity into play. That subjectivity—combined with the emotional response that art seeks to induce—makes artistic nudity problematic, if not impossible.
6) Art, since it is created by morally responsible beings, is not morally neutral. It is a myth that art is inherently good simply because it is “art”; likewise, it is a myth that art is morally neutral, regardless of subject matter. We cannot evaluate art on mechanics or technique alone; we must also consider intent, theme, and subject matter. Philippians 4:8 can serve as a guide for judging the intangibles: is it true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy? This is the standard to which Christian artists are called.
In the end, we would say that, if possible, nudity in art should be avoided. This may not correspond with the world’s thinking, but it should be no surprise to find the world at odds with biblical principles. By no means are we advocating a withdrawal from the art world. We earnestly need Christian artists, critics, and patrons. Neither are we saying that the study of art, human anatomy, or artistic nudity is a sinful pursuit. But we urge believers to be extremely careful when viewing nudity in art. Put on the full armor of God and stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11–18). And, for those creating the art, remember that God clothed Eden’s emigrants. What God has covered, let not man uncover.
Author: The Book of 1 Kings does not specifically name its author. The tradition is that it was written by the Prophet Jeremiah.
Date of Writing: The Book of 1 Kings was likely written between 560 and 540 B.C.
Purpose of Writing: This book is the sequel to 1 and 2 Samuel and begins by tracing Solomon’s rise to kingship after the death of David. The story begins with a united kingdom, but ends in a nation divided into 2 kingdoms, known as Judah and Israel. 1 and 2 Kings are combined into one book in the Hebrew Bible.
Key Verses: 1 Kings 1:30, “I will surely carry out today what I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.”
1 Kings 9:3, “The LORD said to him: ‘I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.’ ”
1 Kings 12:16, “When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: ‘What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!’ ”
1 Kings 12:28, “After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ ”
1 Kings 17:1, “Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’ ”
Brief Summary: The Book of 1 Kings starts with Solomon and ends with Elijah. The difference between the two gives you an idea as to what lies between. Solomon was born after a palace scandal between David and Bathsheba. Like his father, he had a weakness for women that would bring him down. Solomon did well at first, praying for wisdom and building a temple to God that took seven years. But then he spent 13 years building a palace for himself. His accumulation of many wives led him to worship their idols and led him away from God. After Solomon’s death, Israel was ruled by a series of kings, most of whom were evil and idolatrous. This, in turn, led the nation away from God and even the preaching of Elijah could not bring them back. Among the most evil kings was Ahab and his queen, Jezebel, who brought the worship of Baal to new heights in Israel. Elijah tried to turn the Israelites back to the worship of Jehovah, even challenging the idolatrous priests of Baal to a showdown with God on Mount Carmel. Of course God won. This made Queen Jezebel angry (to say the least). She ordered Elijah’s death so he ran away and hid in the wilderness. Depressed and exhausted, he said; “Let me die.” But God sent food and encouragement to the prophet and whispered to him in a “quiet gentle sound,” and in the process saved his life for further work.
Foreshadowings: The Temple in Jerusalem, where God’s Spirit would dwell in the Holy of Holies, foreshadows believers in Christ in whom the Holy Spirit resides from the moment of our salvation. Just as the Israelites were to forsake idolatry, so are we to put away anything that separates us from God. We are His people, the very temple of the living God. Second Corinthians 6:16 tells us, “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ ”
Elijah the prophet was for forerunner of Christ and the Apostles of the New Testament. God enabled Elijah to do miraculous things in order to prove that he was truly a man of God. He raised from the dead the son of the widow of Zarephath, causing her to exclaim, “ ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.” In the same way, men of God who spoke His words through His power are evident in the New Testament. Not only did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, but He also raised the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:14–15) and Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:52–56). The Apostle Peter raised Dorcas (Acts 9:40) and Paul raised Eutychus (Acts 20:9–12).
Practical Application: The Book of 1 Kings has many lessons for believers. We see a warning about the company we keep, and especially in regard to close associations and marriage. The kings of Israel who, like Solomon, married foreign women exposed themselves and the people they ruled to evil. As believers in Christ, we must be very careful about whom we choose as friends, business associates, and spouses. “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
Elijah’s experience in the wilderness also teaches a valuable lesson. After his incredible victory over the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, his joy turned to sorrow when he was pursued by Jezebel and fled for his life. Such “mountaintop” experiences are often followed by a letdown and the depression and discouragement that can follow. We have to be on guard for this type of experience in the Christian life. But our God is faithful and will never leave or forsake us. The quiet, gentle sound that encouraged Elijah will encourage us.
by Mike Ratliff
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
What is it that causes God to justify believers? What is justification? I heard a definition a long time ago where the preacher said something like this, “Justification is what happens when we are born again, it is ‘Just as if I had never sinned’” Of course, those of us who are Reformed in our Theology believe that our regeneration, our quickening, our New Birth takes place prior to belief because that is what enables ungodly, spiritually dead people to repent and believe. Justification follows that. Let’s look at an example.
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