Daily Archives: September 11, 2014

The Cult at Mars Hill is Disintegrating

Zwinglius Redivivus

The revelations keep coming about imploding Mars Hill church, which this week announced that it was laying off staff and closing branches in the wake of numerous allegations of financial impropriety, porn-laced misogyny and abuse of power. Today, one of the most dogged bloggers following the saga, Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, published a 2012 memo purporetedly written by Mars Hill Executive Pastor Sutton Turner.

“It’s really incredible,” Throckmorton says of thememo, talking by phone today. Leaked to him by an insider, the memo reveals that as far back as two years ago Turner was warning elders about a financial crisis brought on by a culture of “entitlement,” “poor stewardship” and questionable ethics.

Sutton calls out dubious behavior on the part of church staffers. Some used the church credit card to “treat their wives to spa appointments,” or attended to…

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GTY Blog: Insufficient Help, Part 1

by John MacArthur

In 1980, Grace Community Church was hit with a lawsuit charging that the pastors on our staff were negligent because we tried to help a suicidal young member of our church by giving him biblical truth. It was the first clergy malpractice case ever heard in the American court system.

The secular media had a field day as the case dragged on for years. Some nationally aired tabloid-type programs even alleged that our church had encouraged the young man to kill himself, teaching him that suicide was a sure way to heaven. Of course, that was not true. He knew from Scripture that suicide is wrong. We urged him to let the Word of God lead him to intimate knowledge and appropriation of the resources available in the One who wanted to heal his troubled mind. Tragically, he refused our counsel and took his own life.

One of the key issues the case raised was the question of whether churches should have the legal right to counsel troubled people with the Bible. Many would argue that giving someone advice from Scripture is a simplistic approach to counseling. The Bible may be fine as an encouragement to the average person, we are told, but people who have real problems need a psychological expert’s help.

Therefore, this lawsuit contended, church counselors are obligated to refer seriously depressed and suicidal people to mental-health professionals. To attempt to counsel these troubled people from the Bible amounts to irresponsibility and negligence for which church counselors should be held morally and legally culpable.

The truth that came out in court received little or no coverage on the network news. Testimony showed that this young man was under the care of professional psychiatrists. In addition to the biblical direction he received from our pastoral staff, he had sought psychiatric treatment.

Moreover, our staff had seen to it that he was examined by several medical doctors, to rule out organic or chemical causes for his depression. He was receiving every kind of therapy available, but he chose to end his life anyway. We did all we could to help him; he rejected our counsel and turned his back on his spiritual sufficiency in Christ.

All three times the case was heard, the judges decided in our favor, affirming that the church had not failed in its responsibility to give him proper care. Their judgment was that our staff had more than fulfilled their legal and moral obligations by trying to help this young man who had sought our counsel.

Eventually the case was appealed even to the United States Supreme Court. The High Court refused to hear the case, thereby letting stand the California State Supreme Court’s ruling, which vindicated the church. Most important of all, the case affirmed every church’s constitutional right to counsel from the Bible, establishing a legal precedent to keep secular courts from encroaching on the area of counseling in the church.

The Professionalization of the Counseling Ministry

Unfortunately, the privilege of counseling people with biblical truth may be in jeopardy anyway—not because of any legal barrier imposed from outside the church, but because of the attitude toward Scripture within the church. During the trial, a number of “experts” were called to give testimony. Most surprising to me were the so-called Christian psychologists and psychiatrists who testified that the Bible alone does not contain sufficient help to meet people’s deepest personal and emotional needs.

These men were actually arguing before a secular court that God’s Word is not an adequate resource for counseling people about their spiritual problems! What is truly appalling is the number of evangelicals who are willing to take such “professionals’” word for it.

Over the past few decades a host of evangelical psychological clinics have sprung up. Though almost all of them claim to offer biblical counsel, most merely dispense secular psychology disguised in spiritual terminology.

What’s worse, they remove the counseling ministry from its proper arena in the church body and condition Christians to think of themselves as incompetent to counsel. Many pastors, feeling inadequate, are perfectly willing to let “professionals” take over what used to be seen as a vital pastoral responsibility. Too many have bought the lie that a crucial realm of wisdom exists outside Scripture and one’s relationship to Jesus Christ, and that some idea or technique from that extrabiblical realm holds the real key to helping people with their deep problems.

True Soul Work

True psychology (“the study of the soul”) can be done only by Christians, since only Christians have the resources for the understanding and the transformation of the soul. The Puritans, long before the arrival of godless psychology, identified their ministry with people as “soul work.”

Scripture is the manual for all “soul work.” It is so comprehensive in the diagnosis and treatment of every spiritual matter that, energized by the Holy Spirit in the believer, it leads to making one like Jesus Christ. This is the process of biblical sanctification.

It is reasonable for people to seek medical help for a broken leg, dysfunctional kidney, tooth cavity, or other physical malady. It is also sensible for someone who is alcoholic, drug addicted, learning disabled, traumatized by rape, incest, or severe battering to seek some help in trying to cope with their trauma.

There may also be certain types of emotional or mental problems where root causes are identifiably organic, or where medication might be needed to stabilize an otherwise dangerous person. These are relatively rare problems, however, and should not be used as justification for the indiscriminate use of secular psychological techniques for what are usually spiritual problems. Dealing with the physical and emotional issues of life in such ways is not sanctification!

Certain techniques of human psychology can serve to lessen trauma or dependency and modify behavior in Christians or non-Christians equally. But since the secular discipline of psychology is based on godless assumptions and evolutionary foundations, it is capable of helping people only superficially with no contribution toward their spiritual growth.

Christian Psychology?

“Christian psychology” as the term is used today is an oxymoron. The word psychology no longer speaks of studying the soul; instead it describes a diverse menagerie of therapies and theories that are fundamentally humanistic. That is to say, they are fundamentally at odds with a biblical worldview.

The presuppositions and most of the doctrine of psychology cannot be successfully integrated with Christian truth. Moreover, the infusion of psychology into the teaching of the church has blurred the line between behavior modification and sanctification.

The true path to wholeness is the path of spiritual sanctification. Would we foolishly turn our backs on the Wonderful Counselor, the spring of living water, for the sensual wisdom of earth and the stagnant water of behaviorism?

Our Lord Jesus reacted in a perfect and holy way to every temptation, trial, and trauma in life—and they were more severe than any human could ever suffer. Therefore, it should be clear that perfect victory over all life’s troubles must be the result of being like Christ.

No “soul worker” can lift another above the level of spiritual maturity he is on. So the supreme qualification for psychologists should be Christlikeness, not a degree or a state license.

If one is a truly Christian psychologist, he must be doing soul work in the realm of the deep things of the Word and the Spirit—not fooling around in the shallows of behavior modification. Why should a believer choose to do behavior modification when he has the tools for spiritual transformation (like a surgeon wreaking havoc with a butter knife instead of using a scalpel)? The most skilled counselor is the one who most carefully, prayerfully, and faithfully applies divine sanctification—shaping another into the image of Jesus Christ.

There may be no more serious threat to the life of the church today than the stampede to embrace the doctrines of secular psychology. They are a mass of human ideas that Satan has placed in the church as if they were powerful, life-changing truths from God. Most psychologists epitomize neo-gnosticism, claiming to have secret knowledge for solving people’s real problems. There are even those psychologists who claim to perform a therapeutic technique they call “Christian counseling” but in reality are using secular theory to treat spiritual problems with biblical references tacked on.

The result is that pastors, biblical scholars, teachers of Scripture, and caring believers using the Word of God are disdained as naive, simplistic, and altogether inadequate counselors. Bible reading, study, diligent application, and prayer are commonly belittled as “pat answers,” incomplete solutions for someone struggling with depression or anxiety. Scripture, the Holy Spirit, Christ, prayer, and grace—those are the traditional solutions Christian counselors have pointed people to. But the average Christian today has come to believe that none of them really offers the cure for people’s woes.


Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B140909
COPYRIGHT ©2014 Grace to You

Topical Bible Questions: What Is Spiritual Adultery?

 

Spiritual adultery is unfaithfulness to God. It is having an undue fondness for the things of the world. Spiritually adultery is analogous to the unfaithfulness of one’s spouse: “ ‘But like a woman faithless to her lover, even so have you been faithless to me, O house of Israel,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 3:20; see also Isaiah 1:21; 57:8; Ezekiel 16:30).

The Bible tells us that people who choose to be friends with the world are an “adulterous people” having “enmity against God” (James 4:4–5). The “world” here is the system of evil under Satan’s control (John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 5:19). The world system, with its contrived and deceitful scheme of phony values, worthless pursuits, and unnatural affections, is designed to lure us away from a pure relationship with God. Spiritual adultery, then, is the forsaking of God’s love and the embracing of the world’s values and desires (Romans 8:7–8; 2 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:15–17).

Spiritual adultery includes any form of idolatry. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel tried to mix the worship of other gods such as Baal with that of God (Judges 3:7; 1 Kings 16:31–33; Jeremiah 19:5). In doing so, Israel became like an adulterous wife who wanted both a husband and another lover (Jeremiah 9:2; Ezekiel 6:9; 16:32). In the New Testament, James defines spiritual adultery as claiming to love God while cultivating friendship with the world (James 4:4–5). The person who commits spiritual adultery is one who professes to be a Christian yet finds his real love and pleasure in the things that Satan offers. For believers, the love of the world and the love of God are direct opposites. Believers committing spiritual adultery may claim to love the Lord, but, in reality, they are captivated by the pleasures of this world, its influence, comforts, financial security, and so-called freedoms.

The concept of spiritual adultery against God is a major theme throughout the Old Testament (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:20; Ezekiel 16:15–19). This theme is illustrated especially well in the book of Hosea. The prophet’s wife, Gomer, symbolizes the infidelity of the children of Israel (Hosea 2:2–5; 3:1–5; 9:1). Hosea’s commitment to Gomer symbolizes God’s faithful, patient love with His erring people.

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). The Bible exhorts us, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:15–16). Believers must echo the words of the old hymn: “The world behind me, the cross before me; no turning back.”

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:14–16). Spiritual adultery is like trying to straddle the fence with one foot in the world and the other heaven. We cannot have both. As Jesus warned the church in Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15–16).

The love of the world is primarily an attitude of one’s heart, and we can cast away worldliness by cultivating a new affection. To avoid spiritual adultery, “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2, KJV).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Cults and Religions: What Is the Eastern Star Organization, and Are They Related to the Free Masons?

 

Please note—by this article, we are not claiming that all who are involved in Freemasonry or Eastern Star are cultists. What we are saying is this: Freemasonry/Eastern Star at its core is not a Christian organization. There are many Christians who have left Freemasonry after discovering what it is truly all about. Please visit Ex-Masons for Jesus for more information. Each person should pray for wisdom and discernment from the Lord as to whether to be involved with Freemasonry/Eastern Star.

Question: “What is the Eastern Star organization, and are they related to the Free Masons?”

Answer: The Order of the Eastern Star (OES) is a secret society that is similar to that of the Masons. Both organizations work in concert, and many people belong to both groups. These organizations are shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Many believe Matthew 2:2 to be the guiding verse of the Order: “We have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (KJV).

The Order of the Eastern Star maintains that it is not a secret society. The group calls itself the largest worldwide fraternal organization. More than 500,000 men and women are members of the OES. The OES officially began in the mid-1800s in the United States. Dr. Rob Morris, the Poet Laureate of Masonry, organized the first Grand Chapter of the Order. Morris developed the rituals and creeds of the Order supposedly based on his belief in God and biblical stories. The OES began as a group for women who were related to the male Masons but now admits both genders as official members.

According to Eastern Star’s official website, the purposes of the organization are “Charitable, Educational, Fraternal and Scientific.” The Order supposedly promotes moral values and personal goodness, building “an Order which is truly dedicated to charity, truth and loving kindness.”

The purposes of the OES seem honorable at first glance, even biblically based. Why, then, is there so much secrecy? Jesus’ earthly ministry was very public. He did not shroud His purpose in mystery; He was open and honest with everyone regarding His teachings and lifestyle. He did not create a secret code word or handshake for a select few. He made Himself and His grace available for all, and still does (John 3:16).

The Order has several specific requirements that individuals must meet before they can be “adopted” into the OES family. Male candidates must be Masons, and women candidates must be related to a Mason in some way before they will be considered. Also, a candidate must have a belief in a “Supreme Being.” The official website says, “Members of all religions may belong to the Order of the Eastern Star. We only require a belief in a Supreme Being.” In contrast to this nebulous belief system, the Bible presents Jesus as the exclusive Savior and Lord. Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

There is a common belief that the Order of the Eastern Star is a Christian-based organization that simply observes traditions and rituals that support fraternal and historic bonds. However, the OES teaches some things that are at odds with biblical Christianity. Besides denying the exclusive nature of Christ’s salvation, the OES teaches that man is essentially good and places a heavy emphasis on good works and community service as a means of earning a relationship with the Supreme Being. Also, the group is cloaked in mystery and mysticism. First John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” There is no confusion or darkness in God; therefore, as His followers, we should disengage from sources of worldly darkness, mysteries, confusion, and compromise.

Many people join groups such as the Eastern Star and the Masons innocently, for reasons such as family tradition or a desire to make friends or belong to a community group. Those who join for such reasons may not have given much thought to the works-based theology of Eastern Star. The Bible commands us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” A society that is “secret” and ambiguous in regard to its theology is not analogous with God’s Word, which is the embodiment of light and truth. A Christian should not be a member of any secret society or organization that has any connection with Freemasonry, and that includes Eastern Star.

Again, for more information, we strongly recommend Ex-Masons for Jesus.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Bible Summary / Survey: Song of Solomon

 

Author: Solomon wrote Song of Solomon, according to the first verse. This song is one of 1,005 that Solomon wrote (1 Kings 4:32). The title “Song of Songs” is a superlative, meaning this is the best one.

Date of Writing: Solomon most likely wrote this song during the early part of his reign. This would place the date of composition around 965 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The Song of Solomon is a lyric poem written to extol the virtues of love between a husband and his wife. The poem clearly presents marriage as God’s design. A man and woman are to live together within the context of marriage, loving each other spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

This book combats two extremes: asceticism (the denial of all pleasure) and hedonism (the pursuit of only pleasure). The marriage profiled in Song of Solomon is a model of care, commitment, and delight.

Key Verses: Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5; 8:4—“Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”

Song of Solomon 5:1—“Eat, O friends, and drink; drink your fill, O lovers.”

Song of Solomon 8:6–7—“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”

Brief Summary: The poetry takes the form of a dialogue between a husband (the king) and his wife (the Shulamite). We can divide the book into three sections: the courtship (1:1–3:5); the wedding (3:6–5:1); and the maturing marriage (5:2–8:14).

The song begins before the wedding, as the bride-to-be longs to be with her betrothed, and she looks forward to his intimate caresses. However, she advises letting love develop naturally, in its own time. The king praises the Shulamite’s beauty, overcoming her feelings of insecurity about her appearance. The Shulamite has a dream in which she loses Solomon and searches throughout the city for him. With the help of the city guards, she finds her beloved and clings to him, taking him to a safe place. Upon waking, she repeats her injunction not to force love.

On the wedding night, the husband again praises the beauty of his wife, and in highly symbolic language, the wife invites her spouse to partake of all she has to offer. They make love, and God blesses their union.

As the marriage matures, the husband and wife go through a difficult time, symbolized in another dream. In this second dream, the Shulamite rebuffs her husband, and he leaves. Overcome with guilt, she searches the city for him; but this time, instead of helping her, the guards beat her—symbolic of her pained conscience. Things end happily as the lovers reunite and are reconciled.

As the song ends, both the husband and wife are confident and secure in their love, they sing of the lasting nature of true love, and they yearn to be in each other’s presence.

Foreshadowings: Some Bible interpreters see in Song of Solomon an exact symbolic representation of Christ and His church. Christ is seen as the king, while the church is represented by the Shulamite. While we believe the book should be understood literally as a depiction of marriage, there are some elements that foreshadow the Church and her relationship with her king, the Lord Jesus. Song of Solomon 2:4 describes the experience of every believer who is sought and bought by the Lord Jesus. We are in a place of great spiritual wealth and are covered by His love. Verse 16 of chapter 2 says, “My beloved is mine, and I am his. He feeds his flock among the lilies” (NKJV). Here is a picture of not only the security of the believer in Christ (John 10:28–29), but of the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep—believers—and lays down His life for us (John 10:11). Because of Him, we are no longer stained by sin, having had our “spots” removed by His blood (Song of Solomon 4:7; Ephesians 5:27).

Practical Application: Our world is confused about marriage. The prevalence of divorce and modern attempts to redefine marriage stand in glaring contrast to Solomon’s Song. Marriage, says the biblical poet, is to be celebrated, enjoyed, and revered. This book provides some practical guidelines for strengthening our marriages:

1) Give your spouse the attention he or she needs. Take the time to truly know your spouse.

2) Encouragement and praise, not criticism, are vital to a successful relationship.

3) Enjoy each other. Plan some getaways. Be creative, even playful, with each other. Delight in God’s gift of married love.

4) Do whatever is necessary to reassure your commitment to your spouse. Renew your vows; work through problems and do not consider divorce as a solution. God intends for you both to live in a deeply peaceful, secure love.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

J. Warner Wallace: 10 important questions for Jehovah’s witnesses

WINTERY KNIGHT

So there’s this group of people called Jehovah’s Witnesses that use Christian language to describe a religion that denies key parts of the Christian worldview. Since you may might them knocking on your door to tell you about their worldview, it might be worth it to read this post from J. Warner Wallace over in advance.

I’ll just post a snip of the first I use when they come to my door. It’s also the first on Wallace’s list:

If I am to accept the teaching of the Jehovah’s Witness religion, I am first going to have to trust the source of this teaching. But how can I trust someone who claims to speak for God when they have been wrong about prior predictions?

There are a number of false predictions made either by Charles Russell, subsequent leaders of the church or the Watchtower Organization itself, including this limited sampling:

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What if ISIS obtains chemical weapons? Analysis of the President’s speech.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with members of the National Security Council in the Situation Room of the White House, Sept. 10, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with members of the National Security Council in the Situation Room of the White House, Sept. 10, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

>> See short video of me explaining why we are releasing my new novel about the ISIS threat — THE THIRD TARGET — earlier than planned because of fast-moving events (Jan. 6).

(Washington, D.C.) — On the eve of the anniversary of the terror attacks of 9/11, President Obama addressed the nation in a prime time televised speech on the threat posed by the Islamic State (aka, ISIS or ISIL) and how his administration plans to respond. Here is a transcript of his remarks. I encourage you to read what he said very carefully.

A brief analysis:

  • The President has now officially acknowledged that ISIS and its jihadist allies pose a clear and present danger to the American people, our…

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20 Arguments for God’s existence

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever. (Psalms 111:10 NASB)

Are New Testament believers to fear God or was that only for the Old Testament? The answer to that is yes to the former and no to the latter. However, it is possible to have irrational fear of God so we must fear God properly and in the right context. So, what is a good description of right fear?

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