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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Power Failure: From Prophesying to Positive Thinking

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. - Proverbs 16:1, 9 ESV

For anyone who may be too young to remember or who may have never heard of Norman Vincent Peale, fear not; Peale's influence can be felt throughout most of modern day evangelistic circles. It can be felt so pervasively, in fact, that most people are completely unaware of the influence at all. This is largely due to the fact that much of what Peale "preached" and taught is now being filtered through the writings and ministries of those whom he mentored in his lifetime and those that they now mentor and/or influence (i.e. Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, etc.).

But even if you haven't heard of Peale, most are somewhat familiar with his runaway best-seller, The Power of Positive Thinking, which catapulted him from preacher to pundit to prophet (excuse me, that should be profit) in the blink of an eye. Here is a little excerpt of what type insight he gives in his writings:

Norman Vincent Peale - The Power of Positive Thinking

This may seem at first glance to be nothing more than an innocent old codger sharing his grey-haired wisdom on a park bench like some sort of geriatric version of Forrest Gump, but let the buyer beware. What Peale is propagating is nothing more than New Age Pragmatism. Unfortunately, most have bought into it hook, line, and sinker. American Evangelicalism has swallowed it whole; note that in his time of trouble there is no mention of prayer for God to do a mighty work in their endeavors--to bless it according to His will. Peale's authority was not Paul and the Prophets; it was Plato and "Tessy". That's right, Tessy--a woman who is able to convince a so-called Christian minister that thoughts are intelligent and can actually think (meaning that thoughts aren't thoughts at all, but actually entities that have some sort of "life" to them). To say that I can visualize or speak something into being makes me...mmm...I don't know...God-like. Last time I checked, that's what got mankind into this mess in the first place!! It is blasphemous for me to believe that ultimate control of the universe begins and ends with the thought processes of my mind. Don't be fooled by the ending message scroll in that clip either. Just because he tacks on a scripture reference at the end doesn't make it anymore "christian"; he quotes Philippians 4:13 out of context because it fits his agenda. It's pragmatism 101--he uses what works in the given situation.

New Names, Same Old Thing

Most are convinced that New Age thinking is something that has remained outside of the church, but it is quite the contrary. In his book, Fit Bodies Fat, Minds, Os Guinness states,

But positive thinking has deeply affected evangelicalism too. Historians trace optimistic pragmatism right back to the First and Second Great Awakenings. During this time Arminianism superseded Calvinistic theology. People openly stressed encouraging human effort to transform the human will. Through human effort, then, others would accept the free offer of salvation. Gradually, religion itself was changed. Instead of being a revelation by which we are criticized, it becomes a power to which we are adjusted for the sake of gaining our power--and thus the key to health, wealth, popularity, and peace of mind. Thus the note of "spiritual technology", later picked up by the New Age movement, was introduced first by evangelicals. As one writer put it, "God is a twenty-four-hour station. All you need to do is plug in."

Twentieth-century versions are well known, supremely Norman Vincent Peale's 1952 best-seller The Power of Positive Thinking and Robert Schuller's television ministry "The Hour of Power". ("There is enough power in you," Peale wrote, "to blow the city of New York to rubble.") The former occasioned Adlai Stevenson's celebrated quip: "Paul I find appealing, but Peale I find appalling."

And so the trend continues; Peale is now dead and gone but his ghost lives on. The Christian religion continues to integrate itself with this type of pragmatic, self-help preaching of "gospel" hucksters. There are only two things that I can be positive of here: It's not biblical and it doesn't work. This type of philosophy places man above God as the supreme being in the universe and places emphasis on self-affirmation, rather than self-denial and the affirmation of the person and the work of Jesus Christ (Luke 9:23).

John Piper on Prosperity "Gospel"

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” - Job 1:21 ESV

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. - Job 2:10 ESV

“Let me have silence, and I will speak,and let come on me what may. Why should I take my flesh in my teeth and put my life in my hand? Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. This will be my salvation, that the godless shall not come before him." - Job 13:13-16 ESV

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:11-13 ESV

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. - James 4:13-16 ESV

Soli Deo Gloria,

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Any Way You Can: Billy Graham's Multi-Directional Plan of Salvation

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6 ESV

Billy Graham is known as one of the greatest evangelical leaders of the modern day era. But how are we to judge our leaders in the Church? Are we to judge by the thousands that attend their crusades? How many world leaders that they have "influenced"? How many powerful friends they have? How many years they've produced "success" in their ministry? Or how about how much money they've made?

Most would say no, but if we take an honest look at the state of things, this has in actuality become the criterion by which we judge the shepherds of the flock. As long as they have the appearances of moral uprightness, are personable (and have some sort of celebrity status), we are more than willing to give them a nod. Minus the status, these attributes are very important for pastors and teachers in the Church; however, we have a tendency to overshadow the most important standard of all:

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. - 1 Timothy 4:16 ESV

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. - 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV

In the clips to follow, if we hold Graham (or Schuller) up to the Scripture's demands, does he past the test? I'm aware that such a statement may anger some people. While it is true and can be argued that some have been led to saving faith through Billy Graham's ministry, we must remember one thing:

The salvation of souls can be accomplished even when men falter because it is an act of our sovereign God who has decreed those souls saved and in no way, shape, form or fashion releases Church leaders (or any other Christian, for that matter) from their responsibility to speak the truth in terms of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore Graham, as well as any who hold to the teachings espoused here, are to be held accountable to what the Scriptures teach (John 6:37, 44; 10:1-18).

Robert Schuller Interview w/ Billy Graham

It's a funny thing; Schuller mentions "wideness"...so does the Bible on this matter (Matthew 7:13-14).

Here's John MacArthur's with a biblical response to Graham's philosophy of Salvation:

And here is a final warning from John Piper:

"This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." - Acts 4:11-12 ESV

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. - Galatians 1:8-9 ESV

Soli Deo Gloria,


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Losing Our Minds: The Lack of Doctrine and Discernment in Modern Christianity

"A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it." - G.K. Chesterton

There seems to be a modern day trend of not drinking too deeply from the fountain of knowledge that is in the Scriptures; we are all too content to merely gargle...

And as a consequence, many are dying of thirst.

May this presentation from Cross TV encourage us to recover and convict us of our sin, so that we may begin once again to love the Lord Jesus Christ with our minds as well as our hearts and souls (Matthew 22:36-38).

Our very lives depend upon it.

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." - John 14:15 ESV

"I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you." - Revelation 3:1-3 ESV

Soli Deo Gloria,


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Your Mother...Seriously.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. - John 19:26-27 ESV

To Mothers, Wives, and The Rising Generations...

As I meditate on the verses above I am struck with humility when I see the care and concern that Jesus had for his mother's safety and well-being. Even within the agonizing pain and torture that he was going through, he wanted to make sure that his mother was going to be taken care of. May we all have the same fervor and vigilance toward the women who raise us in our formative years. In a society where being considered a "momma's boy" is a slander, in the light of Scripture we will find a different perspective. Men should indeed be momma's boys!! We should love our mothers to death. And there's a good reason for this; the further implications of it go beyond just the woman who birthed us into the world.

A friend of mine reminded me last week, "How a man treats his mother mirrors how he will treat his wife". She's exactly right. Caring for your wife and children will not be like flipping a switch. These are things that have to be cultivated. So as I talk about giving honor to the ladies on this day, I have to take time out to say a word to the men:

Remember this above everything else--the dynamic of relationships are not independent from one another. Love your mothers, wives, daughters and sisters in a manner that is glorifying to God. Show them their equality and uniqueness in the way that you love and protect them. Strive to reflect Christ's love for them in everything that you do.

The Honors

To my mother, who raised me in the statutes of the Lord--Thank you for showing we the way to righteousness. It's my turn now...

To my Grandmother and Aunt (as well as cousins, great aunts)--They say it takes a village to raise a child...it must have been really hard work raising the village idiot! Thank You...

And Last but certainly not least,

To CJ--regardless of all the chaos that's been, you'll make a great wife and mother, Lord willing. Thanks for being there and making me braver than I ever thought I could be. You're a gift from God...I don't tell you that enough. This song's for you:

John Mayer - "Daughters"

Luv Ya!

Happy Mother's Day!!!

The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. - Genesis 3:20 ESV

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet nightand provides food for her householdand portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strengthand makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poorand reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gateswhen he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her householdand does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. - Proverbs 31:10-31 ESV

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. - 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 ESV

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. - 1 Timothy 1:5 ESV

Soli Deo Gloria,


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