Saturday, June 22, 2013

FALSE PROPHETS AND LYING WONDERS


John MacArthur
Have you noticed that no matter how many times charismatic televangelists make outlandish false prophecies, they never lack for followers, and they don't stop claiming the Lord has spoken directly to them?
Benny Hinn, for example, made a series of celebrated prophetic utterances in December of 1989, none of which came true. He confidently told his congregation at the Orlando Christian Center that God had revealed to him Fidel Castro would die sometime in the 1990s; the homosexual community in America would be destroyed by fire before 1995; and a major earthquake would cause havoc on the east coast before the year 2000. He was wrong on all counts, of course.
That did not deter Hinn, who simply kept making bold new false prophecies. At the beginning of the new millennium, he announced to his television audience that a prophetess had informed him Jesus would soon appear physically in some of Hinn's healing meetings. Hinn said he was convinced the prophecy was authentic, and on his April 2, 2000, broadcast, he amplified it with a prophecy of his own: "Now hear this, I am prophesying this! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is about to appear physically in some churches, and some meetings, and to many of His people, for one reason: to tell you He is about to show up! To wake up! Jesus is coming saints!"
Hinn's failed prophesies are more outlandish but nearly as memorable as the notorious claims Oral Roberts began making about three decades ago. In 1977 Roberts said he saw a vision of a 900-foot-tall Jesus, who instructed him to build the City of Faith, a 60-story hospital in south Tulsa. Roberts said God told him He would use the center to unite medical technology with faith healing, which would revolutionize health care and enable doctors to find a cure for cancer.
The building, completed in the early 1980s, was a colossal white elephant from the very start. When the City of Faith opened for business, all but two stories of the massive structure were completely vacant.
By January of 1987 the project was saddled with unmanageable debt, and Roberts announced that the Lord had said unless Roberts raised eight million dollars to pay the debt by March 1, he would die. Apparently not willing to test the death-threat prophecy, donors dutifully gave Roberts the needed funds in time (with the help of $1.3 million donated at the last hour by a Florida dog-track owner).
But within two years, Roberts was forced to close the medical center anyway and sell the building in order to eliminate still-mounting debt. More than 80 percent of the building had never been occupied. The promised cure for cancer never materialized, either.
A list of similar failed charismatic prophesies could fill several volumes. And yet, amazingly, the "prophets" who make such fantastic claims now appear to have more influence than ever—even among mainstream evangelicals. And the idea that God routinely speaks directly to His people has found more widespread acceptance today than at any time in the history of the church.
The charismatic movement began barely a hundred years ago, and its influence on evangelicalism can hardly be overstated. Its chief legacy has been an unprecedented interest in extrabiblical revelation. Millions influenced by charismatic doctrine are convinced that God speaks to them directly all the time. Indeed, many seem to believe direct revelation is the main means through which God communicates with His people. "The Lord told me ... " has become a favorite cliche of experience-driven evangelicals.
Not all who believe God speaks to them make prophetic pronouncements as outlandish as those broadcast by charismatic televangelists, of course. But they still believe God gives them extrabiblical messages—either through an audible voice, a vision, a voice in their heads, or simply an internal impression. In most cases, their "prophecies" are comparatively trivial. But the difference between them and Benny Hinn's predictions is a difference only of scale, not of substance.
The notion that God is giving extrabiblical messages to Christians today has received support from some surprising sources. Wayne Grudem, popular author and professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary believes God regularly gives Christians prophetic messages by simply bringing spontaneous thoughts to mind. Such impressions should be reported as prophecy, he says.[1]
Similar ideas have found sweeping acceptance even among non-charismatic Christians. Southern Baptists have eagerly devoured Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and Claude King, which suggests that the main way the Holy Spirit leads believers is by speaking to them directly. According to Blackaby, when God gives an individual a message that pertains to the church, it should be shared with the whole body.[2] As a result, extrabiblical "words from the Lord" are now commonplace even in some Southern Baptist circles.
Why do so many modern Christians seek revelation from God through means other than Scripture? Certainly not because it is a reliable way to discover truth. All sides admit that modern prophecies are often completely erroneous. In fact, the failure rate is astonishingly high. In my book Charismatic Chaos I quoted one leading "prophet" who was thrilled because he believed that two-thirds of his prophecies were accurate. "Well that's better than it's ever been up to now, you know. That's the highest level it's ever been."[3]
In other words, modern prophecy is not a much more reliable way to discern truth than a Magic Eight-Ball or Tarot cards. And, I would add, it is equally superstitious. There is no warrant anywhere in Scripture for Christians to listen for fresh revelation from God beyond what He has already given us in His written Word. In fact, Scripture unsparingly condemns all who speak even one word falsely or presumptuously in the Lord's name (Deut. 18:20-22). But such warnings are simply ignored these days by those who claim to have heard afresh from God.
And not surprisingly, wherever there is a preoccupation with "fresh" prophecy, there is invariably a corresponding neglect of the Scriptures. After all, why be concerned with an ancient Book if the Living God communicates directly with us on a daily basis? These fresh words of "revelation" naturally seem more relevant and more urgent than the familiar words of the Bible. Is it any wonder that they draw people away from Scripture?
That is precisely why modern evangelicalism's infatuation with extrabiblical revelation is so dangerous. It is a return to medieval superstition and a departure from our fundamental conviction that the Bible is our sole, supreme, and sufficient authority for all of life. In other words, it represents a wholesale abandonment of the principle of sola Scriptura.
The absolute sufficiency of Scripture is summed up well in this section from the Westminster Confession of Faith:
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men (1.6, emphasis added).
Historic Protestantism is grounded in the conviction that the canon is closed. No "new" revelation is necessary, because Scripture is complete and absolutely sufficient.
Scripture itself is clear that the day of God's speaking directly to His people through various prophetic words and visions is past. The truth God has revealed in Christ including the complete New Testament canon is His final word (Heb. 1:1-2; cf. Jude 3; Rev. 22:18-19).
Scripture—the written Word of God—is perfectly sufficient, containing all the revelation we need. Notice 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Paul tells Timothy:
From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
That passage makes two very important statements that pertain to the issue we are looking at. First, "All Scripture is inspired by God." Scripture speaks with the authority of God Himself. It is certain; it is reliable; it is true. Jesus Himself prayed in John 17:17: "Your word is truth." Psalm 119:160 says, "The entirety of Your word is truth."
Those statements all set Scripture above every human opinion, every speculation, and every emotional sensation. Scripture alone stands as definitive truth. It speaks with an authority that transcends every other voice.
Second, The passage teaches that Scripture is utterly sufficient, "able to make you wise for salvation ... [and able to make you] complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." What clearer affirmation of the absolute sufficiency of Scripture could anyone ask for? Are extrabiblical messages from God necessary to equip us to glorify Him? Certainly not.
Those who seek fresh messages from God have in effect scorned the absolute certainty and absolute sufficiency of the written Word of God. And they have set in its place their own fallen and fallible imaginations.
If the church does not return to the principle of sola Scriptura, the only revival we will see is a revival of the superstition and darkness that characterized medieval religion.
Does this mean God has stopped speaking? Certainly not, but He speaks today through His Word.
Does the Spirit of God move our hearts and impress us with specific duties or callings? Certainly, but He works through the Word of God to do that. Such experi­ences are in no sense prophetic or authoritative. They are not revelation, but the effect of illumination, when the Holy Spirit applies the Word to our hearts and opens our spiritual eyes to its truth. We must guard carefully against allowing our experience and our own subjective thoughts and imaginations to eclipse the authority and the certainty of the more sure Word.


[1]. The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testa­ment and Today (Wheaton: Crossway, 1988).
[2]. (Nashville, TN: LifeWay, 1990), 168.
[3]. Charismatic Chaos (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 67.



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SEXUAL SIN AND SANCTIFICATION

Introduction
Sexual immorality runs amok in our culture today. Temptations to depart from God’s sure path of blessing in the realm of sexuality are epidemic. The anonymity of the Internet and wireless technology has allowed people to pursue sexual immorality more than ever before. Today, pornographic images and movies can be viewed with ease, sexually explicit music is common, and extramarital sexual activity is seen by many as normal. Perhaps more than at any other time, promiscuity both in thought and deed is accepted and condoned.
However, in sharp contrast to the trend of the world, God calls His people to be pure (1 Corinthians 5:1–13; Ephesians 5:3–17; 1 Thessalonians 4:3–7). They are to shine as lights of personal holiness and moral virtue for His glory (Matthew 5:13–16). The Lord designed sex as a wonderful expression of love between a husband and wife (Hebrews 13:4), but those who use sex selfishly and apart from the Lord’s design will experience untold heartache and personal ruin.

The Consequences of Sexual Sin
Christians are certainly not immune to temptations to lust and sexual sin. The consequences of repeated failure in this area are devastating, and a believer who sins sexually brings shame to the name of the Lord. A child of God must seek to reflect his Father’s true character (1 Peter 1:14–19). Impurity in thoughts and actions is diametrically opposed to the purpose of God for salvation—to bring Him greater glory. The following are but a few examples of the far-reaching, destructive consequences of sexual sin.
A man who is unfaithful to his wife cannot serve as an elder in the church because the Lord intends him to be a model of godliness in all areas (1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Peter 5:3). The most important qualification for a man who desires eldership is his being above reproach. His reputation and example both within and outside the church must be exemplary (1 Timothy 3:2, 7). The importance of sexual purity among these qualifications is seen by its placement at the top of the list (v. 2). A man’s opportunity for service in the church can be permanently removed because of the lasting reproach of his sexual sin.
Sexual sin also causes intense personal pain. Proverbs repeatedly warns of the far-reaching and agonizing consequences of sexual immorality:
Within marriage, sexual immorality will also destroy trust between husband and wife and defile the sanctity of their own sexual intimacy.

Forgiveness and Hope
If you have already sinned sexually or are currently struggling with the temptation to lust, take heart! The Lord is always ready to forgive and cleanse those who turn to Him in confession and repentance (1 John 1:9), but understand that lasting holiness in your life will become a reality only as you faithfully pursue it according to the principles of God’s Word. The Lord promises, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6), but you must be a willing and eager partner in His work of sanctification.
The follower of Christ must recognize there is divine help and hope for victory over the strong passions and evil desires associated with sexual sin. Scripture tells you there are powerful resources from God that enable you to conquer sin and live a life of purity (Philippians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:2–4). The mighty working of the Holy Spirit in your heart will enable you to faithfully pursue holiness.

The Gradual Process of Sanctification
Your heart is the first and most important battleground in conquering lust and sexual sin. Victory over sexual immorality begins with a new heart. Scripture tells us one of the ways we know if a person is truly a child of God is by looking at the pattern of his life. First John 2:3–5 says, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.” This doesn’t mean a child of God never sins, but it surely does mean a saved person will not continue in an unbroken pattern of sin. To do that would be unnatural for a child of God.
Many people become frustrated in their struggle to overcome sexual sin because they never seem to achieve lasting purity. Has that been your experience? Part of the reason you may not overcome sexual sin as quickly as desired is your misunderstanding about the location of the battle. The physical manifestation of sexual sin is simply the outworking of what has already been going on in the heart for some time. The focus of your struggle must be internal first and foremost.
The Holy Spirit immediately and permanently indwells each person He regenerates. Romans 8:9–10 is written to those who are saved: “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Ephesians 4:22–24 instructs you “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
From where does the power come to reject sinful habits and to imitate the righteousness and holiness of God? Listen to the liberating truth taught in Romans 6:3–7: “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”

As a Christian, you have been given both the responsibility and the power to stop sinning. You are able to do that because you have been spiritually joined to Jesus in His death on the cross and in His resurrection from the dead. If you are genuinely saved, you have new and pure life by which you can please God. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is recreating you into His likeness (Colossians 2:9–14). God has worked a miraculous transformation in your heart, and now He wants you to draw on the spiritual resources He gives you as you pursue holiness (see Romans 6:12–23; 2 Timothy 2:22; Psalm 19:7–14; 119:9–11).
Fighting against sin and temptation, as well as pursuing greater obedience to God’s Word, is a process that happens gradually, day-by-day. The temptation to succumb to your struggle with sin—even sexual sin—is not unusual for the believer. The apostle Paul writes of his struggle with sin in Romans 7:14–25, speaking of it as “bondage to sin” (v. 14). While your fight against sin is constant and difficult, it is a battle you can win if you humbly rely on the resources the Lord gives you—meditation on Scripture, devotion to prayer, and fellowship in a biblical church. Experiencing and rejoicing in the gradual defeat of sin depends upon faithfully nurturing your heart toward purity.
A believer’s struggle with sin is like getting rid of weeds from a garden.
A believer’s struggle with sin is like getting rid of weeds from a garden. If you keep cutting the weeds off at the ground level, they will keep growing and coming back. If you want to remove the weeds permanently, you must kill them below the surface of the ground—at the root level. That is how it works with sin. You must see your sinful tendencies as dead remnants of your past life that must be rooted out, as Colossians 3:5 teaches: “Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” If you try to stop sinning merely in an external way—not dealing with the root problem at the heart level—you will not develop long-term holiness. As the great Puritan preacher John Owens wrote, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
The key to consistent purity in your life is developing definite, tangible patterns of faithfulness in holiness (Galatians 5:16). It is when you begin to curtail patterns of prayer, diligent Bible study, and the pursuit of an intimate relationship with God, that you will be far more vulnerable to lustful temptation. Could it be that a season of sexual sin is the direct result of becoming lax in your pursuit of the Lord, especially after the remorse of the previous sin has begun to wear off?
You will grow in personal holiness in direct proportion to your intake of God’s Word and your commitment to prayer. In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Let your fight against sexual sin be the overflow of the love and devotion you have for your Lord and Savior.

Biblical Resources for Overcoming Sexual Sin
In Ephesians 6:10–17 you learn of the powerful weapons the Lord Jesus has given you for your fight against sin. The “sword of the Spirit,” the Word of God, is the greatest weapon for your fight against the devil (Ephesians 6:17). In Psalm 119:9–11 we read, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You. Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against You.”
In addition to filling your heart with the Word of God, you must actively flee every temptation that seeks to threaten your purity. In 2 Timothy 2:21–22, Paul commands Timothy to continually flee sinful desires. It is utterly foolish to take the issue of sexual sin lightly or to overestimate your ability to resist temptation. Just as Joseph fled the daily seduction of Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:6–12), you too must avoid those times, places, and situations in which you know sexual temptation will arise.
In addition to reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible on a regular basis, please listen to John MacArthur’s sermon, “Aggressively Attacking the Sin in Our Lives.” It contains pertinent Bible teaching about overcoming habitual sins like sexual immorality. You may also want to read this article on sexual sin and biblical sanctification.
Finally, to grow spiritually and to overcome temptation, you must regularly and actively participate in the ministries of a biblically-grounded local church. The Lord has designed our spiritual growth to be carried out through the loving, mutually edifying ministry of a church committed to expository preaching and regular accountability (Ephesians 4:11–16; Hebrews 10:23–25). When you are pursuing temptation and self-gratification, your thoughts and efforts are consumed with selfishness. But taking initiative to serve others on your own or through the ministries of the church takes your attention off yourself. You must strive to develop the habit of loving and serving others instead of yourself. As you do this, you will become more like Jesus.

Conclusion
Sexual fulfillment expressed within a Christian marriage is a wonderful gift from God. The Lord has designed sexuality as a way to express love by a husband and wife, but when it is used selfishly and outside the bounds of His design, it will produce untold heartache. If you are a true Christian and have sinned sexually, please know the Lord has forgiven you on the basis of Christ’s work on the cross. If you confess your sins and pursue righteousness, He is faithful to cleanse you from sin and give you a renewed desire to please Him. The Lord makes the following promise to all those who bow the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God. . . . For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but God who gives His Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5, 7–8). May the Lord empower you to have increasing victory over sexual sin for His glory and for your good.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

TOLERANT INTOLERANT


John MacArthur
The Age of TolerancePost-modernism's veneration of tolerance is its most obvious feature. But the version of "tolerance" peddled by post-modernists is actually a twisted and dangerous corruption of true virtue.
Incidentally, tolerance is never mentioned in the Bible as a virtue, except in the sense of patience, forbearance, and longsuffering (cf. Ephesians 4:2.) In fact, the contemporary notion of tolerance is a pathetically feeble concept compared to the love Scripture commands Christians to show even to their enemies. Jesus said, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you" (Luke 6:27-28; cf. vv. 29-36).
When our grandparents spoke of tolerance as a virtue, they had something like that in mind. The word used to mean respecting people and treating them kindly even when we believe they are wrong. But the post-modern notion of tolerance means we must never regard anyone else's opinions as "wrong." Biblical tolerance is for people; post-modern tolerance is for ideas.
Accepting every belief as equally valid is hardly a real virtue, but it is about the kind of only "virtue" post-modernism knows anything about. Traditional virtues (including humility, self control, and chastity) are openly scorned -- and even regarded as transgressions -- in the world of post-modernism.
Predictably, the beatification of post-modern tolerance has had a disastrous effect on real virtue in our society. In this age of tolerance, what was once forbidden is now encouraged. What was once universally deemed immoral is now celebrated. Marital infidelity and divorce have been normalized. Profanity is commonplace. Abortion, homosexuality, and moral perversions of all kinds are championed by large advocacy groups and enthusiastically promoted by the popular media. The post-modern notion of "tolerance" is systematically turning genuine virtue on its head.
Just about the only remaining taboo is the naive and politically incorrect notion that another person's "alternative lifestyle," religion, or different perspective is wrong.
One major exception to that rule stands out starkly: it is OK for post-modernists to be intolerant of those who claim they know the truth -- particularly biblical Christians. In fact, those who fancy themselves the leading advocates of tolerance today are often the most outspoken opponents of evangelical Christianity.
Look on the Web, for example, and see what is being said by the self styled champions of "religious tolerance." What you'll find is a great deal of intolerance for Bible based Christianity. In fact, some of the most bitterly anti-Christian material on the World Wide Web can be found at sites supposedly promoting religious tolerance.
Why is that? Why does authentic biblical Christianity find such ferocious opposition from people who think they are paragons of tolerance? It is because the truth-claims of Scripture -- and particularly Jesus' claim to be the only way to God -- are diametrically opposed to the fundamental presuppositions of the post-modern mind. The Christian message represents a death blow to the post-modernist worldview.
But as long as Christians are being duped or intimidated into softening the bold claims of Christ and widening the narrow road, the church will make no headway against post-modernism. We need to recover the distinctiveness of the gospel. We need to regain our confidence in the power of God's truth. And we need to proclaim boldly that Christ is the only true hope for the people of this world.
That may not be what people want to hear in this pseudo-tolerant age of post-modernism. But it is true nonetheless. And precisely because it is true and the gospel of Christ is the only hope for a lost world, it is all the more urgent that we rise above all the voices of confusion in the world and say so.


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Monday, June 3, 2013

WHAT SIGNS ARE THESE?

Commentary by Roger Oakland
www.understandthetimes.org

 

Signs and wonders are happening all over the world! Are they genuine? Or could these be the signs Jesus said would occur before His Second Coming? If these signs and wonders are of God, who would want to be against them? If the signs and wonders are deceptive, then why would anyone want to be for them? Any attempt to answer these questions will naturally invite great controversy.

The Bible states we should "mark those who cause division."
1 The Bible also teaches that unity within the body of Christ is very important. But, what is the biblical definition of unity? Can Christianity be based on false ideas, error, deception or lying signs and wonders? What does the Bible claim? Should the Bible be overlooked in order to fabricate a false unity in the name of Christ? Shouldn't Christian unity always be based on the truth?

While those who question ecumenism are often labeled divisive and narrow-minded, the Bible does command that the word of God be carefully presented. While I have often been accused of being divisive, I wonder sometimes if I have been misunderstood.

Read Romans 16: 7 in its entire context and you will see the whole picture. Paul wrote: "Now I urge you brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them."
2 According to Paul, divisiveness is caused by those who teach "contrary" to what the Bible teaches.

Before writing this commentary I asked for God's help. I am not looking for more controversy. However, what do you do when you see a trend underway the Bible warns about? Or, what do you do when some are saying "these are the signs and wonders that we have been anticipating that will now prepare the way for Jesus to come?"

One of these two views must be wrong. If the signs are from God, then warning people against them would be blasphemous. If the signs are false, then the consequences are very serious and many people could be deceived if they are not warned.

Supporters of the "signs and wonders" are convinced they are right. Who are you they say to claim they are wrong? Or, it is unbiblical for you to attack a well known pastor or a famous evangelist? What about these healings and people being raised from the dead? Didn't Jesus say we could do what He did? Are you saying that "signs and wonders" do not follow the preaching of the gospel?

Or, there is another common argument. Why would anyone be so bold to speak out against a revival? Are you more interested in eschatology than knowing the truth? Another one of my critics actually said, "No wonder you suffer so much hardship and your son was killed in an accident - you are guilty of blaspheming the Holy Ghost."

Yes, I have heard all these questions, comments and accusations. People write or call me every day. One brother told me, "The whole world is coming to Jesus whether you believe it or not. If you don't stop what you are doing, I am predicting God will take you out."

I take these claims seriously, of course. Who would want to blaspheme God? Who would want to be personally responsible for holding back a genuine revival? This is a serious matter. If my critics are right, I am wrong and a tool of the devil as they say. As well, I know that hell is a real place. I don't want to go there, nor anyone else that I know.

Nigeria's Miracle

If you have not heard about "Nigeria's Miracle," you will. Christians all over the world are talking about one of the most amazing "revivals" in history. People are gathering in the name of Christ by the hundreds of thousands. "Signs and wonders are following the preaching of the simple gospel," many say. Could this be the great revival the "New Wine Movement" has been predicting? Or is there a possibility the world is being prepared for a final grand delusion mentioned in the Bible?
3

An article "Come and Receive Your Miracle" from Christianity Today, February 5, 2001, provides interesting insight into the "revival" in Nigeria. The leading paragraph states: "German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke's mass healings and evangelistic crusades are setting records, but career missionaries say the quality of disciples, not the quantity of the crowd, is the key to reaching Nigerians."
4 While it is apparent that "miracle meetings" draw large crowds, not everyone who believes in miracles is impressed with Reinhard Bonnke's style.

Bonnke's meetings are often attended by over 500,000. On one occasion he shouted: "Jesus is the Savior of Nigeria. All of Nigeria is going to heaven."
5

While the massive crowds are a strong indication that many are being attracted to the meetings, how many in attendance understand the message of the gospel? Are the masses being led to Jesus as Savior, or are they being attracted to the miracles that are associated with His name?

Although Bonnke may be sincere in his objective to see all Nigerians saved, there is a possibility that he may be deceived. He claims that when he was a young missionary in Lesotho, South Africa, the Holy Spirit gave him a vision. According to Bonnke, he saw the entire African continent washed in the blood of Jesus.
6

Charisma, May 2002, also helps us to further understand the nature of the Nigerian revival. While it is true massive meetings are being held with hundreds of thousands in attendance, the style of leadership needs to be tested. According to an article titled "Nigeria's Miracle," observers say that God is raising up an army to evangelize a continent.
7

This idea of an army being raised up is not new. In 1948 the Latter Rain Movement founded in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, called for an army of empowered believers. Often called Joel's Army, a prediction was made that the whole world would be Christianized by these mighty self-appointed soldiers of God. While the army went underground for a while, it's now back in full force.

Even Charisma attempts to add a word of warning. One statement reads: "While Nigeria's churches are growing, many of them are preaching an imported message that focuses on money. They borrowed it from the United States."
8  A further comment confirms there is a genuine concern: "There is no question that Nigeria has been fertile ground for the American faith message. Kenneth Haggin Sr.'s teachings on healing and prosperity have enjoyed wide circulation in Nigeria since the 1970's, partly through the influence of Nigerian magachurch leader Benson Idahosa. Kenneth Copeland, Jerry Savelle, John Avanzini and many other preachers who specialize in the prosperity message have huge followings in the African country. " 9

While supporters of the Signs and Wonders movement in Nigeria claim God is at work, there are others who are suspicious of the "revival" saying that it may be tainted with error. Many pastors, they say, "have adopted an American model of celebrity Christianity - which has been eagerly embraced by a patriarchal African culture that struggles with hero worship. People follow their leaders rather than God."
10  One spokesperson has stated: "I know of churches where they will not pray for you at the altar unless you give money first. They teach that you must give seed money first in order to receive any kind of blessing." 11

When I read the Charisma article about the great "Nigerian Miracle," it was about one week after I had visited Fort Worth Texas. On the way to my Sunday morning speaking engagement, we drove past a massive church called The Church of John Avanzini. Although it was a huge complex there were only a few cars in the parking lot. When I asked how many attended services on a Sunday morning I found out there were only a few. "They actually meet in a classroom and not the sanctuary," I was told.

Perhaps in the future, the "signs and wonders" that are happening in Nigeria will be exported back to the USA. In order for Latter Rain prophecies to be fulfilled, this definitely would have to happen. For now, I believe it would be beneficial to check out current trends with the Bible.

A Biblical Response

Many are saying that a global manifestation of "signs and wonders" will be essential for the spreading of the gospel on a worldwide scale. Over the past several decades, experience-based Christians have been promoting a style of evangelism that requires "Christian unity" as the prerequisite. Unity in the name of Christ, they say, produces miracles that are attributed to Christ. This method, better known as "power evangelism," is built upon the premise that "signs and wonders" bring about conversions to Christ necessary to usher in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

However, a careful study of the Bible indicates that before Jesus returns to earth there will be a time when people should be cautious about signs and wonders. Jesus said the signs and wonders at this time would be of the deceptive variety.
12   Paul also warned about such supernatural phenomena as part of a grand delusion that would deceive many and prepare the way for the antichrist. 13

Jesus also proclaimed a warning about a faith primarily focused on the miraculous. He said many would be deceived and spend eternity in hell. Even though they had experienced supernatural phenomenon in His name, they had never understood the simple gospel. 
14

On another occasion Jesus warned about the dangers of seeking after signs and wonders. He said: "Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation."
15  Later in the same chapter Jesus made it clear to His followers that they should understand the true reason for following Him. He declared: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; and whoever loses his life shall for My sake and the gospel's sake shall save it." 16

It is obvious that Jesus placed a high propriety on the importance of understanding the gospel. He did not seem to promote the idea that people should seek Him for signs and wonders alone. So what is more important - to be healed, then later die and go to hell, or to understand the gospel and live forever?

One final example from the scriptures confirms that Jesus was not supportive of people following Him for the sake of miracles. Although Jesus is the God of true miracles, and it is true that signs and miracles follow the preaching of the gospel, people must not follow miracles for the sake of following miracles. They must understand the gospel. If they do not, there is great potential for deception in Christ's name. In Luke 3: 23-25 we read: "Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, beholding in His signs which He was doing. But Jesus on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man."

It would seem to me, based upon what Jesus has said and His actions as recorded in the Bible, that signs and wonders are secondary to the preaching of the true gospel. Should we not pay attention to what Jesus has said and done?

With regard to the signs and wonders that are supposedly behind the great "Nigerian Miracle" - how can we know for sure if these reported miracles are genuine or counterfeit? Are the masses being saved or could this be a preview of a future delusion that will send many to hell?

Before making a judgment it would be important to check out the facts. Remember, the road to hell is wide and many are those who travel on it. While the way to heaven is a narrow way, it is possible to travel this road if you understand the gospel.

And finally, there is one thing we can know for sure. The gospel is the ticket to go to heaven, not "signs and wonders." Of course, time will tell who is right and who is wrong. Meanwhile, remember that the consequences of being wrong are very serious. Eternity is a long time to spend in hell and there are no second chances to escape.

1. Romans 16: 17
2. Ibid.
3. 2 Thessalonians 2
4. Corrie Cutrer and Obed Minchakpu, "Come and Receive Your Miracle," Christianity Today, February 5, 2001, volume 45, No. 2, page 40
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. J. Lee. Grady, Christianity Today, May 2002, "Nigeria's Miracle," page 38
8. Ibid. p. 42
9. Ibid. p. 43
10. Ibid. p. 50
11. Ibid. p.
12. Matthew 24:24
13. 2 Thessalonians 2: 9
14: Matthew 7: 21-23
15. Mark 8:12
16. Mark 8: 24


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“New Wine and the Babylonian Vine: Last Days Delusion in the Name of Christ”
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TOP 5 MOST MISUSED VERSES OF THE BIBLE

Here is a good article from ChurchLeaders.com .  It is important that we grow in our use of "pet" scriptures.  I agree that these are most often used wrongly. PLEASE feel free to comment.
______________________________
 
Top 5 Most Misused Verses in the Bible
The Bible is a sharp, double-edged sword — able to pierce the heart. However, when portions of the Bible are used in the wrong context, it’s like trying to fight with the butt of the weapon instead of the blade. It’s just not effective.
Over my years in ministry and as an ongoing student of the Bible, I’ve come across many biblical misquotes, misunderstandings and flat-out misuses.
However, if I’m honest, many of these have come from my own lips. I confess: I’ve been guilty of abusing passages, ignoring context and, even at times, stretching the meaning for my own teaching needs, but I’m seeking to reform my loose ways in favor of something much more beneficial — the original interpretation.
Here are the top five Scriptures, in my opinion, that get misused in the church today — with a brief description of the original context.
I invite you to comment on each one or to provide additional passages you think should appear in the top five. Also, just to be clear, I don't think referencing these passages in a slighlty different context is a biblical felony — if it was, I'd probably be doing hard time — but it's always good to know the heart of the original meaning. 
1. I Can Do All Things.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. — Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
This short verse is often quoted by sports teams, bumper stickers and taglines as a rally cry to accomplish great things like running a marathon, climbing a mountain, winning the championship, finishing the remodel on the kitchen, etc.
However, this short — and powerful — passage gets its meaning amidst the context of contentment. Paul is writing this letter to the church in Philippi to let them know that God has taught him to be content in times of plenty and in times of desperation (he’s writing this letter in prison).
So, in its proper meaning, this verse is a tribute to a man who learned to follow God in any circumstance. Whatever came Paul's way, he handled with faith. It could be stoning, prison, shipwreck, beatings, etc. This passage is not a clarion call to go out and accomplish great feats of strength, but a beautiful reminder to pursue faith and trust God in the midst of the ups and downs of a life given fully to the cause of Christ.
So, if you get put in prison for preaching Christ, beaten, and learn to live with little food or possessions, and you find yourself content because you have Christ, well, this verse should definitely be quoted.
2. Plans to Prosper.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." — Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
This verse is often quoted during a trial to encourage or inspire — pointing us to the promise that God has specific plans to help us prosper so don’t worry!
However, in context, this verse is dealing with a particular promise given to Israel from God; the promise points to the end of their Babylonian exile in specific terms — 70 years (verse 10). So, the word prosper doesn't refer to money or material blessings, but physical and spiritual salvation.
But, someone might say, God still wants us to prosper, right? Well, in terms of salvation, yes. In fact, this passage is a great reminder of the fulfilled prophecy and the perfect Word of God. This is an amazing story that points us to a greater release and redemption for all of God’s people.
So, taking away our specific, individually focused application doesn’t subtract the awesomeness from this passage. In fact, it enhances it and reminds us of the collective salvation of God’s people in history and in the future, still to come.
3. Where Two or Three Are Gathered.
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” — Matthew 18:20 (NIV) 
This verse is often used as an encouragement that God is with us in tough circumstances — all we need are two to three people in a prayer group and we’re set. In fact, you don’t even have to say the full verse, just start it out: “Where two or three are gathered … ” and other church members will shake their heads in agreement.
However, this passage really deals with building a testimony in the context of church discipline. A proper, and reliable, testimony was extremely critical in the Jewish context. This passage was an encouragement to the church leaders during difficult times of confrontation and church discipline — that God would be present with the witnesses as they sought to make matters right and restore a fallen member.
So, it’s pretty safe to say that unless you’re in the midst of church discipline, you’re taking this verse out of its original context.
Is God still with us when two or three are gathered? Yes, of course. He's also with us when it's just one or one thousand.
4. All Things Work for Good.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28 (NIV)
This passage is often used to encourage another believer who’s going through a tough time — reminding them that it will eventually work out for something good in their life. In other words, don’t worry about getting fired — God has something better in store for you … all things work out for good, remember?
There are two major issues in this passage to deal with to keep it in context.
First, the passage deals with those who love him. That’s an important distinction. It’s not for everyone, but specifically for believers.
Second, the “good” that’s described in context is our ultimate conformity to Christ, not our comfort. So, the good here leads us to sanctification and our ultimate glorification and not the turnaround of our circumstances from bad to good. Things might get better after the job loss, they might not. Ultimately, we have redemption to hope for — and that's the ultimate good. 
5. Where There’s No Vision.
Where there is no vision the people perish, but happy is he who keeps the law. — Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) 
Your church will not perish without a vision statement. I think vision statements are fantastic — and helpful, but this passage isn’t a divine reminder for pastors to build a better brand direction.
This verse is often used to remind leaders that if they don’t have a compelling vision, and dream big, their people will be lost. The key word in this passage, “vision,” is actually the word revelation and it points to the Word of God or the revelation of God.
In other words, a more accurate interpretation could be: Where there is no revealed Word of God the people perish, but happy is he who obeys God’s Word.
This verse is a great picture of what happened in Nehemiah. The people rediscovered the Word of God and read it for everyone to hear and understand. The result: revival. It had nothing to do with Nehemiah’s catchy core values or the Venn diagram of his mission statement — it was the Word of God that brought life to the people.
So, this passage isn’t necessarily apropo for the building project or the five-year plan for your life center, but it is a fitting reminder that God’s Word gives us life — especially when we obey it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

THE REVIVED OTTOMAN EMPIRE

This Week’s Feature Article by Jack Kelley
The Ottoman Empire existed from 1299 until 1922. It was in many respects the Islamic successor to the Eastern leg of the Roman Empire and like the Roman Empire it had its headquarters in Constantinople (Istanbul). At the peak of its power and influence, the Ottoman Empire extended from the Adriatic Sea in the west to the Caspian Sea in the east and from Austro-Hungary in the north to the southern tip of the Red Sea. It was at the center of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for 6 centuries. The Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War 1, having aligned itself with Germany. Its dissolution at the end of the war led to the formation of 40 new nations in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa, many of them on land once claimed by the Romans.

Suleiman The Magnificent

The Empire’s greatest days occurred under the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent who reigned from 1520-1566. Only 25 years old when he came to power, Suleiman began his reign by performing many acts of kindness and mercy toward his people. He freed hundreds of slaves, showered his officers with gifts, and built a school for slaves. To the Ottomans he was known as The Lawgiver, having re-written the non-Shariah portions of the law. This was the law by which the Ottoman Empire was governed for all of the remaining years of its existence. Because of the humanitarian nature of his laws he was also called Suleiman the Just by his subjects.
Suleiman was a powerful conqueror for Islam. His armies pushed the boundaries of the Empire nearly to Vienna and his powerful navies controlled the Mediterranean. Because of the tribute he received Suleiman became one of the wealthiest men of all time. He never wore the same clothes twice, he ate from solid gold plates with jewel encrusted utensils and had a harem of over 300 women.
The Ottomans were tolerant toward the Jews and welcomed thousands of them into the Empire after King Ferdinand expelled them from Spain in 1492. Suleiman’s father had wrested control of what is now Israel from Egypt in 1517 and Suleiman fell in love with Jerusalem, ordering its walls rebuilt in 1535. It was the first successful rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls since the Romans destroyed the city in 70 AD and Suleiman’s walls can still be seen surrounding the Old City today.
According to Nehemiah, the Persian King Artaxerxes Longimonus issued a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem following the Babylonian destruction. He did this in the spring of the 20th year of his reign (Nehemiah 2:1). On our calendar it would have been March of 445BC. On the 483rd anniversary of this decree Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on what we know as the first Palm Sunday, fulfilling the prophecy from Daniel 9:25 of the Lord’s 1st Coming as Israel’s Messiah. Then in 68-70 AD the city was destroyed by the Romans.  After centuries of being rebuilt and then torn down by various conquering groups, the walls around Jerusalem were finally rebuilt for good by Suleiman beginning in 1535 AD, and during his reign the city enjoyed an exceptional period of peace and religious tolerance.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Turkey is the surviving remnant of the Ottoman Empire. Following their defeat in WW1 the Empire was divided up by the victorious Western powers. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had been a high ranking Ottoman officer and led the effort to found the Republic of Turkey. He set about to make it a secular nation in the style of western democracies. While endorsing Islam, he limited it to the status of a religion instead of allowing it to be the political force it had been. He saw to the suspension of the Ottoman Caliphate and Sultanate, clearing the way for the newly formed National Parliament to assume ultimate power. Among the many changes he enforced were the institution of a new language and alphabet, the adoption of western style of dress and mandatory 2nd names for men, and the granting of full political rights to women.
Until recently, Turkey has been viewed as a western nation. With membership in NATO and more than a dozen military and commercial treaties with Israel, Turkey has been an important western ally in the Middle East. In fact, many students of prophecy have seen Turkey’s alignment with the west as a major obstacle to an early fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39. It appears from a study of the modern equivalents to the Biblical names mentioned there that Turkey has to be among the Islamic forces that will invade Israel in the future.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Lately there’s been a major shift in Turkish politics in what could be a dramatic step toward the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38. After stalling for years, the EU has put Turkey’s application for membership on the back burner and as of now a majority of EU ministers oppose Turkey’s admission to the Union.
Perhaps as a result of this Turkey has begun to look to the East, and current Prime Minister Erdogan is fast becoming a regional Muslim leader by criticizing Israel—particularly after the Gaza war. His clout is spreading from the streets of Gaza to Beirut, Damascus, and Cairo—the traditional strongholds of Arab nationalism.
PM Erdogan is by far the country’s most popular political leader enjoying wide support among the Turkish people, due in part to his frequent criticism of Israel. He’s become convinced that instead of relying on outside powers to bring peace to the Middle East the Ottoman Empire should be re-born to take the lead. He’s been quoted as saying, “Turkey’s goal is to live in peace with all countries and restore the might of the Ottoman Empire.”
In this regard, a recent article by historian Robert E. Kaplan entitled ,”The US Helps Reconstruct The Ottoman Empire” has been getting some attention.  Dr. Kaplan’s specialty is modern Europe and he received his doctorate from Cornell University.  His article was published by the Gatestone Institute, “an international organization dedicated to educating the public about what the mainstream media fails to report.”
In the article Dr. Kaplan shows that with the exception of Iraq, the ultimate outcome of each American military intervention in Europe and the Middle East since the mid 1990′s has been the replacement of a secular government with an Islamist regime in an area that was formerly part of the Ottoman Empire. Providing detailed documentation, Dr. Kaplan wrote the article more to raise awareness of what he sees as US strategy in the region rather than to draw any conclusions.
It turns out that there are three primary beneficiaries of a revived Ottoman empire.  Turkey is an obvious one because Turkey is the surviving remnant of the original empire and is the logical choice to head up a revived version.  Germany is another beneficiary.  Germany had a close and beneficial relationship with the Ottomans in the years leading up to WW1 and is working behind the scenes with the US in the hope of regaining its influence in the Muslim world.  And the US benefits because like Turkey the New Ottoman Empire would be primarily composed of the Sunni sect of Islam.  Helping the Sunnis get control of the Middle East would further marginalize Shiite Iran, something the US sees as being strategically important.
If this is what’s really going on, it could help to explain Pres. Obama’s efforts to reconcile with the Islamic world,  why he included Turkey in his first overseas tour upon taking office, and why he seemed to be so obviously on the side of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in their efforts to unseat Hosni Mubarak’s secular government in Egypt.  It would also help to explain Turkey’s decision to build a $100 million mosque/cultural center in Lanham, Maryland,  about 30 minutes by car from the White House.  It is expected to “be the largest and most striking example of Islamic architecture in the western hemisphere” when it is finished in 2014.

The Man With No Name (Yet)

A Revived Ottoman Empire would send students of prophecy scurrying back into their Bibles to see if the re-birth of the Ottoman Empire could fulfill the prophecy of the so-called revived Roman Empire. There are already some who believe the 7th Kingdom ofRev. 17:10 is the Ottoman Empire, and they point out that Constantinople is also a city on seven hills. If so, its Islamic heritage would confirm the identity of the one world End Times religion as Islam.  It would also support the idea that the end times Islamic leader called al-Mahdi could be the anti-Christ.
As details of Islamic eschatology become more widely known, prophecy students are discovering a striking similarity between Islamic prophecies of al Mahdi and Christian prophecies of the anti-Christ. I’ve made mention of these in several previous articles, how both come on the scene during a time of great turmoil on Earth, both come claiming a desire to restore peace, both have a seven year reign, both head a one world religion and one world government, both claim supernatural origins, and both reigns end in a battle between good and evil that brings Earth’s final judgment. Could they be one and the same? The legend surrounding al-Mahdi as being in occlusion (supernaturally hidden) since the 10th century could make him the 8th king who belongs to the seven, just like Rev. 17:11 says.
As you can see we might have an interesting circumstantial case here for a revived Ottoman Empire. It’s not something to build doctrine on just yet, but it certainly bears watching. One nice thing about our times is we won’t have long to wait before we find out how these prophecies are fulfilled. You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah. 06-01-13

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