Saturday, December 7, 2013

book review—The Path (Fire on the Mountain) by Rick Joyner

massive self-aggrandizing

For a while, I had thought to call this review “disney theology”, because of lines like this, “The familiar things you are looking for to give you bearings are not the same, and you are not the same. Therefore, your guidance must come from your heart, your spirit.” (Kindle Locations 156-157); “After a few minutes, Mary walked up to Elijah and looking him directly in the eyes asked, “Are you the real Elijah?” “What does your heart tell you?” he replied. After a minute, Mary answered with less boldness, “You really are Elijah. I’m sorry, but it’s just hard to believe that we would be so special to have you come to help us.” (Kindle Locations 1076-1080). We needs to get guidance from our hearts? This girl's heart tells us this guy is the real Elijah? That is one of the main problems with this book—subjective standards like feelings and “your heart” are set up as our guides, and the objective standard of what the Bible says is at best secondary.

But after a while, another bit of something started to become more obvious—the way the book boosts the egos of certain people with rhetoric like this, “ “Every one of these is a messenger. They are being prepared to shake cities and nations with the power of the message they will be given. In time, they will capture the attention of the entire earth, and everyone on earth will marvel at them. These will be ‘the mighty ones’ that Enoch prophesied would come. They are alive now, and they are starting to find this path,” Elijah concluded, and walked away.” (Kindle Locations 1725-1728). “He (Elijah) stopped , hesitated for a moment, and then turned and said, “I have never seen so many in one group who are called to be the mighty ones that Enoch talks about. Every one of these is called to walk in more power than I did. Obviously the time is now close.”” (Kindle Locations 844-846).

One thing statements like those brings up is, where does Enoch say anything about these “mighty ones”? The Bible says precious little about Enoch, and gives only one prophecy of his, mentioned in Jude. It is about Christ returning with His saints, which seems to be supported by Revelation 19. Joyner, though, spins this differently, “You are a forerunner of the forerunners. You are to help prepare those who will prepare the way for the King.” (Kindle Locations 269-270). This notion of preparing the way for the Lord is made much of in the book, which combined with his rhetoric about how great these coming “mighty ones” will be, leads to one conclusion—Joyner is teaching dominionism. It goes by a few different names—Joel's Army, Manifest Sons of God, Elijah Company, Seven Mountains, et al—but the notion is that the church has to essentially take over the world before Jesus will return.

Now, that's questionable and important, but I came to think that the main message is something else—that this is self-aggrandizing for Joyner. Look at what happens in the book. Joyner has the prophet Elijah hanging around him and his group, approving of everything Joyner is teaching them. Joyner has a group of people following him about, hanging on every word he says, some asking questions but none really challenge anything he's teaching them, and they constantly heap praise on him and what he's teaching. Enoch gives him a staff made from wood from the Tree of Life itself, which is suppose to represent some kind of authority Joyner now has. This is self-aggrandizing on a pretty large scale..

There are also reasons to be concerned about the nature of this story, if Joyner is claiming it's some kind of prophetic vision.

For example, early on Elijah tells him, ““You must also have the living water. You must never let it out of your sight again. You must drink from it as soon as you begin to thirst.” (Kindle Locations 164-165). This living water is usually found in a stream close to the path they are suppose to take. But later, when they start going uphill, this stream disappears from sight. Enoch tells him, “You must always stay close to the living waters, and they are always flowing, but here they are not on the surface. As you go into higher places like this you will often have to dig for the living water. The higher you go the deeper you may have to dig for them, but they will be near you. They will always be close to the path you are to walk,” (Kindle Locations 2489-2491). So, there's a contradiction—Joyner is not to let the water from his sight, but it's underground so he can't see it. These two things contradict each other.

Another has to do with the staff Enoch gave to him. The group's prophetic kid says this to Joyner, “You think your rod is new and freshly cut, but it is much older than you can imagine. It seems like it is new and fresh because of the life that is in it, and life will stay in it as long as you walk with God and do not depart from His path. This was cut from the Tree of Life before the world was formed, and it was sized just for you at that time.” (Kindle Locations 2629-2631), but a moment later he tells him in private, “Your rod was a bud that was given to you when you were very young in the Lord,” (Kindle Locations 2662-2663). Those two statements contradict each other.

One of the big problems, then, is how we are to understand what this book is? If it is simply an allegory, then such contradictions could be noted as maybe being some clumsiness on the author's part, but not serious problems. But if Joyner claims that this book is a record of a prophetic vision, things like he's claimed to have written before, then we have serious problems, 'cause such contradictions would not exist in a godly prophetic vision.

Honestly, this book is very disappointing, and doesn't even succeed at being interesting reading. It's like Joyner just mailed it in. There's not much new here, and reading obviously stilted conversations gets very dull very quickly. Despite an occasional good nugget, overall the last thing the reader should do is act like the people in the group, who just take whatever Joyner says without discernment. If you do read this book, do it as the Bereans in Acts, looking to the Bible to see if what this book is saying is what is taught in the Bible.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

death does not whitewash

Christian Leaders Mourn Loss, Honor Memory of Paul Crouch

I left a comment there earlier, but it is now gone. My comment was something along the lines that, while I give condolences to this man's family and those close to him for his passing, and hope that he found grace and repentance, the truth is Paul Crouch taught and spread the worst of the worst in modern heresies, bad theologies, and aberrant practices, and his life and 'ministry' are not thing to hold up as examples.

Although Charisma has, for some reason, seen fit to remove such a comment, that doesn't take away from the truth in it. Simply because someone has died does not mean that we can or should whitewash their lives. There may be a place for grieving with those who are grieving in this situation, but spreading fictions is only giving false hope.

There is little in the memory of Paul Crouch that deserves honor. How many people have been and still are hell-bound because they believed the false gospels spread by the false teachers on his station? How many people have lost their money because they gave it to some TBN teacher who promised them 10-fold or 100-fold from God if they gave until it hurts? How many thought they were going to be healed if they did whatever some TBN fake healer told them to do?

No, grieve for him and those close to him, but Paul Crouch was no hero. The main thing to gain from his life is what NOT to do, what NOT to teach. Perhaps the main thing one could mourn is that one who had such potential influence wasted it on robbing widows to fatten his own accounts, living in luxury while begging from the poor for even more.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

book review—The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism by Michael Beasley

a good answer to this very questionable teaching

A few years ago, there was a TV program called “Flash Forward”. The basic premise was that an event happened in which people all over the world had brief glimpse of what they would be doing at a particular time in the future. When the time they saw finally came, the events unfolded but with certain differences in details for many of the ones the show focused on. Some details are as they had seen, but others were different.

There is a certain parallel between what happened in that show and what some teach concerning prophecy today. There are those who teach that modern-day prophets, assuming there are any, are not required to live up to the biblical requirements that what they prophecy be 100% accurate, that they can make mistakes and will make mistakes in their prophecies, and that these mistakes do not mean they are no real prophets. Prophets today could be as inaccurate as the characters in that show, and not only will they be defended, but those who point out their false prophecies and try to hold them accountable are the ones who are derided.

This book responds to this teaching about fallible prophecy, and I think does so very well. I especially found what he said concerning how Agabus is used to defend the idea of fallible prophecy, and how he defends Agabus as a man who prophesied truly, to be of interest.

Though in the title he addressed how this idea of fallible prophets is being spread in what is called New Calvinism, this idea is no less popular in more normal charismatic circles, and this book should also serve to address this bad teaching among them, too.

I can recommend this book very highly. It would be good for this idea of fallible prophecy to finally be put on the theological junk heap, because it has already caused enough damage, and is plainly without any biblical support. If there are prophets today, they should not try to scamper from under the weight of the biblical requirement that they be accurate in what they prophesy. Prophecy is serious business, it is no light thing to claim to be speaking what God has directly told you to say, and it should not be done frivolously, as far too many modern-day prophets seem to do.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

movie review—The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The art and skill of storytelling is a strange and mysterious one. A few months ago, I was watching some episodes of a certain series which proved to be very effective and very moving. Give that same kind of material to many other directors, producers, and/or writers, and they would likely have made it so sappy and over-emotional and cheesy that it would have been almost unwatchable.

Catching Fire could be considered on the good side of that storytelling equation. At times very moving, almost always well done as a movie, there is little that I would complain about in the movie.

Given the nature of the movie, there are ways in which it resembles the first movie, but in ways that makes it seem very different from the first. There are many of the same kinds of scenes, but with a twist that gives it a different look and even meaning, such as the talk show scene or the chariot ride.

The two big differences from the first are at the beginning, with the added element of the Victor's Tour, and the twist at the end. The tension is ratcheted up, as the unrest shown a few times in the first movie becomes even greater, and overall the movie is very intense.

I remember only one scene that had any serious language in it, and those words were bleeped out. There was one bizarre scene in an elevator, though little is shown. Of course, given the nature of the game, there is also the callous way lives are tossed aside, but that's one of the things the movie is about and even against. There is plenty of action and violence, disturbing scenes with poisonous fog and killer monkeys, and lots of backroom scheming.

If you watch it, be ready for a pretty intense ride. It's not a short movie, but it rarely drags. I can recommend it pretty highly.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

book review--Strange Fire by John MacArthur

a devastating series of sledgehammer blows

This book has certainly stirred up no small amount of controversy in some circles, and I suppose with good reason. Frankly, though, a lot of the controversy seems either ill-informed or ill-adviced.

MacArthur does a very good job of showing how far too much in charismatic churches is going some very disturbing places. Prophets who are free to prophecy falsely and not be accountable for it? Speaking gobblety-gook and claiming it's tongues? Claiming apostles are still around today? All the fake healers putting on shows and leaving the truly sick people out in the cold? And much of this stuff has been going on for over 100 years? MacArthur rightly calls out those who practice and promote those things, and shows from Scripture just how off those ideas are, and then shows what the Scripture tells us how the Spirit works.

Reading parts of this book is liking seeing one sledgehammer blow after another—showing how supposedly spirit-filled ministers fall into immorality again and again, how they couldn't prophecy their way out of a paper bag, how they will do almost anything for money, how they hide the fact that they don't really heal much of anyone who is really sick, how they put more emphasis on the things they feel inside themselves than in what Scripture says. If charismatic churches were to really take these things to heart, this book would signal the end of the too-popular TV charlatans and fake healers and false prophets who have shamed the church for far too long.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

book review—Manifesto for a Normal Christian Life by Bill Johnson

vain imaginations

In regards to the book itself, a good portion of it could have been left out, as it consists simply in Johnson repeating himself, even to the point of repeating the same stories. Even knowing that these are transcripts of speeches Johnson gave, one would assume that the editors would have done some work at avoiding such needless repetitions.

Concerning the contents, well, it's basically typical Bill Johnson—a bunch of made-up ideas he claims to have gotten from out-of-context Bible verses, which don't say what he says they say, all with the intent of boosting the egos of the people listening.

It could be said that Johnson's problems begin with how he says he reads the Bible. “It has not been given to us to try to assign the scriptures to particular seasons...The Bible is filled with rich promises. It is theologically irresponsible to take the great promises of scripture and ascribe them to a period of time for which I have no responsibility.” (Kindle Locations 361-363). This seems to be saying that the context of the biblical passage, who is being addressed and the context of the statement, are not important to Johnson. “If I could encourage you to do anything in your life it would be that, any time you have a problem, get into the Book and read until he speaks to you.” (Kindle Locations 837-838).

There is a way of reading the Bible that I've seen compared to the Magic 8-Ball toy, where you basically read until something “jumps out at you”. This is not a valid way of reading the Bible, and this seems to be something like what Johnson is recommending.

This reckless use of Scripture is evident through the book, when he bothers to use Scripture at all to support his ideas. “In Matthew 10: 8 we have this commission, one of the commissions that Jesus gave his disciples: ‘heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.’” (Kindle Locations 155-156), and he tried to make it seem like this is something we should do today, without regard to either whom Jesus was speaking to, nor even all the instructions Jesus gave here. For example, Johnson doesn't touch on Jesus' command in verse 5 for the disciples to not go to the Gentiles or Samaritans, nor verses 9 and 10 where they are told to not acquire gold or silver for their journey, nor take a bag with them, nor an extra change of clothes or shoes.

“What was it about the shadow of Peter that could heal people? There is no substance to a shadow. Your shadow will always release whatever overshadows you, whatever you live conscious of, whatever you carry.” (Kindle Locations 175-176). The account of people trying to get Peter's shadow to fall on them is found in Acts 5:12-16, and you will not find any mention of a teaching like “ Your shadow will always release whatever overshadows you” in that passage. Johnson is simply making that up. Regarding the account in Mark 4 were Jesus slept during a storm at sea, he says “Do you know why he could sleep in a storm? Because the realm he was dwelling in has no storms.” (Kindle Location 1081). He even gives the passage in his book, and you will not find any such statement in the passage, nor anything like that even hinted at. Johnson is simply making that up. Again concerning that same passage, he writes, “You have authority over any storm you can sleep in.” (Kindle Location 1095). Jesus doesn't even come close to saying that, Johnson has to twist and change Jesus' words to make it seem like He's saying that to the disciples.

Of course, he doesn't limit his ideas to things he claims to have found in the Bible. “People ask me often about a lifestyle of miracles. How do you come into a lifestyle of miracles?... But I found out something. You need to take time to get alone with God, to get in a secret place with God and cry out to him.” (Kindle Locations 680-685). He offers not biblical support for such a claim, and the Bible does not teach this. “Nothing happens in the Kingdom until first there is a declaration. Everything hinges upon the simple faith of people who will make decrees.” (Kindle Locations 880-881). Johnson offers no biblical support for this statement, because the Bible doesn't teach that. This if Word of Faith heresy. “He always manifests himself opposite to his surroundings. He manifests himself opposite to the spirit of the day that has captured the affections and the attentions of a generation. Because he has a better way. He has a better solution. That means that when you live at a time when people are going broke, bankrupt, when there is financial crisis and chaos, and fear is spreading all around you, that’s the time God wants to prosper you.” (Kindle Locations 1245-1248). The Bible doesn't teach that, this is just Prosperity Gospel heresy.

This is only a small sampling of the ludicrous things Bill Johnson teaches in this book.

Where are the church leaders who hold this guy accountable, that tell him that his teachings are not biblical and that he should step down from his pulpit and actually study the Bible before he's allowed to speak before anyone again? It is a testimony to the sad state of the church today that Bill Johnson is considered a successful minister, when he has no idea how to properly handle the Word of God.

For better, far more biblical teachings, I would recommend The World-Tilting Gospel  by Dan Phillips.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

i don't believe in social justice

This is a re-post, with a few corrections.

Why aren't more Christians involved in social justice? Are we callous and uncaring? We don't think so. We can both learn and do

Ken and Deborah Loyd, in the book An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, p. 272

First, there is the question "What is social justice?" That's probably one of the concepts emergents and others who use it aren't likely to define very well. If you look back a few months, you'll see where in Tony Jones' book "The New Christians", he relates how in one emergent church a woman was wearing a t-shirt saying she was a straight woman for gay rights because her Bible teaches social justice.

Journey doesn't have an "official statement" about homosexuality, but there's obviously enough freedom in the community for Courtney to wear her beliefs on her shirt.

Courtney's shirt.
Straight Chrisitians for Gay Rights
(My Bible Teaches Social Justice)

Tony Jones, The New Christians, pp. 198, 197

Perhaps we aren't involved in social justice, because we can see through the rhetoric of social justice, and know what it is--a thin veil behind which leftist policies and politics are pushed.

Social justice seems to be about the legalizing of sexual immorality. It's also seems to be about the enforced silence of those who teach the Bible's stand on such immorality.

Social justice seems to be about punishing some crimes more than others because of perceived "hate" involved, even when unproven (one may almost say 'especially when unproven').

Social justice seems to be about the redistribution of wealth through socialistic economical policies.

Social justice seems to be about scaring people into being "green", despite the evidence against any such thing as global warming.

Social justice seems to be about going into histrionics over deaths in war, while either downplaying over even supporting the many more who die in abortion.

I do not believe in social justice. I do, however, believe in justice. And I believe in compassion.

I do not believe that practicing theft through socialism will solve the plight of the poor. To borrow a quote I read in a comic book, "Communism is the equal distribution of poverty". To try to equalize the field (except for a handful of elites at the top who will find reasons to give themselves special privileges, which is one thing that happened in Soviet Russia), will only result in all being poor, and none being really helped. And there is no justice in the rhetoric of class hatred.

I do not believe that justice demands that we recognize and legitimize sexual immorality. If anything, justice and compassion demands that we call these things the sins they are.

I do not believe that justice demands that we cave in to environmental fearmongers, especially when truth of their claims is being questioned, and when there is such an obvious political agenda behind it.

In regards to how we are to care for the poor, there are things taught in the Bible that should be of help in how to properly do so.

It may be strange that Paul tells the Thessalonians to NOT help some among them who had stopped working and were only idling their time waiting for Jesus to return. He says they should get back to their work.

It may seem strange that Paul tells another church to be wary of what widows they should help and support.

It may seem strange that one can see things in Proverbs that don't seem very kind about some kinds of poor people.

It may seem strange that it's in the Bible that we find the phrase "If a man will not work, neither shall he eat".

It may seem strange that we aren't told that the Samaritan who found the guy left for dead didn't return home, find a few likeminded people, and start wandering the highways and byways looking for people left along the road, robbed or otherwise in ill fortune. He helped one man who was on his way, as he was about his own business.

I know that there are things said about helping the needy, I'm saying the issue is more complex than many emergents seem to want to accept.

They also seem to think that because Christians don't do things their way, then they aren't doing them. They likely don't recognize that there are Christians who give when they have the opportunities, whose generosity takes many forms, who do things quietly and with their eyes open

movie review—Thor: The Dark World

After a few weeks of so-so movies, it's good that things are picking up again, starting with last weekend's Ender's Game. This time, we get Thor: The Dark World, and there was much rejoicing.

This one's pretty fun, though there are some moving moments, too. Loki is less straight-forward in his shenanigans as in The Avengers, and more subtle and indirect as in the first Thor movie. The scientist lady from the first movie, who got only a brief mention in The Avengers, is back, and things between her and Thor come more to the fore here, and stay well within bounds of decency. Which is rather more than could be said about the scientist Erick from both earlier movies, who does get the scenes that were rather a bit much.

The story is solid enough. Dark elves are rather popular, but while the ones in this movie may have been rather creepy with the masks, and they did have some cool flying machines, overall I don't think they'll be quite what the movie is remembered for. The big universes-killng aether thing just didn't seem all that threatening, though it did offer opportunity for some nice visual effects. The big bad guy, Malekith, could have used a bit more development to make him more interesting.

Still, there were lots of things in it to make it worth one watching, and maybe two. The scene that got the most laughs had to do with Loki's illusion-creating abilities, you'd know it if and when you see it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

movie review—Ender's Game

frightening and recommended

It's been a slow several weeks for someone like myself, who enjoys going to see the latest releases in the cinemas. Not that I haven't seen a few, but they haven't been anything special.

One will get a bit of mention here. I went to see “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones”, and didn't come away too impressed. Basically, it was an urban fantasy, complete with vamps and werewolves and 'normal' people who were even weirder than any of those. For what it's worth, it's not one I recommend, you won't miss much if you pass on it.

But there are ways in which it relates to “Ender's Game”. Both are about a teen and a small group of roughly similarly aged people that gather around them. Both are based on books. But where CiB mostly fails at being a very scary movie, there are times that “Ender's Game” is truly terrifying.

It's not terrifying in the ways one may think. It's not the Formics, or the videos and pictures of what they had done, but it's Andrew Wiggins, the Ender of the movie, and the ways the people around him act. There are no vampires who look like vamps have looks since the Buffy series, there are no strange magical beings who seem to come out of nowhere, nor are there any goths in strange clothing acting in strange and perverse ways.

Instead, there is the moment when Ender is playing a computer game, and instead of making the choices that he knew would fail, he makes another move that, for all that it is a game, is rather disturbing, and leads to another scene involving the game that may well be even more disturbing. There are the ways in which Ender is manipulated, the ways his interactions are analyzed and evaluated by those in charge. Finally, there is the twist at the end, which if you haven't read the book may well surprise you, and which I'll not spoil here.

One of the big triumphs of the movie is the Battle Room, it is realized superbly. I can well imagine that there is already a video game in the works for it. The acting power for the movie is very good, but while I wasn't familiar with the boy who played Ender, he did do a good and subtle job of showing the various aspects of a complicated character.

For all of the effects and sci-fi elements, this is one of the more thoughtful and thought-provoking movies I've seen in a while. It succeeded at being both enjoyable and bothersome. While one may feel understanding and sympathy for Ender and those around him, there is a sense in which one can be put off by many of them and the things they do, too.

This may not be a kid's movie, but it's one that well worth seeing. I recommend it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

book review–Invading the Seven Mountains with Intercession by Tommi Femrite

prostituting prayer

A lot could be said about this book, little if any of it good.

It’s basically unbiblical. The author constantly makes claims that have no biblical support. "The kingdom of God encompasses all Seven Mountains. That means God already has a strategy for each mountain in every culture around the world." (p. 14). She gives no place where this is said in the Bible. "Our prayers have the power to stir up the heavens and create an atmosphere in which the Holy Spirit has complete freedom to move in power." Whatever. Unless she can show where that is taught in the Bible, which she doesn’t, I’m not going to buy into it. "The truth is, apostolic intercessors are the ones who open the pathway between heaven and earth. Our value as apostolic intercessors is far greater than we can ever imagine." (p. 83). For one thing, you’ll find nothing in the Bible about "apostolic intercessors"; for another, this notion that any human opens a pathway between heaven and earth is, at best, borderline blasphemy. Only One has opened the way to God, Jesus Christ.

It’s more than a little loopy. "Simply put, whoever ascends to the top of the mountain conquers— and therefore rules—the mountain." (p. 11). Really? I would guess that the last person who would claim to rule Mr. Everest would be one who has scaled it and lived to tell about it. "...God is waiting for us to apply His divine strategy in every area of every society on the face of this earth. And He knows we can bring about His victorious kingdom!" (p. 14). We bring about God’s kingdom? Huh??? God believes in us? Wow, ego-boosting much? Playing to pride? A bit high on yourself? "As Psalm 103:20 indicates, angels are assigned to "perform His word, obeying the voice of His word." Because we are God’s voice on earth, then, we have the power to initiate heavenly activity." (p. 98). Psalm 103:20 has nothing to do with us being able to order around angels, and that sure isn’t taught anywhere else in the Bible.

The claims of this book are rather...questionable. One thing you have to understand is that people connected with the NAR, like this author is, are not the most trustworthy, and that has been shown over and over. Faith healers may claim to have healed untold thousands of people, until someone actually investigates those claims and learns that, in reality, no one was really healed. So, when this author claims that your business will do better if you get their people to pray for you, well, there is a phrase I’ve heard a few times, "Rely but verify", which would be wise advice. Or better yet, verify first, and then still don’t rely, because this author’s teachings and organization are not biblical at all.

Finally, there is simply the reality that this book is little more than an extended infomercial for her organization, that essentially sells these "intercessors" to the reader, if the reader meets the correct criteria, of course. "Despite the potential for such turnaround, many people balk at the notion of paying intercessors to pray for a business." (p. 206). Gahh–lee, I wonder why? She tries to rationalize it, but the truth is, there are things that lose something when they are put on the market. A man making love to his wife is fine, but if he pays another woman so he can make love to that other woman, that’s something else entirely. Concerning this author’s attempts to prostitute prayer, well, I’ll point you to Acts 8, where a man tried to buy powers given by the Holy Spirit, and in no uncertain terms was rebuked by Peter.

That should be enough to show that this book is rubbish, and should be avoided.

Monday, August 26, 2013

it cannot be earned

Genesis 45
Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. 4 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.

Psalm 133
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when  brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,        
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore. 
Romans 11
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew...28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

Matthew 15
21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Not everything Jesus did so easily understandable to us. Some things are recorded about Him that often leave us puzzled. This incident is one of them. Jesus comes off as being rather rude and superior to this woman who has come to Him, and apparently because she herself was not Hebrew. Even though we are told that, in the end, Jesus acknowledges her faith and her daughter is healed, it still comes off as if Jesus is suffering from a bit of high-and-mightiness.

Understandably, people have tried to explain what happened here. I remember one author saying that Jesus was engaging in a bit of a humorous exchange with this woman, that He has a humorous gleam in his eye as He talks to this woman, and she catches on to it and replies to Him with a witty comeback, which pleases Him to no end so that He laughs and tells her that what she wants is going to happen.

At the risk of being a stick-in-the-mud, there doesn't seem to be anything like that in his passage as it is recorded in Matthew. The woman, for example, seems to have been in a state of mind that wasn't open to seeing wit. Her daughter is suffering, likely very badly, and her mother desperately wants her to be healed. Engaging in witty repoire seems very much like a modern add-on, what we might expect from a movie or tv show, but not something from real life.

As such, then, I think we must take what is recorded in this gospel passage seriously. Jesus really didn't respond to her pleas as we would like to think He would, or even should. He seems to ignore her at first, and when He finally does respond to her, his words seem to be insulting.

We must be wary of saying "this is like that" when that parallel is not scripturally pointed out; however, there do seem to be some parallels between the gospel passage and the Old

There is much more to the account of Joseph finally telling his brothers who he was. He did not do so the first time he saw them after many years, but instead he tests them, and does so in ways that are pretty harsh, accusing them of being spies, putting them in jail, arranging it to look as if they have stolen something valuable. It is only after all of that that he finally tells them who he really is, in the passage above.

In many ways, Joseph is a type of Christ. Like Christ, he was rejected by his brothers. Much as Christ took on the form of a servant, Joseph was made a slave. Both are unjustly punished for crimes they did not commit. And both are deliverers. Much like how Joseph sees that God is the one who caused all those things to happen to him so that he could be a provider for his family when this time of famine came, Jesus suffered death on the cross so they He could provide eternal life to all who repent and believe in Him.

And, just as Joseph didn't exactly go ballistic hysterical when he first saw his brothers after all those years and go into a screaming giggly fit, so Jesus did not always come off as being very welcoming to people to came to him. This incident with the Canaanite woman wasn't the only time He speaks rather roughly to people, not in ways that we might consider to be appropriate to the open-armed, welcoming picture of Him that we often have. The gospels record times when people came to Him saying that they would follow Him, but instead of giving them the right hand of welcome, He says some things that could be considered rather discouraging. When the rich young ruler comes to Him, Jesus tells Him to give away all he has and then follow HIm. John 6 records a time when a crowd of people followed Jesus for free food, and Jesus begins talking about them having to eat His flesh and drink His blood, which drives them away.

It may be a reasonable conclusion, then, that Jesus' response to the woman was based on her reaction to Him, that what Jesus said was a kind of reward to her for her witty response. I'm not sure that's quite right.

Let's me refer you to a parable Jesus told, about two men in the Temple praying. One, the Pharisee, prays in a way that essentially praises himself, while the other, a tax collector, can only ask God for mercy to him a sinner.

Jesus didn't commend the woman for her wit, or anything she did. He commended her for her faith. If her words meant anything, they could be seen as being much like the words of the tax collector, that she knew she wasn't of the covenant people, but she was wanting mercy for herself and her daughter.

If we come to God thinking we have anything to offer, if we think that He is impressed when we say that we will follow Him 100%, if we think that He is waiting for us to obey His laws, or to worship Him wholeheartedly, or pray 24-7, or do any of the works that we are told by some that we need to do in order for Him to start moving and blessing, then we are mistaken, we are like the Pharisee bragging about our works of righteousness thinking that makes us acceptable to God.

There is another time that Jesus commended the faith of another. It was a Roman soldier, who admitted up front that he was not worthy of having Jesus come under his roof.

This woman had no leverage, she didn't attempt to impress with her works, she merely asked for help. It is in that way that we should come to Jesus. God is gracious, we can see that even the disciples did not always have a good attitude, when for example they wondered about what rewards they would have for leaving everything behind, or when some wanted to be seated at Jesus' right and left hands in His Kingdom, and Jesus was patient and taught them how they should be--those who would be greatest should be the servant to all.

We are invited to make our requests to God, to come boldly to His throne to receive grace to help in our times of need. But that isn't because of any works we have done, it is because of what Christ has done. Do not be afraid to make requests to God, but don't think that He is waiting for you to earn anything from Him.

Monday, August 5, 2013

book review--This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley

muddled coffeehouse theology

I received a free copy of this book from the Waterbrook Multnomah Blogging for Books review program.

If you've ever attended an open mic night at a coffee house, you've likely had a good taste of what reading this book is like--bad poetry and songs filled with angst and navel-gazing but short on real substance, muddled thinking that would die of its own cognitive dissonance if it ever actually took the time to accept the law of noncontradiction. And, sadly, the book doesn't even come with a cup of coffee, to help ease the pain of having to make sense of it.

Mostly, the message of this book is, you're ok if you do a bunch of good works. Of course, those good works have to be of their pre-approved sorts. If you're involved in left-leaning environmental whacko stuff, like the guy the author mentions named Peter, or in expensively cheap street theater, like the other guy the author mentions named Shane, well, that's a-ok. If you've supported or defended the Defense Of Marriage Act, or if you're a "wild-eyed street preacher" who's telling people to repent of their sins, well, that's of questionable value and probably not very Christ-like, in this author's opinion.

True, an occasional sound-out is given to Christ dying to forgive our sins, but that's not the main issue. No, it's about you becoming a good little social justice activist, planting trees, saving whales, making sure no off-shore drilling is going to happen, doing more and more and more, being sure to follow all the polls to make sure that what you're doing is approved by society around you, so society around you will know that you're doing only what they consider to be loving and Christ-like. Oh, and a little bit of anti-capitalism and distain for "the American dream" won't hurt, either.

Even the Gospel gets redefined, from something that God has done for us to something we do, from something we believe to something we work at. In Chapter 11, he writes briefly about a time when their church planted some trees on a hillside. 'Tim pointed around the circle at the muddy knees, sweaty brows, and scratched arms. "This is the gospel," he said.'

No, it's not. The Gospel is Christ crucified, not you slightly disheveled. The Gospel is what God has done for us, not what we do.

In my opinion, this book is more like a gateway drug than anything else, like the early Emergent stuff that wasn't all that bad, but went off the rails big-time in recent years. It's not that big of a jump from McKinley to McLaren. In fact, if the Shane the author speaks so fondly of is the Shane whose last name is Claiborne, then forget about a jump, it's already taking you to McLaren's theological ZIP code.

In other words, this books isn't worth the money you'll spend on it. There's much better stuff out there.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

book review--A Touch from Heaven by Neal and Christopher Pylant

mixed opinion

I received a free copy of this book through the Destiny Image Book Review program.

I want to deal with this book in two different ways. I think that would be the best way to be fair to it.

First, as an account of the things this father and mother went through when their young son was suddenly taken seriously ill with a brain tumor, I'm quiet fine with this book. It isn't hard to feel sympathy and understanding for them and their difficulties, and if that's all this book was about, I'd have no real problems with it.
But that's not all it's about, and I'd be lying if I said that every part of it set well with me.

One problem with dealing with the ideas in this book is trying to determine which ones the author is supporting, and which ones he may not be. Some things I just wasn't sure about, that way or this. For example, he mentions that at one point, early in their child's illness, he tries to contact the ministry of Oral Roberts in the hopes that he would pray for his child. Knowing that Roberts was a fake and charlatan, more interested in money than anything else, this action on the part of the desparate parents is still understandable to me, and since not much is made of this incident in the rest of the book, it's not something I want to make much of here.

But, for example, he refers a few times to his son being a "promised seed", even though he acknowledges that at no time had God explicitely made a promise to him for a son. There are occasional hints of Word of Faith ideas throughout the book, though they are muted. At one point, he and his family moved, based mostly on his wife's "feeling of urgency" to move, and related it even to Abram in the Bible in Genesis 12, seeming to say that this move was something God wanted them to do. But the problem is, at that time, his wife wasn't even a Christian, and as it turns out, their son's illness takes them back to much the same area they had moved from.

A few other things could raise the eyebrows, too. Some of the young boy's experiences in a state of something like near-death seem to be ones that should be questioned more than accepted. Some of the prophetic words given at the end of the book could rightly be questioned, too, such as the one that says that "Every cell will be made whole. Nothing will be lost", because although the boy was healed and his life spared, he still seemed to suffer effects as he grew up from what he went through.

There's some good things that could be taken from this book, but there are also some iffy things, too. I'm just not sure I'd recommend this book to someone going through something similar to the parents in this book, because some of the things they did or teach seem to have very questionable biblical support.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

book review--Glory Invasion by David Herzog

make it up as you go along theology

It's always interesting reading books like this. It's astonishing, really, the things some people who call themselves Christian teachers try to pass off as biblical teaching, and how those things are accepted with little to no critical thinking on the parts of far too many people.

This book, for example, is pretty much a book of made up theology. He doesn't look to the Scriptures to inform his views, but rather insists upon reading his ideas into the Scriptures. The results, it's easy to imagine, are rather bad indeed.

For example, he goes on and on about what he calls the "glory realm". However, the Bible says nothing about such a place, or the supposed need for any of us to somehow get into this "glory realm". Herzog, however, insists upon trying to read into a few different biblical accounts. "Peter lunged into the glory realm where his body weight did not make him sink but the water actually became solid enough for him to walk on." (p. 50). No account of that event says such a thing. "Both Elijah and Elisha walked and lived in the prophetic glory realm and when they spoke it caused Heaven and earth, kings and nations, to react and respond." (p. 83). Another claim that has no basis in the biblical accounts of these two prophets.

As bad or worse, he tries to use this "glory realm" to support his Word of Faith heresy. "When you speak from the glory realm you are actually allowing God to create that which you are speaking as you are speaking." (p. 74). Allowing God? Wow, arrogant much? And, of course, there is nothing like that taught in the Bible. "When we declare something under the direction of God, that thing is being created as we declare it."(p. 15). Again, not in the Bible.

And his ideas about sounds and words get absolutely loopy. "The walls of Jericho crumbled because people shouted—another amazing defiance of the law of gravity. What made the walls fall? The Israelites were told not to speak for one week. In this way they were conserving the power of the sound in their voices so on the day they released it their shouts would have greater power." (p. 54). The walls of Jericho because of sound waves? Seriously, if that's what you're teaching, you have no business calling yourself a Christian minister at all.

"Zacharias had the power to kill the prophecy in the same way it had come to life—by speaking while in the glory and allowing the opposite to occur, creating a disaster by negative declarations in the glory." (p. 76). Zacharias was the father of John the Baptist. None of this is taught in that account of the prophecy the angel gave to Zacharias. He did not have the power to "kill the prophecy" at all, he had no power to "allow the opposite to occur". This is just rank garbage.

Finally, he even recalls the time he tried to buy some kind of prophetic anointing. "I even approached her (Ruth Heflin) to sow an offering into her life asking God for a return with an increase of the prophetic gift that was on her life." (p. 79). You need only look at Acts 8 to see how evil such an act is.

I'll stop here, that's enough of this guy's garbage. This book is disgusting, vile, unbiblical, and no one who is a Christian should take it in any way seriously.

Friday, July 12, 2013

movie review--Pacific Rim

You had me at kaiju!
As a bit of a fan of anime, giant battle suits are not a new concept. Evangelion, Voltron, and Robotech come most readily to mind. Outside of anime, Power Rangers have also popularized the idea, Transformers has something like it, and Godzilla movies have the robot MechaGodzilla.

In many ways, Pacific Rim is a step forward in the quite enjoyable kaiju genre. While the story may not be as rich (or as convoluted and messed up) as Evangeliion, the action itself is very nice. The kaiju are convincing, at least once you accept that such monsters could even exist at all. The battles between the kaiju and the mechs, called jaegers, are very well done.

Like I said, the story itself is rather on the simple side, and the movie follows a pretty standard formula. You can find elements from Star Wars, Independence Day, the anime series Evangelion, and of course Godzilla--I'm pretty sure that at one point I head the Godzilla roar, and there were snatches of music that reminded me of the Godzilla theme.

To put it simply, I pretty thoroughly enjoyed this movie! There is little objectionable in the movie, a bit of language but that's about it. I suspect this is the kind of movie we've been wanting from previous movies like the Godzilla takes Manhattan one, as well as Cloverfield. Forget little raptor-like Godzilla babies, forget jerky camera work that nevers lets one see the monster, give us giant monsters and robots slugging it out with each other, and lots of it!

On that front, Pacific Rim delivers, making it a very enjoyable, satisfying movie.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

book review--The 12 Gemstones of Revelation by Mary Trask

somewhat dull, scripturally suspect

I received a free copy of this book through the Destiny Image Book Review program.

First, I didn't really find this book all that interesting, though much of that may be my own fault. Gemstones are simply not a big interest of mine, they aren't something I put a lot of study into. No doubt it's a fascinating field, and certainly gemstones can be quite nice to look at, but it's simply something I'm not well informed on.

When she says early in the book "Though some question to which modern-day gemstone varieties the apostle John was referring in his vision (and how they correlate to the stones assigned to the 12 tribes of Israel), it is interesting to explore how one might interpret suggested symbolisms in relation to our Christian walk." (pp. 13-14), I find myself wondering why her take on these things should be taken as been all that authoritative. Why, for example, should X stone by made to represent Y tribe? Are their plain biblical texts that say that this stone was meant to represent that tribe? There simply doesn't seem to be anyplace where that is plainly said, which means that a lot of what she teaches is rather speculative.

Then, there's this comment. "In studying God's Word, it is important to remember that there are many different facets and levels of learning that each of us can achieve while growing in intimacy with our Lord." (p. 18). Through the book, she makes it seem as if these gemstones represent levels we can advance to and through. Now, where does the Bible say that this is what these stones represent? I did not see where she showed that from the Bible, so why should I accept her premise that there are such levels?

She ends most of her chapters with a prayer she wants the reader to pray. One aspect of most or all of these prayers is the standard charismatic rebukes of demonic spirits who are suppose to be keeping people down. Where does the Bible tell us to do that kind of thing?

More questionable then that, right after these prayers she gives a brief paragraph that she calls "The Lord's Word to You", which is phrased as if it is God speaking to the reader. Is she really claiming that these words really are from God? Should we take them as seriously as the Bible? What about people who read the book who aren't believers in Christ, or who don't agree with what she's saying?

I think some things she teaches in this book should be seriously questioned. I'm not satisfied that she has made a good biblical case for what she's wanting us to do and believe.

Friday, July 5, 2013

movie review--The Lone Ranger

A Calculated Insult to the US?

Looked at simply as a movie, The Lone Ranger isn't half bad. It's entertaining, humorous, quirky, with lots of action and an interesting perspective as being told as an account by the aged Tonto. So far as that went, I enjoyed it, though it did go a bit long, in my opinion.

But there is more going on here than just another fairly interesting flick, I think. There is something in it that comes off more like propoganda. More to the point, anti-American propoganda, and since it was released the day before Independence Day in the US, I can't help but think that there is something in the nature of a calculated insult in them releasing this movie at that particular time.

If you've seen movies like Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, and Avatar, you'll soon find that The Lone Ranger is very much along those same lines.

The main message of this movie could be summed up in the phrase "white guilt". If there is something wrong with the world, well, you can blame the white guys. It's a bunch of stuffy white people who bring Christianity to the Indians whom they consider heathen, while the Indians are fine with their animistic beliefs. It's the white guys who think silver is something of value, while the Indians consider it a cursed rock. It's the white guys who kill senselessly, while the Indians never do so. It's the white guys whose greed causes them to build things like railroads, it's the white guys who believe in civilization and progress. When Tonto is facing down the main bad guy at the end of the film, he tells that man that he's simply another white man, as if him being white explained all of the bad things he had done.

Along with that, there is the notion of national guilt. There is the sense that the USA is what is wrong. Two of the three sets of villains represent the US military and US business. The reason for building the railroad is so that the east and the west of the US can be joined together. It's the greedy white US military leader who screams to his troops to mow down the Indians "For God and country!"

In his book "The Everlasting Man", Chesterton deals a bit with those of his own time who tried to paint the people of the western hemisphere as being essentially sinless until Europeans came and defiled their land and their cultures. He rightly points out that, while one cannot deny the reality of Eurorpean sins in their dealings with those peoples, upon what basis are we to assume that those peoples were themselves so perfect before the coming of people from Europe?

It is quite one thing for people to point out the ways the US has mistreated people like the various Indian tribes in the nation's history, that is a reality that should be acknowledged and repented of. But it is quite another to make those peoples seem like they had been so idyllic before people of paler skin came. That seems rather far-fetched, and serves the purpose more of propoganda than of truth and history.

In the end, I simply cannot recommend this movie. The propoganda aspect is simply too off-putting to me.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

book review--Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax

I received a free Advanced Reading Copy of this book from the Waterbrook Multnomah Blogging for Books review program.

I recall a few years ago reading "A New Kind of Christian" by Brian McLaren. It was basically a book about a guy who has having a crisis of faith, and meets another man with the nickname Neo, who essentially plays the role of the sage advisor, and there are several conversations between them in the book. One may well say that book wasn't so very far off the range, though later developments in McLaren's views have pretty clearly shown that he's gone a lot further into wackiness, which kind of gives the impression that NKC was rather like him sticking his toe into the water before finally jumping in.

"Clear Winter Nights" has a similar premise. There's a man who is having a crisis of faith, and there is the man who plays the role of the sage to him. There are numerous conversations about various aspects of Christian theology. But the main, and important, difference between the two books is that the sage old man in CWN has very different ideas than McLaren's Neo, and to my mind his ideas are orders of magnitude superior to McLaren.

Many different things are discussed between the two main characters, things like evangelism and religious pluralism and sexual morality, and the main character's grandfather, the sage in this story, does a good job of answering the younger man's doubts and questions, by pointing him back to what the Scriptures say.

I was pretty well pleased with this book, and it earned a pretty strong recommendation from me. It's well worth reading.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

movie review--Man of Steel

There is a certain problem with giving a review of this movie, which has to do with one aspect of how it has been marketed. I'll deal a bit with both sides of it.

First, simply as a movie, the best way to express my take of it is "WOW!!!" Yeah, it's that good.

The story part of it is very good. We get a kind of coming-of-age story, where at various times we see Clark as a newborn on Krypton, a boy in Kansas, a young man yondering about, then finally as the guy working at the newspaper who moonlights as a hero.

In this, the conflict he works through is the question of how he's to use his developing powers while also maintaining a low profile. In that, he does a rather iffy job, not for lack of trying, but because he's put into positions where he must use them to save lives, or in one scene where as a schoolchild he has a minor breakdown when his senses become very sensitive.

I must confess to a bit of disappointment in the Jonathan Kent of the movie. When Clark had to display his strength to save some fellow students, his father hints that he maybe should have let them die in order to keep people from questioning who or what he may be. Then there's the scene with the twister, which I still think is rather iffy. But that's about my only disappointment in the movie.

And when it comes to the action and fighting, they are appropriately epic. Superman's fights with the previously banished Kryptonians are almost gratuitously destructive, as they go through buildings and structures like they were made of cards.

So, I would say, go watch this movie! You're not likely to be disappointed.

One thing the makers of this movie have done is to market it directly to churches. Many churches do sermon serieses based around themes like God in the movies, and it seems that the movie makers intentionally made this Superman a kind of allegory for Jesus. I'm just no convinced that it works very well at that, though.

The Bible gives us very little information about the childhood of Jesus, essentially only His birth, the coming of the wise men, and one incident when He was a young boy. But given that He lived a perfect, sinless life, we may say that there are things that He did not do.

Clark Kent in the movie is far from perfect. He struggles with how to act, and at one point gets more than a little snippy with his human parents. At another point, he pilfers a bit of clothing from the trunk of a car. He simply is not any kind of divine being, for all of his strengths.

There is one scene in a church, where Clark talks briefly with a pastor or priest. The best advice this priest could give him was something about having to make a leap of faith. Is that the best advice a religous leader could give a person?

The movie is very good, but it may be best to not expect it to carry the burden of being a Christian allegory.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

book review--Jesus Killed My Church by Randy Bohlender

Rubbernecking Literature

I received a free copy of this book through the Destiny Image Book Review program.

A few times while driving on the interstate, I've come on traffic back-ups. These weren't cases where traffic came to a complete stop, but rather where it slowed almost to a crawl, but still kept inching forwards. Usually, it turned out that, somewhere up ahead, somethind had happened, and as the drivers were passing by they were slowing down and turning their heads to try to get a look at whatever had happened.

That's basically what this book is, a bit of rubbernecking as one looks at the wreck of a church.

It's an interesting enough book, so far as it goes. The writer relates the account in a fairly interesting way, with bit of humor thrown in. It wasn't a dull book to read.

But getting into the substance of it, it isn't too hard to see some pretty troubling things. As the title of the book indicated, the author claims that "Jesus Killed My Church". Frankly, if so, it was an act of kindness. This guy has a bloodhound's nose for finding the worst of the worst in false teachers and false revivals, as his accounts of pilgrimages to Pensacola and IHOP KC very well indicate. Sadly, he seems to think that he should join up with those people, or emulate them, rather than get as far away from them as possible.

Two things stood out for me in this book.

One was the inherent unreliability of these people who spend their lives making their decisions based on vague feelings. This author recounts two times when he was offered ministry positions, presumably by people who had thought their feelings were God's way of saying that they should offer him those positions, and each time he decided against accepting those positions because "it didn't feel right" (p 67).

So, which side was correct? Were the people offering him the position understanding their own feelings correctly, or did he understand the vague feelings correctly when he turned them down? Or, was God sending mixed signals? I seriously doubt the latter, so that just leaves the dilemma of trying to understand which side was hearing God more correctly than the other.

Another, even more disturbing, thing had to do with a woman who came to him, because she was worried that she had ESP because she felt some strange things and had repetitive dreams. At least from the account in the book, found on pages 110-111, instead of trying to determine if she needed some psychological help or even spiritual deliverance, they immediately tell her "You have a prophetic spirit".

Where does the Bible say that this is how a prophetic spirit operates? When God sent a prophetic dream or vision to a prophet, there was no doubt that it was from God. It was people like Pharoah in Genesis, and Nebuchanezzar in Daniel, essentially pagan rulers, who received dreams from God but they didn't know the source of the dreams until Joseph or Daniel explained things to them.

Also, there is simply the fact that this woman's feelings and dreams, concerning a certain building this pastor was wanting to obtain for his church, turned out to be false. They didn't happen. His church never acquired that building before Jesus killed it. In fact, if this was the former College Football Hall of Fame building near King's Island near Cincinnati, since this man's church was in or near Cincinnati, then that building was torn down in 2004, which means that her feelings and dreams cannot ever happen. This confirms that whatever was giving this woman these feelings and dreams, whether only her own mind or some kind of spiritual influence, was not from God.

If Jesus killed this man's church, maybe it was because it simply needed killing. Judging simply from what he writes, his mains concerns were with being different, getting the atmosphere right, and all kinds of frivolous things.

Probably the main profit one can get from this book is learning how NOT to pastor a church. Don't rely on vague feelings that the Bible never says are God's way of speaking to us. Don't get hung up on being different. Don't think you're such a big brave man because you went and got an earring. Don't think someone's dream or vision is from God simply because it agrees with what you want. Don't think you're called to be a pastor simply because some church plays a song by a band that you like. And, please, stay away from anyone associated with the false Pensacola revival, IHOP KC, The Call, or the NAR in general.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

book review--The Future of Worship by Nathan Byrd

Christian Feng-shui

I received a free copy of this book through the Destiny Image Book Review program.

This is one of those books where the author makes a few valid points, but then goes completely loopy when it comes to his solutions.

For example, he's right to be concerned about things in the church today, such as how churches have become overly concerned with entertainment, being seeker-friendly, and basically becoming places for raising funds. When he recounts a time he did not give when a speaker insisted he did not want bills as small as $5, I agree with him completely on that decision.

But then he talks about his cures for these things, and they're every bit as wacked as anything any seeker megachurch is doing.

"There is a sound for worldly music and another sound for holy music, and the two shall never mix." p. 62. I think we may fairly ask where the Bible teaches this about music? He also tries to make this kind of comparison: flesh = rhythm, soul = harmony, and spirit = melody. Nowhere does the Bible teach such a thing. "Melody appeals to the spirit and fosters entry into the presence of the Almighty. Melody doesn't necessarily need harmony and certainly doesn't need rhythm." p. 77. So, anyone have any Scriptural passages saying that melody fosters entry into the presence of God? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

"I believe timeless music is divine and brings a heavenly context with it because there is no timing in Heaven. Since Heaven is a timeless environment, there is no need for percussion instruments in Heaven." p. 78 Who knew that the music closest to Heaven's music is Enya's? Or that God didn't have drums in Heaven? I certainly can't think of any biblical passage telling us that Heaven is a percussion-free zone.

One favorite NAR trick is take something good, and then add so much unscriptural stuff to it, that it's almost unrecognizable. This author does this to worship. Worship is a good thing, but by the time he keeps adding one unscriptural thing to it after another, one hardly recognizes anything biblical in his worship. "Spiritual continuity and a commitment to perfection bring the worshipers into one accord; when that sound and type of worship is presented before the throne, it takes on a "one-ness" quality in the spirit realm." p. 124. Funny how the Bible doesn't teach this at all, nor can he find anything about it in the Bible, only tries to shoehorn it into the account of Solomon's dedication of the Temple.

"The third dimension of worship is a place where there is no music provided by a human. There is no pastoral encouragement, no apostolic oversight, no prophetic impartation, no singing inspiration, but just the glory of the Presence that Israel experienced throughout their days in the wilderness." Well, talk about something the Bible says absolutely nothing about. See, something added on, completely without biblical support, but merely something this guy's making up from his own imaginations, and completely wacky.

Perhaps his worst ideas have to do with the reason this review is called "Christian Feng-shui", his ideas about church buildings that what should be included in them.

"...we need to redesign, renovate, and realign the church building to be transformed into the house of YHWH. We need to design the interior according to what is prescribed specifically in Scripture so that the Presence can come and remain in our midst forever." Oh, really? Do tell. "What I scripturally advocate is that we make YHWH preeminent by giving Him His proper and prominent space in the sanctuary. The only way I know to do that is by providing a Most Holy Place with the Ark and the cherubim." p. 245. What!!! Is he claiming to have found the Ark of the Covenant? Did he contact Indiana Jones to learn where it could be found? "If that barrier is truly removed and we truly have access to the Father through the Son, then the Church needs an opportunity to prove that out with a tangible location. The Church needs a Most Holy Place!" So, churches need to be laid out so that they have a Most Holy Place, complete with an Ark of the Covenant?

The supposed Tabernacle of David is the current big cause celebre among NAR worship leaders. They all want to establish this kind of place, in some way, shape, form, or fashion. Byrd, for example, says that Amos 9:11 tells us that God will rebuild this Taberacle, though reading that verse in context seems to say otherwise. He says that David established 24-7 music at this tabernacle, though he can offer no scriptural support for this claim.

Finally, he goes to a place that I can only think of as being Gnostic. "G-d is a Spirit, the Scripture says. He made me out of Himself in such a way that I, in a very small way, represent Him in this earthly container. So in essence, He is calling me to present the most authentic part of my being back to Him for true fellowship. He doesn't want me to present my corrupted and corroded flesh, nor does He desire my wayward and distracted soul; He desires that part of me which best represents Himself, my spirit." pp. 228-229. This is Gnosticism--God isn't interested in our bodies, but only in the spirit. Read I Thessalonians 5:23 and Mark 12:30 to see how wrong this guy's teachings here really are.

This touches a little bit on the bizarre things this guy is putting out there. Trust me, there's more.

So, where in the New Testament does anyone say that the churches need to provide some kind of literal space for a real or metaphorical Most Holy Place or Ark of the Covenant? Maybe Paul mentioned to Timothy or Titus that they needed be careful about the buildings they used when their congregations would meet? That it needed to have a certain kind of layout, that it needed to have a room that they would call a Most Holy Place? That they something they would call the Ark of the Covenant? That they needed to be careful that the music they played didn't sound too much like the music they heard outside the church? That they needed to make sure the rhythm section didn't get too loud, and maybe that it wasn't necessary since there are no rhythm sections in Heaven?

I think those questions almost answer themselves. Among the many concerns the epistle writers had for the churches, they make no mention at all of the need for churches to be careful of the types of buildings they met in, what kinds of music they put their songs to, the need for them to have a Most Holy Place, or any other thing that Byrds wants us to fret about.

What Byrd is doing is much the same thing that happened in the church in Galatia, where some came and tried to put the believers back under the Law. Paul's response to this was not weak or unclear at all, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith-- 6 just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"?" Galatians 3. His words of warning are as applicable against Byrd's form of legalism as against the kind that was infiltrating the Galatian church, "10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith." 12 But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them."

Byrd's book is all legalism, and even he himself does not live up to his own rules. His church has no Most Holy Place, it has no Ark of the Covenant. He can call some room or space his Most Holy Place, he may even have some object he calls the Ark of the Covenant, but they aren't. He picks and chooses aspects of the tabernacle of ancient Israel, and put us under bondage to his ideas, but he himself makes no attempt to obey all the things taught about that tabernacle.

All of this is basically spiritualized busywork. The church has far more important concerns than about whether our buildings are designed correctly or incorrectly, and these kind of teachings do little more than distract the church from it's mission of preaching the Gospel and encouraging believers to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world.

The things taught in this book are unnecessary, and even dangerous.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

book review--On Earth as it is in Heaven by Peter Wagner

Everybody wants to rule the world

Or, at least, Peter Wagner and those like him do.

Wagner's books is interesting, at least in an academic sense; after all, it's rather helpful when those who want to be our future overlords give us their game plan, along with their motivations.

Concerning motivations and reasons, bibllically, I can't buy into what Wagner is trying to sell. "Hunter, to the contrary, says, "Most Christians in history have interpreted the creation mandate in Genesis as a mandate to change the world."" (Kindle Locations 455-456). Not sure why we should accept the word of this Hunter guy, or what evidences he gives to support that claim. But concerning this suppose "mandate to change the world", you can find it Genesis 1, "28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Notice, please, first that this mandate was given before the Fall. Notice, again, that nothing is said in that mandate about changing the world, or people having dominion over each other. It is all about mankind having children and filling the earth, and mankind having dominion over fish and birds and animals.

The other big way he tries to find dominionism in the Bible has to do with a few words in Jesus' prayer. "My basic premise is that God's kingdom should come and that His will should be done here on earth as it is in heaven. This is clearly a Christian principle because, as I have said, these are the very words that Jesus taught His disciples to pray every day in the Lord's Prayer." (Kindle Locations 89-90). Now, are the words in the this prayer suppose to be a covert command for the Church to take charge of the world? Considering that no place else in the Bible hints at such a thing, that Jesus never told the Apostles to try to gain control of the world, that no epistles tell the churches to act in such a way, I think we can safely be skeptical of Wagner's spin on this phrase.

But, as the book makes plain, Wagner is all about power. Christians should be in charge, Christians should take over the supposed seven mountains of society. And how is that done?

"The second pillar is the great transfer of wealth, which God has been promising through His prophets for several years." (Kindle Locations 192-193). Yeah, that's right, money. Or, as Wagner rather crassly put it, "If you check back through human history, you will find that three things, more than anything else, have produced social transformation, namely violence, knowledge and wealth. The greatest of these is wealth!" (Kindle Locations 2200-2201), and "One of the apostles present said, "If you want to take a city, you need to buy it! Own businesses, property, and whatever other opportunities you can find to build wealth."" (Kindle Locations 2233-2235).

Wow. You know all that stuff the Bible says about the dangers of wanting wealth, about being content with what we have? Oh, but Peter Wagner is sooooo much smarter than those fuddy-duddy biblical writers! Who needs contentment, when Peter Wagner wants to rule the world! There have been modern-day prophets, whose prophetic accuracy rate has probably been much less than the biblically required 100%, who have been going on about a transfer of wealth! People like Joel Osteen tell you that God wants to your life to improve, God wants you to be prosperous! Who are you going to believe, the Bible or Joel Osteen!!!

"Apostle Pat Francis of Kingdom Covenant Ministries in Toronto say that her goal is to help every member of her church become a millionaire." (Kindle Locations 2323-2324). Wow, why didn't the Apostle Paul, or any other biblical Apostle for that matter, think about that? Their main concern was preaching the Gospel of Christ dying for the sins of people and rising again, and that the Christians should live holy and godly lives. Why, if they'd told them to become millionaires, or whatever the equivalent was at that time, just think about what the church would have been like.

There's more weirdness in this book, such has Wagner's claim that we are in some kind of Second Apostolic Age, which the Bible says nothing about, or his claim that Rick Warren and Joel Osteen are apostles (even if they don't use that title for themselves), which is simply hilarious.

I will thank Wagner for one thing, though. At one point, he writes this, "For example, one of my self-perceived badges of honor is to have had a whole book written to criticize my (and George Barna's) pragmatism!" (Kindle Locations 1927-1928). A footnote tells the reader that the book in question is Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur. I've read that book, since reading Wagner's, and found MacArthur's book to be orders of magnitude superior to the drivel in Wagner's book. I will recommend MacArthur's book to you, instead of Wagner's. You'll learn far more of biblical value in that book, as against Wagner's imaginings on how to take over the world.

Monday, April 29, 2013

book review--Spiritual Warfare by Dean Sherman

this author fails at his own standard

Early in the book, Sherman makes this statement, "When it comes to spiritual warfare, if it’s not in the Bible, be careful." (Kindle Location 335). I think this is a pretty wise statement. Sadly, I do not think that he abided by it very much throughout the rest of the book. Here are some examples...

In the first pages, he claims to have gotten this message from God, "Praise is the key to breaking down the forces of darkness which have held this city since the beginning of time. These forces have never been challenged." (Kindle Locations 84-85) But he records no attempts to verify whether the Bible teaches this or not. In fact, if these were the exact words he received, he should have been immediately warned, because this city in Papua New Guinea had obviously not existed from the beginning of time, so "the forces of darknes" could not have had hold of it for that long.

He writes this about Satan, "He is a thief who wants to rob us of all he can. He wants to steal our health and another year of life. He wants to steal our productivity, our relationships, our joy, our peace, and our faith." (Kindle Locations 566-568), and "His full intention is to destroy our minds, our bodies, our character, our reputations, and our relationships." (Kindle Location 592). While the Bible does describe Satan as a thief, are these the things he is most concerned about stealing? Are there not sinful peple who would claim that they have productive lives, good relationships, happiness, peace, and faith in something? Would they not say that they have sound bodies and minds, good reputations and character? On the other hand, are they not Christians who are maybe not so healthy in mind or body, have bad reputations because of their faith, have lost relationships because they are more loyal to God rather than to others? If Satan is a thief, perhaps he has bigger game.

He claims that Satan has a kingdom, and that this kingdom has three kingpins. "These three are pride, unbelief, and fear. Everything that Satan does, his entire kingdom and his nature, emanate from pride, unbelief, and fear." (Kindle Locations 862-863) He gives no biblical passage in support of this assertation.

He has a strange take on the passage "our battle is not against flesh and blood". "It has never been, and never will be, a Christian activity to write books and articles or make speeches against other Christians. We get into a savage theological controversies that neither side will every win." (Kindle Locations 1161-1162) "We should fight issues in society, but not people. Fighting people never advances the Kingdom of God, no matter how right the issues." (Kindle Locations 1193-1194) "Even if we have the right doctrine, if we damage people in defense of it, we give the enemy entrance. It’s okay to fight issues, but not the people behind the issues. We can never win if we battle other human beings." (Kindle Locations 1171-1173). If I were to take his interpretation of this seriously, then Jesus was wrong to speak against the Pharisees and other who were misleading the people, Peter was wrong to speak against Ananias and Sapphira, Paul was wrong to say that those are accursed who were teaching the churches another gospel, and Jesus was again wrong in Revelation to speak against the churches. And at various times in church history, when there were those like the Gnostics who tried to bring in heresy, there were those like Irenaeus and Athanasius who spoke against them, exposed their teachings, and would not compromise. It seems that Sherman is saying that they were wrong to have done this, that they should simply have dealt with ideas but not named names and stood against the ones spreading these heresies. I find that ridiculous.

He makes a rather bizarre statement concerning the Pharisees, "It may be hard to swallow, but the Pharisees were right. They understood the Scriptures completely."(Kindle Locations 1173-1174). Yet it was Jesus Himself who got onto them about not understanding the Scriptures, saying that while the search them to find eternal life, they would not believe and come to Him. If they did not come to Him, but rather worked to crucify Him, then they obviously did not undstand the Scriptures completely.

"However, it is essential that we become well acquainted with the invisible realm." (Kindle Location 1285). But if it is so essential, why does the Bible tell us so very little about it? We get glimpses, but hardly much more than that. "More time and energy need to be invested in the unseen world." (Kindle Location 1296). If that is so, then were does the Bible say that?

"The greatest manual for spiritual warfare is the Old Testament. The battles that were fought then in the earthly realm are exactly the same as those we now fight in the unseen world." (Kindle Locations 1615-1616) He seems to simply try to make the OT battles into some kinds of analogies for current spiritual warfare. Where does the Bible tell us to view those battles in that way?

Sherman says this at one point, "The kingdom of darkness is as well-oiled as the best human military machine. Satan has particular battle plans for each geographic area and for each group of people." (Kindle Locations 1710-1711) Since he gives no real scriptural support for this assertion, only out-of-context verses, we can only assume that his spiritual spies have gained copies of these plans, or maybe his spiritual communications specialists have cracked the codes Satan's army is using.

"In light of our Great Commission to “Go into all the world,” praying into all the world should be our first response and our first commitment to win the world to Christ." (Kindle Locations 1741-1743). If that were so, then why did not Christ say that, instead of actually telling us to go?

He makes some unwarranted leaps. "If there are princes of Persia and Greece, there are also princes of Scotland, Hawaii, London, Dallas, and even North Dallas." (Kindle Locations 1755-1756) He references Daniel 10 for the princes of Persia and Greece, and that's all well and good. But why should we then conclude that every country, city, or even suburb has it's resident demonic prince? Outside of Daniel 10, the Bible doesn't seem to elaborate on this subject further, leaving one to conclude it's hardly a major biblical teaching. The New Testament writings are silent on this subject, no epistle writer tells the churches to be concerned about demonic princes over their city, so I can only conclude that Sherman is stressing something that isn't really all that important.

"Many activities of the enemy are functions that intersect in the heavenlies. If we ask the Holy Spirit, He will reveal how Satan is working in any given place or situation." (Kindle Locations 1882-1883). He doesn't say where the Bible says that the Holy Spirit will tell us this if we ask.

There are some questionable speculations. Concerning the fall of man, "Adam and Eve had something of tremendous value to Satan. Satan wanted the authority God had given to man." (Kindle Location 2056) He never gives any scriptural support for this claim that Satan wanted man's authority.

Sherman comes close to blasphemy in this, "God promised to bruise Satan’s head—not directly, but through the seed of the woman. The seed of Satan would in turn bruise mankind’s heel. This established the grounds for spiritual warfare. Satan is working through mankind to do his business on the planet. And God is working through mankind to defeat the enemy. This is what has been happening throughout history...The seed of the woman is three things: It is, first of all, all who are born from Eve—the human race. Satan’s attack on the seed of the woman is seen primarily in his attack on all human children." (Kindle Locations 2068-2076) This couldn't be more wrong. The "seed of the woman" mentioned in Genesis 3 is a prophesy referring to Christ, not mankind as a whole. Shame of Sherman for this awful teaching!!

"We need a revelation of what happens among demonic powers when we speak the precious and powerful name of Jesus. It’s not a magic word. We must be wholly submitted to Jesus to use it." (Kindle Locations 2306-2307) This is the sort of thing that has led to that awful practice on the part of the obvious false teachers, who get up and think that simply repeating a phrase like " Jesus' name!!" is some kind of spark for things to happen. But there are several passages in the New Testament, gospels and epistles, where demons spoke Jesus' name.

Sherman gives a kind of example prayer of intercessor spiritual warfare, "Father, we come before you in the name of Jesus Christ and ask you to bring conviction upon this person and to lead him to repentance in his life. Satan, we come against you in the name of Jesus Christ and we cut off your influence in the life of this person in the areas of…" (Kindle Locations 2982-2984) But the Bible is rather silent about the need to "come against" Satan like this prayer suggests; in fact, in the short book of Jude, where it says that Michael the archangel and Satan disputed over the body of Moses, it says that not even the archangel spoke like that to Satan, but simply said "The Lord rebuke you". In this, it seems that Jude warns against such things.

Here is another unsupported claim. "God has established certain irrevocable principles in the universe. He will move in the affairs of mankind according to the degree and how specifically we pray." (Kindle Locations 3021-3022) There doesn't seem to be any biblical support for what he is saying here; indeed, this god would be a rather pathetic being, as even Sherman himself shows, "God is crying out to His people: “I want to move. I want to bless. I want to save. I want to protect, provide, and stop injustice. Why won’t you intercede?” (Kindle Locations 3024-3025) Yeah, poor god, stuck on the sidelines, unable to play until we let him in the game.

He says this, concerning the conquest of Jericho in the book of Judges, "Through obedience and the very presence of the people of God, Israel drove back the powers of darkness in the unseen realm. God showed them the importance of going exactly where He wanted them to go, and doing exactly what He wanted them to do. Before the walls of Jericho fell, there was victory in the spiritual realm."(Kindle Locations 3228-3231) He gives no biblical support for this claim, and it isn't anywhere in the account in Judges.

This review is rather long, but it actually contains only a few of the many questionable, unscriptural things taught in this book.

I cannot recommend this book at all. Sherman fails at keeping his own standard. His book is a theological train-wreck, unworthy of being looked to for solid bibilcal teaching. It is to YWAM's shame that they published this book, and telling their DTS students to read it and practice the unbiblical things taught in it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

book review--Humble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris

short book, well worth the read

This is a small book, but it really is one that is quite good. Probably about 4/5 of it, I have no problems with, and even the parts were I may express concern or disagreement are not areas of strong disagreement. I can agree quite well with his premise that we need to be concerned with both being orthodox in our beliefs and humble in our attitudes. There are things that we may need to stand strong for, such as the divinity of Christ, but also things that are not worth dividing over, such as some theories about the end times. There have been times in the past, and today, when disagreements over secondary matters have become too heated.

I'm not completely without some concerns, though.

Harris begins the book by telling a bit about a friend of his, a fellow author whose book apparently had some questionable things in it. People responded to this other author, and some apparently in a strong way. "He said the harshest ones (e-mails) were from people who presented themselves as "caring about doctrine". Their e-mails were vitriolic, pointing out the theological errors and inconsistencies of what he had written". p 1.

Harris doesn't identify his friend, nor his friend's book, so I can't comment about it that way or this. I don't know if his friend showed him the e-mails he thought were vitriolic and harsh. My main concern is this--it's quite common today for people to take any criticism of themselves or their work, and see it in the worst of lights. How are we to know that this other author may not simply have read those e-mails in a worse way than the writers had intended? Perhaps those readers were responding with real concern to serious errors that they saw that this other author was teaching, and were not trying to be unduly harsh?

This is such a common thing, I see it often. For example, a Christian rapper recently put out a song, calling certain popular authors and pastors and teachers in the church "Fal$e Teacher$". Some claim that he is being divisive, they would probably use words like "harsh" and "vitriolic" to describe him and his song. My opinion is that he's simply calling a spade a spade, the people he identifies as false teachers are really false teachers, and of the worst sort. To my mind, if anything the church has been far too accepting of such false teachers, letting them practically define Christianity in the minds of those in the church and in the world.

Finally, we have examples in Scripture were Jesus and the Apostles were none too gentle in their words regarding those who were leading people astray with their unscriptural teachings. In Matthew 23, Jesus is unsparing in this words against the scribes and Pharisees. In Galatians 1, Paul says that anyone who preaches another Gospel is accursed, and in chapter 5 of the same book he wishes that those who wanted to put the believers under by law of circumcision would emasculate themselves. In the book of Jude, the author compares false teachers to unreasoning animals, and that's just at the start of his descriptions of them, none of which are complimentary. II John tells the church being written to, and by extension us, to not even welcome false teachers into our homes or churches, or even greet them.

I know that we must weight these things against the command to love our enemies, and if I've understood him corrently in this book, I think Harris agrees that sound doctrine is important, and we must warn against false teachers.

Anyway, I highly recommend this book. It's short, but weighty, and you'll be given some things to ponder on.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

book review--Answering the Contemplative Call by Carl McColman

not very biblical

I received a free copy of this book from Speakeasy.

It's hard to escape the various flavors of contemplative practices out and about in the church nowadays. Whether its more refined versions of it like in this book, or the rough-and-tumble of the ways the New Apostolic Reformation folks do it, it's everywhere. Whether it's sitting alone doing mantra-like chants and lectio divina, like McColman recommends, or it's YWAmers practicing the supposed steps of prayer and intercession, then sitting around in a circle trying to get guidance from some inner voice, it's all the same and one.

The fact that none of it has much in the way of biblical support seems to be lost on all of these practitioners.

For the discerning Christian, there are plenty of things in this book that should cause alarms to go off. For example, while he makes a point of saying that he's teaching about Christian mysticism or spirituality, one gets the impression that the "Christian" part of that is much less valuable to him than the "mysticism" or "spirituality" part. "Saint Paul sees Christ on the road to Damascus. The Buddha achieves enlightenment sitting under the Bodhi tree. Mohammed takes the miraculous night journey of Isra and Mi’raj, carrying him from earth to heaven. And of course, Aquinas and Julian and Merton have their singular peak moments and their lives are forever changed." p 32. Experience trumps beliefs, one may well assume.

In fact, conversion seems to have become unnecessary. "He (Merton) also became increasingly interested in interfaith dialogue, and began to explore the points of connection between Christian monasticism and the spirituality of Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism." p 24. And the author of this work is also involved in such dialogues.

And the Bible? Well, consider this. "Here’s a comment that Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a monk of the twelfth century and a renowned mystic, once made about nature—one I believe could just as easily be applied to any of life’s mysteries. “Believe me as one who has experience,” said Bernard, “you will find much more among the woods than ever you will among books. Woods and stones will teach you what you can never hear from any master."...Consider this: Bernard is not rejecting the kind of wisdom or under­standing that can be found in books or from a spiritual director. He just recognizes that nature—even the silence of “woods and stones”—is an even greater teacher. " p 7. If we are to believe that nature in superior to books, and the Bible is a book, would it be unfair to conclude that Bernard, and by extention this author, are saying that nature is a better teacher than the Bible? That God speaks better through woods and stones than throught the words He gave to the apostles and prophets?

"Jesus has been loved and accepted by the mystics, not as a way of appeasing an angry God, but as a joyful entry into the mysteries of love." p 77. Now, I can look in Scripture, and see passages which speak of Christ's death being a substitutionary atonement for us, to among other things appease the just anger of a righteous God directed at sinful rebellious humanity. For example, read the biblical book of Romans. I can't read the scriptures to find where Christ's death was "a joyful entry into the mysterities of love". Why bother with crucifixion, if that's all Christ was doing?

He engages in some shenanigans. "Jesus’s followers were called disciples, implying that disci­pline is an essential part of the Christian wisdom tradition." p 128. No problem with the statement itself, but when he tries to sneak in these contemplative practices, I have to ask where the Bible says that Jesus had the disciples sit around trying to experience God inside themselves.

"God’s Word emerged out of “the sound of sheer silence” (I Kings 19:12), and words of the Divine mystery have been emerging out of silence ever since." p 125. I'm calling shenanigans again. The prophet Elijah did not get a message from silence, he heard the voice of God, even if it was calm and gentle. The Bible nowhere says that God's language is silence. God used real words to communicate to real people so that they understand what He was saying to them.

Nor did Elijah hear a voice inside himself. The voice He heard was outside himself, outside of even the cave he had been in.

In his book Broken, Jonathan Fisk writes "The plain words of Holy Scripture are the antidote to the poisoned dish of Mysticism. Reading those words carefully and learning their context is to inwardly digest the faith that God is not only real but also gives us real, pure, true answers. God is far more generous to us than to force us to endlessly seek Him in the flurries of the wind and the palpitations of our hearts. He wants us to do far more than merely imagine what His will for us might be. He wants us to be certain." (Kindle Locations 510-514). When I read works by these modern-day NAR contemplatives, I'm simply appalled by how bad they are theologically. Something seems very wrong with the people who practice these things. When people put the voices they hear inside themselves above the words plainly taught in Scripture, then that's a sure way to get led astray.

I agree with Fisk, God cares for us far too much to make us sit around trying to hear some kind of almost-impossibly-difficult-to-hear voice inside ourselves, that can be easily confused with our own thoughts, and that may not even be the voice of God at all (and probably isn't). God has spoken, we have His words in the Bible. God can still speak, I think there are reliable sources who have had dreams and visions from God, even in modern times.

I simply cannot recommend this book, or the practices recommended in it. They are unbiblical, thus spiritually unhealthy. Stop looking inside your heart to hear the voice of God, because you have God's Word at your fingertips.