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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Do Two or More Believers Need to Be Together For God To Be There?

This is an excerpt of Brannon’s latest book, Twisted Scripture, Twisted Theology: Untwisting the Most Commonly Distorted Scriptures That Lead to Bad Theology and an Unbiblical Worldview. This book was just released. Click here to order your copy now: http://www.worldviewweekend.com/secure/store/product.php?SessionID=&CustomerID=0&ProductID=2116
Twisted Scripture Number 7
Matthew 18:20
The Scripture: For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.
The Twist: If you have heard this verse used in a church service, you have probably heard a pastor say something like: “As we gather this morning, isn’t it a blessing to know that ‘where two or three are gathered,’ He is in our midst?”
The implication is that if you are by yourself, having a cup of coffee in the morning and reading your Bible, God is not there. You’ve got to get at least another person or two in order for God to join you. The biblical truth is that a believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, so God the Holy Spirit is with the believer all the time, even when he or she is not with other believers.
The correct context of Matthew 18:20 is church discipline. To see this, we need to examine verses 15-16 of Matthew 18:
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.”
The two or three being discussed in Matthew 18:20—“where two or three are gathered”— is the same two or three mentioned in verse 16, “by the mouth of two or three witnesses, that every word may be established.” The two or three are people involved in church discipline. In verse 20, the Lord states that when church discipline or church accountability is being conducted biblically, then the Lord approves. He confirms His approval by declaring, “I am there in the midst of them.”
Step one in the Matthew 18 process calls for one brother to go to another and to humbly ask him to repent of his sin. If the brother does not repent, then the next step is to take one or two witnesses to him. Step one is private; step two is “semi-private.”
The ultimate desire would be to see that the brother (or sister) repents of the sin and that his reputation, credibility, and testimony are preserved. That’s why only one or two more witness are involved in the step-two process. If the offending Christian does not repent, then the one or two additional witness will affirm the biblical process to that point and move on to step three. Step three, of course, is bringing the matter before the New Testament church of which these individuals are members.
Perhaps one reason the Lord mentions that He would be among the two or three involved in step two is that a Jewish tradition known as minyan said that a quorum of ten or more men was required for public worship. While experts argue whether such a requirement was merely preferable or completely mandatory, the tradition of a minyan is well documented, and Jesus had to address His audience’s understanding of that practice.
So the next time you hear someone use Mathew 18:20 out of context, perhaps you can use the “extra witness” of this discussion to unwind the twist.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

God’s Love: Our Guiding Principle

The New Testament is filled with verses that tell us what the love of God should mean in practical experience. Here are ten of the most powerful statements on the subject:
1. It is the visible mark of genuine Christian faith
“By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35
2. It is the means by which forgiven sinners can live in harmony
“And above all things have fervent [love] among yourselves: for [love] shall cover the multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
3. It is the standard by which Christian husbands will be judged
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” Ephesians 5:25
4. It is the great principle of Christian conduct
“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13
5. It is God’s counterbalance against harsh words
“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” Ephesians 4:15
6. It is the supreme motive for sharing Christ with others
“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead.” 2 Corinthians 5:14
7. It is proof positive that we know God
“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16
8. It is the path to confident, victorious living
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18
9. It is the sum total of what God demands from us
“Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13:10
10. It is the supreme virtue and will last for all eternity
“And now abideth faith, hope,  [love], these three; but the greatest of these is [love].” 1 Corinthians 13:13
Love is truly the language of Heaven. It comes from the heart of God and is poured out into the heart of every believer. Love fulfills the law because when we live in love, we are truly living in the essence of God Himself.
—Adapted from “Sense and Nonsense About God’s Love” by Ray Pritchard.

Damnable Deception

by John MacArthur - Article Link - gty.org
What would you call a man or a woman who claimed to receive direct messages from God that contradicted the clear teaching of Scripture? Words like charlatanhereticliar, and phony probably come to mind. And yet there are many Christians—often earnest but ignorant believers—who follow and even defend such men and women.
Scripture is clear about the danger false teaching represents to God’s people. We even see examples of how leaders in the New Testament church dealt with false teachers. The apostle Paul confronted the Judaizers throughout his ministry. When they tried to gain influence in the Galatian church, Paul sent this warning to the believers there:
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Galatians 1:6–9)
Much that the Judaizers taught corresponded to the true gospel. They no doubt affirmed that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah predicted by the Old Testament prophets, and a great miracle worker. They likely believed that He was crucified and resurrected and that salvation demanded belief in Him. But they also taught that to be right with God and to maintain that righteous salvation a person must conform to all the laws of the Old Covenant. In doing so, they undercut the power of the true gospel—God’s sovereign, saving, and enabling grace. By adding works to salvation they had subtly but completely undermined the gospel of God’s grace, of which there is really not another. This was bad news, since man cannot maintain his right relationship to God by self-effort and good works. He will produce good works as a result of God’s saving grace and power working in him (Ephesians 2:10James 2:14–26), but he does not do good works to earn or keep salvation.
Because of their deception, false teachers such as the Judaizers are even more dangerous than those who openly deny “that Jesus is the Christ” and thereby clearly participate in the work of the antichrist (1 John 2:22). False systems labeled as Christianity always distort the nature and work of Jesus Christ. Those who deny Christ altogether are easily seen as the unbelievers they are; but those who claim to teach and follow Christ while undermining the gospel of His grace are immeasurably more dangerous—because they give the appearance of leading people to Christ while they are actually erecting barriers to salvation by grace.
False teachers not only should not be believed or followed but should be left to God’s judgment to be accursed.Accursed translates anathema, which refers to that which is devoted to destruction. The apostle John wrote:
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. . . . If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (2 John 7, 10–11)
Christians are to have nothing to do with false teachers, no matter what their credentials. It is both naive and unscriptural to believe, for instance, that staying in a religious school or church that denies the Bible and distorts the gospel gives a believer the opportunity to be a positive influence for the Lord. Even a leader like Timothy, well trained in divine truth, was warned to stay away from error and to concentrate on the pure truth of God (1 Timothy 4:6–7132 Timothy 2:15–17). To subject oneself to false teaching, no matter how orthodox one’s own convictions may be, is to disobey God, to compromise and weaken one’s testimony, and to tolerate distortion of the grace of God in Christ.
The surest way to confuse the faithful, corrupt the truth, and impede the work of the gospel is to tolerate and accommodate false teachers.

The President’s Grab for Dictatorial Power

The United States is at “a constitutional tipping point” and “in the midst of a constitutional crisis.” Has President Barack Obama unilaterally overturned the constitutional framework of three branches that is the basis of our unique and successful system of self-government?
That question is not just partisan bickering by Republicans and Tea Party activists. It was spoken in all seriousness in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee by a distinguished constitutional law professor who voted for Barack Obama.
Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University said that the “massive gravitational shift of authority to the executive branch” is unconstitutional and threatens the stability of our separation of powers and checks and balances. We can point to a few moves in that direction under previous presidents, but the current shift of power is proceeding at “an alarming rate” while (and just as ominous) the other branches (Congress and the courts) are “mute and passive” in the face of Obama’s unprecedented expansion of executive-branch power.
Our separation of powers was designed to serve as the primary protection of individual rights because it is supposed to prevent the concentration of power in any one branch. Professor Turley warned that Obama has become “the very danger that separation of powers was designed to avoid,” and we should not “take from future generations a system that has safeguarded our freedoms for over 250 years.”
Our Constitution gives the power to go to war exclusively to Congress, but Obama thinks he can make a “unilateral commitment of our country to war.” Turley explained that Obama “funded an entire military campaign [in Libya] by shifting billions in money and equipment without asking Congress for a dollar.” He just transferred the money from another account, boasting that “he alone would define what is a war.”
Obama is eager to get federal mitts on school curriculum so the screws can be tightened on what kids learn and (just as important) what they do not learn. The previous law to attempt to control education, No Child Left Behind, didn’t fit into his plan, so he just nullified it by a series of unilateral waivers, and is now welcoming nationalization of curriculum by Common Core.
When Obama in his State of the Union Address announced he would take unilateral action “with or without Congress,” Turley expected “an outcry” from his congressional audience, but that didn’t happen. Where was Joe “you lie” Wilson when we needed him to call out “you are unconstitutional”?
It is clear that Obama is trying to rule the country from the executive branch only. As Turley pointed out, “Congress is becoming marginalized” by “hundreds of thousands of regulations that are promulgated without direct congressional action and outside the system created by the Framers.”
Spelling out the problem further, Turley said, “a fourth branch has emerged in our tripartite system. … The vast majority of ‘laws’ … are not passed by Congress.” This “has accelerated at an alarming rate” and caused “a massive gravitational shift.”
The heart of Obamacare, which Obama’s appointees kept reminding us we must obey because it is “the law of the land,” was a set of minimum requirements for insurance plans. When millions of nonconforming plans were cancelled, Obama unilaterally created one exemption or change after another without any statutory authority, and changed the dates for compliance by employers that had been legislated by Congress.
Congress refused to pass the Dream Act, but Obama ordered the same provisions by regulation. Congress refused to pass the “cap and trade” plan, so Obama just created the new national regulations of greenhouse gases that he wanted.
Obama ordered all U.S. attorneys to stop prosecuting nonviolent drug crime defendants, which negated sentencing provisions set by Congress. Obama changed the meaning of the Wire Act, which had prohibited internet gambling.
The Constitution makes it the prime duty of the President to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” but Obama refused to faithfully execute the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which had been overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton. Obama instructed Attorney General Eric Holder not to defend DOMA in court, and then Holder told all the state attorneys general not to defend the marriage laws in their own states.
Thank you, Professor Turley for your courage and forthrightness in explaining to the House Judiciary Committee how Obama “has knowingly and repeatedly violated the Constitution.”

When Mega Pastors Twist Scripture and Twist Arms For Money

Released March 17th: Twisted Scripture, Twisted Theology: 42 of the Most Twisted Scriptures that Lead to Bad Theology and an Unbiblical Worldview
Is the Southern Baptist Convention about to pick Ronnie Floyd as its next President of the Southern Baptist Convention; the largest protestant denomination in America? If Floyd becomes the president of the SBC this summer I think it will only be further confirmation that the SBC is a theologically bankrupt organization.  
One of my concerns with Floyd is his unbiblical teaching on stewardship as well as his recommending the book of a Word of Faith false teacher. In a video that has gone viral, http://vimeo.com/87916585  Floyd can be seen and heard in what I can only describe as manipulating his congregation to believe that they should cough up their money first and foremost to his 501(C)(3) before even paying their mortgage. So the church staff salaries and buildings come before making sure your family has a roof over their head? 
I am told some SBC churches actually contribute to some of their staff’s retirement. According to a 2007 report in the Dallas Business Journal:
Guidestone Financial Resources, based in Dallas, has topped $10 billion in organizational assets at the end of April. Formerly known as the Southern Baptist Convention Annuity Board, the financial services organization changed its name to Guidestone in 2004.
Source: http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/stories/2007/05/21/newscolumn5.html

$10 billion? But don’t you dare think of paying your families mortgage before giving your expected percentage to the nonprofit church that might actually be using some of those funds to contribute to a staff person’s retirement account.

Remember Ronnie Floyd’s church is reportedly a mega church with numerous locations and buildings. I just wonder how many zero's are in Floyd’s salary? His church is free to pay him as much as much as it wants. However, I do find it greatly offensive when a man that is supposed to be a shepherd appears to be fleecing the flock by taking Scripture out of context when it comes to the issue of stewardship.

This proclamation by Floyd is just so disgusting that I truly cannot put it into words.http://vimeo.com/87916585

Does God want you to give money to a mega church before carrying for your own family? No! In I Timothy 5:8 we read:

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

I have an audio ( http://www.worldviewweekend.com/radio/audio/john-macarthur-tithing )
of a young lady asking Dr. John MacArthur during a Q&A time at Grace Community Church if she should continue to tithe to the church or pay off some debt that seemed to be creating a financial issue for her. Dr. MacArthur quickly told her that the tithe is the Old Testament tax but as to giving to the church he admonished her to pay off her debt in order to protect her Christian witness and then she could choose to give to the church ministries as the Lord lead her. Dr. MacArthur told her that the Word of God instructs us to give out of generosity and not out of compulsion. However, he did affirm that we are to give to the work of the Lord.

Here is a short video clip ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afu8sW-NGEw ) of Dr. John MacArthur explaining why the Widow’s mite is not a story to be used as an example of sacrificial giving but of a corrupt religious system that exploits the poor, “the weak, the desperate and defenseless.”
Many Christians sadly do not know the Bible well enough and thus they are defenseless against a religious system and “pastors” that prey on them by telling them they are Biblically sinning if they don’t fork over a set amount of their yearly income to his organization. Many of these so called churches are really just organizations that do not fulfill the Biblical model of a New Testament Church. 
Some mega church pastors are now making up to $400,000 a year according to a 2010 report. (Source: http://www.christianpost.com/news/report-reveals-salaries-of-megachurch-pastors-46779/ )

I guess such salaries could motivate the “pastor” to make sure everyone is giving their “fair share” regardless of the financial crisis the family might be experiencing. 
What does it say about a pastor that is so theologically ignorant that he does not seem to know that the “tithe” is the Old Testament tax of Israel? However, let’s set that aside for a moment. Regardless of how you feel about that issue, can we not all agree that Ronnie Flyod should not be positively quoting and recommending a book by a Word of Faith false teacher Robert Morris?

The book by Morris is endorsed by many Word of Faith false teachers. Among many troubling things, Robert Morris has had New Age Mormon Glenn Beck speak at his church:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZF14jfexNaI 
Morris says Beck loves God but does Morris not understand that Mormonism teaches that their god evolved from flesh and bone to become a god and that Mormon men can become as god?

Robert Morris has said that people that don’t tithe are opening the door to demons. Seriously? http://vimeo.com/76311562#at=0
However, all of the theological issues with Robert Morris does not seem to have stopped Arkansas SBC “Pastor” Ronnie Floyd from promoting a book by Robert Morris to his church congregation. 
You would think all this information is more than enough to stop someone like Al Mohler from nominating Ronnie Floyd to be the next SBC president. http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?id=42045
Refreshingly, Pastor Wade Burleson gets it Biblically correct when he writes:

The root problem, in my opinion, is a common mistake made by institutional churches and those who lead them. Christian leaders sometimes make our their 501(c)(3) nonprofit institutional churches to be the kingdom of God. They are not. 501(c)(3) nonprofit institutional churches are kingdom tools, but they are not the kingdom. To be more specific, the church to which you belong is a tool whereby the kingdom of God can be advanced, but it is not the kingdom of God itself.

This is a vital distinction that must be clear among Christian leaders and people who belong to institutional churches or churches will continue to be on the slope of slow decline. We preachers deceive church members when we act as if our institutions, our budgets, our buildings, our programs, and everything else about our non-profits are equivalent to God's kingdom...

Pastor Wade continues:

The key to prosperity for any nonprofit church is have leadership that is keenly aware that churches are but tools in the kingdom and all Christians, including Christian leaders of nonprofits, are simply servants/stewards in the larger kingdom.  The New Testament only speaks of the kingdom and servant leadership, not 501(c)(3) nonprofits. The New Testament only refers to the "temple of God" as the people of God, not institutional brick and mortar buildings. The New Testament only knows God's people as believers in Jesus Christ from different regions and cities, joining together as needed to advance the kingdom of God. The New Testament knows nothing about individual, institutional churches with big budgets, big buildings and a professional staff who claim to be God's priests and vicars over laity.

How do you know if an institutional church sees itself as "the kingdom of God?" Here are a few ways to determine:
If the pastor proclaims himself as your "spiritual authority" and demands obedience to his will, then you have an institutional church that has set itself up as the kingdom of God.

(2). If the pastor equates giving to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit institutional church as "giving to God," and not giving to the 501-C3 non-profit institutional church as "stealing from God," then the institutional church has set itself up as the kingdom of God.
Click here for complete article:

Another pastor that understands that the tithe was the Old Testament tax of Israel is Dr. John MacArthur who writes:

Two kinds of giving are taught consistently throughout Scripture: giving to the government (always compulsory), and giving to God (always voluntary).
The issue has been greatly confused, however, by some who misunderstand the nature of the Old Testament tithes. Tithes were not primarily gifts to God, but taxes for funding the national budget in Israel.

Because Israel was a theocracy, the Levitical priests acted as the civil government. So the Levite's tithe (Leviticus 27:30-33) was a precursor to today's income tax, as was a second annual tithe required by God to fund a national festival (Deuteronomy 14:22-29). Smaller taxes were also imposed on the people by the law (Leviticus 19:9-10; Exodus 23:10-11). So the total giving required of the Israelites was not 10 percent, but well over 20 percent. All that money was used to operate the nation.

All giving apart from that required to run the government was purely voluntary (cf. Exodus 25:2; 1 Chronicles 29:9). Each person gave whatever was in his heart to give; no percentage or amount was specified.

New Testament believers are never commanded to tithe. Matthew 22:15-22 and Romans 13:1-7 tell us about the only required giving in the church age, which is the paying of taxes to the government. Interestingly enough, we in America presently pay between 20 and 30 percent of our income to the government--a figure very similar to the requirement under the theocracy of Israel.

The guideline for our giving to God and His work is found in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7: "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each ne do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver."
Source: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Questions/QA144

When I contrast what we have read and heard from Pastor John MacArthur and Pastor Wade Burleson with the clips by some of these other “pastors” I think it reveals that difference between a shepherd and a shark.

I remember when a Southern Baptist Pastor told me to my face that it was a sin that I was not coughing up 10% of my income every year to his 501-C3. I asked this pastor to provide one New Testament Bible verse that said I was sinning by not giving 10% of my income to his 501(c)(3). He said “What about bring your gifts into the store house?”

First, that is Old Testament and not New Testament and second that was literal grain that was being brought into the store house and then the Levitical priests would distribute it to the widows and orphans. I promptly told him I would be happy to see that a dump truck of grain is delivered to the church and dumped in the parking lot but that I expected to see the deacons out in the parking lot bagging it up to take to the widows and orphans in the church. Needless to say he did not want me to bring my gifts into the store house as described in the Bible and turned down the offer of a dump truck of grain.
I explained to this pastor that my wife and I do give to the work of the Lord but that does not mean I am compelled to direct all my giving to the local church that employed him. In fact, I explained that due to fact that the church was constructing what I felt was an unneeded multimillion dollar building I was convicted that I should direct some of our families giving toward certain ministries that I knew to be financially and theologically responsible. After all, the Bible has a lot to say about Biblical stewardship.

If you have a solid Bible teaching church that is teaching you the Word of God in context and is involved in Biblical ministry then God’s Word tells us we should financially support those that minster to us. (1 Corinthians 9:14, 1 Timothy 5:17) We are also called to support Biblical missionaries that are faithful to the Great Commission. 
The increasing problem I see and hear about is that many people attend a church where the pastor is theologically sound for the most part yet overall the church itself has stewardship issues that are of concern. Many people remain at such a church because it is the only option in their area. In other words, the decline in true New Testament Churches causes many people to find a local church where the pastor’s preaching is average but the church itself has serious stewardship issues such as:

• The church is Millions of dollars in debt because of their building program; a building program that some of the families felt was not necessary due to the amount of debt that was required to build the addition.
• The church supports missionaries that are not all Biblically sound or that are theologically shallow. Some of the missionaries lean toward social justice or are planting churches using the new Rick Warren model.
• The church has men that are not qualified to be deacons or elders according to the Biblical standard
• The church has Sunday school teachers that are known for teaching things that are not Biblical and some of them are known for taking Scripture out of context and yet nothing is done to remove these individuals as Sunday school teachers.
• The church youth group is more about entertainment instead of Biblical discipleship. The church often promotes student and adult conferences that are not Biblically sound.
• The church has people on the staff that don’t seem to be needed or they are known for not doing their job with excellence.
• The church budget reflects expenditures that are wasteful and even superfluous.

Many people I know attend such a church because it is the only choice within miles and miles. These people tend to donate something to the church to assist in the pastor’s salary, the light bill, and the heat and air conditioning bill. Beyond that, many families are supporting missionaries directly that they have personally checked out theologically. 
Some families are spending resources to take their families to a Bible conference because their church ministries are so lacking in the desired worldview, apologetics, and theologically training they desire for their children. 
Some families are supporting a local Christian radio station because the Bible teaching they hear each day is what is really ministering to them.
The bottom line is that many families do give to a local New Testament Church and they do so joyfully when and where they see Biblical stewardship.  Many of these families give to the work of the Lord in many different ways. However, just because they are not giving 10% of their income to a local church does not mean they are sinning. Remember the tithe is the Old Testament tax of Israel. 
If you believe God is laying on your heart to give 10% of your income to the work of the Lord then give 10% but not because Scripture has been twisted or your arm has been twisted. The Lord may lay on the heart of some to give 15% or 20% of their annual income after taxes. However, the issue is that there is no set amount we are commanded to give. We are told in 2 Corinthians 9:7 to give without compulsion. 
It appears that many mega church CEOs are increasingly known for how they browbeat their congregations for money using the Old Testament tax of Israel.  Are these guys that theologically ignorant or do they really know the truth but use the tithe of the Old Testament to manipulate their congregations? Either way it does not speak well of them does it?
The video (http://vimeo.com/25896597#at=0 ) of Pastor Steve Gaines of Memphis, Tennessee telling his congregation they are stealing from God if they don’t cough up 10% to his church went viral last year. Note to Steve: Malachi 3:9 is an Old Testament text that is referring to the tax of the theocracy of Israel. The New Testament Church is not Israel and not a theocracy that demands a tax or tithe. 
Are these pastors making mega salaries? Is this why they need to keep the funds flowing even if it means taking Scripture out of context and quoting false teachers? The Baptist Press reported on October 16, 2006 http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=24193

 “those at odds with Gaines also claim that the pastor’s salary has been set at nearly $500,000.” In the December 20, 2006 Baptist Press it was reported:
“Earlier this year, Gaines' brief tenure at Bellevue encountered a stormy challenge from a former deacon, Mark Sharpe, and other opponents whose accusations -- aired on the Internet and in the Commercial Appeal -- include Gaines' alleged intimidation of those who disagree with him, his alleged forcing out a popular music director and his alleged refusal to disclose his salary, which they contend is nearly $500,000.”
source: http://www.bpnews.net/printerfriendly.asp?ID=24643

I think that for “pastors” like Ronnie Floyd, Steve Gaines, or Robert Morris to harangue, guilt, intimidate, or twist Scripture to compel their congregations for a set percentage, in my opinion, amounts to spiritual abuse at best and at worst it smells of Word of Faith theology.
Are some “pastors” that bully their congregations into coughing up a set amount pulling in total salary packages that equal $250,000 to $500,000 or more.http://www.christianpost.com/news/report-reveals-salaries-of-megachurch-pastors-46779/

No wonder such “pastors” are twisting Scripture and twisting arms for church members to give up 10% of their personal incomes.  Such behavior is not spiritual fruit but rotten fruit.

Questions to Ask While Watching “The Son of God”

I have not seen “The Son of God,” Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s sure-to-be-blockbuster movie. I am sure I will see it, and want to prepare my mind to critique the movie fully. This article contains the list of some of the questions I’ll be asking as I watch the movie.
First, I want to share some thoughts on the promotion given to the movie by the church community, and then some of the things I expect I’ll find in the movie.
Why Is The Church Promoting This Movie?
If a New Age Catholic wrote a book about Jesus, would we be buying cases of the book to distribute to our church members and their friends? I doubt it. As the dad of a young man who is preparing for a career in movie script-writing, I am keenly aware that movies are based on the written word—the script. Even if such a book was an adequate presentation of Jesus, would the church be concerned with the identity of the author of the book? Of course it would!
What’s good for books is good for movies. Roma Downey and Mark Burnett have written a script and produced a movie, and it is the Pastor’s job to approach such a work critically. One of the things I’ve learned to do over the years is to choose my books based on the author. Does the author have a track record? Does the author have credentials? Does the author know what they are talking about? Even the first-time author has some kind of track record—it is what is printed on the back cover of the book!
Roma Downey has a spiritual track record. Her Master’s degree is from the University of Santa Monica, for which she earned a Masters in Spiritual Psychology.  Don’t go into her movie without knowing that the degree she has will have influence on the work she does.  From the University of Santa Monica’s own website, here are the “Benefits of USM’s M.A. Program in Spiritual Psychology”
• Experiencing enhanced spiritual awareness through knowing yourself as a Divine Being having a human experience.
• Manifesting greater success and fulfillment personally and professionally.
• Transforming your consciousness and your life by integrating the Principles and Practices of Spiritual Psychology.
• Mastering powerful Soul-Centered Basic Skills—tools for spiritual evolution.
• Resolving (healing) your own issues (anything that disturbs your peace).
• Aligning with your Soul’s purpose.
• Fulfilling your deepest aspirations through discovering effective and joy-filled ways of making a meaningful contribution in the world.
• Participating with a community of like-hearted individuals.
• Discovering your own answers to these essential questions:
1) Who Am I?
2) What Is My Purpose?
3) How Can I Make a Meaningful Contribution?
Can I ask bluntly:  Why are we letting this woman have even the slightest degree of influence in our churches? Why do we invite her to the most influential places of Christian ministry without bringing up her New Age beliefs, calling for her to reject these beliefs?   I can’t even imagine any sane pastor, even those of a strong church-growth mindset, making a presentation like this—
Fellow Church members, Roma Downey has written a book called “The Son of God.” Roma was educated in how to know yourself as “a Divine Being having a human experience.” She has a degree that enables her to know how to use “Soul-Centered Basic Skills” for your own “spiritual evolution.” She can help us “resolve anything that disturbs our peace.” I heartily recommend her book. Can I be so bold as to say that the pastor would be shown the door?
In her education, Roma Learned how “the process of Self-Counseling, to connect with your Inner Counselor, a source of Wisdom, Unconditional loving, and Compassion that resides at the level of the Authentic Self,” and other garbage.
What I Expect to See
Because of the background of the author and the nature of the movie industry, I expect “the feel-good movie of the year.” Thus, I might add, I expect to be criticized for this article. “This movie will do a lot of good, you should praise it instead of criticize it.” We love to feel good!
Specifically, however, I suspect to see the following—
• A politically correct Jesus – He will look like we want him to look, talk like we want him to talk, and act like we want him to act.
• A Jesus free from the Old Testament – He will be free from the Law and free from Israel.
• An anti-Semitic Jesus – He will make us hate those Jews who did this to our Jesus.
• A Jesus loved by the masses but hated by the people we hate – or, in other words, a socialist/Marxist Jesus, a “people’s Jesus” who enables the people to rise above their dictators.
• A Jesus whose death was a pity and makes us feel bad – rather than one who willingly laid down His life.
I hope I am wrong on each of these (and I will gladly say I was wrong).
Questions I will be asking—
• Is Jesus presented as pre-existent?
• Is there any indication that Jesus is the eternal Son of God?
• Does it appear that Jesus “began” in Bethlehem?
• Is Jesus the Creator, through whom all things were made?
• Is Jesus presented as the Jewish Messiah coming to establish the Kingdom of God?
• Is there any concept that Jesus is the fulfillment of ancient prophecy?
• Are we shown that Jesus was sent to receive “the throne of His Father David” and that He would “reign over the house of Jacob?”
• Is there any indication that Jesus would restore creation and fulfill that at which Adam failed?
• Is Jesus presented as the only option for salvation?
• He will likely be presented as “the way, the truth, and the life,” but will we be informed that “no man comes to the Father but by Me?”
• Will the uninformed be inspired that Jesus was a good man and a great spiritual Being, or will they be informed that Jesus is their only spiritual option?
• Is Jesus’ death presented as an essential act of propitiation, or is it an act of love which motivates our obedience?
• Will the work of Christ on the cross be presented at that which motivates us to be our spiritual best, or that which fully paid the price of sin and made salvation and the forgiveness of sins possible?
• Is there any indication that Jesus is the returning judge and King?
• Without a picture of a returning Judge and King, we simply have a motivational story. If Jesus is coming back to “judge the living and the dead,” then we need to commit our lives to Him alone.
I realize that no movie can cover it all adequately (just as no sermon can).  Because of time constraints, I will be forgiving of some of these being left out. But, my sad prediction is that I will come out of the movie feeling good about Jesus, and—if the movie was my only source of information—not knowing that Jesus is the eternal Son of God sent as Jewish Messiah in fulfillment of every Hebrew prophecy and is my only hope for salvation, the only One who has paid the price, or can, for my sin and the sin of the world, the One whose return I must prepare for by accepting the gift of salvation given by grace, through faith.
Hoping again that I am wrong.
Dr. Randy White is pastor of First Baptist Church of Katy, TX and ministers online at www.randywhiteministries.org

How To Know The Will of God For Your Life

Finding the will of God and walking in the will of God is an imperative for the true believer. The will of God is not found in false teaching, man-centered theology, or through emotional experiences.
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Ephesians 5:17 makes it clear that we are to know the will of the Lord:
Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
How does God direct us in His will?
In a three part series for our television ministry, The Worldview Weekend Hour,  I covered the following facts that are found in God’s Word concerning the will of God. I explained the context and meaning of numerous Bible passages concerning how we know the will of God and how we can remain in God’s will. I would desire for you to watch the programs but if you have not had the chance, I would like to provide a brief outline of the first two programs for your edification and encouragement.
1. God has ordained His will for us before time began
Ephesians 2:10:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
2. God reveals His will in His Word
John 7:17:
If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.

Psalm 119:105:
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

Ephesians 5:17:
Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:18:
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,

2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
3. The Holy Spirit Illuminates The Word and Will of God

Psalm 119:133:
Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me.

Romans 12:2:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

1 Corinthians 2:9-16:
But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.  For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.  For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
4. The Holy Spirit leads us in God’s will
Proverbs 16:9:
A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.

Psalm 119:133:
Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me.

Psalm 143:10:
Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.

John 14:16:
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.

1 John 2:20-21:
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

1 John 2:27:
But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
5. A true believer walks in God’s Will

1 John 2:17:
And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

Matthew 7:21:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

I Peter 4:2:
that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
6. Faith and obedience cause us to persevere in God’s Will 

Philippians 2:12-13:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

1 Corinthians 9:27:
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
What is the Will of God?
1. It is the will of God that we know His will 
Romans 12:2:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Ephesians 5:17:
Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
2. God’s will is our salvation

1 Timothy 2:4:
who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Peter 3:9:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[a] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
3. God’s will is our sanctification

1 Thessalonians 4:3:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;
4. God’s will is that we abstain from sexual immorality

1 Thessalonians 4:3:
that you should abstain from sexual immorality;
5. God’s will is that we face persecution

1 Peter 4:19:
Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.

2 Timothy 3:12:
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

John 15:20:
Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

1 Peter 3:17:
For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

1 Peter 4:1:
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us[a] in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

Philippians 1:29:
For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

Acts 14:22:
strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
6. God’s will is that we are thankful

1 Thessalonians 5:18:
in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Today many people are chasing after mystical and extra-Biblical revelations such as dreams and visions, false prophets, and false apostles. Many are following such lies because they claim they want to find what many of them think is the hidden or secret will of God for their life. Sadly, what most of these unbelievers want is a spiritual life coach to tell them what steps to take in order to have “their best life now.”
Many are not interested in God’s will because they do not even seek the God of the Bible but a New Age god, a god of their own imagination. They do not seek to know God’s will because they have no interest in God’s Word. They do not seek God’s will because they are unregenerate sinners seeking what is right in their own eyes.

God’s will for them first and foremost is that they repent and place their faith and trust in Him and turn from their sin in repentance. They will never know God’s will or even understand God’s will until they have a Godly sorrow that produces repentance unto salvation as described in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10. Then, and only then, will the Holy Spirit indwell them and illuminate the Word of God to them so they might understand what is the Will of God. Then it is through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit that they can have the power to walk in God’s will of obedience and faithfulness. This is the sanctification of the saints that is God’s will for all believers.

God’s Word warns us that in this New Testament Church Age that the Word of God is all that we need to be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17.)

Gnosticism includes the pursuit of higher knowledge through occult practices. Much of the unsaved world today is pursuing Gnosticism. God’s Word warns us to have nothing to do with Gnosticism in Ephesians 5:11 we are told:

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.

In Colossians 2:8 Paul warns about the dangers of Gnosticism when he writes:

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

Finding the will of God and walking in the will of God is an imperative for the true believer. The will of God is not found in false teaching, man-centered theology, or through emotional experiences. God’s will is clearly revealed to us through His Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit that helps us to understand or illuminates what we read and study in God’s Word. 
The Holy Spirit then providentially leads and guides us in God’s Will. Providence is a word that has for the most part been abandoned in the vocabulary of today’s evangelicalism. The providence of God is something that we largely cannot see until after the fact. Joseph is a perfect example of this truth. At the time that he was sold into slavery he did not realize that this would lead him to be Prime Minister in Egypt. Yet, by Genesis 50:20 Joseph clearly understands that it was God’s providential leading and directing that orchestrated the events of his life. Thus, he told his brothers “what you meant for evil God has meant for good.”
In our third television program, I will look at the life of Joseph as well as Job to reveal that man’s free-will and God’s sovereign and providential rule do not contradict each other. In fact, the working together of man’s free will and God’s sovereign rule is known as the doctrine of concurrence. This doctrine is clearly seen in the life of Job and Joseph and the sinful people that acted out their sinful desires and actions that ultimately God used to accomplish His will.

I will cover this in an upcoming column so that we might understand the moral will of God and the providential will of God. In other words, through the pages of the Bible we will see how a Holy God uses sinful man to accomplish His purposes. God is not the author of sin nor of evil and yet, God uses the sinful actions of man to accomplish His ultimate goal as we see in Romans 8:28.
This are very important issue for us as Christians to understand and explain to others and that is why I have spent a few radio programs and three television programs covering this topic.
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