Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Top reasons people marry

Many people choose marriage for good reasons yet the divorce rates are still high. Why? Some idealize marriage; others underestimate the amount of effort it really take to make a real relationship work. With so many marriages failing, an increasing number of people are wondering if marriage is even worth the trouble. According to a 2002 survey on marriage and cohabitation,

  • Approximately 28% of men and women cohabitated before their first marriage
  • Among men and women who considered religion very important, more than 4 in 10 had cohabited at some time in their lives
 Top Reasons

1. Love: 91%
2. Companionship: 88%
3. To signify a lifelong commitment: 82%
4. Security for children: 79%
5. To make a publice commitment to each other: 77%
6. Legal status or for financial security: 66%
7. Because of religious beliefs: 62%
8.  Response to family pressure: 50%
9. Desire for a special occassion: 45%

Courtesy of: http://theartofmarriage.com/what-is-aom/topics-covered/

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Five Things I Wish I'd Known Before Marriage

The best marriage advice I never received.

by Dave Boehi
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what couples should know before they get married. For one thing, I’ve been making some updates and revisions on FamilyLife’s Preparing for Marriage workbook, which is used by thousands of pastors and counselors around the country each year for premarriage counseling. In addition, my younger daughter, Missy, was married recently. As a parent you think of all the things you should tell a child before marriage, and nothing ever seems to be enough.
When Merry and I were preparing to be married, we went through counseling and got a lot of good advice. But there are some important things that we did not fully understand. So if I were talking with a premarried couple, here’s what I’d tell them about the “5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Was Married”:

#1: Marriage is not all about you. It’s not about your happiness and self-fulfillment. It’s not about getting your needs met. It’s about going through life together and serving God together and serving each other. It’s about establishing a family. It’s about committing your lives to each other even though you may be very different in 10, 20, or 40 years from the people you are now.

#2: You are about to learn a painful lesson—you are both very selfish people. This may be difficult to comprehend during the happy and hazy days of courtship, but it’s true, and it shocks many couples during their first years of marriage. It’s important to know this revelation of selfishness is coming, because then you can make adjustments for it, and you will be a lot better off.

#3: The person you love the most is also the person who can hurt you the deepest. That’s the risk and pain of marriage. And the beauty of marriage is working through your hurt and pain and resolving your conflicts and solving your problems.

#4: You can’t make it work on your own. It’s obvious that marriage is difficult—just look at how many couples today end in divorce. This is why it’s so critical to center your lives and your marriage on the God who created marriage. To make your marriage last for a lifetime, you need to rely on God for the power and love and strength and wisdom and endurance you need.
#5: Never stop enjoying each other. Always remember that marriage is an incredible gift to be enjoyed. Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.”
Enjoy the little things of life with your spouse: the food you enjoy together at home or in restaurants … the movies you like … the little inside jokes nobody else understands except for you … the times you make each other laugh … the games you play together.

And focus on making memories together: Plan special dates and weekend getaways. Make sure you reserve time for each other after you have kids. When you are old, you won’t look back and remember how great it was to buy that new furniture or watch that great show on television. You’re going to remember what you did together and saw together and created together.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Meriam: “I am a Christian, and a Christian I shall remain”

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Recipe for Discernment, Part 2

By John MacArthur

Discernment is not automatically built in to the lives of Christians. The ability to wisely divide truth from error is something that must be pursued and developed as a part of the sanctification process. As we saw last time [link], the biblical recipe for discernment starts with fervent prayer and earnest desire. Both of those are foundational, but not enough on their own. A third vital ingredient in developing biblical discernment is obedience to the truth.
Obey the Truth
Someone will point out that with all his abundance of wisdom, Solomon was nevertheless a dismal failure at the end of his life (1 Kings 11:4–11). “His heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Kings 11:4). Scripture records this sad assessment of the wisest man who ever lived:

King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” Solomon held fast to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods. . . . For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon. Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord. (1 Kings 11:1–9)
But Solomon did not suddenly fail at the end of his life. The seeds of his demise were sown at the very beginning. First Kings 3, the same chapter that records Solomon’s request for discernment, also reveals that Solomon “formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt” (1 Kings 3:1). Verse three tells us, “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.”
From the very beginning his obedience was deficient. Surely with all his wisdom he knew better, but he tolerated compromise and idolatry among the people of God (1 Kings 3:2)—and even participated in some of the idolatry himself!
Knowing the truth without obedience is worthless. What good is it to know the truth if we fail to act accordingly? That is why James wrote, “Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). Failure to obey is self-delusion; it is not true discernment, no matter how much intellectual knowledge we may possess. Solomon is biblical proof that even true discernment can give way to a destructive self-delusion. Disobedience inevitably undermines discernment. The only way to guard against that is to be doers of the Word and not hearers only.
Follow Discerning Leaders
Another key ingredient in biblical discernment is this: Emulate those who demonstrate good discernment. Do not follow the leadership of people who are themselves “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). Find and follow leaders who display an ability to discern, to analyze and refute error, to teach the Scriptures clearly and accurately. Read from authors who prove themselves careful handlers of divine truth. Listen to preachers who rightly divide the Word of Truth. Expose yourself to the teaching of people who think critically, analytically, and carefully. Learn from people who understand where error has attacked the church historically. Place yourself under the tutelage of those who serve as watchmen of the church.
I do this myself. There are certain authors who have demonstrated skill in handling the Word and whose judgment I have come to trust. When I encounter a difficult issue—whether it is a theological problem, an area of controversy, a new teaching I have never heard before, or whatever—I turn to these authors first to see what they have to say. I wouldn’t seek help from an unreliable source or a marginal theologian. I want to know what those who are skilled in exposing error and gifted in presenting truth have to say.
There have been outstanding men of discernment in virtually every era of church history. Their writings remain as an invaluable resource for anyone who wishes to cultivate discernment. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and J. Gresham Machen are just two of many from the last hundred years who have distinguished themselves in the battle for truth. Charles Spurgeon, Charles Hodge, and scores of other writers from the nineteenth century have left a rich legacy of written material to help us discern between truth and error. In the century before that, Thomas Boston, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield battled for truth, as did many others like them. The preceding era was the Puritan age—the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which gave us what is undoubtedly the richest catalog of resources for discernment. And before that the Reformers fought valiantly for the truth of God’s Word against the traditions of men.
Virtually every era before the Reformation also had godly men of discernment who stood against error and defended the truth of God’s Word. Augustine, for example, preceded John Calvin by more than a thousand years, but he fought exactly the same theological battles and proclaimed precisely the same doctrines. Calvin and the Reformers drew heavily on Augustine’s writings as they framed their own arguments against error. In the year 325, a contemporary of Augustine, Athanasius, took a decisive stand against Arianism, the very same error that is perpetuated by modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses. His writings stand today as the definitive response to that error.
Much of the written legacy these spiritual giants left behind is still available today. We can all learn from these men of discernment—and we would do well to emulate the clarity with which they spoke the truth against error.
Those who can expose and answer the errors of false teachers are set in the body of Christ to assist us all to think critically and clearly. Learn from them.

(Adapted from Reckless Faith.)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Who Drove The Arabs Out Of Israel?

Excerpted from chapter five of  Judgment Day! Islam, Israel, and the Nations
The accusation has been widely publicized and believed that the Israelis drove nearly a million Arabs out of Palestine during the 1948 war. This is the foundation for the demands that the “Palestinians” make for the right of return to their former villages. There were some instances where Arab civilians who were sheltering, helping, or hiding attacking Arab soldiers were forced to leave. But most of the Arabs who fled did so in spite of Israeli promises of safety and pleas to stay…. Many left before Israel declared its independence and the war had really begun.
It was the  Arab military  that warned Arab civilians to “get out” and declared that those who remained would be considered traitors to the Arab cause. Nevertheless, they are the only “refugees” in the Middle East, as far as the world is concerned, and to whom all the sympathy is given. No thought is given to the Jewish refugees who, in far larger numbers, were either expelled or managed to flee Muslim countries in 1948.
On April 22, 1948 (three weeks before Israel declared itself a nation), Aubrey Lippincott, US Consul-General in Haifa, stated that “local mufti-dominated Arab leaders [were urging] all Arabs to leave the city, and large numbers did so.” 1  About the same time, Haifa’s British police chief, A. J. Bridmead, reported, “Every effort is being made by the Jews to persuade the Arab population to remain.” A foreign visitor reported: “In Tiberias I saw a placard affixed to a sealed Arab Mosque that read, ‘We did not dispossess them [and] the day will come when the Arabs will return to their homes and property in this town...let no citizen touch their property.’ It was signed by the Jewish Town Council of Tiberias.” 2
…A Jordanian newspaper reported, “The Arab States encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies.” 3  Another Jordanian newspaper quoted a complaining refugee: “The Arab government told us: ‘Get out so that we can get in. So we got out, but they did not get in.’” 4  …Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said declared: “We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place where the Jews seek shelter. The Arabs should conduct their wives and children to safe areas until the fighting has died down.” 5  Syrian Prime Minister, Khaled al Azm, later admitted, “Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees.... But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave.” Jordan’s King Hussein stated in 1960: “Since 1948, Arab leaders have approached the Palestine problem in an irresponsible manner. They have used the Palestine people for selfish political purposes. This is ridiculous and I could say even criminal.”
Overwhelming Testimony
The  New York Times  reported that “The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by orders of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city....” 7  The Arab National Committee in Jerusalem, following instructions of the Arab Higher Committee, ordered women, children, and the elderly in various parts of Jerusalem to leave their homes and warned, “Any opposition to this order...is an obstacle to the holy war...and will hamper the operations of the fighters in these districts.” 8
Emil Ghory, secretary of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee, admitted, “The fact that there are those refugees is the direct consequence of the action of the Arab states in opposing partition and the Jewish state. The Arab states agreed upon this policy unanimously....” 9  Arafat’s successor, the Palestinian Authority’s current prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, admitted in writing, “The Arab armies, who invaded the country in ’48, forced the Palestinians to emigrate and leave their homeland and forced a political and ideological siege on them.” 10  According to a British report, “Of the 62,000 Arabs who formerly lived in Haifa not more than 5,000 or 6,000 remained...the most potent [factors in the Arab flight]...were the announcements made over the air by the Higher Arab

Executive urging all Arabs to leave...[and] that those Arabs who remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection would be regarded as renegades.” 11
While visiting Palestinian Arab refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan, Carl Hermann Voss was told by the refugees themselves that “the Arab High Command ordered them out of Palestine during the 1948 war…told [them] that the Jews in Palestine would be annihilated within a few weeks and that the Arab Liberation Army did not want to worry about any fellow Arabs getting in the way of such a devastating Arab jihad. Those Palestinian refugees were bitter at their Arab compatriots who had left them homeless…. [But] four decades later he would be reading about the intense hatred harbored toward the Jewish people by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those refugees…. Accounts of Arab negligence and Arab miscalculation during the 1948 war had been forgotten, having been replaced with stories of Jewish ‘atrocities.’” 12
Islam's Record of Oppression and Slaughter
The hatred against all Jews, which comes not from being an Arab but specifically from Islamic teaching, was reflected in the inhumane treatment of Jews in Arab countries ever since Islam took over. Prior to the seventh century and the advent of the prophet Muhammad and Islam, as…Joan Peters points out from her exhaustive research in her book,  From Time Immemorial , “Jews and Arabs did have harmonious relations, and words of praise regarding the noble virtues of the Jews may be found in ancient Arab literature. Indeed, Muhammad himself in the early years, as he was seeking recognition as a prophet, looked with favor upon both Jews and Christians and cultivated their friendship.” But that turned to hatred when they rejected him as “the prophet of Allah.”
Though Muhammad continued to call Christians and Jews “the people of the book,” the fierce hatred that had begun when they rejected him continued to grow. The Qur’an declares, “O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends.” 13  Muhammad’s dying words were, “May Allah curse the Christians and Jews!” What a contrast to Christ’s teaching that we are to love all mankind as ourselves, 14  and to His dying words spoken specifically of those who had tortured and crucified Him—but also of all mankind: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” 15
The oppression of Jews and Christians in Arab countries throughout the centuries after the birth of Islam was at times almost beyond description. Hundreds of books have been written about this evil, but thousands could not contain the full record….
In A.D. 1012, one Caliph in Egypt, al-Hakim of the Fatimids, furious at failing to convert Jews and Christians to Allah despite threats and humiliation, destroyed Cairo’s Jewish quarter along with its residents. 16  A new community eventually grew in its place. They had no country of their own. There was never a way of escape and nowhere to go.… In early nineteenth-century Egypt, Jews were “held in the utmost contempt and abhorrence by the Muslims in general...detested by the Muslims far more than Christians...jostled in the streets of Cairo...beaten merely for passing on the right hand of a Muslim...dared not utter a word of abuse when reviled or beaten unjustly by the meanest Arab or Turk; for many a Jew has been put to death upon a false and malicious accusation of uttering disrespectful words against the Qur’an or the Prophet...[or has been] sacrificed to save a Muslim....” 17
In the 1940s, organized anti-Jewish riots injured or killed many Jews in Egypt. Egypt passed a law that made it nearly impossible for a Jew to find employment, the government confiscated much Jewish property, and within a few months Jews were reduced to financial ruin. After the UN partitioned Palestine on November 29, 1947, “Jews in Cairo and Alexandria were threatened with death, their houses were looted, and synagogues were attacked.” 18
The Forgotten Jewish Refugees
In 1948, as soon as a national Jewish homeland was created, more than 850,000 Jews fled (most of them to Israel for refuge) from Muslim lands where they had lived for 2,000 or more years, leaving behind virtually everything they had possessed. This was far more than the number of Arab refugees who fled from Israel during the War of Independence. Beginning in 1947 and accelerating in 1948 and thereafter, there has been an aggressive effort on the part of the international community to assist the “Palestinian” refugees. Many programs have been put into action and billions of dollars expended for their assistance. During the same period, no concern has been expressed by the United Nations for the plight of some 856,000 Jewish refugees who fled severe persecution in (or were forcibly expelled from) Arab lands. There have been more than 680 UN General Assembly resolutions dealing with every aspect of the Middle East Arab-Israeli conflict. More than 100 have dealt specifically with the “plight of Palestinian refugees.” In none of these, nor in any others, has the slightest concern been expressed for the even larger number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands.
This has not been due to ignorance. On many occasions, the Israeli government, the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC), and other agencies, have brought to the attention of the UN and its affiliates the numbers of and circumstances creating the far larger number of Jewish refugees, and have appealed for help. Numerous times, the mistreatment of Jews in Muslim countries…has been brought to the attention of the UN: by Golda Meir on November 27 and 30, 1956; on December 21, 1956, by Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., as US Representative to the UN; on December 2, 1968, to then UN Secretary General U-Thant by the International League for the Rights of Man (non-Jewish), and on many other occasions. The appeals fell on deaf ears.
…How could more than  850,000  refugees be overlooked by the United Nations and the world? Yet these Jewish refugees who fled the unbelievably inhumane persecution and slaughter they and their forebears had endured for centuries are ignored at the UN and in the media….Here is anti-Semitism in raw form!... [This] violates everything the United Nations is supposed to stand for [and] has no rational explanation. It can only be a continuing manifestation of the Satanic hatred against God’s chosen people foretold by His prophets—a hatred and persecution that would dog the steps of Jews worldwide until Israel’s national repentance. The prophets foretold both Israel’s persistent rebellion through the centuries and the resulting punishment that would not be finished until Armageddon had drained the last bitter drop of the cup of God’s judgment.
...It should be infuriating to anyone with even a minimal sense of fairness…that in the continuing concern expressed in repeated international conferences that discuss the plight of the Palestinian refugees, no concern is expressed, nor is any mention made, regarding the far greater number of Jewish refugees from Muslim lands. Of course, they are no longer refugees, having been absorbed into normal life in Israel. Nor would there be any “Palestinians” remaining in that category had the Arab nations, with their vast wealth and resources, accepted them—but they refused….
The One Exception!
In the last 100 years, there have been about 100 million displaced persons who have fled from violence in their former homelands to be taken in as refugees by neighboring countries…. No one has called for their return to the homes from which they fled—nor for a return of any of the other 85 million. This is the rule and practice.
Ah, but there is  one  exception—the “Palestinians.” In March 1976, Matthew Mitchell, then director of the United States Committee for Refugees, declared in all seriousness in an interview that in contrast to “the world situation…Arab refugees are a special case.” 19  These exploited victims of Arab hatred against Israel, deliberately kept on display in squalid camps, must be received back to Israel in order to destroy her—so says world opinion…. If justice demands that the “Palestinians” return to Israel, why isn’t there an equal cry of justice for the even larger number of Jews to be allowed back into Muslim lands? The answer to that question, as we are emphasizing, is indisputable proof of the pervasive anti-Semitism that the Bible prophesied the Jews would suffer until the Messiah returns at Armageddon to rescue them.
In contrast to the favored treatment of Arab refugees, the full story of the inhuman treatment of Jewish refugees during World War II (let alone throughout the centuries) would fill a library. One seldom-mentioned crime was the deliberate drowning of hundreds in the Black Sea. On December 12, 1941, the  Struma  left Constanta, Romania, bound for “Palestine.” The 769 Jewish refugees aboard (including 103 children and infants) were fleeing the Nazi Holocaust and had paid exorbitant fees, only to find themselves escaping Hitler on a dilapidated Greek cattle barge with only one bathroom, an engine that kept breaking down, and scarcely room for 100 people. The fare was supposed to have included entry visas to be picked up in Istanbul.
When the disabled vessel was finally towed into Istanbul with a dead engine, the  Struma  was anchored in a quarantine section of the port and no one (including the crew) was allowed ashore. There the passengers endured a living hell for seventy-one days. The only water and food was supplied by Jewish benefactors. It was then that the refugees learned that they were victims of a hoax more cruel than they had imagined—the promised “immigration certificates” in Istanbul did not exist.
The British, who controlled “Palestine” under a mandate to make it the Jewish national home but kept Jews out, forbade the Turkish government to allow the  Struma  through the Bosphorus Strait to the Mediterranean—a needless prohibition because all efforts to repair the engine failed. To return to Romania—even if possible—would have meant death. Finally, on February 23, 1942, under British pressure, Turkish police forcibly came aboard, cut the anchor chains, and towed the helpless vessel, with its occupants, far into the Black Sea. The  Struma  was blown apart and sunk early the next morning by a Russian sub, for which the sub’s commander, Lieutenant Denezhko, was given a medal. The lone survivor (except for one pregnant woman allowed ashore to have her baby) was 19-year-old David Stoliar, who, though near death and unable to walk, was confined to a Turkish jail. He is presently a resident of Bend, Oregon, and was interviewed by the author.

  1. Foreign Relations of the U.S 1948 , Vol. V. (GPO, 1976) 838.
  2. The New York Times , April 23, 1948.
  3. Filastin , February 19, 1949.
  4. Ad Diofaa , September 6, 1954.
  5. Myron Kaufman,  The Coming Destruction of Israel   (The American Library Inc., 1970), 26-27.
  6. Khaled Al-Azm,  Memoirs  [ Arabic ],  3 volumes  (Al-Dar al Muttahida lil-Nashr, 1972), vol. 1, 386-87, cited in Joan Peters,  From Time Immemorial,  16.
  7. The New York Times , May 3, 1948.
  8. Middle Eastern Studies,  January 1986.
  9. The Beirut Daily Telegraph , September 6, 1948.
  10. PLO journal  Palestine a-Thaura , March 1976.
  11. The Economist , October 2, 1948.
  12. David A. Rausch , The Middle East Maze  (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), 75-76.
  13. Surah 5:51.
  14. Matthew:22:39.
  15. Luke:23:34
  16. Saul Friedman, “The Myth of Arab Toleration,”  Midstream , January 1970, 58.
  17. Edward William Lane,  Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians 1833-1835  (London, 1890), 512-17.
  18. Peters,  Immemorial,  48, comments in fn 120-21.
  19. Ibid., 27.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Recipe for Discernment

By John MacArthur

We cannot simply flow with the current of our age. We cannot elevate love while downplaying truth. We cannot promote unity by repressing sound doctrine. We cannot learn to be discerning by making an idol out of tolerance. By adopting those attitudes, the church has opened her gates to all of Satan’s Trojan horses.
God gives us the truth of His Word, and He commands us to guard it and pass it on to the next generation. Frankly, the current generation is failing miserably in this task. Our failure to discern has all but erased the line between biblical Christianity and reckless faith. The church is filled with doctrinal chaos, confusion, and spiritual anarchy. Few seem to notice, because Christians have been conditioned by years of shallow teaching to be broad minded, superficial, and noncritical. Unless there is a radical change in the way we view truth, the church will continue to wane in influence, become increasingly worldly, and move further and further into all sorts of error.
How can we cultivate discernment? What needs to happen if the church is going to reverse the trends and recover a biblical perspective?
Desire Wisdom
Step one is desire. Proverbs 2:3–6 says, “Cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
If we have no desire to be discerning, we won’t be discerning. If we are driven by a yearning to be happy, healthy, affluent, prosperous, comfortable, and self-satisfied, we will never be discerning people. If our feelings determine what we believe, we cannot be discerning. If we subjugate our minds to some earthly ecclesiastical authority and blindly believe what we are told, we undermine discernment. Unless we are willing to examine all things carefully, we cannot hope to have any defense against reckless faith.
The desire for discernment is a desire born out of humility. It is a humility that acknowledges our own potential for self-deception (“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” [Jeremiah 17:9]). It is a humility that distrusts personal feelings and casts scorn on self-sufficiency (“On my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses” [2 Corinthians 12:5]). It is a humility that turns to the Word of God as the final arbiter of all things (“. . . examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things [are] so” [Acts 17:11]).
No one has a monopoly on truth. I certainly do not. I don’t have reliable answers within myself. My heart is as susceptible to self-deception as anyone’s. My feelings are as undependable as everyone else’s. I am not immune to Satan’s deception. That is true for all of us. Our only defense against false doctrine is to be discerning, to distrust our own emotions, to hold our own senses suspect, to examine all things, to test every truth-claim with the yardstick of Scripture, and to handle the Word of God with great care.
The desire to be discerning therefore entails a high view of Scripture linked with an enthusiasm for understanding it correctly. God requires that very attitude (2 Timothy 2:15)—so the heart that truly loves Him will naturally burn with a passion for discernment.
Pray for Discernment
Step two is prayer. Prayer, of course, naturally follows desire; prayer is the expression of the heart’s desire to God.
When Solomon became king after the death of David, the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Ask what you wish me to give you” (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon could have requested anything. He could have asked for material riches, power, victory over his enemies, or whatever he liked. But Solomon asked for discernment: “Give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9). Scripture says, “It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing” (1 Kings 3:10).
Moreover, the Lord told Solomon:
Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. And if you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days. (1 Kings 3:11–14)
Notice that God commended Solomon because his request was completely unselfish: “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself.” Selfishness is incompatible with true discernment. People who desire to be discerning must be willing to step outside themselves.
Modern evangelicalism, enamored with psychology and self-esteem, has produced a generation of believers so self-absorbed that they cannot be discerning. People aren’t even interested in discernment. All their interest in spiritual things is focused on self. They are interested only in getting their own felt needs met.
Solomon did not do that. Although he had an opportunity to ask for long life, personal prosperity, and health and wealth, he bypassed all of that and asked for discernment instead. Therefore God also gave him riches, honor, and long life for as long as he walked in the ways of the Lord.
James 1:5 promises that God will grant the prayer for discernment generously: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
Desire and prayer are the first two key ingredients in the recipe for true biblical discernment. Next time we’ll look at two more.

(Adapted from Reckless Faith.)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Growing Evidence Of Oncoming Persecution

“Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (1 John:3:13). These words were spoken by John. If historical tradition is accurate, he is the only apostle who died of old age. The others were martyred, put to death in a number of ways, including crucifixion, by the sword, thrown from the summit of a building, or beaten to death. Although we are aware that Christians are being martyred in other nations, for several centuries the church in America and the West has enjoyed a peace and safety that is somewhat of an anomaly. Consider John Fox.
John Fox (or Foxe), author of  Fox’s Book of Martyrs , was said to have lived in “respectable circumstances.” Educated at Oxford, he became a Fellow at Magdalen College, where he would “resort to a grove near the college...In these solitary walks he was often heard to [utter] heavy sobs and sighs, and with tears to pour forth his prayers to God. These nightly retirements…gave rise to the first suspicion of his alienation from the Church of Rome. Being pressed for an explanation of this alteration in his conduct,” Fox refused to lie, spoke the truth and was “by the sentence of the college convicted, condemned as a heretic, and expelled” ( Fox’s Book of Martyrs , “Sketch of the Author,” Edited by William Byron Forbush).
Fox eventually fled England and began gathering material for his book  Fox’s Book of Martyrs , documenting the persecutions of Christians from Nero up until his present time.
Today, we have difficulty relating to them in the American church. Groups who have monitored the persecution of evangelicals overseas (such as International Christian Concern) have seen evidence of a disturbing trend in the United States, calling this a “Cold War against the Church” because the violence that will follow has yet to occur. The Family Research Council and Liberty Institute issued a “2013 Survey of Hostility to Religion in America.” There are currently 1,200 “cases of hostility” against religious people—the majority against Christians. Concerning “government restrictions and social hostility towards religion around the globe,” the Pew Forum has raised the level in  the United States from “low to moderate” (Morgan, “A Storm Approaches,”  Persecution , International Christian Concern, Feb. 2014, p.3).
Although biblical faith is not based upon a cross, a nativity scene, or an icon, the world finds these important enough to remove along with anything else suggesting Christianity. Military chaplains face increasing restrictions on their liberty to minister the gospel or pray in the name of Jesus, while Muslims are  gaining  concessions. Muslim taxi drivers are permitted to refuse blind passengers because of their “defiling” seeing-eye dogs. Muslim students at universities have prayer times and prayer rooms, along with ritual footbaths.
Growing evidence has raised concerns for Christians in America. 2013 saw increasing evidence of animosity in the US military toward Christians. Mikey Weinstein (founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation), in an interview with Fox News stated that a Christian sharing his faith with another, “…is a version of being spiritually raped, and you are being spiritually raped by fundamentalist Christian religious predators.” Though dismissed as an extremist, his presence is testimony for the beliefs of those who have no tolerance for a biblical faith. Their numbers are growing.
Even more recently, “A professor of criminology at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Mike Adams, filed a suit against the university saying he has been routinely discriminated against” for his Christian-based views on social issues “since his conversion to Christianity in 2000. Before his conversion, Dr. Adams was regularly awarded for his work and promoted…" (http://www.persecution.org).
This should not be surprising. The Lord Jesus warned in John:15:18-21, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.”
Jo Jin Hye, born in North Korea, experienced first hand the tortures of North Korean authorities as she was beaten, kicked, slapped, and her back whipped with wires. She “was close to execution—for repeated defection, helping other defectors, and interacting with Christians—but escaped death because of prayer: ‘I was between life and death—what had I to lose? I had no fear or doubts, I just prayed…God answered them all’” (Devine/Lee, “Fleeing Hell,”  World , 3/22/14, p. 44).
Now living in the US, “Jo feels her own faith has dwindled as she got ‘a little too comfortable’ with her religious liberties in America. It’s a vastly different spiritual landscape in North Korea, where ‘just by professing your faith, you can get killed. … You’re putting your life at risk by becoming a Christian’” (Ibid.). Jo Jin Hye’s concerns may not last too long. Evidence is mounting that the liberties of Christians in America are at risk. “It was in 2010 that analysts began to notice a change in the language of government ‘servants.’ Movement away from the traditionally accepted term of ‘freedom of religion’ to the phrase ‘freedom of worship’ became commonplace.
“The term ‘freedom of worship’ is a concept utilized in places like Russia and Hitler’s Germany. Generally speaking the term ‘freedom of worship’ means that individuals are given permission to ‘worship’ whomever or whatever they like as long as they do it in a church or in the privacy of their home. Otherwise all ‘religious’ activities are considered an affront to statism” (Rayphe, “Is There Christian Persecution in America? Report 2013,” http://christianpersecutioninamerica.com/2013/07/08).
Though far lighter than what believers face in other countries, even secular commentators have seen a growing body of evidence is developing. For example, “Even Ira Glass, an atheist and secular Jew, recently mentioned that Christians are portrayed as ‘doctrinaire crazy hothead people.’ He went on to talk about the Christians he knows personally and how they are nothing like the way they’re portrayed in the media; indicating that Christians are unfairly treated” (Brennan, “Religious Persecution in the U.S.? Christians are Fair Game,”  Nevada Business , 10/1/13).
This nation, like all nations, has an appointment with endtime events. Scripture prophesies a future ruler who “…shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High...” (Daniel:7:25).
In 2 Timothy:3:12, Paul echoed these warnings, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” It has never been a matter of “if” but rather of “when.”
There is a cost for following the Lord Jesus, who preached, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets” (Luke:6:22-23).
As believers, our focus is not that the world hates us. Rather, with the approach of the man of sin (2 Thessalonians:2:3), we know that whatever sufferings believers may face, “The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming” (Psalm:37:12-13).
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians:5:25). Let us also remember to pray for our brethren in this present age.

Source: (http://www.thebereancall.org/content/may-2014-extra)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Discernment and Opposing Evil

By John MacArthur
True biblical discernment is grounded in the knowledge and love of the truth—as Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, every discerning believer must “hold fast to that which is good.” But that’s not the only ingredient. Too many pastors and church leaders today believe that if they just preach the truth, their people will be able to avoid error by osmosis. True discernment doesn’t work that way, as Paul made clear in his very next line to the Thessalonians: “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
The word translated “abstain” is a very strong verb, apechō, meaning “hold oneself back,” “keep away from,” “shun.” It is the same word used in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “abstain from sexual immorality,” and 1 Peter 2:11, “abstain from fleshly lusts.” It calls for a radical separation from “every form of evil.” This would include evil behavior, of course. But in this context, the primary reference seems to be evil teaching—false doctrine. Having examined everything in light of God’s Word, when you identify something that does not measure up—something that is evil, untrue, erroneous, or contrary to sound doctrine—shun it.
Scripture does not give believers permission to expose themselves to evil. Some people believe the only way to defend against false doctrine is study it, become proficient in it, and master all its nuances—then refute it. I know people who study the cults more than they study sound doctrine. Some Christians immerse themselves in the philosophy, entertainment, and culture of society. They feel such a strategy will strengthen their witness to unbelievers.
But the emphasis of that strategy is all wrong. Our focus should be on knowing the truth. Error is to be shunned.
Granted, we cannot recede into a monastic existence to escape exposure to every evil influence. But neither are we supposed to be experts about evil. The apostle Paul wrote, “I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil” (Romans 16:19).
In the King James Version, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 is translated “abstain from all appearance of evil.” The word translated “appearance” is eidos, literally “that which is seen.” The New American Standard Bible gives the better sense with “every form of evil.” We are to reject evil however it appears, to shun every manifestation of it.
This explicitly rules out syncretism. Syncretism is the practice of blending ideas from different religions and philosophies. Some people—even some professing believers—devour materials from every cult and denomination, looking for good in all of it. Whatever they deem good, they absorb into their belief system. They end up designing their own unique religions based on syncretism.
A syncretist might attempt to use 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to justify his methodology: “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” That is, after all, precisely what he is doing—examining everything. But what he is really doing is actually the opposite of what this passage demands. Verse 21 is balanced by verse 22: “Abstain from every form of evil.”
Erroneous doctrine is no place to look for truth. There is usually some point of truth even in the rankest heresy. That is Satan’s subtle strategy. He often sabotages the truth by mixing it with error. Truth mixed with error is usually far more effective and far more destructive than a straightforward contradiction of the truth. If you think everything you read or hear on Christian radio and television is reliable teaching, then you are a prime target for reckless faith. If you think everyone who appears to love the truth really does, then you don’t understand the wiles of Satan. “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light,” Paul wrote. “Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14–15).
Satan also disguises his lies as truth. He doesn’t always wage war openly against the gospel. He is much more likely to attack the church by infiltrating it with subtle error. He uses the Trojan-horse stratagem by placing his false teachers in the church, where they can “secretly introduce destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1). He puts his lies in the mouth of someone who claims to speak for Jesus Christ—someone likable and appealing—then he spreads his perverse lies in the church where they can draw away Christ’s disciples (Acts 20:30). He attaches Bible verses to his lies (Matthew 4:6). He uses deception and hypocrisy. He disguises falsehood as truth. He loves syncretism. It makes evil look good.
That’s why we are to examine everything carefully and shun whatever is unsound, corrupt, or erroneous. Doing anything less is deadly. Millions in the church today are being overwhelmed by the Trojan-horse ploy by calling for the integration of secular ideas and biblical truth. Others are easily duped by anything labeled “Christian.” They don’t carefully examine everything. They don’t hold fast to the truth. And they don’t shun evil. As a result, they are left vulnerable to false doctrine and have no defense against reckless faith.
That is not discernment.

(Adapted from Reckless Faith.)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

In Defense of the Faith: What Does Archaeology Say About the Bible?

Question: I have been told that there is a great deal of archaeological evidence proving that the Bible is not reliable. I don’t remember the details, and perhaps none were given, but the impression I’ve gotten from several professors at the university is that the archaeological evidence against the Bible is pretty solid.
Response:  There have been many claims that the Bible is not true, but none of them has been able to stand up under careful scrutiny. The Bible claims to be the Word of God, which He inspired prophets and apostles to put in writing for the benefit of all mankind. As such, it must be infallible and without any error. Therefore, it would not take “a great deal” of archaeological or any other kind of evidence to disprove the Bible. One piece of evidence would be enough.
Paul wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy:3:16), and Peter declared that “holy men of God spoke [or wrote] as they were moved [inspired] by the Holy Ghost [Spirit of God]” (2 Peter:1:21). Even one error in the  substance  of the Bible (not a copyist’s or printer’s error) would prove it was not what it claims to be, the holy Word of God. You have given me no specific examples, so I can only reply in general.
The Bible is without doubt the most remarkable as well as the most controversial book in the world. Its claim to be inspired of God has caused those who don’t believe in God and those who follow rival religions to attack its credibility. In fact, it has been attacked by determined skeptics and professional critics for centuries as no other book in history. In every instance, however, when the facts have been established through archaeological findings, the Bible has been proven correct and its critics wrong. This has been the case 100 percent of the time—as it would have to be if the Bible is indeed God’s Word.
As just one example, the early chapters of the Bible have a great deal to say about the Hittites. According to the biblical account, they were a numerous and powerful people in the days of Abraham and continuing at least into the time of King David. We are told that one of David’s army captains was a Hittite named Uriah. David arranged for Uriah’s murder in order to cover the sin of having made his wife pregnant. Yet decades of digging had failed to uncover any archaeological evidence for the Hittites. Consequently, the skeptics claimed that the Bible was a book of myths because it presented fictitious de-tails concerning a people who had never existed.
Then the discoveries began to pour in. Today we have abundant archaeological evidence that what the Bible said concerning the Hittites is absolutely true. One entire museum in Ankara, Turkey, is devoted to Hittite relics.
A more recent development comes through the finding in 1993 at Tel Dan of the “now-famous Aramaic [stone] inscription fragment referring to the House of David. Some scholars . . . [had] denied that David was a historical figure or that a united kingdom preceded Judah and Israel.” Once again the Bible was vindicated. In 1994, two more fragments of the same stone inscription were discovered, again mentioning the House of David. Many other similar examples could be given.
Today no one doubts the existence of King David and the history of his reign as recorded in the Bible. In September 1995, all of Israel began a 15-month-long celebration of the three-thousandth anniversary of the founding of Jerusalem by David.
As a result of its continual verification by archaeological findings, the Bible is used by many of today’s archaeologists as a guide in locating ancient cities. In fact, Israeli public schools teach students the history of their land and ancestors from the Old Testament, knowing that it is unfailingly accurate.
The truth is that rather than archaeological evidence pointing  against  the Bible, the archaeological evidence is all in its  favor.  Anyone who says the contrary is either ignorant of the current evidence or is heavily biased and unwilling to face it.
—  An excerpt   from  In Defense of the Faith (pp. 73-75)  by  Dave Hunt

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Opposition to the World Brings Hatred

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
- John 15:18-19
Because they are not part of the world’s system, Christians should expect it to hate and oppose them.
If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you doubtless remember how soon you realized that you were no longer in step with the world’s culture. You were no longer comfortable with its philosophy. You no longer had the world’s desires and yearnings. You no longer felt good about doing some of the things the world takes for granted. In fact, you even felt constrained to speak out against such things and urge unbelievers to turn from their sins and embrace Christ. All that opposition to worldliness, when added up, can and will result in hatred toward us from people in the world.
In John 15, the Greek word translated “world” (kosmos) refers to the world’s system of sin, which is devised by Satan and acted out by sinful people. The Devil and his angels sometimes make it even more difficult for us by subtly presenting their “religion” as if it were true. Such deception can lull us into complacency and leave us spiritually weak when persecution comes.
Because of the world’s relentless opposition to God’s kingdom, it is crucial that we remember Christ’s call to stand for Him in our sinful society. The apostle Paul exhorts us to be “children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15).
If we take Scripture seriously and prayerfully spend time in it daily, we will not be caught off guard when our faith is opposed. Instead, we will be heartened by Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14).

Suggestions for Prayer:
Ask the Lord to strengthen you today and to remind you that even though you are not of the world, you are to be a light to it.
For Further Study:
Read the account of John the Baptist’s death in Mark 6:14.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Power of the Gospel

First published in December 1993
By Dave Hunt
may nl.preview.jpg God’s holiness and justice require that sinners be eternally separated from Him. To be cut off completely and eternally from that Love for which one was created will be to burn with a thirst that will only grow ever more unbearable. God, however, graciously and freely offers salvation from that most dreadful condemnation. “The gospel of God’s grace” declares that God became a man through virgin birth, that this sinless God-man died for our sins, satisfying His own justice by suffering the eternal punishment we deserve, resurrected the third day, and that all who believe in Him are forgiven and receive eternal life as a free gift. Salvation is that simple—and wonderful—and must be preached in that simplicity.
It is not the academic credentials, brilliant oratory, or persuasiveness of the preacher, but the pure gospel that convinces hearers. We must not attempt in human wisdom and zeal to embellish, improve, or in any way make the gospel more appealing to the unsaved. The gospel, presented in its unchanging purity, is the message that the Holy Spirit honors by convincing and convicting those who hear it (Jn:16:8-11). This truth must grip evangelicals once again!
Contrary to popular belief, expertise in preaching (the “homiletics” taught in seminary) cannot help but hinders communication of the gospel. Proficiency in public speaking or in the latest salesmanship techniques may be helpful in a secular profession but not in “the foolishness of preaching.” Unless such methodologies and capabilities are laid aside to proclaim God’s truth, they obscure the gospel.
Though the above may sound like an extreme and anti-intellectual view, such was the teaching and practice of the Apostle Paul. A learned rabbi, Paul was no doubt an eloquent orator who could sway any audience. In preaching the gospel, however, he deliberately laid aside “excellency of speech” (1 Cor:2:1) and carefully avoided “the words which man’s wisdom teacheth” (v 13). Knowing that his own ideas, embellishments, and persuasive abilities were hindrances rather than helps, the great apostle stood before his audience “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” (v 3). So must we.
Paul declared that the “wisdom of words” made Christ’s cross “of none effect” (1 Cor:1:17). Therefore, he determined that his preaching would not be “with enticing words of man’s wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” so that his converts’ faith “should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor:2:4-5). Many well-meaning Christians, however, do exactly what Paul avoided, convinced that the gospel and the Holy Spirit need the help of scholarship, psychological persuasion, and modern promotional packaging. Consequently, the faith of many believers today stands upon the wisdom of men instead of in the power of God—and can thus be undermined by human argument as well.
The gospel is being compromised and even denied by many professing Christians. President Clinton, who claimed to be a Christian, said when his number two legal aide, Vincent Foster, Jr., committed suicide, “My deepest hope is that...[his] soul will receive the grace and salvation that his good life and good works earned ” (emphasis added). At a prayer breakfast in which Clinton participated, Senator Kerry read John:3:1-21 ( skipping verse 16 ), said Christ was speaking of “spiritual renewal,” and that “in the spirit of Christ...Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, Christian” were meeting and “there is renewal...with a new President and Vice President....” Billy Graham added, “I do not know a time when we had a more spiritual time than we’ve had today.”
The terms “spiritual” or “spirituality” legitimize much error. “Spirituality” is now evidenced by ecumenism and enhanced by New Age techniques. Christianity Today ( CT ) (11/8/93) favorably reports upon an apparent widespread movement toward spiritual maturity. Unfortunately, in its promotion of modern “spirituality,” CT touts Richard Foster and his “contemplative prayer” techniques, which involve passivity and visualization taught by such occultists as Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits) and Agnes Sanford. (See The Seduction of Christianity and Beyond Seduction .) Several articles uphold Roman Catholicism as sound Christianity. Introducing a major article, CT ’s executive editor praises Roman Catholic mystic Thomas Merton as having led the way into a deeper relationship with God, even though Merton, a New Ager, rejected the gospel, without the acceptance of which one cannot know God.
It is not methodologies or techniques but truth and love that establish and mature spiritual life in the believer. Nor can genuine love of God and others spring from anything but acceptance and appreciation of the gospel (1 Jn:4:19). That “old, old story” reveals God’s love. Those who preach it in truth must be motivated and empowered by that same love.
Well, you might say, I’m not a pastor or preacher, so advice about preaching the gospel doesn’t apply to me. “The foolishness of preaching” includes sharing Christ with a neighbor over a fence or with a friend on the phone. Christ’s command to “preach the gospel” and to “make disciples”—the so-called Great Commission of Mark:16:15 and Matthew:28:18-20—applies equally to every Christian, past, present, and future. That fact is clear from Christ’s words, “teaching [converts] to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mt 28:20). Christ’s original disciples were to teach their converts to obey every command He had given them—including preaching the gospel and teaching their converts as well to obey Christ’s every command. And so down to us today. We also must obey all He commanded the original twelve.
These words of Christ correct a number of popular errors, such as the idea that His teachings in the four Gospels are only for Israel, or only to be obeyed in the Millennium, and thus are not for the church today. Also eliminated is the idea that “the gospel of the kingdom” that Christ and the disciples preached prior to the Cross is somehow different from the gospel we are to preach today. And a major source of Roman Catholic error—that the pope is Peter’s successor and that only the hierarchy of priests, bishops, cardinals, et al., are the successors of the other apostles—is also proved false. Every convert to Christ is both commanded and empowered by the Holy Spirit to obey everything Christ commanded the original twelve and thus to act in every capacity for which He trained and commissioned them.
The gospel is the only solution to sin’s destructive effect in daily life. Yet even many evangelicals have lost their faith in the power of the gospel and imagine that something else is needed, be it enticing programs, psychological counseling, or new revelations from modern prophets. Paul referred to “the foolishness of preaching” because the simple gospel he preached was despised. So it is in our day.
In contrast to the simplicity and purity of the gospel presented in Scripture, new methods and innovations are being employed today. The gospel is no longer thought to be sufficient in itself. It is now taught that believing the gospel may leave a host of demons hiding within, left over from past sins or even prior generations. The Bible calls the one who believes the gospel “a new creature” in Christ for whom “old things are passed away [and] all things are become new” (2 Cor:5:17; Gal:6:15). In denial of this clear truth, “deliverance” ministries have sprung up to cast demons out of Christians.
The simple gospel was all the apostles needed and used. Yet today so much else is added. Take, for example, the new belief that many Christians (especially returning missionaries) through “stress” or “burnout” develop multiple personalities––another heresy from psychology. “Deliverance” allegedly comes by leading each “personality” to saving faith in Christ! Closely related is “Spiritual Mapping,” another new fad, which Christianity Today (11/8/93) calls “a complicated and controversial technique developed by missiologist C. Peter Wagner, that claims to identify satanic strongholds in a city....”
Last July saw the first ever “North American Spiritual Mapping Consultation,” offering “a methodology for discovering specific barriers to soul-winning in North American locales.” According to National & International Religion Report (NIRR),
The consultation was sponsored by the Sentinel Group (SG) of Lynnwood, Wash., and drew 130 invited pastors, lay leaders, and missionaries from 30 states and provinces....The ‘growing influence of new and powerful spiritual forces on the continent’ necessitates such research, said SG President George Otis, Jr., who is also co-coordinator for the United Prayer Track of the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement.... A Spiritual Mapping Field Guide distributed at the conference outlined ways participants could prayerfully research the social bondages, allegiances, and spiritual barriers of their respective communities. It included 200 discovery questions, methodological cautions, and networking recommendations. SG’s Lisa Otis told NIRR that the research methods include interviews, observation, library backgrounding, and prayer logs. The group has planned seven regional meetings in hopes that results will help develop effective prayer and evangelism strategies.
Questions immediately arise. New spiritual forces? Is there a new breed of demons more clever or powerful than those faced by the early church? If the gospel needs such help, why doesn’t the Bible say so? Why weren’t these methods taught and practiced by Christ and the apostles? How could Paul have “turned the world upside down” (Acts:17:6) through evangelism of the pagan Roman Empire without employing these techniques? Would Paul have been even more effective had he used “spiritual mapping” and employed the new “methodology for discovering specific barriers to soul-winning”?
Surely Corinth, Greece’s most splendid and prosperous city, the mecca of trade between East and West, was as enslaved by Satan as any city today. The cult of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, whose mythic example encouraged sexual promiscuity and perversion, had long flourished there. When Paul arrived in Corinth about A.D. 50, the massive, columned Temple of Apollo had for 600 years dominated the commercial center of the city (where much of the meat sold for consumption was first offered to idols). Yet we find no hint that Paul engaged in “spiritual mapping” of Corinth’s demonic powers. He relied solely and entirely upon the gospel to rescue pagans from Satan’s clutches: “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor:2:2).
Or take the city of Ephesus, whose wealth came in large part from the sale of images of the goddess Diana. Her temple was the center of Ephesian life and, as was always the case with idolatry, involved prostitution, sexual orgies, and every depravity. If ever a people were bound by Satan and his minions it was the Ephesians. Yet without “spiritual mapping” or other “deliverance” techniques touted today, multitudes came to Christ, and the church formed there was among the strongest and truest. Yes, Paul reminded them that their battle was not against flesh and blood but with principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph:6:10-12). He gave no hint, however, that these demonic powers should be mapped or tracked or that psychological techniques for dealing with multiple personalities should be employed. The believers were to stand fast in the faith, clothed in the armor of God, their sole weapon “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v 17).
The “old, old story of Jesus and His love,” as the classic hymn says, “is ever new” and best loved by “those who know it best.” We will never advance, even in eternity, to a higher spiritual experience or understanding than that produced by faith in the simple gospel that saves us. That God loved us so much as to become a man and, though hated, rejected, despised, and crucified, died in our place to reconcile sinners to Himself will ever be, for ransomed souls, the wellspring of love, joy, and worship in heaven. In all eternity we will never have a newer or better song than the “old, old story,” which is ever new.
“Thou art worthy...for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood” is the highest praise possible for the redeemed in God’s presence (Rv 5:9). Herein lies the secret of joy for those who inhabit heaven! Why are some Christians depressed, insecure, selfish, earthly minded, and lacking love, joy, peace, and victory in Christ? The “old, old story of Jesus and His love” has become old indeed to them, neglected and forgotten. They don’t need psychological counseling but a return to their “first love” (Rv 2:4). We need to meditate unceasingly upon this most wonderful truth, the simple gospel, which alone ignites the genuine love and sincere gratitude that we ought to continually express to our Lord.
It is commendable if someone, concerned to know God better, studies Greek. However, if proficiency in that language were essential for knowing God’s Word and living a more fruitful Christian life, then one would expect the Greeks to be the most Christlike and fruitful of all people, and God would have had us all speak Greek. Surely the Greeks in Christ’s and Paul’s day knew their native tongue much better than today’s Greek scholars, yet they had as much difficulty living for Christ as anyone else. The love relationship God desires needs only a sincere, believing heart in which to grow.
“Oh, the wonder of it all” said the hymn-writer, “that God loves me!” It is so simple that a child can believe it, yet so profound that it will take eternity to begin to fathom the depths of that love! God’s love is revealed in Christ’s dying in our place. Surely those who have tasted that love must be impelled by that love to tell others of the salvation available by God’s grace. Only that appreciation of God’s love and grace aroused by the gospel transforms sinners into joyful, victorious saints—and continues to keep the saints in joy and victory now, and eternally.   TBC