The Afghan disaster and the warning of Jesus by Charles Bower

Which of you, wishing to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has the resources to complete it? Otherwise, if he lays the foundation and is unable to finish the work, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This man could not finish what he started to build.’ Or what king on his way to war with another king will not first sit down and consider whether he can engage with ten thousand men the one coming against him with twenty thousand? And if he is unable, he will send a delegation while the other king is still far off, to ask for terms of peace.”  Luke 14:28-35

As Christ taught us, let’s count the cost of our lost war.

  • Dollars spent on the war in Afghanistan: $2.26 trillion
  • GDP of Afghanistan: $19.29 billion
  • American soldiers killed in Afghanistan: 3,200
  • Terrorist attacks in Afghanistan in 2019: 1,422
  • Afghanistan’s share of global deaths by terrorism: 41%
  • Years America occupied Afghanistan: 20
    • Days it took the Taliban to capture Kabul: 9
    • Afghanistan’s ranking on the global terrorism index: 1

    You can see in the infographic below, courtesy of Statista, how some of these stats have changed – in fact, gotten worse – over these past years.

    How Afghanistan Deteriorated

This is the legacy of the War in Afghanistan: more terrorism, more instability, and more violence. Despite the UN, despite the World Bank, despite the IMF, despite the American, British, Canadian, French, German, and Italian military, Afghanistan in many ways is in a worse position today than it was even 20 years ago.

The excellent Orthodox conservative writer Rod Dreher recently pointed out that the War on Terror was bookended by men jumping out of American buildings to certain death on September 11th, and men falling off American planes to certain death twenty years later. This outcome was surely unimaginable to President Bush in 2001 when he ordered the invasion, or to President Obama in 2009 when he ordered a surge of US troops; that’s because they didn’t count the cost. Let’s go back, as we always should, to Him whose warnings our ruling class did not heed.

During Christ’s infancy, shortly after the death of Herod “the Great,” a rebel by the name of Judas attacked the Galilean city of Sepphoris and organized an armed revolt against the Herodian dynasty. Unlike that of his forebearer, Judas Maccabeus, this Judas’ revolt failed. According to the historian Josephus, Rome’s Syrian governor burned the city down and sold its inhabitants into slavery.

Sometime during Jesus’ teenage years, Sepphoris was rebuilt by Herod Antipas. Given their profession, and that they lived in nearby Nazareth, it’s likely that Christ joined with His stepfather in rebuilding the city. The young Jesus would have spent days toiling away in the shadow of decrepit former homes and businesses, as He built a new city in the rubble of a former rebel stronghold. (Sound familiar?)

Christ may well have been thinking of the failed revolt in Sepphoris when He spoke about war in Luke 14, just as Vietnam serves as the base-case for invasion and occupation for Baby Boomers, and as Iraq and Afghanistan for Millennials and Zoomers constitute the intellectual and emotional lens through which any possible war is filtered.

The Biblical perspective on war is, as one might expect, nuanced. Some conflicts – such as the Maccabean Revolt and the wars against the Amalekites, Midianites, and Philistines – carry divine endorsement. Some conflicts – such as the First Jewish-Roman War and the Bar Kokhba Revolt – carry divine punishment. Besides the obvious, two things separate the just and unjust war in Christian thought: the primacy of national sovereignty, and a reasonable expectation of victory.

First, God is not an imperialist. In 1 Peter 2:17 (“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king,”) the Greek word basileus is used, which generally means not emperor, but king. A king is sovereign over one nation; an emperor is sovereign over many. Godcreated the nations and divided them:

When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He divided the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.” Deuteronomy 32:8

Lest we think this is some temporary division of the Old Testament era, Saint Paul repeats this doctrine in speaking to (formerly imperial) Greek pagans:

From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands.”

Acts 17:26

He, not us, made the nations. They are not man’s to play with; they are the creation of God, who went so far as to assign them spiritual principalities (see Daniel 10:13, Job 1:6, and, debatably, the aforementioned Deuteronomy 32:8.) Indeed, the very concept that there are laws of war – and therefore that some wars are unjust – comes from Christian thought, seen explicitly in the writing of the Arminian scholar Hugo Grotius. It was that same philosophy that resolved the Eighty Years’ War and Thirty Years’ War in the Peace of Westphalia, which legally instantiated the sovereignty of nations.

Were we honoring this principle in Afghanistan, where our presidents became de facto sovereigns of a foreign nation? Has our war of these past 20 years about redressing the crimes committed against us and protecting our rights and interests? Or was it about exporting our Western, liberal, democratic form of government to nations that have never known it and do not want it?

Even if we leave that aside, the issue of cost is glaringly obvious. What is required for a war to be just is that it be proportional to the crime and worth what we pay, whether financially, or in prestige, or in lives. If the mere presence of an evil foe was sufficient justification for war, Christ would have been encouraging a revolt against the Romans, not repeatedly warning against it. Taking up arms when one has no reasonable chance of victory is what Saint Peter did at Jesus’ arrest – prompting Him to tell Peter to sheathe his sword, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” War must carry a realistic possibility of victory, and it must not be more destructive than the peace.

This does not describe the war in Afghanistan. The invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 was justifiable – we were attacked, and the Taliban was aiding and shielding those who attacked us. What it became was something very different: a war for democracy; a war to enforce a very particular, modern, Western view of politics; a war to build a nation; a war that we did not count the costs of. We spent several times the GDP of Afghanistan to make it a liberal democracy, and we still failed, because the enterprise was absurd from the start.

Now, in the shadow of American humiliation and Afghan ruin, our foes are eager to pick up the pieces we broke. Expect China, Pakistan, Russia, and even India to reconsider their political and economic position in South and Central Asia, and not to America’s benefit – nor Afghanistan’s.

This is, of course, to say nothing of the thousands of men Western powers sent to die in a foreign country, not for national security – that stopped being the goal years ago – but for secular neocolonialism.Our now-abandoned Afghan colony was the fever dream of a political class unmoored from the Bible, unmoored from the Christian view of nations, unmoored from the spirit of Grotius and Westphalia, unmoored from world history, unmoored from a sense of proportion and scale, unmoored from who we are and what our purpose is; a political class which had somehow convinced themselves that they should – and could! – build a little America out of an ancient mountain range in South Asia.

Over $2 trillion spent to remake a country with a GDP of under $20 billion in our image. Over $2 trillion, over 3,000 lives, and a country that is less safe than it was when we started. Christ told us to count the cost of war before it begins; we ignored Him. Now America joins the ranks of the British, the Soviets, the Mongols, the Greeks, and the Persians in the graveyard of empires.

________________

Charles is a risk analyst and columnist at TownhallFinance. He has written for National Review Online, AsiaTimes, RealClearMarkets, and the Theopolis Institute. @charlesgbowyer

Online Source

A DEFENSE OF SINGING SONGS FROM BETHEL AND HILLSONG

The following is a very recent article with the same title as this blog post, as well as the comments made to the article as of early this morning. It’s a very interesting article on several levels, and the comments contain links to other material relevant to the issue of using Hillsong and Bethel Music for worship in our churches. Without further ado I leave it all with any who read it; to form your own opinions on the matter.

A DEFENSE OF SINGING SONGS FROM BETHEL AND HILLSONG

August 6, 2021 | By: Sam Storms

Online Source

Perhaps you saw an article that appeared online recently in which Mackenzie Morgan, a worship leader at Refine Church in Lascassas, Tennessee, announced that she and her church would no longer sing songs that come from Bethel Church in California or Hillsong Church in Australia. After examining some of the teaching from both Bethel and Hillsong, she concluded that to sing any song that originated with or was composed by someone from either of these local churches was dangerous.

Morgan insists that when it comes to corporate singing in church, “theology matters.” “It matters,” she says, “if a song is weak in theology and is not accurately displaying the Holiness of our God.” I couldn’t agree more.

Here at my church, Bridgeway, we are intensely careful never to sing error. If a song is in any way inconsistent with Scripture, we don’t sing it, no matter who wrote it or how much we might like the melody.

Morgan is also bothered by the fact that in singing the songs of Bethel and Hillsong “royalties” are being paid to them, and in this we are tacitly subsidizing and spreading “their false gospel message.” She continues:

“What if the majority of the church is leading its people astray singing music that is less than worthy of a Sovereign and Holy God? Would God be pleased with the lights? With the smoke machines? With the obsession of hands in the air and ‘response’ from the crowd? With loud worship nights singing songs He doesn’t approve of?”

So let me go on the record in this regard. I don’t like the strobe lights that so often are used in church worship sets. I refuse to make use of smoke machines. But I’m puzzled by the reference to the raising of hands. Has she not read Scripture’s many references to this practice? Has she not considered the deeply symbolic and spiritual nature of not only this but of other physical postures in worship? I’m curious: Does a person’s stiff, statuesque posture, with hands firmly at one’s side or stuffed into one’s pockets honor God more than those that are lifted in praise?

And should we not expect a “response” from the crowd? I read in Scripture of shouts of joy and declarations of “Holy, holy, holy”, and affirmations of thanksgiving, among others. And what is the alternative to “loud worship nights”? Quiet or soft worship days? And as I said, no one is endorsing songs of which God wouldn’t “approve.”

Be assured of this. In no way do I endorse or turn a blind eye to the scandals that have rocked Hillsong in recent days. In no way do I endorse certain ministry methods that are employed at a variety of churches that artificially stir up emotions as an end in themselves or manipulate people into behaviors or experiences that lack biblical sanction. Every church, be it Bethel, Hillsong, or Bridgeway as well (including Refine Church in Tennessee), needs to labor more vigorously to tether our teachings and practices to the inspired Word of God.

But let’s go straight to the point. Because this lady believes that some of what Bethel and Hillsong teach is unbiblical, no other church should make use of the music composed or sung there. She also insists that we should “read their church’s doctrine and see what they preach, teach, and believe. But don’t stop there. Don’t compare it to your traditions or what you think is right. Compare it with Scripture. Scripture is the ultimate authority. Not me, not your pastor, not the world, only God. There are no gray areas in God’s Word.”

So, I did just that. Bethel’s statement of faith is profoundly evangelical and orthodox and consistent with the historic creeds of Christianity. They affirm the Trinity, the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the incarnation and virgin birth of Jesus Christ, his substitutionary death on the cross, bodily resurrection, and ascension into heaven. They explicitly declare that Jesus is “true God” and “true man.”

They further affirm that we are saved by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus. Bethel was at one time affiliated with the Assemblies of God, and yet their statement on the issue of Spirit baptism differs from that denomination’s viewpoint. Here is what they say:

“The baptism of the Holy Spirit, according to Acts 1:4-8 and 2:4, is poured out on believers that they might have God’s power to be His witnesses.”

Nothing is said about speaking in tongues being the initial, physical evidence of Spirit baptism. They do appear to believe that this experience is separate from and subsequent to conversion, but even then the language is a bit ambiguous. And let us not forget that although I and many evangelical charismatics believe baptism in the Spirit occurs simultaneous with conversion, the doctrine of “separate and subsequent” has been and still is embraced by numerous Christian denominations within the Pentecostal world, and is ably (even if not persuasively) defended by countless biblical scholars who minister in that tradition. We may disagree with their view on this point, but it is very much a secondary, perhaps even tertiary, doctrine. It is hardly a hill to die on.

They also believe in the Second Coming of Christ and the eternality of both heaven and hell.

One statement that clearly needs greater clarification is this:

“We believe the victorious, redemptive work of Christ on the cross provides freedom from the power of the enemy – sin, lies, sickness, and torment.”

I also believe this, but the question of when complete freedom from “sickness” is to be expected needs to be clearly stated. But note well: there is nothing in the statement that affirms the “Word of Faith” movement and its beliefs or the so-called “Health and Wealth Gospel.” If anyone at Bethel teaches these notions, it is not because they are acting in conformity with the church’s official statement of faith.

And there is a lengthy, thoroughly biblical defense in their statement concerning the historic and traditional biblical sex ethic, in which marriage is designed solely for one woman and one man. As for homosexuality and transgenderism, I can’t recall ever reading a more clearly defined and thoroughly biblical perspective on those issues.

I’m baffled by how or on what basis Morgan accuses them of preaching a “false gospel.” They preach salvation by grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone. They tether their hope of eternal life on trust in the sinless life, sacrificial, atoning death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus.

If some in Bethel or Hillsong believe in the so-called “prosperity” gospel, they are, of course, in error. But as grievous as that error may be (and is), it is not damning. Those who embrace that view are not, for that reason, consigned to eternal condemnation.

Now, are there certain other ministry practices embraced by Bethel that I find questionable and without explicit biblical support? Yes. But those do not make them heretical or deserving of cynical disdain. If more time were spent by Bethel’s critics praying for them than is given to writing hyper-critical reviews, perhaps such practices would diminish over time. Let me at the same time say that we should pray just as fervently for Morgan and those who agree with her article. I’m reminded of Paul’s exhortation to the church in Rome. We would all do well to heed his counsel:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:5-6).

I also followed Morgan’s advice and read Hillsong’s Statement of Beliefs (I wonder, did she?). Aside from one or two minor, secondary, doctrinal differences (Hillsong is affiliated with Australian Christian Churches, a traditionally Pentecostal denomination), it is thoroughly evangelical and orthodox. Do I agree with all that is done in the context of their worship services? No. It may not be my “style” nor that of Morgan’s, but that doesn’t make them heretical. It just means they are different, and perhaps unwise. But in numerous other ways, aren’t we all?

Morgan says that she will not sing songs that are not “worthy of a sovereign and Holy God.” Good for her. I agree. And I hope you wouldn’t ever sing such songs either. And if songs are composed by someone from Bethel or Hillsong that are beneath the dignity of our great Triune God, don’t sing them. But I challenge anyone to closely examine the lyrics of these songs, all of which were composed by someone in Bethel or Hillsong or related to them in close friendship or some other ministry alliance (such as Jesus Culture), and tell me they are dangerous, unbiblical, or not worthy of who God is and what he has done. Here is a small sampling:

“God, I look to you”
“Goodness of God”
“King of Kings”
“O Praise the Name!”
“Raise a Hallelujah!”
“No Longer Slaves”
“Living Hope”
“Jesus, We Love You”
“Ever Be”
“New Wine”
“This is Amazing Grace”
“Worthy is the Lamb”
“Cornerstone”
“Seas of Crimson”
“Outrageous Love”
“Abba”
“One Thing Remains”
“For the Cross”
“Man of Sorrows”
“Holy Spirit (You are Welcome Here)”
“Lead me to the Cross”
“Lion and the Lamb”
“Fall Afresh”
“Shout to the Lord”
“All Hail, King Jesus”

I will go on record and say that God is profoundly honored and exalted by each of these songs.

“Oh, but Sam. We disagree with some of their secondary doctrines. Won’t our singing of these songs communicate to people that we endorse what some in their churches believe? And we have to pay royalties to sing those songs. Aren’t we contributing to the spread of their errors?”

No. Folks, I plead with you: Don’t let cancel culture come to church! You may differ with Bethel and Hillsong in some (perhaps many) of their ministry practices. So do I. But we will sing with these people around the throne of the Lamb for eternity. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Surely, you are not prepared to denounce them as unregenerate, unbelievers because they don’t toe the line on every doctrine that you embrace.

What about Morgan’s concern that by singing the songs of Bethel and Hillsong we are paying royalties to these churches? Well, let me ask Morgan and others a question or two.

Where will you draw the line on where and to whom you will allow your money to go? I dare say that you will find it difficult to survive in our world if you refuse to participate in or make use of something, be it a song, a book, or a product, simply because you fear that by doing so you are promoting and indirectly subsidizing what you regard as unbiblical.

Should I throw away all the books in my library that were written by Jewish scholars because they reject Jesus as the Messiah? I’m talking about books with profound and instructive insights into the OT and other historical and textual issues. Have you ever purchased such books? Should you?

What about the numerous scholarly resources that are of tremendous help in our understanding of the biblical languages, backgrounds, and cultural contexts? Must I dispense with the multi-volume Anchor Bible Dictionary because a few of its contributors are likely not born again?

Have you refused to do your shopping at Kroger and Target because they are decidedly pro LGBTQ? Does not your purchase of their products indirectly support that movement?

Have you refused to take your kids to Disney World because of their widely public and visible stance on same-sex marriage?

Do you carefully avoid purchasing gas for your car from those stations who obtain their products from oil companies that fund Planned Parenthood?

Do you continue to read novels and other books written by decidedly non-Christian authors, lest by purchasing their works you contribute to their unbiblical lifestyle?

Have you stopped singing “A Mighty Fortress is our God” because its author, Martin Luther, made horrific anti-Semitic statements in his later years?

Do you make use of Facebook and Twitter, two companies owned and operated by unbelievers who support both LGBTQ and abortion causes?

And do you refuse to make use of songs written by Matt Maher or John Michael Talbot insofar as they are Roman Catholic?

Should we refuse to sing “It is Well with My Soul” because the author of its lyrics, Horatio Spafford, eventually denied the existence of hell, affirmed universalism and purgatory, and was guilty of multiple instances of fraudulent financial dealings?

Shall we never again read books by Jonathan Edwards or sermons by George Whitefield because both of them at one time owned slaves?

If someone within the Churches of Christ wrote an otherwise biblically based worship song, would you refuse to sing it in your church because they affirm water baptism as necessary for the forgiveness of sins?

In no way do I even remotely endorse the errors of these I’ve just mentioned, but to refuse to sing thoroughly biblical worship songs they wrote lest we be somehow tainted or defiled in doing so is both impractical and absurd and will only lead to a legalistic and Pharisaical local church culture.

It is virtually impossible in our day to travel, shop, participate, or in some manner support groups or companies or individuals that don’t violate our biblical standards of truth and morality. If you choose to “cancel” everyone who differs with you on some matter of doctrine or ministry practice, out of concern that your money will subsidize their errors, you will end up encased in your own echo chamber, isolated and alone, pridefully patting yourself on the back for being among the remnant who “get it right”.

I, for one, will instead continue to remain rigorously biblical in what I preach and how I sing, but do so without castigating and/or cancelling other Christians who happen to differ with me on some secondary issue or ministry style.

30 COMMENTS

RACHEL | AUG 10, 2021 AT 2:02 AM

You’ve nailed it, I teared up reading “We will sing with these people around the throne of the Lamb for eternity. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Surely, you are not prepared to denounce them as unregenerate, unbelievers because they don’t toe the line on every doctrine that you embrace”.

DAVID | AUG 9, 2021 AT 5:16 PM

I really enjoy your books and believe you and John Wimber are awesome. My fiancee was asked to leave Bethel because she simply asked about their teaching about Jesus emptying himself of His deity. I have the email that asked her to leave. We have not gone public about that and other things that go on there. Sad to see that someone I admire didn’t use discernment nor examine the plethora of information on Mike Wingers channel about Bethel. I believe in unity but the Lord never affirms heresy.

BART | AUG 9, 2021 AT 9:24 AM

Sam, you really really should consider doing more research on Bethel Church. Please watch/listen to this video. It’s Bill Johnson saying that if you believe that God causes or allows sickness, then you believe a different Gospel. It’s also where he says Jesus was born again. Although he has since tried to explain what he meant, it was too little, too late. https://youtu.be/UzAwFYKe3h0
Second video is of Bill Johnson and other self proclaimed “Apostles” slam a wooden staff similar to Gandalfs from Lord of the Rings on a stage saying they are declaring an end to racism. Sam, these are full grown men and women doing this. How can you possibly defend them? This is just the tip of the iceberg, there’s so much more bad theology and practices coming from Bethel alone that would take months to read and watch! I don’t care if you’re a continuationist but your endorsement of them is a tragedy and shows that you really should have done more research on them than just reading their sof.

LAWRENCE CHEE | AUG 9, 2021 AT 8:02 AM

Good defence … amazing bigotry from original author … the original wealth of USA was founded on slavery, significant economic gain by polluting the earth. Nevertheless she is concerned about paying royalties … how about cleaning the mess made from previous generations rather than waiting on Jesus to do it later. Is there such a thing as a perfect church? Go Bethel .. Hillsong .. we are grateful for the 1000s that have come to Jesus through your ministries.

PAUL MARK LACERNA | AUG 8, 2021 AT 10:33 PM

Brother Storms, looks like most of the Comments are giving us another reason to consider their evidences they made against Bethel and Hillsong especially the New Apostolic Reformation. I agree with Ms.Brianna.
Another one is: While I agree that we should cancel any song that would dishonor God and his Word, but we need to be careful lest we find ourselves damning their own brethren. We need to qualify that. Sadly, Cancel Culture is the norm of today’s Church. That’s alarming.
If you don’t like Bethel or Hillsong, why not Compose your own Songs that are in accordance to the Biblical Doctrines of the Evangelical Faith expressed in 5 SOLAS and the Creeds. I love the way Sovereign Grace Music compose their songs.

BRIANNA MONIQUE WILLIAMS | AUG 8, 2021 AT 1:58 PM

Hello Sam,
We don’t know each other. I think this article proves a lack of thorough research and is really opinion based.
The only research that was done to was to check Bethel’s website and to test them according to one Worship Leader’s opinion to test scripture.
Did you interview anyone who left the New Apostolic Reformation? Did you research some of the books and products that the church leaders of Bethel and Hillsong produce? And have you looked at the lyrics to their songs line by line and really test it against scripture?
For example in “Raise a Hallelujah” they sing “Your melody comes to fight for me” as if it is a weapon? How deaf people experience God fight for them? And we could say it is symbolic but take it from someone who was friends with one of the BSSM students… and who was associated with people who took it literal. When they would face what they considered a battle, they would go into a room and shut the door, blast the worship music and sing God’s praises believing their worship was activating God’s angels to fight for them and remove the obstacle before them.
Or their song, “Holy Spirit (You’re Welcome Here)”… why are we inviting the Holy Spirit to come dwell with us when He already dwells inside believers?
Also, Bethel teaches Sozo Prayer— unbiblical. They have teaching in the Enneagram— demonic. They have a book their Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry must read “The Physics of Heaven”— which literally discusses exploring New Age practices and taking them back to use them in Jesus’s name. That’s blasphemous.
And I have an ex-friend that got sucked into heresy because of the worship music, where the worship leader would sometimes be guest speakers and their speeches led to watching Bill Johnson who can’t preach God’s word to save his soul.
And Steven Furtick, wants his music and worship experience to be catchy so people will hear his preaching, he has said on the record.
So it’s just selfish to say the music is okay and to act like we’re not endorsing a false gospel when we sing those songs.
Like, I can only imagine people blessed by the songs who are in sound doctrine churches, amen that God doesn’t let a little heresy keep Him from His children who are truly seeking Him.
Feel free to check out my interview with Doreen Virtue on Steven Furtick and Word of Faith and why I left… I also have a series on my blog, category: “Confessions of Valor Alumna” that discusses why we should never support heresy by any means.
And lastly, the church definitely supports canceling what doesn’t honor God. We are to be set apart from the World. We should have the desire to honor God, not ourselves, and Bethel and Hillsong are only seeker-sensitive driven.

GLADYS | AUG 8, 2021 AT 9:27 AM

There is something “brewing” in Oklahoma! From your mayor to your churches, the Spirit is stirring!!

AMY | AUG 8, 2021 AT 8:13 AM

Excellent article, Sam! Mackenzie Morgan, the author of the original article, seems to have no trouble singing songs by Ariana Grande and Michael Jackson. Neither of which seem to have released very God honoring music. I would encourage her to take a long thorough look at her heart and at how hypocritically she’s coming across.

SH | AUG 8, 2021 AT 4:12 AM

Thank you! What an incredibly well thought out, well written and balanced article. If only all of us could show the same level of understanding and honouring of differences, within the framework of the fundamentals of our faith in Jesus. I look on at times with real Godly sorrow at both cancel culture and division within the church, especially in the US. It is very sad when I see Christians doing the work of Satan in throwing fiery darts around, sometimes to justify their own beliefs or the beliefs of their denomination (even above the Bible), occasionally to look virtuous – but mostly with a genuine (but I humbly suggest mistaken) purpose of being ‘correct’ over the unity that Jesus called us to. Our heart really matters to God. Accusing others is what Satan does, not what the church should be doing against itself in public. I honestly don’t think Jesus will congratulate us for pointing out the mistakes of others publicly, of dividing rather than building and of disunity above unity – one main thing that Jesus specifically prayed for so that non-believers would know Jesus. Love covers a multitude of sin and sometimes (as Derek Prince used to say) we can be so ‘right’ that we are ‘wrong’. And we are not ‘Holy Spirit junior’ trying to convict others. It doesn’t mean we accept everything but judging others rightly and within a Biblical framework is very important, not a public show of self righteousness. There are too many sites, blogs and social media posts about hammering others who dare to believe what ‘we’ see as being incorrect. But we should all reflect that we only see and know in part, that we are all on a journey towards Jesus, being changed into his likeness daily and we need each other. The essentials are the faith are essential but after that there is room for respectful disagreement as written above. This article is so helpful in moving us forward, so thank you! I’d almost say this article (certainly the heart behind it) should be vital reading in churches and Bible colleges.

JEDIDIAH W | AUG 8, 2021 AT 1:48 AM

This article was very frustrating to read. Even without the lens of theology, it was full of logical fallacies.
First, the conclusion doesn’t even follow from the premises presented in the body. Sam makes the conclusion that we should sing songs from Hillsong and Bethel because we give to companies like Disney that supports LGBT positions anyway. Further, the amount of time spent on reviewing doctrinal statements and concluding that they are sound, and therefore the songs are sound, is “beating the strawman”.  Statements can check out on paper but if there is a consistent heterodox teaching by lead pastors as commenters have provided examples of (and which Sam seems to be ignorant of), then statements are irrelevant. These are issues with theology and versions of the true gospel, not “secondary issues” or “ministry styles”.
Second, Sam’s opinion that prosperity gospel does not lead to eternal condemnation is disturbing. If we don’t believe in the right gospel (Col 1:25, Jude 1:3, 1 Cor 15:3) then what are we putting our hope in? As much as Sam hopes to, songs cannot be separated from the social contexts they are produced and performed in. This is why its easy to observe a pattern of certain churches singing these songs and having similar aesthetics (smoke machines, strobes). It’s simply the case that when we buy into a brand, we are less likely to think critically of it. If you ask many people who enjoy these songs, they’ll tell you they enjoy the preaching too. This is why it’s just easier to not promote these brand churches at all by avoiding these songs.
Finally, as a Gen Z it’s frustrating to see how Millenials and Boomers try to understand cancel culture. Dropping words like “cancel” and “Pharisaical” to build rapport among those of a similar generation betrays a misunderstanding of the social phenomenon that is cancel culture. Thinking critically and critical theory was around long before cancel culture became a thing, and even practiced in the church. You could say Jesus was “cancelling” the Pharasees and merchants in the temple. Surely thinking critically and erring on the side of caution when it comes to matters of teaching the faith (which singing does) through careful song selection is important and should not be dismissed as “cancelling”. One should be careful to notice whenever the term “cancelling” is dropped as a convenient way of dissuading vigorous debate.
There are a wealth of rich, theologically less controversial songs out there today. There are few reasons to choose contentious songs from contentious churches, other than superficial ones like “they sound good”. So other than creating fuel for people who love these songs, churches and inevitably heterodox theology, who will share this article on social media to defend their entrenched beliefs that worship songs should be cool, I’m not sure what the point of this article was.

JENNI | AUG 8, 2021 AT 12:23 AM

Amazingly written and thank you for your sound knowledge and wisdom and the way you carry yourself with those who are so adament about bringing division to the church and refuses to see beyond what they already know to be true and that there should be unity in diversity and not in total agreement. Thank you ❤️

DINA | AUG 8, 2021 AT 12:10 AM

Thank you Sam for taking the time to thoroughly examine and respond to all of this. I personally have never seen a man more like Jesus, as far as abundant love, grace, turning the other cheek, encouraging , completely humble, and the list goes on, in regards to Bill Johnson of Bethel Church. Satan creates division, that is biblical. He who is without sin casts the first stone is biblical,. I read division and judgement when I read her “theory”. She obviously has not seen or encountered the heart of this great Father/Papa – Bill Johnson. We need to be unified, now, division is coming from every angle, and her words are about division, in my opinion, because she is filled with Judgement. I love Bethel’s and Hillsong’s music, I feel Holy Spirit in them, she cannot tell me God is not pleased. I say we lift her up in prayer and ask that she shifts her energy towards the division of our nation snd pray for unity, which must begin in the church!

MACKENZIE MORGAN | AUG 7, 2021 AT 7:26 PM

Hey, Sam! Mackenzie here. I read your article, and I’d love to continue a conversation on the matter as much of what you wrote was a misrepresentation of what I was saying in my original post and sadly, I’m afraid you missed the whole point of my post. If you’d be interested in communicating, feel free to reach out to me.
God bless,
Mackenzie

ASHLEY | AUG 7, 2021 AT 6:06 PM

Well said! Your article is beautiful and I feel represents the heart of God well. Thank you for sharing.
#inwardwitness

WAYNE POWELL | AUG 7, 2021 AT 4:52 PM

If you don’t want to listen to a young music leader who may or may not be wise enough to speak on this issue then perhaps you will listen to an experienced pastor:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF96C8vg3PU&list=PLwZ6vhBCodsdzj3jdJT6M5wgbcV-UXIGN&index=9

HEATHER | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:52 PM

Wonderfully written! I know the Lord is honored by the respectful, loving, and thoughtful way you have approached a sticky subject. Thank you for your dedication to thoroughly look into the accusations and your courage in writing this response!

JEZA GRAY | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:40 PM

Yes and Amen to what you said. Please Lord bring unity within your church.. Bring us together and may we keep the major things major and the minor things minor. Let us not give ron to the devils trap of offense and disunity over unimportant issues. Let us have truth and love. 1 Corinthians 13

SAM STORMS | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:21 PM

Wayne, I don’t want to engage in an online debate with you, but a brief response is called for.
First, I also believe Jesus lived, ministered, taught, and performed his miracles as a man depending on the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. This doesn’t mean he wasn’t simultaneously God. He most assuredly was. But he temporarily suspended the independent exercise of his divine power in order to demonstrate the kind of life that God desires of us, one in which we live in constant dependence on the Holy Spirit. You can read my defense of this in my book, Tough Topics 2, titled, “How did Jesus perform his miracles?”
Second, I don’t know what you mean in saying Johnson says that Jesus was “reborn.” I’ve never seen or heard this from him.
Third, yes, Christ’s death was designed to secure physical healing for us. Whether that happens now in part or in fullness at the consummation, where else would our healing come from if not from the cross of Christ? Check out Matthew 8 where his healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is in fulfillment of Isaiah 53.
Fourth, miracles, healing, and prophecy do not add to the gospel. They are the fruit of it. If you are opposed to such works of the Spirit, what will you do with 1 Corinthians 12-14 and other texts that speak of these gifts?
Fifth, if a person does not preach the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in bringing freedom and healing to us, what else would one call this but a message of “weakness”?
Sixth, I also believe the Spirit can work through the sacrament of the bread and wine. His presence in awakening us to the blessings of the cross of Christ, via the elements of the Lord’s Supper, is a wonderful work of God for undeserving sinners. You say they say it is “why we should partake.” But where do they say it is the only reason we should partake? It may be one justifiable reason, but that is not to say that it is the only reason.
Seventh, and finally, I don’t care for the Passion “translation.” It is more an expanded paraphrase and the principles that guide its production are bothersome to me.
But for you to say there is no difference between what Bethel believes and what Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Roman Catholics believe is surely a slanderous misrepresentation and one of which you should immediately repent.

JENNIFER L. WEIR | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:05 PM

Thank you Sam Storms. We loved your book Practicing the Power. I teared up reading it. What a beautiful book.

WAYNE POWELL | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:04 PM

To support Bethel and Hillsong is to support a different Christ who performed all his miracles as a man, was reborn, and whose death was for physical healing. They also change the gospel by adding miracles, healing, and prophesy to it. Bill Johnson calls it the gospel of power and declares the traditionally accepted orthodox gospel to be a gospel of weakness. They teach different Christ and different gospel, along with a slew of different practices and traditions. I’ll mention one that bugs me, they redefine the sacrament of communion as something which bestows power on the believer and that is why we should partake. They work closely with Brian Simmons who is rewriting the Bible in support of Bethel/Hillsong’s theology. With their own Bible, Christ, gospel, what makes them any different than a cult such as JW, Mormons, or the Pope? but hey, sing their songs and send money their way because what does doctrine matter anyway.

SHEILA ALOFAITULI | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:00 PM

Thank you so much. Truly you’ve invested much time and thought into this write up. I too am indebted to the ministry of Bethel. I’m not a member of their church, but God has used their music, books and teachings by leadership to grow in my relationship with God The Father, The Son & The Holy Spirit.

DALE JIMMO | AUG 7, 2021 AT 2:38 PM

BRAVO!!

NICK ROBINSON | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:50 PM

Thank you Sam for this wonderful article filled with solid truth. Thank you for defending our Brothers and Sisters and leaders of these churches and thoughtfully, prayerfully, and meticulously breaking down and pointing out truth which often times can be clouded by people’s emotions. Bethel Church’s love for Jesus and the word of God literally saved my life (physically) at a very dark time when Drug Addiction almost took it. Their love for God and reckless abandon for the Lord pointed me to the arms of Christ and released a hunger and godly conviction in my heart. I’ll forever be thankful for them. I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts about these said issues you have mentioned. Thanks again!

DAVID P | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:50 PM

Very well written! I believe it goes to “let me help you with your speck while forgetting I have a log in my own eye. ” I believe there will be long lines in Heaven while we ask our brothers and sisters for forgiveness for what we said about them. Matthew 12:22-37.

MIKE MCMACKEN | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:36 PM

Sorry if I sent this twice it popped up again.
Sam thankyou for being a bridge of truth and love. Unity and healing comes through men like you
I have such wonderful memories of you and Ann in the days of Grace training center.
I still Ann’s words something is happening in Toronto, just after she got of the phone with the airport vineyard fellowship. I remember when you stopped the whole conference in Kansas City and asked all to pray for me as I had a brain tumor. Thank you my friend coming into my life and bringing and depositing more of the revelation of Jesus into me. I run this race harder because of you.

MIKE MCMACKEN | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:28 PM

Sam, thankyou for supporting truth and Love. I have such wonderful memories of you and Ann back in Grace training days.

ALMA | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:05 PM

Great article and so true! Thank you for addressing such an issue! Let us love one another because from this the euros will know that we are the children of God!

DELANA BRADBIRY | AUG 7, 2021 AT 12:48 PM

Thank you, Sam, for taking the time to research and write. I read her article, and thought there has to be a way to lovingly present another view. Thank you!!!

HARV | AUG 6, 2021 AT 6:27 PM

Thank you Sam for publishing this terrific article. As you said: Don’t let cancel culture come to church! Amen and amen.

STEPHANIE GRADY | AUG 6, 2021 AT 2:25 PM

Thank you for taking the time to so clearly share your opinion about Bethel and Hillsong. I so appreciate the resources you have provided here and the well thought out nature of your post. We in the Body of Christ need to be aware of what the ‘cancel culture’ attitude can look like in the church and be ready to address it when it appears. My prayer is that we as followers of Jesus will impact the culture around us in powerful ways and not the other way around.

Historic Biblical Christianity & Contemporary Progressive Christianity

While Progressive Christianity is not promoting the Liberal Theology of the 20th Century, it is and will produce an equally destructive Progressive Theology in the 21st Century

– Written by Harry Reeder | Monday, July 19, 2021

“Liberal Christianity in its Motivation for cultural relevance in order to achieve its Mission of cultural transformation not only had to embrace cultural accommodation resulting in the apostasy of its Message/Confession, but also its Ministries had to be culturally approved and applauded.   Rapidly, the historic Biblical ministries of God-centered worship, personal evangelism and intentional discipleship disappeared to be replaced by ritualism, social action, philanthropic initiatives, and psychologically defined therapy.”

PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY AND LIBERAL CHRISTIANITY – PART 1

Recently in light of the increasing challenges by the persistent and penetrating movement of Progressive Christianity within the Evangelical Church in general and my own denomination—the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)—in particular, I made a book recommendation to the 20+ young men in my Pastoral Mentoring Group as well as to the Briarwood Session and Diaconate with whom I am honored to serve as Senior Pastor. The book recommendation was the recently published “Legacy Edition” of “Christianity and Liberalism” by the noted professor, educator, preacher, scholar and churchman J. Gresham Machen.

Full disclosure. J. Gresham Machen is the founder of Westminster Theological Seminary, my alma mater.  He was accompanied by an extraordinary faculty which followed him from Princeton Seminary in the days of the Princeton Seminary Downgrade which corresponded to the predictable apostasy of Theological Liberalism within the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA) after its embrace of Liberal Christianity. The original publication of “Christianity and Liberalism” was designed to counter the burgeoning movement of Christian Liberalism in the 19th and 20th Century within the Protestant Church in general, yet the focus was the consequential theological apostasy within the PCUSA in particular. Furthermore, this volume was influential in the founding of the International Board of Missions, Westminster Theological Seminary and ultimately the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). The re-publication of this book in the “Legacy Edition” by Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) includes chapters by the present stellar WTS faculty aligned with the chapters originally written by Machen.

Not surprisingly my recommendation was not only questioned by some outside the Briarwood fellowship when it was broadly shared but was actually challenged passionately by Progressive Teaching and Ruling Elders within my own denomination—the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The challenge was repetitive and unambiguous—“Machen wrote to confront Theological Liberalism produced by the Liberal Christianity movement initiated in the 19th Century. The Theological Liberalism produced by Liberal Christianity challenged the reliability of the Divinely revealed ‘fundamental and supernatural truths’ of Biblical Christianity.”

The rejoinder continued, “Pastor Reeder, no one in the PCA is challenging these ‘fundamental and supernatural doctrines’ affirmed within our Confession as they did in the days of PCUSA (Northern Presbyterian Church) Theological Liberalism; and then, fifty years later in the PCUS (Southern Presbyterian Church). Machen confronted Theological Liberalism and its resulting adulteration of the Confession leading eventually to theological apostasy. Progressive Christianity is not mounting an assault upon the ‘fundamentals of the faith:’ nor has it proposed theological aberrations to the Westminster Confession.”

In a word, while Progressive Christianity is not promoting the Liberal Theology of the 20th Century, it is and will produce an equally destructive Progressive Theology in the 21st Century which is why I not only maintain the relevance of Machen’s book but also its importance.

The simple reason the Progressive Christianity of the 20th and 21st Century will produce a theological downgrade as did the Liberal Christianity of the 19th and 20th Century is because they both originate from the same Motivation and are committed to the same Mission.

THE SIMPLE REASON

Progressive Christianity and Liberal Christianity are “both cut from the same bolt of cloth.”

The fabric of this bolt of cloth which is found in both Liberal and Progressive Christianity was identified by Machen as early as his 1912 presentation on “Christianity and Culture.” There as he addressed the Biblical Mission and Ministry of the Church within the culture, he also identified Liberal Christianity’s Motivation and Mission which of necessity led to the adulteration of the Christian Message/Confession and then ultimately theological apostasy. In that lecture, and even more precisely in “Christianity and Liberalism,” which he published almost two decades later, he exposed the fabric of Liberal Christianity that inevitably results in Theological Liberalism. Therefore, since Progressive Christianity is cut from the same bolt of cloth, meaning that it is made of the same fabric as Liberal Christianity, it will likewise inevitably produce, first, its own brand of Theological adulteration and then ultimately Theological apostasy. In other words, Liberal Christianity because of its originating Motivation and its newly adopted Mission of necessity produced an apostate Message—Liberal Theology.

Therefore, since Progressive Christianity originates from the identical Motivation and adopts the identical Mission of Liberal Christianity it will likewise, of necessity produce, first, an adulterated Message, and then, an apostate Message—Progressive Theology.

THE “FABRIC” OF LIBERAL AND PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY EXAMINED

In my “deep dive” I was amazed at how obvious the Motivation and the Mission of Progressive Christianity aligned with the fabric of Liberal Christianity. Although they are separated by 100 years, Progressive Christianity in a real sense is Regressive Christianity as it reveals itself as Liberal Christianity 2.0. Why? Because it originates from Liberal Christianity’s same failed Motivation, and is committed to its same failed Mission, which insures an inevitable Progressive Christianity Theological downgrade of its Message—though not necessarily adulterating the same doctrines as did Liberal Theology.

For the purpose of accuracy, it needs to be stated clearly that the theological apostasy of Progressive Christianity while inevitable will not necessarily be doctrinally identical to the theological apostasy of Liberal Christianity but it will be equally destructive. So, let’s take a closer look at the three elements that comprise the fabric of Liberal and Progressive Christianity—Motivation – Mission – Ministries.

THE MOTIVATION

By documentation Liberal and Progressive Christianity are movements which arise from an identical Motivation. The self-confessed Motivation of 19th and 20th Century Liberal Christianity was not to destroy Christianity but to save the Mainline Protestant Church from the burgeoning movement of “modernity” and the intimidating boasted sophistication of the “modern mind.”  The Motivation talking points of Liberal Christianity were: “in light of modernity the church must be saved from cultural irrelevance” and “Christianity must be saved from the intellectual dustbin of history” and “if Christianity doesn’t change we will lose the next generation”—sound familiar?

Likewise, the Progressive Christianity of the 20th and 21st Century does not originate from a desire to destroy Christianity but to save not the Protestant Mainline Church but this time, the Evangelical Church from “cultural irrelevance,” “the dustbin of history” and “the loss of the next generation.” There is no doubt in my mind that few Progressives are “wolves in sheep’s clothing” such as those Paul warned the Elders of the Church at Ephesus to alertly guard against in shepherding “the flock of God which He bought with His own blood.” In fact, I believe the vast majority are “sheep in wolves clothing.” But make no mistake as affirmed by its celebrated apologists and preachers, Progressive Christianity is “wolves clothing” in that it has the identical and dare I say in reality arrogant Motivation as Liberal Christianity—to save Christianity and the Church from cultural irrelevance.  Also, interestingly, they have the same talking points and marketing slogans. But, do they have the same Mission?

THE MISSION

In Liberal Christianity the church is saved from “cultural irrelevance” to a new culturally approved Mission of “Cultural Transformation—human flourishing.”   Mainline Protestant 20th Century Christianity was aspirationally committed to making the 20th Century The Christian Century.  They even initiated new publications such as “The Christian Century.” Mainline Protestant Churches were now poised to unleash an updated and “culturally relevant” Christianity which would usher in a newly defined Post-Millennial Utopia. This optimistic hope was broadly proclaimed from the pulpits of Mainline Protestant Churches.  Liberal Christianity promised to be the venue to bring “human flourishing” to a waiting world—“Cultural Transformation” was within our reach…sound familiar?

Fast forward 100 years to the concluding 20th and newly inaugurated 21st Century.  Interestingly and informatively, the Mainline Churches which embraced Liberal Christianity are actually in the “dustbin of history” and on a trajectory into oblivion having been eviscerated by Theological Liberalism.  Yet, amazingly, previously self-identified “Evangelical churches” are now proclaiming their new—actually not so new—Mission of the “culturally relevant Evangelical church” committed to “cultural transformation.” The Evangelical Church now promises to secure “human flourishing” through “social justice” and a newly defined accommodating sexual ethic guided by a culturally sensitive informed initiative—to seek the welfare of the city. Yes, a Biblical quote, but a quote for cultural reasons taken out of Biblical context and therefore bereft of Biblical content.

THE MESSAGE

Liberal Christianity, Motivated to “save the church from cultural irrelevance” and position the church to be a primary player to achieve its newly discovered Mission of “cultural transformation” then had to edit the unacceptable Theology from its Message/Confession in order to be culturally acceptable in the age of “modernity.” The necessary casualty was the removal of any and all doctrines that offended the “sensibilities of the modern mind.” Why? Because the doctrines that affirmed the supernatural power of God, the Holiness of God and the sinfulness of man were no longer culturally acceptable. In other words, any and all of the “foundational, fundamental and supernatural doctrines of Christianity” (i.e. the Virgin Birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the necessity of Christ’s atoning death, the inerrancy of God’s Word, the recorded miracles etc.) were removed. Even more specifically, Liberal Christianity, to be “culturally relevant” and to obtain a seat at the table of the “culture shapers,” out of necessity, jettisoned the Reformation secured Doctrine of “Biblical magisterium”—Sola Scriptura. In its place Liberal Christianity embraced “Cultural magisterium” resulting in the formulation of a theological Message marked by “Cultural accommodation.”  This cleared the way for proposed theological changes to the Confessions of the Protestant Churches introducing first theological adulteration and then demonic theological apostasy.  Sound Familiar?

Progressive Christianity (like Liberal Christianity) uses the glossary of theological terms from historic Biblical Christianity but does not use the same Dictionary to define those terms. Progressive Christianity, (like Liberal Christianity) in the pursuit of “cultural relevance” to achieve its new Mission of “cultural transformation,” willingly abdicates selected theological fidelity by also abandoning Biblical magisterium—Sola Scriptura—for Cultural magisterium (cultural accommodation).

In summary, to redefine the Motivation and Mission of the Evangelical Church, “cultural magisterium” is introduced as the new rule of faith and practice under the guise of “contextualization” in order to fulfill its Motivation and to further its new Mission.  Since Sola Scriptura is no longer the functional authoritative “rule of faith and practice,” the Evangelical Church is free to functionally canonize literature originating from anti-God, anti-Gospel and anti-Christian political and sociological philosophies. Thus, Social justice, replaces Biblical justice; penance replaces repentance; oppressors become the oppressed; racism replaced by a new racism with no redemption promise, no reconciliation offered but continued polarization and division assured.

Further casualties, men and women in sins of addiction and specifically sexually unnatural besetting sins, now hear “another Gospel”—which is not “The Gospel.”  This non-Gospel deceitfully offers the positional blessings of Justification and Adoption but effectively denies the transforming blessings of Regeneration and Sanctification.  Regeneration and Sanctification are now replaced with culturally approved sociological and psychological categories and terms baptized with a redefined theology.  The church’s new Message is no longer one of sinner transformation with a cultural impact but now it is a deceptive Message falsely promising cultural transformation through providing cosmetic behavior modification delivered through categories of sociological manipulation.

THE MINISTRIES

Liberal Christianity in its Motivation for cultural relevance in order to achieve its Mission of cultural transformation not only had to embrace cultural accommodation resulting in the apostasy of its Message/Confession, but also its Ministries had to be culturally approved and applauded.   Rapidly, the historic Biblical ministries of God-centered worship, personal evangelism and intentional discipleship disappeared to be replaced by ritualism, social action, philanthropic initiatives, and psychologically defined therapy. Sound familiar?

In Progressive Christianity, not only has personal evangelism with a Gospel Message that delivers men and women from both the penalty and power of sin been abandoned but also Gospel discipleship ministries that address the practice and effects of sin in the lives and relationships of men and women.  The transforming power of the Gospel has now given way to psychologically defined categories, behavioral therapies, and verbal cosmetic solutions. Sins including addictive and deeply embedded sexual sins of thought, word and deed are now syndromes to be managed instead of sins to be mortified.  The Gospel hope of victories over sin in thought, word and deed, by Regeneration—which breaks the power of sin; and Sanctification which progressively eradicates the practice of sins through discipleship are now dismissed statistically as unattainable and unreasonable.  Yet, the Gospel blessings of Justification and Adoption are still assured.

Destructively, Biblical justice is now replaced by social justice defined through extra Biblical literature produced from anti-God, anti-Gospel, anti-Christian social and political philosophies which deny not only the Supremacy and Inerrancy of Scripture but also the Sufficiency of Scripture. Furthermore, and astonishingly, the once sacred calling of a “Gospel Minister” is now suspended and superseded by the politically correct cultural calling of a “Community Organizer.”

THREE TAKEAWAYS

  1. Motivation and Mission inevitably control and define the Message and Ministries of a Church.  An unbiblical Motivation and Mission no matter how well-meaning will infallibly insure an apostate Message/Confession of the Church and will also destroy the Ministries the Church.
  2. Contextualization– When a church embraces an unbiblical Motivation (cultural relevance) and an unbiblical Mission (cultural transformation) it will produce an unbiblical Message (cultural accommodation) by redefining the Biblical doctrine of “contextualization”—to be in the world, but not of the world.  Biblical contextualization actually is the call to speak in the culture to its people in terms they can understand.  Unbiblical contextualization speaks in the culture to the people on the terms they demand.  This inevitably produces the devastating consequences of “first order apostasy.” In Liberal Christianity it produced Liberal Theology. In Progressive Christianity it produces Progressive Theology, such as the loss of Biblical justice to now pursue politically defined social justice. The loss of the Biblical doctrine of one race (human) and multiple ethnicities for the Darwinian fabrication of multiple races with the unending chaos of attempting to remove sins such as racism with racist philosophies and tools—i.e. critical theory; critical race theory; critical law theory and the scorecard of intersectionality, all of which exchange repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation for unending penance, polarization and reverse oppression.  The Gospel of Redemption that delivers us from sin’s power (regeneration); sin’s penalty (justification); sin’s position (adoption); increasingly from sin’s practice (sanctification); and ultimately from sin’s presence (glorification); is now abandoned for “another gospel” offering empty promises of self-forgiveness, self-esteem and psychologically defined terms and therapies to “manage sin as a syndrome instead of mortifying sin as an enemy.”  Furthermore, our identity in “union with Christ” is now abdicated to hyphenated identities exalting our besetting sins which according to the Scripture are “not to be named among us,” but in Progressive Christianity are now being used to name, identify and define us.
  3. Sola Scriptura– Liberal Christianity’s theological apostasy began with the abandonment of “Biblical magisterium” for “Cultural magisterium.”  Sola Scriptura which declares the Supremacy of the Scripture was dismissed along with all of its culturally unacceptable doctrines including Biblical inerrancy in its cultural accommodating surrender. In Progressive Christianity, the theological downgrade also begins with the abandonment of Biblical magisterium—Sola Scriptura—the Supremacy of Scripture by abdicating the Sufficiency of Scripture, the Sufficiency of Christ and the Sufficiency of the Gospel to save men and women from sin’s penalty and power by the grace of God to the Glory of God.

FINAL THOUGHT

But the fact is, the Church must remain “the bulwark and the pillar of truth.”  There is no “unity by love” if there is no “unity of truth.”  There will be no ability to love the lost nor one another if we lose the truth out of a desire to gain the affirmation and the applause of the world instead of the affirmation and applause of God. We are stewards of the truth—Stewards must be found faithful.

Since Progressive Christianity is Liberal Christianity 2.0 because it is cut from the same bolt of cloth—with the identical fabric of a wrong Motivation, wrong Mission, leading to the wrong Message, and the wrong Ministries—then, what is the right Motivation, right Mission, right Message, and right Ministries of Biblical Christianity displayed and deployed in Christ’s Church—so I invite you…

Dr. Harry Reeder is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Senior Pastor of Briarwood PCA in Birmingham, Ala. This article is used with permission.

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Online Source: The Aquila Report

Forty Good Soldiers for Christ!

clip_image002This article was first published in the April 2007 Christian Report. It describes a tale of 40 Christian martyrs from the 4th Century, as well as a group of more modern warriors for Christ.

Sebaste, Cappadocia (now Sivas in Turkey) – March, 320 A.D.

Roman Emperor Valerius Licinius had already ordered that all Christians in Cappadocia abandon their faith and worship pagan gods, including every member of the famous “Thundering” 12th Legion, whose record in combat was unparalleled in the annals of the Imperial Army! Forty soldiers of the Legion however, refused to recant their faith, declaring before a military tribunal (court-martial) that they would devote their love to God and only God!

Agricolas, Captain of the Legion ad the local pagan governor, would not humor this obstinacy. When imprisonment of the whole stubborn company could not break them, he decided on a novel sort of pressure.

It was a bitterly cold March and the pond outside the city was frozen over. The governor, therefore, ordered that the 40 be herded out to the center of the lake stark naked and allowed to rethink their decision. Meanwhile, he set up on the shore statues of the gods to be worshipped, a nice fire, and a pleasant warm bath. He hoped that the offer of warmth might change the minds of the freezing men and induce them to apostatize. But the prisoners retained their solidarity. Together they prayed, “Lord, we are 40 who are engaged in this conflict; grant that we may not fall short of that sacred number.”

During the three days of their lethal exposure, only one of the group gave up, stumbled towards the shore and sought the comfort of one of the hot baths provided for any who would recant their faith. The same hot bath that rewarded his apostasy also brought about his death. Ironically, the sudden heat was too much after the long chill, and he died of shock.

Although the soldier-victims were saddened by this defection, their prayer was heard. Aglaios, a jailer watching the horrifying spectacle of the freezing soldiers had heard their shouts of “40 soldiers for Christ!” when they first headed out across the frozen lake, and now heard a fainter shout, ‘Thirty-nine soldiers for Christ!”

What happened in the heart of the jailer Aglaios at that moment, only he and God will ever know. He wrenched off his own armor and girdle, and dashed to the edge of the lake. There, after lifting his right hand and crying, “Forty good soldiers for Christ!” he disappeared over the ice and into the darkness.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. . . .

Colorado Springs, CO – 1 March 2007

A small group of soldiers from the 10th Special Forces Group gathered at Red Rock Canyon in Colorado Springs for a ‘spiritual fitness’ run and induction of Christian warriors into ‘The Order of the Cappadocian Martyrs,’ led by 10th Group Chaplains Darren Chester and Terry McBride.

It was a cold, windy, and icy morning after a late snowfall from the previous afternoon and evening left a few inches of new snow on the ground and a lot of dangerous ice on streets and roadways. While such conditions sometimes cause outdoor physical fitness training to be cancelled, there would be no change of plans on this morning! The announcement of, and invitation to the event had stated, in part:

“Note: Weather will not affect this run. If you can get there, we will run. Yes, it will be cold. That is the point. The martyrs for whom this order is named froze to death naked on a pond in the course of 3 days. If they can do that for Jesus, surely we can stand an hour or so in the cold.”

The event was scheduled to begin at 0630 sharp. The rendezvous point was a snow-covered public parking lot just off of highway 24, heading west out of the city proper. As soldiers arrived, they remained in their vehicles rather than stand in the biting wind any earlier than necessary. At the appointed time, they gathered around the map of the canyon at the edge of the parking lot for the route briefing given by Chaplain Chester. After the briefing, they headed into the small canyon, along a trail that gradually climbed in altitude for nearly a mile. After winding their way through the canyon for 2-1/2 miles, they gathered at the end of the run at another spot in the canyon, a flat open area near a small frozen pond.

Chaplain Chester spoke to the group, relating the story of the 40 martyrs from Sebaste who died on a frozen lake so long ago, not only refusing to recant their faith, but proclaiming their faith to the cold bitter end! The men were encouraged to stand firm no matter what they faced in this life, especially the persecution that all believers face at times when they live righteously before God and in an unbelieving world.

Each member of the group was given a patch symbolizing the martyrs of the “Thundering” XII Legion, Special Forces warriors of today, and emblazoned with a golden Cross of Christ against the canopy of a deployed parachute, a Green Beret, and the crossed arrows. Each man also received a small card on which was printed the following oath of allegiance:

“I am a Soldier for the Lord Jesus Christ. I am prepared to speak any word, do any deed, and go anywhere As He leads Me. His will is my mission. When the enemy attacks I will Stand firm. When tempted I will persevere. When persecuted I will not forsake my Lord. I will do good to those who hate me, I will bless those who curse me, I will pray for those who mistreat me. Though pressured I am not crushed. Though perplexed I am not in despair. Though persecuted I am not abandoned.. Though struck down I am not destroyed. I will always carry the death of Jesus in my body, that the life of Jesus may be revealed in my body.”

One can only imagine what the response of the mighty host of heaven was when the sound of earthly warriors’ voices joined as one in allegiance to the Lord of Hosts and filled the air of a small canyon on a cold windy morning!

The short ceremony concluded with the men in a circle, arms around each other’s shoulders and heads bowed as Chaplain McBride closed in prayer. Certainly this was an event to be followed by more similar occasions, as more warriors of the 10th Special Forces Group step forward in faith and join this ‘Band of Brothers!’

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This article first appeared in the Christian Military Fellowship June 2021 Christian Report. which can be located and downloaded here.  The Christian Report is one of the many resources available from Christian Military Fellowship, a ministry dedicated to  helping Christians serving in the Armed Forces  grow in their faith and become “Gospel Ambassadors” in uniform.

Are WE Tilting at Windmills?

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If you don’t know, the phrase ‘tilting at windmills’ comes from a 17th century novel by Miguel de Cervantes titled “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha”, or just “Don Quixote”. Don Quixote was a middle-aged Spanish nobleman, who imagined himself a Knight of the Spanish realm who embarked on a number of adventurous crusades against windmills that dotted the landscape of southern Spain that he sincerely believed were enemy giants with huge arms! The “tilting” refers to what we would more commonly call “jousting”. Armed with his lance, clad in an old suit of armor, and accompanied by a neighboring farmer (turned squire) named Sancho, the Man of La Mancha set off in defense of the realm.

During one of their exploits, they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills in their path. No sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”

Even though Sancho tried to explain that they were just windmills and the huge “arms” were only sails in the wind, the Don lowered his lance and attacked, with disastrous results when the tip of his lance was caught up by a windmill blade!

To this day, the phrase “tilting at windmills” has been used to describe “confrontations where adversaries are incorrectly perceived, or courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications.” (American Heritage Dictionary) Another phrase, “chasing windmills” has the same roots and mean pursuing something with an “open heart”, which was certainly true about Don Quixote. He really believed he was engaged in a noble crusade!

So what does all of that have to do with the question “Are WE tilting at windmills?”

Thanks for asking!

Well, a few days ago a simple question popped up on Facebook:

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Hence, thoughts of Don Quixote for us old folks, as well as no small amount of serious consideration. Can a seriously fractured America be restored apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I think not, and let me tell you why. If we who profess Christ honestly ask ourselves WHY our nation is so fractured right now, and if we know our Bibles, the answer is simple. SIN is the root cause of all that ails America, as well as every other nation on Earth. What began in Eden with a single act of disobedience has endured until now and will continue until Jesus returns to pass judgment. Consequently, if SIN is the root cause, a solution to the sin problem will bring healing. Throughout the history of mankind, men have tried to deal with all sorts of evil perpetrated by the human beings that inhabit our planet. Good and moral governments have passed legislation to punish evil and wrongdoing for the betterment of civil society. Programs of all kinds have been instituted to reform all sorts of harmful behavior patterns. I’m sure you get the picture. I’m also sure you recognize that nearly all of the human solutions to human problems are external at best. We can only hope that they will take root in our hearts and result in lasting change for our good and the good of our society. And therein lies the problem.

The root cause of society’s ills is SIN, and sin is a problem internal to every human born after the Fall of Adam. Therefore, any lasting solution must also be an internal one. It means we need new hearts, new motives, new natures. As scripture tells us, we need to be reborn (See John, Chapter 3 and Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus).

Do you see where this is going? Internal problems need internal solutions? The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers that internal solution? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ONLY solution? Exactly.

So about those windmills. . .

Every single day we are told what we need to “do” to fight this or that (name the topic) societal ill by getting involved. We need to write our representatives in Congress, sign petitions, donate money, support podcasts, or to just ‘stand up and fight’ those who are wreaking havoc across the land. Let me be clear – I am not saying we should not be engaged with, or support external efforts to right wrongs. God ordained governmental systems to fight and control evil. By all means get involved in supporting external efforts to right the wrongs in our society and in our nation. Pray for leaders at all levels of civil government. Pray that God would change the hearts of kings (Proverbs 21:1)! However, if we want to see lasting change in our society and culture, the only real solution is the Gospel of Jesus Christ invading the hearts of men.

It’s also quite possible that many of the conservatives who are unafraid to do battle against evil in our culture and society know that the core issue is an internal one, but for whatever reason, many of them just stick to much needed external solutions. I am not criticizing them for doing so. It’s just the way it is. To be fair I admit that there are a few who mention the need for God, while stopping short of talking about Christ’s death for our sins. One popular young conservative has even told his college age audiences that the first thing they need to do is “give their hearts to Jesus”! While that sounds great and noble, when we search scripture for that admonition will we find it? (Just a question, not an indictment.)

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In the novel, Don Quixote’s neighbor turned squire, Sancho Panza, tried to explain to our hero that the giants with huge arms were really just windmills and sails and not real enemies, but to no avail. In like manner, trying to correct the ‘windmill chasers’ in our midst might meet with failure.

That’s where we who confess Christ, who know the gospel message, and are willing to be used of God to share the good news with a lost world, enter “stage right”. We can be the standard bearers and ambassadors who can offer the internal remedy to the internal problem that plagues every one of us; our sinful nature. We can be the Paul Harveys who share “the rest of the story”, (Some of you will get that.) And who knows, maybe that’s what God intended for us all along!

“How can they call on him unless they believe in him? How can they believe in him unless they hear about him? How can they hear about him unless someone preaches to them? 15 And how can anyone preach without being sent? It is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”” (Romans 10:14-15)

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This article first appeared in the Christian Military Fellowship June 2021 Christian Report. which can be located and downloaded hereThe Christian Report is one of the many resources available from Christian Military Fellowship, a ministry dedicated to  helping Christians serving in the Armed Forces  grow in their faith and become “Gospel Ambassadors” in uniform.

Why you should (and probably already do) believe in limited atonement

By Robin Schumacher, Exclusive Columnist

When it comes to which of the five points of Calvinism that irk non-reformed Christians the most, my money is on limited atonement. The doctrine of limited atonement teaches that Christ’s redeeming work on the cross secured an actual salvation for only the elect of God.

If this causes you to grind your teeth in irritation, stop. I’m going to show you why you probably already believe in limited atonement and then provide what I believe to be the definitive argument that puts the issue to bed once and for all.

Welcome to the club

Unless you’re a universalist, you already believe in limited atonement. That’s right – if not everyone is saved, then the atonement has to be “limited”.

How is it limited? It is limited to believers only: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Technically, this is called limited in extent, meaning limited in who it applies to. Christ’s death saves every person that it meant to save and doesn’t make salvation a mere possibility, which would be limited in effect.

So, as I said, you likely already believe in limited atonement in general without knowing it. Charles Spurgeon puts it like this: “[They] say Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by that. Did Christ die to secure the salvation of all men? They say no, certainly not…Did Christ die to secure the salvation of any one person in particular? They say no, Christ has died that any man may be saved if … and then follow certain conditions of salvation.” 

The knockout punch

John Owen wrote what is perhaps the most definitive work on Christ’s atonement in “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”. In that book, Owen delivers what I believe is the knockout punch to anyone who opposes limited atonement. Let me quote his argument in full and then let’s work through it a little at a time:

“God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved . . . If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why then are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, ‘Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.’ But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will”.

The Options

“God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men.

Owen says we have three options: either Jesus died on the cross for (1) all the sins of everyone; (2) all the sins of a particular group of people; (3) some of the sins of everyone.  He then proceeds to work through those possibilities.

Option 3 – out

If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved.

Working backwards, Owen quickly jettisons the third option because, if everyone still has some sins that have not been atoned for, no one will spend eternity with God. Impossible to disagree with, wouldn’t you say?

Option 2 – limited atonement

If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world.

The second option Owen presents is limited atonement – that Jesus only died for God’s chosen people and took upon Himself all their sins. Such a position ensures an actual salvation for that group of people because all their sins were placed on Christ at the cross and they have nothing left for which to atone.

The start of option 1 – a good question

If the first, why then are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins?

Option 1 is what many Christians believe – that Jesus took upon Himself, at the cross, all the sins of everyone who ever lived or will live. But Owen asks a good question: if that’s the case, then why isn’t everyone saved?

Outside of universalism, no one believes all will be saved and this includes those not upholding the reformed doctrine of limited atonement. And it is these people that Owen addresses next.

Is Unbelief a Sin?

You will say, ‘Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.’

The ever-famous John 3:16, which I’ve already quoted, limits the atonement to only those who believe – a point that showcases the truth that all Christians really believe in limited atonement in one form or another. But then Owen asks an important follow up question:

But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not?

This inquiry marks the beginning of the end for anyone who attempts to deny the doctrine of limited atonement. The answer, of course, is yes. Paul flatly says, “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). The writer of Hebrews, describing faithless Israel, also says, “So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:19).

But Owen works through the possibilities, nonetheless.

If not, why should they be punished for it?

If unbelief is not a sin, Owen says then there is no reason for it to bar anyone from God’s presence.

If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not.

If unbelief is a sin (and we have seen that it is), then it was either one of the sins that Christ died for, or it was not. So, either unbelieving people still have something for which to answer to God or they don’t.

If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death?

This logical conclusion is the deathblow for anyone claiming that Christ died for all the sins of everyone, but that unbelief keeps a person from eternal life. Owen says if unbelief is a sin, and if Christ died for ALL the sins of everyone born of human parents, then that sin must be included in the mix and labeled as one for which Christ died. Unbelief, as a sin, could not keep anyone from spending eternal life with God more than any other sin for which Jesus paid.

If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins.

If someone wants to say that Christ did not die for a person’s unbelief, and unbelief is a sin, then Jesus did not die for all his or her sins. Thus, a person cannot make the claim that Jesus died for all the sins of the world (with “world” being defined as every human being ever born).

Let them choose which part they will.

This is polite 17th century language for saying, “Checkmate”.

Owen convincingly shows that options 1 and 3 are untenable, with the only option remaining being the doctrine of limited atonement.

Not fair?

In his book entitled, The Nature of the Atonement, John McLeod Campbell explains how the only alternative becomes one where Christ’s atonement is limited. Recounting the just-covered John Owen’s summary of the case, Campbell concludes, “As addressed to those who agree with him as to the nature of the atonement, while differing with him as to the extent of its reference, this seems unanswerable.”

I agree.

Any scripture plucking[1] or other arguments fall short of undercutting the biblical logic behind limited atonement. Truth be told, most attempts are emotional in nature and boil down to a “not fair” contention.

But here’s the thing: as Christians, we often quote Is. 55:18, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” and we rest in it until it comes to matters like this. Then we expect God’s ways to be our ways.

But Proverbs 50:21 says simply, “You thought that I was just like you”, meaning He’s not just like us. Whatever superficial feelings we have about God’s plan of salvation being not fair are misplaced.   

Dr. James White speaks to the simplicity and beauty of Christ’s atonement when he says, “In its simplest terms the Reformed belief is this: Christ’s death saves sinners. It does not make the salvation of sinners a mere possibility. It does not provide a theoretical atonement … Christ’s death saves every single person that it was intended to save.”

I’m good with that. Are you?

[1] E.g., 1 John 2:2; John 12:32; 2 Pet. 2:1 by themselves and not viewed within the whole of Scripture.  

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master’s in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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Online Source

Christian Military Fellowship May 2021 Newsletter

If you are reading this, you might already know that I have been connected to the Christian Military Fellowship for quite a long time. Below is a link to the CMF Web Page, which is also located on the right side of The Battle Cry  Home Page

CMF has a simple mission, “To Win, To Disciple, To Equip to Win” men and women serving in the  military, so that can become ambassadors for Christ in uniform. If you have served in the military or know someone who has, please share this post.

One of my roles with CMF is as the editor and a writer for our monthly Newsletter, The Christian Report.  A friend (Thanks, Jim!) suggested I post our newsletter to The Battle Cry.

Here is a link to the May 2021 CMF Newsletter. I would have embedded it in this post, however WordPress wants me to upgrade to the WP Business edition.

In His Service,

Dan C.

What to Do with Evil News

by Dan Crabtree,The Cripplegate

The Puritan Thomas Watson said during the morning exercises at the Cripplegate, “John the Baptist’s head on a platter is a common dish nowadays.”

“Nowadays” was the embattled era of the English Civil War, but it could just as well be today or any other day. Church history records more dark years than halcyon days. Persecution, slander, and mistreatment has always been par for the Christian course. Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33), and he meant it. Heads are still on the menu.

I’m assuming if you’re reading this that you’ve been on your phone or computer scrolling through all kinds of articles and videos. I don’t know your Internet habits, but here we are. So, what did you see while you were scrolling? Mostly good news? Encouragement? Rejoicing in the happy providences of God?

Or did you see another exposé on a disgraced evangelical leader? Or news about another church service turned into a shooting gallery? Or a catalogue of another church that’s left the Bible far behind? (And those were just the Christian sites.)

Brothers and sisters, we are surrounded with bad news about the evil that permeates this world. Given the dominance of Satan’s handiwork in the headlines, it would be so easy to despair. To get angry. To embitter. To whip someone online with a fresh one-liner because you’ve just had enough.

But King David has a better way for us. In his waning years, David penned Psalm 37 to help his people sing even when “the wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him” (Ps 37:12). And his wisdom can teach us how to respond rightly to all kinds of wickedness in our neighborhoods, our workplaces, or even on our screens.

  1. Don’t worry about evil news.

David’s psalm begins, “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!” Meaning, don’t get worked up about the existence of evil on this earth. You know this is part of post-Fall life, so expect it and don’t get wrecked by it. Don’t let it make you angry, don’t let it provoke you, don’t let it cause you to despair, and don’t get consumed by it. David makes this even clearer in verse 8 when he says, “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” David is saying, “Don’t let evil make you evil!” Instead, “Turn away from evil and do good” (v. 27). Responding to evil in-kind accomplishes nothing of lasting worth, so instead meet fire with a cool glass of water and so “overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21).

As a pastor, it’s heartbreaking to see the sheep under your care drowning in despair from the 6 o’clock news. As a sheep myself, I’m tempted to be overwhelmed by it all, too. But David exhorts us to swim against the current, to keep our heads above water, to not become emotionally engulfed by the actions of evil men and women and the pain they inflict on others. Sinners will sin. That reality must not own us.

Practically, avoiding anxiety about current events may look like ingesting less evil news. You might delete a news app, put the phone away at home, check the news less often, or maybe even take a break from seeking out any digital source of news altogether. Here’s a baseline principle – if it’s causing you to sin more, then don’t do it. Jesus said something about plucking out eyes, right? Our newsfeeds may also need some plucking. Only allow it into your brain if you can respond to it in a godly way. That means don’t worry.

  1. Enjoy Jesus despite evil news.

Most people are familiar with Psalm 37 because of verse 4 which reads, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This is not some magic prosperity formula (sorry Joel Osteen) but a diagnostic about the primary temptation that evil news contains. The worst effect that the sin of other people can have in your life is to steal your joy in Jesus. Seriously. They can kill you, but that’s gain for the Christian (Phil 1:21). They can take your stuff, but that will only make you rely more on God (2 Cor 1:9; Heb 10:34). They could even say horrendous things on the Internet, but not one letter of it can alter your eternal inheritance in Christ!

It might sound like a Christian cop-out to say, “When the world is burning, rejoice in Christ!” but that’s what David says. And Paul says it too: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). Why do these godly men Jesus-juke in the face of untold wickedness? Because when we delight ourselves in the Lord, “he will give you the desires of your heart.” That is, when our hearts on set on treasuring Jesus, then we get Jesus. And whatever else we get; we get more of Jesus. This verse doesn’t turn God into a vending machine for material blessing but reminds us that God is the fountain of all good things (James 1:17). When we come to him to be satisfied, he always gives us more of him, and we’re always satisfied in him with whatever he hands us. That’s Paul’s secret to contentment, even in the face of radical, horrific evils (Phil 4:13). And it ought to be ours, too.

For me, this means that the headlines become my prayer line. When I hear about another church bombing or insurgent attack or celebrated sin, I throw my eyes upward, cry out for mercy, and find the ear of the God of all comfort. My sadness turns to worship when I take it to the Lord in prayer. And worship is what my heart most delights in because I was made to praise Jesus.

  1. Trust God with evil news.

You probably saw this one coming. When things are bad, God’s in control, etc. Amen and amen. But David’s logic in this psalm gets more specific than that. The reason that you should trust God with evil news is that God will judge all of it.

God’s just condemnation of evil takes up the bulk of this psalm and makes up David’s main argument. Why shouldn’t you be envious of evildoers? “For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb” (v. 2). Why should you lay every thought and plan at the foot of God’s throne? Because “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your justice as the noonday” (v. 6). “Evildoers shall be cut off…” (v. 9), “in just a little while, the wicked will be no more…” (v. 10), and “the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming” (v. 13). Over and over again throughout this psalm, David contrasts the fate of the evil with the righteous. Though “transgressors shall be altogether destroyed” (v. 38), “the salvation of the righteous is from Yahweh, he is their stronghold in the time of trouble” (v. 39).

That means I don’t have to settle accounts because God will! I can “leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom 12:19). My part is not to bring final judgment but to trust the perfect Judge. He’ll deal with all evil either on the cross or in the lake of fire, so I can rest in his righteous accounting.

And fellow believer, do not doubt that God is an exacting accountant. He will bring every wicked act in the nightly news before the bar of his holy wrath and pronounce the sentence it deserves. Evil may carry the day, but it will not carry that day. A time is coming soon when there will be no more evil news but only the good news of the gospel and God’s saving work will remain.

Trust God until then. Darkness may have its hour. “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil” (Eccl 8:11). But it’s only an hour. “They will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Pet 4:5). Evil news, as David says, will pass away like smoke and then righteousness will reign for eternity. And so will we (Rev 22:5).

So, it may be worthwhile to cut the cable, put down the phone, and replace the dreary headlines with Scripture memory and sermons and fellowship. I know it’s helped me. It certainly will be worthwhile to press on to make Christ your own in prayer and Bible study, as it always will. But whatever evil news you encounter, believer, trust in the invisible hand of Providence behind it, guiding every morning and evening to the dawn of an eternal day. “Trust in him, and he will act” (v. 5).

Source: What to do with evil news | The Cripplegate

William Wirt and the Blind Preacher – Archibald Alexander

The power of religion, in promoting happiness in this life and in disarming death of its terror, has seldom been more beautifully illustrated than in the example of William Wirt, Attorney General of the United States. When a young man, just commencing his professional career, he was distinguished for his genius, his eloquence, his fascinating powers of conversation, and his polished manners. In every circle his society was courted. Fond of pleasure, and the center of attraction of every convivial(1) party, he was living for the joys of this short life, and was in great danger of being ingulfed in that vortex of worldliness and fashion where so many thousands have perished.

While thus living, as he was on one of his professional circuits as a lawyer, he passed a Sabbath where the celebrated blind preacher of Virginia, Rev. James Waddell, was to preach. Mr. Wirt having no other way to pass the Sabbath, entered the humble church with the congregation. He has himself described, in his own forcible language, the scene which ensued. The primitive simplicity of the preacher, the subdued pathos (2) of his tones, his unaffected (3) piety and fervid eloquence, all combined, through the influences of the Holy Spirit, to touch the heart of Wirt. He felt the emptiness of his own joys, and the unprofitableness of his own life. He reflected and wept and prayed. “God be merciful to me a sinner”, which became, for many days and nights, the anxious supplication of his soul. Forsaking his thoughtless companions and his dangerous habits of gayety, he commenced a new life of Christian usefulness. True peace visited his heart, and his benignant (4)countenance proclaimed that he had sought happiness and found it, where alone happiness can be found. He became the advocate of Christian missions, and to every object of philanthropy he consecrated the energies of his noble mind.

Though necessarily called to move in the highest circles of opulence and intellect, and to encounter the temptations with which those circles are ever filled, he humbly, yet fearlessly sustained his character as a disciple of Jesus Christ, and gave his commanding influence, unreservedly and constantly, for the promotion of piety. Revered by the community, and loved almost to devotion by a wide circle of friends, he spent his days in doing good. And when the dying hour came, hope and joy beamed from his eye, brilliant with almost celestial vision, as the glories of his heavenly home were unfolded to his view. His body has long ago mingled with the dust, and his spirit has long dwelt, we trust, with the God who gave it.

Such are the effects of religion. Infidelity can show no such triumphs. Who will not utter the prayer, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his?”

(1) friendly, lively, and enjoyable

(2) evoking pity or sadness

(3) without artificiality or insincerity

(4)kindly and benevolent

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The story you just read is the true account of how God brought William Wirt to the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ, published in a collection of articles by Presbyterian theologian and Princeton Seminary professor Archibald Alexander (April 1772 – October 1851). The blind preacher, Rev. James Waddel was the first Presbyterian Minister in the Northern neck of Virginia. He was known as the “blind preacher Waddell” because he had periods of blindness.

Footnotes notwithstanding, it’s a wonderful account of one man’s salvation. We are told of Mr. Wirt’s character and life situation leading up to a Sunday when he “happened” to walk into a church and listen to a renowned and talented preacher. While he was attracted to the preaching (he was a lawyer), the Holy Spirit opened his heart to hear and receive the gospel message (the Lydia principle in Acts 16?). He was shaken to the core with the realization of his own sinfulness and prayed the simplest of prayers, “God be merciful to me a sinner”. He found a true peace and happiness he had never before known. As a result, his entire life was changed forever!

Dear reader, what’s your story? How did god save you? What happened on your way to the cross?

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For the Times They are A-changin’ – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan was right in 1964, when he wrote that song, and he’s still right. In fact, the times are always changing, for better or worse. In 2021, we live in an especially ‘interesting’ time of change in our nation. It seems that academia (all levels), modern culture, and institutions are wholeheartedly embracing ideologies and policies contrary to their essential purposes in providing goods, services, and entertainment. Some of these ideologies and policies are contrary to a Christian worldview and blatantly oppose Divine moral law and support that which God terms “abomination”. Those who stand against the tide are losing friends, their reputations, their livelihoods, and much more. We live in what’s called a “cancel culture.” I’m certain, that if it were possible, those who try to “cancel” everything and everyone opposing them would also try and cancel God.

Furthermore, every facet and level of our society is being impacted by the ever-increasing moral decay and lawlessness we see all around us. Legislation, rules, regulations, and policies have been written to ‘engourage’ us to ‘behave’. Unbelievers and nonconformists will be persecuted and/or punished! That includes everyone, no matter what their function in society, their religious persuasion, their age, and anything else you can think of.

How do we, as Christians, respond to our ‘anti-God’ culture? That’s our challenge.

On one hand, there’s nothing new under the sun. The world’s operating system has always been at odds with Christianity and Christians have always been under pressure to conform to the world’s ungodly standards. Jesus even told his closest followers:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

What appears to be a rather recent development however, is the speed and manner in which we are being brought into submission to what seems like a “new world order”, as evidenced by all of the legislation, regulations, rules (corporate, institutional, and social) being enacted to cause us to conform.

So, how are we to respond? I can think of a few principles that will help us in that regard.

First, remember the source of our strength to combat evil, our battle ‘dress’, and the ‘situation’ on the battlefield:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:10 – 12)

As believers, with whom are we to be engaged in battle? Are we to be contesting with men, or with the spiritual forces behind their machinations? What’s the Christian’s end game?

Secondly, remember the purpose of our wearing the whole armor of God, and the ultimate goal of our warfare.

“Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”(Eph 6:13)

We are to “stand our ground” and live out our Biblical principles in an increasingly hostile environment. We can also lovingly, gently, and with respect, present the Christian worldview to whomever provides us an opportunity, and in whatever format that presents itself.

Finally, remember our primary mission for this life. In a parable at the home of Zacchaeus, a tax collector in Jericho, Jesus said:

“A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.  So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’’’ (Luke 19:12 – 13)

The nobleman in the parable gave money to his servants and told them “Do business till I come.” I love that phrase! I don’t know about you, but it excites me! In our case, Jesus is the nobleman in the far country (planet Earth) and we are his servants. So what is the “business” of Jesus?

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matt 24:14)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

No matter what our main occupation or situation in life might be, we are to be about the business of the gospel, proclaiming it and making disciples. We are to be about ‘investing’ the gospel in our own lives and in the lives of others. We should be continuously growing in our own knowledge of God and His Son, sitting under sound Biblical teaching, and at the same time pointing the lost around us to the Cross of Christ and helping other believers grow in their faith.

Sharing the Gospel message in a lost and dying world is the greatest privilege God has bestowed upon his children!

Let’s “do business” until He returns, as we pray “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”