Wednesday, October 28, 2015

End Times Prophets? Or PROFITeers? A Halloween Blog On Witchcraft

As Halloween is fast approaching, I can't help but think how sad it is that a person is likely to find more of what the Bible calls "Witchcraft," on the pages of books written by End-Time Prophet-teers (PROFIT--teers), than on the pages of a Harry Potter book. In Christian bookstores and on Wal-Mart shelves, many books marketed to Christians contain everything from predictions based on the interpretation of omens and harbingers to prognostications based on moon cycles and astrology and numerology. All of these methods are called divination by Scripture and are not legitimate means of prophecy, but are clearly defined as false prophecy and explicity forbidden. As Hermione says: "Divination is a very wooly discipline." It's bad enough that the fleecers of the flock take Scripture out of context in order to manipulate and mislead believers, but they blatantly defy God's word and engage in practices that are clearly condemned. Here is what the Bible says:

You shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or engages in witchcraft or one who casts a spell, or is a medium, or consults with familiar spirits or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to disposses, listen to fortune tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.  -Deuteronomy 18:9-13

I hoped that when last September passed and all of the Blood Moon prognosticators and omen interpreters predicting disaster and economic collapse were made fools out of, that the church would learn its lesson and stay away from End-Time PROFITeers, to stop paying attention to man-made signs and wonders, but rather to the word of God and to prayer and to giving God glory for His redemptive actions and healing in our lives. Unfortunately, with this election, we are instead seeing another side of false prophecy. In the ancient world, diviners, magicians, astrologers and soothsayers served as advisors to rulers. They used their craftiness to manipulate kings and influence the destinies of nations as they gave advice about important decisions, even whether or not to go to war. It has been incredibly disheartening to see so-called Christian pastors, authors and celebrity figures take Old Testament passages wildly out of context to claim that Trump was prophesied or that he is the new Cyrus or to take passages of scripture about Israel and twist them to make them seem like they are about America. There are serious Biblical truths and issues at stake and many Christian leaders seem willing to sacrifice the Gospel for the sake of a political victory. I do not understand how any responsible pastor, teacher or theologian could bend and manipulate Scripture for the sake of getting attention or winning an election. The stakes are much too high. The one lesson we can learn from this is that one of the most commonly used techniques of Satan and his minions is to present people with two bad choices or two wrong choices, just as we are being presented with. We are experiencing this particular type of witchcraft, in terms of psychological manipulation, that happened in the ancient world as people were swayed to support untrustworthy leaders.

I am not suggesting that we go out and start burning these End Time PROFITeers at the stake as witches. That idea likely comes from a misunderstanding of the following text which shows how such people will not escape God's judgement and the lake of fire.

...in spite of your many sorceries and your many spells. You felt secure in your wickedness, You said "No one sees me." Your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray...But calamity will come upon you. You won't know how to charm it away. Disaster will fall on you for which you cannot atone. Catastrophe you CANNOT forsee will suddenly come upon you. Stand fast in your enchantments and your many sorceries, which you have toiled over since your youth. Perhaps you will succeed? Perhaps you will cause terror? You are weary of your many consulations (they had consulted everyone and everything in creation except for God) So let the astrologers, star-gazers, predicitng by new moons stand up and save you from what will come upon you. Behold, they shall be as stubble. Fire will consume them. They cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame! It is not a coal for warming by or a fire to sit before! So much have they become to you, with whom you have toiled, trafficking with you from your youth, each wandering about his own way (going astray)  No one will save you. -Isaiah 47:9-15

Here is the lesson. A person prophesying falsely is someone who directly contradicts and ignores the clear teaching of Scripture or who makes predictions by using methods the Bible forbids. Such predictions are often based on human observance of natural or general revelation--observing nature or human behavior to predict unknowable future events. In the Bible, when God speaks prophetically it is through special, or supernatural revelation such as His word, visions, prophetic words and dreams. While God does reveal something of Himself through nature, because of sin, nature can be misunderstood, misinterpreted and manipulated, often for financial benefit and the glory of the individual. The Bible calls this dishonest gain. True Prophecy is when God reveals Himself supernaturally. False profit-teering, or divination is where man tries to make predictions based on other means.

I encourage believers to exercise discernment and oversight and to carry on, following the advice Paul wrote to overseers:

Be hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast to the faithful word as taught, so that he (you) will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it. For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of dishonest gain. -Titus 1:9-11

(updated 10-18-2016)


Monday, October 19, 2015

Statement of Faith

Statement of Faith
I originally prepared this statement for my Philosphy of Christian Education class. I feel that it has value and could be helpful so I am sharing it here. The purpose of this document is to examine eight key areas of theology and the corresponding educational application.
General Revelation
General Revelation is the way that God has revealed Himself through His creation. (Psalm 19:1-6). Creation shows the divine attributes of the Creator, the majesty, the power, the goodness, the providence and the creativity of God can be seen by all. (Romans 1:19-21)
Creation shows the crafty design of the Creator in the intricate way our bodies are made, (Psalm 139:14) and in the inherent beauty and love that God poured into designing the earth. There are many object lessons such as the sun coming up, like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber (Psalm 19:4), and God protecting us beneath the shadow of His wings, using creation to reveal God’s protective nature by the way a bird protects her eggs and her young. (Psalm 63:7)
Special Revelation
General Revelation is meant to draw people to God. Special Revelation is meant to bring people into relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, His Son, who is the Word. He reveals Himself primarily through His word, the Bible. God’s mighty works, His providential care for His people, His justice, His merciful lovingkindness, His righteousness, His supremacy, and most importantly, His plan of salvation are shown forth through His word, Holy Scripture. God also reveals Himself by calling us to repentance and convicting us regarding sin and righteousness. (Hebrews 3:15, John 16:8) While, God’s word is complete and no words will be added to it, He is God and has the power to speak to people any time He chooses. He does this through words of knowledge, words of wisdom and prophecy. (1 Corinthians 12:8,10) These words are given for comfort, encouragement and edification which provide wise counsel and advice. (1 Corinthians 14:3) No word from God will ever contradict Scripture, and often He speaks through Scripture, or by bringing specific passages of Scripture to the forefront of our minds at just the right moment. A word spoken at the right time, in the right way and for the right reason is like apples of gold served on a silver platter that sets things in motion. (Proverbs 25:11)
Faith comes through hearing the word of God. (Romans 10:17) Teachers must clearly present the gospel message and a person must respond to it in faith in order to be saved. (Romans 5:1)
THE TRINITY
God is all-knowing, all-powerful and omnipresent. God exists in three distinct persons, each fully God and in perfect harmony, in perfect unity with the other two. God is the Creator of all things.
God the Father
God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and full of merciful lovingkindness. (Psalm 103:8) God is righteous and He loves justice. (Psalm 33:5) God is Holy and cannot be tempted with evil. (1 Peter 1:16, 1 James 1:13) God is the author of salvation. No one has ever seen God the Father. (John 1:18)
God the Son
Jesus is eternally co-existent with the Father and all things are made through Him. (John 1:1) He is one with the Father and the exact representation of Him. (John 12:45, Hebrews 1:3) Jesus is fully God and fully man, having been born of a virgin from Mary’s own egg, supernaturally fertilized by the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:35) He lived a perfect sinless life and fulfilled the law completely being beaten with rods, scourged, crucified, cursed and dying in our place. (Galatians 3:13, Proverbs 23:13) He is the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 2:2) He came to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8) He rose again on the third day, victorious over sin, hell, death and the grave. (1 Corinthians 15:4) Salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. (Acts 4:12)
God the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is a person. He is fully God. He convicts us of sin and calls us to repentance. (John 16;8) The Holy Spirit is omnipresent. He dwells within believers. (Ephesians 3:17, John 15:4,26) He brings the fruit of the spirit forth in our lives (Galatians 5:22) and gives spiritual gifts to be used in service of the church (1 Corinthians 12). He sanctifies us. (Ephesians 3:20) He is our comforter, counselor, advocate, guide, friend and helper. (John 4;26)
Application
It is important to teach people the role that each member of the Godhead plays in salvation. Understanding that each member of the Trinity is fully God helps us not to neglect any of God’s work in our lives.
Man
Man is created in the image of God and is the masterpiece of His creation. (Genesis 1:26, Ephesians 2:10) Every human being has inherent value and worth and should be treated with love and respect. (Matthew 5:22) Because of sin, all of mankind is in desperate need of a savior and cannot save themselves, but must be born again.
It is important to teach carefully that no one will be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ alone. (Ephesians 2;8)
Sin
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 3:23, 6:23)
Every person who has ever lived has sinned, save Christ alone. Everyone is guilty before God and deserving of punishment and judgement. Only through Jesus Christ is there an atonement for our sins. Only through Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sins can we be forgiven. (John 1:29) These truths must be taught clearly and never compromised.
Salvation
God the Father is the author of salvation. (Revelation 13:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:9) Jesus has completed the work of salvation. (John 19:30) Jesus has paid the price for the redemption of all mankind. (1 John 2:2) Everyone who believes will be saved. (John 3:16) God has chosen to offer salvation and to show forth His love to the whole world, but He only accepts those who love Him in return, who choose Him. (Joshua 24:15)
To be saved, a person must believe in their heart, repent of sin and confess Jesus as Lord. (Acts 2:38, Romans 10:9) The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, calls to repentance, and Baptizes us with fire, an act which is represented by our outward expression of inward change, Baptism with water. It is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. (Ephesians 3:17). Every believer receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation and is completely justified, forgiven and received as a child of God.
After salvation, believers “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” It is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us. This begins with an initial experience at the time of salvation and continues through a process by which we are sanctified. There has been much confusion on this issue and while each person’s experience with daily dying to self and yielding to the Holy Spirit is different, the important thing is to remain open to God’s continuous work in our lives and to be completely immersed in His Holy Spirit, dyed in the wool, so to speak, so that every fiber of our being is soaked through, changed to become more like Jesus. Once we receive Him, He will never leave us or forsake us and no one can snatch us out of His hand. He is always with us, taking us from glory to glory. In gratitude and joy we should continually seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit, satisfied and sustained by Him, as we come into a deeper relationship with God through prayer, reading of the word, fellowship with other believers and worship. The signs of being filled with the Holy Spirit are the fruits of the Spirit. Each believer is given spiritual gifts to use in service for building up the Body of Christ. (Matthew 3:11, Ephesians 5:18-20, Acts 2:38, Galatians 5:22, 1 Corinthians 12:1-7, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Ephesians 2:22)
The Church
The church, Ekklesia, is the Body of Christ gathered together. We gather to edify, encourage and build each other up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) The church meets together to spur one another on to love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:25).
Beth-El, The House of God, is the place where the church gathers together. (Genesis 28:16-19) However, we are each, individually, the temple of God, His Holy Habitation and the place where He dwells. (1 Corinthians 6:19, Ephesians 2:22)
It is important to teach that we are the house, or dwelling place of God and that we need to gather together in the place set aside to worship God corporately.
Last Things
At the end, Jesus will return and will take the church out of this world. (2 Peter 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, Revelation 16:15) There will follow a period of seven years of tribulation which is intended to allow all of those who remain on earth the opportunity to repent. God will pour out His wrath. Satan will be bound for 1,000 years and there will be a millennial kingdom, essentially, a 1,000 year victory celebration where Jesus reigns on earth and we experience earth as it was meant to be. At the end of this 1,000 years Satan will be briefly loosed and will make war one last time, God will defeat him and cast him into the lake of fire. Everyone who’s name is not found written in the Lamb’s book of life will be cast into the lake of fire. There will be a new heaven and a new earth and we will rejoice in heaven worshipping God and abiding in Him forever. (Revelation 4-22)
In teaching about the end times, it is important to have deep respect and considerate dialogue over differences of opinion. Revelation is extremely complicated to put on a timeline, but theologically, it is rich with important doctrine. God loves justice and He will do away with Satan and all evil. Those who love and trust in Jesus will live for all of eternity in heaven with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God keeps His promises.