Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s book-length response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Because of the importance of this debate, TheCripplegate is using every Thursday to respond chapter-by-chapter to Authentic Fire. You can find an overview of this debate, as well as links to the reviews for each chapter by clicking here.

 afSpirit and Truth, Right Brain and Left Brain

Coming to chapter 8 of Authentic Fire, Dr. Michael Brown explains how charismatics and non-charismatics have something to offer the body of Christ. Rather than fighting, both groups will serve everyone better if they would seek to understand and learn from each other.  That way, both sides will glorify Jesus and touch a dying world [AF, 251]. 

While Brown acknowledges that he believes the Bible clearly affirms his position, charismatics and non-charismatics still have unique contributions to make. What may be one group’s strength, may be another’s weakness, and what may be one’s weakness will be the other’s strength. It is how God established the body of Christ to work together. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:4-5, there are many members, but not all members have the same function. So it is with charismatics and non-charismatics.

Take for instance how non-charismatics are heavily into studying the Word of God. They will know God’s Word inside and out in the original languages and all the theology that goes with that. However, they become so immersed into the “study” aspect of Scripture that they lose the vibrancy of fellowship and lack the empowering of the Holy Spirit. On the flip side, it is all too common for charismatic brethren to pursue the Spirit so heavily that they become sloppy with their Bible study and doctrinal foundations [AF, 257-258].

In order to remedy the differences between charismatics and non-charismatics, Brown suggests what he calls “cross-pollination” with charismatics learning to appreciate expository and doctrinal preaching and reformed congregations learning to include more congregational participation in worship and praise [AF, 260]. There has to be an emphasis upon both spirit and truth together so that all Christians are worshiping God “in Spirit and in truth,” John 4:24.

He then provides some practical examples of what he means. Continue Reading…

If you are new to watching televised soccer, you might not know what exactly it is you are supposed to be looking for. You understand that the goal is goals… but certainly there is more nuance than that, right? If the average game is 2-1, then you are spending a lot of time watching something other than scoring. What exactly is it, and how do you enjoy it?

Here is the simplest explanation I can come up with, and if you understand this, then not only will you enjoy soccer, but you will be a better Christian as well—and yes, I meant to type that.   Continue Reading…

200wordsIf someone were to ask me why I’m not Roman Catholic, this would be my answer in 200 words or less:

I believe the Roman Catholic church has seriously erred in three fundamental areas: in its approach to God, the Bible, and salvation.

1) In its approach to God, Roman Catholicism approves the veneration of (i.e. bowing down before) images and relics, encourages praying to the saints, and promotes Mary to a semi-divine status. All of these constitute varying forms of idolatry, which Scripture condemns (cf. Ex. 20:4–5; Lev. 26:1; Acts 10:25–26; Rev. 22:8–9). Continue Reading…

I doSince becoming a pastor I have had the privilege of conducting countless weddings. The first few were easy decisions: I checked my schedule and if I was available, I agreed to perform the ceremony. That’s because the first weddings I was asked to do were young, chaste, Christian couples in our church whom I knew well and I was delighted to be part of their joyful day. But then I began to receive requests from complete strangers whose situations required some more discernment than a simple, “Yup, I’m free that Saturday.”

Although we covered the theory in seminary, it wasn’t until I was in the trenches, with no professor to grade my answer, that I was faced with deciding which weddings I would consent to do and which I would not. When there were families and friendships involved, I began to realize this wasn’t theoretical, or target practice anymore; we’re playing with live ammo. And taking a stand can set off some explosive emotions.

Here’s seven scenarios I’ve encountered in ten years of doing weddings, and where I stand on saying “I do…”

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Gentleness (Phil 4;5)Last week, we considered Paul’s command for God’s people to be characterized by a gentle, forbearing, gracious spirit. There were five key features of that Gospel-shaped gentleness that is to dominate our demeanor as followers of Christ. And I focused the application of those features almost exclusively on how gentleness is to manifest itself in the life of the church. And that’s vitally important.

But Paul casts a wider scope than the family of God concerning on this command. Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your gentle spiritbe known to all men.” And so this reasonable flexibility, this temperate gentleness, this patient forbearance, this willing surrender of our own rights, and this happy contentment is to be made manifest not only to your family; not only to a certain group of Christian friends who are very easy for you to get along with; not even only to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. But your gentle spirit is to be made evident and manifest to all people. And if that’s the case, that means we are to manifest this gentleness in all the spheres of our life before unbelievers. Let’s consider a few of those.

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Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s book-length response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Because of the importance of this debate, TheCripplegate is using every Thursday to respond chapter-by-chapter to Authentic Fire. You can find an overview of this debate, as well as links to the reviews for each chapter by clicking here.

Chapter 7 Summary (I’ve numbered things to make responding easier to follow)

Michael Brown

1. Dr. Brown opens the chapter with a story about James Robison and how he used to be judgmental, until Billy Graham told him to “spend time with other believers you’ve been taught to avoid” (Kindle Location 3482), which transformed him and those whom he reached out to.  Dr. Brown makes the subtle insinuation that John MacArthur avoids other believers because he doesn’t think they are other believers.  Dr. Brown then quotes himself in saying that Heaven will be “a great eye-opener and a great mouth-closer. You will be surprised to see many people there, and many people will be surprised to see you there”  (Kindle Locations 3486-3487), and comments about how people like Bill Johnson and Mike Bickle get condemned by some and praised by others.

Dr. Brown proves that MacArthur doesn’t believe charismatics are believers by pointing to this now infamous tweet:

2. Dr. Brown continues on in the next section, pointing out how the “wholesale condemnation of several hundred millions Christians is totally unmerited” (Kindle Location 3504) and comments on how it’s not exactly the first time in Church history that such angry divisions have occurred, and then gives this post by Tom Chantry as an example of “how unpleasant the rhetoric can get once we start damning one another to hell” (Kindle Locations 3506-3507).  Dr. Brown quotes Chantry as saying:

“Well, if John MacArthur wants to train his fire on them [meaning, the charismatics], I say good for him. CAIR [the Counsel on American-Islamic Relationships] may not actually be terrorists , but I’m all for exposing their giving of aid and comfort to terrorists.” (Kindle Locations 3507-3509). Continue Reading…

good startI recently discovered that it’s possible to have fruit-bearing citrus trees shipped to your house. When you live far from warmth, as I do, affordable fresh fruit is a coveted commodity. So for example, if you buy a fruit-bearing lemon tree, you will typically be sold one that is four to five years old. That’s because the tree, though not old by any sense of the word, is ready to stand without lemon training wheels and lemon baby-walkers. It’s still small, imperfect, and in need of growth, but it’s alive, standing, and bearing some fruit.

Church planting is similar. Those first five years are critical and determinative. If a church plant makes it to the five-year mark, chances are it’s alive, standing, and bearing some fruit. That said, the goal at the five-year mark is more than a group of people. At five years, the goal is to have been faithful to implement and maintain biblically sound DNA from which disciples are being made for the glory of God. But, like the fruit tree, having weathered the seed-to-sapling phases, its a great time in church planting to pause and reflect on what God has done by his grace in order to prepare for additional days if the Lord wills.

In yesterday’s post, I set out to share a few lessons learned in five short years of church plant life. Here are a few more:

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5-year-old cancer survivor plays pilot for a dayFive years old. Whether humans or trees, it’s a unique developmental milestone. By the time it’s reached, a degree of discovery combined with struggle has been weathered. In many trees, for example, this delicate, seed-to-sapling stage requires the utmost care and attention to survive. Every variable—soil, sunlight exposure, water, support, etc— has to be dialed in if they will survive the fragile seed-to-sapling stages. And if they do, by five years of age, they are able to stably stand on their own.

Humans are no different. The first five years are critical. Just look at the groggy-eyed, young moms and dads around you. And it’s often said that five years of age is that developmental stage when what kids think they can do and what they actually can do is beginning to line up. They’re figuring out that they can’t fly off the jungle gym. Less attempts are made at riding the trike down the stairs.

Gods graceSo it is in the life of a church plant. If you’ve made it that far, you’ve weathered the uncomfortable and delicate seed-to-sapling stages. Your core team probably still likes each other and has even reproduced itself a few times over. If the church plant is stably standing and bearing some fruit, then you’ve probably weathered a few storms; perhaps almost been toppled by them. You’ve seen a lot of people come. And a lot go. Even had to church discipline a few souls. You have seen that every variable needs to be biblically calibrated by God’s grace.

The church I get to serve is about to turn the green age of five. As such, it’s an opportune time to reflect on lessons learned along the way. Now, though turning 5 is somewhat of a milestone, many more milestones are yet needed. So these are merely some pit-stop lessons as a plant seeks to stand on its own. Hopefully there will be many more. But in the meantime, here are a handful of lessons learned from a 5-year old church plant:

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pillsIn many cities of the Western world, selecting a church can be like shopping for clothes in the defect factory store. You know you need to wear clothes, but every item you try has some spot, snag, or run that catches you eye. You simply have to settle for the one that has the most bearable flaw. Please don’t take my candor for cynicism. I’ve loved all three local churches I’ve been a member of, but was not caught off-guard by discovering their inevitable imperfections.

But what we need to realize is that some unpleasantness inherent to a healthy local church is NOT an imperfection, but a necessary attribute of faithfulness. In some pills it is the active ingredients that make it taste bitter. Here are four bitter pills that you may prefer to avoid swallowing, but should view as a sign that you’ve found a good church home. In fact if all four of these “unpleasantries” were absent it would indicate you’ve stumbled into a dangerously inept church.

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Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
– Philippians 4:5 –

Gentleness (Phil 4;5)This passage of Scripture comes in a list of brief commands that Paul means to demonstrate as the means of remaining spiritually steadfast (cf. Phil 4:1). That list is usually read through very quickly, and this command to be gentle often doesn’t enjoy the extended meditation that it deserves.

But the word is packed with meaning, so much so that the translators have always had a hard time translating the Greek word, epieikes. The verse at the top is the New American Standard Update. The older NAS has, “Let your forbearance,” or “your forbearing spirit be made known to all men.” The ESV says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” The HCSB has, “Let your graciousness be known to everyone.”

The commentators don’t help either, as their lists are even longer: gentleness, graciousness, forbearance, patience, sweet reasonableness, mildness, leniency, yieldedness, kindness, charitableness, considerateness, magnanimity, bigheartedness, generosity. In some measure, all of these concepts are at play in this one word. I thought it would be beneficial to select a number of them and amplify them a bit, so that we can gain a firm grasp on the nature of this duty to which we are called, but which is often easy to overlook. So here are five characteristics of the gentleness that is to dominate our demeanor as followers of Christ.

Continue Reading…