For those who are unable to view the free live stream of the Strange Fire Conference here at Grace Community Church, I thought I would do my best to provide a written summary of the various sessions as they unfold (Session One; Session Two; Session Three). I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up, or if I’ll be able to other sessions (check out Tim Challies‘ blog for his coverage) But I thought a little would be better than nothing. It provides us with a helpful opportunity to interact with what is actually being said at the conference. Having said that, the following was transcribed in haste, and so please forgive any typos. I pray it’s a benefit to you.

Strange Fire

What you read in Charismatic Chaos is what we see back in Africa, except Africa is much worse.

I will be doing a brief overview of the Charismatic movement in Africa. It’s something I’ve observed over the past 30 years, and I consider it to be a matter of real concern. This is not simply something I’ve learned about through reading books. It’s what I come across, literally, every day. And so I hope you will therefore bear with me if I get a little emotional. It’s a real concern in my own heart.

Most of what I will go on to paint before you is rather foreign to a Western mindset, but I hope I’ll do the best I can in the little time I have, to make you appreciate our African perspective of things. Given the short time, I’ll be using broad strokes, and so you will have to read further, and as you do I hope you will come to appreciate more of this issue in its detail.

Sanctify Them in the Truth; Your Word is Truth

Turn with me to John 17, not because I’m expounding this text but because I really want us to keep this in mind as we deal with this issue. Because the Charismatic Chaos that I will be pointing out to you would not exist if John 17:17 had been taken seriously. It would not be where it is if we could get back to what Jesus was saying in His high priestly prayer.

They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

This was toward the end of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is on the eve of being crucified, and so He is wrapping up truths that He has been teaching over a long period. He’s seeking to convince His disciples concerning how they ought to live especially in the light of His absence. And then as it comes to this prayer, He deliberately prays it in the ears of His disciples so that they may remain with something of that which is at the center of His own heart. The glory of God—“glorify Yourself,” He says over and over again. He deals with this reality that there is a time between the first and second coming. But there is an organizing principle that is to be retained at the center of Christianity. And it is this: His Word, God’s Word, is to remain saving and sanctifying His people. And He puts it within His prayer to the Father that this is what He desires.

I would like to suggest to you that it has been a failure to recognize the centrality and the sufficiency of the Word of God that has produced something of what we will look at this evening.

Continue Reading…

For those who are unable to view the free live stream of the Strange Fire Conference here at Grace Community Church, I thought I would do my best to provide a written summary of the various sessions as they unfold (Session One; Session Two). I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up, or if I’ll be able to other sessions (check out Tim Challies‘ blog for his coverage) But I thought a little would be better than nothing. It provides us with a helpful opportunity to interact with what is actually being said at the conference. Having said that, the following was transcribed in haste, and so please forgive any typos. I pray it’s a benefit to you.

Strange Fire

What would John Calvin have to say about today’s Calvinists who are open but cautious, or who embrace fully the charismatic movement in one degree or another, but are Calvinistic?

We are very grateful for the resurgence of Reformed theology that has swept the world a few years ago. Even Time Magazine acknowledged this resurgence a few years ago with an article in their magazine. Dr. MacArthur has said, “If you’re not Reformed right now, you’re basically irrelevant.” I would add to that: You’re wrong. :)

But there has been a groundswell, and it has been spread far and wide, through mainline denominations and so many other streams of churches, led by a host of gifted preachers: Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J. I. Packer, James Montgomery Boice, R. C. Sproul, John Piper, and John MacArthur. These men have been standard-bearers in this line of godly men. We all have been under the influence of these men, if not every one of them. Highly visible ministries have carried this torch of Reformed truth: Grace To You, Ligonier Ministries, Desiring God, 9Marks. And the same with publishing houses like Banner of Truth, Crossway, Presbyterian and Reformed, Reformation Heritage Books, and Reformation Trust. And the result has been a phenomenon in our day, that has been called the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement.

There is a generation in their 20s and 30s, wide-eyed to a Calvinistic worldview, a Reformed theology proper, Christology, pneumatology, soteriology, etc. However, with this resurgence, there has come a strange merging of two streams into one river. One stream is historical biblical Calvinism, and the other is an unexpected tributary: Charismatic theology, spiritual experience, and worship style. And so there is a strange hybrid called “the Charismatic Calvinist.” This one surging river has a swift current that has pulled in an entire generation of those who are Reformed, but who are also “speaking in tongues,” having “prophetic utterances,” claiming new revelations, having supposedly words of knowledge, and miraculous healings.

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For those who are unable to view the free live stream of the Strange Fire Conference here at Grace Community Church, I thought I would do my best to provide a written summary of the various sessions as they unfold (see here for the first session). I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up, or if I’ll be able to other sessions (check out Tim Challies‘ blog for his coverage) But I thought a little would be better than nothing. It provides us with a helpful opportunity to interact with what is actually being said at the conference. Having said that, the following was transcribed in haste, and so please forgive any typos. I pray it’s a benefit to you.

Strange Fire

 

I want to look at the redemptive historical significance of Pentecost.

I think most of us are aware that the Pentecostal movement of the 20th century began at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles. And for many years the Pentecostal movement was a movement taking place outside of the mainline churches. But in the middle of the 20th century, the Pentecostal movements spread rapidly in and through the so-called mainline denominations.

We remember the outbreak of the Charismatic movement at Notre Dame and Duquesne University, showing its reaches with the Catholics. But then it moved through the other denominations as well. Initially, when the movement came into the denominations, there were many attempts to assimilate its theology into the various creeds. So the Lutherans and Presbyterians had their version of Charismatic theology. But as the movement developed, there came a similar development of theology within Pentecostal theology. That is what we call neo-Pentecostal theology.

It’s not monolithic. Not everyone in the Charismatic movement shares the same theological understanding of it. Nevertheless, there are some basic ingredients that have become central to neo-Pentecostal theology.

Continue Reading…

For those who are unable to view the free live stream of the Strange Fire Conference here at Grace Community Church, I thought I would do my best to provide a written summary of the various sessions as they unfold. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up, or if I’ll be able to other sessions (I’m not Tim Challies, after all! :)) But I thought a little would be better than nothing. It provides us with a helpful opportunity to interact with what is actually being said at the conference. Having said that, the following was transcribed in haste, and so please forgive any typos. I pray it’s a benefit to you.

Strange Fire

Introduction

The biggest problem facing the church is lack of discernment. If you can’t discern the truth you can die of a thousand heresies. It’s just like spiritual AIDS. A deficient immune system leaves you susceptible to dying at the hands of a thousand illnesses.

Along with the responsibility to teach, preach, and instruct, part of the responsibility of ministry is to reprove, rebuke and exhort (2 Tim 4:2; cf. Titus 1:9). And in that vein, it needs to be said that a massive part of Christianity lacks discernment. The effort with this conference is to help you to be discerning.

We know there are people who are in the Charismatic movement who are deceivers and they know it. They are false teachers and they know it. They’re in it for the money and they know it. But we also know there are people who are caught up in this that are deceived and do not know it. They’re brands that need to be snatched from the burning (Jude 1:23). Our aim is to expose the deceivers and to help the deceived.

We want to be Bereans, measuring everything against the Word of God. That’s what this conference will hope to do.

There are a half a billion of professed Charismatics. For some frame of reference, there are a billion Roman Catholics, and 14 million Mormons. So you see that this is a massive issue. And yet, nobody would fault pastors for confronting Mormonism for their false view of God, Christ, and Salvation. Why then has the church been so reluctant to confront this movement that has captivated so many people?

Our aim is to faithfully, lovingly, compassionately, but straightforwardly help you see what the issues are and to be discerning. Then you can be a force of people who can help other people.

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The New Testament often describes the church as a building. Jesus is the “living stone” that makes our foundation, but all believers are also “living stones…being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5).

Paul uses this same metaphor and stresses the progressive nature of it. He writes that believers are “built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph 2:20). But then he notes that, “the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (v. 21-22).

building prjoect

In other words, the work is on going. We ARE being built…right now the work is continuing. And if the church is an ongoing building project, that affects the way pastors view their work. In fact, this is exactly Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 3:9-14). The work is ongoing, and that should seriously affect the way pastors view their work.

Here are eight brief ways the building metaphor should affect how church leaders view their ministry:   Continue Reading…

I found a recent article at Persecution Blog, Do Americans Care About Persecuted Christians? both provocative and sadly accurate:

The Church is under fire. At that sentence, half the people who started reading this article just moved on to something more interesting. However, that response is troublesome. The plight of believers gets little attention on the global stage, leaving many Christians throughout North America unaware, and therefore, indifferent to what’s going on in the body of Christ. Mention persecution, and eyes glaze over.

The post quotes extensively from Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for The Voice of the Martyrs, who explained that the average American Christian replies to persecution with “Man, that’s too bad.” In my reading, he gives 4 reasonable explanations as to why this seems to be the case:   Continue Reading…

twitter iconSometimes when people are eagerly anticipating a time-sensitive opportunity, they tend to turn off their brains and reflex kicks in. Just think of a false start in the Olympic final freestyle event. When one swimmer dives early, three others end up wet. And what happened on Wall Street last week is a perfect example of a herd mentality spawning a reflex of lemming-ism.

To understand the context of the event, you need to bear in mind how prodigiously software and social media stock tends to perform. Investors who put up a modest angel injection into a nascent Facebook goldmine blossomed into billionaires in a matter of months. So when Twitter, the phenomenally successful social media giant, filed last Friday (Oct 4, 2013) to list as a public company, investors went moggy. Immediately some and then more and then many speculators started lapping up the unbelievably cheap stock.

Over 14 million trades occurred and the stock shot up over 1000% (prices briefly peaked at 1,400%).There is only one problem. Twitter’s stock has not yet been made available. They merely filed to go public. It was an announcement of sorts of what was imminent, but no timing was mentioned. So, you might be thinking, what were traders acquiring in droves if Twitter stock hadn’t yet arrived on the market? Good question.

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Reposted from September 2, 2011.

In 1 Samuel 8, Israel makes a most wicked demand of Samuel: “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations” (1Sam 8:5). Two verses later, Yahweh confirms that this is not a rejection of Samuel, but a rejection of God Himself as the King of Israel (1Sam 8:7; cf. 10:19). And though Samuel spends nine verses warning them that they’re replacing the Omnipotent God with a puny human (1Sam 8:10–18), they don’t back off. “No,” they shout, as defiantly as resolutely. “But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (1Sam 8:19–20).

In chapter 12, Samuel demonstrates their wickedness to them by praying down a thunderstorm that destroys their wheat harvest (1Sam 12:16–18). Now, a thunderstorm at wheat harvest time in Israel is like getting six inches of snow in L.A. on the Fourth of July. And so Israel gets the picture, and they actually repent. They ask Samuel to intercede for them because they’ve acknowledged that they have “added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king” (12:19).   Continue Reading…

In light of the upcoming Strange Fire Conference, it seemed fitting to post something related to the charismatic-cessationist debate.

Charismatics generally define the gift of tongues as a devotional prayer language that is available to every believer. This prayer language, according to its proponents, is not bound to the linguistic structures of earthly, human languages. In other words, it is not a real language — but rather “angelic” speech which supposedly transcends human language.

But therein lies a problem. On the one hand, the charismatic version of tongues does not consist of real human languages. On the other hand, Acts 2 makes it clear that the tongues spoken at Pentecost were real human languages.

So how can modern charismatics justify a type of “tongues” that does not fit the biblical description in Acts 2?

Proponents of modern tongues usually answer that question by asserting that there are at least two types of tongues in the New Testament. Charismatic blogger Adrian Warnock summed up the charismatic position like this:

One thing that most of us agree on is that there are different kinds of tongues…. I think it is fair to say that the tongues of 1 Corinthians are different from those of Acts 2.  Paul himself speaks here of different kinds of tongues. It is at least possible that at different points in this passage [1 Cor. 12–14] Paul is talking about different forms of tongues.

In this post, I want to briefly respond to the idea that the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 is somehow qualitatively different than in Acts 2.

* * * * * Continue Reading…

end is near
Premillennialism is the belief that Jesus will physically return to earth before the future 1,000 year kingdom. The tribulation is final seven-year period of wrath inflicted on the planet before the kingdom begins. Meanwhile, the term rapture refers to the event that occurs before Jesus establishes his kingdom in a literal and physical sense, when he will descend from the heaven, and Christians who are still alive will be caught up together with Jesus in the clouds. At the rapture, will meet him in the air and then we will always be with the Lord.

There are essentially three possibilities about when this rapture will happen in relationship to the tribulation. Either the rapture will happen before the tribulation (the pre-trib view), during the tribulation (the mid-trib/pre-wrath view), or after the tribulation (the post-trib view).   Continue Reading…