Friday, September 29, 2006

Spot the Wolf: Part 2

Today's post is part 2 of Pastor Anton Bosch's series of this title which we began last week 9/19/06.

In our current series, we are looking at the warning signs that a spiritual leader could be a wolf and not a shepherd. Last time we mentioned that wolves are savage, that they say and do not do, and that they lay heavy burdens on people without lifting a finger themselves to help carry the load.

Abusive leaders like to be seen. “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.” (Matthew 23:5). They pray on street corners to be seen by men and have a trumpet sounded every time they do a good deed. (Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18). This kind of leader wants everyone to know what sacrifices he is making, how much he prays, how God speaks to him and how much he is doing for the Kingdom. They love to speak about themselves and will spend hours telling you about themselves without asking once about you and your needs. Such men use the people to feed their greed for attention and are not in the ministry to serve the church, but rather so that the church may serve their massive egos. While these actions may not make the leader an immediate threat to the church, such leaders will never allow the people to develop a personal relationship with Christ as they would then become obsolete and their pride could never handle that. Thus, they subtly make and keep people dependant on themselves, rather than on the Head of the Church and so rob people of the opportunity to mature in the faith and to develop their own ministries.

Wolves love positions of honor. “They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues (and) greetings in the marketplaces” (Matthew 23:6,7). They cannot simply take their seat amongst the Lord’s people. They always have to be up front, occupying special seats, parking spaces and any other token that sets them apart from everyone else. When the church meets socially, everyone is aware that the “big leader” is present. He has to be served first, is the captain and referee of the volley ball team and the one everyone panders to. Observe how people greet them. Do people bow to them and greet him in a different way to which they greet everyone else? Leaders should never be allowed to dominate the landscape like that. This position should be reserved for Jesus Christ only. Godly leaders should be respected but not be put on pedestals. Only Jesus deserves that prime position. Be careful of leaders who have to sit at the head of the table, or who occupy a special table at the social function. The more elaborate and central his special chair in the meetings, the more dangerous he is. Such men are very dangerous because if they don’t hesitate to take the honor that is due to Jesus, they will stop at nothing else.

They love titles “and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’” (Matthew 23:7). According to Matthew 23, these titles include; Rabbi, teacher or father but those are obviously not the only titles that men love. Jesus says that we are all brothers and we should not elevate men with titles. (Matthew 23:8). While some leaders insist that their titles be used whenever they are being addressed, others may not insist on the title as a form of address, but that their position as “big chief” be acknowledged. I know of a brother who was excommunicated from a certain denomination because he would not say the magic words that would change his fate. The magic words in this case were: “you are an apostle.” This demand was being made by a man who had no credentials as an apostle. Why is such an apparently innocuous thing so dangerous? Because individuals who insist on titles do not have a true gift from God and the only way they can force respect from people is by demanding that their position be acknowledged. One of the experiences that is etched into my mind goes back to my first couple of years at school. The playground bully would beat up smaller boys and then sit on top of the defeated boy and pummel him with his fists until the hapless victim would acknowledge that the bully is “the boss.” There is no difference between such terrorists of the playground and leaders who can only stay on top of the Lord’s people by beating them into acknowledging his superiority. May the Lord spare His people from such egotistical maniacs.

False leaders do not enter the Kingdom themselves and prevent others from entering in. (Matthew 23:13). By this Jesus meant that the Scribes did not enter into the Kingdom because they would not concede their positions, titles and honor to Jesus the King of Kings. To bow before Jesus and to acknowledge that he was indeed the Teacher sent from God would jeopardize their positions and so they could never do it. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea followed Jesus secretly for this very reason. According to Matthew 7:21-23, there will be many who will be excluded from the Kingdom who were preachers and other spiritual workers. How do we know that someone falls into this group? Because they prevent others from entering in. In other words they hold people back from going on with the Lord because such people pose a threat to them. These men have many tricks and techniques they use to discourage or even to prohibit folk from growth and spiritual discovery. They make sure that no-one ever outpaces or outgrows the leaders. As soon as a young brother shows promise to maybe go where the leaders have not gone, they will discourage and even censure such a person. A true shepherd revels in others outpacing them and reaching higher than they, themselves were able to attain. In true Christianity each generation should stand on the shoulders of the previous generation, not start from the beginning again. False leaders feel threatened and are insecure.

Abusive leaders “devour widows’ houses.” (Matthew 23:14). In simple English, they are always on the take and their greed knows no limits. They gobble up the houses of the defenseless and poor widows. Televangelists are especially good at this but they are not the only ones. Many smaller operators will virtually strip the fillings from their parishioner’s teeth in order to line their own pockets. They have no conscience when it comes to getting money, all the while masking their greed with the guise that it is “for the Lord’s work.” If these articles have not raised your hackles yet, then maybe this statement will: Be careful of any full-time worker who lives a more elaborate lifestyle than the average member of the congregation. The church is full of leaders who live comfortable and extravagant lifestyles, demanding that people give more while the people are struggling to make ends meet. Listen to what the Lord says to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.” (Ezekiel 34:2,3).

No, I am not being petty. These are symptoms of serious spiritual problems that disqualify any man from a leadership position and that indicate very dangerous characteristics. It does not matter how smooth and charming he may be or how well he preaches. If he is abusive, has a problem with pride and is greedy for filthy lucre, he is not a shepherd but a wolf who will not spare the flock. You must flee from such men and flee to the True Shepherd who cares for you and not for Himself.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Getting in S.H.A.P.E. for C.H.U.R.C.H.

With more than 2 billion members, churches have the world's largest volunteer labor force. "What if half of those volunteers could be mobilized?" Rick Warren said....
Church members can be trained to distribute and support HIV/AIDS medications, assist with essential nutrition, give medication education, and more.
[Press release, "Rick and Kay Warren to Host AIDS Summit Featuring Health Care, Religion, Government Leaders," Wednesday September 27, 11:46 am ET]

“So the nonprofit social sector is where management is today most needed and where systematic, principled, theory-based management can yield the greatest results fastest. Just think of the enormous problems facing the world—poverty, health care, education, international tension—and the need for managed solutions becomes loud and clear.”
[Re: the church] "The community … needs a community center… I'm not talking religion now, I'm talking society. There is no other institution on the American community that could be the center."
[Peter Drucker, see footnotes 21 & 24, "What’s Wrong with the 21st Century Church?
Synopsis - Part 3 by Dr. Robert Klenck]

Okay, you've taken your S.H.A.P.E. test. You've reported to your draft board (your small group leaders). You've enlisted in the billion man army. You're now a foot soldier for the Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan. What's next?

You'll be assigned to your "sweet spot." This is, as Max Lucado defined it, "a zone, a region, a life precinct." (Cure for the Common Life, p. 1)

For 50% of you, your assignment has already been determined for you. You will be drafted into working with HIV/AIDS whether this was something that scored high on your interest inventory or not. But first you'll have to learn how to S.L.O.W. and S.T.O.P.

Confused? You won't be by the time this public relations campaign has gone mainstream. The most massive citizens' volunteer movement in human history is just getting off the ground.

Churches are ground zero. They are to become the center of Global Society. And they'll make these inroads via the HIV/AIDS crisis. In today's press release Rick Warren is quoted as saying that "in many communities, churches are the most trusted organizations -- where people would be willing to go for testing and counseling."

So, here is how half of you will be mobilized to fight against the disease of HIV/AIDS:

1. First you have to support the new mission of the C.H.U.R.C.H.

"Warren said that every church, regardless of size, can do six things to address HIV/AIDS:

"Care and comfort.

"Handle HIV testing and counseling.

"Unleash a volunteer force of compassion.

"Reduce the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.

"Champion healthy behavior. “You can’t really talk about poverty without talking about injustice, and it is amazing to me that people would try to talk about AIDS without talking about behavior since it is primarily a behavior-based disease,” Warren said. “You don’t get it out of the air. Even for those who are innocent, it was someone else’s behavior.”

"Help with nutrition and medications."

2. Second, you have to engage in S.L.O.W. and S.T.O.P. activities:

"Using the acronym S.L.O.W., Warren detailed strategies various groups have employed to slow the pandemic:

"Supply condoms.

"Limit the number of sexual partners.

"Offer needle exchange for intravenous drug users.

"Wait for sex by delaying the first sexual experience.

"These strategies are popular because they are relatively easy to work on, but they’re not enough, Warren said. They only reduce risk. They don’t eliminate it.

"As they continue to employ some of the S.L.O.W. strategies, people need to work together to stop HIV/AIDS in four ways, he said:

"Save sex for marriage. No logical person can deny that engaging in sex only in the context of marriage would go a long way toward stopping the spread of HIV, he said.

"Train men to respect women. If men around the world had a biblical view of women, lives would change for the better. “This is a spiritual issue, not a health care issue,” Warren said. “Lives can change.”

"Offer treatment through churches. With 2.3 billion people around the world claiming to be followers of Christ, local churches offer a significant volunteer base for treatment and recovery from the behaviors that further HIV/AIDS, including intravenous drug use.

"Pledge yourself to one partner. Labeled as a fringe idea by many groups around the world, having one sexual partner for life eliminates much of the risk of contracting HIV."

(Excerpted from "HIV/AIDS won’t be stopped without churches, Warren tells religious leaders," By Manda Gibson.)

3. Third, you can take more tests, etc.

If you are still itching to take more tests, you can log on to a "quick quiz to test your awareness of HIV/AIDS." And, if you really feel like divulging lots of personal information, you can take a longer "Purpose Driven HIV/AIDS Survey at And if you feel the urge to immerse yourself in the media frenzy launching all of this, you can visit

4. Finally, put it all into perspective.

Are you ready to pass out condoms, dispense drugs, hand out needles, offer counseling, and discuss the most intimate details of the deviant types of sexual behaviors that lead to HIV/AIDS? Are you prepared to counsel people to "remain with one partner" without saying anything about what Scripture says on this topic? Are you prepared to become an arm of the State and the Pharmaceutical Industry -- following their guidelines, mandates, reports and instructions? And, have you counted the cost -- are you prepared to speak the Truth even if you are forbidden to do so in this context?

Once again, the mission of the Church has been changed. Notice the disappearance of the Gospel. Rick Warren explained how "the world's largest volunteer labor force" will work:

“Government has a role – no doubt about that – but it’s highly overrated,” Warren said. “Businesses and NGOs have a role. But the Church … is the missing leg of the stool, and we will never, never resolve this pandemic until the Church – and I mean local churches – is mobilized.” [emphasis added]

This is business guru Peter Drucker's 3-legged stool concept of Society. In his model, the secularized and commercialized Church becomes an arm of Society, i.e., the State. And this Church becomes a mega-center, the hub of the Community in which all of one's life needs are met, duties are prescribed, standards are set, and outcomes (results) are required.

The Truth:

"Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His Own Right Hand in the Heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And has put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, Which is His Body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all." (Eph. 1:20-23)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How to take the S.H.A.P.E.

Just imagine if you knew the serving sweet spot of every member!
As an added bonus, a free code is available in the back of Erik’s new book, S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose. Take a sample of the test today by logging onto and enter bookcode pdc19285.
( advertisement for Erik Rees' new book S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose) [bold & red in original]


Before you take this test, consider the following questions:

1. Who is scoring this test? What company? What agency? What entity? How are the scores being scored and databanked?

2. Who truly constructed this test? Under what auspices, contract, agency, etc.? For what general and specific purposes?

3. Who owns these scores? What will be done with these results? Are these results being sold? If so, to whom and for what purpose?

4. Are there contractors and/or subcontractors who have access to these scores? If so, whom?

5. To what other commercial, governmental or ecclesiastical entities are these scores provided and for what purpose?

6. Is there a personal identifier that marks this test as your score? If so, how will you be monitored? What kind of follow-up will you experience? Do you mind many people seeing your personal scores?

7. How has this test been normed? Were the various versions of this test the past several years being used as part of a research project to construct this test? Is there statistical Reliability? Validity?

8. Are these test results being used for research purposes? If so, for what purpose? For what agency or entity? What is the long-term goal of such research? Is it to "shape" evangelical culture?

9. Does the test actually measure (assess) what it purports to measure? That is, "your personal blend of Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences."

10. Are things of the Holy Spirit measurable by human psychological and sociological methods, which are imprecise and variable?

11. Is this test free of cultural, theological, ethnic, age, handicap and gender bias? Or, does it discriminate against those who are of a different culture, race, gender, handicap, life situation, age, economic class, or who hold more traditional beliefs?

12. Does this test contribute to the promulgation or perpetuation of an American upper middle class white evangelical Christian culture?

13. What are the test's true underlying assumptions about 1) the nature of man and 2) the nature of God? Can a tool devised according to humanistic psychology, which has its own underlying assumptions which run counter to biblical Christianity, truly be an effective measurement of gifts of the Holy Spirit?

14. Does this test penalize creative and unique Christian individuals who may not fall within its pre-set categories and criteria?

15. Does this test stereotype certain attributes, traits, abilities, aptitudes and talents? If so, how and for what purpose?

16. Does this test represent an attempt to create national and/or international standards and norms for Christian personality? For Christian service?

17. Are there embedded "threshold" questions in this test?

18. Is this test a vocational interest inventory type personality assessment? Does it measure and identify occupational groups whose interests and attitudes the individual shares most closely, thus becoming a way to classify personalities?

19. Is this test a spiritualized placement test to classify people into their "sweet spots" -- i.e., "zones," "regions" or "precincts" (Max Lucado's words)?

20. Does taking this test help to promote the dominionist "advancing the kingdom of God on earth" theology? Can you support that agenda? The promotional literature states that it will:

-- Unlock your God-given potential
-- Uncover your specific kingdom purpose
-- Unfold a kingdom plan for your life

And it also states that:

"…Rees shows you how to uncover God’s most powerful and effective means of advancing his kingdom on earth…"

21. Does the test promise more than it can deliver? The same promotional literature claims that you will "discover the path to a life of unimagined purpose, impact, and fulfillment" and that you will gain" confidence, freedom, clarity, and significance that can only come from your Creator."

22. If you don't gain what this test promised, and still feel unfulfilled, will you be tempted to visit the webpage and read from these troubling resources?

23. What if your life purpose is not defined, measured, prescribed, or covered by the content of this test? What if you don't fit into the "box" or "zone"? Does that mean God isn't using you or that you aren't doing Christian service? Will you be "remediated" until you conform?

24. Can you do Christian service in your church, family or community without taking this psychological placement test? If not, why? Is this test a "passport" to Christian service?

25. Have you read Chapter 11 about the S.H.A.P.E. -- "Personality Profiling" -- in James Sundquist's Who's Driving the Purpose Driven Church? If not, there are hundreds more unanswered questions in those pages.

The Truth:

"My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the Rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times; you people, pour our your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us. Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity." (Psalm 62:5-9)

Monday, September 25, 2006

S.H.A.P.E. & the Sweet Spot

"The times in which we live call for fundamental change, not merely incremental change. Millions of people feel called in their souls to the task of global transformation, wanting to be its agents in a monumental shift from a world of fear to a world of love.…
"How can we best participate in a task so huge and idealistic?… Books arrayed in bookstores proclaim a better way to love, to lead, to live. Seminars and support groups keep us working on ways to improve ourselves, practicing spiritual disciplines…. But somehow, still, we don't seem to be hitting the sweet spot, the miraculous key to turning the world around."
(Marianne Williamson, The Gift of Change: Spiritual Guidance for a Radically New Life (HarperCollilns, 2004) [emphasis added]

"The greatest need in the 21st century is to release the pent up latent power of the average believer in local churches around the world. There aren’t enough doctors to solve all the issues in the world, there aren’t teachers to solve all the issues in the world, and there aren’t enough missionaries to solve all the issues in the world. But there is an army of believers sitting in churches waiting to be mobilized. [emphasis added]

The P.E.A.C.E. Plan is a lay movement designed to mobilize average church members to do normal task that can make a difference in the world.


"…to stop debating and start doing
"…for the church to be known for love, not legalism
"…for what we are for, not for what we are against [emphasis added]

It is time for the church to be the church!

Warren Smith, an ex-New Ager, in his newly updated on-line book ReinventingJesus Christ: The New Gospel, spends considerable time examining the strange phenomena of what he calls "overlapping language" between Rick Warren and his cohorts and that of the popular New Age leaders -- one of whom is Marianne Williamson, who is quoted above.

This perplexing terminology isn't just a matter of using similar vocabularies. Many of the words and symbols also seem to have the same underlying semantics.

For example the term SWEET SPOT. According to Wikipedia, this term means:

A sweet spot is a place, often numerical as opposed to physical, where a combination of factors suggest a particularly suitable solution. When used in the context of a racquet, bat or similar sporting instrument, sweet spot is often believed to be the same as Center of percussion. [emphasis added]

Erik Rees, author of S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose in Life, which was discussed in the previous Herescope, defines "sweet spot":

"When you are able to serve in a setting that best expresses your strengths
and allows you to meet the needs of the people you are most passionate about,
you are in your sweet spot."
[emphasis added]

Max Lucado popularized this term recently in his book Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot (W Publishing Group, 2005). Lucado defines the term as:

"A zone, a region, a life precinct in which you were made to dwell." (p. 1) [emphasis added]

Interestingly, Marianne Williamson elaborates on this term in her 2004 book The Gift of CHANGE: Spiritual Guidance for a Radically New Life (HarperCollins, 2004). This quoted material below illustrates some disturbing overlapping semantics with the neoevangelical authors cited above:

"Eternal things become our compass during times of rapid transition, binding us emotionally to a steady and firm course. They remind us that we, as children of God, are still at the center of divine purpose in the world.…" (p. 9)

"…When I am centered within myself, I become part of the solution. And that phenomenon, multiplied many times over, is the force that will save the world." (p. 10)

Williamson's comments indicate that one meaning for "sweet spot" is "centering," a New Age contemplation and meditation practice. Of particular relevance to this definition is the Chapter 5 update to Reinventing Jesus Christ, in which Warren Smith explores the overlapping language and practices of New Age leaders and Christian business leadership gurus.

Pertaining to "sweet spot" and Max Lucado's new book, it seems no accident that his book's theme complements the launching of 40 Days of S.H.A.P.E., the media/training campaign accompanying the release of Erik Rees' book. Max Lucado has been associated with Rick Warren and Ken Blanchard for a number of years, significantly in 1999 through a joint connection with Bob Buford's Leadership Network. Max Lucado joined Rick Warren at a "Purpose Driven Church National Seminar" in April 1999. And in September he spoke with Ken Blanchard at a significantly named "Celebrating the Emergence of a Lay-Mobilized Church."

It seems more than coincidental that this same 1999 NEXT, a publication of the Leadership Network (Vol. 5, No. 1), contained a lead article by C. Peter Wagner launching the New Apostolic Reformation, entitled "Another New Wineskin… the New Apostolic Reformation." This information places the launching of S.H.A.P.E. into a broader context of the overall Leadership Network and its pervasive influence upon neoevangelical culture. Wagner details the marketing strategies for the NAR that would be used to sort out those "traditionalists who are threatened by these changes." He also wrote about "change" and the "shape" of the church:

"The greatest change in the way of doing church since the Protestant reformation is taking place before our very eyes. I have come to label this phenomenon the 'New Apostolic Reformation.'

"The New Apostolic Reformation is an extraordinary work of God at the close of the twentieth century, which is, to a significant extent, changing the shape of Protestant Christianity around the world.…

"In some aspects, these change in the life and ministry of the Christian church are more significant than anything we have seen since the days of the Protestant Reformation. This is not only radical change, but the change is also coming more rapidly than many think.…" [emphasis added]

And Wagner, who has invented more doctrines than perhaps any other neoevangelical leader these past several decades, disingenuously remarked that:

"The radical change in the sixteenth century was largely theological. The current reformation is not so much a reformation of faith (the essential theological principles of the Reformation are intact), but a reformation of practice." [emphasis added]

This statement above is parallel to that of Rick Warren, noted in a Discernment Ministries newsletter (July/August 2005), which reveals the comprehensive nature of this entire global P.E.A.C.E. Plan:

"The Global Day of Prayer appears to be a chief mechanism for launching a “Second Reformation” in Christianity. The GDOP provides a convenient vehicle to transition the church from the old order to a new global order. Rick Warren is quoted as saying at the Global Day of Prayer event, “The first Reformation was about belief; this one’s going to be about behavior.” ( [emphasis added] An official press release from Saddleback Church states that if 'Christians mobilize to confront the five ‘global giants’ of spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, poverty, disease, and lack of education, it could spark a second Reformation.'"

Yesterday's Herescope explained how S.H.A.P.E. is the prelude to the P.E.A.C.E. Plan. It is an assessment mechanism to sort people and position them into their respective roles (ranks?) in this emerging "army of believers." In the same 1999 Leadership Network NEXT newsletter, C. Peter Wagner described the new "shape" for Christianity, which is the apostolic/cell hierarchical structure that most closely resembles the Amway-type multi-level marketing pyramid. This particular structure gives new meaning to the term "sweet spot," particularly as defined by Max Lucado above. Because after one takes the S.H.A.P.E. vocational-style interest inventory, one may be plugged into a "zone, a region, a life precinct."

This particular "shape" of the church as a whole, which will happen as people become catalogued, databanked and defined by the assessment, appears to be regimented and utilitarian. And this "shape" is, as C. Peter Wagner suggests, a perfectly designed vehicle for marketing the New Apostolic Reformation's agenda.


"Woe unto them who … put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20)

"And I took the little Book out of the Angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter." (Revelation 10:10)

Friday, September 22, 2006

40 Days of S.H.A.P.E.

OK, you have a purpose. Now what?
Learn how God wants you to use it!
You not only have a purpose, you also have a unique
set of skills, talents, experiences… and a heart like no
other. It's your "shape," the way God made you to fit
into his plan. It's yours to discover, develop, and use
to bring greater glory to God!

Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Purpose-Driven fame has officially launched the 40-Days of S.H.A.P.E. program. He writes in his Ministry ToolBox Issue #227 (9/20/06):

"At Saddleback, we talk about the five different factors that make up a person’s S.H.A.P.E.: Spiritual gift(s), Heart, Abilities, Personalities, and Experiences. Why is this important? Why should we bother figuring out how God has shaped us? I’ll give you five benefits."

Warren then promises these 5 benefits from understanding your S.H.A.P.E.:

reduces stress
increases success
determines how you learn
deepens satisfaction
builds self-esteem

The 40 Days of S.H.A.P.E. will be launched at the Roswell, New Mexico, Grace Community Church beginning on October 1, that culminates in a "Only You Can Be You! Conference" with Erik Rees, November 10-12, and concludes with a Celebration Sunday on November 19th.

Erik Rees is author of the newly-released book S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose in Life. This isn't just a single book, but an entire curriculum that includes a package with bulk rates for the main book, study guides, and a DVD.

40 Days of S.H.A.P.E. is looking for H.O.S.T. Homes:

Here's what it takes to be a HOST:
Have a heart for our church family.
Open your home for a six week video seminar.
Serve some coffee or soft drinks.
Tell your friends to come.

40 Days of S.H.A.P.E. includes a Commitment Card where the attendant agrees to participate every Sunday morning, join a small group, read Erik Rees' book, memorize a weekly Bible verse and attend the finale conference.

40 Days of S.H.A.P.E. was inaugurated with a letter from Senior Pastor Rick Hale of the Grace Community Church, dated August 30, 2006, which called for the members to commit to the forty days. It stated that

"The goal of this campaign is to help you find the key that unlocks the door to your God-given shape for service."

This letter explains the overall context of this 40 Days of S.H.A.P.E. Campaign:

Do you remember the Purpose-Driven Baseball Diamond that illustrates God's five purposes for our lives? The "40 Days Campaigns" are designed to help us deepen our understanding and application of God's purposes. Think back to our previous campaigns:
40 Days of Purpose - helped us connect (1st base) with God's five purposes.
40 Days of Community - helped us grow (2nd base) together by joining a small group.

Now …
40 Days of S.H.A.P.E. - will help us be equipped (3rd base) to serve by discovering our unique ministry in the church.

40 Days of S.H.A.P.E. is a prelude to the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, which is recruiting an "army of believers sitting in churches waiting to be mobilized." In a key article, "How to mobilize your church for ministry" by Kristine Noelle, she explains:

When a church family discovers and celebrates its spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences (S.H.A.P.E.), it becomes focused, fulfilled, and fruitful.

The major pathway to taking the S.H.A.P.E test is by purchasing Erik Rees' new book, S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose In Life. The test is generally taken online. The S.H.A.P.E. test is psychological self-report inventory of interests, which generally falls into the category of vocational and educational counseling, and is used in vocational selection and classification. It is a form of testing that originated in social psychology to chart people's attitudes, assist in intergroup relations, predict public opinion, market research (marketing), and facilitate employee relations.

The Truth:

In the days to come, Lord willing, this blog will analyze this issue in more detail.

"But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matthew 15:9)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dominionism and Torture

The following post was written by Sarah Leslie, as an addendum to her booklet "Dominionism and the Rise of Christian Imperialism," posted at the Discernment Ministries website:

Historically, dominionism, when it has come to full fruition, has given rise to excesses, abuses, extreme intolerances, persecution and torture.

A significant factor in the modern rise of dominionism is the careful cultivation of zealous patriotism among the evangelicals. In the political world (a world of which I was once a part) one searches for convenient bedfellows -- someone with whom one can share an agenda and work together towards a goal. The lure to participate in such an adulterous affair is often quite laudatory -- a good cause, a troubling issue, the need for justice.

Thus, the evangelicals become comfortably bedded down with the goals and ambitions of the neoconservatives of the Republican Right. The evangelicals so intermeshed with the neoconservatives are apt to lose their biblical perspective in the maze of convincing arguments, political compromises, financial entanglements and ethical corruptions. The incessant media barrage (dare we say "propaganda"?) from both Conservative and Religious Right political organizations further muddles the mess.

The overwhelming desire to do good can blind good faith Christians to the nastier side of the entire relationship. In fact, outsiders analyzing the evangelical mindset have recognized how easily we can be manipulated by our sincere desire to work for a good cause. Thus, the pragmatic mantra we hear so much these days: "the ends justify the means" and "whatever it takes."

"Whatever it takes" now takes on a more sinister meaning as the neoconservative radio talk show hosts have launched a media blitzkrieg this past month to drum up support for the use of torture. We need torture, they say, because otherwise we will all be killed by terrorists. Simple logic, simple solution. But is it right from a biblical/moral perspective?

There is a new "dominionism" ethics forming.

How has it come to this in America that a so-called "Christian" nation is now gathering a storm of public support for torture? This same question was raised by Alexandr I. Solzhenitzyn in The Gulag Archipelago, his 7-volume history of the concentration camp system in the U.S.S.R. Solzhenitzyn posed this question in the context of Russian history, in a chapter that is aptly titled "The Interrogation" (Vol. 1, Chapter 3, Harper & Row, 1973). His introduction to this chapter is difficult to read, but is very relevant:

"If the intellectuals in the plays of Chekhov who spent all their time guessing what would happen in twenty, thirty, or forty years had been told that in forty years interrogation by torture would be practiced in Russia; that prisoners would have their skulls squeezed within iron rings; that a human being would be lowered into an acid bath; that they would be trussed up naked to be bitten by ants and bedbugs; that a ramrod heated over a primus stove would be thrust up their anal canal (the 'secret brand'); that a man's genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot; and that, in the luckiest possible circumstances, prisoners would be tortured by being kept from sleeping for a week, by thirst, and by being beaten to a bloody pulp, not one of Chekhov's plays would have gotten to its end because all the heroes would have gone off to insane assylums.

"Yes, not only Chekhov's heroes, but what normal Russian at the beginning of the century, including any member of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party, could have believed, would have tolerated, such a slander against the bright future? What had been acceptable under Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich in the seventeenth century, what had already been regarded as barbarism under Peter the Great, what might have been used against ten or twenty people in all during the time of Biron in the mid-eighteenth century, what had already become totally impossible under Catherine the Great, was all being practiced during the flowering of the glorious twentieth century -- in a society based on socialist principles, and at a time when airplanes were flying and the radio and talking films had already appeared -- not by one scoundrel alone in one secret place only, but by tens of thousands of specially trained human beasts standing over millions of defenseless victims.

"Was it only that explosion of atavism which is now evasively called 'the cult of personality' that was so horrible? Or was it even more horrible that during those same years, in 1937 itself, we celebrated Pushkin's centennial? And that we shamelessly continued to stage those self-same Chekhov plays, even though the answers to them had already come in? Is it not still more dreadful that we are now being told, thirty years later, 'Don't talk about it'? If we start to recall the sufferings of millions, we are told it will distort the historical perspective! If we doggedly seek out the essence of our morality, we are told it will darken our material progress! Let's think rather about the blast furnaces, the rolling mills that were built, the canals that were dug… no, better not talk about the canals…. Then maybe about the gold of Kolyma? No, maybe we ought not to talk about that either…. [These last two were done by Russian camp labor, ed.] Well, we can talk about anything, so long as we do it adroitly, so long as we glorify it….

"It is really hard to see why we condemn the Inquisition. Wasn't it true that beside the autos-da-fe, magnificent services were offered the Almighty? It is hard to see why we are so down on serfdom. After all, no one forbade the peasants to work every day. And they could sing carols at Christmas too. And for Trinity Day the girls wove wreaths…." (pp. 93-94)

This chapter is must-reading for anybody who thinks that torture might be "okay" in certain circumstances.

It is a subtle twist of the knife of dominionism theology to endorse torture. Paul Shirk in his landmark book Come Out of Her My People (2002, available from Discernment Ministries) explains the history and theology of dominionism:

"It is upon the basis of Old Testament national policy that religious persecution of dissenting sects has been advanced by 'Christian' nations, under the guise of 'putting evil away from among you.' The Church defines the heresy and the state punishes it. (p. 73)

"…Those who dissented from the established church were not only heretics but also seditious and enemies of the state." (p. 80)

But the current media campaign to energize evangelical Christians to lobby Washington for torture isn't a matter of forcible conversions to Christianity. (Even though this media drumbeat takes on the aura of a "holy war" in itself by dehumanizing the terrorists.). No, this time the rationale for torture takes the very same route that the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer warned about so many times: "personal peace and affluence."

Schaeffer predicted that "personal peace and affluence" would become the new ethics, the new guiding values of a degenerate Christianity. He wrote in his 1976 book How Should We Then Live? (Crossway) that:

"Overwhelming pressures are being brought to bear on people who have no absolutes, but only have the impoverished values of personal peace and prosperity. The pressures are progressively preparing modern people to accept a manipulative, authoritarian government.… (p. 245)

"The chaos of violence -- especially random or political violence and indiscriminate terrorism, in an individual nation or in the world. Both in individual nations and in the overall world the widespread use of political terrorism has become one of the phenomena of the age. Random and indiscriminate terrorism is even more frightening. Similarly alarming are the indications that terrorist organizations from all over the world have in some way coordinated their efforts. We have already seen indications of how people give up liberties when they are faced with the threat of terrorism.…" (p. 247)

"…Without the base for right and wrong, but only a concept of synthesis, pragmatism, and utilitarianism, what will not be given up, both inside of nations or in foreign affairs, for the sake of immediate peace and affluence? The weak humanistic ideals are not and will not be enough in our own generation or for the future.… (p. 250)

Dominionism entanglements with a ruling state, especially a cause that lobbies for the torture of other human beings, may backfire on the Christian believer! Dr. Schaeffer concluded his book with a sober warning:

"…If we as Christians do not speak out as authoritarian governments grow from within or come from outside, eventually we or our children will be the enemy of society and the state. No truly authoritarian government can tolerate those who have a real absolute by which to judge its arbitrary absolutes and who speak out and act upon that absolute. This was the issue with the early church in regard to the Roman Empire, and though the specific issue will in all probability take a different form than Caesar-worship, the basic issue of having an absolute by which to judge the state and society will be the same." (p. 254-255)

The Truth:

"Mercy and truth are met together." (Psalm 85:10a)

"Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart;" (Proverbs 3:3)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Spot the Wolf

The following post was received today from Pastor Anton Bosch. This is a subject which he intends to continue in the next few weeks, so we will periodically post his subsequent writings on this topic as they become available.

One of the e-mails I get all too frequently and that really breaks my heart is when people tell me how their leaders have disappointed them, broken their trust and, far too often, abused them emotionally, financially and spiritually. The very men who should have protected the sheep turn out to be wolves among the sheep devouring and destroying. Every time this happens my blood boils, and I weep for those sheep who have been led to the slaughter and scattered by unscrupulous thieves and robbers.

In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus warns of those who will appear to be sheep, but who are actually wolves in sheep's clothing even though they claim to preach, perform miracles and cast out demons in Jesus' name. He further said that we will know them by their fruit. Paul warns the leaders of the Ephesian church that “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:29) So how can we spot these wolves? I hope to give you some pointers by which to examine those to whom you have entrusted your confidence and spiritual care. While no leader is perfect, there are certain traits that are clear warnings to the flock. If you find just one of these signs, you need to be careful and on your guard.

Also, don't be afraid to examine your leaders and their lives. If they resist this kind of inspection then you need go no further, they are dangerous. Any leader who is not open to scrutiny and examination has something to hide, or is so arrogant that they think they are above being in submission to anyone else. This does not mean we can invade people's privacy and snoop around their private lives. If there are problems, they are often quite visible to those who care to look. If you have ever been hurt by a leader and thought back, you will remember lots of tell-tale signs you ignored long before the blow-up. Paul is clear that shepherds must be blameless and above reproach (1Timothy 3:2,10; Titus 1:6,7). He also says, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.” (1Thessalonians 1:5)

Wolves are brutal and savage. In Acts 20:29, Paul refers to “savage wolves” who do not spare the flock. One of the marks of a wolf is that he is brutal, harsh, cruel and fierce. Ezekiel 34:4 says, “The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.” Of course they cover this all up with a nice exterior, but at their core there is a savageness about them. Sometimes you will notice this when they are under pressure or when someone has upset their nice little routine or questioned their authority. If you look carefully, you will see the knife glinting beneath the kid gloves. The other time this becomes very visible is when someone decides to leave the church. How do they handle that? Do they take delight in telling everyone how bad the person is and that they have backslidden etc? Are they mean to those who sin or who leave or are they sad because another one has gone astray? Do they have compassion for the lost or a judgmental self-righteousness which condemns anyone who does not go along with their program? When he preaches, is he hard and does he frequently take the whip to the flock? A good shepherd will often speak directly and may have to bring strong correction to situations in the church, but he does not beat up the folk, or act as their judge and executioner. A true shepherd loves the sheep and even though at times he has to discipline them, he does so with love. Beware of those men who are harsh. They may be managers, drivers or masters but they are not shepherds. Paul says, “We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives” (1Thessalonians 3:7).

Wolves do not practice what they preach. In Matthew 23:3, Jesus says that wolves “say and do not do.” A sure sign of a wolf is someone who tells everybody else how they should live but he himself does not practice what he preaches. He will demand that others pray, tithe, attend the meetings, give of their time and live holy lives. Yet they themselves do none of those things. Beware of preachers who do not lead by example in everything they teach. We know that preachers are mere men and are fallible and we need to make allowance for that but anyone whose lifestyle does not mirror what he says in the pulpit is a hypocrite, and Jesus warns us to beware of this kind of falsehood. Paul had no hesitation to tell people to “imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1Corinthians 11:1). A true shepherd leads the sheep (Psalm 23:2,3), but a wolf will drive them into a corner where he can destroy them.

The next verse (Matthew 23:4) deals with a similar problem: “They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” Cult leaders and other abusive leaders place massive burdens on people. One of these burdens is that of guilt by which they try to manipulate people to do what they want. Jesus came to share the burdens, not make them heavier. Yes, sometimes the Word and the Spirit will convict us and we ought to be obedient to such conviction; but if it is simply the leader trying to make you feel guilty so he can better control you, beware. These burdens are often financial burdens, expecting people to give way more than they can afford or have faith for. We should give as the Lord directs us and not as the leaders manipulate us. When the financial burden is placed on others in order to fulfill the pastor's grandiose plans, we should be careful. Sometimes these burdens are ones of time to attend various meetings, work days and other projects. Yes, we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25), but abusive leaders like to add extra meetings just to control people. Some of these leaders will not even attend all the meetings themselves, or arrive when the meeting is almost over while expecting everyone else to be there. While it is right that every member of the church carry their part of the load, good shepherds will be there with the folk, sharing the load and encouraging. Bad leaders make demands and stand back as they crack the whip over the poor people who have become their slaves. Avoid such men. Jesus came to set us free, not to enslave us.

By way of conclusion of this part, let me again warn that while there are many wolves among the sheep, there are also many good shepherds who lay down their lives for the sheep. We must be sure that our judgment is righteous. When there are clear signs that we have submitted to an abusive leader, we need to take heed to those warnings and run for our lives, before they have so entangled us in their web of deceit that escape becomes impossible. If you are a leader and any part of these articles makes you angry at me, then you are a wolf and you need to repent while there is yet time. (To be continued…)

[Reprinted with permission of Anton Bosch. Pastor Bosch is currently publishing a book that will be of significant help to the many faithful believers who have been left without a church and without a shepherd. More information on this to come soon!]

Friday, September 15, 2006

Being "Kept" vs. "Without Becoming Christian"

"When flattery comes before the heart of a hypocrite, he feeds upon it eagerly;
but when flattery comes before the heart of a child of God,
he often sees under the flattery the cloven foot."
(J.C. Philpot, "The Only Safe Keeping")

Today is the first anniversary of Herescope!

Isn't the above a great quote? How often believers are seduced and lured into new forms of Christianity through flattery and deception! A recent article in the Washington Post about Brian McLaren and the Emergent Church states that:

"McLaren… offers an evangelical vision that emphasizes tolerance and social justice. He contends that people can follow Jesus's way without becoming Christian."… [emphasis added]

"'The modern Christian formula of "I mentally assent to the fact that Jesus died for my sins and therefore I get to live forever in heaven"… is entirely cognitive,' said Ken Archer, 33, a D.C. software entrepreneur who is studying philosophy at Catholic University. 'It's a mathematical formula [that] leaves the rest of our being unfilled.'" (Caryle Murphy, "Evangelical Author Puts Progressive Spin On Traditional Faith," 9/10/06)

Isn't it tragic that the genuine Christian faith is being lost, leaving lost souls to search for some sort of fulfilment through an artificial faith?

In times like these it is good to be reminded of the Gospel of the Bible that used to be preached. Today's post is an excerpt from a sermon from J.C. Philpot entitled, "The Only Safe Keeping," preached at Zoar Chapel, Great Alie Street, London on closing his annual visit to the Metropolis, on Tuesday evening. July 13th 1841. The Bible verse that this sermon is based on is: "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."I Peter 1:5.

This particular sermon continues on the theme of yesterday's post, which examines the difference between two types of "professors" to the Christian faith. Note that the word "professors" in this old sermon means believers who profess Jesus Christ.

"…The children of God and the mere nominal professors of vital godliness hold the same truths, but they believe them in a different way, and they get at them in a different manner. The nominal professor receives the doctrines because he sees them in God's Word; the living soul receives them because they are taken out of God's Word by the Holy Ghost, and are revealed with power to his soul. The nominal professor is quite satisfied with a dim, shadowy hope that he is interested in gospel blessings; but the living soul can never be satisfied with anything short of the witness of the Holy Ghost to his soul, that he is a child of God, and therefore is interested in every blessing with which God has blessed His people in Christ. And as they believe them in a different way, so they get at them in a different manner. The family of God get at truth through trouble, distress, affliction, temptation, and tribulation; they arrive at the banquet through sharp pangs of hunger; they arrive at the clothing through being chilled with cold and nakedness; they arrive at the cross after travelling through the pangs of guilt in their conscience; and they arrive at a knowledge of their adoption into the family of God after being exercised with many poignant doubts and fears whether God is their Father at all. Thus the living family and the nominal professor of religion not merely differ in the way whereby they believe the truth; the one believing it spiritually, the other believing it naturally; the one believing it with his heart, the other believing it with his head; the one feeling it in his conscience, the other having it merely floating in his brain; but also they arrive at the experimental knowledge of the truth of God by a totally different road. Thus, however they may seem to resemble one another in the doctrines that they each profess to believe, yet there is an eternal distinction, which the hand of the Holy Ghost has drawn, between the living and the dead in Jerusalem.

"The nominal professor is quite satisfied with the doctrine of final perseverance as it is revealed in the Scriptures. He knows nothing experimentally of the dangers and difficulties of the way; he is not exercised in his own soul by any temptations, any distressing doubts, any agonizing fears; and therefore, gliding at ease down the smooth stream, he knows nothings of storms, gusts, winds, and waves, and thinks that this smooth stream will land him safe in the harbour of everlasting peace, when it is only like the river St. Lawrence, which glides the more smoothly the nearer it approaches the cataracts; the deeper it is, the calmer it flows, until the hapless navigator, once entangled in the rapids, is carried headlong down the falls of Niagara into the foaming abyss below. But all God's people arrive at the doctrine of final perseverance by feeling how necessary and how suitable the truth is to them. And they do not learn it once, and then for ever retain the knowledge of it; but it is a truth which accompanies them throughout all their pilgrimage here below, as being suited to those extremities in which they often feel themselves, and adapted to those temptations and exercises which they have to pass through continually.

"What read we in our text? That the elect are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." The word kept is a very significant one. It means literally, garrisoned – kept as in a fortress, surrounded by bulwarks. And this is the way in which God keeps His people. They are garrisoned around by all the attributes of God; there is "a wall of fire round about" them, and they are surrounded by every attribute which God has in Himself, and which He has been pleased to reveal, that we may know it, and give Him the glory of it.

"Now the very expression, kept, implies that they need keeping. A fortress is provided against an enemy. The very circumstance of a fortification being erected shows that there are enemies, who would fain destroy the lives of those persons whom the walls of the fortress are intended to protect. So when we read that the elect are garrisoned by God – shut up (as it were) in a strong city, of which God has appointed salvation as the walls and bulwarks, we gather that there are enemies ever on the watch, and that the object and aim of these enemies is to sweep them away from the land of the living. Before, then, a man can know anything experimentally of the sweetness of being kept of the almighty power and faithfulness which are exerted in his behalf he must have some personal acquaintance with those enemies, who are ever upon the alert, if it be possible, to destroy him utterly. This fortress is not like a fortified town where the officers can strut upon the parade and never see the smoke of an enemy's camp, and where the cannon are never fired but on gala days. This fortress is not like the Tower just below, where the sentinel walks round the battlements, and never sees an enemy to give an alarm. But this garrison, which contains the redeemed, is one in a state of siege, which the enemies are continually seeking to take. the walls of which they are continually endeavouring to batter down the inmates of which they are continually aiming to wound, and. if possible, to destroy.

"For instance, there is the world. A man knows not what an enemy the world is, who has not in some measure been separated from it. To a professor of religion, who has the doctrines of grace in his head and is devoid of the feeling power of truth in his soul, the world is no enemy, for he is no enemy to the world. He has no tender conscience that feels how liable he is to be entrapped by the baits and allurements which the world scatters in his path; there is no struggling with him to have communion with the Lord, which, the world intercepts; there is no endeavour to withdraw his spirit from being carried away by the business that he is needfully occupied with; and therefore the nominal professor of religion feels not the world to be his enemy, because the world and he are agreed upon matters. His religion is not a religion that offends the world; and his heart has not been touched by the finger of God. so as to feel the world to be his enemy, because it is the enemy of God. It is the child of God who feels what a heart he has, and how this heart is continually being carried away by the temptations set before him; it is he who has some insight into the character of God as a heart-searching Jehovah, and knows that He abhors evil; it is he who desires to be in reality what he professes to be – a follower of Jesus, and to have the image of God stamped upon his soul and to walk as Jesus walked when here below – it is he, and he only, who really knows that the world is his enemy. And a living soul does feel, and most painfully feel too, that unless he is kept by the power of God. through faith, from the baits and allurements of the world, he will surely and inevitably be entangled thereby.

"Again, Satan is another enemy, that is continually on the look out, ever watching to entrap or harass the souls of God's family. Sometimes he comes as an "angel of light," casting his magic delusions over the eyes, so that, under the influences of this wonderful magician, we are prompted to "call evil good, and good evil, put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter, darkness for light, and light for darkness." Sometimes he comes in all the garb of holiness, endeavouring to draw us away from the righteousness and sanctification of Christ, in order to set up some creature holiness of our own. Sometimes he comes to us with base antinomian injections, as though because the doctrine of election is sure, and because we have some evidence that we are the children of God, sin could not damn us, nor harm us, and secretly suggesting that this gratification is innocent, and that pleasure allowable; and thus, by casting these antinomian principles into our mind, he hides that trap which he is secretly preparing for our unwary feet.

"Sometimes he will come upon us "as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour," opening his mouth of blasphemy, raising up everything which is hateful and dreadful in our carnal mind, even tempting us to "curse God and die." Sometimes in a hidden unperceived manner, he stirs up the base lusts and passions of our carnal mind, tempting us to believe that there is no harm in their gratification, and then, perhaps, turning round upon us as hypocrites. Thus does this crafty and powerful enemy seek sometimes to carry the city by storm, sometimes to take the city by mine – sometimes to creep in under the garb of a friend – sometimes by open violence to break through the gates, if he may by assault or stratagem carry off the soldiers that are under the banners of Immanuel.…"

To read the remainder of this encouraging sermon from the Word of God, go to

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Word vs. Emerging Idolatry

It is the power of God's word which men and devils oppose and hate, as being the only weapon which they really dread. To them the mere 'letter of the word' is as straw—and a mere 'form of godliness' as rotten wood. Such darts are counted as stubble, and they laugh at the shaking of such a spear. (Job 41:27, 28.) But they dread, though they hate, the 'power'—because it is the very voice of God. By the power of the word the dear Redeemer foiled and defeated the tempter in the wilderness. (Matt. 4:1-11.) By the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony the ancient martyrs overcame the accuser of the brethren; and the remnant of the seed of the woman with whom the dragon made war, were such as kept the commandments of God, and had the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 12:11, 17.)

It is against the authority and power of the word that all infidels, unbelievers, and erroneous men set themselves. What are such infidels aiming at—but to destroy the authority and power of God's word, by undermining its authenticity and inspiration? If not authentic, if not inspired, it has no power; and if it has no power, it can have no authority. The two are proportionate. What gives authority to a magistrate? The power to execute his decisions. Strip him of this power, and his sentences are not decisions, but opinions. So with the word of God. Take away its power by denying its authenticity and inspiration, and its authority to bind and loose, condemn and justify—is gone at once.
(Sermon by J.C. Philpot, "The Authority & Power of the Word upon the Heart,"

Much of what is happening in the neoevangelical church today can be viewed as a precursor to open idolatry. By setting up a "Jesus" who is a "representative" of what they desire to worship, instead of the authentic biblical Jesus (see Herescope post 9/12/06, e.g.), neoevangelical leaders are rapidly encroaching upon the highways of idolatry. By creating new theologies, new terminologies, new structures, and new eschatologies, a surrogate "Christianity" is being formed -- an idolatrous sytem of pseudo-worship.

J.C. Philpot, who delivered solidly biblical sermons in the early to mid 1800s, once noted the proclivity of mankind to work himself towards idolatry. It is interesting that he wrote this well over a hundred years before the humanistic psychology doctrine of "felt needs" entered the church like a flood:

"We want a Person to be the object of our faith: for faith needs an object, and especially in the matter of worship or service, a personal object. Do you not feel that you want some personal object to believe in, to hope in, to worship, to adore, to love? The feeling of this want has been the source of idolatry. When men had lost the knowledge of the only true God and could not look forward in faith to the Messiah who was to be revealed, they set up a visible idol that they might have a personal object to worship--a visible representation, as they conceived, of invisible Deity." (Sermon "The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation in the Knowledge of Christ.") [emphasis added]

Today, the godly sermons of J.C. Philpot and others of his genre are available in print and on the Internet for anyone who is thirsting for the true, authentic Christian faith. In fact, so much of this old material is available that you are without excuse who proclaim that you are too busy, too overwhelmed, too bothered, too weak, too "without a church," too uneducated, etc. to learn the old paths.

J.C. Philpot taught that the Word of God is an antidote to idolatry, and it is even more urgent in our day to heed this lesson. Speaking on this verse —"For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb. 4:12.), Philpot expounded :

This sword has two edges, and therefore cuts as it goes, and cuts both ways at one and the same stroke. (Rev.1:16; 2:12.) It is not sharp on one side and blunt on the other, like a table knife, which cuts but does not pierce, but it severs as it enters with both its edges at once, and thus effectually divides asunder soul and spirit, separating, as nothing else can, the natural religion, which is of the soul, from the spiritual religion which is of the Spirit.**

** If any consider this interpretation forced, let them consider the following points—Paul draws (1 Cor. 2:14,15) a distinction between the "natural" man and the "spiritual" man. Now the word there translated, "natural," is literally, if we may coin an expression, "soulish;" that is, the man has a soul, but not a spirit, as not being born of the Spirit; for "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." His religion, therefore, in this state is natural, its seat being not the new man of grace, but the mere intellectual, mental part of man—the soul as distinct from the body. So James, describing a carnal, earthly religion, says, it is "sensual," ("natural," margin,) or "soulish." Similarly Jude speaks of certain ungodly characters, and says of them that they are "sensual," using precisely the same word as is rendered "natural," 1 Cor. 2:14, and "sensual," Jas. 3:15.

The word thus also becomes "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart," laying the inmost movements of the mind, whether in imagination or intention, naked and bare before the eyes of the omniscient Majesty of heaven. Before this entrance of the sword of the Spirit, it was not known or felt that "the thought of foolishness is sin," (Prov. 24:9,) and that "every imagination of the thoughts of the heart is only evil continually." (Gen. 6:5.) Heart sins were not seen or regarded. As long as the outside of the cup and platter were made clean, the inward part might be full of ravening and wickedness. (Luke 11:39.) As long as the whited sepulcher appeared beautiful outward, the dead men's bones and all uncleanness within were considered of little significance.

But God searches the heart. And how? By his word. (Prov. 20:27; Psalm 45:3-5; 139:1, 2, 23, 24; 1 Cor. 14:24, 25; Rev. 2:23.) This searching of the heart is effected by the entrance of the law into the conscience, for "by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Rom. 3:20.) This is the coming of the commandment in its spirituality and power, armed with all the authority of God, and discovering to the awakened conscience that to lust is to sin, because God has said, "You shall not covet." (Rom. 7:7-9.) The light which attends this entrance of the word (Psalm 119:130; Eph. 5:13) reveals his character as a just and holy, righteous and inflexible Judge; the life which accompanies it makes the conscience bow and bend like a bruised reed, or a tender plant beneath the stroke; the power which clothes it awes and impresses the mind with solemn and ineffaceable convictions that it is the voice of the mighty God who speaks, for his voice is now upon the waters of a troubled heart, and as such is powerful and full of majesty; (Isa. 29, 3, 4;) and the knowledge of the only true God which it communicates (John 17:3) fills the soul with godly fear before him. (Hab. 3:16.)

It is in this way that the authority and power of the word become established as the lord of conscience. This is the grand point of the Spirit's first work—to make the word master of the heart. Before, it was rather the servant than the master, a book like other books, which we could neglect or despise or criticize at will; air it, perhaps, on the Sunday, and lay it on the shelf or lock it up in a drawer for the rest of the week. But no more neglect, no more cold arrogant treatment, no more secret if not open contempt, no more Pharisaical reading of it now. If we neglect it, it will not neglect us; if we struggle against the convictions it produces, and seek to draw away soul and spirit from the word, there it is firmly fixed; and the more we plunge, the more deeply it penetrates and sharply it cuts. (

Take the time today. Bless yourself and others. Read the rest of this sermon, before and after this excerpt, and be encouraged to hold steadfast to the Truth.

The Truth:

"Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part You shall make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Psalms 516-7)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wizard of Theology says "Goodbye Theologians"

Recently C. Peter Wagner, chief "apostle" of the New Apostolic Reformation, wrote a "Guest Commentary" for Ministry Today entitled "Goodbye, Theologians."

In this column he claims that the church today no longer needs theologians because they are part of the "old wineskin." The new wineskin is, of course, his New Apostolic Reformation. The trouble with theologians, he says, is that they are considered the "elite guardians of the truth." In such role, "Their assignment was to make sure that the doctrines espoused by the seminary remained pure and uncontaminated."

In Wagner's mind theologians are a big, bad holdover of the previous church eras. He then explains that:

"Such is not true, however, among the churches moving in the stream of the New Apostolic Reformation. We do not have an ecclesiastical office of theologian nor do we have recognized functional equivalents. We do not agree that an elite group of individuals who happen to have advanced academic degrees in theology should be recognized as our doctrinal police force. Take the typical vertical apostolic network for an example. In an apostolic network the person in charge of maintaining the DNA of the network is the lead apostle, who consults with those he or she chooses, and no one else."

Wagner doesn't want a "doctrinal police force." Obviously, not! This is the man who has single-handedly concocted more doctrines in the past 30 years than any other leading "theologian"!This is the man who has embraced a gospel of pure pragmatism (See, e.g., the chapter entitled "The Means and the End" in his latest book The Church in the Workplace). Obviously, theologians -- who may have actually been standing firm on the Word of God -- didn't appreciate Wagner's wild and woolly experimental sensitivity classes with John Wimber. Wagner explains:

"When I was teaching in seminary, I was coerced by the institution to refer certain matters to the theologians, which I of course did, but much to my personal grief. I began teaching signs and wonders and students began getting healed and delivered right in class. The theologians declared that it was inappropriate to heal the sick and cast out demons in a seminary classroom. They forced me to cancel the class for a time. Then I began teaching about territorial spirits and strategic-level spiritual warfare. This time I was called before the Faculty Senate to undergo a heresy trial. Fortunately for me I had been granted academic tenure years ago, and the theologians finally had to back down on the grounds of violating my academic freedom."

So, who are the new guardians of theology to be under Wagner's new paradigm? You guessed it! The self-anointed, self-appointed hierarchical Amway-style order of prophets and apostles!

"If we go back to Ephesians 4:11, the two offices that will most likely be God’s choice in resolving complex theological issues will be teachers and apostles. The teachers have the ability to research, study, analyze, and systematize the issues. The apostles have the ability to weigh the matters, to judge, to refine, and to sense the proper timing for speaking out. God has given some individuals both the gift of teacher and the gift of apostle, and in many cases the body of Christ has recognized the gifts and has awarded them the dual office of apostle-teacher. I am familiar with this gift mix because for years I have functioned both as a teacher and as an apostle."

It seems obvious that Wagner's real problem isn't with theologians per se. The real problem is that godly "theologians" -- even if they are humble laity and not seminary-trained -- might just hold to the Word of God. And, by holding to the real and genuine faith, it might just reveal how counterfeit Wagner's theologies are.

The ironic thing about all of this is that C. Peter Wagner is the premier "theologian" at the turn of the millennium, paving the road for a new church structure for a new world/church order.

And the response to all of his aberrant theologies is -- to our knowledge -- almost nil. Very few seminarians or theologians have ever countered or questioned C. Peter Wagner's bizarre doctrines aggressively, systematically and/or publicly. No one is challenging the convoluted ethics of his global church reorganization schemes. In fact, most evangelical organizations and leaders highly esteem this man, even venerating him to his exalted position as head apostolic chieftain over layers of vertical and horizontal apostles worldwide. The silence is deafening!

The Truth:

"O how I love Your Law! it is my meditation all the day. You through Your Commandments have made me wiser than my enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your Precepts. I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep Your Word. I have not departed from Your Judgments: for You have taught me. How sweet are Your Words unto my taste? yea, sweeter than honey to mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way." (Psalm 119:97-104)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Language of Dreams and Idols

Author and pastor Brian McLaren thinks that people's questions surrounding The Da Vinci Code offer clues to the Jesus people are searching for.
"For all the flaws of Dan Brown's book, I think in some ways he's suggesting that the dominant religious institutions have created their own caricature of Jesus. And I think people have a sense that's true," says McLaren. "I think the popularity of The Da Vinci Code is telling us that a lot of people don't find the image of Jesus that's portrayed by the dominant Christian voices genuine, so they're looking for something that seems more real and authentic."
(Brian McLaren of the Emergent Church, commenting in CT's Outreach May 2006 about The Da Vinci Code's popularity) [emphasis added]

"We are a spiritual womb of God's dream for this region to bring forth revival, transformation and reformation."
(Bloemfontein Ministers Fellowship
Vision Statement, South Africa)

Neoevangelical theological pioneers are much more sophisticated than their liberal mainline denomination predecessors several generations back. The liberal elite theologians developed a theological gobbledygook language that was so exclusive that only the highly-educated seminarians could possibly decode the meaning.

But the neoevangelicals have a new arsenal of techniques for the transformation of theology at their disposal. Borrowing heavily from the more recent theoretical research of social scientists, psychologists, anthropologists, linguists, political philosophers -- among others -- these advocates of "new ways" of "doing" Christianity are working to contrive new forms of speech, written word and even thought patterns. These leaders know that in order to transform the church, one must transform its language.

To place this activity in context, it is necessary to recognize it as a form of deconstruction. Deconstruction, according to Webster's New World College Dictionary (4th Ed.) is:

"a method of literary analysis originated in France in the mid-20th cent. and based on a theory that, by the very nature of language and usage, no text can have a fixed, coherent meaning." (p. 376) [emphasis added]

This topic is a heady subject, and Herescope will not do it justice in these brief blogs. In fact, this post will be quite simplistic. Some readers are already acquainted with this subject because of familiarity with educational reform issues.

The premise behind this change in language is to move Christians away from a text-centered faith -- that is, to move evangelicals away from the scriptural truth of the Bible. This blog has already noted the proclivity of neoevangelical leaders to create new words, new meanings for words, and new theologies. But to completely overhaul a language is a more aggressive strategy.

The Christian faith has always been anchored in written language, which is why literacy (defined as the ability to read and write) was such an important skill emphasized in the First Reformation. But now the neoevangelical leaders of the "2nd Reformation" (New Apostolic Reformation) are broadening the scope of language to include the verbal and nonverbal, signs, symbols, metaphors, parables, stories, dreams, etc. (This is the same broadening of the classical definition of literacy that has been going on in the arena of education reform.) To summarize, it simply means that leaders are changing the very essence of the Christian faith -- who God is, who Jesus Christ is, what the Bible (the written Word of God) is.

Good Christian men have wrestled for centuries to glean the most accurate and forthright truth from the Bible, desiring in their hearts to know the will and intent of God. Many of the old commentaries bear witness to the effort to glean God's most perfect meaning from the biblical texts so it could be applied to our Christian lives. But postmodern theological pioneers are shifting the paradigm (to use their terminology) and are now claiming that it is only necessary to "translate" God's word into contemporary "metaphors," "parables," "messages" and visual symbols. It is a "whole language" approach to interpreting Scripture. And it is the half-way step towards open idolatry.

For the end goal is to set up an "image" or a "dream" or an "idol" of Jesus Christ and God Almighty. Not a real Jesus or God, but a figure of imagination. To do this, Jesus Christ and God Almighty must be separated from the concept of the Absolute Truth of the Word (Bible), an activity which exemplifies the process of deconstruction. And the second stage is the task of reconstruction, substituting another "Jesus" and another "God" of the imagination: a new "God" and a new "Jesus" that can be visualized, envisioned, and dreamed collectively for a new kingdom; a shift in worldview where biblical terms and words become nebulous, no longer anchored to the Word, but fluctuating and floating upon the winds of "contemporary" cultural change.

Brian McLaren expounds upon this topic in Chapter 16 of his new book The Secret Message of Jesus (W Publ. Group, 2006), which is entitled -- appropriately -- "The Language of the Kingdom." He speaks of "translating… Jesus' message… into our world today."

To deconstruct, he claims that "kingdom language" is "not as dynamic today":

"In Jesus' day, kingdom language was contemporary and relevant; today, it is outdated and distant." (p. 139)

"…[I]f Jesus were here today, I am quite certain he wouldn't use the language of kingdom at all… which leaves us wondering how he would in fact articulate his message today." (p. 139) [emphasis in original]

What these statements are, in effect, saying is that the Bible is "outdated and distant" and that Jesus is not the Word of God (John 1:1). Note McLaren's next statement, where it becomes clear that the purpose for embracing a "secret message of Jesus" is because it has "radical tranformational potential today." Of course it does. The early architects of educational and social reform also viewed it necessary to have a radical overhaul of language in order to create a radical transformation ("revolution") of society.

McLaren places the job of "translation" into the category of an "artistic pursuit," which then gives his readers license to pursue a "deep understanding of Jesus' message but also a substantial understanding of our contemporary culture and its many currents and crosscurrents" (p. 140). To do this, he suggests the use of metaphors and has created six "metaphors of the secret message" of Jesus.

The first suggested metaphor conveys the essence of the language paradigm shift. McLaren calls it the "dream of God." Notice that this phrase is not anchored in the Word of God. McLaren describes it as:

"The Call to faith is the call to trust God and God's dreams enough to realign our dreams with God's, to dream our little dreams, within God's big dream. The call to receptivity is the call to continually receive God's dreams -- a process that, in my experience at least, seems to be a lifelong one.…" (p. 142)

"…For all these reasons, 'the dream of God' strikes me as a beautiful way to translate the message of the kingdom of God for hearers today. It is, of course, the language evoked by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. His dream was God's dream, and that accounted for its amazing power." (p. 141)

To begin with, this is not a factually correct statement. Googling this topic will reveal that King never used the phrase "God's dream." This one statement by McLaren, rooted in half-truth, perfectly exemplifies the problem of creating a nebulous new language of metaphors.

It is noteworthy that Rick Warren has used this phrase "God's Dream," and this fact is observed by ex-New Ager Warren Smith. He devotes several chapters (11 & 12) to this subject in his book Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church. Smith commented on the esoteric significance of this particular metaphor, "God's Dream." He has now updated this topic with new material in his "Chapter 10 Update" posted at Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel.

To understand the significance of how this language transformation process works, let us do a simple grammatical exercise using common and proper nouns. Notice the difference in meaning:

apple -----> God's apple

kingdom -----> God's kingdom

dream -----> God's dream

purpose -----> God's purpose

peace -----> God's peace

Notice how simply putting the word "God's" in front of any word suddenly makes it a weighty proposition. The neoevangelical language gurus also know this, too. Which is why they'll use these phrases, loaded with extra-biblical meaning, to communicate their agenda. It works much like a slogan does in advertising. Furthermore, when they develop symbols or logos, or new stories and/or metaphors to communicate these ideas, then there will be added weight.

The Truth:

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that Eternal Life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)" (I John 1:1-2)