Monday, December 28, 2009

Prodigious Sottishness

pro⋅di⋅giousadj. [pruh-dij-uhs]
1. extraordinary in size, amount, extent, degree, force, etc.
2. wonderful or marvelous.
3. abnormal; monstrous.
4. Obs. ominous.

sot⋅tish⋅ness, noun [sot-ish-ness]
1. stupefied with or as if with drink; drunken.
2. given to excessive drinking.
3. pertaining to or befitting a sot.

Part 4: Preparations for Sufferings

God will "admonish the world, and especially his own people, of great trials and sufferings before-hand." So begins John Flavel* in chapter 3 of his 1600s work Preparations for Sufferings,[3] encouraging the reader with Amos 3:7: "Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." Flavel reminds us that God warned Abraham and Lot before he destroyed Sodom, he warned the prophets before the captivity of the Jewish people, and Christ warned Jerusalem about its pending fall.

Upon occasion, Flavel notes, God has sometimes used signs, such as "dreadful eclipses of the heavenly bodies, portentous comets, earthquakes, and other signs of judgment" before calamity. But even without "such extraordinary warnings, yet we have the most apparent and certain signs of approaching calamities; after which, if they surprize us, the fault must lie in our own inexcusable negligence;...."

God warns us from Scripture. Flavel asserts that we have a "standing rule" with which to "govern ourselves in this matter" --

'When the same sins are found in one nation, which have brought down the wrath of God upon another nation, it is an evident sign of judgment at the door; for God is unchangeable, just, and holy, and will not favour that in one people which He hath punished in another, nor bless that in one age which He hath cursed in another.'

Upon this very ground it was that the apostle warned Corinthians, by the example of the Israelites, whose sins had ruined them in the wilderness, 1 Cor. 10:6: "Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted." ...Follow not the same course, lest you meet in the same curse; if you tread the same path, expect the same judgment. God is as righteous now as He was then: He hates, and will punish sin in you as much as He did in them."

There are seven sins, i.e., "provocations," which Flavel lists from Scripture that "hastened the wrath of God upon His own Israel, a people that were nigh and near unto Him":

  • Corrupted Worship: The great corruption of God's worship among them... Psalm 106:39-42[4].... [N]othing more provokes the anger of God than the adulterating of His worship; a man will bear a thousand infirmities in the wife of his bosom, but unfaithfulness in the marriage-covenant breaks his heart. After the manner of men, so abused and grieved, the Lord expresseth Himself, Ezekiel 6:9: 'I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which go a whoring after their idols:'"[5] To apply this to today, consider the idolatrous corruption of worship happening before our very eyes in the Emerging Church Movement.

  • "Incorrigible obstinacy and impenitency,[6] under gentler strokes and lesser judgments, make way for utter ruin and desolation," says Flavel, citing Amos 4:6-12.[7] "Scarcity, mildews, pestilence, and sword, had been tried upon them, but without effect; for the remnant that escaped those judgments... were not reformed by those gentler and moderated judgments." Today we are witnessing these "moderated" judgments descending with increasing rapidity -- unemployment and economic instability, strange new diseases in the plant and animal kingdom, the droughts and floods of unusual weather patterns, etc.

  • "Stupidity and senselessness of God's hand, and the tokens of His anger... they neither saw the hand of God when it was lifted up, nor humbled themselves under it when it was laid on.... When the clouds of judgment gather over our heads, and grow blacker and blacker, as theirs did upon them... they took no notice of it...." Here Flavel quotes from Isaiah 26:11, "LORD, when Thy hand is lifted up, they will not see," calling this "the height of stupidity," citing Isaiah 42:24-25[8] by remarking:

O prodigious sottishness! It was not some small drops of God's anger, but the fury of His anger; not some lighter skirmish of His judgments with them, but the strength of battle: It was not some particular stroke upon single persons or families, but it set him on fire round about, a general conflagration; yet all this would not awaken them.

  • "[P]ersecution of God's faithful ministers and people," Flavel observes as yet another sign from Scripture. This obviously has ominous ramifications for those who dare to exercise discernment in our own era. He cites 2 Chronicles 15:16: "And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy." For those "upright souls among them, who desired to worship God... a snare was laid for them in Mizpah, and a net spread for them upon Tabor, Hosea 5:1,[9] and this hastened judgment towards them." Flavel explains this verse:

Mizpah and Tabor were places lying in the way betwixt Samaria and Jerusalem, where the true worship of God was: and in those places spies were set by the priests to observe and inform against them; so that it became very hazardous to attend the pure and incorrupt worship of God....

  • The righteous perish: Regarding a rather strange phenomena mentioned by the prophet Isaiah (57:1), Flavel notes, "The removal of godly and useful men by death, in more than ordinary haste, was to them a sign of desolation at hand...: "The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come." In our day, with such a rapid apostasy emerging, there seems to be a hastening spiritual death as well, like unripe clusters of fruit falling prematurely from a vine. This great falling away seems to fit the scriptural metaphor from Micah cited by Flavel:

In this case God acts toward His people, as the husbandman in a catching harvest doth by his corn; He hurries it with a shuffling haste into the barn when He sees a storm coming.... Micah bewails himself (7:1) "Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grapegleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the firstripe fruit." ...The pleasant clusters, i.e. the societies of the saints are gathered away by the hand of death; there are but few that remain, here and there a single saint, like grapes after the vintage is done, two or three upon the utmost branches.

  • Spiritual deadness. Amazingly, this apostasy further degrades into a "general decay of the life and power of godliness among them that were left," i.e., the remnant! According to Flavel this is "both a provoking sin, and a fore-running sign of national calamity" (Hosea 4:18),[10] "Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually." Spiritual deadness, says Flavel, is "like sour or dead drink, which hath lost its spirit and relish, and is become flat." The analogy is stale beer or wine that has turned into vinegar. In other words, these vessels have lost the good leaven (fermentation) of the Gospel described by Christ in Matthew 13:33.[11] Flavel describes these folks as having

no spiritual life, affection, or savour in them: they heard as if they heard not, and prayed as if they prayed not; the ordinances of God were to them as the ordinances of men....

  • "Mutual animosities, jars,[12] and divisions.... Ephraim envied Judah and Judah vexed Ephraim, Isaiah 11:13."[13] Just at a point when the remnant should be pulling together, they fall apart. In fact, they turn on each other! Perhaps this is what is meant by the warning in Galatians 5:15: "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another." Flavel warns that these divisions are accompanied by the degradation of their leaders into foolishness and madness, citing Hosea 9:7: "The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred."

In summary, Flavel states that when "such symptoms of God's indignation do appear upon any people, the Lord, by them, as by so many glaring meteors and blazing comets, forewarns the world that His judgments are near, even at the door. These signs all men ought to observe, and behold with trembling."

Checking Our Brains at the Door, a.k.a. "Prodigious Sottishness"

Lest we should think that Flavel's words of warning to the church in the 1600s do not describe our modern evangelical church era, and arrogantly presume that we are exempt from any of these biblical signs befalling us, the following excerpt was recently posted at Berit Kjos's website. It is from an article describing the church's inadequate response to Emergent Church leader Phyllis Tickle's great apostasy, which she calls The Great Emergence. Read the following excerpt and see if it isn't saying the exact same thing that Flavel wrote 400 years ago. Does this describe your faith?

How are we handling the philosophical and cultural challenges of our time? Too often, instead of stepping up to the plate, we either conform to the world’s standards or we ignore the question and continue to "play church." Generally speaking, North American churches dropped the ball decades ago.

Think about it. Rather than studying to "show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," we now have shiny object syndrome. Selling a new church-growth strategy? Don’t question; just buy. Parroting a hot-button social issue? Don’t think; just react. From market-driven to "special-interest" driven, we crave to have someone else tell us how to think. It's like we've checked our brains at the door.

So, instead of grounding ourselves in God’s word (authority), we flounder with pathetic excuses for our "ignorance." Instead of digging and getting dirty, actually wrestling with these issues in a tangible fashion, we push them aside in the vain hope they’ll go away. Therefore, when individuals – Christians and otherwise – ask hard questions in light of evolution, psychology, other religions, social concerns, and even Scripture, we met their questions with blank stares, ignorant one-liners, and at times unmitigated arrogance.

We are a lazy bunch; all of us, pastors and laypeople. We don’t study God’s word; we just don’t study! Sadly, Christians in North America are seldom different from anybody else on the street – we are Biblically illiterate, historically ignorant, culturally naïve, politically blind, economically foolish, and sorely lacking in discernment. So when the historic winds-of-change broadside us, we find ourselves stupefied.

Although we have a firm foundation in God’s word, we have so long ignored it in its entirety that we no longer recognize its authority; actually, we’re embarrassed by the idea of authoritative truth. So with deep shame in our inability to be "culturally relevant," we place blame upon the intolerant and divisive nature of the Bible. Instead of engaging culture by standing firm on Scripture, tactfully employing the facts and fallacies of history, and actually befriending people and meeting real needs, we rush towards Biblical revisionism and social appeasement. Then we package this in Christianese language and announce; "God is doing a new thing!"

The Truth:

"The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed." (Matthew 16:1-4)

2. Sottishness is adapted from the entry at:
3. Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83. Italics in original (except for Bible verses) but bold added.
4. Psalm 106: 39-42 reads: "Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions. Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against His people, insomuch that He abhorred His own inheritance. And He gave them into the hand of the heathen; and they that hated them ruled over them. Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand."
5. The entire verse, plus verse 10, reads: "And they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives, because I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which go a whoring after their idols: and they shall lothe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the LORD, and that I have not said in vain that I would do this evil unto them."
6. Incorrigible, "bad beyond correction or reform," see:; obstinacy, "stubbornness," see:; impenitency, "not feeling regret about one's sin or sins; obdurate," see
7. Amos 4: 6-12 reads: "And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the LORD. And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the LORD. I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the LORD. I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the LORD. I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the LORD. Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel."
8. Isaiah 42:24-25 reads: "Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the LORD, He against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in His ways, neither were they obedient unto His law. Therefore He hath poured upon him the fury of His anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart."
9. Note that in these verses judgment is directed to religious leaders. Hosea 5:1-2 states: "Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor. And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all."
10. The full verse reads: "Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye."
11. A yeast or lacto-fermentation process can quickly go sour and turn into a vinegar. The one Scriptural reference to good leaven, compared to the spreading of the Gospel of salvation, is found in Matthew 10:33 which states: "Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened."
12. The word jars may be defined as ""a quarrel or disagreement, esp. a minor one" or "discord." See various definitions at
13. Isaiah 11:13 says that one day this quarreling will cease: "The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim."
14. "Checking Our Brains at the Door: Spiritual Appeasement in the Age of Emergence," by Carl Teichrib, Forcing Change, Volume 3, Issue 11, November, 2009, posted here:

*ED. NOTE: We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Unanticipated Benefits of Sufferings

Part 3: Preparations for Sufferings

"We must tell people what we have learned. . . that no darkness can keep out God's marvelous light. They will believe us, because we've been here."
- Betsie ten Boom[1]

"It is one of the greatest wonders in the world, how the church subsists under such fierce and frequent assaults as are made upon it by its enemies."
- John Flavel[2]*

We live in a day when many Christian Right political leaders are telling people how to survive the difficult times that are coming. One recent evangelical presidential candidate, in a recent column, remarked that "we are on the precipice of some potentially catastrophic--or at the very least, challenging--days." His practical solutions for preparation include "moving to a more rural location," stocking up on provisions, getting in shape physically, and preparing for self-defense with firearms. After many paragraphs describing various weapons, he concludes with a brief nod to faith: "I strongly suggest that you seek to possess a personal relationship with God's only begotten Son."[3]

If we could choose for ourselves, we would escape trials and tribulations. This is not always God's will for us, however. Despite our best-laid plans for survival and sustenance, God can override us. We may find ourselves in a situation of persecution so fierce and unrelenting that there is no escape. So what could be the possible benefit to us - and to others - should the Lord require this of us? John Flavel, whose writing on this topic[4] we have been examining in this current series of posts, describes the many benefits of persecution. These are tangible benefits that may not seem so clear in the middle of a trial, but only become evident as time goes on.

Purifying the Saints
The first point Flavel makes is probably the most difficult for modern evangelicals to grasp. Our easy-believism doctrine just simply doesn't accommodate this. Yet, it is from Scripture. Titus 2:14 says that the Lord intends to purify us: "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." James 4:8b also calls us to purify ourselves: "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded." Flavel notes that it is trials that will purify believers:

Hereby the most wise God doth illustrate the glory of His own name, clearing up the righteousness of His ways by the sufferings of His own people.... He will not indulge or patronize their sins....

For God's Glory
God also seeks His own glory, another difficult doctrine for ear-tickling lovers. Flavel explains that

Moreover, by exposing His people to such grievous sufferings, He gives a fit opportunity to manifest the glory of His power in their support, and of His wisdom, in the marvellous ways of their escape and deliverance.

This raises an immediate question, especially in light the increasing militia rhetoric of the Christian Right: If we take matters into our own hands to wreak our own vengeance upon our enemies, are we thwarting God's more perfect way, which may be for His glory by our deliverance? Might not others be saved by observing God's provident deliverance? Flavel reminds us of the biblical example of deliverance found in Esther, chapter 6, which story begins with the most amazing happening: "On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king."

God delights in causing the Devil's plots to backfire. Flavel notes,

Now, you may see the most wise God going beyond a malicious and subtle devil, overturning in a moment the deep laid designs and contrivances of many years, and that at the very birth and point of execution,... snaring the wicked in the works of their own hands; making their own tongues to fall upon them; working out such marvellous salvations with His own hand, as fills them with astonishment and wonder....

Mortifying the Heart
Flavel observes what happens to believers under persecution and trials. He suggests that the purpose of these occasions is for "mortifying the corruptions that are in their hearts" by comparing these corruptions to "rank weeds springing up in the best soil." To our modern era church, which has eschewed the doctrine of biblical separation, this may seem like a totally foreign concept. But, a church under persecution must reconsider its focus and priorities. "If," says Flavel,

we reckon humility, heavenly mindedness, contempt of the world, and longing desires after heaven, to be the real interest and advantage of the church; then it is evident, nothing so much promotes their interest, as a suffering condition doth....

And he concludes by stating this fact, "Adversity kills those corruptions which prosperity bred." In other words, a necessary component of suffering is dying to self, and dying to worldliness.

Personal Peace With God
There is another blessing to persecution which may not be anticipated. Flavel claims that by these trials a believer's

sincerity is cleared, to the joy and satisfaction of their own hearts; many a doubt and fear, which had long entangled them, is removed and answered.

This is a personal joy found in peace with God.

Where Did All the Hypocrites Go?
An interesting unanticipated consequence of persecution is that it frees the church of "the abundance of hypocrites, which were its reproach as well as burden." Flavel explains that

Affliction is a furnace to separate the dross from the more pure and noble gold. Multitudes of hypocrites, like flies in a hot summer, are generated by the church's prosperity; but this winter weather kills them: Many gaudy professors [of the faith] grow within the inclosure of the church, like beautiful flowers in the field, where they stand during its peace and prosperity, in the pride and bravery of their gifts and professions; but the wind passeth over them, and they are gone, and their places shall know them no more; to allude to that in Psalm 103:16.[5] Thunder and lightning is a very terrible weather, but exceeding useful to purify and cleanse the air.

True Reconciliation
Another unanticipated outcome of sufferings is that it will "endear" one believer to another. Flavel states that

Times of common sufferings, are times of reconciliation, and greater endearments among the people of God; never more endeared, than when most persecuted; never more united, than when most scattered, Mal. 3:16-17[6]: "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another."

There is another side to this newfound fellowship. According to Flavel, persecution also results in "discoveries... of the sincerity of our hearts" one to another. What was before "entertained with jealousy" may be humbled by "reproofs of the rod," and what was before "wantonness and bitterness in their spirits to each other" can be "made to cry, in the sense of these transgressions, as Psalm 79:8: "O remember not against us former iniquities."[7]

Deeper Prayer
Flavel concludes this chapter by noting that believers reap benefits to persecution such as being

awakened to their duties, and taught to pray more frequently, spiritually, and fervently. Ah! what drowsiness and formality is apt to creep in upon the best hearts, in the time of prosperity; but when the storm rises, and the sea grows turbulent and raging, now they cry as the disciples to Christ, Lord, save us, we perish....[8] I am sure the sweetest melody of prayer is upon the deep waters of affliction.

The Truth:

"And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation." (2 Corinthians 1:7)

1. Betsie ten Boom's words of hope, said to her sister Corrie ten Boom shortly before Betsie died in the Ravensbruck concentration camp and Corrie was released. Cited on page 72 of Corrie: The Lives She's Touched by Joan Winmill Brown (Worldwide Pictures, 1979).
2. Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83.
3. Pastor Chuck Baldwin, "A Suggested Survival List," December 15, 2009, published here: and archived at:
4. Flavel, Ibid, and all subsequent quotations.
5. Psalm 103:15-18 states: "As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them."
6. Flavel actually quotes from verse 17 of Malachi chapter 3. However, verse 17 is such a beautiful verse it is here quoted: "And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."
7. Flavel's text incorrectly identifies this verse as Psalm 70:8. We have corrected this error in our quotation.
8. Flavel is quoting from Matthew 8:25 which was the occasion of the disciples being in "a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves" (verse 24), an apt analogy of persecution.

*ED. NOTE: We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Are You Prepared?

Part 2: Preparations for Sufferings

"Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

"Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear."
- A.W. Tozer*

Today's "God" is a warm and fuzzy, friendly and sensitive, touchy and feely sort of fellow who bestows health, wealth, fame and fortune upon all who believe in him. This beguiling postmodern god is a force for good, promotes peace, and knows how to make friends and influence people. He is a leader of the highest caliber, a wonderful role model, and a charismatic man who had good ideas for living. Surely a nice god like this will not let anything bad happen to his people.

We know from Scripture that this is not so. While we flock to doctrines like these - that placate the emotions, calm the fears and please our desires - we miss the real attributes of God that are revealed to us from Scripture. It is important to know God in Scripture when we are under trials, tribulations, threats, revilings and persecutions.

In Chapter 2 of his great work Preparations for Sufferings** (circa 1600s)[1], John Flavel explains:

"The mercies and compassions of God over His people are exceeding great and tender, Psalm 103:13: "Like as a father pitieth His children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him." He delights not in afflicting and grieving them, Lamentations 3:33: "For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men." The Scripture intimates to us a seeming conflict betwixt the justice and mercy of God, when He is about to deliver up His people into their enemies' hands, Hosea 11:8...: "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together."[2] Which shews us with what reluctance and great unwillingness the Lord goes about such a work as this.

The work of Judgment is His strange work, it pleases Him better to execute the milder attribute of mercy towards His children. Hence we find, when He is preparing to execute His judgments, that He delays the execution as long as the honour of His name and safety of His people will permit, Jeremiah 44:23.[3] He bears till He can bear no longer: He often turns away His wrath from them, Psalm 78:38-39.[4] He tries them by lesser judgments and gentler corrections to prevent greater, Amos 4:6.[5] When His people are humbled under the threatenings of His wrath, His heart is melted into compassion to them, Jeremiah 31:17,20.[6] And whenever His mercy prevails against judgment, it is with joy and triumph, James 2:13: "Mercy rejoiceth against judgment."

Flavel then makes the most amazing observation, particularly discomfiting to our modern sensibilities, especially just at the point we are becoming acclimated to the feminine goddess imageries[7] about God such as appear in The Shack:

Seneca, though a heathen, could say, that God loves His people with a masculine love, not with a womanish indulgence and tenderness: If need require, they shall be in heaviness through manifold temptations, 1 Peter 1:6.[8] He had rather their hearts should be heavy under adversity, than vain and careless under prosperity; the choicest spirits have been exercised with the sharpest sufferings, and those that now shine as stars in heaven have been trod under foot as dung on the earth.

I Cor. 4:11-13:
"We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:"

Flavel notes that the "eleventh chapter to the Hebrews is a compendium of the various and greivous sufferings of the primitive saints,"[9] and recounts various persecutions suffered by the martyrs. In the 1600s persecution was fresh on the minds of those who recalled ravages of the various winds of trials that raged during the early Reformation. He observes that the

land, indeed, hath enjoyed a long rest, and this generation is acquainted with little more of martyrdom, than what the histories of former times inform us of: But yet let no man befool himself with a groundless expectation of continuing tranquility.... Though millions of precious saints have shed their blood for Christ, whose souls are now crying under the altar, How long, Lord! how long![10] yet there are many more coming on behind in the same path of persecution, and much Christian blood must yet be shed, before the mystery of God be finished.

How Shall We Then Escape?

Here is the crux of the matter. Shall you suffer or sin? Flavel explains that "God may be said to call forth His people to suffer, when He so hedgeth them in by providence, that there is no way to escape suffering, but by sinning." He reiterates, "[W]hen our way is so shut up by providence, that we cannot avoid suffering, but by stepping over the hedge of the command, God will have us to look upon that exigence as His call to suffer." In other words, we may soon enter a very clear situation where to obey God means that we must suffer. God could put us in a situation where we must take a biblical stand, obey Him, and suffer the consequences.

There are any number of ways that we can escape suffering, but they aren't biblical. It certainly is easy in our day and age, perhaps easier than it has ever been before in human history, to willfully step over that hedge and sin, rather than to stand and suffer. Here is how it works: We are tempted every day to compromise with biblical Truth! Each small decision to go our own way, each reinterpretation of the Word to suit our desires, each disregard of God's call to obedience, each reinvention of who God is, takes us one step away from being able to endure trials. If we are doing this, we are walking in the wrong direction!

David Wilkerson recently observed how easy this happens in his poignant newsletter message titled "It's Time to Get Right With God!"[11]:

Jesus warned that many believers would turn away and grow cold: “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). His message is clear: Many who have been on fire for the things of God are going to fall away. They will drift into a spiritual coldness. And some will turn to their old fleshly ways. When will this happen? It will take place at a time Jesus called “the beginning of sorrows” (24:8).

All of the backsliding we see today — the turning away from faith to unbelief — comes at a time when you would least expect it. Rather, you would expect people to be drawing nearer to God. We are at the beginning of those days of “great sorrows” that Jesus referred to. Even prominent voices in the world agree: These are days of unspeakable wickedness, marked by uncontrollable greed, rampant sexual perversions, multitudes giving themselves over to addictions of all kinds, from drugs to alcohol to pornography.

Pastor Wilkerson continues on with a strong call to believers, a very sober warning:

I ask you: Is today the time to neglect the day of salvation? Absolutely not! If you ever truly loved and followed Jesus but now are cold and indifferent, the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. He is inviting you to come back to the merciful arms of Christ. With compassion, I urge you to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Some who have backslidden tell themselves, “I can get right with the Lord any time I choose. I’m just not ready. I’m not mad at God; I just need time with my friends, time to enjoy myself. I know God is loving and merciful. When I’m ready, I’ll come to him. I’ll know when that time is.” I hear these thoughts especially among young people who are drifting away.

The Holy Spirit has compelled me to show you the danger of coldness.... Spiritual coldness leads to hardness of heart. The term “hardness” indicates a condition that is beyond the influence of any gracious pleadings, any persuading from the Holy Spirit. It begins with coldness — a self-imposed exclusion from God, with no intention of obeying the call of his gospel. For those who continue in coldness to God’s voice — who keep distant from the Holy Spirit — hardness is the result.

This is a sober message with serious ramifications. It isn't something to consider lightly. Flavel notes that

how well soever [God] loves [his people], He will not indulge or patronize their sins; if they will be so disengenuous to abuse His favours, He will be so just to make them suffer for their sins, and by those very sufferings will provide for His own glory, which was by them clouded in the eyes of the world. He hates not sin a jot the less, because it is found in His own people, Amos 3:2.[12] And though, for the magnifying of His mercy, He will pardon their sins, yet for the clearing of His righteousness, He will take vengeance upon their inventions, Psalm 99:8.[13]

This description obviously does not match up with the modern god of semantic gymnastics and clever disguises. It doesn't fit with the god who begs, "Can't 'we all get along?'"[14] and uses man's machinations for spiritual causes. This description of God and his sovereignty is found in God's Word. How we respond to trials is directly affected by our understanding about God and His attributes. But more on that in the next post...

Before continuing on with this series, may we each pause to regard the condition of our hearts and take immediate steps to repent and walk in obedience to God's commands in His Word.

The Truth:

"For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2)

1. Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83.
2. See also verses: 7 and 9 for more context.
3. Jeremiah 44: 23 states: "Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil is happened unto you, as at this day."
4. Psalm 78: 38-39 states: "But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned He His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath. For He remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again."
5. Amos 4:6 states: "And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD."
6. Jeremiah 31:17 states: "And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border." And Jeremiah 31:20 states: "Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore My bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD."
7. See "The Shack, 'Elousia,' & the Black Madonna: Imagination, Image, and Idolatry" by Pastor Larry DeBruyn posted at: See also other posts in this 2009 series, and Pastor DeBruyn's latest book on this topic, UNSHACKLED: Breaking Away From Seductive Spirituality available from Discernment Ministries at 903-567-6423.
8. 1 Peter 1:6 states: "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:"
9. Flavel here quotes from Hebrews 11:37-38: "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;"
10. Quoted from Revelation 6:10: "And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?"
11. David Wilkerson, "It's Time to Get Right With God!" October 19, 2009: By all means, read the entire newsletter message!
12. Amos 3:2 states: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities."
13. Psalm 99:8 states: "Thou answeredst them, O LORD our God: thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions."
14. See Wikipedia entry about Rodney King's famous statement:

*We are indebted to Pastor Larry DeBruyn for calling our attention to this pertinent quotation, which he first used here: and cites as coming from: A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, page 9.
**ED. NOTE: We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Preparations for Sufferings

"[W]here are they that sincerely resolve and prepare to be followers of them who through faith and patience 'inherit the promises' (Hebrews 6:12) or take them for an 'example of suffering, affliction, and of patience' (James 5:10)?" [1]*

The Discernment Research Group has been publishing warnings about heresies and the activities of leaders promoting heresies since 2005. Recently we have been repeatedly asked by many believers to delve into the issue of "how do I prepare for the coming persecution?" While the world faith leaders lead their flocks into an ecumenical global church of massive proportions, there is a tiny remnant within each historical tradition or evangelical group that maintains adherence to the Bible. Increasingly we are getting reports about these believers being censored, ostracized, mocked, ridiculed, slandered, shut down and shut out, threatened, and more. Every possible tactic of persecution, short of suffering in the flesh, is now rapidly coming upon those in America who truly stand on the Word of God.

There are those who still hold out that we can change America (legislation) back to a Christian nation, and that this will somehow change the Church at large. But this is a Dominionist pipe dream, born of the hope that by changing externals it will change the hearts of men. This is neither Scriptural nor facing reality. The truth is that religious leaders are rapidly taking the church into emerging spirituality, as we have so often documented in posts on this blog. In one sense these calls to change America are simply "bread and circus" for the people in the churches, giving them false hopes and entertaining them with something to do.

In contrast to this, and in the spirit of exhortation, the following are words of encouragement that tell us how to face the coming persecution without fear or dismay. Below is the first post in a series where we will excerpt, review, and summary discussing in our modern context the classic work of John Flavel "Preparations for Sufferings: or the Best Work in the Worst Times."[2] It is our hope and prayer that we will all stand firm in the days to come. May we be a light shining in darkness, living and preaching the true hope of the Gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Preparing the Heart

Flavel launches his exhortation on "Preparations for Sufferings" with the following verse:

"Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:13)

We know from the words that Paul speaks immediately preceding this, recorded in Acts 20, that the Lord had prepared his heart for what was to come, for he testified to the disciples at Ephesus that

"And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:22-24)

Commenting on God's providence to Paul in his impending persecution, Flavel notes that

"indeed it was his great advantage, that the will of God was so plainly and convincingly revealed to him touching this matter; for no sooner did he employ himself to obey this call of God, but he is presently assaulted by many strong temptations to decline it.

"The first rub he met in his way was from the disciples of Tyre, who pretending to speak by the Spirit, said unto Paul, that he should not go up to Jerusalem (Acts 21:4). The Lord by this trying the spirit of his apostle much, as He did the young prophet coming from Judea to Bethel (1 Kings 13:18), but not with like success.

"The next discouragement was at Caesaria, where Agabus... takes Paul's girdle, and binding his own hands and feet with it, said, 'Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver [him] into the hands of the Gentiles.' (Acts 21:11)....

"But then, last of all, he meeteth with the sorest trial from his dearest friends, who fell upon him with passionate intreaties and many tears, beseeching him to decline that journey: O, they could not give up such a minister as Paul was! this even melted him down, and almost broke his heart..."

In our modern era we would recognize these various temptations as being forms of peer pressure. Seeing that Paul's friends were attempting to dissuade him from following the path that God had set out for him, Flavel notes that it is our duty to obey God. He states emphatically that 1) "divine precept, not providence, is to rule out our way of duty" and 2) "no hindrances or discouragements whatsoever will justify our neglect of a known duty."

Paul's response to these entreaties was simply that "I am ready." Flavel observes that Paul is saying that "God hath fitted and prepared my heart," and that it is a matter of his "will and resolution," that nothing can alter his fixed purpose. God has said, and he must obey.

How do we get to this point where we can stand ready and fitted, and with a fixed purpose of heart? Our prayer is that this series will edify and encourage you in these darkening days.

The Truth:

"And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:" (Hebrews 6:11)

1. This quotation comes from Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83.
2. Ibid. To read more about John Flavel (1627-1691), visit:

ED. NOTE: We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration:

Another Dominionist Covenant

Although I obviously agree with the document’s opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and other key moral problems threatening our culture, the document falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity’s moral ills: the gospel. The gospel is barely mentioned in the Declaration. At one point the statement rightly acknowledges, “It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season”—and then adds an encouraging wish: “May God help us not to fail in that duty.” Yet the gospel itself is nowhere presented (much less explained) in the document or any of the accompanying literature. Indeed, that would be a practical impossibility because of the contradictory views held by the broad range of signatories regarding what the gospel teaches and what it means to be a Christian.
- Rev. John MacArthur [1]

Part 3: The New Global Civility*

Whenever you see a broad ecumenical coalition gathering together to sign some sort of agreement, statement, covenant, declaration, manifesto, or whatever name they call it, be on the lookout for Dominionism. The agreement, statement, covenant, declaration, manifesto, etc. may sound all well and good. It probably represents any number of worthy causes, ideologies and agendas. And this is precisely how people are hooked in to signing on. After all, how could you be AGAINST saving unborn babies, good marriages, and morality?

But there are a number of red flags that indicate that these types of documents have other agendas, causes and ideologies than meet the eye -- most of which can be lumped under the generic category of Dominionism. What is meant by this? The idea that man, by his works -- especially political, structural or mystical -- can reverse the tide of evil that the document purports to address.

There are other indicators of Dominionism. Here are just a few:

1. ECUMENISM. These documents typically represent a broad ecumenical coalition of diverse theological groups, and are are characterized by a theologically diverse "who's who" list of well-known signers. Doctrinal differences are set aside in order to achieve the appearance of some sort of common purpose. As John MacArthur pointed out in his brief but excellent critique of The Manhattan Declaration, this ecumenism "seriously muddles the lines of demarcation between authentic biblical Christianity and various apostate traditions."[2]

2. COVENANT. Most of these agreements, statements, covenants, declarations, manifestos, etc. require that you have to SIGN ON. This act of signing is a psycho-social tool, creating a "formal joining up process, a type of psychological contract in which one aligns their life's purpose with the organization's purpose."[3] In other words, once you sign on, it glues your sense of commitment to the purported "cause" represented in the document.

3. BAIT AND SWITCH. These agreements, statements, covenants, declarations, manifestos, etc. are all cleverly worded. But what are you really signing on to? Is there another agenda lurking beneath the surface? Take The Manhattan Declaration, for example. There are indications in the wording that there are some political agendas afoot, such as changing laws, or definitions in law, even (alarmingly) civil disobedience. While the document may ostensibly give lip service to changing people's hearts, without the Gospel it is more about changing laws. One can reasonably assume that The Manhattan Declaration is a clear signal that there is a marshaling of forces to start up the drumbeat for some new legislative or political activities in the near future. These types of activities usually require the State to define things that are of the Church, another symptom of classic Dominionism.

4. COMMON GROUND FOR THE COMMON GOOD. These "civility" documents are rife with the terms like "people of good will," "conscience," "ethics," "justice" and "morality."[4] But how are these terms defined? These terms can be so redefined as to EXCLUDE those who cannot or will not, for whatever reason, conform. Depending on how these terms are defined, they can actually exclude biblical Christians, particularly those who practice biblical separation. For example, carefully read these excerpts below from The Manhattan Declaration and ask what is really meant by popular phrase "the common [or public] good." Next, ask how it would be prescribed or enforced -- for example, "the church through service to others." Just because the phrase uses the word "biblical" does not mean that it is.

"Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good. In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good."

"The biblical purpose of law is to preserve order and serve justice and the common good; yet laws that are unjust - and especially laws that purport to compel citizens to do what is unjust - undermine the common good, rather than serve it."

5. THE MISSING GOSPEL OF SALVATION. Significantly minimized in such documents, if you carefully examine them, is the Gospel of Salvation. Replacing it is the gospel of man's endeavors, causes, concerns and activities. John MacArthur, commenting on this very issue, wrote: "Anything that silences, sidelines, or relegates the gospel to secondary status is antithetical to the principles we affirm when we call ourselves evangelicals."[5] This de-emphasis of the Gospel of Salvation happens to be a key indicator of the presence of Dominionism.

There is much more that we could say and write.[6] Those who have a passion for discernment research can follow the fascinating rabbit trails to learn more about the interesting list of "who's who" of document signers,[7] what they believe, their connections and interests.[8] There is plenty of evidence that this whole thing is about Dominionism.[9]

Suffice it to summarize our cynicism about The Manhattan Declaration by suggesting that readers sit up and pay notice to what might surface in the coming months as a Christian Right-morphing-into-Emergent ecumenical political agenda.

The Truth:

"He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" (Isaiah 44:20)

1. "The Manhattan Declaration," John MacArthur, 11/24/09,
2. Ibid.
3. See page 42 of the monograph, "The Pied Pipers of Purpose: Human Capital Systems and Church Performance," especially noting footnote 64.
4. For more information, read
5. MacArthur, Ibid.
6. For additional reading, see: and and
7. "The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience," posted with signers here:
8. Start here:
9. For example, see Chuck Colson: and Especially see Chuck Colson's "Worldview Spheres," and which is pure Dominionism. See these Herescope posts for an explanation: and also this: Also see and

* This is an ongoing series as new documents like this come out. For Part 1 of The New Global Civility go HERE. For Part 2 of "The New Global Civility: Manifestos, Declarations and Covenants" go HERE.