February 23, 2015

Strange Fire

This was a super intense book.

I ended up with seventeen pages of notes!

I grew up in a Charismatic Pentecostal church and so it was also very personal.

I have always highly respected John MacArthur and often listened to his radio show 'Grace to You.'

He is an excellent Bible teacher, and I would even go as far as to say one of the most devoted.

Do I agree with everything he says in this book? No. He is a cessationist, I am not. But I can say I learnt a lot from it and I am so glad to have read it.

To be honest, from my experience, I can sadly say, much of what he writes is true. Though I have to say he writes about the more extremist in the movement.

What I disagree with is the belief that the gifts of the spirit are no longer with us. I believe if God wants to heal He can still heal and that He continues to speak through His children.

Children like John Hus (one of the first reformers) and Betsie Ten Boom (Corrie's sister). Who both prophesied in their life-time and it came to pass. Their desire was not to bring attention to themselves but to the God they loved.

John Piper, in the preface of his book 'The Legacy of Sovereign Joy' says of John Hus's prophecy:

"On July 6, 1415, he (John Hus) was burned at the stake along with his books. One tradition says that in his cell just before his death, Hus wrote, 'Today, you are burning a goose (the meaning of 'Hus' in Czech); however, a hundred years from now, you will be able to hear a swan sing, you will not burn it, you will have to listen to him.' 

Martin Luther boldly saw himself as a fulfillment of this prophecy and wrote in 1531, 'John Hus prophesied of me when he wrote from his prison in Bohemia: They will now roast a goose (for Hus means a goose), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing; him they will have to tolerate. and so it shall continue, if it please God."

Martin Luther was one of the few early reformers who were not burned at the stake. He also nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany and the world listened.

Corrie Ten Boom in her book 'The Hiding Place' talks of a vision her sister Betsie had:

"And always at these meeting I spoke of Betsie's vision: of a home here in Holland where those who had been hurt could learn to live again unafraid."

The home Betsie described in detail was exactly the home donated to Corrie for this cause. She says here as she was getting a tour for the first time. She asked:

"Are there -' my throat was dry. 'Are there inlaid wood floors inside, and a grand gallery around a central hall, and - and bad-relief statues set along the walls?"

It was exactly as Betsie had described it.

I believe prophecy is personal. It is God's way of speaking to those who are in His will. It is not for show or to make money as many self-proclaimed prophets do.

I tread with caution as many come in God's name but do not know Him and do not speak for Him.

This book is about the abuses and mistreatment of the Holy Spirit, as well as exposing false teachers, false prophets and false healers. It gave me a greater respect for the Holy Spirit and a Biblical look at His work.

One of the misunderstandings of the Holy Spirit within the Pentecostal Church is, the teaching that only Pentecostals are filled with the Holy Spirit. I thought maybe this way of thinking was disappearing in charismatic circles but then I read an article online yesterday in the Charisma News. It was an article encouraging us to intercede for Franklin Graham, which I agree is a wonderful thing, but then I read this:

"Although he's not a Pentecostal spiritual warrior that prays in the spirit and binds devils, he has strong discernment and enough boldness to go toe-to-toe with the principalities and powers that have targeted Christians for destruction."                                                              Jennifer LeClaire

This makes no sense and greatly saddens me. She is insinuating that Franklin Graham is not filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore does not pray in the Spirit because he is not a Pentecostal. This is utter nonsense. What does he pray in then? If anyone is born again and filled and led by the Holy Spirit, it is Franklin Graham. Just look at his life!


John MacArthur says here:

"The charismatic fixation with the Holy Spirit's supposed work is false honor. Jesus said, 

'When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, 'He will testify of me.' John 15:26 

So when the Holy Spirit becomes the focal point of the church's message, His true work is undermined."

Jesus said 'He will testify of me' His true work is to point us to the Christ, not to give us 'spiritual experiences.'

I thought I'd share the fivefold test of Biblical discernment about the Holy Spirit from Jonathon Edwards based on 1 John 4 that John MacArthur shares and speaks on in his book.

These were uplifting and encouraging to me as well as gave me some clarity in regards to the Holy Spirit.

1. Does the work exalt the true Christ?

John MacArthur says:

"A true work of the Spirit shines the spotlight on the Savior, pointing to Him in an accurate, exalting and preeminent manner."

"Charismatics focus on the blessings and gifting of the Holy Spirit as center stage. In other words what the Spirit can give them (blessings and spiritual gifts) thus ignoring the purpose of the Holy Spirit which is drawing us to the Savior, Jesus Christ."

He quotes Matthew Henry:

"The Spirit came not to erect a new kingdom, but to glorify Christ"

And David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

"The Spirit does not glorify Himself; He glorifies the Son...This is, to me, one of the most amazing and remarkable things about the biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit seems to hide Himself and to conceal Himself. He is always, as it were, putting the focus on the Son, and that is why I believe, and I believe profoundly, that the best test of all as to whether we have received the Spirit is to ask ourselves, what do we think of, and what do we know about, the Son. Is the Son real to us? That is the work of the Spirit. He is glorified indirectly; He is always pointing us to the Son."

And Chuck Swindoll:

"Mark it down: the Spirit glorifies Christ. I'll go one step further: If the Holy Spirit Himself is being emphasized and magnified, He isn't in it! Christ is the One who is glorified when the Spirit is at work. He does his work behind the scenes, never in the limelight."

John MacArthur then goes onto say:

"Genuine evidence of the Holy Spirit in a person's life is not material prosperity, mindless emotionalism, or supposed miracles, rather, it is sanctification: the believer's growth in spiritual maturity, practical holiness, and Christlikeness through the power and leading of the Holy Spirit (as He applies biblical truth to the hearts of His saints). A true work of the Spirit convicts the heart of sin, combats worldly lusts, and cultivates spiritual fruit in the lives of God's people."

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you." John 16:13-14

2. Does it oppose worldliness?

John MacArthur says here:

"When the Holy Spirit is at work sinful pursuits, passions, and priorities are rooted out as believers, 'put to death the deeds of the body'(Rom 8:13) The Spirit's ministry is utterly opposed to the worldly desires of the flesh."

"Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." James 4:4

He continues here:

"The Holy Spirit does not tempt people with empty pursuits or the lusts of the flesh; rather, it promotes personal holiness and resists worldly desires."

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world." 1 John 2:15-16

3. Does it point people to the Scriptures?

John MacArthur states here:

"A true work of the Spirit leads believers to submit to apostolic teachings (i.e. the New Testament) and by extension the entire Bible. He guides them to a greater appreciation and love for the Scriptures. Conversely, false prophets belittle God's Word, adding their own ideas to it and twisting it's meaning."

"...as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." 2 Peter 3:16

Here are a few more quotes by John MacArthur on the Scriptures:

"The Bible is the Holy Spirit's book; He inspired it and He empowers it. It is the primary instrument He uses to convict the world of sin (John 16:8-11; Acts 2:37); to point sinners to the Savior (John 5:39; 1 John 5:6); and to conform believers into the image of their Lord (2Cor. 3:18; 1Peter 2:2)

"Human experience is subjective and fallible; only the Word of God is unfailing and inerrant, because it's Author is perfect."

"No true work of the Spirit will contradict, devalue, or add new revelation to the Scriptures. Instead it will elevate biblical truth in the hearts and minds of believers."

'And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book;

and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.' Revelation 22:17-19

4. Does it elevate the truth?

John MacArthur says here:

"A true work of the Spirit thrives on sound doctrine. It promotes Biblical truth; it does not dismiss it or see it as a threat. Once experience is allowed to be the litmus test for truth, subjectivism becomes dominant and neither doctrine nor practice is defined by the divine standard of Scripture."

"...the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). Any work of His will elevate Biblical truth and sound doctrine in the hearts and minds of His people."

5. Does it produce love of God and others?

He states here:

"A true work of the Spirit causes people to increase in their love for God and others."

And here:

 A true work of the Spirit produces a love of God that expresses itself in sober-minded adoration and praise that is the definition of Biblical worship." 

And here:

"In authentic worship thoughts and feelings together - along with all our human faculties are focused on God in pure adoration. That principle is implied in the first and great commandment...

'Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ Matt. 22:37"

I hope this isn't getting to long for you!

I just want to share one more thing. It's actually 6 things the Holy Spirit is doing in the world today as quoted by the author.

1. The Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers

“And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

of sin, because they do not believe in Me" John 16:8-9

2. The Holy Spirit regenerates sinful hearts

"But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,

not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,

whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-7

3. The Holy Spirit brings sinners to repentance

"And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,

in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,

and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will." 2 Tim. 2:24-25

4. The Holy Spirit enables fellowship with God

 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." John 17:3

5. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer

"But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His." Romans 8:9

6. The Holy Spirit seals salvation forever

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.

My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand." John 10: 27-29

I'll leave you with a thought-provoking, yet simple question John MacArthur asks:

"...for those who wonder if they are truly being filled with the Holy Spirit, the proper question is not 'have I had a ecstatic experience?' Rather, it is, 'Am I becoming more and more like Jesus?"

Buy it HERE on Amazon

February 9, 2015

5 Lies We Should Not Believe...

I remember reading this quote by Francis Chan several years ago and it changed everything for me.

"Let's be eager to leave what is familiar for what is true. Nothing outside of God and His truth should be sacred to us." Francis Chan

At that time I left everything that was religiously familiar to me and turned to Christ alone. Of course a lot of what I was taught was true and good and that was reinforced by my focus on the Lord, but it has also filtered out a lot of the not so good teachings and beliefs.

The things I'm mentioning in this post are things many Christians have questioned lately within the modern church. I've included a few book recommendations as well.

Lie # 1: There is no hell

If you are on any kind of social media you have probably heard of this controversy about whether there is a hell. In fact, this is nothing new. It's been debated throughout time.

Jesus said:

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matt. 10:28

A great book on this subject is Francis Chan's Erasing Hell

Lie # 2: It's OK to doubt

No where in Scripture does God command us to doubt, but rather the complete opposite.

His encourages us to trust.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;

 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths." Prov. 3:5-6
"Trust in the LORD forever,
For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength." Isa. 26:4

God doesn't ask us to trust Him with part of our heart, but the whole of our heart. There is no room for doubt. If we doubt, and we will at times, we need only to ask God to help us with our unbelief, we should never embrace it.

Here are some powerful and sobering words from the apostle Paul about what Jesus said of those with unbelief (doubt).

"And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?
So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." Hebrews 3:18-19

We must let go of our doubts and rest in Him.

"Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass." Psalm 37:7

Andrew Murray has a wonderful book called The True Vine which deals with this.

The biography of Hudson Taylor called Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret , as well as John Bunyan's book Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners also deal with the struggles they faced before letting go and learning to rest in God.

Lie # 3: God didn't create the world in 6 days

This verse speaks of God creating the light and darkness and calling them day and night and that this was the first full day.

"God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day." Gen 1:5

I've heard Christians dance around this verse with their scientific theories but the truth is..."God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day."

He made the world in 6 days and then rested on the 7th.

Lie # 4: It's no big deal to say OMG

This may be the most popular lie within the church today and is not only dishonoring to a Holy God but has consequences.

Thank God for His grace.

"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." Ex. 20:7

Let us always reverence His name on high.

"I will praise the name of God with a song,
And will magnify Him with thanksgiving." Psalm 69:30

Let our lips speak praise unto His name.

"Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." Heb. 13:15

Lie # 5: God doesn't do anything to relieve suffering in the world

I think this is the biggest lie of all.

What has God done to relieve suffering in the world?

He came to earth to live a perfect life so we could be perfected in Him, He died a violent death so we could be justified through Him and He rose from the dead to reconcile us to Himself.

Man will do what he will, but never say God did nothing for the world.

He did everything, when He didn't have to. He understands suffering and He sits with us everyday in ours.

When Jesus read Isaiah 61:1 in the synagogue he proclaimed the Scripture was fulfilled in Him that day.

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to
the poor;
He has sent Me
to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to
the blind,
set at liberty those who are oppressed; 
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.

And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18-21

God sent His Son to heal the brokenhearted and to set the captive free. 

Let us as Christians then have the attitude of Paul and share Christ's gospel:

"Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ

 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Phl. 3:3-14

Let us, like Paul, press on fully, trusting and taking God at his Word. And being thankful in prayer for what He has done for us.

A great book that deals with this subject is Randy Alcorn's The Goodness of God: Assurance of Purpose in the Midst of Suffering

February 3, 2015

The Queen's Handmaid

This novel was so interesting!

From Egypt, to Rome, to Jerusalem, you are transported back to a time of turbulence, thirty-nine years before the birth of Christ.

Setting the scene for the coming of the Messiah, it gave me a better understanding of what was happening in those few years before.

Filled with history, it has definitely peaked my curiosity to learn more about some of it's leading characters. Cleopatra, Marc Anthony, Herod the Great, the High Priest and so on.

It also focused on the fictional character of Lydia, a handmaid to Cleopatra in Egypt, to Marc Antony's wife, Octavia in Rome, and finally to Herod's wife, Mariamme in Jerusalem.

Lydia is requested to complete the task of bringing scared scrolls, with the secret writings of Daniel within, to Jerusalem.

The author shares here of her idea for this story:

"...the book of Daniel showed me something I had never seen before. The last few chapters of the book are concerned chiefly with 'the time of the end' and in chapter 12, verses 4 and 9, the angel Michael, speaking to Daniel, tells him to 'roll up and seal' the words of the scroll until the time of the end. What were these words, I wondered. If only the book of Daniel itself, then it was apparently unsealed before the time of the end. Is it possible that other words, other scrolls, exist somewhere still sealed with unknown prophecies? It was enough of an intriguing idea that I decided to place these scrolls in Lydia's hands, and charge her with returning them to the guardians who had lost them generations before."
I thought I'd share this one quote from the book as I felt it was timely in the days we are living in.

At one point in the novel Lydia has reached the temple in Jerusalem and as she climbs the hill beside it she thinks about all that the olive trees there have witnessed through the years...

"Olive trees were notoriously long-lived. How many battles had this one witnessed, here above the Temple? Had it seen the Temple desecrated by the Seleucid king's offering of pigs over a century ago and cheered Judah Maccabee as he led his revolt? 

Three hundred years ago, when Alexander the Great conquered most of the world, had it mourned for the fall of Jerusalem? Nearly six hundred years ago, when Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Solomon's Temple and carried away the best of Israel to Babylon, had this olive tree weathered even that? The history of Israel was a history of war, Samuel had taught her. Forever and always the enemies of Israel sought to control, suppress, annihilate. And yet she remained.

And one day, Israel's Messiah would appear and set all things right."

This was a wonderful story based on history and a real thought-provoker.

I highly recommend any of Tracy's books to history lovers alike.

Buy it HERE on Amazon