Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Flying on Instruments

Fellowship of Companies for Christ (FCCI)


"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways and He will guide you on the right path."  Proverbs 3.5-6

"Now if any of you lacks wisdom, He should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and will be given to him."  James 1.5

Have you ever been in a business situation where you simply did not know what to do?  Have events happened so fast that you could not keep perspective and did not know how to respond?  Did the situation seem out of control, because the reference points that you relied on in the past were no longer visible?

Pilots are trained to fly under two separate types of conditions: visual flight rules (VFR), and instrument flight rules (IFR).  Visual flight rules are in effect when the pilot can see around him and, most importantly, when he can see the horizon to know how to keep the plane upright.  Under VFR rules, pilots are required to stay clear of clouds.  In IFR, the pilots are flying in clouds and are not able to see the horizon.  IFR aircraft are equipped with specific instrumentation to provide the pilot with all the information he needs to be able to control the aircraft.  The fundamental issue in training a pilot to fly IFR is getting him to trust his instruments and then to respond according to what the instruments are telling him to safely fly the aircraft.

Running a company for Christ is very similar to flying IFR.  The situation is often unclear and we are unable to clearly discern the events and situations to be able to make decisions on our own.  It seems that God often creates such circumstances to get us to trust Him.  But, just as an IFR aircraft is equipped to provide all the information the pilot needs to fly the airplane in IFR conditions, so God has provided everything the Christian CEO or business leader needs to manage his company in uncertain times.

The first set of "instruments" is the Scriptures.  God has provided everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1.3-4), including running the company entrusted to us, in His precious promises, which are a key part of the Scriptures.  One author has suggested there are 30,000 promises in Scripture, not counting those that are to a specific person or people group.  So many of the issues that concern us as CEOs are already dealt with in Scripture.  Just as the pilot has to continually study the pilots operating handbook (POH) to understand how to fly the airplane, so we need to be continually studying the Scriptures to know how to manage the company God has entrusted to us.

It is one thing to study the Scriptures; it is an entirely different thing to believe them to be true.  That is called faith: believing what God tells us about what we do not know.  For example, the Scriptures might command us to approach negotiations on a business deal from a position of trust rather than distrust.  Then we are faced with the question: Will we respond according to our "gut feel" or according to what the Scriptures say (Prov. 3.5-6)?

The actions we take are driven by what we believe.  In order to effectively "pilot" this company through stormy and dark times, we need to study the Scriptures, trust and believe that they are true, and then act according to that belief.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Broken Spirit

Here is a word for you from the Word

Psalm 51:16-17, You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. NIV

What is David the psalmist telling us there? Surely he’s telling us that first and foremost God is not interested in externals. Sacrifice and offerings are not necessarily things that God does not want, but they are things that He does not want first and foremost. And if that’s all there is in our lives – the external practices of religion – then God takes no pleasure in them. He looks below the surface; He looks to the heart; He looks to the motives; He looks to the attitude.

 And it says that the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Those are strange words to our ears today. What does it mean that God desires a broken spirit? Does He want to crush us? Does He want to beat us down? Does He want to humiliate us? No, I’m sure that’s not it. What is a broken spirit? I think it’s a spirit that has come totally to the end of itself. All independence, all self-will and all self-righteousness have been purged out. We’ve come to the place where we have no hope but in God; we’ve come to the end of our own resources. We have no claims upon God, we simply turn to Him for His mercy and His faithfulness, not trusting our own merits, but clinging only to God. - Derek Prince

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Victimizing Christians

Martin & Deidre Bobgan - PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries

Psychological counseling theories and therapies have given Americans a new way of thinking and have turned our country into a therapeutic culture of the self—where the self and how it feels about itself are at the center of meaning. People from coast to coast have embraced a psychological mindset that puts emotional deprivation and woundedness as the root cause of nearly every personal and social problem. This mindset has the potential to make everyone into a victim needing the services of the ever-expanding mental-health system. Fifteen years ago Charles Sykes wrote a book titled A Nation of Victims: The Decay of the American Character, in which he says:

The ethos of victimization has an endless capacity not only for exculpating one's self from blame, washing away responsibility in a torrent of explanation—racism, sexism, rotten parents, addiction, and illness—but also for projecting guilt onto others.1

Sykes also says, "The impulse to flee from personal responsibility and blame others seems far more deeply embedded within the American culture."2 In fact, he declares, "The National Anthem has become The Whine," and explains, "Increasingly, Americans act as if they had received a lifelong indemnification from misfortune and a contractual release from personal responsibility."3

Psychological Mindset

The psychological mindset evolved out of the fairly recent development of clinical psychology (including psychotherapy, counseling psychology, and marriage and family counseling), which was birthed in colleges and universities around 1950 and expanded through politics and money.4 Since that time, it has exploded to the extent that Dr. Ellen Herman describes psychology's popularity and impact on the Western world this way in her book titled The Romance of American Psychology:

Psychological insight is the creed of our time. In the name of enlightenment, experts promise help and faith, knowledge and comfort. They devise confident formulas for happy living and ambitious plans for dissolving the knots of conflict. Psychology, according to its boosters, possesses worthwhile answers to our most difficult personal questions and practical solutions for our most intractable social problems

Herman also says:

In the late twentieth-century United States, we are likely to believe what psychological experts tell us. They speak with authority to a vast audience and have become familiar figures in most communities, in the media, and in virtually every corner of popular culture. Their advice is a big business.6

The kind of psychology that carries this power to turn people into victims is psychotherapy with its underlying psychologies, such as Sigmund Freud's theory of the unconscious and Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, along with an estimated 500 different counseling systems and their theories. After all, who has a perfect life, certainly none of the theorists, all of whom developed their systems out of their own personal lives and creative imagination?7

In her book Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology Industry Is Doing to People, Dr. Tana Dineen reveals what the so-called caring profession has become. She begins her book with the following words and the rest of her book proves her point:

Psychology presents itself as a concerned and caring profession working for the good of its clients. But behind the benevolent facade is a voracious, self-serving industry that proffers "facts" which are often unfounded, provides "therapy" which can be damaging, and exerts influence, which is having devastating effects on the social fabric.8

Dineen also says:

It is not news to say that psychology has become an influential cultural force or that society is becoming more and more filled with people who consider themselves victims who are psychologically needy in one way or another.

What is news is that psychology is manufacturing most of these victims; that it is doing this with motives based on power and profit (emphasis hers).9

While, indeed, there are real victims, the psychotherapeutic mindset has trivialized the horrors that some people have experienced by so expanding the meaning that now everyone qualifies if they want to. The role of victim can actually be quite enticing. Besides qualifying for sympathy from friends, engaging in endless psychological therapy centered on self, and gaining exoneration from responsibility and guilt, being a victim provides a new identity of being the hero or heroine in one's own drama of overcoming horrendous obstacles in the grand quest for psychological healing. Rather than having to face the ugly fact of their own sin without excuse or reason or blame-shifting, they choose to be victims. Dr. Carol Tavris and Dr. Elliot Aronson describe the usefulness of victimhood that comes from recovered memory therapy in their book titled Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. They say:

Why would people claim to remember that they had suffered harrowing experiences if they hadn't, especially when that belief causes rifts with families or friends? By distorting their memories, these people can "get what they want by revising what they had," and what they want is to turn their present lives, no matter how bleak or mundane, into a dazzling victory over adversity. Memories of abuse also help them resolve the dissonance between "I am a smart, capable person" and "My life sure is a mess right now" with an explanation that makes them feel good and removes responsibility: "It's not my fault my life is a mess. Look at the horrible things they did to me."10

Psychological Mindset Christianized?

Yes, we are surrounded by a nation of victims with a therapeutic mindset, but wait—we are Christians! How does this affect those of us who have been given new life through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross? What does this have to do with the Gospel and with living the Christian life? Plenty!

Almost as soon as the romance of psychology took hold of Americans, it was embraced by Christians who believed psychological counseling theories and therapies would be useful for helping Christians. These psychological counseling ideas were brought into pastoral counseling classes in numerous seminaries. Next came the "Christian psychologists" who devised a plan to integrate counseling psychologies theories and therapies with Christianity, both for counseling believers and for instructing the saints about how to live the Christian life. And now, what is the advice people hear when they are struggling with emotional distress and problems of living? "You need counseling." And, what they mean is professional counseling, psychotherapy and its underlying theories of the self. Why? Because they believe a lie that, in essence, says that the cross of Christ, the Word of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of believers are not enough for people with emotional or relational problems of living and that Christians need what only psychological theories and therapies can do. This is because of what Sykes calls:

The triumph of the therapeutic mentality ... which insisted upon seeing the immemorial questions of human life as problems that required solutions. The therapeutic culture provided both in abundance: The therapists transformed age-old human dilemmas into psychological problems and claimed that they (and they alone) had the treatment.11

This lie about the Word of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of the saints not being sufficient for dealing with so-called psychological problems of living is promoted by numerous leaders and believed throughout the church. One of them is Dr. Bruce Narramore, Distinguished Professor at Rosemead School of Psychology at Biola University, who says: "I think the critics [of psychology] need to ask, 'Why are people so interested in psychology?' The thought is that we ought to go back to the old way. But the old way wasn't working."12 Narramore says this without proof or evidence and thereby implies that for nearly 2000 years God failed to supply His children with the means of dealing with problems of living.

The integration of the theories and therapies of counseling psychology has succeeded in turning the body of Christ into a bunch of victims. If this were a book title, the subtitle could be "The Demise of Biblical Ministry." In its eager embrace of this kind of psychology, the church has left its first love and fallen for the wisdom of man and "philosophy and vain deceit" (1 Cor. 2; Col. 2:8). That this kind of psychology is now regular fare in churches across America can be seen in the observation of Dr. Frank Furedi in his book Therapy Culture, in which he says: "A study of 'seeker churches' in the US argues that their ability to attract new recruits is based on their ability to tap into the therapeutic understanding of Americans."13 He sees this as a preoccupation with the self, and, indeed, that is what it is all about—self!

All About Self

The focus of psychological therapy is on self and its problems from the perspective that the self is essentially good, but wounded emotionally by circumstances and other people. Therefore more and more Christians are seeing themselves as innocent victims with their "mistakes" and problems of living being due to other people and circumstances beyond their control. Worse yet, some, who have been convinced that the source of their problems is what happened to them as young children, spend months and years in therapy and/or in so-called inner healing. Some are trying to gain insight by remembering real events and some are searching for supposedly forgotten memories of abuse and neglect. Others are encouraged to see a figure of Jesus add something to the memory to heal or change it, but, since this is all in their imagination, they end up with a false Jesus. The idea in all of this kind of counseling and inner healing is that self has been harmed in some way and must be helped and healed.

Psychotherapy thus attempts to fix the self so that its so-called essential goodness can be experienced and expressed. The psychological mindset sees the problem as on the outside. The solution is found within the self, albeit with the help of those who have special psychological knowledge. Self is central and must be nurtured with self-love, self-esteem, and self-worth, all of which are supposed to lead to self-fulfillment, but which generally increase self-absorption, self-centeredness, and self-indulgence.

In contrast, the Word of God presents the truth about mankind, that we are sinners by nature and therefore not essentially good in ourselves. Romans 3:10 says: "There is none righteous, no not one" and verse 23 says, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." The problem of sin comes from within and the solution comes from outside ourselves, from God Himself through the cross of Christ, who bore our sin, and purchased our new life, which is received by grace through faith and lived by grace through faith.

Victim or Sinner?

One of the main goals of much counseling psychology is to relieve guilt so that individuals can feel better about themselves and thereby supposedly handle their lives more effectively. Helping an individual see himself as needy, emotionally wounded, and having been harmed or disappointed by others is one convenient way to sidestep personal responsibility, sin, and guilt. This is the opposite of the Bible, which provides the true remedy for sin and the only remedy for the human condition through Jesus Christ and all He accomplished to rid one of sin and guilt.

The whole of Scripture points to the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world. Its focal point is Jesus Christ satisfying God's wrath against sin and procuring forgiveness and new life for believers. Christianity is all about living the new life and reckoning oneself dead to the old life. Christianity is not about focusing on problems and on other people's sins and shortcomings, and it is not about dredging up the past to fix the present. The Christian life is about confessing one's own sin, walking according to the new life in Christ, and "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before" towards the goal of the "high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13,14).

The early church had the one remedy for everyone's present problems and past circumstances: the cross of Christ! The magnitude of each person's sin against God from the cradle to the grave is more than anyone could bear to imagine, but Jesus took it all upon Himself so that he could give every believer new life. He, who knew no sin, died in the place of those who were by nature sin. He did not just come to fix the flesh (the old nature). He came to put it on the cross so that believers, by identifying with Him, could reckon themselves dead to the old and alive to the new.

Everyone has been adversely affected by the sins of others to some degree, but the adverse effects or the sinful tendencies from parents or sinful ways learned from them reside in the flesh (old nature). Our flesh is therefore the problem, not something outside ourselves, either past or present. Therefore, the Bible does not teach people to nurture their so-called "inner child" or to develop self-esteem or to probe their early childhood years to look for ways that adults failed them in any way. The Bible does not advise anyone to remember and re-experience past pain, disappointments, or even abuse for the sake of personal or spiritual growth. The Bible does not suggest that people must be healed emotionally before they can believe God or before they can grow spiritually.

Considering the grievous circumstances and the childhoods of many of the Gentile Christians, the early church had plenty of potential "victims" (many born and raised in slavery with the accompanying sexual and physical abuse and being treated as less than human). But, did the church treat them as victims needing to heal their emotional wounds or to remember the pain of the past in order to know God and to grow spiritually? No! The Bible does not portray mankind as victims, but as sinners. Jesus died for sinners, not victims!

The Way of the Cross

The way of the cross is a totally different way of dealing with serious life issues and problems of living. Rather than trying to remember the past and somehow rework painful memories through therapy or so-called inner healing, Christians need to reckon themselves dead to the past by identifying with Christ's death and to live according to their new life in Christ. Everything needs to be taken to the cross instead of relived and talked about. Nevertheless, many of the people who promote this senseless return to the past agree that Christ died for our sins, but insist that many Christians still need healing from the past. However, digging up old memories for the purpose of changing one's present life is counterproductive to the cross and in effect denies the finished work of Christ.

Jesus said, "It is finished." So we say to fellow Christians: Identify with those words when you bring sin to the cross, your own sin and the sins committed against you. Recognize that Jesus suffered the pain and eternal consequence of those sins. He felt the pain and agony of every sin you have committed and the pain of every sin committed against you. He took it all and said, "It is finished." If a memory with its pain comes back, treat it as a temptation from the enemy, who wants to rob you of the truth of what Christ did and to undermine your identification with Him, both in His death and resurrection. Satan always works to keep Christians struggling in the flesh, because that is where they are the most vulnerable and because he hates the life of Christ in every believer. He is most pleased when Christians walk according to the flesh or their old nature. Therefore, the devil is pleased with all forms of psychological therapy and related forms of inner healing, including Theophostic Prayer Ministry.14

Think Biblically, Not Psychologically

Christians need to think biblically when they read books about how to live and deal with problems of living. They need to guard their thinking when watching or listening to believers or unbelievers talking about how to deal with the issues of life and about what it is to be a Christian. They need to be alert to such expressions as: felt needs, rejection, broken lives, repression, denial, defense mechanisms, inferiority complex, sublimation, projection, transference, maladjustment, low self-esteem, the unconscious, hidden reservoirs, hidden memories, emotional wounds, emotional healing, codependence, addiction, compulsion, trauma, stress, identity crisis. Every behavior imaginable has the possibility of a psychological maldescription.

Utilizing psychological therapies or inner healing blinds Christians to the glory of the cross and the great love that was poured out for them. Those who are willing to face their own depravity and the sins they continue to commit after they have received new life and who honestly look at what Jesus bore in their place have a greater realization of God's love. Jesus said, "To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little" (Luke 7:47). Thus, by seeing the magnitude of what Christ forgave them, believers know His love, and by knowing and receiving His love, are enabled to love Him back and His love in them flows out to others. The cross is the answer to all the pain of the past, and Jesus is the answer for every present problem of living. Here is the victory won by Christ and worked into the fabric of believers' lives as they reckon themselves dead to their old life and alive unto Him. No wonder the enemy of our souls has invented such an enticing trap into victimhood!

Believers do not transform their lives through looking at the sins of others or by revisiting the past, but by confessing their own sin and believing that Jesus took it all. Believers need to leave their own sin and the sins committed against them on the cross and not try to remember, reconstruct, fix or transform the so-called inner child, which is actually the old nature or flesh. They are to live by the new life Jesus has procured for them, the new life that stretches forward into eternity. Colossians 2:6-10 says:

As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.

The Word of God continually calls believers back to their source of new life, back to faith in Christ and all he accomplished for living the new life. Believers are not called to be victims of their present circumstances or their past or of a powerful motivating unconscious supposedly formed during early life. They are to be walking by faith, growing in faith, and "abounding therein with thanksgiving." That does not sound like the whine of the victims.

Furthermore, Paul warns believers not to be robbed of what they have in Christ through "philosophy and vain deceit" that turns them into victims. Psychological counseling theories are not science. They more aptly fall into Paul's category of "philosophy and vain deceit." Indeed, they resemble religion more than science. Dr. Thomas Szasz states the case very clearly in his book The Myth of Psychotherapy: "Herein lies one of the supreme ironies of modem psychotherapy: it is not merely a religion that pretends to be a science, it is actually a fake religion that seeks to destroy true religion.Ó15 Psychological counseling theories are collections of human opinions arranged in theoretical frameworks. They are human inventions based on the perception and personal experiences of the theorists themselves. They are "profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith"(1 Tim. 6:20-21).

Even when Paul was beaten and left for dead, he did not see himself as a victim, but as a recipient of the very life of Christ by grace through faith. Therefore he declared: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Rather than victims forever seeking to be healed of emotional wounds, Christians are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), fully equipped for challenges, trials, disappointments, dangers, and all sorts of calamities. Christ has won the victory and "ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power."

Victimization shifts the attention away from one's own responsibility for what is thought, said, and done. Victimization shifts attention away from one's own sin and onto the sins of others committed against them. Victimization diverts believers away from the cross of Christ. Victimization robs them of gratitude for God's unspeakable gift and thereby robs them of a close walk with Him. Turning Christians into victims weakens their faith and stunts spiritual growth. Every choice to walk according to the Spirit by grace through faith brings spiritual maturity. The choice is up to every believer, whether to be a psychologically defined and created victim or to be a biblically defined sinner saved by grace and growing into the likeness of Christ.

(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, May-June 2008, Vol. 16, No. 3)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Endnotes
1 Charles J. Sykes. A Nation of Victims: The Decay of the American Character. New York: St. MartinÕs Press, 1992, p. 11.
2 Ibid., pp. 14,15.
3 Ibid., p. 15.
4 Rogers H. Wright and Nicholas A. Cummings, eds. The Practice of Psychology: The Battle for Professionalism. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen, Inc., 2001.
5 Ellen Herman. The Romance of American Psychology. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1195, 1996, p. 1.
6 Ibid.
7 Harvey Mindess. Makers of Psychology: The Personal Factor. New York: Insight Books, 1988; Linda Riebel, ÒTheory as Self-Portrait and the Ideal of Objectivity,Ó Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Spring 1982.
8 Tana Dineen. Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology Industry is Doing to People. Montreal, QB: Robert Davies Multimedia Publishing, 1996, 1998, 2000, p. 15.
9 Ibid., pp. 17,18.
10 Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2007, p. 94.
11 Sykes, op. cit., p. 34.
12 Bruce Narramore, Christianity Today, May 17, 1993, p. 26.
13 Frank Furedi. Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Uncertain Age. New York: Routledge, 2004, p. 18.
14 See Martin and Deidre Bobgan. Theophostic Counseling: Divine Revelation? Or PsychoHeresy? Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 1999.
15 Thomas Szasz. The Myth of Psychotherapy. Garden City: Anchor/Doubleday Press, 1978, p. 28.

Related articles:
Perilous Times
"...men shall be lovers of their own selves..."
Self-Esteem for Christians? Part 1 and 2

Perilous Times

Martin & Deidre Bobgan - PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries

Christians are living in perilous times. Dissatisfaction, distress, discomfort, discouragement, despair, depression, divorce, discord, disdain, disgust, dissension, and disobedience are all too common among those people who are called to bear witness to God’s glory and to reflect the image of Christ. Countless Christians have turned to professional counselors and psychologists to help them solve their problems of living, but the problems seem to be increasing.

Problem-laden Christian consumers can also choose from a vast variety of products, books, seminars, and self-help groups, but problems continue to multiply. The more the problems are addressed, the more problem-centered people become. Even those who attempt to solve their problems of living with biblical principles often end up problem-centered without getting to the root of the real problem. Solving problems often only takes care of superficial symptoms, only to be replaced by other symptoms. Some Christians exist from crisis to crisis. Others bear up under a load of care that just seems to get heavier and heavier as the years go by.

There have never been so many books available to Christians in their search for the perfect family, the perfect marriage, and the perfect life. Nevertheless, many Christians fail to reflect the image of Christ in their family, marriage, and life. Could it be that the difficulties Christians are facing are related to living in those perilous times of which Paul warned Timothy? "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves . . ." (2 Tim. 3:1,2).

People are perishing because of love—self-love. They have been taught by modern psychological experts that they should love themselves. They have been told that unless they love themselves they cannot love others. Preachers and other well-meaning people have echoed the words, "You need to love yourself." Radio psychologists and preachers pound the airwaves with such advice. Love yourself. Esteem yourself. Honor yourself. You are worth it. But more often such temptations to pity or aggrandize self are subtle and easily received because the heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:9).

But, notice what comes from people becoming "lovers of their own selves." These people who are "lovers of their own selves" are "covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:2-4).

A quick view of the words following "lovers of their own selves" reveals a very sinful state of existence as well as sinful attitudes and sinful actions. Such love of self is so powerful that "lovers of their own selves" are "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." This is in sharp contrast to the Great Commandment:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Matt. 22:36-39).

While promoters of self-love try to read a third commandment (love self) into this passage of Scripture, Jesus made it clear that he was speaking of only two commandments, for he said, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:40). There is no command in Scripture to love self.

People suffer from unhappiness and problems of living because they have become "lovers of their own selves" and "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." The sinful inclination of humanity is to love self more than God and other people. Selfishness clings to human nature and breeds covetousness, lust, pride, arrogance, disrespect for God, disobedience to parents, lack of gratitude, deceit, and both desire and contention for one’s own way. And it leads to false accusations, which are rampant as people have been encouraged to blame their parents, circumstances, and everything but themselves for their predicaments.

Could it be that people are trying to grow and improve themselves and their circumstances without touching the root of the problem? Could it be that love for self is lurking beneath even the most benevolent gesture and behind the most fervent prayer? What kind of personal growth are people looking for? Personal growth that will enhance their self-esteem or personal growth that involves denying self and taking up one’s cross? Personal growth that will affirm their own worth or conform them to the image of Christ?

Both forms of growth, towards loving self or towards loving God, carry a heavy cost. Loving self more than God leads to spiritual loss, but loving God with one’s entire being leads to denying self and allowing the death blow of the cross to work against the old man (that self so many of us cling to and love) that is to be reckoned dead (Romans 6).

Jesus said:

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? (Luke 9:23-25).

While God is the one who saves and sanctifies, He has also ordained that good works follow His Work:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:8-10).

These good works include loving God with one’s entire being and obeying Him, for one’s love for God is expressed in obeying Him and in loving one another. One does not gain salvation or attain his own sanctification through good works. Rather, the good works follow what God has already done and continues to do. Thus, Paul says:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Phil. 2:12,13).

In addition, all these things are to be done without murmuring or disputing (Phil. 2:14), that is, without complaining or arguing with God about one’s circumstances and how one is to conduct oneself in the sight of God.

Throughout the Christian walk there is the putting off of the old ways (the old man with its deceitful lusts) and putting on the new man, "which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:24). This is the daily walk of the Christian. Putting off the old man is equivalent to denying self, and putting on the new man involves taking up one’s cross and following Christ.

While most Christians would agree in principle, how many of us are actually doing that daily, moment by moment? How many of us are trusting the Lord enough to take up our cross, acknowledge Him in all our ways, and look to Him to lead us away from self love to loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to loving one another as much as we already love ourselves? Every day is filled with opportunities to love God first or please self first. Which way will we go?

Related articles:
"...men shall be lovers of their own selves..."
Self-Esteem for Christians? Part 1 and 2

"...men shall be lovers of their own selves..."

Martin & Deidre Bobgan - PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries

So . . . what do you think Jesus would say to pop singer Madonna? While former reporter and atheist, now assistant pastor at Willow Creek Community Church Lee Strobel admits he’s "not pretending to have divine revelation from God on what Jesus would say," his book title, What Jesus Would Say, gives the impression he has a pretty good idea about what Jesus would say. But, we have to wonder what Jesus he’s talking about, because his Jesus sounds more like a pop-psych-pastor than God the Son. Strobel’s Jesus identifies Madonna’s problem as a self-esteem issue. Self-esteem? That’s because it’s easier to get someone to come to church if you identify one’s problem as low self-esteem instead of sin. And, contrary to what so many pastors-turned-pop-psychologist like Strobel would have you believe, the Bible says: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves. . ." (2 Timothy 3:1,2).

Promise Keepers also promote self-esteem and self-love. The following is from Promise Keepers Newsletter, Winter, 1993:

Many Christian single men have fought the battle to build their own self-worth, self-esteem, and self-love. They have learned that it is impossible to have a healthy relationship with others while having an unhealthy relationship with one’s self. Jesus recognized this when He challenged us to love our neighbor as we would love ourself (Mark 12:31).

In their eagerness to embrace psychological teachings of the world, Promise Keepers shift the thrust of the verse and make it sound as if we are commanded to love ourselves. But Jesus gave two commandments: to love God and to love neighbor. Loving self was not a commandment, but rather the manner in which to follow the second commandment. In other words, loving self is the natural human propensity. The very statement of Jesus is built on the fact that people already love themselves (see also Ephesians 5:28,29).

Christianity is about a loving relationship with the Lord and about loving one another. Christ did not teach his disciples to love themselves, but rather assumed that they already did when he said: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself" (Luke 10:27). Just as we naturally care for ourselves and want what is good for ourselves, we are to care for others and want what is good for them.

An individual wrote to us and asked how Proverbs 19:8; Proverbs 8:35,36; and Proverbs 15:32 might relate to the idea that "we already love ourselves" and "don’t hate ourselves."

Here is what we understand these verses to mean and how they do or do not relate to self-love and self-hatred. "He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good" (Proverbs 19:8). While everyone already loves himself, not all people are wise. While they may love to indulge themselves in foolishness, they do not care for their soul, their spiritual life; therefore the encouragement is to get wisdom and keep understanding. An analogy might be that we must eat to live, but those who eat unwisely do not properly care for their bodies. This verse does not refute "we already love ourselves." Proverbs 8:35 continues that same theme regarding wisdom: "For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD." These Proverbs offer two options:(1) finding God’s wisdom and thereby living a good or godly life, or (2) refusing God’s wisdom and losing the possibility for living a good life.

The next two verses speak warnings to those who choose option 2. "But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death" (Proverbs 8:36). Those of whom the verse speaks love themselves more than they love God, but in the long run they will destroy themselves. It is not that they actively "love death" or that they hate themselves.

It is that the arrogant self-indulgence of hating God and going one’s own way is spiritual death. The same is true for Proverbs 15:32, "He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding." It is not active self-hatred here but rather a warning that one’s soul is in jeopardy if one refuses the Lord’s instruction. The contrast is that those who "heareth reproof getteth understanding."

The following is from our book Prophets of PsychoHeresy II regarding self-hatred:

Now we are not saying that there are no individuals who genuinely think that they hate themselves. However, what they generally hate is something about themselves or their circumstances. They exhibit actual love for themselves in that they continue to spend most of their time concerned about themselves, even if it is with unhappy thoughts. They generally get to the point where they are unhappy about themselves because a discrepancy exists between their aspirations or desires and their performance or condition. This intensive hate is evidence of high self-interest.

The problem is always the self-focus with people who think they hate themselves or think they need to love themselves more.

In his book Life in the Spirit, Martyn Lloyd-Jones says:

The real cause of failure,ultimately, in marriage is always self and the various manifestations of self. Of course that is the cause of trouble everywhere and in every realm. Self and selfishness are the greatest disrupting forces in the world. All the major problems confronting the world, whether you look at the matter from the standpoint of nations and statesmen, or from the standpoint of industry and social conditions, or from any other standpoint—all these troubles ultimately come back to self, to ‘my rights,’ to ‘what I want,’ and to ‘who is he?’ or ‘who is she?’ Self, with its horrid manifestations, always leads to trouble, because if two ‘selfs’ come into opposition there is bound to be a clash. Self always wants everything for it-self. That is true of my self, but it is equally true of your self. You at once have two autonomous powers, each deriving from self, and a clash is inevitable. Such clashes occur at every level, from two people right up to great communities and empires and nations.

Self-esteem teachings distort the Bible, reflect the world, and appeal to the natural man. The Bible teaches believers to esteem others better than self, to love one another as we already love ourselves, and to deny self daily.

Related articles:
Self-Esteem for Christians? Part 1 and 2

Self-Esteem for Christians? Part 1 and 2

Part One and Part Two by Martin and Deidre Bobgan - PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries

Do children and adults really need self-esteem? Does low self-esteem lead to serious life problems? Should parents attempt to build self-esteem in their children? Does the Bible encourage self-esteem? Many Christians have assumptions about self-esteem. But, what does the Bible say? What does research say?

The Genesis of Self-Esteem

The self-esteem movement has its most recent roots in clinical psychology, namely in the personality theories of such men as William James, Alfred Adler, Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers. It became further popularized by their many followers. Nevertheless, the roots of the self-esteem movement reach further back into human history.

The self-esteem movement began in the third chapter of Genesis. Initially Adam and Eve were God-conscious and aware of one another and their surroundings rather than being self-conscious. Their awareness of themselves was incidental and peripheral to their focus on God and one another. Adam realized that Eve was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, but he was not self-aware in the same sense that his descendants would be. Self was not the issue until the Fall.

Partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil did not bring godly wisdom. It brought guilt, fear, and separation from God. Thus, when Adam and Eve heard God approaching, they hid in the bushes. But God saw them and asked, "Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?" (Genesis 3:11).

Sinful Self

Adam and Eve answered with the first example of self-justification. First Adam blamed Eve and God, and then Eve blamed the serpent. The fruit of the knowledge of good and evil spawned the sinful self with all of its self-love, self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-justification, self-righteousness, self-actualization, self-denigration, self-pity and other forms of self-focus and self-centeredness.

The present Self-Etc. movement is thus rooted in Adam and Eve's sin. Through the centuries mankind has continued to feast at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which has spread its branches of worldly wisdom. It has branched out into the vain philosophies of men and, more recently, the "scientized" philosophies and metaphysics of modern psychology.

Religious incantations for self-worth, self-love, and self-acceptance ooze out of the TV tube, drift across radio waves, and entice through advertising. From the cradle to the grave, self-promoters promise to cure all of society's ills through doses of self-esteem, self-worth, self-acceptance, and self-love. And everyone, or nearly everyone echoes the refrain: "You just need to love and accept yourself the way you are. You just need to forgive yourself" and "I just have to accept myself the way I am. I'm worth it. I am a lovable, valuable, forgivable person."

Christian Response to the World

How is the Christian to combat the thinking of the world, which glorifies the self and places self at the center as the be-all and end-all of existence? How is the Christian to be faithful to our Lord's command to be in the world, but not of the world? Can he adopt and adapt the popular philosophy/psychology of his culture, or must he stand apart as one who has been set apart by God and view his culture by the light of the Word? Jesus said:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

Here is a call to give up one's own way and to come under the yoke of humility and service - an emphasis on yoking - on a teaching and living relationship. Jesus described His call for followers in different words, but to the same relationship and with the same intent, when He said:

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it (Matthew 16:24-25).

No Self-Love Commandment

Jesus does not command self-love, but rather love for God and love for one another. The Bible presents an entirely different basis for love than humanistic psychology preaches. Rather than promoting self-love as the basis for loving others, the Bible says that God's love is the true source. Human love is mixed with self-love and may be ultimately self-serving. But God's love is self-giving. Therefore, when Jesus calls His disciples to deny self and to take up His yoke and His cross, He is calling them to a self-giving love, not a self-satisfying love. Until the advent of humanistic psychology and its heavy influence in the church, Christians generally thought of self-esteem as a sinful attitude.

In Part Two of this series, we will look at what the Bible says about self-love, particularly the Second Great Commandment, and what research says about self-esteem.

Even though the Bible does not teach self-love, self-esteem, self-worth, or self-actualization as virtues, helps, or goals, a vast number of present-day Christians have been deceived by the self-teachings of humanistic psychology. Rather than resisting the enticement of the world they become culture-bound. Not only do they not resist the tidal wave of selfism; they are riding the crest of self-esteem, self- acceptance, and self-love. One can hardly tell the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian in the area of the self, except that the Christian adds God as the main source for his self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-worth, and self-love.

Through slogans, one-liners, and twisted Scripture, many Christians jump on the existential bandwagon of humanistic psychology and set up their own cheering section. Thus, any criticism voiced against the teachings of self-worth, self-love, and self-esteem is regarded as ipso facto proof that the speaker wants people to be miserable. Moreover, any criticism against the self-esteem movement is seen as dangerous to society, since self-esteem is considered to be the panacea for its ills. Then, in the church, if one does not wholly endorse a self-esteem theology, he is accused of promoting worm theology.

If there is one thing the world and many in the church have in common these days, it's the psychology of self-esteem. Although Christians may disagree about some of the nuances of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-acceptance, and even on some of the finer points of definition and how it is attained, too many have joined forces against what they believe is a formidable enemy - low self-esteem. Yet, even the world cannot justify promoting high self-esteem through its own methods of research.

No Research Justification for Self-Esteem

A few years ago the California legislature passed a bill creating the California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility. The legislature funded the bill with $245,000 a year for three years, for a total of $735,000. The twofold title of the Task Force was quite an assumption. No one has ever demonstrated that promoting self-esteem is in any way related to personal and social responsibility. Nor has anyone proved that all those who exhibit personal and social responsibility have high self-esteem. Self-esteem and social and personal responsibility actually appear to be negatively rather than positively related.

The Mission Statement of the Task Force is as follows:

Seek to determine whether self-esteem, and personal and social responsibility are the keys to unlocking the secrets of healthy human development so that we can get to the roots of and develop effective solutions for major social problems and to develop and provide for every Californian the latest knowledge and practices regarding the significance of self-esteem, and personal and social responsibility.1

The Task Force believed that esteeming oneself and growing in self-esteem would reduce "dramatically the epidemic levels of social problems we currently face."2

Is There a Positive Relationship Between High or Low Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility?

In order to investigate this relationship the state Task Force hired eight professors from the University of California to look at the research on self-esteem as it relates to the six following areas:

1. Crime, violence and recidivism.

2. Alcohol and drug abuse.

3. Welfare dependency.

4. Teenage pregnancy.

5. Child and spousal abuse.

6. Children failing to learn in school.

Seven of the professors researched the above areas and the eighth professor summarized the results. The results were then published in a book titled The Social Importance of Self-Esteem.3 Has the relationship been established between self-esteem and social problems? David L. Kirk, syndicated writer for the San Francisco Examiner,4 said it bluntly:

That . . . scholarly tome, The Social Importance of Self-Esteem, summarizes all the research on the subject in the stultifyingly boring prose of wannabe scientists. Save yourself the 40 bucks the book costs and head straight for the conclusion: There is precious little evidence that self-esteem is the cause of our social ills.

Even though they searched for a connection between low self-esteem and problematic behavior, they could not find a cause and effect link. However, more recent studies indicate a definite relationship between violent behavior and high self-esteem. Nevertheless, faith in self-esteem dies hard and schools continue to work on building high self-esteem.

Worse than the continuance of self-esteem teachings in the world is the faith that Christians continue to place in self-esteem and self-worth teachings. Thus, the secular self-esteem movement is not a frontal attack against the Bible with the battle-lines clearly displayed. Instead it is skillfully subversive and is truly the work, not of flesh and blood, but of principalities, powers, the rulers of darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places, just as delineated by Paul near the end of Ephesians. The sad thing is that many Christians are not alert to the dangers. More than we can number are being subtly deceived into another gospel: the gospel of self.

Biblical Love

Jesus calls His own into a love relationship with Himself and with one another. Their joy is to be found in Him, not in self. Their love comes from His love for them. Thus, their love for one another does not come from self-love or self-esteem, nor does it enhance self-esteem. The emphasis is on relationship, fruitfulness, and readiness to be rejected by the world. A believer's identification is in Jesus to the point of suffering and following Him to the cross. Only through strained semantics, labored logic and exploited exegesis can one even attempt to demonstrate that self-esteem is biblical or even a part of the church tradition or teaching.

The focus of love in the Bible is upward and outward instead of inward. Love is both an attitude and action to one another. And while love may include sentiment and emotional affection, it is primarily volitional action for the glory of God and the good of others. Thus when Jesus said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength" (Mark 12:30), He was saying that all of our being is to be committed to loving and, therefore, pleasing God. Love for God is expressed with a thankful heart committed to doing what pleases God according to what has been revealed in the Bible. It is not a grudging kind of obedience, but an eagerness to conform to His gracious will and to agree with God that He is the source and standard for all that is right and good.

The Second commandment is an extension or expression of the First Commandment: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Mark 12:31). John elaborates on this. He describes the sequence of love. In contrast to the teachers of self-love, who say that people cannot love God and others until they love themselves, John says that love originates with God and then extends to others:

We love Him because He first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, that he who loveth God love his brother also (1 John 4:19-21).

God loved us first, which enables us to love Him, which then expresses itself in love for one another.

From Adam's first breath, mankind was designed to live in relationship with God, not as autonomous selves. The entire Bible rests on that relationship, for after Jesus answered the Pharisee by saying that the Greatest Commandment is to love God and the second is to love neighbor as oneself, He said: "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:40). Jesus came to save us from self and to reestablish that love relationship for which we were created. Through the centuries books have been written about loving God and loving one another. However, today the church is increasingly inundated with books telling us how to love ourselves better, esteem ourselves more, accept ourselves no matter what, and build our own self-worth.

End Notes
1 California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility. "1987 Annual Report to the Governor and the Legislature," p. V.

2 Andrew M. Mecca, "Chairman's Report." Esteem, Vol. 2, No. 1, February 1988, p. 1.

3 Andrew M. Mecca, Neil J. Smelser, and John Vasconcellos, eds. The Social Importance of Self-Esteem. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

4 David L. Kirk, "Lack of Self Esteem is Not the Root of All Ills." Santa Barbara News-Press, 15 January 1990.

Related articles:
"...men shall be lovers of their own selves..."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Judge's Dilemma

"In a small town, a person decided to open up a brothel, which was right opposite to a church. The church and its congregation started a compaign to block the brothel from opening with petitions and prayed daily against his business. Work progressed. However, when it was almost complete and was about to open a few days later, a strong lightning struck the brothel and it was burnt to the ground. The church folks were rather smug in the outlook after that, till the brothel owner sued the church authorities on the grounds that the church through its congregation and prayers was ultimately responsible for the destruction of his brothel, either through direct or indirect actions or means. In its reply to the court, the church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection that their prayers were reasons for the act of God.

As the case was its way into the court, the judge looked over the paperwork at the hearing and commented: "I don't how I'm going to decide this case, but it appears from the paperwork, we have a brothel onwer who believe in the power of prayer and we have an entire church that doesn't".

Friday, August 26, 2011

10 Ways to Know You're Getting it Right

by Joe McKeever

The marks on the door-facing leading into the back yard tell of the growth of the children over the years. The clothing in back of the closet the kids can no longer wear speak of the growth of your young'uns. The escalating cost of schoolbooks as the kids move into high school and then into college bear eloquent testimony to the maturation of the offspring.

They're growing up.

But how can you tell when spiritual growth is taking place? Where are the markers? How are we to know if one's development as a disciple of Jesus Christ has plateau'ed or is even regressing? To my knowledge, there is no answer book for this question. There are only indicators.

Here is my list of ten signs--indicators, markers--that we are growing in Christ, that we are getting it right.

10. A Changing Appetite.

My taste for spiritual things is changing. I find myself loving to study the Word of the Lord and looking forward to it. Far from it being a chore, it's literally fun.

Job said, I have esteemed the words of Thy mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:12).

At the same time this is happening, my thirst for a trashy novel, an entertainment magazine, a sexy movie or a television celebrity expose' is drying up. My appetite for spiritual junk food is diminishing. And that's a good thing!

Radiation for cancer in the early months of 2005 changed my life forever. Since the cancer was under my tongue, the radiation was directed toward key spots in my head and neck. Although the oncological team did everything they could to program the computer to save saliva glands and taste buds, some were zapped and are gone forever. My doctor said, "Food will never taste as good to you again as it used to." He was right. But that is a small price to pay to go on living and loving and ministering. Some foods--especially dry stuff like chips and fries and breads--have almost no taste. On the other hand, my taste for ice cream and sweets came back with a passion! There's probably a spiritual lesson in here somewhere.

9. A Disgust for the Shameful.

The more we become like Christ--and that is God's plan for every believer--the more we will find ourselves turning away in disgust at activities that used to fascinate us.

Paul spoke of certain activities as "shameful even to speak of" (Ephesians 5:12).

On another occasion, Paul spoke of the enemies of the cross of Christ: "Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame." They "set their minds on earthly things," he said (Philippians 3:19).

No dirty jokes for me, thank you. No porn movies or books or magazines. Not even the (ahem) mildly racy stuff.

We just don't need it anymore. We have better things to do and read.

8. A Love for Believers.

There is something almost uncanny about this: the closer we are to Christ, the more we will love His people. Likewise, the further we stray from Him, the less use we have for them and the more critical we become of them.

It is an ironclad principle, one that never fails: love Christ, love His people. Love the world, despise His people.

Remember that the next time you hear some backslidden church member running down church members. By this shall all men know you are my disciples, that you love one another (John 13:35).

So, you find yourself treasuring those believers at church who are genuinely giving their best to the Lord, even though it's small potatoes to the world. Congratulations. You are becoming like Jesus.

7. An Unusual Peace and Quietness.

The latest upheavals in the economy and in the political realm do not unnerve you the way they used to. You are far steadier than previously. You still care about the country, you work at being a good citizen, and you pray for your leaders. But you know that fixing your hope on them is a sure recipe for disappointment.

If you then be risen with Christ, set your affection on things above where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:1-2).

Some of your Christian friends will be upset with you because you are not upset. They may even accuse you of not caring, of being unpatriotic. Surely, if you were in the know as they are you would be as panicky as they.

You will take that in stride because of Number 6.

6. Your Strange Patience.

Your love for people and your patience with them is becoming stronger and steadier. Sometimes it surprises you. You remember when crazy drivers, unloving people, and ungodly conditions in the world upset you.

As a result, you find yourself able to minister to people who do things displeasing to God. Just as surgeons and nurses in the operating room look past the tragedy of blood and brokenness to treat the patient, you find yourself more and more able to do something similar: you look past the shame and love the person. This enables you to serve in a homeless shelter, in the jail, in certain neighborhoods, in mission centers, all in love.

5. Your Joy and Laughter.

This is a surprising development. You might have expected that becoming like Jesus would mean growing sterner, graver, more serious. And while part of you has deepened in that way, your spirit has sprouted wings. You are now able to soar higher--to laugh at trouble, to find joy in the simplest of pleasures, to rejoice in Christ when nothing is going your way.

Sometimes you find yourself laughing when nothing provokes it.

Joy is like that.

You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine increased (Psalm 4:7).

4. A New Generosity.

You haven't given away all your money, nothing like that. But how you look at money is changing. It has become "a means to an end," and not the goal of anything. Money is a tool to be used to bless people for Christ's sake.

Some say one mark of maturity is to enjoy saving money more than spending it. But we can go that one better: to enjoy putting money to work in the service of God and people is best of all.

When Lawrence Bryant came to know Christ at the age of 43, his priorities were completely rearranged. Instead of amassing wealth, he delighted in blessing others with what God had given him. I still recall his wife Helen remarking to her mother one day, "If you come home and find a moving van backed up to the door, Lawrence has given away the house."

John Dowdle gave a young preacher a large check to assist him in his seminary education. Later he told me, "That same day I made three times that much in a little business transaction." He was quiet for a minute, then said, "That happens so much it almost frightens me."

He was discovering he could not outgive God.

But it's fun to try.

3. Joy in Anonymous Acts.

They said of Jesus that He "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38). That's the idea: leaving a trail of blessed people in your wake.

Not all our giving and working should be anonymous, of course. We are bearing a witness for our Lord through our good deeds, and thus we want people to know their Source and to be directed toward Him as a result. However--and this is the point--we get just as big a delight out of blessing someone without him knowing where it came from.

I've had this done for me, and have done it for others. Someone called from a men's clothing store. "Pastor, you are being invited to come down and buy a suit for yourself. No questions asked, anything in the store." What fun that was, particularly in the days when I needed a new suit and money was scarce. But when money was more plentiful, I have passed that blessing along to others. Best of all was doing this for some preacher who was serving a small congregation and being poorly paid. He never knew the source, and that was more pleasurable to me than if he had known.

Most of our prayer for people should be anonymous. If I feel that I need to keep reminding people "I'm praying for you," it might indicate a lack of faith in my prayer and more confidence in the power of telling them that I'm praying for them.

Much of our praying and giving should be in secret. (See Matthew 6:3-4.)

2. More Silence in Your Prayer Time.

Good friends learn to enjoy silence with each other, with neither feeling the need to fill the vacuum with chatter. So with prayer. They asked Mother Teresa, "You pray hours a day. What do you talk about all that time?" She said, "Mostly, I just listen." That was puzzling to the questioner. "You listen to God? What does He say?" She answered, "Mostly He just listens too."

I love that little story. I hardly know what it means, but there is something about it that feels right.

I confess to being troubled when I hear a brother--usually a preacher--attacking heaven with a barrage of noisy words in his prayer. He comes on like a Gatling gun, hardly pausing for breath, as though Heaven is charging him so much per minute and he wants to get in all he can before he runs out of coins. What's the rush, I wonder.

When asked a good way to pray, I often suggest three activities: read the Scripture, talk to the Lord a while, and then sit quietly. After a bit, read some more of the Word, talk to the Lord again, and then sit in silence for a while. Repeat for as long as you are able.

1. Unceasing Prayer.

When asked how long you pray each day, you have no idea. You never stop talking to the Father. I'm amused by polls that reveal the average Christian prays something like 45 seconds a day. "How do they know?" I wonder. At the end of a day, would you know how many times you had spoken to a faithful friend who had been at your side all day long? Probably not.

Would you know the total of all the minutes of those conversations? Hardly.

As a third-grader walking up that West Virginia mountaintop to school each morning, I would often talk to the Lord about various subjects. However, in my childlike understanding, I would not say "amen" at the conclusion of the prayer. To do so seemed the equivalent of hanging up the phone, and the last thing I wanted to do was to cut the Lord off. I wanted Him involved in all I was doing all day long.

The Lord wants His children to grow spiritually, to become more and more like Christ. Theologians refer to this as sanctification. Paul expressed it like this: But we all...are being transformed into the same image (of Christ) from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of God (II Corinthians 3:18).

I asked a friend whom I know to be far godlier than I for her list of markers, how she knows she is more like Christ this year than last. Interestingly, my list and hers are as different as we are. And both lists are on the mark.

You will have your own list of indicators of spiritual growth in Christ.

Perhaps, though, the best indicator of all that we are growing in Christ is this: Someone brags on your godly character and you think, "Who? Me? You've got to be kidding!" Christlikeness seems to be a lot like humility: Those who have it most are least aware of it, but only see how much further they have to go.

From what I know of the subject of Christlikeness, the process of sanctification is not finished until we stand before the Savior Himself. As John said, We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is (I John 3:2). The completion of sanctification goes by the name of glorification--we are changed into His likeness completely--and then something wonderful happens: we find that in Heaven, we are a perfect fit.

Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Visit him at joemckeever.com/mt. Used with permission.

Cult of Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey debate with Bill Keller of LivePrayer!

Liveprayer founder Bill Keller debates media icon Oprah Winfery on matters of faith. It is the Church of Oprah, versus the Church of Jesus Christ, the lies of the new age gurus versus the Truth of the Bible. Don't miss this engaging confrontation between the world's leading Internet evangelist and the most powerful woman in the media. It is a modern day clash of a prophet of God and a false prophet of Satan.








Ken Lay, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Billions of Dollars

by Bill Keller - Live Prayer

(John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 10:8-13)

In the past week you had the death of the man who perhaps was the poster boy for corporate corruption and greed, Ken Lay, and the announcement that two of the world's richest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, were merging billions of dollars in a global philanthropic effort. These two stories of ultra rich and powerful men are perfect to discuss that moment we will all face one day when our heart stops beating and this life is over and we are standing before God our Creator to be judged.

News came last week that Ken Lay, the 64-year-old former CEO of Enron had died of a heart attack. Lay was waiting to be sentenced this October to decades in prison for his role in the massive fraud that took place at Enron. Federal authorities claimed that Lay made hundreds of millions of dollars illegally in the largest business fraud case ever that not only cost thousands of people their jobs, but caused millions of shareholders to lose massive amounts of money, in many sad cases, all they had in this world.

The interesting thing about Ken Lay is that he was the son of a Baptist minister, an active member of the First United Methodist Church in Houston, and served on the Board of Trustees at his church. So the legitimate question that needs to be posed is simply this, is Ken Lay in Heaven today? The answer to that question can be answered very simply. If Ken Lay had accepted Jesus Christ into his heart and life by faith, then he is most definitely in Glory this moment and will be for all eternity according to the only Truth there is, God's Word.

Let me insure that you understand something critical. If Ken lay is in Heaven today, it is NOT because he was the son of a Baptist minister. If Ken Lay is in Heaven today, it is NOT because he was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Houston. If Ken Lay is in Heaven today, it is NOT because he was on the Board of Trustees at his church. No, if Ken Lay is in Heaven today, it is because at some point in his life he repented of his sins, asked God to forgive him, and invited Jesus Christ into his heart and life by faith. That my friend is the ONLY way you can be saved!!!

This begs the question, how could a man who knows Jesus have been involved in such fraudulent activity that destroyed the lives of many innocent people. Men sin! Even saved men sin! In the Book of 1 John, in a passage written to those who were saved, God's Word tells us that if we say we don't sin we are liars. When a saved man sins, it harms his daily relationship with the Lord, it causes him to not experience the peace or joy or abundance that Christ has promised to those who follow Him. When a saved man sins, it causes him to not fulfill God's plan and purpose for his life. When a saved man sins, it can even lead to an early death!

Many will say that it is not fair that a man like Ken Lay whose greed hurt so many people could be enjoying the splendors of Heaven. God's Word clearly teaches us that if he made a commitment of his heart and life to Christ by faith, He is without any doubt in Heaven today. Sadly however, he paid a huge price for his sins just like we all do when we sin. He saw the company he ran destroyed. He lost all of his power. He was publicly shamed and humiliated. The ripple effects of sin are far reaching and his family suffered greatly for his indiscretions. Spiritually it damaged his relationship with the Lord and caused him to forfeit the peace, joy, and abundance of this life in addition to never fulfilling all God had for him to do. In the end, it cut his life short.

Also last week it was announced that two of the worlds richest men, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffet would merge billions of dollars in a philanthropic effort to fund global heath and education needs. As commendable as this may seem on the surface, you have to understand that a portion of their global health efforts involve the funding to make it possible for millions of babies around the world to be slaughtered. A percentage of the Gates/Buffet philanthropic effort will be used to help women around the globe to be able to kill their babies.

It is no secret that as of today, both Gates and Buffet have rejected the God of the Bible, the Truth of His Word, and His Son Jesus. They are both on record over and over throughout the years clearly rejecting the Christian faith. The reality is, should they die in that state, they will stand before God and be judged for their sins and cast into hell for all eternity. Despite all the good they may have done in their lives, their souls will be lost for all eternity because they rejected Christ's love and sacrifice.

Buffet, while being such a savvy investor is clearly theologically challenged. In an interview following the announcement he would give billions to the Gates Foundation, he said, "There are many ways to get to Heaven, but this has got to be one of the best ways." First, there is only ONE WAY to get to Heaven, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ is the ONE AND ONE way to be saved. Second, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates maybe rich by the world's standards, but they, nor anyone can buy their way into Heaven. Please hear this clear. There is no amount of money, no amount of good works that will get you into Heaven. Only faith in Jesus Christ will get you into Heaven!

I love you and care about you so much. I pray that Ken Lay did make a commitment of his heart and life to Jesus and is in Heaven today. Sadly, his sins kept him from enjoying what should have been the golden years of his professional and personal life, a time that God could have used him to do great works for the Kingdom. I pray today for his wife and family and God's healing in their lives from all they have been through. I also pray today for those employees and shareholders of Enron whose lives were dramatically altered by the actions of Lay and the others responsible for the fraudulent activities at Enron. May the Lord be with them in a special way as they move forward in their lives.

I pray today for Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and ask you to as well. Pray that these men will come to know Jesus as their Savior. I know many people envy them for their billions of dollars. I promise you my friend that the moment they die, you will not envy the fact they will spend eternity in punishment for their rejection of Christ. Pray that they may come to know Jesus as their Savior and that God will guide them to use their vast resources to advance His Kingdom and not the kingdoms of this temporal world that will one day be gone.

I also pray for you today. I pray that you will realize that there is nothing more important than having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As important as your day-to-day life is, the two indisputable facts of this life are that 1) we will all die one day, and 2) we are all sinners. The moment we die we will stand before God our Creator. At that moment, who you were in this life, all the things you did, how much money you had, none of that will matter. The only thing that will matter is DO YOU KNOW JESUS IN YOUR HEART BY FAITH! That, and that alone will determine whether you spend eternity with the God who loves you so much, or spend eternity forever separated from your Creator.

ARE YOU 100% CERTAIN WHERE YOU WILL SPEND ETERNITY? The fact is you will die one day. At that moment, you will either spend eternity with the Lord or be cast into everlasting darkness forever separated from God your Creator. To know for certain you will be forever with Jesus, go to: http://www.liveprayer.com/bdy_salvatn.cfm.

The Real Prosperity Gospel

by Bill Keller - Live Prayer

(Psalms 37:16; Proverbs 10:22, 13:7; Hebrews 11:26; James 2:5; Matthew 6:19)

How many times have you turned on Christian television and heard a message on “prosperity?” On the screen was a man or woman wearing thousands of dollars worth of clothes, tens of thousands more in jewelry, speaking from a million dollar set or a multi-million-dollar building. Their message was about prosperity and how God wants you to have a mansion, drive new luxury automobiles, wear the finest clothes, eat the most sumptuous food, vacation in far-off lands. They tell you from God’s Word that you are the “Head and not the tail,” “The lender not the borrower,” that “God owns the cattle on a thousand hills,” “All the gold and silver belongs to Him,” and the “Wealth of the wicked is laid up for the righteous.”

As you sit there watching, you start to get into their message. They tell you that you are the child of a King and you deserve to live like royalty. Their powerful words encourage you to believe that God will provide you with all of the riches this world has to offer. They tell you that the only thing keeping you from enjoying great prosperity is your faith. You simply need greater faith. They, then, explain to you how to attain greater faith. You see, according to these prosperity teachers your faith is tied directly to your bank account and how much you are willing to give to them! (Where do you think their prosperity comes from?)

You are, then, challenged to show how great your faith is by the amount of money you are willing to send to them. Though it is never said in words, it is clearly insinuated that the bigger the check you write, the greater your faith is. The verse in the Bible that these prosperity teachers routinely pervert is Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Bottom line–even though they never actually say it, they make it very clear that the more you want from God, the more you have to give to THEM. This false prosperity Gospel is based on your GREED and not really on your faith at all.

That is why in nearly 6 years of Liveprayer, I have never, nor will I ever, play games with you and try to manipulate you into giving to God’s work here. I have taken a very strict Biblical approach to giving. I simply share our needs with you, encourage you to give based on your responsibility according to the Scriptures, remind you to give according to your ability to give, and provide you the opportunity to partner with me in bringing the Truth of God’s Word and the hope and love of Christ to millions worldwide each day who are hurting and lost, and trust God to move on your heart. No hype, no games, no manipulation, and no false hopes of wealth just because you give to God’s work here at Liveprayer.

The flourishing of the prosperity Gospel in the past 30 years has coincided with the wealth and excesses of our culture, especially here in the United States. It has played right into the trap of this world that measures success in dollars and cents. It parallels the mindset of Michael Douglas’s character Gordon Gekko in the late ’80s film Wall Street when he proclaimed, “Greed is good.” Sadly, like in how we dress, our music, how we view the issues of our day, instead of the church influencing the world, we have allowed the world to influence the church, especially in regard to this whole issue of prosperity.

I’ll give you the perfect example. How do we judge a successful church? There is only ONE criteria we use, the number of people who show up for service. How do we judge a successful ministry? How many people work there, how big and modern are their buildings, do they have more than one corporate jet, HOW MUCH MONEY DO THEY RAISE? We have allowed the world to influence the church instead of the church influencing the world! God doesn’t judge a successful church by the size of their buildings or the number of people who attend. God judges a successful church by their dedication and service to Him! God doesn’t judge a successful ministry by the value of their assets. God judges a successful ministry by their faithfulness to the work He has called them to and the lives they are impacting for His Kingdom!

Those who have gone completely in the other direction and say that to be a true follower of Christ you have to live in poverty are equally as wrong. There is NO PLACE in the Bible that supports this false notion that you have to live in poverty to be a real follower of Jesus. There is nothing wrong with having a nice home, nice cars, nice clothes, eating good food, going on nice vacations. Money is not evil, the LOVE OF MONEY is evil. God has richly blessed many of His people with great material possessions and wealth since the beginning. It has been many of these people God has so richly blessed that have been responsible for much of the work of the Kingdom getting done! God blessed Joseph of Arimithea to be able to give his tomb to Jesus. God blessed those who gave to support Paul’s missionary trips. Many who God has blessed with great wealth and resources have been faithful to use their blessings to further His work!

Also, God’s Word is TRUE. As a child of God we ARE the head and not the tail. We ARE to be the lender and not the borrower. The wealth of the wicked HAS been laid up for the righteous. God DOES own the cattle on a thousand hills and ALL the gold and silver belongs to Him. Luke 6:38 that tells us to give and it will be given unto us IS true! God DOES bless the faith of His children, often in their giving. But the real prosperity Gospel is not about money or possessions, it is about our relationship with Jesus Christ! The wealth of the child of God is NOT in the things of this temporal world that will one day pass away, it is in our eternal relationship we have with the Lord! The real prosperity Gospel is about what we have in Jesus, not what we have in the bank!

I love you and care about you so much. Ever wonder why you don’t see these prosperity teachers on ABC or major network affiliates? Simple. Only a few would watch meaning nobody would give them money or buy their books and tapes. Ever wonder why they don’t preach their prosperity message in India, Africa, or other parts of the world? Same reason. Their message doesn’t work on people who have nothing to give them. That is why it is a false gospel. Our prosperity is NOT measured in our earthly treasures but in what we have stored up in heaven. The Bible is very clear that our wealth is not in the temporal things of this world but in the eternal things of God!

Do you want to tell me that a person who loves Jesus, follows Christ daily, serves Him faithfully, yet lives in a small apartment in Siberia and has no material possessions is poor because they have no faith? The reality is God is blessing that person 100x greater than He is blessing someone who is saved and has all this world can offer in terms of material possessions, but is not fully surrendered or living their life for Him. Do you want to tell me God is not richly blessing someone who lives in Dallas, Texas who has a small 2 bedroom home, a mortgage, a 13-year-old car with 120,000 miles on it, basically living paycheck to paycheck but loves Jesus, is in the Word and prays daily, part of a local fellowship, serving the Lord in different ways, and honors Christ each day in how they live?

NEVER FORGET THIS. YOUR BLESSINGS FROM GOD ARE NOT MEASURED IN DOLLARS AND CENTS BUT IN THE CURRENCY OF HEAVEN! YOU CAN HAVE LITTLE ACCORDING TO THE STANDARDS OF THIS WORLD, YET BE RICH BEYOND BELIEF BECAUSE YOU KNOW CHRIST AS YOUR SAVIOR! WHAT PRICE CAN YOU PUT ON HAVING THE ASSURANCE THAT WHEN YOU DIE YOU WILL BE FOREVER WITH JESUS? WHAT PRICE CAN YOU PUT ON THE PEACE THAT PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTATING? WHAT PRICE CAN YOU PUT ON THE JOY OF THE LORD? DON’T LET THE WORLD OR ESPECIALLY THE CHURCH LIE TO YOU THAT YOU ARE NOT BLESSED BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE IN THIS WORLD, BECAUSE GOD’S WORD SAYS THAT IF YOU KNOW CHRIST YOU ARE RICHER THAN EVEN BILL GATES IN THE THINGS THAT REALLY MATTER!!!

I will be praying for you today. Praying that you will not allow this world or especially those in the church force you to judge how much God is blessing you by your bank account. That is a false prosperity Gospel. The real prosperity Gospel says that if you know Christ as your Savior you have riches greater than anything this world could ever offer. You really are royalty, the child of a King! I pray that you will continue to surrender your life daily to King Jesus and develop an even more intimate relationship with Him through prayer, the Word, fellowshipping with other Believers and your service. That is how you continue to live with His blessings in your life each day. That my friend is the REAL prosperity Gospel.

ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN LOVE

by David Wilkerson
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth, and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Rooted and grounded here means “to build under you a deep and stable foundation of knowing and understanding the love of God to you.” In other words, the knowledge of God’s love to you is the foundational truth upon which all others truths must be built!

For example, this is what the fear of God is built upon. A holy fear of God is not a dread that he is ready to strike you down if you are caught in some little fault. Rather, it is the dread of his holiness against rebellion—and of what he does to those who love darkness rather than light.

Christians who live in guilt, fear and condemnation are not “rooted and grounded” in the love of God. Our heavenly Father sent his Son to die for our sins and weaknesses. And without fully knowing and fully understanding that kind of love to you, you will never have a stable or permanent foundation!
“[That you] . . . may be able to comprehend . . . the love of Christ”

(Ephesians 3:18-19). The Greek word for comprehend here suggests “to eagerly seize or lay hold of.” The apostle Paul means for you to seize this truth and make it the foundation of your Christian life. He is telling you to put your spiritual hands out and say, “I am going to lay hold of this!”

Perhaps you are assaulted by a temptation you can’t seem to shake off. Or maybe you carry a sense of never measuring up, of unworthiness—a fear that the devil is going to trip you up and you are going to fail God.

This is the day for you to wake up to God’s love for you! I pray that as you read this message, something will strike deep in your heart, and you will be able to say, “You’re right, Brother Dave. That’s me and I don’t want to live this way!” I pray that you will get hold of this truth—that it will
open your eyes and help you enter a whole new realm of joy and peace in your daily walk with him.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Uncomfortable Reality of Hell

Francis Chan’s book Erasing Hell is a prophetic reminder that we can’t compromise the gospel.

California pastor Francis Chan is one of my heroes, partly because he has given most of his book royalites—reportedly $2 million—to charity. Another reason I admire him: He’s written a new book about hell at a time when many Christians are questioning the idea of eternal punishment. The guy has some chutzpah.

His new book Erasing Hell (David C. Cook) is a direct response to Love Wins, the controversial book by celebrity pastor Rob Bell of Michigan. While Bell’s book flirts with universalism and suggests that a loving God would never send anyone to hell, Chan’s message is blunt and biblical—yet without a hint of self-righteousness.

“Hell is not a popular doctrine. People don’t shout, dance or wave handkerchiefs when we preach about it. They don’t line up to come to conferences about it. Sermons about hell don’t make people feel good.”

Erasing Hell is an answer to prayer and a prophetic response to the spineless gospel many Americans have embraced in recent years. Chan does not wave a “TURN OR BURN” sign, nor does he dangle his readers over hot coals. Yet he forthrightly states that people who reject the merciful gift of salvation through Christ will get what all of us deserve—terrifying separation from God that lasts forever.

Chan read Bell’s book carefully and was willing to ask whether hell was, in Chan’s words, a “primitive myth left over from conservative tradition.” After much prayer (he says we must “weep, pray and fast over this issue”) he became convinced that we cannot remove hell from our message. Chan makes four arguments that poke holes in Bell’s theology:

1. Hell is real. In Love Wins, Bell discounts the biblical view of hell as eternal punishment and suggests that it might be a metaphor for the horrors of life on earth—poverty, genocide and injustice, for example. But Chan goes back to the words of Jesus, who spoke more about hell than anyone in the Bible, and clears up the confusion. He writes: “Hell is not considered to be the various ‘hells on earth’ that we face every day. It’s a horrific place of judgment where God punishes people for their sins.”

2. Hell is final. Universalists who blend Christianity with other religions teach that all sinners will get an extra chance to come clean with God after death. But Chan says that’s not what the Bible teaches: “There’s no single passage in the Bible that describes, hints at, hopes for, or suggests that someone who dies without following Jesus in this life will have an opportunity to do so after death,” he writes.

3. Hell is fair. People who question the doctrine of hell often ask, “How can a loving God send anyone to perish in eternal fire?” Chan says that’s a prideful, self-centered question. We can’t define God, or His perfect love, from a merely human perspective. We are the clay, and He is the potter. We must humble ourselves and view life from the perspective of God’s rightousness, justice and holiness. Chan also writes that the apostle Paul made reference to the fate of wicked people more times in his epistles than he mentioned God’s forgiveness, mercy and heaven combined. If hell doesn’t seem fair to us, we aren’t seeing it from God’s viewpoint.

4. Hell is escapable. Rob Bell’s flawed premise is that God will end up saving everyone regardless of how they acted or what they believed. Chan argues that the gospel is not good news unless there is a hell that sinners can escape from. He writes: “While hell can be a paralyzing doctrine, it can also be an energizing one, for it magnifies the beauty of the cross.”

Hell is not a popular doctrine. People don’t shout, dance or wave handkerchiefs when we preach about it. They don’t line up to come to conferences about it. Sermons about hell don’t make people feel good. But every revivalist in church history has kept the doctrine of hell at the core of his message, and we will see revival only if we reclaim it.

Charles Spurgeon advised aspiring ministers in the 1800s to constantly meditate on the sobering reality of hell in order to stay fervent in their faith. He wrote: “Meditate with deep solemnity upon the fate of the lost sinner, and, like Abraham, when you get up early to go to the place where you commune with God, cast an eye toward Sodom and see the smoke going up like the smoke of a furnace. Shun all views of future punishment that would make it appear less terrible.”

Do you see the smoke of Sodom? Are you constantly aware that people around you are going to hell? Or have you bought into the trendy philosophies of backslidden preachers who question hell and have no power to free people from it? I’m grateful that Francis Chan had the grace—and the guts—to point us back to this biblical truth.

J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His most recent book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House).


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