Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Can Satan Hear our Thoughts?

Can Satan hear what we say and know our thoughts? Should we avoid praying out loud because Satan might hear us?

There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that Satan is omniscient. There are no verses that say he knows everything or that he can read our thoughts. But he is very adept at predicting human behavior because he’s seen it operate for so long. He can anticipate what you might do in a given situation without knowing your thoughts because of his knowledge of humankind and because he has a supernatural mind.

But in terms of being omniscient and being able to read your thoughts (as God can), the Bible does not support that idea at all. It never tells us that angels are omniscient. And if a holy angel isn’t omniscient, neither is a fallen one. So, Satan can’t read our thoughts, even if he’s great at predicting human behavior because he’s seen so much of it.

I was speaking at a conference in Iowa about this problem. People were asking questions like “How do you deal with demons?” and “Do we need exorcism to get rid of demons?” Well, there are a lot of people today who say you do. I once read a book about deliverance in which the author described a doctor who was supposedly delivered from the demon of post-nasal drip. And in this approach, whenever you think you have a demon, there’s a certain magical formula you say or you run around or “plead the blood”—whatever that phrase means, since it’s not from the Scripture. The blood has already been pled in your behalf at the time of your salvation and that takes care of it.

There are people who advocate little formulas and séance-type practices with a Christian connotation, claiming that they can cast out demons and so forth. But when you get into the Bible, you find that dealing with the devil is really as simple as going to Ephesians 6 and putting on the armor of God. You see, in Ephesians 6, it says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers,” right? We’re wrestling against demons and against Satan.

But what do we do about it? The best place to find out is to read right in that same chapter, isn’t it? Notice that it does not say, “Go get your demons exorcised with a Christian exorcism.” Nor does it say, “Go get somebody to cast your demon out.” It says, “Put on the whole armor of God,” and what that whole armor really consists of is righteousness. The heart of it is “the breastplate of righteousness.” The key then is to live a righteous, Spirit-filled life and to trust in the sovereign power of God.

So, there is nothing in the Bible that says Satan can read our thoughts. Certainly demons can hear what we say. They can understand what we say. And as I said before, they are very good at predicting the common responses of man because they’ve been at it for such a long time.

But don’t worry about that! A lady once said to me, “We whisper,” because she was afraid of demons hearing her prayers. My response was, “Well, that’s foolish!” You can go boldly before the throne of grace. In the Old Testament, it doesn’t say, “And David whispered to the Lord;” it says, “And David said unto the Lord”—and out it came. You never hear any time in the apostle Paul’s instruction to us about prayer when he says, “Don’t talk out loud.” When he wanted to pray, he just flat out prayed and it didn’t bother him whether Satan heard it because he was living in such a way that Satan couldn’t do anything about it anyway. That’s the issue.

John MacArthur

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Interview: Dr. Francis Collins - Is there an Inherent Conflict between Science and Religious Belief?

Is there an inherent conflict between science and religious belief? Some scientists, including famed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, argue that an understanding of the natural world logically leads to atheism. But for Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project and an evangelical Christian, scientific knowledge complements rather than contradicts belief in God. In his 2006 bestselling book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Collins argues that advances in science present "an opportunity for worship," rather than a catalyst for doubt. Recently, the Pew Forum interviewed Dr. Collins about his views on science and religion.

You write in your book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, that God can be worshipped in a cathedral or in a laboratory. Elaborate a little bit, if you will, on that statement.

If you see God as the creator of the universe -- in all of its amazing complexity, diversity and awesome beauty -- then science, which is, of course, a means of exploring nature, also becomes a means of exploring God's creative abilities. And so, for me, as a scientist who is also a religious believer, research activities that look like science can also be thought of as opportunities to worship.

We have all of these famous stories in our history that pit science against faith -- Galileo's trial before the Inquisition1, the Anglican Church's strong public condemnation of Charles Darwin and the debates that followed the publication of his On the Origin of Species, the Scopes trial2. And they have created this impression that there is an inherent conflict between religion and science. Do you believe there is such an inherent conflict? And if there isn't, why is this impression false?

I don't believe there is an inherent conflict, but I believe that humans, in our imperfect nature, sometimes imagine conflicts where there are none. We see something that threatens our own personal view, and we figure that there must be some reason why that alternative view has to be wrong, or even why it has to be evil.

First of all, let's look carefully at the history of conflicts between science and the church and be sure that those are adequately represented. The story of Galileo is an interesting one. But I think it might be fair to say that Galileo's greatest mistake was being a bit arrogant in the way he presented his own views and insulting the pope who, prior to that, had been fairly sympathetic with Galileo's conclusions. Basically the pope couldn't let Galileo get away with this kind of insult.

Similarly, I think when On the Origin of Species was published, while there were objections coming from the church, there was also a large segment of the church, including some conservative theologians like Presbyterian Minister Benjamin Warfield, who embraced this new view of how living things were related to each other as a wonderful insight into the method by which God must have carried out creation.

Perhaps today's conflict, which seems particularly intense, is so difficult to understand because, after all, evolution has been very much on the scene for 150 years, and the science that supports Darwin's theory has gotten stronger and stronger over those decades. That evidence is particularly strong today given the ability to study DNA and to see the way in which it undergirds Darwin's theory in a marvelously digital fashion. And yet, we have seen an increasing polarization between the scientific and spiritual worldviews, much of it, I think, driven by those who are threatened by the alternatives and who are unwilling to consider the possibility that there might be harmony here.

Let's talk a little more about the current controversy over evolution. Some Christians will say: "Look, you can't pick and choose the parts of the Holy Scripture that you want to take literally. And so, if you're going to call into question the literalness of some parts, you inherently call into question the literal truth of it all." So how do you, as a scientist and a Christian, respond to that line of reasoning?

It's a good question. And certainly, as a believer, I would be the last one to argue that we can basically dilute and water down the Bible any old way we want to, to make ourselves feel better. That's certainly not a good approach to faith, lest one end up with something that doesn't resemble the great truths of the faith at all. But let's admit that down through the centuries, serious believers -- long before there was any On the Origin of Species to threaten their perspective -- had a great deal of difficulty understanding what some parts of the Old Testament, particularly Genesis, were really all about. The whole area of hermeneutics -- the effort to try to read Scripture in a way that represents, as best one can, what the real meaning was intended to be -- requires more sophistication than simply saying the most literal interpretation of every verse has to be correct.

One can look at Genesis 1-2, for instance, and see that there is not just one but two stories of the creation of humanity, and those stories do not quite agree with each other. That alone ought to be reason enough to argue that the literal interpretation of every verse, in isolation from the rest of the Bible, can't really be correct. Otherwise, the Bible is contradicting itself.

I take great comfort looking back through time, particularly at the writings of Augustine3, who was obsessed by trying to understand Genesis and wrote no less than five books about it. Augustine ultimately concluded that no human being really was going to be able to interpret the meaning of the creation story. Certainly Augustine would have argued that the current ultra-literal interpretations that lead to young earth creationism are not required by the text, and would have warned that such a rigid interpretation, regardless of what other evidence comes to the scene, could potentially be quite dangerous to the faith, in that it would make believers out to be narrow-minded and potentially subject to ridicule. And in a certain way, that warning has come true with the battles we're having right now.

If Augustine, who was one of the most thoughtful, original thinkers about biblical interpretation that we've ever had, was unable to figure out what Genesis meant 1,600 years ago, why should we today insist that we know what it means, particularly when the interpretation chosen contradicts a wide variety of data that God has given us the chance to discover through science.

So what you're saying is that when people use religion or religious texts to explain natural phenomena, especially gaps in our understanding of the natural world, they're asking for trouble?

Absolutely. We have to recognize that our understanding of nature is something that grows decade by decade, century by century. But we're still a long way from understanding the details of much of the universe around us. To focus on a particular area of nature where our understanding remains incomplete and say, well, God must have done something miraculous in that spot, is actually, I think, to make God much too small. If God had a plan for creating a universe that was capable of resulting in creatures with intelligence, free will, the knowledge of right and wrong and the hunger to find God Almighty, I think it would be unfortunate for us to imagine that we can precisely figure out, with our tiny amount of information right now, exactly how God did it.

Despite the evidence presented and accepted by the vast majority of the scientific community that evolution through natural selection is the mechanism by which life developed on earth, an August 2006 poll4 by the Pew Research Center found that only about a quarter of the American public actually accepts evolution through natural selection. Why have scientists not been able to convince the vast majority of the American people on this particular issue?

I think there are at least three problems that have led to the pickle we're in. One is that, by its very nature, evolution is counterintuitive. The idea that a process over hundreds of millions of years could give rise to something as complicated as the vertebrate eye, for example, is not something that seems natural, normal or believable to one who has not worked through the details. That is because our minds are very poor at contemplating something that happened so slowly over such a long period of time. And so, the alternative arguments for supernatural design appeal to a lot of people. That's one problem that has nothing to do with religion; it has to do with the nature of evolution as having occurred in a timeframe that is just not familiar to the human mind and therefore is difficult to accept.

Secondly, we have made, I'm afraid, fairly lousy efforts over the last 150 years in our educational system to convey these concepts in school settings effectively to a large number of people in this country. And so, many people have never really seen the evidence to support evolution. So when you put that together with the natural incredulity one has upon hearing this kind of explanation of the diversity of living things, it's no wonder that those folks don't immediately rush to embrace Darwin.

And the third problem, of course, is that in some faith traditions, evolution seems to be a threat to the idea that God did it. I don't actually see it as a threat at all; I see this as answering the question of how God did it. But certainly, some conservative Christian churches have had trouble embracing that conclusion, as it does seem to contradict a number of their views about how humanity came to be. Thus, people who have natural skepticism about the overall process, who have not had a decent science education to teach them why evolution actually makes sense and who have heard in Sunday school or from the pulpit that this theory is actually a threat to their faith, have a very hard time accepting, even after 150 years, that evolution is true.

How can scientists -- especially scientists who are religious believers, like yourself -- do a better job of reaching out to these people and convincing them that these findings are not a threat to their faith?

That's a very difficult challenge. And I don't think we should underestimate just how threatening it is to someone who has been raised in a creationist environment to give that up. They have heard many times since they first came to church as a child that the creationist view is part and parcel of belief in God. And, they've been told, if you even for a moment begin to allow the possibility that evolution is true, you are on a certain path toward loss of your faith and probably worse, eternal damnation. So we have to recognize that in that circumstance, a simple logical argument and presentation of the data is not going to be sufficient in one sitting to change somebody's mind. And in fact, there will be strong resistance to even looking closely at that information because of the fear of what it might lead to.

I also think that those of us who are interested in seeking harmony here have to make it clear that the current crowd of seemingly angry atheists, who are using science as part of their argument that faith is irrelevant, do not speak for us. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens do not necessarily represent the consensus of science; 40% of scientists are believers in a personal God5. A lot more are rather uncomfortable about the topic but certainly would not align themselves with a strong atheistic perspective. To the extent that it can be made clear that the assault on faith, which has been pretty shrill in the last couple of years, is coming from a fringe -- a minority -- and is not representative of what most scientists believe, that would help defuse the incendiary rhetoric and perhaps allow a real conversation about creation.

What about people like Richard Dawkins, who is a scientist like yourself, and the arguments that they have made -- not just that they can't find any proof for the existence of God but, quite to the contrary, that they think they find proof for God's non-existence. Have they come up with anything in your view that supports those arguments?

I think strong atheism, of the kind that says, "I know there is no God," suffers from two major logical flaws. And the awareness of those flaws might be reassuring to believers who are somehow afraid that these guys may actually have a point.

The first of those is the idea that anyone could use science at all as a conversation-stopper, as an argument-ender in terms of the question of God. If God has any meaning at all, God is at least in part outside of nature (unless you're a pantheist). Science is limited in that its tools are only appropriate for the exploration of nature. Science can therefore certainly never discount the possibility of something outside of nature. To do so is a category error, basically using the wrong tools to ask the question.

Secondly, I think the logical error that atheists of the strong variety commit is what English writer G.K. Chesterton calls the most daring dogma of the universal negative. I often use a visual analogy to explain this. Suppose you were asked to draw a circle that contains all the information, all the knowledge that exists or ever will exist, inside or outside the universe -- all knowledge. Well, that would be a pretty enormous circle. Now, suppose on that same scale, you were asked to draw what you know at the present time. Even the most assertive person will draw a rather tiny circle. Now, suppose that the knowledge that demonstrates that God exists is outside your little circle today. That seems pretty plausible, doesn't it, considering the relative scale? How then -- given that argument -- would it be reasonable for any person to say, "I know there is no God"? That is clearly going outside of the evidence.

Do you foresee this conflict fading any time soon, or do you think that it will continue at least for the foreseeable future to be a real conflict?

Well, it won't fade quickly. But I'm an optimist. Just as very few people now insist that the sun has to go around the earth in order to fulfill their expectations of what the Bible says, I would like to believe that in a few more decades, this battle will be seen as just as unnecessary and just as readily resolved in favor of saying that evolution is true and God is true. That's basically what I've tried to argue in my book -- that this whole battle has been created by a good deal of misunderstanding and unfortunately has been whipped up by those who occupy extreme positions. Many people are puzzled about this tumult and wish to understand how we might find a happy harmony between these worldviews.

I have a dream -- and this is something that some of us are actually trying to put together -- to bring together leading scientists with open minds, leading theologians with open minds and leading pastors who have a significant influence on their flocks. The goal would be to step back from the current unproductive battle and develop a new theology, a celebration of what God has created and how God did it. I think that's possible. But even such an outcome will not be easily received by those who have dug themselves into hardened positions that do not allow much in the way of dialogue.

We've spent a lot of time talking about evolution because that does seem to be a focal point -- at least in terms of conflicts between some people of faith and science. Do you see any other areas where such a conflict may be coming?

I think evolution is probably the most significant potential area of conflict. But I do think some of the things that are happening in neuroscience may have a parallel. I think, actually, the parallel extends pretty nicely to a response though. Some have argued that spirituality is simply a function of neurotransmitters, and this can now be demonstrated by imaging experiments on the brain. But the fact that the brain has the functional capability to support a spiritual experience, which seems to be the case, does not seem to me in any way to negate the meaning of that spiritual experience.

Again, if spirituality was part of God's plan for us, these remarkable creatures created in God's image -- and by that I mean creatures of mind, I don't think God has a physical body -- then wouldn't God need to have made a plan to have those experiences of spirituality supported anatomically in some way, so that they could be a real possibility for those who were seeking God?

It seems to me that once again, science is doing what science does really well, which is telling us something about how and very little about why. How spiritual experiences are mediated by the various neurons and neurotransmitters is a scientific question. But why they happen in the first place? That's a pretty tough one for science.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Joel Osteen - Your Best Life...Later

Your Best Life . . . Later
By Daryl Wingerd

In his best-selling book, Your Best Life Now, TV preacher and mega-church pastor, Joel Osteen, writes: "God wants this to be the best time of your life" (p. 5). According to Osteen, God wants everybody to have financial success, physical health, and social comfort, in this life. Hence, the title of his book, Your Best Life Now.

When would you like your treasure—now or later?
As an example of the earthly focus of Osteen's book, consider his instruction regarding the pursuit of money: "God wants to increase you financially" (p. 5). "Even if you come from an extremely successful family, God still wants you to go further" (p. 9). "Think big. Think increase. Think abundance. Think more than enough" (p. 11).

God certainly does often bless His people financially. But the Bible never allows for Christians to set their hearts on money—to "develop an image" of abundance, as Osteen puts it (p. 5). Jesus told us not to focus our hearts on money (Matt. 6:19), but rather to "store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (v. 20 NASB). Lasting treasure will be yours later if you don't make temporary treasure your focus now (cf. Matt. 16:24; 1 John 2:15).

Paul reaffirmed Jesus' teaching when he wrote to the Colossians, saying, "Set your mind on the things above, not on things that are on earth" (Col. 3:2). And Christians are warned in Hebrews 13:5, "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have." This warning is affirmed when Paul tells us that "the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil" (1 Tim. 6:10). There is simply no way to align what Joel Osteen says about seeking after money with the plain and consistent teaching of the Bible (cf. Mark 10:25; Luke 12:15; 1 Tim. 6:8-10; 1 John 2:15-16; etc.).

Isn't everybody supposed to be healthy?
Joel Osteen claims that God wants everyone to have physical health in this life. In his view, it is a lack of faith or personal resolve that causes many to remain physically limited or chronically ill. He actually says, "If you're serious about being well, if you really want to be made physically and emotionally whole, you must get up and get moving with your life. No more lying around feeling sorry for yourself" (p. 149). Such a statement is insulting to those with serious illnesses or physical limitations. And it leads me once again to compare Osteen's teaching with Scripture.

If God wanted every Christian to be perfectly healthy, why was the Apostle Paul denied physical healing (2 Cor. 12:7-9)? Did he lack faith or personal resolve? Why did Paul leave Trophimus in the city of Miletus, sick (2 Tim. 4:20)? Was Trophimus "lying around feeling sorry for himself"? And if physical health and wholeness always depended on faith or personal resolve, why did Jesus often single people out of a crowd and heal them even though they never asked for healing or gave any expression of faith (e.g. Mark 3:1-5; Luke 13:10-13; John 5:2-9; 9:1-7)? The man in John 9, for example, had been blind his entire life. Why? Was it because he had sinned or because he lacked faith? No, but rather because God had ordained his blindness and subsequent healing as a means of bringing glory to Himself (John 9:1-3). The fact is, God makes some mute, some deaf, and some blind (cf. Ex. 4:11), just as He makes others whole and healthy in this life. God can, and often does heal physically, but physical healing is not something that we control by our will, nor is it the ultimate good. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself" (Phil. 3:20-21).

Shouldn't your life be easier?
Joel Osteen says that in this life, Christians can expect favorable treatment from the people of the world. On page 38 he says: "God wants to make your life easier. . . . He wants you to receive preferential treatment." Really? Should we expect our lives as Christians to be easier? What about Paul's sobering words to Timothy: "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12)? And didn't Jesus promise that the Christian life would be narrow and difficult? (cf. Matt. 7:14 NKJV)? In Acts 14:22 the disciples said to one another, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (NKJV).

I need to clarify what I am not saying. I am not saying that the normal Christian life is necessarily one of constant persecution, deprivation, or physical pain. But the consistent teaching of the New Testament is that the Christian is to look for his best life later, not now. He may enjoy God's temporal blessing, but he should never learn to depend on temporal blessings for happiness. Life itself is a great blessing from God. But every life, and especially the Christian life, comes with difficulty. Instead of craving wealth, comfort, and easy living, believers should expect, accept, and even rejoice in hardships and trials when they come (cf. James 1:2-3). The presence of poverty, pain, or persecution does not indicate that a person is not exercising enough faith or that he is not being blessed by God. In fact, God's greatest blessings often come in ways that cause us to love this life less, and to hope increasingly in that which is promised later.

Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
(Rom. 8:24-25)

Is the Providence of God Biblical?

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

“God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.11). If Creation was a unique exercise of divine energy causing the world to be, providence is a continued exercise of that same energy whereby the Creator, according to his own will, (a) keeps all creatures in being, (b) involves himself in all events, and (c) directs all things to their appointed end. The model is of purposive personal management with total “hands-on” control: God is completely in charge of his world. His hand may be hidden, but his rule is absolute.

Some have restricted God’s providence to foreknowledge without control, or upholding without intervention, or general oversight without concern for details, but the testimony to providence as formulated above is overwhelming.

The Bible clearly teaches God’s providential control (1) over the universe at large, Ps. 103:19; Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11; (2) over the physical world, Job 37; Pss. 104:14; 135:6; Matt. 5:45; (3) over the brute creation, Ps. 104:21, 28; Matt. 6:26; 10:29; (4) over the affairs of nations, Job 12:23; Pss. 22:28; 66:7; Acts 17:26; (5) over man’s birth and lot in life, 1 Sam. 16:1; Ps. 139:16; Isa. 45:5; Gal. 1:15-16; (6) over the outward successes and failures of men’s lives, Ps. 75:6, 7; Luke 1:52; (7) over things seemingly accidental or insignificant, Prov. 16:33; Matt. 10:30; (8) in the protection of the righteous, Pss. 4:8; 5:12; 63:8; 121:3; Rom. 8:28; (9) in supplying the wants of God’s people, Gen. 22:8, 14; Deut. 8:3; Phil. 4:19; (10) in giving answers to prayer, 1 Sam. 1:19; Isa. 20:5, 6; 2 Chron. 33:13; Ps. 65:2; Matt. 7:7; Luke 18:7, 8; and (11) in the exposure and punishment of the wicked, Pss. 7:12-13; 11:6. (L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th ed.)

Clear thinking about God’s involvement in the world-process and in the acts of rational creatures requires complementary sets of statements, thus: a person takes action, or an event is triggered by natural causes, or Satan shows his hand—yet God overrules. This is the message of the book of Esther, where God’s name nowhere appears. Again: things that are done contravene God’s will of command—yet they fulfill his will of events (Eph. 1:11). Again: humans mean what they do for evil—yet God who overrules uses their actions for good (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23). Again: humans, under God’s overruling, sin—yet God is not the author of sin (James 1:13-17); rather, he is its judge.

The nature of God’s “concurrent” or “confluent” involvement in all that occurs in his world, as—without violating the nature of things, the ongoing causal processes, or human free agency—he makes his will of events come to pass, is mystery to us, but the consistent biblical teaching about God’s involvement is as stated above.

Of the evils that infect God’s world (moral and spiritual perversity, waste of good, and the physical disorders and disruptions of a spoiled cosmos), it can summarily be said: God permits evil (Acts 14:16); he punishes evil with evil (Ps. 81:11-12; Rom. 1:26-32); he brings good out of evil (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; 13:27; 1 Cor. 2:7-8); he uses evil to test and discipline those he loves (Matt. 4:1-11; Heb. 12:4-14); and one day he will redeem his people from the power and presence of evil altogether (Rev. 21:27; 22:14-15).

The doctrine of providence teaches Christians that they are never in the grip of blind forces (fortune, chance, luck, fate); all that happens to them is divinely planned, and each event comes as a new summons to trust, obey, and rejoice, knowing that all is for one’s spiritual and eternal good (Rom. 8:28).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Funny: God all Knowing

Video: The Church of Oprah Exposed in Her Own Words

State of Seminary Education

"Virtually 4 out of 10 students enrolled in the nation's 165 seminaries are in just 20 schools -- and all but 2 of the twenty are classified as evangelical. This is an amazing imbalance, but it is essentially tied to the dramatic decline of Protestant liberalism."
-Al Mohler

Beth Moore ALERT! Should your Church Trust Beth?

I have received an e-mail complaint about my commentary on Beth Moore's teachings. The writer told me that Beth is a godly woman who has been called by God to her ministry and, by my criticizing Beth's teachings, I was slandering her. I was also told that I should stick to fighting the enemies of the church. Now, there are some issues about this complaint I want to address so as to clarify my purpose in exposing false teachings and false teachers.

First, in order to slander someone a falsehood must be told. Since everything I wrote in the commentary is true, I cannot be charged with slander. If anything I write on this blog is found to be in error, I welcome correction because I certainly don't claim to be flawless. You can write me at the e-mail address on my profile or you can post a comment on the site by selecting "comments" at the bottom of the article.

Click here to read more.

Do you Suffer from Nomophobia? Are you Sure?

The 21st century has produced a new illness, “no mobile phobia” (Nomophobia) -- the fear of being out of mobile phone contact. Researchers in the U.K. report that 13 million Brits suffer from this stressful condition brought on by the fear that their phone will lose its charge, be misplaced or simply lose tower contact making them unreachable. Here we are again, suffering from yet another technological marvel designed to save time and improve our effectiveness. Don't get me wrong; I'm grateful for new technologies. It is good to be reachable in an emergency, but I'm also concerned about technology's potential for dehumanizing us. The spiritual consequences of 24/7 cell phone use, it seems to me, are severe.

Hotel Goes Ecumenical with a Menu of Spiritual Fare

At one hotel in Nashville, Tenn., when you feel like a bit of religious reading, you'll have more than a Gideon Bible to choose from. The Hotel Preston has begun offering a “spiritual menu” to its guests, including the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita and additional versions of the Bible. “We also heard many travelers say, `Look, I know that a Gideon Bible is available ... but have you considered including a book of Scientology or have you considered including the Book of Mormon?” said Howard Jacobs, chief operating officer of Provenance Hotels.

New Study Shows Trends in Tithing and Donating

Based on our annual tracking survey of people’s religious behavior and beliefs, this week’s Barna Update examples how many people donated money to churches and other non-profit organizations in 2007, how much they donated, and what proportion of the public tithes. To read about current trends in donating and tithing, click here.

Get the Inside Scoop on the New ESV Study Bible

Be among the first to visit the new ESV Study Bible website—just launched today—and learn about the ESV Study Bible’s features, contributors, pre-order discounts, and more:


Heresy: What's Old is New

In this month's Christian Leader Magazine, a publication of the US Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, is an article called "The new old spirituality" which correctly states that many people are searching for truth in new and unconventional ways, but unfortunately the article portrays these 'new old' ways in a positive light by saying...

"Returning to ancient spiritual practices can help a new generation re-imagine the power of the gospel..."

These are the 'new old' ways mentioned in the article:

The Prayer Labyrinth
The Prayer Path
Lectio Divina
The Jesus Prayer (mantra)
Stations of the Cross
Ignatian Examen
Spiritual Direction
Contemplative spiritual disciplines
The Desert Fathers

Click here to read the rest of this article by Roll Over Menno called "The 'new old spirituality' of the US Mennonite Brethren."

The Bell Tolles for the Church of Oprah

In the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, "The Emperor's New Clothes," some swindlers convince the Emperor and his ministers to see a suit of clothes that is actually non-existent. These swindlers convince the Emperor and his ministers by telling them that only "intelligent," well-informed citizens can see the suit. Publicity about the Emperor's "new" suit went out unto all the kingdom as people were told what they were supposed to see. The people realized that if they were to be perceived as "smart" and not seem "stupid" they would see this suit of clothes.
And, of course, no one wanted to be perceived as stupid.

Soon it was publicized throughout the kingdom that the Emperor would be showing off his "new" suit of clothes in a public procession several days hence. When the day came, the naked Emperor walked among his people and received unanimous acclaim for his new suit of clothes. The people saw what they had been told to see. "Isn't it absolutely wonderful," all the people proclaimed. "The emperor is all dressed up in his new suit of clothes."

Everyone was so taken by the Emperor's "new" suit of clothes, that they barely heard the little boy who hadn't been told what he was supposed to see. "But the emperor isn't wearing any clothes," said the lad. "The emperor is naked."

Several people heard the boy and realized that what he was saying was true. Suddenly everyone's eyes were opened and they realized they had been tricked into seeing something that wasn't even there. The Emperor wasn't wearing a new suit of clothes. He was as naked as the day that he was born. Swindlers had deceived the Emperor, his ministers, and almost the whole kingdom with their clever scheme.

And so it is with the "New" Age/"New" Spirituality and Oprah Winfrey. Widely regarded as the "Queen" of the airwaves, Oprah has been deceived into seeing a "New" Age/"New" Spirituality "suit of clothes" that simply isn't there. The Queen's advisors - Eric Butterworth, Maya Angelou, Marianne Williamson, Gary Zukav, Neale Donald Walsch, Esther Hicks, Eckhart Tolle, and countless others -- have all been similarly deceived into seeing this "new" way of looking at themselves and the world. Deceived and deceiving, they in turn convinced the Queen that she and everyone in her kingdom just needed to "shift" past their "egos" and "awaken" to the fact that they were already clothed in "Christ" - that they were already wearing this "new" suit from the New Age/New Spirituality wardrobe. All they had to do was accept and affirm the "God" and "Christ" within. Click here to read this entire article along with the three previous sections.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Bible is America's Favorite Book

The Bible is America's Favorite Book Followed by Gone with the Wind

When it comes to reading, we know what genre Americans are reading, but what is Americans' favorite book? Across all demographic groups the number one book is The Bible. Behind The Bible, the Civil War is still being fought as Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind comes in second. Fantasy and a bit of fear round out the top five favorite books of all time: in at number 3 is J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series and number 4 is that other fantasy series, J.K Rowling's Harry Potter books. In fifth is one of the masters of scary books - Stephen King and The Stand.

These are the results of a nationwide Harris Poll of 2,513 U.S. adults surveyed online by Harris Interactive between March 11 and 18, 2008.
Read the entire poll results.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Is There Still Strength In the Church?

This is a question that I have been thinking about lately. Many, many of America's church are declining, plat-toed or closing it doors, why exactly?

This is probably fresh in my mind because of the sermon I preached yesterday in Acts 16:5. Great formula! Our Bible churches need to be full of strong believers and because of that our churches can multiply. O yes the church will grow in God's time, but could it be that the reason why churches do not grow is that the people either are not saved or not strong in the Lord?

The message in Acts 16:5 doesn't sound seeker sensitive to me. We need more of our churches that are strong in the Lord and not seeking sin. Come on how does a church or a believer for that matter expect to be strong in the Lord and be full of sin?

This is what I see as a SBC pastor. Our churches are to sin infested to do much growing! Much sin is found in the church. What shall we do? Cry out to the Lord daily in repentance (which is a sign of a believer by the way) when a church has that type of attitude it can grow if God wills it to happen.

Your life is not your own if you are in Christ it belongs to Him. Each day you get up you choose to either be a slave to sin or a slave to Christ.