Hey Bill Johnson & Bethel Church, God Put Himself in a Box Called “Bible”

EQUIP THE SAINT

god-in-a-boxI receive emails from people around the world who are deeply confused and frightened by the teaching and supposed “miracle” ministry of Bill Johnson, Bethel Church, and Jesus Culture in Redding California. Many of these emails are from well meaning friends and family who have a loved one “immersed” in Bethel culture who won’t respond to their basic appeals for biblical clarity. Interestingly, time and again these lost sheep influenced by Bethel provide the same response to inquisitors. “We don’t put God in a box.”

“Don’t put God in a box.”

This common tagline from Bethel “Don’t put God in a box” or, “God likes to draw outside the lines” appears often in Bill Johnson’s books. Why do they say it? What does it mean? Is it biblical?

For background, virtually every Scripture Johnson uses in his seminal work [When Heaven Invades Earth, Destiny Image, 2003] is taken out of context [In a former…

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The Gospel and the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Intro)

 

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As Christians we are burdened and tasked with the great privilege & duty of sharing the life-giving Gospel. We have to share it wherever God places us, and with whoever God puts in our path.
It perhaps used to be the case that the Christians on the Island wouldn’t normally come into contact with people of other beliefs until they left the Island for education or for work.
The reality now is that walking around Stornoway you can now come into contact with at least five other major religious beliefs.

If we are to engage with those from other faiths, and share the Gospel with them, it makes sense for us to understand how they understand God/ salvation/ sin/ mankind etc.
Otherwise we will find ourselves talking past each other and not really getting anywhere!
We might begin talking to someone about salvation through Jesus alone, we might agree with each others main points, only then to find out that they think Jesus is not the eternal Son of God, rather he is a mere created being – produced by God the father and one of his many celestial wives (as is generally believed by the LDS Church (the Mormons).
We have to do the hard work, we have to prepare and study hard – most JW missionaries (the ones knocking on your door) pour hours of study each week into how to share their gospel with you.

There are a few warnings to take note of before we continue:

– I would not advise or suggest that new Christians or Christians who are going through a hard time in their walk should engage in this type of study. It is essential to have a good grasp of what you believe, before you begin to engage. You are dealing with something that is truly dangerous and that requires the full armour of God. It is never purely academic, this is real spiritual warfare.

– Before you begin any form of study into other religions, start by reading Scripture,  worship, and prayer. Pray that God would keep you safe from what you are about to study. You might accuse me of being far too cautious or dramatic, but we have to be mindful that when we are dealing with false beliefs and sects we are dealing with evil, we are studying ideas and thoughts that have come from the enemy of God.
We should prepare ourselves accordingly.

– Our study of other beliefs should never overtake our own personal devotional life and study. There is always a real danger that we dedicate too much time and thought to the study of these things, and let our own spiritual walk suffer.

– When we engage with those caught up and blinded in other beliefs we have to remember that once we were just and blinded as they still are, that the same God who opened our eyes to the glorious truth is more than able to do the same for them also.

Originally this was going to be more wide ranging, but with the recent increase in activity on the Island from the Jehovahs Witnesses (JW’s) I thought it might be best to take the time to look at what they believe and how we might engage them with the Gospel.
They are currently building a new Church in Stornoway, when it is completed this will more than likely mean that more JW families will move to the Island. What an incredible Gospel opportunity this gives us!
They come to ur doors, let’s be ready to listen to them, to talk with them, and to share with then the true life giving and life saving Gospel.

Upcoming posts:

1- JW Beliefs Basics 1
2- JW Beliefs Basics 2
3- The Most Common Passages
4- Sharing the Gospel 1
5-  Sharing the Gospel 2
6- What we need to Know

 

As always, comments & thoughts always appreciated.

 

 

Five Tips For Voting

Hymns,Hats, &Tattoos

[This is a guest post, as is apparent by the coherent wording and perfect grammar. I would like to thank the writer for this engaging and practical post]


The Unique selling point for this political blog post is that I can guarantee it does not mention either the word beginning with ‘T’ and rhyming with ‘Dump’, or the word beginning with ‘B’ and rhyming with ‘Exit’.

Firstly, I’m delighted to be able to post as a guest on this blog. I work in Politics, and I am passionate about it. This will hopefully be very practical, easy to understand, and useful for considering how to cast your vote in the fast-approaching Scottish Local Elections. Despite the general apathy and lack of enthusiasm for anything connected with the word ‘politics’, it is worth voting. Politics can solve issues. Democracy is good. As Christians, our faith should lead us to seek justice and mercy in your local area Some will see that being fulfilled by Labour, SNP, Conservatives, or an Independent candidate.

I will outline some things that we should consider as we approach the Local Elections, followed by a few pointers for what a candidate/councillor should strive after.

The following points are not in order of priority:

  1. Consider the issues

Think through what issues are most important to your local community. Housing? Crofting? Local Enterprise and jobs? Better run services? At the end of the day you are voting for people to be local champions for the issues that matter to your community.

  1. Engage with the candidates

If you want to know what each of your candidates stand for, get in touch with them whether by email, facebook, or a chat on the street. Don’t be scared to ask them questions, after all they are the ones who will be representing you. You are looking for someone of good character who can carry out their duties as a councillor in a respectful and caring manner, who is gracious enough to debate passionately, but to share a laugh afterwards. You want someone who is humble enough, but also wants to work quietly, honestly and consistently for the local community. If the candidate wants to rant, rave, and stage a protest in order to oust those he disagrees with, this is not a display of tolerance. Tim Keller summed it up well: Tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.

  1. Pray for Wisdom

Your ability to vote is something to be thankful for – make the most of it. Voting is also a serious thing, and praying for wisdom essential. If we believe Jesus is the Lord over all aspects of our life, that should include voting. It is not in a separate compartment. You would pray for wisdom to know what job offer to accept, or what course to enrol in, or where to move to, so why would voting be any different? We are told in the Bible to be subject to governing authorities (1 Peter 2:13-17, Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1). This does not mean we have to just agree with everything they do, but it means we should make use of our vote as responsible Christians.

  1. Remember your chief end

Your chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Your chief end in each political decision you make, should be made in light of this fact. He knows our motives, and if they are driven by a desire for personal gain, or someone else’s expense, or malice for a particular candidate/party then we should think twice before casting out vote that way.

If you have a rough idea who you are going to vote for, can you vote this way with a clear conscience?

  1. Don’t be blinded by party allegiances

Parties do serve a function, and can help summarise generally what a candidate stands for, but the candidate also has an independent mind and will sometimes disagree with their party, don’t assume they agree with everything their party does on a national level.

  • Independent candidates are free from party constraints and are generally politically unique to rural parts of Scotland such as the Highlands and Islands. This can be beneficial.
  • Independent councillors can focus more directly on the issues of local governance free from party constraints. Generally, in an age where there is a lot of political division, we are very liable to falling into the trap of adhering to the tribal politics of ‘us’ and ‘them’. It avoids the problem of angry constituents judging them prematurely, simply because of the party badge they wear.
  • Give the independents serious consideration, but finding out where they stand would be helpful.
  1. Don’t be blinded by the media
  • Be discerning with what you read, and don’t be blinded by local gossip. If you hear that ‘Candidate A’ is awful/great, ask why he/she is so awful/great. Don’t rely on others to form your own opinion of a candidate.
  • Read broadly, don’t just stick to the same news source. Reading the letters pages of the local papers can help to find out what others are saying about local and national issues.

Final Points:

We should long to overcome differences for the good of our community, and the furtherance of the gospel.

We should never allow political differences come between us as Christians. We have more important work, which is sharing the hope of the gospel in the public square.

How can councillors show a real commitment to their communities:

  1. Get involved locally and be a witness, we cannot withdraw from the public square into isolation and irrelevance – our message is too good for that. Now is not the time to withdraw.
  2. Do justly – do what is right, bear in mind this may not always be what is right in the eyes of the world.
  3. Love mercy – remember what the Lord has brought you from, remember his goodness to you which is new every morning, and be selfless. We don’t love our neighbour for affirmation, but because we have been loved first. Be spent for the Lord and for your community.
  4. Walk humbly – overcome the worldly obsessions and seek to be of real use to others, rather than simply being in charge of others. Remember whose you are and who you serve.

Happy voting.

Away with the fairies?

Post tenebras lux

The fairies & the Free Church

I had a chat about fairies with a colleague the other morning. We were walking from our cars in to work and it just . . . well, came up. My job involves a lot of conversations about the ‘otherworld’, about fairies, ghosts, witches and all manner of unchancy beings. ‘What on earth does this woman do for a living?’ you may well ask, and your best guess might be somewhere between nursery school teacher and delusional holistic healer. You’d be wrong, though. I actually teach students on Gaelic degree programmes about their own heritage – I teach folklore and I teach the history of the Highlands and Islands, because these are the things that no school ever taught us, despite the fact that these are also the things which make us who we are. Or, perhaps, because these are the things which make us who…

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My Top 5 Books For Young Christians

There is a huge selection of books available for Christians to read and to study, it’s often hard to know where to start.  The following 5 books are my own personal favourite Christian books that I’ve read (or re-read) in the last year’ish, and that are still available to buy. They are in no particular order.

I’ve tried to provide a link to the most affordable copy of each book. If you live locally let me know, and you can borrow any of the books.

1. “The Lord our Shepherd” – J. Douglas MacMillan
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This much-beloved book is one that has been on the shelf for years, but I’ve only recently actually read it.
Rev MacMillan walks us through Psalm 23, every page describing in beautiful detail the care and love of our Shepherd, as he protects and guides us.
Since the author spent many years as a shepherd, he often writes from experience. It’s a short book and an incredibly easy one to read, but that does not mean that he simplifies anything; rather as he gently walks us through the psalm he delves deep into the wonderful work of our Saviour.
Seriously if you have it read it, if not borrow or buy a copy.
LINK

2. “I AM” – Iain D. Campbell

i-amAgain, this is another short book. But it is not one to quickly skim over. Rev. Campbell looks into the seven “I am” sayings of Jesus as we find them in the Gospel of John. By taking the time to study these phrases we can learn about our saviour by seeing how He described himself.
Rev. Campbell unpacks each saying into manageable sections, he also closes each chapter by asking several study questions.
As well as for personal reading, this book would make a great book for use in a small group study. LINK

3. “The Shorter Catechism”

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Okay, so I know that many of you will have at least had a little experience with this book some point in your life – but bear with me. This little book of 107 Questions and Answers has helped countless Christians for hundreds of years. We now live in an age of 140 character tweets & soundbites. Well, this book beat that trend a few hundred years ago!
The questions range from the purpose of our creation to salvation/ election/ ten commandments/ the Lord’s prayer etc. Almost every area of essential Biblical teaching is covered in bite-size chunks.
With each Q+A you can see the related Scripture references and a short (but incredibly helpful) comment. LINK

4. “Five Points” – John Piper
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I spent years struggling with election, salvation and God’s sovereignty over all things. Questions like “If God chooses certain people to be saved, how can that be fair & right…”etc. If I had had this book during that time all my questions would have been answered. The reality is that, as we have it so wonderfully put in Psalm 115, “Our God is in the Heavens, He does all that he pleases”. Piper gently leads the reader through five different areas where he shows, again and again, that God is our Sovereign King & Loving Father. That He hates sin & loves His people. That God has a perfect plan, and that He will accomplish that plan.
Read this book. If you have not yet dealt with these types of questions you will have to soon enough, prepare yourself now. LINK [There’s a free PDF download of the book available]

5. A Biography / Autobiography

Okay so I’m cheating here slightly, but I honestly can’t think which books to specifically recommend. I’ve read two the last year, an autobiography by Martin C. Haworth “Beyond  Coral Shores”, documenting his missionary calling to work in the Philippines and then amongst the Buhid tribe. It’s a great read, and pretty exhilarating. It shows the power of the Gospel to reach and touch any people/ language and tribe.
I also read “The Life of Rabbi Duncan” by David Brown, whilst it’s a wonderful account of God shaping and forming the life of Mr Duncan etc. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for a younger or new Christian.
So just grab any book which documents the life of a Christian, and see how God worked in their life, marvel at how He works all things together for His will and the good of His people.

Just one quick word on some books to avoid, from authors which seem to be unfortunately popular with younger & new Christians. Avoid Joyce Meyer, Sarah Young (Jesus Calling) and Rob Bell.

So there we go, a quick look at my top 5 (‘ish) books for new & younger Christians. What would your must-read books be?

Do I REALLY care for the Gospel?

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“Give me Scotland, or I die.”

These were the words of John Knox, one of the most famous Christians in Scottish History. At a time when the true Gospel was obscured behind the man-made religion of the Roman Catholic Church, Knox was among those that were seeking, above all other things, to have the true Gospel heard again in Scotland [See here & here for more about the life and ministry of John Knox]

In these few short words Knox isn’t arrogantly demanding from God some piece of land or power.
What we see here is a plea from a man who wanted, above all things, to see God glorified in the spread of the Gospel in Scotland.
In other words he is saying ‘Lord, I am desperate that this nation would all come to worship you and know you’.

Knox was willing to give up comfort and his freedom to serve the God he loved.
These few simple words of Knox have really convicted me the last few days.
They’ve made me question my passion for the Gospel; can I say with a heart full of conviction:
“Give me my Lewis, or I die”
OR
“Give me my village, or I die”
OR
“Give me my family, or I die”
Do I care enough for the glory of God and the spread of the wonderful Gospel that I am willing to work relentlessly for His cause?

Not that God needs us to accomplish His work, He doesn’t! But, in His infinite wisdom, He calls us to act. To be the candles in this dark world. To share the beautiful, simple Gospel.

Knox was not just offering up some inspiring words, this simple but powerful prayer came from a man who was willing to work hard for the sake of the Gospel. His zeal & passion for serving God was matched in his actions.

That God would keep us full of love and passion for Him, and that our action would match our words.

Let’s see what Paul [a man who knew what it was to suffer for the sake of the Gospel] says concerning our daily walk as Christians (emphasis mine):
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,g serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”
-Romans 12: 9-16

Infectious Christianity

It’s 111AD and Plinius Caecilius the Roman governor of Bithynia (modern-day Istanbul) has a problem on his hands. He’s been faced with a secret group of religious believers, a group he has not had to deal with before, a group that will not follow the religion of the people and the country. Looking for help he writes to the Roman Emperor Trajan:

“It is my custom, Lord emperor, to refer to you all questions whereof I am in doubt … In investigations of Christians I have never [before] taken part; hence I do not know what is the crime usually punished or investigated, or what allowances are made. ”

Whilst waiting for advice from the Emperor on how to proceed, he decides for himself on what to do for the time being:

“Meantime this is the course I have taken with those who are accused before me as Christians. I asked them at their own lips whether they were Christians, and if they confessed, I asked them a second and third time with threats of punishment. If they kept to it, I ordered them for execution”

Plinius stresses the danger of this new religion:

“The matter seemed to me worth deliberation especially on account of the number of those in danger; for many of all ages and every rank, and even of both sexes are brought into present or future danger”

But even though it’s so infectious, he is confident  it won’t last too long, that it can be stopped:

“The contagion of that superstition has penetrated not the cities only, but the villages and country: yet it seems possible to stop it and set it right.”



So, did Plinius manage to stop this evil sect from spreading even further, did he manage to “set it right”? Well, the fact that I am sitting here in Lewis writing this shows that they failed in that task.
The Romans had suppressed many other sects and religions (some who resisted violently), so why did they struggle so much with this peaceful, small group of people?

These early Christians (men and woman, boy and girls) suffered awful persecutions (which we can look at in the future). Our brothers and sisters today still face awful persecutions, so how do they endure it all? How has the Church survived and grown through all these years?

The reality is that although there have been many brave Christians throughout the centuries, people who were willing to live in poverty and die in pain for the glory of God; the spread of the Gospel and the preservation of the Church did not rely even on them.
Instead let’s see what Paul concludes when he ponders the care & love of God for his people, the Church:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
-Romans 8:38-39

Nothing will stop the Gospel, not violence, governments, laws, false teachings or the many other religions in our world.
God knows his people, God saves his people, God keeps his people. This is as true now as it was 2000 years ago. 

[The text of the letter from Pliny to Trajan is taken from “Selections from Early Christian Writers” pp.27-31, H. M. Gwatkin]