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Hubris

Dec 5th, 2017

Paul Mooney

 

 

by Paul Mooney

“We can do this by ourselves!” On a weekly basis, I talk with, listen to, speak to and interact with young people. Even among the very youngest there is a certain understanding of the present social fluidity. They feel it.

You get the picture, of course. And the kids get the picture. We have all been welcomed, ready or not, into the digital world. New cameras, new phones, new apps, endless movies, new ways to download, faster Internet, new toys, new games and it all becomes extremely demanding, and extremely absorbing, absorbing, ever absorbing. Parents and society, at least to some degree, may be seeing the many dangers connected with the digital age along with its advantages — but the pressure to adopt the new, the better, the more cool is showing itself to be unstoppable.

The real issues are not about better ways of communication and doing our business. The greater concerns are about the power that the digital world has to literally reshape the way we learn and think. We cannot ignore the universal access that the most wicked men and women on this earth now have to reach the souls and minds of our children — and they don’t care about your feelings, your faith, or your rights as a parent.

What is profoundly interesting is that the developers of our modern digital world, who are literally transforming life on this earth, including finance, automobiles, education, artificial intelligence, government, entertainment, global economies, etc., are all deeply concerned about what they themselves have created and are creating — especially as it pertains to the exploitation of children and the growing breakdown in morals, aided by the massive marketing of pornography. None of us can handle this by ourselves. It is already out of control. Parents may do their best to protect their children, only to discover that their children’s friends or the dirty man next door is also their enemy.

A while back I was having a casual conversation about some of these things with a young man. He missed my point entirely and responded with a rather strong retort about how ignorant it was to stay stuck in the old-school mode. “We can handle this (new world) by ourselves and make it better,” he said. Hubris!

Such is the growing attitude of hubris that is overtaking many minds and hearts in this era. This phenomenon, marked by overconfidence, pride and self-reliance, is growing, especially among our youth. They are first emboldened by a real and unavoidable global revolution that encompasses the dynamic technological and philosophical advancements of society. This radical change is exciting and intoxicating, enticing all but the very wise to embrace without question new paradigms and values. The exhilarating promise of innovation and modernism is quickly substituted for seemingly inconsequential details like privacy; connection on social media supersedes any concern for control of personal information.

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A similar form of hubris slips into the church as well. Young men and women take their cues from what they see around them — and too often I’m afraid we are failing to provide the strong, godly leadership, the righteous statesmanship, the prayerful direction — and offering instead only a form of godliness performed by men who are no longer passionate for what they once believed, who have crept in among us unaware. Do they, perhaps, purposely avoid the kindling of the young hearts, avoid setting them afire to love and defend the Apostle’s doctrine as the true light and as the one way? Have we in some hasty fascination with progress bartered our distinctiveness for some misguided chance at inclusivism — traded our holiness for worldliness?

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not” (Jude 1:3-5).

Let us carefully examine Jude’s admonition to us, that “with all diligence” we watch for those who would now deny our only Lord Jesus. This sort of man influences advocates and validates, in cunning ways, a path of escape from all things classical, foundational and absolute. It is a dangerous moment in time, not just for the church, but for all who love righteousness and liberty. And if we do not guard ourselves against great deception in this present time of confusion and disorder, then when should we be on guard?

It is frightening and sad to see what can happen in a godless culture. We are losing something special when we lose our moral foundations. It’s like watching one’s wedding ring fall into the sea from the deck of a cruise ship — it’s gone, but you keep looking, staring into the water as if it will reappear… and for a second you fight the urge to dive in after it.

Hospice Care for Dying Churches?

Nov 27th, 2017

ibc-faculty-rob-rodenbush

by Robert Rodenbush

An article in Alban Weekly, a publication of Duke Divinity School, highlighted a group of non-profit organizations that have sprouted up with an interesting mission. The article, written in September 2017, documents that nearly 3,700 Protestant churches closed last year and most did so quickly and “under duress.”Church Steeple One such ministry founder, Rev. Kate Noellert, discussed the goal of these groups, many who are coming out of the United Methodist Conferences.

She states, “Legacy work is about coming in before [churches] get down to the bitter end and offering them a better end — the idea of finishing well and finishing strong and doing that with more care, with more empowerment — giving them the chance to close of their own accord and leave a legacy for the future.”

The congregations, pastors and boards can decide what to do with remaining funds, help members find new places of worship and create “bucket lists” of accomplishments for the congregation to complete together before they close. While it varies widely, some “markers” for deciding whether to close a church include:

1. “Attendance of fewer than 50 people,”
2. “No new baptisms”
3. “No new professions of faith”
4. “History of low financial contribution to the organization/denomination.”

The article closed with a list of questions to ask yourself about your congregation. Some of the questions included:

1. Where is your church in its life cycle?
2. If your church closed today how would it be remembered?
3. Where do you see signs of death and decay?

While I can certainly understand there are some times when churches have to close, it is frightening to think mainline denominations are declining so rapidly that they are calling in hospice care for congregations. The numbers look more like an epidemic than a symptom of tough economics or shifting demographics. In 2015, The Legacy Church Project stated that in the next 15 years 35% of the United Methodist churches in the U.S. will close.

The Bible clearly gives us hope that in the last days great revival will come. This is no time to board up our churches. I’m sure our reaction is to say, “Oh, that will never happen to us!” But, God doesn’t need us to have revival. He needs committed, willing vessels, a contrast to the world and the darkness surrounding it. The revival will come, the question remains, will we be ready to be a part of it?

Belief in the Inerrancy of Scripture

Nov 20th, 2017

Bobby Killmon

 

 

by Bobby Killmon

How do we explain the importance of our belief in the inerrancy of Scripture? 

We must remind ourselves that it is not enough to just believe in God. Even the devils believe in one God and tremble! (James 2:19). But unless we have a message from God regarding what life and what our relationship to Him looks like, then our belief in God alone is of no consequence. We need specific trustworthy direction. Belief that the Bible was correct in all aspects, from beginning to end, has declined in America. However, if we do not have true revelation from God today, it is senseless to claim any truth about God, eternity or salvation.

In the West, respect for Scripture changed due to secular methods of studying literature being applied to the Bible. People like Lorenzo Valla, the Italian humanist, through textual analysis proved certain papal documents were forgeries, such as the “Donation of Constantine.” However, these critical methods were not applied to Scripture at that time. But subsequent others did such as Thomas Paine, the French Encyclopedists and the Deists.

A new type of “criticism” appeared against the Bible as revelation at this time, called “higher criticism” or documentary criticism. The claim was, while the Bible looks like it was written by the names associated with it, it was really made up of clumsily weaving many strands and sources together by certain “redactors” and “editors” into the form we have today.

The result was liberal ideas began to claim we could not trust the Bible for the historical, scientific or geological data that it claims. “Errors” in science and history proved, they claimed, that inerrancy was no longer believable. So, if we can’t trust it all, how can we trust any of it, secular critics rightfully asked? If Scripture contains errors historically or scientifically, how can we trust what it says spiritually?

The crisis of belief in inerrancy due to these liberal starting points has destroyed faith in God’s revelation in most denominations. Sociologist Jeffrey Hadden gives alarming statistics regarding ministers who affirm Scripture is without any errors in faith, history and secular matters: 95% of Episcopalians, 87% of Methodists, 82% of Presbyterians, 77% of American Lutherans, 67% of American Baptists all said “no.” Only two denominal groups defended inerrancy: the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the Southern Baptists. Many of these same denominations are struggling now with ordaining homosexuals and other critical issues.

But this shouldn’t surprise us. Loss of inerrancy means a loss of a certain Word and as Paul said to the Church at Corinth, “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” Does anyone doubt Paul’s connection between certainty in Scripture and certainty in the pulpit, which always transfers to certainty in the pew? If they do, they should only need to see what’s playing out in front of us every day in the denominal world.

A Weak Defense Is No Defense At All

Nov 8th, 2017

Paul Mooney

 

 

by Paul Mooney

Reality lies in the heart. Our destinies are shaped and determined from the heart, all of the issues we face are settled from within the heart, and who we are is revealed by our hearts. These verities lead us to perhaps the Bible’s most profound warning: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

There is likely no greater illustration of this dichotomy than the story of David. David was inexperienced, armed with a mere slingshot, yet he was nevertheless God’s choice to defeat the Philistines. God’s instruction to Saul was based on what he knew of David. David was focused on fulfilling the will of God. Therefore, he was God’s choice, for one obvious reason–God knew his heart.

warrior in chainmailHearts that love the cause, hearts that have marked the consequences of failure are the kind of hearts that would rather die than compromise. Even the most skilled warrior is more likely to give up or sell out if his heart lacks a righteous commitment. He is skilled but he is not prepared to die. The motivation for his effort is altogether different. A committed warrior seeks victory for the sake of something beyond himself. The other warrior is clouded by his own ambition, and often his arrogance.

Eli Pariser is the author of The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web is Changing What We Read and How We Think (Penguin Books, 2011). At first glance, this volume may appear ancient compared to how fast technology is advancing; however, it is not dated. Pariser is a futurist and a major developer and influencer of our times. His foresight and vision regarding the consequences of Internet usage is quite alarming.

The book deals with three basic factors he wants his readers to know about the Internet:

1. You are alone.

“You are alone. You are very alone.” In fact, Pariser says, “It’s a centrifugal force pulling us apart, into a bubble.” We are uniquely identified.

2. The bubble is invisible.

The Internet doesn’t tell you who you are or who they think you are. It uses search engines and elaborate algorithms to make broad assumptions about who you are and how you behave, what you purchase, how you think and even how you vote. But, is how they have defined you and their assumptions about you right or wrong? “It’s easy to imagine that the information that comes through a filter bubble is unbiased, objective, true. But it’s not. In fact, from within the bubble, it’s nearly impossible to see how biased it is” (Pariser, 2011)

3. You don’t choose to enter the bubble.

“You don’t choose to enter the bubble, when you turn on Fox News or read The Nation you are making a decision about what kind of filter to use to make sense of the world. It’s an active process, and like putting on a pair of tinted glasses, you can guess how the editors’ leaning shapes your perception. You don’t make the same kind of choices with personalized filters. They come to you and because they drive up profits for the websites that use them they become harder and harder to avoid” (Pariser, 2011).

We should take notes of Pariser’s warnings. To his point, when we search we are profiled, we are placed in the “bubble” and we expose our hearts, our desires and our wants, and the Internet delivers based on the profile we created.

Societies around the world are acknowledging the powerful and growing force that is taking control of our lives. Computer technology partnered with the Internet has become the dominant enterprise and human tool for work, entertainment, education, and communication, storing our history, photography, commerce, surveillance and military operations. We are turning more and more of our lives over to electronic forces, and we have no idea what the outcome will be. We do know that robotic assistants and other artificial intelligence will soon be flying our aircrafts, driving our vehicles and even operating on our bodies. The outcomes are terrifyingly uncertain at best.

With each concession of our privacy and the acquiescence to our curiosities we are revealing, with or without our knowledge and permission, what we desire, and thereby who we really are. The perceived anonymity of the Internet has caused the most open revelation of the human heart that we have ever seen. We see its capacity for evil, debauchery, hatred and sin. The ugliness of the true self has been unveiled and what is coming to light cannot be ignored.

As a pastor, I am responsible to our congregation, hundreds of children at our K-12 school and of course, Indiana Bible College. My concern everyday is the increasing glamorization of sin and worldliness. There are real souls at stake. There is a demonic battle for the hearts of Apostolic young people. Every hour of every day our kids are hit from people hiding behind video screens, people we don’t even know, attacking holiness and righteousness. Our youth endure snarky putdowns that insult their commitment to holiness, separation from the world and godly living.

We pray for the covering and the protection of this next generation, but the truth is, our young people are warriors who must choose their own motivation for the fight. They must commit their hearts fully to the Truth, to this message, lest they fall in passivity to this modern Goliath (Ephesians 6:13). The Internet and social media’s power is rapidly pulling the weak into bubbles of fleshly ideas and false belief systems that are not of God–any one of which can become embedded into their desires and into their hearts and that’s when and where it gets serious. A weak defense is no defense at all. It will take a full commitment to live out of a righteous heart–these are the issues of life.

 

Muddied Definitions

Nov 8th, 2017

Paul Mooney

 

 

by Paul Mooney

There is a conflict between the Holy Spirit and the flesh. And it is never insignificant. The outcome of that battle determines everything. Christianity, even among modern Pentecostals, at least to some degree, is facing a stormy anti-Christian, anti-Bible bias that is being pressed upon culture, politics and education. Think of it as a strategy of hard-core secularization, wherein all opinion and thought must correspond with secular philosophies and political correctness, or it will be harshly maligned as unsophisticated, unscholarly, backward and unlettered.

Man sitting in an empty sanctuary

Churches over the past few decades have marched to the beat of the deconstructionists, who hope to refashion the Church without regard to things holy, divine and supernatural. A philosophy of positive thinking and other flesh-inspired paths of spirituality have been sold to millions who are seeking salvation, but without mention of sanctification, freedom from the consequences of a sinful life and without repentance.

Such is the spirit of the age. The Spirit of God is life; the flesh brings death. The flesh substitutes the real for the counterfeit. The disciples were directed to the Upper Room and assured of “power from on high.” Acts 2:28 was the central dictum; it changed everything. Without obedience to that command as the core element of the New Testament experience, one is left with something other than a Pentecostal Church. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (II Thess. 3:6).

At a meeting yesterday, in relation to the writing of this article, our group sat in Vice President Mike Pence’s office. We were surrounded by priceless memos and documents pertaining to the history and establishment of the United States of America. Any discussions in such rooms are made sacred by the awareness of the actual signatures of men and women who died for the freedom and hopes contained in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Howard Chandler Christy's "Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States"

It’s a spiritual experience to be in such a room where life and death convictions were established. The founders’ courage and commitments to liberty made everything possible. To lay aside or to disavow the Constitution is to lose everything. And further more, our affection for those very words are crucial to our nation’s future. If we fail to love the Constitution, we will lose it.

Pentecostals, Spirit-filled believers, shall we say, hold a deep affection for the words of the Bible. The Bible is the foundation of our unity and our spiritual life. At the core of our future lies the matter of our affection or disaffection for the commands of Jesus, and one in particular: “Tarry until ye be endured with power from on High.”

A love for the Word of God is critical. We feel this deeply in our hearts because truth brings something to the heart, and the spirit and to the emotions, and not merely to the intellect. We draw upon the greatness of God to empower us. God makes us stronger than we are. “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4). “Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8).

One thing all of us are hearing today is muddied definitions and meanings. Words can enlighten or confuse. And here’s where we can lose everything or gain everything. If our “hearts are fixed, trusting in the Lord” (Psa. 112:7), then we can and will resist those who create doubt against our experiences, our convictions. Paul’s warning to Timothy should help us … “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” (I Tim. 4:1).

Woman studying the Bible

If today’s Christians love the truth, they will not distort the Word of God or manipulate its meanings. God’s spirit does not confuse. If you know, you know. And if you truly love the Word of God, push back against all seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.

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