Category: Lead Article

August 27th, 2013 by Bryan Anthony

The debate about cessationism vs. continuism—meaning, whether all the gifts of the Spirit are still in operation today—is not just an abstract theological debate. It is often a matter of life and death, and as I heard some testimonies during a recent ministry trip to Canada, I was reminded of how critically important it is to have the manifest presence of God in our midst.

But before anyone misunderstands me, I’m not talking about specific manifestations, nor am I talking about how we respond outwardly to the Spirit’s presence. I’m talking about people having a life-changing encounter with the living God as He moves in our midst.

The first testimony I heard involved a Jewish man in his late 30s or early 40s. Although his mother, brother and sister were believers in Yeshua, he was totally lost and heavily addicted to drugs. In fact, when he showed up one night at a summer tent meeting in Ontario, he was near death.

The pastor leading the meeting was a graduate of our ministry school, and he deeply values the presence of God and the moving of the Spirit. When he saw this drug-addicted young man, he said to himself, “If he makes it to the end of the week, that will be a miracle.”

The man was gaunt and weak, with death in his eyes, the result of years of heavy drug abuse, and no program had been able to help him. But people were praying for his salvation.

That night, the man encountered the risen Lord in power, and he was instantly delivered from drugs.

Now, more than two years later, he is burning bright with passion for the Lord, and a result of hisdeliverance, his father, the son and grandson of Polish Holocaust survivors, became a believer. In fact, it was his father who shared the story of how the Lord set his son free.

The second testimony was from a young woman about 20 years old, full of joy and glowing with enthusiasm for Jesus.

As a little girl, she witnessed her father having a seizure, and she became so traumatized that from that day on, she suffered from deep depression.

On numerous occasions she tried to take her own life, sometimes accumulating pills with a plan to put an end to her pain, at other times cutting herself as an expression of her torment.

But people were praying for her as well, and one year ago, under that same tent, she encountered the same risen Lord. Her depression vanished instantly, and she has not had another suicidal thought.

That is the power of the gospel! That is the power of the Spirit! And that is why it is so important that we welcome God’s Spirit in our midst, however He wants to move and whenever He wants to move.

Yes, it is absolutely true that we are called to be disciples and make disciples, and that requires day-to-day obedience in big things and little things. It requires ongoing submission to the Word of God and the continual conforming of our character to the image of Jesus by the grace and help of God. It calls for careful and prayerful study of the Word, solid relationships with other believers and a consistent outreach to a dying world.

Without these important foundations, we will not bear lasting fruit for the glory of God.

But this is not the whole picture, and throughout Scripture, we see God coming suddenly and bringing radical, dramatic change, most famously in Acts 2, when the Spirit was poured out on the 120, Peter preached his powerful message, and 3,000 Jews were added to the body in a moment of time. Nothing like that had ever happened before.

Over the course of my years in the Lord, there have been times when a personal breakthrough seemed so difficult, whether it was a besetting sin that seemed so hard to resist or a step of obedience that seemed so impossible to take. And then, during a glorious worship service where the Spirit of Godbegan to move in power or while praying at home alone, the Lord’s presence took hold of me in a profound way, and suddenly that sin was gone or that seemingly impossible step was taken—and it wasn’t hard at all.

At other times, I have witnessed breakthroughs in public gatherings where repentance or healing were suddenly poured out and lives were instantly changed. This is what happens when the presence of God is manifest in our midst.

Moses understood this well, saying to the Lord, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Ex. 33:15-16, NIV).

Yes, we must love one another so the world will see Jesus in us (John 13:35), and yes, it is by our acts of kindness and compassion that people will glorify our Father (Matt. 5:16).

But that is not all. We serve a risen Lord who has ascended to heaven and poured out His Spirit, and He desires to be glorified in our midst by a demonstration of that divine power. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20).

And that is why, when he brought the gospel to them, he explained, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor. 2:4-5).

Where is the demonstration of the power of God in our midst?

Michael Brown is author of The Real Kosher Jesus and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

Posted in Evangelism & Missions, Lead Article, Revival & Prayer, The Kingdom of God

July 30th, 2013 by Michael L. Brown

On July 25, Fred Butler, writing on behalf of Pastor John MacArthur, posted an article on the Grace to You website in response to my recent articles on CharismaNews. With a desire to be constructive rather than combative, I write this response, calling once again on Pastor MacArthur and his team to sit down face to face with me and other charismaticleaders, putting the scriptural and practical issues on the table together in reverence before God.

According to Mr. Butler, “For a month now people have been contacting our ministry insisting that we answer Dr. Brown’s criticisms. Those folks would say John MacArthur wrongfully equates that heretical nonsense saturating TBN with ‘sound’ charismatic continuationists. If John was truly honest about engaging and taking on genuine continuationists, he would stop going after the TBN health-N-wealth crowd who are easy to attack, and interact with Dr. Brown who represents those ‘sound’ charismatics.”

Mr. Butler’s guest article on Pastor MacArthur’s website, along with an article on his personal blog, provides a response to the concerns I raised.

While Mr. Butler is very appreciative of my Jewish apologetics work (specifically, my five-volume series on answering Jewish objections to Jesus), my stand on moral and cultural issues (articulated in the book A Queer Thing Happened to America), and my defense of the modern state of Israel, with regard to my view of fellow charismatics, he claims I am “completely off the rails.”

How else, he asks, could I endorse or work with people whom he calls “wackos” and “charlatans”? Obviously, I must be terribly lacking in discernment, and so he can no longer recommend my other writings without issuing a “clear warning” as well.

Perhaps Mr. Butler should look at this from a different angle. Specifically, if he believes I had the biblical scholarship and spiritual sensibility to produce those works—some of which he calls “stellar”—perhaps I know who these alleged “wackos” and “charlatans” really are and understand more accurately what they really believe. And perhaps it is because of careful study of the Word that I am more affirming of the Spirit’s work today.

Mr. Butler writes, “Though Dr. Brown has written so thoughtfully on important aspects of apologetics, he dismisses the serious theological errors prevalent within the charismatic movement as mere ‘excesses.’”

Actually, when I speak of “excesses,” I’m referring to emotionalism or hyperspirituality or silly practices; where there are “serious theological errors” among charismatics, they need to be rebuked sharply, just as the serious theological errors among non-charismatics need to be sharply rebuked.

But before I suggest a positive way forward, let me respond to two major points raised by Mr. Butler.

First, he questions whether I have truly addressed abuses and extremes in the charismatic movement.

Actually, I raised a number of relevant issues in my books The End of the American Gospel Enterprise,How Saved Are We? and It’s Time to Rock the Boat, all of which speak to primarily charismatic audiences, while one of my books is entitled Whatever Happened to the Power of God: Is the Charismatic Church “Slain in the Spirit” or Down for the Count? (These books date back as far as 1989; the title and subtitle of the last one speaks for itself.)

My forthcoming book, Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message (due out January 2014), focuses on doctrinal abuses found primarily in the charismatic church, as do quite a number of my recent articles, including the widely read “Sex Symbols Who Speak in Tongues.”

So, the answer is a categorical yes. I have addressed abuses and extremes in the charismatic movement for decades, and I continue to address them. In fact, if Pastor MacArthur recognized the glorious things the Holy Spirit is doing around the world, I would gladly join him in exposing and rebuking the truly “strange fire.”

Second, Mr. Butler took exception to my charge that Pastor MacArthur was using a double standard by calling out charismatic abuses while failing to do the same with those who held to a cheap, once-saved-always-saved gospel, pointing out that, to the contrary, this has been the hallmark of his ministry for decades.

I certainly understand Mr. Butler’s indignation here, but my point was simply this: Since, in my opinion, easy-believism is far more pervasive than is the alleged “strange fire,” and since, I believe, it is even more deadly than a carnal prosperity message (though both must be renounced), why isn’t Pastor MacArthur holding an “Easy Believism” conference? And why is he putting the blame for the majority offalse doctrine and moral scandals at the feet of charismatics?

Mr. Butler urges me to “follow John’s example with regard to [Mike] Bickle, [Lou] Engle, and [Cindy] Jacobs”—some of those dubbed “wackos” by Mr. Butler—“rather than attack someone”—meaning John MacArthur—“who has spent his life as a caring, faithful shepherd of the sheep.”

To be clear, I am not attacking Pastor MacArthur, whom I commended in so many ways in my first article and whom I referred to as “my senior in the Lord” in my second article. Rather, I have respectfully taken issue with the way he has lambasted others, some of whom have also spent their lives as caring, faithful shepherds of the sheep.

In contrast, I am the one saying, “Let us sit together as servants of the same Lord, with humble hearts and Bibles open, and let us dialogue face to face.”

Perhaps in such a setting, Pastor MacArthur and his team would realize that some of those they have publicly scorned are actually devoted and sound men and women of God. (Mr. Butler brings a number of charges against leaders with whom I have ministered over the years, but this is not the place to respond to his guilt-by-association accusations. At the same time, to be perfectly clear, the fact that I post articles on CharismaNews certainly doesn’t mean I agree with every speaker who advertises on the website.)

Pastor MacArthur and his team slam the charismatic movement for being thoroughly unbiblical, but while some aspects of the movement are clearly in serious error, cessationism must also be challenged as unbiblical. This has been done by brilliant charismatic thinkers like Craig Keener, one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars, and J.P. Moreland, one of the most respected Christian philosophers today, just to name two. This means that as Pastor MacArthur and his colleagues are speaking out against strange fire, they are also guilty of putting forth the false teaching of cessationism.

In the most constructive tone possible, I issue an invitation for Pastor MacArthur and his top theologians to spend a day with me and several other charismatic scholars, probing the Word together on this important subject. I’m sure all of us are extremely busy, but wouldn’t this glorify the Lord and send an example to others in the body? And perhaps we could actually learn from each other.

If a public debate-dialogue was preferred, I would welcome it in a heartbeat, also believing we could model a spirit of Christian unity and respect in the process, just as Dr. James White and I have sought to do with our debates on Calvinism. In fact, Dr. White and I actually prefer to debate on the same team, against others, than against one another.

And I would appeal once more to Pastor MacArthur and his colleagues to modify the rhetoric they are using, since “blasphemy of the Spirit,” as defined in Mark 3:22-31, is attributing the works of the Holy Spirit, performed by Jesus, to Satan, and it is an unforgivable sin. Yet Pastor MacArthur and his colleagues freely use this expression when critiquing many leaders in the charismatic movement. This is inaccurate, divisive and harmful.

And so I humbly appeal to Pastor MacArthur and his team to recognize what the Spirit is genuinely doing today—and it is not just among the “gullible,” as Mr. Butler claims—to reconsider their stance on cessationism, to be more careful with their rhetoric, and, at the least, to sit down together with me and others for frank, Christ-honoring discussion, prayer and interaction. Why not?

I could easily avoid this subject, but I feel it is right to pursue this in the spirit of Ephesians 4:1-7, where Paul exhorts us to make every effort to be united in the Spirit under the lordship of Jesus.

And if I did not respect and honor John MacArthur, I would not write this at all.

Michael Brown is author of The Real Kosher Jesus and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

Posted in Lead Article, Scripture

megan-fox-bw
February 10th, 2013 by Michael L. Brown

I was at the grocery store the other day when I was unexpectedly confronted with an adult-oriented magazine located right next to the vitamin section. I immediately had to look away from the front cover, which featured a scantily-clad, seductively-posed, sex symbol. Yet it was only a few weeks ago that I read an article about how this same sex symbol loves to speak in tongues and has to restrain herself from outbursts in tongues while attending church services. What?

This is actually a perfect illustration of American Charismatic Christianity, where you can say you love Jesus (like the rapper “The Game” claims to do) and still frequent strip clubs (as “The Game” still does), or where you can flow in the gifts of the Spirit and become a made-for-TV preaching sensation, only to announce that God told you that you married the wrong woman, leading to a quick divorce and remarriage.

Yes, this is the “gospel” of the 21st century, “Spirit-filled” Church of America, where the cross is bypassed, denial of the flesh is scorned, purity is called legalism, and anything goes if it feels good.

It is the “gospel” of self, in which Jesus dies to make you into a bigger and better you, a “gospel” in which God is here to serve you and help you fulfill your dreams, and where the measure of all things is not how God feels about it but how you feel about it (or how it makes you feel).

Back in the late 1950’s (as I recounted in my 1990 book How Saved Are We?) there was a notorious gangster named Mickey Cohen. He attended a Billy Graham meeting in Beverly Hills, and although he expressed some interest in the message, as revival historian J. Edwin Orr explained, Cohen “made no commitment until some time later when another friend urged him, using Revelation 3:20 as a warrant, to invite Jesus Christ into his life. This he professed to do, but his life susbsequently gave no evidence of repentance, ‘that mighty change of mind, heart and life’ [as defined by Richard Trench]. He rebuked [his] friend, telling him: ‘You did not tell me that I would have to give up my work,’ meaning his rackets; ‘You did not tell me that I would have to give up my friends,’ meaning his gangster associates. He had heard that so-and-so was a Christian football player, so-and-so a Christian cowboy, so-and-so a Christian actress, so-and-so a Christian senator, and he really thought that he could be a Christian gangster.”

Today, in some charismatic circles, you can be a Christian gangster – or, at least, a tongue-talking, seductive starlet, or a Christian lingerie model, or a strip-club attending, Jesus-speaking rapper, just to mention a few. After all, as we are reminded day and night, “Who are you to judge?”

Actually, what Jesus taught was that we should not judge hypocritically or superficially or unjustly and that we should not condemn. But Jesus also said, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). The Lord commands us to judge, as long as we do it rightly.

Paul taught the very same thing, writing to the Corinthians, “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Corinthian 5:11-12)

Why is it that everyone seems to know the words, “Judge not” (Matthew 7:1), but very few seem to know – or care about – the divine call to judge those “inside the church” (meaning those who profess to be followers of Jesus)?

Without a doubt, only the Lord knows who is saved and who is not. But the Word make things very simple for us, outlining God’s part and our part: “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’” (2 Timothy 2:19) There you have it! To quote the words of John, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). Could God make himself any more clear?

Unfortunately, as Orr noted years ago, “Many have sadly forgotten that the only evidence of the new birth is the new life,” and the Scriptures make perfectly clear that if we profess to follow Jesus with our lips but do not follow Him with our lives, we do not belong to Him. (I’m not talking about momentary lapses in our walks with the Lord or about serious mistakes that we make, only to reject and renounce them. God’s mercy and forgiveness are great. I’m talking about the consistent, willful pattern of our lives. Are we following Jesus or not?)

It’s time to say goodbye to this watered-down, sin-excusing, so-called gospel that offers everything and calls for nothing. It’s time to get back to the cross and back to the truth. Otherwise, as America collapses in a heap of amoral ruin, the soft preachers of America will be largely to blame.

Dr. Michael Brown is the author of The Real Kosher Jesus and the host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network.

Posted in Culture, Lead Article, The Kingdom of God

broken_church
January 10th, 2013 by Michael L. Brown

As I prepare to spend a week teaching the book of Jeremiah to Chinese pastors in Hong Kong, I’ve been reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of the Church in America. Regrettably, the list of negatives is longer than the list of positives.

To be clear, though, I’m speaking of the circles in which I travel, meaning evangelical Christian circles, so my observations might not apply to other Christian groups in America.

What are some of the strengths of the American Evangelical Church?

1) We are at the forefront of feeding the poor and providing disaster relief worldwide. From the earthquake in Haiti to the tsunami in Japan, and from orphanages in Latin America to feeding programs in Africa, organizations like World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse are there, making a difference.

2) We are a generous people when it comes to funding gospel work in America and abroad. While we can sometimes be self-indulgent as we build our latest mega-edifice, we are a giving people overall.

3) We have produced an abundance of Christian resources. If you’re looking for the latest translation of the Bible or a book on any aspect of Christian living, and if you’d like to download it to your phone, look no further.

4) We have a positive, can-do mentality. This is part of the American psyche, but it comports well with the biblical message of “All things are possible with God.”

5) Our churches offer many practical programs to help everyone from recovering drug addicts to couples needing marital counseling. To this day, ministries like Teen Challenge, which help people with drug and alcohol addictions, put government organizations to shame in terms of consistent rates of success.

6) We are strongly pro-life and pro-morality. This is especially true compared to Christians in many other nations, who seem oblivious to the evil of abortion and who fail to take moral stands on other issues.

7) We are strongly pro-Israel. Even the Israeli Knesset recognizes that American evangelicals are its best friends in the world, although in recent years, some evangelicals have challenged this consistent support for Israel.

8) We have sent many missionaries to the nations, also providing them with financial support. Beginning in 1812, this has been a great part of our spiritual history, and it has not primarily been for the purpose colonizing foreign peoples or making them into Westerners.

What are some of the weaknesses of the American Evangelical Church?

1) Our Christian expression is often shallow and superficial. It has often been said that American Christianity is 3,000 miles wide and one mile deep.

2)  We have been plagued with scandals among our leaders. Hardly a month (or week?) goes by without news of the moral failure of another one of our leaders.

3) We preach a carnal prosperity message. This is not the Protestant work ethic of old; it is the message of, “Jesus died on the cross to make me financially rich.”

4) We export our false teaching around the world. The latest teaching coming from professing evangelicals is that you can practice homosexuality and follow Jesus at the same time, and from our shores, this message is going to the nations.

5) We have created a worldly, cultural Christianity. Rather than preaching a Jesus who radically changes us, we preach a Jesus who radically empowers us. That’s why we have “Christian” lingerie models and “Christian” rappers who frequent strip clubs.

6) We have perfected the gospel enterprise. We have learned how to make everything “Christian” and then market it. Someone once said, “What began as a movement in Jerusalem became a philosophy in Greece, a monument in Rome, a culture in Europe, and an enterprise in America.”

7) We run our churches like businesses. It is one thing to implement good business principles where applicable, but our “corporate Christianity,” especially in our bigger churches, is another thing, and the pastor has become the CEO.

8) We are self-dependent. Who needs God’s help and we can make it happen on our own? If you want a performance, just visit our church on Sunday morning.

9) We are heavily politicized. Rather than being a prophetic witness to the society, calling on political leaders to do the right thing, we have sold our souls to the political system.

10) We have produced super-star preachers. Didn’t Jesus teach that leaders were supposed to be the servants of all?

11) We are exceptionally gullible. Only in America can a TV minister be convicted of various kinds of scams, only to be back on TV racking in the big bucks and selling all kinds of cheap gospel gimmicks. We have confused simple faith with gullibility.

12) Our “pep talk gospel” is hardly the gospel at all. Being positive and encouraging is great, but not when it comes at the expense of leaving out the rest of the message. Put another way, Jesus was not a motivational preacher.

The bad news is that the list of negatives can go on. The good news is that American history has been marked by great awakenings and revivals, and if ever we needed one, it is now.

My suspicion is that the next great awakening will also be quite a rude awakening.

Dr. Michael Brown is the author of The Real Kosher Jesus and the host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network.

Posted in Featured Articles, Lead Article, Revival & Prayer

moving-forward
November 7th, 2012 by Michael L. Brown

I am not in the least bit discouraged with the outcome of the presidential elections, and I write these words with faith in the presence of God.

Without a doubt, I have grave concerns about where our nation could be heading under four more years of President Obama and I grieve over the steady erosion of our liberties.

I am burdened by the deepening division within our country and troubled over real questions about our relationship with Israel along with issues concerning our national security. And I am pained by the fact that, for the first time, Americans voted to redefine marriage and make it genderless (and we did in all four states where this was on the ballot).

But I also believe that Obama’s reelection could be exactly what is needed for the Church to be the Church in our country, since we know we can’t look to the White House for change. And, as much as I hate to say it, it may take a serious national decline before the people of God awaken and arise. Unfortunately, as long as we pour so much of our time and energy and money and emotion into politics, we will fail to give ourselves fully to the Great Commission and to living as Jesus revolutionaries. (I certainlyl believe in the importance of politics; I’m talking here about a question of emphasis.)

On Sunday night, I felt prompted to write an article to be posted Monday morning, warning moral conservatives about the pitfalls in putting our trust in Governor Romney if he was elected president, and I’m glad I wrote the article. The warning stands, especially if we had deluded ourselves into thinking that a Romney presidency would have brought about radical moral and cultural changes in America, such as the end of legalized abortion on demand.

But I closed the article with these words: “And what if Barack Obama is re-elected? Then we would do well to avoid the trap of putting most of our energies into rebuking the president’s latest transgressions. Instead, we will have to focus our efforts like never before on fomenting a moral, cultural, and spiritual revolution. Come to think of it, that would be a sound course of action if Mitt Romney is our next president too. Can I count you in?

“The time for this kind of revolution – not a violent one but an ideological, cultural one – is long overdue, and I for one am not waiting for the White House to make it happen. How about you?”

Now, with the most radical pro-abortion, pro-gay-activist president in our history elected to a second term, we will not deceive ourselves into looking to the White House for help (although we should pray fervently for God to get hold of him and turn his heart). Instead, we must give ourselves to personal and corporate repentance, to faith-filled, persistent prayer for revival and awakening, to a renewed commitment to preach the gospel without shame and compromise, and to an unshakable resolve to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

In the year 2000, I wrote these words in The Jesus Manifesto: A Call to Revolution: “The dawning of the 21st century finds the church of America in a moral and spiritual crisis. Decades of self-centered living and worldliness have taken their toll. Years of compromise and toothless gospel preaching have had their effect. And now we have reached the moment of truth: Either we wake up, stand up, speak up, and act up, or we run the risk of becoming a mere historic curiosity, an irrelevant religious sideshow, an entertaining, harmless spectacle. Something must change, and it must change now. There is no other choice.”

Twelve years later, this message is more urgent than ever, and that is the very thing that gives me hope. The charade is over. The curtain has been lifted. Lightweight “Christianity” has been exposed.

Our watered-down, barely recognizable “gospel” has produced disastrous fruit and our pitiful attempt to become relevant to the world by becoming like the world (not in terms of cultural sensitivity but in terms of moral and spiritual compromise) has failed miserably. We must have a spiritual awakening coupled with the restoration of the real gospel message. It truly is a matter of revival or we die.

Charles Finney brought this strong charge back in 1873: “The error that lies at the foundation of this decay of individual and public conscience originates, no doubt, in the pulpit. . . .

“Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree.

“If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it.

“If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the    pulpit is responsible for it.

“Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.”

Let the awakening begin with each one of us, especially those of us who serves as leaders in the Body, and let the Jesus revolution arise in our midst until the nation is shaken with the gospel.

On with it!

Dr. Michael Brown is the author of The Real Kosher Jesus and the host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network.

 

Posted in Lead Article, Revolution & Justice

April 3rd, 2012 by Michael L. Brown

The event was expected to be the “largest gathering of the secular movement in world history,” a “massive rally” that could provide “a sort of ‘Woodstock for Atheists,’ a chance for atheists to show their power in numbers and change their image.” But when pre-rally hype gave way to reality on Saturday, March 24th, on the Mall in DC, the results were hardly earth-shattering, let alone movement-making and message-sending (especially to politicians, part of the targeted audience of the so-called “Reason Rally”).

The crowd that turned out for this drizzly Saturday was estimated at between 8,000-20,000 (I have seen atheist reports, however, that put the number at 30,000), which is actually less than some American mega-churches draw every week in their Sunday services.

There were blatantly sexist speakers at the rally, like Bill Maher and Penn Jillette, but their presence was justified by atheist bloggers like Hemant Mehta, who explained that, yes, these men “have their faults, but they amplify our way of thinking more than just about anyone else.” Therefore, Mehta explained, it is still worth having them speak because “we need big-name celebrities to attend. . . . This isn’t just about spreading science and atheism. This is about drawing attention to our movement. This is about getting media attention.”

If that was the goal, the event certainly fell short of its mark, as the Reason Rally Facebook page complained about the lack of media coverage while the Drudge Report didn’t even mention the rally in its weekend news coverage, finding items like this more newsworthy: “Hippies head for Noah’s Ark: Queue here for rescue aboard alien spaceship. Thousands of New Agers descend on mountain [in France] they see as haven from December’s apocalypse.” (It looks like the hippies are living out their legacy while the atheists are still waiting for their “Woodstock” moment.)

Prof. Richard Dawkins was one of the keynote speakers, calling on the faithless not only to reject religious beliefs but also to “ridicule and show contempt” for religious doctrines and sacraments, including the Eucharist (Holy Communion). (In keeping with this, he once referred to Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a “submissive cosmic doormat.”) Yes, such are the enlightened sentiments of one of the self-styled “brights” – a self-defeating designation if ever there was one – and we can only imagine how beautiful the world would be if the Dawkins’ mentality ruled the day. (Sarcasm intended.)

And while it is true that “the brights” are still trying to figure out the origin of life, physicist Stephen Hawking has now explained how the universe began without God, stating in his book “The Grand Design,” “Because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing.” Yes, nothing (which is really something) created everything! How did we miss that for so long?

As pointed out by Oxford mathematician and scientist Dr. John Lennox (unfortunately, not one of “the brights”), “The main issue . . . is that gravity or a law of gravity is not ‘nothing’, if [Hawking] is using that word in its usual philosophically correct sense of ‘non-being’. . . . If, therefore, we say ‘X creates X’, we imply that we are presupposing the existence of X in order to account for the existence of X. This is obviously self-contradictory and thus logically incoherent – even if we put X equal to the universe! To presuppose the existence of the universe to account for its own existence sounds like something out of Alice in Wonderland, not science.” (From his book “God and Stephen Hawking.”)

But I digress from the main topic at hand, namely the “Reason Rally.” Perhaps the most illustrative part of the day was the talk given by 16 year-old atheist Jennifer Alquist, who successfully fought to have a prayer banner removed from her Rhode Island High School. Hailed as a hero at the rally, she wanted everyone to know that if she could bring about change, anyone could.

And what, exactly, was so offensive about the prayer banner? It contained these words, written with the encouragement of school leadership almost 20 years ago:

 

Our Heavenly Father.

Grant us each day the desire to do our best.
To grow mentally and morally as well as physically.
To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers.
To be honest with ourselves as well as with others.
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win.
Teach us the value of true friendship.
Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.

Amen.

 

If only those values were inculcated in our schools across America! What a dream that would be. But for the atheists, if those values are associated with God on a banner, then they and God must go.

Atheist David Silverman, one of the event organizers, stated before the gathering that, “We’ll look back at the Reason Rally as one of the game-changing events when people started to look at atheism and look at atheists in a different light.”

I believe he was right. From here on, we’ll probably look at them with more pity.

 

Posted in Featured Articles, Lead Article, News

February 4th, 2012 by Guest Writer

One of the fastest growing segments of medical science is the increasingly popular trend of cosmetic surgery. Tens of thousands of women, as well as men, are flocking to these gifted surgeons every year to undergo some form of plastic surgery.

What began as a means of helping those disfigured by war, fire, or accident, has now broadened to the removal or correction of something that these people feel hinders their overall appearance or well being.

Listed under the heading of cosmetic surgery you will find the following: liposuction, breast augmentation, eyelid surgery, face lift, tummy tuck, forehead lift, collagen injections etc. The list is almost endless. Ask anyone who has had this type of surgery and they will tell you how much better they feel about themselves. Surgery had removed for them their ‘problem’ and given them the appearance and acceptance they always wanted.

While I don’t begrudge these people this luxury, I’m more concerned with the spiritual counterpart that I see happening in the Body of Christ. I’m referring to what I call ‘cosmetic theology’.

There is a new generation of believers who seem to think that God is too old and decrepit, and therefore greatly in need of a ‘facelift’ to enhance His image. They reason that in order to ‘sell’ God to the masses He needs to shed a few pounds, remove a few wrinkles, and adopt a more positive image.

One of the blemishes that these ‘plastic theologians’ have tried to remove is the occasional scowl they see on God’s face. Nobody likes to be around someone who gets angry, jealous, or revengeful. After all, everybody knows that a smile will win you , but a frown will put people off. A ‘god’ that would send someone to hell is just not marketable. Neither is a ‘god’ of absolutes. Who wants a ‘god’ that doesn’t compromise or bend a little? If we can do away with the moral Law, and substitute it with ‘grace’ instead, perhaps then ‘god’ will be a little more appealing. Have you noticed the recent ‘Botox’ injection? God is increasingly being referred to these days as ‘Papa’. Now I don’t have a problem with God as our Father, but He is also the Judge of all the earth, as well as the King of Kings. Papas are loving, playful, and fun to hang around. Kings and Judges on the other hand are not so endearing. You get my point.

This type of cosmetic theology has been taking place for some time now without us even being aware of what has been happening. We tend to focus on all the so called positive attributes of God, and avoid anything that we deem negative. I remember as a child people having promise boxes, from which they would draw a promise from the Scriptures. Like fortune cookies, they always had something good to say to the reader. This is like Moses reading only the blessings of God to His people, but never the curses that resulted from their disobedience.

Yes, I too love verses like Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and hope’ But God also warns His people what will happen to them if they disobey Him – ‘For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “As my anger and my wrath have been poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so my wrath will be poured out on you when you enter Egypt. And you will become a curse, an object of horror…” Jeremiah 42:18.

The leader of the nation’s largest ‘church’ openly admits he is not called to preach against sin but rather to encourage people. We all love ice cream, but a good preacher, like a good parent, will make us eat our spinach too.

Well, you get my point. God isn’t in need of our help. He’s not looking for a new PR firm to help Him bolster His image. He is perfect in all His ways, and therefore, has no need for plastic surgery!

David Ravenhill is a guest writer for VOR and has served the Body of Christ as a Pastor and Teacher for more than four decades. Find out more about him here:  http://www.davidravenhill.com/

Posted in Culture, Lead Article, Scripture

January 27th, 2012 by Michael L. Brown

I never expected to be in the middle of a public dispute between three Orthodox Jewish rabbis, a dispute that involves the banning of a book about Jesus, and one that is being played out in the Huffington Post. The Post, on its part, chose not to publish my column that corrected some of the misinformation written about me. So much for journalist ethics.

Rabbi #1. Over the last decade, I have developed a close friendship with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the man hailed by Newsweek as “America’s most famous rabbi.” What makes the friendship unique is that the friendship has been developed in the midst of more than twenty intense debates we have had on whether Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, from the Hilton Hotel in Manhattan to a famous lecture hall in Oxford, England.

Obviously, I have taken the “yes” position and Rabbi Shmuley the “no” position, and, in keeping with our differing viewpoints, Shmuley insists on referring to me as a “Jew who converted to Christianity,” a description that I reject to the core of my Jewish soul. (Simply stated, if Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, believing in him does not constitute converting to a different religion.)

Here is where the plot thickens. Partly inspired by our debates, Shmuley wrote a book entitled Kosher Jesus, and it has caused a firestorm of controversy in the traditional Jewish community, as a number of prominent rabbis have expressed their concern that it will encourage Jews to read the New Testament and find out more about Jesus. For traditional Jews, that is not a happy proposition, especially given the 1,500 year history of the sometimes bloody, “Christian” persecution of Jews.

As expected, I am frequently targeted by Shmuley in his book, albeit in a friendly and respectful manner. At his request, I wrote an endorsement for Kosher Jesus while at the same time expressing my profound disagreements with it, finding the book far more offensive for traditional Christians than for traditional Jews. Interestingly, I have already read posts by other rabbis saying that if I’m endorsing the book, it must not be good for Jews!

Rabbi #2. Rabbi Dr. J. Immanuel Schochet is a world class scholar of Jewish mysticism and philosophy, a famed opponent of Jewish believers in Jesus, and a member of the Lubavitch Hasidic Jewish community, one with which Shmuley has close ties.

In response to a flood of inquiries he received about Kosher Jesus, he made an official legal pronouncement (called a halakhic decision in Jewish law), banning the reading of the book and calling on Shmuley to recognize “the error of his ways and . . . make amends by retracting the book.”

I also have a connection with Immanuel Schochet, having debated him before an audience of almost 600 at Arizona State University in Tempe Arizona on March 30, 1995. (More on that shortly.)

Rabbi #3. Rabbi Yitzchok Schochet is a prominent Orthodox rabbi in England whose name has been floated as a serious candidate for Chief Rabbi of the UK. He is also the son of the aforementioned Immanuel Schochet.

In Shmuley’s regular column in the Huffington Post, he lambasted Dr. Schochet’s book-banning pronouncement, stating that it was totally out of character for the learned rabbi. Shmuley also made reference to previous dealings he had with Rabbi Yitzchok Schochet, prompting Yitzchok to request a guest column in the Post in order to reply to charges Shmuley brought against him.

The Post complied, and in Rabbi Yitzchok’s column, he defended his father and explained that his father would not engage in debates with “missionaries,” with the exception of one time: “There was one debate my father did have when asked to challenge Michael Brown, the tragic Jews for J proponent. This was in the presence of a panel of judges who would determine the winner of the debate. Notwithstanding my father’s victory and inasmuch as he felt that one time necessary, he still regretted it thereafter.”

Putting aside the silly comment about me being “the tragic Jews for J[esus] proponent” (I would wish such a “tragic” life on everyone I know), Rabbi Yitzchok’s description of the event was completely erroneous.

This was confirmed in detail by the moderator of the debate, Dr. James White, who wrote to me (at the request of Rabbi Shmuley): “This is simply false. I was the only moderator of the debate. There were no judges, there was no panel. There was no proclamation of a victor: that was left to the listeners to decide, as in the vast majority of such debates.”

Dr. White, however, offered his own assessment of the debate: “The audience was primarily Christian, and I would imagine the vast preponderance of the audience, myself included, considered the debate rather one-sided in Dr. Brown’s favor.”

In the coming days, it will be interesting to see what happens with the controversy surrounding Kosher Jesus. For my part, I’m writing my own major response, which should stir the waters even more. And so the debate continues!

Dr. Michael Brown is the author of A Queer Thing Happened to America and the host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network.

 

 

Posted in Israel & The Jewish People, Lead Article

September 29th, 2011 by Michael L. Brown

It was November, 1976, and I was very excited by the election results. Our new president was a “born-again Christian”! Having become born-again myself at the age of 16 late in 1971, this was the first election where the religious beliefs of a candidate really caught my attention, and Jimmy Carter’s open Christian faith helped put the born-again term on the national map. Four years later, he was (quite literally) swept out of office by Ronald Reagan, the darling of the religious right.

Rev. Jerry Falwell, leader of the Moral Majority, which was founded in 1979, had famously declared, “We have a threefold primary responsibility. Number one, get people saved. Number two, get them baptized. Number three, get them registered to vote.” And although Reagan was not known as a deeply religious man, he was a strong conservative and a consistent opponent of abortion.

As one report observed, “For the Moral Majority, Ronald Reagan was a modern-day prophet whose rhetoric on family values, school choice, muscular patriotism and personal morality echoed their own view. Both Reagan and the Moral Majority saw American culture as a cesspool filled with sludge by ’60s-era hippies, immoral Hollywood directors, civil-rights radicals, abortion-loving feminists, the media and liberals.”

Eight years later, despite the many good intentions of the Moral Majority, despite the clear voice Reagan provided on a number of important moral issues (including abortion), and despite some of the very positive things Reagan accomplished (nationally and internationally), America was still stuck in a deep moral quagmire and the abortion industry continued almost unabated. In fact, according to the Alan Gutmacher Institute, there were at least 1.5 million abortions every year from 1980-1988, the years of the Reagan presidency, showing increase rather than decrease.

Of course, religious conservatives are not the only ones who have looked for a political savior. Need I mention our current president, he of the Greek pillars at the Democratic National Convention, treated like a rock star and hailed as “the one,” as if a quasi-Messianic figure? And need I mention the extreme hostility expressed towards President George W. Bush in the last years of his second term by those looking for “hope and change”? Now the Tea Party has risen up, angered over what they perceive is happening to America, grieved over what they claim is a systematic seizing of our liberties, and determined to see radical change come to our nation.

Not surprisingly, many Tea Party members, along with many other Republicans, are people of conservative Christian faith, and most of the Republican candidates campaigning for the presidency are known for their strong (and, it appears, genuine) faith. There is Rick Perry, who called for a prayer convocation attended by 30,000 before announcing his presidential bid. There is Michelle Bachman, who will now be joined on the campaign trail by her “personal pastor,” Mac Hammond. There is Herman Cain, who was recently quoted by the Christian Post as saying, “My faith plays a very big part in all the decisions that I make. . . . I’ve been involved with the church since I was young.” And always looming in the background is Sarah Palin, baptized in a lake in Alaska after getting saved at the age of 12. Perhaps one of these individuals will be our next political savior? Perhaps one of them will ascend to the presidency and bring about dramatic, national changes?

I would suggest we take a more pragmatic approach and not set ourselves up for disappointment yet again. First, the American political system is both complicated and convoluted, totally different than, say, ancient Israel where the right king could bring about national transformation, especially over the course of his lifelong reign. Here we have two major parties (at least), often at war with each other, often fighting for what is politically expedient rather than what is best for the country, sometimes internally divided as well. And then there is the ever-present “good old boy” syndrome, with its coalitions and deals and favors. We would be naïve to think that one charmed leader will be able to overcome all this in the short period of time he or she serves as president.

Second, America is a nation of more than 300 million people, and much of the change we need must be grassroots change, from the bottom up more than from the top down. In fact, it is hypocritical to criticize big government and its overreaching arm while at the same time looking to government to save us. Third, our presidents are not superheroes, and once we get past the political panegyric, we are reminded of their humanity.

We would do well, then, to remember the Paul’s exhortation to pray for our leaders (1 Tim 2:1-4), to vote or campaign for those we believe are best suited for the job (even with conviction and passion) without simplistically thinking that the next person we elect will somehow save our nation.

Can we hope for positive change? Absolutely. Can we expect national transformation? That will come from the nation (ultimately as people turn to the Lord) not just from the president.


Tags: , , , , , ,

Posted in Law & Politics, Lead Article Tagged with: , , , , , ,

September 6th, 2011 by Andrew Yeoman

Romans 1: 17 – 18
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith. The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness…

We are living in a remarkable time. Arab states are experiencing revolution; kings of the earth are in turmoil; many ‘rich’ nations are on the edge of a double dip financial crisis; not to mention the recent riots on the streets of cities across the United Kingdom.

One thing the riots revealed here in the UK was a dire issue of generational sin. Ultimately, we cannot blame the State, nor the Government, but we as the Church have the key role to play in stemming sinfulness, that is past on from generation to generation. ‘You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world…’ said Jesus to His followers. Have we forgotten what Christ has invested in His people?

I do not believe in generational ‘curses’, as I do not see them mentioned in Scripture nor are they inferred. But what is clearly portrayed in Scripture (see Exodus 20) is a generational iniquity that comes because men turn toward idols, rather than the living God. In other words, God allows those who turn to idols to be ensnared by the thing they create for their own gain, and its power gets worse generation after generation. What is one man’s vice, can become his son’s bondage, and even become another further generation’s stronghold. This is clearly set forth in the life of Israel, with the sin of Jeroboam and the subsequent evil done by most kings thereafter in generations after. Yet the Bible always ultimately attributes the start of the decline of Israel at the feet of Jeroboam each time a later king falls further into wickedness.

In Romans 1 and 2, Paul conveys his amazing worldview of man, sin, God’s righteousness and wrath, and where we as God’s people fit into this situation. Paul conveys an iniquity that is revealed as God’s wrath to generations that have turned to idols, producing in humankind ‘unnatural desires’ and all kinds of wickedness.

But Romans is far from a hopeless letter of condemnation, with some good doctrine for the Church. We often make Romans out to be a manual on ‘justification by faith’, but not for Paul, nor should it be for us. (Though those precious truths are contained there.) Rather, it is God’s way of setting forth a crisis that has affected the cosmos, the world & its history, and mankind. A crisis that can only be met through a ‘Son of David’, who is also ‘Son of God’. He will come to intervene in this generational iniquity, bring an end to sin and wickedness, and bring many other ‘sons to glory’. This people are described by Paul as ‘obedient to the faith’ and recipients of ‘grace for apostleship’. They are righteous by faith in the living God, who not only covers, but imparts and regenerates by His life in them! We then are created in Him, to do good works, as Ephesians says.

Let me be clear, as Paul is: Believing in justification by faith does not save us. Believing in Jesus the Christ, does save us and makes us righteous in everyway as we submit to Him.

For Paul, this apostolic people, with faith in a perfect and righteous Christ, are to meet the dilemma head on – by seeing a revelation of God’s righteousness through the advent of Jesus, and the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus.

In Romans, not only has a physical God-man brought about a violent end to sin on the cross, (Romans 2 – 6) but has also created a new race of Spirit people (Romans 7 & 8), where generational iniquity no longer abounds but His righteousness and grace are revealed through a Jesus-generation of sons. They like their father Abraham, are no longer of idolatrous origins or wickedness, but are ‘sons’ of faith & righteousness.

If this is the remarkable power of the Gospel then why aren’t we proclaiming it? If the world and the generations are in a desperate state, what are we going to do? Jesus was sent as the perfect Son to intervene and destroy the works of the devil. Yet we remain in our ‘churches’ , inviting people to come! Yet Romans 1 is clear: ‘we have received grace for apostleship… for obedience to the faith’. This means we have a reason to ‘go’; a reason to be ‘sent’; a reason to proclaim!

So then, who is responsible for the present wickedness in the land? Well humankind is – yes. But more so, the Church is certainly responsible for the increasing tide of wickedness. As sons of God in Christ, we can intercept this wickedness through the Gospel and its power, and see a generation transformed, renewed and righteous by the Blood and Spirit of Jesus.

Can we see revival for an entire generation? Absolutely, if we become as believing Abraham, and more so like our Lord and Saviour, Jesus the Christ.
 

Andrew Yeoman, is a resident of Wales. He is Snr. Leader at Swansea Valley Bible Church, and a School of Ministry based in South Wales, UK; he also leads another church plant and the Europe Ablaze Missionary Society. He is the author of “Jesus Ministry,” which is available on Amazon.com.

Posted in Lead Article, Revival & Prayer