Aug 7, 2017

The Assemblies of…God?

A controversy erupted this week when Lighthouse Trails published an article by former Assemblies of God pastor Cedric Fisher.

Just ahead of the AG’s General Council (August 7-11 in Anaheim CA), Fisher notes some troubling trends with regard to Israel in official AG documents, including upcoming resolutions.

In particular, Resolution 3 gives pause to those of us who have always appreciated the fact that the AG overall has been staunchly pro Israel. I think of people like David Lewis, a champion for Israel. David was an AG evangelist for 50 years, but he’s been gone now for 10 years.

No one has replaced him.

In fact, whether it is AG influencers like Prof. Paul Alexander, or pastors with Pentecostal roots like Jonathan Martin, a sea change has occurred in the past few years: “Palestine” is now a thing.

Added to this troubling development is the infiltration of such communities by change agents like Brian McLaren (who cleverly networks with Pentecostals and Baptists, even though—my description—he is much more of a mystic and New Ager).

Alexander, Martin, and McLaren are anti-Israel, pro Palestinian speakers and authors.

Back to the AG resolution. I encourage you to go to the Lighthouse Trails website and read the documents for yourself, but essentially, Fisher says that a “peace and justice/peacemaking” theme has emerged within the Assemblies of God, and this does not bode well for Israel support.

I agree with him.

There are few sources willing to inform the laity what is really going on within Evangelicalism, but Lighthouse Trails does. There are a handful of individuals like Pastor Fisher who are willing to do that, as well.

In contrast, denominational power structures and the broader ecumenical coalition allow leaders like Dr. George O. Wood (general superintendent of the AG) to keep the laity in the dark. Now, I don’t mean that Wood himself is part of some diabolical scheme to flip Israel support among evangelicals.

But I do mean that he and others like him have so aligned themselves and their denominations with the Rick Warren-inspired Church Growth Model that it is now impossible to right the ship and return Evangelicalism to a purely biblical teaching approach. When you do that, you ensure that your pulpits will be filled with pragmatists and even change agents who are, I believe, those who have “crept in unawares,” per Jude.

Wood took great exception to Fisher’s article and he lambasted the author and LT and said they should retract it and apologize.

He was able to factually say certain things, such as Israel is not actually mentioned in Resolution 3. Yet this is the “argument from silence.” What Resolution 3 does commit the Assemblies of God to is the strange idea that:

“The General Council of the Assemblies of God, district councils, and local churches should be involved in conflict resolution between churches, denominations, races, religions, and countries. We believe justice and peacemaking are necessary complements of compassion ministries, and this should be clearly stated in our Constitution.”

Really? The AG should involve itself in conflict resolution models in other religions and other countries?

I strongly disagree.

Further, the constant use of language such as “justice, peacemaking,” etc. clearly is inspired by leftist activists. This is their verbiage. The title of Resolution 3 is: “Compassion, Justice, and Peacemaking.”

This is precisely the language of the Left. It is used day and night to influence Christian Millennials, and it is working. One key target in their cross-hairs is pro Israel support among evangelicals.

Fisher’s point—that such documents are moving us squarely into a place where Israel is lambasted and demonized—is wholly accurate in my view.

At one point in his pointed response, Wood says he has been to Israel 40 times, as if this cred insulates the denomination from anti-Israel invective. You see of course the falseness of this defense. One can visit Israel dozens of times, as many anti-Israel activists do, and not be pro Israel.

I’m not saying that Wood himself is anti-Israel. What I’m saying (and what I think Fisher is saying) is that allowing anti-Israel influences to infiltrate the AG (or SBC, or any other denomination) is the problem.

This can be proven many times over. In the days of Promise Keepers, roughly 20 years ago, networking among denominations and divergent ministries was fast-tracked, intentionally. This ensured that it would be acceptable for, say, a seemingly solid evangelical pastor to recommend Brian McLaren’s books on his blog. Or that a Baptist church sending its staff to a Catalyst Conference—stacked with anti-Israel speakers—was acceptable.

This is the issue.

Again, I encourage you to read the LT website blog for yourself and come to your own conclusions. See if my position makes sense, or Wood’s position makes sense.

As an aside, Wood got his Ph.D. from Fuller Seminary. I mention this because at the time he was there, Fuller was being transformed from an evangelical institution into a left-wing think-thank, thanks to the efforts of people like Daniel Fuller, son of founder Charles Fuller. All this is outlined in Paul Smith’s book, New Evangelicalism, one of the most important books to come out in the last 25 years, at least.

Point being, it can’t be proven that Wood is “anti-Israel” and I wouldn’t make the charge. Yet in the network in which he moves and works, there are tons of anti-Israel leaders.

That is the problem.

Kudos to Cedric Fisher and Lighthouse Trails for bringing this to our attention. They suffer the slings and arrows of mocking and rage and defamation because of their commitment to the truth.

This is a big deal.

Jim1fletcher@yahoo.com

 

 

Jul 30, 2017

Winning by Losing

I want to continue with last week’s theme, which is not classically about Israel, but because America is awash in apostasy, what happens there does very much impact our view of Israel. As I’ve maintained for some time, dark forces have been at work for a long time to undermine pro Israel support in America, primarily in the Church itself.

For at least five years, I researched this terrible reality and wrote about it and spoke about it. As is usually the case, the rank-and-file got it; the leadership not so much.

In fact, so dismayed have I been by the reaction from evangelical leaders concerning support for Israel that I am now more interested in bird watching and gardening than I am in grinding the Israel stone among church folks. The scope of the disinterest (or, in another dreadful way, the hostility) for Israel is breathtaking and maybe someday I’ll write about that, but not yet.

The scope of it is an epic story.

What does interest me at least as much is the danger lurking within our churches. And always now, I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:10—

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

For those of us who love His Appearing, and who very much have Bible prophecy in our worldview, we know that while much of today’s church is nonsense, Christ Himself will usher-in justice and righteousness one day, we hope very soon.

In this sense, though we are losing the current culture war—especially in the church(!)—we will win in the end. Or, to put it precisely: our Great King will win, forevermore.

Part of the onslaught from the Left today is the specific attack on Bible prophecy coming from within the Christian community.

I wrote a few years ago that even Charisma magazine published an article by Margaret Feinberg that distorts prophecy teaching. This from the flagship periodical of the Pentecostal world.

(Source: http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/spiritual-growth/1980-what-if-jesus-doesnt-come-back-this-year)

Feinberg is not surprisingly friends with progressive writer Jonathan Merritt, and the networks in this community are so deep and wide, the Evangelical world still does not realize it has been taken captive by leftist ideology.

As an aside—and here I am just giving you my opinion—when LifeWay bookstores threatened to pull Eugene Peterson’s books (after his admission in an interview with Merritt that he is no longer opposed to same-sex agendas), it was because of backlash, not because the LifeWay leadership is morally opposed to Peterson’s left-wing views. In Evangelical leadership circles, pragmatism reigns, and you need to get that in your head. LifeWay exists to make money, not primarily to produce and distribute authentic discipleship materials. If they were interested in authenticity, they’d sell mostly Bibles and get rid of the plethora of garbage books that weigh-down store shelves.

It is my hope that more rank-and-file Christians will begin to see what we’re up against. Let’s look at a few more examples of the Church being dragged to the left by progressives.

Joshua DuBois, who served as head of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under Obama, is a networker among progressives who pose as evangelicals. DuBois helped Obama win-over evangelicals for votes, and he is friendly with many in leadership, including Merritt and Ed Stetzer. DuBois, like Obama, understands Alinsky-style community organizing and took that skill to his White House post.

DuBois tweeted this week:

“Books will be written in 10, 20, years about the devastating effect of Trump-supporting evangelicals on American Christian witness.”

Merritt re-tweeted this message.

If DuBois and Obama and Merritt were concerned about Christian witness, they would not undermine biblical faith at every turn. This is part of what I call the Fog Machine that has been aimed at evangelicals. DuBois, in his tweet, wanted to demonize and marginalize regular Americans who voted for Trump. He wants people to actually believe that we are in a cultural and moral Dark Age with Trump at the helm.

DuBois’ former boss advocates abortion-on-demand, pushed the “LGBT” agenda, diminished America, and has contempt for Bible-believing Christians. That’s just for starters.

Keep in mind—always—that progressives of this ilk loathe Israel. It is part of their ideology, and is a key reason support for Israel in this country will turn sharply in the next generation. Book it.

Just today Stetzer posted in Christianity Today (“Politics, Elections, and Christians: Reconciling the Church after the great divide of 2016”):

“The Church has a mission. Pushing political agendas is not that mission.

“We are ambassadors, calling people to a right relationship with God through Christ. We have opinions on various issues, and even biblical positions on some of those issues. But we are not here primarily to debate healthcare reform or immigration policy. In the field of politics, there might be a space for rhetoric and characterizations, but this is not so in the Church.

“We aren’t here to bully people into our way of thinking with insincere speech. We offer Christ, mercy, love, peace, and truth. There is little to no room for these elements in American politics, and we must not be willing to leave them at the door because we want to join the fray. There is a Savior, and there is an enemy. And neither of these are named Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. The person serving next to you in the usher team is not the spawn of Satan because he or she voted for the person you voted against.”

Well, where to start. No one in evangelical leadership is more political than Stetzer. No one uses verbal bullying and insincere speech more than Stetzer. He has made it an artform, but like most clever fellows, he is too-clever-by-half. He’s not as smart as he thinks he is.

What he means when he says that pushing political agendas shouldn’t be our focus is that we shouldn’t push conservative agendas. He and his friends were demure and weak when Obama was steamrolling the Constitution, among other things. But they were vocal when Trump’s improbable rise to power came into focus.

And Stetzer has absolutely pushed for soft immigration policies, using his platforms first at LifeWay and now at Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center to do that. He is big on “welcoming refugees.” Well, I say, Ed, invite them into your home for extended periods.

Stetzer also cultivates relationships with progressives and usually doesn’t resist the temptation to bash a conservative (and by conservative I mean someone who believes in Bible prophecy, or some other traditional evangelical view). Stetzer is very comfortable with the Rick Warren agenda that emphasizes groupthink and conformity to the Church-Growth model.

Next this week, Merritt tweeted an article from his Religion News Service colleague Emily McFarlan Miller titled “Evangelical Leaders Discussed Transgender Military Ban at the White House.” In introducing Miller’s article via Twitter, Merritt wrote: “Are Christian leaders to blame for Trump’s transgender military ban?”

This seems clear enough to me. Merritt, who presents himself as a tolerant, nice guy, in fact works 24/7 to paint conservative Christians as Other. Make no mistake: if we are watching Christian bakers be persecuted financially for refusing to bake cakes for “gay” weddings, the Merritts of the world are paving the way for real persecution in the next several years. We have only to look at the violence whipped up by the progressive Left among Millennials to see that Merritt’s language here is really about incitement.

 

Interestingly, the photo used for Miller’s article in RNN shows SBC leader Ronnie Floyd standing behind Trump in the Oval Office. I wonder: does Floyd make the connection that the son of his good friend Dr. James Merritt is helping portray him as a dissenter who needs to be marked as Other because he won’t get onboard the Transgender Train?

Because that’s exactly what’s happening.

In the next several years, Christians who stand for traditional values will be targets of progressives who will absolutely not spare any measure in fighting us. Mark it down.

This is my conviction: the ineffectual strategies of traditional evangelical leaders in this country will fail in a spectacular way within the next few years.

What I mean specifically is that most of them are concerned first and foremost with keeping people in the seats because mega-church budgets are huge. This leads them to make a host of mistakes, among them networking with progressives. I’m convinced that if you read enough of Stetzer’s fawning tweets aimed at celebrities or progressives like Merritt, you will conclude that he wants to appear presentable or reasonable. In other words, let’s present a “kinder, gentler” evangelical.

I’m surprised he doesn’t understand that progressives view this as weakness and it adds to their contempt for evangelicals. But I digress.

A return to pure biblical preaching and teaching would return the Church Visible to health, but it wouldn’t pay the light bill in a cathedral-like warehouse mega-church.

That’s why evangelical leaders will continue to pursue policies that are harmful ultimately.

So we have this odd situation in which some evangelical leaders who are using pragmatic methods to “grow” their churches will fail just like those of us who stand on the Old Time Religion will lose. We are just going about it a different way.

Does this make sense?

Only a Triumphant Christ returning will solve our problems. This is why I have come to the conclusion it took me too long to arrive at: we are to occupy and hold on, feasting on the Word and worshipping our Savior, until He comes.

That is our mandate.

For me, I am filled with joy.

Jim1fletcher@yahoo.com