Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Strange Fire in the House of the Lord

by J. Lee Grady

We need to be careful. Current fads involving angels, ecstatic worship and necromancy could push us off the edge of spiritual sanity.
No one fully understands what Nadab and Abihu did to prompt God to strike them dead in the sanctuary of Israel. The Bible says they loaded their firepans with incense, ignited the substance and "offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them" (Lev. 10:1, NASB). As a result of their careless and irreverent behavior, fire came from God's presence and consumed them.

Zap. In an instant they were ashes.

When Moses had to explain to Aaron what happened to the two men, he said: "It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near to Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored'" (v. 3). Although we don't know the details of what Nadab and his brother did with the holy incense, we know they were careless and irreverent about the things of God.

"We want the miracles of God, but we also want the fear and reverence of God. We cannot allow this strange fire to spread unchecked."

This ancient story has relevant application for us today. We don't use incense or firepans in our worship, but we are expected to handle God's Word with care and minister to His people in the fear of the Lord. In other words: No funny business allowed. We aren't allowed to mix God's Word with foreign concepts or mix our worship with pagan practices.

Yet as I minister in various churches around this country I am finding that strange fire is spreading in our midst-even in churches that call themselves "Spirit-filled." Pastors and leaders need to be aware of these trends:

1. Deadly visitations. In some charismatic circles today, people are claiming to have spiritual experiences that involve communication with the dead. One Michigan pastor told me last week that some church leaders he knows promote this bizarre practice and base it on Jesus' experience on the Mount of Transfiguration. The logic is that since Jesus talked to Moses and Elijah on the day He was glorified, this gives us permission to talk to dead Christians and our dead relatives.

Although little is said about these experiences from the pulpit (since the average believer is not ready to handle this "new revelation"), people in some streams of the prophetic movement are claiming to have visitations from Aimee Semple McPherson, William Branham, John Wimber or various Bible characters. And we are expected to say, "Ooooooo, that's so deep"-and then go looking for our own mystical, beyond-the-grave epiphany.

That is creepy. Communication with the dead was strictly forbidden in the Old Testament (see Deut. 18:11), and there is nothing in the New that indicates the rules were changed. Those who seek counsel from the dead-whether through mediums and séances or in "prophetic visions"-are taking a dangerous step toward demonization.

2. Ecstatic rapture. Not long after ecstasy became known as a recreational drug, someone in our movement got the bright idea to promote spiritual ecstasy as a form of legitimate worship. The concept evolved from "spiritual drunkenness" to the current fad in which people gather at church altars and pretend to shoot needles in their arms for a "spiritual high." Some preachers today are encouraging people to "toke the Holy Ghost"-a reference to smoking marijuana.

I hate to be a party pooper, but the Bible warns us to "be of sound judgment and sober spirit" (1 Pet. 4:7). There is plenty of freedom and joy in the Holy Spirit; we don't have to quench it by introducing people to pagan revelry. Christian worship is not about losing control. Those who worship Jesus do it "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24), and our love for God is not measured by how violently we shake or how many times we fall on the floor.

Recently I told a friend in Pennsylvania that when people get tired of this drug imagery it won't be long before we see some Christians having sexual experiences at the altar. "It's already happening," my friend said. He described a recent "worship concert" in which one of the musicians simulated sex while stroking a microphone and whispering sensual phrases to Jesus. What is next-orgasmic worship? God help us.

3. Angels among us. Angels have always played a vital role in the life of the church. They are "ministering spirits" sent to protect, guide and strengthen believers (Heb. 1:14). But suddenly angels have become the rage in some segments of our movement. People are claiming to see them everywhere, and often the stories don't line up with the Word of God.

During the Lakeland Revival last year in Florida, a man from Germany took the stage and claimed that an angel walked into a restaurant while he was eating a hamburger, took his intestines out and replaced them with a gold substance. Others have testified that angels took them to heaven and operated on them. And many are claiming that angels are dropping feathers, gold dust and precious gems on worshippers.

I know God can do anything. He can make an iron axe head float, hide a coin in a fish's mouth and use a little boy's lunch to feed a multitude. Those were genuine miracles that He can still do today. But we still have to use caution here. There are counterfeits. If we promote a false miracle or a false angel in the Lord's house, we are participating in strange fire.

I know of a case where a man was caught planting fake jewels on the floor of a church. He told his friends he was "seeding the room" to lift the people's faith. I know of others who have been caught putting gold glitter on themselves in a restroom and then running back in a church service, only to claim that God was blessing them with this special favor. Where is the fear of God when Christians would actually fabricate a miracle?

This is a time for all true believers with backbones to draw clear lines between what is godly worship and what is pagan practice. We want the miracles of God, but we also want the fear and reverence of God. We cannot allow this strange fire to spread unchecked.

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lincoln's Prayers of Thanksgiving

After Gettysburg President Abraham Lincoln wrote his Thanksgiving Proclaimation where he wrote "I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union."

If we are to be consistent with the Spirit of the holiday as Lincoln understood it, we should be offering 4 prayers.

1. Praise to God for his Goodness
2. Repentance for sins and rebellion as a nation
3. Petitions for mercy for all those without
4. Healing for our nation

May I suggest that we forget about the Turkey and the desserts for a few moments this Thanksgiving and pray these four things that we may show due deference to the God of the blessings and know from whence they have come.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Halloween Controversy

This Ask The Pastor question is from a mother in the congregation that is concerned about Halloween.
She writes, "Should Christians participate or not?
In the conversations, these points have been spoken.

Christians who participate in halloween, go door to door, costumes of all kinds, etc.

Christians who say its totally wrong for christians to participate and new christians get offended and say their being judged.

Christians who participate in an alternative (fall fun fest) and new christians call that hypocrisy.

Christians calling it the devils day. "

Let me be the first to say I hate Halloween. I hate it for the drama that it creates in good followers of Jesus.

1) I don't believe that the Devil gets a special day to call his own. True, Halloween has it's roots in paganism as do many of the holidays we celebrate. Christmas and Easter for instance can be traced to Solstice and Spring rituals. Yet the church has rejected the pagan underpinnings of those holidays and infused the holidays with new meanings. This hasn't traditionally been done for Halloween- though many evangelical churches offer an alternative to the Halloween- calling it a Fall Festival or what have you. This, in my estimation is not hypocrisy but redemption. We are redeeming the time for the days are evil ( Eph 5.16) At CLC there is fun games and OUTREACH to the community and kids. A salvation message is always included at some level.

2. While I think it is probably pretty questionable to accept candy from strangers (something we teach our children not to do the other 364 days of the year), I don't see it as sin. If we find ourselves glorifying death or Satan or even macabre we are in error. It is certainly not something that we should be encouraging our children to do. The cause of the flood of Noah was the sin of VIOLENCE. (Gen 6.5,6,13) With that said, the Old Testament is pretty violent, so even when my kids dressed up like bible characters there was a violent side! It isn't wrong for children to dress up and pretend the other 364 days and so there is no sin in them dressing up on that day. Christian parents should do everything they can to differentiate their participation from the worlds. On the other hand, when else are the neighbor kids coming over ? It wouldn't hurt to drop an invitation to church in the bag along with the candy. if you are concerned about the school day and it's celebrations, I always gave my kids the option of staying home... and they almost always did stay home.

3. The bible is very clear about judging each other by "what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a new Moon celebration or a sabbath day" Col 2.16ff We have "died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to it's rules: 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!'"? Believers have all been rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom, so celebrate the redemption by using every day to glorify God! So if your little girl wants to dress up like Snow White you can find the gospel in that story. (The church as the bride poisoned by sin waiting for redemption from the prince (Jesus)). And you can redeem that!

Hope that helps!

Cultural Hatred

It doesn't make sense to me but there seems to be an increase of hatred for people of the Christian faith. Christianity gave the world some marvelous advances (and continues to do so!). Among them hospitals, penal system, a judicial system the strives (albeit imperfectly) for justice, and the Red Cross. Christians worked to heal the sick during Europe's plagues, they started the Salvation Army, and YMCA. It was Christian leadership that lead to the abolition of slavery, the women's vote, the civil rights movement, and the end of child labor. Currently, Christians take the lead in mission work among the nations poor, shelters, and homeless ministry.

These days the leading edge of Christian faith seeks to bring health to marriages, protection of the unborn child, protection of children, working in nations where there is poverty and loss, etc.
Amazingly, this is the faith that has engendered the hatred of so many. Anti-Christian activity is on the rise in Europe, in India, and in the US. In Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity,  author David Limbaugh uncovers a mountain of evidence of large-scale, across-the-board discrimination against Christians in the public and academic spheres—accompanied by an alarming determination on the part of the political left to eradicate Christian influences from our culture and even our history lessons. I frequently hear derogatory comments made on Television toward the church or people of faith. It does seem that this is on the rise.

So this morning in my Bible reading I came across the verse in Mark 13.13 "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." I guess we shouldn't be surprised, eh?