Same As It Ever Was, Same As It Ever Was…


Same as it ever was...The image of David Byrne of The Talking Heads thumping himself in the noggin in the video for “Once in a Lifetime” reminds me of the battle taking place online yet again between Calvinists and Arminians. Once more you’ve got the Calvinist gang saying the Arminians follow a false God, while the Arminian gang says the God of Calvinism is more like one of the chthonic host.

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was…

I have a few questions for both sides here:

1. Did either side pray for God’s blessings to fall on those on the other side of the argument? Or did they reach out to their foes and ask, “What needs of yours can I pray for today?”

Didn’t think so.

2. Did anyone on either side of that argument—an argument that seems to consume oodles of blogging time—manage to take time out today to visit someone laid up in the hospital?

Didn’t think so.

3. Did anyone on either side of that argument take a few hours out of their free time today to lead a lost sinner to Christ?

Didn’t think so.

4. Did anyone on either side of that argument take time to feed the hungry today?

Didn’t think so.

5. Did anyone on either side of that argument take time to clothe the naked today?

Didn’t think so.

6. Did anyone on either side of that argument sit with a lonely person today and listen to his or her story?

Didn’t think so.

7. Did anyone on either side of that argument welcome a new family to their neighborhood today?

Didn’t think so.

8. Did anyone on either side of that argument visit a widow today and help her around the house?

Didn’t think so.

9. Did anyone on either side of that argument volunteer today to read the Scriptures to the blind or the infirm?

Didn’t think so.

10. Did anyone truly make a difference for Christ in someone else’s life today, actually modeling the workings of the Kingdom of God, or did we all just sit around, hiding behind our computers, lobbing insults at each other?

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was…

Throwing Stones in Glass Houses of Worship


People who worship in glass houses...Some arguments that crop up in the Godblogosphere just kill me. If I were a non-Christian, I’d have all the ammo I’d need from blogs alone to make a compelling argument to look somewhere other than Jesus for my salvation.

Can I reiterate the old aphorism that the biggest argument against Christianity are Christians? Hackneyed, yes, but sadly true.

Last week, the old divisive question of cessationism vs. charismata raised its perpetually ugly head for the umpteenth time over at Pyromaniacs. It seems that we simply can’t let this issue die, as if one more post on it’s going to force one side or the other to capitulate.

Whenever the supporters of a cessationist view want to make their point that all charismatics are “shambalahonda”-babbling, heretical nutjobs, they go to the same well again and again: TBN. The same tired arguments are trotted out. “Look at Benny Hinn! Will you get a load of that screwloose?” Or “What’s with Paul and Jan Crouch? I mean, seriously!”

And thus all charismatics—myself included—are painted with the same exceedingly broad brush. The blanket of condemnation falls on anyone who spoke in tongues after the Apostle John died, and we’re all Benny Hinns, W.V. Grants, and purveyors of error worthy of an extra bucket of red-hot embers when we finally croak and wind up in hell.

But is that the truth?

I’d like readers to bear with me through the next few paragraphs. Don’t even read them unless you’re willing to read to the end. Just stop reading now if you aren’t going to finish this post. I’ll even highlight the questionable words in blue so you know which ones I mean.

Pyromaniacs is a Reformed site. They support 5-point TULIP Calvinism. In truth, we agree on most things, though I understand that my Lutheran theology (though Reformation-inspired) coupled with a belief that the charismata are still working today would not endear me to my brothers there. Certainly, I would not be branded Reformed by their definition.

So while Phil Johnson of Pyromaniacs talks of bad experiences with charismaniacs, I’d like to share my experiences in the Reformed church, since I was a part of a few Reformed churches over the years and have friends who have attended Reformed Calvinist churches.

One Bible study I attended consisted solely of men from a respected, wealthy Reformed church. Before the Bible studies started, these men would sit around and belittle the poor, talking about “those people” and how they were lazy and ignorant. (That they laughed while they tore down “the least of these” made it all the more excruciating for me to even be in the same room with those “Christians.”)

Or let’s consider the Calvinist church that split because some people in that church wanted to evangelize the nearby Hispanic community. Objections swirled that the church would be ruined should “those people” (there it is again!) come in and disrupt things by bringing their culture and customs with them.

Or how about greeters at a Reformed church “greeting” visitors by immediately asking if they were Calvinists, then walking away when the visitors said they did not know?

What can be said of the Reformed church that belittles congregants who can’t afford to send their kids to an exclusive, private Christian school (founded in part by the church)?

Or how about the couple who wanted to start an evangelistic outreach in their Reformed church, but encountered constant apathy on the part of the congregation because “those who were predestined were already in the church”?

In short, which is worse—the babbling, emotional, theology-challenged, snake-handling charismaniac OR the self-righteous, xenophobic, status-seeking, materialistic Reformed/Calvinist?

It’s a pointless question, isn’t it?

If we Christians want to speak words of death in the Church, then by all means let’s resort to naming the worst possible examples of living the Christian life that we might possibly find in some other denomination or sect. Then let’s write as if those worst possible examples were the norm.

I didn’t want to write this post. That this post even needs to be written saddens me. Writing those examples of how some perverse subset of Reformed/Calvinist brothers and sisters ignored the very heart of the Gospel gave me no pleasure at all. Why? Because I know that thousands more Reformed Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ are NOT like that. In the same way, thoughtful, theologically-sound charismatics who don’t like TBN or the excesses displayed within some charismatic churches exist in large numbers.

Because some Reformed and Calvinist believers are jerks doesn’t negate the Reformed/Calvinist message anymore than wacky charismatics negate theirs. The truth here is that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Before we disparage others from some other flavor of Christianity, we should ask if our own flavor has its house in order. Railing on “those other guys” comes easy to us because few of us wish to acknowledge the problems in our own house. (If Team Pyro wants to correct those Reformed churches I mentioned above, I’ve got the phone numbers for a couple of them. They can drop me an e-mail. I’ve already corrected charismania many times here.)

If Reformed/Calvinists with a keen eye for discernment would work to clean up their house, and Baptists worked to clean up their house, and Nazarenes worked to clean up their house, and charismatics worked to clean up their house, I have an idea that God would bless each house in a profound way. Perhaps then, even our differences wouldn’t seem so large.

But if the Nazarenes decide to point fingers at the mess in the Baptist’s house, and the Reformed/Calvinists decide to ridicule the excesses in the charismatic house, then the world they all live in will go on spinning and the Church of Jesus Christ will smother itself with a blanket of words that kill.

Because I can always find a problem with my neighbor. It’s my own problems I’m not so keen to fix.

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor…


I read another blogger’s comment that she received some words prayed over her this last weekend. Now comes the mulling of whether or not those words constitute a clear leading of God.

I can sympathize with that conundrum. I use the word conundrum because we receive a lot of “words” in today’s Church, but all too few of them turn into anything at all, making receiving such a word a dicey proposition.

It shouldn’t be that way.

Though I count myself a charismatic and thus have been exposed to hundreds of words prayed over me in my lifetime, I can count on two hands the number that truly reflected the intervention of God. That’s a darned poor track record for “words.”

Scarier still: all the ones I can verify as legit came from the same two men, one an oldster in the Faith and the other a young man old in soul.

Two men in thirty years of my Christian life. Two.

You’ve got to wonder at the damage all those phony messages from God cause. The prophet is in!If I hear another person mention they’re going to a prophecy conference I’m going to lose it. Those folks follow these so-called prophets around like groupies and it’s sad. Considering the accuracy of today’s modern prophets, you’ve got to wonder how many of those conference attendees have had hundreds of words prayed over them, none of them amounting to more than so much air. Yet the addiction’s there, so they go, always seeking, but never finding.

Don’t get me wrong here. I believe in modern day prophecy and gifts of wisdom and knowledge. I’ve given out a few of those in my life, emphasis on few. I’m hearkening back through time and I can count perhaps three—at the most. Why so few? I don’t speak unless I’m absolutely sure of my source.

It bugs me that for all these prophetic words, almost none of them resemble Jesus’ warning to the man at the pool of Bethesda: stop what you’re doing or something bad is going to happen to you. Usually the word consists of some vague reference to how God loves the person receiving the word so much and has grandiose plans for him or her. Every once in a while, you do get someone calling out a “Jezebel spirit” just to keep from seeming too positive. (All I can say is that this Jezebel spirit’s getting a workout in some charismatic circles. Must be exhausted by now.)

It’s all too easy to make up some high-falutin’ spiritual language talking about great nations, lampstands, and watchmen. Curiously enough, none of those handful of accurate words prayed over me ever contained such language. Most were just plain talk. But at least they were right.

On the bogus side, I once received a word from someone telling me I would be a great nation. I’m not truly sure what that’s supposed to mean, although I’m convinced my wife wouldn’t go along with it. Our pastor came from a household with fourteen kids and I can tell you that the Mrs. shudders at the thought. Another time, two very earnest women insisted I’d be getting back into camping ministry “in the next few months,” but my phone’s not rung for that idled career in fifteen years. That’s a whole lot of months.

Pity the poor person who has those mistaken words turned against them, too. When some minor prophet makes a pronouncement and it doesn’t come to pass, it’s never the prophet who’s wrong. It’s the poor unfortunate who received the bad word who gets his or her mustard seed of faith questioned. I don’t know about the prophet, but when I read the Scriptures it says that God’s words don’t return void.

I wish I didn’t have to write this post. Yet with all these “words from the Lord” being bandied about, someone needs to speak up.

About ten years ago, I remember a church meeting where a man stood up and relayed a highly specific word. (Note: the details have been changed for privacy concerns.) This man had a word of knowledge about a woman whose teenage daughter Josie had run away from home, traveled south, and was now deeply immersed in the drug culture of Miami. She’d been gone for three years now, effectively missing, though the mother had heard from her once in that time. The man went on to say that the mother needed to contact her daughter at that last known phone number, even though the daughter had not been at that number for more than a year. The man then said the daughter was afraid to call her mother, but if the mother called her first, God would do a great healing in both their lives and they would be restored to each other. But the mother needed to make that call to the only phone number she had.

My wife turned to me and noted that we didn’t know anyone in the church who fit those details and she suspected the word was wrong. Our small church met in a rented facility, and what no one knew was that a woman had come in to prepare the building for another activity later that day. She was in a back room and heard that word over the building’s sound system. Amazed, she wandered up front to the man who gave the word and told how astonished she was that anyone knew her situation. She prayed with some folks, then went home and called her daughter at that phone number. And yes, everything the man said came to be.

Now THAT’S a word folks. It’s specific. It contains information that can only be spiritually discerned. It intersects with known realities. It meets a need. It makes something happen because of the faith of the hearer who trusts it. And, most of all, it comes to pass.

I guess I’m tired of the burden of proof falling on the one receiving these supposed words from God from someone else. I don’t want to seem glib, put I think “put up or shut up”—a most earthy sort of spiritual testing— applies. If all these folks delivering words have a track record that resembles a 500:1 shot bound for the glue factory, then they need to sit down and stop hurting others with their “gift.”

And yeah, I get a little steamed thinking about it. I wish more of us did.