Thursday, February 4, 2016

A letter from the AC to members of Journey & Hope Presbyterian churches

 
Free to be free:

picture by Stephen Larson
The document below was just sent out to both members of Journey Church and the new Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Folsom, Hope Presbyterian Church. I have not yet received it but some members of Hope's session have received the letter.
 
 The letter was written by the administrative commission that was assigned to Journey on Saturday, January the 30th. Besides the rudeness of sending this letter out to those who are now members of Hope Presbyterian Church (EPC) there are several other glaring problems.
 While expressing their affirmation of those who believe they must leave the PC (U.S.A.) the authors of the letter have offered nothing. Their intent, which succeeded, was to send a people away without property or money because they chose biblical authority over human desires and experience. I am thinking now of James 2:17.
 The letter writers state that, "Pastor Huusko, the session and some members of the congregation are leaving  Journey Church effective, February 1, 2016. They are forming Hope Presbyterian Church under the Evangelical Presbyterian Church denomination."(Italics mine.) The negotiating team and now the AC have been and are reluctant to admit that there are a majority of the past members of Journey who opted to leave.
 On Sunday morning, the 31st, over 160 members registered as charter members of our new church. Many others, who are not yet members of Journey asked to sign. They will be members when they go through a class and are received into Hope. God has truly blessed us with wonderful enthusiastic people.
Toward the end of the letter the authors write:
 "There may be some of you who are not yet sure what you want to do or how the Holy Spirit is leading. We would encourage you to take all the time need. Please do not feel pressured into making a decision on anyone else's timetable but yours and God's. You may even decide to attend both services for awhile until you sense where the Spirit is calling you. Our hope is that in the end we can see two effective churches emerge out of this situation, who can serve God in the Folsom community and reach out to all who need to hear the good news."
 Can you imagine sending this letter to those who are now already members of the new church? This is truly unacceptable. Except for a few truly gracious persons, the discernment team, the negotiating team and now the AC have harassed members of session and even the congregation. At the very first meeting of the session with the discernment team the chair suggested that we should just turn our keys over to her. She reminded us of this before the congregation at a meeting when she also chaired the negotiating team.
 I wrote earlier of the freedom of coming away from the control of an apostate denomination, and it is freedom no matter the harassment. That freedom belongs to those united with Christ in his life death and resurrection. St. Paul wrote of Christ's exultation in heaven and then places us with him by adoption:
 "But God being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in ages to come we might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:4-5)
This is a freedom that places us beyond the manipulations of the Enemy of God. God will continue on with the good work he has begun. We are free to be free in Christ. No one can touch that.
 
 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sing the song of freedom: we have crossed the threshold


Today, January 30th, the Presbytery of Sacramento voted to place an administrative commission over Journey Church of Folsom. Although the church voted to leave with property 186 to 32, the Presbytery decided that the smaller group was the true church.

This, for those of us who are leaving, is true freedom—the freedom to worship and serve Jesus without the constant heretical proliferation happening in the PC (USA). One can only have true freedom within the boundaries of God’s word.
This Sunday, January the 31st will be our last worship service at Journey Church. On February 7th we will gather in worship, at 1:30 at a church, Community Bible Church, that has graciously given us space.  For a time we will be called Hope Presbyterian Church of Folsom. We will be a part of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

For some reason my thoughts tonight are going back to the days of my family’s experience at Warehouse Ministries and the beginnings of the Jesus Movement. I pray that such a time will return and overwhelm the youth of all our churches. May our Lord bring redemption, healing and transformation to his people. May we grow and flourish and be true servants of Christ.

Here are a few videos from those early Jesus movement days. The first one includes my favorite album cover. In fact we own the album with nothing to play it on:



Erick Nelson, not a well-known singer, was always my favorite performer at Warehouse Ministries. This song is so relevant for the times we live in:
 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Presbyterian News Service removes an article & The Nation of Islam dialogues with a Presbyterian Church (Update)



Louis Farrakhan the leader of the Nation of Islam
The Presbyterian Outlook still has an article,Committee seeks tools to help congregations engage in interfaith relationships,” posted that was posted by the Presbyterian News Service yesterday, January the 24th. Today the PNS has taken it down; I had decided to write about it, I will still write. The article, I believe shows how much the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has descended into hate, ignorance and false teaching.

The posting gives examples of how different pastors and churches have supposedly practiced inter faith dialogue. The authors write:

“These examples, shared at a meeting of the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations (GACEIR) in Louisville, January 20–22, highlight the increasingly vital role of interfaith activities in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations.”

While I don’t believe that this is the reason the posting was taken down I want to write about one particular example, that is, the Reverend Dr. Mark Lomax, pastor of First Afrikan Presbyterian Church in Lithonia and his church’s dialogue with the Nation of Islam. How does one dialogue with a religious group that began as a hate group?

I have written about Lomax before since he is a pastor who not only uses cultural African ways of worship, he refers to God using ancient Egyptian gods which are not gods.

I went to the Nation of Islam’s web site wondering if the leader Louis Farrakhan had changed his positions. I saw immediately an interview of Farrakhan by Alex Jones of infowars.com. I thought that this would give me a clear view of Farrakhan’s religious views. But not really. Jones and Farrakhan were agreeing on several conspiracy theories, most involving a cabal of global elites who were taking over the world.  

The founder of the Nation of Islam was Wallace Dodd Ford (aka Fard Muhammad) who considered “himself to be an incarnation of Allah …” He designated Elijah Muhammad to be his successor.[1]  Theodore Gabriel author of the section on the Nation of Israel in New Religions: A Guide, writes of Elijah Muhammad:

“Elijah Muhammad enunciated a myth that depicted blacks as the original human beings created by Allah, and whites as the result of a generic experiment conducted by a black scientist named Yacub. The whites would be destroyed by blacks at the ‘end times’, now imminent, a day interpreted as the judgement day of which Islam speaks.”

Louis Farrakhan upholds the words and person of Elijah Muhammad as the prophet of their religion. In a speech he states:

 I am a student of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and I could never thank Allah enough for His merciful intervention in our affairs in the Person of Master Fard Muhammad, The Great Mahdi—Who is in the world, and is championing the liberation struggle of our people, particularly in the United States of America. I greet all of you my dear and wonderful brothers and sisters with the greeting words of peace; we say it in the Arabic language:  As-Salaam Alaikum.”

And yet, there is more vitriol in Elijah Muhammad words than, surely, any PC (U.S.A.) member should accept. Dialoguing with The Nation of Islam is somewhat like dialoging with a neo-Nazi group, the only difference being the skin color.

Craig S. Keener and Glenn Usry in the book, New Religious Movements present an even clearer picture of the Nation of Islam, not only writing of their racism but also of their differences with Christianity.

Of the Nation of Islam’s racism they write:

“According to Elijah Muhammad, whites are devils by nature; there is no way out for them. People should stop preaching that God loves all people, he warns. God certainly does not love whites; in fact, he hates them. In Elijah’s understanding the Bible teaches that hell is the final destination for all whites, “an appointed people for hell fire from the beginning of their creation. Furthermore, biblical promises for the righteous can only apply to blacks.  … Whites constitute the Adamic race in the Bible, a devil race formed by the evil scientist Mr. Yakub to avenge himself against the pure and upright black world.”[2]

There is also anti-Semitism in the writings of the Nation of Islam. In the text of the interview of Louis Farrakhan by Alex Jones, Farrakhan states:

“This is why John Kennedy was killed. He understood the conspiracy and as far back as the Founding Fathers of this nation, they knew that there would be those who would try to take over, set up a Private Central Bank. They were told to guard against that and under Woodrow Wilson, in 1913, the guard left. William Rockefeller met on Jekyll Island with Paul Warburg and his brother who were from the Rothschilds. They wanted to set up like the five children of Rothschild, Sr., the Bank of Italy, the Bank of Austria, the Bank of France, the Bank of England, all started by the banking family.”

“Well, who cares who the politicians are,” Mr. Rothschild said, “as long as we control the wealth.” So they bankroll both sides of a conflict and end up ruling both sides. …”

Using Jewish names and bankers to implement Jews in both depression and war is anti-Semitic and untrue.

Which leads to another example in the PNS posting and I think perhaps the reason the story was removed, “In New York City, Jewish rabbis and Christian pastors have studied together a book about the contentious issues related to Israel/Palestine.” The book was not named which is an unusual for a news report in a denomination racked by controversy over Israel and the Palestinians. In fact, there are a few books that are a part of that controversy.

Update: The PNS has now added this posting back to their news site. They have however changed this statement, "In New York City, Jewish rabbis and Christian pastors have studied together a book about the contentious issues related to Israel/Palestine." to "In New York City, Jews and Presbyterians have hosted book studies reflecting on different sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict." Also after writing of the Westend Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and a Jewish congregation the authors write "The congregations also have engaged in a series of book studies reflecting on different sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict."

The further the denomination moves away from the biblical gospel the deeper she moves into unsettling dark bogs of heresy.




[1] Theodore Gabriel, “The Nation of Islam,” in New Religions: A Guide, Editor Christopher Partridge, Foreword, J. Gordon Melton, (Oxford University Press 2004).
[2] Craig S. Keener and Glenn Usry, “The Nation of Islam,” A Guide to New Religious Movements, Ronald Enroth, Editor, (Downer Grove: Inter Varsity 2005).

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Gnosticism of John Philip Newell & sorrow for Sacramento Presbytery


A local church in the Presbytery of Sacramento, is holding an event featuring the Rev. John Philip Newell. The event, occurring February 12-14 is entitled, “Cultivating the Inner Courage to Change the Outer World.” Davis Community Church, a Presbyterian (U.S.A) church is progressive and has a long relationship with the Covenant Network of the PC (U.S.A.) The speaker, although billed as one who promotes Celtic theology, is rather, theologically gnostic. Newell uses the writings of Jung, Teilhard de Chardin and gnostic texts.

Newell was formerly a warden of the Iona Abbey in Scotland and Companion Theologian for the American Spirituality Center of Casa del Sol at Ghost Ranch, a PC (U.S.A.) conference center. Both the Ghost Ranch web site and the Davis Community Church state that Newell “is an ordained Church of Scotland minister with a passion for peace among the great wisdom traditions of humanity.”

Jesus:

Newell, in one of his many books, writing of giving ourselves for love, states:

“And in the Christian household, we hear again and again in word and song that Jesus saved the world. But must we not also say that the hidden part of the story is that the world saved Jesus? Because Jesus found in the world the true object of his love, and in giving himself in love, he found himself forever.”

He quotes “Jesus” from the Acts of John, insisting that this gnostic text was left out of the Christian canon of scripture because of the alignment of the ancient church with Empire.

The Christology of the Acts of John is “Docetic.”[1] That is, Christ is either separate from Jesus or Jesus’ body was illusionary. This is a false teaching that denies the incarnation. In Christian Gnosticism God did not become human. In most cases humanity was perceived as possessing a divine spark and Christ came to remove humanity’s ignorance about their divine essence.

Newell, using a radical Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, insists that Jesus is not unique, but rather we are all the only begotten and he speaks of our christhood.

Humanity:

Humanity, according to Newell, was created out of the essence of God, rather than out of nothing. Humanity has a need to return to a “sacred oneness of everything” and the “sacred feminine.” Jesus does not come to save by way of the cross but by example, to return humanity to their knowledge of their own sacredness and the sacredness of all things. Newell in a video, The Rebirthing of God, states:

“Jesus in the Celtic world is often referred to as our memory; we have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten our true essence. He comes as our memory to enable us to remember that we are of the only one, we are only begotten.”

This is pure Gnosticism and it is not true Celtic Christianity.

Yes, there is unity, but we are only united to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ. We are adopted sons and daughters because of Christ’s bloody cross and resurrection.  And we and creation will not be totally reconciled until the coming of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of our bodies.

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this but we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit even we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:22-23)

I looked at Newell’s brochure sent out for Davis Community Church by the Presbytery of Sacramento. One could and should weep for the congregation and the community because of the heretical teaching. But there is one more problem that caused me grief.

The brochure called for unity and reconciliation with other faiths; wisdom traditions as they are called. “Finding Faith in Each other’s Faiths” one presentation is called. But just a few weeks before this event the Sacramento Presbytery will vote to place an administrative commission over my church, Journey Church in Folsom California. Our session, including myself, will be removed as will our pastor. We will leave our church property and assets behind, and why? Not because we uphold heretical views, not because we lift ourselves up to be equal with Jesus Christ as this false teacher does.

The question simply hangs in the air—unity with all including the heretical who allow Jesus to be defamed—but no care for those who embrace the Lord of all creation.




[1] P.J. Lalleman, “Apocryphal, Acts and Epistles,” Dictionary New Testament Background: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship, Editors, Craig A. Evans & Stanley E Porter, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 2000) 66.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Universalism and pluralism in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is too often troubled by both universalism and pluralism. The former is a belief that all are saved by Jesus Christ whether called by some other faith such as Buddhism, or called by the name of Jesus Christ. The latter, pluralism, is the belief that it is not necessary for Jesus Christ to save—that is, there are many roads to God.  One vice-moderator, in a conversation with me, insisted on this particular view. In fact he was upset that I had instead defined him as a universalist.

On the other hand, a former executive presbyter of my presbytery, in a conversation about the 2011 Presbyterian Panel survey, persisted in saying that universalism is a possible biblical truth. The Presbyterian Book of Order hints at that same kind of theological view.

Rev. Dr. Charles Wiley III, coordinator of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s office of Theology and Worship recently attempted to redo a question/statement from the 2011, survey which stated “Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved.” Many supposedly said no because they saw the question as rejecting the sovereignty of God. Wiley’s better question was ““Is Jesus Christ the only Savior and Lord?”

Clearly an answer of “yes” to this question is not pluralism and can be presumed to be orthodox. However, as I have noted, many in this denomination are universalists and interpret reformed theology from that position, in which case Wiley’s question, does not help. What of those who are of another faith or who simply reject the saving work of Jesus?

An Arminian believes that as his heart and mind cooperates with the overcoming power and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit he is redeemed, forgiven, made new and becomes a follower of Jesus Christ. As Van A. Harvey puts it in his small Handbook of Theological Terms, “… loosely understood, it refers to those views that stress the ability of man to respond to divine grace.” On the other hand, a Reformed Christian believes that she was unable to cooperate with the Holy Spirit until she was overcome, redeemed and made new by the working of God’s Spirit. She is then a follower of Jesus Christ living in obedience to the word of God.

But notice, neither of these two are saved without Jesus Christ. Not only is he the only Savior to them but their redemption, transformation and continuing sanctification, is utterly tied to their connection to him. They participate in Christ as they follow his person.

To clarify a problem. Some have stated that the Old Testament saints are not redeemed by Jesus Christ. John Calvin would have none of this. Writing of the sacraments in his fourth book of the Institutes, he states this:

“But we have already shown that sacraments are a kind of seals of the promises of God, so let us hold it as a most certain truth, that no divine promise has ever been offered to man except in Christ, and that hence when they remind us of any divine promise, they must of necessity exhibit Christ. Hence that heavenly pattern of the tabernacle and legal worship which was shown to Moses in the mount. There is only this difference, that while the former shadowed forth a promised Christ while he was still expected, the latter bear testimony to him as already come and manifested.” (Chapter xiv. 20b)

Recently a college conference at Montreat focused on John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Some of the material, which has seemingly been removed from the conference site, suggested that there was too much emphasis on the perishing section of the verse. The Presbyterian News Service posting, quoting Rev. Katie Cashwell, also states of the conference speakers, “Our focus was to reclaim the well-known Bible verse in John 3:16 as a message of love and welcome,” says Montreat director for programs, the Rev. Katie Cashwell. “Too often it’s been used for hate, intimidation and fear.”

This actually fits with the problem the PC (U.S.A.) faces with the many who insist on an unbiblical universalism. But the good news occurs because those who are perishing have eternal and full love offered to them. The text of the third chapter states that it is not that Jesus Christ was sent to judge the world, but that he was sent to save. And yet, humanity is judged already because they have rejected the light.

This is judgement, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light for their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the Light and does not come to the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:19-21)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

What we are leaving behind ... and yet


This is a series I mean to keep coming back to as my church leaves the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), “What we are leaving behind, and yet …” I will explain the “and yet,” at the end. I am not writing of buildings, we are leaving those behind, but we are also leaving behind troubled ministry.

A worshiping community, one of the 1001 worshiping communities of the PC (U.S.A.), gather with a feminist group, which is a part of their community, to honor the divine feminine. “The East Tennessee Feminist Collective in partnership with Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center, will have its first Women's New Moon Circle of 2016 at 7 pm on Sunday, Jan. 10.”

The announcement states that “The tradition of women gathering is eons old and when we gather on the New Moon we join millions of other women around the world, and throughout history, doing the same.” Well, not really—the tradition comes from tales told by a wicked old man, Allister Crowley, an occultist of the nineteenth century.  And the stories he told were added to by Dion Fortune, Robert Graves, Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner.[1]

Such moon cycle gatherings are a part of the fellowship of Mercy Junction. And deity in this worshiping community is referred to as God (dess).

Mercy Junction, which I have written about in another posting, also dabbles in eastern religion. They are having a Sunday event entitled “Sunday Morning Qi Gong.” The blurb for the event states:

“Qi gong is an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention. The word Qi gong is made up of two Chinese words. Qi is pronounced chee and is usually translated to mean the life force or vital-energy that flows through all things in the universe. The second word, Gong, pronounced gung, means accomplishment, or skill that is cultivated through steady practice.”

The idea of a life force or vital-energy that flows through all things in the universe is too often mistaken for the Holy Spirit. But there is no similarity. The idea of the life force is generally pictured as an impersonal force which can be manipulated by humanity. But the Holy Spirit, who is God, as well as co-equal with the Father and the Son, is personal and certainly not an energy. The Holy Spirit gives life and directs and leads, but is not manipulated by anyone. He is, as is the Father and the Son, sovereign.

While I will soon no longer be a part of a denomination that harbors such a congregation which promotes such dangerous ideas, (They call themselves heretics with tongue in cheek but the truth is they are heretics.), I and the members of my church will still exist in a world of heretics and non-believers. This is the “and yet” part. God still calls us to minister to broken people, including ourselves. God still calls us to stand for the faith and against false teaching. I, with the help of Jesus Christ, will continue to write about his truth, his gospel, his love and forgiveness, it is the call of Jesus, not mine.

And in all the ways that my church has ministered, and in new ways, I am sure they will continue on despite what the presbytery is doing to them. God will grace them (us) with his abundant power and compassion to serve.

May the members of Mercy Junction find in Jesus Christ a savior and forgiveness that their good works might evolve from the true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  

 




[1] For more information see “Goddess spirituality: from a Christian perspective” at http://naminghisgrace.blogspot.com/2009/05/goddess-spirituality-from-christian.html

Friday, January 8, 2016

Egyptian Christians singing their faith

Many Egyptian Christians from many churches at the Cave Church in Egypt.

This is the translation of the song they are singing:
Increase your praises to Christ, lift up the Lord with your tunes
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you
Increase your praises to Christ, lift up the Lord with your tunes


Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you
Say that He has risen and death has no authority
And there is no forgiveness except through His blood
Say that He has risen and death has no authority
And there is no forgiveness except through His blood
And the light of the Gospel is increasing


Increase your praises to Christ, lift up the Lord with your tunes
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you
Increase your praises to Christ, lift up the Lord with your tunes
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you
Say that He has conquered darkness and its authority
He has lit up our days and given them color
Say that He has conquered darkness and its authority
He has lit up our days and given them color
And the light of day is increasing


Increase your praises to Christ, lift up the Lord with your tunes
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you
Increase your praises to Christ, lift up the Lord with your tunes
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you
Say that He is He is defeating his foes
We’re winning with His testimony and blood
Say that He is He is defeating his foes
We’re winning with His testimony and blood
And our heritage is increasing


Increase your praises to Christ, lift up the Lord with your tunes
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you
Increase your praises to Christ, lift up the Lord with your tunes
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you
Live the joy of heaven, joy, joy
Satan will wear the clothes of one in mourning
Live the joy of heaven, joy, joy
Satan will wear the clothes of one in mourning
And our praises to you will increase


Increase your praises to Christ, lift up the Lord with your tunes
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you
Increase your praises to Christ, lift up the Lord with your tunes
Call out the heroes, His heroes, who walk with the cross before you




Hap Tip Zachary Bright