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Archive for the ‘Discernment’ Category

from Got Questions:

The existence of so many religions and the claim that all religions lead to God without question confuses many who are earnestly seeking the truth about God, with the end result sometimes being that some despair of ever reaching the absolute truth on the subject. Or they end up embracing the universalist claim that all religions lead to God. Of course, skeptics also point to the existence of so many religions as proof that either you cannot know God or that God simply does not exist.

Romans 1:19-21 contains the biblical explanation for why there are so many religions. The truth of God is seen and known by every human being because God has made it so. Instead of accepting the truth about God and submitting to it, most human beings reject it and seek their own way to understand God. But this leads not to enlightenment regarding God, but to futility of thinking. Here is where we find the basis of the “many religions.”

Many people do not want to believe in a God who demands righteousness and morality, so they invent a God who makes no such requirements. Many people do not want to believe in a God who declares it impossible for people to earn their own way to heaven. So they invent a God who accepts people into heaven if they have completed certain steps, followed certain rules, and/or obeyed certain laws, at least to the best of their ability. Many people do not want a relationship with a God who is sovereign and omnipotent. So they imagine God as being more of a mystical force than a personal and sovereign ruler.

The existence of so many religions is not an argument against God’s existence or an argument that truth about God is not clear. Rather, the existence of so many religions is demonstration of humanity’s rejection of the one true God. Mankind has replaced Him with gods that are more to their liking. This is a dangerous enterprise. The desire to recreate God in our own image comes from the sin nature within us—a nature that will eventually “reap destruction” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Do all religions lead to God? No. All people—religious or otherwise—will stand before God some day (Hebrews 9:27), but religious affiliation is not what determines your eternal destiny. Only faith in Jesus Christ will save. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). It’s as simple as that. Only Christianity—faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—leads to God’s forgiveness and eternal life. No one comes to the Father except through the Son (John 14:6). It does make a difference what you believe. The decision to embrace the truth about Jesus Christ is important. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.

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from: 828 ministries

I am speaking the truth in Christ–I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit– that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. – Romans: 1-2 (ESV)

I make no pretense to be expositing the key verses today. These are verses where Paul is expressing his dismay about how far lost his own people, the Jews, were at the time of his preaching. I cite them today only because I understand how Paul must have felt, albeit on a smaller scale. This great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart is borne witness by the Holy Spirit within me. I am not lying beloved. I try as always to speak the truth in Christ. I was saved almost 13 years to the day in an Assemblies of God church. A not so reformed and non-practicing Catholic who believed in a God without realizing I was my own God. It was a good church. A Gospel preaching church. A God-fearing church. Pentecostal and charismatic without many of the abuses that often come with it. We had a great pastor. A born evangelist with a true shepherd’s heart. A rare mix these days behind the pulpit. I went there that day with an equally unsaved friend and we both left that day in Christ. Within a month I was baptized and within a year I was in classes for ministerial credentials. Five years later I was a minister for the Assemblies and remained such until this month when I resigned those credentials. This technicality is irrelevant as my call was always from God and not man. The unceasing anguish is in leaving the only church family I have ever known. In 1962 Ronald Reagan remarked as he joined the GOP that he did not leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him. That is how I feel today. I am not leaving the AG as much as the AG has already left me. Both globally and locally. My great sorrow is that the affiliation in which I learned discernment seemingly has lost theirs. The affiliation that once bravely stood up to Jimmy Swaggart now barely stands against anything.

Beloved we must understand the backdrop, which is the times in which we live. When we see the Biblical prophecies play out every night on the news and see the moral decay spiraling out of control each day, those who have eyes to see can see that we are living in the end times. The Bible warns us very clearly about these times. There will be a great apostasy, or falling away from the faith. This is very much underway in the church today. Paul warned Timothy about this:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2Timothy 4: 3-5 (ESV)

One just needs to look at what is taught today as doctrine to see the great apostasy. People follow prosperity myths, word faith myths, hyper-grace myths, false signs and lying wonders myths just to name a few. They gather around themselves teachers who specialize in teaching these myths. They wander off by choice. They choose to fall away. Their ears itch with their own passions and want teachers who will scratch them. With this understanding we must decide what side we are on. Remember, Jesus said there are only two choices:

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. – Matthew 12: 30 (ESV)

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. – Matthew 7: 13-14 (ESV)

Narrow is the gate and few are those who find it. Think about that as you watch the next false teacher speaking to tens of thousands or claiming that entire swaths of people “gave their hearts to Christ.” There are only two choices beloved. We are either found gathering people to the Gospel or scattering them away from it. Thus doctrine becomes our critical measuring stick. Our plumb line. Who we choose to associate with becomes critical as well. Who we loan our credibility to. I once viewed Francis Chan for example to be a solid bible preacher. Once he decided to promote the wildly heretical false prophet Mike Bickle however, his preaching was no longer relevant. Remember what Paul charged the Galatians with?

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. – Galatians 5: 7-9 (ESV)

A little false teaching eventually infects your theology. It spreads. It is parasitic. There can be no compromise allowed. This is not about perfection but rather purity of the Gospel. I have watched for years concerned about the direction the AG was heading in but was willing to wait and see. Anyone after all can make a mistake. Then the heresies started piling up. For me it all starts with the embracing of Rick Warren theology. The Purpose Driven Church has done more damage to the cause of Jesus Christ than anything in generations. It has eradicated the shepherd mentality amongst pastors and instead turns them into CEOs. Don’t believe me? Ask Andy Stanley, a staunch Warren adherent:

(When asked about Pastors being called shepherd) – That word needs to go away.” He added, “It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus, but it’s not culturally relevant anymore.” – Andy Stanley (Leadership Journal, “Get-it-Done Leadership,” May 2006).

This began the slippery slope of growing churches but not the kingdom. The Assemblies embraced the Purpose Driven Life as well and coordinated their churches to all read it together. Something we even did at my church at the time. This is the same book that only addresses salvation one time and presents a nine word “sinner’s prayer” that is followed by an absurdly presumptuous – “Welcome to the family of God!”

Fast forward a few years and the AG tried to coordinate their churches again for a group reading. This time it was a book written by one of their own pastors, Mark Batterson. The Circle Maker is nothing but rank heresy. Based upon a fable found in the Mishnah, Batterson tries to change how Christians pray from being reverent to being petulant. The act of drawing circles is also taken directly from witchcraft. That does not mean the Mr. Batterson intended this. Intent however is irrelevant. The Circle Maker remains to this day a black eye upon the Assemblies. Then there are the associations the AG has chosen to make. Who they have aligned themselves with. Many are not aware of “Empowered 21,” which is self described as:

“The Empowered21 Global Council is an esteemed group of International Christian leaders, co-chaired by George Wood and Billy Wilson. These leaders give inspirational oversight to13 Regional Cabinets across the world and seeks to provide resources to address the crucial issues faced by the Spirit-empowered church.”

So the General Superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God in America is the co-chair of this international coalition. Problem? Not until you see who are part of its leadership:

Bill Johnson, Reinhard Bonnke, Lisa Bevere, Kenneth Copeland, Jentezen Franklin, Brian Houston, Cindy “The General” Jacobs, Robert Morris, Phil Pringle to name a few. This is a who’s-who of false teachers and wannabe prophets. I guess Osteen, Warren and Prince were just too busy. Seriously. Why in the world would you co chair this smorgasbord of heresy? Why would you even want to be on the same website? Bill Johnson believes in grave sucking the residual anointing from dead false teachers. He runs his own school for the supernatural where he teaches people the gifts of the spirit – pure blasphemy! Robert Morris abuses his sheep and tells them to pay him his tithes before paying their rent or bills or medicine or else God will curse all of their money! General Cindy Jacobs? Are you serious? Kenneth Copeland and Brian Houston? The Assemblies should know better. Reinhard Bonnke? International charlatan who brags about raising the dead? The AG threw a banquet in his honor recently. These are not fringe elements in apostasy. These are the leaders beloved.

Then there was the extremely poor decision to get into bed with ex-Catholic mystic Roma Downey and her heretical “AD Miniseries.” When I say in bed I mean under the covers. The AG actively marketed the “church kit” that Downey was selling which turned over your local church to this miniseries for 12 weeks. Each week they would provide you with a video sermon given by a Christian celebrity to match that week’s episode. The third lesson was done by none other than George Wood. Other notable teachers in the series were the aforementioned Mark Batterson and the Hillsong false teacher, Christine Caine. The teaching aside, the actual miniseries was a disaster biblically. It was clear that one of the goals Downey had was to overstate the role of women and make any leading male character out to either be a wimp or psychotic. Beloved we are not talking about artistic license. This series simply did not correctly represent the Bible. I can understand someone who is unsaved not understanding the point but I am talking about the actual story. Mary for example did not have to convince the disciples to wait the three days for when Jesus said He would rise again. Without getting too bogged down in the detail this was another example of very poor decision making by the Assemblies regarding who they want to be found in league with.

It was no wonder then that this past year at their annual General Council one of their speakers was Christine Caine. Never mind that she is from Hillsong, the largest international heretical organization on the planet. Never mind that she is an ardent supporter of someone like Joyce Meyer. Never mind that after “shadowing” Meyer for a week she tweeted a picture of herself laying hands upon the Bible of Joyce Meyer and praying for “an impartation of her “teaching anointing and revelation.” The same Meyer who teaches Jesus went to hell and had to be born again there. The same Meyer who teaches that she never sins. The same Meyer who teaches that we are all little gods. It is no wonder then that the quote that hit the Internet from Caine that night which was taken as some deep nugget of wisdom was:

“The size of your ministry is determined by the size of your heart.” – Christine Caine

Not determined by God. Not determined by the Holy Spirit. Not determined by correct doctrine or preaching the correct Gospel. No beloved. Determined by the size of our wickedly deceptive hearts. Therein sums up the progression of falling away I have witnessed within the Assemblies for the past several years. They bought into the Warren theologies of growth and marketing. They bought into the seeker friendly notions of church growth. They continued to make whatever associations were popular and gained them more exposure with seemingly little concern about doctrine. As a minister for the Assemblies, I am expected to support them and in complete fairness I can no longer do so.

That is the global scene if you will. It is the scene everyone sees on television and being reported. What is often lost however is the local scene. We all belong locally before we belong globally. There are still some very good AG churches out there beloved. Churches who are trying to do the right thing and preach the whole Gospel. Eventually they will have to come out from among them if the Assemblies does not stop its free-fall. Locally however, the politics are even worse. The disregard for correct doctrine is widely accepted as long as you can put bodies in the seats each week. Never mind if people leave. That is a Warren principle taught in the Purpose Driven Church called “Blessed Subtraction.” This principle teaches pastors that it is OK to let sheep wander away from your flock as long as you replace them. Talk about not understanding the 99 and the one! But this point is vitally important because Purpose Driven teachings insist that we are no long in the business of reaching the unsaved but rather the unchurched. That may sound subtle but it is purely a satanic plot. Instead of focusing on their salvation pastors now focus on whether they belong to a church. Instead of focusing on their relationship to Jesus they focus on their relationship to ministry. That is why Blessed Subtraction is so widely accepted theologically even though it violates the entire Bible! As long as you replace the body then the church has not “lost” anything. But what about the sheep that wandered off?

I have watched such local abuses and continue to see them to this day. I know hundreds of people devastated by Christian leaders and a church that swore they loved them as Christ does but then casually left the pen door open and kicked them out into the cold. I heard a pastor once preach that if a congregant had a problem with someone else they need to leave. From the pulpit this was said. During a sermon. I have watched congregations be eviscerated of anyone who was biblically literate. Anyone who dared to ask any questions. Anyone who even mildly objected. I have watched Elder Boards be launching pads for ministerial preaching careers from people who have no business dividing the Word of Truth. What does the Assemblies do about it?

Absolutely nothing.

In fairness, the overall Assemblies has little power over the churches in their fellowship. The power remains at the local level and that is not necessarily a bad thing if you are ensuring the biblical authority of your ministers. Instead however the local assemblies becomes this game of politics and productivity. If a pastor is seen as a producer, meaning he can refill the seats of those who leaves and grow his church, then doctrine or abuses can be nodded and winked at. Meanwhile the landscape is littered with bloody sheep, many of whom will never set foot in a church again. It is for these local reasons and the people who cry out from their abuses that I also feel compelled to walk away. I have close friends and acquaintances who were set into spiritual tailspins, seemingly never to recover. Every month seems to brings to light a new victim locally and a new doctrinal abuse globally. And beloved, please understand that this is not a broad brush I intend to paint with. As I have said there are plenty of good AG churches and ministers who preach the uncompromised Word of God and are led by real shepherds. This is also not personal in nature, even though I could recount my own personal tales of abuse. It is not about me. It is about the sheep of the Lord and the primacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In good conscience I cannot continue to write that believers need to come out from among the falseness in the church today and continue to proudly claim affiliation to an organization that has lost its way. I will pray for the AG because I love the AG. I ask that you do the same. I pray that this once proud organization returns to its roots of uncompromised Gospel preachers. Time is running out.

Reverend Anthony Wade – January 16, 2016

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from The “Christian” Post:

Popular televangelist Paula White is urging her followers to donate a “first fruits” offering of up to their entire salary for the month of January to enjoy “blessings” for the rest of the year or suffer the “consequences” of failing to follow God’s command.

“Each January, I put God first and honor Him with the first of our substance by sowing a first fruits offering of one month’s pay. That is a big sacrifice, but it is a seed for the harvest I am believing for in the coming year. And God always provides!” White explains on her website.

She explained the difference between the tithe, usually 10 percent of earnings, and the first fruit donation.

“The difference between tithe and first fruit, first fruit is all of it,” she told congregants at the New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “All of what? Well, if you want to bring God all of one day’s salary, one week’s salary or one month’s salary, that’s between you and God. … I try to bring a month’s salary, but at the very least every year I give God a week’s salary.”

And many of her followers join her in the first fruits campaign with “miraculous” results, she says.

“Every year many others join us and sow a month’s pay, a week’s pay, others give a day’s pay, but everyone gives their best — the results are miraculous! First Fruits has impacted my life personally and the lives of countless others! But First Fruits is more than just an offering, it’s a principle,” she says, that is ordained by God.

“God claims the FIRST of ALL THINGS! It rightfully belongs to Him. When we apply the Principle of First Fruits, we see that all firsts should be given to the Lord: the first of the day, week (Sabbath), month, and the first of our harvest — be it the wages for the first day, week, or the month,” she explains.

White, who also serves as President Donald Trump’s spiritual adviser, lays out in detail on her website how the principle of first fruits “supernaturally unlocks amazing opportunity, blessing, favor and divine order for your life” and how God requires His people to honor it.

“It is the basis or underlying support for your success in 2018. It is GOD’S PRINCIPLE OF FIRST FRUITS. All Firsts belong to God. When you honor this principle it provides the foundation and structure for God’s blessings and promises in your life, it unlocks deep dimensions of spiritual truths that literally transform your life! When you apply this everything comes in divine alignment for His plan and promises for you. When you don’t honor it, whether through ignorance or direct disobedience there are consequences,” White warns.

She then suggests that the consequence could be “struggle” and giving a first fruits offering can help protect donors from it.

“The Bible says, ‘On one particular Sabbath, while teaching in a Synagogue, Jesus healed a woman that had a ‘spirit of infirmity’ which had bent her over for 18 years!’ That which has plagued you IS REBUKED AND DONE FROM YOUR LIFE NOW. 2018 is a year of life and deliverance from struggle. It begins right now with First Fruits,” she states.

She also notes, “It doesn’t mean you can dictate or manipulate what’s going to happen in July or August but it means this, that you have put God first in every aspect of this year.”

White’s church tweeted in support of the campaign Tuesday. But not everyone is convinced that this is how God intended the principle of first fruits to work.

“The concept of biblical first fruits is real, but as I read your article I can’t help but feel as though you’re being manipulative. Laying the foundation for first fruits and then launching into a ‘financial seed’ campaign seems to be a misuse/abuse of the biblical intention,” Christian mom Heather Norton told White on Twitter Tuesday morning.

CompellingTruth.org, an outreach effort by a group of trained Christian experts at Got Questions Ministries, agrees. While some preachers today use the concept to encourage their parishioners to give an offering above and beyond tithing, the Bible does not support it as a requirement for Christians.

“The problem is, the first fruits offering was for the Jews for a specific purpose. Nowhere does the New Testament mention that the church is required or even encouraged to give a ‘first fruits offering.’ Like tithing, giving to the church is left up to the personal convictions of the individual believer. There is no blanket policy for giving,” the group explains.

“This presumes that the work of God be understood in a dispensational manner instead of following the teaching of replacement theology. Replacement theology teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan for the world. All of the promises God gave Israel (including material blessings for obedience) are transferred to the church. Dispensational theology claims that God gave Israel and the church different promises, and many of Israel’s promises will not come to fruition until the millennial kingdom. It is the belief of this ministry that dispensational theology best interprets the Scriptures. The church cannot claim all the promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament,” the experts argue.

They note, however, that giving a first fruits offering is acceptable as long as it comes from the believer’s personal conviction and “not pressured by church leadership.”

“The ways in which churches use the phrase (and the practice) vary in theological truth. To say that ‘laying down a seed’ so that God will make someone rich, or that you can pay off God to bless future plans, is an abusive lie from adherents of the prosperity gospel. To give sacrificially is to follow in the example of the widow of Mark 12:41-44, and is commendable as long as it isn’t coerced. To give an offering in thanks that God provided is perfectly acceptable. But if a church wants to have a period of fund-raising, it would be better to have a specific purpose and not just try to spiritualize the desire to have more capital in the bank,” they further explain.

 

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“The Bible clearly warns us that we are to be cautious about following the ideas of men when the men who are promoting their own ideas are ignoring what God has said in His Word. There is even a danger to paying attention to what men are saying, if what they say does not line up with what God has already communicated in His Word.”

From Understand the Times:

Man’s way or God’s way? That is a very important question. When it comes to growing God’s church, is there a right answer? Some believe there are ways to promote church growth by applying certain principles that are based on human insight and growth methods. What does God say?

Every Christian wants to see the church grow. Jesus made it clear before He ascended to the Father that His followers are to be His witnesses. Believers are called to share the good news of the gospel until He returns. We want to see our churches filled to overflowing. But what happens when the Christian Church, in its zeal to reach the unconverted, begins to embrace ideas and methods that are far from biblical to attract the lost?

We must always remember that a zealous Christian leader who has the ability to communicate can also be a subtle deceiver if he or she mixes truth with error. Further, there are those who are so convinced they are standing on the truth that when they are confronted with biblical truth, they simply cannot see their error. No matter who one is or what position is held, everyone needs to be open to correction from God’s Word.

In the book of Proverbs, we are told why this happens. Solomon wrote: All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. [1] Then to make the point even more evident a few verses later, we are admonished: There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. [2]

The Bible clearly warns us that we are to be cautious about following the ideas of men when the men who are promoting their own ideas are ignoring what God has said in His Word. There is even a danger to paying attention to what men are saying, if what they say does not line up with what God has already communicated in His Word.

At the present time, there is a trend underway that seems very exciting to many Christians. They perceive that this present generation is attracted to experience and not impressed by biblical exegesis. If a church can provide “Christian experiences” which attract attention, Christianity can be expanded, they reason. Sensory, experiential, liturgical, and sacramental encounters, they say, can be effective attractions.

However, based on church history, these methods have actually been around for centuries. And while they may attract those who are looking for a spiritual experience, experience without a biblical basis can be very deceptive and not Christianity at all.

The Scriptures shed light on what happens when human means and methods are promoted without God’s endorsement. Jesus said:

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand.[3]

To sum it up, methods based on man’s views can be right in the eyes of men but in opposition to Jesus Christ and His Word. That is why we must be like the Bereans who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”[4]

Remember, the last days will be a time when deception will grow stronger and stronger. Deception means that truth can be compromised. Thank God, we have His Word to keep us on the right track: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”[

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from Got Questions:

Much misunderstanding about the Christian life occurs because we either assign commands and exhortations we should be following as “era-specific” commands that only applied to the original audience, or we take commands and exhortations that are specific to a particular audience and make them timeless truths. How do we go about discerning the difference? The first thing to note is that the canon of Scripture was closed by the end of the 1st century A.D. This means that, while all of the Bible is truth we can apply to our lives, most, if not all, of the Bible was not originally written to us. The authors had in mind the hearers of that day. That should cause us to be very careful when interpreting the Bible for today’s Christians. It seems that much of contemporary evangelical preaching is so concerned with the practical application of Scripture that we treat the Bible as a lake from which to fish application for today’s Christians. All of this is done at the expense of proper exegesis and interpretation.

The top three rules of hermeneutics (the art and science of biblical interpretation) are 1) context; 2) context; 3) context. Before we can tell 21st-century Christians how the Bible applies to them, we must first come to the best possible understanding of what the Bible meant to its original audience. If we come up with an application that would have been foreign to the original audience, there is a very strong possibility that we did not interpret the passage correctly. Once we are confident that we understand what the text meant to its original hearers, we then need to determine the width of the chasm between us and them. In other words, what are the differences in language, time, culture, geography, setting and situation? All of these must be taken into account before application can be made. Once the width of the chasm has been measured, we can then attempt to build the bridge over the chasm by finding the commonalities between the original audience and ourselves. Finally, we can then find application for ourselves in our time and situation.

Another important thing to note is that each passage has only one correct interpretation. It can have a range of application, but only one interpretation. What this means is that some applications of biblical passages are better than others. If one application is closer to the correct interpretation than another, then it is a better application of that text. For example, many sermons have been preached on 1 Samuel 17 (the David and Goliath story) that center on “defeating the giants in your life.” They lightly skim over the details of the narrative and go straight to application, and that application usually involves allegorizing Goliath into tough, difficult and intimidating situations in one’s life that must be overcome by faith. There is also an attempt to allegorize the five smooth stones David picked up to defeat his giant. These sermons usually conclude by exhorting us to be faithful like David.

While these interpretations make engaging sermons, it is doubtful the original audience would have gotten that message from this story. Before we can apply the truth in 1 Samuel 17, we must know how the original audience understood it, and that means determining the overall purpose of 1 Samuel as a book. Without going into a detailed exegesis of 1 Samuel 17, let’s just say it’s not about defeating the giants in your life with faith. That may be a distant application, but as an interpretation of the passage, it’s alien to the text. God is the hero of the story, and David was His chosen vehicle to bring salvation to His people. The story contrasts the people’s king (Saul) with God’s king (David), and it also foreshadows what Christ (the Son of David) would do for us in providing our salvation.

Another common example of interpreting with disregard of the context is John 14:13-14. Reading this verse out of context would seem to indicate that if we ask God anything (unqualified), we will receive it as long as we use the formula “in Jesus’ name.” Applying the rules of proper hermeneutics to this passage, we see Jesus speaking to His disciples in the upper room on the night of His eventual betrayal. The immediate audience is the disciples. This is essentially a promise to His disciples that God will provide the necessary resources for them to complete their task. It is a passage of comfort because Jesus would soon be leaving them. Is there an application for 21st-century Christians? Of course! If we pray in Jesus’ name, we pray according to God’s will and God will give us what we need to accomplish His will in and through us. Furthermore, the response we get will always glorify God. Far from a “carte blanche” way of getting what we want, this passage teaches us that we must always submit to God’s will in prayer, and that God will always provide what we need to accomplish His will.

Proper biblical interpretation is built on the following principles:
1. Context. To understand fully, start small and extend outward: verse, passage, chapter, book, author and testament/covenant.
2. Try to come to grips with how the original audience would have understood the text.
3. Consider the width of the chasm between us and the original audience.
4. It’s a safe bet that any moral command from the Old Testament that is repeated in the New Testament is an example of a “timeless truth.”
5. Remember that each passage has one and only one correct interpretation, but can have many applications (some better than others).
6. Always be humble and don’t forget the role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation. He has promised to lead us into all truth (John 16:13).

Biblical interpretation is as much an art as it is science. There are rules and principles, but some of the more difficult or controversial passages require more effort than others. We should always be open to changing an interpretation if the Spirit convicts and the evidence supports.

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Carl Lentz lead pastor of Hillsong New York was recently interviewed by Oprah. Listen as he explains that Jesus is just a road sign or map and if people reject Jesus that’s ok because God loves everyone anyway… How can any Pastor deny Christ as the only way to the Father and still be in leadership?

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. -2 Timothy 4:1-5

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Sound familiar anyone?

“Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not). It’s not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit. But now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school – or even just your chances of getting a date.”

from Wired:

On June 14, 2014, the State Council of China published an ominous-sounding document called “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System”. In the way of Chinese policy documents, it was a lengthy and rather dry affair, but it contained a radical idea. What if there was a national trust score that rated the kind of citizen you were?

Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not). It’s not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit. But now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school – or even just your chances of getting a date.

A futuristic vision of Big Brother out of control? No, it’s already getting underway in China, where the government is developing the Social Credit System (SCS) to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.3 billion citizens. The Chinese government is pitching the system as a desirable way to measure and enhance “trust” nationwide and to build a culture of “sincerity”. As the policy states, “It will forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility.”

Others are less sanguine about its wider purpose. “It is very ambitious in both depth and scope, including scrutinising individual behaviour and what books people are reading. It’s Amazon’s consumer tracking with an Orwellian political twist,” is how Johan Lagerkvist, a Chinese internet specialist at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, described the social credit system. Rogier Creemers, a post-doctoral scholar specialising in Chinese law and governance at the Van Vollenhoven Institute at Leiden University, who published a comprehensive translation of the plan, compared it to “Yelp reviews with the nanny state watching over your shoulder”.

For now, technically, participating in China’s Citizen Scores is voluntary. But by 2020 it will be mandatory. The behaviour of every single citizen and legal person (which includes every company or other entity)in China will be rated and ranked, whether they like it or not.

Prior to its national roll-out in 2020, the Chinese government is taking a watch-and-learn approach. In this marriage between communist oversight and capitalist can-do, the government has given a licence to eight private companies to come up with systems and algorithms for social credit scores. Predictably, data giants currently run two of the best-known projects.

The first is with China Rapid Finance, a partner of the social-network behemoth Tencent and developer of the messaging app WeChat with more than 850 million active users. The other, Sesame Credit, is run by the Ant Financial Services Group (AFSG), an affiliate company of Alibaba. Ant Financial sells insurance products and provides loans to small- to medium-sized businesses. However, the real star of Ant is AliPay, its payments arm that people use not only to buy things online, but also for restaurants, taxis, school fees, cinema tickets and even to transfer money to each other.

Sesame Credit has also teamed up with other data-generating platforms, such as Didi Chuxing, the ride-hailing company that was Uber’s main competitor in China before it acquired the American company’s Chinese operations in 2016, and Baihe, the country’s largest online matchmaking service. It’s not hard to see how that all adds up to gargantuan amounts of big data that Sesame Credit can tap into to assess how people behave and rate them accordingly.

So just how are people rated? Individuals on Sesame Credit are measured by a score ranging between 350 and 950 points. Alibaba does not divulge the “complex algorithm” it uses to calculate the number but they do reveal the five factors taken into account. The first is credit history. For example, does the citizen pay their electricity or phone bill on time? Next is fulfilment capacity, which it defines in its guidelines as “a user’s ability to fulfil his/her contract obligations”. The third factor is personal characteristics, verifying personal information such as someone’s mobile phone number and address. But the fourth category, behaviour and preference, is where it gets interesting.

Under this system, something as innocuous as a person’s shopping habits become a measure of character. Alibaba admits it judges people by the types of products they buy. “Someone who plays video games for ten hours a day, for example, would be considered an idle person,” says Li Yingyun, Sesame’s Technology Director. “Someone who frequently buys diapers would be considered as probably a parent, who on balance is more likely to have a sense of responsibility.” So the system not only investigates behaviour – it shapes it. It “nudges” citizens away from purchases and behaviours the government does not like.

Friends matter, too. The fifth category is interpersonal relationships. What does their choice of online friends and their interactions say about the person being assessed? Sharing what Sesame Credit refers to as “positive energy” online, nice messages about the government or how well the country’s economy is doing, will make your score go up.

Alibaba is adamant that, currently, anything negative posted on social media does not affect scores (we don’t know if this is true or not because the algorithm is secret). But you can see how this might play out when the government’s own citizen score system officially launches in 2020. Even though there is no suggestion yet that any of the eight private companies involved in the ongoing pilot scheme will be ultimately responsible for running the government’s own system, it’s hard to believe that the government will not want to extract the maximum amount of data for its SCS, from the pilots. If that happens, and continues as the new normal under the government’s own SCS it will result in private platforms acting essentially as spy agencies for the government. They may have no choice.

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