Monday, October 28, 2013

Charismatic vs. Evangelical: Pleading for the middle ground

As expected, John MacArthur's "Strange Fire" Conference (October 16-18, 2013) has sparked a tsunami on the web in form of blog-posts, articles, radio shows, web-site statements and YouTube videos. I love and very, very highly respect John MacArthur and other speakers at the conference. However, some of the things that were said at the conference (which you can watch in its entirety at FloydFamilyValues and, partially, on John MacArthur's "Grace to you" YouTube channel) are disturbing, as they are very divisive and don't do justice to the vast variety within the charismatic movement. It looks as if a few black sheep are used to discredit the entire movement. Granted, these "black sheep" have a very high profile and might indeed easily be seen as the official "face" of the movement that, according to MacArthur's on words, includes about 500 million (!) people. But I think that pastor Shane Idleman speaks for many people who consider themselves charismatic, when he says that "I read the John MacArthur Study Bible, not the Benny Hinn Study Bible" and "I love John Piper, not Creflo Dollar". I am also with Michael Brown when he says that John MacArthur owes an apology for saying that there was "essentially zero social benefit to the world from the charismatic movement". I post pastor Shane's message here, as it reflects my own views on this matter quite well. Living on the mission field (in Thailand), working with an overwhelmingly "charismatic" organization (YWAM), attending a Baptist church and having connections to many missionaries, pastors and normal believers from super-charismatic all the way to super-reformed backgrounds, I am very much aware of the need for balance and wisdom in all things. I consider myself blessed to have good friends among people from the entire spectrum of Christianity and I am hopeful that the "Strange Fire" Conference and its aftermath will eventually have a very positive impact on the unity of believers worldwide - because God is still able to bring about good even when man's intention should be evil. I am not saying that John MacArthur had bad intentions by hosting this Conference, I am only focusing on God's ability to bring about good... It is my prayer that an honest, humble dialogue about the raised issues would result in a deeper love and a greater appreciation for one another. Impossible, you think? Ha, you ain't seen nothing yet... :)    

"We trust the time will come when Dr. John MacArthur and those who share his perspective will acknowledge the great contribution that Pentecostals and Charismatics are making in the evangelization of individuals without Christ. We pray God's blessings on their efforts to share His gospel with a lost and dying world. Pentecostals and charismatics are their co-laborers in this effort so we ask that they would similarly pray for God's blessing on us as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission that God has given us all."
From a statement by George Wood's, General Superintendent Assemblies of God posted online
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Obedience and Revival

I am convinced that the believer's obedience in small things (e.g. in Thailand: the wearing of helmets when driving motorcycle) would do more to bring about true revival than all "Revival Meetings" and "Prayer Movements" combined (see 1. Samuel 15:22-23, Romans 13:1-2)
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Better than New Year's Resolutions...

Rather than focusing on what I should do in the new year, I found it to be much more helpful to focus on what God did in the outgoing year!
Every year I am surprised by how long this list ends up to be, and every year again I find that He has proofed himself faithful, merciful, forgiving, loving and good beyond comprehension in my life. I fall short of the glory of God, He never does. I would again break all the well-intended New Year's Resolutions within a few days (or weeks at best). He will again show himself faithful to His word and He will again keep all his promises :)
As C.H. Spurgeon used to love to say: "Look to him, dear sinner!"

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Does God favor Democracy?

Is it worth the (Western) church's effort to promote the democratization of nations that are currently under a different form of government? What does God think?

  • The church (understood as percentage of true followers of Christ of the total population) in (Western) Germany and Japan is still as small as before these nations' democratization after World War II.
  • The same is true for Eastern Europe after the fall of communism (including Eastern Germany after the re-unification with Western Germany in 1990).
  • The church in many parts of Africa has indeed seen exceptional growth over the last decades, but this explosion started before the 1990s, long time before the end of the cold war and the subsequent democratization of many sub-Saharan African nations.
  • Even more recently, the "Arab Spring" had many people believe that we would finally see an opening up of Muslim nations for the gospel - after 1400 years of them being pretty much closed to any open missionary/evangelism effort (and thus rendering them "creative access" nations), but so far there has been no measurable church-growth.
Obviously, these were/are all enormous political changes, and in many areas these changes went hand in hand with great economical and social changes. But more often than not, many negative things surfaced together with the apparent freedom as well: racism, unemployment, crime, chaos, fights between gangs and "warlords", all the way to civil war. Closing our eyes to these negative "side effects" of the prescribed medicine (democracy) is simply denial.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Which side is God on: Republican or Democrat? "Yellow Shirt" or "Red Shirt"?

As rumors about another military coupe in Thailand are thickening, I thought it would be a good idea to re-post an article that I initially wrote in April 2010. At that time, Thailand, the "Land of Smiles", was rocked by demonstrations in Bangkok, during which more than 90 people lost their lives. If the current, democratically elected, government that is headed by the younger sister of the vastly popular former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawat, who was ousted by the Thai military in 2006 and is in exile pretty much ever since, should really be forced out of office by the military and/or other powerful parts of society, it would almost certainly lead to greater unrests than what this beautiful country has experienced so far. Many people think that even a downright civil war could erupt at any time, if one side of the conflict should make a move that seems to be unacceptable for the other side. In this atmosphere of high tension, I think it is essential for followers of Jesus Christ to know what He, as the leader of God's people, would have His disciples do if such a crisis should really arise. Not only to steer our lives and the lives off those entrusted to us out of unnecessary harms' way, but also, or better: even more importantly so, to not dishonor the name of the Lord in the sight of non-believers. The latter is a very real danger for the church in any society, and the here mentioned principles, I am convinced, apply everywhere, anytime - no matter whether in the countries of the so called "Arab Spring", in Syria, or in seemingly stable Western democracies as in Germany or the U.S.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Whose World Is It Anyway?

God, man or Satan: Who is in charge?

If you have been around evangelical churches for some time, you probably have heard it taught many times that God created Adam and Eve, gave them authority over the earth, but Adam and Eve surrendered/passed on this authority to Satan when they sinned. From there, the teachings vary, depending on what branch of the church you are listening to. Some say that Jesus reclaimed this authority from Satan by dying on the cross, some go a step further and say that Jesus has given the reclaimed authority to the church. One outgrowth of this teaching holds that God cannot do anything unless someone prays for it while man and/or Satan can do anything they like at this time of redemptive history. The differing teachings and opinions on this are the cause of great confusion for many believers. This confusion is mostly suppressed because nobody wants to admit that he/she does not really have a satisfactory answer for a fundamental question like this. However, the confusion tends to surface every time some great calamity strikes, be it in the form of natural disasters, acts of terrorism or even during a democratic election. I think, therefore, that it will be helpful to look at scripture and see what it teaches about the different phases of redemptive history, which can be divided into three phases (some call it "dispensations"):
  1. From creation until the fall
  2. After the fall until the cross
  3. After the cross.
Obviously, the main verses that talk about phases 1 and 2 will be found in the Old Testament, while phase 3 will be addressed mainly in the New Testament. As we are living in phase 3, this is the phase that is of most interest to us. There is, at least, one more phase of redemptive history that could be addressed, namely the phase that is still lying ahead of us in the future (rapture, the second coming of Christ, the millennial reign of Christ, the New Jerusalem, etc.). However, for simplicity's sake, this phase shall not be addressed by this teaching.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


I first wanted to call this article ‘The Catholic Church and other Cults' but decided to simply use "Catholicism" as the header, because I mention other cults only briefly at the end while I focus on the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. You might want to ask: “What do you mean: You are not saying that the Catholic Church actually is a cult, aren't you?” But yes, that's exactly what I am saying.  I find it frightening how little is known about the Catholic faith in evangelical/charismatic circles. We have entire prayer movements targeting the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist world, and rightly so, as these lies hold many people in bondage. There are also plenty of books and tracts written about the heresies of the Mormon Church, the Jehovah's Witnesses and other more or less well-known cults. However, if it comes to groups that by their teachings deceive their members and keep them from entering eternity through simple faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the biggest group of all slips through most Christians' attention.

Just a sobering fact before I look at the reasons why the Catholic Church is indeed a cult: 

Of the world's 7 billion people, there are 1.181 billion Roman Catholics (1). That's more than 1 out of every 7 people! In comparison (2), there are about 1.028 billion Hindus, 492 million Buddhists, 728 million people who practice various ethnic religions (including Animism), and 651 million “nonreligious” people. Only the Muslim religion has more followers than the Roman Catholic Church, with 1.531 billion adherents, but Muslims (like the estimated 1.153 billion other people that identify themselves as Christians in some other form of Christianity) are split into various groups while the Catholics are united under the sole leadership of the pope. Thus, as true followers of Christ, we can hardly afford to overlook a vast group like that, and we should be very careful simply to assume that every Catholic is our “brother” or “sister”.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


What is Free Masonry? 

On the outside, Free Masonry is a very honorable organization, made up of mostly influential and respected people (men only) like lawyers, politicians, doctors, journalists, etc. A lot of charity work is sponsored by them (*1), and public events like speeches by famous politicians or authors are held. Free Masonry is organized in so called “lodges” of different traditions throughout the world. The membership is secretive, and there are lodges in almost all nations of the earth. In fact, there have been lodges in communist countries throughout the Cold War, they still do exist in China today and independent from the political system in nations, you will most likely find lodges at least in the capitol. 
What is so staggering about this, is the fact that the lodges are organized internationally, and that there is a very strong hierarchy within the organization. This way, plans can be pursued internationally, independent from party lines or political systems. At their initiation the new member swears total allegiance to his leader, and the oaths taken are getting more and more horrific the higher the mason rises in the organization. There is a total of 33 degrees in Free Masonry, the 33rd degree being the highest. Initiation rites include the calling upon ancient Egyptian Gods like Isis, Osiris and Ra, the blindfolding of the initiated person, his being laid into a coffin and called out to new life under calling on of ancient spirits to bring enlightenment, and oaths that state that the person is willing to have his throat split and his body being torn into pieces while being alive if he should violate any part of his oath. In one degree, the initiated person agrees that he forgets everything he has learned about right and wrong and that from there on he will believe and trust his leader entirely, whatsoever.
While it seems awkward that highly educated people should submit themselves to rituals like that, the amount of power and prestige that come with a higher degree seem to be motivation enough. Famous Free Masons are plentiful in politics as well as the Arts. Just to name a few: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, George Washington and all governors of the 13 founding states of the United States, as well as one of the last presidential candidates, Bob Dole (a 33rd degree mason).

Friday, March 23, 2012

God's Sovereignty in Disasters

Signs like this are now posted along the beaches of Southern
Thailand, where about 5,000 people were killed in Dec. 2004
Tsunamis, floods, storms, earthquakes... do those kind of disasters just happen? Are they God's judgments?
A common answer from Christians is that God certainly did not cause these disasters, but that he is grieved by the destruction they cause, the lives that were taken, etc. I want to suggest 6 reasons why this kind of thinking stands on very shaky ground, and does not align with what the Bible reveals about God's character.
The ultimate question is whether anything seemingly bad can be caused by God. He might have reasons that we don't understand, but I don't think that "God allows disasters, but didn't want them to happen" is a very smart answer. Indeed, it's an unbiblical answer.

If God is not causing (for whatever reason) natural disasters like tsunamis, floods, fires, earthquakes, etc., what would be his role? Just by common sense and, yes, logic, I see 6 options:

  • He is not able to prevent them from happening (which would mean he is not all-powerful (but all Christians hold that he is all-powerful)
  • He is not willing to prevent them from happening (and thus protect the innocent and the children); a person who was able to prevent a disaster/crime/accident, but didn't do anything can be held responsible (at least in a German court)! 
  • He didn't see them coming/was surprised by them; that would mean he is not all-knowing (but of course all believers hold that God is all-knowing)
  • He knew it would happen, but didn't warn at least his people, so they could evacuate the innocent & children 
  • He simply doesn't care what's happening (but every true believer knows that God is interested even in the smallest detail of our lives - even the hair on our head is numbered…)
  • God is not in control - either Satan or men is, and God has to allow things that he doesn't want to happen (this seems to be the politically correct answer in modern day evangelicalism, but it does not stand a Biblical test, neither does it solve the above mentioned concerns) 
  • ________________________________(please let me know if you have another thought) 

Any of the above mentioned options make God look to me like a toothless grandpa who would love to see everything being peace, joy and pancakes, but can't quite muster the strength to really do anything of significance, and who retreats therefore to crying and weeping. The Bible, however, speaks of an all-powerful God, before, during and after the cross, who does whatever he wants and whom nobody can resist…

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sickness and Healing in a Believer's Life


To say one thing very clearly in the beginning: God is able to heal any disease, any sickness and any kind of pain at any given time. In Psalm 103 David says: "Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases"! Every true Christian believes that God forgives all our sin, so it is only appropriate to believe that he heals all our diseases as well. When Jesus walked the earth the Bible reports that he healed “every disease and sickness” (e.g. Matthew 9:35). Jesus gave this same authority to his 12 disciples (Matthew 10:1) and to everybody who follows Him (Mark 16:18). In addition to that, some people have a special gift of healing (see 1. Corinthians 12:9). God is the same yesterday, today and forever, so there is no doubt that He can heal and is still doing just that all over the world to this day. By Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, God has provided for healing of our physical bodies, because “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

A realistic look at causes of sickness 

However, experience of Christians throughout the centuries, ever since the early church, shows that many times Christians are sick and are not miraculously healed (e.g. 2 Ti 4:20, where Paul himself, though plenty of people were healed through/by him, left behind his co-worker Trophimus sick in Miletus). It seems that more often than not God chooses not to heal people through prayer and a miraculous intervention. It is certainly wrong to base our believes and our doctrines upon experience - they have to be based upon the word of God. But it is nothing short of denial if we ignore the experience of many faithful believers who have struggled or who are currently struggling with sickness, be it a common cold or more serious illnesses like cancer. A simple “You just have to believe”, or “You just need to claim the promises of God” might not always do justice to the one who is suffering, even though it is no doubt well-intentioned advice. God seems to be bigger than that, and at times might have other things in mind, rather than an instantaneous healing. It is absolutely not my goal here to make people (or myself) feel comfortable with their sickness and to stop pursuing God for healing. On the contrary: As Psalm 103 says that the LORD heals all our diseases, it only makes sense if at times we do have diseases - otherwise God wouldn't have to heal us from them... It is therefore my goal to bring a balance and hopefully some understanding about why at times we are sick. God is God, and we are not - thus there will always be things that we will not be able to figure out before we get to see Him face to face, and once we see Him like that all our questions about “why” and “how” might cease to be important. But as long as we journey on this side of heaven, I think it's worthwhile to fight for understanding. God is after being glorified, and a people who understand His ways glorify Him! But there is a “but” here…: A people who do not understand all His ways but worship Him anyways, might glorify Him even more!
Besides having been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2007, there have been 6 times so far in my life when I was no longer able to walk because of back pain. Every one of these 6 times (plus many more times with minor issues) has been completely different. Causes and cure were not always the same. So, I am far from making general statements. But I want to suggest 7 different categories of causes for sickness. There might be more, but I find these categories helpful to consider:
  • Bad care 
  • Emotional problems affecting the body 
  • Spiritual Attack 
  • Simply for God's glory 
  • Sin 
  • Accidents, Natural Disasters and Terrorism 
  • Other Purposes of God