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Burning Heart 2008 – Bethany Church, Cebu City

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Prosperity Preaching: Deceitful and Deadly

When I read about prosperity-preaching churches, my response is: “If I were not on the inside of Christianity, I wouldn’t want in.” In other words, if this is the message of Jesus, no thank you.Luring people to Christ to get rich is both deceitful and deadly. It’s deceitful because when Jesus himself called us, he said things like: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). And it’s deadly because the desire to be rich plunges “people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). So here is my plea to preachers of the gospel.

1. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.

Jesus said, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” His disciples were astonished, as many in the “prosperity” movement should be. So Jesus went on to raise their astonishment even higher by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They respond in disbelief: “Then who can be saved?” Jesus says, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:23-27).

My question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry focus that makes it harder for people to enter heaven?

2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.

Paul said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” But then he warned against the desire to be rich. And by implication, he warned against preachers who stir up the desire to be rich instead of helping people get rid of it. He warned, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

So my question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry that encourages people to pierce themselves with many pangs and plunge themselves into ruin and destruction?

3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.

Jesus warns against the effort to lay up treasures on earth. That is, he tells us to be givers, not keepers. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).

Yes, we all keep something. But given the built-in tendency toward greed in all of us, why would we take the focus off Jesus and turn it upside down?

4. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.

Paul said we should not steal. The alternative was hard work with our own hands. But the main purpose was not merely to hoard or even to have. The purpose was “to have togive.” “Let him labor, working with his hands, that he may have to give to him who is in need” (Ephesians 4:28). This is not a justification for being rich in order to give more. It is a call to make more and keep less so you can give more. There is no reason why a person who makes $200,000 should live any differently from the way a person who makes $80,000 lives. Find a wartime lifestyle; cap your expenditures; then give the rest away.

Why would you want to encourage people to think that they should possess wealth in order to be a lavish giver? Why not encourage them to keep their lives more simple and be an even more lavish giver? Would that not add to their generosity a strong testimony that Christ, and not possessions, is their treasure?

5. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can’t be.

The reason the writer to the Hebrews tells us to be content with what we have is that the opposite implies less faith in the promises of God. He says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

If the Bible tells us that being content with what we have honors the promise of God never to forsake us, why would we want to teach people to want to be rich?

6. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.

Jesus warns that the word of God, which is meant to give us life, can be choked off from any effectiveness by riches. He says it is like a seed that grows up among thorns that choke it to death: “They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the . . . riches . . . of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).

Why would we want to encourage people to pursue the very thing that Jesus warns will choke us to death?

7. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.

What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. It does not offer the world anything different from what it already believes in. The great tragedy of prosperity-preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if it works, they will buy it.

The context of Jesus’ saying shows us what the salt and light are. They are the joyful willingness to suffering for Christ. Here is what Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:11-14).

What will make the world taste (the salt) and see (the light) of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering, all the while rejoicing because their reward is in heaven with Jesus. This is inexplicable on human terms. This is supernatural. But to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve.

Pastor John

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email:mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Why Memorize Scripture?

Why Memorize Scripture?
John Piper

First, a few testimonies: I have it third hand, that Dr. Howard Hendricks (of Dallas Seminary) once made the statement (and I paraphrase) that if it were his decision, every student graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary would be required to learn one thousand verses word perfect before they graduated.

Dallas Willard, professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, wrote, “Bible memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation. If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. That’s where you need it! How does it get in your mouth? Memorization” (“Spiritual Formation in Christ for the Whole Life and Whole Person” in Vocatio, Vol. 12, no. 2, Spring, 2001, p. 7).

Chuck Swindoll wrote, “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture… No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified” (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], p. 61).

One of the reasons Martin Luther came to his great discovery in the Bible of justification by faith alone was that in his early years in the Augustinian monastery he was influenced to love Scripture by Johann Staupitz. Luther devoured the Bible in a day when people earned doctorates in theology without even reading the Bible. Luther said that his fellow professor, Andreas Karlstadt, did not even own a Bible when he earned his doctor of theology degree, nor did he until many years later (www.orlutheran.com/html/luthbibl.html). Luther knew so much of the Bible from memory that when the Lord opened his eyes to see the truth of justification in Romans 1:17, he said, “Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory,” in order to confirm what he had found.

So here are a few reasons why so many have viewed Scripture memorization as so essential to the Christian life.

1. Conformity to Christ
Paul wrote that “we all… beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” If we would be changed into Christ likeness we must steadily see him. This happens in the word. “The LORD 
revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD” (1 Samuel 3:21). Bible memorization has the effect of making our gaze on Jesus to be steadier and clearer.

2. Daily Triumph over Sin
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word… I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9, 11). Paul said that we must “by the Spirit… put to death the [sinful] deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). The one piece of armor used to kill is the “sword of the Spirit,” which is the word of God (
Ephesians 6:17). As sin lures the body into sinful action, we call to mind a Christ-revealing word of Scripture and slay the temptation with the superior worth and beauty of Christ over what sin offers.

3. Daily Triumph over Satan
When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness he recited Scripture from memory and put Satan to flight (
Matthew 4:1-11).

4. Comfort and Counsel for People You Love
The times when people need you to give them comfort and counsel do not always coincide with the times you have your Bible handy. Not only that, the very word of God spoken spontaneously from your heart has unusual power. Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” That is a beautiful way of saying,
When the heart full of God’s love can draw on the mind full of God’s word, timely blessings flow from the mouth.

5. Communicating the Gospel to Unbelievers
Opportunities to share the gospel come when we do not have the Bible in hand. Actual verses of the Bible have their own penetrating power. And when they come from our heart, as well as from the Book, the witness is given that they are precious enough to learn. We should all be able to sum up the gospel under four main headings (1) God’s holiness/law/glory; 2) man’s sin/rebellion/disobedience; 3) Christ’s death for sinners; 4) the free gift of life by faith. Learn a verse or two relating to each of these, and be ready in season and out of season to share them.

6. Communion with God in the Enjoyment of His Person and Ways
The way we commune with (that is, fellowship with) God is by meditating on his attributes and expressing to him our thanks and admiration and love, and seeking his help in living a life that reflects the value of these attributes. Therefore, storing texts in our minds about God helps us relate to him as he really is. For example, imagine being able to call this to mind through the day:

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:8-14)

I used the word “enjoyment” intentionally when I said, “communion with God in the enjoyment of his person and ways.” Most of us are emotionally crippled — all of us really. We do not experience God in the fullness of our emotional potential. How will that change? One way is to memorize the emotional expressions of the Bible and speak them to the Lord and to each other until they become part of who we are. For example, in Psalm 103:1, we say, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” That is not a natural expression for many people. But if we memorize this and other emotional expressions from the Bible, and say them often, asking the Lord to make the emotion real in our hearts, we can actually grow into that emotion and expression. It will become part of who we are. We will be less crippled emotionally and more able to render proper praise and thanks to God.

There are other reasons for memorizing Scripture. I hope you find them in the actual practice.

Still learning with you,

Pastor John 

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email:mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Small Children’s Catechism

By Chris Schlect

1. Who made you?
A. God

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2. What else did God make?
A. God made all things.

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3. Why did God make all things?
A. For His own glory

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4. Why do things work as they do?
A. God has so decreed it.

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5. How do we learn about God?
A. God reveals Himself.

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6. Where does God reveal Himself?
A. In His word and in nature

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7. What does God reveal in nature?
A. His character, law, and wrath

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8. What more is revealed in His Word?
A. God’s mercy toward His people

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9. Where is God’s Word today?
A. The Bible is God’s Word.

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10. How many Gods are there?
A. There is one true God.

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11. How many persons are in the Godhead?
A. three

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12. Who are these persons?
A. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

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13. Where is God?
A. He is everywhere.

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14. How long has God existed?
A. He has always been.

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15. How is man unique?
A. He bears God’s image.

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16. Who was the first man?
A. Adam

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17. What was Adam like at creation?
A. He was good.

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18. Did Adam remain good?
A. No, he sinned.

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19. What is sin?
A. disobedience to God’s law

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20. What is the penalty for sin?
A. death

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21. What came of Adam’s sin?
A. Death came to all men.

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22. Why did Adam’s sin affect all men?
A. we all sinned in Adam

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23. Must all men die for sin?
A. No, God elected some to life.

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24. How may we be saved from sin and death?
A. only through Jesus Christ

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25. Who is Jesus Christ?
A. He is God’s Son.

  26. Did Jesus ever sin?
A. No, only He is righteous.

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27. What did Jesus do for His people?
A. He conquered death.

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28. How did He do this?
A. He died, then rose again.

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29. What else did Christ conquer?
A. all his enemies

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30. Are His enemies powerful?
A. They have come to nothing.

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31. What did He give to His people?
A. His own righteousness

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32. What did He take from His people?
A. their sin

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33. How is Christ’s work brought to His people?
A. by the Holy Spirit

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34. What does the Holy Spirit do?
A. He gives faith.

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35. What is faith?
A. resting on Christ for salvation

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36. How do we recognize true faith?
A. it yields good works

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37. Who are Christ’s people?
A. they make up His church

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38. What are the traits of His church?
A. the Word, discipline, and sacraments

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39. How is the Word a trait of His church?
A. All God’s Word is preached.

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40. How is discipline a trait of His church?
A. God’s people are protected.

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41. What are sacraments?
A. signs and seals of God’s covenant

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42. What sacraments are there?
A. baptism and the Lord’s supper

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43. Who is Head of the Church?
A. Jesus Christ

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44. What offices has Christ appointed?
A. overseers and deacons

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45. Is His Church perfect?
A. It is being perfected.

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46. When will it be perfect?
A. at the resurrection

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47. What happens at the resurrection?
A. Christ judges all men’s deeds.

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48. What of those He deems righteous?
A. They dwell with Him forever.

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49. What of those He condemns?
A. They perish forever.

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50. How does this judgment affect Christ?
A. It magnifies His glory.

Puritan Worship

Puritan Worship
A view of worship guided by the Regulative Principle, and other important matters.

There is a growing need to study the doctrine of the church and the doctrine of Worship.  Ignorance on this subject is not bliss since God commands the gathering together of His people for this express purpose (Heb. 10:25).  The Puritans knew worship very well.  Much of their writings were directed to this end.  Worship should be reflected in the entire life of the believer as his manner of glorifying God.  Without worship, men lose a sense of self.  That is why the lost try to fill the void that only worship to the Creator of the Universe is meant to hold.  They have a gnawing sense of emptiness when true worship is not being given to the sustainer of their being.  Worship and the church, then, even on that level alone, is one of the most important, if not the most important doctrine one could study.

The church is also having an identity crisis.  Since they do not know their Bibles, they have lost a sense of who they are before God.  Hopefully some, if not all of these articles will help the church find her identity again, and the people of God will remember again how to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

Dr. C. Matthew McMahon, March, 2002

Cut from “A Puritan’s Mind” website

Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the Saints is a doctrine which states that the saints (those whom God has saved) will remain in God’s hand until they are glorified and brought to abide with him in heaven. Romans 8:28-39 makes it clear that when a person truly has been regenerated by God, he will remain in God’s stead. The work of sanctification which God has brought about in his elect will continue until it reaches its fulfillment in eternal life (Phil. 1:6). Christ assures the elect that he will not lose them and that they will be glorified at the “last day” (John 6:39). The Calvinist stands upon the Word of God and trusts in Christ’s promise that he will perfectly fulfill the will of the Father in saving all the elect.

The Five Points of Calvinism by Jonathan Barlow

Irresistible Grace

The result of God’s Irresistible Grace is the certain response by the elect to the inward call of the Holy Spirit, when the outward call is given by the evangelist or minister of the Word of God. Christ, himself, teaches that all whom God has elected will come to a knowledge of him (John 6:37). Men come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44), and the very Spirit of God leads God’s beloved to repentance (Romans 8:14). What a comfort it is to know that the gospel of Christ will penetrate our hard, sinful hearts and wondrously save us through the gracious inward call of the Holy Spirit (I Peter 5:10)!

The Five Points of Calvinism by Jonathan Barlow

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