7 signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher

On his blog, Blogging Theologically, Aaron Armstrong gives a light-hearted but true list of seven signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher. Here’s an opening paragraph and the list (in brief).

Every so often we all stumble into prosperity theology, usually unwittingly. While occasionally you’ll get a nugget of helpful truth (in the same way that you’ll find some helpful things in your average self-help book), there’s a lot of goofiness which can make for a fun night of “Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie.” So, how do you know if you’re reading a book written by a prosperity preacher? Here are seven signs:

1. A bright shiny smile that looks like it belongs on a poster for a dentist office.

2. The title makes it clear someone is really important—and that someone is you.

3. It’s advice that could easily be confused with the message from a fortune cookie.

4. There’s a proverb on the cover.

5. Someone’s caps-lock got stuck.

6. It may or may not be trying to cast wicked spells.

7. Seven is always the magic number.

I suggest you click through and read the whole thing HERE.

~ p d b

a857e3278d3ae29cbd5405bacbc57f8fPostscript — Aaron Armstrong himself has a great smile, but he does not put it on the cover of his books. 🙂 I have read his books, and they don’t meet the other criteria listed above. In fact, his writings are biblical, and very helpful — I recommend them, especially his book CONTENDING: DEFENDING TH FAITH IN A FALLEN WORLD!

Legalism, a paint-by-number spirituality


“The attraction of legalism is that, despite all its complexity, it’s mindless. It requires little or no personal engagement. It’s sheer mechanics, simple arithmetic, no more difficult than cranking a hoist or measuring a length of board. You just follow orders. You match the parts to the diagram and apply pressure. It need draw nothing from your heart, your mind, your strength, your soul. Its like paint-by-numbers: it requires no artistry, no imagination, no discipline, just dumb, methodical obedience.”

from Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God; Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (W. Publishing Group, 2006), page 108; emphasis added.


A Culture of “Peter Pans”

I was reading the latest issue of IMPRIMIS today, and was struck by a brief piece by a young teacher, Jason Barney. He quoted Cicero in Latin, and then translated it…

Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum. “Not to know what happened before you were born, that is to be always a boy, to be forever a child.”

Jason Barney went on to observe the following about our culture — and I think he hits the bullseye.


“Too many citizens of our country today are, in Cicero’s terms, forever children. If knowledge of the past matures the soul, it is not something we can afford to marginalize or sideline. Unfortunately, the hard work of gaining knowledge, eloquence, and wisdom is all too often skirted by teacher and student alike. Because we have neglected knowledge of the past and the great tradition of historical understanding, we live in culture of Peter Pans, flying free in Neverland with no past and no future, only the ever-present game, the mock battle against pirates or Indians. Wendy’s stories, with their plot of real challenges to be overcome, only reveal to us our immaturity, the fact that we are forever children who won’t grow up.”
[read the whole Jan. 2013 issue here]

We see this immaturity not only in the culture at large (and it is, sadly, very hard to miss), but we also see it in modern theological inquiry. There are many who are giving their two-cents on the church, or Scripture, or the Trinity, etc., without an awareness of what has been discovered or established (or ruled-out) long before them — both in the content of the doctrine being discussed, as well as in the realm of methodology employed.

This is very sad to see, given the clear charge of Jesus to His disciples — to make disciples (not merely converts) and to teach them everything He commanded. In the church, as in the culture at large, the older generation bears much of the blame for the present deficiencies. Thankfully, there are an increasing number of bright, culturally-engaged scholars and pastors (such as Kevin DeYoung), on the scene who give me hope.

May the Lord have mercy, and help us recover and restore what has been lost.



50 years after Vatican II began

Fifty years ago this week, Roman Catholicism convened its most recent (still) ecumenical council, now known as the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II. Beginning in October 1962 it would conclude at the end of 1965. Fifty years later, Vatican II remains the official position of the Roman Catholic Church.

Over at the Desiring God blog, David Mathis writes a helpful article on this 50th anniversary. One of the things he does is to quote Dr Lorraine Boettner, a conservative Protestant theologian who would later write his own book, Roman Catholicism. He said Vatican II

repeated the claim that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church, although it did recognize that other churches contain some elements of truth. . . . Pope John XXIII, who called the first session, and Pope Paul VI, who presided over the later sessions (as well as several prominent cardinals and theologians), took care to emphasize that no changes would be made in the doctrinal structure of the Church. However, Pope Paul did promulgate one new doctrine, which asserts that “Mary is the Mother of the Church.” The primary purpose of the Council was to update the liturgy and administrative practices and so to make the Church more efficient and more acceptable to the 20th century world.

Note the added italics: “no changes . . . in the doctrinal structure of the Church.” Boettner continues,

On previous occasions, Rome has changed her tactics when old methods became ineffective, but she has never changed her nature. In any religious organization, doctrine is the most basic and important part of its structure, since what people believe determines what they do. An official document, “The Constitution on the Church” prepared by the Council and approved by the Pope, reaffirms basic Catholic doctrine precisely as it stood before the Council met. . . . .

[I]f the Roman Catholic Church were reformed according to scripture, it would have to be abandoned. But the gross errors concerning salvation still remain. Moreover, the Council did nothing toward removing the more than 100 anathemas or curses pronounced by the Council of Trent on the Protestant churches and belief.

Boettner concluded that Vatican II

makes it abundantly clear that Rome has no intention of revising any of her basic doctrine, but only of updating her methods and techniques for more efficient administration and to present a more attractive appearance. This is designed to make it easier for the Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant churches to return to her fold. There is no indication that she has any intentions of entering into genuine give-and-take church unity negotiations. Her purpose is not union, but absorption. Church union with Rome is strictly a one-way street. The age-old danger that Protestantism has faced from the Roman Church has not diminished; in fact, it may well have increased. For through this less offensive posture and this superficial ecumenicism, Rome is much better situated to carry out her program of eliminating opposition and moving into a position of world dominance. An infallible church simply cannot repent.

Mathias summarizes these qutes: Strong words, but a helpful perspective from a thoughtful evangelical contemporary of the council. Whether you consider Boettner’s concerns to be warranted or overstated, they should give today’s evangelicals some pause about being too optimistic about what happened in the reforms of Vatican II.

I encourage you to look at the whole article, in which Mathis adds a few of the positive results of the event, and has some suggestions on how we might pray over all these things.


Pastor David Bissett

The Bible is God’s Word

What Scripture says, God says; for, in a manner comparable only to the deep mystery of the Incarnation, the Bible is both fully human and fully divine. So all its manifold contents — histories, prophecies, poems, songs, wisdom writings, sermons, statistics, letters, and whatever else — should be received as from God, and all that Bible writers teach should be revered as God’s authoritative instruction. Christians [indeed, all men] should be grateful to God for the gift of his written word, and conscientious in basing their faith and life entirely and exclusively on it. Otherwise we cannot ever honor or please him as he calls us to do.

~ J. I. Packer, Concise Theology (IVP 1993, p. 5; emphasis added)




What’s in a name?

Our thinking of God should begin with His name(s) as found in the Bible. Theology itself should begin here too. In his massive book, THE DOCTRINE OF GOD, Dr. John Frame writes on “Biblical Descriptions of God” beginning with a simple — yet profound — chapter on the ‘names’ of God. It’s a great chapter to study, and a model of doing clear, biblical thinking about God.

Here are two key paragraphs which ought to stir you and help you to know God better.

God’s name is his self-revelation. NAME, in the general sense, is a virtual synonym of word. And, like word, it is a way of referring to God himself. There is an identity between God and his name, as between God and his word. As we sing praise to God, we sing praise to his name (e.g., Pss. 7:17; 9:2; 18:49); we give to him the glory due his name (29:2); we exalt his name (34:3) and fear it (61:5). God’s name is an object of worship. Since in Scripture God alone is the proper object of worship, this language equates the Lord’s name and the Lord himself.

Similarly, the name of God defends us (Ps. 20:1) and saves us (54:1). We trust in him name for deliverance (33:21). His name endures forever (72:17; 135:13). It “reaches to the ends of the earth” (48:10). It is holy and awesome (111:9). god guides us “for his name sake” (23:3). In Isaiah 30:27, it is “the Name of the Lord” itself that comes to bring judgment on the nations and blessings on his people. So God’s name has divine attributes and performs divine acts. In short, Scripture says about the name of God virtually everything it says about God.

~ Dr John M Frame, The Doctrine of God, page 348.


No parole for this sinner, just a pardon

To be imprisoned with no hope of parole must be one of the most crushing sentences for any man. Yet the Bible says that all men, in their sins, are spiritually locked-up for life, with no hope of parole. Paul writes in Galatians 3:22a (esv), “But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin…”

One modern criminal justice textbook says the history of parole began when a Scot named Alexander Maconochie, a captain in the British Royal Navy, was appointed superintendent of some penal colonies in Australia.

“Believing prisoners were capable of reform, he developed a plan to prepare them for their eventual return to society. He divided his system into three grades, with each offering more life outside prison. Prisoners could earn promotions through labor, study, and good behavior.”
[J.Samaha’s, Criminal Justice, 7th Ed.]

Paroled prisoners may live outside the prison as long as they obey the laws of the land and do not violate the terms of their release. While this may help convicts rejoin society, there is no spiritual equivalent to parole to help men regain fellowship with God our Maker. There is no release or freedom from our imprisonment in sin for ‘good behavior’ or by keeping the laws of God. You cannot undo your guilt before God by improving your attitude or your actions — not even by keeping all the laws of God (if that were possible).

Paul said it bluntly in Galatians two: “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law … because by works of the law no one will be justified.”  This is makes the sinner’s predicament perfectly clear: your good behavior, your best “works” or law keeping cannot put you right with the Lord. All men and women still in their sin stand condemned before a holy God.

But Paul also wrote to make clear the good news — the gospel of Jesus Christ — as stated in the rest of that same verse (2:16):  “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” The good news is that by trusting Jesus Christ — the perfect man, the Son of God the perfect law-keeper — we can be put right with God.

The joyous message of the Bible is simply this:  there is a pardon for guilty, convicted sinners! Not merely a parole, conditioned on your behavior, but a full and free pardon based on the person of Jesus Christ. Having faith in Jesus — His sinless life, His perfect law-keeping, His victory over death and the grave — faith in Him saves you, and frees you.

It was 34 years ago today — July 11th, in 1978 — that I turned from trusting in my religious good works and put my faith in Jesus. That very day I was set free from my prison of sin and guilt by the amazing grace of God! Oh what blessings are mine because of Christ! My hope of heaven is grounded on Him, not on me. Amazing grace indeed! As this new “Coffee Rings” blog gets underway, I thought it important to share this brief look at the gospel, and extend to any and all our readers its offer of pardon and freedom in Christ.
~ pdb