Thursday, 29 April 2010

City Harvest Church in Singapore expands at a cost of $310 million

And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
John 2:13-16

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: Revelation 3:17

City Harvest Church is a megachurch in Singapore with a congregation of about 33,000. In March 2010 the church became co-owner of Suntec Singapore International Exhibition and Convention Centre, a prime piece of downtown real estate. The cost to the church of $310 million includes costs for such things as renovation and rental.

According to senior pastor Kong Hee, as quoted in City News Weekly:

"A church is not just a main sanctuary and nothing else. Having extra facilities is critical to the operations of the church. We need areas for children, rooms for Bible study, car park space and eating places. Suntec Convention Centre has more than 30 meeting rooms, and we will have access to over 8,680 car park lots in the Suntec-Marina area. Between Suntec City and the Convention Centre, there are 283 stalls/restaurants for our members to eat at, and 622 retail stores for our members to shop in."

Deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Ping said that one of the key considerations of the site is the business model that CHC will adopt for the facility:

"For Singapore Expo, we are in a lease-only business model. As such, what is being paid out does not have any returns or profit-sharing for CHC. The Board and the Building Committee discussed and concluded that with an ‘ownership-and-license’ business model, the rent we pay out will be recovered by CHC in the form of profits and dividends."

"It’s perfect for our church," says Tan. "This place has everything we need. It’s been around, it’s an established place. It has been the venue for some of the most important events that ever took place in Singapore, like the APEC CEO Summit last November, and the International Monetary Fund-World Bank meeting in 2006. This August it will be the venue for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. It’s got all the facilities, and it’s super convenient. There is no other place that allows us this space size in this part of Singapore."

In the event that there are such key events on the same scale as the IMF-World Bank meetings, Tan says City Harvest will exercise flexibility and vacate the space for such clients. "We are now part-owners," he explains. "It benefits us too." Tan points out that although City Harvest will use the space for its services, the building is still a commercial entity, and technically not a "church building". "The church will lease the space to use for our services," explains Tan. "The difference is that we are also co-owners of this building."

A few weeks later the Singapore Commissioner of Charities began investigating CHC's involvement in Suntec Singapore, but the church stated that:

...its shares in the downtown commercial property were not held by the church itself, but by a separate 'special-purpose investment holding company' it wholly owned.

The CHC statement gave no details of the investment company, but said it had acquired 'an indirect minority stake' in the holding company of Suntec Convention Centre. CHC had previously described the stake as 'substantial' and 'significant'.

The church added in the statement that it would be uninvolved in Suntec's daily operations and that it did not have 'exclusive use of any areas'.

On the issue of taxation raised by the public who wanted to know whether CHC's rental income from Suntec would be taxed, the church said its investment holding company was not a charity, and so did not qualify for tax breaks or other concessions.

The deal has attracted some criticism. According to The Straits Times:

At least two megachurches here seem to govern themselves more like private foundations than public charities. While a believer at a typical autonomous, non-denominational church here can opt to become a full voting member of his church, very few - say, 700 out of 30,000 in a megachurch that is an autonomous, non-denominational set-up - may be invited to become voting 'executive members'.

Irked by the Suntec deal, investment banker Simon Teoh, who attends City Harvest, has written to the Commissioner of Charities. He alleges that the church's 12-member management board went ahead 'with utilising the church's building fund ($65 million as of end-October 2009) and committing the church to large future liabilities...without consulting the the recent AGM. No EGM has been scheduled'.

During the Easter weekend services, the church announced:

...that it received a lawyer's letter last Thursday from its fellow investors in the consortium holding a majority stake in Suntec Singapore, reminding it to keep to a non-disclosure agreement in the deal.

The church, which recently invested in the consortium, said some investors in it 'did not appear pleased' that it had given its members information about its stake in the deal.

City Harvest Church has posted its notice to members regarding the non-disclosure agreement.

To see examples of the worldliness of City Harvest Church, go to the Asia-lympics and Competitions page. Among the activities that City Harvest Church promotes are a beauty pageant:

Poise, flair and talent – if you are aged between 18-26 and these are all qualities you can call your own, this competition may just be for you! Flash the crowd a smile, you could just be Miss/Mr Asia Conference 2010! The winner will stand a chance to win cash and attractive prizes worth more than S$3,000! So submit your application through your cell group leader to be notified for the first qualifying round.

...City Harvest's Got Talent:

Let your creativity shine and be part of one of Asia Conference’s most exciting and entertaining competitions! Go solo or form a team of 5 members or less and prepare to showcase your talents on Asia Conference’s stage! The rush of bright lights, applause and spectacular prizes awaits you. Whether a song, dance or music item – the sky’s the limit, you can be a star today with the most original, ingenious and talented performance.

...and on a more spiritual note, there's my favourite, the pulpit design competition:
Design a pulpit that serves the purpose of the Lord’s anointed minister as he delivers God’s Word to bless the congregation. Who knows, your pulpit design creation may very well be used on the stage of a mega church some day!

To see City Harvest Church's charismaniac credentials, look at the areas included in the courses offered at their School of Theology.

HT: Faith and Freedom

October 22, 2015 update: As reported by Associated Press, October 21, 2015:

SINGAPORE – The founder of a popular Singapore church has been found guilty of misappropriating about $35 million in donations to support his wife's singing career in Asia before helping her break into the U.S. market for evangelization purposes.

Kong Hee, the founder and senior pastor of City Harvest Church, was found guilty Wednesday with five other church leaders of stealing 24 million Singapore dollars ($17 million) designated for building and investment-related purposes through sham bond investments. The State Court also found that they used another 25 million dollars ($18 million) to hide the first embezzlement from auditors.

No date for sentencing has been set yet. The penalty for criminal breach of trust is a maximum of life sentence.
HT: Living 4 His Glory

November 20, 2015 update: As reported by BBC News, November 20, 2015 (bold in original):

Six senior officials of Singapore's City Harvest megachurch have been jailed over a $50m Singapore dollar ($35m; £23m) fraud case.

The evangelical church's pastor and founder, Kong Hee, was jailed for eight years - others received between 21 months and six years.

The court ruled last month the group had misused church finances to fund the music career of Kong's wife, Sun Ho.

All denied the charges - the church had supported them during the trial.

State prosecutors said before sentencing it was "the largest amount of charity funds ever misappropriated in Singapore's legal history".

'Wrongful gain'

Known for its slick image and wealth-focused brand of Christianity, City Harvest Church (CHC) has some 17,500 members in Singapore and branches around the world.

In 2002, its launched what it called the Crossover Project - a scheme to evangelise through Ms Ho's music career.

The hope was that songs like China Wine - a tune with rapper Wyclef Jean depicting Ms Ho as a Chinese exotic dancer in Jamaica - would help spread the gospel.

A church-backed music production company aimed at helping her achieve mainstream success in the US was left with millions of dollars in losses when the project failed.

The six were convicted on 21 October of misappropriating S$24m of church funds for the music project, and using another S$26m in an attempt to cover their tracks.

They were found guilty of various counts of criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts, although the judge accepted that there was no evidence of "wrongful gain" by the defendants themselves.

That lack of personal financial benefit from the fraud meant the judge did not impose the maximum sentences of up to 20 years, local media report.

Ms Ho herself was not prosecuted in connection with the case and did not attend Friday's sentencing.

She recently took over leadership of the church.

Convictions in full

Kong Hee, CHC founder: eight years.

Chew Eng Han, former fund manager for the church: six years.

Tan Ye Peng, deputy senior pastor: five years and six months.

Serina Wee, former finance manager: five years.

John Lam, finance committee member: three years

Sharon Tan, former finance manager: 21 months

All can appeal against their sentences.
HT: Dracul Van Helsing

Dallas Willard denies that Jesus Christ finished His work of salvation on the cross

But 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.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:5-6 (NIV)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. I Peter 2:24 (NIV)

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit... I Peter 3:18 (NIV)

The fact that an essential Christian doctrine such as penal substitution is even a matter of controversy shows how far down the road of apostasy the professing Christian church has gone. I’ve noticed two related characteristics of those who object to the doctrine: 1) They argue against the teaching on the basis of an emotional reaction rather than on the basis of what scripture actually teaches; 2) They have trouble accepting that human nature is as sinful as the Bible says it is.

Christian Research Network has posted a link to an interview between Gary Moon and Dallas Willard. More Books and Things has a post here on Mr. Willard's view of penal substitution.

I noticed a few other things in that interview:

You’ll find Leslie Weatherhead quoted approvingly by both men. Dr. Weatherhead was a mid-20th Century apostate who said in his book The Christian Agnostic, "No one, short of information not available, can say that Christ is ‘the only begotten son of God.’ There may be a son of God on Mars." (Associated Press dispatch from London, August 30, 1965, cited by Carl McIntire in Outside the Gate (1967), p. 24).

Throughout the interview, Mr. Willard uses philosophical rather than biblical reasoning, and straw man arguments to characterize views he doesn’t like. Nowhere does he address important biblical passages that teach penal substitution such as those at the top of this post. This is the same complaint that Bob DeWaay has about Mr. Willard's book The Spirit of the Disciplines (1988): Dallas Willard doesn’t even address the passage in Colossians 2 that refutes his argument. To hear Pastor DeWaay’s broadcasts on this, go here and here.

Go further down in the Moon-Willard interview and you’ll find this:

GWM: Christ’s work on the cross was not the end?

DW: No.

GWM: I knew that, but I’m trying to help you out.

DW: Christ’s work on the cross was not the end. Now, there was something finished. Primarily, it was, in the biblical sense, the days of His flesh were finished. But to think that redemption was finished or that everything needed for salvation was finished is simply a brutal misunderstanding of the New Testament teaching about the life of Christ.

If anyone is guilty of a "brutal misunderstanding of the New Testament teaching," it's Dallas Willard. In John 19:28 we read, "...Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled..." In verse 30, Jesus Christ, while on the cross, said, "It is finished." His statement in verse 30 results from His knowledge in verse 28. I've always heard that the phrase used in John 19:30 was an accounting term meaning "paid in full." The word "finished" in verse 30 and "accomplished" in verse 28 come from the same Greek word, teleo. According to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, this word "frequently signifies, not merely to terminate a thing, but to carry out a thing to the full." (W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (1940).

When it comes to redemption, the scripture says:

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Ephesians 1:7

The Greek word for redemption in the passage above is apolutrosis, which according to Vine, means "a releasing, for (i.e. on payment of) a ransom. This verse, which says that we have redemption through his blood, i.e., his blood shed on the cross--not through his blood plus something else, bolsters the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in the passage from John 19 cited above. By the way, the ransom was paid to God the Father to satisfy His conditions--not to Satan, as some erroneously believe.

Mr. Willard, to put it mildly, really doesn't handle the word of God very well. The perceptive reader will notice that this is yet another example of denial of essential Christian truth that isn't coming from outside the professing evangelical church, but from within.

HT: More Books and Things

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

35 years a Christian

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

It was on April 26, 1975 that I first put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and received eternal life from Him. The seed had first been planted three years earlier when my brother, who had recently come to Christ, gave me a couple of gospel tracts, including that Jack Chick classic "This was Your Life." I read them, but they made no impact at the time, because I didn’t see myself as a sinner in need of a saviour.

At the end of 1974 the Father began to draw me to the Son. I was going through a time when I wasn’t doing well in school (I was in grade 9), which was unusual for me, and it was mostly my own fault. It was also around that time that I tuned in to one or two gospel radio broadcasts on out-of-town stations, and I began to think that if there really was hell, then I didn’t want to go there. My brother gave me a 5-volume paperback "Bible" in comic book form for Christmas, and I read it and enjoyed it.

In February, a high school friend named Rod invited me to the weekly young people’s gathering at his church (it was a Pentecostal church--I don’t go along with their doctrine on tongues, but they did preach the true gospel). I accepted the invitation, and began going there every week. I liked the people I met there (some of whom I already knew), and sensed that they had something in their lives that I wanted Two months later, I was at that church’s Saturday night coffee house. If you had asked me then if I was a Christian I would have said yes, but wouldn’t have been able to say just why. By that time I was acknowledging Jesus Christ as the Son of God, but I hadn’t yet asked him into my life. There were some Jack Chick tracts at the table where I was sitting; Jack Chick gets a lot of knocks, and often rightly so, but on this occasion, the Lord used a few of these tracts to reach me. I read a couple related to end-time prophecy, and the conditions described in the prophecies sounded so much like the current age that I figured these predictions must be inspired by God. Then I recognized "This Was Your Life" and read it again. John 3:16 suddenly spoke to me, as if a light had been turned on in my mind, and I realized that I just had to believe in Jesus Christ to be saved. When I got home that night, I knelt and asked Him to come into my life, and the prayer was answered.

Looking back, I realize more and more that my salvation was and is the sovereign work of God. There was no reason that I should take an interest in the things of God when I did, or that Rod should invite me to his church, or that I should accept the invitation, but in the sovereign timing of God, that’s what happened. I’m also very grateful that He saved me when and where (Yellowknife, Northwest Territories) He did. For one thing, I came to know Christ before ever seeing a televangelist; otherwise, I may have rejected Christianity because of the buffoonery going on in His name. I came to know Christ at the age of 13 at a time when the gospel was still communicated in a straightforward manner to young people without dumbing it down for them. The coffee house at that church was very low-tech: some tables with tracts, and a record player playing a few well-worn Larry Norman albums. And in 1975 if you came to Christ, you were a Christian. I prefer to call myself a Bible-believing Christian, rather than use the "Christ-follower" label that’s so popular with the Emerging crowd in the early 21st Century. I can’t believe that 35 years have gone by so quickly, and it’s been almost that long since I’ve seen most of the Christians I knew back then, but I’m looking forward to the reunion--and the Lord’s return is 35 years closer now than it was in 1975.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Cross in the Egg falls short of presenting the gospel

The Cross in the Egg: The Easter Story Retold for Children is a children’s book by Shirley Taylor, published in 1999. The author was (as of 1999) a banker from Altheimer, Arkansas who was active in Altheimer United Methodist Church. I don’t question the motives or sincerity of the author, but the story, even allowing that it’s written for children, is not an adequate retelling of the Easter story. The story is about a rabbit who comes across Jesus while He’s praying in the garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion. One of Jesus’ tears falls onto Rabbit’s head, and Jesus touches the place where the tear fell. Rabbit’s heart is filled with love for Jesus, and he goes home to see if he can find a gift for Jesus to make Him happy. Mrs. Hen collects a basket of eggs, and Rabbit makes some dyes out of berries and colours the eggs. He weaves roses around the basket and fills the basket with a dozen eggs. One of the eggs cracks (the crack is shaped like a cross), but Owl tells rabbit that jesus will love the broken egg as much as all the others. Rabbit goes to Jerusalem to find Jesus, but Crow tells him that Jesus was crucified by soldiers, and is dead and buried. Rabbit reaches the tomb, and finds it empty, with the stone rolled away. Rabbit is confused and heartbroken, and stops for a nap. He’s awakened by a bright light and a voice telling him that Jesus has risen. When Rabbit tells the voice about the gift he’d brought, the voice tells him that he’s already given the gift that Jesus treasures more than any other, by opening his heart to receive His love. The voice then tells him to share the eggs with children everywhere to remind them of God’s gift of eternal life. Rabbit does so, except for the cracked egg, which he keeps as a reminder of his meeting with Jesus.

A major problem with The Cross in the Egg isn't so much error within, as truth left out. For example, we’re not told who Jesus is; He’s just a man with some disciples who gets crucified and rises from the dead. When Jesus prays, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want" in the garden of Gethsemane, His prayer, although biblically correct (Matthew 26:39), isn’t put into any context; although you can’t tell from the story what Jesus is referring to when He mentions "this cup." When Crow tells Rabbit, "I saw soldiers crucify Him on a cross" (which is biblically correct--Matthew 27:27-35; Mark 15:16-25; John 19:16-23), we’re not told why He was crucified. The roles played by the Jews (Matthew 26:57-68, 27:26; Mark 14:53-63; John 18:12-14, 19-24; Acts 2:23, 7:52), Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:11-25; Mark 15:1-15; Luke 23:1-23; John 18:28-19:16), and indeed, the rest of us (Isaiah 53:5-6) in His crucifixion are ignored. There’s no mention of Him being crucified for our sins (Isaiah 53:5-6; I Peter 2:24, 3:18); that the shedding of His blood satisfied His Father’s condition of forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22; I John 2:2, 4:10); or of the necessity of repentance (Acts 17:30).

When one of the eggs gets cracked, Owl says, "Jesus will love the broken egg as much as all the others." That’s a nice-sounding sentiment, but it doesn’t square with what the Bible says. In the Old Testament, God commanded that animals that were sacrificed as offerings to Him be without any physical defect (Exodus 12:5, 29:1; Leviticus 1:3, 10; 4:23; Numbers 19:2, 28:3,9). God rebuked Israel for disobedience in this area (Malachi 1:7-8, 13-14). Even the priests presenting the offerings were to be without physical defect (Leviticus 21:17-23). Of course, the eggs in this story were offered as a gift rather than as a sacrifice; nevertheless, it’s hardly appropriate to offer something that’s broken as a gift to the King of Kings. When the wise men followed the star in the eastern sky in search of Jesus (Matthew 2:1-2), they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11)--items fit for a King.

When Rabbit goes to the tomb, he finds the stone rolled away, and the voice tells him that Jesus has been raised from the tomb. This is biblically correct (Matthew 28:2-6; Mark 16:4-6; Luke 24:2-6; John 20:1-17). The voice then says, "Rabbit, you have already given the one gift that Jesus treasures more than any other. You have opened your eyes to receive His love. Therefore, He is with you always." The trouble with this is that it’s not stated that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was His supreme expression of His love (But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8).

It hardly needs to be pointed out that Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross for the sins of man, not for animals. To try to communicate the gospel through fictitious animals just doesn’t work, in my opinion. Especially is it not appropriate to try to communicate the truths about the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ using the traditional symbols of rabbits and eggs. The word "Easter" itself is derived from Astarte (also sometimes rendered as Ishtar), the Babylonian fertility goddess. Rabbits and eggs are obvious symbols of fertility, and the book ends up Christianizing pagan symbols. When you mix truth and error, you don’t end up with truth.

According to the book’s dust jacket,

Taylor has recast the Easter Bunny as Rabbit, who tells the Easter story in a child-friendly way. By so doing, the author prepares young children for key gospel concepts.

Taylor’s story is brought to life by animal and human characters who tell the story of God’s love through grace--in spite of our feelings of unworthiness.

As for the last part of the preceding paragraph, our problem isn’t feelings of unworthiness, but actual unworthiness. It’s often said, and rightly so, that the gospel is so simple that even a child can believe it. However, it’s necessary that the gospel be clearly communicated and clearly understood. If I were reading this book as a child (and I was one, once), I wouldn’t come away with an adequate idea of what the gospel is. The Cross in the Egg contains some truth, but not enough, and it falls short of the mark when it comes to presenting the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Look who Liberty University's commencement speakers are for 2010

It came as no surprise to this blogger to see a post at Defending.Contending. saying that the guest speakers at Liberty University's commencement for 2010 will be Glenn Beck and Paige Patterson. Look at my post from 2009 titled Libertine University, and you'll see the names of other Liberty commencement speakers of questionable or non-existent Christian credentials.

Mr. Beck, the well-known Fox News broadcaster (I remember him from a few years ago when he was at CNN Headline News), is, of course, a Mormon. Mr. Patterson, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is the SBC's version of Pope Benedict XVI. He's done his best to protect sex criminals among SBC pastors, while using the term "evil-doers" to describe the victims of their sexual abuse. For details on what kind of leader Mr. Patterson is and what kind of character he possesses, go to the Stop Baptist Predators website and blog, as well as Tiffany Croft's blog, and search under "Paige Patterson." Such is the kind of person that Liberty University (which, as I previously pointed out, denied--before Virginia state authorities--being a Christian university) deems suitable as a commencement speaker. I wonder which "conservative" media celebrity they'll invite in 2011.

HT: Defending. Contending.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Ancient Assyrians kept records of celestial events

An item that appeared in the Daily Telegraph, March 31, 2008:

Geologists have long puzzled over the shape of the land close to the town of Köfels in the Austrian Alps, but were unable to prove it had been caused by an asteroid.

Now researchers say their translation of symbols on a star map from an ancient civilisation includes notes on a mile-wide asteroid that later hit Earth - which could have caused tens of thousands of deaths.

The circular clay tablet was discovered 150 years ago by Sir Austen Henry Layard, a leading Victorian archaeologist, in the remains of the royal palace at Nineveh, capital of ancient Assyria, in what is now Iraq.

...Now Alan Bond, the managing director of a space propulsion company, Reaction Engines, and Mark Hempsell, a senior lecturer in astronautics at Bristol University, have cracked the cuneiform code and used a computer programme that can reconstruct the night sky thousands of years ago to provide a new explanation.

They believe their calculations prove the tablet - a copy made by an Assyrian scribe around 700 BC - is a Sumerian astronomer's notebook recording events in the sky on June 29, 3123 BC.

The pair say its symbols include a note of the trajectory of a large object travelling across the constellation of Pisces which, to within one degree, is consistent with an impact at Köfels.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

20 years ago: Earth [-worship] Day 1990

On April 22, 1990 an estimated 200 million people participated in Earth Day observances on the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Day. Events were planned in 3,600 cities and towns in 140 countries. About 750,000 attended a rally and concert in Central Park in New York City. Although it was promoted as an event to express concern about the environment, in fact by 1990 it had become Earth-worship Day: a promotional vehicle for the New Age movement, expressed as outright pagan nature worship. This blogger and fellow investigator Chris Milner attended the Edmonton celebration at Mayfair Park, and I noticed Albertans for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Vegetarians of Alberta, Citizens Organized for Animal Liberation, and Children of Gaia (whose banner, under their name, had the words "Worship the Earth") literally under the same roof in the same tent.

40 years ago: The first Earth Day

Earth Day--April 22, 1970, which at first was just an American event, originated with U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (Democrat--Wisconsin), who was New Age before the term was used. Earth Day drew its share of protesters. According to The New York Times Encyclopedic Almanac 1971 (page 37):

...the Daughters of the American Revolution resolved that Earth Day was "subversive" and that reports of an environmental crisis were "distorted and exaggerated." And the comptroller general of Atlanta sent out a slew of telegrams to President Nixon and others, charging that Earth Day might be a Communist plot because it fell on the centennial of Lenin’s birthday, which, actually, it did.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

This Sunday's service at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church is sponsored by General Motors

...and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
John 2:13b-16

It seems that consumerist "Christianity" isn't restricted to suburban megachurches mainly populated by white people. As reported in the Detroit Free Press on April 19, 2010:

In what organizers said was the first event of its kind in the area, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit teamed up Sunday with GM and the GM Minority Dealers Association to offer churchgoers a chance to test drive more than a dozen cars.

As congregants left the northwest side church at 1 p.m., Pastor Charles Adams said the idea of Ride and Drive was to demonstrate GM's commitment to minority causes, its employment of thousands of local African Americans and to encourage churchgoers to buy a new GM car.

...Banks also were on hand to show potential new car owners how to apply for a loan. The church was chosen to host the event because it has a history of activism, said event spokesman Kevin McCormick.

If you can find anything in this article that has anything to with the gospel of Jesus Christ or worship of Him, you're more perceptive than I am.

HT: Southwest Radio Ministries

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

An example of an untamed tongue getting someone in trouble

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
James 3:6-9

As reported in The Western Star of Cornerbrook, N.L.:

A 47-year-old Deer Lake man is facing nine charges after he shouted obscenities at a passing RCMP officer which prompted the officer to turn around and investigate the man leading to charges of impaired driving, breaches of court orders and a drug-related offence.

The man had been parked on the shoulder of the road about 6 p.m. Thursday and stuck his head out the window of his car as the marked police vehicle passed by.

The charges include two counts of impaired driving, theft of an automobile, three counts of breaching probation, three counts of breaching a recognizance, and one charge under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

For the latest on this clown, go here.

Monday, 19 April 2010

50 years later, psychedelics are back--for mental health purposes only, of course

Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts. Revelation 9:21

The Greek word rendered "sorceries" in this verse is pharmakia or pharmakeia; according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, pharmakia

...primarily signified the use of medicine, drugs, spells; then, poisoning; then, sorcery...

...In sorcery, the use of drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with the provision of various charms, amulets, etc., professedly designed to keep the applicant or patient from the attention and power of demons, but actually to impress the applicant with the mysterious resources, and powers of the sorcerer.

(W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 1940)

In the late 1950s-early 1960s, hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD were being promoted as useful in treating mental illness. Fifty years later, here we go again. According to The New York Times of April 12, 2010:

Scientists are taking a new look at hallucinogens, which became taboo among regulators after enthusiasts like Timothy Leary promoted them in the 1960s with the slogan "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Now, using rigorous protocols and safeguards, scientists have won permission to study once again the drugs’ potential for treating mental problems and illuminating the nature of consciousness.

...Researchers from around the world are gathering this week in San Jose, Calif., for the largest conference on psychedelic science held in the United States in four decades. They plan to discuss studies of psilocybin and other psychedelics for treating depression in cancer patients, obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction to drugs or alcohol.

The results so far are encouraging but also preliminary, and researchers caution against reading too much into these small-scale studies. They do not want to repeat the mistakes of the 1960s, when some scientists-turned-evangelists exaggerated their understanding of the drugs’ risks and benefits.

Because reactions to hallucinogens can vary so much depending on the setting, experimenters and review boards have developed guidelines to set up a comfortable environment with expert monitors in the room to deal with adverse reactions. They have established standard protocols so that the drugs’ effects can be gauged more accurately, and they have also directly observed the drugs’ effects by scanning the brains of people under the influence of hallucinogens.

Scientists are especially intrigued by the similarities between hallucinogenic experiences and the life-changing revelations reported throughout history by religious mystics and those who meditate.

If you're wondering how this ties in with spiritual deception in the days prior to the return of Jesus Christ, here's a passage from the article that is particularly revealing (emphasis mine):

The work has been supported by nonprofit groups like the Heffter Research Institute and MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

"There’s this coming together of science and spirituality," said Rick Doblin, the executive director of MAPS. "We’re hoping that the mainstream and the psychedelic community can meet in the middle and avoid another culture war. Thanks to changes over the last 40 years in the social acceptance of the hospice movement and yoga and meditation, our culture is much more receptive now, and we’re showing that these drugs can provide benefits that current treatments can’t."

Researchers are reporting preliminary success in using psilocybin to ease the anxiety of patients with terminal illnesses. Dr. Charles S. Grob, a psychiatrist who is involved in an experiment at U.C.L.A., describes it as "existential medicine" that helps dying people overcome fear, panic and depression.

"Under the influences of hallucinogens," Dr. Grob writes, "individuals transcend their primary identification with their bodies and experience ego-free states before the time of their actual physical demise, and return with a new perspective and profound acceptance of the life constant: change."

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

U.S. appeals court hears case of street preacher arrested near Liberty Bell

According to Bob Unruh in WorldNet Daily:

A panel of judges at the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today heard arguments that free speech should be allowed on public property at the site of the famous Liberty Bell, which itself quotes from the Bible in stating, "Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

The arguments came in a case involving Michael Marcavage, a minister whose work includes street preaching. He was fined and put on probation for preaching to the public on a sidewalk outside the Liberty Bell center after a trial in which government prosecutors described his message and actions as a "clear and present danger."

That someone can be arrested for preaching on the site of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall--where much of the United States Constitution was devised--is more evidence that you can't be a satirist anymore.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

U.S. Supreme Court condones censorship of speech--when that speech expresses Christian beliefs

Veteran columnist Nat Hentoff is a professing atheist, but on the issue of religious liberty, he's often more perceptive than many Christians. He states in his April 7 WorldNet Daily column:

Last November, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Brittany McComb who – as a 2006 valedictorian at Foothill High School in Nevada – had her microphone cut off by school officials when she started to speak about how God and Christ had taught her to experience something greater than herself, inspiring her to rise above her early high-school failures.

Brittany had been forewarned. Her high school required a prior draft copy of commencement speeches and censored all references in hers to her religious faith. She went ahead anyway because, as a student of the First Amendment, she knew she was speaking as an individual – and not on behalf of the state as represented by officials of her public high school.

With the help of the Rutherford Institute, headed by John Whitehead – a premier protector of all rights in the Bill of Rights – Brittany appealed the literal cutting off of her First Amendment rights (Brittany McComb v. Gretchen Crehan).

The "liberal" 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals supported the school's censorship because she was "proselytizing." But Brittany was speaking for, and about, herself. She was not trying to convert anyone...

...Brittany's appeal came to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear it. There was no written dissent by any of the Roberts Court justices...

...The censored Brittany McComb did not injure anyone, but her public high school unconstitutionally deeply injured her free-speech rights – an injury in which the Supreme Court has become complicit.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Family Church of Sacramento boasts about miracles--but can't make the mortgage payments

The Family Church of Sacramento (until recently known as Family Christian Center) is a charismaniac assembly pastored by Rich and Lindy Oliver in Orangevale, California. Their website's home page proclaims:

Taking New Ground
"This season will be a time of advancement and
Acceleration with shocking swiftness" - Rich Oliver

Their "events" link includes "Experience Miracles," as well as "Fridays on Fire:"

FRIDAY NIGHTS at 7pm Meeting in the Father's House - Intense Worship and Warfare, Personal Prophetic Ministry, with Guest Speakers from Around the World bringing a Fresh Word and Impartation

Under the headline Taking NEW Ground you find:

Accept No Imitations! Expect No Limitations! Embrace Infinite Possibilities!

However, if you read the pdf file on that page, it seems as though there are at least some limitations, and the possibilities are not infinite (emphasis in original):

No one will lend us the $5.6 million to pay off our bonds with the debt larger than the property value. The debt of these bonds cannot be reduced because bonds are under different federal laws than bank loans and the bond debt cannot be restructured or lowered.

Our Church Family has walked faithfully with us through this Bond Program these past ten years. With thanksgiving, we have rejoiced over the miraculous hand of God in providing for our monthly bond payments. We have openly shared our current financial circumstance, and we are all in agreement, while these buildings and property have served us well, it is time to make a move.

...We may be moving--BUT WE ARE NOT LEAVING--we are taking new Ground.

Our church family has grown spiritually, numerically and financially over the past several years. We are in a better place financially than we have been in a long time--all our bills are paid or are current.

...Because of the foreclosure on our existing property, at the recommendation of our attorney, we have created another 501c3 non-profit church, The Family Church of Sacramento.

Right now, Family Christian Center is becoming The Family Church of Sacramento.

This is followed by an appeal for $500,000 in donations, and:

As we aspire to make these three areas a living reality in our lives,
God will launch the Church into a much higher level of faith and power

Their bills may be paid or current, but that doesn't apply to the bills that will be coming due in the future. According to the April 7, 2010 edition of the Sacramento Bee:

The same economic forces that have rocked the housing industry have hit an Orangevale church, forcing Family Christian Center into foreclosure because the congregation can no longer afford its $20,000 monthly mortgage payment.

The Hazel Avenue church, a community fixture for more than four decades and the site of Club Retro, a popular teen hangout that attracts hundreds weekly, will leave the property in July.

Church leaders said they cannot make the payments on the $5.6 million bond they borrowed to build a 900-seat worship center and update their property in 2000...

...Times were good when church leaders at Family Christian Center decided to build a new worship center and make improvements on their 11-acre property 10 years ago. They added a new sanctuary called The Father's House and meeting rooms for community outreach.

Shortly afterward, a portion of the congregation split and formed another church. Others left after Family Christian Center changed its worship style. With fewer members and less in donations, church leaders refinanced their loan with a balloon payment due in September 2009. When it came time to restructure their loan, Oliver said, "everything had changed."

The value of the church property had plummeted to half its original $8 million value. Meanwhile, payments on the restructured loan would be about $40,000 a month, according to Oliver.

"We prayed about this a lot and studied every possibility," Oliver said. "Finally, about six months ago, we realized we have to go into foreclosure."...

...Church elder Tom Econome said the church had no other option. "There's faith and then there's practicality. We just couldn't do it," he said.

Mr. Oliver's statement on the move contains the following quote from the notorious Kathryn Kuhlman (emphasis in original):

The only limit to the power of God lies within the power of the is when active faith dares to believe God to the point of action that something has to happen

Either Mr. Econome hasn't read that quote, or he and the leaders at The Family Church of Sacramento, nee Family Christian Center are having trouble when it comes to practical application of the principles they proclaim.