Monday, September 23, 2013

Articles I've Read (Sept 23, 2013)

Below are articles I have read this morning.

1. Tim Challies offers his review of the video game, "GTA V," in his article, The Greatest Entertainment Launch in History. Do not let the title fool you. Challies's position is not that the game is "great." What troubled me while reading Challies's article was the reoccurring thought that there are likely many Christian men who will justify playing the game.

2. My good friend, Pastor Josh Williamson of Craigie Reformed Baptist Church (Perth, Scotland), is the latest in a series of arrests of street preachers, in the United Kingdom. In Perth Preacher May Face Charges, one of many articles about Josh's arrest, reporter Richard Burdge gives a synopsis of the incident.

3. My friend, Paul Latour, an evangelist and bus driver in Ottawa, has written a wonderful article, The Gospel in the Midst of Tragedy. The article chronicles Paul's efforts to bring the gospel to lost and hurting people in the wake of a tragic collision between a bus and a train.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Richard Story: Manager of Cross Encounters Ministries

For more than a year, now, Richard Story has served as my right-hand man in this fledgling ministry. Together, we hit the ground running and haven't stopped or looked back once. Overt time, Rich began to assume more responsibilities and fulfill more roles. Over the last few months, especially as we've worked together in the publication of my second book, Should She Preach? - Biblical Evangelism for Women, I started to realize that Rich was serving as more than an assistant. He was taking initiative, not waiting to be asked to do things, and making good suggestions about improving, adapting, streamlining aspects of ministry.

While Rich isn't looking for a title, I think it's important to recognize his sacrificial, exceptional, and godly service by giving him one. Henceforth, Richard Story is the new (and first) Manager of Cross Encounters Ministries. Rich has volunteered all of his time and energy these last 14 months. So, I think it is fitting that I double his salary from the standard pay of a volunteer to a manager who doesn't get paid.

All kidding aside, I don't know where this ministry would be if Rich hadn't come along right when he did. Finding myself thrust into full-time evangelistic ministry and needing to raise the financial support necessary to keep me in the field full-time, was to find myself in a lonely place with a daunting task ahead of me. Rich had already been my good friend for sometime, prior to last January. But the Lord brought us together as partners in ministry at the perfect time--perfect time at least for me, anyway.

As Manager of Cross Encounters Ministries, Rich's responsibilities include (but are not limited to):
Maintaining my ministry calendar

Vetting and answering/accepting/declining all speaking, interview, and travel requests

Maintaining the minstry's various email accounts

Maintaining and updating the Pulpit and Streets Sermon Audio page

Maintaining and updating my various social media accounts

Conducting research for blog articles, book writing, and Cross Encounters Radio

Monitoring the chat room and occasionally co-hosting Cross Encounters Radio

Strategizing new ways to get the gospel to more people through the various Cross Encounters Ministries efforts

Providing me with counsel and accountability

Doing his very best to keep me out of trouble (his most daunting and time-consuming task)
I have no doubt that Rich will find a way to make the above list considerably longer.

Not only is Richard Story my right-hand man, but he is also a voice for the ministry. When Richard speaks in his capacity as Manager of Cross Encounters Ministries, he does so with my full support. Here's hoping the Lord's will is to allow Rich and I enjoy many years of ministry together.

Articles I've Read (Sept 19, 2013)

1. Pastor Jesse Johnson has written a wonderful tribute to Marty Bodrog in his article, One of the Twelve.

2. Arresting open-air preachers is becoming a sport for law enforcement in the United Kingdom. Yesterday, my good friend Pastor Josh Williamson was arrested while preaching in Perth, Scotland. He recounts what happened in his article, Arrested for Preaching the Gospel!

3. This overview of Pope Francis's recent 12,000-word, pre-publication approved article with an Italian publication is yet another example of why this pope, like every other in recent memory, should be seen as an antichrist. The article, Pope Bluntly Faults Church’s Focus on Gays and Abortion, was an interesting read.

4. John Patton, director of admissions at Covenant Theological Seminary, wrote a touching and instructive article on the Gospel Coalition blog. In How to Mourn with the Parents of Stillborn and Miscarried Children, Patton shares his own testimony of the loss of his daughter Emma and the grace of God. He also provides several succinct and helpful suggestions for ministering to those who experience the tragedy of a miscarried or stillborn child.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Articles I've Read (Sept 17, 2013)

1. Kevin DeYoung provides a succinct and informative article, Once More On Church, Culture, and Transformationalism, regarding the Church. The article is a synopsis and a review of a chapter of James Bannerman's work, "The Church of Christ" (1868).

2. Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr. gives pastors something to think about in his article, Ask RC: Why won’t my pastor preach against abortion?

3. According to B.B. Warfield, in his article A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith, I'm reformed. And I'm okay with that! This is a beautiful, summary Statement of Faith.

4. Pastor Josh Williamson is one of my favorite young open-air preachers. He is the pastor of Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth, Scotland. I very much look forward to spending some time with Pastor Williamson and the Craigie Reformed Baptist family sometime in 2014. In this article, The Journey to Scotland, Josh shares a recent encounter with law enforcement while heralding the gospel in the open-air.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Articles I've Read

Recently, I have read the following articles:

1. I recommend every Christian read Marcus Pittman's article, Why Christian Filmmakers Should Break Bad. I found it to be well-written and I found his argument to be well-presented. While he didn't come anywhere close to convincing me to change my viewing habits (and I don't think that was his goal), he makes a solid case for Christian filmmakers to move away from "happily ever after" to real life.

2. This five-year-old article by Henry B. Smith, Jr., titled Biblical Illiteracy, addressed a critically important issue in evangelicalism, today.

3. While some Christians gasped and fanned themselves lest they faint, I think Thabiti Anyabwile nailed it with his article, The Importance of Your Gag Reflex When Discussing Homosexuality and “Gay Marriage.” Pastor Anyabwile followed-up this article with, On Homosexuality and the Conscience: Responding to Criticisms.

4. For eight years I served as a chaplain for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. During that time, I made more hospital visits than I can now remember. Pastor Geoff Kirkland has written an excellent, succinct, and very helpful article, The Ministry of Hospital Visitation. It's a must read--not only for pastors and chaplains, but for any Christian who visits people in the hospital.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Beware of Being Your Only Teacher

It's disconcerting when people say, "I don't need to read any other book. I've got the Bible." The reason it's disconcerting is because such a statement and the underlying belief and attitude reveals the arrogance and pride of the person making the statement. To say "I don't need to read any other book but the Bible" is to assume an unrealistic level of knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. Such belief about one's self is to assume a superior level of interpretive skill that even the very best biblical scholars would never assume for themselves.

To say "I don't need to read any other book but the Bible" is to lack humility to a level of taking a gift given by God and giving it back to him while smugly saying, "No thanks. I don't need this." God has given His Church pastors, elders, teachers, and theologians because He loves His Church. Jesus loves His Bride so much that He has provided pastors, elders, teachers, and theologians to assist her in her sanctification and her understanding of His Word.

Sadly, I've known several once-respected men who have gone down the road of "no book but the Bible." They are now Pelagians or they have fallen prey to other heresies.

Make no mistake. The Bible ALONE is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, God-breathed Word of God. Every other literary work is the work of man. But let us all submit to the reality that none of us know the Bible as well as we should. Let us all humbly admit there are pastors, elders, teachers, and theologians who are smarter than we are regarding the great and imperishable truths contained in the Word of God.

Every student needs a teacher. Any student who assumes the role as his sole educator will inevitable stunt his own biblical and spiritual growth.

I thank God for the men--whether layperson, theologian, teacher, elder, or pastor--who have taught me the Word of God over the years. I shudder to think where I would be today if I left the responsibility for my biblical education to no one other than me. I'm glad God has made me smarter than that.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Family Worship: It's Never Too Late

The Testimony of a Failure

I've been a Christian for 25 years. My wife, Mahria, has been a Christian as long as me, less one month. Our eldest daughter was 18-months-old when her parents came to faith in Jesus Christ. All three of our daughters, now adults, have been raised in a Christian home their entire lives. My daughters came to faith in Jesus Christ at different times during their childhood. All three show fruit in keeping with repentance. All three show the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. All three, like their parents, experience peaks and valleys in their individual walks with Christ. All three, like their parents, are living examples of the biblical reality that sanctification is a process. Sanctification is a process that does not resemble a rocket leaving the platform, traveling faster than a bullet in a straight line, into the heavens. Sanctification, is more of a staccato movement of music, punctuated with periods consisting of three steps forward and two steps back; four steps forward and one step back; five steps forward and two steps back. While there are moments when the not-yet-fully sanctified Christian takes steps in the wrong direction, their overall spiritual progression is one of growth as, step-by-step, they are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

Mahria grew up in a small, tight-knit First United Methodist Church. I was raised for the first ten years of my life in the Roman Catholic religion. Mahria and I both grew up in somewhat religious homes, but neither of us ever had Christian parenting modeled for us. Our families were religious, but not saved. We didn't grow up with family worship and/or Bible study and devotions as part of our lives. When we came to faith in Christ, we were young, struggling parents who didn't have a clue what it meant to be Christian parents--what it meant to raise our children in a Christian home. We tried, we struggled, we failed, and we tried again.

And life happened. My work as a deputy sheriff meant strange shifts, long hours, overtime, court appearances, and everything else that came with life behind the badge. By the time I retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, two of our three daughters were adults and the youngest was into her teenage years. Over the years, we had sporadic seasons that included family devotions. That is to say, it was only once in a while I led my family in the corporate reading, study, and devotion in the Word of God.

Of course, simply living with me meant my wife and kids received a regular dose of the Word of God in our daily conversations, around the dinner table, during car rides to and from school or work, and whenever they joined me on the streets to evangelize the lost. All three of my daughters have survived and are thriving on secular university campuses. Their faith is rooted in Christ and grounded in His Word. They know a godless worldview when they hear one. Nothing they've heard on university campuses has ever given them cause to doubt their faith. What they've heard coming from professors and students who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness has only left them shaking their heads with pity for those who live in self-deluded realms of absurdity.

While I'm proud of how my girls have turned and are turning out, it doesn't always relieve me of the guilt I feel once in a while for not being a more consistent leader of my family, in the area of family worship.

A couple months ago--that's right; just a couple months ago--we had one of those family meetings. I called the meeting because I needed to address some issues in the home. As I explained to my family some of the changes we were going to make to ensure we would do whatever we could to glorify Christ as a family unit, I told them we would once again begin nightly family devotions. The look on Mahria's and the girls' faces hurt a bit, but I expected it. The looks on their faces said, "Umm. We've tried this before."

I spent some time apologizing, again, for all of the failed previous attempts. And then I shared with them what I wanted to do and how we were going to go about it. I have a wonderful family who loves me and who loves the Lord. They were all on board.

But for a night here and there, my family is experiencing a time of consistent, Christ-centered prayer, reading, and devotion--the likes of which we have never before experienced. And with each evening we gather together to worship the Lord, I give thanks to Him for showing me that it's never too late.

It's never to late to start regular times of family worship. Your kids, so long as they are under your roof, are never too old for family worship (my daughters are 26, 24, and 19). It's never too late to repent of long-standing, bad family-time habits. It's never too late to begin new family traditions that bring honor, glory, and praise to the Lord Jesus Christ.

It's never too late.

Recently, and I'm sure not by coincidence, I've been asked several times to write about my times of worship with my family. Now that we've developed some consistency, I thought it was time that I share not only our struggles in the area of family worship, but a word of encouragement to those who, like us, might be facing challenges to establish their own times of family worship. So, with the above testimony in mind, I think you will believe me when I say that what I'm about to share is not the opinion of an expert. No, I'm not an expert. Rather, what I'm about to share is what is working for a dad who has blown it too many times to count.

Keep It Simple

My first piece of advice is to keep it simple. By that I mean don't bother surfing the Internet looking for "how to" books on family worship. Don't look for a program that is promoted as the next best thing to sliced bread when it comes to family worship. Keep it simple. All you need to start is your Bible.

Now, before I continue, it's important I make something clear. Dad, you should want your children to learn a great deal during your times of family worship. However, when it comes to getting started and establishing consistency in this area keep it simple.

Keeping it simple means selecting a time of day when there is the likelihood that everyone in the family will be home. This will become more of an issue as your children get older and more active in church, school, etc. Establishing consistency includes establishing a pattern of behavior. For the Miano Family, the best time of day for us is immediately following dinner. At this time of day, everyone is still awake with at least a few hours to go until day's end. Doing family worship after dinner and before family members head of to do homework, housework, ministry work, or assume a position in front of the laptop is what works best for our family.

Keeping it simple means keeping the length of the family devotions reasonable. This does not mean you should watch the clock. Don't ever do that, unless there is some place you have to be after your time of worship. Our family worship time typically runs 30-45 minutes, sometimes less and sometimes more.

A Miano Family Devotion

Who Leads

The responsibility for leading family worship is mine and mine alone. I do not share the responsibility with Mahria or the girls. As the husband, father, and spiritual leader of my home, God has entrusted me with the spiritual care of my family.

Now, I understand that every Christian reading this does not live in a home where both parents are Christians or both parents are even present. To the single mom: you are the one to lead your children in family worship. To the wife of the unsaved man: you are the one to lead your children in family worship. And God will bless your devotion to Him and your love for your family as you do it.

The Valley of Vision and Prayer

The Valley of Vision is a wonderful collection of Puritan prayers. Each and every prayer is so rich in doctrine and theology. I being our time of worship by reading one of the prayers, and then I lead my family in a time of corporate prayer.


Next to the Bible, a good hymnal is probably the best book. Mahria grew up on hymns. I did not. We now incorporate hymn singing as part of our family worship.

Today, we used the hymnal, Great Hymns of the Faith. I've ordered five copies of Celebration Hymnal: Songs and Hymns for Worship. Find a hymnal in keeping with your particular faith tradition (i.e. Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.) or one that contains songs you know. If your church does not sing hymns, then find song books that contain the contemporary Christian songs you sing in church. You can also make your own song book containing the lyrics of your favorite songs. Whatever works best for you, do that.

Now, remember. The Bible says, "Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise" (Psalm 95:2, emphasis mine). If you have someone in the family who plays the guitar or piano, wonderful. Or, if you want to plug in your favorite worship CD, that's great, too. But don't worry about how your worship sounds. You are singing praises to an audience of One. You are not performing for anyone. If no one in the home is musically gifted, then just lift your voices and make a joyful noise. Sing a couple of songs. Sing for an hour. You decide. Remember. Keep it simple.

The Bible

As I mentioned above, the Bible is all you really need. Each night we read one-to-three chapters of Scripture.

We finished the Gospel of John a couple nights ago and have moved on to 1 Samuel (Mahria's favorite book of the Bible). Today, we read 1 Samuel 3-4. Once I finish reading, I answer any questions my ladies might have. I let them share their observations about the text, if there was anything in the text that stood out to them. I finish our time in the Word by sharing my own observations of the text and how we can apply the text to our lives.

Remember. Keep it simple. Don't feel compelled to prepare a three-point sermon each morning or evening. If you have the time, inclination, and ability to prepare studies for your times of family worship, by all means do it! But don't beat yourself up if you don't have the time, or your just not there yet. The important thing is that you are spending time in the Word of God with your family! As you grow in your understanding of God's Word, so will your family. They will grow as you grow and share the marvelous truths God is teaching you, in His Word.

Devotional Reading

My favorite devotional, and the one I read to my family, is Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening. Spurgeon's brilliance as a theologian, pastor, teacher, and writer are illustrated in every devotion. Spurgeon was known to have a vocabulary thousands of words beyond that of the average person, which can make him a bit of a challenge to understand for younger, less-trained ears. Years ago I found an edition of this classic work that had been edited by Alistair Begg. In this special edition, Begg has modernized some of the language without negatively impacting the content of Spurgeon's words or the literary tapestry he paints in each devotion.

So each night as part of our time of family worship I read Spurgeon's evening devotion. Sometimes I will provide brief commentary about the devotion. Other times I simply close the book and say, "Wow. That was good."

And there you have it--an example of a Miano Family time of worship.

We like to keep it simple.

Tips for Consistency

Consistency seems to be the biggest challenge for genuine Christians when it comes to family worship. Life happens. Something always comes up. This will likely never change. But in order to establish consistency you must make family worship a priority. You must be willing to forgo entertainment and the ever-present after-dinner desire to "power down." You must treat family worship as something each day you cannot do without.

There will be times when your day is a veritable perfect storm. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Your best laid plans will be laid aside by the twists and turns of life. There will be days when you just won't be able to do your family worship. Don't get discouraged. And don't quit. Do everything you can to get back at it the following day.

As many of my readers know, I travel a lot. By the end of this year, I will have been on the road and away from home some 80 days. 2014 is already shaping up to be an even busier year with several international trips.

It was not Al Gore, but God who gave us the Internet. He allowed mankind to develop the technology that has given us platforms like Skype. One option for family worship during my extended times away from home is to enjoy family worship via Skype. Family worship can even be accomplished on the phone, if push comes to shove. And when those options aren't available (I travel to places with 8-10 hour time differences), then I entrust Mahria with the responsibility of leading family worship with our daughters. This way, when I return home, the "hey, we get to do family worship tonight" mindset will likely be alive and well.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article is an encouragement and helpful to my Christian brethren who, like me, have struggled to establish consistency in family worship or who have young families and want to begin family worship for the first time. I hope my failures will serve as motivation to not make the mistakes I have made. And I hope my story serves as a real-life testimony to the truth that it's never too late. It's never too late to begin times of family worship in your home.

May the Lord bless you and your family as you worship Him together.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cross Encounters Radio: Bethel Church (Episode 001)

Segment 1 - Introduction

This is a new series of shows that will focus on a blight, a scourge, a locust in the land of Christendom—Bethel Church, in Redding, CA. I know those are strong, and to some, harsh words. Some, maybe even my esteemed colleague, philosopher, and apologist Ken Cook of CARM, might see it as poisoning the well. But I believe this series of broadcasts will reveal that I am not poisoning a well of otherwise fresh water. I am revealing a well of water filled with deadly poison.

To the extent they are able; Richard Story and Ken Cook will join me on each of these special edition programs. We will also try to have guests on the program—pastors and lay people who have felt the negative effects of what we may end up classifying as a cult, Bethel Church, in Redding, CA. Is this church a cult? That is yet to be determined.

Along the way, we will identify and expose other churches and ministries that are part of the tentacle structure that is Bethel Church’s unholy empire—a structure, as I will try to show, is built upon a false Jesus, a false gospel, false teaching, false signs and wonders, and false spirits of the age. As Bill Johnson said in a promo video for the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, people go “to Bethel for the Miracles, but they stay for the community.”

I believe Bill Johnson, and people like him, is a drug dealer who serves/sells/deals spiritual heroin, not to those seeking Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but to those who are seeking a spiritual high—to those who are seeking the bennies of alleged gifts of the Holy Spirit, but who are not seeking the Giver of Life, Jesus Christ the Lord.

On previous Cross Encounters Radio programs, I have talked about Bethel Church. At times, my blood boiled over and my rhetoric was both sharp and loud. I’m going to try to exercise more control during these special edition broadcasts. I don’t want my flesh getting in the way of people hearing, understanding, and receiving the critically important information we are going to share. Let the message be the offense, and not we the messengers.

During each broadcast, we will let you hear from Bill Johnson and others in his false “signs and wonders” movement, through audio clips of sermons, YouTube videos, and other forms of media. We will read portions of their writings. And we will weigh it all against the Truth of God’s Word.

On this inaugural episode, we will talk to Bjorn Storm. Bjorn is an itinerant minister and preacher in the Stavanger area of Norway. Bethel Church is literally infesting the Lutheran Church, the State Church of Norway, and they are doing it through a Bethel sister church called Imi Church. We will talk to Bjorn shortly about the state of the Church in Norway, the influence Bethel is having on the people of his country, and an important conference taking place in January of 2014 to educate the Norwegian Body of Christ about the dangers of Bethel Redding and Imi Church.

Bill Johnson

Bill Johnson’s bio, from the website:

“Beni and Bill Johnson are the Senior Pastors of Bethel Church. Together they serve a growing number of churches that have partnered for revival. This apostolic network has crossed denominational lines in building relationships that enable church leaders to walk in both purity and power.

“The present move of God has brought Bill into a deeper understanding of the phrase, ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ Heaven is the model for our life and ministry. Jesus lived with this principle by only doing what He saw His Father doing. Learning to recognize the Holy Spirit's presence and how to follow His lead will enable us to do the works of Christ, destroying the works of the devil. Healing and deliverance must become the common expression of this gospel of power once again.

“Bill and the Bethel Church family have taken on this theme for life and ministry. Healings, ranging from cancer to broken bones, to learning disorders and emotional healing, happen with regularity. This is the children's bread. And these works of God are not limited to revival meetings. The church is learning how to take this anointing to the schools, workplace, and neighborhoods with similar results. Bill teaches that we owe the world an encounter with God, and that a Gospel without power is not the Gospel that Jesus preached.

“Beni has a call to intercession that is an integral part of Bethel Church. Beni's heart is to help people begin to carry joy in intercession. She believes that being an intercessor is capturing the heartbeat of heaven and declaring that into the world. Along with being a grandmother of nine, Beni has a passion for health and wholeness- in body, soul and spirit. Beni's mission is to empower and coach people to pursue the many advantages of fitness and nutrition.”

New Apostolic Reformation?

In his bio, Bill Johnson mentions an “apostolic network.” He is referring to what is formally known as the New Apostolic Reformation.

The following is taken from a show outline of an episode of Echo Zoe Radio, hosted by Andy Olson. The title of the Echo Zoe episode is Sandy Simpson: The New Apostolic Reformation.
“The NAR teaches that there are foundational Apostles today that are equal to, if not greater than, the original twelve Apostles of the first century. They teach that there is a transferrable impartation. The Holy Spirit can be imparted upon individuals by NAR “apostles.” . . . [There appear to be] links between NAR, Emergent, and “Church Growth,” all coming out of Fuller Theological Seminary. NAR puts together large-scale prayer meetings to lure in orthodox Christians to their methods and teachings. NAR and Word-of-Faith come from the same roots, and have many similarities. NAR seeks to take over the government . . . NAR denies some of the fundamental, core doctrines of Christianity. This places them within the definition of a cult movement. Core doctrines that they deny include: the Trinity; the divinity and personhood of Christ (hypostatic union); salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; the supremacy of Scripture in all matters of faith and practice; the fact that Christ is going to return bodily to judge and rule the Earth (dominionism requires us to conquer the Earth before He returns). [Regarding the alleged “prophetic” aspect of the movement: NAR] rarely references scripture, favoring instead “new revelation”. When they give prophesy over someone, they often just puff up the person they are supposedly prophesying over. “Slain in the Spirit” is a practice that is common in the NAR. It was picked up by William Branham on a trip to India, and is just a repackaged version of the Hindu practice of shakti-pat. [NAR if involved in] the practice of diaprax, which is in use by various groups and forces hostile to Christianity. It pits a thesis against an anti-thesis. The two battle, eventually merging into a synthesis. Scandals and immoral behavior often follow false teachers . . . NAR has a practice called “Prayer Walking” by which they supposedly cast out territorial demons. The NAR has many similarities to the ancient Gnostics. Namely, they place heavy emphasis on special knowledge (new revelation), and attempts to create a “higher order” of Christianity/Spirituality. - See more at:
Who's Who?

Some of the main players in this false spiritual movement include: C. Peter Wagner, Dutch Sheets, Chuck Pierce, Rick Joyner, Mike Bickel, Che An, Cindy Jacobs, as well as lesser players such as: Todd Bentley, Patricia King, Stacy Campbell, John Crowder (not the musician), Mark Chironna, and Steve Strang (publisher, Charisma Magazine) and others.

Segment 2 - Bethel Girl Forgives the Sins of a Dying Man

How utterly blasphemous. A young girl, being misled by Bethel Church, believes (and her beliefs are affirmed by those listening to her) she has the authority to forgive the sins of a dying man and the authority to declare him saved. This silly and blasphemous notion that people can forgive the sins of people must come from a misinterpretation of John 20:19-23, which reads:
"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.'"
In his commentary on John 20:23, Adam Clarke writes:
"Whose soever sins ye remit - See the notes on Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18. It is certain God alone can forgive sins; and it would not only be blasphemous, but grossly absurd, to say that any creature could remit the guilt of a transgression which had been committed against the Creator. The apostles received from the Lord the doctrine of reconciliation, and the doctrine of condemnation. They who believed on the Son of God, in consequence of their preaching, had their sins remitted; and they who would not believe were declared to lie under condemnation. The reader is desired to consult the note referred to above, where the custom to which our Lord alludes is particularly considered. Dr. Lightfoot supposes that the power of life and death, and the power of delivering over to Satan, which was granted to the apostles, is here referred to. This was a power which the primitive apostles exclusively possessed."
John Gill weighs in similarly:
"Whose soever sins ye remit,.... God only can forgive sins, and Christ being God, has a power to do so likewise; but he never communicated any such power to his apostles; nor did they ever assume any such power to themselves, or pretend to exercise it; it is the mark of antichrist, to attempt anything of the kind; who, in so doing, usurps the divine prerogative, places himself in his seat, and shows himself as if he was God: but this is to be understood only in a doctrinal, or ministerial way, by preaching the full and free remission of sins, through the blood of Christ, according to the riches of God's grace, to such as repent of their sins, and believe in Christ; declaring, that all such persons as do so repent and believe, all their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake: and accordingly,

"they are remitted unto them; in agreement with Christ's own words, in his declaration and commission to his disciples; see Mark 16:16. On the other hand he signifies, that

"whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained: that is, that whatsoever sins ye declare are not forgiven, they are not forgiven; which is the case of all final unbelievers, and impenitent sinners; who dying without repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, according to the Gospel declaration, shall be damned, and are damned; for God stands by, and will stand by and confirm the Gospel of his Son, faithfully preached by his ministering servants; and all the world will sooner or later be convinced of the validity, truth, and certainty, of the declarations on each of these heads, made by them."
No one but God has the prerogative, power, and the authority to forgive sins. In this respect, Bethel Church's teaching is akin to that of the Roman Catholic Church--an apostate religion that blasphemously bequeaths unto fallible, sinful priests and popes the authority to remit the sins of other sinners.

Segment 3 - Treasure Hunting

The above video is an example of another unbiblical practice taught and encouraged by Bethel Church. It's called treasure hunting. For an explanation of treasure hunting one need look no farther than Bethel Church's website:
"Treasure Hunts incorporates the use of words of knowledge (clues) that you write on your Treasure Map to find Treasures (people) who need a supernatural encounter with God through an encouraging prophetic word or healing. This is not about preaching or arguing with people, but rather giving them a practical demonstration of the goodness of God. Treasure hunts are a great tool for those who have felt intimidated by witnessing to family members, friends, co-workers, and those in the community. Through this fun and easy method you become empowered with confidence and competence to bring supernatural encounters to people around you. Through treasure hunts you can become a world changer, transforming your community one encounter at a time!

"For more information, read Kevin Dedmon's book, The Ultimate Treasure Hunt, published by Destiny Image, 2007."
Notice what is obviously and tragically missing from this spiritual party game? The gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, Bethel Church goes out of its way to insure the gospel won't be shared with people during treasure hunts, with these words: "This is not about preaching or arguing with people, but rather giving them a practical demonstration of the goodness of God."

Yet the Bible says:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).
"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!' But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?' So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:14-17).
There is and never will be authentic, legitmate evangelism without the verbal and/or written articulation of the gospel. Faith comes by hearing! Faith does not come by having a "treasure hunter" stop you on the street and say, "Hey, how's your elbow?"

Segment 4 - Soaking Up the Anointing.....From a Grave?

Evidence of the demonic nature of the spirits working in and around Bethel Church, as well as through the people being influenced by Bethel, is the unbiblical fascination and attempts to communicate or draw something (often referred to as an "anointing") from the dead. This practice is nothing less than necromancy. One of many good definitions of necromancy is found in Wikipedia:
"Necromancy is a claimed form of magic involving communication with the deceased – either by summoning their spirit as an apparition or raising them bodily – for the purpose of divination, imparting the means to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge. The term may sometimes be used in a more general sense to refer to black magic or witchcraft.

"The word 'necromancy' is adapted from Late Latin necromantia, itself borrowed from post-Classical Greek νεκρομαντεία (nekromanteía), a compound of Ancient Greek νεκρός (nekrós), 'dead body,' and μαντεία (manteía), 'prophecy or divination'; this compound form was first used by Origen of Alexandria in the 3rd century CE. The Classical Greek term was ἡ νέκυια (nekyia), from the episode of the Odyssey in which Odysseus visits the realm of the dead, νεκυομαντεία in Hellenistic Greek, rendered as necyomantīa in Latin, and as necrymancy in 17th-century English."
Eleven times the Word of God warns, in both narrative and prophetic passages, against seeking the help of necromancers (Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:11; 1 Samuel 28:3; 1 Samuel 28:9; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Kings 23:24; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 19:3). Sadly, Bethel Church and those influenced by her have a very low view of Scripture. This issue will be addressed in a later episode.

In these graveside visits, Bethel Church members and those influenced by Bethel combine necromancy with another unbiblicial practice--the practice of "soaking."

Bethel provides a definition of "soaking" in the following "testimony":
"From: Soaking Ministry Trip to Mammoth
About: A Heavenly Encounter Brings Freedom
When: January, 2006

"During a Firestorm trip to Mammoth, California, the BSSM [Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry] students were surprised to hear that several days prior to their arrival, a local teenage girl had frozen to death in a blizzard. Since Jesus has commissioned us to raise the dead, it is the heart's cry of many staff and students to be used in this way. Kevin Dedmon and several students received the opportunity to pray over the deceased body. The young girl was not raised, but the faith of the community and the Firestorm team increased and a seed of faith was planted.

"Several weeks later Beni Johnson [Bill Johnson's wife] traveled to Mammoth to teach at a youth conference. During one particular session, Beni began teaching on soaking (intimacy and encounters with God's presence) and going to Heaven (your spirit's encounter with the 3rd heaven realm). Coincidently [sic], a young man who knew the girl who had recently passed away in the blizzard was at the teaching. Sadly, his own sister had died the year before.

"Beni then had the group participate in a soaking time and the young man came up to Beni to report what he encountered: When he was lying on the floor he went to Heaven and saw two girls dancing there: one was his sister and the other was the young girl who had died. They told him not to cry anymore and as they said this a tear dropped on his chest. As it hit his chest it exploded and went out from him. Because of this experience, his heart and other people's hearts were freed from grief and sorrow!

Bethel describes "soaking" as "intimacy and encounters with God's presence." Michael Houdmann of provides a more detailed description:
"Since the 1990s there has been an increased focus on mysticism within various segments of Christianity. Bordering on the esoteric, these mystical experiences broaden the division between a 'factual faith' and a 'felt faith,' and threaten to replace sound biblical teaching with emotion-driven response. Soaking prayer is one such mystical activity. It is described as resting in God's presence. This is accomplished by playing some gentle worship songs, either sitting or lying down, and praying short, simple prayers for an extended period of time, but otherwise keeping your mind free of other thoughts. At the point when you sense God's presence through some type of manifestation like tingling skin, a sensation of heat or cold, or even a gentle wind seemingly blowing through your body, you are to just 'soak' in that presence.

"Although that might sound a little strange to some, it does not immediately come across as being necessarily bad. However, the rule by which we measure our experiences in life is the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and when soaking prayer is examined accordingly, we find that it comes up wanting for biblical support. Nowhere in the Bible can a model of prayer be found that soaking prayer follows."
Houdmann's words are telling of much of what Bethel Church calls "ministry" --"Nowhere in the Bible can a model . . . be found."

Segment 5 - A Conversation with Bjorn Storm

Talking Points:

  • Bjorn discusses what church is like in Norway.
  • Influences on churches in Norway.
  • Most churches in Norway are Lutheran but not Lutheran as much of the world sees at the denomination.
  • The State Church has been separated from the state. Very few churches stand on the Word of God.
  • There are small pockets of genuine believers in the church of Norway.
  • The greatest challenge is the youth and young adults. They are being eaten alive by ones such as Bethel Church.
  • A small country like Norway is greatly impacted when false teaching comes in.
  • Norway is a nation of less than 6 million people.
  • A large church in Norway is one that numbers in the hundreds.
  • Imi Church is a large church in Norwegian standards. They have about 700 or 800 members.
  • They are the most popular and most influential church in Norway and are a part of the Lutheran Organization.
  • Since the beginning of the 90’s Imi Church has been working with the Toronto Airport Vineyard people and other Word-of-Faithers. 
  • Only few Christian leaders in Norway have seen the true danger of Bethel's influence.
  • Over the last three years, the influence of Bethel' practices, philosophies, and theology on Norwegian churches has increased.
  • Bethel is aggressively doing outreaches and training in the region, especially targeted towards the youth and young adults.
  • They have been doing the Treasure Hunts in Norway.
  • When Bjorn started addressing the false teaching of Bethel to Christian leaders and proponents of Imi Church he was fired, from his position with one of the nation's Lutheran organizations. He has since been rehired by another Lutheran organization that is committed to expository preaching and bringing the true gospel back to the Norwegian people.
  • "Back to the Word of God Conference" (January 2014) is designed to bring the Truth of God’s Word in the Scriptures back to the country of Norway. Paul Washer will be the featured speaker of the 2014 conference.


And so ends our first Cross Encounters Radio episode dedicated to Bethel Church and the New Apostolic Reformation. Even in this introductory episode, I hope you, the listener/reader can see how dangerous this church and this movement is. Stay tuned for more episodes about Bethel Church and the New Apostolic Reformation as we try to expose the one who appears as an angel of light, with the true light of God's Word.

Don't forget to check out Tony's new book, Should She Preach? - Biblical Evangelism for Women.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Sight of an Empty Shoe

Standing outside the murder mill, another day to mourn,
Pleading with men and women, not to murder their children unborn.
Car after car after car, into the parking lot they drive,
Women bent on killing, the babies they carry alive.

Pleading with a woman to realize, her child's not a clump of cells,
She feigns stabbing herself in the stomach, and with profanity she yells.
At times all I can do is drop my head, praying God will hear,
"Please don't let her kill her baby, a life you hold so dear."

And as I looked toward the ground, wondering what God would do,
I found my eyes transfixed, on the sight of an empty shoe.
The shoe so small in size, to a little child it must belong,
Sitting at the edge of the parking lot, where children are murdered all day long.

For some time I stood and stared, at the sight of the empty shoe,
I wondered how it got there, I found it hard to move.
Could this have been God's answer, to the prayer that I had uttered?
Was it somehow a reminder, of all the times I had muttered?

Was it a reminder of times I had complained, complained to myself and others,
Why so many children had to die, at the requests of their mothers?
Or a reminder of those times, when I complained of aching feet,
of seemingly indifferent Christians, or the sun's oppressive heat?

I shook my head at my sinfulness, for moods in shades of blue,
I sought the Lord's forgiveness, as I stared at that empty shoe.
I thought of those rare instances, when a life the Lord did save,
By His grace and mercy, another day of life He gave.

While I did think of the children murdered, at this place in Mission Hills,
The sight of that empty shoe, gave me hope--it gave me chills.
For the sight of that empty shoe, meant a child who lived to birth,
A child who was not murdered, a killer's paycheck her only worth.

The thought of a child in a playground, one foot shod in sock or bare,
Put a smile on my face as I realized, how important it was to care--
To keep fighting for every unborn baby, carried into this murder mill,
To plead with every mother, and every father not to kill.

And if the Lord is willing, He will save a life or two,
He will save a baby boy or girl, who may one day fill such a shoe.
I felt a smile form on my face, my strength and zeal renewed,
As I looked at the memorable sight, the sight of an empty shoe.