Sunday, January 1, 2017

Strange Fire - a Case Study

My wife and I have collaborated on the below. I thought it was a good example of dysfunctional group's notorious and regular use of taking biblical text out of context. It is a good lesson in what to look for when visiting an independent non-denominational type of church. There are many good churches of this type out there but there are also many not so good. Here is an example of what to do when you see extraordinary practices in a group that are seemingly backed by scripture yet take an entirely wrong trajectory and so its conclusion. What is 'Strange Fire'? The example comes out of The Penteteuch books of Leviticus (10:1) and Numbers (3:4,26:61) where forms of worship were not accepted because they were not according to the Lord's instructions. We have the Bible now, and thus even more so it must be followed for any subject. It is clear, the absence of any subject does not make it an acceptable practice especially when it comes to the Almighty.

                                      Praise and Worship 
               An Example of Scripture Taken Out of Context
                                        by Vicki Flynn 

      What you are about to read is an example of “bad” interpretation of scripture. This is prevalent in many non-denominational churches and hopefully this will make you aware of “wrong doctrine”. When there is no accountability, the leaders are apt to trust their own conclusions. This is warned against in the scriptures and has proven to be detrimental to many believers.

     When you are looking into a place to worship, make sure that there is an order of accountability in the leadership. There shouldn’t be one man who shoulders all the theological premise of the church. There should be many “counselors” who help make the final decisions of doctrine, government and spiritual guidance.

     Kevin and I were discussing praise and worship in a Latter Rain church according to what we had witnessed when we attended this church. If you have never experienced this type of praise and worship, you might find it quite different. Probably the best expression of it is found in the practices of the movement by its original leaders. Here is an excerpt from Richard Riss’ work on the movement: 
      We have heard vague rumors of the so-called Heavenly Choir in association with the outpouring of the Spirit which occurred around the turn of the century and have longed to hear it. But having heard it we must confess that it completely beggars not only description but also in large part both appreciated and understanding…A deep consciousness of the Spirit of Worship and Song always pervades the meeting as prelude to the choir….The most outstanding thing about it is the amazingly complicated depth of harmony…There is such a perfect order and timing as the mighty chords swell and roll that one is forced to concede that there is an unseen conductor”  -- Riss, Richard, Latter Rain Honeycomb Visual Productions Ltd, 1295 Eglinton Ave. E, Mississauga, Ontario, LAW 3e6, Canada Copyright 1987 pp 82-83

      What we experienced first, is the usual singing of hymns and songs. The progression into what is described above is a matter of song selection to cause the congregation to focus on God. Then the leader initiated what is described by Riss. In the Latter Rain based church we were in, the following scripture is what was used to support this type of praise and worship:
Hebrews 2:12
He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.”
13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.”

      The question is: Is this form of praise and worship biblical? After some discussion and research, I have to say, it is not. In fact, there is no form of worship in the entire bible that follows this pattern for corporate worship. So, we must at face value discount the form of worship here.
     This scripture was used and twisted into a doctrine that was ultimately practiced by the Latter Rain Movement. Because of the experience people received, it was validated. The apostle ironically taught in this church that experiences need a biblical base. That is completely absent here.
     Let’s look at this doctrine from the Latter Rain perspective as practiced in this church:

      Heb 12:12-13 – The 'apostle' taught:
     Praise and worship is the spirit of Jesus walking to and fro through the assembly singing praises to the Father. In other words, the Holy Spirit is singing through the people to worship the Father. Then once the people have ministered to Him, He returns the gesture by ministering to the people by distributing gifts of the Spirit i.e. prophesy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc.

     Let’s look again, objectively at what the writer of Hebrews is saying. First, we need to know to whom he is writing to. He is writing to the Jewish people using the scripture they had at the time.
     He uses Psalm 22, a Messianic Psalm to teach from. In context, Saul pursued David for several years to kill him.

  22:1 - My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

 David is prophetically ( verse 1) speaking the same words that Jesus spoke on the cross. This psalm is a window into a distant event. That event is what Jesus did for us by undergoing horrific suffering and ultimately dying for us by shedding his blood.     Jesus is looking forward to the utter triumph that His sacrifice would bring into being for mankind. This ‘looking forward’ is prophetically foreshadowed by David. David suffered humiliation and the threat of death at the hand of Saul but looked forward to his triumph when God would seat him on the throne and make him king of Israel. When he was crowned, he was elated and humbled by what God did and wanted to praise Him for making him king.
 David was promising and committing to Almighty God that when he was seated as King, he would proclaim the mightiness and power of God to the court and all the people. This is the meaning of ‘I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee’ in context.

 Clearly, it was NOT congregational worship but a proclamation from David of God’s greatness TO the congregation. Christ culminated this prophesy in the heavenlies when He went before God with His blood and was accepted by God His Father into Heaven. He was clearly the initiator, not the congregation.
Remember, Hebrews is written to the Jewish people and the writer of Hebrews is using the writings to show them that Jesus is truly the Messiah. It was written to the Hebrews in such a way that there would be no question as to His deity.  The writer continues with the writing of Hebrews and tells the people that Jesus also suffered. He was made lower than the angels for a little while and suffered death and then was exalted by being seated on the throne at the right hand of God confirming David’s prophesy: 

     The author of Hebrews starts out in Chapter Two…
 1 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.  Heb 2:1-4
 The scripture describes to perfection the one-time event of Pentecost. The acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice by God as cited in Peter’s account, Acts Chapter 2. This is a significant one- time event – in other words, it is not supposed to be repeated.

Hebrews Chapter 2:
     9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.[g] 12 He says,
“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.”[h]13 And again,“I will put my trust in him.”

     This is not about the spirit of Jesus walking to and fro through the church proclaiming His name to the brethren through praise every Sunday, becoming liturgy. How shallow in comparison to the following:

     * This is about a one -time event where Jesus was crowned with glory, culminating His sacrifice on the cross and then finally and eternally sitting down on the right hand of God, His Father. He then sings praises unto God the Father for what He has done on Jesus’ behalf. 

     * This is about the writer of Hebrews showing the Jew that God the Father was so pleased with Jesus’ sacrifice, making Him perfect through His suffering, He then made our salvation worthy enough to be called family by Jesus who was not ashamed to do so.

     *  It’s not about us ministering to God then receiving back ministry from Him.  It is about Him, Jesus, who accomplished conquering death and making a way for eternal life by His sacrifice of being nailed to a cross, shedding His blood and then tasting death for all of us, being accepted by God the Father who in turn sent the Holy Spirit to the church.

     To reiterate: One of the main scriptures used by Latter Rain groups, especially the group we were in, is magnitudes out of context and the focus of is completely wrong. It is not the congregation at all or congregational worship. It is about Jesus and Jesus alone.

     This is a taste of eisegesis (scripture interpreted through a personal filter) that is taught by the apostle. Not exegesis where there is an objective view taken by considering many different views of the same scripture, then coming to a conclusion. The danger of one-man’s revelation: 

Where no counsel is, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14