The Gathering … Cuz America is the New Israel

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In just a couple of days, the preeminent, and self-proclaimed, spiritual “leaders” of “American Christianity” will be convening, on behalf of America, a “solemn assembly,” a la Old Testament precepts for God’s actual and only chosen nation – Israel.

(But really, pesky little interpretative details about God’s revelation in Scripture don’t really matter when it’s obvious that what God really meant for Israel is also intended for America, too … right?)

The Gathering has one purpose: to unite the Body of Christ in America – all believers, regardless of race, age, or denomination – in prayer for forgiveness, wisdom, and provision for our nation.”  (Source)

Perhaps a simple exegesis of our Lord’s prayer in John 17 has escaped these proponents of “American Christianity.” The Body of Christ is already united. God the Father has certainly answered the prayer of His Son, “that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22)  One has to wonder why the many celebrity Christian leaders who will join this self-declared holy enclave are feeling left out. Could it be because their orthodoxy, and hence their orthopraxy, is informed substantially more by “American” than it is by “Biblical?”

On Wednesday, September 21, 2016, luminaries of the often pulpit-less platforms of mega-churches from sea to shining sea will join in “A National Solemn Assembly” to intercede to God for Him to … well … do something to halt, reverse, and redeem America from its evident and escalating slide towards utter depravity.

Now, if you happen to be somewhat familiar with Scripture, you might recognize the national news as an almost chronological contemporary rendition of the Apostle Paul’s commentary in Romans 1.   If you get the gist of that inspired Text and consider what’s going on in America, and around the world, it means that what these leaders will actually be praying for is that God would stop “giving them up.” Truly, they’ll be asking God just not to judge sin.  (In case your pews haven’t heard it from your pulpits lately, only the Gospel is the power that, by God’s grace and choice, can accommodate that request.)

  • “Jesus Christ changed how God could relate to the world because with the death of Christ the world was reconciled with God.”  Tony Evans
  • “God will not skip the church house to fix the White House.” Tony Evans
  • “We need to give God a reason to let us find Him.” Tony Evans

Demon-buster Tony Evans, mega-pastor of the mega Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, is the appointed – and apparently anointed – point man for the enclave. His theologically bewildering comments above, taken from the one-hour promotional video from The Gathering website, reflect a thorough grasp of the power of witty, spiritual sounding platitudes without an accompanying sound hermeneutic.

Evans’ counterpart in the affair is none other than former SBC president Ronnie Floyd, proving perhaps that perpetuating further the continued demise of a once great denomination does not preclude one from post-presidential conference gigs. Floyd, though, is the logical choice for an endeavor reeking of that Biblically unknown flavor of faith in which Jesus was crucified on a cross draped in the folds of Old Glory.

While the SS SBC under Floyd’s helmsmanship didn’t hit the iceberg, he spent his time steering it on a “man your lifeboats” course by emphasizing an “American Awakening” far more than he did proclaiming the obvious need for a Biblical awakening (via the “Preach the Word” and “Feed my sheep” entreaties of the New Testament) of believers. The epic need for Biblical literacy and comprehension screams louder than the sing-a-long, 7-11 praise music in multitudes of SBC churches.

Evans’ witty platitude perhaps applies here, “A mist in the pulpit is gonna be a fog in the pews.”   Somebody get the Windex, I guess, cuz even the dim view (1 Corinthians 13:12) of eternal reality that Scripture graciously allows us to comprehend looks – across so much of the evangelical church, and perhaps particularly within the SBC – like the wiper-defiled windshield of an orchard truck driving through love-bug spawning season on the Florida turnpike.

But, for Floyd, that’s no problem. God gave Ronnie a revelation.  In 1997, written about in his “I promote and receive extra-biblical revelation” book, The Power of Prayer and Fasting, is perhaps the source of his motivation and his proclivity for “America first” theology.

“God is on the brink of ushering in a great spiritual awakening across this land through the mighty gateway to His supernatural power.”  Ronnie Floyd  (Source)

While a day is to the Lord as a thousand years, Ronnie ain’t getting any younger and, in order for him to get temporal credit for his 1997 “God’s on the brink” revelation, something needs to happen … soon. Perhaps that drives his continued proclamation of this faux faith, as he did at the doctrinally discretion-free Together 2016 event on the national mall this past July.

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That ecumenical event’s organizer, Nick Hall, will also be sharing the stage at The Gathering. In what apparently is a “come to my conference, I’ll come to yours” reciprocity agreement, Hall, who’s similar summer supplications for invoking God’s involvement in America’s demise met with apparent divine disregard, will be lending his prayers at this conference, sure to be just one of many more such conferences yet to come.

(One wonders if these national supplicants actually hope the Lord doesn’t answer in the affirmative. Pray for America conference proceeds would plummet to zero, a number not unfamiliar to many SBC churches annual baptism reports.  Jesus Saves, whereas the seeker-sensitive watered-down false gospel of “American Christianity” merely makes church members, if that.)

lotz-anneAnne Graham Lotz, whose evangelically hallowed middle name seems to be the reason she gets any attention at all (It certainly can’t be because of her sound exegesis of Scripture.  Say … what’s she doing preaching anyway?) will be on hand. An advocate of the heretical “circle praying” technique, Lotz also serves as this year’s Chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer. It’s unclear if Lotz will bring along a bucket of sidewalk chalk with which to draw circles around the other supplicants. Perhaps she’ll merely narcigete herself as Daniel and pray in his stead.

The Gathering is a festival of ecumenism where the illegitimate mantra that “doctrine divides” will be visibly paraded by a variety of those who “self-label” as Christian. A few other notables include:

Priscilla Shirer sure to bring that false, but increasingly favorable, contemplative flair

Marcus Lamb – co-founder of Daystar. Not much else needs to be said, huh?

Greg Laurie – see HERE for more about his evangelical antics

Lysa Terkheurst – popular mysti-chick challenging Beth Moore and Shirer for “favored maven of false teaching” shelf space at your nearest LifeWay

Robert Morris – based on his latest book, Frequency, he’ll hopefully be able to help the others get the correct “HM” – Heavenly Modulation – setting to actually get God’s attention.   His “church” in Dallas is ground zero for the spiritual enterprise, by the way.

Sammy Rodriguez – cuz no enclave of any repute would dare proceed lacking its own apostle in attendance

See nsaThe Gathering’s website for more attending luminaries. If you dig down on the “resource” tab of the site’s menu, you’ll find a number of event-related pdf’s that are worthy of a raised eyebrow.   (One is shown on the left). In it, you’ll note, from Scripture’s account of Israel’s history, the technique of assembling for national repentance and prayer is jerked out of context – under the “this means America” verse 2 Chronicles 7;14 – and applied to America. (See HERE for how this verse is regularly mishandled.)  These “spiritual leaders,” acting in the stead of the Old Testament “priests, prophets, and kings” are presuming to lead God’s chosen nation of America to repentance and prayer. Umm, no.

In this “America is the New Israel” theology, one presumes the New Jerusalem to be Washington, DC. The whereabouts of the temple – wherein God solely met with his chosen people through His chosen priest – is unclear. For adherents of “American Christianity” God’s law from the Decalogue must certainly, though, be enshrined adjacent to the less-stonier, parchment-penned substrate of the Constitution.   Absent a bonafide Old Testament temple, these modern “spiritual leaders” are yet engaging on the basis of decidedly unsound theology founded on a faulty, if not “America proud,” hermeneutic.  (“Make America Israel Again” is hardly a Biblically endorsable endeavor.)

Should you doubt the intrinsic emphasis of America first in this theology, consider this comment by NAR apostle Rodriquez in The Christian Post.

Rodriguez, who serves as president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said in an interview wih [sic] The Christian Post on Wednesday that he’s participating in The Gathering because he believes, as a nation, “We stand at the precipice of losing our religious liberties via the conduit of judicial activism and legislative initiatives that view our Judeo-Christian values system as a threat to advancing a morally relativistic worldview.  (Source)

(Funny thing. All the other apostles I know about? None of them seemed to fret much over “religious liberty.” Oh, that’s right. They didn’t have it. The kingdom of God seemed a far more pressing concern to them than battling against “judicial activism and legislative agendas.” The sovereignty of God, and obedience to Him, by proclaiming his Gospel and edifying His sheep strangely, though Biblically, took precedence for them.  Hmmm.)

To further exacerbate the illicit use of the Scriptural narrative regarding Israel as didactically instructive for America is the “Gathering” pdf entitled, “Consecrate The People.” Written by Claude V. King, co-author with Henry and Richard Blackaby of the contemplative spirituality book, Experiencing God, the guide is published by Lifeway Press.  King cites the Lord in Joel as the Biblical grounds for such a modern, non-Israel maneuver.

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Consecrate a fast;
    call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
    and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the Lord your God,
    and cry out to the Lord.  (Joel 1:14)

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; (Joel 2:12)

Blow the trumpet in Zion;
    consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
16     gather the people.
Consecrate the congregation;  (Joel 2:15-16)

The 18-page guide is a liturgical outline for properly calling and preparing “the people” for a “solemn assembly.”   The outline (included as a pdf below) is, again, based on God’s instructions to Israel in the Old Testament.  So, if you read it, pretend you don’t have … say Hebrews, as a book in the New Testament. In fact, you can pretty much disregard the entire New Testament, the whole notion of the priesthood of the believer, Christ as the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) and the Pentecost sent presence of the Holy Spirit in the individual believer. We’re going back to the good old days, apparently … and wrongly.

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The intended result of this instructive liturgy is to “consecrate the people.”  (Umm, smells like odoriferous Vaticanus, to me.) However, we are not consecrated by the divine dictates given to Israel in the Old Testament. Ever since the Cross, the Resurrection, the events of Pentecost, consecration comes in a direct, and providentially personal, manner. The believer, salvifically drawn to Christ by the Father, with the resulting miracle of Holy Spirit-wrought regeneration, is sanctified – or consecrated – by Him, directly. Christ, again in his prayer of John 17, asked the Father for this certain consecration … “Sanctify them in Truth; your Word is Truth.”  (John 17:17)

The problem with these illicit endeavors, beyond the false “America first” emphasis they contain, is that they fail to recognize that, while the Word became flesh, the Word also became text. All believers – but especially those lofty enough to wrongly presume for themselves the task of consecrating others (Can you say, “Roman Catholic theology?”)– are to rightly handle that Text. Slathering Old Testament Scriptures to 21st-century conclaves, while sounding noble and biblical, are inane attempts to woo God to act on the basis of nostalgic reinterpretations of His Word.   Methinks He’s not amused by such mishandling and misapplication of His Word.

Praying for America is laudable. We’re told to pray for our leaders, (1 Timothy 2:2) installed as they are by the sovereign choice of God. (Romans 13:1) But mishandling Scripture, disregarding the desperate need for doctrinal truth and distinction it dictates, and presuming to create “Christian” unity among anyone so self-monikered, isn’t Biblical.   Indeed, in a post-post-modern world that already eschews antithesis in anything, unfettered alliances with anyone of any belief, so long as it’s called “Christian,” provides a horrible, and indistinct, witness to the world. We are reminded by Christ that His Gospel divides. (Luke 12:51, Matthew 10:35)

Those who use the Old Testament to justify favored nation status with God on behalf of America, and thereby presume to invoke Him to action – particularly those involved in this latest “Gathering” – might do well to consider the words of another Old Testament prophet.

I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.  Amos 5:21

Maybe we oughta forego the unbiblical faux nostalgia. Perhaps we should instead be obedient and  preach “repent and believe” because the Kingdom of God is at hand … And it isn’t the result of an election, a conclave, a gathering, or a kum-ba-yah unity event. 

 

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[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]

 

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