| COLLECTIVE GASP arose from the worshippers. Then, claps and cheers," reported Sarah Price Brown in the June 27th issue of Religion News Service.|
"Evangelical pastor Rick Warren has been invited to preach this summer to some 15,000 Christians in North Korea, a communist country infamous not only for its nuclear threats but also for its religious persecution.
Warren, author of the bestselling book, "The Purpose-Driven Life," said he would make the trip as part of a nearly 40-day journey to meet with the leaders of 13 foreign countries."
Ah yes, of course; "40 Days," the Purpose Driven lucky bible code number for all godly ventures. I wonder what the number "13" represents?
The article continues with Pastor Rick breaking the news to his infatuated flock a couple of days prior to the story's release:
"'I want to ask you to pray for me,' Warren told about 5,000 worshippers at his Saddleback Church on Sunday (June 25). He said he would be embarking on a 'grueling' tour, meeting with presidents, business leaders and pastors in countries such as Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Rwanda and South Korea, where he would preach at the world's largest church."
Have you ever wondered why he never brags about preaching in small churches and meeting with unknown people who've never heard of him or his book in out-of-the-way and unimpressive places? Every story he tells about himself always seems to include some person, place or thing, whether exotic, famous, infamous, controversial, sensational or dangerous, to make him somehow look more important, courageous, sacrificial, special, successful or spiritual than everyone else, which in turn teaches his audience, by example, to go and do the same. What a contrast to the humility of Jesus Christ, the Humble Shepherd he claims to follow.
"And he [Jesus] said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." - Luke 16:15
Last year Rick addressed the Pew Forum's biannual Faith Angle conference on religion, politics and public life about three foundations he established and something he calls "reverse tithing:"
"...my wife and I made five decisions...we set up three different foundations. One is called Equipping the Church, which we use to train pastors in third-world countries. The other is called Acts of Mercy, which we use to help those infected with AIDS. And another one is called The Global PEACE Plan, which I'll share in just a second...The fifth thing we did was become reverse tithers...We give away 90 percent and we live on 10." (Underscore added for emphasis)
In fact, in one televised interview I witnessed, he point-blank stated that the money he received from book sales goes to his foundations. Well, as far I'm concerned, what he does with his money is his business, whether he tithes 10% or 90%; that is until he starts using it to deceive others and exalt himself in the process.
If indeed HIS 90% goes to HIS foundations for HIM to use as HE sees fit, wouldn't this kind of "reverse tithing" actually mean he's giving his millions back to himself to fund his own Purpose Driven programs, agenda, expenses and ego under tax exempt status, rendering the money held on account "for charitable causes" still under HIS control either directly or indirectly?
Why does the story of Ananias and Sapphira come to mind in Acts, Chapter 5?
"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." - 1st Timothy 6:10
Did Jesus tell the rich young ruler to take his wealth and establish benevolent organizations to help the poor and impress people with his generosity? No; because the rich young ruler was relying on the power of money, rather than the power of God, he needed to get rid of it to get rid of his ego, not just find a clever way of using it to glorify himself under a guise of godliness. Jesus' primary objective for telling him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor was not to see that the poor got financial aid, it was to free the rich young ruler of that which ensnared him. And, whether Warren knows it or not, his highly-acclaimed offerings still pale alongside the poor widow's mites.
So, if Pastor Warren is going to continue to use this "reverse tithing" shtick for the cameras and crowds, he should probably explain it in a little more detail; because as long as the money remains under HIS supervision and direction, it's still HIS money even if he calls it a 90% tithe.
Furthermore, he would do well to revisit the scriptures where Jesus warned about doing "your alms before men, to be seen of them," which includes, not only tithing but good works, as well; because he seems to think the Lord has no objection to him boasting of that which is "highly-esteemed among men;" particularly those things that keep him in the headlines and keep reporters, camera crews and satellite hookups standing by to broadcast poignant segments of his "grueling tours" around the world for all to see?
"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly." - Matthew 6:1-4
One of the perils of pragmatism is believing that the Risen Lord and the fallen world think and act alike.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:9
Meanwhile, back at the Saddleback ranch, Warren continues his big announcement:
"And then, he told the crowd, 'I've received another invitation.' Warren said North Korea would allow him to preach in a stadium seating 15,000, but that he could preach in a larger venue if he could fill the seats."
According to the RNS reporter, this is when the gasping and applauding broke out. Church growth gurus, you see, LOVE gaspers and clappers as much as they do large venues and big crowds. They picked up this part of their value system from the folks over in nearby Hollywood; and since they don't yet sell tickets at Saddleback to get a box office tally of their triumphs, they've made THIS their principal measure of success. It means they've made an emotional impact on the world around them, which, in their view, translates into life-changing experiences, great spiritual victories and "revival;" all part of Warren's Global P.E.A.C.E. plan to build "God's Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven," something Jesus never commissioned us to do.
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." - 1st John 2:15-17
And isn't it interesting how the criterion for both the communist regime THERE in North Korea and the church growth movement HERE in America are strikingly similar in that preachers should never offend their hosts or audience by proclaiming something biblical that convicts the conscience, challenges the consensus or shames the stalwarts of the secular status quo - just "fill the seats?" If my memory serves me, Jesus often offended, even chastised the very people that invited Him to dinner, many of whom were leaders in their communities. I guess He failed to appreciate the more expedient aspects of effective church growth during His earthly ministry.
"'God's using Rick Warren as a vessel for peace,' said Sue Foley, a photographer for the church.'"
Well, I don't know about Christianity's God using Rick as a "vessel of peace" but it sure looks like North Korea's god might well be...
Think about; what better way to get a "Christian" president and his "Christian" constituency whose "Christian" country you've been threatening with nuclear attack, to at least temporarily "turn the other cheek," (CGM translation: Look the other way) while you spitefully launch a half dozen or more test missiles into the sky, than to cordially invite their most celebrated pastor to come over and preach his "P.E.A.C.E. plan" the following year? Somebody's buying time here friends.
Has it worked? You tell me. When was the last time you heard the White House talk tough with North Korea? The comments have been awfully calm and conciliatory of late from the Oval office considering the unsettling events of recent days; and because the tentative date for Warren's "preaching" isn't until 2007, it means North Korea can keep "testing" missiles without so much as a Purpose Driven peep from America's president. Pretty slick, huh?
Yeah, I would say Warren's being used by Kim Jong II alright; and probably in more ways than one.
In a related Agape Press article, Jody Brown quoted North Korean activist Suzanee Scholte, chairman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, as saying this about the trip:
"'This is a Satanic regime,' says Scholte, 'and to go in there and believe that you could actually preach freely is an illusion. It won't do anything to help the church. It will only put the true church at risk, and it will be used as a propaganda piece by the Kim Jong Il regime.' And the Coalition leader wonders what Warren will be able to preach. 'Kim Jong Il has set himself up as a god. Is [Rick Warren] going to say, Kim Jong Il is not your god - God is God?' she asks. 'They are raised to believe Kim Jong Il is god and that the God we worship doesn't exist. And so, what is he going to preach?' Scholte says she fears that after the event is over, anyone who is perceived to be a real Christian will be 'rounded up and sent to a political prison camp."
So, this would suggest Satan too has something to gain from Warren's visit to North Korea and might also be using him for his own spiritual purposes there, like skillfully retaining for eternity, all those lost souls who will gather to hear the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ preached in 2007 only to be presented with a politically palatable Purpose Driven pep talk, thanks to the PDL pastor's "savvy message tailoring."
At least that's what Rob Eshman, Editor-in-Chief of The Jewish Journal called it when Pastor Warren recently addressed Jews at the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles:
"Warren managed to speak for the entire evening without once mentioning Jesus - a testament to his savvy message-tailoring."
But I guess as long as their synagogues become Purpose Driven, that's really all that matters, huh? It's OK to reject Jesus Christ as long as they accept Rick Warren.
"But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." - Matthew 10:33
Eshman also noted THIS about Warren in his subsequent editorial:
"As I sat listening to him speak at Sinai Temple's Friday Night Live Shabbat services last week, I thought of the only other person I'd met with Warren's eloquence, charisma, and passion - but Bill Clinton carries a certain amount of baggage that Warren doesn't."
How about, same persona, different baggage?
In a July 5th Associated Baptist Press article by Hannah Elliott, Christian radio host and columnist Ingrid Schlueter summed up Warren's upcoming visit to North Korea this way:
"...Warren won't 'call the communist faithful to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ' because he preaches a 'man-centered, counterfeit gospel.'
'Not for a moment do these leaders worry that they will have a Christian revival on their hands by letting Mr. Warren speak,' she said. 'Rick Warren is loved and feted because his message is absent the cross and Christ's call to die. That's why he is popular and politically useful.'"
"Warren acknowledged his trip could be used by the Korean government for propaganda or further persecution but said it is worth the risks.
'I know they're going to use me, so I'm going to use them,' he said.'"
Well, isn't that courageous? Pastor Warren is ready and willing to sacrifice the health, safety and wellbeing of every Christian in North Korea to plant his Purpose Driven flag on communist soil where everyone EXCEPT the Church of Jesus Christ has something to gain, unless of course you consider intimidation, persecution, imprisonment, suffering, torture and martyrdom to be "gain."
Now, I don't know about Rick using the North Korean government, but he sure seems to have no problem using North Korean Christians; but then again, in the church growth movement, "the end justifies the means;" so I guess we should all just Praise The Lord and pass the body bags, is that it?
And if you think the United States government is going to sit idly by while the President's prominent PDL pal pops in on the "axis of evil" to help them find their purpose beneath the rockets red glare, you need to turn the TV off and get a clue. If things don't work out to his "divine" satisfaction, I'm sure Kim Jong II would have no qualms about sending the good reverend home aboard a Taepodong-2; so, Bush and company had better be VERY seeker-sensitive about how THEY use "The People's Pastor" over there in North Korea.
But I suppose, in the final analysis, when all is said and done, the Lord, in His own Sovereign and mysterious way, will ultimately take this mess called mankind and somehow manage to use us ALL for His glory and purpose - and yes, believe it or not, even Rick Warren and Kim Jong II.
"The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil." - Proverbs 16:4
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Paul Proctor, a rural resident of the Volunteer state and seasoned veteran of the country music industry, retired from showbiz in the late 1990's to dedicate himself to addressing important social issues from a distinctly biblical perspective.
As a freelance writer and regular columnist for NewsWithViews.com, he extols the wisdom and truths of scripture through commentary and insight on cultural trends and current events. His articles appear regularly on a variety of news and opinion sites across the internet and in print. Paul may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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