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   The February 2002 Pneuma Informer

The February 2002 Pneuma Informer

In this Issue:

What's New at www.PneumaFoundation.org

On-line article by Kevin Williams "Why Believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?" A compelling reason to trust in God alone. — added February 18, 2002

Also, be sure to check out the "What's New" section on the Pneuma Foundation homepage. New articles and other features are being added regularly.

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Reports from Around the World

Former "Killing Fields" Become Spiritual Harvest Fields
The "Killing Fields" in Cambodia have become harvest fields. According to the missionary agency Christian Aid Missions (CAM), 37,787 people last year heard the gospel for the first time through Kampuchea for Christ (KC), a Cambodian evangelistic and church-planting ministry. As a result, 4,866 people accepted Jesus, and 434 of them were baptized.
Aaron Lee and his wife, who survived the Killing Fields, started KC in 1995. During the regime of communist dictator Pol Pot, an estimated 3 million people died of brutal bludgeoning killings, starvation and disease from 1975 to 1979 throughout the southeast Asian country. Charlottesville, Va.-based CAM said Lee escaped from a slave camp and became a Christian shortly thereafter. The couple eventually moved to the United States in 1979, but returned 12 years later when Cambodia's borders reopened.
Lee told CAM that unprecedented opportunities have opened up in the last few years, including the prime minister allowing the ministry to hold a "Jesus Millennium Celebration" in 1999 that drew 50,000 people for a Christmas outreach. "Now instead of hiding from authorities for his life, Aaron Lee is one of the most sought-after personalities in Cambodia," CAM observed. "He and his co-workers have started 2,000 groups of believers throughout the country."
Source: Charisma News Service (Feb 15, 2002, 3:228). Used by permission.

Church planting continues in India despite persecution and poverty
Victor Choudhrie reports that house churches were planted in 1,200 villages in central India during 2001, and in a total of 2,600 central Indian villages since 1997. The actual number of churches is much higher, because many villages have more than one house church. The house church planting movement, relatively new to India, has also begun to take foot in other Indian states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. Despite harsh punishments for Christian baptisms in Madhya Pradesh, Chatisgarh and Orissa, some 25,000 people have been baptized in the last 4 years. "The increasing persecution of Christians and the rural population's bitter poverty don't make for an easy life in any way, but they do not stop the spread of Christianity," says Choudhrie.
Source: Dr. Victor Choudhrie, e-mail victor_btl [at] sancharnet.in; by way of Friday Fax 2002/05

Europe: Unparalleled Revival Touches Gypsies
They have been despised, rejected and persecuted for centuries, but Europe's Gypsies are experiencing a revival unparalleled among other peoples in the region—and are taking the gospel to the nations through which they are scattered.
Although accurate statistics are hard to come by for both cultural and political reasons, widely held estimates put the number of born-again Gypsies in Europe at 500,000 to a million—out of a population of somewhere between 11 million and 38 million.
In France alone, Life & Light (L&L), a branch of the Assemblies of God, currently counts some 130,000 Gypsy believers—a third of the country's total Gypsy population. The movement has planted 210 Gypsy churches in France and trained more than 1,300 pastors. It has sent out missionaries to 40 countries and founded Bible schools in three.
In Spain, the first major L&L mission field, there are now 500 Gypsy churches with some 2,000 pastors, and 90,000 out of 600,000 Gypsies are baptized believers, according to the typically conservative estimates given by L&L itself. Spanish "Gitano," or Gypsy, pastors say there are about 1 million Spanish Gypsies and a total number of believers varying between 100,000 and 500,000 or more.
L&L claims 7 percent, or 25,000 born-again Gypsies out of 300,000, in England, and 10 percent, or 1,000 out of 10,000, in Finland. Finnish Gypsy representatives report 25 percent evangelical believers. A recent hot spot has been the town of Leskovac in South Serbia, where the Gypsy branch of the Leskovac Pentecostal Church is growing explosively.
L&L president Jimmy Meier said that the Gypsy revival is "100 percent Assemblies of God in doctrine." Answering the critics who claim that there is too much emotionalism and too little repentance among the Christian Gypsies, Meier said that "biblical truth causes the Gypsy converts to change their lives completely. There is no more fighting, stealing and drinking."
He said: "We try to approach people with grace, not judging them prematurely. There have been many 'baptized sinners' among us who later on were truly converted." But "our love for nature, music and a life on the move does not change. We pray to keep our culture."
The struggle to retain their unique identity is a battle Gypsy people have fought for decades. Even today in a Europe officially sworn to ethnic and cultural plurality and the political rights of minorities, the Gypsy culture is actively suppressed and, in consequence, seriously threatened. Past persecution included the "Gypsy holocaust" under the Nazis, in which up to 600,000 were killed, most in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Gypsy church leaders expect the revival to change the political and social status of the Gypsy people. "Traditionally we have been many, but divided, and now God is uniting us as a people with the common goal of serving Him," said May Bittel, a Swiss Gypsy who is an accredited Council of Europe expert for Gypsy issues.
"Also, the authorities cannot but acknowledge that the Christian Gypsies do not fit the stereotype of Gypsies being fighters, thieves and drunkards. The more Christian Gypsies, the stronger our position in our political battle for recognition as a nation in our own right."
Source: by Tomas Dixon in Charisma News Service (Feb 14, 2002, 3:227). Used by permission.

Excerpts from the Winter 2002 (Vol 5, No 1) issue of the Pneuma Review

The Pneuma Review is a quarterly printed journal of ministry resources and theology for Pentecostal and charismatic ministries and leaders.

From Part 2 of the article by Larry Taylor, "Worldviews in Conflict: Christian Cosmology and the Recent Doctrine of Spiritual Mapping"

Analogies and Anecdotes vs. Biblical Authority

Throughout this study I have refrained from using personal anecdotes and testimonies that contradict the findings of the spiritual mapping proponents. Although I have numerous stories to tell—and I understand the power of a story—I elected to withhold key illustrations in order to speak plainly about my concerns for biblical authority. When someone you trust tells you a story, you tend to believe him—out of respect and devotion for the person. Yet when biblical truth is involved, we are compelled to look deeper at the process of reasoning.

Many believers today are more interested in the latest "word" and testimonies of miraculous accounts rather than the slow and more tedious task of ascertaining biblical certainty. Like "news from the front," we exult at the first words of victory. However, it is more characteristic of a nervous people to receive good news uncritically than to probe more deeply for biblical explanations.

How should we respond to the news of several cities across the globe experiencing revival because of the success of spiritual warfare? Admittedly, we have no reason to doubt the credibility of the stories, testimonies and accounts of transformed lives and cities by the power of God.[
70] Nor should we question the obvious victory of the Kingdom of God in these places over the forces of darkness. Such is reportedly the case in cities such as Almolonga, Guatemala, and Cali, Colombia.[71] Christians everywhere should be thankful for the large-scale conversions and give glory to God.

Nevertheless, we have sufficient biblical support to doubt that the main reason for the transformations is reducible to the careful research of demonic powers within those regions. I would argue, contrariwise, that the wonderful transformation of individuals and cities in South America, Africa, and the U.S. is due more to the providential might of God, and the profound willingness of a minority of dedicated believers to actually care for their city, rather than the study of demonic influences.

Some of the church leaders showed the extent of their dedication and sacrifice by literally laying down their lives for the harvest.[72] We cannot underestimate the power of God resident in unfettered passion for the lost, nor the resilient efforts by those called to reach a city. Spiritual mapping is not necessarily the reason for success in those cities, the sovereign work of Almighty God and the obedient compassion of a few Christians may sufficiently explain the phenomena. Once again, we must not allow our individual perspective of reality to shape our biblical positions, a point—ironically—that Otis, Jr. makes himself.[73]

C. Peter Wagner's attempt to justify the practice of spiritual mapping biblically by the use of analogy also falls short of the mark. He proposes that criticisms about spiritual mapping are similar to the issues raised about the historic Sunday School Movement and the abolition of slavery.[74] His basic point is somewhat valid; the church has practices that are only remotely connected to Bible truth, such as our traditional wedding ceremony. However, the wedding ceremony expresses a legitimate biblical and cultural attitude toward the sanctity and regality of marriage. The Sunday School Movement was based squarely on the biblical principle to educate adults and children in the ways of God (Lev. 10:11; Deut. 6:7; Col 3:16; I Tim. 4:11; II Tim. 2:24-25). The practice of slavery, which persisted in the ancient and modern world on the basis of faulty economic grounds, human pride and ignorance, was implicitly denounced by the New Testament teaching of equality in the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:12-26; Gal. 3:28-29).

Since the practice of spiritual mapping lacks clear biblical support, where does it find its support and inspiration? The aforementioned analogies, anecdotes and inner-guidance of the adherents appear to offer the main support for the doctrine. However, when pressed on the issue of biblical support, proponents sometimes graft in extra-canonical sources or pagan worldviews to fuel their positions.[75] Concerning the latter, for instance, Wagner tells a story about a demon being attached to furnishings in his home office;[76] his testimony reflects a common belief associated with animism. Cindy Jacobs offers a comparative account of a Bible being placed in the cement foundation of a building site, as a means of dispelling spiritual powers connected to an Islamic group that planned to build a training facility.[77] Thus the Bible was treated as a sacred charm—with inherent powers of its own—a practice known in religious studies as "fetishism."

As a believer in the supernatural power of God, I find it awkward—even embarrassing at times—to feel the need to question some accounts of healing miracles. For example, we read of a five-year old boy who is healed of severe leg cramps. We hear the familiar story that, upon examination, his doctors can offer no natural explanation.[78] His anxious but devoted mother, on the other hand, having a more invested interest in the boy's recovery, searches frantically for a cure. A careful inventory of the boy's bedroom reveals a dog statue that had been purchased in a foreign country. It immediately becomes suspect as a demonic residence. After angrily destroying the object, the mother is soon delighted to find her son miraculously healed. The demons have apparently been evicted along with the artifact.

The question is: is this practice, as well as others associated with the spiritual mapping movement, part of a "new work of God?" Or, are they an indication that a more primitive and dualistic worldview is being revived and propagated in the church? Wagner, himself, avoids the direct criticism that he is a practicing dualist, since he admits that Satan and his demons may only perform acts that God permits.[79] Nevertheless, by attempting to identify specific demonic forces by removing statues and other artifacts, or by examining the history of a community or a region's distinctive cultural features, his position is open to the charge that it is more characteristic of a primitive worldview than of biblical faith. It invites us into the world of divination and shamanism—and a search for spirits both past and present. Given our own country's long and illustrious history with Native Americanism, "spiritual mappers" will no doubt be prosperous on the road ahead.

My challenge is this: must we resort to manipulation and ritualistic contrivance to outwit the devil? Is the greatest weapon of the church and the individual believer reduced to a complex methodology in which good triumphs over evil in the same way a better chess player checkmates his opponent? Once again, the picture I reject is one that suggests Satan is the current landowner, and God's people must wrest it from him. Rather, it is an impoverished theology that maintains the sovereignty of God and the inherent power of the gospel is insufficient to crush the enemy.

According to the proponents of spiritual mapping, the war depends on church leaders and, especially intercessors, to rout the forces of evil. Based upon its early relative success, it would seem that human nature, typically restless and malcontent with God's more patient strategy, appears ready to receive this doctrine with "itching ears" (II Tim. 4:3). One gets the impression that Christ's simple directive to obey the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) has been transformed into a complex set of human formulas and conference lessons that, once again, promise to be the latest answer to the church's problem of ineffectiveness.

The net result is a powerful and popular movement, especially among Pentecostal and charismatic churches, where prophetic insights sometimes transcend biblical boundaries. Unfortunately, this is a movement whose doctrine remains, at best, dubious on scriptural grounds and, at worst, a sign of a revitalization of primitive and foreign cosmology that is symptomatic of our so-called open-minded churches[80] today. Therefore, it is my conclusion that, while the interest and call to new levels of spiritual warfare is biblically-based, the fascination and practice of spiritual mapping is not.

Returning to the Basics

Finally, I conclude by appealing to the hearts of the shepherds and calling the church back to its heritage—admittedly a distinctive Western heritage—that properly balances the physical and spiritual world orders and recognizes the critical role of biblical inspiration. Do we really need to understand the nature of the powers of darkness behind the scenes in order to rebuke the demonic reality that's portrayed right in front of our noses? Fighting pornography, disease, malnutrition, prostitution and poverty still require a balance of spiritual warfare and deliberate, organized action.

Let us face the biblical facts; the devil is a real influence in the world today, the church has not always performed its duty with respect to its commitment to the Great Commission, and our civilization has suffered from roughly three centuries of humanistic tradition.[81] My advice is simple: we do not have to abandon our Western Mosaic cosmology in order to benefit from the war being waged against Satan. We must, instead, rededicate ourselves to the biblical mandate to preach the Word, release the captives, and give ourselves wholly to our cities and communities—as their servants!—and as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we fail to pay attention to the fundamentals of doctrine and neglect to teach people to walk as Christians, no amount of spiritual warfare will help us. Our churches are filled with hapless teenagers, confused single adults and torn families. A woman who prophesies on Sunday morning may be unable to balance her checkbook on Monday, and have a poor credit history. A man who rebukes the devil in church one day may go home and beat his wife in a fit of rage on another day. As church leaders and pastors we are sometimes dismayed by the polarity we see demonstrated in the lives of our more "spiritual" people. Yet, if our teaching focus remains on sophisticated and esoteric training, while we neglect the basics, we should expect the sheep to stray in their walk with God. Let us, therefore, devote ourselves primarily to the "public reading of Scripture" (I Tim. 4:13) and to instructions on righteousness (II Tim. 3:16). In this way, we may see the day that all Bible-believing Christians long for: transformed lives on a large scale by the power of his Word and the work of the Holy Spirit. For surely, nothing makes a greater or more lasting impact on culture or a community than "real" Christians.

See the Winter 2002 issue of the Pneuma Review for the rest of this article by Professor Taylor.

* Endnotes appear with the full article in the Pneuma Review

Editor's Note: The Pneuma Review is still looking for a respondent to this paper by Larry Taylor. If you would like more information about responding to this paper, please contact the Pneuma Review editor.

From "The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel's Messiah" Part 4: Matthew 4:12-5:11, by Kevin Williams. Part of the Messianic Foundations Series.

Read the entire series: The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel's Messiah

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