Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 2:28 PM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

In this episode, we review Frederica Mathewes-Green recommending Heaven is for Real (and saying some AMAZING things in defense of it), Rick Joyner speaking about the need for unity (and an "Issachar Anointing"), and then we play a brief custom-made clip about Mark Driscoll.



This link takes you to my review of Heaven is for Real.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 9:35 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

In this episode, we review a message by Frederica Mathewes-Green from her podcast on Ancient Faith Radio. She speaks on the Eastern Orthodox view of Christ's sacrifice, why the western view of substitutionary atonement is wrong, and all in response to an email...from me!



This link takes you to a copy of the email conversation between Mrs. Mathewes-Green and myself.

Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 11:01 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments


I have self published a historical fiction book which is now available in print and Kindle at Amazon. It's entitled More Precious than Jewels, and is a story which takes place in fifteenth century Italy. I intended it to be a story of biblical womanhood, inspired largely by my wife, who wanted such a story and was the model I used for the main character. From the description:
Fifteenth century Italy, and the entire peninsula finds itself in one of the largest wars it has seen since the Roman Empire. For a young mountain girl named Francesca, the war is far away and has no meaning for her...until her estranged husband departs to join the mercenaries. She is left alone, struggling to find her place in their relationship.

Then, she discovers a clue that her husband may truly love her. She leaves her small, isolated village and journeys northward in the hopes of finding her husband and rekindling her marriage.

Her journey will take her from convents to cathedrals, hamlets to cities. She will encounter pilgrims and cardinals, peasants and knights. She will come to know the kind and the cruel - and some who are the sheer embodiment of evil. There will be times when she will have nothing left to give her strength, save her faith in God.
Here are the links to the two forms of media:

To the print edition.

To the kindle edition.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 10:18 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

In this episode we have Jennifer LeClaire, involved with the International House of Prayer, speaking on a "breaker anointing" in Kentucky, and Joyce Meyer, a Prosperity Gospel teacher, defending female pastors; we listen and review both on today's episode.



Here is the link to the Jennifer LeClaire video.

Here is the link to the Joyce Meyer video.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 10:20 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

In this episode, we examine a message from Joel Osteen entitled "Reprogram Your Mind." Does he teach the Gospel? Does he teach what the Bible teaches? We hold him up to the word of God and find out.



This link takes you to Justin Peters' three part presentation on the Word of Faith/Prosperity Gospel heresy.

This link takes you to a video showcasing a New Age teacher saying the exact same thing that Word of Faith preachers teach.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 10:32 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

In this (very short) podcast, I discuss why I am a Christian, and not an atheist as I once was.

Monday, July 21, 2014 at 9:58 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

The following is the full video that I played clips from in my podcast examining Word of Faith teachers Len and Cathy Mink. It features Teal Swan speaking about how to "manifest money" and "create wealth." I'm sharing it to show the similarities between the Word of Faith camp and New Age theology regarding visualization and manifestation. As I said in my podcast, Miss Swan could very well become a Word of Faith preacher - all she would have to do is add the name "Jesus" in her presentation every now and then.

Justin Peters goes into greater detail in his Call for Discernment series, which I shared here. He shows that the Word of Faith camp and non-Christian ideas of manifestation and visualization have their same roots in the metaphysical movements from the 1800's.

Note: As I recall, there's a picture of the middle finger used as a graphic somewhere in the video. Just a warning if you're watching with kids nearby.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 9:52 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

In this episode, we present a dramatized reading of the Mike Bickle/Bob Jones sessions from the late 1980's, taken from the Aberrant Practices document. It features much of the insane stuff Bob Jones talked about or claimed at that time...but remember, this is a man who many considered a great prophet even up until his recent death, and who many still consider to be a great prophet of God. This is the man who Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer, claims greatly influenced him, was his "buddy," and who he looked up to as a spiritual role model.

As much as some of this will make you laugh, it should also disturb you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 6:23 PM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

Before I begin this post, let me make it clear there is nothing wrong with praying for cities. Whether it's your hometown, New York City, London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Baghdad, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, etc., that's fine. Jerusalem is included in this list. It is perfectly fine to pray that God would protect a city, bring revival to a city, protect believers in a city, have mercy on a city, etc. Again, Jerusalem is included in this list.

The question is...are Christians told by scripture to pray specifically for Jerusalem?

I recently encountered a gentleman on Twitter (his identity is not vitally important) who said that "we are told in the Bible to pray for two cities 1) your own city 2) Jerusalem." The obvious inference was in regards to the current crisis in the Middle East regarding Hamas and Israel. What struck me about this was it seemed to suggest that Christians were commanded by scripture to pray for the city of Jerusalem.

The Biblical Problem

I asked the gentleman where New Testament believers were commanded to pray for Jerusalem; he responded that, as the early church "lived in the psalms," the early believers "would have felt the applicability of Psalm 122." This was a reference specifically to the wording of Psalm 122:6a, which reads: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (ESV).

Logically speaking, note that the individual is starting with an assumption (Psalm 122 would have been applicable to early believers) and is backing it up with a vague historical fact (the early Christians used the psalms). This is begging the question, however, on the notion that early Christians would have interpreted Psalm 122 to mean a literal Jerusalem for which to pray (which we will get to in a moment). Already we see a dilemma in this kind of doctrine. While there is no doubt that the early Christians would have used the psalms, or worshiped with the psalms, we must remember that they would have to use them within context, depending on each individual psalm. There is no evidence, for example, that any Christian in the early history of the church interpreted Psalm 137:9 to mean that Christians should kill infants.

With this in mind, let's examine the full psalm (it's only nine verses):
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that is built as a city that is compact together; to which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord—an ordinance for Israel—to give thanks to the name of the Lord. For there thrones were set for judgment, The thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, “May peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good. [Psalm 122:1-9; NASB]
Traditionally, this is believed to be a Davidic psalm, though some scholars have placed its dating not until after the exile; in either case, it can be safe to assume that this is about an Old Testament Jew going to the Temple. The first few verses are the language of a pilgrim, going to Jerusalem, as all Jews were commanded to do (cf. Exo 23:17; Deu 16:16).

The language suggests that the pilgrims have just arrived (v. 2) and beholding the city as a "city that is joined to her together" (as it says in the original Hebrew of v. 3). Traditionally, this is translated to suggest that the buildings were built closely together (hence the NASB's rendering of "compact together"). The NET translator notes suggest that this may refer to the duality of Jerusalem's function in the old state of Israel, as it was the center both of the religious and civil authorities (the reference to the seats of judgment and the thrones of David in v. 5 would give some support for this). On the other hand, the Targum (an early Aramaic paraphrase/commentary of the Bible) suggests that this was in reference to the heavenly Jerusalem; the Jews of Christ's time did indeed believe in the "Jerusalem below," or the literal Jerusalem, and a "Jerusalem above," referring to God's realm (hence the apostle Paul's reference to the Jerusalem above in Galatians 4:26).

This connection was broken (or perhaps, more properly, mended) by the connection between man and God brought about by the first advent of Christ, the rejection of Christ by the Jewish state, and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Christ came and "tabernacled" among us (the literal translation of "dwelt among us" in John 1:14), and by His atoning sacrifice and resurrection he became a high priest and made the Levitical priesthood null and void, and gave the final atonement for the sins of His sheep, making null and void the Temple sacrifices as well.

In the last few verses, the psalmist begins to speak of how he will "pray for the peace of Jerusalem." The reason for this prayer is seen in the following verses: so that those who love Jerusalem may prosper (not meaning financially or physically, but simply that they would have tranquility or security); that peace may be within Jerusalem's walls, and prosperity within the palaces (meaning that the civil institutions would be stable); for the sake of the psalmist's "brothers" and "friends" (meaning fellow believers). For these three main reasons, the psalmist states that he will now say "may peace be within" Jerusalem. Finally, the psalmist says that "for the sake of the house of the LORD our God," he will see "good for you" (in the literal Hebrew), meaning that he will seek the good that is within Jerusalem through prayer.

Let us now highlight the purposes of this "Jerusalem," according to the psalmist:
  • It is where believers go to worship God and "give thanks to the name of the Lord" (v. 4)
  • Those who love this Jerusalem will find tranquility and peace (v. 6)
  • Praying for peace within this Jerusalem is done for the sake of fellow believers (v. 8)
  • This Jerusalem contains the good of the Lord, of which believers may seek (v. 9)
At the time of the psalmist, this context fit very well. Today, these traits could not fit within the context of modern Jerusalem, which is ruled by modern day secular Israel, inhabited largely by Jews who deny Christ and the Trinitarian God.

The fact is, this could only refer to the spiritual Jerusalem (Paul's "Jerusalem from above"), found within the modern day church and with faith in Christ. Modern day believers do not need to pray for Jerusalem to obtain the good of the Lord, for we have it in Christ, the "tabernacle" of the New Testament. We cannot consider the Jewish and Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem to be our "brothers," as they are not brothers and sisters in Christ. We do not need to go to Jerusalem to worship God and give Him thanks, for our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19) and Christ is our eternal high priest (Heb 7:26-27).

There are therefore two possibilities regarding this passage:

Firstly, this is a passage written in the context of believers under the old covenant, and the importance of Jerusalem to the individual believer.

Secondly, this is a passage with eternal implications, but within the context of each individual testament. In the old, it was for a literal Jerusalem; in the new, it is for the spiritual Jerusalem.

The Historical Problem

Related to this is the issue is that, historically speaking, most of the early Church Fathers, and most theologians afterward, saw the extension of many passages regarding Jerusalem and Judea into the new covenant within a spiritual context - that is, Jerusalem, Judea, Israel, and many other names refer to the church or body of believers within the new covenant. Just as the sons of Israel were God's chosen people in the old covenant, so are Christians, the spiritual sons of Israel according to the promise (cf. Rom 9:8), God's chosen people in the new covenant.

The contention by the gentleman I was speaking to was that Justin Martyr and other Fathers believed Christ, upon his second coming, would reign in the literal city of Jerusalem. While it is true that many Historic Premillennial Church Fathers believed Jerusalem would carry some significance at the end times, this does not negate that, at the same time, they upheld passages about Jerusalem in a spiritual context. One quote from Justin Martyr (who lived in the second century):
“Now, sirs,” I said, “it is possible for us to show how the eighth day possessed a certain mysterious import, which the seventh day did not possess, and which was promulgated by God through these rites. But lest I appear now to diverge to other subjects, understand what I say: the blood of that circumcision is obsolete, and we trust in the blood of salvation; there is now another covenant, and another law has gone forth from Zion. Jesus Christ circumcises all who will—as was declared above—with knives of stone; that they may be a righteous nation, a people keeping faith, holding to the truth, and maintaining peace. Come then with me, all who fear God, who wish to see the good of Jerusalem. Come, let us go to the light of the Lord; for He has liberated His people, the house of Jacob. Come, all nations; let us gather ourselves together at Jerusalem, no longer plagued by war for the sins of her people. ‘For I was manifest to them that sought Me not; I was found of them that asked not for Me;’ He exclaims by Isaiah: ‘I said, Behold Me, unto nations which were not called by My name. I have spread out My hands all the day unto a disobedient and gainsaying people, which walked in a way that was not good, but after their own sins. It is a people that provoketh Me to my face.’” [Dialogue with Trypho; 25; source]
The rest of the conversation is likewise beneficial, as Justin and Trypho speak, and Justin clearly distinguishes between the literal Judea Jerusalem of the old covenant, and the spiritual Judea and Jerusalem of the new covenant. Justin Martyr cannot be telling Christian believers to literally go to the literal Jerusalem - he must clearly be speaking of a spiritual Jerusalem.

Other Church Fathers could be called into account for this. For example, Tertullian speaks of "the true catholic Jerusalem" (The Five Books Against Marcion, 3:22; source) and calls individual Christian believers "a citizen of Jerusalem" (De Corona, Ch. 13; source). Likewise Hippolytus, commentating on the psalms, states that we are citizens of "the Jerusalem which is above" (On Psalm 62:6; source). Also Alexander of Alexandria calls Christ "the Son of the true Jerusalem" (On the Soul and Body and the Passion of the Lord; source). The gentleman mentioned before had argued that, before the Council of Nicaea, a "spiritualized Jerusalem" was not a common belef...as these quotes hint at, that isn't true.

The fact is, there is no direct command in scripture to pray for the city of Jerusalem. While there is nothing wrong with Christians praying for Jerusalem of their own conviction, and while we shouldn't argue God will automatically ignore prayers meant for Jerusalem, we should not go to the extreme that we are somehow commanded, by God's holy word, to pray for a single literal word. There is simply no evidence of this in scripture, and it is foreign to Christian history.

Friday, July 11, 2014 at 4:41 PM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

This post is inspired by Richard Liantonio's post The Myth of Matthew 18. Those who know me personally, or have kept track of this blog through Twitter, know I have had to tackle the meaning of Matthew 18:15-17 much more than I ever imagined I would. Mister Liantonio's post was a refreshing read, and inspired me to tackle the subject of Matthew 18:15-17, and what it does and doesn't mean.

First, let's look at the three verses in question (all citations from Matthew 18 will be in purple):
"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." [Matthew 18:15-17; NASB]
Now, let's examine these three verses bit by bit.
"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother." [v. 15]
Many not used to the NASB translation may notice that something appears missing from this verse; the traditional reading of the verse is "if your brother sins against you." These two words have been used by some people to try to argue that Matthew 18:15 is solely dealing with personal affronts, and hence people who hear a Christian has sinned against someone else should, in essence, "mind their own business." The reason for this difference between translations is that the words "against you" are actually a textual variant. The NET translation notes for this verse read:
The earliest and best witnesses lack “against you” after “if your brother sins.” It is quite possible that the shorter reading in these witnesses (א B, as well as 0281 f1 579 pc sa) occurred when scribes either intentionally changed the text (to make it more universal in application) or unintentionally changed the text (owing to the similar sound of the end of the verb ἁμαρτήσῃ [hamartēsē] and the prepositional phrase εἰς σέ [eis se]). However, if the mss were normally copied by sight rather than by sound, especially in the early centuries of Christianity, such an unintentional change is not as likely for these mss. And since scribes normally added material rather than deleted it for intentional changes, on balance, the shorter reading appears to be original. NA27 includes the words in brackets, indicating doubts as to their authenticity.
If "against you" is not to be considered part of the original manuscripts, then this signifies that this verse does not refer to a personal affront, and hence such a situation does not need to occur for us to confront a brother who sins. This also makes Matthew 18:15 perfectly in line with Galatians 6:1, where the apostle Paul writes "if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted."

If a brother is discovered or sin, or we somehow discover that a brother has sinned, we are told to "show him his fault in private." The Greek for "show him his fault" is literally in the Greek "go reprove him" (ὕπαγε ἔλεγξον αὐτὸν). The word for "reprove" is the same used by the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:2; the general idea is that you should go and demonstrate the guilt of your brother. Obviously this should be done, as the apostle Paul said, "in a spirit of gentleness," hoping to bring the brother to repentance and not simply make them feel guilty for their transgressions (though, if they are truly repentant, guilt should be a definite part of it). The goal of this confrontation is that the brother "listens to you" - that is, he repents of his sins, confesses them, and seeks to show the fruits of this repentance.

Some have argued that there should be given "time to repent." However, this is nowhere in the passage, and tends to be argued simply to give the person an excuse to continue in sin.

We are told to do this "alone" (μόνου). Much has been attempted to be said and done about this single word, and so let's understand two things about it:

What this does mean is that we should do this reproving in private, to respect the dignity of our brother. We should not bring it out into the open, or before the entire church, simply at the drop of a hat, unless there is some immediate danger or concern for another person's life or well-being.

What this doesn't mean is that we are absolutely forbidden from seeking advice or help on this matter. The "alone" here (as Mister Liantonio rightfully points out) simply contrasts it with the reproof involving one or two more witnesses in verse 16 - it is about the confrontation itself, not the prayerful consideration leading up to the confrontation.

Let us say, for the sake of example, that someone sees one of their fellow church members at a restaurant with a woman not his wife. Maybe he doesn't feel comfortable confronting the individual, but he goes to a friend of the man and says, "Hey, could you talk to your friend? I've seen him in sin." In this case, the friend would be taking over the regulations of Matthew 18:15. He may also make it more anonymous, but ask some brothers, "Hey, I've seen someone at my church in sin - should I confront him?" It is perfectly possible to seek godly council and not enter into the realm of gossip.

Of course, gossip should be avoided. However, there is a difference between "I've seen so-and-so committing sin, what should I do?" and "Hey, have you heard about what so-and-so did?"
"But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed." [v. 16]
Verse 16 presumes that, after the private confrontation, the brother in Christ did not repent, and has stubbornly continued without repentance, or have even remained active in sin. At this point, the person doing the confronting takes one or two more people who are also aware of the brother's transgression.

The reference to the "mouth of two or three witnesses" is actually a citation from the Law (Deu 19:15). This is also, incidentally, the "two or three" Christ is referring to in v. 20, which is perhaps one of the most misused passages of scripture: Christ is not referring to church fellowship, but to church discipline.
"If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." [v. 17]
Verse 17 assumes that the individual has not repented, even though he was confronted by two or three people on their sin. In this case, the person is brought forward to "the church." This suggests that the sin is to be handled in a local context, within the sinning individual's church, and by the church body.

The idea of being "as a Gentile and a tax collector" is that you should not associate with such a person on a high level (in the first century Jewish context, Gentiles were not allowed within the inner parts of the Temple, and tax collectors were considered among the very worst of sinners). Most would rightly assume that this means excommunication, or at the very least enacting some form of church discipline which removes from the individual the joy of fellowship.

The unfortunate situation nowadays is that many people are "lone wolf Christians," or do not attend a church for reasons outside their control, and hence have no primary authority to be disciplined by. Some things to consider:

First, if someone is a lone wolf Christian, then they are in violation of scripture's command to be a part of corporate worship (cf. Heb 10:25), and this suggests some deeper spiritual issues with the individual. I would put forward, if a person continues to willingly forsake fellowship even after it has been offered to them, and they are fully capable of engaging in fellowship, then this may be a sign that they are not truly converted, and in this case (but only in the most extreme scenario), the person may be already considered "as a Gentile and a tax collector."

Second, if the person has a legitimate reason they are not part of a fellowship of believers, then the solution will most likely be on a case-by-case basis, and at the discretion and conviction of those who are exhorting him to repent. Obviously, the ultimate goal would be that the person be brought to repent.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 9:38 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

In this episode, we review an episode of the Len and Cathy Mink TV show, reviewing how Christ died so we could have "stuff." In doing so, we examine the Word of Faith heresy, and how scriptures are twisted to affirm the doctrines.



This link takes you to Justin Peters' presentation on the Word of Faith heresy.

This link takes you to my examination of Malachi 3:10

Friday, July 4, 2014 at 10:00 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

I recently dealt with a citation of Malachi 3:10, which was said you could not "out give" God, and in fact God commands that we "test Him" on this. It was being used by a local church to try to raise money, though I would not be surprised if it has been used by other churches to teach similarly.

The full context of the verse (with verse 10 highlighted in bold):
“For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts. “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts. [Malachi 3:6-12]
The book of Malachi details a series of criticisms against the nation of Israel (cf. Mal 1:1). It commonly features God making an accusation against the people about their transgressing His Law, followed by a presupposed objection the people might have (cf. Mal 1:6; 2:14; etc.), followed then by God's response and more detailed rebuke, along with an offer of reconciliation and a return to the blessings promised by the Law.

In this instance, God opens up by saying He, the Lord, does no change - meaning, in this context, that He does not change his mind regarding the covenant He made with Israel (v. 6). It is common for mortal man to give up on an agreement when the other person does not follow up with it, but it is not so with God. It is because of God's faithfulness to the covenant that He has not yet consumed the "sons of Jacob" (a reference to the promises made in Genesis 28:13 and 35:12) with judgment. These people rightly deserved judgment, because "from the days" of their fathers they "have turned aside" (that is, ignored) God's Law, and have not kept it (v. 7). However, the Lord asks them to return to Him (ie., repent), and He will return to them (ie., restore His blessings).

God then presupposes the question, "How shall we return?" In other words, what are the people to repent of, and how are they to repent? God accuses the people of robbery, and presupposes either their dumb ignorance or fake innocence with the question, "How have we robbed you?" The people are accused of not honoring the "tithes and offerings" (v. 8), but what are these "tithes and offerings"? In fact, these are references to the crops that were owed not only to the Temple (Lev 27:30-33), but which were provided for the Levites and priests (Num 18:8, 11, 19, 21-24), who had no land to sustain themselves like the other Jewish tribes had. The nation's failure to fulfill this obligation of the Law has placed them under a serious curse (v. 9).

Now we come to verse 10, where God commands the people to "bring the whole tithe into the storehouse." What does this mean? What is the "storehouse"? No doubt some pastors will attempt to spiritualize this to mean our bank accounts, but if we honor God by remaining true to the text of His holy word, we understand that this is speaking of the storehouse of the Temple (cf. Neh 13:5), as seen clearly by the following words "so that there may be food in My house." Remember, also, these are specific offerings God has commanded the people to give. These were the crops and produce of their land, and these were meant to go to the Temple (which no longer exists), and to support the Levitical priesthood (which has been replaced by Christ's priesthood). We cannot rip this verse out of it's context - we must adhere to what the word of God is saying.

Some might read God's command to "test" Him, and ponder if this is a contradiction with Deuteronomy 6:16, which clearly states not to test the Lord (and which was quoted by Christ against the devil). The key here is that these two verses actually have two different Hebrew words: Malachi 3:10 uses a form of bachan, which means to examine, try, or prove, and is often used in verses dealing with God testing mankind for their faith; Deuteronomy 6:16 uses a form of nasah, which means to test or tempt, and which, while often used in reference to God testing mankind, is also used in passages in which mankind puts God to the test, or in essence "tempts" Him to do something. Hence the KJV translation might be more accurate with the use of "prove" rather than "test."

Let me try to use an analogy to show how this verse is getting mishandled. Suppose I was good friends with someone at a car dealership, and he sold me a car for a good deal, with an understanding that I would meet the monthly payments to finish the rest of the cost. Some months down the road, I begin to fail to make the payments, and I get close to having my car repossessed...but, since we're friends, the car dealer gives me a friendly warning, saying, "You need to give me the money, and then you can keep the car." Now imagine if someone took the dealer's words and went around telling people, "Aha! Just throw money at the dealer, and he'll give you a car!" Is that an honest handling of the situation, and what the dealer said? Absolutely not.

On this note, those who attempt to use this verse to teach some kind of blessing for a monetary offering are actually in violation of Deuteronomy 6:16. When God says "put Me to the test" in Malachi 3:10, He is merely saying, "Act according to the statutes, and I will prove to you that I am faithful on my end of the covenant." On the other hand, those who teach that we should give as much as we can, as a way to see if God will do something in return, are, in essence, tempting God to act. They give as a way to say, "Come on, God, show me what You can do!" It is almost as if we are placing God under an obligation to give us financial blessing, when no such obligation exists.

Furthermore, if you continue on with the verse and those after it, you see that this blessing is agricultural in nature, not financial. It speaks of opening up "the windows of heaven," which is scriptural language for bringing rain (cf. Deu 28:12; Psa 78:23). He promises to rebuke "the devourer" (literally "the eater"), a reference to locusts and other insects which are destructive to crops; likewise, God will make certain the vineyards do not "cast" their grapes - literally "miscarry," and basically meaning a promise that the vineyards will bear fruit (v. 11). The reward will be so great that "all the nations" (meaning the Gentile nations) will call them blessed, for they are a "delightful man" (v. 12) - not meaning anything overtly spiritual, but simply meaning that, if Israel fulfills her end of the covenant, than the Gentile nations around them will see how happy and fulfilled they are.

No doubt, I'm sure, some preachers will here want to spiritualize all these things. The crops are our finances, the devourers are those who would take those finances from us (or maybe the devil, who takes time out of his day to try to make us poor), and the "nations" are those who can look at those in the church and see how prosperous Christians are. However, once again, this is robbing the passage of its original context, and spiritualizing it to say what we want it to say. We would not do this with any other historical document, and we would not want anyone doing this to our own words - why, then, should we treat the word of God with any less respect?

In conclusion, does Malachi 3:10 teach that, if we try to "out give" with our finances, we can test God and see what sort of blessings He will give us in return? On the contrary, it teaches nothing of the sort. Anyone who uses this passage to teach that it does is mishandling the word of God.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 10:18 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

In this episode, we provide a brief review of televangelist Ernest Angley, along with his questionable doctrines, and some statements I heard him and his staff make while I visited his church in person.



Much of this episode's content I owe to a study on Ernest Angley over at the discernment website Let Us Reason.

Here's the link to the blog post referencing Ernest Angley's teachings on the Latter Day Rain doctrine.

Monday, June 23, 2014 at 10:00 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

Last month, I wrote a post on Pope Francis inviting Muslim and Jewish leaders to pray to God together with Christians. Recently, I've come across a post on Patheos entitled Muslim Prayers in the Vatican…Shock Horror?!!? Written by Fr. Dwight Longenecker, it attempts to lighten some of the shock that came out in response to the news (even from clear thinking Roman Catholics). After some explanation, the author explains what really unfolded at the Vatican meeting (the words of the article are in purple). Fr. Longenecker writes, in an attempt to explain why letting Muslims worship under the auspices of the pope isn't such a bad thing:
In other words, this is a time for some Muslims, Jews and Christians to meet together for a time of prayer each in their own traditions.

Critics will say this is a subtle distinction, but it is in the subtle distinctions that true discernment lies. Others will complain that we have yet another example of the Pope’s defenders having to scurry to explain away something he should not be doing.

Hogwash.

The explanations are only necessary because of the ignorance of the press who are sensationalizing what is a low key spiritual event.

Bottom line: The Pope is meeting with two world leaders to pray together for peace. This is part of his role as the premier spiritual leader in the world.

There’s another problem however, many people are uneasy at the idea that Muslims, Jews and Christians pray to the same God. While we may find Muslim extremism to be repellent and we may have a gut level dislike of Islam it is still necessary to consider the question of who they pray to.

So think it through: First of all, there is only one God. Then there are demons who masquerade as gods, goddesses and demi-gods.

You can therefore only worship either the one God–Creator of All Things or you worship demons.

Islam is not a pagan religion. It is a Christian heresy. It formed in Christian lands and is a legalistic oversimplification of Christianity. The closest comparison we have in our culture to Islam is the Mormon religion. Both are heretical offshoots of Christianity. They therefore worship the same God we do–albeit in a defective way.
I was utterly flabbergasted when I read this, and could not believe the error that was being presented in defense of permitting Muslims to pray under Vatican authority.

Firstly, we are told that Islam was "formed in Christian lands" - in actuality, Islam was founded in predominantly pagan Arabia. It was true that there were Jewish and Christian Arabs present in the region; some of these were even among Muhammad's in-laws. It was also true that some Arabs were picking up on monotheism. However, the governments, merchants, and majority religions of the Arabian peninsula were pagan. They worshiped idols. They engaged in polytheism. The fact is, Islam was founded outside of Christian lands, not inside.

Secondly, we are told that Islam is a "legalistic oversimplification of Christianity." This is actually an oversimplification of Islam. While it would require a longer post to explain, suffice to say Islam is a conglomeration of local religions and Arabic practices, mixed with legalism and peppered with Judeo-Christian names and concepts. Many Christian concepts such as covenants, atonement, sins, and the very role of Christ, are wildly different. In short, it is as much a "Christian heresy" as Baha'i is a Muslim heresy.

Thirdly, we are told that the "closest comparison we have in our culture to Islam is the Mormon religion." This makes me ponder if Fr. Longenecker is aware of Mormon theology itself: Mormonism is, at its heart, a polytheistic religion. If anything, it is closer to the pagan religions Muhammad condemned than it is orthodox Christianity. This is not even considering that it is erroneous (as we already outlined) to say both Mormons and Islam are "heretical offshoots of Christianity."

Fourthly, the author states that Muslims "worship the same God we do-albeit in a defective way." I would like to know what our definition of "defective" is. The Allah of Islam condemns the Trinity as a damnable heresy (S. 5:73-74), supposedly quotes Jesus himself as saying he never told anyone to worship him as God (S. 5:116-117), and completely denies the historic, Biblical account of the crucifixion (S. 4:157-158). To say Islam worships the same God in a "defective way" is akin to saying Adolf Hitler handled relations with minority communities in a "defective way." God is not the author of contradiction, and would not teach contradictory doctrines - ergo, either Muhammad truly heard from the true God, and God is the author of contradiction, or Muhammad heard from false spirits, and taught the worship of a false deity.

Islam is a false religion. Muslims worship a false god. Worship of false gods is worship of demons. Muslims worship demons. QED.

While Pope Francis himself may not partake in any Muslim prayers, his permission for Muslims to come and pray and to pray alongside with Christian prayers not only puts him at odds with Decree 25 of the Ecumenical Council of Vienne (see my post here), but is simply permitting the worship of a false deity to occur under his direction. As I said in the previous blog post on this subject, peace is a noble endeavor, and tolerance between two groups is likewise a noble endeavor...however, what Pope Francis is doing is not only unbiblical in its presupposition, but in its execution as well. This attempt to soften it only makes it worse, because it continues to present the false teaching of the Second Vatican Council (Nostra Aetate; 3) as well as the Roman Catholic Catechism (841) that Muslims worship the same god as Christians. As politically incorrect it might be to say such a thing, it simply isn't true, and to try to argue otherwise is to compartmentalize historical and doctrinal facts.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 10:00 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

There probably won't be a podcast this week, or the week after, because of business in my personal life, as well as a trip I'm taking in the middle of June. In the meantime, here is an interview I did on the Long for Truth podcast, about two months ago. In it, I speak about some of the teachings of the International House of Prayer, how the late Bob Jones influenced Mike Bickle and his teachings, and the cultic nature of IHOP-KC.

Monday, June 9, 2014 at 10:00 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

One verse often cited to attempt to prove the doctrine of the Latter Day Rain (that is, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our modern day, leading to the soon-to-be second coming of Christ) is found in the epistle of James:
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. [James 5:7; KJV]
The usual explanation by those who appeal to this verse is that the "early" rain was in the days of the apostles, and the "latter" rain is in our modern times, preparing us for the "coming of the Lord." One example of this:
4. They Received the Holy Ghost and Spoke in Tongues During the Early Rain
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the EARLY and LATTER rain (James 5:7). At Pentecost the early rain fell: But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel (Acts 2:16). And…I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28). In the early rain during the early church period, EVERY GIFT AND FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT WAS MANIFESTED IN THE CHURCH until the nine gifts and the nine fruits of the Spirit hung as eighteen perfect apples upon the perfect tree. The Early Church is our pattern today. THE EARLY CHURCH HAD THE HOLY GHOST BAPTISM WITH THE EVIDENCE OF SPEAKING WITH OTHER TONGUES. [Ernest Angley; 30 Bible Teachings Why You Must Have the Holy Ghost to Make the Rapture; source; emphases in original]
Is this a correct understanding of James 5:7? Let's read the full context of it (verse 7 is in bold):
5:1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! 4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you. 7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. 10 As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. [James 5:1-11; NASB]
James spends verses 1-6 discussing the corruption of the rich who abuse their power and resources to oppress their workers and fellow man. Of course, wealth itself isn't bad, and James isn't condoning a kind of communist-like "sharing of the wealth," but he is speaking out against those who would use their wealth to make themselves superior to another man. The "therefore" in verse 7 demonstrates that James is making a concluding, continuous thought from the previous verses - in other words, it isn't coming out of isolation. In light of the corruption of the wealthy and powerful, James tells his "brethren" (most likely the poorer, oppressed Christians) to be patient until "the coming of the Lord," when these wrongs shall be made right.

James then makes a metaphor in regards to patience. He compares the patience of Christians to a farmer who "waits for the precious produce of the soil," until it "gets the early and the late rains." These "early" and "late" rains, however, are referring to literal rains: the "early" rains during the planting season, which were in October and November; and the "late rains" just before the harvesting season. Both rains took some time to happen, and would sometimes last quite a while, but the farmers waited and would bear with them, knowing that they would in the end receive their produce. James goes on from verses 8-11 to encourage the believers to be patient like a farmer would be.

A few things to note from this...

First, the focus of James is not on an "early" or "latter" rain, but on patience and endurance. That is, we endure our present sufferings because we know a day will come when all suffering will end. James mentions rain to briefly bring up a metaphor, but the larger point was in regards to a farmer's patience for rain, and hence we too must be patient for the coming of God.

Second, we should remember that those who uphold the Latter Day Rain doctrine believe that both the rain and the so-called "harvest of souls" are both happening now. However, in the context of James 5:7, this "late rain" spoken of happened before the harvest. If the Latter Day Rain doctrine really functioned as James 5:7 described it, then you would have the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, perhaps several months of inactivity, and then the great revivals would be breaking out.

Third, there is absolutely nothing here speaking about the end times. As was pointed out before, James is using a brief metaphor regarding the patience of farmers to speak of the patience of Christians. He was not telling the Christians to look for a "later rain" of the Holy Spirit, but to be patient like farmers who await the changing of the seasons. It would have been especially silly for James to tell Christians to show patience in regards to the "early" rain if he and his contemporaries lived during the time period of the "early" rain.

In the end, what we learn is that this verse from James does not teach the Latter Day Rain doctrine.

To be fair, it should be noted that there are some who uphold a kind of "latter day rain" belief in the end times, but who likewise recognize that James 5:7 is not speaking about this doctrine (such as David Guzik, to cite an example). They, too, recognize that James is merely speaking of a metaphor for farming, not attempting to create eschatological doctrine.

Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 10:00 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

The following is the three part series on the Word of Faith heresy: where it comes from, what its traits are, etc.



Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 9:19 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

In this episode, we offer a response to four YouTube videos by Adam Charles Hovey, a Roman Catholic defending his church's doctrine. Topics range from confession, to the Eucharist, to faith alone, to the topic of assurance of salvation.



This link takes you to Mister Hovey's YouTube video page.

This link goes to the podcast episode on John 6 and whether or not it teaches the Eucharist.

This link takes you to a blog post where James 2 is discussed.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 9:49 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

In this episode, we review two audio clips where Bill Maher speaks with two very different Christians.



This link takes you to the post where I discuss Matthew 25, and the sheep and the goats.

Monday, May 26, 2014 at 10:00 AM Posted by Tony-Allen Cucolo Comments

I did not intend to follow Pope Francis' visit to Israel and Palestine, but something I read in an article regarding statements he had made caught my eye. I began to look for more detailed, original sources, and found them at the official Vatican website. The first quotation here comes from Pope Francis' meeting with the leaders of the Palestine, from May 25, 2014:
Mr President, you are known as a man of peace and a peacemaker. Our recent meeting in the Vatican and my presence today in Palestine attest to the good relations existing between the Holy See and the State of Palestine. I trust that these relations can further develop for the good of all. In this regard, I express my appreciation for the efforts being made to draft an agreement between the parties regarding various aspects of the life of the Catholic community in this country, with particular attention to religious freedom. Respect for this fundamental human right is, in fact, one of the essential conditions for peace, fraternity and harmony. It tells the world that it is possible and necessary to build harmony and understanding between different cultures and religions. It also testifies to the fact that, since the important things we share are so many, it is possible to find a means of serene, ordered and peaceful coexistence, accepting our differences and rejoicing that, as children of the one God, we are all brothers and sisters. [source; emphasis mine]
That same day, Pope Francis addressed Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, inviting them to pray together at the Vatican:
In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace. I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer.

All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers. All of us – especially those placed at the service of their respective peoples – have the duty to become instruments and artisans of peace, especially by our prayers.

Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace. [source; all emphases mine]
Let me make it clear I'm not against cooperation between various groups of people, be it religious, ethnic, racial, or national. I'm not against peace. I'm not against getting along. Do not misunderstand where my contention lies.

However, let's speak about the serious spiritual implications of this. Pope Francis has asked Peres and Abbas, neither of whom worship Christ, to come to the Vatican and join him in prayer to God. What God, however, do Peres and Abbas worship? Peres worships a unitarian god, and not Christ, who is the Son of God within the Trinity; Peres is a Jewish individual who denies Christ as his Lord and Messiah. Meanwhile, Abbas is a Muslim who worships Allah, a supposed deity that taught his followers a number of things that either contradict or outright condemn Christianity. Pope Francis desires to pray together with them to God...and yet neither of them worship God!

Let me make it clear here that I am not against people praying according to their faiths. That is, if a Jew desires to pray to peace, let him pray for peace; if a Muslim desires to pray for peace, let him pray for peace. I do not believe they should be forbidden from practicing their religion. However, when it comes to cooperation, it ends at religion because it then becomes a question of who God is. Pope Francis seems to believe that all three of them can pray to God together; no they cannot, for they do not all worship the same God. Pope Francis seems to believe that they are all children of God, and brothers and sisters in faith; scripture, however, teaches that the children of God are those regenerated by God the Father to worship Christ (John 1:12-13).

Scripture teaches that any worship not offered to the true God is offered to demons (Deu 32:17; 1 Cor 10:20). Pope Francis has, in essence, asked two men to come to the Vatican and offer worship to demons. Some might protest that it is for a good cause (ie., peace), and yet scripture makes it clear such worship means nothing (1 Cor 10:19; Gal 4:8-9). A Jew or a Muslim can pray all day, but - unless they pray for repentance of their sins and confess Christ as their Lord, Savior, and King - it will ultimately mean absolutely nothing to God.

This form of syncretism (rather, the worship of various gods alongside the true God, or treating them all as one and the same) was the very thing that earned the people of ancient Israel continual condemnation throughout the days of the prophets. It was what earned so much condemnation by God against the people. It was likewise a problem which Christians have continually fought against since the days of the early believers...and yet Pope Francis (even if with good intentions) has invited this kind of syncretism to happen at the Vatican.

Last week, I wrote a post on how the Roman Catholicism's teachings regarding Islam have changed over the centuries (one proof of Luther's accusation that popes and councils have "frequently erred and contradicted themselves"). The bishops of the Council of Vienne (the Fifteenth Ecumenical Council to Roman Catholics, and therefore binding), who, in Decree 25, called Muhammad an "infidel" and ordered Christian princes "to remove this offence [of Islam] altogether from their territories," would be shocked to hear Pope Francis calling Muslims (let alone unbelieving Jews) "children of God" and "brothers and sisters," then inviting them to St. Peter's in order to pray together with him, the supposed Vicar of Christ. However, this is (as I showed in the aforementioned post) the fruit of the past century, when Rome began to soften its language towards Islam and Muslims, so that it not only decreased any unnecessary intolerance, but likewise began to eat away at religious discernment regarding true and false worship of God.

Again, peace is a noble endeavor; tolerance between two groups is likewise a noble endeavor. However, what Pope Francis is doing is not only unbiblical in its presupposition, but in its execution as well.

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