David Wilkerson (review)

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David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man Who BelievedDavid Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man Who Believed by Zondervan Publishing

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

God always makes a way for a praying man. You may never be able to get a college degree, you may never get rich, but God always has and always will make a way for a praying man – David Wilkerson, Kindle Location 903.

If there is one secret to the success and impact of David Wilkerson’s life, prayer is probably it, at least according to his son Gary. In David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade and the Man Who Believed, Gary Wilkerson lays it all out for us: his dad’s early years as the oldest son in the home of a strict Pentecostal preacher, his first pastorate where he supplemented his salary by selling cars, his change of focus from what people thought to what God thought, his move to New York to work amongst gang members and addicts founding what is now known as Teen Challenge, the writing of The Cross and the Switchblade, his move to California in the 60s, then to Texas, and eventually back to New York. The story takes us to Wilkerson Sr.’s death in 2011.

In a way the book is like a modern book of Acts, replete with stories of how Wilkerson Sr. used his gifts of prophecy and healing, introduced thousands to Jesus in crusades, then taught, scolded and encouraged them through his newsletter. And like the stories in Acts, there are also tales of ministry bumps, broken relationships, physical illnesses, the need to adjust to the challenges of a changing society and a changing church culture.

I appreciated the writer’s frank but always respectful tone. He loved and idolized his dad, but still makes us privy to his shortcomings. The text and the acknowledgements tell us that he went to great lengths to get all sides of the story. There are numerous quotes from ministry colleagues, students, family members, friends, and neighbors, giving us a well-rounded look at the man.

David Wilkerson’s story is exciting and inspiring, but I also found it challenging because of the high standard that he held for himself and those that worked with and for him. Some of the bits from the book I highlighted:

Always he saw the world and those around him through the lens of eternity – KL 28l.

Quoting John Sherrill about the success of The Cross and the Switchblade:

“I don’t think books take off and do well or don’t do well depending just on the quality of the writing. I think it depends on catching something that’s in the air, something that people need” – KL 1959.

Speaking of how his dad chose singer Dallas Holm and other ministry partners:

Throughout his life, Dad would speak of a certain ‘sound’ he heard in preachers, something that spoke to him of God’s holiness – KL 2065.

Ralph Wilkerson (1960s youth leader who worked with David Wilkerson)says:

“He was like some of the old revivalists. There was so much prayer behind his sermons that there was a powerful anointing on the reading and people were converted” – KL 2177.

(David Wilkerson’s preaching style was to write out his sermons in longhand, then read rather than orate them.)

And two more random quotes:

Every event was a sacred moment ordained by God, with nothing less than eternity at stake for everyone present. For that reason alone, he could never judge a sermon based on people’s reaction to it. He had to judge himself on how faithful he was to speak the message God had impressed on him – KL 2968.

When Dad spent time in the Scriptures, he wasn’t looking to gain breadth of knowledge; he was searching to know the ways of God – KL 3817.

If you want to be challenged and convicted to pray more, care more about what God thinks of you than what people do, love your fellow-man more, read this book. One thing is sure: you won’t read it with an open heart and come away unchanged.

David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade and the Man Who Believed releases from Zondervan on September 2nd. I received it as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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New Spirit-Filled Life Bible (NIV) – Kindle version (review)


New Spirit-Filled Life Bible NIVNew Spirit-Filled Life Bible-NIV-Signature by Jack Hayford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was excited when I found the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible (NIV) offered for review by Thomas Nelson as an e-book. I have used the hard copy of this Bible (NKJV version) since 2005—and love it!

What sets this study Bible apart from others is its friendliness to Charismatic-Pentecostal belief. First released in 1991, the editor’s introduction tells us that it is the product of more than twenty denominations banding together to produce a study Bible that integrates the Pentecostal-Charismatic viewpoint (Jack W. Hayford is the editor).

Here are some of its study features:

Book introductions and study notes
Each Bible book contains an introduction that deals with the usual: author, date, content (summarized), and personal application. As well, each book’s introduction has a section that talks about how Christ is revealed in the book and a “Holy Spirit At Work” section. These narrative paragraphs are followed by a book outline.

Study notes and cross-references are designated with letters and numbers within the text. All are linked in the e-book version.

The list of book commentary writers is found in the Table of Contents and includes theologians like Wayne Grudem (Romans) and Jack Hayford (Ruth and Ephesians).

Word definitions (Word Wealth)
Easy-to-understand definitions for more than 550 terms make up the Word Wealth feature. In the e-book version a diamond symbol appears next to the defined word. Click on the diamond and word link and you are whisked away to the definition.

Articles on Bible themes (Kingdom Dynamics)
Various authors explore forty-one themes—values and truths that have characterized the church—called Kingdom Dynamics. They are organized into nine clusters that represent a general category of spiritual truth. Each article is linked with two references at the bottom—one to the article preceding and one to the next in the series.

For example, cluster one, “Spiritual Foundation,” contains articles on “The Word of God,” “The Blood of the Covenant,” “The Kingdom of God,” “The Pathway of Praise,” and “Worship.”

In the e-book Bible the words “Kingdom Dynamics” appear in superscript within the text and link to the appropriate article.

Practical application (Truth-In-Action)
Following each book (in the case of the Psalms a section of chapters, for the Synoptic Gospels after Luke) is a feature (Truth-In-Action) that addresses what the book teaches and how it might impact everyday life.

Thirty-seven charts are sprinkled throughout the text. Some of my favorites are “Israel’s Annual Festivals,” “Israel’s Other Sacred Times,” “The Jewish Calendar,” “The Suffering Servant” (Bible references showing how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah), and “The Harmony of the Gospels.”

In the e-book Bible, for some of these I need to change the orientation of the display on my e-reader from portrait to landscape so that the type displays large enough to be read.

In-Text maps
There are forty-four of these. Not all are actual maps; some are paragraphs explaining the geographical movement of characters. Again, sometimes the display orientation needs to be changed for these to be legible.

The text of the Bible is followed by a series of essays including several on how to interpret the prophesies of Christ’s second coming and Revelation, several on the work of the Holy Spirit, and more.

The book ends with a concordance, created by John Kohlenberger III and developed specifically for use with the NIV. It contains 2,474 word entries with links to over 10,000 Scripture references.

Using the e-book version of this study Bible takes some getting used to. It’s well-indexed and linked though, so despite this Bible’s many features, it’s easy to navigate around. I find my best friends for this are the Table of Contents and the “Back” button of my device. The article “How to Use This Bible” (listed in the TOC) explains the differences between the e-book and print editions. I found it helpful.

What I like about this Bible:

– Its emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit.

– The easy-to-understand, devotional style of the articles.

– The Word Wealth feature. As a word nerd I love these. They come complete with the Strong’s Concordance number so it’s easy to look up the Greek or Hebrew word in a Lexicon and do even more in-depth word studies if you like. In the e-book version I like how the linking takes me straight to the word definition article (no paging through the Bible to where the article first appears).

– In the e-book version, every reference is linked. Again, no paging around. But it is easy to forget where I am if I’ve followed several links. “Back” button to the rescue!

– In the e-book version the font size is adjustable. My paper Bible’s font size is tiny and still the book is hefty. With an e-Bible, I can adjust the font size to suit my eyes.

My paper New Spirit-Filled Life Bible (NKJV) is getting worn with daily use. I’ve found it an invaluable help in the 41/2 years I’ve written my daily devotional blog. I am thrilled to have this favorite study Bible on my lightweight Kindle. I am ever so grateful to Thomas Nelson for offering this Kindle version of the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible (NIV) in exchange for a review.

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How the #StrangeFire conference confirms my continuationism


SF-LogoJohn MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference of just over a week ago was a bit of a shaker to the evangelical culture of North America and England.

In it MacArthur and his colleagues at Grace To You Church in California argued, based on their cessationist beliefs (the interpretation of the Bible that says that the Holy Spirit sign gifts reported in Acts–tongues, healing, prophecy–ceased with the Apostles),  that modern-day Pentecostals and Charismatics are wrong in their doctrine of the Holy Spirit. When they worship as they do, speaking in tongues, healing, and prophesying, they are doing it under the power and influence of another spirit. Thus they are offering “strange fire” (Leviticus 9 & 10) and many are hell-bound because of this “blasphemy.”

I did not listen to the live-stream of the conference (though someone in my house did) but base my reaction to what was said on the transcripts and quotes from the talks that I have read.

This challenge to my continuationist beliefs has caused me to check back in the Bible as to why I believe as I do. And I am thankful for this conference for that reason. Many online articles have also helped me find resources and in some cases expressed my thoughts more articulately than I could. This post is a collection of links to some of those articles from both sides.

Tim Challies (Reformed blogger from Canada) has transcribed many of the sessions from the Strange Fire conference. His blog articles are linked on THIS page:

The Cripplegate blog  also has some detailed reports of the Strange Fire sessions. Check the links on THIS CRIPPLEGATE PAGE.

Challies has an article on and transcript of “John MacArthur’s Opening Keynote.” These quotes from Tim Challies’ article help give a sense of the focus, tone, and spirit of the conference. In the transcription part of the post he credits MacArthur with saying:

“The charismatic movement continually dishonors God in its false forms of worship. It dishonors the Father and Son, but most specifically, the Holy Spirit. Many things are attributed to the Holy Spirit that actually dishonor him. In many places in the charismatic movement they are attributing to the Holy Spirit works that have actually been generated by Satan.”

“People have been saved in charismatic churches, but nothing coming from that movement has been the reason they were saved. Nothing within the movement has strengthened the gospel or preserved truth and sound doctrine. It has only produced distortion, confusion and error.”

Adrian Warnock is the pastor of a charismatic church in England and also a blogger. Here is his response to John MacArthur’s opening address: “Strange Fire: John MacArthur claims no good has come out of the Charismatic Movement.”  A little later he wrote “Strange Fire: a Charismatic response to John MacArthur.”

I was especially interested in reading about the conference talk “A Case for Cessationism” in which Tom Pennington outlined the basis on which the Grace To You crowd (and probably many others) believe these gifts should no longer be in evidence. I was looking for strong biblical proof and references (these are sola scripturites, after all).

Thus I was surprised (well, maybe not really) that in Pennington’s seven so-called “biblical arguments for cessationism” there is no clear scripture cited to support the belief that these gifts have ceased. All the Scriptures given only support that conclusion arrived at by inference. In several cases I would submit that the premises that foundation these arguments are also faulty.

(Example: Reason No. #1 “The unique role of miracles. The argument is: 1] There were only three primary periods in which God worked miracles. 2] The primary purpose of miracles was to establish the credentials of the miracle-worker as a messenger from God. 3] The apostles’ miracles served that same purpose. 4] We conclude the pattern continues: “because we see this pattern throughout Scripture, it is reasonable to conclude that with the death of the apostles and end of their ministry, miracles ceased. Just as they ceased when Moses passed and Elijah and Elisha passed” [quote from Tim Challies’ transcript of the address].

I don’t agree with the opening statement: “There were only three primary periods in which God worked miracles.” Jack Deere in his book Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, tells the story of how he took a seminary student applying for doctoral studies at Dallas Theological Seminary through the Old Testament, showing him the miracles that flow through the entire OT. He concludes:

“In chapter after chapter the student was forced to list miraculous and supernatural occurrences that contradicted his assertion that miracles only occurred at three points in the history of Israel. The student was forced to admit not only that could he not defend his position, but that the Scriptures actually contradicted it” Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, pp. 49-52.)

Which brings me to another great find–a list of top Charismatic theology books. “My list of top 10 books of Charismatic theology” by Luke Geraty reminded me that I had his #1 choice, the Jack Deere book I quoted  above, sitting on my bookshelf. I got it out and began reading.

Here are a couple of quotes from that book–a reminder of why, 13 years ago, we left the continuationist-professing but experience-denying and -discouraging congregation, of which we had been a part for many years, for a Pentecostal church:

“If you were to lock a brand-new Christian in a room with a Bible and tell him to study what Scripture has to say about healings and miracles, he would never come out of the room a cessationist.

[…] This (cessationism) is not a system of doctrine that I would ever come up with on my own. I had to be taught that the gifts of the Spirit had passed away. … I am absolutely convinced that the Scriptures do not teach that the gifts of the Spirit passed away with the death of the apostles. It is not the teaching of the Scriptures that causes people to disbelieve in the contemporary ministry of the miraculous.

There is one basic reason why Bible-believing Christians do not believe in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit today. It is simply this: they have not seen them” – Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit pp. 54, 55.

Then yesterday I came across an article that expresses pretty closely what I was feeling about the lack of biblical evidence for cessationism in Pennington’s list. In the article “John MacArthur, Cessation Theology and Trainspotting for Cave Dwellers,” Jack Rutland says:

“Cessation theology, so-called, is, astonishingly enough, exactly what it denounces: completely nonbiblical. There is absolutely no clear biblical statement that the gifts of the Spirit have gone anywhere, especially away. How could they go away? What could that possibly even mean? The Holy Spirit has not taken the last train for the coast. The gifts are His gifts. They were not the possession of the apostles nor of the church in any time or location. Where the Spirit is, the gifts are.

[…] “The problem is the Bible never says the gifts would stop this side of heaven. That is the crux. Show me in the Bible. That is the bottom line.”  Read entire  …

Finally, one of the things that bothers me most about this conference is how it has the cessasionist vs. continuationist camps slinging mud at each other. It isn’t as evident on the blog posts as it is in the comments. In that department, I appreciated editor of Charisma Magazine Lee Grady’s  balanced and gracious article “To My Fundamentalist Brother John MacArthur, Grace to You.”

All that to say that this Strange Fire Conference probably had the opposite effect than what its originators had hoped, at least on this simple Bible-loving Canadian woman.

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