But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. -- Hebrews 5: 14 (NLT)
Does God care more about the end result or the path that gets us there? Does God care about our intentions or our obedience? These are the questions that continue to be bantered about in essence when discussing the concept of discernment. Good discernment is focused on the one thing we all should be focused on -- the Word of God. Does what we hear, speak, teach and implement line up with God's Word or not? Why are these concerns so vital? Because a grand apostasy does not happen overnight. I think sometimes Christians fool themselves into thinking the wolves are going to walk up to them and introduce themselves as such. The reality however is that I would wager most wolves do not know they are wolves. They do not see their own heresy. They see their intentions as being benign or even spiritual -- just want to reach as many for Jesus as we can! God however does not ascribe to Machiavellian philosophy. The ends most certainly do not justify the means. A lesson King Saul learned the hard way when he tried to spare the best of the plunder from his victory over the Amalekites after being ordered by God to spare nothing:
"But I did obey the Lord ," Saul insisted. "I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal." -- 1Samuel 15: 20-21 (NLT)
How often do we find ourselves like Saul insisting before God that we did obey when we know deep down we did not? How often does the church excuse its own disobedience under a similar ruse? We even try and wrap it up in a nice religious bow like Saul tried here -- I disobeyed to offer sacrifice to God! I violate the Word because I am trying to reach the next generation for Jesus! We have to be relevant! I say all of this as backdrop to diving back into the Circle Maker controversy. I did a devotional about this book, which is most certainly heretical, several weeks ago. I have watched other debates surrounding the book and the criticism and engaged people to discuss the issue as well. The vast majority of the defenses were all carnal in nature. I refuse to have a carnal debate regarding a spiritual matter. I have heard all about Mark Batterson and what a swell guy he is. This is of course is a strawman argument because no one is questioning Batterson as a person, his intents, or his heart. What is at issue is his teaching. I have heard about how powerful a "man of God" he is and see people list his exploits as if that has any relevance to whether or not what he is teaching violates God's Word. Then today I had a friend of mine express a defense I had not heard, which was not carnal, and I had not considered. He said, "The book just encourages everyone to have a daily prayer life."
Taken on its own merits, who can argue with that statement? I would like to encourage people to have a daily prayer life. I think having a daily prayer life is crucial in developing our relationship with God and walking in the power He intends for us to walk in. But then we dig deeper and ask -- how do we get there? Is the end result of establishing a daily prayer life noble enough of a goal to discount the journey to establishing such a routine? Then you come back to the example of King Saul and realize that the answer must remain a resounding "no." Let's go through the issues again, so we understand where the problems lie.
The first and primary problem with the Circle Maker is that it is built on a foundation of a mythical character that does not exist anywhere in the Bible. Batterson openly admits he found Honi the Circle Maker in the Talmud, not the Bible. Beloved, I am sorry but we should not alter our prayer life based upon a fictional man who is not found in Scripture. Especially when the Bible gives us so many examples of Biblical people to base our prayer life on. What was the matter with basing our prayer life on King David, who wrote the majority of the Psalms? What was the matter with using the life of Jesus Himself! Jesus taught constantly on prayer and even taught the disciples how to pray. That aside, has anyone considered the spiritual side of this?
Don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. -- Colossians 2: 8 (NLT)
Beloved, if it is not found in the Bible then it came from the world. It may sound good at first but it will end up being high sounding nonsense from human thinking. This comes from the spiritual powers of this world, which by definition are opposed to God. You can fancy yourself exempt all you like but the devil knows better. Sadly, he knows the Word better and understands spiritual warfare better. The real danger however is in the nature of leaven. It spreads and cannot be contained. Maybe nothing ever comes from Batterson's teachings. Maybe some people actually do improve their prayer life. But what has happened now in the spirit realm is a pattern of acceptable compromise has been established. If we can casually discard the Bible for Honi, who would be next? The Bible says that many will fall away in the last days. We hear all sorts of doctrines tossing the elect of God to and fro. We have seen such ridiculous and obvious heresies take root in our churches because when we had a chance to stand for the Word on the small matters -- we compromised. You may say -- not me preacher, I'm grounded. That may be so but this is no longer about you. It is no longer about me. It is about Jesus. There are brothers and sisters who are simply not where you may be at in your walk and relationship with God. We have a responsibility to them as well. A responsibility to show them that a Christian does not compromise doctrine for the sake of "everyone is doing it." A responsibility to say no to the little lumps of leaven so when the latest Christian fad comes along we can discern what it is about like the Bereans did. We may see something like the drunk in the spirit nonsense and wonder how people could fall for something so obviously heretical. Maybe that acceptance started by accepting the Holy Laughter nonsense. Heresy breeds heresy. Compromise breeds compromise.
The second largest problem with the Circle Maker is that the fake character the book is based on is fairly irreverent towards God. To remind readers, Honi lived during a time of drought and his people asked him to go to God in prayer to end the drought. The problem is that Honi didn't just pray -- Honi demanded. He drew a circle in the sand and TOLD God he would not move until he made it rain. Demanding God sees things our way is not called prayer -- it's called petulance. God relents (because remember, this is a false story) and sends some rain but Honi is still not satisfied. He complains to God it is not raining hard enough. God relents again (because apparently God loves being dictated to) and it starts pouring. Honi is still not happy and tells God the rain is not peaceful enough and supposedly, God relents a third time. Hallelujah, pass the offering plate.
While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God's Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. -- Hebrews 5: 7-8 (NLT)
Why did God hear His prayers? Because of His deep reverence not the size of the circles He was drawing! The Bible says to work out our salvation with fear and trembling -- not arrogance and petulance. Beloved this type of prayer, which this book is based on, is not Scriptural. It is an affront to God. I understand why the "bless me" crowd is lapping it up -- because it reduces God to our cosmic bellhop and bus boy. There to serve us diligently and clean up after us. I understand why it is a top seller and has become the latest Christian fad in many many churches. Everyone wants to hear that all they have to do is draw a circle in the sand and demand that God answer their prayers. I can hear the Batterson apologists already insisting that is not what the book teaches but in essence it is -- on the spiritual level and in written words:
God "plays chicken" with us until we have prayed enough to satisfy him. (The Circle Maker, p. 109).
Take a good look at this claim beloved. It is absolute garbage straight from the pit of hell. God is not delaying His answers or blessings because we have not "prayed enough." He is certainly not "playing chicken" with us about anything.
And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. -- 1John 5: 14-15 (NLT)
I do not see anything in there about God playing chicken with our prayer life. I do not see anything in there about God holding back because we have not passed some mythical prayer threshold. When you base a book that is designed to change your prayer life upon a fake character who has no reverence for God -- this is the end result. Heretical and poor teachings. Now maybe you and I might be able to catch such nonsense but not everyone will. That is where the damage is done. For every 100 people who read the Circle Maker, how many come away from it thinking it is ok to demand things in prayer and if they haven't received the answer they wanted it must because they have not prayed enough? How many of them, when the answer never seems to come, walk away from the faith altogether? Sound farfetched? Not when you consider they are taught his: