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Posts Tagged ‘prosperity gospel’

When I am visiting someone’s home for the first time, if their bookshelves are visible, I find myself irresistibly drawn to look over them… not just because I love books, but because what people read or collect tells me so much about their perspectives on everything.

This week I happened upon a collection of books from an estate.  Of course when I see bins of books, I can hardly wait to dig in and search for treasure, but this collection was different than I had hoped.  Every bin contained a monoculture of a specific genre of religious teaching, one that was unknown in Christianity until the last 30 or 40 years.  When I realized I would find only a handful of “old-fashioned”  mainstream material, I pondered the phenomenon of being totally given over to a specific teacher or religious movement.

Having been there myself at one time, I remembered what this was like, and how it affected my own library shelf for awhile.  I remember as a child  we did not have any books published by any authors outside of our denomination which claimed to have “special truth”.  I distrusted books from Christians outside our realm, and considered them inferior even if they did have some good points.  They didn’t have ALL the truth.  And not only did we have just one source for books, there were many of them.  Many.  Our publishing houses churned them out as quickly as people would buy them.

Here I saw these same characteristics with the singular type and quantity of books as I sifted through bin after bin… losing hope of finding treasure and becoming increasingly sick as I surveyed some downright astonishing book titles and author’s claims.  A few verses came to mind.

This verse speaks to the thirst for only one kind of teaching; something “new” or “restored” (if Jesus, Paul, and the other Apostles didn’t proclaim it, it doesn’t need to be restored),  and considering it superior to “that which we have received from the beginning… which was once and for all, delivered to the saints” (I John & Jude).

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:3,4

I don’t know when I have ever seen a more clear example of this in a collection of books since I left home.  The sad, obvious fact:  the owner had no interest in anything unrelated to this new and exciting teaching.  Even books with subjects that seemed Biblical – such as “Forgiveness” – revealed chapter titles that brought this subject back around to the same falsehood.  Everything centered on the falsehood, not the truth.

As to the overkill in quantity, exactly how many books do you need that say essentially the same thing?  I’m sure the profits from book sales are intoxicating for these teachers.  Write the same thing, give it  a different title, repackage it 100 different ways, and people keep buying them!  Where can you find a better business model of repeat sales and residual income?  Rock stars maybe?

But the sad characteristic of feeding on spiritual falsehood is that you never have enough.  You never quite get to that place they promise, so you need one more book, one more DVD, one more reassurance that you have found the truth.   But this is not a new development.  We are told from long ago that the last days would be full of false teachers, and I find it interesting that this quality of a continuous stream of “learning” is described.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
2Timothy 3:1-7

False teaching is like junk food.  Once you start to take it in, you develop cravings and lose your taste for healthy food.  Broccoli and apples look boring and tasteless. (think…simple truth of the Gospel!)  The craving and addictions can become intense, but for all the quantity of food you consume, your body is not being nourished.  It seems the spiritual appetite can also be perverted in a similar way, with even worse outcomes.

In contrast, Jesus said..

Matthew 5:6  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

John 6:35  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 4:14  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Rev 21:6  And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Revelation 22:17  The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Who are we thirsty and hungry for?
So much deception plays on our desires.  We are led away by them.  Someone dangles a carrot and we blindly follow an empty promise, because they are offering something we want.  This isn’t the whole picture, but most of it.  Eve began in this error, and most of us walk in it too before we find the Narrow Way.

If what we want most in this world is anything but Jesus, we are our own worst enemy, and the world offers us so many appealing alternatives.  This is why the FIRST commandment is to LOVE the LORD with all your being.

When we want HIM with our whole heart, it won’t matter what else we have or don’t have.  We WILL seek Him and find Him.  He has promised this.   These teachers love to quote the Bible, and their books are full of verses to prove out what they say.  But unless you are willing to prayerfully take the Word by itself, verse by verse, passage by passage, to see for yourself – any false thing can be made to sound “Biblical”.

My collection of spiritual books I will actually read is narrowing down, as I find the Word of God itself has more treasure than any human teacher can offer.  I do enjoy what the Spirit has taught through many great brothers and sisters through the ages, and it always resonates with what He has shown me through His Word.  But if all I had was the Word, it would be enough.  Jesus is enough.  His Word is enough – through the Book and His Spirit.

My hope is that the owner of the collection I saw this week also found that peace and Living Water in Jesus Christ alone.

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I am increasingly concerned that adapting Jesus culture to business culture transforms faith into following a fad.  I am fully aware this didn’t just start yesterday, nor does it describe the whole of Christianity in America, but it’s becoming endemic.  Here are some of my personal observations, which may or may not be worth a plug nickel.

1 – Business culture seeks most of all to succeed on terms which are incompatible with  how God defines success.

Worldly success values that which has a wide appeal, fulfills a demand, generates a profit, and can be multiplied or duplicated through packaged franchise methods.  Do I need to explain how this is counterproductive to the foundational principles of faith Jesus taught?

2 – Innovation drives business and technology but destroys doctrinal foundations.

We are a culture driven to find something new and our gadgets are obsolete before we even get them home from the store.  Marketing companies are always looking for ways to reinvent the same product to appeal to the bored consumer.  The nature of the human separated from God is seeking to fill up a void with something.  Nothing but God can satisfy that longing, so the search for a new thing goes on endlessly.  This same obsession is described in Acts.

Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.  Act 17:21

The “old time religion” isn’t good enough for us either.  It has become archaic, boring, and too simple-minded.  We have to reinvent the gospel, deny the authority of scripture, turn Christianity into a motivational self-esteem campaign, and seek to make it compatible with other World Religions.  Many things can and should change – but never the Gospel.

3- Hero/leader worship of pop culture (a tool of business culture) lends itself to creating widely accepted icons…

…with mega churches and best-selling books.  A sign that says billions and billions served must prove the product is great!  Or does it?  The documentary “Super Size Me”  seems to indicate that the food billions have consumed is actually lethal, yet it’s the single most successful restaurant in the history of the world.  In Christianity, if these icons stray from the truth – few will dare question them because of their popularity.  Truth can never be determined by popular vote.  There are some really great pastors with huge churches, don’t get me wrong.  But often success in numbers will over-rule the need to discern.

4 – Marketing success of one product generates a merchandising frenzy of many others.

Even if the initial offering had some value, the ensuing effort to capitalize on the success wave is often banal and funnels valuable financial resources away from areas where they could have eternal impact.  You can tell this is a problem when authors drivel on about nothing to get a book-length manuscript when they could sum up their point in ten pages.  Sequel books are often as disappointing as sequels to movies.  But then so much would be missed in the way of journaling editions, study guides, simulcast events, t-shirts, bobble heads, and children’s products with the same name, etc.. etc… etc….

5 – Relying on business marketing methods (mass mailings with pithy slogans inviting people to gimmicks, limited-time promotions in shopping-mall like churches)  demotes the gospel and our Savior from Life itself to a competing product in a world of possibly equally valid ideas.

Some people justify all this based on the success alone.  They say the goal is to maximize the profit.. (er…impact, sorry) and it’s only right to seek the most effective ways to draw people through the doors of a church.  This last Easter the efforts of churches to outdo one another in my small town for the largest Easter attendance reminded me of the retailer frenzy the day after Thanksgiving.  From a 15,000 eggs at one Easter egg hunt to a free Barbecue dinner, it seemed strange to me that Jesus overcoming sin and death for us – having been raised from the dead – isn’t a big enough draw?!  Makes me wonder how much we believe it or think about it.  Instead, we have to bait people in with something more appealing.

6 – People attracted to Christianity via these methods will demand a steady supply of such to remain interested and pumped up.

This will probably not be easy for people to swallow – but I was sickened when I investigated the Women of Faith website recently.  I’ve never seen such shameless marketing, even to the point of offering a Women of Faith VISA card!  I lost interest about a nanosecond later.   Evidently this traveling mega convention isn’t enough to really satisfy because yesterday I got a flier in  the mail for a “Women of Joy” conference!  I think I’ll hold out for “Women of Peace” when it comes along.  That’s probably what I need the most.  (obviously! ha.)

Each woman spends hundreds of dollars to attend these conventions.  I’m sure they have fun.  I’m sure women are touched.  But I wonder why the demand and success of such events when we have churches on every corner?  Don’t we have enough ministry in this country to keep women encouraged?  I guess I just don’t get it, so I apologize to those who do.  I am greatly edified by the 3 women I meet with for Bible study once a week, my Godly husband, my church fellowship, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit.  I would rather send my money to the native missionaries in India who are walking barefoot from village to village to tell people about Jesus who have never heard of Him.  K.P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia is very vocal about how American Christianity spends 99% of its ministry income on itself rather than to reach the lost and hurting.

7 – Vendors of Commercial Christianity will be tempted to not speak the whole truth if it means they will lose fans or revenue.

Jesus said you can’t serve God and money at the same time.  The problem there is pretty obvious.  My son is disgusted with “Christian” bands who do not use their influence and platform to share the gospel.  What are their priorities? (i.e. gods?)

So how is it working?

Are the lost being saved and lives changed?  People picking up their own cross and following in the footsteps of their Savior?  Are we really expanding the Kingdom of God with all this?

In spite of generating churches with memberships equal to some city populations, rumor has it Christianity in America is not growing, but shuffling.  Church growth has been found to come from church transfers, not from evangelism of the lost.

Christian divorce rate is equal to the general population according to this study.   I have been tempted to blog on this topic all by itself.  How can we follow what Jesus said to love one another as He loved us, if we can’t even sacrificially love our spouses?  This one is HUGE to me.  I have seen so many Christian marriages dissolve just from pure worship of self.  There was no biblical right to divorce.  Before coming to Christ, I too chose divorce and the consequences of a broken family on your children have to be lived with.  My husband and I both come from divorced families.  Many of our grandparents were married multiple times.  The Word says God hates divorce, and so do I.  It has caused me so much pain, and no one is untouched by it anymore.  If the Body of Christ looks the same as the world in this area, we have a deadly problem.

Only 1 in 5 of those who say they are  Evangelical actually hold to the foundational beliefs which define Evangelical Christianity.  Truth isn’t sought after because now even Christians have adopted relativism.

The seeker friendly movement at Willow Creek which generated a revolutionary church-growth strategy admitted openly a few years ago, that according to their research, all their programs were not affecting lasting transformation in people’s lives.  They drew people but failed to make disciples.  Their solution?  Do some more research and start over with a clean piece of paper.  Hmmm..

Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth… Bob Burney … See Full Article

Mass marketing seems to generate a great income, but it looks like a steady diet of  this type of religion is leaving the church in the state of spiritual emergency, not emerging health.  It’s not that I am against great programs and ministry conventions – just people trusting in them to do the work only the Holy  Spirit can do.  The biggest problem with Laodicea is she thinks she can manage just fine on her own.

With God even a rich man can get through the eye of  a needle and a Laodicean church can repent and buy gold tried in the fire.  We won’t be changed however until we see ourselves as we are, or all our man-made devices are taken away from us in God’s mercy.  When Christ applies the eye salve (Rev. 3), we will be compelled to pray, repent, seek God and His ways instead of the world and its way, because we will finally realize there is no alternative.  Well, there is one other option actually – something about being “spewed out.”  I trust this is not God’s will for Laodicea.  He knows what it will take.   It’s not something an outward reformation in form or method can fix.  The root problem is a body severed from its Head, and a heart drawn after idols.

If you see clearly – please pray with me that others will too, and pray with each other.  We so desperately need to pray.

(Picked up a book recently by Michael Horton called “Christless Christianity – The Alternative Gospel of the American church.” I am only in Chapter 1 so far, but standing and cheering …  other people far more qualified to speak out are seeing it too!!)

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Yesterday I heard the testimony of a woman who realized she had a problem after twelve years in missions and ministry with a husband who preaches with a fire like John the Baptist.  I have seen this man preach in person and I don’t know how anyone leaves the building not saved.  The Holy Spirit is on this man like none I have ever heard.  But as hard as it is to believe, she says that in those first twelve years, she herself was not converted.  She had grown up in a Christian home and raised her hand for Jesus at a meeting once in the Christian school she attended.  She did all the churchy things, along with her friends.  They were all good kids and she married a missionary.  She says people try to tell her, “Well, you really were saved, but you have just had this experience of coming closer to God.”  Her reply was, “I live in here… and I know where I was, and I know what happened.” (paraphrased from my memory)

She goes on to describe how over the course of three years God began to deal with her about her heart.  During the “How to know if you are a Christian” sermons, she would squirm in her seat and struggle SO HARD to do the things that seemed to come naturally to others.  She performed, following the Christian “to-do list” but that was where her motivation to seek God began and ended.  She could not overcome known sins in her life and grow more like Christ.  One day God opened the door for her to spill her heart to her husband, who told her the honest truth.  (He specializes in the honest truth.)  He said, “Based on what you are telling me… I can’t tell you that you are a Christian.”  She had come clean and stopped putting on the act, an act so convincing no one around her knew the truth, deceiving even her own eyes for many years.  A pivotal moment came when she saw a prostitute on the street and she knew in her heart that even though she looked good on the outside, on the inside she was no different than her.  We are all that kind of woman (or man) if Adam is still our father.  She tearfully said she realized she did not have the strength to keep up the act and took that new honesty to God in prayer.

Does this story sober you?  Does it raise questions?  She said reading 1 John convicted her deeply.  The tone of this letter seems to be encouragement for those having their assurance threatened by a false teaching or obligation.  John is telling them, “Look, this fruit is the evidence of your true faith in Jesus, not what these other people are claiming.”   He warned them earnestly against false teachers, told them how to spot them, and affirmed, “I write to you because you know the truth.”  He was encouraging them not to waver from the foundation they had been given in Jesus.  But for someone who has not yet received a new birth from God, this book can be difficult to understand, or read.  Religion has many external tests to determine who is a Christian.  But God has always looked on the inside when men are evaluating the outside.  We can fit the outward mold while our hearts are trying to figure out how to find the point in going through the motions.

John deals with the most crucial fruits of faith, the ones we can’t fake.  God knows if we lust after the world, hate our brother, hide habitual sins, or feel little or no conviction for them.  We might be able to hide all that from others and even lie to ourselves, but God sees the real us.  The greatest gift we can receive from God is to see ourselves as we really are.  John is definitely not talking about being perfect, but he IS saying true salvation has fruit, just as James explains.  The New Creation DESIRES God, despises sin even though tripped up by it from time to time.  It loves, simply because it is an extension of God Himself in this world, a residing place of His Spirit.  It’s not about doing, but being.

The two biggest lies of false religion are:  You are okay just the way you are OR  You are not okay and it’s up to you to fix it, or keep it fixed. The TRUTH is, in your natural born state, you are NOT okay and there is NOTHING you can do to fix it.  In the absence of this revelation, we have owned a mental historical fact only, and have not entrusted our whole being into God’s hand – to die with Christ on the cross and be raised to New Life (represented by our water baptism).  If we do not at some point come to terms with both of these truths about ourselves, we will keep trusting in either our own innate “goodness” or our ability to become good, or uphold God’s work in our own efforts.  This deception can invade any heart in any pew of any Bible-teaching church.  False teachers capitalize on these two tendencies, but we don’t need them to believe these lies.  We believe them very well on our own, which explains why we so easily follow them.  We would rather go either direction than face our own helplessness and depravity.

People who leave cults often see the exodus as exchanging wrong facts for true ones, but some don’t realize what they really need – to fall helpless before God to save them and give them a brand new heart.  Thankfully most I know have also been broken by the truth they have found, but if we leave it on the intellectual level and do not “examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith” as Paul exhorted, we can still be terribly deceived.  This wife of a powerful preacher knew “the truth” but until she made it HER truth, she was not actually free.  I am SO thankful for the helpless brokenness God has brought me through, first to trust Him to save me, and also to continue to change me.

As you read this, if you have any doubt whatsoever, read 1 John in prayer and ask God to reveal your heart, not just doctrinal facts.  If John’s message does not bring you comfort and assurance as a child of God, then I urge you to take that honesty to God.  He knows exactly what to do about it.  Some evangelists like to use the Ten Commandments to confront people with their sin.  True confrontation goes much deeper than wrong behaviors.   The Words of Christ Himself along with this short letter both expose our true nature and desires.  The problem of Adam’s children isn’t that we do bad things, but rather at the core of our identity, we are enemies of God.  Does a tree branch strain to pop out an apple?  It simply does, as a result of being connected to the tree.  This is why you can’t try harder to be a Christian.  You are one, or you aren’t one.  No middle ground.  Is it time to find out for sure where you are abiding?

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I was about to move on to something else here, but I ran across this little gem on Youtube; a comment in defense of a video of a certain stadium-packing “Christian” teacher – rebuking those who were protesting his twisting of the Bible and the gospel:

STOP CLINGING TO YOUR BIBLE. How do you even know that the bible is the true word of God? How do you know some guy named Bob didn’t write this book sitting in his underwear years and years ago? Just listen to the message. IT MAKES SENSE. Pull your nose out of that nonsensical, contradictory BOOK and USE YOUR BRAIN.

After I commented how amazing I found this statement, and how it made me sad, this was the second response:

I seek common sense .. not blind faith. I am secure in being a good person. I’m sure God looks down on me with favor. Do not be sad for me. I am not sad for you. Every one needs to follow their own path. I’m sure that both you and I will make it to the Kingdom of God.

I was so amazed to find an example which so clearly demonstrated why I believe this message is dangerous. It leaves people comfortable in their fallen state, trusting in their own righteousness! They believe they are secure in the favor of God, even WITHOUT any scripture at all. I have sent this commenter a personal message in an attempt to open a dialogue.  (They just agreed… prayers appreciated!)  I honestly want to know what they think their “goodness” is, what it earns them, who they think God is and how they know they have His favor if they do not accept His Word as a source of truth. I honestly do want to know.  I also want to know how this popular teaching is encouraging them in this position, because they are defending it quite earnestly.

Is it okay to give people comfort and encouragement on a sinking ship or better to offer them a life raft? The deal is, they have to leave the sinking ship behind and this man is telling them Jesus came to give them a royal suite on that sinking ship! Do you see a problem here?

It is so easy to be carried away by flowing speech and encouraging words. But in this case that voice is offering the promises belonging to God’s children to all people, regardless of their relationship to Him.  In the same breath he offers people things God never promised to anyone. I pray for the man speaking with all my heart, to see what he is doing – and for those who are hearing him. I love him, but I don’t love what he is saying.

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you,
for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

Okay, now for something completely different! 🙂

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The context for this discussion is not cults, but what commonly passes for genuine Christianity.  The climate in Christianity today completely squelches discernment in the name of tolerance and “not judging”.   Some verses are consistently used as a fallout shelter for anyone seeking to justify their false position.  Nowhere does the Bible instruct us check our brains at the church door and abandon discernment.  Quite the opposite in fact.

The “If you can’t say something nice…”  mentality has taken us over.  I wrote about this in a much earlier post “My Apologies to Thumper’s Mom”.  But I would like to go deeper into why it’s so important to practice discernment and to contend for the truth.

Anyone who has a belief system of any kind will have some way to define what they consider truth, and what they reject.  A Christian should be able to explain why he is not a Hindu and an atheist will be happy to explain why he does not believe in a God.  Even the relativist has an operating system governing his decisions – professing “there is no absolute truth”.  This ironically becomes his absolute truth.  Sadly, we are now trained to be tolerant of everyone, except for those who say there is something they can’t tolerate.  Those individuals must not be tolerated under any circumstance.  As goes the world.. so goes the Church.

I don’t expect  everyone to agree with me here, but more importantly to understand where I am coming from and why. I fully acknowledge I am not always going to apply this correctly – but knowing we all have a margin of error does not prevent me from seeking to be grounded in truth as solidly as is humanly possible.

Two things I try to avoid are this:  1 – Rejecting every ministry or teacher which holds to some point at which I disagree with them.  2 – Accepting any teacher as valid simply because they claim to be Christian and are widely acclaimed.

I recently heard a pastor who believes a popular teaching I consider extremely unbiblical.  However…  while most teachers who follow this line of thinking make this belief the central focus of their ministry, this man in contrast preaches the true, bedrock gospel and is reaping an amazing harvest for the Kingdom.  I would never speak a word against him because he is a true brother, in spite of this point of contention.  His first and foremost desire is to see people repent and be born again into God’s family, and God is using him greatly.

On the other hand, there are many false prophets, apostles, and teachers IN the church – not just in cults.  We were warned there would be by Jesus and the apostles.   They described them for us so we could clearly see the contrast between the true and the false.  I have found two short litmus tests for these:

1.  Proclaiming Jesus is the Son of God – a true gospel focus.

1 John 2:23  No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.

1 John 4:14, 15  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

Anything that DISTORTS or DISTRACTS (replaces the rightful focus) of Jesus Christ and His gospel is not from God.  (“Indeed.. there are many antichrists in the world”)  The word “confesses” here is not a one time thing – it’s an ongoing activity. (I checked this verb tense with a language scholar.)  It must be the main point and goal of a true Christian ministry.  We can do many great things but if Jesus is not at the center of it, we are not drawing people to Him but to a philosophy or our own agenda.  This may sound simple, but it’s not.  People replace Jesus with many good things.  We can talk about “God” all day long and not ever train our eyes to see Jesus and His words.  Even Paul with his vast wealth of knowledge said he had known nothing among his pupils but “Christ and Him Crucified”.

This test requires more than a correct doctrinal statement.  It demands an eye with a single focus.  Jesus said Follow ME.   He said anyone who is ashamed of Me and MY WORDS, I will be ashamed of him.  Those are hard words!   Jesus said many hard things that few people have the courage to actually preach in this day in time.  His Grace doesn’t give us an excuse, but should give us a desire to stop making them.  We must fall broken and humble at His cross and agree with Him that we can’t do anything at all without Him, both as individuals and corporately.

2.  Right relationship with money.

Matthew 7:15  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Ezekiel 34:2  “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?

Isaiah 56:11  The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all.

2 Corinthians 11:1-4  I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!  For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.  But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

2 Corinthians 11:19, 20  For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves!  For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.

It seems that the falsehoods change little over the millenia, yet they still succeed.    I couldn’t write a more accurate description of what I see going on in some ministries.  I would really urge every believer to make a serious study of EVERYTHING Jesus and His true Apostles had to say concerning money.  Write it all down and read it all together, then use it as a plumb line.  These are not cultural, outdated exhortations but foundational to the walk Jesus Himself described.  Did you know that greed is listed right up there with sexual immorality in the New Testament?  That seems often overlooked.  We will condemn the homosexual and keep our greedy leaders because they promise us we can have all that too!  This should be to our shame.  False teachers would have very little success but for the willing audience and financial support.

False teachers love to quote scripture, but are they hearing what God is really saying or what they want to hear?  Every deception is cloaked in many great statements of truth.  This is the element that disarms the listeners and gains their trust.  Satan comes to us as an angel of light, and speaks truth!  Almost.  But I would assert this:  The truth when misapplied is more dangerous than the lie.

So this is the WHAT…  but what about the WHY?

Paul qualified his ministry against the impostors based on his sufferings and sacrifice for the gospel, as well as the power demonstrated by the Holy Spirit.  He had not exalted himself, asked for pay, or lorded over anyone.  I on the other hand can only say that I am worse than a nobody.  I have been a false teacher deserving of the double curse Paul uttered in Galatians – not in the aspect of seeking greedy gain, but in the sin of exalting something other than Jesus as  my focus (idolatry).  I did not have a formal position (being female I would never take one), but I did attempt in many ways to share and spread a false message.  I and my husband both deserved to be discerned as false and confronted, but we weren’t.  Either no one could see the problem, or they lacked the resolve to speak up.  I don’t pretend I would have received it well at the time, but I believe that both of these elements are desperately needed in the church today.  We have lost our ability to identify divergent gospels and humbly give or receive correction.  It’s now a taboo!

In the public arena of thought and discussion, I have a burden to be one small voice  available to speak the truth in areas where lies and half -truths have comprised our foundations in Christ.  Because He is worthy!  We are dragging his name through the mud in so many ways and turning the world off with a false Jesus, not giving them the true, Life-giving Jesus.  He said “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.”  Instead the church as decided to lift up idols and draw all the other Christians in town to our new and improved brand of religion, to empty smoke and mirrors.  People go from church to church, some looking for Life, then get derided for “church hopping” when they can’t find the genuine article.  True seekers (not the kind who want to be tickled and entertained) are bailing out in droves.

If you think the American Church is “okay” you really need to look at the latest lab results.  The statistics tell a very different story.  It’s going the way of Europe’s Church which has almost disappeared.  Having been delivered from a false religion, I am now confronted with a reality so depressing that if I did not believe in the words of Jesus, that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church, I would completely lose hope.  I do believe He will save it from itself, and it will not be pretty.  Hard pruning hurts.  A refining fire burns.

But will He save it in America?  That remains to be seen.  Nothing says He has to.  The parable of the wedding feast, while given to the Jewish nation, I believe would apply to any group of people too busy or distracted to accept His invitation.  Revival comes first with the gift of eyesight- seeing our need, then with humble, earnest prayer and fasting.  It comes with total consecration.  It comes with a willingness to surrender and follow the truth at all costs.  I don’t see that willingness in very many places, even people who have all their facts right.  Their minds are fortified in doctrines and their hearts are in the world, or held up in  their own efforts apart from the power of God.  Truly we believe we are rich and in need of nothing, not even the one who gave us Life.  To be a Christian in this country and not be sucked into this is almost impossible.  I don’t claim to have completely escaped.  Just because I can see where we need to go doesn’t mean I have arrived there myself.

I speak out for those who are seeking truth – but not to start arguments with those who have already made up their minds.  I will not and cannot be silent.  My heart is broken for the church in America and just as Jesus lovingly calls His church to repent in Revelation 3, his Spirit is yearning now with many to speak this same message.  I am one tiny voice among many.  If my words do any good anywhere, it is only by His design.

If you are a friend or family member and have taken offense at anything on this blog, I am sorry and have not directed anything here to anyone personally.  I love you all and am happy to openly discuss anything.  I enjoy and appreciate open, honest dialogue.  The friends I value the most are the ones who love me enough to be honest, even when we don’t agree.  I would rather be confronted than patronized any day.  So don’t just say something nice.  Jesus deserves praise but we are tempted in it.  Be willing to see the Truth, and speak it in love.

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This came to me from Andrew Strom’s list.

THE MOST EXTREME MAN or WOMAN in the CHURCH

The most extreme man in the church today is the man is the one who
stands on God’s Word alone.

He is the “voice crying in the wilderness” of modern churchianity

It is he who dares to ask not, ”Is this okay? Can we “get away with
it”?”, but “Is this honoring to God Almighty?”

Here is one who refuses to engage in frivolity while the world slides to hell.

Here is the man who isn’t afraid to stand before men and be laughed
at; he is afraid only of standing before God and being condemned.

He stands for truth in a time of compromise.

He constantly searches out the Word of God and demands a “thus saith
the Lord” in a time of me-centered, watered-down, cotton candy
teachings.

He believes that there is one way, God’s Way, and he is willing to
give up home, income, reputation…indeed, he is willing to give up all
that he has, all that he is…in order that it may be taught.

Here is the one who knows “doing for God” must grow out of “being with
God” and not the other way around.

Here is the preacher who isn’t afraid to “step on toes” or make
someone uncomfortable when the need arises.

He is one who will preach boldly against sin in all of its manifestations.

He is a man who constantly invites his Lord to “search me…try me…see
if there is any wicked way in me”.

He is one who knows Jesus wasn’t just “meek and mild” but also the
Lion of Judah Who was zealous for God’s house and he tirelessly seeks
to follow his Master’s example.

He is the husband, the father, who leads his family to go against the
world–no matter how unpopular, how uncomfortable the position–rather
than ride the flow that leads to hell.

Here is the young man who seeks out a woman of true loveliness, one
who loves God and shows much growth in godliness, rather than one
whose beauty is only skin deep.

The most extreme man in the church is the one who unfailingly takes
God at His Word and then, believing, acts on it.

He teaches truth even when persecuted for it.

He sees the times and, understanding the dangers ahead, beseeches God
on behalf of the people who are failing Him.

Here is one who will lose sleep to “stand in the gap” for his family,
the church, the nation.

He is not afraid of censure, of unpopularity,of ridicule but only of
displeasing his Lord.

He is one who has obviously ”been with Jesus”.

He knows intimately the throne of grace and lives at the foot of it.

He knows the Cross of Christ for he makes his home in its shadow.

He loves God and thus loves the unlovely–even those who would cause
him harm for his “extreme” positions.

Here is one to whom praying is as natural as breathing.

He is known in hell and hated for his prayers aren’t prayers for
personal comfort but for God’s will to be done–and then, when the
prayers are momentarily complete, he gets up and makes himself
available to be the instrument through which God’s will can be
accomplished.

One who knows sleepless nights spent crying out to God that He may be
known and honored among men.

A man who has absolute faith in God that His Lord is able to do all
that He has promised.

Here is a man to whom the thought has never occurred to not “accept”
Jesus as His Lord.

One whom, knowing his own sinfulness, is humbled by the grace-filled
opportunity to serve His Lord in any and every fashion that God
bestows upon him.

A man to whom God Himself is more important than any other gift that
God could bestow.

Author: Anna Wood from the blog “The Cross is all”

http://annawood.wordpress.com/

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Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.

Luke 9:23-26

I spend most of my time addressing issues related to the Hebrew Roots Movement and the SDA organization, but this one has been heavy on my mind this week.  The success of the prosperity-thinking/positive-speaking gospel has taken in many more people than the law-based cults could ever dream of, although strangely enough, it has very close ties to Old Covenant thinking.  Doing something (insert any “work” or incantation exercise here)  to be blessed in health and wealth were indeed the promises of the Sinai Covenant, and the only promises I might add.  No provision for eternal life came with it, and you don’t hear much about that within prosperity circles either.

I have heard one distraught evangelist who has recently been to Nigeria.  He reports that we have exported this message via “Christian” television to the point that he couldn’t find any church there which had not been affected by this falsehood.  He said they look at the prosperity of the American preachers on television and can’t see any way that what they are teaching couldn’t be true.  This man said he spent all his time there simply reading what Jesus had to say about seeking money.  The details he related were horrifying and heart-breaking.

When Jesus’ disciples came to ask Him what the signs would be for the end of the age, the first thing Jesus warned them about was spiritual deception.  He said, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ’, and they will lead many astray.  Matt 24:5.  I used to think this meant there would be multiple cases of antichrists running around claiming to be Jesus.  I now believe it means that many will come claiming that Jesus is the Messiah, yet deceive many.  This is so true in our time.  If you started making a list, you would run out of ink before you ran out of names.

What is the true path?

Jesus invites us to share His cross and walk a narrow road, not just camp out there.  He promised the world would hate us as it hated Him.  The abundance He offers is freedom from condemnation and victory over the chains of sin.  In Him we no longer fear death, because we have already died.  His gives peace, which is not as the world gives, and joy.  He promises to be with us and in us always through every situation.  He promises to discipline those He loves, to prune away things in our lives that derive their strength from ourselves and not Him, both “good” and bad.  He promises all this now, and your best life to come, if you do indeed belong to Him.  Romans 8:9 says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

The Glittering Alternate Route

Throughout scripture, we see the adversary often chooses to entice people with their best life now, as defined by that which pleases the senses and satisfies our pride.  If someone is promising you can have your best life now, by earning God’s favor in your own goodness or positive attitude, who are they following?  If someone offers the true blessings of God’s children, to all people, without respect to their relationship with Jesus Christ, who are they following?

I have seen a stadium full of people, nodding in agreement to this “gospel” without the real Jesus being presented, or any part of the Word of God  in the message.  At the very end, everyone was invited to come have Jesus, to add Him to their already great life, because the speaker had assured them they were all very good people already.  If someone had come into that stadium knowing nothing of Jesus Christ, and they had accepted the invitation, they would still at that point have had no idea who He was, what He said, why He came, or what He asks of us.   Jesus was just the icing on the cupcake… and was going to give them everything they wanted.

This makes my heart sick, not only for the people who are not seeing Jesus as THE way THE truth and THE only life, but also for the name of Christ who suffered so much agony for us – so much so that we could never begin to understand the magnitude of the sacrifice He made.  In return we don’t want to sacrifice anything at all, but instead to be blessed in the things of this world.

A pastor in communist Romania took his youth group to the zoo.  He showed them the lions and asked them if they were willing to follow Jesus.  He told them what their own futures could hold, and asked them to count the cost.  We don’t hear sermons too often on Romans 12:1,2 where Paul asks us to give what is reasonable… ourselves, as a living sacrifice.

This brand of deception never appealed to me after I came to Christ.  But as we were priding ourselves in rejecting this one, we were falling for a different one.  The enemy has a flavor designed just for you, don’t worry.   Jesus warned us all in the Matthew passage, “don’t let anyone lead you astray.” My plea is for all who are seeking God to avail themselves of the Word of God and not man.  If you follow a man, you may indeed get what he promises, not just your best life now, but possibly your only life.  Deception is a test to see if we love the truth enough to find it.  (2 Thess. 2) Jesus IS the Truth.  Find Him.

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