Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Joel Osteen articles .. FINALLY online!

I have been busier then a cat with two tails at a rocking chair convention with a whole lot of projects. Helping families battle back to save their children from the clutches of the tea party cult of Remnant Fellowship is one such front. There's a lot we can't say much about what we do there and in other areas, but we are still committed to watching God humble that cult and get it to where He wants it to be.

Veangeance is the Lord's, says the Word of God, and if He wants it, I don't mind offering His Spirit all the help He can get here. Nor do a LOT of people across the nation who help out.

Thank you, folks. You all know who you are. By God's grace, we shall overcome and the Zion Curtain will fall someday. The false prophet Gwen Shamblin would do well to learn that she can rise with the Son of God, Jesus as God Incarnate .. or fall with the night that the shadow of God's judgment will send upon her for her heresies, destruction of families and control of lives.

Anyway, I digress. Preaching and teaching engagements (HINT HINT PASTORS!) are another pursuit and working with the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions coalition as a publication committee member is yet another. Need I say that our website continues to get a ton of email requesting we finish the article series we started on mind control, religious abuse, Wicca and the never ending three ring circus of Pentecostal and Charismatic extremism? It just goes on and on, and it's a calling we all pursue as diligently as possible - Steve and Kathy Hogel in Memphis and Lance and Heather King in Knoxville - according to the gifts and opportunities God gives us.

It never fails to amaze me at how many people read our article on Jimmy Swaggart's need to repent. The article is routinely, every month, the most viewed article after our tribute page to my favorite baseball team of all time - the Chicago Cubs. But the firestorm of emails we get from these and other ministry ventures keep us on our toes - and our attempts to help those burned by bad religion and false teachers don't allow us to sit around nights at home either. We stay as engaged as we feel led to be.

But as you know, no self-respecting End Time Apostacy would be complete without a couple of trademark poster children for falsehood, heresy, unreality or manipulation coming to the forefront. Joel Osteen, the megachurch "pastor" of the Lakewood Church seems to fit that bill well all by himself, actually. His star has increasingly splashed all across civilization everywhere like a fusillade of lightning bolts forged from Jell-O. Osteen's influence is beyond belief and his delivery of humanistic motivational oratory is being accepted as cutting edge preaching as arresting and transformational as that of George Whitfield or Martin Luther King.

So, with all of that going on in Spiritwatch Ministries, there was no better way for our ministry to have been tasked to analyze Joel Osteen's questionable doctrine and example unless we were asked to create a talk on Osteen's first best seller "Your Best Life Now" and do it within 90 days for the 2006 EMNR conference in Birmingham. Remember the old saying about how the best way to get something done is to give it to an overworked and busy person? LOL. Thanks, Bob Waldrop .. if hadn't been for you, we'd have never given an Osteen discerning a second thought because his toweringly shallow preaching speaks for itself. But we've come to see millions of people think otherwise ..

So by the grace of God, Lance and I managed to pull it off and deliver it to a good crowd of folks. Here's a link to listen to it in Real Audio if you want to hear it. A long standing project to adapt the talk Lance and I did there seemed relegated to a long delay and we never quite got it together until we finally realized that Osteen's influence has been exponentially spreading all over the world. This year seemed particularly marked, so we plunged ahead to adapt our talk into website articles.

Sola Deo Gloria, we have finally completed these. They are in 4 parts .. and in case you think there's no need to get at what's behind the smile of Joel Osteen watch this clip below .. and tell me if this is What Would Jesus Do ..


I seem to remember a verse somewhere in the Bible about this kind of unimaginable waffling that Joel Osteen seems to be engaged in here: this is What Would Jesus Say about it, we think ..

For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words,
of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.

To read the Osteen articles, click here. We hope they be the balanced resource Lance and I have striven to make them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

When God's Voice Is Common And The Still Small Voice Is Mundane

We've been doing some long overdue review of our research library we've built about the Word of Faith movement and have watched a lot of some of the most looney stuff you can ever imagine. As a Pentecostal, it turns my stomach .. as a Christian, it breaks my heart .. to see and hear other professing Christian "anointed" teaching so much error, bad doctrine and living such carnal lives filled with any kind of spirit but the Holy One.

Over and over, we'd listen to people like Jesse DuPlantis, Kenneth Copeland and a host of others blab out in the middle of their typically manic-driven deliveries that they'd had a conversation with God at least as familiar as a conversation you might have with the mailman at Denny's. DuPlantis, in one sermon in our video library, was told by God that He had his own favorite verse in the Bible the same way everyone else does. And the crowd in the TBN soundstage lapped it up like it was manna from on High. Eck. Gag me with angel dust.

The notion that God speaks to us isn't a problem. Unlike the scoffing and/or skepticism of those who don't believe in a vocal Divinity who does speak to us, Christians can and should seek to hear God speaking to them as they seek direction, guidance and encouragement. It's where the conversations lead and how they're supposedly held that becomes the BIG problem. Here's a great article I also dug out while researching on the net that highlights the issue of a voice from heaven that becomes as ordinary as the voice of your BP clerk .. Below is a sample:

When God's Voice Is Common

“God told me ...”

The Bible says God speaks in a “still, small voice,” but that voice no longer seems to be still or small if you listen to contemporary pastors. The phrase “God told me” is becoming one of their favorite expressions. So many seem to be on speaking terms with God.

Turn on the TV or the radio, and one will inevitably encounter a preacher flashing what one pastor calls the “God trump card.” It signals that the holder is the recipient of a steady stream of revelations from God on matters big and small.

It's invoked so often that few question it, but two recent examples stand out.

In May, the Rev. O'Neal Dozier, pastor of Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach, Fla., told an audience that Jesus had appeared to him in a dream and told him that the next governor of that state would be a Republican.

In March, spiritual guru Neale Donald Walsch published “Home With God” and announced that it would be the final chapter in his best-selling “Conversations With God” trilogy, in which he claims to talk to the Almighty.

Last November, J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, wrote a column complaining about pastors taking their revelations too far. He cited one charismatic pastor who told his congregation that a new revelation from the Bible allowed him to have more than one wife. Another said his “anointing” allowed him to have more than one sexual partner.

Ruth Tucker, author of “God Talk,” says pastors - and ordinary people - often confuse God's voice with their own.

“The voice of God often corresponds with something they very much want to hear,” Tucker says. “Biblically, God speaks, but God breaks through in a monumental way that's far beyond giving comfort or advice to any person's plan or agenda.”

Claims of personal encounters with God are nothing new. Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions are filled with inspiring stories about God communicating with people. People of faith often talk about hearing God's voice in a dramatic situation or being led by an inner voice or a divine sign.

But what happens when revelation becomes routine? What happens when some preachers talk about God as if they have his cellphone number?

Click the link above to read the entire absorbing article. There's much to be said here about it, but I will confine myself to a few ruminations here ..
I believe in a God who speaks and wants to be heard. I am certainly NOT posting this to squelch trust and faith in a Father whose voice wants to be heard. However, I think there is MUCH to be said about our Christian culture (especially the Evangelical/Pentecostal ones) when it comes to thinking about - as has been well described - a glib, vociferous God always penetrating the sonic landscape of our overstimulated, plugged in lives with a divine voice pouring into our consciousness every moment of the day.

Cults and false religions surely have a field day with this, citing routine earthshaking encounters with God that they claim end up in their anointing by Him to become His exclusive mouthpiece by being equipped with a special divine empowerment that enables them to hear God exclusively. False prophets and teachers from time immemorial routinely claim to hear from God regularly to authorize their own peculiar polity or practice, from Baalam to the Watchtower's Governing Body to Gwen Shamblin.

I came from a Roman Catholic religious culture in which silence and contemplation of the mystery of God's presence was a thing worthy of aspiration but was so couched in Roman tradition that it was seen as the province only of mystics and those in religious orders. I have never lost that contemplative side which my early upbringing gave me, but have joyously received a revelation of a God who does speak to His children when I became a believer. But along the way, I've seen God's voice cited so often and so frequently in Christian circles that it is very difficult to not become confused, let alone cynical, about all of those claiming to hear Him speak to him in all things. Look at the dueling tongues of opposing "messages from the Spirit" in which "thus saith the Lord" is cited by warring factions over some matter in our churches.

Over the 26 years since that happened, I have come to see how we can barely abide a concept of a God who sometimes IS silent and who sometimes doesn't ALWAYS speak when we long and demand that He should. It's sad to see how Pentecostals fidget when we think we're not "hearing" from God regularly and think we are at some horrible deficit if we don't. Back in the 1990's, when Charisma Magazine had a TV show, I remember their interviewers always asking as a central point of their featured interview of some Pentecostal or Charismatic luminary one big question: "What do you hear God saying to the church?" .. as if to suggest there was a divine message bearing His will and prerogative each week for us to follow from the person involved.

Silence is not golden for Pentecostals. It is a source of irritation, fear and panic. That is what gets me about my beloved tongue talking brethren, of whom I am a part. Preachers and music ministers and prayer warriors have to fill every living moment in Christian meetings with our ubiquitous and cliched utterances.

"Say amen somebody"
"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus .. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus .."
"Are you with me?"
"Oh, come on, now let's hear you really sing like you believe that!"
"I know I'm preaching better than some of you are letting on."
"Can I get a witness?"
"It's getting quiet in here."

I think personally that this is more an expression of insecurity by these folks more than the exhortations to attention we like to think it is, because they've GOT to hear if we are "with them." It's a DEAD service if worship doesn't have sacrifices of praise and choirs/orchestras who didn't lift the roof off the church building. We seem to always end up filling that silence with our own noise, spake into those awkward moments of fearful concern that we don't HEAR Him and are somehow losing out with Him if His Voice is not "heard" as a direct quote we then "speak into" our lives.
And then we cover it with the full gospel language that sanctifies what we say, in our belief it was God who indeed speak, but end up saying "God told me."

I am reminded of Michael Card's elegantly blunt song "The Final Word" here:

You and me we use so very many clumsy words
The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard
When the Father's wisdom wanted to communicate His Love
He spoke it in one final perfect Word ...

Surely I believe God speaks today. I have no problem with anyone else citing what you've heard of God at all. IF you've heard from God, you must bear witness to it. I've done this myself in the pulpit or in the prayer line. When I pray with people at the altar call that may be given in a church as a visiting minister or an elder in my home church, God will sometimes give me a word of exhortation, wisdom or knowledge to the person I am ministering to that I trust ministers grace, comfort, admonition and encouragement to them. But anything spake in the name of God will never contradict the written Word of God, and isn't to be some new source of divine revelation that supersedes the Bible. That's one of the greatest digs of cessationists against those who hold that there's a God in Heaven who speaks to His people yet today. Christians who understand the balance don't make that mistake - it's the immature, spiritually warped and the ignorant who do.

New Testament examples abound where the early church recognized and welcomed such intimate and immediate communion with God as being exhortational, edifying and encouraging in nature and not the source of doctrine. So I will prophecy as God grants .. not this kid in Himself

And I think that there's a lot to be said about the God who is THERE, the Lamb upon the Throne, who sometimes is just THERE to be worshipped and praised and adored .. despite His silence. The trials I am facing right now and in my past life - and I expect in the future - will be teaching that anew. I'd hope Christians out there would know the difference between such a Lord and the tragically unnecessary FEAR that drives us to put words in His mouth He never spake.

agape
rafael



Saturday, November 17, 2007

Overcoming By The Word Of Testimony


And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
Revelation 12:11

Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives, and when he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?
Clarence Odbody, "It's A Wonderful Life"

We live in a day and age in which Jesus our Lord told us that the love of many will wax cold, evil men will wax worse and worse, and the consciences of many will be seared and therefore utterly amoral. False prophets are arising everywhere and deceiving many. And of course the personal cost suffered by those who've been deceived, as well as so many others, is never going to be at the top of the media rolodex or in their PalmPilot memos. If glittering fashion plates and wise mentoring types present their spiritual poison served up in the form of a Cutting Edge or a Next New Thing or a Breakthrough Quantum leap, so much the better. They lap it up like cats around milk. The media inures itself to responsibility or consideration of the shattering of souls their careless blather leads many into but not through for the sake of their ratings and revenue. And the advance of this kind of hardening of hearts is going to be found everywhere.

That's why revelation of the nefarious doings of cult leaders, false teachers and heretics everywhere has to be done. Some one has to confront the evil for the sake of the good, for the glory of God, for the freedom of those captive by it.
Which is why we've pointed out - among other things - how Gwen Shamblin, leader of the Remnant Fellowship cult, continues to razzle dazzle the media with her "weight loss" draped in the silken cloak of personal fulfillment to disguise it's ugly iron fist that she uses to control others. Earlier this year, she managed to wangle her way onto the Tyra Banks Show to attempt creating an infomercial through the show to advertise her gospel of weightloss. If you got time, you can see how fiercely RF operatives hijacked a comments forum on Banks' website about the show here to see how seriously they take their media "outreach." Blech.

No one can exactly point to Tyra Banks as an objective commentator of our times. Her ditzy presence is only going to reflect the values of what matters to most of the sensationalizing media out there. She's a fashion model whose show gravitates around her take on the topics that matter most to her target audience: sexual controversy, body image, and of course whether her breasts are real or not. That lowest common denominator is what she shares with NBC, Fox News, and the other media meisters out there - the allure of weight loss mingled with spirituality that disses the norm which, if presented properly, props up ratings. They don't care about victims when the sponsors want a return on their dollars. Their pretense at "professionalism" is nothing less than a very real whoring with a Gwenzebel who stands in the bullseye of God's judgment that itself will bring His judgment on their own heads.

That is why I have said what I have said on my article on the "fellowship of the bling" on the website. Some have asked me if Banks or the other media figures she schmoozes with are a paid agent of Gwen? It's possible. Any kind of unholy position in the conjugal chambers where culture and media do their lovemaking is not above speculation. Just look at "Dancing With The Stars" or the lunacy of reality TV featuring Paris Hilton cleaning cattle stalls. Or the recently deceased Tammy Faye Bakker doing a "The Surreal Life" by living with several D-list celebs in a home in - where else - Los Angeles. 20 years ago, I would never have thought the late Jerry Falwell would have gone anywhere near the abominable mess that the Jim and Tammy and Jessica and David show at PTL created. But there they were. And then, the good Reverend was found sharing embraces with another genuine antichrist, the so-called "Reverend" Sun Myung Moon, who just happens to believe he's the Messiah.

What is surprising is that so many of the vicious detractors of the Evangelical right so totally failed to raise this peculiar bit of "network building." So nothing surprises me anymore. Nothing. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God ..

Seriously, I don't think Gwen earned money from her shtick on the Tyra Show. Personally, I think that Tyra's own shallow curiosity is what impelled her to bring that looney tune cult leader and her coterie onstage to show the world how to eat french fries and gape at before and after pictures. I think that the ubiquitous and endlessly reiterated "before/after" testimonies and pictures are what Tyra, whose battle with the bulge has gotten her a lot of unwanted attention which she's publicly smarted over, got ensnared by.

In the midst of it all, the stories about the abuses Shamblin and her ilk have wrought on so many lives were obviously unheard from. And sadly there will always be the terrifyingly shallow and/or undiscerning people who will uncritically accept whatever they are told and just believe what is told to them. They are the ones for whom the media whoredom with Gwen will spell their spiritual ruination. Steve, one of our ministry associates, sent Joy and I a videotape of the show. It was indeed pretty nauseating. Joy and I could barely stomach watching it. I think it is potentially one of the worst and most egregious examples of media irresponsibility yet.

Watching Gwen lead adult men and women in a one hour dog and pony show jumping them through the hoops she created was absolutely infuriating. They all followed the same game plan they've been doing for years when dealing with those outside their group who they want to bewitch with their siren song and got to do it on perhaps the one place they could have done the most damage - targetting Tyra's national audience of twentysomething young women who are fresh meat for the image and fashion-driven culture of the day that Shamblin so totally exploits for her cult recruitment.

The broadcast shows that RF has learned how to lure its audience with a far more nuanced approach. The preachiness is still there, but as presented, it's more self-centered then ever, focusing on what the "pure" achieved with their familiarly manic energy. Gwen's prophetic mantle now appears to be woven with finer fabric and bigger hair than ever before. She's never been big on sackcloth and ashes anyway. Her fundamentally warped and domineering spirit of manipulation still shines through, but she shamelessly dazzles on as the humble, unassuming "Ms. Gwen" on the broadcast. Everyone in her orbit who "testified" knew the talking points to hit on, and of course, Jesus was given his five seconds of visibility on the show.

The big push on the free WDW webcast held a few days later - prominently advertised on the WDW website which was visited by a new crop of potential recruits - was for members to press on through WD classes to the WD Advanced courses where, the "pure" on the broadcast proclaimed, they had their "Aha" moment. That is the demonic snare that they want to spread.

The preaching and high pressure gloom and doom message of the WDA perspective is pretty burnt in my mind, and it's that kind of Zion absolutism that they want people to get ensnared by. And they now are doing it more sweetly then ever.

But I think, finally, in the end of it all, Tyra's public refusal to endorse the WDW and RF at the
end of the show may have really been a very good thing, and her use of the "C" word (CULT) just as casually as she did lifted enough red flags to warn a lot of people. The Spiritwatch website really showed a HUGE spike on the day of the broadcast, so I can hope that this little question may have snapped a lot more than we realize to see what RF really is. And we are certain that it is what we presented on the website about Remnant that got a LOT of that attention.

As the old book says, the true saints of God will overcome even Satan himself "by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." We've all enjoyed the first deliverance, we're still telling the story of the second part, and by the end of our days on this sorrowful old world, we'll have shown ourselves true to the principles of the Kingdom of God. Our lives are to be lived for the service of God's Kingdom - there's a whole world of wonderful ministry, sharing, labor and outreach to others we can yet offer while we still have time. That's why we and so many others who have helped Spiritwatch Ministries do what we do.

The testimony of those who've suffered the tender mercies of Remnant authoritarianism is telling the real story. And it's online 24/7 .. year round .. and it is being watched and listened to. I believe that in the end, when the books of life at the Bema Seat of Christ are opened that we will at long last see the accounting of just how many people potentially were turned ASIDE from RF because of their identifying with and being touched by what we've featured here. That's why Gwen and her cult hate this website so bad, that's why they keep trying to shut it down again and again. She can't shut that off.

Won't it be exciting for you to meet at the dawn of the Eternal Future for God's people, at that dinner table supper with the Lamb, someone across the table will tell you how your testimony about how Christ touched your life helped them overcome not just the trap doors of RF but other things you could scarcely imagine? We always get emails and calls from people who say how our ministry has sent into their lives a thought or a word that spoke to them and blessed them with light that helped snap the spell of a Shamblin or the web spun by another false teacher.

We are humbled to have had a small part in this since all of our lives always touch others in ways we can never fully appreciate, and the Internet is a powerful way of doing that. We may never meet them all here, but in that Day of Days, I believe we will.
agape
rafael

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What's The Difference Any More?

An old and long deceased Church of God preacher quoted this verse one day in a sermon I listened to .. and while the content of his sermon didn't stick with me, the verse to this day cuts into me when I hear it and think of the darkness of the present day. Cuts deep.

If living life by Biblically mandated moral absolutes isn't your bag, I can see why this post - or this blog - might not mean anything to you, except a worldly-wise snicker over how uptight I seem. Your amusement doesn't faze me .. you'll give account to the God you thought was a myth in the end, despite your rejection of what you've been told to the contrary in attempts to get you to, ahem, "see the light."
It's what it means to those claiming to live by the Bible that rattles my cage.

He read the classic indictment of the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 22:26

" .. they have put no difference between the holy and the profane .. "
The very difference between right and wrong is being relentlessly confused and obscured in the last days! In fact the distinctions aren't far from being irrelevant to far too many. Oh, Law and Order will prevail to some extent. There is still enough of the social contract of Western civilization keeping things moving. But for those who mutter coyly "Oh, man, now that was just so wrong .. that ain't right, I'm tellin' ye .." as if to protest over how "wrong" some slight or gaffe was, the question should be asked .. "so? What's the problem? Don't saddle me with your truth when I got mine!"
Here's a bit of Biblical absolutism you might not stomach, but we're not responsible for your spiritual digestive tract. James 3:15 states that confusion is one of many evil works while Jesus in John 8:44 made it abundantly clear that all deception we see manifest among us ultimately is of Satanic inspiration. The world and the flesh are still subject to the devil to some degree (we can argue to what that degree might be with great implications riding on what we think), but it was Satan who loosed the vanity of deception into this world in Eden, so it's entirely defensible to assert that Satan is behind the trail of human error to no little degree. If this gives you heartburn, guess what .. there's no Mylanta this side of the Judgment that will cool it, except the covering blood of Jesus Christ who died and now lives again to free you from the sin you've plunged into.

Even it can be equally argued that it is the fallen nature of imperfect and egocentric humanity behind our moral shortcomings that impact our world, the truth still remains. The difference between the true and the false, the good and the evil, the way to life and the slouch to death still is being actively stirrred up. The Real Midnight Cry should bear witness to that recent Barna Research Group report from a few years ago that said:

Only 22 percent of adults believed in moral absolutes
64 percent think truth is always relative to the person & situation.
Of “born again” adults, only 32 percent believed in moral absolutes.
Oh wait, it gets worse ..

83 percent of all teens thought moral truth depended on the circumstances, with just 6 percent believing in absolute truth.
Only 9 percent of “born again” teens accept ideas of absolute truth (compared with 4 percent of other teens.)

At one time it was scandalous to even suggest that divorce might be an option for professing Christians. Those who flapped long tongues of gossip were rightly identified as such and avoided. The doctrine of the Trinity was a non-negotiable definition of how God revealed Himself. Sexual sin was, well .. sexual SIN. Being civil and longsuffering to others in the street and on the job - as well as at home and behind closed doors was an ideal to actually aspire to. We see clear evidence that the church isn't any different then the world it's supposed to NOT be a part of.

And we're supposed to be looking for yet another "new thing" by God to save our hides?

What does this survey say about our belief that some great worldwide revival is going on right now? If Barna’s research is correct, then there seems to be more evidence for a falling away of absolutely catastrophic proportions sweeping the Christian Church, a descent into moral catastrophe. The truth is that it is happening. Now.
And the Church doesn’t really see it because we are living in such a way where we can’t or won’t see it. No wonder the cults smell the opportunity they do and make their claims here and there about how "Babylonian" and apostate it is. And no wonder that people disillusioned with a "pillar of truth" called the "church" that is little more than debris adrift in a tossing sea of wind-driven amorality reach out in desperation for what seems "true." We cannot blame those seeking moral compasses in such times - but we cannot stay silent and leave those clinging to their new revelations as "the true Church" in the deeper ignorance they labor under.

Moral of the Story: What are you doing to turn the tide? How real are you and how authentic do you live when professing Biblical standards for your lifestyle?

That's where the rubber meets the road.
agape

Monday, November 12, 2007

As The Stomach Turns: The Charismatic Circus Continues To Travel

















The Pentecostal and Charismatic worlds have learned nothing from the "mistakes" of the past.

After having been in ministry since 1983 as a Pentecostal minister, I can testify that this is as plain as an elephant in a phone booth. And this leviathan beast comprised of catastrophic and titanic blindness to the immorality, compromise and flat out sinful ways in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles wallows all over us yet. Isn't it obvious?

Let's use the overworked canard of those credulous Christians of today who want to dismiss the rough edges of the reality they live in denial of: "Just look at the fruit!"

Yes, let's look at the fruit of ..

.. the PTL abomination and the "Holy Wars" of the 1980's. (" .. isn't that special ..")

Too easy a target? Let's look a bit more at:

.. the secular TV exposes of Benny Hinn, Robert Tilton and Kenneth Copeland's "irregularities" regarding how they handle the resources God gave them

.. the predatory sexual and spiritual excesses pioneered by "Archbishop" Earl Paulk's filthy example and enthusiastically being replicated all around the world

.. the never ending support of Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda's cultic church movement Creciendo en Gracia throughout Latin America ..

.. the revolving door of spiritualized Ponzi schemes that both denominational and NON denominational church leaders have been caught in, where millions of dollars of money given to them as stewards is lost to crooks who know how to manipulate them through gullibility or good old fashioned avarice ..

.. the lone ranger Christianity of Juanita Bynum, Randy and Paula White and soooo many others who reckon themselves above admonition or accountability for the sanctity of their "marriages" and their "ministries: and who live in a way that neatly hides the horrible double lives they live .. (dare we mention the names of Ted Haggard, Paul Cain, Jimmy Swaggart, Stan Johnson and others .. nahh, we don't want to sound "judgmental" or as if we're "touching the anointed, now, do we?")

.. and the band played on ..

That's just a few examples off the top of my balding old pate that show that the "full gospel" church, so self-anointed with spiritual power, wisdom and "revelation knowledge" is pathetically bereft of true discernment of the more weightier things like truth, integrity, accountability and humility. It's a horror beyond comprehension! And who cares? Who really gives a rip? Where is the outrage in our churches? These grotesque things have been seen so often for the past three decades that I believe the Pentecostal/Charismatic worlds are now so completely desensitized to it that we no longer care. We tolerate it because we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, seem politically incorrect or "intolerant." The massive yawn over the general malaise of the church of the last days is truly our collective slouching to Gommorah.

This ex-Catholic and now Church of God (Cleveland) preacher has been tempted several times to believe that we do live in a "church age" the dispensationalists like to label "Laodicean." I simply don't buy dispensationalism at all, but it's easy to see why so many fundamental brothers would feel that way. It's easy to see why so many people abandon the church for the siren song of the cults that our ministry does its best to counter .. because of the rank sin they see in US while we piously shout, dance, jump pews and preach "empowering" messages while avoiding things like holiness, purity and death to self.

And it's Pentecostals and Charismatics who lead the way .. we, the tongue talking "elite" whose members increasingly conduct themselves more shamefully these days then ever before. The "seed" for the "harvest" keeps rolling in. Why, we want our Best Lives Now, don't we?

The cash flow won't miss a beat after the Tearful Apology or the Official Statement. Money makes the world go around .. and enables these "ministries" to not only keep floating and reinventing themselves, but enable their "ministers" to live like kings and soothingly persuade us that this is our destiny too, if we would only "sow" into their "work."

We forget completely that Jesus said it would be like this. It shouldn't be surprising to anyone. It's a testimony to how spiritually shortsighted we've become when we find ourselves "shocked" by our sins when our Lord warned us so clearly that end time deception is THE sign of the end times, not some narrow eschatological / ecclesiastical agenda

.. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. .. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Matthew 24:3-4, 11-14

I'm going to keep preaching. I'm going to go out fighting against this, speaking the truth in love and with enough hard sayings that I hope shake the sleeping. I'm ready to fill any pulpit anywhere, go to any street corner anywhere, go to any door of any home anywhere and preach, publish and defend the Faith we've been so wonderfully given at such great cost.

But come quickly Lord Jesus, I'm tired of seeing this. So tired. Really.

agape

Friday, November 2, 2007

What The Bible Says About "Seducing Spirits"


Someone asked an excellent question in a thread on a bulletin board I used to frequent about "studies" on the subject of "seducing spirits." Books were recommended, but I was thinking, well, why don't we as Christians just open Scripture up and discuss this ourselves? So here was my offering ..

It is my hope and my prayer that we can engage in reasoned study about this topic from SCRIPTURE. What I'd like to do is to offer up what Scriptures seem to directly allude to it, offer my own commentary, and interact with you on this. We can then agree or disagree on what Biblical principles or observations the Scriptures share with us. If we are Christians for whom the Word of God is the final authority, such a study I hope will help the Body of Christ as found among us who are largely within the fellowship of the Church of God.

First, let's pray and ask God's Spirit, the Teacher of truth, to open our eyes to what He desires we should learn of this. He alone opens the mind as well as heart to what He desires we should know: He was sent for just that purpose ..

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you .. John 14:26

Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus, as we study Your word and this subject of critical importance which Your Spirit has called us to take heed to, as you did with the twelve on the Mount of Olives before you died for us, and as your servant Paul warned the Ephesian elders to also watch for, let us come together here and break this bread of life and hear what you would say unto the church today. Let us receive your word into our hearts and may it find a plain of good ground to grow in, that we may be edified, challenged and changed by your truth. Help us to be like your people in Berea were who searched the Scriptures and who saw if these things are so .. and help us remain in a charitable spirit, even if we disagree .. in your Son's Holy Name, we ask, Amen!

As a Christian minister who labors in areas of discernment, doctrine and discipleship, this Scripture has always been of great interest to me. Spiritual deception is, according to Scripture, one of the top signs of the advent of the last days, and Paul's warning to the young preacher Timothy echoes down to us yet today. The term "seducing spirits" occurs only one time in the KJV of the Bible, but can be found in a couple other Biblical translations:

1 Timothy 4:1 - Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;(KJV)

And the Spirit expressly speaketh, that in latter times shall certain fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and teachings of demons (Young's Literal)

But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons,
(American Standard Version)

The NIV version brings an evocative shade of meaning to the translation of the verse about the nature of these "spirits":

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons .

And Eugene Peterson's ever fascinating paraphrase in "The Message" renders it as follows ..

The Spirit makes it clear that as time goes on, some are going to give up on the faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars.

I think the verses make clear several things:

1) God's Spirit is the one who is speaking loudly and pointedly

2) His call is one of divine warning for those living in the last days

3) There will be Christians in the faith who will depart from it terribly

4) They will embrace error so terrible that it marks their break from
a faith the Spirit recognizes as true

5) These "departed" ones take heed to TWO sources of error

6) One comes from "seducing spirits" and the other is that of "doctrines of
demons"

7) But both sources of error originate from a spiritual perspective

Heavy stuff. But I didn't create it.

My thoughts on these observations?

This is a warning of the Spirit to the CHURCH ABOUT the horrible conditions of the CHURCH in what He "expressly" warns are in a period of time called "the latter times." From these observations, I think, we gain a LOT of light about how the Body of Christ is threatened by spiritual deceptions that His Spirit plainly and unblinkingly says will cause people to "depart from the faith." And the most sobering thought of all is that this will occur WITHIN the Church in the last days .. that there will be Christian brothers and sisters in our fellowships who will embrace deceptive teachings introduced through entirely spiritual means.

I think the reference to "seducing spirits" can refer to both the carnal, natural mindset of the religious HUMAN spirit as well as the demonic, and the reference to "doctrines of demons" one that refers to those foisted upon the human spirit through direct demonic influence. The Bible has MUCH to say about the profoundly subtle and deceptive nature of persuasive human reasoning and philosophy that gains a following, as well as those things plainly introduced to us by demonic influence.

Men and women can be "seducing" in both social and doctrinal dimensions, and as the old saying says "sin always loves company." I have seen this again and again and again in cultism as well as in abusive churches, where people with false doctrine gain a hearing and then wield an unquestioned authority over others by their seemingly blameless, moral life in which they seem more Christian than Christians. Their outward "holiness" is what provides the seductive, deceptive element to their spirit they present themselves in. They use enough truth to honeycoat their lie, and they use every sphere of human interaction they can to spread their insidiously deception - working from the printed press, the altar "ministry" to the "spiritual father" circles and back again to gain disciples "after themselves," as Paul warned in Acts 20.

With the steady advance of church bodies caving to cultural pressure and not to mention internal apostacy, deception that can only be viewed as a literal seduction that leverages fallen human nature and false teaching inspired by its carnal, exploitative factionalism is the mark of the age. Voices that once called for engaging the culture and challenging it long ago are silent. And as I've said time and time again, Jesus said it would be this way .. any casual reading of Matthew 24 shows this.

When the evil becomes good, and it is lauded as the goal of life .. the game is about over.

                               

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Truth Matters: 7 Pastoral Pieces Of Advice On False Teachers

Some very dear friends of ours who are also strong supporters of the ministry here graciously provided to my wife and I free tickets to a popular annual Bible conference sponsored by Precept Ministries International, a Bible teaching ministry founded by the legendary Kay Arthur. Kay and her faithful staff have devoted themselves quietly and passionately to teaching how to inductively study the Bible and glean truth from it in a balanced and reasonable way that helps ground Christians in solid Biblical understanding. I have lived in Tennessee for over 20 years and have encountered hundreds of people who have been deeply enriched by her work - even though I myself have never read her work nor done any of her studies, although I've glanced through several of them. Theirs is a blessed and wonderful ministry doing perhaps more good than any of us will ever realize this side of heaven.

I have long incorporated inductive study into my own devotional life, and while it may not be follow the same pattern as a Precept study, the results, I believe have been the same. My rooting and grounding in the Word of God has been the only thing that has kept me focused all the while beholding the seductions and deceptions of so many across the years, from Alice Bailey's metaphysical Maitreyan babble to Paula White's godtalk about Christians being "elohim" .. to God alone be the Glory, for in Him alone is Truth.

Among the many wonderful teachings that various Christian ministers and speakers shared there was a choice talk called "Truth Matters" by a fine Christian pastor I'd never heard of before by the name of Crawford Loritts. It was a sobering pastoral warning on how false teaching wielded by false teachers has become a powerful force that has laid waste the faith of so many believers who were caught unaware by it. Based out of Romans 16:17-20, it was a great talk that, suddently, became absolutely absorbing when the good Pastor Loritts smiled and advised us that he had something further to say to us" "This isn't in the powerpoint .. here's seven pieces of advise about false teaching .."

For the next 20 minutes, Pastor Loritts shared from a deep well of experienced contention with deceptive teachers and teachings that deserves to be remembered. He recalled how a cultic group penetrated a fellowship gathering of black ministers in Chicago in 1981 and had to be squarely dealt with. He revealed a rich mine of dearly bought pastoral warning every Christian believer needs to memorize, incorporate and pass on. And for me, what was so striking is Loritts' depth of insight on how deceptive teaching uses the dimension of interpersonal relationships to magnify itself .. a growth medium upon which the social diseases of cultic mind control and religious abuse thrive. Had more Christians who have become cult members been made aware of these, the predations of the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Moonies, Remnant Fellowship "saints" and a host of other "Bible cults" would have far fewer successes.

But enough of my rambling. Let the good Pastor Loritts share : these were gleaned from notes I took of his talk on August 17:


1) Be careful of people you don't know who want to go immediately into intimate communication with you.


2) Be careful of those who want you to disclose more about yourself than they are willing to disclose about themselves.


3) Be careful of those who use experiences, special insights and new kinds of information to control you.


4) Be careful of those who promote a teaching or an emphasis not widely accepted by the church or mature believers.


5) Be careful of those who seem to isolate you from family and friends through their contacts with you and their new circles of associates.


6) Don't give control of your mind and thought to anyone but the Lord - "loyalty" should never be considered to be blind obedience.


7) Never stop seeking true, honest fellowship with healthy and mature Christians who don't practice any of the above.


Say amen, somebody. You can get a CD copy of this talk by contacting Precept at the link above. That's better preaching in 1 hour then you'd hear in several on TBN or in a BYU Chapel.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Another Sign Of The End Time Apostasy: Very Bad Theology On Church Signs

"Discouragement is faith in the devil!"


This kind of jolting and confrontational rhetoric, based upon a certain and all too familiar black and white worldview found in Evangelical circles as well as in the Word of Faith Movement, was seen posted on a church sign erected outside a large church as Joy and I returned from Chattanooga. We won't say where the church is to spare them from any further embarassment, but it's a well known one in the area here.


It's the kind of thing you'd expect to hear from a bellicose, fire tongued preachin' clone of Gregory Dickow, Joyce Meyers or Kenneth Copeland whose endless verbosity about faith includes harangues like this one seen on the sign. I've heard Faith teachers fill their homespun homilies with provocative statements like these meant to jar their starry eyed disciples on to newer depths of commitment to the concepts of "faith" they push ("You'll be hung by your tongue!" "Have faith in your faith!" etc.). I've seen this kind of stuff planted firmly in the "outreach" of Faith church's signs posted for all the world to see and be "inspired" by.


The core thought that this church thought important enough to shout out to the whole community around it seems to be that if someone is discouraged, as if that wasn't bad enough, they've committed a horrifying abomination. If someone is struggling in faith or is depressed by their situation, despairing of whatever issue faces them, the sign screams that they actually are abandoning God and exercising faith in the person, power and principles of Old Scratch himself, the devil. The implications of this are absolutely beyond belief, an unconscionably direct assault on the hearts and minds of those who drive by this church every day. If being discouraged means I've become allied with the minions of Satan by a so-called "faith" in him, then the entire world at some point apostasizes simply by surrendering to human nature. Everyone goes through this as the common lot of mankind, including Biblical figures like David and Job, the apostles' of Jesus' day and so many others. This has never apparently mattered to Faith teachers who unblushingly go on to criticize, insult and deride those who offer any kind of objection to those fantasies they pass off as cutting edge expositions of spiritual reality.

The absurdity of this position is beyond question - it says that to fall to one's human weakness is Satanic. Who will visit a church or accept its' ministry with that kind of thinking brazenly posted outside its doors?


But it gets even better .. well, actually WORSE. What makes this fascinating is that the church WASN'T Pentecostal or Charismatic, but is a large Baptist church, part of an Evangelical movement that claims a fidelity to Scripture and Biblical truth above question. This church's "outreach" sign has a theology that says that to be human and feel disappointment, discouragement and despair is not only unspiritual but is a sign of allegience to Satan himself, thus adding the lowest kind of insult to injury. I guess this church thought this was meant to inspire and edify. Personally, I think it to be arrogantly insensitive and spiritually immature AT BEST .. and it speaks volumes about just how shortsightedly stupid Christian "faith" can seem when trying to make a statement in the marketplaces of the world.


I'm a minister. I believe in the Body of Christ. There's a lot of wonderful and truly inspirational things going on in world missions, discipleship and church growth as well as evangelistic outreach that show that for all of our warts, the Church is indeed still moving forward with the business of the Kingdom of God on the royal road to Heaven. But this nauseatingly sign, however, is a great illustration of how many speed bumps and potholes are on the way .. and how incredibly bad the Church still is at sounding out clear messages to a world that looks to it, sees this kind of junk, and looks the other way. I am sure that is precisely what this church, unintentionally, is doing even as we speak.


agape

Monday, July 23, 2007

Prosperty Gospel Examined Redux

The Word of Faith movement, for those who have never heard of it before, is simply a body of teaching concocted up and preserved by a small but extremely influential Pentecostal and Charismatic teachers that assures us it is God's will that all Christians are to be divinely wealthy and healthy as well as victorious in every situation that challenges them. It is almost impossible to understate or exaggerate how profoundly influential these doctrines are and just how deeply it has impacted the Christian Church. Millions around the world hold that its pathetically questionable truth claims are Gospel revelation. We obviously disagree since so much of it is not only unbiblical but heretical and is precisely "another gospel" that preaches a "another Jesus" through the power of "another spirit" as Paul the apostle warned in 2 Corinthians 11:4.






Part 2 of our now 5 part series of articles on the Faith movement is now online. Like the first article, it is fully hyperlinked to offsite references as well as full of Real Audio and Video media clips that provide further information. Our first post was a summary of the claims of the Faith movement and our second one examines them more in depth for clarity. We have been waiting a long time to get these out and believe they will help many.






agape






rafael



Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Prosperity Gospel examined online

Finally, after much delay due to our involvement in researching and discerning the cultic teaching of Remnant Fellowship, we are finally moving along with other research articles on other extremist doctrines and practices. Our articles on the Word of Faith Movement are starting to be posted online. The first installment of it may be found online at our Strange Fires segment here.

We will be keeping you up to date when part 2 comes online, which we anticipate will be in the next week.



agape

rafael

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Short Guide to Comparative Religions





From off the net from many yarrons ago. These are roughly 30 different ways to get a philosophical handle on the idea that religious crap happens too.

Taoism Crap happens.
Confucianism Confucious say, "Crap Happens".
Calvinism This crap is pre-ordained.
Buddhism If crap happens, it really isn't crap.
Jehovah's Witness Crap happens because you don't work hard enough.
Seventh Day Adventist No crap on Saturdays.
Zen What is the sound of crap happening?
Hedonism There's nothing like a good crap happening.
Hinduism This crap happened before.
Mormonism This crap will help me grow.
Islam If crap happens, it is the will of Allah.
Moonies Only happy crap really happens.
Stoicism This crap is good for me.
Protestantism We don't take no crap from the Pope.
Catholicism Crap happens because you are BAD.
Hare Krishna Crap happens Rama Rama.
Judaism Why does this crap always happen to US?
Zoroastrianism Crap happens half the time.
Christian Science Crap is all in your mind.
Quaker We will continue calmly in spite of this crap.
Environmentalism Recycle this crap.
Existentialism What is crap anyway?
Baha'i Crap happens, but let's not fight about it.
Unitarianism We're all partly responsible for everyone's crap.
Unity We're all in this crap together.
Native American Crapping is part of living. Get used to it.
Scientology We'll get rid of your crap for just $7,899.
Est If you haven't "got it," you haven't got crap.
Rastafarianism Let's smoke this crap.
Remnant Fellowship/Weigh Down Workshop Don't eat one bite of crap past full or you'll go to hell

Just to let you know we do have a sense of humor and hope we offend all equally .. in love of course ..

Friday, June 15, 2007

Humanistic Logic At It's Worst: Or "Honey, It's George Bush's Fault I Had To Have An Abortion"




Don't get me wrong. Humanism is a philosophical postion that in essence enshrines the self-determination of the human being as its' foundational belief. Like it or not, there are affinities between classical humanism and Christian values that, if not too stretched, show distinct harmonies of intent and agreement. We'll discuss that at a later time.

Unfortunately the breed of "Christian humanism" that typified the Enlightenment's Protestant spirituality doesn't begin to hold a candle to the moral shambles of today's humanistic influence. Reapproachment of the two seems a lost cause when
most of the humanistic intent of the day, as surfacing in culture, sanctifies the "rights" of the human to assert their own position almost to the exclusion of other equally valid concerns related to ethical and moral questions raised by their "self determination." Exit Terry Schiavo, stage left. Exit Baby Doe, stage right. Enter the so called "Young Men Christian Association" field trip to an abortion clinic in New Hampshire. Enter the Bratz dolls that remind little girls that to be pretty, you must be a sexually precocious little flirt. I need go no further.

I stumbled across today what is quite possibly one of the most pathetic and warped signs of the times I've seen yet about how this self-centered philosophy, upon which secular humanism is based, has successfully persuaded a harried mother of two children to jettison all conscience and end the life of her unborn child. Oh but wait, it gets better.. It was all because of George Bush.

Unbelievable, but true. You can't make this stuff up.

Click here to read and weep.

Monday, May 28, 2007

No Apple For The Teacher Of LDS Kids Today


One of the more interesting emails we got recently was written by a teacher in a part of the country where LDS families make up a large percentile of her class. She outlines a situation that came up in her class when the pursuit of education was too dangerous for the LDS to tolerate: the following is the essential text of their email and my reply. Since their email address bounced, this is my way of trying to hopefully deliver it to them. It is a cautionary tale ..

They wrote:

I just wanted to comment that I thought your piece on Mormonism was very interesting. I am a middle school social studies teacher who just recently taught the Utah history portion of Manifest Destiny. (Ed. note - I can only assume she means this article we wrote summarizing the LDS Church's dedication to sanitizing its' history) I only have a few Mormon students but their parents were furious for me mentioning polygamy and for me giving an assignment that required students to bring in research on Utah history, One parent vehemently denied that Joseph Smith was ever a polygamist and another denied that Brigham Young was a polygamist. These parents called the principal and later the district office, trying to get me fired. It was unbelievable. Fortunately after much investigation the principal's final report said that I didn't do anything wrong. But I was stunned at how these Mormon parents reacted to my history lesson, and more stunned at how ignorant they are of their own religon.

I am not surprised at the reaction of these parents. They are products of the Mormon culture, which handles inconvenient truth claims about their religion with either denial, deception and demonizing. This paradigm is generally how Mormons will escalate their responses to outsiders who challenge their piously elitist worldview with objective fact based on science, history or orthodox theology and no two Mormons will act the same way. After years of talking with them about their religion, I know this to be true.

Some take the gentle, weepy-eyed and wounded approach ("Oh, how can anyone say anything like that about MY church, it's just not true") to a harder line ("Now that is a lie, let me tell you how it really happened, and stop listening to the Anti side of things'" - "antis" being anyone who has solid documentation about their claims) to the one in which personal attacks, slander and threats of legal action and even physical violence are fair game ("You intolerant blankety blank atheistic reprobate, we're going to sue you!"). Undoubtedly you got someone in the demonizing end of the spectrum whose personality and zeal embraced that degree of reactionary hysteria.

These people, being the upcoming and latest generation of LDS parents seeking to carry the Mormon torch, react the way they are because they were told that such "lies" are old myths circulated by "the Antis" who are on a campaign to smear the LDS Church for ulterior motives. These young parents were told by their spiritual leaders and elders, whom they sometimes call "The Brethren", that Smith and Young were straight arrow spiritual heroes and these terrible things spoken of them and about their pioneer history are all lies.

The LDS Church, as you know, has been engaged in spin doctoring of its historical and sociological reality for generations and they have it down to a fine art, so much so that you can now hear talk of Evangelicals embracing Mitt Romney as a legitimate Presidential contender on that basis. If bishop Humptyscrunch said it never happened, well, we can trust him. If apostle Dingleboulder said so, then that's the way it is./*He'd never lie to us, they would walk away believing.*/ So what you did, without any intent I am sure, by exposing your students to documentable historical fact and requesting that they look for it, was to in essence undermine that careful facade of deceptive propagandizing that these parents have built in their own heads and which they are replicating in their children's minds.

By doing your job, you directly challenged the LDS's most powerful grip on the hearts and minds of its followers - that being the free usage of deception. Objectivity is a dangerous thing to the power and authority of a cult seeking to recruit and retain members with beautiful stories and experiential faith.

They continued:

What boggles my mind the most though, is how does a religion that has such shameful history and doctrines continue to grow so fast? I know the Mormon church has a very hard working public relations department and they very actively convert people, but ever since the invention of the internet, everything about the Mormon church has been exposed. And it's not just the history and the doctrines.

I offered further response:

It grows because of three basic trends in society today: 1) the postmodern trend in Western society to simply and uncritically accept what we are told by what looks positive, plausible and practical, 2) the unquestionably high external moral and spiritual absolutes by the religion in light of an increasingly amoral and secularizing world filled with cynicism, skepticism and relativism and 3) the unwillingness of those who can uphold legitimate objections to misguided and questionable faith claims to avoid being seen as "intolerant."

Humans however have a troublesome tendency to keep thinking about questions they get answers for (not a bad thing, I think) and will go looking for them if no one will provide them. That's why the Internet is such a dangerous weapon to groups like the Mormons who cannot abide questions that rock their foundations for which they have no answers that can possibly be spun to their advantage and thus reinforce their pretense of spiritual authority. Many Mormons still think about the loose ends of their religion, as do others, and will go looking for answers.

At the same time, plenty of people who feel they want a restoration or two of faith in their life see the pretty pictures of a Mormon world order, get to see the fresh faced zeal of young LDS missionaries, and wonder at what its like to know that God really loves them and answers their prayers .. and voila, within days, uncritically, unquestioningly, they become baptized Mormons - after a lifetime of being Catholic or Protestant or irreligious. The LDS missions effort, like all cultic proselytizers, targets the existing Christian church for its existence and could not grow with out it. Hence, this is one reason why I, a Christian minister, now pursue the path I do.

Our own encounters and outreach to the Remnant Fellowship cult are also proof of how the Internet is being used to find information. Our website is probably the only resource in the world with the most extensive amount of information on this group and so much more needs to be told about it, since it is undeniably a dangerous cult that deceptively recruits on the grounds that is a "faith based" weight loss program that only wants to help people. It is snaring new attention for its seductions by sending out onto the soundstages of national media venues (like the "Today Show," "Tyra Banks Show" and "Fox & Friends" just in the last year) many beautiful skinny people fashionably dressed and who have these marvelous testimonies to personal renewal. It used email and webcasting in conjunction with frequent visits to the cult's HQ in ultrahip Franklin, TN to ensnare, indoctrinate and then control members - so much so that hundreds of them have moved to Nashville.

What isn't as well known, however, is how many marriages have been destroyed, children starved and families divided painfully because of this cult, which teaches that purity and righteousness are directly tied to an arbitrary standard of personal weight loss and how well one jumps through the hoops of their moral standards and the cult leader's personal mores. We have done all we can and know for a fact that our documentation of their egregious and abusive manipulations has been a serious detriment to their recruitment and recently just saw them lose an attempted lawsuit to litigate us out of existence with claims of damages of 3.3 million dollars.

But the continued growth of this movement highlights my point - if people don't ask questions and just accept what they are told and never seek alternative perspectives of what they're being told to believe, they are prime candidates for any smooth talking proponent of some new and cutting edge restoration of divine truth or higher wisdom.

They conclude:

There are so many things that the Mormon church is trying to cover up, including the Mason like cultish ceremonies that occur in their temples (i.e. secret handshakes that are required to get into heaven?!). Do you thing there will ever be a time that the Mormon church is completely accepted for being a fraud?

No, unfortunately. I do not see a trend in society leading me to believe that the side of human nature I have just discussed is going to change. That includes Mormonism. Many Mormons know that their church's foundational beliefs about man becoming gods, about the Book of Mormon being a "divine record", and about the historical reality of LDS social presence are based upon out and out lies and fabrications and don't care. They've got good jobs, are raising good kids, have had a wonderful life of meaningful personal vocation in the church, have relatives who trekked in the Mormon migrations to Utah .. they're not going to rock the boat. I do see that Christ prophesied that false prophets would arise in a period of time He called the "end times" and deceive many.

This is purely a spiritual truth claim, I know, but I personally feel that the emergence of groups like Mormonism are stark, sobering fulfillment of this. True, man has been shot through with sectarianism of every stripe for all of its history, but these new groups follow a program of deception that I think is unmatched in history and that their prevalence and almost innumerable presence are proof of this also.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

September 11 and the LDS Church

6 years ago, in 2001, the LDS Church community did what it could to rally our nation in its own unique way after the horror of September 11. We are grateful for that. In that day, we all united as Americans outraged against the cowardly and monstrous acts set forth by Islamic extremists and pledged to stand against their terrorism.

With the Mormons, all Americans - be they atheists, Democrats, Muslims, black, Evangelicals, Mexicans, poor, Catholics, middle class, Hindus, Libertarians, pacifists, etc - for one shining moment, were as one in shock, horror, mourning and outrage.

150 years ago, on September 11, 1857, that was not the case.


The United States was at great odds with the Mormon community that had just traveled to the then unsettled Utah territories. There was no such unity and antagonism between the U.S. government and the leaders of the LDS Church is an established historical fact. And it was the clash of Mormon religious elitism that socially defied American morality that was at the core of the issue. Following the self-proclaimed prophetic authority of Brigham Young, Mormon society - often referred to as "Zion" - was clearly a counterculture that eschewed the "Gentile" world outside it.

But September 11 will forever be a red letter day for the Mormon Church.

A new movie entitled "September Dawn", which will premiere on May 4, will explain why September 11, 1857 is a day Mormonism would love to bury and forget. This movie will not allow that to happen.

Click here to watch the trailer.

This is an important reminder that if we forget our past we are condemned to repeat it. Today, men and women may no longer be skewered or shot to atone for their sins in the LDS Church (sins that often include simply acting upon conscience) .. but they are drawn and quartered alive in a living death more horrible than a mass murder or gang rape. My good friend Eric Kettunen's website details this accordingly through the many testimonials of Mormons who can testify to this.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

How A Mormon Could Become President



A fascinating with a capital F article on this question ..

A slice or two from it .. this was written before Mr. Romney finally stopped testing the waters and made the plunge

snip

AS MITT ROMNEY tests the waters for a potential 2008 presidential run, he’ll be able to tap a vein of affluent, motivated, activist supporters with considerable political experience — the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), a/k/a the Mormons. The Romney family is to the Mormons what the Kennedys are to the Catholics. Mitt Romney’s father, George, a former CEO of American Motors and governor of Michigan, himself ran for president in 1968. Marion Romney, one of Mitt Romney’s cousins, was once a member of the LDS Church’s First Presidency, a triumvirate of the world’s three most powerful Mormons. And then, of course, there’s Mitt. A former venture capitalist and Mormon bishop, Romney unsuccessfully challenged Ted Kennedy in a 1994 Senate campaign and then rescued the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah — the Vatican of Mormonism — from certain disaster before being elected governor here. Like John F. Kennedy, who played to the religious loyalty and ethnic insularity of his fellow Catholics, and Michael Dukakis, who appealed to Greek pride, Romney — if he runs — will surely look to his own religious base to give his campaign leverage and traction.



FOR A CRASH course in Mormon political power, consider the important role the LDS Church played in the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have guaranteed women equal rights under the law. Passed by the House in 1971 and by the Senate in 1972, the ERA enjoyed widespread national support and seemed destined to succeed. By 1976, 34 states had ratified it; only four more were needed to make it part of the Constitution.

Then the Mormons got involved. In October 1976, the LDS Church’s First Presidency — consisting of the church’s three highest-ranking members — issued a formal statement opposing the ERA: the amendment, the First Presidency warned, might "stifle many God-given feminine instincts" and lead to an uptick in homosexual activity. This denunciation had a near-immediate impact in Idaho, home to a relatively large Mormon electorate. The Idaho legislature had previously given the ERA the requisite two-thirds approval, but this was undone by a January 1977 referendum in which a popular majority opposed the amendment.

Next, the LDS Church turned its focus to the state-level International Women’s Year (IWY) conferences taking place around the country. These gatherings had no formal role in the amendment process, but served as highly public barometers of female support for the ERA. As Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn recounts in a forthcoming anthology, God and Country: Politics in Utah (Signature Books), LDS women in numerous states worked to block pro-ERA resolutions at IWY conferences. The process was top-down, and controlled by the Church’s (male) leadership. In Hawaii, for example, Mormon women received these written instructions: "Report to Traditional Values Van, sign in, pick up dissent forms. Sit together. Stay together to vote. Ask Presidency for help if needed." At other state conferences, male Mormon coordinators staked out various rooms and informed their compatriots when a particular vote was pending; the Mormon women in attendance then rushed in to participate. This kind of discipline and cohesion allowed the Saints, as the Mormons call themselves, to dominate conferences in states where their total numbers were quite small. For example, Mormons represented about four percent of the total populations of Washington and Montana, but accounted for half or more of the women attending each state’s IWY gathering. And in both Washington and Montana, every proposed pro-ERA resolution was defeated.

In addition, under the guidance of Gordon Hinckley — then a special adviser to the First Presidency, and now the president of the LDS Church — Mormon-led civic groups were set up in a dozen states. Anti-ERA speakers were invited to speak in LDS Church buildings, and massive letter-writing campaigns were launched. Here, too, the Mormons’ limited numbers belied their ultimate effect: by one estimate, Saints generated 85 percent of the anti-ERA mail sent in Virginia, where they made up only one percent of the population. Ultimately, after a promising beginning, the ERA was defeated. And while it might be going too far to say the LDS Church killed it, it certainly put the amendment on life support. True, Mormons made common cause with conservative Catholics and Protestant fundamentalists in their battle against the ERA, a collaboration that paved the way for the political sector now broadly known as the religious right. But without the LDS Church’s timely intervention and efficient opposition, the amendment probably would have passed.

More recently, Mormons have devoted their political efficacy to the fight against gay marriage. In 1994, the First Presidency issued a formal statement opposing the marriage of same-sex couples. Soon after, fliers offering advice on how to create anti-gay-marriage PACs were distributed at Mormon congregations nationwide. In the mid ’90s, the LDS Church’s national headquarters tapped couples from Utah to participate in anti-gay-marriage endeavors outside the state, and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to "traditional marriage" campaigns around the country. Meanwhile, local leaders used their wards (which are analogous to parishes) to coordinate anti-gay-marriage lobbying efforts. In 1996, for example, at every LDS chapel in Texas, meetings were held to urge Mormons to join the Coalition for Traditional Marriage, a Church-sponsored lobbying group. The necessary registration forms were provided in case they wished to do so on the spot.

This strategy came to fruition in California during the fight over Proposition 22, an initiative to ban gay marriage in that state. In the year before the election, LDS leaders mobilized local congregations to support the ban, formally asking California Mormons to raise money, knock on doors, send mailings, and staff phone banks. It worked. In 2000, California voters approved Proposition 22 by a 23-point margin.



AT THIS POINT, of course, it’s all still hypothetical. Romney hasn’t committed to a presidential run, and his fellow Mormons haven’t lined up to support him. Until he does — and until they do — two caveats are worth noting.

First, Romney wouldn’t be the first Mormon presidential candidate. Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of the LDS Church, declared himself an independent candidate for the presidency in 1844. More recently, George Romney, Mitt’s father, made an attention-getting run in 1968 (see "Here Comes the Son," News and Features, September 17, 2004), and Utah senator Orrin Hatch launched a bid of his own in 2000. The collective Mormon genius for politics wasn’t enough to put any of these candidates over the top.

Then again, none of these candidacies really gave Mormons a chance to flex their political muscle. As the founder of a widely distrusted new religion and a perceived threat to the federal government, Joseph Smith was perhaps the least-viable presidential candidate in American history. George Romney’s appealing candor hobbled his campaign early on, and he was essentially finished by the New Hampshire primary; furthermore, the elder Romney made his run before the LDS Church waged its formative battle against the ERA. And Hatch — burdened by profound blandness, and running against John McCain and George W. Bush — never managed to gain traction in the 2000 race. If Romney runs in ’08, he should be the most nationally viable Mormon candidate yet.

The other point is more problematic. Veteran observers of Mormon politics believe that the LDS Church will not formally endorse or support Romney if he runs. Kim Farah, an LDS spokeswoman, says this is correct. "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a longstanding policy of political neutrality," Farah said via e-mail. "The Church does not endorse political parties, candidates or platforms."

This raises a perplexing question: is top-down guidance necessary to shift the Mormon machine into high gear? Some believe it is. If Romney runs, Quinn argues, "you’d have independent firebrands with great organizational skills working in Memphis or Tallahassee or Boston, but their organizations wouldn’t be connected. It would not represent a coordinated campaign." He adds that the endorsement of the LDS Church president — who, in addition to being the Church’s top administrator, acts as its living prophet — carries profound weight: "Mormons can be critical thinkers, and skeptical, until they receive instructions from the ‘living prophet.’ Then believing Mormons act like army ants under orders from headquarters." This jibes with the conclusions of Monson and Campbell, who suggest that top-down direction is crucial to ignite the "dry kindling" effect.

But is it? First off, overt neutrality on the part of the Mormon hierarchy might well co-exist with quiet support for Romney’s candidacy. "I very much doubt that they would publicly support Romney in an official way," says Ed Firmage Jr., a liberal Mormon political activist in Salt Lake City. "The Church is very skittish about appearing too political. But while it would be completely unofficial, in every invisible sense, [Church support] would probably be pretty strong." Again, the case of the ERA is instructive: while LDS leadership publicly condemned the amendment, it also worked to obscure the Church-directed nature of its members’ opposition. Even if Church leaders were to remain formally neutral, comparable surreptitious support for Romney might be forthcoming.

Furthermore, there’s something faintly ridiculous about the notion that, if Hinckley and lower-ranking Mormon authorities remain publicly neutral in the face of a Romney run, the Mormon electorate won’t be able to discern their private preferences. Think about it: Romney saved the Salt Lake Olympics, which doubled as the LDS Church’s chance to re-introduce itself to the world. His father remains a revered figure among Mormons; to a lesser extent, so does his cousin. Factor in some additional Romney attributes — his squeaky-clean image, his business success, his photogenic family — and it becomes clear that our governor is a paragon of Mormon virtues. "Honesty and integrity play well in Mormon culture," says J. Bonner Ritchie, an emeritus professor of organizational behavior at BYU. "Mormonism has become a true pro-business culture; successful businesspeople have credibility, and he’s a successful businessperson. He has a good family — he has a beautiful wife, and sons, some of whom are in school here, who look like they’re strong and good and behave well. All those things carry weight." Would Mormon voters really see their religious leaders as agnostic between Romney and the pro-gay-rights Rudy Giuliani? Between Romney and the libertarian McCain? Between Romney and Hillary Clinton? It seems unlikely.

clippers down

It's a huge article. Enjoy .. think .. and pray .. Personally, I always thought Mitt Romney will definitely run for President. Here's what I wrote about Mr. Romney's political and spiritual assets and liabilities.

snip

The big question is, however, when he will announce his desire to seek the GOP nomination.

Will it be in the next Presidential race? I'm not sure but I would suspect that it's not likely. The Grand Old Party is going to get a pasting in 2008 if 2006 is any indication (and you didn't to be some political commentator to have figured that out) and the party is still largely in disarray, no matter how "unified" the PR tries to make it sound. The closest thing to a front runner in the GOP is John McCain and his maverick politics that have often been at odds with the Bush administration will be a model for all of the presidential candidates across the nation who will seek to distance themselves from their monstrously unpopular national platform. The national groundswell turned to the Democrats (surprise) and it's a good sign that we will likely get a Democratic president in 2008.

So I don't think Romney, who is a member of a very shrewd and cagey political family, is going to weigh anchor and run for presidency in the present political firestorm of transition our country is now facing.

I think Romney will wait for a Democratic presidency to arise and then run. They will wait for all of the national political circus to run for a few years, establish a new political climate and then test the winds to see if his ship will sail. I think he will then correctly gamble that the non LDS consitutuency of the GOP - including Evangelicals - will be longing for a Moses to lead them to the Promised Land of electoral deliverance and be willing to look the other way about his religious conviction.

Evangelicals have been looking the other way about a lot of things like financial scandals, immorality in leadership and questionable doctrine/practice. Mormonism will be the next asherah we'll tolerate. We won't burn babies there (of course not, we're all "Pro Life") but we won't cut those damnable things down and will let them tower into the sky ..

Remember what the Bible said about the "high places" of idolatry in Israel and Judah during the years in which kings ruled there .. and learn ..

A Year Later: Why The DaVinci Code Freaked So Many Out



The buzz over Dan Brown's runaway best seller "The DaVinci Code" has long cooled down. Frankly, I've always been amazed at how many gazillions of people out there actually bought the book and how many of them became immediately caught up in the frenzy of discussion over the themes it hammers home. Clearly, Brown walloped a grand slam of controversy over some very sensitive subjects. The Passion of The Codebecame a part of the brief but stentorian belch of cultural hot air last spring that sharply cut through the normal level of room noise in Western Society.

Why is this? The book is popular for all the hot buttons it pushes. Whether Dan Brown is a Christian or not, I cannot say. I personally don't know. I do know that his posited worldview in the book is utterly antichristian, that's for sure, appropriately irreverent in its postmodern rationalistic prose, trying to strike a medium between true crime and apocalyptic religious thriller.

The book is popular because Brown's tale - which I found to be contrived and not particularly well written - weaves so many well known elements embedded in the pop consciousness of Western society into the story. God alone knows how many people have written book after book combining various combinations of these plot elements. It was only a matter of time before a Dan Brown would hit the right balance to tip the jackpot into his lap.

There's religious scandal, conspiracy theory, the murky doings of vast, multinational organizations, love, murder mysteries and secret societies doing unspeakable things to protect the "truth" of what Jesus and Christian faith is about. There's the deliciously engaging belief that "truth" isn't what we think it is and we MUST, at all costs, uncover the reality which culture and tradition has buried with the status quo - a heady rush that seizes the imagination. There's a hero fighting a battle in that battlefield in which the lines between good and evil are intentionally blurred. You got rigorous investigative intellect facing down established European intrigues based on thousands of years of "tradition. And you even got Opus Dei, so byzantine and powerful that the Jesuits look like a bunch of bumbling Friars Tuck. All stitched in a tale set against the tragedy of tragedies in today's postmodern credulity - the possibility of forever missing out on getting down to the bottom of the "truth that's out there."

Some Christians made a lot of hay about trying to harness the attention of the masses by advocating Mars Hill styles of dialoguing outreach from Christians wanting to reach for Christ their non believing friends who entertained the book's skewering of Christian faith. If these were "witnessing" opportunities, I'd say they'd be about the nature of what is true and how we know what is true. In a day and age in which absolutes are optional claims true for one and not necessarily someone else, this is a BIG question. It's how we come to know truth, which is called epistemology, that is a big arena to explore questions in. And epistemology is ultimately what we stand or fall on. Brown's book makes Christian faith to ultimately be the sumtotal of a religious crapshoot between warring factions of Christian mystics, scholastics and conspiracies. That plays VERY well into the hands of an already thoroughly skeptical Western mind who've been imbued with that spirit since the Enlightenment.

And I fear that most Christians will be ill prepared for the kinds of questions their friends may ask about it. The homework on the banal claims set forth by the Da Vinci code plot has been done for years, but most Christians haven't a clue on this. They'll just take it by face value and try to deal with the demoralizing implications it sows. And once more, an assault by the artistes of the day on the Faith went down in cineplexes in a few days, reinforcing the printed words that have preceded it. Just another day in paradise. God alone knows how well the Church and the Christian faith stood when tested in a million anonymous and unseen courts of public and private opinion in the hearts and minds of those tempted to consider the truthclaims made by Brown's book outside its context.

agape

rafael

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Jesus Is God: Does It Matter, Really?


A question came up on the bulletin board I used to frequent, a good question that deserves careful consideration by all believers in Christ.

I don't see where understanding the deity of Christ is a requirement for salvation in scripture. Consider the fact that Acts does not record Peter bring this up in his presentation of the Gospel to a monotheistic audience in Acts 2.

Let's take this another step up .. Think through this with me.

Can a created spirit being like an angel die for my sins on the Cross?

Can a figurative metaphor that personifies the highest ideal of God shed blood for me?

Can an extraordinarily good man - born of human parents - actually atone for my sins just by being framed and murdered by a jealous status quo?

How about one that was so good that God decided to adopt him as His "Son"?

All of these bogus spiritual conceptions of who the Savior was and IS and IS to Come are what have been circulated among mankind since He ascended. Many are the counterfeit religions of today that at some point assert all of these and other heretical views of Christ in their teaching. And I contend that this is no different an error than that of the Catholic who can affirm every bit of the deity of Christ that we can and who will bow before a piece of bread and call it the mystical flesh of Christ Himself. That is where your assertion would lead us. If ANY of these options were the possible explanation for who Jesus was, then He could not be divine. That's just plain logic in action. Jesus is God completely apart from human convention or He is as C.S. Lewis has well said "liar or lunatic."

And what of Acts 2:36-37?

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what
shall we do?

BOTH Lord AND Christ in ONE PERSON! Both eternal servant and King at once, and whose revelation in Peter's sermon blew away the religiosity of the pilgrims and convicted thousands. That truth hooked them and turned them to throw themselves head long into a confession of faith in that Holy One who saw no corruption, whom they knew of .. and whose visitation they missed.


That kind of conviction sounds like something only God can do ..

Of Himself, Jesus said this ..

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. John 8:58.

The prophet Isaiah foretold and the apostle Matthew clarified ..

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Matthew 1:23

The deity of Christ is well attested to in Scriptures like these and this:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and
the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a
Son?

And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And,
Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but
thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be
heirs of salvation?


Hebrews 1:1-14

Those who resist grappling with the Bible's revelation of God are in
danger of found fighting against him .. those who hold fast to the
truth need to be aware of the warning of the author of Hebrews found also
in verse 15:

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which
we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip