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.