Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Have's & the Have Not's of Christianity

Spiritual class system in Christianity? What?  Didn't know such an animal existed did you? Well, when you've got men who claim to be prophets and neo-apostles and who have reached a higher spiritual plane, then we have a spiritual class system within the Body of Messiah.

We have the have's (those who have reached a higher spiritual place) and the have not's (who have yet reached the higher spiritual dimension).  One group has discovered the secret, the formula or a special prayer that has ushered them into a greater spiritual dimension than the average Christian.  

Yet, in these meetings where those with greater spiritual unction are presiding, chaos reigns.  People  are falling on the ground, speaking out of turn, uttering tongues that are not interpreted or writhing in convulsions on the floor "touched by the Spirit of the Living God." 

However, throughout I Corinthians 14 where spiritual gifts and manifestations are discussed, Paul exhorts these gifted individuals to operate in order in their meetings.  if Paul walked into some of these so-called Holy Spirit services today, he would be dazed and confused, and would admonish the participants for their inconsistent behavior.  

Rather than orderly or reverent, these meetings are led by people filled not with the Holy Spirit but themselves. It is so obvious when a viewer observes these services that these men are inflated with their own egos, telling the audience how special they are.  They draw attention to themselves and not Christ by informing the audience that they have a special anointing, a gift, a revelation and have reached another level of spirituality.  These teachers appeal to Christians who are seeking something special from God; they are not there to worship the Lord.  They want to bring God down into their meeting so He can give to them what they want . . . a healing, a miracle, an anointing, or some special manifestation of the Spirit.  Christ is not the center but their own desires become the center.  This whole movement of neo-apostles and prophets is nothing more than a spiritual me-centered movement. 

I often wonder about the anointing these so called prophets claim to have.  They travel from city holding their meetings, dumping their false teachings on unsuspecting sheep, claiming to speak for the Lord promising healing and prosperity.  Then they leave town to travel to the next city to start their ministry all over again.  No one asks them questions about what occurred in the previous town, especially any prophecies that were made or claims of healing that were pronounced.  How do we know these supernatural signs really took place? Who's checking up on these people?  Where is the spiritual accountability? 

It's rather rare that the one person who wanted the "power" of God and was willing to pay for it to do signs and wonders  was Simeon, a man Paul rebuked for seeking signs and wonders. 

With this class system these false prophets have set up, it makes you wonder about the people who are under their guidance and teaching.  Are these people coming to know the Lord under these neo-apostles truly coming into a saving relationship with the Lord?  Are they being told false information about the gospel and promised things God will do for them but without any biblical authority?  

I am concerned for young believers who come into contact with any shades of the Kansas City/Toronto blessing movement. In essence, these unsuspecting sheep will eventually face a spiritual crisis once the reality of life hits them. They will find out out God does not heal every disease nor does He answer every prayer the way we assumed He would.  Even worst is the fact these new believers under the tutoring of these neo-apostles will be led into doctrines of demons and become part of the great falling away at the end of the age.  

Perhaps these false teachers are manifesting supernatural experiences among their followers . . . My question is this:  who is the source of these supernatural experiences . . . is it God or is it Satan?  I am not a betting man but if I were to play a game of roulette, my money would be on the red! 


Monday, July 28, 2008

Is Jesus Ever Enough?

If I could summarize the neo-apostolic /prophet movement in one simple concept, it's this:   For these people Jesus is just not enough.  Added to that I'd also say for these followers of Christ Scripture is not enough either.  

The "stars" of the Kansas City prophetic movement and the Toronto blessing "spiritual celebs", always have the same message year after year, decade after decade:  "What God has given us in the Bible is not enough. We have more information and revelation from the Lord and He has chosen to give it to us.  "Isn't that special?" says Dana Carvey's church lady.  

What are these so-called neo-apostles really saying?  God has deposited newer revelation with this one select group of people who are the new apostles of the present age. These so-called prophets would fit wonderfully with the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith and the originator of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy.  I'll tell you why. False prophets always start out the same, making the claim God has spoken to them and if you want to know the latest on the Lord's truth, you need to get the latest manifestation of truth through them.  The facts and the patterns are always the same; only the names have changed:  Todd Bentley and Che Ahn and others of their ilk.  

When will Christianity see through the false prophets  Satan keeps sending our way to waste our time,  distract us and get us off the main road of the biblical faith.  A friend of mine reminded me recently in an email that evangelical Christianity has been truncated. We are quick to quote from Ephesians 2:8-9:  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. " We often stop with these words and Christianity becomes a lawn chair we rest in and allow the Spirit of God to shine His blessings down on us.  But verse 10 continues: For we are God's workmanship, created in Messiah Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."   Verse 10 kicks us out of the lawn chair and tells us we've been saved not only to receive grace from God but to give it to others.  The question every Christian needs to ask himself is this: Since I am saved by God's grace, how can I be serving Him and others - both believers and secular people.  Our task is not to be seeking miracles but to be a blessing to others. When are we going to grab on to this principle and digest it into our spiritual metabolism?

What I find fascinating is that these new prophets are quick to tell us  we are entering an "age of the revival".  Speak to the word "revival" to most Christians and you'll gather a crowd and bring in the dough.

And of course, these self-appointed new prophets are the ones" anointed" by God to bring in this great outpouring of the Spirit. Yet the Scriptures tell us there will be a great falling away before the end. (I Timothy 4:1: The Spirit clearly says that in the latter times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons). 

 Jesus wonders when He returns to earth, will He find any of His followers who have remained  faithful to Him remaining?  At the end of the age, according to Scriptures  false teachers will arise to tell people what they want to hear and will perform signs and wonders to deceive the elect of God.  It will become more difficult to remain a Christian and you will have to pay a greater price to name the name of Jesus and not be part of this "end times" crowd.

We already have seen men who preach strange doctrines and exhibit bizarre behavior having nothing to do with the Bible or Christianity:  Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and now Todd Bentley.  Beware of this man lest he lead you . . . and your church astray with signs and wonders and teachings that contradict the Bible. It's all part of Satan's plan to confuse God people.  

Currently, we have pastors who have erected mega- churches not based on God's word but based on messages which are essentially pop psychology.   We witness churches packed with 30,000 people like Joel Osteen's congregation in Houston, Texas, who has no Christian message of salvation through Jesus . . .  but a message of peace, prosperity and health.  Jesus is a an "add-on" to Osteen's message. Face it, Joel Osteen is not a man who preaches the truth of the New Testament.  If He preached the truth and said it is not God's will for everyone to succeed, be prosperous, be healed of their diseases and escape suffering, he'd lose  a big chunk of his members and most of all, money.  The prosperity crowd would just go looking for another Osteen somewhere else. Their not interested in Jesus but six easy-steps to financial success.

Osteen tickles the ears of his listeners.  When pinned to the wall in a recent interview by Larry King about whether he (Osteen) believes Jesus is the only way to salvation, Osteen buckled and wimped out and smoothly glided away from answering the question.   

 Excuse me for putting this problem in these terms but a lot of ministers have Spiritual ED (Erectile Dysfunction). They haven't got the stamina to "stand tall" for the truth of the Word of God but deliver limp messages from their pulpits.  I go from church to church and I hardly hear the Word anymore. God needs to send an outpouring of spiritual Viagra on these men, to get their spiritual libido back to teach the word.

Another issue brought up by the neo-apostles is that of the Kingdom Now theology.  I thought we were rid of this false doctrine back in the 1980's but here it is again.  Here's how this false teaching plays out:  if the church prays enough, shares the gospel, performs enough healings, slayings in the Spirit and continues to seek a higher spiritual dimension. we can bring the kingdom of God on earth.  Here we have a case of men who have overdosed on spiritual Viagra. Who do these men think they are?  Jesus never told us we have the power to bring the kingdom of God on earth. 

 Included in this brew of misguided  of spiritual leaders is Rod Parsley, a man who speaks in militaristic term about bringing the kingdom on earth and going after Muslims. I wonder if this man has spent too much time reading reading Hitler's Mein Kampf more than the Bible Luckily,  Presidential candidate John McCain distanced himself from this dangerous nut case and avoided a major scandal (which Barack Obama did not have the sense to do with Rev. Jeremiah Wright). Parsley's message is dangerous and damaging to the image of Christianity.

What is the secular person to think when he or she hears the battle cry for Christians to bring God's kingdom on earth?  Rod Parsley sounds like he's calling for holy jihad against secular society in the name of Jesus.  This man speaks a twisted, demented gospel message which must be exposed and rejected as false teaching. 

I pray for God to bring these men down and replace them with humble men of God, aware of their sin who just want to teach the Scriptures and are not off on any super-spiritual Levitra kick.  The sooner God gets rid of these people and gets them out of the pulpit, the better. These men have no business in the pulpit as they mishandle the word of God.  The truth must come out and let us stop being wimps before these loudmouth, ego-centric pastors. 

 What these men from the Kansas City movement and the Toronto blessing have done in deceiving 1000s is worse than physical adultery.  These men are guilty of adulterating the word of God to build their own kingdoms and power bases.   They are much worse than the sin of Ted Haggard but the church is afraid to confront these "little gods."  It's so much easier for the leaders of the church to admonish leaders who have committed fornication or adultery.  The evangelical body is allowing the leaven of false doctrine into the Church. Which concerned Jesus more?  Adultery or false prophets?  You know the answer. 

These false prophets speak about hastening the day of the Lord. No church or leader or any so-called prophet carries that kind of authority.  Read the parables of Christ that discuss how Christians are to behave in the last days  before His return.  He uses one concept over and over:  be vigilant, watchful, sober-minded. 

 Revival at that hands of these spiritual madmen is not going to hasten the day. It will only usher in a time of a great apostasy.  Hand -in-hand with this is the fate of Israel.  If more Jewish people accept Jesus as Messiah and Lord, perhaps the day of His coming will arrive sooner? Can you see these spiritual loons trying to bring Jewish people to the Lord at a greater speed and intensity to hasten the day of Jesus' return.

Look at John Hagee . . . this man has made friends with Israeli leaders in high places at the price of changing his theology . . no longer believing Jewish people need Jesus for salvation. What a messed up but gifted preacher John Hagee is . . another pastor John McCain quickly distanced himself from., 

Scriptures never tells us we are to hasten the day of Christ's return.  We are to watch, wait and be faithful. Only the Father knows the day or the hour when the Son of Man will come.  It's in the hands of the Father.  

There's so much work to do to clean up the Body of Christ and and sweep away the dirt of these false prophets once again slithering like snakes bringing this new wave of false spirituality into the Body.

Christians can only be prepared by sticking to what it says  in the Word of God and not be fooled by signs and wonders and dynamic persuasive speakers. Look at Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ . . a man who who screams in the pulpit and and preaches hatred for this country.  Would you be fooled by his dynamic presentation?  Is truth determined by oratory delivery or by content?   

Let us learn to be diligent as this next swell of false prophets starts to build and the wave of their deception breaks on the church.  Learn to swim and stay afloat and not be washed away in flood of their lies. 


Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Devil In Disguise

Here are we are again . . . another movement has resurged from within Christianity making the claim to hearing the latest from God.

I've been a follower of Jesus since 1969 and I've watched these "manifestations of the Holy Spirit" may their way into the Body of Christ through so-called Christian teachers, do their damage, confuse Christians and then fade slowly away into the distance. It's only a matter of time before Christians get bored enough with their me-centered personal relationship with Christ to create a void for these false teachers to gain control.

The issue for me issue for me is not charismatic vs. non-charismatic. Those categories out outdated and don't apply. The only issue is this: what in the world is Christianity anymore? We have these whackomatic Christians doing their Holy Spirit voodoo magic on one hand and then we have the super-intellectuals speaking academic gibberish to each other while the Church sits idly by not know what to say.

Once again the Church is being attacked by a new crop of "anointed" men and women of God; I prefer to call them Christian witch doctors - sames like Todd Bentley, connected with the Kansas City movement in the 90s, the Toronto crowd (Arnott) and Che Ahn in California. It seems the body of Christ cannot get away from the constant outpouring of demonic poison these individuals keep pouring into the churches, bookstores and Christian gatherings.

When I witness the antics and the messages of these people, I say in my heart, "I don't belong to that religion. That's not Christianity. I'm not sure what it is? The Ringling Brother and Barnum and Bailey Circus?" I know that sounds terrible for me to say but it's about time someone has the guts to say that these so-called "men of God" do not represent New Testament Christianity. It is their own brand of Le Cirque du Soleil with Jesus attached to it.

If that's biblical Christianity, then I am not a Christian. What I see is a whole other religion that can only be described with such words as pagan, maniacal, disorderly, trickery, Christian voodoo-ism, and a religious expression of people bored with their lives and frankly out of love with the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, they are doing a Christian make-over otherwise known as "useless-ism."

The main message of this current phase of spiritual truth is for the Christian to seek supernatural encounters with God. These alleged spiritual leaders speak of receiving messages from angels and yet no where in the Scriptures are we told to seek angelic messages, nor are we told to command God to send angels.

In addition - and this is so old school - when these Christians claim that the Lord has slain them in the Spirit and they have been put in a state where they are not in control of their own bodies and minds, there is nothing in the Bible that teaches this. Why would you seek an experience not described in the Bible? If anything, you can find similar out-of-mind experiences in paganism and animistic cults. These experiences are not of God but come from the very pagan faith God told the children of Israel to avoid and destroy - men, women and children.

What is wrong with these Christians? Maybe they should just admit they are bored of Jesus and are looking for something more than just Him. Christ is not enough for these extreme super-spiritual believers. They want experiences.

The word of God does not tell us to be anything but sober minded, self controlled, steeped in the word of the Lord and to continue to test the spirits. If we are to obey these things, then we do not turn off our minds and or lose control of our bodies. It's the exact opposite according to this new flow of Christian teaching.

After walking with God since 1969, I am witnessing the same old, ultra Holy Spirit manifestations. Nothing has changed except the men in charge. Instead of Charles Capps, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland or Lester Sumerall, we have new deceivers to take their place.

These men are demeaning the name of the Lord Jesus. They always have. They speak of Jesus as their "Pal . . . who leads them into higher spiritual dimensions." They are irreverent as they puff themselves up with their own encounters with God. No longer do we see men struck with the sinfulness of their condition. Instead, we are seeing a crop of new spiritual leaders who claim to be "little gods" and are deceiving the stupid sheep who follow them and give them their money and applause.

None of these men have secret knowledge or any higher spiritual dimension, as they claim. They are liars and charlatans. Whenever anyone in the Scriptures came close to the presence of the Lord, they walked away from the Lord struck by His majesty and humbled by their sinfulness. Today we see the opposite. Isaiah the prophet saw the glory of God (Isaiah 6) and fell down in fear; Paul prostrated himself in fear and Moses' face had to be veiled.

The Kansas City movement or the Toronto blessing is made up of the old fashioned mesmerists with their snake oil and false elixirs. If there will be a falling away in the end times (and there will be), these men will be the pied pipers leading people to a false gospel, an erroneous Jesus and a false religion they will try to call Christianity. However, what you are witnessing on the stages, platforms and podiums of these churches is a deception sent by Satan to take Christians away from their calling of giving glory, honor and obedience to Christ. Instead, these accolades which belong to God are being given to men. Just listen to their followers sing the praises of how great these pastors are. If you can't see through that, then you need a healthy dose of
Christianity 101 Triple Strength.

Don't be fooled. This
new "move of the spirit" is not the Christianity of the New Testament but the false religion of paganism, new age philosophy and science of mind. Test the spirits. Squeeze the fruit and you'll see the ooze of their poisonous teachings revealed before you.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Christianity Today Magazine: It's Not There

Among the best films I've viewed in 2007 was writer/director Todd Haynes's film I'm Not There, an artistic portrayal of the life and songs inspired by singer Bob Dylan. The uniqueness of the film lies in the fact Bob Dylan was not in the film at all . . . save a for a few moments of concert footage while the final credits rolled by. Actors Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Ben Whishaw are all Bob Dylan.

When I perused the latest issue of Christianity Today (which I have subscribed to since the late 1970s). I couldn't help but think this historic evangelical magazine has developed to a point where most of the articles are played by actors but none of the subject matter engages the real issues facing Christianity in the present time.

The lead article "God Is Not Dead Yet" is a mock of the 1960's version of Time Magazine that pronounced on the cover, "God is Dead."  The current piece discusses the dog-eared issue of the proof of God's existence from the perspective of the latest crop of religious philosophers. Another article reports on the interest of young and old people flocking to new apologetic arguments for the evangelical faith. Dovetailing with the need for new creative ways to tell the "old story" of the ever powerful gospel of Jesus Christ, is an interview with Andy Crouch. Another article by CT editor was entitled: Second Coming: Ecology. I'm actually glad evangelicals are thinking about the environment and not being pessimistic about our world that "is coming to an end anyway."

Rusty Leonard, a financial manager, wrote an article on how to change how you give to the Lord and invest. An article by Franklin Graham was most appreciated since he wrote about the Christian outreach to China's Christian community after the Sichuan earthquake.

So where's the beef, Mr. Lapides? Why do say that when you read Christianity Today magazine, "It's Not There?" Why? Because CT has been writing about the same subjects over and over for 20 years. Raising money. Apologetics. Philosophy of religion issues the average believer in Jesus does not follow or care about.

What's my proof? Once a year CT publishes a list of what they believe are the best Christian books of the year. The books cover the gamut of many spiritual topics. They are usually weighty, scholarly books save for the fiction category. 

I did an experiment one year and checked out a few local Christian bookstores in Los Angeles and asked for the books on the list. Perhaps I  found 10% of the books on sale in these Christian bookstores. I did not try Barnes and Noble or Borders, but I probably would have had better luck finding these Christian books (awarded by CT as the best of the year) in a secular book store.

What's going n? Who's out of touch? Perhaps it's me . . . or Christian bookstores . . . or could it be CT? Are we writing theological books that Christians don't care about? 

This all came to a head when Barack Obama's pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright started his rampage, using his Chicago pulpit to bash America. Using a pulpit where the Word of God is to be exalted and honored . . . and instead Rev. Wright twisted his calling of God to bring condemnation on a country where both blacks and whites have fought to preserve our freedoms. 

Here's an alleged man of man who even honored with a lifetime achievement award the noted antisemitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Obama sat in the pews, read the newsletter giving honor to the Black Muslim hatemonger and did nothing.

Regarding CT, "It was not there." "Christianity" was not there, nor were it's leaders-black or white-save for Eugene Rivers who called Rev. Wright "a tragedy". Yes, the Rev. Wright issue may be over, but the irrelevancy and the cowardly behavior of CT is not over by any stretch of the imagination. All the winsome apologetics in the world can never make up for its silence when a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ was on the news night after night because he stood for hate.

True apologetics should have stood up and condemned this man a a false representative of the gospel. And yes, I listened to several of his sermon in toto and some were worse than the media snippets and sound bytes we all heard.  And where is CT . . . ? It's Not There? We're worried about the newest religious/theological arguments for the existence of God.

If CT stood up and condemned the racist hatred for Americans and white people that came from Rev. Jeremiah Wright that many have been the best argument for the existence of God CT could ever put forth. People don't come to believe in the existence of God by reading philosophy of religion books  . . . people come to God when they hear the voice of the prophets condemn false "prophets" who use their God given talents to speak evil and disparage a country where the freedom to preach the good news of Christ is still celebrated.

CT . . . .? It's not there?  Yes, I chose but one issue to harp on. It was an issue I wrote to the editors about and even the leadership of PreachingToday (which sells Rev. Wright's sermons), but I was ignored. It looked like CT ignored Rev. Wright and the great black evangelical leaders of this country found no voice in the pages of Christianity Today.

I wonder who this magazine really represents? The average Christian who speaks to the secular community about Rev. Wright . . .  or is CT a reflection of an irrelevant  evangelical scholasticism and elitist Christian intelligentsia that has looked at its reflection in the pool of narcissism for way too long?

CT . . .? It's Not There . . .