The story of Wrong Turn Ranch
Among the many “Christianese” terms we are accustomed to using and hearing, one we often use is the word “repent.” This word is derived from the Greek “metanoia” which literally means “to change one's mind or purpose.”
Now, like the Marine who's been sitting in a Mexican jail nearly 200 days after making a wrong turn, most of us have made wrong turns ourselves – bad choices – throughout our lives. We've compromised, told lies (even li'l white ones), lowered our standard, and associated with people who corrupted us. We've sinned, broken laws, cheated and experienced the consequences for having done many things.
I sure have!
This afternoon, I visited a young man in a Texas jail. A great guy who really loves the Lord, he commented that he had been kept so busy serving as a Trustee, maybe he hadn't been spending enough time with God. Though I appreciated what he meant, on the way home, I couldn't stop thinking about what he said. Suddenly – after many years of traveling the same stretch of highway - I saw the sign over a ranch gate that read “Wrong Turn Ranch,” I knew I had to write this message for the benefit of someone.
Hopefully, MANY someone's.
Most Christians would agree to entertaining thoughts of having not prayed enough, read the Bible enough, tithing enough, or attending church services often enough. We even use these as a standard for measuring our faith against that of others and can get downright prideful about it.
Here's a newsflash: “Enough” can NEVER be enough. God isn't keeping score any way. The ONLY thing required of any of us – the ONLY job description we have – is to love one another.
If you want to show God how much you love Him, it won't be by reciting memorized verses, listening to a minister drone on and on 52 Sunday's a year, turning the lights on before, and locking the doors after, every church service, or knowing the words to all the hymns in the book. For that matter, you could never write enough zeroes on your checks either!
But you can love others, can't you?
Most of us can start by learning to love OURSELVES. For many, that's a pretyy tall order in itself. A great place to start is with forgiveness, even of ourselves.
Folks, we are to be Followers of Jesus. He came as our example. Did He do anything we're doing within our denominational camps? Would He even attend services there, or would He be out loving someone and doing good? When it comes to our traditions and dogmas, I say, “keep the meat and spit out those bones!” We aren't called “Churchians,” after all. Despite the denominational labels with which we associate, we are His disciples. His brothers. Children of God.
Back to the Texas jail: At one point, this young man, talking to me through a sheet of glass on a phone, had a revelation. “Wait a minute... you were sitting at home and God told you to come and visit me? You didn't have anything else to do out this direction?”
“That's right! Coming here today wasn't even on my calendar,” I laughed. “I drove 90 minutes so God could show you how much He loves you... and I'll drive 90 minutes back home.”
“Man,” he sighed, “I needed to see a friendly face today SO BAD...and God knew that.”
His countenance had changed before my eyes.
It's all about love, folks. Nothing else. To love one another is to show our love for God. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Please don't fall for Religion over Relationship. For many Christ-Followers, now would be a great time to repent.
Founder, The Church @ Work
Founder, The Church @ Work
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Have you ever heard of HAARP? It stands for the "High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program." The HAARP program operates a major sub-arctic facility, named the HAARP Research Station, on a U.S. Air Force-owned site in Alaska. Believe it or not, there is increasing evidence HAARP is capable of changing the weather, even using it against enemies to bring severe weather and even earthquakes and tsunamis.
But that's another story. Google it or watch videos on YouTube and you might be amazed.
As I am known to say, as it is in the natural realm, so it is in the spirit realm. Scripture tells us, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds." Ephesian 6 reminds us our battles are spiritual, NOT against human beings. Jesus said He gave us all power and authority over all the powers of the devil.
If we can fight the demonic forces bent on killing, stealing and destroying, can we not, also, do as Jesus did and speak peace to storms Satan might use to devastate a community? I am convinced of this.
Jesus, who said He came as our example, said, "Greater things than I do will you do also BECAUSE I go to the Father," (John 14:12). HE said that, not me. He gave us all the power and authority that HE had when He walked this planet. He is the King of kings and WE are those kings! We don't hear that often enough. He said "The Kingdom of God [the dominion of God] is within you."
Remember, the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead LIVES IN YOU," (Romans 8:11). For what purpose, if not to engage in spiritual warfare? To what end if not to show the world what Jesus was like? Believe me, nothing gets an unbeliever's attention like a good ol' fashioned miracle!
All that being said, I was wondering if anyone has a testimony regarding an incident where they exercised their God-given authority over nature and what the results might have been. I'll go first...
-A company I worked for evacuated to the stairwell and bathrooms because of a tornado warning. I felt compelled to go outside and command peace to the storm. The sky was green and dark and windy right above our building. I had made every group of sheltered-in-place coworkers believe I was with another group so I could slip away and shout at the devil. No tornado struck, not even a drop of rain.
-Our town was under a tornado warning. The skies were ominous. I went into the yard and read Scripture having to do with weather. When the hail eventually came, neighbors suffered great damage to their homes and cars. Our home suffered no damage at all.
-A monstrous storm was headed toward Arlington, Texas, where my wife and I had many friends and relatives. The TV was on in the living room while we were remodeling another room. I felt the Spirit leading me to pray. I ignored Him; I was busy. Again, I felt urged to intercede. Again, I had stuff to do. Finally, upon a third nudge, I put down my hammer and told my wife we needed to pray. She followed me outside to the lawn chairs and, as we crossed the living room, we couldn't help but see the huge orange blob, the massive storm bearing down upon Arlington. From the lawn chairs, far off in the distance, we could see lightning flashing repeatedly as we interceded. I will never forget walking back indoors to see the amazed weatherman pointing toward the now-miniscule, orange, powerless blob over Arlington.
As storms were headed toward other towns we were made aware of, we have prayed with the same results. Recently, a funnel cloud was forming on-camera as we watched the TV weather report. We prayed with righteous indignation and the cloud's tail went back up. The tornado warning was canceled.
A few years ago, the night before Easter, while sitting on the porch with my sister and brother-in-law, stuffing candy into plastic eggs, we were talking about the storm that was due that night, threatening to rain-out my grandchildren's egg hunt. Grrrrrr. I not only declared a sunny day, but because we needed rain, I specifically called for how much I would allow over our house. The rain came that night but the sun was shining by the time the kids showed up, just as we requested.
Just today, my neighbor told me about a mutual friend who called requesting prayer because bad weather - including a hurricane - was predicted on the east coast, making a beeline for the small Virginia town where she was working. Though they were 1500 miles away, they prayed and all was well.
Last week, on Easter Sunday, I was going to preach in a chapel in Whitney, Texas - a building which, last Easter, had been struck by lightning and burned down the night before. So, we prayed against rain for our chapel meeting. We wound up with glorious weather but received some harmless hail and over an hour's worth of much-needed heavy rain about an hour after we arrived at home.
Folks, I wasn't raised believing this stuff was possible. Going to church and being a Christian had nothing to do with any of this! My faith came with my understanding that we serve a God who wants to do things with and through those who believe. As I've seen such miraculous things take place, my faith has increased. These days, I have no doubt God's Army has been on bivouac far too long and it's time to go to war; time to get in the game.
We have the same authority over the weather that Jesus used (Matthew 28:18-20 and John 14:12), and many Followers of Jesus have exercised their faith and have seen similar things happen to their weather conditions. However, wisdom should be used when exercising authority over the weather. Paul never rebuked the storm he was caught in even though it was threatening the lives of many people (Acts 27). We must be led of the Lord. If we rebuke the rain so that we can have a picnic, we may be working against a million farmers who have been praying for rain, so check your motivations, (James 4:3).
Yes, there are times when an area needs rain desperately and, I agree, it rains on the just and the unjust. I get that, but sometimes we are moved with compassion, just as Jesus was, and we are compelled to engage in "Weather Warfare."
One more thing: I'm a Chaplain with a Christian disaster relief team. Serving in this way has exposed me to some of the most horrible and, at the same time, beautiful experiences I've ever been part of. Many lives have been impacted through our efforts. Nevertheless, I am 100% certain that, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, by the power made available to us, in the Mighty Name of Jesus, droughts, ice storms, snow, hurricanes can and will become toothless enemies.
I guarantee this: if we do nothing, NOTHING will happen. I believe it's time for the supernatural to become natural to us all.
When lives and property are endangered, let's give 'em Heaven, Church! Death and life are in the power of YOUR tongue (Prov. 18:21). So, let's get after it, as the Spirit leads, of course. We can get busy praying BEFORE, or get busy with clean-up and crisis ministry AFTERWARD.
Founder, The Church @ Work
The Insanity of Christianity
Insanity has been defined as “doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.” Words to that effect.
Many people are conducting their personal lives in that same way. I am convinced that, in every aspect of our society, a great question to ask would be: “How's that worked in the past?” Better yet, “Is that working NOW?”
Anything that is NOT working should be dropped from the program immediately, or drastic changes should be implemented in hopes of producing a different outcome. The way we handle relationships, businesses, governments and, the concern of this article, churches, is included.
I speak to so many people for whom “planting a church” or “buying a building” seems to be the epitome of Christianity. It's as if to plant a flag on a mountain top and proclaim to the world, “We've arrived!” I hope that, as you keep reading, you'll find you never left.
Let's consider that 80% of the church worldwide does NOT “do church” the way we do it in the USA. There, churches are growing under persecution. Pastors don't spend more than a few nights in the same house, congregants practice self-baptism for fear of jeopardizing their pastor's life. They pack into sweltering barns for 8-hour services. They meet in rice fields, caves, in the dark of night and mouth the words of hymns for fear of divulging their position by singing aloud. They head out early and come home late, meeting from place to place and ending the day having gained hundreds of converts for discipling.
Here are some facts regarding the American church – our non-profit corporations where some of the main concerns involve construction and remodeling projects, land acquisition, playground equipment and overhead costs:
- The average tenure for a Southern Baptist pastor is just over two years, according to Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
- It costs $50,000 to $100,000 per year to support an American missionary family Includes language study, cultural learning, travel, furlough time and costs, children’s education and a generally higher standard of living than nationals. In contrast, the cost of supporting a NATIONAL missionary is between $1,000 to $10,000 per year in most developing countries. Local missionaries are already actively sharing their faith but could be more effective with additional training materials and tools.
- Approximately 80% of all churches in North America have reached a plateau or are shrinking. The vast majority of a church's growth comes from “transfer growth” - people who move from church to church. Very little growth can be attributed to either making converts or disciples (only about 1 to 3%)
- The average American 501c3 non-profit church spends as much as 64% of its budget on staff salaries. It will spend as much as 30% of its offerings on building maintenance. Research shows churches spend between 82-96% of financial resources on maintaining themselves.
- In 2001 (last date I could find in my research), the total cost of Christian outreach worldwide averaged $330,000 for each newly baptized person.
- The cost PER BAPTISM in the United States tops $1.5 million.
- Approx 4000 new churches open their doors annually while 7,000 close their doors.
- According to the book “Exit Interviews,” 53,000 people leave churches every week and never come back.
I have often been asked why it is I don't conduct a traditional form of worship service, why I don't rent a building or what my issues might be with the institutional church. My response is simple: I don't see this anywhere in Scripture. Though I don't consider that style of worship to be “evil” or “bad,” and certainly don't doubt the sincerity and love of God for those who are affiliated in this way, I don't see the logic behind doing something that is so costly and yet so ineffective. Truth is, if most institutional churches were a secular business, they would have filed bankruptcy long ago.
Been there. Done that. Much prefer to listen to the Holy Spirit and do as He leads me. I am so convicted of the importance of building the Kingdom of God, I am certain that if the Spirit leads me to pastor a denominational church, He knows I would do it.
I'd likely ultimately be fired, but I'd do it.
These days, I am so much more a fan of Simple Church – two or three gathered in Jesus' Name, sharing “Christ in us, the hope of glory,” everywhere we find ourselves, especially the place we spend up to 70% of our lives, the workplace. I have been part of a House Church group for nearly 11 years and have seen many lives transformed, the litmus test for whether or not we should remain plugged-into any so-called “church.” My advice? Ask yourself, “Are lives being radically changed there?” Respond accordingly.
Founder, The Church @ Work
How to Mount a Workplace Offensive
Ministry to the Poor: Good enough for Jesus…
Divine opportunity through tragedy
Life on planet earth is not "it" for us. We're sojourners here. Strangers. Aliens, just passing through. Problem is, we tend to get very comfortable here and start believing we have every right to expect everything to be "just so" in our lives... our health, our relationships, our security, often without much effort on our parts.
As a Chaplain who serves in workplaces and as part of a disaster relief team, I've seen many people who've survived tragedies. From an F5 tornado strike to lives stricken with cancer, death and destruction at the hand of one catatstrophe or another, a tragedy is a tragedy, large or small.
Aside from natural disasters like tornadoes and wildfires, there are accidental disasters, car wrecks and swimming pool drownings. There’s illness, abuse, broken relationships, betrayal, sorrow, injuries, disappointment, heartache, crime and death.
Perhaps you’re one who has asked the question, “Why me?”
This age-old question goes back thousands of years: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Job wanted to know the answer, too. So did the writers of the Psalams. Why has the world experienced the genocides of so many people, the 9/11 attack, movie theater and school shootings and, most recently, the slaughter in Syria?
Jesus suffered, too, and He promised (John 16:33), "In this life you will have many troubles, but," He added, "be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world."
“Paul wrote (Romans 8:18), "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
You see, no matter what tragedies we suffer, no matter how much pain we've experienced while walking around in these earth suits, if life on earth really is not "it" - and Jesus knew this for, as Scripture says, "For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross" - what comes later will not include pain, tears, fear, trauma, none of the horrors of this planet. As with Jesus, who said He came as our example, we are destined to experience unimaginable joy and peace. But not now, not when, as Jesus said, "He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike."
This one thing I know: Satan ALWAYS shoots himself in the foot. Yes, the one who kills, steals and destroys always overplays his hand. Beauty rises up out of ashes all throughout history, from the Black Death to Chernobyl, great things have resulted afterward, often as a direct result.
As I reflect on my own personal tragedies - an incurable spinal disease, divorce, separation from my children, poverty, loneliness, betrayal, etc...I can honestly say my relationship and trust in God would never have developed as it did had He NOT guided me through all that. That allows me to actually thank God for all those tragedies. The list goes on and on as to the miraculous things Jesus did on my behalf when I rejected all thoughts of suicide and ran into His arms rather than AWAY from Him. I'm NOT referring to "church" here; I'm talking about a 24/7 RELATIONSHIP with a person we call "Jesus." My world has been transformed and, as a result, God has used my experiences to do the same in the lives of multitudes. My health has been restored. I married an angel! We have ten wonderful grandkids, a worldwide ministry... too many blessings to mention. Like Job, after losing it all, God restored to him so much more than he had.
The verse that always races through my head is from Hebrews 11:6, "God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." When I was suffering through the darkest hour of my soul, the one thing I did right - the one thing I feel compelled to pass along to anybody who might be suffering in any way - is this: PRESS IN! As with any relationship, we can CHOOSE to get angry with God for what has happened to us, or draw closer to Him and learn His ways. He's ALWAYS teaching; we must ALWAYS be in learning mode!
If you don't know Jesus, or maybe you've been hurt in some way - even by folks who said they were Christians - I encourage you to seek after a relationship with Him and REJECT every imposter with which you might feel tempted to fill that void. Drugs, alcohol, compromising relationships All carry with them their own set of negative consequences and only serve to dig the hole deeper.
Ues, press into a deeper relationship with the Lover of your soul, Jesus Christ! I used to spend hours – as many as 17 hours straight - surrounded by Bible translations and commentaries, Greek Lexicons and Hebrew dictionaries, devouring everything I could regarding this person we refer to as "Lord." He's as real as you are, folks. I pray that, like me, you'll soon discover (A) God isn't angry with you (B) He loves you more than you can imagine and (C) He has an INCREDIBLE plan for your life if you'll submit yourself to His purposes.
Taking the Pressure off your Prayer Life
Prayer is simply defined as a conversation with God. Unfortunately, the examples we’ve been exposed to concerning prayer usually include images with which many people simply aren’t comfortable. Whether it’s Charlton Heston’s Moses shouting flowery language towards Heaven, or a minister whose prayers are long and filled with thee’s and thou’s, a tremendous amount of Christian people will “pass” when it comes time to pray, generally out of a feeling of inadequacy.
I recall taking a college-age lady named Kim along with me to pray for a man named Richard in the hospital. Her prayer went something like this: “Lord…y’know…Richard’s a good guy and…like…he really deserves to be healed so…y’know…gosh…thank you for healing him, in Jesus’ Name. Amen!”
Richard began crying so hard we had to leave the room. Later, when I saw him, healthy and smiling, he testified of the power of God that hit him in his wheel chair “when that girl, Kim, prayed.” I’m NOT kidding when I tell you Richard underwent a COMPLETE personality change - for the better!
God’s looking at the heart. I imagine there are many people who cannot pray at all - in the American Christian Evangelical sense – whose heartfelt prayers carry much weight: the deaf mute, the palsy victim, the brain damaged, even the unchurched.
THE HAND PRAYER
Many people don’t really know what to pray for when they do pray. Here’s something that was taught by D.L. Moody to his disciples. I’ve taught it to many people as well. I refer to it as “The Hand Prayer.” Teach your kids and disciples!
Simply hold your hands in front of you, palm to palm as if praying.
Your thumb, being the closest digit to your mouth, reminds you to pray for those CLOSEST to you; spouse, family, friends, coworkers, roommates, church family, etc.
The pointer finger reminds you to pray for those in your community who point the way; ministers, educators, counselors, therapists.
The middle finger stands tallest of all, reminding you to pray for those in position of Leadership; Media, Education, Government, Medicine, Military, Entertainment and so on.
The ring finger is your weakest finger and reminds you to pray for the weakest among us; the newborn, the elderly, the sick, the newly divorced, the children of broken homes, the newly unemployed, etc. Physically, spiritually, financially and emotionally.
Finally, the pinky – least significant of all – reminds you to pray for your OWN needs.
JESUS AND PRAYER
Matt 5:44, Jesus said, “… love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”
In Matthew 6:6, He said, “…when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” See, it’s OK to talk to God alone. Just the two of you. He adds in verse 7: “…. don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” Whenever I read that, I see the difference between RELATIONSHIP and Religion. Who would say the same things repeatedly to, say, a spouse?
Matthew 14:23 shows us that Jesus practiced what He preached, “After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.”
In Mark 11:25, He emphasizes the importance of forgiveness, “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. ”
In John 17:21, Jesus prayed for the Unity of the Body, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” In Acts 1:14, we read, “They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.”
I LOVE the following excerpts found in Acts 4:23-31: As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other Believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God…"O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.
I can’t help but notice that they never prayed against their enemies. They didn’t bind any demons. They only asked for boldness in preaching and that signs and wonders would follow.
PRAY AS YOU GO
There are many other verses having to do with prayer and, from these, we can learn an awful lot ABOUT prayer. One favorite verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which simply says, “Pray without ceasing.”
Obviously, though we must use our mouths and brains for other matters throughout the day, prayer can also be silently done, from the Spirit. As one who has received the gift of tongues, I often pray while holding my cell phone to my head so as not to appear out of my mind while sitting in traffic. You can pray in the shower, while seated on the commode…Susanna Wesley had eight kids (one of which was John Wesley, founder of the Methodists). Whenever she needed quiet time to talk to God, she would pull her apron up over her head in the middle of the kitchen. Her children knew that when mama had her apron over her head they were not to bother her and quiet down.
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t have any “quiet time” with God complete with scented candles, cappuccino and soft instrumental music.
Healing Evangelist, John G. Lake was a man of prayer. He had such an incredible healing ministry, that according to statistics, the U.S. Government declared his city, Spokane, Washington, to be the healthiest city in America – 100,000 confirmed miracles within six years. He spent time on his knees praying but also liked to walk and pray. He claimed this was his favorite way of communing with God. He taught his disciples to “run and pray, and pray as you run.”
So, go ahead and pray right where you are. Under your breath or without moving those lips. Talk to God. He’s ONLY looking at your heart any way. Like me, as you get to know Him, I'm certain you’ll find He’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet! A wonderful Father. An awesome Counselor, too.
A Return to the New Testament Mission Field
No, it’s not Jerusalem, Judea or Samaria. It’s not a leper colony in a third world nation or even the poorest side of town.
It’s the one place most western Christians spend the majority of their time: The Workplace.
It’s estimated, in the U.S.A., 71% of all American employees are unchurched... nearly 3 out of every 4 people with whom one might share an elevator! If The Church were to actually minister to all the needs of its hurting attendees, the fact remains ¾ of our nation’s workforce is STILL being overlooked.
Logically, we should do three things:
1) Equip and mobilize those who journey into the Corporate world for up to 70% of their lives - most of whom are itching for some purpose (explaining why Warren’s “Purpose-Driven Life” was such a hit) – training and releasing them as Workplace Apostles.
2) Make training available to retired ministers who wish to re-enter the workforce as Workplace Chaplains.
3) Encourage Christian entrepreneurs to start businesses with a hidden agenda: to advance the cause of Christ.
Is Corporate America catching the vision? Yes, many are. One widely-reported comment comes from Austaco, a large Pizza Hut and Taco Bell franchisee corporation in Texas, which credits its Workplace Chaplaincy program for reducing its annual turnover from 300% to 125%. Moreover, in the trucking industry, where 100% turnover in drivers is not unusual, Allied Holdings has a turnover of 4%, partly, they claim, due to their employee care programs like the Workplace Chaplaincy.
There may be as many as 20,000 Workplace Chaplains serving American business today. According to the International Coalition of Workplace Ministries, there were fewer than 50 workplace ministries in 1992; today there are roughly 1,200. Reflective of that trend is my own ministry, The Church @ Work (TCAW), which offers businesses the services of career Workplace Chaplains who combine their own secular workplace experience with ministry training.
HARDLY A NEW THING
Ministry in the workplace isn't new. In fact, 45 of Jesus’ 52 parables were about work, while 39 of 40 divine encounters in the Book of Acts occurred in workplace settings.
Workplace examples can be found throughout Scripture. The word “work” is mentioned more than 800 times and the Hebrew word “avodah” is the root from which we get both “work” and “worship”.
The workplace is a mission field, and although church leaders encourage their congregations to go out and reach it, rarely is training provided. Sadly, just as the Christian world is a spiritual ghetto into which most people never stray, so the majority of Christians seem to have an aversion to mixing sacred with secular – or they've been scared by that “Separation of Church 'n State” deception.
While Pastors say God called them into the ministry, what about the pew-sitters? Are they called to anything? The Church should be on a mission to disciple those who punch a clock. Let's define work the way God defines it... the essence of work, which is worship and Kingdom building... it’s not merely a place you go to earn a paycheck. We MUST realize that we are ALL in the ministry, not just the professionals.
Jack Munday oversees workplace ministry at the Billy Graham Training Center. They started the Christian Executive Leadership Forum in 2003 which works with business leaders on biblical leadership.
“The first century church started in the workplace,” Munday said. “We needed to provide encouragement and engage leadership in business. We call it the sacred/secular divide.”
Retired ministers, or perhaps those who've left the Institutional Church for the rapidly-growing Simple Church expression, should consider this Kingdom opportunity in the workplace.
Let's strike while the iron's hot.
WHAT TO DO WHEN CONFRONTED ABOUT JOINING A CULT
If you feel uncomfortable about joining a group after visiting, tell them you're simply not interested and do not put up with their badgering and phone calls. Tell them you want time to think about what they are teaching before you become committed to their group. If they pressure you for attendance or continuing in their studies then you know this is not something good. When an attorney from our previous church heard we were wanting to leave, he wrote the cult group a letter and they dropped communications immediately. Seems the group had been sued many times. That attorney's concern for us - people he'd never even met - really impressed me.
If you are already a member of a group that meets the criteria spelled-out here, leave sooner rather than later because it doesn’t get easier to leave later on, especially if you've introduced friends and relatives to the group.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!
You have every right to ask questions, lots of them, in fact. After leaving that group, I have been invited twice by friends to listen to speakers in their neighborhood in separate towns. I was raising my hand, asking questions, and one could feel the tangible spiritual clash in the room between the Presenter and myself. No one else joined on either night.
What is the history of their founders as well as those the group looks up to for spiritual teaching. What books influenced them or what do they read?
What is their doctrine and basic beliefs?
Can you review their revenues? Are they open about how they spend their money? Are people's finances monitored and do they review who gives what and how much?
Give yourself some time if you're seeking to know God or looking for a church; He will give you warnings and lead you. I often say, if you cannot observe lives being radically changed as a result of being part of that group, don't join! Don’t ignore the warning signs or spiritual checks on how they conduct themselves no matter how friendly the people are. Love and emotional attachments are an old ruse to have you accepted without any strings attached. This doesn’t last long. Ask what they do in their spare time. Many times one's talent and creativity is smothered as all their time goes toward the group or church.
WHERE DO THOSE WHO JOIN CULTS COME FROM?
Ron Rhodes writes in his book "The Culting of America," "It is a common myth that unbelievers join Cults." Percentages show that those who join these aberrant groups formerly attended Christian Churches.
Dr. Paul Martin of Wellspring Retreat (where cultists adjust from their harmful experiences) writes, "Twenty-five percent formerly attended evangelical, fundamental churches. Over 40 % had backgrounds in large, more liberal Protestant denominations."
Lately the International Churches of Christ probably have the greatest percentage of Church converts. Their main goal is to go into the Christian Churches and remove people. This was the group we had joined.
There are 2 categories of cults: one is doctrinally the other is sociologically.
1. Almost all cults tend to deny the Apostles creed. They have tendency to pronounce other groups as apostate; they alone have the truth.
3. They devalue or deny the deity of Christ.
4. They have extra sources of biblical revelation. They may use God's Word with something else to interpret it
5. They have salvation by works - either denying God's grace or adding performance. It will not always be easy to spot.
6. They will deny a major doctrine. Cult-like groups take a minor doctrine and make it a major. Ex: you must speak in tongues to be saved.
The following are basic patterns, or characteristics, found in almost all cults that one can easily identify.
Add - Cults add to the Word of God by having additional writings they call Scripture, or by saying that only the Bible is God's Word but you cannot understand it without their interpretation from their own teachers or books. The Bible may be discouraged to be read alone.
Subtract - Cults subtract from the Person of Jesus by saying he is something less than Eternal Deity, or they will add their own teacher as deity.
Multiply - Every false religion includes "works" as part of their system of salvation. They also usually specify what works must be performed at a certain level for acceptance to their group and God.
Divide - Cults have people choose by dividing a person's loyalty. It's God through their leadership by claiming to be the only Spokesman or group for God. They also require obedience to their leadership to be in right standing with God. They do not tolerate another’s differing opinions and it is looked upon as being divisive or of the enemy.
Mediators- They will always have others involved for one's salvation. For the International Churches of Christ I was a part of, it was my Discipler.
I hope this information will help you to either spot the cults, or discern whether or not you've joined one. If you find you are becoming cultish, talk about it, ask questions in an open and honest fashion. Seek guidance and grace from Father to help you avoid these tendencies to desire control and legalism.
Remember this: Nowhere in Scripture does the Lord give any man dominion over any other man.
Every blessing,Michael Tummillo
Founder, The Church @ Work
Founder, The Church @ Work
He loves you more than you could ever imagine and thinks of you as His favorite child. Yes, YOU! How could that not be true when you are the righteousness of God in Christ?
This year, expect that He will uphold you, sustain you, deliver you from the enemy. When you appear to fall, you will fall FORWARD.
Don't ever attempt to get comfortable here on earth. After all, you aren't from here and don't belong here. He is your rock, your fortress and your deliverer. Stay hidden in Him!
Soldier in God's Army, your bivouac is over. The battle requires your violent participation. The hour is coming when no one can work, so work while it's light!
Expect God's blessings to overtake you this year. Ask for Wisdom and He will give it abundantly.
Remember, it is unwise to expect the stuff of earth to make you happy. Joy is fruit of the Spirit - evidence of God's presence in the worst of times - while happiness rises and falls
Amen… was that for YOU? God bless you!