Archive for October, 2009

From my experiences as a former IHOP intern & staff member and from other involvements with cult-like religious groups and churches, etc. one thing that I find to be a consistent thread is the message of never being or doing enough. There is a spiritual pinnacle you are always trying to reach, a spiritual high you are always trying to attain, a sense of closeness to God that you are always running after but it seems to elude you. You run on a constant emotional and spiritual treadmill but you never reach the destination.

A cult always wants MORE. It requires more of your time and resources to accomplish its goals and visions. You become the fuel that they use to run the machine. It’s your energy that they extract to feed their agenda. A cult makes constant demands…some are spoken directly and some are implied indirectly by using guilt and manipulation to influence you to give more and do more…and make you think it was YOUR idea–not theirs.

A cult will never say “Thank you, you’ve done enough. You can stop giving to us financially, we have all that we need. You are enough exactly as we are and we accept you without requiring you to redefine who you are to fit with us.”

In a cult, there is never enough of your:

effort
dedication
sacrifice
money
desire/passion
self discipline
performance
focus
giving (of yourself and resources)
fasting
hours of prayer
meetings
time
energy
your talents and gifts

No boundaries are respected.
Personal free will and opinion is denied.
Questioning, independent thinking and logical reasoning are forbidden.

If you are content in who you are, they lose control. A cult cannot operate when its members are free thinking people with a free will to choose and make their own decisions. Co-dependency is required for control to continue.

But here is where the truth shatters the glass of deception and control:

You don’t have to do more to be loved more and you don’t have to be more to be accepted more.

While we were yet sinners, the Father sent our Messiah who gave His life as a ransom for us. Before we were anything by the world’s evaluation, we had purpose and value in the heart of the Father.

The goal of every believer and follower of God should be to live our lives from a place of complete shalom. Shalom in Hebrew doesn’t just mean peace. Hebrew words can often carry multiple meanings depending on the context in which they are used. Shalom can also be translated as tranquility, safety, well being, welfare, health, contentment, success, comfort, wholeness and integrity. It is a common Jewish greeting.

So when I speak of living life from a place of shalom rather than striving after something that a cult, church or religious group tells you that you have to work harder to achieve or attain, I’m talking about a life that is lived from a place of rest and wholeness. A place of having enough and being enough.

That doesn’t mean we won’t have trials or go through difficult times. It is about coming to a place of where our hearts are at rest and we experience total contentment in our heavenly Father. It requires ceasing from striving. It’s about having hearts and minds grounded in the truth that He loves us and delights in us….simply because we are His. We have inherent value because we were instilled with value when we were created. From the womb, we were given purpose and our purpose will never be realized and fulfilled in a cult or group that defines us and tells us who we are.

I invite you to leave the land of “never enough”
to let your heart cease from striving
and rest in the fact that you are loved
right this moment…at this very place and time in your life
even as you grow, mature and develop into the fullness of what God has created you for.
He has begun a good work in you
and since He is the author and finisher
of our trust, He will carry through to completion what he starts.

Grace and shalom to you!

–A

A comment was made on my last post which, after approving and posting, I decided to compose a blog post about. Thank you to those of you who have added comments on my posts. I do read them all and try to reply to them as well where necessary. I’m not sure whether you are notified of my replies or not so if you’ve posted something recently, feel free to go back and read my responses to your questions and the personal insights and testimonies you all have shared. Thank you again for your faithful readership.

Question:
You mentioned the louder things, but what do you think of the doctrine of the “prayer language.” I have prayed in tongues, but it is a doctrine that has always conflicted me. What do you think?

My answer:

“…I believe that the gift of tongues is a true gift of the Holy Spirit and is mentioned throughout the new covenant scriptures…particularly in the writings of Paul.  However, I think that what is often seen today in many congregations, organizations, conferences, etc is a twisting of this gift and an abuse of it…which often affects the way we perceive and understand it.  What often happens is that when man tries to box and put limitations on a gift of God and then re-package it with some extra glitter and add a little of their own ideas to it, it gets muddy and often its meaning and purpose gets lost.

Take a look at the word abuse.  It is the combination of 2 words: abnormal and use.  So the abnormal use of something (or using it for a way other than how it was created and designed to be used) is an abuse of it.  So when someone mis-understands and mis-uses something, they are using it in a way different than what the Lord said it was created for, thus they are abnormally using (abusing) it.  I think this is true of the gift of tongues, prophecy, etc.  If it is based in scripture then we know that in its original use, it was something authored by the Father.  But because it has been abused, it has wounded and hurt people and is not always used in the way that the giver of that gift tells us it is used for.  So the way in which that gift was designed to function and operate, it isn’t…thus it loses it’s original effectiveness.

I would venture to guess that where you feel conflicted is where you see the confusion between what the Bible says about the gift of tongues and the “doctrine” that man has added and propagated along with it.  Mixture brings confusion.  Truth brings clarity and freedom.  So where there is confusion, that is often proof that truth and error have been mixed together.

I would encourage you to really study out what the Word says about the gift of tongues and let the Holy Spirit re-teach you what this gift was created for and how it is to be properly used in both the life of an individual and in the corporate body of believers.  Often scripture is mis-translated and taken out of context so any study you can do going back to the original language is always tremendously helpful in understanding what the Word means by how it was originally written. To truly understand the meanings of words, concepts and ideas of scripture we must understand the culture in which it was written and the meanings of the words in their original language so that they are translated and understood accurately.  

I often recommend the CJB (Complete Jewish Bible) because it translates the OT from Hebrew directly into English and the NT from Greek into English but from a Hebraic mindset (rather than the King James version which is translated through the Latin Vulgate and has many mis-translations in it).  No perfectly accurate translations exists unless one can read directly from Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic which preserves its accuracy…but I try to get as close in English to the original language as possible.

Hopefully this helps to answer your question.  Thank you for your blog comment.

Blessings to you!”

If you’ve spent much time at all in charismatic circles, you’ve no doubt encountered various forms of manifestations in a service, seminar or big conference. Most involved in this movement have come to a place of comfort where manifestations are concerned and they have simply been explained as being “manifestations of God’s presence when He comes upon or moves on a person.”

Mike Bickle himself makes reference to these manifestations in the Appendix of his book on God’s Manifest Presence: Growing in the Prophetic, (op. cit., pg. 196. 227) In this section, Bickle presents a list of phenomena from contemporary experience such as:

“Shaking, jerking, loss of bodily strength, heavy breathing, eyes fluttering, lips trembling, oil on the body, changes in skin color, weeping, laughing, ‘drunkenness,’ staggering, travailing, dancing, falling, visions, hearing audibly into the spirit realm, inspired utterances (that is, prophecy), tongues, interpretation; angelic visitations and manifestations; jumping, violent rolling, screaming, wind, heat, electricity, coldness, nausea as discernment of evil, smelling or tasting good or evil presences, tingling, pain in the body as discernment of illnesses, feeling heavy weight or lightness, trances (altered physical state while seeing and hearing into the spirit world), inability to speak normally and disruption of the natural realm (for example, electrical circuits blown).” (Growing in the Prophetic, op. cit., pg. 209)

I have attended countless conferences in previous years hosted by IHOP (and by Metro Vineyard Fellowship/Metro Christian Fellowship prior to IHOP’s launch) and have witnessed first hand all of the above. At the time, I also was convinced these were things that happened to people when God’s presence came upon them…and I had been conditioned and told to believe such by leaders. But after leaving IHOP and the entanglements of being there, I spent the following few years researching and delving into IHOP’s teachings, processing what I had come out of, and really questioning what was a fruit of the Spirit of God and what was a manifestation of another kind of spirit altogether.

Since the inspired words of God in scripture are the plumb line and measuring stick that all teachings, manifestations, doctrines and actions should be held up against as a standard, let’s go there to determine whether the many manifestations Bickle lists above are really as they say “movements of God’s spirit”.

In everything I have read, studied and researched in scripture on this subject, I came to the conclusion that the ONLY time I saw anything resembling the above manifestations in scripture was when a demonized person was manifesting demons and when our Lord and Messiah or one of His disciples was casting them out. There was never mention of this bizarre activity or behavior occurring amongst spirit-filled believers including Peter, the apostle Paul and others.

Demonic manifestations in scripture:

Violence, screaming (Matt 8:28-34; Luke 8:29))
Blindness and/or muteness (Matt 9:32, 33; Matt 12:22)
Shaking/seizures, falling into fire & water (Matt 17:14-18)
Demon throws a man down on the ground and then comes out of him at the Lord’s rebuke (Luke 4:35)

Those who manifested demonic activity were loud, drew attention to themselves, were violent, shaking, etc. Those that the Lord touched, ministered to or healed were instantly made whole, put into their right mind and at peace. He even discouraged those who received miracles from telling the people of certain regions who He was. He gave praise and glory only to the Father…never drawing it to himself.

So, knowing what we know to be true about the character and nature of God as mentioned above, what glory does the Lord receive from barking, shaking, drunk staggering, screaming, etc? Clearly, this is not fruit of the Spirit but manifestations of the activity of the evil one. Satan MUST draw attention to self. He must make loud displays. God is clear about the activity He involves Himself in and what is truly of Him. He says to test the spirits and the outrageous fanfare mentioned above is not the character or nature of the God we serve. Period.

A good rule of thumb to consider: when you see something in a church, a meeting, a conference, a worship service, a prayer time, etc. that there is not a standard set for in scripture, be very cautious about attributing it as being a “movement of God”. More than likely in those cases, it’s just man-concocted doctrines and teachings that have evolved out of deceptions and mis-interpretations of the word of God.

For further info on these said “manifestations” do a Google search on a Buddhist yoga practice called “Kundalini”. Click here for a YouTube video which compares the ancient “serpent force” called Kundalini with what is seen in most charismatic churches today and called “manifestations of God’s presence”. Also visit this blog for more info and videos on the subject.

Click “here” for my follow-up post to this one titled “Does Acts 2 Justify ‘Manifestations’?”

There is a major difference between charisma and character. While charisma may seem like affluence, charm and having an “anointing” or energetic personality, it is often mistaken as a character trait.

So what is the difference? How can you discern between what is based upon character and what is just some hyped up charisma?

1) Anointing does not increase with volume. This means that the louder or more intense sounding a message is, does not instill it with more truth, more of God’s presence or more accuracy. It might be told in a charismatic manner but the method of delivery must remain separate from the content to accurately discern its validity or error.

2) Someone with a lot of charisma usually requires attention and recognition. When charisma is present but there is a lack of character, the charismatic person must feed off of the praise of others to feel important. The person of character is content to live behind the scenes and be effective without being noticed by others. Character is the substance of the person, charisma is the magnetic appeal or draw of a message.

*Please note that there are those who speak or minister that have tremendous character and can communicate with charisma as well. Having charisma in their presentation or delivery doesn’t necessarily disqualify them as being void of character. However, the point I am making is that all too often being charismatic, for some, replaces the need to have character or teach content that is based on truth. Some hold to the error of : “As long as it sounds true, it must be.”

Dictionary.com states that one of the definitions of charisma is:
“a spiritual power or personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people.”

A casual study of the most renown world leaders and speakers throughout history will no doubt reveal a list of charismatic, moving orators who could sway masses with the smallest thing said. From Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech to the Gettysburg Address to even the Preamble of our US constitution demonstrates some pieces of American history that have moved millions with their charismatic and heart gripping words.

The caution I would give is simply this:

Don’t let how moving something sounds, how ear-tickling its delivery is or how much emotional effect it evokes when heard cloud or color the content of the message and the character of the one delivering it. Hitler was a charismatic orator who could move millions when he spoke and many, many “Christians” completely backed and supported him. When you hear a message, a speech, a sermon, a radio broadcast, a tv interview, etc, don’t turn off your discernment filter. Get past the charismatic delivery and really look at the content of the message and the character of the one who is speaking. We cannot afford to become callous or numb and fail to guard our hearts diligently as wisdom commands us to. (“Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life’s consequences.” Prov. 4:23)

So what are the qualities of character? How can that be seen through the lens of charisma? A person of character possesses the following:

Integrity
Faithfulness
Honor
Upstanding reputation
Deeds/actions that are pure and right
Evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in words and actions (Galatians 5:22)
One who searches Scripture to see if something is true (Acts 17:11)
Those with clean hands and pure hearts, who don’t make vanities the purpose of their lives or swear oaths just to deceive. (Ps 24:4-6)
Those whose word can be trusted (1 Tim 3:8)

When one does not operate with character, they must put on the cloak of charisma to be liked, upheld and regarded as one of importance. Charisma can easily be a cover for a lack of character. That’s why it must be closely examined to determine which is the foundation of the person.

How does one lose their character?

1 Corinthians 15:33 CJB
Don’t be fooled. “Bad company ruins good character.”

What builds character?

Proverbs 27:17 CJB
Just as iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend.

Romans 5:4 CJB
“…endurance produces character, and character produces hope;”

Ephesians 3:14, 15
“…For this reason, I fall on my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its character.”

Let us seek to be those whose reputation, worthiness and honor is based upon the character of our lives, not the charisma of our words.

Blessings to you as you continue to seek the will of our heavenly Father!

The Cost of Truth

Posted: October 8, 2009 in Truth, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

We must hold to truth and smash the lies.
No matter the cost, we must stand when our knees feel weak
and our wills feeble.  We must not bow to what is convenient
and succumb to just doing what is expected.
We must count the cost.  We must question. 
We must test what we hear and see and are taught. 
All are human and thus, fallible.
None is insured against error or stumbling.
We must cling to truth, hold on to it with every breath, defend it,
stand by it and share it with those who don’t know it.
We must guard ourselves against the control of ear-tickling words.
We must protect our hearts and our minds and be careful what we absorb. We must discern between truth and error.  Our lives literally depend on it.

Lines must be drawn in the sand.  We must cross the points of no return and realize that even when it gets difficult to stand that it’s better to be free in the wilderness of trusting than a slave in the Egypt of comfort.

I challenge you, friends and readers, to guard your heart with all diligence. Ask the Father to fine tune your internal filter to detect between what is truth and what is just sugar coated poison.  The cost of walking a road toward truth, is neither cheap nor easy…but so very, very worth it.  Your friends may change.
Your zip code may change.  Your mindset may change.  It will cost much. But if the truth is not what you are pursuing, in the end, it will cost you everything.

Rest in the truth of God’s Word.  No matter the challenge of your present circumstances, having done all, simply stand and trust that there is no mire so deep that the arm of the Father cannot reach you and victoriously pull you out.