1 --> Simony: I gather that some Christian ministers are speaking about sowing seed offerings then are calling out lines of people for alleged personal prophecy based on size of offering. This is a serious abuse, named after the infamous Simon Magus, and must stop. Let me clip by way of reminder:
Acts 8:4 Now those who had been forced to scatter went around proclaiming the good news of the word. 5 Philip went down to the main city of Samaria and began proclaiming the Christ to them. 6 The crowds were paying attention with one mind to what Philip said, as they heard and saw the miraculous signs he was performing. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, were coming out of many who were possessed, and many paralyzed and lame people were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
9 Now in that city was a man named Simon, who had been practicing magic and amazing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great. 10 All the people, from the least to the greatest, paid close attention to him, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called ‘Great.’” 11 And they paid close attention to him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they began to be baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after he was baptized, he stayed close to Philip constantly, and when he saw the signs and great miracles that were occurring, he was amazed.
14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 These two went down and prayed for them so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. 16 (For the Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on the Samaritans, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 Now Simon, when he saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power too, so that everyone I place my hands on may receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could acquire God’s gift with money! 21 You have no share or part in this matter because your heart is not right before God! 22 Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that he may perhaps forgive you for the intent of your heart. 23 For I see that you are bitterly envious and in bondage to sin.” 24 But Simon replied, “You pray to the Lord for me so that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.” [NET]2 --> We must study and seek God for ourselves: There is no excuse for the attitude that thinks it can get away with depending on words of guidance from others, instead of reading the scriptures, praying and studying for ourselves, following the guidance to repent and do the right, which opens our ears to hear more. Such a failure is outright irresponsible and dangerous, an opening for cultic manipulation. And, abuse.
3 --> Abuse: I understand that there is report of abuse of the vulnerable by some pulpiteers, not just financial as just described, but psychological manipulation and even sexual seduction. This must be addressed seriously, on the principles of two or three witnesses -- it is all too easy to spread false and destructive rumours -- and then appropriate discipline. In some cases, outright removal from the pulpit and a formal programme of correction and restitution are needed.
4 --> The vexed issue of guidance: Many people are stuck in the mode that they think they cannot hear the guidance of God in any credible or reliable way, and have become dependent on others to guide them in the name of God. Others seemingly convert any notion that hits their minds into an infallible word from God that, to challenge, is opposing God. Then, there are those that, despite the evidence that on some Bible-based subjects vast numbers of Christians and many august and learned Christian leaders have been wrong, dangerously wrong seemingly would substitute traditions and theological stances for the Word of God. Yet others would despise and dismiss "Christendom's teachings," as though they and their group have suddenly discovered the golden interpretational keys or miraculous spectacles of insight that infallibly guide them to understand what has been lost for nigh on 2,000 years; thus in their imaginations, they have cornered the market on truth about God and become sectarian or even cultic. All such are dangerously wrong. Let us instead listen to scripture as it admonishes us:
1 Thess 5:15 See that no one pays back evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.Where also we see:
16 Always rejoice, 17 constantly pray, 18 in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not extinguish the Spirit.
20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt.
21 But examine all things; hold fast to what is good.
22 Stay away from every form of evil. [NET]
Jn 10: 27 My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.” [NET]And again:
2 Tim 2:15 Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately. 16 But avoid profane chatter, because those occupied with it will stray further and further into ungodliness, 17 and their message will spread its infection like gangrene . . .But also:
2 Tim 3:12 Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil people and charlatans will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. 14 You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about. You know who taught you 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. [NET]
2 Peter 3: 14 . . . strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish, when you come into his presence. 15 And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our dear brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, 16 speaking of these things in all his letters. Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures. 17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard that you do not get led astray by the error of these unprincipled men and fall from your firm grasp on the truth. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ . . . [NET]And finally:
Joshua 1:7 Make sure you are1 very strong and brave! Carefully obey all the law my servant Moses charged you to keep! Do not swerve from it to the right or to the left, so that you may be successful in all you do. 8 This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful. 9 I repeat, be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the LORD your God, am with you in all you do.” [NET]5 --> On confidence in guidance: clearly, we start from basic steps in scriptures and move from there. Bob Mumford used to use an analogy from the harbour of I think it was Naples. Three lights were arranged to seem as one if you were in the channel, but if you saw them out of alignment, you were off course headed for disaster. Just so scripture, circumstances and whatever sense of prompting, or conscience or leading we may have in the context of prayer and seeking counsel will line up to lead us aright. But if these last are out of line with the scripture -- as opposed to possibly twisted interpretations [we must learn sound Bible study approaches and must fill our hearts and minds (day by day, week by week) with the text understood in its proper context] -- we are headed for trouble.
6 --> Recent things on Mormonism and the BGEA: It was recently brought (back . . . I had vaguely seen some headline but had not followed up in detail, an oversight) to my attention that the BGEA recently took down web pages that identified Mormonism explicitly as a cult. This seems to have -- on researching -- been in the context of Mr Franklin Graham's recent comment that in the then upcoming US election, "We are not electing a pastor-in-chief" and the further point that "Mark DeMoss, Franklin Graham’s longtime spokesman, is now a Romney adviser." The research also turned up (again, something I vaguely recall seeing before but never addressed in details, IIRC . . . ) an interview of Mr Billy Graham with Mr Larry King on CNN in 2005, which reads in part:
KING: But what about those faiths -- the Mormons and the others that you mentioned -- believe in Christ. They believe they will meet Christ. What about those like the Jews, the Muslims, who don't believe they ...7 --> Balancing evangelism, discipleship, citizenship, issues and reformation: This exchange brings out how hard it is to strike a balance in today's world of snip and snipe rhetorical caricatures and dismissals. Silence is consent and may seem to invite the unopposed progress of evil. To speak out in challenge to falsehood or evils is to appear controversial and confrontational thus to many minds, off-putting and even "unloving." We need to build a strong theology that ties the gospel to discipleship and reformation, with a due premise that we care enough to challenge fashionable evils and call to repentance. Loving sinners means understanding the venomous impact of sin and deception, thus setting out to deal seriously with it, however painful or untimely or inconvenient it will be, because the alternative is fatal.
GRAHAM: That's in God's hands. I can't be the judge.
KING: You don't judge them?
KING: How do you feel...
GRAHAM: ... going to hell and all that.
KING: How do you feel when you see a lot of these strong Christian leaders go on television and say, you are condemned, you will live in hell if you do not accept Jesus Christ, and they are forceful and judgmental?
GRAHAM: Well, they have a right to say that, and they are true to a certain extent, but I don't -- that's not my calling. My calling is to preach the love of God and the forgiveness of God and the fact that he does forgive us. That's what the cross is all about, what the resurrection is all about, that's the gospel. And you can get off on all kinds of different side trends, and in my earlier ministry, I did the same, but as I got older, I guess I became more mellow and more forgiving and more loving. And the Jerry Falwells and people like that, I love them, I thank God for their ministry, he has a great university and two or three of my grandchildren have gone there, they have had a tremendous change in their lives for being there, and some of the other people are the same way, but at the other end of the extreme.
Ron (INAUDIBLE) here in New York years ago, preached against me, or spoke against me. I loved him with all my heard. I went to see him, and all these people.
8 --> Mormonism is a Cult? Sadly [and however painful or hard to hear this will be for some, including some I have specifically in mind . . . ], demonstrably so. Walter Martin's The Kingdom of the Cults is a classic and solid reference on this. CARM on Mormonism is solid, and the vid here is worth the watching:
9 --> The "Pastor in Chief" Problem: What has made all of this topical, is that Mormonism was put on the table because the Republican Candidate for the US Presidency apparently is or was -- I am not sure -- not just a Mormon member but a Mormon Bishop (who is a layman not a fulltime Minister of Religion). That is the context of Franklin Graham's lesser of evils remark. It is also the context in which we need to come to terms with things like Daniel -- admittedly seized as war booty -- serving under a pagan king as a high official. Similarly, with how David dealt with others, including having philistines as his personal guard, having a philistine from Gath as one of his main Generals, and his dealings with pagan lords. We are going to have to make some serious decisions on lesser of evils, and will need to do so with balance.
I could go on and on, but this seems enough to chew on for now.
We need to deal with some fairly difficult issues, and we need to be a lot more mature in seeking and walking in guidance and wisdom from God. END