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Joyless, Powerless, Watered-Down Church
By Patricia Backora
Ever wonder why so many who genuinely love Jesus are fed up with the typical church experience? Because church ain’t what God intended it to be. passage Consider this
!cts " # $hen %hilip went down to the city of &amaria' and preached Christ unto them. ( !nd the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which %hilip spa)e' hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. * +or unclean spirits' crying with loud voice' came out of many that were possessed with them and many ta)en with palsies' and that were lame' were healed. " !nd there was great ,oy in that city.
%hilip preached Christ to the people. $he people heeded his preaching. -ot ,ust the one or two souls modern preachers are luc)y to convert' but the whole city listened. $hey got healed and delivered from evil spirits. /ou still have preachers preaching about Jesus today' but what’s missing? $he miracles of healing and deliverance. $he J0/ which results when people are set free from the power of dar)ness. /ou repeatedly read of the BEG1--1-G of the early church being a ,oyful experience' although they weren’t perfect either 2see !cts 3 4(5 !cts 67 #35 6# 75 8om.64 6*9. $he city of &amaria was filled with ,oy because its people were being healed of disease and set free from demonic oppression. $he :ingdom of God was in %0;E8' not in word 21 Cor.4 3<9. $oday when people in the street spot gangs of church people stampeding toward them with church brochures and tracts they say' =0h' no. >a)e a run for it.? 1nstead of bringing the power of God to the people' Christians who’ve been taught that miracles have been =done away? bring only windy' watered@down words which don’t offend anybody' but are powerless to convict of sin 21sa.3( 6"9. $oday’s showmanship preachers preach pretty words that don’t offend anybody so they won’t =scare the fish away?. But no deliverance is brought to people bound by the devil. $he $8AE gospel of Christ B0E& bring offense 2Gal.# 669 to the devil’s crowd who are proud of their sin and want to hang onto it at any cost' even at the cost of the eternal damnation of their own souls. $he Gree) word used here for =offense? is skandalon, which means a type of trap. &ounds a lot li)e the English word =scandal?' doesn’t it? &inners who don’t want to listen to God’s message will be tripped up 2offended9 by the message of the cross because Christ shedding Cis blood on the Cross for them clashes with their own idea of how God ought to forgive people. $hey can be offended even by the suggestion that they are sinners in need of God’s grace. ;hile some believers go to one extreme and wal) on eggs to ma)e their message as =nice? as possible' other Christians misunderstand that word =offense? to mean they can act sarcastic toward sinners and deliberately try to rile them up. &ometimes words in the :ing James version carry a different connotation than the meaning we give them today. 1 $hes.6 # +or our gospel came not unto you in word only' but also in power' and in the Coly Ghost' and in much assurance5 as ye )now what manner of men we were among you for your sa)e.
>ost evangelical churches claim to be preaching %aul’s gospel. ;hile many of them deny the power of God is for today' they strongly imply that the only miracle God still does anymore is to save souls from hell after they die. ;hy do they thin) this way? Because of a misinterpretation of 1 Cor.67 6< which teaches that when that which is perfect 2complete9 has come' then imperfect spiritual gifts will cease' obviously because they’ll no longer be needed. &piritual gifts are imperfect because they’re exercised by fallible humans. Cowever' that verse does -0$ say that the spiritual gifts will no longer be necessary once Bible translators have compiled the (( boo)s of the Bible in one volume and pronounce it complete. >odern churches are pac)ed with printed Bibles' but the ;ord without the power of God is li)e matches without a spar). Bespite millions of windy preachers and billions of Bibles' the world is more wic)ed than ever before' and the church has been compromising with the world. &atan is inundating the church with ridiculous ' dangerous doctrines and secular humanism. Christians can’t get themselves healed of deadly diseases' not even of sinus problems. &ome Christians are on medication for their nerves because the devil is ma)ing mincemeat out of them and they can’t cope. &atan’s deadly arsenal of fiery missiles )eeps the Christian gnawing his nails wondering where the next attac) is coming from. 0nly a fool would thin) we don’t need all the spiritual weapons we can get to counteract satan’s sophisticated nu)es. $he word =perfect? can mean =fully grown? as well as complete. Col.3 6< says the saints are !D8E!B/ complete in Christ' and yet the spiritual gifts were in full operation 3<<< years ago when this was written. $he eternal God' who can see further down the railroad trac) than we can' views Christians as being !D8E!B/ complete in Christ' though there were many problems and rifts among certain Christian congregations' even when this scripture was penned in %aul’s day. 1 believe this passage spea)s of God’s wor) in the church to bring it to maturity and perfection. 1s the church already experientially mature enough' and perfect enough to no longer need miraculous manifestations of God’s power? $hin) about it. ;ith all the loony doctrines and outright swindling going on in modern churches' 1’d say the church is a D0-G way from perfect. 1t’s erroneous to thin) God doesn’t need to do miracles today because the canon of scripture has been completed. Goody. ;e get to read about Bible characters getting healed while we have to die of some dread disease because miracles are =done away?. $o be blunt' the Bible is irrelevant for today if we can’t experience the same
deliverance Bible characters did. Cow on earth can you get a sic) drug addict enthusiastic about a =once@upon@a@time? healing power that’s not for today? ;hat if the guy can’t even read? Because we have a complete Bible on our shelf we allegedly don’t need God’s power anymore' except to save us from having to go to hell. But %aul himself says that his gospel is in %0;E8' not in words only. ;hat good does it do to tell a dying cancer patient' =Cheer up' brother' you don’t need deliverance +80> the sic)ness. !ll you need is the Bible' and God will miraculously change your attitude 1- the sic)ness.? +unny' but 1 don’t read of Jesus smiling piously and patting some leper on the head' telling the poor chap that God will preserve him 1- the sic)ness even if he doesn’t get delivered +80> 1$ in this life. Caving to adapt to satan’s attac)s instead of Eapping them' that’s not part of the Good -ews Jesus came to preach. 1f miracles are missing today' something else must fill the vacuum' or the fish won’t bite and come to church. >ost people who file into church aren’t in a very ,oyful mood after fighting the traffic' worrying about the bills' arguing with each other on the way' wor)ing two ,obs' etc. $hey’ve come out of a sense of C!F1-G to go to church. $hey hope God isn’t mad at them for fa)ing enthusiasm while wishing they were still in bed. &o what fills the vacuum? ;ords' words' words. $he preacher promises a better life in the Great Beyond as compensation for all the hell satan puts them through in this life. Ce doesn’t seriously believe you can win the victory over the devil in the here and now' though he pays lip service to =Jesus is Dord?. $he preacher spices up his powerless message with tall tales' hoping to )eep his parishioners from ta)ing a nap. But they nod off anyway because his ,o)es aren’t even funny. Because of the absence of ,oy on those deadpan faces out in the pews' professional musicians play with all their might to try to drum some up. +irst you have the =praise service?' dubbed the 0uter Court ministry' where you =enter into God’s gates with praise.? $his usually consists of bouncy' repetitive choruses a tiny toddler could compose blindfolded. $hey ma)e you sound li)e a crow if the )ey’s too low for you' and ma)e your voice crac) if you’re a bass singing a soprano )ey. 1’ve heard some songs which consist of four or five dis,ointed words repeated over and over again. Anless they’re supposed to be an emotive lament out of the frontal lobe they ,ust don’t compute. 1 honestly didn’t )now what message the composer of such a piece is trying to get across. $he aim of such mind@bending caterwauling is to set you to ,umping li)e a ,ac)rabbit as you wildly wave your arms at
the bright lights above 2remember your deodorant.9. !fter swiveling and swaying twenty minutes or so and singing the same four ooey@ gooey sounds over and over again' you’ve whipped yourself up into a semi@hypnotic frenEy' and you can say the Dord’s finally been praised. -ow you’re all psyched up to do the worship part of the service where a lot of the music is played in a tear@,er)ing' minor )ey. &omething li)e =&weet heart of love' melt me' brea) me' etc.? &uch a long' drawn@out self@flagellation over your own personal wic)edness which has nothing to do with our ,ustification in Christ. /ou can beat yourself to death with a sil) nec)tie if you do it long enough' it doesn’t have to sound rough. !s a young girl 1 went to some good conferences. 1t was the most wonderful vacation 1 could thin) of' traveling with church friends to this church camp ground to spend time with saints from far and wide' and =soa) up some good teaching? for three meetings a day. !dmittedly' 1 was a little more patient in some areas bac) then than 1 am today. 1 was a real trooper with strong sitting bones. $hose meetings could last 3@7 hours each and it was a relief to get up and hop around while the music played. Everywhere you heard the whirring of cassette recorders in those rows of pews. ;hen you’re freshly filled with the &pirit and still relatively unfamiliar with the Bible' everything’s brand new and you thin) every word that proceeds from the pulpit is a precious pearl from heaven. 1’ve still got a bunch of old cassette tapes from those meetings' and one evening 1 replayed one ,ust for old times’ sa)e. $his particular preacher was highly esteemed as an edifier of the Body of Christ. But as 1 listened to the old tape he rambled on and on and on for ages in his laid@bac) hypnotic drawl' until 1 turned him off so 1 could stay awa)e. Ce spo)e thousands upon thousands of words but said very little of substance' ,ust chuc)led and made lots of pointless anecdotes. Ce could have made his point 2if he had one at all9 in only five minutes. 1 thin) special spea)ers are allotted so much time at such meetings that they thin) this is their moment to shine so they better stretch it out as long as possible so their immortal wisdom can be recorded for posterity. 1 don’t believe in being a slave to prepared texts and notes' but for %ete’s sa)e' have some sort of a coherent message in mind before you step up to the pulpit. &ome preachers probably confuse =letting the Dord lead? with sloppy preparation. 1f there’s nothing much to say' sermon@wise' far better to spend that time letting people testify' or waiting on God to move through the spiritual gifts' or praying for
people’s needs. $hat way the time is profitably used for the :ingdom of God. But oh' well' when you’re young' you’ve got all the time in the world to wait for the preacher to ma)e his point. 0ne night those people in the pews saw something real exciting. 1 honestly don’t )now how our level@headed apostle ever gave this one preacher permission to minister at a campground well@)nown for sane' sound doctrine and serene services. But this particular guest spea)er was deep into demonology. !ccording to him' demons caused everything under the sun. /ou could have a demon of hair@pulling' or nail chewing. Ce held out his own nails and said' =&ee how nice my nails loo)?? ;here demonology is concerned' he may have done his homewor)' but not much housewor). /ou don’t need satan to nu)e your nails if a can of !,ax will do the ,ob. Everybody can have pretty nails if all they do is preach. $hat man saw demons behind every bush' in every corner of every room. Ce grinned li)e Bela Dugosi as he warned of the unrelenting' ever@present danger of forces of evil lur)ing in every coffee cup. &omeone said the guy loo)ed li)e >andra)e the >agician. 1 wasn’t so worried about demons as the weird vibes that preacher was giving off. Ce was one spoo)y dude. -o wonder every devil in the county was too scared to mess with him. But my' he had one hell of a night. /oung people had the devil cast out of them left and right. &everal hollered and screamed and ,umped around. 0thers were barfing up their supper by the time he got done with them. $o thin) we’d driven (<< miles to see that.. $hat was the most unforgettable service of the whole convention' for the wrong reasons of course. 0ne day 1 passed our local supermar)et. $here were tables set up outside with free cups of coffee and Cershey Bars to tempt passers@by. Cershey’s is my favorite =sin? and it’s hard to get them here so 1 stopped to tal) to the Christian young people who were inviting people to their church. 1 didn’t want to nibble and run so 1 chatted with them and smiled sweetly. 1 )new Guite a bit about their church. Doud' repetitive music' lots of prosperity preaching' no body ministry to spea) of' ,ust the pastor controlling everything so the program runs smoothly. Di)e many churches' it’s nominally Charismatic' but stri)es me as your typical canned religious routine' without much mention of the &piritual Gifts' sort of watered down so as not to scare visitors away' ho hum. &omeone had flown those Cershey Bars over from the &tates. $hey wrapped the bars in white paper printed with red hearts. 1 thin) it was around Falentine’s Bay. $hey were holding a special wee)long pageant of some )ind at their church to show our city how
much they loved it. 1 en,oyed the chat but )ept some of my thoughts to myself. Can you imagine %eter' Christ’s +isher of >en' using Cershey’s Chocolate as bait to catch souls and spread the Gospel of Christ? -ow 1’ve seen everything. 0ne very old denominational church posts clever clichHs on its signboard out in front. ;hen 1 wal) by 1 sha)e my head to thin) it’s sad that this is what the Church of Jesus Christ has been reduced to. $he best@)nown =Charismatic? church in town has a pastor who loo)s li)e he swallowed petrified vinegar' he loo)s so glum. $he only contribution most of the people ma)e to the service is at offering time or when they sing the sleepy song service. $he preacher ,ust rambles on and on at a lot of expressionless faces' /ou don’t feel spiritually fed when you leave. ;hen those fol)s have their midwee) prayer meeting' they moan and groan to God about how sinful they are' how they long for Cis power to come down. >aybe they wouldn’t )now what to do with it if they had it. 0ne poor fellow tearfully begged God to brea) him to pieces to ma)e him more spiritual 2whatever that meant9. 1 got no positive impression of that place' except the free coffee. &omeone told me these people once held a 36@day fast. /ou’d thin) God would rather see them spreading Cis J0/ throughout the community than drumming up extra sorrow through a long fast. ;here 1 live' there’s sort of a cultural taboo against loo)ing ,oyful. 1t’s not very macho to show such feelings. Even the traditional music of this nation sounds li)e a lament. 1 $hes. Chapter # contains a list of things believers are reGuired to do and fasting is missing from it. Believers are exhorted to re,oice evermore 2verse 6(9. &ome saints misread that and re,oice -EFE8>08E. 1f you’re a visitor at that church' don’t count on being spo)en to before or after the service' even if you’re neat' presentable' odor@free and friendly. %eople ,ust gather in their tight little cliGues and chitchat about nothing in particular. ;hen you have a whole pew to yourself and you have to initiate every conversation at fellowship time it ma)es you wonder if you wandered into an exclusive monastery where visitors aren’t welcome. >aybe they thin) you’re on something if you actually smile instead of moan. But seriously' in recent years 1’ve -EFE8 seen any of them out in the streets inviting people to church or doing much of anything to get the word out about Jesus and Cis love.
1t’s ,ust =church as usual? and such Christians wonder if the next Big Church +ast will finally bring that big visitation from heaven. ;hy do so many churches stage a 36@day fast anyway? !pparently Baniel did this so Christians have to as well. 1t doesn’t matter that the apostles never taught fasting or even recommended it as a sure@fire way to whip old satan. Baniel lived under the Daw and was observing Jewish customs' including facing Jerusalem whenever he prayed 2Ban. ( 6<9. Besides fasting' Baniel threw ashes on himself and wore sac) cloth to torment his body 2I 79. Can you imagine some guy showing up at the Big Church +ast wearing a burlap bag' with cigarette ashes all over his head? &ay there’s this preacher’s standing by the door and he ta)es one loo) at the guy and says' =!re you nuts? ;hat’re you doin’' comin’ to church loo)in’ that way? =;ell' %reacher' you did say this was a Baniel +ast' didn’t you? Baniel threw ashes on his head and wore burlap as part of his religion.? =/eah' but we do things different here. ;e’ve come a long way' baby. !ll a modern Baniel fast means is you starve yourself 36 days.? =;here does it say Baniel starved himself' %astor? 1t only says he ate no good@tasting food during that period' and he did without meat and wine. ;e don’t drin) anything here but coffee anyway' and so far' that ,ust eliminates meat from our diet. ;e’ll be on this Baniel +ast for three whole wee)s and we’ll need some sort of protein' so can we have beans?? =-o toots' ,ust ,uice.? =Disten' %astor' &cripture indicates Baniel ate bland food on his so@ called fast. &o can 1 have crac)ers' oatmeal or what?? =1 dunno.? $he pastor grits his clean teeth' wondering what to say. =>aybe this scripture will give us a clue' %astor. Cere' in Colossians 3 3<@36' %aul writes an admonition against coming bac) under old rules. ;hen you say Jtouch not' taste not' handle not’' that’s not -ew Covenant liberty' that’s 0ld $estament legalism.? $he pastor smiles through his stomach pain. =0h' but 1 didn’t say you couldn’t touch a $@Bone' ,ust eat one.?
=%astor' you’ve ,ust put the whole congregation' including expectant mothers and hard wor)ers' under spiritual pressure to abstain from food for three whole wee)s. Get a load of 6 $im.4 6@7. =&ee? Commanding Christians to abstain from food is a doctrine of devils. 1t doesn’t say' Jexcept for when you hold a church fast.’ $he preacher pulls the ace out of his sleeve. =;ell' 1 Cor.* # commands married people to abstain from sex and fast. Gotcha there' buddy.? =%aul doesn’t C0>>!-B them to do either' %astor' he ,ust tells them to only abstain from marital relations if they want to spend their time in prayer' and to get bac) together if they feel li)e they can’t control their hormones anymore. !nd that’s the 0-D/ mention of religious fasting in all the epistles. !ll other times Jfasting’ is mentioned in %aul’s letters' he’s suffering persecution and lac) of cash to buy food with. %aul was on a forced fast' not a religious fast. $o put it bluntly' %aul was starving. Besides' the most reliable Gree) manuscripts don’t even include the word Jfasting’ in 1 Cor.* #.? =$hat’s a bald@faced lie.? the preacher shouted. =/ou’re pushing other Bible versions and that’s a sin. Everybody )nows the apostles spo)e :ing James English. ;hy else would they have wrote the Bible in it? Cey wait' why should you loo) more spiritual than we do? ;e ain’t got no burlap bags here but 1 can scare up a few drop cloths out of that &unday &chool room they’re paintin.’ 1’ll throw open all the east@facing windows in the &anctuary so we can stic) our heads out and face Jerusalem while we sprin)le baby powder on our heads. 1f you don’t want to do your bit to ma)e God happy you can ta)e your carnal carcass over to >cBonald’s.? KKKKKK 1n the absence of real miracles to draw sinners to Christ' churches put on free concerts and plays. >any years ago 1 watched this one church puppet show' =>r. %enny %incher’s Christmas?' which a five@year@old would have loved. ! mean &crooge puppet =>r. %enny %incher? threatens to throw this poor widow woman puppet out of her home for being too poor to pay the rent. &he’s a believing puppet who says she isn’t worried because the Dord will ta)e good care of her. $hat cantan)erous old puppet finally sees the light and gets saved and there’s a happy ending. ;e were all smiling when we went home.
$he preacher who ran this church loved happy choruses. 1t made him do a little ,ig when the piano pumped out the bouncy music. But he wasn’t always a happy camper. Ce must not have learned much from watching >r. %enny %incher. Ce claimed that God used some woman evangelist to heal his crippled leg' so that’s how he got inspired to start his ministry. Before that he’d been bedridden. Ce was gloriously healed and started preaching for the Dord. 0ne night 1 wised up about him. >ost of the fol)s there were struggling to put food on the table. $hey could barely afford the gas to get to church to watch any puppet shows. $hey were luc)y to be able to put a Guarter in the offering plate. 1f anything' they should have received something from somewhere to help $CE> out. $hat preacher didn’t show much Christmas spirit when he pulled this little stunt at the start of one service Ce too) a ten@dollar bill out of his wallet 2a small fortune to the rest of us9 and said' =-ow 1’ll be the first to start the offering. 1f you’re giving an offering don’t snea) it in the plate so no one notices. %ut it in li)e this so everybody can see and hear it.? Ce put the ten@spot in the offering plate' which was on the pulpit. $hen he pulled a fistful of nic)els out of his pants poc)et and flung them in front of the pulpit' where they clattered' flying all over the place. =1f you’re gonna give a nic)el offering' don’t act li)e you’re ashamed of it.? $hose poor souls should have gotten up and left. 1 thin) the preacher was ,ust tic)ed off because he li)ed to go traveling with his family and the meager offerings were cramping his lifestyle. 8efusing to show grace toward financially strapped saints wasn’t a good way to show God gratitude for Cis healing. Contrast the greedy' grabby materialism of many modern church leaders with the attitude of the early church where the welfare of !DD the members was tenderly cared for' so that none of them lac)ed the necessities of life 2!cts 4 74@7#9. $he opposite’s happening today. $he poor are depriving themselves of bare necessities so the rich in the church can live high on the hog. Bac) in 6I"4@"# 1 felt as low as 1 could get . ;e lived in California at the time. >y husband had a terrible wor) accident was ma)ing a difficult recuperation at home. %lus' there were financial pressures. $o help out 1 got a ,ob at a burger ,oint. Ap till then 1’d been a stay@at@ home mom. 1t was an ad,ustment' to say the least' to get used to the frantic pace of wor)ing for a paychec). !lready stressed out by $om’s
illness' all the clamor the wor)place grated on my nerves' and 1 always worried that 1’d screw up some order and upset the boss. 1 considered &unday a day to rest from wor)aday pressures and a time to be with the saints so 1 could face another wee). ;hen testimony time came 1 told everyone how God gave me the strength to )eep going and get through the day. ;ell' %astor Big Buc)s said something edifying to burst my bubble =God can find ways to bless you even if you’re wor)ing at some service ,ob. But 1 believe he has better things for his saints.? Ce summed up his Daodicean attitude toward wealth 2see 8ev.7 6*9 when he said' =&olomon was rich' Bavid was rich' so we should be rich too.? -o mention of Jesus who had nowhere to lay his head' or %aul' who often went hungry. ;hy didn’t he cite any -ew $estament examples? %rosperity preachers ,ust love the 0ld $estament. 1f that preacher thought &olomon was a spiritual giant ,ust because he was loaded' what about the idols &olomon built for his heathen wives' or the way he abused poor laborers who helped create his vast wealth 21 :ings 66 4@I5 63 6@66' Eccl.4 69? Bon’t prosperity preachers realiEe there’s only one pie in this world' and for the one per cent to hog the lion’s share of the wealth' the II per cent have to survive on the few crumbs that are left? %rosperity %reachers never preach on the main theme of &olomon’s boo) Ecclesiastes' that the pursuit of worldly wealth and pleasure is vain. -or do they mention the unfair distribution of wealth in &ong of &olomon " 63 where &olomon got five times as much for the fruit of the vineyard as the peons who sweated under the hot sun to cultivate that fruit. $hat’s how the rich get rich. 1 don’t )now many who got filthy rich by wor)ing with their hands 2Ever notice how smooth a rich man’s hands loo)?9 &cholars give &ong of &olomon a lofty spiritual interpretation. But 1 can’t help but marvel about how &olomon en,oyed endless hours of flower@scented romance while his sweating wor)ers toiled away on his building pro,ects. $here was another hurtful incident at the start of another service. $he pastor’s daughter' much younger than myself' as)ed me =in love? not to bring my tambourine to church anymore. $his after all the happy =Cebrew? dances they’d staged for the congregation to participate in' which led me to believe there was liberty in the spirit there. !fter all the times people =got slain in the spirit? 2another false doctrine9 when they were prayed for' and all the loud clapping and praises' they complain about a ,ingle from my tambourine. 1’d probably started
playing the thing when that rich girl was still in diapers. >y heart san) li)e lead. $hat was the very last straw. 1 went to the ladies’ room and scribbled a note. 1 could have wal)ed out and caught a bus home right then and there' but 1 didn’t want to embarrass the couple who’d brought me. 1 left that note in the offering plate for that fancy@dancy pastor. 1 told him my hands were made for toiling at some grubby ,ob' not playing music' and they’d never have to hear my ,oyful tambourine playing ever again because 1’d stay home along with it. Joy in the Dord wasn’t for me' it was for rich fol)s. 1 let him )now 1 could never be part of their rich' carefree world and 1 didn’t want to hang around to be reminded of how much nicer their lives were than my own. 1 went home crying to my poor convalescing husband. Ce told me 1 shouldn’t feel bad' because the 8E!D truth was that the preacher’s daughter wanted to be the only one with a tambourine. 1 couldn’t stomach anymore of celebrity saint churches. 1’d always thought Jesus came to preach good news to the poor' not be the figurehead for a rich man’s Bless >e Club. -0$ 0-CE did that prosperity pastor or his family ever express any warmth or compassion to me about my husband lying on the couch alone at home' with 1F drips hanging out his arms' relying on a visiting nurse and an untrained wife to clean his in,ection site and hoo) him up' not )nowing if there was any hope of saving his leg. -ot one offer of =1s there anything we can do to help in some %8!C$1C!D way?? >y unspo)en thoughts went something li)e =/eah' if you guys had half our problems' you’d feel li)e singing and sure dancing. /ou )now -0$C1-G about real life. /ou’re nerves aren’t on )nife edge' and you don’t have the 34L* pain my husband’s got. >r. +ancy %ants %astor doesn’t get hurt at his nice safe ,ob' he doesn’t even wor)' ,ust passes the plate. /ou’re sheltered from real life. 1 bet you never had to donate plasma to put food on the table. 1 bet you never had to swallow your pride and get stuff from the local food ban). 1 bet you never put an item bac) at the supermar)et because you were three cents short. 1 bet you never had to carefully weigh an onion or a carrot to ma)e sure you had enough money to pay for it. 1 bet you never wondered how you’d scare up a few buc)s so your child could see the dentist.? !fter that service 2and before the pastor could chec) C1& offering plates9 the )ind couple who drove me could tell by my grim silence that 1 wouldn’t be bac). $he lady said she’d also been as)ed not to play her tambourine and she understood how 1 felt. &he tried to get
me to change my mind but 1 ,ust told them 1’d call if 1 needed another ride. 1 never did. -ext day' this one lady who’d ta)en me to their women’s fellowship 2who’d hinted 1 should change my style' etc.9 came to my wor)place and ordered a diet soda. &he sat out in the dining room and wrote me a note. !t the time 1 was in the bac) room doing some chores. ;hen a co@wor)er told me a very pretty lady wanted to tal) to me' 1 )new why she was there and didn’t want any emotional scene at wor). 1 told my co@wor)er to tell her 1 was too busy to come up front to see her. 1 stayed in the bac) till she left. Cer note didn’t change my mind about church. 1 was tired of Christians buddying up to me only so they could use me as raw material to ma)e something else out of to suit themselves. >y vision of a better church is one which wouldn’t function li)e a staged production 2if you have to hold regular' structured meetings at all9. &o long the message didn’t contradict scripture any Christian could prophesy. >aybe call it $he Couse of Joy or something li)e that. 1f you wanted to clap or dance or ,ingle a tambourine you could do that. -o pressure to be a perfect musician' and if nobody )new how to play anything' ,ust sing. 1f we didn’t feel li)e singing we could ,ust testify' pray' study the ;ord or ,ust sit around and visit as Christian friends. 1f the group was small enough' we could sit in a circle or lounge in living room chairs li)e any normal family does' instead of sitting in pews and staring at the bac) of each other’s heads. %eople could wear whatever they li)ed so long as it didn’t incite lust. 1f a woman wanted to wear casual apparel instead of business attire' it shouldn’t raise anybody’s defenses. Even if she wore a floral head scarf other Christians shouldn’t see it as any threat to their own well@being. >en could wear beards and sandals' and more power to Jem. 1f a guy wanted to wear a rainbow@colored robe instead of a suit M tie' God bless him. !ll Christians should care about is whether people came to worship in &pirit and in truth and share the ministry of Christ in them. $hey should fight satan instead of pic)ing off each other. :now what the main problem with that whole scenario is? Caving to create =it? and give =it? some name to identify =it? as a recogniEable church' as =it? is understood to be today. $hat particular =it? could start off very small but end up being a big white elephant demanding land' a building' a staff' etc. 1n order to worship together' Christians instinctively build an organiEation people G0 $0' while Christ created an organism 2a D1F1-G thing9' Cis Body the Church on earth. ;ouldn’t it be great' if instead of G01-G $0 some building as a religious
routine' Christians ;E8E the church and ,ust wanted to BE together for unstructured fellowship. !n informal coffee house atmosphere might be ideal for those who shy away from rich churches and success@seminar flashy formality. ;hy can’t two or three meet in Jesus’ -ame at somebody’s house ,ust to share a cup of coffee and chat' and see what God will end up doing? -ot so women can pass catty comments about each other’s clothes' hairdo and weight' etc.' but to ,ust the let the life of Christ flow through them. /ou don’t see men pic)ing at each other about their body shape' their hair' or what they’re wearing. >en are allowed to have brains and a real personality' not ,ust a body. $hey have intelligent conversations about important issues which matter. ;hy aren’t women allowed' li)e men' to thin) of themselves as individual human beings made in God’s image first' and women second? ;omen have always been pressured by society to sell themselves short. ;hile men do all the important stuff in movies and $F' women are depicted as sex@craEed boy toys with barely a brain between their ears. ;hy can’t Christian women' in particular' ta)e satisfaction in being an eternal soul with real talents and capabilities the Dord can use? 1 went through some difficult days struggling to hang onto my faith while re,ecting the phoniness of rich Bless >e Clubs. ;hile 1 struggled to ,uggle so many balls and hold myself together' 1 felt li)e 1 was on the 8e,ect Ceap of used@up Christian soldiers. !fter years of =1 confess 1’m blessed and what 1 confess 1 possess' and =1 believe 1 receive when 1 sow a seed to meet my need? garbage' and years of =sowing my best seed? to greedy preachers' what a fine reward 1 got. >aybe %rov.33 6(' a verse prosperity preachers -EFE8 dare mention' was )ic)ing in' and )ic)ing me. 1 had given to the rich and reaped the whirlwind for it. Bon’t ever give money to rich preachers or you’ll end up scrounging for empty soda cans in the par) ,ust so you can put food on the table. $he %rosperity Gospel and the way it failed me nearly destroyed my faith. 1t was almost gone' and what little was left was on life support. &urely' 1 reasoned' if my prayers weren’t good enough to get God’s attention' someone else’s might be. Because 1 couldn’t relate to those carefree Christians' 1 felt li)e nobody on earth understood how 1 felt. >y despair drove me into false doctrine. 1 found myself an angel guru in some tabloid newspaper' who sent me newsletters for ,ust N#.<< a month. 1’m no Catholic' but 1 began to pray to various saints in heaven to intercede for me so angels would fight for me. ! drowning man will grab at any straw. -ow here’s the funny part. Before 1 left that church where the $ambourine incident happened' the pastor' for
seemingly no reason' said that if any of us were praying to saints they couldn’t hear us 2true9 and we’d better Guit it or we’d go to hell for it. $his is an example of where bad and good meet. /ou can have the gift of supernatural )nowledge operating in your life' and be doctrinally correct in some areas. But you can lac) the love of Jesus. 1 Cor.67 3 says you can )now everything but if you don’t have love in your life it’s all pointless. 1nstead of stopping with the going to hell comment' the pastor should have as)ed ;C/ anyone would feel driven to pray to dead saints' and what could be done to help them so they wouldn’t be tempted to see that as their only option. Brother B.' another preacher' wisely said that hogs don’t wander off and eat out of somebody else’s trough if they’re bein’ fed what they need. $o this day 1 wonder whether any other people in that room were tempted in this area' and for the same reasons 1 was. $oday’s churchianity is nothing but a staged production' a sanctification of filthy lucre and greed so the leadership can ,ustify the way they mil) their cash cows' then bleed them when the mil) is gone. Even bands of traveling hippies and members of Eastern cults show more care and concern for others. $hey share their food and encourage one another when times get rough. 1f there were no Jesus in Christianity' 1’d honestly say =to hell with it.? 0nly Ce gives me reason to believe the Bible is real' not those religious phonies who love money and shun the poor 2James 3 6@679. $hat ultra@right wing rich conservative preacher who moc)ed my no@ frills ,ob had a lot of nerve. !t least 1 was wor)ing. Ce couldn’t accuse me of not trying' even when 1 barely had the will to get up and face another day. 1 wasn’t cut out to be a big wheeler@dealer' and 1 was only ma)ing a few buc)s part time to help put food on the table. $he rest of the time 1 was home nursing my poor husband and trying to )eep the house running smoothly. ;e too) in boarders to help ma)e ends meet. 0ne of our boarders was a Christian but a very self@righteous one. Ce played trumpet at a local mega@church 2for free' of course9. Ce believed in tithing to his rich church while he rode a bi)e to wor) and subsisted on dry soup mix. ;e invited him to have a good meal with us but he got that churchy grin on his face and said' =-o than)s' all 1 need is simple subsistence.? ;hy is it a sin for a hard wor)er to eat a decent meal they’ve earned the money to buy' for %ete’s sa)e. Couldn’t we have a little en,oyment to boost our morale during this tough time in our family’s life? Jesus came eating and drin)ing 2Du)e
* 749. ;hen my husband tried to tell that young Christian how well his rich pastor was eating' the Christian thought satan was spea)ing through him and rebu)ed him for his =wic)edness?. $he physical demands of wor)ing' plus the emotional stress of watching my husband suffer' worrying about spreading infection if 1 didn’t )eep my hands sterile enough when 1 changed his dressing' etc.' all these pressures ,ust may have made me less eager to hang around a rich church full of spoiled rich )ids who danced and sang their way to heaven while 1 too) the hard' bumpy road. $hey were free as an eagle so they sang li)e songbirds. Ever see a heavy@laden don)ey dance? >y heart was heavy' but my greatest burden was disillusionment. ;hy did 1 expect to see the 8E!D life of Christ in the lives of song@and@dance country club Christians? 1t was li)e trying to get a $F picture on a radio. 1f that preacher was gonna go on bragging about his nice life' he would do it without having me around to get ,ealous of him. Christians say trials are a blessing but Beut. 3" 6#@(" spells out what constitutes blessings and curses. Ferse (7 ma)es it plain that these evil things are for your destruction' not your edification as a Christian. &ic)ness' anxiety' humiliation and protracted poverty are -0$ blessings. God doesn’t change Cis mind about what’s bad and good. Contrary to popular religious belief' God gives Cis children G00B gifts' not stones and serpents. 1f that thing in your life bites you li)e a sna)e' destroys all your dreams' ma)es you ill and depressed' it’s probably a present from the devil because it’s got the signature of satan all over it. 1f all this unmitigated misery is a blessing' why don’t Christians pray they’ll en,oy more of it in heaven? Jesus came to destroy the wor)s of the devil' not find a sanctified use for them 21 John 7 "9. &ome Christians have made friends with their mountains instead of ordering them to be cast into the sea. ;hen satan sends you a life@shattering trial' he isn’t trying to help you grow. Ce’s trying to :1DD ya. Even if you do manage to get out of a really bad trial it ta)es a long' long time to recover from going through it' ,ust li)e it ta)es forever to rebuild a bombed@out city to what it was before. /ou feel weepy' weary and wea)' afraid other Christians will rebu)e you for being human enough to wonder if it will all be worth it in the end. 1 stayed home from those rich churches ,ust to avoid further humiliation. 1 couldn’t put on a phony happy@clappy act during the =praise service? if my feelings were either negative or absent altogether. Country club churches aren’t my cup of tea. /ears later a troubled woman at wor)'
who )new 1 was a Christian' as)ed me to ta)e her somewhere to church' but said she did not want to go to any rich church. 1 couldn’t thin) of a single place where we could find the real %resence of God' ,ust a few lu)ewarm institutional churches 1’d passed by on the bus going home from wor). ;e loo)ed in the /ellow %ages. ;e stopped at one or two places but didn’t feel any warmth or life there so we left and ,ust visited with each other. $he only 8E!D spiritual help 1 got was by calling =Brother B.? this preacher in !labama who held informal prayer meetings in his home and ministered to people over the phone. Brother B. prayed for my co@ wor)er' whose boyfriend was threatening to ta)e her child away. >any a time he’d pray with me and 1’d see results and feel the burden lifted. !fter he died' 1 sure didn’t meet many li)e him. Brother B. never went further than the Dord directed' didn’t have ambitions to =launch out into the deep? 2build a bigger' fancier ministry9. Ce told me that once he tried to hold services in a barn' but sensed that the anointing was suffering by him trying to organiEe 2stage manage?9 the gift God had given him. 1nstead of ma)ing a big' slic) production out of his ministry' Brother B. ,ust preached whenever and wherever the Dord told him to. >y brother first met him in the coffee aisle of a supermar)et' where a large crowd was listening to him. $hat’s how 1 found out about him. 0n short notice' Brother B. would set up informal' impromptu meetings where a few fol)s who’d called him on the phone would gather in his living room. $hen he’d briefly share the ;ord and pray for their needs. !fter that he’d spea) a blessing over our ,ourney home. &imple ministry from the heart' without any phony baloney =sow a seed to meet your need? voodoo. %rosperity preaching' with its inherent self@sufficiency and pride' has BE;1$CCEB 2Gal.7 69 Christians and robbed them of sound ,udgment for far too long. But many churches B0 ma)e a heroic effort to get souls saved' even in the absence of signs and wonders which would prove God’s power and reality to the lost. 0ne main problem is that modern soul winners don’t want to say anything that would ma)e sinners feel li)e sinners. God allegedly accepts each and every one of them ,ust the way they are. EvangeliEing Christians tend to fudge over the basic sinful nature of man and the need for repentance. $hey’re too embarrassed to call sin sin. $his generation needs a more =positive? gospel so Christians tell the lost person God has a wonderful plan for your life and it can be yours if only you’ll pray to receive Jesus into your heart.
1’m not too sure' though' that God approves much of bypassing the stic)y part about that sinner needing to be brought to godly sorrow for his sin' and his need to humbly see) God’s forgiveness and the cleansing of the blood shed by Christ on the Cross. $he sinner might ta)e offense if you imply he isn’t perfect enough to measure up to God’s high standards. But how can Christ become your &avior unless you’re aware there’s something you need to be saved +80> and 8E%E-$ 0+? !nd this ambiguous idiom =Cave a personal relationship with the Dord? would ma)e sinners who watch chic) flic) films raise their eyebrows. ;here does =personal relationship? appear in &cripture? $hat vague term doesn’t convey the need to repent of sin and be reconciled to an offended God. %eople need to )now ;ho they’re dealing with not some warm' cuddly teddy bear' but the !lmighty' >ost Coly God' ;ho created and runs this whole universe' the 0ne ;ho sent Cis only@begotten &on to give Cis life as the 0-D/ acceptable payment for their sins. Anless they repent of their sins and receive Christ as &avior' the 0-D/ =relationship? God will end up having with lost sinners will be as their angry Judge ;ho sends them to hell. 1t’s hard to find a church which isn’t dominated by %rosperity $heology. &ome churches draw heavily from the 0ld $estament for their doctrine in order to ,ustify their -ew Covenant 2-ew !ge9 success seminar rhetoric. &inging about the Cross is neglected while cheesy choruses and upbeat psalms are sung 2sprin)led with a lot of Cebrew words and exotic melodies9 about Christians running over walls' conGuering the earth in the here and now 2Bominionist $heology9' and gobbling up the riches of the wic)ed. 1n the process sinners don’t get the true Gospel message Believe in the Dord Jesus Christ that Ce died for your sins and that Ce rose from the dead for your ,ustification' and you’ll receive the Gift of the Coly Ghost. +ree entertainment won’t offset the negativity factor where tithing is taught and rigidly enforced. 1n other boo)s' videos and articles 1 go into deep detail as to why monetary tithing was -EFE8 a Biblical doctrine' and no tithing at all was taught to the Church after the Cross of Christ nullified the 0ld Covenant and ushered in the -ew. $hose same preachers who get their people to sing about their liberty in Christ will crac) the whip when it comes to having to give ten per cent of your G80&& income. !nd in God’s sight' pushing a false doctrine for gain 1& gross.
&ome preachers' including one 1 )new as a young person' don’t actively push the tithing doctrine5 ,ust $0DE8!$E tithing and C!8B08 it so they’ll still reap the benefits of it while escaping responsibility for the bad repercussions of tithing in the lives of the congregation. Even if the pastor 2who went to cemetO1 mean' seminary9 did )now that tithing on wages was never taught in &cripture' those who tithed were never discouraged from doing so' even if Gal.7 6< warns you not to come bac) under the Daw and its curse for failure to )eep it perfectly in God’s way. $he pastor never did attac) this sacred cow. !fter all' tithing was taught by other churches of our )ind. $he =mother church’s? policy was this $ithing may not exactly be a D!; for the Christian' but it’s still one of God’s %81-C1%DE& 2where does &cripture teach that popular assumption?9. 1 loo)ed that word up in the dictionary. ! principle 1& a law. -0;CE8E does God ma)e it a law to pay ten per cent of your wages to some man called a pastor. $he word =pastor? is used only once in the -ew $estament 2Eph.4 669. $here’s only one problem with passively endorsing false doctrine in your church' even if you don’t actively promote it. &cripture warns believers to give no place to the devil 2Eph.4 3*9. 0nly satan benefits when false doctrine goes unchallenged. ! good shepherd will chase sna)es out of his green pastures' not try to profiteer off those pests. Ce will ;!8- the sheep against coming under the Daw or any part of it. $ithing was a >!$$E8 0+ $CE D!; 2>att.37 379. 1n this passage Jesus was addressing a %harisee who lived under the Daw of >oses because Christ had not yet gone to the Cross to abolish it 23 Cor.7 675 Col.3 645 Eph.3 6#9. ;hen 1 was young in the Dord' this particular preacher warned me not to get caught up in legalistic customs li)e wearing head coverings in church' as many charismatic churches did at the time. &o why didn’t he spea) out against tithing? ;ellOthe church building fund might have suffered. ;herever tithing becomes a burden on hardwor)ing families barely scraping by' and their pastor yells at them for not doing it' their ,oy in the Dord can tarnish li)e a rusty penny. 1 tend to suspect that BED1BE8!$ED/ tolerating destructive church doctrines ,ust because they )eep pastures green ,ust might be one reason why God’s power doesn’t come down more often to deliver people from satan. 1f you’re a hippie lost in a time warp or a rugged individualist instead of a loo)ali)e clone' by all means avoid the prosperity mega@church scene where people lost in Dala Dand have a fixation on the business executive loo). $hey confess that they’ll become billionaires if they look li)e billionaires and )eep up their positive confessions. $he rich
have hi,ac)ed Jesus for themselves. &ome over@Eealous %rosperity men loo) li)e they’ve had their hair mowed with a hedge trimmer' and the sides of their head are shaved' contrary to Dev.6I 3*. 1nstead of the 0ld Daw' there’s new laws' among which are $hy men shall wear a military@style hair cut and don a blue suit' crisp white shirt and tie before they appear in the presence of the lord of the pulpit. ;ithout fail' thou shalt present ten percent of thy G80&& salary to the Big Cheese up front. 1f thou hast nothing to pay' go find a cheaper church or worship in the par). Glum' ,oyless souls dig deep when the ushers come around with their velvet bandit bags and wonder what worshipping God has to do with filthy lucre. &ome thin) that if you don’t loo) li)e a ;all &treet ban)er you’ll end up in hell. ;hat would they have made of Jesus’ beard and sandals? $he theory behind all this dress@for@success obsession in mega@ churches is this dress li)e a high@powered female exec or a funeral director and you’ll attract money li)e a magnet. =Confess? canned prosperity clichHs fifty times while you dump all your dough in the offering plate' and by next wee) your !unt &ue will die and leave you a million buc)s. $his =confession? obsession is trying to attain something by manipulating some vague faith force without relying on prayer to a sovereign God 2maybe they’re too bashful to as) God for this &aturday’s winning Dotto numbers' so they ,ust confess to the thin blue air and drop the praying bit9. $his %ositive Confession ritual is no different from a Catholic saying a hundred Cail >ary’s as a religious ritual. 1t reminds me of Borothy in the ;iEard of 0E tapping her ruby slippers together and saying over and over =$here’s no place li)e home.? %ositive confession is a -ew !ge metaphysical practice which was never taught by Christ or any of the apostles. 1f anything' Jesus promised you’d get no results from ma)ing vain repetitions 2>att.( *9. &ome Christians act li)e God needs a hearing aid the way they ,abber the same stuff over and over and over again. 1 mean' how many times can you order some unseen angel to fetch you a brand new Cadillac' unless you )eep changing the ma)e and model? 1f you’re frustrated with going to a big church where you’re lost in a huge crowd and you’re barely noticed' believe me' tiny groups also have their problems. $he biggest disadvantage of a very small group is that =the leadership? will dissect your soul li)e a fish to find out if there’s any human foibles they can pic) at and criticiEe you forOwith a smile on their face' of course. 8eminds me of a grinning dentist snea)ing up on you with a street drill behind his bac).
$his one street preacher 1 )new was a nice man' but 1 got the feeling he was proud of his perfect life' and pleased about all he’d sacrificed to obey the Dord. Ce claims he Guit a great white collar ,ob to go into the street ministry. But his poor wife was all worn out from ta)ing up the slac). 1f you’re a retired person or unemployed homema)er' watch out. $hey’ll ma)e you feel guilty for en,oying this well@deserved time in your life where you have time to live' not ,ust exist. 1f you go to a storefront church where they’re luc)y to get four or five regulars' you feel mighty crummy if you don’t have any money to help defray expenses. 1t got interesting after 1 attended this tiny group for a few months. >ost of this preacher’s regulars hadn’t shown up that night and 1 guess he was bored and needed to pic) at somebody for something. $he best way to feel slimmer is to stand next to somebody ten siEes larger. Being around imperfect people ma)es that particular preacher feel much holier. Ce really gets a buEE out of warning drun)s they’d better sober up or they’ll fry in hell. 1t was poor pic)ings for visitors that night' and 1 wasn’t as bad as those no@good bums who’d come to the meeting to get free coffee and stale graham crac)ers. $hey’d ,ust Guit coming when they got tired of being threatened with the torments of hell. $his man was teaching an empty room' and he hadn’t dished out his usual Big 8ebu)e of the -ight. &o he had to pic) and pry to find some sort of shoc)ing sin in my life. Ce said 1 had an odd@ sounding voice and ought to get an operation to remove tissue from the bac) of my throat so the sound would come out clearer. 1 told him 1 was from the &outh and a lot of fol)s tal) with an accent down there. Dater that same evening he made a pointed dig about how it’s a sin to sleep late and you really ought to drag your dead carcass out of bed to get dressed and go to wor). !ll 1 thought was' =/ou can’t have much to do if you can get to bed early every night and get up with the chic)ens. 1 sit up late writing or drawing illustrations' and 1 tac)le a mountain of dishes in the )itchen' etc. 1’ve already put in enough years of waiting on cran)y customers and running my legs off.? /ears ago when 1 was coo)ing' washing and running around night and day for our restaurant' some spiritual giant' who had no ,ob outside the home' criticiEed me for =not doing anything for God?' so how could 1 claim to love Jesus? -obody ever wal)s a mile in someone else’s shoes before they open their big fat mouth and pass a comment. ;ell' >r. %reacher 1 figure 1’ve E!8-EB my retirement from the daily
grind' so 1 can finally do the C8E!$1FE part of my life before the ball game’s all over and 1 start pushin’ up tulips. !nd as for being an early bird' personally 1 believe God is ,ust as li)ely to hear your prayer at ( p.m. as ( a.m. 1 really hated it when the group leader would go on and on about something unpleasant or difficult we had to do to please God' and he’d say' =1sn’t that right' %at?? 1 ,ust gave him a cheesy grin and nodded my head. 1 hated being put on the spot li)e that. ;e have the right to share our viewpoints with others' even to discuss some =ouchy? Bible topic. But we don’t have the right to invade each other’s inner sanctums' or usurp God’s place as Dord of our conscience. Beware of preachers who put you on the spot so as to do your thin)ing for you' and do it with a disarming smile. $al) about Groupthin). Cis wife usually loo)ed depressed and half@sic) 2whenever she showed up9' as if her religion wasn’t ma)ing her very ,oyful. $he poor woman had no vitality about her' and her favorite topic of conversation was dying and going to heaven so she would finally be free of her problems and en,oy decent health for a change. Bying and going to heaven was about $CE only good news that preacher had for the believer. 1 tend to suspect the 8E!D reason this preacher tal)ed about going to wor) was he wasn’t wor)ing for cash anymore himself and someone else had to finance his ministry. !fter Guitting his own profession 2allegedly at the Dord’s command9 he claimed God told him to rent two different buildings to hold meetings in. 0bviously he needed help to pay rents on them. Ce had lots of coEy tables and chairs all set out in case people wanted to come. But he never had more than ten or twelve at his meetings' and even that dwindled down to nothing. &eems li)e if the Dord really had commanded him to rent all that space out' God would have either filled the place up with enough contributors or brought in some stray millionaire to shoulder the burden. $hat would be a miracle in itself. ;hy' at least one@third of this town is on government welfare' and if there’s any rich Christians here' they’re graEing in greener pastures. ;ithout realiEing it' this preacher assumed the role of the Foice of %eople’s consciences. !s 1 got ready to go home' he’d tell me he was glad 1 could come' and smiling' he’d whisper li)e a +ather Confessor' =Bo you study the Bible a lot??' or =!re you wal)ing closely with God?? ;henever he’d spea) to somebody li)e that' his voice was so velvety and gentle' li)e an angel’s.
1 rec)on fol)s ,ust got tired of ta)in’ the whipping and left. &oftly and tenderly he wor)ed one staggering drun) over with warnings that his life was bound to come to a crashing end and what if he died tonight and went to hell? $he preacher’s wife told me of two people who’d died recently of frea) accidents. 0ne drun) stumbled down some stairs and died and the other got )illed while someone was driving him to church. $hat alone ought to have been enough to get those stubborn drun)s to sober up and get saved' but 1 didn’t see any results when he pestered these visitors. $here’s a fine line between holy boldness and scaring the fish away. Can you imagine &imon %eter lowering his net into the la)e and then beating the water with an oar while yelling at those stin)in’ fish to straighten up and fly right or they’d fry in hell? &inners B0 need to )now about hell. But they also need to see GE-A1-E peace and ,oy on Christians’ faces' not that telltale churchy 1 G0$CC!. religious grin spiritual giants put on when they’re in church.
! lot of religious people are so out of touch with the 8E!D human condition that they remind me of hippies who tuned in and dropped out. /ou loo) in their eyes and try to tal) to them but nobody’s home. $wo@faced believers might bar) at their )ids at home but when they’re in church they’re sweeter than -ed +landers in a honey pot' afraid to ever loo) sad or mad. Can you imagine Jesus smiling sweetly as Ce drove the moneychangers out of the $emple with a whip? 1t’s li)e these disconnected religious fol)s are way off on some other planet. $his sad preacher’s sad@faced wife was nice enough' but she never li)ed to tal) about common everyday activities li)e coo)ing' gardening' hobbies' etc. &he ,ust complained about being tired from wor) and lamented about different people she )new being sic)' or unexpectedly dying from frea) accidents and wasn’t it a good thing they prayed the sinner’s prayer before they went. Even prayer time was full of laments and sighs. /ou’d almost thin) their Christian life was a misery' not a ,oy. 1t made you want to tell that preacher for pity’s sa)e' get bac) to wor) so your poor sic) wife can stay home and recuperate. 0ne occasional guest spea)er who’d come to these little meetings ran a Christian boo)store' and he’d stare at you li)e an owl siEing up a moth.
0ne night we discussed the teaching of A-C0-B1$10-!D forgiveness of all who hurt us. 0f course' those people staunchly believe in it. But scripture ta)en !& ! ;C0DE' not one or two isolated verses' must be the final authority for determining valid church doctrine. /ou’ll never see the word =unconditional? anywhere in &cripture and throughout the Bible God Cimself never once forgave anyone unconditionally without repentance' so how can we be better than Ce is? 1 pointed this out when this guy pointedly as)ed each of the few persons present whether they agreed with this teaching 2at least you can hide behind a pew in a mega@church9. Ce pressured me to admit 1 didn’t believe in dispensing cheap forgiveness li)e candy. ;hat was 1 supposed to do' lie about it ,ust to toe the party line and ma)e him feel better? Di)e all people who cling to unscriptural religious traditions' he stonewalled my valid scriptural arguments away. Ce said if 1 don’t =forgive? unrepentant people' even for the grossest crimes' God won’t forgive me. ;ell' 1 hate to disappoint the fellow' God’s !D8E!B/ forgiven !DD my sins 2Col.3 679' and that guy will ,ust have to get used to seeing my smiling face up there in heaven. 1’m certain God wouldn’t have forgiven me if 1 hadn’t repented first. ;hat about the woman ta)en in adultery? ;hat if she’d told Jesus =$han)s for saving my life' bud' but 1’ve got another date? after Ce told her to go and sin no more? Bo you thin) Jesus could have or would have forgiven such an unrepentant soul? 1n another place Ce said $;1CE' in the same context' =1f you don’t repent you’ll perish? 2Du)e 67 7'#9. Anconditional forgiveness eliminates the need for repentance and ensures that every scary ax murderer who ever existed goes to heaven' even if they never feel remorse for their sins. 1 believe +08G1FE-E&& 1& ! G1+$ which can’t be forced out of us with threats of eternal damnation. 1f you do or give anything out of C!F1-G to do it' it’s not done out of love and it’s worthless 21 Cor.67 79. +08G1FE-E&& 1& ! ;08:. 1f you’re ,ustified by forgiving someone else' your salvation ceases to be a free gift of grace 28om.66 (9. Jesus taught people to love and forgive !& G0B +08G1FE& A&' and 1 had to repent first before Ce forgave me. 1 believe forgiveness from God is a +1-1&CEB ;08: for believers' based on Colossians 3 67 !nd you' being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh' hath he Guic)ened together with him' C!F1-G +08G1FE- 2past tense9 /0A !DD $8E&%!&&E&. 0ur forgiveness has !D8E!B/ been accomplished. &in has been dealt with once and for all. ;hen we stumble' we can go bac) to God and confess to Cim' with the reassurance that Ce restores
our bro)en fellowship with Cim and cleanses our soul from whatever has tarnished it. But if we don’t confess and we stubbornly cling onto sin and rebellion' the fellowship between us and God remains bro)en. 1n >att.# 37 Jesus says that before you offer your gift to God 2Ce’s spea)ing to Jews offering animal sacrifices in the $emple' but the same principle applies9' go ma)e up with your B80$CE8 if he’s got something against you. 0bviously this means the person offering the sacrifice has committed the offense and needs to apologiEe. Jesus doesn’t put the burden of as)ing forgiveness on the victim' li)e many Christians do. $oday’s confession@free forgiveness heresy absolves the unrepentant offender of all blame and responsibility and reGuires the victim to as) the offender’s forgiveness for ma)ing him want to hurt him in the first place. But no matter how you bend over bac)wards to )eep a peace that isn’t really there' unless the Christian brother who did you the wrong ac)nowledges his offense and repents' that thing will always be between you. 1t’s li)e trying to hide a dead rat under the rug. /ou have to B81-G 1$ 0A$ first before you can carry it out to the garbage can. >any years ago some church brother swindled several of his brethren out of wages he owed them for helping him paint houses. !ll of them were hungry and one of them had a wife expecting a baby. $his man ate lunch li)e a )ing while his crew did without and sat watching him eat. Ce refused to share even one of his coo)ies with the hungry men. Ce refused to lend the man with the pregnant wife a Guarter so he could chec) to see if she was all right. $he poor men were ,ust expected for forgive and forget' though their boss lived it up at their expense and it was a hard winter. Ce never did confess his offense. -ot once did he chec) to see if his men and their families were doing o)ay. !s for the church' the leadership was way too nice to do what Jesus said in >att.6" 6#@6*. $his man was never confronted with his sin by the church. 1nstead' church members were admonished by the pastor to act li)e the three mon)eys whose names were =Cear no &ee no evil' &pea) no evil9 and ,ust close their eyes to sin in the church. $hose who dared to criticiEe the offending brother were condemned for being =unloving?. +unny how those who did the criticiEing en,oyed the best of everything. 1nstead of rebu)ing the victim' these self@righteous meddlers could have ta)en a sac) of scraps over to the homes of the guilty victims who made that man want to cheat them. /eah' that’s ministry for you. 0bviously' from what Jesus said' when the offender won’t repent there’s also a bloc)age between him and God. 1 %et.7 * says that your
prayers can be hindered if you don’t treat your wife right. &o this would apply to other Christian relationships as well. 1t ta)es two to reconcile' not ,ust one. /ou can’t be reconciled with an offender until they do their part and repent first. $o reconcile means to restore two parties to their former fellowship with one another. 1f fellowship between two Christians can’t be restored until the offender repents' how much less could you =reconcile? with a wic)ed criminal you never even met before he hurt you or your loved ones?. -ot only did Jesus command Cis listeners to love their enemies' in order to ma)e the grade believers had to be %E8+EC$ 2>att.# 4"9. $hat means they couldn’t do any good wor) with less than a perfect attitude. $heir very salvation depended on it. Christ was spea)ing to Jews under the Daw and before the Cross' before salvation through grace by faith in Christ alone was revealed to %aul. Jesus told certain ones' li)e the 8ich /oung 8uler' that they had to )eep !DD the commandments and sell all their possessions' and give the money to the poor' in order to enter into eternal life 2>att.6I 6*5 Du)e 6" 6"@ 339. 0nly !+$E8 Pacchaeus promised Jesus he’d ma)e restitution to poor people he’d wronged' did Jesus tell him that salvation had come to his house because he was a son of !braham 2Du)e 6I "@I9. 0f course' no one got saved because of natural descent from !braham' but Jesus called Pacchaeus a son of !braham mainly because he did the wor)s of !braham after he repented 2John " 7I9. >any claim Jesus didn’t really mean what Ce said when he told Jews living before the Cross that they had to perform the wor)s of the Daw in order to gain eternal life. 1nterestingly' although Christ commanded the 8ich /oung 8uler to sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor' he did not tell certain other followers' such as -icodemus or >ary and >artha' to also divest themselves of all their earthly goods. ;hen %hilip preached to the Ethiopian eunuch he didn’t tell him he had to sell his beautiful chariot and ta)e a vow of poverty in order to be a Christian. Di)ewise' while !braham was ,ustified B/ ;08:& through offering up his son 1saac 2James 3 369' God did not order Jacob to sacrifice one of his own sons to show his faith and obedience. ! test to prove personal faith could vary from one individual to another 2see Ceb.chap.669. %aul taught nothing about earning God’s forgiveness through any sort of test of faith or wor)s' including forgiving others. But he did teach Christians to be patient toward all men and merciful toward one another. 1f you wal) in the &pirit the good wor)s and fruits of the &pirit will follow. %atience' or longsuffering' is one of the fruits of the &pirit
2Gal.# 339. /et even patience has limits. /ou wouldn’t be patient for very long with a burglar who was creeping up the stairs to harm your family. /ou wouldn’t shout your A-C0-B1$10-!D +08G1FE-E&& at the thug for what he was about to do. /ou’d probably yell at him to get out and throw a shoe at him even if it hurt his feelings and ruffled his hair. >uch of Jesus’ teaching on human interaction had to do with our relationship with our own brethren' who might sometimes say or do hurtful things' and 1+ $CE/ 8E%E-$ we forgive them 2Du)e 6* 79. $hat’s ,ust and right. Jesus taught the brethren to love one another as Ce loved them. 1t’s a glaring' serious sin to be harsh toward a repentant brother and withhold forgiveness from that one. But hardened unrepentant sinners are not the spiritual brethren of the Christian. 1 shuddered when this guest spea)er prayed' =!nd Dord' help us to forgive everyone -0 >!$$E8 ;C!$ $CE/ B0 $0 A&.? 1 thought' =%lease' Dord' I didn’t pray that' so don’t let something bad happen to me. Cave mercy on this brother or he could be severely tried in this area to find out how sincere his prayer is.? ;henever 1’d loo) at this man 1 discerned a religious spirit about him. 1’ve seen that expression many times before. ! smug smir) which says' =1’ve got you siEed up' buster. 1 )now you’ve got hidden sin in your life and 1’m way more spiritual than you are' and 1’m gonna dig it out so you’ll feel smaller and 1’ll feel bigger.? $he leader of this little group always spea)s in a well@modulated' churchy tone of voice and tries never to tal) about everyday things' ,ust religious stuff. But till Jesus comes bac) to get us we’re still made of flesh and blood. /ou don’t have to spea) in a spoo)y voice or build a shrine over your toilet to be a spiritual giant' if there 1& such a thing. ;hen we studied %aul’s epistles' he fudged over those passages which taught the spiritual gifts. Ce preferred to focus on those parts which deal with how we relate to other people. Ce sidestepped the miracle issue by s)ipping over passages about spiritual gifts because he doesn’t believe they’re for today. But he does believe in miserable doctrines li)e fasting and other forms of whipping your soul for sin. ;henever Christians deny the need for miracles' something else has to fill the vacuum. &ome man and his own agenda ta)es center stage. &elf@introspection deepens and people chec) each other for =hidden sin? li)e a vet chec)s a dog for fleas. $he poor man' he has two
buildings already rented out that nobody can pay for' the Dord allegedly led him to Guit a good ,ob so he could preach to down@and@ outers who won’t listen to him' his wife is exhausted from being the sole breadwinner' and he’s beside himself wondering how to get the glory of the Dord to come down' so long as God doesn’t overdo it and wor) literal miracles. /ou don’t need a big mega@church to have a 7@ ring circus. +ar better to worship the Dord beside the still waters.