O be careful, little eyes, what you see and read... Lynda Robbins I grew watching Tom and Jerry and Jungle book. Watching movies was out of the question and there was no such thing as going to theatre. But gone are those days when watching movies or reading romantic novels was a no-no. All these are accepted these days within Christian circles. It has become so common that you hear movie quotes even during sermons. Lots of material is also just a click away on YouTube. According to a survey by Bower Market research, women make up 91% of the romance book readers. It includes the busy working class that has young children at home, or they fall under the student or the home maker category. In our culture where the woman still holds the responsibility of managing the home and kitchen, and is the primary caregiver for her children, how does one find time for things such as these? I was taken by surprise when our four-year-old passed a comment seeing an air hostess, “That aunty is beautiful. Just like Barbie”. I realized that his idea of beauty was being defined by what he saw on screen. We had to then teach him that beauty is not just external. What we watch has a way of influencing our views on how we perceive the world. Our views on beauty, success, style, comfort, pleasure, relationships, etc, are all impacted by what we see and read. If we don’t train our mind to think in line with the timeless principles found in God’s Word, and if our mind is constantly fed with what the media portrays, then that is what will impact our world view.
We often come across believers with a wrong sense of money, riches, property, status, etc. Though the Bible clearly teaches about these subjects, why are people so confused? Media plays a very important role in how it portrays the use of money and the possession of it. Is our view of money, treasures, etc based on the values that God set or is it tilting towards the opinions of the world? Most movies and novels take us into a world of fantasy, away from reality. Many people seek them as a refuge from the cares of this world. There is a part of us which is better put to rest. But romantic and violent content have a way of appealing to our physical nature. According to Ravi Zacharias, there are good pleasures that draw us close to God and His creation, like going for a walk or doing something creative, and there are those pleasures that draw us away from the heart of God. Certain movies and novels have a way of drawing us away from God. There are good ones that encourage us in our walk with God and portray godly values. They are rare and are but a few. Are we going to choose to develop habits and feed our minds with content that will draw us close to God and His values and teach our children to do the same or are we letting the devil have free access to our minds by what we see and read? Lynda stays with her husband Robbins in Chennai and they are blessed with a son.
lot of people have aversion towards studying the Scripture to know its truths (doctrines). Many think that doctrinal study is boring, dull, impractical, and it doesn’t appeal to the heart. Some assume that doctrines are too difficult to understand and therefore it is only for mature or intelligent Christians. A few even consider doctrines to be the root cause of all controversies or divisions in the Church. It has become a fashionable thing to say: ‘Let’s not discuss doctrine. Let’s just get on with missions.” “Let’s not talk about doctrine. Let’s just worship the Lord.” “Don’t preach doctrine. Just preach Christ.” Yes, some of the concerns noted above may be genuine or even partially true but can we afford to ignore studying the truths of the Scripture? We do so at our own peril! I believe one of the major reasons why so many wrong teachings and cults thrive in today’s Church is because of the unwillingness of the majority in knowing the truths of the Scripture. As long as there are Christians who are gullible and ignorant, false prophets and teachers will continue to influence and prosper. The Scripture clearly warns us about deceivers and alerts us to be vigilant (Matt. 7:15, Col. 2:8, 2Tim. 4:3–4, 2Pet. 2:1–22,). We have been commanded to ‘test every spirit and not to blindly believe in everything’ (1John 4:1). And yet, it is sad to see the body of Christ coming under the influence of an ever increasing network of false teachers, false prophets and prosperity preachers, who merchandise the gospel at the expense of ignorant believers. In this issue, we take a brief look at some of the contemporary Christian cults and controversial teachings in the church. It is my prayer that the Lord will instill in you a fresh desire to study the Scripture so that you will be able to ‘guard the gospel’ and not be deceived by ‘destructive heresies.’ We are planning to introduce a ‘Letters to the Editor’ page from the next issue. We would like to hear from you. Please do write to us.
Sam K John firstname.lastname@example.org
God, Me and My Trials
Know Your God
What’s the Problem with the Prosperity Gospel?
Merchandising the Gospel: Then and Now Sam K John
S A Devasahayam
The Art of Meditation
I Saw An Angel
The Lord Told Me to Tell You
Why Study Doctrine?
Is It Possible to See God?
Soul Connect Info
Do Not Sell the Gospel
What’s Wrong With My World?
Sam K John
the Good News page
faith develops even further. There are quite a few New Testament passages that speak about the value of trials faced because of our faith. In Mt 5:10, Jesus tells that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are persecuted for righteousness. In Lk 6:22-23, Jesus says that those who are excluded, insulted and rejected because of the Son of Man will have their reward in heaven. Here we can see that God promises rewards in heaven to those who are put to trial here on earth because of him. Now perseverance is the start. When perseverance is in full bloom, then we will be fully mature in character and ready for anything. That is when God can use us in the way He wants to and they will not lack anything.
GOD, ME AND MY TRIALS
3 Assistance in Trials
James 1:5–8 • Trials require God’s assistance • Trials require God’s wisdom • Trials require complete faith
This study is from a short passage taken from the book of James, chapter 1, verses 2–8. Here James deals with the aspect of trials. Remember that James is writing this letter to the believers who were facing many hardships due to their faith.
1 Attitude to Trials
James 1:1–2 • Trials are not punishment • Trials have a good outcome • Trials must prompt rejoicing The first thing that James talks about is our attitude towards trials. Verse 2 deals with the attitude one must have towards trials. In the context, the kinds of trials that James talks about are the ones faced because of one’s faith in Christ Jesus. James tells the believers to consider it pure joy while facing any trials! This is a very difficult command to follow. One must understand here that the trials in themselves may not be joyful. But they could be seen as a means to an end which is joyful. In other words, joy in trials comes from knowing that the outcome will be good. The life of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is a testimony of this. They did not succumb to the diktat of the King but stood firmly by their faith believing that the outcome will
be good. They did not look at it as a punishment but as an opportunity to be a witness for their God. The result was that the King himself had to take back his words and the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was glorified. The apostles and early church never cribbed about the trials they underwent but rejoiced because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for His name. So when we face any trials while exercising our faith, we should not see it as a punishment. It is something that must prompt rejoicing.
2 Advantage of Trials James 1:3–4 • Trials produce perseverance • Trials develop faith • Trials make us more mature
Now the right attitude towards trials has its advantages. In this passage from verse 3 and 4, James speaks about the advantages one can see in facing trial. By the phrase “Trials produce perseverance”, what James actually means is that when the path is uneven, our willpower will grow further. You would have heard of how the pure gold withstands the test of fire and becomes even more pure. In the same way true faith bears all kinds of trials and our
And finally to those who feel confused about how one can face trials on our own, James make the point that there is always assistance available during trials. Like a student gets assistance from his text books for studying for his trial, which is his exam, a Christian who is undergoing trial for because of his faith has his assistance offered from God. God will provide you with the wisdom needed to make the right choices during times of trials. The only thing that we need to do from our part is to believe and not doubt because God is not pleased with a double minded person. Brothers and sisters, the situation today is no different. We also have to face many trials because of our faith. We must always have a joyful attitude towards any trial for being a Christian. We can be joyful if we recognize the advantage of being more mature by enduring it. We must always know that we have God to whom we can readily go for any assistance. James goes on to say in verse 12 that “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” Christopher David is a software professional, based in Bangalore. He is married to Angela and they are blessed with a boy.
Know your God I
T IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE that we have right understanding of God. Otherwise we will be guilty of idol worship – worshiping the God of our own imagination rather than the God of the Bible. The faulty understanding of God will also hamper our walk with God, worship of God and our enjoyment of God. We will be studying the attributes, qualities or characteristics of God under three headings—the goodness of God, the greatness of God and the glory of God. We will conclude our study of God with the implications for us today.
First, God is good.
His goodness is seen in several ways: 1 He loves us (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1John 4:8). Whether anyone loves us or not God loves us. He loved us when we were unlovely. He loved us to the point of sending his Son to die for us. He loves us unconditionally and permanently. 2 He cares for us (1Peter 5:8). He cares for all our needs whether physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, social and financial, etc. He thinks of us and feels for us. He is interested in our well-fare. He keeps us near his heart. He puts bandage on our wounds and sooths our sorrows. 3 He protects us (Psalm 121:5). He protects us from the fowler’s snare, Satan’s schemes, evil people and evil spirits with their evil designs. He is a shield to us, a hedge around us and a wall of fire around us. Nothing happens to us without his will. Whatever he allows to happen he turns that for our good and his glory. 4 He provides for us (Psalm 104:27; 145:15; 147:9). He provides us food to eat, clothes to wear and homes to live in. He provides us family and friends. He provides us finances and opportunities to know and grow in him. He is a God who provides all our needs. As a result we do not need to fret or worry.
5 He plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11). His plans are for our good. Our plans are made with limited knowledge and understanding. What seems to be good in the beginning results in harm at the end! But God’s plans for us are made in his infinite knowledge and understanding. He is also capable of carrying them out. It is best in our interest to know God’s plan for our lives and co-operate with him. To do otherwise is folly. 6 He forgives us (Psalm 103:3). He forgave us in and through Lord Jesus Christ because he paid the penalty for our sins. He forgives us even today whenever we sincerely repent and ask his forgiveness. Satan condemns us. Our friends criticize us. But God forgives us. He is a forgiving God. 7 He carries us (Deut. 1:31; Psalm 68:19). He carries us as a father carries his son on his shoulders. He carries our burden. His angels carry us in their hands lest we strike our feet against a stone and hurt ourselves. People who are not able to carry their burdens live in deep depression or commit suicide. They are so tired of life. In contrast to them we are well taken care of and carried along by none other than God himself. 8 He strengthens us (Isaiah 40:29). Often times we come to an end of ourselves in our struggle with self, sin and Satan. At times we are perplexed, worried and anxious. We find that going is tough because of the opposing, strong winds of situation and circumstances, etc. It is at this time that God refreshes us, encourages us, ministers to us and enables us to keep going. 9 He heals us (Psalm 103:3). He is a God who heals. But for him no medicine will work. He has given us life and he gives us health and healing as well. He heals us in and through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We also should take care to keep our body in good condition by eating nourishing food and avoiding fast food which is
high in calorie and low in nutrition. We should be hygienic in our habits. We should do physical exercise daily. 10 He guides us (Psalm 25:9,14). He guides us in paths of righteousness. He guides us through the Scripture, Holy Spirit, and peace of God, people of God and providence of God. Whenever we are on the verge of any making any mistake he sounds a warning bell to us. We are not left alone to fend for ourselves and to find our way in the maze of this dark world. We have our God to guide us to safety, success and prosperity. 11 He disciplines us (Heb. 12:7–11). He disciplines us because he loves and cares for us and is concerned about us. He does not want us to perish with the perishing world. He wants us to reach heaven’s shore safe and secure. He wants us to be conformed to the image and likeness of his Son. Every discipline is painful but needful. We also need to care not get into mischief forcing God to lift his disciplinary hand upon us.
Richard Masih serves with the UESI as a minister at large based in New Delhi.
Prosperity Gospel: Major beliefs and teachings
return is assured by the prosperity gospel to the giver. Give, in order to receive. Tithing is important for financial blessings.
1 It is God’s will for every believer to be prosperous materially and enjoy perfect health.
8 Prosperity theology claims success on the basis of Mark 11:24 and Philippians 4:19. Follow the laws of success to become prosperous.
2 It is God’s desire that all faithful Christians should automatically prosper, as of divine right. 3 It emphasizes human potential for successful living. Health and wealth are the basic right of all believers 4 It suggests that we don’t really need to pray for God’s will. God is a compassionate father who gives everything his children ask. 5 As a child of God, one need not ask God but the child can command God to act. 6 The provision of wealth centres on the application of Abrahamic covenant. 7 Law of compensation, which is also known as the law of sowing and reaping, is one of the principles for financial prosperity. A hundred fold
The Prosperity Gospel, by claiming to offer all of God’s blessings in the present age, leaves no room for hope for the age to come! 6
9 Visualization is necessary to receive what one desires. You have to visualize what you want. 10 Faith is considered as a force. Faith seems to have intrinsic value. You can create miracle by faith. 11 Faith alone is not enough for things to happen; you have to speak it out. Your words have the power to create. 12 A child of God should not suffer. 13 Provision of healing is through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Financial prosperity has been provided for in the atonement. 14 The cause of sickness is considered curse of the Law, sin and Satan. Christ has redeemed believers from the curse of the law. Casting out demons is important for continued health and prosperity. 15 Faith and faith confessions are essential for healing as well as to receive material blessings from God. One can claim health and wealth. Faith is the key element in receiving prosperity. 16 A positive faith and obedience to God is important to receive blessings. Negative confession, fear and doubt can activate Satan as well as stop the miracle. The human sin has been replaced with human sovereignty. And, the only sin is doubt and negative thought.
The Problems of the Prosperity Gospel The ‘god’ of Prosperity Gospel The ‘god’ of the Prosperity Theologians is not the God of the Bible. With their selective hermeneutic and prooftexting techniques, the revelation of God is reduced to the level of human imagination. Doctrines are created from certain verses or passages rather than looking at the Bible in its totality to understand God. Thus, the prosperity gospel presents a different ‘god’ who is not revealed in the Bible. This kind of faulty hermeneutics helps prosperity preachers to defend their teachings. For instance, the Bible as a whole implies a Trinitarian God. Every principle we derive from the Bible in effect contains the Trinitarian concept of God. The Trinitarian concept is unclear in Prosperity Theology. Prosperity preachers always emphasise on a ‘direct link’ between man and God – a Unitarian God-centric approach rather than a Trinitarian Christ-centric approach. Man-Centred Gospel Prosperity Gospel at best is man-centred. It assumes that human beings are capable of creating anything that they desire through ‘a certain kind of faith’ or ‘positive confession’ or ‘visualization’. In one sense, humans become ‘mini gods’ with creative power. This not only questions God’s sovereignty but also makes Him a prisoner of certain spiritual laws and formulae. God merely becomes a jinn or kuttichathan or mayavi who can be invoked and used with the help of certain mantras. Moreover, in Prosperity Theology there is no place for God’s will. Anything you desire can be achieved. God is waiting there to fulfil all your dreams and wishes!
Lop-sided Gospel With its emphasis on health and wealth, the prosperity gospel proclaims a one-sided gospel, which has no place for pain and suffering, which is contrary to the teachings of Paul, who suffered for the sake of Christ, and who says “I rejoice in my sufferings.” (Col. 1:24). Similarly, Peter writes “but rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, so that you also may be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.” (1Peter 4:13). If Jesus who suffered is our perfect model for our life and faith, and if Paul and Peter are examples for our discipleship, then I think the prosperity gospel has failed in presenting the complete gospel. It discourages the discipleship aspect of Christian faith. Moreover, an implication of the teaching of the prosperity gospel, that it is God’s will that every believer enjoy perfect health and wealth, leaves a terminally ill or physically handicapped believer in guilt and shame. It makes them think that they do not have the right kind of faith to receive God’s favour in their lives. Gospel of No-Contentment The Prosperity Gospel is true when it talks about abundant life. But it has a wrong understanding on the form of abundance. It is a fatal mistake to assume that God’s goal for your life is material prosperity or popular success, as the world defines it. The abundant life has little to do with material abundance, and faithfulness to God does not guarantee success in a career or even in ministry by human standards. Christians should never focus on temporary crowns (1Peter 2:11). Paul writes about the happiness that is possible in any situation of life with the work of Christ through the Holy
Spirit (Phil. 4:11–13). It is sad when the prosperity gospel expects happiness through material prosperity and popular success as a result of faith in Christ Jesus. It robs Christians of their contentment. The Prosperity Gospel makes Christians greedy for more and more material success. Present Tense Gospel The new heaven and new earth is in the eternal plan of God. Until it is realized, we live with the hope that God is preparing a place for us where there will be no more suffering (Rev. 21:3–4). The Prosperity Gospel, with its overrealised eschatology, expects this to happen right now, here on earth by claiming the promises. However, God’s plan is that all the saints together enter the joy (Heb. 11: 39–40). The fact that earth is not our ultimate home, explains why, as followers of Jesus, we experience difficulty, sorrow and rejection in this world. It also explains why some of God’s promises seem unfulfilled, and some circumstances seem unfair (John 15:18–19, 16:20,33). Likewise, in the Prosperity Gospel, the doctrine of Atonement is misunderstood. Passages like Matt. 8:17 and Isa. 53:4 are cited to say that Jesus’ death on the cross is not only to atone for our sins but to sort out all our health problems. It is true that atonement cancels all the effects of the fall, but the Scripture reminds us that it will not be realised until the end of the time (Rom. 8:19–25). The Prosperity Gospel, by claiming to offer all of God’s blessings in the present age, leaves no room for hope for the age to come!
Thomas Chacko has a M.Th. degree in Theology from SAIACS, The above work contains excerpts taken from his thesis on the prosperity gospel. Thomas worked with the ICPF as a staff worker for more than two decades; currently he pastors a church in Bangalore.
By holy hook or by holy crook…
Sam K John
A critical look at some of the money-linked controversial teachings in the church today.
What’s really interesting about Christianity today is the fact that many of the tactics and gimmicks used by the Medieval Roman Church to exploit the common man are back with a bang! Watch out lest you be deceived. 8
What an idea, Sirji! There lived a man in Italy who wanted to make it big in his life. He chose the pathway of religion to climb the ladder of success and prosperity. Lo and behold, at the age of 37, he became the head of the Catholic Church in Vatican in the year 1513. He told his companions, “Since God has given us papacy, let us enjoy it.” Pope Leo X became one of the most extravagant popes of all time. He was a spendthrift who emptied both personal and church coffers. He borrowed money at will from bankers to lead a lavish life. At one time, he even pawned palace furniture, plates, jewels and statues of apostles for money. He was also a man of great projects. He wanted to make a name for himself in art and architecture. One of his grandest projects was the rebuilding and beautifying of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In order to raise money for his ambitious project, Leo came up with a brilliant idea – to sell indulgences! Indulgences had remained as a prominent Catholic practice since 1200s. Any devoted Catholic could pay money to the church in exchange for the remission of sins and get a certificate. Leo took this practice to the next level. He proclaimed that with the purchase of his special indulgences, one could even rescue souls out of purgatory. (Purgatory is an imaginary intermediate place created by Medieval Roman Catholic theology where dead Christians will undergo punishment for their sins prior to their entry into heaven).
Leo appointed an able preacher named Johann Tetzel who went around the streets of Germany wooing people to buy indulgences. He preached, “Listen now, God and Peter call you. Consider the salvation of your souls and those of your loved ones departed. You priest, you noble, you merchant, you virgin, you matron, you youth, you old man, enter now into your church, which is the Church of St. Peter. Listen to the voices of your dear dead relatives and friends beseeching you and saying, “Pity us, pity us. We are in dire torment from which you can redeem us for a pittance.” Do you not wish to? Open your ears. Hear the father saying to his son, the mother to her daughter, “We bore you, nourished you, brought you up, left you our fortunes, and you are so cruel and hard that now you are not willing for so little to set us free. Will you let us lie here in the flames? Will you delay the promised glory? “Remember that you are able to release them, for as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs. Will you not then for a quarter of a florin (currency) receive these letters of indulgence through which you are able to lead a divine and mortal soul into the fatherland of paradise?” Men and women, rich and poor, abled and disabled, rushed to the churches to buy these indulgences which had the power to release them and their beloved ones from the fires of purgatory. Leo and his men were successful in fleecing their gullible flock. With poor people’s money they lived like kings!
For generations, the Medieval Church continued to exploit the common people using the latter’s scriptural ignorance and gullibility. Greedy Rome was selling “Holy Relics” in order to give people good luck. Everything from the “feathers of Gabriel’s wings” to “nails used in the Crucifixion” to vials of “Mary’s milk” were sold to make money. For instance, one Fredrick of Wittenberg boasted of possessing 19000 bones in his collection. His collection included a piece of straw and some strands of swaddling clothes from Christ’s manger, a chunk of gold brought by one of the three Wise Men, a strand from the beard of Jesus, a twig from the burning bush of Moses, bread served at the Last Supper, and seven shreds from a veil sprinkled with blood of Christ. By viewing the relics and making the stipulated contribution, the believer could reduce a stay in purgatory. Two other routes by which the common man’s money reached men like Leo were through ‘Saints’ and ‘Pilgrimages.’ The Church elevated some to the status of ‘Saints’ after their death and taught that they had special powers of intercession. And that meant one could now hire the ‘Saints’ to pray for them. Pilgrimages also began to be made to Rome and other sites associated with the Apostles, Saints and Christian martyrs, as well as to places associated with Virgin Mary. Men like Leo and Tetzel continued to twist the Scriptures and invent strange doctrines to fill their pockets. This kind of exploitation went on unchecked until a monk named Martin Luther raised his voice and called for a reformation in 1517. He awakened the Church to open its eyes and read the Scripture. He exposed the lies of men who exploited ignorant people in the name of God. The spark ignited by Luther changed the course of Church History forever! What’s really interesting about Christianity today is the fact that many of the tactics and gimmicks used by the Medieval Roman Church to exploit the common man are back with a bang! Watch out lest you be deceived. You
have been warned. “These teachers in their greed will tell you anything to get hold of your money.” 2 Peter 2: 3a (Living Bible)
Miracle keys, miracle rice, miracle cement… I think some of today’s prosperity preachers are the best salespeople the world has ever seen. They have an extra-ordinary ability to promote anything from handkerchief to mustard seed. Miracle keys, Miracle clothes, Miracle rice, Miracle cement, Miracle oil, Miracle water, Miracle books, Miracle DVDs, etc, etc…and the list goes on and on. Recently, I saw a preacher on TV selling ‘miracle olive soap’ that can cure all kinds of sickness including AIDS and cancer! Most often, these are ‘sold’ to people as ‘anointed stuff ’ that can perform miracles or bring in God’s blessings to their doorstep. So they tell people to “Cover your problems in the clothes and send us back” “Put this under the pillow for a week” “Apply it on your forehead daily” “Sprinkle it on all the corners of your house” …so on and so forth. Miracle stuff is one of the top most money spinners for some preachers. Passages like Matt.9:20-22, 14: 34-36, Acts 19: 11-12 are cited as a justification for such practises. It is true that Jesus’ clothing and Paul’s handkerchiefs or aprons were used by God to bring healing in the lives of many. However, firstly, one needs to note that neither Jesus nor Paul promoted such a ‘pattern’ in their overall healing ministry. There was no ‘large scale’ shipping of handkerchiefs or aprons from Jerusalem or Antioch mission head quarters. Secondly, the Scripture nowhere endorses the idea that an object can become an instrument of breakthrough (one-piece-solution for all problems!) in one’s life as claimed by today’s preachers. During a promotion, one preacher held some anointed prayer cloths in his hand and thundered, “Dear friend, in my hand I hold the key to your physical healing, financial breakthrough, a loved one’s salvation, and a supernatural blessing. I’m holding your prayer cloth, pick up your phone and call us right now to request
Jehovah’s Witnesses As a teenager, Charles T Russell (1852–1916) rejected his Presbyterian roots and founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses movement. Russell attracted people with his fantastic prophetic interpretations and dramatic warnings that Armageddon would strike in 1914. When 1914 came and went, he changed the date to 1915. Russell died in 1916, leaving his followers doubting and disillusioned by his predictive failures. Joseph Franklin Rutherford then took control of the organization. The literature division of Jehovah’s Witnesses, known as the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, is prominent in many countries. Their congregations meet in places called Kingdom Halls. They believe and teach: • Christ is not equal to God because He is a creature. • Christ was the first of God’s creation. • Christ died on a stake, not a cross. Christ was raised from the dead as an immortal spirit person. • The earth will never be destroyed or depopulated. • God will destroy the present system of things in the battle at Armageddon. The human soul ceases to exist at death. • Hell is mankind’s common grave. Only a little flock of 144,000 go to heaven and rule with Christ. • The 144,000 are born again as spiritual sons of God. continued on page 13
yours and I will send it to you saturated with the power of the Holy Spirit for your miracle.” Notice here that the focus is on three things: The preacher, his prayer cloth, and the forthcoming miracle. And the Holy Spirit merely becomes a medium of power bundled into the prayer cloth! Thirdly, the promoters of miracle stuff show utter disregard for God’s specific will in an individual’s life—they promise that their miracle object has the potential to bless or heal or prosper anyone who receives it. This goes against the very fundamental call to Christian discipleship—the Lordship of Christ in every believer. Even Apostle Paul who miraculously healed others had to accept what the Lord decreed in his life (2Cor. 12: 7–10). Fourthly, most promoters of miracle stuff shamelessly ask for money in return for their promises of blessings. We don’t see appeals for donation or ‘love-gift’ envelopes accompanying the aprons or handkerchiefs taken from Paul or other apostles in return for healing or miracles. Undoubtedly, God can still perform miracles or healing in the lives of His children with or without tangible means according to His will. But beware of those who want to make money out of your sickness and your needs.
...our giving to God should be motivated by our gratitude and love to Him. Let us learn to give without expecting anything in return. That’s true Christian giving. 10
Double or triple your money! It is a trend these days to hear more and more preachers claim that they had a vision from the Lord asking them to build a prayer tower or Satellite tv channel or Cathedral or University, so on and so forth. Where does the money come for these projects? Obviously, they turn to their followers. Here is where the problem begins. One of the popular fund raising methods is through the introduction of Ponzi like schemes –Blessing plans for children, youth, business people, corporate people, etc, etc. The appeal goes like this: “Become a member of our Business Plan and contribute regularly. If you become a member, we will daily keep you in our prayers. And God will bless your business abundantly.” In other words, their claim is this: “We are special ministers in God’s sight and our prayers are also therefore very special.” So, people are tempted to outsource prayers to these special people for a monthly or annual membership fee! I always wonder how on earth these busy tele-evangelists get time daily to pray for their members name by name!! Another strong tactic used by prosperity preachers is their doctrine of ‘plant a seed today and reap manifold tomorrow.’ This is also sometime called as Law of compensation. One popular tv preacher’s website declares, “Place a seed in God’s hands. Give Him an opportunity to pour out a supernatural harvest into your life. Don’t delay, for I believe we are in a divine time of planting and harvesting…I’m asking you to plant a very special seed into the fertile soil of this (my) ministry today.” Another tv evangelist blatantly said, “Give $10 and receive $1000; Give $1000 and get $100,000, in short Mark 10:30 is a good deal.” A Bible teacher humorously named this kind of teaching as ‘Tirupathi’ Theology. Devotees believe that if one gives to the god in Tirupathi (ap), they will get back double, triple or more. First let me make one thing clear. There is nothing unchristian about any of the above mentioned ministry projects. For instance, it is a good
thing to intercede for people, world and Church through dedicated prayer stations or towers. Likewise, it is a wonderful thing to reach out to people around the world through media. Nevertheless, when preachers begin to use unscriptural ways to raise money for their so-called divine projects, it raises some serious questions about their real motives. Based on the above discussion, I think we need clarity about three subjects: Giving, Praying & Fund Raising.
Why do we give? Let me first make some observations about giving because prosperity preachers thrive because there are people to give. The Bible certainly encourages God’s people to give (Lk 6:38, 2Cor. 9:6). However, it lays down some clear cut principles. First and foremost, we are called to give ourselves to the Lord and His will. Our excellence in giving must be a reflection of our overall excellence in spirituality (2Cor. 8:5–7). What does this imply? God will be pleased with our giving only when our relationship with Him is intact. Secondly, our giving should be a voluntary, cheerful and generous act (2Cor. 9: 7). Thirdly, giving is an act of grace (2Cor.8:1–4). What does this mean? We should not be carried away by appeals. We need to ask the Lord for His wisdom in exercising this grace. In other words, give only if the Lord leads you. Fourthly, the doctrine of ‘giving to get’ is unbiblical. It is an abuse of the grace of giving. God certainly looks at the heart of the giver (Luke 21). If a person is giving with a greedy heart expecting more in return, how can such a giving please God? Moreover, the Bible nowhere talks about a money investment scheme with double or triple returns. The verses quoted by prosperity preachers in support of their teaching are either taken out of context or lopsided. Mark 10:30–31 is not about giving money. It is about sacrifices made in one’s life for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. Luke 6:38 is not essentially talking about giving money either. The context suggests that it could mean giving of love, mercy and forgiveness more than money. Likewise, 2Cor. 9:6
needs to be understood in the light of the following verses (7–11). Paul certainly states that God will bless those who give generously but he does not say that the blessings of God will be always in the form of material blessings. He only said, “you will abound in every good work” and “you will be enriched in every way.” If giving always pays off in material gain, Paul, Peter, James, and John should have become multi-millionaires and more so as they were the ones who left everything to follow Jesus. But when Peter and John met the blind beggar at the gate, they could only say, “Silver or gold we do not have…”And Paul could only write, “To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated and we are homeless.” It is God who meets all our needs according to His riches in glory (Matt. 6:8, Phil 4:5,6,19). He sustains us. We can only give back to Him from what He has already given to us (1Chron. 29:10–14). Therefore, our giving to God should be motivated by our gratitude and love to Him. Let us learn to give without expecting anything in return. That’s true Christian giving.
Should we pay for our prayers? First, the Bible encourages every believer to pray. Prayer is a spiritual discipline expected of all believers (Psalm 32:6, 1Thess. 5:17). God expects us to stand in His presence on a daily basis. He wants to meet with us one-on-one. He will not accept our substitutes! Second, there is nothing wrong in asking others to pray for us and our needs. It is good to have people in our lives who can intercede for us on a regular basis. Even the apostle Paul requested the believers to pray for him and his ministry (2Thess. 3:1–2). However, we don’t need special ministers as our mediators to stand in God’s holy presence (2Tim. 2:5). Every child of God can call Him as “Abba Father” (Rom. 8:15) and has the same access like any other Christian to His throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). And God listens to the cries of all His children (Psalm 34:15)—even the poorest man’s cry (Psalm 34: 16). If you pray in Jesus
Christ’s name, in faith, in righteousness, in honesty, and in submission to His will, there is surely no other powerful prayer than that. So, what’s the point? You don’t have to pay people to pray for you! Don’t believe in people who claim to have special closeness with God or those who claim that their prayers are powerful than yours. None of the apostles made any such claims; none of them were involved in praying business to make money. Paul regularly prayed for many people and churches (Eph. 1:16–19), but we don’t see him asking for donations in return for his prayers.
What about fund-raising? What about fund raising for ministries? I do not think that fund raising is unscriptural (1Cor. 16:1–4, 2Cor. 8&9). Moses, David, Nehemiah and Paul were actually great fund raisers. They challenged God’s people to give for kingdom projects. Nevertheless, their approach is remarkably different from what we see today. First, they did not raise money through fraudulent means or false promises or Ponzi schemes. They were straight forward in their appeal and they had no hidden agenda. They clearly set forth the needs before people as instructed by God (Exodus 35:4–36:7, 1Chr. 29:1–20, Neh. 2:1–9, 2Cor. 8&9). Second, they took extra care in handling God’s money collected from people (2Cor. 8:20–21). They did not give the world a chance to doubt their integrity. Third, they did not use people’s money to lead a lavish lifestyle or build their own ministry empires. They were accountable for what was given to them. Know your Scripture. Be vigilant. Have discernment. Invest your money only on those who build God’s kingdom (not theirs). Sam K John is a Bible teacher and an itinerant preacher based in Bangalore.
Seventh-Day Adventist The Seventh-day Adventist Church is another cult denomination that grew out of the United States during the middle part of the 19th century. William Miller (1782-1849), its founder was convinced that the Bible contained coded information about the end of the world and the Second Coming of Jesus. In 1836, he published the book Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843. The prediction of the year 1843 was based in large part on Daniel 8:14. Miller had over 10,000 followers, many of whom sold their homes, gave away all their earthly possessions, quit their jobs, and waited eagerly for the Lord’s return. But the Lord didn’t return in 1844! In came Ellen G. White to save the day, claiming that instead of returning to the earth, Jesus entered into the Holy of Holies in Heaven to finish His work of atonement. They believe and teach: • The Seventh-Day Sabbath or Jewish Sabbath was never changed. • A life of abstinence. This not only includes abstinence from alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, but it also included the belief that animal meat is unclean. Many Seventh Day Adventists are vegetarians. • True last day church will have a prophet. For several years they named Ellen white as the last true prophet. • Salvation by works plus grace. By works means, by Sabbathkeeping, by tithing, by law and commandments. • An over-obsession with the second coming of Christ with renewed predictions. continued on page 19
wing to the frenetic pace of today’s urban lifestyle, many in the cities are desperately searching for some kind of stress-relief mechanisms. Yoga classes and meditation centres are certainly on the rise. Even in schools, yoga is becoming a regular feature. Many ‘gurus’ are already cashing in on people’s new found craze for successful meditation techniques. Sri Sri Ravisankar’s Art of Living and Baba Ramdev’s Dhyan Yog are multimillion dollar meditation business empires! Can Christians take part in meditations? Is meditation Biblical? What does the Bible say about meditation? These are some questions which deserve our thinking and reflection.
What does the Bible say about Meditation? The Scripture talks a lot about the art of meditation. Just take a look at some of these verses. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will
make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:2 “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think (meditate) about these things.” Philippians 4:18. The Bible not only approves but exhorts us to meditate! What does it mean? In spite of the human race caught up in a rat race, God, in His infinite mercy, desires to speak to His children who meditate, in a language that they can understand—a language sometimes formed of words, thoughts or nudges in the conscience through reading of the Word of God! Christian
meditation is centred on God and His Word. There are some major differences between traditional forms (like Transcendental Meditation) and Christian Meditation.
Christian and Traditional forms of Meditation: What’s the difference? There are two major differences between traditional forms of meditation and Christian meditation. In traditional forms of meditation, the individual seeks to empty one’s self; in Christian meditation the believer seeks, rather, to be filled. In traditional meditation, the object is self, albeit the higher self, whereas in Christian meditation the object is God, who is high above all. In traditional meditation, the individual is not aware of the external environment (taken into the world of trance), whereas in Christian meditation the individual is aware of the external world and those around him. During the practice of meditation, the non-Christian strives to clear his or her consciousness of all thoughts, concentrating intensely until in a prescribed
period of time a bare minimum of thoughts has been allowed or entertained in the consciousness. Often, a mantra is used which may be a word or a series of sounds that a person repeats continually until they are completely empty. This is supposed to achieve the ultimate relaxation and cessation of stress. When the meditator wants to obtain peace in the midst of a tumultuous situation he or she can just call to mind or repeat the mantra and the desired result is obtained.
In seeking to reach one’s higher self, the traditional meditator may achieve his goal, but has really achieved a state which has no real value. At the pinnacle of his self, every individual is but base and low, since all are sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore there is no perfection to be obtained from within. Paul rightly said in his epistle to the Romans, “I know that nothing good lives in me…” (Romans 7:18).
In Christian meditation, the believer seeks to fill his or her thoughts with truths about God. Christians can achieve this by focusing on the Word of God, as the psalmist said: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalms 1:2). Rather than emptying oneself, the Christian fills his or her mind with hope and encouragement from the promises that God has given in His Word or on good things that God has done for the person. Or the person may simply just think on the wonder and awe of God. In so doing, the believer is assured of peace.
Jesus Christ alone is our source of righteousness and, therefore, peace. Seeking to reach one’s higher self is to reach for nothing; it may achieve a state of thoughtlessness and cessation from stress, but the individual will still remain empty and unfulfilled. The only path to peace and fulfilment is through God. If an individual, with purpose and intent, will meditate on God, he will achieve the highest of heights, including joy and peace. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
Do’s and Don’ts of Christian Meditation
• Do have a teachable and dependent attitude.
• Choose a convenient place with no
or less distractions. • Choose a time when your mind is fresh and active. • Do not read the Bible quickly. Instead, slow down, ponder and muse. • Write down or underline important texts or words. • Do not rely on reason and analysis alone. Rely on the Holy Spirit for insights. • Do not ignore the context or be selective in your reading of passages. • Refer to varied translations, commentaries and dictionaries, if necessary. • Glorify God for insights or thoughts. Write them down. • Pick up one or two thoughts which impress upon your heart and ponder over them. • Spend time in communicating with God in prayer. Sarah is a passionate university mission worker and able writer. She is married to Anji and they are with the UESI, based in Uttarakand.
rophecy is a gift that the Apostle Paul asked the Corinthian church to seek above all other gifts. “Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy” (1Cor.14.1). Clearly, prophecy is vital to the church. It is another clear manifestation and proof that the Spirit continues to speak to every generation and guide God’s church. We need Isaiahs and Jeremiahs today who will teach and guide the church - more so when it begins to drift from God.
I saw an angel
performed various other roles. But in the time of second temple Judaism, the nature and role of angels were highly expanded and glorified. Jewish texts outside the OT like 1 Enoch, 3 Maccabees and others gave a highly exalted status to God’s angels. Of course, history repeats itself! Many a research have been done on Jewish Angelology by different scholars. I wish to just state some important conclusions that might add to your thinking. Angels are exalted beings, no doubt, but this truth needs to be balanced by other declared truths about them in God’s word. They are part of the created order and are not equated with God. Humans are only a little lower than the angels (Psalm.8:5). In some Jewish traditions, the Law was ordained through angels (cf. Gal.3:19; Acts 7:53; Hebrews 2:2) but the NT presents the gospel of Jesus Christ as better than the angelic work. Paul even tells us how believers will have authority to judge angels! (1 Cor. 6:13) We see evidences of the ‘worship of angels’ in the NT and in specific instances Paul warns the church against this kind of spiritual teaching and practice (cf. Col.2:18). Special mention needs to be made about the unique ‘The Angel of the Lord’ in the OT. This special being has divine powers and characteristics. He appears to Moses in the flaming bush, forgives humans, wrestles with Jacob and every time gets equated with God
himself! Many NT scholars see him as the ‘pre-incarnate’ Christ. Therefore, we must not conclude based on our reading of the ‘Angel of God’ that all angels are equal to the Divine. We can be misled about the ‘exalted’ powers of the OT angels and end up glorifying them. Prayers to an angel or a new revelation mediated by an angel to the church today defy the very authority of God’s word. While it may be possible to see an angel or even hear or communicate with an angel, the question that we need to ask is: how much does that become a special event? Recently someone mailed me a prayer request: “I want to experience the visitation of an angel. Kindly pray.” My reply looked similar to the one below. The four gospels record even better visitations—that of the Son of God! I always envy those privileged people in Palestine. They actually saw, heard and even touched the very incarnate God. But to them Jesus warned, “Do not merely listen to my words but obey what I say!” (cf. Luke 6:46–49). Such seeing and hearing ‘experiences’ of angels make interesting headlines. But obedience to God’s Word brings tangible, life changing experiences. Nothing is more glorious than that. Which one do you really want? Michael Thomasraj is a New Testament scholar, pastor and Bible teacher based in Bangalore.
Recently, I met some ‘Angel watchers.’ Like the ‘bird watchers’ they seem to posses spiritually hi-tech ‘binoculars.’ This ‘elite’ group has exclusive blogs, websites and magazines in which they joyfully share their ‘sightings.’ Some even have a rare collection of angelfeathers—dropped by some of their favorite angels ‘right inside their bedrooms.’ I am hoping flipkart will soon open an exclusive Angel Store, where you can preview thumbnails of angel wings, feathers and golden shoes. And the wealthy can buy these ‘eternal treasures’ online. But not all is well with these ‘Angel watchers.’ One of them records how he is always challenged by the ‘naysayers’ and Christian critics (like me!). “Did not angels appear to humans in the Bible?” they ask, “So, why do you doubt us when we claim they visit us?”That is a fair enough question. But what is the answer? Truly, many cast aspersions and allegations of fraud on these Angel watchers, but struggle to clearly explain this ‘glorious’ phenomenon and this new and emerging field. I shall begin with angel ‘sightings’ in the Bible itself. Yes, in the Bible, angels were frequently sent by Yahweh Himself. Angels served by carrying out important transactions between God and humans. They also assisted humans (Gen.16:19), directed Israel through the wilderness (Exo. 23:23), brought judgment (2 Sam. 24:10), interpreted visions (Ezek. 40:3) and
THE LORD TOLD ME TO TELL YOU
But some of us are disturbed by the peculiar use of prophecy by certain people. What do you do when someone looks at you ‘straight in the eye’ (of course through TV) and claims God specifically told him this morning that YOU are receiving a hundredfold blessing if you ‘sow’ a `1000 ‘seed’ into his ministry? Some Christians wonder if they should simply reject this as a heresy or ignore it as a fad that will die its own death and carry on with ‘better’ things in our walk of faith or just accept it as probably inspired of God? This is what we must do. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1John 4:1). This same command is echoed in 1Thess. 5:20-21. We find Paul exhorting Christians not to “despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” These two passages are just a few of the many that warn Christians to test the message that people or spirits proclaim. Christians are to be discerning hearers and readers of all messages. We need to “test the spirits” or “test all things” because there are “many false prophets” or “wolves in sheep’s clothing” who try to lead Christians astray. 2Corinthians 11:13–15 warns us “such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Let’s be clear. We are not discussing a problem that is recent or modern. False prophets had good business and followers both in the Old Testament and the New. Can we have some guiding principles about how to be sure of these people? Let me line up some characteristics about false prophets.
Remember these five ‘S’s:
1 Source: One thing will be certain about these ‘mouth pieces’ of God. They will scarcely rub shoulders with the Word. Their revelation will often supersede the revealed Word. At best they will handle God’s word with careless interpretation, fudging of facts, reading between lines and
the like. One example: God told me that you need to sow $66 based on the book of Isaiah; you will receive 66 blessings today. Note: the book of Isaiah has 66 chapters (Now that is called as a bible- ‘based’ revelation).
2 Subject: What subject really interests a lot of people, including Christians? Is it about moving up the ladder, success, money, status? That is the favorite subject of the false prophets too. They work on your basic (carnal) instincts and give a God-flavour to it. 3 Saviour: The doctrines of the false prophets do not center on Christ and his cross. Probably they over emphasize on the Spirit or its manifestations but care less for the basic doctrine of the cross. Remember, the death and resurrection of Christ, brought us salvation, and also gives us the very purpose for living. 4 Sanctification: The false prophets bother
less about the need for holiness and moral discipline in the lives of Christians. Did you know that the Gift filled church in Corinth did not discipline the blatant adultery of one of their men? (1Cor.5:1–2). Paul had to admonish them in harsh terms. The same was true of Jezebel the prophet in the church at Thyatira. She was urging sexual immorality and the eating of foods sacrificed to idols (Rev. 2: 20). Jezebel seems to have justified her freedom from traditional restraints by appealing to the spiritual maturity of herself and her followers. She taught the ‘deep things’ of God. She may even have quoted Paul to the effect that “God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” and “the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1Cor. 2:10). But the risen Jesus announced to Thyatira that the “deep things” of such groups as this are not the profound truths of God, but the deep secrets of Satan himself (Rev. 2: 24).
5 Self-serving: False prophets are zealous for their god—their belly! So they say what their audiences want to hear so they in turn will fund them. Sure, the coffers over flow with millions of dollars. Many of these self-serving prophets have been exposed by the Media and have disgraced the name of Christ. Nevertheless, it is true that God has an inspired word for our lives, situations and sometimes for the people to whom we are ministering. God speaks and every person in Christ must be sensitive to God’s move, voice and leading. What we need today is spiritual discernment to recognize His voice!
IDENTIFYING CULTS Athma Souruban
I heard a story about a man who had a mouse in his house and his wife wanted him to catch it. His problem was that he didn’t have any cheese (and did not want to buy it). So he cut a picture of cheese out of a magazine and placed it in the trap. He thought, “I’ll just fool the mouse.” When he went to check the trap the next morning to see if he had caught the mouse, he found a beautiful mouse in the trap. There was only one problem. It was a picture of a mouse. His young son saw what he did and placed a picture of a mouse in the trap. Counterfeit people who use counterfeit tactics will always produce counterfeit results!
What is a cult? Walter R. Martin says, ‘Cultism is any major deviation from orthodox Christianity relative to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith’. Cultism is deviation from the truth. Generally, it is a group that is unorthodox, obscure, and has a devotion to a person, object, or a set of new ideas. Cults are non-verifiable belief systems. They would teach something that cannot be verified. For example: that God, an alien, or angel appeared to the leader and gave him a revelation that the members are seeded angels from another world, etc. Often, the philosophy makes sense only if you adopt the full set of values and definitions that it teaches. With this kind of belief, truth becomes unverifiable, internalized, and easily manipulated through the philosophical systems of its inventor.
How do the cults originate?
• By confusing what man does with what God did. • By confusing human goodness with spiritual righteousness. • By confusing intellectual knowledge with experimental knowledge.
How do the cults thrive? Man wants someone to tell him what to do and what not to do, what to believe, what is right and what is wrong. If he locates such a definite and detailed authority, it takes away the burden of thinking for himself. Cults provide such an opportunity. Cults thrive by using mind control or undue influence on their members. Four components of mind-control they use are: a) Behaviour control; b) Thought control; c) Emotional control and d) Information control. They first of all ‘unfreeze’ or upset the convert’s view of reality; then secondly ‘change’ or impose a new personal identity on the convert and finally ‘refreeze’ or give the convert a new worldview with new goals, purposes and activities. They meet human needs. For them meeting human needs is not a motto but a method to build their kingdom. By being aggressive, they are authoritative in presenting their ideologies. They use the Scriptures convincingly for this.
Why do people join cults? • Feeling of loneliness. • Desire to serve God. • Search for religious meaning in life.
• Their need to be needed. • Their longing to affirm their individual and unique personhood
• Sense of security of being in God’s
will. • To avoid the hypocrisy and sinfulness of the world.
How to identify a cult?
• They have their own revelation
which is extra-biblical: speak outside or apart from the Scripture (Cf. Heb. 1: 2 & Gal. 1: 8,9); Offer something new from God • Emphasize on salvation by works: Eph. 2: 8,9 • Give uncertain hope: Eph. 1: 13 • Claim messianic leadership by the cult leader with God: Claiming to have come directly from God, or claiming to be equal with God • Doctrinal ambiguity • Denunciation of others: condemn other denominations. They claim themselves to be unique, saying they are the only ones right and everyone is wrong. • Claim of special discoveries which is contrary to the Scriptures • Defective Christology: they either deny the humanity of Jesus or the divinity of Jesus. • Segmented Biblical attention: they choose Scripture verses according to their convenience and omit other portions.
How do cults abuse?
• Abuse of individuality: adopt-
ing groupness’ mentality do not permit the individual to think of himself/ herself apart from the group. They are forced to accept what they are told. • Abuse of intimacy: Relationship with friends, relatives, spouses, children and parents are broken or seriously hampered. • Abuse of finances: Pressure to give all they can to the group. • Us vs them mentality: Isolation from the community. Consider others as ‘unenlightened’. Consider government, church, education systems, the media and the world in general as their enemies. • Abuse of time and energy: Lead the members in a constant state of mental and physical exhaustion. • Abuse of free will: Unquestioning submission to the groups’ teachings and directions is insisted. Will of the individual becomes the group’s will without their realizing it. They do this either by coercive methods like low protein diets and lack of sleep or over a period of time through intimidation, by making the person feel guilty.
Results of cult abuse
• Personality change: Relatives may
not recognize—rejection and feeling of hate sets in. • Loss of identity: Can’t see themselves as individuals apart from the group. Even change their names as a rejection of their former life. • Paranoid: Negative saying or criticism of the individual by others is seen as persecution.
• Social Disorientation: Lose their ability to socialize outside the group. Perceive world through their leader’s eyes. • Severe guilt complex.
How are people kept in the cult? • Isolation: Outside contacts are
reduced and more and more of the life of the member is built around the cult. It then becomes very easy to control and shape the member. • Cognitive Reconstruction (Brainwashing): Once the person is indoctrinated, his thinking processes are reconstructed to be consistent with the cult and to be submissive to its leaders. This facilitates control by the cult leader(s). • Dependence: People often want to stay because the cult meets their psychological, intellectual and spiritual needs. • Substitution: The cult and cult leaders often take the place of mother, father, priest, teacher, and healer. Often, the member takes on the characteristics of a dependent child seeking to win the approval of the leader and/or group. • Indebtedness: The member becomes indebted to the group emotionally, financially, etc. • Guilt: The person is told that to leave is to betray the leader, God, the group, etc. The person is told that leaving would mean rejecting the love and help the group has given. • Threats: Threat of destruction by God for turning from the truth. Sometimes physical threat is used, though not often. Threat of missing the apocalypse, or being judged on judgment day, etc.
What is the Christian answer to cults?
• Sin is real. • Salvation is essential. • Work of Christ is sufficient for our salvation.
• Belief is necessary.
How to approach a cult?
• Approach with love. • Do not condemn, do not argue • Testify your life. • Exalt Christ. • Get the facts. • Identify common grounds. • Show how Christ fulfills.
• Keep off deviation from the truth but personally meet the truth.
• Study the Bible systematically and obey God’s word.
• Study related books. • Love people. • Pray for the cults. ATHMA SORUBAN currently serves as the administrator of the UESI national team based in Chennai. He and his wife Beulah are blessed with two daughters.
Why Study Doctrine? Sam K John
What is Doctrine? The term Doctrine comes from the Latin root Doctrina (Doco). Literal meaning is ‘to teach’ but it is used to denote both the act of teaching and the subject taught. The Greek equivalents used in the Bible (nt) are Didaskalia meaning ‘the art of teaching’ (1Tim. 4:13–16, 5:17, 2Tim. 3:10–16) and Didache meaning ‘teaching’ (Rom.16:1, John 7:14–17). In Christianity, doctrine is the set of beliefs that the Church considers essential to define orthodox (normative) Christianity. It is the essence of Christian faith. It is the statement of what Christians believe and teach. In simple terms, doctrine is nothing but Biblical teachings presented in a systematic pattern. Another word that is closely associated with the study of Christian doctrine is Theology. The English word Theology is a compound of two Greek words. Theos, meaning ‘God’, and Logos, meaning ‘word,’ ‘discourse,’ ‘declaration,’ or ‘study.’ Theology is the study of the person of God and the relationship He has with His creation. Doctrine is the result of theological reflection. For instance, theological exercise will try to figure out what happened on the cross when Jesus died while the doctrine that evolves out of that theological reflection would be stated as ‘Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins.’
Why Study Doctrines/ Theology? 1 To Cross-check our existing beliefs • All of us have a belief system
whether we acknowledge or not. Because without a belief system we cannot live in the world. • Every Christian has a belief system (Theology). For instance, all of us know something about God, World, Sin, Salvation, Judgment, so on and so forth. We perhaps got our theology from parents, Sunday school teachers, preachers, pastors, books, etc. In other words, we already have a belief system (Theology). In a sense, all of us are theologians! continued on page 20
Is it possible to see God? Michael Thomasraj
he Scripture states that some men of the Old Testament era saw God face to face. The special list includes people like Jacob (Genesis 32:30), Moses (Exodus 33:11), Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:28). Likewise, the elders of Israel also saw God on the mountain (Exodus 24:9–11). Even during our times, many claim to have seen God with their own eyes. However, the New Testament seems to contradict this phenomenon. For instance, Jesus said, “No one has ever seen God.” (John 1:18). Paul echoed the same essence, “No one has ever seen him, nor can anyone see him.” (1Tim. 6:16). So, what is the truth? Is it possible for anyone to see God face to face? An answer to this question depends on how we interpret the word ‘see’ and the phrase ‘face to face.’ Confusion arises when we take these words in a literal sense, ignoring the fact that these are special terms used by biblical authors to highlight intimate Godhuman encounters or experiences. For instance, Israel’s elders in Exodus 24 saw God wherein they ‘sensed’ a divine presence on that mountain. There is nothing in the passage to suggest that they saw a physical form of God. Similarly, Isaiah and Ezekiel saw God but the related passages suggest that they saw a ‘vision’ not a real image. How about Moses talking ‘face to face’ with God? Moses had a unique closeness with God, which is expressed by the phrase ‘face to face.’ Clearly, this phrase cannot be taken literally. Paul says in Romans 16.4 that some ‘laid down their necks’ for him. Literally, this means they cut off their necks for Paul. But actually (contextually) it means they risked their lives for Paul. So a ‘face to face’ conversation would simply mean a personal conversation not a literal face to face physical meeting. Similarly, Exodus 33:18 tells us that Moses saw God’s back. This word God’s ‘back’ in the original Hebrew can be translated as the ‘after effects’ of God’s glory. Let me explain. Moses requested God to show his glory, which God denied. However, when His glory had gone past, God allowed Moses to view the results that his glory had produced. Now, the ‘after effects’ might have been a bright light or a thunderous sound or a strong breeze. I am not sure. The biblical author simply describes this supernatural effect as God’s back. We know that we can ‘hear’ from God without hearing an audible voice. We know that we can be ‘led’ by the Spirit without being physically dragged by him. Likewise, seeing God need not mean literal seeing. Remember, God is Spirit (John 4:24) and He is invisible (1Timothy 1:17, 6:16). No one has ever seen him or will (John 1:18). This is the clear teaching of the Bible. However, God can manifest his presence in such a way we can ‘sense’ him or if needed, express his nearness to us through a vision!
Jesus Only Jesus only, as a cult, emerged from the mainstream Pentecostal movement in Los Angeles in 1913. They are also called “Oneness Pentecostals”. Tracing the history, at first, Canadian revivalist R.E. McAlister baptized converts in the name of Jesus only instead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He taught Pastor Frank Ewart, the founder of Jesus only movement, that baptizing in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as stated in Acts 2:38 was the fulfillment of the Trinitarian creed in Matthew 28:19. Later, Ewart and his followers felt that the prior baptisms were invalid and that Trinitarian Christians were not really saved. From Los Angeles, the teaching spread rapidly, gaining adherents all over the world. Their official doctrines are found in The New Birth & The Oneness of God. They also air Harvest Time radio program. They believe and teach: • God is absolutely one, with no distinction of persons. To say that God is three persons and find substantiation for it in the Scripture is a work in futility. There is literally nothing in the Bible that supports God being three persons. • Christians must be baptized according to the “Jesus Only” formula in order to be saved. • Most Oneness Pentecostals also teach that speaking in tongues, baptism (in Jesus’ name only), and maintaining various moral “standards” are necessary for salvation. • They deny predestination and maintain that it is completely up to the individual to decide whether or not he wants to be saved. They also teach that it is possible to lose one’s salvation. • Christians must receive the gift of tongues, or glossolalia. Spirit baptism produces tongues as the initial sign. • The Son of God existed from all eternity only as a plan in the mind of God. The role of the son is temporary and not eternal. The Son of God refers to the humanity of Jesus. continued on page 21
continued from page 18 • What we believe is also as important as having a belief system. The object of our belief must be true and trust worthy. • Our basic presupposition is that God has revealed Himself through His Word. The Bible explains the mystery of life. It is only logical that we take efforts to cross-check our existing beliefs with what has been revealed in the Bible so that our theology is in line with it.
2 To determine how we live • Right thinking leads to right liv-
ing. Truth and experience are connected. For instance, if I believe that my caste/race is superior to others, it will be reflected in the way I treat people. If I believe that pleasure is all that matters in life, it will be reflected in the way I live my day to day life. • Our Christian beliefs will shape the way we live in the world. (Col. 2:6–7, Heb. 5:14–6:1)
3 To appropriately relate with God • Our beliefs about God’s existence
and His character are vital (Heb. 11:6, James 1: 6–7, John 3:16). What is the picture of God you carry in your mind? Do you see God as a police man or compassionate father? That will determine how you relate with him. • Our beliefs about Jesus Christ is vital for our Salvation (Matt. 16:13–19, 1John 4:2–3, Rom. 10:9–10) • Our understanding of the Triune God must not be based on our experience or reason, rather on what is revealed in the Scripture.
4 To use Scripture for its worth • All Scripture is given by the inspi-
ration of God, and is profitable for teaching (doctrine). (2Tim. 3:16) • No wonder the apostles and church fathers placed so much importance to the study and teaching of the doctrines (Acts 2:42, 5:28, 13:12, Jude 3, 1Tim. 1:3, 1Tim. 1:10, 1Tim. 4:6, 1Tim. 6:3, 2Tim. 1:13, 2Tim. 4:3, Titus 1:9, Titus 1:13, Titus 2:1, Titus 2:7).
• The study of doctrines given in the Scripture is therefore a profitable endeavor.
5 To be able to discern what is true and false • We live in a multi-religious culture where several belief systems are competing with their respective truth claims. Even within Christianity, there are several mutually contradictory belief systems. • God’s word admonishes us to test every teaching (1John 4: 1–2). Most of the admonitions in the nt to study and safeguard the sound doctrine (apostolic) have been given in the context of the spread of false doctrines. Many warnings are given against false teachers (Matt. 7:15, 2Tim. 4:1–4, 1Tim. 4:16, Titus 1:9, 2John 9,10, Heb. 13:9, Col. 2:8, Rom. 16:17,18, Jude 23–24.
6 To be acquainted with God’s eternal plan and purposes • Concerning the creation of the world.
• Concerning the sinfulness of humanity.
• Concerning God’s plan of
redemption. • Concerning God’s fulfillment of the promises. • Concerning God’s plan for the church. • Concerning Jesus’ return. • Concerning last days. • Concerning judgment.
7 To be able to explain what we believe to others • As people living in a pluralistic society we will be often called to give a reasonable answer (1Peter 3:15–16). Unless we are knowledgeable in doctrines, we will not be able to defend our faith. • Study of the Christian doctrine prepares a Christian to be active in applying his/her faith to the contemporary problems of the life and to the Christian witness.
8 To equip us to be church—in worship and building up each other • Any ministry or use of gifts within the church like counseling, music, worship, prayer, praise or preach-
ing, involve a right understanding of the Scripture. For instance, when one is called to comfort a bereaved mother, the person needs to know what the Scripture says about life after death and God’s control over human life. Similarly, while counseling an addict, one’s knowledge of God’s power and deliverance is essential to the discourse.
Think about it... • The best vitamin for Christians
is B1. • Try Jesus. If you don’t like Him, the devil will always take you back. • Never give the devil a ride. He will always want to drive. • Seven days without prayer makes one weak. • Do not wait for the hearse to take you to church. • If you don’t like the way you were born, try being born again. • If you can’t sleep, don’t count sheep. Talk to the Shepherd. • Worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due. • Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary. • If you do not want to reap the fruits of sin stay out of the devil’s orchard. • God always answers Knee-Mail. • God can fix a broken heart, but he needs all the pieces. • God has no grandchildren, only children! • Your checkbook, most often, reveals where your heart is. • Mary and Joseph lost Jesus at church, and they aren’t the only ones to lose him there.
This magazine exists to inspire its readers to live for Christ and His kingdom. It seeks to apply the Word of God to contemporary issues Christians face in their dayto-day life. Also, it aims at instilling a passion for world missions.
Contents copyright©2014 by Kingdom Friends Network. All information is published in good faith. The publisher and the editors are not liable for inaccuracies. Publishing of any item does not reflect the official stand of the magazine.
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Mormonism or Latter-day Saints is founded by John Smith in New York, in 1830. According to Mormon sources, God appeared to him in a vision, saying all Christian denominations had fallen away from the true faith, advised him not to join any of them, and promised to restore the true faith. Later, John the Baptist appeared to Smith and his friend Cowdery, ordaining the pair to the Aaronic Priesthood. Shortly thereafter, the Apostles Peter, Paul and James appeared to the two, and commissioned them as the first two elders of a new Church. The Book of Mormon written by Smith is considered as their most holy writings. They believe and teach: • God the Father used to be a man on another planet, that he became a God by following the laws and ordinances of that God on that planet and came to this world with his wife. • They believe and teach that Jesus got married at Cana and had many wives Martha, Mary and others he also had many children. • Divine apostolic authority was lost from the earth after the death of the ancient apostles, a restoration of that authority was necessary. • There is no salvation outside the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • The book of Mormon is more correct than the Bible. Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. • God still speaks to humankind, that He has called new apostles and prophets and that revelation flows today as it did anciently. • The trinity is three separate Gods: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. That these three are separate individuals, physically distinct from each other. • Jesus’ sacrifice was not able to cleanse us from all our sins. Good works are necessary for salvation. • Christ’s atonement guarantees immortal life in some heavenly kingdom to virtually all human beings, including those who willfully reject Christ. • Literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent. Compiled by S A Devasahayam, a visiting lecturer in History of Christianity discipline and Theological Training Consultant based on Bangalore.
DO NOT SELL THE GOSPEL John Piper
Jesus tells him he lacks one thing and then tell him to do three things: sell, give, and follow. The one thing he lacks is Christ himself. Christ is all he should hold onto. And when he takes hold of the one thing he lacks, the three things he must do will follow. When he opens his hand to grab hold of Jesus, his earthly riches will fall out of his clutches and land on the poor. Then he will be a follower of Christ.
2 All the obedience in the world cannot replace Jesus as our righteousness. Remember the obedient servant. Luke 17:7–10 v10: So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” When we have done everything we are supposed to, we should still acknowledge that it won’t suffice. We are still unworthy.
What are the signs of a gospel-peddler? 1 Craves earthly pleasure. 2 Dreads earthly pain.
What does a gospelpeddler preach? 1 Human prosperity is the gift of salvation. This appeals to the desire for earthly pleasure and replaces God’s worth with money. 2 Human obedience is the price of justification. This appeals to the desire for earthly achievement and replaces God’s grace with morality.
Paul did not peddle the gospel. Paul renounced the pursuit of money as the goal of ministry and so received fewer physical pleasures. And he renounced the pursuit of morality as the way to be justified and so he received more physical persecution. He preached Christ and let the chips fall where they would, whether he received money or beatings.
We, too, should not be in the ministry in order to make money or avoid trouble. Regardless of the consequence, let us preach Jesus as the only satisfying treasure and the only sufficient obedience.
What should we preach? 1 All the money in the world cannot replace Jesus as our treasure. Remember Lot’s wife. Luke 17:26–33 vv31–32: On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Do not try to hold onto this world when there is a choice between Christ and things. Remember the rich young ruler. Luke 18:18–23 v22: When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Remember the obedient Pharisee. Luke 18:9–14 v11: The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. The Pharisee acknowledges that his obedience is from God. But it still doesn’t justify him. No amount of obedience in us, then—even God-worked obedience—is sufficient to save us.
3 We need Jesus above all for satisfaction and justification. Our own money, even if it filled the earth, would not satisfy us. Our own obedience, even if it were perfect and God-given, would not justify us. Therefore we have every motivation to say with Paul, “We are not peddlers of God’s Word.” Peddlers are driven by greed for money and fear of pain. But let us preach Christ as the all-satisfying treasure and God-satisfying obedience. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.
What’s wrong with my world? Take a look at the daily Newspapers. Are we not tempted to ask, “What’s wrong with my world?” Why are we not able to love each other? Why are we fighting all the time? Why are we not able to forgive? Why are we not able to face failures? Why are we so unsympathetic to each other? Why are we so self centred? Why do we hurt each other? Why do we betray and disappoint each other? What’s wrong with the world? What’s wrong with you and me? These are some unanswered questions of life. We have lots and lots of information about a whole lot of things in the world. We know how to work smart. We know how to make quick money. We know how to invest for better returns. Our homes are packed with enough stuff to keep us wanting for more space. We are educated, tech savvy, ambitious and upwardly mobile all the time! But our problem is simple —We do not know how to live. We have stuff but not life! Some essential ingredients are missing from the dish called life! Roughly 2000 years ago God took the form of a human being and lived amidst us to show us how to live. He was named Jesus Christ. Pause for a moment to recall Jesus’ life as it is portrayed in the Bible. He was a man with a mission. He went around preaching the kingdom of God and doing good. He poured out divine peace into countless troubled souls. He set people free from their disabilities, illness and demonic bondage. He had time for the poor, the oppressed, the weak and heavy laden. He was available for the common man. He cried with those who cried and laughed with those who laughed. He enjoyed the company of social and religious outcasts. He dined with sinners and freaks. He had no problem in humbling himself before his subordinates. He had no fear in standing for truth. He exposed hypocrites. He shook the establishments. He did not shy away from suffering, pain or agonizing moments. He returned evil with good and curse with blessing. He loved his friends as well as his enemies. He was willing to be made a scapegoat for the black sheep. He forgave those who
hurt, betrayed and crucified him. He fulfilled his mission without any fanfare or publicity. In sum, Jesus’ whole life was a perfect demonstration of virtues like love, joy, humility, compassion, righteousness, forgiveness, patience, gentleness, and peace. Now take a look at some of his teachings. The rule of the day justified tit for tat…if someone hurts you, hurt him back. But Jesus said, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.” The rule of the day prohibited murder and adultery. However, Jesus equated hate to murder and sexual fantasy to adultery. Have you ever desired to live in a world devoid of hate, wars, abuse, oppression, and exploitation? Have you ever longed to be in an environment of love, care, compassion and peace? Jesus’ life and teachings echo the possibility of that dream world. Humanly speaking it is impossible for anyone to live like Jesus or follow his teachings. We need a change —inside out. The root cause of all our problems, self (sin) needs to be first dealt with. Otherwise, our desire for a better life and a better world will always remain a distant dream no matter how much stuff we possess. Sin prevents us from being content, loving, joyful, humble, forgiving, ethical, righteous, true, gentle, peaceful, caring and compassionate. As long as we remain sinful and self centred, we will certainly hurt each other by our words, actions and attitudes. Life will continue to be miserable as ever. Jesus not only showed humanity how to live but he also provided a way to become like him. His name itself states that—Jesus means ‘Saviour.’ Jesus died on the cross to buy us pardon for our sins and give us abundant life (John 10:10). The Bible proclaims in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” If you would like to know more about this ‘new life’ offered by Jesus Christ, please write to us. email@example.com
C2C Call to Consider
Call To Consider (C2C) is a discipleship-level one-day seminar tailor-made for Christian youth groups. C2C with its three main teaching sessions and related activities will challenge the participants to consider ‘the call and cost of Christian discipleship.’ C2C’s main objective is to motivate young Christians to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and surrender their lives wholeheartedly to do His will and purpose. C2C seminars are available in three languages: English, Malayalam and Tamil.
Day of Discovery
Do you long to know what God is doing in the world? Do you like to hear about God’s mighty acts in history? Do you want to discover the meaning and purpose of your life? Do you want to impact the world through your life? If your answer is yes to all these questions, this program is just made for you! This one-day mission-awareness program is very ideal for young adults & teens. This program is available in English, Tamil and Malayalam.
Merely reading the Scripture and studying what someone else has said about it cannot satisfy your hunger and thirst to know God and His Word in a deeper way. You must interact with the text yourself, absorbing its truths. L2S is a Bible Study workshop which helps you to acquire Inductive Bible Study skills through teaching and learn-by-doing sessions. This program is ideal for small groups of 15–20, who can spare a weekend (Friday evening to Sunday evening). L2S is available in English and Tamil.
Learn to Study L2P Learn to Preach
At a time when Word ministry is sidelined, the need for reviving authentic Biblical preaching is a high priority. Preaching (Homiletics) is both an art and a science. It is both a gift and a skill. L2P is a workshop to train young people in the art and science of preaching. This workshop combines teaching sessions, video presentations and exercises. L2P program requires a minimum of four days. We also have a special component in L2P on evangelistic preaching. L2P is available in English and Tamil.