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Saturday, March 09 2013

A short video was shown as part of a recent Bible study oriented gathering I attended.  In the video a woman, who heads up an international parachurch organization, stated that since God instituted the church, we should support our local churches.  A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but in the last few years, everything about “church,” or at least my perception of it, has been challenged.  God has shown me things I would have preferred to never know.  While watching the video, I felt a deep sense of dismay and sorrow. In fact, as soon the gathering broke into smaller groups, I went to the ladies room and cried.

I thought and prayed a lot about why the woman’s statement upset me so much.  I finally realized that there are many contributing reasons for my dismay, but there are three overarching reasons. The first is that this statement was made to an “interfaith” group.  I had been told that the group might contain mainstream and evangelical Protestants, charismatics of various flavors, Roman Catholics, Eastern and Russian Orthodox, possibly Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and others who identify as “Christians,” as well as people who just want to learn about the Bible or learn English through Bible study. The second cause of my discomfort is that the statement assumes that God designed and set up the organizational, institutional, building centered 501(c)(3) corporations in the US that we commonly call “churches.”  And the third reason is that far, far, too many of the religious institutions today (mainstream, evangelical, charismatic, etc.) in Europe and North America are seriously apostate, teaching and promoting heresies of all kinds. *

Although I want to believe that the speaker meant well, her call to all of us to “serve” whatever group we are associated with was (almost?) blasphemous.  We are NOT to serve institutions or organizations!  We are to serve God ALONE!  It is an act of obedience to God when we serve with others who truly serve our Triune God as God leads us to serve.  Anything else is IDOLATRY!

Part of my discomfort with the video was that the speaker allowed each viewer to define “church” for herself.  In effect, the “church” that people were being encouraged to serve was whatever organization they were associated with.  So, if a person were a member of an apostate religion, that is what the person was encouraged to serve.

But the Greek word “ecclesia” that is translated in many Bibles as “church” refers to the gatherings of believers. Ironically, in their statement of faith, the parachurch organization defines the church as “the body of Christ, a spiritual organism of born again believers.”  This is correct.  The bride of Christ is made up wholly of living stones (parts of the Body of Christ).  But, people who are part of the organizational, institutional, building centered institutions may or may not be part of Christ’s Body.  They may or may not be living stones.  In some institutions, most of the members may be true “living stones.”  However, in some groups, there may be few, if any, true followers of Jesus Christ.  Clearly, the organization is distinct from the Body of Christ.

So, if the organization is not the same as the Body of Christ, then it is actually a “churchy” organization, a man-made substitute for the real temple of living stones. If we call a physical, man-made organization the “Church”, and then we serve that, we are guilty of idolatry.  Romans 1:25 “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

The True Church is made up of the believers and true followers of Jesus Christ.  I love the true Church.  But today there are many deceptive (demonic) institutions that call themselves “church.” One online writer described how he felt about what he called

“the 501c-3 type of the American one-man-show church (trust, fund, corporation).  I hate that church.  It is a self-focused, greedy, carnal fraud. The true Gospel is not preached or taught in it and its enslaved “members” are kept in permanent Biblical illiteracy to prevent them from coming to mature faith (because they would leave if they did.)  If you think I am being too harsh, just spend a bit of time looking at the American Protestant “church” landscape.”

I did spend time looking and I found: Latter Rain, Sonship, Dominionism, Manchild, Kansas City Prophets, IHOP, Ecstasis, John Crowder and Sons of Thunder, Charismania, Kundalini, Word of Faith, Signs and Wonders, the new monastics, the so called “Spiritual Formation” movement, New Apostolic Restoration, Marcus Borg, “gold dust,” “angel feathers,” and much more.

How many of you go each week to synagogues of Satan to listen to doctrines of demons spoken through the mouths of unscrupulous, evil men and imposters who go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived? Instead of studying Scripture for yourselves, are you following deceitful spirits and the teaching of hypocritical liars?  If you are part of a religious organization that has strayed from the pure Gospel and the simplicity of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, please, please get away.  Do not serve the institution.  It is not the Body of Christ.

2 Corinthians 6: 14-18

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them
    and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.”

17 Therefore,

“Come out from them
    and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
    and I will receive you.”

18 And,

“I will be a Father to you,
    and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”


* If you are not aware of this, start to become educated by reading Herescope or a similar online site.  Track down the blogs and videos of the groups, individuals and teachings they discuss.  I’m not saying to take anyone’s word for it. Read what these people and groups say on their own sites!  But don’t read too long.  It can break your heart!

 

Posted by: Michelle AT 11:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, March 09 2013

Recently, a local city-wide evangelical group sent out an email announcing an upcoming simulcast that promises to “unpack what biblical manhood looks like.”  The organization promoting this event is one of several who claim that the decline in morals in our culture has been caused by a failure of men and women to follow so called “biblical” roles.  I recently spoke with a small group of leaders and members of our local evangelical group and asked them to be prayerful, discerning and cautious with these ideas.  I reminded my colleagues that role playing distracts men and women from fulfilling their God-ordained purposes for their lives. Furthermore, in some instances, this training has been the cause of marital conflict, confusion, and even divorce.

The following paragraphs reflect my part of the discussion.

If people are supposed to spend their lives playing roles, wouldn’t Jesus have described these roles?  But we are not called to play roles in marriage; we are called to love one another.  Clearly men and women have natural differences.  God matches husbands and wives and gives them specific gifts and talents so that, together, they can more effectively follow Him. Just as every individual is uniquely created by God, every marriage relationship is unique. The way my husband and I relate to each other differs from the way any other couple will relate. This is how God designed it.

Much of the training in the “proper roles of men and women” is presented through local congregations. When a teaching like this comes into a congregation, couples in leadership are encouraged to be among the first to participate.  Christian couples who have been relating to each other based on their God-given talents and individual strengths begin to try to follow the “roles” they are being taught. I have heard firsthand from ministers, elders, and other church leaders about problems that have arisen in marriages when couples begin to substitute legalistic “role” playing for their formerly Spirit-led relationship. Honest communication is suppressed as couples begin to act and react as they are taught. Couples have been told that men who don’t buy into it are “wimps” and that women who disagree are “rebellious Jezebels.” 

True relationship and “role” playing don’t mix!  Couples should live and love and relate to each other as Jesus Christ tells them to, through His Holy Spirit. They should be honest, open, and REAL with each other.  Decisions such as who should handle the money, who works, who stays home, etc. should be handled with prayer and spiritual discernment by the COUPLE themselves, with both husband and wife putting the interests and welfare of the other ahead of their own, as Scripture instructs. 

The “role” training material uses terms like “headship” and “submission” that seem to be “biblical” because Scripture passages are quoted out of context to support their ideas.  However, their interpretation of these terms CANNOT be found in the Bible.  The Bible does not tell us who should write the checks, who should mow the lawn, or who should load the dishwasher.  For the most part, events recorded in the Bible reflect the culture in the time and place that they occurred. But there are enough positively portrayed cultural exceptions to make it clear that the roles were not ordained by God.  Jacob and Esau cooked.  Deborah led a nation. The good wife of Proverbs 31 invested in land, made goods to sell for profit, and took care of the family to make it possible for her husband to serve as a judge at the gate. Lydia of Philippi was a wealthy business woman who supported Paul and his companions while they ministered in her city. Both Aquila AND Priscilla taught Apollos.  And there are many more examples that could be given. The roles being taught by these “Biblical manhood” groups are clearly cultural (their own cultural preferences) not Biblical. 

Toward the end of the discussion, one of the pastors mentioned Mark Driscoll of the Mars Hill megachurch.  He said Driscoll had announced publicly that any man in his congregation who was not the sole breadwinner of his family would be subject to church discipline.  The ministry of Jesus was supported in large part by the wealthy women who believed in Him, learned from Him and traveled as His disciples.  I guess no “Biblical manhood” types were around to set Jesus straight. … Oh! … Maybe they were!

Posted by: Michelle AT 09:52 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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