A Sidekick's Blog

Missions and the Prosperity Gospel

September 19, 2014
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As if Benny Hinn and other health-and-wealth teachers haven’t exploited enough people already, lately they are “crusading” in third-world nations.

When you carry their teachings to their logical conclusion, though, it only makes sense. It is the poorest of the poor who most desperately need prosperity and healing. So naturally, the folks who support teachers of the prosperity gospel have to insist that the prosperity message be brought to “those who need it most.”

But what of missionary efforts already underway in these third world tribes? How does the message of the media stars impact the work of missionaries who cannot offer promises of riches and divine health, but only simple gospel of salvation from God’s just wrath against sinners? As you might imagine, opposition to the truth is multiplied by the itchy-eared.

Even though the prosperity teachers cannot hope to profit from the desperately poor, they must maintain the appearance of taking the prosperity message to the desperately poor who “need it most.”

Here is a recent example, described by a missionary of the true gospel. He describes his own efforts to counter this exploitation and deception. He describes the angry opposition he encountered from those who have heard what they wanted to hear and eagerly accepted it, and who now fiercely defend their new hope against the truth.

There was a long period of time when I complained loudly to the Lord for many months about the proliferation of false teachers, hirelings and charlatans taking advantage of the Lord’s sheep.

“Judge them, O Lord! Save Your people from being ruined by those who would shear Your sheep; killing them and feasting on Your little lambs!” I cried.

Until I realized a terrible truth.

These false teachers are God’s judgment! He will judge the false teachers in His own time. Just as He sent the Babylonians to judge His own people first, before sending Persia to judge the Babylonians! He will eventually bring “Persia” to judge “Babylon” for bringing false teachings to His sheep. But He judges His own before He judges the world.

Benny Hinn and his fellow heretics are God’s judgment against itchy-eared sheep,

who, wanting to have their ears tickled, gather for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and will turn away from the truth, turning aside to myths (2 Tim 4:3-4 emphasis mine).

Indeed, such was I once. And

such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Many among those being deceived are to be called out later on, and they will need help, just as I did, to overcome the fables and superstitions they were taught. It takes time and patience. But that is why this little forum is here. ExCharisma is a tool for those who have been exploited, betrayed, and damaged by these false teachings. But even if you, dear reader, are not among those who once believed these things, please consider those in your circle who have quit going to church after being betrayed by these self-serving wolves who prey upon the itchy-eared, and now are broken, confused, and have no idea who to trust anymore or what is true anymore. If they’re seeking some plain ol’ back-to-basics gospel truth from Scripture alone, tell them they’re not alone. Tell them about one little sidekick who found his way back. Tell them about ExCharisma.

Thanks, from the bottom of my heart.

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Holy Spirit Baptism – Part Three

April 15, 2014
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This is Part Three of a four-part series on Holy Spirit baptism. Please read Parts One and Two before jumping into the middle of the story here!

Part Two ended where the great experiment – “the Church in Fort Lauderdale” – began. A link at the end of Part Two describes the experiment and it’s tragic results which linger even today. The principle founders of the movement have expressed regret for the damage, at least as far as to say, “we did a right thing a wrong way.” I am here to bear witness that they did a wrong thing, period. They failed to clearly distinguish spiritual authority from other forms of authority; most notably domestic authority, the authority of conscience, and the priestly authority that belongs to every believer in “a kingdom of priests (Revelation 1:6).” It was wrongly assumed that disciples were under obligation to their master until released by him. That was never so, even in bible times. Jesus’ disciples were free to walk away at any time, and in fact, many did. In this tyrannical experiment, the “penalty” for departure was condemnation – equivalent to excommunication, “let him be to you as a tax collector (Matthew 18:17).” Entire churches that saw this scheme for what it was were labeled as being “in deception,” and members of those churches who followed the movement were called upon to renounce their churches and be assigned to a new “shepherd.”

My church was soon to become one of them. My old middle school crush didn’t even know that I existed, and her dad’s preaching didn’t make sense to me anyway. So when some of the other kids from the Monday night teaching time who sat on the floor with me, literally at Bob Mumford’s feet, invited me to their church, I was anxious to go. It was a Southern Baptist church, traditional, with a piano, organ, and choir just like a “real” church was supposed to have. And it had a supercharged youth group that was oh-so-Spirit-filled, just like the few kids from my first church! It would be almost like going back to my first church, except with no danger of being kicked out for speaking in tongues! Andy, the youth pastor, was dynamic and “wise in the things of the Spirit,” and the youth group under his leadership grew large and dynamic as well. One of the church buildings was designated “The Cup,” and Friday night meetings there took the form of youth-led rock ‘n’ roll Charismatic bliss where “the gifts of the Spirit” flowed freely. Manifestations of tongues, interpretation, prophecy, and knowledge ran almost amok. It was so very different from the Sunday services, which were more traditional, but peppered with more modest “manifestations” during the song and prayer times before the sermon. The Cup was dark, crowded, and exuberant with runaway Charismatic indulgence that reminded me of my first visit to a Pentecostal church, but less put-on and artificial. I had met Andy and some of the other kids before at the Monday night “Mumford meetings,” but Friday nights at The Cup were wild and wonderfully “anointed.” I didn’t find out until later that Andy was among those being trained as a “shepherd” for the new Church in Fort Lauderdale, nor did I have any hint of the heartbreak that was soon to follow.

Before I get to that part of the story I want to convey what we kids meant when we talked about “the anointing,” or about so-and-so being “a really anointed teacher,” or “that song is really anointed.” For us, a person or event that was “anointed” was one that had a special spiritual power. “Wow couldn’t you just feel the anointing Friday night!” Anointing imparted a kind of righteous ecstasy that was palpable. The thrill of a teaching with implications we hadn’t considered before, or a song that made us feel especially intimate with God, or a teacher whose presentations prompted intense feelings of unqualified weal and delight – this was “the anointing.” It was a sure indication to us that God had empowered and approved the person or thing that was taking place. If one could feel the anointing, one accepted it as having been God-sent and God-empowered.

The Scriptures, however, hold no such definition of the term. Most often the words anoint and anointing in the both Testaments refer to the physical application of medicine, balm, water, or oil to an injured part or a sick person. Sometimes it means “mingled” or “mixed,” as in unleavened cakes “anointed” with oil in Exodus 29:2. In a more spiritual sense, anointing was done to designate people or things as set apart, or holy to the Lord, as in the ordination of Levitical priests (Exodus 29:29) or Samuel anointing Saul and David as kings of Israel (1 Samuel 10:1 and 16:12-13 – and note in the account of Saul’s anointing that he prophesied!). In the New Testament, other than its primary meaning of applying or mixing, it is similarly used to represent ordination or setting apart for God (Luke 4:18, Acts 4:27, 2 Corinthians 1:21). We find it applied generally to all who are in Christ, representative of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, applying God’s word to our hearts, bringing it to remembrance in time of need. As oil is applied to outward things, so the word of God is applied to the inner man by the Holy Spirit. Through the Apostle John, the Holy Spirit writes,

These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him (1st John 2:27, NASB).

The way we know whether a thing is approved by God is not from the giddy feeling we get from having our ears tickled with seductive words. We know God’s approval because of the application of the written and infallible word of God by the Holy Spirit! The anointing, as it applies in believers, is upon their ears and feet, so to say:

…he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth his own, he goes ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers (John 10:3-5, NASB).

So how is it that so many of the Lord’s sheep follow false teachers? One would have to ignore and suppress the anointing that John described above in order to do so! But tickle their ears a bit, and many will do just that:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths (2nd Timothy 4:3-4, NASB).

The genuine anointing of God in every believer is what keeps calling them back to the truth, enabling them to walk away from myths and fables to dine in the fields of lush grass that our true Shepherd leads us to. To many Charismatics, “anointing” only means having their ears tickled! But they would rarely admit it.

When all of the “shepherds” in “the Church at Fort Lauderdale” were trained and established in little flocks of their own, all accountable to the three “Apostles” of the church, the call went out from the “Apostles of the Church at Fort Lauderdale” that any church that was not “in submission” to the larger Church at Fort Lauderdale was “in deception,” and those who were truly following the will of God would come out from those churches and take their place under an approved “undershepherd.” My church did not play along. Andy left West Lauderdale Baptist Church, and took most of the Friday night “Cup kids” with him and formed a commune under “the Church at Fort Lauderdale.” While I must confess that I immensely enjoyed having my ears tickled, even at age 14 I knew the voice of my true Shepherd and refused to follow Andy – and almost all of my friends with him – any further. Besides, there was plenty of ear tickling to be enjoyed right where I was. I stayed put, but was lonelier than ever. I watched from a distance as old friends from the Cup were exploited, abused, and abandoned when they broke. The great guitar player I always tried to emulate had gone with Andy. And in less than a year’s time, had entered into a homosexual relationship with another member of “the Church at Fort Lauderdale.”

The youth group at West Lauderdale Baptist had to rebuild, almost from scratch. Very few of the youth had remained, not wanting to miss out on the Grand Anointed Plan that was unfolding. Of those who stayed behind, I was the youngest, I think, and the loneliest of them. The loss of those friendships left me in profound danger of further exploitation, yet God had spared me from the fate of those who left, which was far worse.

In Part Four I will finally get to a scriptural analysis of the doctrine of Holy Spirit baptism, and the role of the spiritual gifts according to scripture. Stay tuned!


ExCharisma: Praying in the Spirit

April 6, 2014
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Today I heard what is probably the best sermon of my life on the subject of praying in the Spirit. It turns out that genuine Spirit-initiated, Spirit-ignited, Spirit led, effectual prayer in the Spirit is much harder and far more effort than “turning my mind off” and letting the Spirit “pray through me” in a language I never learned. I’m very well acquainted with the Charismatic meaning and practice of “praying in the Spirit.” For over 20 years I did it throughout the day, believing that my prayers were knocking down enemy strongholds, binding evil spirits, and lending strength to angels battling in the heavenlies. It was “perfect” prayer, immune from interference from the devil tossing bad thoughts into my mind to mess up my prayers. Bypassing the mind made it invulnerable to such attack, and because it was the Spirit praying through me, it was perfect in every way.

But praying in tongues was an easy substitute for “putting to death the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13)” and being led by the Spirit (verse 14), subject to His infallibly inspired word. How easily I separated the Spirit from the written Word which He inspired! But to truly walk by the Spirit and pray in the Spirit, one must pray according to the bible!

In my new church, I’m told, there are others like me. Coming from the confusion and misleading teachings of the Charismatic movement or Pentecostalism. It truly is remarkable that so many of us, truly seeking God and digging through His unchanging word, have found our way back to the Reformation! My years in the Charismatic movement and my journey out of its superstition, manipulation, empty promises and pretense led me to seek out other who were fed up and making the same journey as I was: Back to basics, back to the bible, putting down deep roots in the solid ground of His unchanging word instead of the incessantly shifting, windblown sand and rubble of Pentecostalism. I called our little group ExCharisma. And it quickly grew over the next couple of years, from a dozen or so of us “questioning Charismatics,” into an international community of hundreds. Almost without exception, those who shared my journey ended up in the same place that I have: The Reformation! Let me tell you why I think that is so remarkable:

In the years prior to the Reformation, the gospel had been almost entirely lost to the ordinary churchgoer. Obscured behind superstition, corruption, ritual and rite, and in the absence of the bible in print for “the common man,” the gospel virtually disappeared but for some unknown (to us) remnant.

Never had there been a greater need for the recovery of the gospel to the Church, and God in His mercy finally did so, through Martin Luther and several others, 500 years ago. When the gospel was clearly preached, the true Church flourished and changed the whole world – just as much as it had done in the First Century! Fast-forward 500 years and what do we find? Again, the gospel in obscurity, barely peeking out from behind the megaministries preaching a gospel of greed (the “prosperity gospel”), self-proclaimed “prophets” who still preach even after their predictions prove completely false – anyone remember when “the greatest prophet since Elijah,” Paul Cain, predicted that as president, Bill Clinton would lead America to the greatest spiritual revival in it’s history? Ooops. And yet those Kansas City “prophets” are still out there making millions of dollars in books, tapes, and other snake-oil sales. As it was in the days before the Reformation, so it is today. Corruption, superstition, greed, and as before a lack of interest and discipline in the study of the bible, have so obscured and covered the simple truth of salvation in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, to the glory of God alone, that we find ourselves in need of a second Reformation! Or, to be more accurate, a recovery of the earlier Reformation. A recovery of “the faith once delivered to the saints.”

Inspired by that and by the fact that my pastor has told me how I could really help other members of my church who are taking that journey out of “Charismania,” as I have come to call it, back to the Reformation – back to the Gospel, I will publish a few articles from the archives of ExCharisma here in the next few days. The first will take on the subject of the gift of tongues, so central to the Charismatic experience. If you can’t wait, you can catch a preview of it by clicking here.


A Trap Along The Journey

August 14, 2012
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This Part Three in a series. Please read the two previous posts to get the larger picture of my journey so far.

While I was newly converted and living in a non-Christian home with unbelieving parents, I was still able to share my faith with my parents and siblings. The abuse continued, but I was carried along through it by my Lord and Superhero, Jesus Christ. Had I followed His written word and remained under the discipline of those who had brought me this far on my journey, I might have avoided some of the heartache and “wilderness wandering” that my teen years introduced, which endured for over twenty years.

That time was not wasted, though! For despite my unruliness and vain pursuit of things other than what God has already provided to His children in Christ, God redeemed those years and used the experience to prepare me for a unique and wonderful ministry to hundreds of my fellow sojourners in that particular wilderness.

Most of the older kids in the church youth group caught on to a movement that had been sweeping through the Church in our little part of the world for a few years. Folks called it “the Charismatic Movement” and it was remarkable for it’s adaptability. Crossing denominational lines and sweeping away laymen and clergy alike, it became a means of seducing its followers into a world of subjective experience-seeking, superstition, chaos, and naturally following all that, spiritual abuse.

Seeking and receiving “Holy Spirit baptism” promised a whole new way of experiencing God. It promised unparallelled intimacy with God, supernatural powers, knowledge, and gifts, deeper and more intimate worship, and dominion of the surrounding culture. It promised to open the door to a revival of first-century Christianity complete with apostolic miracles and thousands of new converts adding to our number every day. The promise of being powerful was very attractive to a skinny, awkward, abused, mildly autistic kid like me. Now I could have real power and respect, and physical proof of God’s acceptance, approval, and anointing! If only I could get that Holy Spirit baptism.

But of course, in order to get it, there were conditions: No unconfessed sin, no bad habits, super faith that went way beyond the norm for most Christians, super Christian discipline, and complete practical holiness. It should have occurred to me that if it takes all that to qualify a person to receive the power to accomplish that kind of super-righteousness and super faith, why do I need Holy Spirit baptism at all? If it takes all that just to qualify for it, then no one could get it – at least not without already having it! Yet when I went with the big kids to these stirring meetings of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, and to the teaching meetings where Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Don Basham, and other Charismatic leaders were teaching, everyone seemed to have this Holy Spirit baptism. The “proof” was that they could all speak in tongues (their “heavenly prayer language, known only to God”), and they could “sing in the Spirit” supernaturally uttering not only the inspired words, but an inspired melody as well. Truly beautiful to see huge crowds of people rapt with joy, hands in the air, and filling the auditorium with the beautiful, eerie sound of a tonic major chord dominating a madrigal-style fugue woven beneath it. Magical. These folks appeared to be suspended between heaven and earth inwardly, completely lost in the Spirit, and I desperately longed for such wonderful intimacy with my God.

It would be another two decades before I sought after intimacy with God in the one place I should have been seeking it – His unchanging, infallible written Word. I’ll submit other articles later which will demonstrate how and why the charismata of the first century was intended by God only for a single generation and served the purpose God had ordained for it. Suffice it to say for now that the sign gifts of tongues, miracles, prophecy, supernatural knowledge, etc served as a covenant sign to the generation of Jews that rejected and murdered God’s Son. Once the judgement those signs signified had come and gone, so too did the covenant warnings of that judgement. But that’s for another post. This one is about how the Charismatic Movement (Pentecostalism with a new name and interdenominational distinctives) took me far from the simple, unchanging, effective, practical, loving fellowship of God and into a world of superstition, fear, manipulation, and betrayal.

Some of those “big kids” in the youth group who got involved in the Charismatic movement invited me along to the meetings, and I went as often as I could. We even brought our youth pastor into it. Later on even our pastor accepted the theology of “second blessing” and was eventually expelled by the church, after they had expelled all the kids who refused to stop going to those meetings. Yup, they kicked us all out. Rather than TEACH and PROVE from the Scriptures why our pursuit of spiritual gifts was WRONG, they chose to do the easy thing instead of the right thing. May God reward them according to their deeds. For if the elders of that little church had acted properly, they could have spared dozens of people years of heartache, deception, and even madness.

Elders, Pastors, Deacons, Parents:
If your church has some heretical or heterodox error sweeping God’s people up in it, don’t simply rid the church of the problem by chasing the sheep from the fold and leaving them to the wolves! The elders of that little church did as much damage by dismissing us as our false teachers did by deceiving us. When the children are in trouble, their parents and spiritual shepherds and guardians should defend them! Fight for them instead of abandoning them to the wolves!

From that abandonment followed further seduction, betrayal, and abuse. But the choice of the elders of little Calvary Presbyterian Church all those years ago became the doorway to danger.