The Spreading of the Not-So-Good News

PART 1: Another Gospel?

The influence of the occult upon our everyday lives is staggering. An African missionary from the Mandinka tribe of West Africa, once asked a congregation a question similar to that asked by the Apostle Paul of the Galatians. His 11-minute message, spoken in the mid-90's, I can still recall, as he shouted the question: "You foolish Americans... who has bewitched you?!"

The basis of his message was that, right here in the good ol' U.S. of A., everywhere he looked, he could detect an occult influence. Whether it was through the media, commercials, from the "alternative religions," even from the puplits of well-meaning Christian ministers, what this man was detecting was something OTHER than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Crystals, guided imagery, healing meditation, Christian Science, Kabbalah, Mormonism...why has "Christian America" so eagerly accepted these ideas that, at their root, are so contrary to that which would be considered orthodox? Why are so many things OTHER than biblical concepts being sought out to meet the needs of those who claim to be Christians?

In 2 Corinthians, 11th chapter, the Apostle warned that some would come preaching "another Jesus" and "a different gospel." He wrote, "...as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." There are three types of doctrine spoken of within the New Testament: the doctrine of man, the doctrine of devils and the doctrine of Christ (and of God). Personally, I contend that Bible illiteracy is the basis for this continual weakening of Orthodox Christianity. One example of this can be found in the number of Southern Baptists who are joining the Mormon Church. According to the Arizona Latter-day Sentinel, April 2, 1988, "...an average of 282 members of their church join the LDS church each week. Coincidentally, the (sic) average Southern Baptist congregation has 283 members, which means the Baptists lose 52 congregations each year to the Mormons.

Though a group may mention the name 'Jesus' and season their conversation with spiritual-sounding, familiar Christianese, not all that glitters is gold. For example, those who worship The Sacred Mushroom (No, I'm NOT kidding) refer to a mushroom as 'Jesus' so, based upon Romans 10:9-10 (...if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.) they consider themselves to be "saved." Some actually believe this and have placed their faith in a fungus.

We must ask ourselves just WHO this Jesus is whenever that Name is spoken. Is he Lucifer's brother? The archangel Michael? An Ascended master? A mere prophet? A fungus? Or is the 'Jesus' to whom they refer the Lord of all Creation that He claimed to be? You see Jesus of Nazareth was either a liar, a lunatic, or truly Lord of all... the way WE must see Him as well.

PART 2: The FARCE is with us! After the first Star Wars movie, Christian bumper stickers came out stating that the "Force" was with us. Thinking the Star Wars movie was a Christian allegory, many assumed this "Force" being referred to in the film was the Holy Spirit. Of course, as we all know, the Holy Spirit is NOT a force, but the third Person of the triune God that we worship.

Right?

Not according to a 2001 survey by the Barna Group which stated that 61% of Americans believed the Holy Spirit to be a mere symbol of God's presence rather than a living entity. Scripture clearly reveals that the Holy Spirit has a purpose - to empower those who trust in Christ for the advancing of His Kingdom - as well as personal character traits. Yet, I marvel at how many Christians, ministers included, refer to Him merely as "it" - IF they acknowledge Him at all. Just as amazing, 60% of adults believe Satan is merely a symbol of evil. Yet, 81% of us believe angels exist and influence people's lives.

What is most startling about the Star Wars phenomenon is not the advent of yet another movie, but the real ways in which people around the world appear to be forming a religion out of the thing. The Anglican Digest reported that the first school to teach Jedi - named for the Jedi Knights from the series - was recently opened in Romania. Courses at the Star Wars Academy include the correct use of light saber swords, and lessons on how to speak Wookiee.

The BBC reported (2002) that at least 70,000 people in Australia wrote-in "Jedi" as their response under the category of religion on the last census form. Hard-core fans of the films have been trying to have Jedi declared an official religion around the English-speaking world for years now.

The same situation occurred in New Zealand in their census of 2001. Similarly, more than 390,000 people in England declared themselves Jedi in their census of the same year - a shocking number when you consider that only 260,000 people in England declared themselves to be Jewish! There are various Internet campaigns going on now that encourage voters in the U.S. to petition for Jedi as an official religion on the next U.S. census form.

Star Wars creator, George Lucas, once said: "I put the Force into the movie in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people - more a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system. I wanted to make it so that young people would begin to ask questions about the mystery."

Well, it backfired, George. In a Time magazine interview, Lucas downplayed any religious implications about his series, but then went on to admit to using "the Force" as a representation of God and the Dark Side warrior, Darth Vader, as a metaphor for the evil that exists inside us all. How different is that from saying all humans are born in sin and need the help of "God" to save them? Sounds pretty religious, does it not?

Sadly, very few proponents of this Jedi faith have noticed that their new "religion" is very elitist and only a very few of the Star Wars characters are permitted to attain any benefit from the Force, that being only those referred to in the series as Jedi Knights. Far from being literally a 'life-force' that can be harnessed by the underclasses and oppressed, it can only be used by a chosen few High Priests.

The Holy Spirit is so-entitled for one very specific, obvious reason: to distinguish Him from EVIL spirits, deceiving devils that are constantly at work in our midst, killing, stealing and destroying even those who call themselves 'Christian.' The Holy Spirit empowers us. He convicts us of sin AND of our righteousness. He comforts, exhorts, edifies and confirms. He is a constant Teacher and reminds us of all that Jesus taught (so read what Jesus taught). He's the exact SAME Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and He desires to take up residence in anyone who believes that Jesus is who He said He is.

Jesus sent Him. So, He's obviously all well ever need! He's no mere force, but where Satan and his minions are concerned, He will make YOU a force to be reckoned with.

PART 3: The Kabbalah Kraze

The latest trendy religion is the Kabbalah. Pop singer Madonna has reportedly donated tens of millions to the cause. Other famous followers include comedian Roseann Barr, actress Demi Moore and many others. In today's occult revolution where every dimension of the occult is being explored, there has been a revived interest in Kabbalah among both Jew and Gentile.

Although its Jewish origin makes it unique, Kabbalah is still essentially an occultic practice, and is thus incompatible with the Judeo-Christian faiths. Its Pantheistic theology teaches that all reality springs directly from God's own essence. Even if one believes that these "emanations" from God's essence have "gone through a descent of ten spheres on four different levels" - whatever THAT means - the conclusion is inescapable that even he who is on the lowest level is still of one essence with God; and thus, ultimately, that individual IS God. This is a concept that is incompatible with the Biblical concept God, who created the world out of nothing, NOT out of Himself. In Genesis 1:1, the Hebrew word for "create" is "bara," referring to something coming out of nothing. This verse debunks Pantheism, the belief that God is IN the creation and IS the creation. God is not the tree, the rock, the building or the air. Yet, Pantheism holds that God permeates everything, and, therefore, IS all.

Pantheism is not unique to the practitioners of Kabbalah. I once debated a believer in Pantheism and asked him if God was in those bird droppings on the rock wall before us. I believe I heard his mental wheels come to a screeching halt for a moment. "Come now," I said, urging him not to check his brain at the door, "your beliefs are either absolutely true in all instances or they aren't true at all." Incidentally, he was a member of a local mainline Christian denomination. Pantheism is being embraced by many Christians. The concept is, basically, that only the spiritual dimension exists. Some Pantheistic religions include Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Pantheism also forms the basis for Transcendental Meditation and some aspects of New Age mysticism.

This should not be confused with the concept of God's omnipresence. God IS omnipresent. He's everywhere at once. David said, "...if I ascend up into heaven, thou (God) art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there," (Psalm 139:8). But God is NOT the created world. In fact, He is completely EXTERNAL to the created world. Worship belongs to the Creator, not His creation. Paul tells us in Romans 1:25 that there will be those "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator...."

God is related to the world as a sculptor is related to his sculpture, or I am related to this message on my computer screen right now. The sculptor is not the sculpture. The writer is not the writing. The sculpture and the writing are productions. They are produced by the one that creates, and what one creates, can be created again. Perhaps it will be different or it may be better.

God created everything just by speaking it into existence. It was not difficult. He's God, you know. "Let there be light and there was light" (Genesis 1:3). Poof! "Let the waters bring forth and they brought forth, Let the earth bring forth and it brought forth" (Genesis 1:20,24). Poof! God was not put to a test to make the universe. Some say, "Mankind was a more difficult product!" God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground; we must not have been TOO tough. Like a mud pie maybe. Poof! He took a rib from Adam's side, spoke a word, and turned it into a woman. Poof! That was not hard for God. This whole creation was not such a magnificent production where God was concerned. To us, it is absolutely unfathomable. With just a little word, it all came to be, or at least, got started. It was really easy for the Creator. Genesis1:31declares that in six days - even if a day is as a thousand years in God's economy - it all came to be, simply through His spoken words.

Imagine having that kind of an all-powerful Creator God handling our measely, temporal problems! He WANTS to handle our lives in this same way, but we must GIVE them to Him.

PART 4: If it's broken, let's fix it North America is the only continent on earth where the Church is not growing, despite a 2002 Barna survey revealing that 85% of us self-identify as Christians. The exodus from American churches has reached biblical proportions. People are leaving organized churches at a rate of 53,000 a week in Europe and North America combined (the U.S. lost 57,500 in the entire Vietnam War, to put that number in perspective). As a whole, Christians lose 7,600 a day to other religions or irreligion. According to the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the need for new churches is greater than it's ever been as evidenced by the church-to-population ratios over the last century. For example, in 1900, there were 27 churches, of multiple denominations, per 10,000 people. Today there are 12 churches per 10,000 people. Meanwhile eight churches close their doors permanently every day; nearly 3,000 annually.

The mind boggles regarding the latest in American Church statistics. For example, the number of ministers who no longer believe in the infallibility of Scripture is startling: 85% of the Presbyterian USA pastors said NO; 85% of the Methodist pastors said NO; 85% of the Episcopal pastors said NO; 55% of the Baptist pastors said NO; 45% of the Catholic priests said NO. (Source: Warner A. Bonner, LeadershipJournal.net)

A whopping 42% of Americans believe Jesus committed sins. Whereas Jesus directed us to "go and make disciples," only16% of American Christians are involved in a discipleship process of regularly meeting with a group or individual for spiritual growth. The Internet is the only mass medium whose audience share has grown during the past decade (I can attest as this ministry's e-Mail outreach grows annually). The proportion of the population using the Internet as a spiritual resource has increased by two-thirds since 1998. According to the Barna Group, "Our studies continue to show that people are using the Christian media to provide elements of ministry that are not adequately provided to them by their local church." He explained, "For some people, these media complement their church experience. For others, a combination of these media forms a significant portion of their faith experience...."

Church leaders should start strategizing right about now! Yes, the times they are a-changin'. The Church must wisely adapt and reach the masses where they are, but we must cautiously filter everything we read and hear through the teachings of Jesus Christ. Remember the wise counsel of Paul: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ," Colossians 2:8. Sadly, much of this modern-day spiritual smorgasbord, including the New Millenium's hybrid faiths - though they may well be signs of the apostasy of the end times - are really anything less than the unpaid invoices of the Church at large.

Selah.

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Pastor Michael has been broadcasting his messages of Discipleship & Encouragement to the Body of Christ since 1999. Currently, his messages are being read by eMail subscribers, re-printed on other websites and newsletter, used in pulpit ministries, and changing lives across the planet.

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Freedom Of Religion Can't Trump Demands Of Public Order: Madras HC [Read Order]  Live Law'The fabric of secularism that has been so carefully woven should not be torn asunder by permitting the right to freedom of religion to trump the demands of ...
Ordained Episcopal Priest Barbara Brown Taylor Discusses Her Book 'Holy Envy'  NPROrdained Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor says that teaching the different religions of the world changed her students' understanding of faith — as well as ...
4 things to know about Ash Wednesday  Religion News ServiceFor Christians, the death and resurrection of Jesus is a pivotal event commemorated each year during a season of preparation called Lent and a season of ...
Religion and Polarized Politics: An Interview with Melissa Rogers and Peter Wehner  Religion & PoliticsThe 2016 election of President Trump highlighted the country's state of political polarization. Many argue that people have retreated into their respective.
Religious leaders grapple with age segregation  Star TribuneThe Jewish festival of Purim, celebrated this week, is a time for kids to don costumes, enjoy a slice of Jewish history and share traditional foods with their families ...
Interview | 'Radicalism Is Spurred by Nationalism More Than Religion': Fatima Bhutto  The WireIn conversation with Fatima Bhutto about her new novel, 'The Runaways', and the alienation that drives radicalism.
Six Israelis. Three weddings. One Statement  Religion News ServiceShmuel Carmel, from left, Anat Ornik, Ellen Miller Kelly, Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, Ilia Rabkin, Sahar Malka, Susan Rosenblum, and David Rosenblum at the ...
Freedom From Religion Foundation Wants Circuit Attorney to Remove Bible Verse From Courthouse Wall  Christian News NetworkST. LOUIS, Mo. — The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has sent a letter to the circuit attorney of St. Louis, Missouri to request that a ...

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