Tag Archives: God

What is a Cult? How to tell the false from the true

 

How to tell the false from the true

 

Written by Dan Lee on 11/07/2017

Series: Weekly Devotional

Tags: Church, Cults, Discernment

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

 

2 Timothy 4:3-4

Do you remember the “People’s Temple”? Started in Indianapolis in 1955 by the Reverend Jim Jones, it moved to San Francisco in 1971. The headquarters was just a few miles from my house, and mere blocks from the hospital where I was born. As a teenager I often rode the bus right past it.

 

In 1974, the People’s Temple established a settlement in Guyana, South America. It promised a tropical paradise, free from the wickedness of the outside world.

 

By 1978, the population of Jonestown, as it was called, had grown to over 900. And in November of that year, the residents of Jonestown were forced at gunpoint to drink poison. Nine-hundred and eighteen people died that day, the largest deliberate taking of American lives before September 11, 2001.

 

The people tasked with cleaning up found a shocking discovery: Not a single Bible was found in Jonestown. This “church” turned out to be one of history’s most dangerous cults.

 

As a follower of Jesus, you need to be regularly involved in a church, or local fellowship of believers — “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)

 

But you must choose your church carefully, avoiding false teachers, and making sure you don’t end up in a cult. Here are some characteristics of a cult, or a church or group that has gone the wrong path:

 

Authority Other than the Bible

Sometimes it is writings, such as Mormonism’s The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price. Often it is the teaching of an individual, such as Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who claimed that historic beliefs of the church were wrong (the Trinity and the deity of Christ).

 

The Jehovah’s Witnesses took this a step farther with their New World translation of the Bible, which is “the first intentional, systematic effort at producing a complete version of the Bible that is edited and revised for the specific purpose of agreeing with a group's doctrine.” (gotquestions.org)

 

Additional Revelation

Many cults are based on new discoveries or so-called revelations. For example, Joseph Smith’s founding of the Mormon church was based, he claimed, on his discovery of golden tablets. Other cult leaders simply declare that they have received direct revelations from God, which cannot be proven or disproven.

 

Paul warned in his very first epistle about those who departed from the established truth of the gospel: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8)

 

The Mormons make their stand very clear: “We do not believe the Bible to be inerrant, complete or the final word of God.” (From an address to the Harvard Divinity School in March 2001 by Robert L. Millet, former dean of religious education at Brigham Young University.)

 

Incorrect view of Jesus

Both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons deny the full divinity of Jesus. They cite isolated passages to prove their point, rather than looking at the totality of teaching about the Lord. They ignore passages that show the eternal nature of Christ, such as John 10:30, “I and the Father are one” or John 17:5: “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” Also, Hebrews 1:3 says of Jesus, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

 

Salvation by Works

Most cults do not teach that one is saved by faith alone in the finished work of Christ, but by following the rules and teachings of that particular group.

 

For instance, the Mormons add “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” to the requirements for salvation. But the Bible makes abundantly clear that works cannot save us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Romans 4:5 says, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” Also see Titus 3:5, Galatians 5:4.

 

Authoritarian Leadership and Excessive Control

If a church, or even a fellowship group, is led by someone who has complete rule, whose authority is never to be questioned, watch out! Pastors and elders are to lead gently and lovingly, “not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:3)

 

Another warning sign is when group members are required to submit their daily lives to group control – to quit their jobs, or give all their money to the group. This was definitely true at the People’s Temple.

 

Other possible reasons for caution include:

 

Exclusivity / Denunciation of other groups – “Everyone else is wrong”

Secret rituals or doctrines

Bondage – you cannot leave, and if you do you are shunned.

 

Jeremiah 23:1-2 gives a dire warning to pastors who lead their people astray: “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: ‘You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.’”

 

One of life’s most important decisions is choosing your church family. Ask Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the Sheep (Hebrews 13:20), to help you find a church and a shepherd who will be true to God’s word and lead you and help you “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

 

Pray this week:

Lord, guide me by Your Holy Spirit to know when a church or group is one that I should participate in, or avoid as a cult. Lead me to a true Christian fellowship that honors and glorifies You, and where I will grow in my faith and witness for you.

 

Do you have doubts about the group you’re involved in? 

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

What Are You Running From?

If God has shown us bad times ahead, it’s enough for me that He knows about them.

 

Written by Abide on 29/05/2018

Series: Weekly Devotional

Tags: Contentment, Depression, Jesus

Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.

 

Psalm 143:7

By Julie Thomas

 

My season of hopelessness began about six years ago. Quivering, gasping for breath, I felt the tingle from the cold night air against the sweat on my brow and the chill of the stone pavement beneath my bare feet. The stirring from the raging thoughts in my mind was coming to a calm. I had to stop running as my mind steered back to the reality of where I stood.  

    

The reflection from the street lamp at the base of which I stopped was bright enough for me to see most of my surroundings — enough to realize that I was alone and that it was sometime during the night hours. Soon enough, a passing cold draft also brought me to the realization that I did all that running without the needed clothing to keep the cold out.

 

I stopped long enough to recover my breath and turned around to retrace my steps. Retracing footsteps seemed simpler than retracing the mind’s steps. Retracing footsteps meant I would just have to run those steps back, albeit barefoot. The mind’s steps — those would hurt more than the cold, coarse sidewalk grazing against the soles of my feet. Muffled memory pulled me home, where I remembered leaving two babies and a husband, following a mental and emotional breakdown on my part. I have yet to recall what triggered the outburst. All I am able to recall is the harrowing fear that led the way for my sprinting out the door and into the night.  

 

I ran as fast as I could and as hard as I could. What was I running from? I did not know. My mind was not able to cooperate with the backdrop of my home and my family. Everything at home had begun to increasingly overwhelm my mind. I know today that the running was a means of escape from whatever was causing anguish to my mind. When my family found me and took me home, the anguish trailed home with me.

 

How long have you been running? The anguish and exhaustion from the running, has it ceased? Perhaps it hasn't. This was true for me during my spar with depression.  Running failed to get rid of the pain. The only one exhausted was me. … It was intensely painful to live inside of myself — with the depression. Can you relate to this feeling? Depression can do that to you. But know that no pain is without the knowledge of God. He hears. He sees. Just like He heard the many cries of anguish of King David in the Psalms.

 

Pray this week:

Do you have pain within you that seems unbearable? Join me in this prayer inspired by Psalm 143:4, 7     

 

Lord, depression has agonized me for a long time. It seems like there is no end in sight. Still…I believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. I will walk in restoration. I will attain spiritual and moral resurrection that lifts me out from the depression. I release every hurt and every pain to you Lord! I embrace the fullness of Christ. I receive your healing Lord!    

 

Journal two words today: One that describes your emotions before spending time with God and another after you spend time with Him. Hold on to His hope as you breathe.

 

Are you battling depression? Do you have pain within you that seems unbearable?

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

How much power does the Holy Spirit have? The Spirit has all the power of God because He is God

How much power does the Holy Spirit have? The Spirit has all the power of God because He is God.

WATCH THIS VIDEO:  https://youtu.be/7spkUy2WinM

How much power does the Holy Spirit have? The Spirit has all the power of God because He is God. The life-giving power of the Spirit is seen at creation. We are told in Genesis 1:2 that the “Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters" and that God said, "Let us make man in Our likeness" (Genesis 1:26), demonstrating the equality of the God and the Spirit. We receive the POWER of the Holy Spirit the moment we receive Christ. Romans 8:11 says, "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."

"Then he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." John 20:22-23

Power to Love and Witness
What kind of power does the Holy Spirit give? Paul tells us two important things. The Spirit gives us the power to love others as God loves us and to be witnesses for Jesus. Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8

Ask and Receive
Where do we begin to access this power? We begin by asking God to fill us with His Spirit and confessing areas where we have ignored God. Jesus said, "how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13). Ask the Holy Spirit today to help you love others as God does and be a great witness to Jesus in the world. You will begin to experience the abundant life God has for you as you do.

"After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness." Acts 4:31

Can we witness to others without God's love in our hearts? Can we truly love others but not share Jesus with them? Do you have fears about witnessing? Talk to a caring Christian about them.

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Are You Ready to Share Your Faith?

Don't let the moment pass you by.

Written by GodLife on 25/09/2018
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Evangelism, Love, Witness, Sharing
…, pray also for us that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…

Colossians 4:3
Following the Spirit of God includes having conversations about Jesus. How do we go about having a conversation about spiritual matters with someone we do not know? When we bring up the subject, we are using a bridge to open that door. Have you ever missed an opportunity?

One summer at my teenage son’s ball game, I noticed a friend I had not seen since college. As we sat together and visited, I was urged in my spirit to bring up the subject of Christ and to present the Gospel to her, but fear of rejection kept me silent. Later that winter, she was involved in an unfortunate accident that resulted in the death of her and her daughter. 

Are you willing?
In Acts 8:26-40, Philip was instructed by an angel to go south on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza in the desert. As he traveled, the Spirit told Philip to approach an Ethiopian Eunuch who was reading. Philip obeyed and asked the Eunuch a question: “Do you understand what you are reading?” The Eunuch replied, “How can I, but that some man should guide me.” Philip was then invited to attempt to guide him. Philip was willing, following, trusting, and ready. He already knew the subject, and he didn’t go in his own power. Finally, he had a divine appointment. If God used Philip, it makes sense that Jesus would use you too and empower you.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:9)

In our daily interactions with strangers we should be willing to follow the Spirit, who will lead us into situations to share our faith. Are you willing? 

How can I do this? 
How can you move into a conversation about Jesus? A good start is by being helpful to others. Make their job easier and be appreciative. Be friendly. Reaching out to people in the service industry that help us or that check us out at the store can be very easy! But first we must pray.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Why not ask questions or make comments with a smile? For example: 

How can I pray for you today? Or If there was one thing I could pray for you, what would it be? 
I was wondering when you attend church, where do you attend? 
The Bible says a workman is worth his hire. You have done a great job. 
You are an answer to prayer (if they really were). I believe in prayer. What about you?
I can only find peace in one place when I am stressed out. 
Be ready and be on mission like Philip wanting all to be saved and none to be lost. Jesus prayed for us that the love the Father had for Him would be in us (John 17:26), and we must allow it to propel us out of ourselves and our fears to be spent on others. We must remember that hell and the wrath of God are real, and Jesus is the only way to escape. Love like Jesus. 

Dealing with Rejection
If your words are rejected – it’s not you who were rejected, but Christ (Luke 10:16). Either way, you have been obedient. The results of your efforts are up to the Lord! He alone gives the increase, but he tells us all to plant and to reap. Do not forget to thank the Lord for the opportunity to be used, pray for that person and thank Him for more to come. 

“And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear; hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” (Jude 1:22-23)

I encourage you to love others more than yourself and be obedient to the leading of the Spirit. Pray to be bold and to be filled with love for the souls of others.

Pray this week:
Lord, Please, guide me and use me. I will love, and I will go, and I will speak. Amen.

God loves you. Are you ready to love others? How can you do this?

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Restored Sexuality- God’s plan for sex

God’s plan for sex

Written by Joy on 14/06/2016
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Lust, Marriage, Sex, Sin
Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.

Ephesians 5:10
God created sex to be a beautiful gift. In Genesis 2, God says it was not good for man to be alone so God created the perfect partner, a woman, so they could become one flesh. The chapter closes with the statement, “they were both naked and felt no shame.” Sex creates a unique relationship that involves physical, emotional and mental unity and completion.

If sex is blessed by God, what makes it immoral?

Blessings Lost
When we forget God has authority to set limits, blessings are lost. “Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.” (Romans 1:28). Your phone works best when you use it the way it was designed. In the same way, God designed sex to work a certain way. Rejecting His design leads to darkness, confusion, secrecy, shame, and judgement.

Blessed Design
God used His infinite wisdom to design sex in the beginning. God does not need to “evolve.” He does not change his mind based on our opinions. Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation give a very clear picture of the kind of sex that pleases God. “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24). God approves of sex when it is between one man and one woman who have made a lifelong commitment to marriage. Jesus confirmed this to be an unchanging truth in Matthew 19.

Are you willing to trust God’s wisdom and love and follow his guidelines?

Blessing Restored
“He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him.” (Colossians 1:13-14). We no longer have to sit in the darkness of shame and confusion. Jesus has made us children of light! (Ephesians 5:8-11)

“You cannot say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies…If we belong to Christ our body is not our own but a temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore we should honor God with our body.” (1 Corinthians 6:13, 19-20). Obedience to God’s plan for sex is a choice we make when we want to please God, not ourselves (Colossians 3:1-17). God has given every Christian the Holy Spirit to teach us truth and empower us to obey it.

Are you going to find out what pleases the Lord and choose to live by it?

Pray this week:
Show me, Lord, where I am not pleasing you in my attitudes and actions regarding sex.

Do you really know what Scriptures say about sexual sin? I

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Helping Those Who Question

Regard the curious as thirsty for living water.

Written by GodLife on 11/09/2018
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Questions, Answers, Reasons, Evangelism, Apologetics
Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope.

1 Peter 3:15
Have you ever asked a question, only to get another question as an answer? It’s not that uncommon, and it doesn’t mean the other person is avoiding your question. Here’s an example:

“So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’” (Acts 8:30-31)

People ask questions for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes they aren’t really asking for information—they either already think they know the answer or are raising a question as a cover for something. Here’s an example:

“But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:25–29)

Jesus answered this question with one of the greatest parables in the Bible: the story we call the “Good Samaritan.” Even though the young man’s goal was to “justify himself,” Jesus worked creatively to reach him. 

It’s a good test of our walk with Jesus when we’re gracious with those who ask questions like he was. What are some ways we can do that?

Are all questions… even the not-so honest ones… opportunities?
The only way to avoid uncomfortable questions is to only associate with those who are certain they know all the answers. And this shows the value of questions. They imply the questioner is teachable. Both Peter (see 1 Peter 3:15, above) and Paul assumed believers would live lives that created opportunities to answer questions: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5–6) 

Will they come whether you’re ready or not?
Jesus actually made it clear that people would question us–and that it’s a good thing, a way for God to be glorified.   “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14–16) A believer’s nature is meant to be an invitation for questions. We can’t be hidden, even if we try. God meant it to be like that as a way for His purposes to be worked out. (See Philippians 2:12-16)

How did Jesus use questions?
Did Jesus Himself get tough questions? You bet. Did He always answer them directly? No; in fact, He often answered questions with questions his critics couldn’t answer. “Then some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ For they no longer dared to ask him any question.” (Luke 20:39-40). Very often, Jesus’ challenging questions were for the benefit of the surrounding listeners as well as the questioner. Every time I read these exchanges it makes me want to grow in my ability to answer and ask good questions.

Helping others who question, then, is Christ-like, isn’t it? It’s an opportunity to help the teachable, a way to fulfill God’s purposes for us, and a chance to embrace conformity to the image of Jesus. The next time you are questioned, how will you make it an opportunity to bring truth and love to the questioner?

Pray this week:
Lord Jesus, I want to be more like You. Show me where fear and pride make me defensive and keep me from helping others who question.

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

How To Avoid Sexual Temptation

Guard Yourself

Written by Dan Lee on 11/07/2015
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Lust, Pornography, Sex, Temptation
“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.” Matthew 6:22

These words of Jesus tell us how important our eyes are, and how diligent we must be to watch what goes into our mind through our eyes. God’s word shows us several ways to do this:

1. Be Careful What You Look At
Jesus said, “anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). The first step to sexual temptation (and sometimes the sin itself) is looking.

Today’s world can be full of temptations for the eyes. Advertisements, movies and television, and things on the Internet can all lead us to sin. You must carefully choose what you watch and where you go. If seeing women in bathing suits makes you think lustful thoughts, then you need to stay away from the beach. If Internet pornography threatens to trap you, then stop surfing the web when you’re alone. (Matthew 18:8-9)

2. Guard Your Heart
King Solomon instructs us, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23).

What is this verse telling us? That what we THINK about determines who we are, and what we do. Lustful thoughts lead to lustful actions. On the other hand, if you read, speak and think about God’s word often, he will renew your mind and your heart. (Also see Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:1-3)

3. Don’t Be Proud
“If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). If you think you will never fall victim to a particular sin, that’s the time to be extra careful. Or, as Solomon again says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Remember above all that we don’t rely on our own strength, but on the Holy Spirit. God alone can give the power to make the right decisions and keep our lives free from sexual sin.

Pray this week:
Lord, I confess that it is so easy for me to sin sexually. I know that I am powerless to change, and that only You can give me victory through Your Holy Spirit’s power. I surrender this area of my life to You and trust that You will glorify Yourself through me as I walk closely with You. Amen.

Are you struggling with sexual temptation? 

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member