Dangerous Doctrines and Pandemics

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NASB).

As I write this post on April 24, 2020, there are 2.73 million cases of Coronavirus (Covid-19), with 890,000 confirmed cases in the United States where I live. As of this moment, 192,000 worldwide have died from the virus, with 50,372 deaths in the United States. Not in my lifetime have I lived through such a pandemic. Life has ground to a halt and the world economy is on the verge of collapse. However, as with Coronavirus and other catastrophes, there are people who will seize upon the situation politically, financially, and unfortunately, spiritually.

I know that many churches and charitable organizations are struggling during these times. I know these organizations are doing the best they can to serve their respective communities and be a light in this darkness. I pray these groups get the resources they need in these times. My beef, however, is with the so-called “prosperity teachers.”

The prosperity gospel, aka “the health and wealth” gospel teaches that God will bless His followers with material wealth and physical health if they are faithful with their giving. The prosperity message is not new, as this heresy dates back to at least the 1940s and 50s, with the teachings of Kenneth Hagin and Oral Roberts. The playbook  is exactly the same for today’s prosperity teachers, which include Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Benny Hinn, Paula White (President Trump’s spiritual adviser), Joel Osteen, Jesse DuPlantis, and Creflo Dollar to name a few.

One of the reasons the prosperity gospel is so successful is that it appeals to the greed which lies in the human spirit. Who wouldn’t want to get a fortune from making a simple donation, or “planting seed,” as the prosperity teachers say? These false teachers take Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 13:18-23) out of context. Jesus clearly states the seed represents the Word of God, but the false teachers claim seed is money, which is where they promise a thirty, sixty, or hundredfold return on your investment into their ministry. However, if you look at the net worth of these so-called teachers, it looks they are the ones prospering from those spiritually and financially vulnerable.

During this Coronavirus pandemic, Kenneth Copeland has been out front and center, blowing “the wind of God” on the virus and telling followers to keep tithing, even though they may be out of work. Here is a video which summarizes Copeland’s antics. I don’t own the rights to the video.

These kind of teachings are dangerous because they take advantage of people in their weakest mental, financial, and spiritual states. Early in my faith, I fell victim to doctrines such as these, which were reinforced by the church I was attending at the time. However, as I began to study deeper into Scripture and hear what was really being taught, I turned away from this false doctrine and I pray you do as well if you are caught up in this false doctrine.

These heretics are exactly what Scripture warns us about:

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…” (1 Timothy 4:1, NASB).

“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.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NASB).

Brothers and sisters, it is time we expose these heretics, these clouds without rain, these false teachers for who they are. Read the Bible for yourself. Exercise discernment and throw these snake oil peddlers off to the wayside. Don’t give these people your money, instead, donate it to your local church or a food bank. Above all, let us put aside greed and seek to be a blessing to those around us in these troubled times.God bless you.

Isaiah 26:20, the Coronavirus,and That Day

As the Coronavirus (Covid 19) continues to spread around the world, many local, state, federal, and world governments have issued “stay at home” orders and have encouraged people to self-quarantine or keep their social distance. As with any crisis, many are taking the orders seriously and others continue to go out or have to go out because their job is considered essential.

Of course, the Coronavirus continues to be the main story in the media and on Social Media. It appears for a time the Coronavirus will change the way we live and interact with each other.

However, I have noticed a certain passage of Scripture continuously in my Facebook feed- Isaiah 26:20, which reads:

“Come, my people, enter into your rooms and close your doors behind you; Hide for a little while until indignation has run its course.” (NASB).

While Isaiah 26:20 speaks to our current times and deals with the topics of self-isolation and God’s judgment, what is the larger context?

I’m a firm believer in studying the whole of Scripture to understand the deeper meanings. I’ve never been a believer in taking a single verse and turning it into a doctrine. I began to read Isaiah 26 in its entirety.

Isaiah 26 deals with trusting God in the midst of impending judgment on the wicked. In fact Isaiah 26:1 contains a crucial phrase:

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: ‘We have a strong city; He sets up walls and ramparts for security.” (NASB, emphasis mine).

According to Bible Gateway.com, the phrase “In that day” appears 114 times, scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments. In the Book of Isaiah, the phrase “In that day” appears 43 times, or in 38% of the Scriptures listed.

Isaiah was a prophet whose ministry took place from 740 BC to at least 681 BC. Like many other Old Testament prophets , Isaiah spoke of current day judgments and events far off into the future or “the last days.” The judgments were directed toward Israel, Judah, Assyria, Tyre, Egypt, and others, but they can be important to our study.

I encourage you to study these on your own, but I would like to highlight a handful of verses which seem relevant to the current situation.

Economic collapse:

“In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship.” (Isaiah 2:20, NASB).

The desolation of cities:

“And it will growl over it in that day like the roaring of the sea. If one looks to the land, behold, there is darkness and distress; Even the light is darkened by its clouds.” (Isaiah 5:30, NASB).

Judgment on world leaders:

“So it will happen in that day, that the Lord will punish the host of heaven on high, and the kings of the earth on earth, they will be gathered together like prisoners in the dungeon, and will be confined in prison; And after many days they will be punished.” (Isaiah 24:21-22, NASB).

Though it is easy to get caught up in the gloom and doom of judgment, especially if you are a student of the End Times, God is merciful. Even in the midst of His judgments, God gives us the chance to turn to Him in repentance through faith in Jesus Christ.  Isaiah also gives his listeners and readers the chance to turn to God.

“In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel.” (Isaiah 4:2, NASB).

“Then in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse [Jesus], who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:10, NASB).

“Then you will say on that day: ‘I will give thanks to You, O Lord; For although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song.” (Isaiah 12:1-2, NASB).

Brothers and Sisters, we are certainly living in unprecedented times. There probably been a virus spread this quickly since the influenza epidemic of 1918. We must live cautiously, but do not give into fear. Take care of yourselves and your families. If at all possible, try to help those who are hurting from the fallout of this illness. Show the love of Christ and kindness to those you encounter. God bless.

I Found Peace

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I am at peace. I am at peace with myself. I am at peace with my circumstances. I am at peace with the past and with God.

I didn’t have a mountain top experience nor was it a sudden revelation, I just came to be. A coworker this week mentioned that I have a different look on my face than I had in recent months. I believe my period of mourning has lifted and new life has sprung forth.

I have to say the last six years of my life have been the most difficult I’ve ever experienced. I have detailed these struggles on this blog and I believe this period of darkness inspired some of my best work. If you’re new to the blog, I briefly recap what the last six years has been like- I left a church I had been apart of for fourteen years and the changing spiritual dynamics left me wandering and questioning God. I was hospitalized with anemia,which I found out a year later was caused by Celiac disease. I was laid off from a job, which sent my career in a tailspin. Recurring flare-ups of my Ulcerative Colitis, my nephew’s suicide, my battles with anxiety and depression, and being blindsided by a divorce after eighteen years of marriage.

I was a broken man. My mind, body, and spirit were broken. I felt so hopeless and alone. I know that I wasn’t alone because I had the support of my family and my family of coworkers. I went back to church and joined a men’s group and heard the stories of men who were in my same situation. I sold the house my ex-wife and I built together, which was a burden off of my shoulders and a boost to my mental and financial health.

When I think about my struggles, I’m reminded of two Bible verses, Philippians 4:7 and Romans 8:28. To summarize, Philippians 4:7 discusses a peace that transcends all understanding, while Romans 8:28 talks about how God uses all things to work together for our good. These Scriptures don’t say that everything that happens to us will be good, but we can have a peaceful heart in the worst of times. I memorized Romans 8:28 and Philippians 4:7 when I first became a Christian, but the truth of those verses have really sank into my heart.

At the beginning of the year, I posted about this year being a year of restoration, and it has become that, a period of restoration. Being at peace doesn’t mean that everything has worked out and is resolved like a sitcom, drama or movie. Finding peace means that no matter what happens, you’ll be okay. You’ve made it through previous hard times and you’re going to get through this.

 

Someone Else’s Bible

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Whenever I go to someone’s home, especially for the first time, I tend to look at their book, music, and film collection. I don’t judge them, I’m looking to understand who they are while trying to find common ground. If the conversation gets slow, I can always interject, “Hey, I noticed you’re a big Spielberg fan.”

I decided in recent weeks to find a new Bible translation. I’ve alternated between the King James and New International Version for twenty years, I just wanted something different. I’ve read some of the New American Standard Bible and I thought I would give that a try.

I contacted a large chain of used book stores in my area to save a few bucks and the Bible was shipped from one store to my local store. I picked up the book, paid for it, and walked out of the store. As I took the book home, I began to look through it and saw the Bible was given as a gift to someone. However, it doesn’t appear to have been used.

When it comes to my Bibles, I write in them, I underline, and make side notes. I’ve always tried to use the Bible as a study tool, something to combat the harsh reality of life. I enjoy studying Scripture and these notes serve as good reference.

I don’t know anything about the lady who received the Bible, and I don’t presume to judge. However, I couldn’t but help wonder about her Bible that I bought. Did she not believe? Did she not like the translations? Did she not believe in writing in books? Did she no longer have a relationship with the person who gave her the Bible and it was a reminder of said relationship?

I’m just reminded of how we attach memories to objects. No matter what it is- a Bible, a dish, a painting, we tend to attribute sentimental value to these objects, almost making them sacred idols in the process. In this case though, this Bible is a sacred object because it is God’s Word, but it was treated like it was just a common book- a previous bestseller sold of for a fraction of what was paid for it.

In my case, the Bible someone else didn’t want has become a blessing to me. To the person who owned the Bible before me, I hope you find happiness and fulfillment.

The Politics of Jesus

The Lord Jesus Christ is the most influential figure to have ever lived. From His sacrificial death and resurrection to His teachings, billions of lives have been changed. The principles Jesus taught and exemplified have also been sources for great social and personal change. If our salvation in Christ is supposed to influence every aspect of our lives, how does this influence our political beliefs for the upcoming Presidential election?

In this post, we will examine the politics of Jesus. However, I will not make the Lord out to be a card carrying member of any political party nor will I be pushing for any particular agenda or platform. Also, keep in mind that there are no perfect candidates nor are there any perfect elections. This current election cycle has a lot of people holding on to their affiliation’s ideological extremes, perceiving to vote for the lesser of two evils, or just tuning out in general. But if Christians are to vote along biblical principles, what exactly does the life of Jesus illustrate in this regard?

For an examination of how a Christian is to respond biblically to their government, I would encourage you to check out my post, “A Christian’s Civic Duty.” https://triumphantinchrist.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/a-christians-civic-duty/

When Jesus walked the earth, Israel was a territory of the Roman Empire. However, Jesus’ harshest criticism was not directed at Caesar, but against the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees- the religious leaders of the day. Jesus openly exposed their hypocrisy in placing barriers in front of so many people, while neglecting the teaching of the most important aspects of the Law. Jesus came to earth to die for our sins; He did not seek to start a theocracy. Jesus’ kingdom was as He said, “Not of this world.” Jesus also downplayed the political ramifications of Him being the Messiah. In the Old Testament prophecies, there are no clear distinctions as to the verses that mark the first and second coming of the Messiah. Many people believed the conquering Messiah would come first and overthrow Rome, when the suffering Messiah came first.

Political power can corrupt, but Jesus could not be swayed by the allure of political power. Jesus emphasized devotion to God over allegiance to worldly things and agendas. Jesus crossed cultural barriers, as the Gospels record Him ministering to Gentiles. Jesus also elevated the status of women, as with the examples of the Samaratian woman at the well, the woman with the issue of blood, and the woman who anointed Him with the alabaster jar of perfume. Jesus also welcomed and cared for children.

Jesus also ran social programs, as He feed the hungry, treated the disabled, the sick, and the mentally ill. Jesus believed that we should love and treat each person with dignity and respect. Jesus emphasized blessing (speaking well of) our enemies, or those who seek to criticize us. Jesus broke down social conventions and man-made traditions to reach people with the Gospel or healing. Jesus reached out to those who were cast off by society- prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, the possessed, and other “sinners.” Jesus also taught fulfilling our civic duty and pay taxes to our earthly government. Jesus’s teachings and deeds are vast, and as John put it, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25, KJV).

Who or what you vote for is between you and God. I just want to emphasize that as Christians, we must be spiritually discerning of the things that go on inside and outside of the church. We must not be swayed by false promises or fear-inducing rhetoric. We must no longer demonize our political opponents or those whose life choices are different from ours. Jesus taught us to love and forgive all people as He has loved and forgiven us. As this election nears, let us all pray for God’s will to be done and that He would give us the wisdom to go forward. God bless you all.

The Emphasis of Healing in the New Testament

In the previous post, “Healing in the Old Testament,” the subject of healing was discussed from the perspective of Israel’s constant backsliding and rebellion against God. The Lord, through His prophets, spoke of Israel’s sin as a terrible wound or incurable disease, which served as a metaphor for Israel’s spiritual state. The four gospels and the Book of Acts, discuss the healing ministries of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles. Healing is a controversial subject in the Church and brings up a lot of questions, such as “Is healing for today?” “Is healing in the atonement?” and “Why don’t we see miracles today?”

I believe the spiritual gifts are for today. I believe that if God in His sovereignty chooses to heal a person, He will heal them, whether through supernatural or natural means. Gifts of healings are mentioned in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12:9 and 12:30). However, the spiritual gifts are bestowed upon believers as deemed by the Holy Spirit. Thus, not every believer will be gifted with the gift of healing nor will every church flow in the gift of healing. After studying healing in the New Testament, there are certain principles that must be understood.

The Word must first be preached

The gospels and Acts show that Jesus and the Apostles first preached the Gospel before healing took place.

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” (Matthew 4:23, KJV).

“And they [the Disciples] went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” (Mark 6:12-13, KJV, brackets mine).

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19, KJV).

“The Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many were taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.” (Acts 8:5-7, KJV).

Salvation must be emphasized before healing

Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:3-12, and Luke 5:16-26 all tell a story of a paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus. The first thing Jesus said to the man was that his sins were forgiven. Of course, this caused a stir with the religious leaders who witnessed the event. Neither the paralyzed man nor his friends made any comment concerning his spiritual condition. However, Jesus being God in the flesh, saw the man’s need for forgiveness and salvation as more important than his physical healing. Jesus also healed the paralyzed man and he walked away from the gathering. As believers, we must always keep in mind that God is more concerned about our long-term spiritual growth than our short-term comforts. There are times believers will struggle with a sickness, disease, or affliction, and may not receive physical healing. God can use these difficult times to draw us closer to Him and teach us to rely on Him. Just like the paralyzed man, Christ wants us to know that our sins are forgiven, for that alone God is worthy to be praised. Multiple New Testament writers wrote about the healing that comes when we confess our sins and accept Christ as Lord and Savior.

“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as they soul prospereth.” (3 John 2, KJV).

“Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:14-16, KJV).

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps…Who his own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:21, 24, KJV).

The Word must be put into action

As the Church, it is important that we study the Word of God to show ourselves approved of God and teach the truth (2 Timothy 2:15). It is doubly important to put the Word into action. Just as Paul emphasized to the Philippian church, we must apply and share what we have been taught. At various times during His ministry, Jesus sent out His Disciples and gave them authority to preach the Word and heal sicknesses, thus the Disciples applied what they learned. Jesus is the Living Word who came to bring salvation and freedom to all people in all nations. Maybe one of the reasons the Church in the United States does not see miracles take place because we are not correctly studying the Word, not properly representing Christ, or not putting the Word into action. Miracles, however, are taking place all over the world. From my own personal experience, when I went on a missions trip to Thailand and saw many mighty miracles and tens of thousands come to Christ because Jesus was declared as the way to salvation and signs and wonders followed the message. In New Testament times, the miracles took place to validate the ministries of Jesus and the Apostles, spreading the Gospel all around the world. I believe the same thing can happen for the Church in these last days and cause the reaping of a great harvest.

Healing in the Old Testament

The subject of healing is a controversial topic. Some churches teach that healing and the other spiritual gifts are for today, while others teach that the gifts ended with the death of the Apostles. To those outside of the Church, the word healing may bring to mind images disgraced televangelists with their theatrics and “miracle” products such as oils and cloths. I believe that God in His sovereignty can heal someone supernaturally or through modern medicine- instantly or over time. It may also be God’s will for someone not to be healed, which could result in death or lifelong illness. We as mere people cannot begin to understand the ways and thoughts of God because His ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). The purpose of this post is to simply show what the Bible teaches on the subject of healing. More specifically, this post will examine healing in the Old Testament. 

Our Relationship with God and His Word

Before we go any further, let me state that not all physical sickness is a direct result of sin. Though sickness came into the world because of sin, not everybody is sick because they sinned. As we know from modern science and medicine that sicknesses are caused by germs, bacteria, and viruses. There are also genetic and environmental factors that can play a role in sickness. People may also be afflicted with sickness so they glory of God can be revealed (John 9:1-3).  However, all of us are sick with the sickness of sin. God has sent us the cure for our sin sickness when His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross. Once we accept Christ as Savior, we come into relationship with God. The best way to get to know God is through His Word. Though we may not be able to avoid all germs, bacteria, and viruses, we can avoid major problems if we study the Word of God. For example, if we study what the Word says about sex outside of marriage, gluttony, drunkenness, etc., we can avoid health problems that are associated with such sins. What does the Bible say about God’s Word and our spiritual and physical health?

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5, NKJV).

“He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (Psalm 107:20, NKJV).

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:6-8, NKJV).

“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.” (Proverbs 4:20-22, NKJV).

The Hebrew word used the most to describe healing is the word Raphah (Strong’s #7495), which means to heal or restore to normal. Of course there are examples in the Old Testament of people who were healed and even raised from the dead, but we will focus on the relationship between Israel and God.

Sickness and the Spiritual Condition of Israel

Throughout the Old Testament, especially in the Prophets, Israel’s constant backsliding and rebellion towards God is compared with an incurable sickness.

“Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Indeed we do come to You, for You are the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 3:22, NKJV).

“For thus says the Lord: ‘Your affliction is incurable, your wound is severe. There is no one to plead your cause that you may be bound up; you have no healing medicines. All your lovers have forgotten you; they do not seek you; for I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of your iniquities, because your sins have increased.’” (Jeremiah 30:13-14, NKJV).

“Your injury has no healing, your wound is severe. All who hear news of you will clap their hands over you, for upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually? (Nahum 3:19, NKJV).

God’s Desire to Restore Israel

Through sending His word to the prophets, God desired for Israel to repent of their sins, just as He desires for us to repent of our sins and accept Christ.

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV).

“’Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured; and all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; those who plunder you shall become plunder, and all who prey upon you I will make a prey. For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds, says the Lord, ‘Because they called you an outcast saying: ‘this is Zion; no one seeks her.’” (Jeremiah 30:16-17, NKJV).

The Messiah

God’s ultimate healing for the sickness of sin for Israel and all of the world was to send His Only begotten Son, the Messiah Jesus Christ into the world. The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the day of Christ because of the healing and restoration.

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5, NKJV).

“Come, and let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.” (Hosea 6:1-2, NKJV).

“But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings…” (Malachi 4:2a, NKJV).

Though we will battle physical bouts of physical sickness while we are in these bodies and in this sin-stricken world, we must make sure that are spiritual health is in order by allowing the sacrifice and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ to heal us of our sins. Grace and peace to you all.