Category Archives: Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series

Non-Denominational Church and Beliefs

With each denomination and each non-denomination usually a person started the movement. This question really has several answers, and they can be either simple or complex. The simplest answer is that a non-denominational church is any church which is not part of a larger denomination. A denomination is a church organization that exercises some sort of authority over the local churches that comprise it. Or a denominational church is a large organization of churches that fall under one single authority (the head church), with a strong culture and rich history that they’re all connected to.  Examples of denominations are Southern Baptist, Episcopal, Wesleyan, Methodist, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians etc. Non-denominational churches go by many different names and hold to a wide variety of beliefs. A non-denominational church usually means a new church organization that does not fall under any of the mainline churches.

Why do some churches choose to be non-denominational? Though the answers will vary somewhat, a major consideration is the freedom to direct the ministry and teaching of the local church without interference or control from without. When we look to the Bible, the evidence points to each church as self-governing and answerable directly to God Himself. In the book of Acts, where we read of the first missionary journeys and the establishment of many churches, there is no indication of a hierarchy of authority beyond the local elders of the church. Some people point to the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 as a pattern for denominational structure, but it is nothing of the sort. The Gentiles had been given the gospel under the ministry of Paul and Barnabas, by the direct authority of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2; 15:7). The churches established in that first journey were left under the care of elders (Acts 14:23) from their own ranks, after having been taught by Paul and Barnabas. When the council was called at Jerusalem, it was not because of any question of organizational structure or control, but to discuss doctrinal matters about what constitutes salvation (Acts 15:5-6). The apostles who had been directly commissioned by Jesus were the only people who could properly address the question authoritatively.

When a church is non-denominational, does that mean it has no need of other churches? That may be the belief of some, but it is certainly not the example we find in Scripture. The book of Acts and the New Testament Epistles make it clear that the churches communicated with one another regularly. As Paul and his companions made their missionary journeys, it was not uncommon for the believers to send letters to the other churches (Acts 18:27), or to greet one another through his letters (Romans 16:16). Likewise, when there was a great need, the churches worked interdependently to meet that need-for example, the collection for the famine in Jerusalem (Acts 11:29; 2 Corinthians 8:4). The various churches of the New Testament, though independent, self-governing bodies, were definitely connected in fellowship and cooperative ministry, giving us an example to follow today.

The measure of any church, whether inside or out of a denomination, is not how it is organized nor what name it is called, but rather how faithfully it adheres to the teachings of the Word of God. No church is inerrant, because churches are made of people who are capable of error. Even the apostles, with all the gifts God gave them, were not without error. Paul records in Galatians 2:11 that “when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” Peter, the first to give the gospel to a Gentile, gave in to pressure by the Judaizers to separate himself from Gentile believers. Paul’s ability to confront Peter was not based on his position as an apostle, but on the revealed truth of God’s Word. Paul complimented the believers in Berea (Acts 17:11) for checking his own teaching against the Bible to find out if he was telling them straight doctrine.

All believers need to be like the Bereans, checking what we are taught against the Word of God to find out if those things are so. If our church is out of line with God’s Word, we must lovingly, patiently give instruction or correction. If it will not be corrected, then we should seek out a church that is faithfully obeying God’s Word.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series, House of the Nazarene's Posts

Evangelical Free church (EFCA)

Evangelical Free church (EFCA) had it’s beginnings in 1950, the Evangelical Free Church of America (Swedish) and the Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Free Church Association combined to form the Evangelical Free Church of America. Churches often shorten their affiliation to “EFCA “, “EvFree” or “E-Free.”

The “evangelical” of Evangelical Free reflects the assertions that the scriptures are the inerrant word of God, people are born into a sinful condition, and Salvation comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as a commitment to spreading these beliefs. They also believe in the premillennial return of Christ, the bodily resurrection of the dead, and the celebration of water baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

The “free” means that EFCA churches are congregational in governance. Each church is governed and financially supported by its own members. This is as opposed to being ruled by a presbyter, or board of elders, or an episcopate, which is a central leader over several churches. Although EFCA churches typically have a senior pastor and a board of elders, the pastors and elders receive their authority by the vote of the congregation.

Local churches may be involved in regional ministries with churches of other denominations. The EFCA also supports the reconciliation program Samaritan Way, and the national and international missions programs ReachNational and ReachGlobal. Chuck Swindoll was ordained as an Evangelical Free pastor, and his ministry Insight for Living began as a radio broadcast of his messages at the First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California.

The EFCA only ordains men to be pastors. Baptism is generally not required for communion or membership into the church. Although the EFCA supports many ministries, they do not emphasize secular political involvement. Personal responsibility and holiness are stressed over adherence to strict behavioral guidelines. The church is inclusive; that is, salvation is through faith in Christ alone, and church membership is not dependent on acceptance of minor issues. The association takes no stance on Calvinism vs. Arminianism, worship style, or spiritual gifts. Music styles vary from full choir and orchestra to guitar-based worship teams. Preaching varies from verse-by-verse exegesis to topical messages with illustrations-sometimes in the same church.

In the face of downward trends in church attendance, the EFCA has held its own. The number of congregations has nearly doubled in the last thirty years (to 1,480), and attendance has more than tripled (to 350,000). In the last decade, both congregation numbers and members have seen modest increases. The headquarters of the EFCA is in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The association is divided into eighteen districts. Although most E-Free churches are concentrated in the Midwest, California has the greatest number.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series, House of the Nazarene's Posts

Messianic Judaism

Messianic Judaism or Messianic Believer is the term given to Jewish people who believe and have accepted Yeshua (the Hebrew name for Jesus) of Nazareth as the promised Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures. These Jewish people do not stop being Jewish, but they continue to remain strong in their Jewish identity, lifestyle and culture, while following Yeshua as He is revealed in the Brit Chadashah, the New Covenant. Many Messianic Jews refer to themselves as “completed Jews,” since they believe that their faith in the God of Israel has been “completed” or fulfilled in Yeshua.

In reality, Messianic Judaism began 2,000 years ago. Yeshua Himself was an observant Jew, most of the Apostles and writers of the New Covenant were Jewish, and the vast majority of the early believers in Yeshua were also Jewish (see Acts chapter 2).

Traditional rabbinical Judaism today does not believe that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah. Observant Jews are still waiting faithfully in accordance with the Rambam’s (Rabbi Moses Maimonides, 1134-1204) “Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith,” which states in Principle 12, “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. However long it takes, I will await His coming every day.” Most secular Jews do not believe in the physical coming of a personal Messiah, but some still look forward to a general Messianic concept or Messianic Age.

Today, it is estimated that there are over 350,000 Messianic Jews in the world, and the numbers are growing all the time. Messianic synagogues have also become very popular, and recent estimates number more than 200 congregations in this country. There are also many Messianic congregations in Israel and around the world.

Messianic Jews continue to celebrate the Jewish festivals and feast days as prescribed in the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e., Passover, Day of Atonement, etc.) but they do it in a way that demonstrates how Yeshua has already fulfilled these Holy Days. Most Messianic Jews do not celebrate Christmas or Easter, since neither holiday is mentioned in the New Covenant. Jews who now follow Yeshua the Messiah understand that everything given in the Old Covenant was a “mere shadow” of the better things to come in the New.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series, House of the Nazarene's Posts

Universal Salvation Biblical

Universalism is the belief that everyone will be saved. There are many people today who hold to universal salvation and believe that all people eventually end up in heaven. Perhaps it is the thought of men and women living a life of eternal torment in hell that causes some to reject the teaching of Scripture on this issue. For some it is an over-emphasis on the love and compassion of God and the neglect of the righteousness and justice of God that leads them to believe God will have mercy on every living soul. But the Scriptures do teach that some people will spend eternity in hell.

First of all, the Bible is clear that unredeemed men will dwell forever in hell. Jesus own words confirm that the time spent in heaven for the redeemed will last as long as that of the unredeemed in hell. Matthew 25:46 says, “Then they [the unsaved] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” According to this verse, the punishment of the unsaved is just as eternal as the life of the righteous. Some believe that those in hell will eventually cease to exist, but the Lord Himself confirms that it will last forever. Matthew 25:41 and Mark 9:44 describe hell as “eternal fire” and “unquenchable fire.”

How does one avoid this unquenchable fire? Many people believe that all roads all religions and beliefs lead to heaven, or they consider that God is so full of love and mercy that He will allow all people into heaven. God is certainly full of love and mercy, it was these qualities that led Him to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die on the cross for us. Jesus Christ is the exclusive door that leads to an eternity in heaven. Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” If we choose to reject God’s Son, we do not meet the requirements for salvation (John 3:16, 18, 36).

UniversalismWith verses such as these, it becomes clear that universalism and universal salvation are unbiblical beliefs. Universalism directly contradicts what Scripture teaches. While many people accuse Christians of being intolerant and “exclusive,” it is important to remember that these are the words of Christ Himself. Christians did not develop these ideas on their own, Christians are simply stating what the Lord has already said. People choose to reject the message because they do not want to face up to their sin and admit that they need the Lord to save them. To say that those who reject God’s provision of salvation through His Son will be saved is to belittle the holiness and justice of God and negate the need of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series, House of the Nazarene's Posts

China’s Cult Crackdown: What Is The Church Of Almighty God?

In China’s latest attempt to crack down on religious cults, 21 members of the banned Church of Almighty God were given jail terms, state media said Wednesday. The group was blamed for the death of a 37-year-old woman who was beaten to death at a McDonald’s after she refused to give her phone number to members who tried to recruit her.

Two of the four members in that case were sentenced to death in October. Two of the individuals sentenced on Wednesday have been given seven- and four-year prison terms for “organizing and using the cult to damage law enforcement,” Shanghai Daily reports. The men, identified as Zhang Shuzhi and Geng Yuqin, were sentenced at a court in China’s northeastern Liaoning province.

Police arrested them in July after reportedly finding memory cards and books that contained information on the cult’s teachings. The court also found the two men recruited new members as well.

The remaining 19 members received prison sentences between two and six years in neighboring Jilin province. The city of Yanji has reportedly been cracking down on the cult, Xinhua reports.

Religion in China

While the Chinese government allows Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and Catholic and Protestant Christianity to be practiced, the groups must be affiliated with a government organization called the State Administration for Religious Affairs. However, millions attend “house churches” and follow other unsanctioned religious organizations.

The Church of Almighty God (also known as Eastern Lightning) is among the 14 religious groups the Chinese government has labeled an “evil cult.” These organizations face strict scrutiny since some have been known to cause unrest. For instance, the Taiping Rebellion of the mid-19th century that resulted in 20 million deaths, was started by a man who believed he was the younger brother of Jesus.

Church of Almighty God

Up to a million members across China follow the Church of Almighty God since its founding in 1989. Most are in rural areas. Its members believe that God has returned to Earth as a woman named Yang Xiangbin, who will guide mankind for the third and last time. China’s Communist Party is called “the Great Red Dragon,” whose growth triggers the end of the world. Previously, the cult pushed the doomsday belief that the apocalypse would take place on Dec. 21, 2012. At the time nearly 1,000 members were arrested for handing out apocalyptic pamphlets.

According to a 2014 report by China’s People Daily, members who attract more converts gain a higher status within the cult. Tactics include missionary work where nonmembers are enticed with money, gifts and sexual favors. A member receives 20,000 yuan ($3,237) for every new person they convert. New members are encouraged to purchase religious materials and pay 2,000 yuan ($323) in membership fees. They are told they will be punished if they leave the faith.

Latest Crackdown

To date, the group has been associated with several crimes. In 1998, eight violent riots have taken place in Henan province. In 2010, an elementary school student was murdered after his uncle tried to leave the cult. In 2012, a 36-year-old man went on a stabbing spree in Chenpeng village where 22 students and one elderly woman were injured.

Liu Ling is a Peking University graduate student who has been studying the Church of Almighty God for two years as part of her thesis work. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in June, she explained that while she has read media reports about the group’s violent attacks, she has been unable to verify they took place. She has interviewed relatives of cult members who say they have had their windows smashed and fires set in their yards as an effort to force them to join the group — but nothing as violent as the McDonald’s murder that took place in May.

In wake of that incident, Chinese authorities have intensified efforts to find Almighty God members and arrest them. So far, about 1,500 members have been arrested. Some have been in custody since 2012, the New York Times reports. For some, the crackdown is reminiscent of what took place in 1999 when members of the quasi-spiritual movement known as Falun Gong were jailed after 10,000 members peacefully demonstrated outside the government’s central compound.

Today, banners are seen in public spaces across China urging people to, “Believe in science, create culture, make great efforts against evil cults.”

Propaganda material against the Church of Almighty God fills a public bulletin board in a residential neighborhood to east of Guozijian, Beijing, 2014

Propaganda material against the Church of Almighty God fills a public bulletin board in a residential neighborhood to east of Guozijian, Beijing, 2014

“I think it’s more visible. After the Falun Gong, there was a wave of this kind of propaganda,” Nanlai Cao, associate professor in religious studies at the People’s University of China in Beijing, told the Los Angeles Times. “The past five years, I don’t think it was very visible, but now I think it’s a big issue and has become a top priority for government officials.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series, House of the Nazarene's Posts

Church of Almighty God

Deceived by the Lightning

Christians in mainland China’s “underground” house churches have faced persecution from the country’s Communist government for years. They now face another threat from one of the mainland’s largest cults, which frequently uses deception and coercion to gain converts from among house churches.

The cult calls itself “The Church of Almighty God.” The Chinese government refers to it as the “Real God” cult. Chinese Christians call it “Eastern Lightning.” Its followers believe that Jesus has returned in the form of a Chinese woman, like “lightning that comes from the east,” according to the description of His second coming in Matthew 24:27.

Its official name is the Church of Almighty God (Chinese: 全能神教会; pinyin: Quánnéng Shén Jiàohuì), but it is known by many names, prominently also as Church of the Gospel’s Kingdom (国度福音教会; Guódù fúyīn jiàohuì). The group has been described as a cult and a terrorist organization.

Estimates of the group’s size vary. A November 2001 Time magazine article titled “Jesus is Back, and She’s Chinese” said followers numbered themselves at 300,000, although observers estimated only tens of thousands. A 2002 report produced by the Center for Religious Freedom, which contained copies of seven confidential documents from a Chinese government report on religious cults, said that the group had active organizations in more than 10 provinces and cities and was deceiving thousands. China For Jesus, a Christian mission organization, estimates that the cult has more than a million members in 20 provinces. Fear of government persecution has driven religious groups in China underground, making an accurate head count of any group’s followers virtually impossible.

According to the secret security documents, the public security minister, Jia Chunwang, called for increased action against the cult, saying, “We need to work more, talk less to smash the cult quietly.” Security officials are concerned by the cult’s declaration that China is the Great Red Dragon of the book of Revelation who faces destruction. Beijing police arrested more than 2,000 followers of the cult prior to 2002, but they were not able to destroy the group.

Scores of first-hand accounts received by Christian organizations working in China confirm the devastating effect that the Eastern Lightning cult is having on the house churches. A report titled “When China’s Christians Wish They Were in Prison,” by Paul Hattaway, director of the mission organization Asia Harvest, contains accounts of Christians being deceived, kidnapped, brainwashed, beaten, poisoned, and blackmailed by the cult. One worker in northwest China told Hattaway that the Chinese house churches that usually experience phenomenal growth had been declining due to the cult’s activities. He explained, “In the past year many of our leaders were targeted by the Eastern Lightning cult. Some were attracted by their financial inducements and joined them. Later, when they discovered what they’d joined was not biblical, they were not permitted to leave. Dozens of our believers are missing, dozens more crippled. Some who have managed to escape the cult’s clutches are in hiding, fearing for their lives. At least two of our people have been murdered. Others have simply vanished.”

In April 2002, Eastern Lightning members kidnapped 34 leaders of the China Gospel Fellowship, a network of house churches. Cult members posing as representatives of Haggai Institute, a leadership training school in China, lured the leaders to attend a seminar where they were separated and held against their will. One woman managed to escape and alert the police. By June all the others had escaped or were released, although some who were drugged while being held captive continued to suffer physically.

Invisible Lightning. There are a several versions of the cult’s history. A number of Christian organizations cite the Time magazine article and the seven secret security documents that say that the cult was founded in 1989 by a man named Zhao Weishan, a former member of a Christian sect called the Shouters. Weishan proclaimed that Jesus had returned in the form of a 30-year-old, plain-looking Chinese peasant woman named Deng from the province of Henan. This teaching is based on revelation that Weishan claims he received from God regarding Matthew 24:27. Asia Harvest reports that in 2000 Weishan was granted refugee status in the United States, where he continues to run the cult’s activities in China. The report does not cite the source of this information.

Reports from other missions organizations do not mention Weishan as the founder but say, rather, that the woman Deng set herself up as the “female Christ.” Several Chinese Christians who regularly visit the mainland and are familiar with the cult told the Christian Research Journal that although they had heard of Deng, they had not heard of Weishan. Chinese sources favor the theory that Deng hides herself, while Weishan runs the cult’s operations.

An article dated January 2004 on one of the cult’s Web sites (www.hidden-advent.org), however, denies as “rumor” the reports that Almighty God’s Church believes in “a woman with the surname Deng who was once possessed by a demon in Zheng Zhou of Henan province.” The article explains, “Actually, the place of birth and location where God became flesh is not in Henan province at all. Furthermore, the surname is not Deng.” The article does not, however, identify someone other than Deng as the Christ; rather, it explains why “the flesh of the Almighty God” could not be demon possessed. The fact that no one has ever seen or photographed the woman they call the “female Christ” makes her identity or even her existence difficult to confirm.

The Second Incarnation. The group believes that the Bible is out-of-date and that those who limit God’s revelation to just the Bible are like the Pharisees who held on to the Old Testament and rejected Christ. Followers are told to give up the truth of the past and build their foundation on the Holy Spirit’s word for today: the writings of the “female Christ,” which are “God’s new word.”

The cult has published numerous books, including The Word Becomes Flesh and The Lightning Comes from the East, and distributed hundreds of thousands of copies in China. Two of the books that are distributed among Chinese churches in America are titled The Holy Spirit Speaks to All the Churches and God’s Work through His Secret Appearing. The content in these books is nearly identical. Much of it is written in first person, as if by their “female Christ,” and is terse and threatening.

The “female Christ” states that Jesus was God’s first incarnation, but that He did not complete His work; therefore, God needed to come again to finish the work, this time as a woman. This “appearing” ends the previous age and begins a new age in God’s six-thousand-year plan to save all humanity.

God’s plan, she says, has three ages (creation, salvation, and destruction) and three dispensations (law, redemption, and kingdom). She claims that she comes for the kingdom dispensation and therefore her work is judgment.

Her books are filled with explicit and horrific pronouncements of damnation and judgment on unbelievers. The only sin is not to accept her as the Christ, she says, and salvation is possible only by following her. She states that “God is inhumanly cruel” and she admits that she hates humankind.

She teaches that Christ died for our sins, but denies that He rose again physically. She ardently opposes the concept of the second coming of Jesus and tells followers not to wait for a “white cloud descension.”

The “female Christ” doesn’t prove her divinity to potential believers by healing the sick, casting out demons, or performing miracles; instead, she uses threats and intimidation to persuade converts. She says that she will punish or slay those who repudiate her, and even their family members will meet with misfortune. Another of the cult’s Web sites (www.godword.org) lists 887 cases in which people allegedly died of sickness, accident, or unknown causes after rejecting the cult’s evangelistic efforts.

The cult demands complete obedience and sacrifice. Adherents must turn their material possessions over to the organization and follow orders, otherwise they will be punished. They are urged to leave their families, to live in a commune, and to spread the message of the “female Christ.”

Spying and Paving the Way. The cult is known for its deceptive evangelization practices. An article in Tianfeng, the magazine of the Chinese government–controlled Three Self Patriotic Church, says the cult entices people with money or gifts, but will turn to violence or even murder if a person accepts their gifts but fails to join.

A report from China for Jesus describes four stages of strategy that the cult has used. The first stage was simply to send books and money to Christian preachers. In the second stage they adopted aggressive tactics, including violence and coercion. In the third stage they used sexual temptation and entrapment as a means of blackmailing prospects.

The fourth stage is called “spying and paving the way,” the name the cult gives to their process of infiltrating a house church. Followers are instructed to mingle with church members in order to identify those who are strong Christians and core members of the church. Likely targets are those who arrive before a church meeting and stay after, and who can look up Bible passages efficiently. Cult members will try to befriend such people and to act like sincere truth seekers in order to gain their trust. Once the infiltrators have successfully “spied” these people, they begin to “pave the way” by asking questions to shake the Christian believer’s faith. They may invite the believer to a “Bible study,” for example, where instead of studying the Bible they badger the believer with questions such as, “Where is heaven? Is it on earth?” Or they will question the concept of the rapture of the church, a doctrine the cult ardently denies. Ultimately, they turn to preaching their message, which is the second incarnation of God. The author of the China for Jesus report predicted that they will begin to use an unknown fifth strategy now that this latest one has been exposed in recent years.

The cult denies that Almighty God’s Church kidnaps people and forces them to accept its message. An article on one of their Web sites (www.hidden-advent.org) states that regulations instruct followers not to pressure those who are not willing to believe in God, because the church doesn’t want “worthless” members who do not really believe. The article claims that in 1999 alone the church dismissed 70 to 80 thousand people “who were guilty of misconduct and disobedience to the church’s regulations.”

Eastern Lightning prefers to target orthodox Christian house churches rather than fringe or heretical groups. According to the cult’s own internal instructions, they are not to evangelize those who do not worship Jesus alone and do not study the Bible, such as Buddhists, Taoists, and Muslims, as well as many Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics in China. Non-Christians and even family members of Eastern Lightning followers are also excluded from being evangelized.

Church of Almighty God

Church of Almighty God

A book about heresies in mainland China, published in Taiwan by the Christian and China Research Center, contains the testimony of a Chinese house church member who escaped the cult. He says that the cult never acts in the open, but that their activities are always covert and organized. “Wherever they go, they destroy and scatter that church with incredible speed and unmatched means.”

Even though the central Chinese government denounces the cult, some Chinese Christians view the cult’s behavior and financial strength as indications that it is being supported by individual local Communist officials who are seeking to disrupt and destroy house churches. Other Chinese Christians see the cult as satanic and believe that the Satanic church in America is behind it.

Global Vision. The message of the “female Christ” of Eastern Lightning resembles that of Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church. Moon came to America in 1971 claiming that Christ had not completed His mission, and in 1992 he declared he and his wife to be the Messiah, the True Parents, who would usher in a “Completed Testament” age of world peace.

The “female Christ” declares that her appearance as the new Messiah ushers in the last stage of God’s plan. On one of the cult’s Web sites (www.hidden-advent.org) she confirms that its work has already expanded beyond the borders of China: “At the present time, the work is one of conquering the deeply corrupt people in the nations. Moreover, it is not merely a work of guiding people in China, but one of guiding the entire universe. You now only see the work being done in China, but actually it has already started to extend overseas.”

In a 2001 article titled “Lightning from the East” in the China Insight Newsletter, researcher Tony Lambert reported that the cult now has centers in New York and Toronto. The Journal has received reports from Christians in Paris and Amsterdam that the cult has reached Europe as well. Sources in the West have reported that the cult has been distributing books, tracts, and CDs through the Internet and in the parking lots of Chinese churches. It has also advertised a paid position to translate their books into English.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series

Mormon Church Releases First Photos Of The Stone Joseph Smith Used To Translate The Book Of Mormon

Mormon Church Releases First Photos Of The Stone Joseph Smith Used To Translate The Book Of Mormon

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”Galatians 1:6-8 (KJV)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Joseph Smith started Mormonism, in violation of the book of Galatians, with the fairy tale of an angel named Moron-i, golden plates and a magic stone that made words magically appear. This is where their “bible” came from. Now the Mormon Church believes that by showing you that stone, they will get the credibility they crave. 

The Mormon church‘s push toward transparency about its roots and beliefs took another step forward Tuesday with the first published pictures of a small sacred stone it believes founder Joseph Smith used to help translate a story that became the basis of the religion.

BEHOLD THE MAGIC STONE THAT CREATED MORMONISM, In an attempt to be more transparent, the LDS Church released pictures of the stone said to have been used by founder Joseph Smith to transcribe the Book of Mormon

The pictures of the smooth, brown, egg-sized rock are part of a new book that also contains photos of the first printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon. Officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unveiled the photos at a news conference in Salt Lake City.

The religion’s drive in recent years to open its vaults and clarify sensitive beliefs is aimed at filling a void on the Internet for accurate information as curiosity and scrutiny increased as church membership tripled over the last three decades, Mormon scholars said.

Church historian Steven E. Snow acknowledged that dynamic, saying: “The Internet brings both challenge and opportunities. We’re grateful for the opportunity to share much of collection through the use of the Internet.”

The church’s campaign seems aimed at preventing current members from leaving and showing non-Mormons that they aren’t hiding anything, said Terryl Givens, professor of literature and religion and the James Bostwick chair of English at the University of Richmond.

As an American-born religion much younger than most world religions, the origins of Mormonism have come under greater scrutiny and put pressure on the church to prove their stories, Givens said.

“The other churches’ origins are concealed by the mist of history,” Givens said. “Mormonism is the first world religion in which the origins were exposed to public view, to documentation, to journalists and newspaper reporting.”

The pictures in the new book show different angles of a stone that is dark brown with lighter brown swirls. The photos also show a weathered leather pouch where the stone was stored that is believed to be made by one of Joseph Smith’s wives, Emma Smith.

LDS Seer Stone

LDS Seer Stone

The church has always possessed the stone, which was transported across the country during Mormon pioneers’ trek from Illinois to Utah in the mid-1800s, but it decided to publish the photos now to allow people who prefer visuals to words to better understand the religion’s roots, said Richard Turley, assistant church historian. The stone will remain in the vault.

“The picture brings a kind of tangibility to something that has been previously been talked about just in words,” Turley said. “That helps people connect with the past. We’ve discovered that artifacts and historical sites are a way to give a sense of reality to things that are otherwise somewhat ethereal.”

Mormons believe that 185 years ago, Smith found gold plates engraved with writing in ancient Egyptian in upstate New York. They say that God helped him translate the text using the stone and other tools, which became known as the Book of Mormon.

The manuscript in the new book actually belongs to the Community of Christ, a faith that was created by early Mormons who stayed behind when most of the religion moved out West to Utah. A Community of Christ leader joined LDS officials at the press event Tuesday in what both said demonstrated the two faiths have moved on from past squabbles.

The publication of the pictures of the stone are important because some speculated the stones were buried in the archives and never to be seen, said Richard Bushman, a Mormon historian and emeritus professor at Columbia University. They probably won’t persuade non-believers who don’t buy the story, but they offer another indication the church is moving toward opening up, he said.

The church has been releasing books containing historical documents that shed light on how Smith formed the church. The religion also has issued a series of in-depth articles that explain or clarify some of the more sensitive parts of its history that it once sidestepped, such as the faith’s past ban on black men in the lay clergy and its early history of polygamy.

The church paid a price for its past decisions to stay silent on topics or keep key artifacts in the vault, Bushman said.

“Their faithful members would stumble on information on the Internet. Not having heard about them, they were shocked and disillusioned,” Bushman said. “They felt they had been lied to and got pretty angry.”

Today the church is taking a new approach, by saying, “We can face up to the facts. We don’t have to make the picture prettier than it is,” Bushman said.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series, House of the Nazarene's Posts

JEHOVAH`S WITNESSES (Part 3)

Sermon Series: Christianity and World Religions Part 17, (Continue)

Welcome Church,
I continue the series of messages on Christianity and world religions. Today I will discuss JEHOVAH`S WITNESSES and as is the case in all of these sermons—I want to make this disclaimer. I am not an expert in this religion—this is only a summary of my study and research in this area.
Again before we dive into the material, I want to say something about the nature of this second part of the series as with the rest. My purpose in this message is to help us to be as wise as serpents and yet as gentle as doves about the happenings around us these days.

One time in the O.T. King David was assessing the strengths of the people he had with him. And in I Chronicles 12:32 it says this. It says he had with him, “men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do…” – I Chronicles 12:32

That’s what we want to be. People who understand the times we’re living in so we can be responsive and productive members of God’s kingdom.

Another time, in the N.T., the Apostle Paul told first century Christ-followers that they too should be very clear and mature in their thinking and understanding of the events happening around them. He said, “Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” – 1 Corinthians 14:20

In other words, like Jesus, he’s saying, “Be informed. Don’t stick your head in the sand and think circumstances will go away. Do not become ugly or hate-filled, be innocent of evil. But be informed.”

As with last Sermon, I want to remind you of our spirit in this series. The purpose for spending time on this is not so we can worry or get angry or figure out how to get revenge, but to be informed so that we can be wise as serpents, gentle as doves. So that we can see things in their proper perspective and respond with the gentleness of Jesus.

So that’s our purpose. To be informed so that we can respond gently, but wisely to our world and its present horrors.

Are we all clear on that?

Okay.

Starting from where we left off:

The cult sect known today as the Jehovah’s Witnesses started out in Pennsylvania in 1870 as a Bible class led by Charles Taze Russell. Russell named his group the “Millennial Dawn Bible Study.”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”John 1:1 (KJV)

Charles T. Russell began writing a series of books he called “The Millennial Dawn,” which stretched to six volumes before his death and contained much of the theology Jehovah’s Witnesses now hold. After Russell’s death in 1916, Judge J. F. Rutherford, Russell’s friend and successor, wrote the seventh and final volume of the “Millennial Dawn” series, “The Finished Mystery,” in 1917. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was founded in 1886 and quickly became the vehicle through which the “Millennial Dawn” movement began distributing their views to others. The group was known as the “Russellites” until 1931 when, due to a split in the organization, it was renamed the “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The group from which it split became known as the “Bible students.”

What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe?

Close scrutiny of their doctrinal position on such subjects as the deity of Christ, salvation, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and the atonement shows beyond a doubt that they do not hold to orthodox Christian positions on these subjects. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is Michael the archangel, the highest created being.

This contradicts many Scriptures which clearly declare Jesus to be God (John 1:1,14, 8:58, 10:30). Jehovah’s Witnesses believe salvation is obtained by a combination of faith, good works, and obedience. This contradicts countless scriptures which declare salvation to be received by grace through faith (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the Trinity, believing Jesus to be a created being and the Holy Spirit to essentially be the inanimate power of God. Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the concept of Christ’s substitutionary atonement and instead hold to a ransom theory, that Jesus’ death was a ransom payment for Adam’s sin.

The Truth is: Jesus Is Lord, Jesus Is God.
Part of the Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit! Jesus Christ the son of God Almighty!

So How do the Jehovah’s Witnesses justify their un-biblical doctrines?

First, they claim that the church has corrupted the Bible over the centuries; thus, they have re-translated the Bible into what they call the New World Translation. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society altered the text of the Bible to make it fit their false doctrine, rather than basing their doctrine on what the Bible actually teaches. The New World Translation has gone through numerous editions, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses discover more and more Scriptures that contradict their doctrines.

“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” Titus 2:13 (KJV)

The Watchtower bases its beliefs and doctrines on the original and expanded teachings of Charles Taze Russell, Judge Joseph Franklin Rutherford, and their successors. The governing body of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the only body in the cult that claims authority to interpret Scripture. In other words, what the governing body says concerning any scriptural passage is viewed as the last word, and independent thinking is strongly discouraged. This is in direct opposition to Paul’s admonition to Timothy (and to us as well) to study to be approved by God, so that we need not be ashamed as we correctly handle the Word of God. This admonition, found in 2 Timothy 2:15, is a clear instruction from God to each of His children to be like the Berean Christians, who searched the Scriptures daily to see if the things they were being taught lined up with the Word.

There is probably no religious group that is more faithful than the Jehovah’s Witnesses at getting their message out. Unfortunately, the message is full of distortions, deceptions, and false doctrine. May God open the eyes of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the truth of the gospel and the true teaching of God’s Word.

I Will!

I Will!

If your a Jehovah’s Witness  and you want to find true Salvation, it is simply a prayer away, and Salvation can be yours!

1 Comment

Filed under Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series, House of the Nazarene's Posts

T.U.L.I.P. (The Five Points of Calvinism)

Basically, Calvinism is known by an acronym: T.U.L.I.P.

The Five Points of Calvinism

There are two mains camps of theology within Christianity in America today: Arminianism and Calvinism. Calvinism is a system of biblical interpretation taught by John Calvin. Calvin lived in France in the 1500’s at the time of Martin Luther who sparked the Reformation.

The system of Calvinism adheres to a very high view of scripture and seeks to derive its theological formulations based solely on God’s word. It focuses on God’s sovereignty, stating that God is able and willing by virtue of his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, to do whatever He desires with His creation. It also maintains that within the Bible are the following teachings: That God, by His sovereign grace predestines people into salvation; that Jesus died only for those predestined; that God regenerates the individual where he is then able and wants to choose God; and that it is impossible for those who are redeemed to lose their salvation.

Arminianism, on the other hand, maintains that God predestined, but not in an absolute sense. Rather, He looked into the future to see who would pick him and then He chose them. Jesus died for all peoples’ sins who have ever lived and ever will live, not just the Christians. Each person is the one who decides if he wants to be saved or not. And finally, it is possible to lose your salvation (some arminians believe you cannot lose your salvation).

Basically, Calvinism is known by an acronym: T.U.L.I.P.

Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

These five categories do not comprise Calvinism in totality. They simply represent some of its main points.

Total Depravity:

Sin has affected all parts of man. The heart, emotions, will, mind, and body are all affected by sin. We are completely sinful. We are not as sinful as we could be, but we are completely affected by sin.

The doctrine of Total Depravity is derived from scriptures that reveal human character: Man’s heart is evil (Mark 7:21-23) and sick Jer. 17:9). Man is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20). He does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12). He cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). He is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15). And, is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3). The Calvinist asks the question, “In light of the scriptures that declare man’s true nature as being utterly lost and incapable, how is it possible for anyone to choose or desire God?” The answer is, “He cannot. Therefore God must predestine.”

Calvinism also maintains that because of our fallen nature we are born again not by our own will but God’s will (John 1:12-13); God grants that we believe (Phil. 1:29); faith is the work of God (John 6:28-29); God appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48); and God predestines (Eph. 1:1-11; Rom. 8:29; 9:9-23).

Unconditional Election:
God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:4-8; Rom. 9:11) without any consideration of merit within the individual. Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him. Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not (Rom. 9:15, 21).

Limited Atonement:
Jesus died only for the elect. Though Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was not efficacious for all. Jesus only bore the sins of the elect. Support for this position is drawn from such scriptures as Matt. 26:28 where Jesus died for ‘many’; John 10:11, 15 which say that Jesus died for the sheep (not the goats, per Matt. 25:32-33); John 17:9 where Jesus in prayer interceded for the ones given Him, not those of the entire world; Acts 20:28 and Eph. 5:25-27 which state that the Church was purchased by Christ, not all people; and Isaiah 53:12 which is a prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion where he would bore the sins of many (not all).

Irresistible Grace:
When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God. Some of the verses used in support of this teaching are Romans 9:16 where it says that “it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy“; Philippians 2:12-13 where God is said to be the one working salvation in the individual; John 6:28-29 where faith is declared to be the work of God; Acts 13:48 where God appoints people to believe; and John 1:12-13 where being born again is not by man’s will, but by God’s.
“All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out,” (John 6:37).

Perseverance of the Saints:
You cannot lose your salvation. Because the Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure. They are eternally secure in Christ. Some of the verses for this position are John 10:27-28 where Jesus said His sheep will never perish; John 6:47 where salvation is described as everlasting life; Romans 8:1 where it is said we have passed out of judgment; 1 Corinthians 10:13 where God promises to never let us be tempted beyond what we can handle; and Phil. 1:6 where God is the one being faithful to perfect us until the day of Jesus’ return.

Now what does the Bible say? Let’s look at the The Parable of the Sower Shall we?

The Parable of the SowerMatthew 13 King James Version (KJV)

The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.

And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon (soon; shortly) with joy receiveth it;

21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

4 Conditions of the Heart that Increases in Complexity 

Reading this Parable Jesus Himself states that All people does have the choice to Salvation, Not just the elect.

There’s the Path

They hear the word and it is quickly stolen from them, Example: Atheists, Agnostics.

Rocky Places

They hear the word they go home to their family and is talked out of what they have heard.

Thorns

They hear the word then cares of this world choke out their faith, These people are so close yet so far! Example: no one knows who the authors of the books of the Bible are, or the Bible isn’t accurate anymore. (I say hogwash to this one, you mean the Almighty that created numerous and by that I mean countless, boundless universes can’t keep track of a few words?)

Good Soil

They hear the word and Praise God they keep their Salvation!

Conclusion

This should answer the question on how a person can be wiped from the Book of Life, they are written in the book then they chose not to continue, For more on this Please read:  Can a Christian lose salvation? or If our salvation is eternally secure, why does the Bible warn so strongly against apostasy?

I and the Bible support that He foreknew us from the creation of the earth, Not that He created us to be His chosen or elect, so on that point I am Arminianism, God looked forward in time to know us.

I also hold that, Jesus died for all peoples’ sins who have ever lived and ever will live, not just the Christians. Each person is the one who decides if he wants to be saved or not. I’ve been asked if Hitler could have been born again even after he killed all those Jews, and I say yes he could of, (Though I’m pretty sure he didn’t.)

God chose the weak to confound the wise, Scripture backs that stance.

So of which Heart are you? You have a short time to decide this, Remember no decision is still a decision, you just chose the default settings!

To make sure Read here:

Salvation

1 Comment

Filed under Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series, House of the Nazarene's Posts

ATHEISTS EXPOSED! shared by Greg Liebig Sr.

ATHEISTS EXPOSED!

Hello America, it’s me again, the servant of the Most High
God (Yahweh). Sunday morning 12/16/12 around 6ish the Lord woke me up. He said, “Listen and hear me well for there are some things I need to tell my beloved America.”
I said, “yes Sir.”

“First, let it be known, that I created each and every person on
this planet; also, THAT I LOVE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM. Furthermore, let it be known unto them, that I have a purpose for them now, during the millennial reign of my Son Jesus (Yeshua) and THEN THROUGHTALL ETERNITY!
“My precious humans are eternal spiritual beings: yes, for the time being they are in flesh, blood and bone bodies, at death, that changes. When I send Yeshua to rapture up the church they will be changed as well. I am having you tell humanity this because it won’t be long before I tell My Son to get His Bride, the Church, the believers.”

“So, tell them to beware of an evil spirit that is making a last ditch effort to destroy them. He is not one that gives up easily, he is persistent in his lies and if he has his way, even the elect will be FOOLED.”
“That spirit is straight out of the depths of hell itself, satan’s #1
demon; THE SPIRIT OF UNBELIEF!”
“That spirit has been around since the Garden of Eden, Adam
succumbed to his wiles and you see what happened there. As he sees the approaching of Christ’s appearing, he and a few of his
partners (doubt and fear) have really been stepping it up.”
One of his lies is,” God (Yahweh) does not exist.”
Another is, “Jesus (Yeshua) did not really die and rise again.”

“So, consequently he has turned a great number of people against me. He really does hate my precious humans.”
“Another one of his tactics is he has chosen very weak minded
individuals to enlist in his destructive task and they have fallen for his lies, hook, line and sinker.
He tells them to go to various places and spread these lies. He even
pushes his agenda onto governments. He even tells people that it is
not right to have people display Godly things in government institutions; like the Ten Commandments for instance.
He has them say it is offensive to pray in public places.”
“Why he even had his people to have prayer removed from schools. I want to be with little children and protect them, but you listened to a few of these people and had Me removed.”

“REMEMBER Madeline Murray O’Hare?”
“These people are called atheists, non-believers, heathen or just
plain lost. Now remember, I still love these people: don’t ever loose sight of that fact.
The problem is, they don’t love me. WHY?”
“When these atheistic people push their agendas on others, it causes dire consequences, especially if people bow down to their cause without a fight. Resisting these spirits and telling them NO is all you have to do and they will flee. You do not have to obey those demonic forces. Just stand your ground and say NO to satan and his emissaries, that is how you fight this enemy,
just say “NO” to them!”

If God and Jesus are not alive and real then why do the heathen rage so? I mean, why even bother about something that does not exist? Hello, atheist person, can you answer that one for me? You spread your poison of unbelief and doubt with such hatred and you waste loads of energy and money doing so. It was you, the atheist who fought to have prayer removed from our schools. It is you, the atheist who is fighting to have the
Ten Commandments removed from our courthouses. Why, you are even fighting to have war memorials taken down, simply because they put people in mind of a saving God and His Son Jesus. It is you Mr. and Ms. atheist that has a supernatural hatred for the Cross of Jesus Christ!

WHY?

I will tell you why, because deep down inside of you, you know the truth!
You know GOD IS REAL and His Holy Spirit convicts you of the truth about HIS SON JESUS!

Well, I have Good News for you though; one drop of the
Blood of Jesus Christ will forgive you, cleanse you and will
deliver you of that spirit of unbelief and any other spirits that
have filled you and tormented you!
Now, all you have to do, is ask Jesus to forgive you of unbelief
and then invite Him into you heart by faith. You do this and
He will come in and fill you with His Love. So, just ask Him,
go ahead He does love you, remember I told you this at the
beginning of this message.
Your sin, IS NOT GREATER THAN HIS BLOOD!

“AMERICA LET ME ASK YOU.”
“Do you want Me in your personal lives at all? Do you want
Me back in your national leaders lives? Do you want Me back in
your schools? Do you want to be called a Christian nation again?
Do you want to be a vibrant economic power once again? Do you
want to be the lender nation and not the borrower nation again?”
“OK, America, IF YOU DO, then the remedy for this is very simple. It won’t be easy. Are you ready for the solution?
Well, this is what you do: Repeat this prayer after me, ok:
“Oh God our Heavenly Father, we as individuals come to you in faith, we are so very sorry for having offended you! We have ignored you, for that we are heartily sorry! We have sinned against you by allowing idolatry to run rampant in our lives! We have allowed greed to overtake us. We have succumbed to sexual perversion of

OH God Heal Our Land!

OH God Heal Our Land!

ALL KINDS and TYPES IMAGINEABLE, for that we are deeply sorry! We have murdered our unborn babies, for that we are heartily sorry! As a nation, we are guilty of all these sins!
So right now Heavenly Father we REPENT, WE ARE SORRY!
We ask you to please forgive us of our sin, we ask you to wash us
by the BLOOD of YOUR SON JESUS and cleanse us from all
unrighteousness. We ask that you would deliver us from all
sin and set us free from the yolk of bondage and
oppression we have been under because of OUR SIN.”
“THANK YOU JESUS, OUR SAVIOR AND LORD!”

“AMEN”

“Pastors, lead your congregations in this prayer; because some of you have allowed these sins to run free and unchecked in your churches!”
“Mr. President, Senators, Congressman, all Representatives,
all Governors of every state in this nation and all political leaders,
state and local, come together as one and pray this prayer.”
“IF YOU DO THIS I WILL HEAL YOUR LAND!”

With love, the servant of the LORD YESHUA!

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series, House of the Nazarene's Posts