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From The Washington Post:

Churches make a drastic pledge in the name of social justice: To stop calling the police

First Congregational Church of Oakland shares a neighborhood with many homeless people who often come to the church in times of mental health crises. Sometimes church members feel unequipped to deal with the erratic behavior: The most heart-wrenching scenes, volunteer leader Nichola Torbett says, are the times when the church is closing for the day, and a person with nowhere else to go absolutely refuses to leave the building.

At least once or twice a month, at their wits’ end, the church members call 911.

Now, the church has joined a small handful of like-minded congregations with a radical goal: to stop calling the police. Not for mental health crises, not for graffiti on their buildings, not even for acts of violence. These churches believe the American police system, criticized for its impact especially on people of color, is such a problem that they should wash their hands of it entirely. 

“Can this actually be reformed, when it was actually created for the unjust distribution of resources or to police black and brown bodies?” Torbett asked. For her and for her fellow church members, the answer is no — the police don’t just need reform. The police need to be abandoned altogether.

The churches call their drastic approach “divesting” from policing. They say that one headline after another about policing around the country shows that divestment is necessary — most recently, events include a notorious call to police about two African American men at a Philadelphia Starbucks and the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark, shot eight times as he was holding an iPhone, not a gun.

The project of divesting is organized by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a nationwide organization that tries to get white Americans working on behalf of racial justice. The four Unitarian and Protestant churches that have joined so far include three in the Bay Area and one in Iowa City. The Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ has signed on to recruit from among its member churches, and the Bay Area churches are talking to more congregations in their area, from denominations including the Disciples of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA).

“It’s a challenging ask,” acknowledged the Rev. Anne Dunlap, a United Church of Christ minister who leads SURJ’s outreach to faith communities. “It’s a big ask to invite us, as white folks, to think differently about what safety means. Who do we rely on? What is safe? For whom? Should our safety be predicated on violence for other communities? And if not, what do we do if we’re confronted with a situation, because we are, as congregations? … How do we handle it if there’s a burglary? How do we handle it if there’s a situation of violence or abuse in the congregation?”

Those are hard questions. The churches that commit to ending their use of police resources are training members in alternate responses to danger. Torbett said at First Congregational, church leaders have invited experts from several nonprofits to train members on de-escalating mental health crises, and on self-defense in the case of a violent person at the church. “Our goal is to never call the police,” she said. As members discuss self-defense, they’ve also decided that they will not arm anyone at the church with any weapon.

The leaders involved in the SURJ effort say that they are not asking churchgoers not to call police in their lives outside of church, though they hope that some will choose to refrain.

Many of the churches that SURJ approached were not interested. “I had some hard conversations with pastors and members,” Dunlap said. “These were progressive congregations that had participated in our work in the past — hung Black Lives Matter banners and had them vandalized. They said, ‘We appreciate our relationship with the police. We don’t want to put that at risk.’”

But to Dunlap, resisting policing is among her religious obligations. “You’re talking about state violence against communities. You have to speak up and take a stand about that. There’s not a nice way to just play in the middle,” she said. “There’s not a way to reform our way out of police violence but to dismantle policing as a system.”

She envisions instead a form of local accountability, in which neighbors get to know one another and defend their own communities.

Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which conducts studies on improving policing, said churches can and should take on some tasks themselves instead of calling police, like providing assistance to a person who is drunk or sick. But he cautioned that churches would be foolhardy to try to take the place of police in a violent situation — especially if the aggressor has a gun, in a tragic case like the church shootings in Charleston, S.C., and Sutherland Springs, Tex.

Moreover, Wexler believes clergy can use their moral influence to make police departments better. “I understand where these folks may be coming from. They’re saying we have issues. But if you have issues, you shouldn’t cut yourself off from such an important institution in the community. Communities only have one police force. If they’re not doing what you want them to do, you should be engaged with them,” he said, pointing to examples of clergy in Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago who worked with officers on reducing gang violence and other community priorities. “It’s disappointing to hear when a community or religious organization decides they’re not going to engage with the police anymore. Police need the church. They need an active clergy. They rely on them.”

Dunlap said that even in a case of criminal behavior, she would ideally like to see churches not call police, because she doesn’t trust the criminal justice system to deliver a fair outcome.

“In the case of interpersonal violence, for the survivors as well as the perpetrators, we want to look at transformative justice,” she said. “Would a punitive police and legal system actually bring us the desired outcome for everyone involved? What are our actual values? What do our traditions teach us about redemption?”

That’s a controversial position that members are discussing in each church. Sarah Pritchard, a co-pastor at another Oakland church that has signed on, Agape Fellowship, said while the pledge not to call the police applies to the churches, not to individual members, the hope is the training at church will inspire some members when they go home as well.

When it comes to police and prisons, Pritchard uses an old word to describe a still-radical stance: “abolitionist.”

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So it begs the question: Even if Kirbyjon Caldwell was not actively involved in the scam, what is a pastor doing being involved in the sale of Chinese Bonds to poor people?

from The Daily Mail:

A Houston megachurch pastor and a Louisiana financial planner were indicted on Thursday for orchestrating a $3.5million fraud.

According to the federal indictment, Kirbyjon Caldwell and Gregory Alan Smith used their ‘influence and status’ to lure dozens of ‘vulnerable and elderly’ people to invest in worthless Republic of China bonds.

The bonds were issued after World War II, but became worthless when the Communists took over the country in 1949, kicking out the old government who issued the bonds. Their only value today is as collectibles.

Prosecutors say Calwell, the head of the 14,000-member Windsor Village United Methodish Church, and Smith, the operator and manager of Smith Financial Group LLC, knew the bonds held no value but sold them anyway and then used the money to fund their expensive lifestyles.

The duo are said to have cheated 29 investors out of $3.5million between April 2013 and April 2014. Some of these investors put their whole life savings at stake on the bonds.

Caldwell used his money to pay the mortgage on his Houston home, which according to public records is worth more than $2.5million (if found guilty, he may have to forfeit the home). Smith on the other hand, used the money to buy luxury vehicles, the indictment reveals.

The two promised their investors returns of three to 15 times in a matter of weeks, and when the money never materialized, they made up elaborate excuses.

According to the filings, Caldwell ‘used religious references to give investors hope they would soon be repaid’ telling them to ‘remain faithful’.

Smith, 55, who boasts years of experience as a financial planner, allegedly convinced people to invest by saying that the bonds were ‘risk free’ and ‘guaranteed’ and that he himself had invested $250,000.

Although many investors did not understand the investment, they ultimately trusted Smith and took comfort in the fact that a high-profile pastor was offering the investment,’ the complaint reads.

Caldwell, 64, gained notoriety through his relationship with former President George W. Bush.

The two connected when Bush was governor of Texas, and Caldwell became his spiritual adviser. He later gave the benedictions at both of Bush’s inaugurations and officiated Jenna Bush’s wedding in 2008.

He denied the claims at a Friday press conference with his attorney, Dan Cogdell.

Cogdell told reporters that his client is ‘100% not guilty’ and that they have proof Caldwell thought the bonds were legitimate.

‘The accusations are simply false,’ Cogdell said. ‘At no time did the pastor conspire with anyone.’

They say that Caldwell himself invested hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money in hopes of reinvesting the gains back into the church. Caldwell added that none of the people he got to invest in the bonds were members of his church.

‘These bonds are legitimate,’ Caldwell said. ‘The process is legitimate. I fully maintain that the accusation is baseless.’

Neither Caldwell or his attorney would comment on Smith.

Caldwell plans to turn himself into authorities in Louisiana in the next seven to 10 days.

The two men are facing six counts of wire fraud, four counts of money laundering and one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to the indictment filed Thursday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana.

The Securities and Exchange Commission have also accused the two men of nine violations.

Caldwell and Smith face up to 20 years in prison and fines as high as $1million if convicted.

Bishop Scott J. Jones of the United Methodist Church released this statement after Caldwell’s indictment on Thursday.

‘Kirbyjon Caldwell has been an outstanding pastor and leader in our community for over 30 years. The United Methodist Church has high standards for the moral conduct of its clergy, and we recognize the seriousness of the charges against him. We will walk though this difficult situation with Rev. Caldwell and the Windsor Village congregation and keep them in our prayers. We have faith that the judicial process will find the truth.’

Caldwell is also a limited partner in the Houston Texans, which also responded to the scandal.

‘We have recently been made aware of a report involving Kirbyjon Caldwell. We are gathering more information and will have no further comment at this time,’ the baseball team said in a statement.

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“They are not punished. Those who repent obtain God’s forgiveness and take their place among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven disappear. A Hell doesn’t exist, the disappearance of sinning souls exists.”

from The Jerusalem Post:

The Vatican on Thursday rebuked a well-known Italian journalist who quoted Pope Francis as saying hell does not exist.

The Vatican issued a statement after the comments spread on social media, saying they did not properly reflect what the pope had said.
Eugenio Scalfari, 93, an avowed atheist who has struck up an intellectual friendship with Francis, met the pope recently and wrote up a long story that included a question-and-answer section at the end.

The Vatican said the pope did not grant him an interview and the article “was the fruit of his reconstruction” not a “faithful transcription of the Holy Father’s words.”

Scalfari, the founder of Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, has prided himself on not taking notes and not using tape recorders during his encounters with leaders and later reconstructing the meetings to create lengthy articles.

According to Scalfari’s article in Thursday’s La Repubblica, he asked the pope where “bad souls” go and where they are punished. Scalfari quoted the pope as saying:

“They are not punished. Those who repent obtain God’s forgiveness and take their place among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven disappear. A Hell doesn’t exist, the disappearance of sinning souls exists.”

The universal catechism of the Catholic Church says “The teaching of the Catholic Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity.” It speaks of “eternal fire” and adds that “the chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God.”

It was at least the third time the Vatican has issued statements distancing itself from Scalfari’s articles about the pope, including one in 2014 in which the journalist said the pontiff had abolished sin.

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“Graham “spread the gospel in 185 countries during his 99 years on Earth, touching the lives of many and forever changing the course of the world’s spiritual health,” according to a statement by House Speaker Paul Ryan.” ?!?!?!?

Apparently House Speaker Paul Ryan does not read the same Bible that I do!

Lest we forget:

Judges 8:22-27:

Gideon’s Ephod

“Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, and your grandson also; for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.”

But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.” Then Gideon said to them, “I would like to make a request of you, that each of you would give me the earrings from his plunder.” For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.

So they answered, “We will gladly give them.” And they spread out a garment, and each man threw into it the earrings from his plunder. Now the weight of the gold earrings that he requested was one thousand seven hundred shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments, pendants, and purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the chains that were around their camels’ necks. Then Gideon made it into an ephod and set it up in his city, Ophrah. And all Israel played the harlot with it there. It became a snare to Gideon and to his house.”

from Fox 8:

Thousands have signed an online petition calling for a national holiday in honor of the Rev. Billy Graham, WSOC reports.

The Change.org petition, which was started six days ago by user Kyle Siler, had more than 60,736 signatures as of Monday morning and is addressed to President Donald Trump, as well as senators Thom Tillis, Richard Burr and Jerry Tillman.

The petition highlighted Graham’s impact on people all over the world:

“Lets get a National Holiday for Billy Graham!! Mr. Graham preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history—nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories—through various meetings, including Mission World and Global Mission. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film, and webcasts. Mr. Graham’s counsel was sought by presidents, and his appeal in both the secular and religious arenas is evidenced by the wide range of groups that have honored him, including numerous honorary doctorates from many institutions in the U.S. and abroad. Help us with our cause of setting a national holiday to remember this great man.”

Thousands were in Charlotte on Friday to say goodbye to Graham. The private funeral service was held in a tent outside the Billy Graham Library.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence attended the funeral and were escorted by Graham’s grandson, a Major in the United States Army.

Graham, known to many as America’s pastor, passed away just before 8 a.m. on Feb. 21 from natural causes at his family home in Montreat just outside of Asheville.

Graham “spread the gospel in 185 countries during his 99 years on Earth, touching the lives of many and forever changing the course of the world’s spiritual health,” according to a statement by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The minister was buried next to his wife, Ruth, on the property. His coffin, a plain, pine casket, was built by inmates at the Louisiana state prison.

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from Got Questions:

The existence of so many religions and the claim that all religions lead to God without question confuses many who are earnestly seeking the truth about God, with the end result sometimes being that some despair of ever reaching the absolute truth on the subject. Or they end up embracing the universalist claim that all religions lead to God. Of course, skeptics also point to the existence of so many religions as proof that either you cannot know God or that God simply does not exist.

Romans 1:19-21 contains the biblical explanation for why there are so many religions. The truth of God is seen and known by every human being because God has made it so. Instead of accepting the truth about God and submitting to it, most human beings reject it and seek their own way to understand God. But this leads not to enlightenment regarding God, but to futility of thinking. Here is where we find the basis of the “many religions.”

Many people do not want to believe in a God who demands righteousness and morality, so they invent a God who makes no such requirements. Many people do not want to believe in a God who declares it impossible for people to earn their own way to heaven. So they invent a God who accepts people into heaven if they have completed certain steps, followed certain rules, and/or obeyed certain laws, at least to the best of their ability. Many people do not want a relationship with a God who is sovereign and omnipotent. So they imagine God as being more of a mystical force than a personal and sovereign ruler.

The existence of so many religions is not an argument against God’s existence or an argument that truth about God is not clear. Rather, the existence of so many religions is demonstration of humanity’s rejection of the one true God. Mankind has replaced Him with gods that are more to their liking. This is a dangerous enterprise. The desire to recreate God in our own image comes from the sin nature within us—a nature that will eventually “reap destruction” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Do all religions lead to God? No. All people—religious or otherwise—will stand before God some day (Hebrews 9:27), but religious affiliation is not what determines your eternal destiny. Only faith in Jesus Christ will save. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). It’s as simple as that. Only Christianity—faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—leads to God’s forgiveness and eternal life. No one comes to the Father except through the Son (John 14:6). It does make a difference what you believe. The decision to embrace the truth about Jesus Christ is important. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.

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from: 828 ministries

I am speaking the truth in Christ–I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit– that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. – Romans: 1-2 (ESV)

I make no pretense to be expositing the key verses today. These are verses where Paul is expressing his dismay about how far lost his own people, the Jews, were at the time of his preaching. I cite them today only because I understand how Paul must have felt, albeit on a smaller scale. This great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart is borne witness by the Holy Spirit within me. I am not lying beloved. I try as always to speak the truth in Christ. I was saved almost 13 years to the day in an Assemblies of God church. A not so reformed and non-practicing Catholic who believed in a God without realizing I was my own God. It was a good church. A Gospel preaching church. A God-fearing church. Pentecostal and charismatic without many of the abuses that often come with it. We had a great pastor. A born evangelist with a true shepherd’s heart. A rare mix these days behind the pulpit. I went there that day with an equally unsaved friend and we both left that day in Christ. Within a month I was baptized and within a year I was in classes for ministerial credentials. Five years later I was a minister for the Assemblies and remained such until this month when I resigned those credentials. This technicality is irrelevant as my call was always from God and not man. The unceasing anguish is in leaving the only church family I have ever known. In 1962 Ronald Reagan remarked as he joined the GOP that he did not leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him. That is how I feel today. I am not leaving the AG as much as the AG has already left me. Both globally and locally. My great sorrow is that the affiliation in which I learned discernment seemingly has lost theirs. The affiliation that once bravely stood up to Jimmy Swaggart now barely stands against anything.

Beloved we must understand the backdrop, which is the times in which we live. When we see the Biblical prophecies play out every night on the news and see the moral decay spiraling out of control each day, those who have eyes to see can see that we are living in the end times. The Bible warns us very clearly about these times. There will be a great apostasy, or falling away from the faith. This is very much underway in the church today. Paul warned Timothy about this:

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. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2Timothy 4: 3-5 (ESV)

One just needs to look at what is taught today as doctrine to see the great apostasy. People follow prosperity myths, word faith myths, hyper-grace myths, false signs and lying wonders myths just to name a few. They gather around themselves teachers who specialize in teaching these myths. They wander off by choice. They choose to fall away. Their ears itch with their own passions and want teachers who will scratch them. With this understanding we must decide what side we are on. Remember, Jesus said there are only two choices:

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. – Matthew 12: 30 (ESV)

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. – Matthew 7: 13-14 (ESV)

Narrow is the gate and few are those who find it. Think about that as you watch the next false teacher speaking to tens of thousands or claiming that entire swaths of people “gave their hearts to Christ.” There are only two choices beloved. We are either found gathering people to the Gospel or scattering them away from it. Thus doctrine becomes our critical measuring stick. Our plumb line. Who we choose to associate with becomes critical as well. Who we loan our credibility to. I once viewed Francis Chan for example to be a solid bible preacher. Once he decided to promote the wildly heretical false prophet Mike Bickle however, his preaching was no longer relevant. Remember what Paul charged the Galatians with?

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. – Galatians 5: 7-9 (ESV)

A little false teaching eventually infects your theology. It spreads. It is parasitic. There can be no compromise allowed. This is not about perfection but rather purity of the Gospel. I have watched for years concerned about the direction the AG was heading in but was willing to wait and see. Anyone after all can make a mistake. Then the heresies started piling up. For me it all starts with the embracing of Rick Warren theology. The Purpose Driven Church has done more damage to the cause of Jesus Christ than anything in generations. It has eradicated the shepherd mentality amongst pastors and instead turns them into CEOs. Don’t believe me? Ask Andy Stanley, a staunch Warren adherent:

(When asked about Pastors being called shepherd) – That word needs to go away.” He added, “It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus, but it’s not culturally relevant anymore.” – Andy Stanley (Leadership Journal, “Get-it-Done Leadership,” May 2006).

This began the slippery slope of growing churches but not the kingdom. The Assemblies embraced the Purpose Driven Life as well and coordinated their churches to all read it together. Something we even did at my church at the time. This is the same book that only addresses salvation one time and presents a nine word “sinner’s prayer” that is followed by an absurdly presumptuous – “Welcome to the family of God!”

Fast forward a few years and the AG tried to coordinate their churches again for a group reading. This time it was a book written by one of their own pastors, Mark Batterson. The Circle Maker is nothing but rank heresy. Based upon a fable found in the Mishnah, Batterson tries to change how Christians pray from being reverent to being petulant. The act of drawing circles is also taken directly from witchcraft. That does not mean the Mr. Batterson intended this. Intent however is irrelevant. The Circle Maker remains to this day a black eye upon the Assemblies. Then there are the associations the AG has chosen to make. Who they have aligned themselves with. Many are not aware of “Empowered 21,” which is self described as:

“The Empowered21 Global Council is an esteemed group of International Christian leaders, co-chaired by George Wood and Billy Wilson. These leaders give inspirational oversight to13 Regional Cabinets across the world and seeks to provide resources to address the crucial issues faced by the Spirit-empowered church.”

So the General Superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God in America is the co-chair of this international coalition. Problem? Not until you see who are part of its leadership:

Bill Johnson, Reinhard Bonnke, Lisa Bevere, Kenneth Copeland, Jentezen Franklin, Brian Houston, Cindy “The General” Jacobs, Robert Morris, Phil Pringle to name a few. This is a who’s-who of false teachers and wannabe prophets. I guess Osteen, Warren and Prince were just too busy. Seriously. Why in the world would you co chair this smorgasbord of heresy? Why would you even want to be on the same website? Bill Johnson believes in grave sucking the residual anointing from dead false teachers. He runs his own school for the supernatural where he teaches people the gifts of the spirit – pure blasphemy! Robert Morris abuses his sheep and tells them to pay him his tithes before paying their rent or bills or medicine or else God will curse all of their money! General Cindy Jacobs? Are you serious? Kenneth Copeland and Brian Houston? The Assemblies should know better. Reinhard Bonnke? International charlatan who brags about raising the dead? The AG threw a banquet in his honor recently. These are not fringe elements in apostasy. These are the leaders beloved.

Then there was the extremely poor decision to get into bed with ex-Catholic mystic Roma Downey and her heretical “AD Miniseries.” When I say in bed I mean under the covers. The AG actively marketed the “church kit” that Downey was selling which turned over your local church to this miniseries for 12 weeks. Each week they would provide you with a video sermon given by a Christian celebrity to match that week’s episode. The third lesson was done by none other than George Wood. Other notable teachers in the series were the aforementioned Mark Batterson and the Hillsong false teacher, Christine Caine. The teaching aside, the actual miniseries was a disaster biblically. It was clear that one of the goals Downey had was to overstate the role of women and make any leading male character out to either be a wimp or psychotic. Beloved we are not talking about artistic license. This series simply did not correctly represent the Bible. I can understand someone who is unsaved not understanding the point but I am talking about the actual story. Mary for example did not have to convince the disciples to wait the three days for when Jesus said He would rise again. Without getting too bogged down in the detail this was another example of very poor decision making by the Assemblies regarding who they want to be found in league with.

It was no wonder then that this past year at their annual General Council one of their speakers was Christine Caine. Never mind that she is from Hillsong, the largest international heretical organization on the planet. Never mind that she is an ardent supporter of someone like Joyce Meyer. Never mind that after “shadowing” Meyer for a week she tweeted a picture of herself laying hands upon the Bible of Joyce Meyer and praying for “an impartation of her “teaching anointing and revelation.” The same Meyer who teaches Jesus went to hell and had to be born again there. The same Meyer who teaches that she never sins. The same Meyer who teaches that we are all little gods. It is no wonder then that the quote that hit the Internet from Caine that night which was taken as some deep nugget of wisdom was:

“The size of your ministry is determined by the size of your heart.” – Christine Caine

Not determined by God. Not determined by the Holy Spirit. Not determined by correct doctrine or preaching the correct Gospel. No beloved. Determined by the size of our wickedly deceptive hearts. Therein sums up the progression of falling away I have witnessed within the Assemblies for the past several years. They bought into the Warren theologies of growth and marketing. They bought into the seeker friendly notions of church growth. They continued to make whatever associations were popular and gained them more exposure with seemingly little concern about doctrine. As a minister for the Assemblies, I am expected to support them and in complete fairness I can no longer do so.

That is the global scene if you will. It is the scene everyone sees on television and being reported. What is often lost however is the local scene. We all belong locally before we belong globally. There are still some very good AG churches out there beloved. Churches who are trying to do the right thing and preach the whole Gospel. Eventually they will have to come out from among them if the Assemblies does not stop its free-fall. Locally however, the politics are even worse. The disregard for correct doctrine is widely accepted as long as you can put bodies in the seats each week. Never mind if people leave. That is a Warren principle taught in the Purpose Driven Church called “Blessed Subtraction.” This principle teaches pastors that it is OK to let sheep wander away from your flock as long as you replace them. Talk about not understanding the 99 and the one! But this point is vitally important because Purpose Driven teachings insist that we are no long in the business of reaching the unsaved but rather the unchurched. That may sound subtle but it is purely a satanic plot. Instead of focusing on their salvation pastors now focus on whether they belong to a church. Instead of focusing on their relationship to Jesus they focus on their relationship to ministry. That is why Blessed Subtraction is so widely accepted theologically even though it violates the entire Bible! As long as you replace the body then the church has not “lost” anything. But what about the sheep that wandered off?

I have watched such local abuses and continue to see them to this day. I know hundreds of people devastated by Christian leaders and a church that swore they loved them as Christ does but then casually left the pen door open and kicked them out into the cold. I heard a pastor once preach that if a congregant had a problem with someone else they need to leave. From the pulpit this was said. During a sermon. I have watched congregations be eviscerated of anyone who was biblically literate. Anyone who dared to ask any questions. Anyone who even mildly objected. I have watched Elder Boards be launching pads for ministerial preaching careers from people who have no business dividing the Word of Truth. What does the Assemblies do about it?

Absolutely nothing.

In fairness, the overall Assemblies has little power over the churches in their fellowship. The power remains at the local level and that is not necessarily a bad thing if you are ensuring the biblical authority of your ministers. Instead however the local assemblies becomes this game of politics and productivity. If a pastor is seen as a producer, meaning he can refill the seats of those who leaves and grow his church, then doctrine or abuses can be nodded and winked at. Meanwhile the landscape is littered with bloody sheep, many of whom will never set foot in a church again. It is for these local reasons and the people who cry out from their abuses that I also feel compelled to walk away. I have close friends and acquaintances who were set into spiritual tailspins, seemingly never to recover. Every month seems to brings to light a new victim locally and a new doctrinal abuse globally. And beloved, please understand that this is not a broad brush I intend to paint with. As I have said there are plenty of good AG churches and ministers who preach the uncompromised Word of God and are led by real shepherds. This is also not personal in nature, even though I could recount my own personal tales of abuse. It is not about me. It is about the sheep of the Lord and the primacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In good conscience I cannot continue to write that believers need to come out from among the falseness in the church today and continue to proudly claim affiliation to an organization that has lost its way. I will pray for the AG because I love the AG. I ask that you do the same. I pray that this once proud organization returns to its roots of uncompromised Gospel preachers. Time is running out.

Reverend Anthony Wade – January 16, 2016

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from The “Christian” Post:

Popular televangelist Paula White is urging her followers to donate a “first fruits” offering of up to their entire salary for the month of January to enjoy “blessings” for the rest of the year or suffer the “consequences” of failing to follow God’s command.

“Each January, I put God first and honor Him with the first of our substance by sowing a first fruits offering of one month’s pay. That is a big sacrifice, but it is a seed for the harvest I am believing for in the coming year. And God always provides!” White explains on her website.

She explained the difference between the tithe, usually 10 percent of earnings, and the first fruit donation.

“The difference between tithe and first fruit, first fruit is all of it,” she told congregants at the New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “All of what? Well, if you want to bring God all of one day’s salary, one week’s salary or one month’s salary, that’s between you and God. … I try to bring a month’s salary, but at the very least every year I give God a week’s salary.”

And many of her followers join her in the first fruits campaign with “miraculous” results, she says.

“Every year many others join us and sow a month’s pay, a week’s pay, others give a day’s pay, but everyone gives their best — the results are miraculous! First Fruits has impacted my life personally and the lives of countless others! But First Fruits is more than just an offering, it’s a principle,” she says, that is ordained by God.

“God claims the FIRST of ALL THINGS! It rightfully belongs to Him. When we apply the Principle of First Fruits, we see that all firsts should be given to the Lord: the first of the day, week (Sabbath), month, and the first of our harvest — be it the wages for the first day, week, or the month,” she explains.

White, who also serves as President Donald Trump’s spiritual adviser, lays out in detail on her website how the principle of first fruits “supernaturally unlocks amazing opportunity, blessing, favor and divine order for your life” and how God requires His people to honor it.

“It is the basis or underlying support for your success in 2018. It is GOD’S PRINCIPLE OF FIRST FRUITS. All Firsts belong to God. When you honor this principle it provides the foundation and structure for God’s blessings and promises in your life, it unlocks deep dimensions of spiritual truths that literally transform your life! When you apply this everything comes in divine alignment for His plan and promises for you. When you don’t honor it, whether through ignorance or direct disobedience there are consequences,” White warns.

She then suggests that the consequence could be “struggle” and giving a first fruits offering can help protect donors from it.

“The Bible says, ‘On one particular Sabbath, while teaching in a Synagogue, Jesus healed a woman that had a ‘spirit of infirmity’ which had bent her over for 18 years!’ That which has plagued you IS REBUKED AND DONE FROM YOUR LIFE NOW. 2018 is a year of life and deliverance from struggle. It begins right now with First Fruits,” she states.

She also notes, “It doesn’t mean you can dictate or manipulate what’s going to happen in July or August but it means this, that you have put God first in every aspect of this year.”

White’s church tweeted in support of the campaign Tuesday. But not everyone is convinced that this is how God intended the principle of first fruits to work.

“The concept of biblical first fruits is real, but as I read your article I can’t help but feel as though you’re being manipulative. Laying the foundation for first fruits and then launching into a ‘financial seed’ campaign seems to be a misuse/abuse of the biblical intention,” Christian mom Heather Norton told White on Twitter Tuesday morning.

CompellingTruth.org, an outreach effort by a group of trained Christian experts at Got Questions Ministries, agrees. While some preachers today use the concept to encourage their parishioners to give an offering above and beyond tithing, the Bible does not support it as a requirement for Christians.

“The problem is, the first fruits offering was for the Jews for a specific purpose. Nowhere does the New Testament mention that the church is required or even encouraged to give a ‘first fruits offering.’ Like tithing, giving to the church is left up to the personal convictions of the individual believer. There is no blanket policy for giving,” the group explains.

“This presumes that the work of God be understood in a dispensational manner instead of following the teaching of replacement theology. Replacement theology teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan for the world. All of the promises God gave Israel (including material blessings for obedience) are transferred to the church. Dispensational theology claims that God gave Israel and the church different promises, and many of Israel’s promises will not come to fruition until the millennial kingdom. It is the belief of this ministry that dispensational theology best interprets the Scriptures. The church cannot claim all the promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament,” the experts argue.

They note, however, that giving a first fruits offering is acceptable as long as it comes from the believer’s personal conviction and “not pressured by church leadership.”

“The ways in which churches use the phrase (and the practice) vary in theological truth. To say that ‘laying down a seed’ so that God will make someone rich, or that you can pay off God to bless future plans, is an abusive lie from adherents of the prosperity gospel. To give sacrificially is to follow in the example of the widow of Mark 12:41-44, and is commendable as long as it isn’t coerced. To give an offering in thanks that God provided is perfectly acceptable. But if a church wants to have a period of fund-raising, it would be better to have a specific purpose and not just try to spiritualize the desire to have more capital in the bank,” they further explain.

 

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