Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Dangers of Hierarchy In Christian Organizations by Roger Smalling, D.Min

Hierarchicalism is an organizational structure based on ascending ranks, like a ladder. The military is hierarchical, with generals, colonels, sergeants, on down to privates. Authority is entirely vertical with little or no accountability at the top. Privates cannot hold a general accountable for his actions. Blame is always passed downward.

Large corporations are also structured hierarchies, with CEO’s, vice presidents and department managers, on down to those who stock shelves. Again, authority is always from the top down with no accountability at the top. Lower ranks usually take the blame for the errors of management. Officers within hierarchies do not represent the will of their subordinates.

Biblical government is the opposite, fundamentally simple. Officers serve the people in a representative system.[1] When it comes to the relationship of officers to one another, as in a Presbytery,[2] every member has equal voice and vote. There are no ranks, merely differences in function. If there is blame, it accrues to the group as a whole.

The difference between the two is like a ladder versus a round table. Since the goals and purposes are different, so are their structures.

When Christian organizations mimic the world’s system, the central principles Christ taught tend to be thwarted. People become lost in a maze of bureaucracy as a monolithic machine feeds itself rather than the people. The organization focuses merely on its own existence as though it had intrinsic value.

During many years in ministry, I have had opportunity to closely observe the effects of hierarchicalism in a Christian context.

By mirroring the world’s structures, Christians may unwittingly forget a central aspect of biblical theology, the corrupt nature of man. In a Christian organization the issue is not efficiency, but sanctification.

Dictatorship is the most efficient form of government known to man. That is why dictators are hard to defeat. They dehumanize people, depriving them of the free expression necessary to reflect God’s image. It is the straight line between two points but casualties are strewn along its sides.

To discern the morality of a leadership structure, one should ask what it stimulates… the fallen nature, or the new nature in Christ.

THE PETER PRINCIPLE: Mediocrity and Incompetence

In his classic book, The Peter Principle[3], sociologist John Peters describes how each member of a hierarchy tends to rise to his level of incompetence. As a person performs well at one level, he may be promoted to the next, until he attains a position beyond his abilities. He will remain at this position generating problems for himself and others. Meanwhile, many frustrated, yet gifted people abandon ship. With time, incompetence multiplies until the organization as a whole becomes mediocre.

Good Christian leaders, functioning within an hierarchical system, try to mitigate these negative effects. Their efforts may be laudable, but often end up futile. Human nature, including in Christians, is susceptible to the temptations generated by hierarchy.

Hierarchies tend to stimulate the worst in our fallen nature

Arrogance
Hierarchies provide a platform where one person feels inherently superior to those of lower ranks. “I have a superior rank because I am a superior person.”

Unholy ambition and jealousy
A person sees another in a rank above his and says to himself, “he is no better than I. In fact, I can do his job better. So why shouldn’t I have that rank?”

Dirty politicking
If a person wants a superior rank, he may be tempted to try to pull strings to get it. This is morally questionable and wastes time and energy for productive work.

The Apostle James notes, For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:16

The term evil practice translates phaulon pragma, literally foul business.[4] Dirty politicking expresses it well.

Blame shifting
Human nature has a tendency to blame a subordinate when something goes wrong. Blame shifting was Adam’s first reaction after the fall. This is a form of moral cowardice.

Imagine a man carrying a load up a ladder. If he drops it, where does it fall? On whoever is beneath, who in turn, dumps it on the one below him. The guy on the very bottom gets the full load.  In a hierarchy, the load is the blame.

Man-pleasing
Since a person’s rank in the hierarchy depends on the good will of the rank above him, this tempts him to focus on pleasing the person above him rather than God.

Loss of competent personnel
According to Dr. Peters in The Peter Principle, hierarchies tend to squeeze out people who question the way things are done, even if they are highly competent.

A hierarchy, like any organism, becomes more focused on perpetuating its own existence than on what it was created to produce. People who rock the boat will be tossed out of that boat. It doesn’t matter if they were among the few doing the rowing.

Disregard of the ordained office and its spiritual authority
I mention this last for emphasis, not because it is least in important. In fact, I consider it the most serious repercussion of authoritarian structures. In a Christian hierarchy, man-made titles or ranks sometimes negate the spiritual authority of biblical ones. The Word of God accords certain rights and privileges to all ordained officers. Hierarchical structures overlook these.

What if you are a leader in an authoritarian Christian hierarchy?
With a little imagination, you can install administrative devices to minimize the damage. Doing so requires a rare moral courage. Why? These strategies require accountability to the people you lead.[5]



Safety devices

Periodic evaluations of your leadership, anonymous and in writing, from the people you lead. This gives subordinates the opportunity to say what they really think and to do it in safety. You will get the truth about your leadership style.

Create an anonymity committee This may consist of two or three people who can receive complaints without revealing the sources. If there are enough complaints about a particular leader, this can be brought to the attention of upper level management before the leader is able to do serious damage. The reason this requires moral courage is because the leader in question might be you.

Tip: Do not insult the intelligence of your subordinates by announcing an open door policy unless they can hold you accountable for what you say or do to them inside the door. [6]

Memos to subordinates about proposed policies asking for their feedback, gives people a sense of participation in the decision process.

Any device that allows you to be vulnerable to your subordinates and accountable for your actions will gain respect and credibility. Ironically, once you have respect and credibility, those devices will likely become unnecessary.

Are you joining a Christian organizacion?
A good way to discern if the organization is authoritarian is to ask them, “In what way can you be made to stand accountable for the way you treat subordinates?” If you get no answer, look elsewhere.

Summary
Authoritarian hierarchicalism is unbiblical for Christian organizations or churches. It stimulates latent tendencies in our fallen nature. Christian leaders should be aware of these tendencies and establish measures to minimize them. This may require an uncommon moral courage and commitment to absolute integrity and accountability to those we lead.

From this article we learn:

  • Authoritarian hierarchicalism is a secular form of organizational structure, antithetical to the leadership principles Christ embodied.
  • Authoritarian hierarchicalism stimulates the worst in human nature, leading to arrogance, selfish ambition, politicking, blame shifting and more.
  • Christian leaders involved in such structures can mitigate the damage by instituting administrative devices to make themselves approachable and accountable to those they lead.


Smalling's articles and essays are available at www.smallings.com

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Where Does God Exalt the Office of "Preacher"? by Jon Zens



Is it possible that both Protestant and Catholic worship-styles are oblivious to New Testament patterns? Catholicism puts the sacrament on center stage and includes a homily by a priest. For the most part in Protestantism's worship services everything rallies around the sermon, which is delivered from behind a pulpit. Generally, the "office of preacher" has been elevated. Is such exaltation warranted from the Scriptures we claim to be sufficient for all faith and practice?

We claim that the New Testament documents provide God-inspired direction for the New Covenant people of God, just as the Old Testament Scriptures structured life for Israel. But where do these writings ever reveal what has traditionally come to be known as ―the centrality of preaching‖? Where is the "office of preacher" emphasized?

If these traditions cannot be found in the Bible, why do we get our feathers so ruffled when they are questioned? Why is questioning the inordinate focus on one person‘‘s sermon tantamount to challenging motherhood, apple pie, and even God Himself? Please consider with me the following points, and see if some light from the Lord‘‘s Word emerges to drive us to view "church" in a new light.

The "sermon" as traditionally practiced, in which a clergy person usually gives a message from behind a large, wooden object, originated from Greek, not Biblical, sources. There is nothing revealed in God's Word about the primacy and exaltation of a specialist who issues forth a monologue Sunday after Sunday. Roughly in the period of 200 –– 300 A.D. the sermon emerged as central in Christian gatherings. But the cue for this practice was taken, not from the Lord‘s inspired apostles, but from Greek culture. As one author noted, The "sermon" was the result of syncretism –– the fusion of the Biblical necessity of teaching with the unbiblical Greek notion of Rhetoric. [Edwin Hatch notes] "Such are the indications of the influence of Greek Rhetoric upon the early churches. It created the Christian sermon." (Kevin Craig, ― Is the "Sermon‘ Concept Biblical?, ST, 15:1-2, 1986, p.28; citing Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas On Christianity, Peter Smith, 1970, p.113).

The Greek verbs used in the New Testament to portray ―preaching‖ are found overwhelmingly in situations which are outside church meetings and evangelistic in nature (cf. Eric Wright, ―Terms Used to Describe Apostolic Communication in the Book of Acts,‖ ST, 13:2, 1984, pp.7-8).

One of the few places where "proclaim" (Greek, kataggello) is used in an ekklesia setting is in 1 Cor.11:26, and this is accomplished by proclamation through their actions, not by one person‘s sermon. The Greek words used for what goes on in an assembly meeting carry with them a mutuality "pray together, instruct one another, sing with one another, exhort and comfort one another, care for one another, eat with one another, etc. "Preaching" in settings outside of Christian gatherings is more one-way in that unbelievers hear the gospel announced, although discussion and give-and-take are certainly present also.

Paul does charge Timothy to "preach the word," but it must be kept in mind that he was an itinerant ―evangelist," not a resident elder. If you check out the references to Timothy in the New Testament, you will see that he was a person on the move, not having a resident ministry in one place. If "preaching" primarily takes place outside of Christian meetings, why do we magnify the "office of preacher" within the church?

Some point to Acts 20:7-12 as an example of "the centrality of preaching," a time when Paul spoke for a long time. But it must be noted that v.7 specifically states that the purpose of their coming together on the first day of the week was "to break bread" (fellowship) not to hear a sermon.

There were special circumstances surrounding this particular meeting, for it was the last time Paul would ever see them. I'm sure if Paul came to your assembly, you would want to prolong your time together in order to hear what he had to say. Further, the verb used here, dialegomai, from which we derive our English word "dialogue," implies give-and-take with the listeners. What Paul said provided the substance of the gathering, but he did not talk non-stop for hours. There would have been discussion and audience participation. Paul was concerned about what was on the hearts of others too (cf. Norrington, To Preach or Not to Preach, pp.9,100).

In 1976 a brother asked me, "Why is preaching central in your church?" The first verse that came into my mind to defend this practice was 1 Cor.1:21, God uses "the foolishness of preaching." But the brother pointed out that the context there was evangelism, not Christian meetings. I was perturbed at his rebuttal then, but as I reflected on this issue I came to see that he was absolutely right. God uses preaching to save Jews and Greeks who come to faith in Christ.

The Greek word for "preacher" (one who heralds a message) is used three times in the New Testament, and has evangelism in the forefront. Paul twice designates himself as a "herald" (1 Tim.2:7; 2 Tim.1:11), and connects his mission to the Gentiles and his sufferings with this function. In 2 Pet.2:5 Noah is called "a preacher of righteousness," However, he was not preaching to the choir members
, but to a doomed, unbelieving generation. Again, from the scant use of the word "preacher" in the New Testament, there is no basis to focus on this function in the midst of assembly meetings.

Indeed, the Lord has said, "How beautiful are the feet of those who announce good news" (Rom.10:15), but the context here has evangelism of Jew and Gentile in view, not believers‘gatherings. "And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Rom.10:14).

1 Cor.14 reveals an open kind of gathering, with no one person presiding, and with multiple participation from the body. If the traditional sermon is removed from our meeting, what is to take its place? Without the focus on one part‘‘s contribution –– the sermon –– it would be possible for the saints to be built up in a gathering where they looked to Christ as the Head, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, to bring forth from the brethren what is needful.

There is nothing in 1 Cor.14, or anywhere else in the New Testament for that matter, about pews, a pulpit, a sermon, one person dominating the meeting, or an "order of service." William Barclay (himself from the very liturgical Church of Scotland) comments on what he saw taking place in 1 Cor.14.

[1 Cor.14] sheds a flood of light on what a Church service was like in the early Church. There was obviously a freedom and informality about it which is completely strange to our ideas…….Clearly, the early Church had no professional ministry…….There was obviously a flexibility about the order of service in the early Church which is now totally lacking. There was clearly no settled order at all…….The really notable thing about an early Church service must have been that almost everyone came feeling that he had both the privilege and obligation of contributing something to it‖ (The Letters to the Corinthians, Revised Edition, Westminster Press, 1977, pp.133-135).

Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary notes concerning 1 Cor.14:26:

"Verse 26 insists that the Corinthians continue to worship in highly participatory and spontaneous fashion." Everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.‘ This does not mean that every person present exercises all of the gifts, nor even that all exercise at least one in every service. But opportunity is made available for all whom the Spirit leads on any given occasion to contribute‖ (The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians, Zondervan, 1995, p.278).

It is acknowledged by New Testament scholarship that early church gatherings were simple, taking place for the most part in homes. James‘ command, "be slow to speak and quick to listen," may have such gatherings as a backdrop. "There may be an allusion to the free and unstructured worship of early Christian assemblies" (Curtis Vaughn, James: A Study Guide, Zondervan, 1960, p.35).

"It is possible that contentious Christian babes were taking advantage of the informal style of worship in the early Christian church to produce wrangling" (James: A Primer for Christian Living, Pres.& Ref., 1974, p.69).

In light of 1 Cor.14 a big question I have is this: why is the New Testament evidence we do have concerning Christian gatherings discarded and functionally treated as irrelevant, and that for which there is no evidence –– the centrality of the preacher and his sermon –– elevated to assumed divine status?

Why do virtually no Western churches resemble the early churches in practice?

Why do we confess that the New Testament is a sufficient guide for the church's faith and practice, and yet meet together in ways that contradict its patterns? Are we at liberty to set aside what is revealed about gospel gatherings in order to keep intact the non-apostolic traditions that we have received? Paul said in 1 Cor.
12:14 that the body is not one part but many, yet we generally gather in a way that hinges on one part and denies the contributions of all the other parts (except to put a check in the offering plate).

Over a century ago David Thomas touched on some key points in this regard:

"The Christian church in assembly, on the same occasion, might have several speakers to address them…….If this be so:"

1. Should Christian teaching be regarded as a profession? It is now: men are brought up in it, trained for it, and live by it, as architects, lawyers, doctors …."

2. Is the Christian church justified in confining its attention to the ministry of one man?

"In most modern congregations there are some Christian men who, by natural ability, by experimental knowledge and inspiration, are far more qualified to instruct and comfort the people than their professional and stated minister. Surely official preaching has no authority, either in Scripture, reason, or experience, and it must come to an end sooner or later. Every Christian man should be a preacher. Were the half-hour allotted in church services for the sermon to be occupied by three or four Christly men……with the capability and expression withal, it would not only be far more interesting, but more profitably spent than now "(1 Corinthians, " The Pulpit Commentary, 1898, p. 459).

In his song, "All of Us Together," Scott Wesley Brown expresses a wonderful thought that can be applied to the blessings of open Christian gatherings where there is multiple participation no one of us has got it all together, but all of us together got it all."

We must remember that human traditions are not neutral.

Jesus taught in Mark 7:5-13 that human traditions originate from religious leaders and over time take on the force of law; they tend to multiply and take precedence over more important matters; they render the worship of God to be a vain undertaking; when they are elevated, the actual instructions of God take a back seat; when zeal is directed toward them, the commands of God will be flagrantly violated; when people are fixated on traditions handed down from the past, God‘s Word is made of no effect; and fixation on traditions tends to permeate all of one‘s existence.

One tradition can spawn a legion of activities that support it.

Think of all the religious baggage that is created by the exaltation of the clergy's sermon - "myriads of books, seminars, videos, and classes on various aspects of "How to Preach"; seminaries to produce people who preach; ministerial associations for local support of those who preach; clergy conferences to encourage those who preach; denominational machinery and politics to fill empty pulpits; local church pastoral search committees; expensive church architecture that focuses on the pulpit at center stage; the manufacturing of pews, pulpits, audio and video systems and other accouterments that enable the "laity‘‘ to hear sermons; a wide gamut of specialized products, services, and perks for preachers; special days for "clergy appreciation"; numerous sources for sermon outlines for busy preachers. Such a list could go on and on.

Everything in our religion is predicated on the notion, "We must have a Sunday sermon." Yet few ever ask, "Where does God‘s Word reveal the need for a weekly monologue?"

How can we continue to exalt the position of "preacher" when it is just a long-standing human tradition?

Do we realize that by elevating "preaching" we have for the longest time rendered God‘s Word of no effect? Can we reflect on the blessings that would be ours in Christ if we practiced an "each of you" meeting where Christ as the Head would lead the brethren into edification? Why do we pursue the "centrality of preaching" for which there is no Biblical evidence, and thereby neglect, stifle, hinder, and suppress the kind of open, edifying gathering which the New
Testament does reveal?

I appeal to you to consider this illustration, an illustration which could be equally applied to the evaluation of many other human traditions. If a group of new believers located in a remote area of Iraq read through the New Testament in their language, would they ever come to the conclusion that in order for their meetings to please the Lord they must exalt an "office" in which one person who stands behind a ―sacred desk‖ (a pulpit) and delivers a sermon week after week? They wouldn't. They couldn't because such notions aren't to be found in the Scriptures.

Why, then, do we become so defensive when pulpit centrality is examined, questioned, and the emperor is found to have no Biblical clothing?

It is interesting to note that D.M. Lloyd-Jones, who wrote Preaching & Preachers, sensed that some traditions were hindering full church life.

"There is also this whole question of the exercise of gifts in the church……. [Some] have certain major difficulties, one of which is the so-called "one-man ministry." We have our views about that, but I feel the time has come for us to examine even questions such as these. It does not mean that you necessarily abandon that ministry, but it does focus attention on this: are we giving members of the church an adequate opportunity to exercise their gifts? Are our churches
corresponding to the life of the New Testament church? Or is there too much concentration in the hands of ministers and clergy? ……But I still ask, "Do we manifest the freedom of the New Testament church?‘‘ In other words, this is another reason why we must come back and consider the whole doctrine of the nature of the church, and the marks of the church…….The notion of people belonging to the church in order to come to sit down and fold their arms and
listen, with just two or three doing everything, is quite foreign to the New Testament……(Knowing the Times: Addresses Delivered on Various Occasions, 1942 - 1977, Banner of Truth, 1989, pp.195 - 196).

“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

Brethren, I can give testimony to the wonderful blessings of growing in the practice of meeting together around the person of Jesus Christ in simplicity. Of course it is open to abuse –– Paul was correcting the Corinthians in chapter 14. It is more vulnerable when you trust the Lord to guide by the Spirit and not an order of service." It requires commitment to people — like yourself! — who can act at times like porcupines. It involves Spirit-sensitive brothers and sisters who are  active participants, not just passive receivers. Fervent love for Jesus Christ, a desire to discern and act the mind of Christ, and deep humility with openness must flow among the brethren. Taking up our cross and following Jesus is not easy, but it is the only way of true blessedness.

I believe that the exaltation of preaching, while no one could doubt that some good fruit from it has been born over the years, has blocked us from pursuing the gathering of saints in simplicity which is revealed in the New Testament.

It often keeps people in a position of spoon-fed dependency, instead of fostering their growth and maturity into works of service, and deepening their relationship with the Lord and other believers. But when we boil everything down, isn't our basic concern, "What has the Lord revealed to us in His Word in this regard?"

If we exalt that which He hasn't, aren't we going to be the worse for it? Why wouldn't we want to devote our zeal to what He has shown us in the Scriptures? Is it really beneficial for a deeply rooted human tradition to continue its reign over church life?

The story was told of a brother in the 1800's explaining to a Lutheran scholar his understanding of the early church and their gatherings. The scholar then asked, "Yes, but can such things be practiced in these days?" The brother replied, "Have you ever tried it?"

Searching Together
Box 377, Taylors Falls MN 55084
651-465-6516
jzens@searchingtogether.org
www.JonZens.com

Friday, July 22, 2016

Judge vs. Judge Not – Which Is It? by Frank Viola

Here in the USA we are in the midst of another run for the presidency where a small number of people have lost their minds. Scratch that. I mean, where a small number of people have decided to run for the highest office in the land.

Not a few of us are experiencing regular bouts of deja moo whenever we turn on the news and hear the politicians pontificate. (Deja moo = the acute feeling that you’ve heard this bull before.)

Anyways, amid the sharp elbowing, personal deriding, eye-popping broadsides, and gratuitous insults, this year’s bare-knuckled, cut-and-thrust campaign is marked by virtually all of the candidates judging one another.

In that regard, it’s not terribly dissimilar to the “Christian” community on social media where the knives come out on a daily basis causing no small blood-letting.

This year’s political knife-fight got me thinking about the issue of judging others.

Herein lies a thorny biblical paradox. On the one hand, the New Testament sternly warns us to “judge not.” At the same time, it happily exhorts us to “judge.”

So what’s the deal?

As I’ve argued elsewhere, whenever you see an apparent contradiction in the Bible, draw a distinction.

In this case, there are two types of judging.

Let’s begin with the first type. The one that Scripture condemns.

Type 1: Judging an individual’s heart-motives which is directly tied to condemning them.

This is the kind of judging that Jesus, Paul, and James sharply denounce. It’s the judgment of the heart. It’s where a mere mortal usurps God’s position, critically looks down on the failures of others (real or alleged) and imputes dark motives to their hearts. It also applies to the act of judging a person when you yourself are guilty of the same (or similar) practices.

(At the end of this article, I’ve listed the key texts that condemn this type of judging.)

I’ve met many judgmental Christians in my lifetime. Perhaps you have too. The self-righteous, highly-critical spirit that exudes from them is nauseating. Such people anoint themselves to be inquisitors, especially toward people they barely know. Their compass is set to think the worst of others, and they seem to relish condemning.

Tragically, these individuals aren’t in touch with the fact that Jesus Christ doesn’t stand with them. And in every case where I’ve seen this kind of judging take place, the person dishing out the judgments ends up being chastised by the Lord. Sometimes in pretty sober ways.

Jesus made clear that this kind of judging has a way of bouncing back on those who exercise it (Matthew 7:2).

Fact: highly judgmental “Christians” are almost always exposed to have corrupt characters. Usually the things such people condemn the most loudly in others end up being the very things they themselves practice — or struggle with — in secret.

As I’ve pointed out before, the piece of saw dust that the judgmental person detects in her brother’s eye has come from the telephone pole in her own. Consequently, the judgmental person is projecting what’s in her own heart onto others and condemning herself in the process (see Matthew 7:3-4).

Regrettably, this type of judging goes on constantly in Christian circles as professing followers of Jesus unsheathe their swords, impute bad motives to others, climb on God’s throne, and act like holy inquisitors.

With respect to this kind of judging, the New Testament is unequivocal: Judge not.

And it’s the reason why countless people who need Christ view “Christians” to be highly judgmental people.

Type 2: The other type of judging is the act of evaluating the morality of an action or the rightness of a word, statement, or teaching. Not according to one’s own personal preferences, the dictates of their conscience, or the standards of their denomination, movement, or Christian tribe (e.g., Colossians 2:16; Romans 14), but according to the standards of Jesus Christ as spelled out in His Word.

(At the end of this article, I’ve listed the key texts that commend this type of judging.)

So it’s right to evaluate the merits of an action based on what the New Testament clearly teaches. But it’s wrong to judge a person’s motives.

It’s right to render a verdict on whether a teaching is true or false according to a proper understanding of the Bible. But it’s wrong to judge that teaching based on insufficient information, misinformation, or misrepresentation. (That’s why if you intend to critique someone’s teaching, intellectual honesty will compel you to go to the teacher directly to make sure you accurately understand what he or she is teaching.)

It’s right to condemn an action as immoral (for example, slander, lying, gossip, and stealing are repeatedly denounced as immoral in the Bible). But it’s wrong to condemn an individual because doing so is to play God.

It’s right to render a judgment on specific conduct. But it’s wrong to denounce a person for certain sins – real or alleged — when you are committing your own sins. Jesus called this hypocrisy.

It’s right to correct a fellow believer in the spirit of deep humility when all vestiges of self-righteousness have been extracted from your heart. But it’s wrong to have a self-righteous, arrogant spirit when correcting another. See How (Not) to Correct Another Christian.

It’s right to evaluate the ethics of a decision, action, or statement. But it’s wrong to make a judgment on anything without sufficient or accurate information. Things aren’t always what they seem.

“He who answers a matter before he hears it [fully], it is folly and shame to him.”

~ Proverbs 18:13

“You are judging by appearances …”

~ Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:7

(I made this mistake big-league once and survived to tell about it.)

The Take-Away

When distinguishing between the judging that God condemns from the judging that God commends, F.F. Bruce writes,

“Judgment is an ambiguous word, in Greek as in English: it may mean sitting in judgment on people (or even condemning them), or it may mean exercising a proper discrimination. In the former sense judgment is depreciated; in the latter sense it is recommended.”

I hope this clarifies the matter. But more, I hope you’ll put it into practice immediately and treat those whom you’re inclined to judge the same way you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). Which often means suspending judgment. And if you have questions or concerns, go to the person directly. Don’t be a gutless wonder.

The self-righteous, fault-finders who traffic in judging others will end up witnessing their graceless verdicts rebounding on their own heads.

“Judge not, so that you may not be judged; for you will be judged by the same standard by which you judge others, and the same measure you measure out will be measured out to you.”

~ Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2.

The old adage, “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is timeless and echoes the words of our Lord.

In the same way, the words of rabbi Hillel, “Do not judge your neighbor until you have been in his situation (lit., ‘his place.’)” and the famed Indian proverb, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins,” bleed the spirit of Jesus, Paul, and James.

Thus when it comes to the matter of judging others, we’d all be wise to turn those crosshairs into mirrors. As Earnest Pickering once said,

“Human nature being what it is, we are often quick to judge others, but reluctant to judge ourselves. We must always remember that there are many things wrong with our lives and ample reason for us to pass judgment on ourselves before attempting to do so with others.”

Scripture Texts – Judging That God Condemns

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

~ Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

~ Jesus in Luke 6:37

“Do not judge according to appearance.”

~ Jesus in John 7:24a

“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”

~ Paul in Romans 2:1

“Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.”

~ Paul in Romans 14:3

“Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”

~ Paul in Romans 14:4

“But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”

~ Paul in Romans 14:10

“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”

~ Paul in Romans 14:13

“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.”

~ Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:3

“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.”

~ Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:5 (see also Romans 2:16).

“Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

~ James in James 4:11

“There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?”

~ James in James 4:12

Scripture Texts – Judging That God Commends

“Judge with righteous judgment.”

~ Jesus in John 7:24b

“Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?

~ Jesus in Luke 12:57

“But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.'”

~ Acts 4:19

“Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

~ Acts 15:19

“But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.”

~ Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:15

“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?”

~ Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:2

“I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say.”

~ Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:15

“For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.”

~ Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:31

“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.”

~ Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:29

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Demystifying the Lord’s Voice: Part 1 & 2 by Frank Viola

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In today’s post, I want to discuss the thorny issue of hearing the voice of Jesus.

First, I grew up in a movement where it was common for people to say, “The Lord told me this,” and “God showed me that.” They said it so confidently, with such assurance, projecting the image that God talked to them as unmistakably as when a solicitor calls you on the phone.

Interestingly, whenever I’ve said to such people, “We really need a practical book that shows people how to practically recognize the Lord’s voice,” they became animated saying something like, “Oh, I really want to read a book like that!”

The only conclusion I can draw from this reaction is that these same people aren’t absolutely sure they are hearing from God (despite their confident claim that God speaks to them every time they blink).

Second, ever since I began following the Lord at age 16, I’ve found the whole issue of hearing the Lord clouded in mystery. Mostly because when I’ve heard people announce that God told them such and such (with absolute confidence), they made it sound like His voice is so different from their own thoughts that there’s no way they could mistake His for theirs.

Third, while there’s still a very small percentage of Christians roaming Planet Earth who’ve swallowed the unbiblical idea that God no longer speaks to His people today, the overwhelming majority of Jesus-followers are convinced that the Lord still speaks to His people today. And the New Testament stands with them.

Fourth, all told, there’s a tremendous hunger among God’s people to hear directly from their Lord. This is why the book Jesus Calling has sold over 10 million copies. Whatever you may think about that book, its success in sales sends one unmistakable message: God’s people are hungry to hear their Lord speak to them.

So let me press a few questions:

* What if the whole process of hearing the voice of Jesus could be demystified in a way that any believer could learn to recognize His voice? Not just pastors and Charismatics?

* What if you could have your own “Jesus calling” experience if someone simply showed you how? This, opposed to having to read someone’s book where Jesus allegedly spoke to them?

* What would happen if God’s people – even a small percentage of them – starting hearing the Lord’s voice regularly and began responding to what He was telling them? What sort of effect would this have on their own personal lives, on the body of Christ, and on the world?

Consider those questions for a moment.

Let me end this update with seven points that I’ve come to conclude over many years of experimenting, exploring, studying, and learning about the way the Lord speaks to us today:

Jesus is alive and well. No has put duct tape around His mouth; He’s not mute. He still speaks to His people today. And not just when they read their Bibles.
What Jesus says to His people will never contradict what He’s said previously (in the Scriptures).

When Jesus spoke to people in the New Testament after His ascension, it was usually internal, not audible.

The Lord’s voice comes to us mostly through our own thoughts, feelings, desires, and impressions.

Scriptures gives us some very definite clues as to how to recognize the Lord’s voice from our own.

You can sharpen your spiritual senses to hear His voice. You simply need some practical help on how to do so.

Up until the 1800s, the vast majority of people were illiterate. Even today, 15% of the world still cannot read. While the ability to read is wonderful, it’s not a requirement to hear the Lord speak.

In Part 2, I’ll share a few practical handles I’ve discovered that will help you to recognize the Lord’s voice in your own life.

As promised, I'm going to share a few practical handles I've discovered that will help you to recognize the Lord's voice in your own life. There are many more that I cover elsewhere, but here are five:

* The Lord's voice most always comes through your own thoughts, desires, and impressions. This is because Christ dwells in you by the Holy Spirit and He is completely united to your own spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). Therefore, give attention to your thoughts, desires, feelings, and impressions. Under the New Covenant, every bush is burning. So pay attention.

* If it's the Lord speaking, the thought/desire/impression will stay with you. If it's not the Lord, it will leave rather quickly.

* If it's the Lord speaking, it will be marked by love - the very nature of Jesus. Specifically, the thought/desire/impression will benefit others at the expense of yourself. The Lord will also empower you to carry out what He says, which will often involve the denial of your flesh.

* If you fail to respond to the Lord's leading, it will be difficult to recognize His voice in the future. So if you are having trouble "hearing," go back and respond to the last thing He revealed to you. "If any one shall do my will, He will know . . ."

* On the other hand, we often don't "hear" because we already know the answer. The Lord's will is also discerned through wisdom. Jesus is Wisdom incarnate, so wisdom is one of the ways in which He speaks to us.

Again, there are many more practicals, and one of them is that the Lord speaks to us mostly through spiritual instincts.

As a gift, you can read my new chapters --

     Spiritual Instincts ...
     What the Forty Days Teach Us ...
     The Voice of the Lord in Scripture ...
     The Cost of Following the Lord's Voice

The chapters are all included in the Sampler for my new book with Leonard Sweet entitled, JESUS SPEAKS: Learning to Recognize & Respond to the Lord's Voice.

This new hardcover book (which also comes in Kindle and Nook) covers the waterfront on the subject of hearing the voice of Jesus. Everything from visions, dreams, spiritual instincts, the four characteristics that mark the voice of Jesus, how to prepare your heart to hear the Lord, the audible voice of God, hearing Jesus through the body of Christ, how to have your own "Jesus Calling" experience, the hindrances to hearing the Lord's voice, and the dangers associated with hearing His voice are all treated.

As far as I know, Jesus Speaks is the most practical book on how to recognize the voice of Jesus and respond to Him. It demystifies the whole process.

The Sampler also contains the Table of Contents so you can see exactly what the book covers.

JESUS SPEAKS officially releases in a few weeks, but you can pre-order it now on discount and be the first to receive it by going to http://JesusSpeaks.me

The Sampler is also on that page.

I look forward to hearing your feedback on the book.

My prayer is that it will help many. Especially those of you who have felt, "Why does the Lord seem to be speak so clearly to others but not to me?"

     Your brother,

     fv

     Psalm 115:1

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Is Pokemon Go Evil, Dangerous or Demonic?



As the Pokemon Go craze continues to sweep the nation, it is inevitable that this game will be hotly debated in Christian circles. ( REUTERS/Chris Helgren)

One week ago, a game called Pokemon Go was launched, and over the last seven days it has become an international phenomenon. It is the first mass market video game to successfully blend the real world and the digital world together in a way that the public truly embraces, and it is making headlines all over the planet. At this point it has almost as many daily active users as Twitter does, and Nintendo's stock price is going crazy as a result. On Monday it shot up 25 percent, and on Tuesday it surged another 13 percent. In other words, Nintendo is now worth billions of dollars more than it used to be. But is there a dark side to Pokemon Go? Is it potentially evil, dangerous or demonic?

Many people would dismiss such questions as complete nonsense. Unlike most video games, Pokemon Go actually requires people to leave their homes, get some exercise and visit real places. This type of game is being called "augmented reality," and it is bringing people together in new and interesting ways. In fact, the Washington Post is reporting that a lot of people are actually ending up in church as they hunt Pokemon creatures.

But not everything is unicorns and lollipops with this new game. Over the past week, we have seen people commit robberies at Pokemon Go locations, and there are very serious data security concerns. The following comes from Ricky Scaparo...

New reports are now coming in of the practical dangers of this game such as a recent report out of Baltimore where multiple people were robbed playing the "Pokemon Go" game last week, according to the Baltimore County Police Department. And then there is personal security concerns that have surfaced as a new report indicated that players that have logged into the game using their Google account may have given the app permission to go through all of their Google data, including emails and website history.

But much more alarming to many is the content of the game itself. As Mena Lee Grebin has pointed out, "Pokemon" actually comes from two Japanese words that mean "Pocket Monster"...

Meaning of the word Pokémon: a contraction of two Japanese words, "Poketto" and "Monsut," meaning "Pocket Monster"

Definition of Monster: a creature that is typically large, ugly, and frightening. Synonyms – rascal, beast, demon, brute, imp, devil.

Even the Washington Post admits that there are creatures such as "a flaming demon" in Pokemon Go. As players progress through the game, they collect these monsters and demons, train them, and have them fight against Pokemon owned by others. Here is more from Ricky Scaparo...

The Pokemon are supposed to be "monsters" that have special powers and share the world with humans. The idea of the game is to have the children learn how to collect as many Pokemon as possible, train them, and use them against other people's Pokemon by invoking the various abilities of each Pokemon creature. Pokemon can evolve and pass through various levels, 100 being the highest. Colored energy cards are sometimes used to aid the Pokemon.

But "it's just a game" right?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Everything that we do, whether it is a "game" or not, trains us or conditions us in various ways. Often seeing something in a movie or coming across something in a video game can spark an interest or open a door into something deeper. For instance, occult organizations admit that one of their best recruiting tools is Harry Potter. After reading the books or watching the movies, many have found themselves curious about the occult world.

Realizing that, just consider some of the things that go on in the world of Pokemon. The following comes from the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry...

Is Pokemon dangerous? Potentially, yes it is. It conditions the child who plays the game into accepting occult and evolutionary principles. Haunter can hypnotize, eat a person's dreams and drain their energy. Abra reads minds. Kadabra emits negative energy that harms others. Gastly induces sleep. Gengar laughs at peoples' fright. Nidoran uses poison. The psychic type of Pokemon are among the strongest in the game. Charmander, Haunter, Ivysaur, Kadabra and many more evolve. The children are taught to use these creatures to do their will by invoking colored energy cards, fights and commands. Much of it is reminiscent of occult and eastern mysticism.

But it goes even farther than that. According to occult expert Bill Schnoebelen, Pokemon players engage in all sorts of activities that would be considered deeply occult if they were done in real life...

Like many video games, Pokémon is riddled with occult concepts. Concepts like "magical stones," teleportation, ghosts, all-seeing eye, psychic power and using spirits to achieve results in the real world are all givens in this game realm. All of this is contrary to scripture. The Pokémon games and comics, etc., teach what I have called a magic worldview that is completely opposed to the Bible.

The Magic Worldview is the idea, common to all occult belief systems, that there is not really any sovereign Deity over creation. Instead, creation is ruled by a series of occult laws. In a sense, the universe is like a cosmic vending machine. As long as you put in the right coin (ritual or spell) you automatically achieve the desired result.

Particularly disturbing is the concept that children are being trained to "capture" demon-like creatures, train and control them, and use them against others. Many believe this very closely mirrors what many high-level occultists attempt to do with real demons. Here is more from Bill Schnoebelen...

The magician works from within a specially prepared magic circle which supposedly protects him from the demon as long as he stays inside it. He uses special magical weapons like a wand, staff or sword to threaten the demon and make it do his or her bidding. Once the ritual is successful, supposedly the demon belongs to the magician to do his or her bidding—as long as the stipulations of their contract are kept by sorcerer. Often the demon will grant the magician occult powers or give him or her special talismans to control others. This is a large part of high magic.

Now, there is barely a dime's worth of difference between this and what goes on in the "make-believe" Pokémon universe!

As the Pokemon Go craze continues to sweep the nation, it is inevitable that this game will be hotly debated in Christian circles.

And just like with the Harry Potter books and movies, many will become extremely upset at the suggestion that there might actually be something wrong with Pokemon Go.

But we all have a responsibility to evaluate what we are feeding into our minds, and this is especially true if you are a parent of young children.

In the end, everyone will do what they think is best for themselves, but as for me and my house we will definitely be staying far away from Pokemon Go.

Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of End Of The American Dream. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled "The Rapture Verdict" is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Do Demons Exist? Watch a Demon-Possessed Model Manifest a Spirit During Live Television Interview



Do demons really exist? If you are not much interested in spiritual matters, this may seem like a very odd question to you. Perhaps up to this point the only encounters you have had with "demon possession" have been in Hollywood horror movies.

The topic of "demons" just doesn't come up a lot in our highly secularized society today, and even in most churches people don't really want to talk about it even though the Gospels are full of stories of Jesus casting out demons. The things that you are going to read about below are quite disturbing. Before the internet, most people were simply not going to be exposed to these types of things because they weren't about to pop up on the evening news or during prime time television programs. But today, thanks to YouTube, things that happen to ordinary people on the other side of the planet can quickly go viral and be spread all over the planet.

For example, the first incident that I want to share with you comes from Thailand. Just recently, a Thai model named Thippawan "Pui" Chaphupuang was being interviewed on live television when she bizarrely began manifesting a Thai spirit known as a "pop."

Thirteen minutes into the interview, Thippawan "Pui" Chaphupuang, announced that a "pop" — a cannibalistic spirit in Thai folkore — had come to possess her.

Pui then slipped into Pop as the host asked the 'ghost' questions as to why it continued to possess the young woman.

According to an Internet translation, the host asked Pop: "Why can't you leave her?"

To which, the spirit replied in a strange voice: "Someone sent me here!"

The entity appearing to possess Pui's body refused to say who had sent it and demanded pigs' blood as the woman writhed around and shrieked, strangely.

According to Wikipedia, a Phi Pop is "a malevolent female spirit that devours human entrails." And if you are familiar with the first five books of the Bible, then you probably already know that the blood of a pig would be considered highly unclean to eat. You can watch a YouTube clip of this model's extremely strange behavior as this spirit manifests right here.

Of course, this kind of thing is not just happening in Thailand. All over the world, accounts of demonic spirits manifesting seem to be getting much more common.

This next incident that recently popped up in the international media comes from Chile.

Disturbing footage has emerged online showing the moment that a "possessed" young woman appears to smile sinisterly after she is told she is dead during a bizarre exorcism session.

The "possessed" woman is shown at the beginning of the video holding a conversation in the Spanish language with a woman dressed in a white robe and wearing a long necklace.

The woman in white appears to be acting as a priestess or exorcist of a religious or spiritual cult, and the young woman is consulting her for solution to a spiritual problem.

You can view video of that incident right here. But I want to warn you that all of these videos are quite disturbing and should not be viewed by young children or anyone that is particularly sensitive to these things.

In central Argentina, people riding a bus became extremely alarmed recently when a woman started vomiting, rolling her head around, and uttering things "in a deep, masculine, demonic voice."

Bus passengers must have thought they were on the road to Hell when a woman became 'possessed' by a demon during a routine journey.

The bus was travelling through the city of San Luis in central Argentina one night when a female passenger began exhibiting some alarming symptoms.

Another passenger began filming on a phone as the woman's head lolled around and she began speaking in a deep, masculine, demonic voice.

What would you do if you found yourself in a similar situation? If you would like to see video of that incident, you can do so right here. There are certain individuals, such as occult expert Bill Schnoebelen, who have been dealing with these sorts of things on a regular basis for decades, but most people have never personally encountered someone manifesting an evil spirit, especially if they don't go to church.

Another incident that made international news reports recently comes from Mexico.

The child, named Said, left his family fearing for their lives after he appeared to have been taken over by a devil.

In the clip, the boy sits in a chair, making strange, throaty noises – as though his voice has been distorted by a machine.

It is believed the incident took place in Montemorelos, in Mexico.

I could go on and on, but I think that you get the point.

Demonic spirits are actually manifesting on a regular basis all over the world, and I anticipate that this will continue to increase in frequency and intensity as we get even deeper into the period of time the Bible refers to as the last days.

Here in the United States, we can see evil at work all around us as well. I wanted to mention the following story today, because it is a perfect example of just how sick and twisted we have become as a society. It turns out that a male high school rowing coach in Michigan was secretly filming female students in the locker room while they were changing.

A high school rowing coach in Michigan stands accused of hiding a camera and filming female students changing in a locker room.

Timothy W. Vallier, 30, was arrested Friday after a student discovered a camera with videos of female rowers undressing, WOOD-TV reported.

The camera was inside a Ford Explorer used by Vallier, the Rockford Public Schools men's rowing head coach.

'We saw this video camera on the floor of the explorer,' schools Superintendent Mike Shibler told WOOD-TV.

'So you know curious teens right — she said I picked it up and started looking at what was on it.'

How sick do you have to be to do something like that?

Unfortunately, just about every kind of evil that you can possibly imagine is growing rapidly in the United States today, but very few people seem alarmed by our stunning descent into evil and depravity.

As a society, we have rejected the truth and we have embraced the darkness, and the consequences of this are becoming quite evident.

But even though we are steamrolling toward oblivion as a nation, most Americans are still in denial.

Most of us still believe that everything is going to turn out OK somehow.

Sadly, if you play with fire, you are going to get burned, and it looks like our country is going to have to find that out the hard way.

Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of End Of The American Dream. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled "The Rapture Verdict" is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

LIVING THE ANTITHESIS

by Rev Susan Tang
(Sr. Pastor of Calvary Charismatic Centre, Lahat Datu, Sabah and the founder of Station of Life)

For the past few years the Lord has been speaking to me about living in a manner that is the 'antithesis' to all that is happening in the church and in the nation. Over the years, as I waited on Him, I heard Him say, " There is darkness in My House. I am now calling those who can hear My voice to live lives that will be the antithesis to all that is happening. Stop your activities; start to pray and to live out that 'antithesis.'”

It was difficult because I had meetings lined up and my itinerant ministry was bringing in much financial blessing. The books and tapes were selling well and people were blessed. The only problem was, I did not have a deep sense of God's reality. I was finding it extremely hard to hear from Him and I did not enjoy the sense of joyful liberation and rest in my spirit that I am experiencing now. God settled my indecision by taking me through the typhoid incident! I was pathetic during that illness but so spiritually enriched after it. After I recovered, I could hear Him better and with His directives, came the explanations. I heard Him say, "Too many want to travel and speak for ministerial and money sake. They have no interest to build into my kingdom but into their own ministry which has no eternal validity. Now, will you obey and live in a manner that is the antithesis to all these?"
As I cancelled my itinerant ministry to stay back and spend time to pray, the directives also came to price down my books, to put them on the website for free reading. I was also to sell my house to buy a piece of land and to pioneer a prayer community. Oh, have I been struggling over these directives and decisions for the past two years! No wonder so many of us do not dare to spend time in His presence. Who knows what He will direct us to do next?

The struggles ceased lately as I read Matthew 7:13-14 and Jeremiah 7. In Matthew 7:14, Jesus commanded His disciples to walk the narrow way (or to live in a manner that is antithetical to the popular worldly order) although it was an unpopular choice and 'few there be that find it.' In Jeremiah 7 He convicted me that the deception in the church worldwide had already produced decline and darkness, a darkness which will finally lead to destruction. I then saw the decline of many local pastors and also much confusion in our local church scene as everything climaxes into what Jeremiah described in verse eleven:

"Is this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your eyes. Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord."

Not only do we have semi - nudity, gays and lesbians, con-men and women, paedophiles, adulterers, fornicators, pseudo prophets/prophetesses and false apostles defiling the church, we now have an influx of the merchandizing and trading spirit. No wonder God said the final result is that His house will become 'a den of robbers.' As the mercenary and the merchandizing spirit join forces with the present profanity, we will not only rob God of His glory, we will also rob the nation of godly standards or ‘the sense of God,’ and the heathen of their hope and salvation.

Many non-Christians are already disgusted as they could not find the difference between the church and the world.

Pope Benedict called the present culture the ‘culture of death’, and weaved his recent Easter Day message around the contrast between material and spiritual riches an told Christians to undergo a ‘purification of hearts’ so that we can heal a lacerated world. He warned against selfishness, corruption and said that the temptation of worldly riches is ‘the language of the serpent’.

Yes, even the church is now inundated with the ‘culture of death’ and the ‘language of the serpent.’ What, then, is God saying to us? What is His urgent and fresh call at this hour to the church in our nation? Are the prophets and prophetesses in Malaysia hearing Him or are we still prophesying ‘vain things’ and dishing out only favorable personal prophecies? Can we hear God calling men and women to live lives that are the antithesis to the horrible system of greed, materialism and compromise that has defiled the church and the land? Do we hear God calling us back to kingdom life and an apostolic lifestyle? When we do hear, do we then, have the strength to obey? To live a life that is the antithesis to all that is around us is like a fish swimming against the tide. Its strength could break against that onslaught.

Does God know? Yes, He does. This is why He told Israel, “Go on this special diet. Feed on manna (Me) daily. If you do, then you can fight against that order. The journey is indeed too hard for you but you can do it as you feed on Me and let Me infuse you with My life.”


But Israel rejected that special diet. This is why they could not make the journey. Will we let the same happen to us? God knows we can only walk the narrow way and be the antithesis to the defiled, worldly and devilish system if we have an infusion of the life of Jesus. But the church life today is hardly an ‘infusion of His life’; rather, it is an infusion of programs, activities, mental knowledge and great exteriors. If I had not stopped my itinerant ministry and spent time in His presence to hear from Him, and then to have been allowed to see what He showed me, I would not have the strength to carry out His directives. And to many of us these directives seem to be utter foolishness.

Does it seem too much for a single woman pastor who is in her ‘retirement years’ to sell her house and part with her only piece of visible and tangible asset? Yet my disobedience, after the Lord has shown me the rich rewards of my decision, would be worse than total foolishness and wickedness. My heart came to a liberating rest and joy when I could finally agree with what God was saying to me.

“The church must not only pray. She must live her prayers. If the church in Malaysia will not live lives that are the antithesis to all that is around her she will never be able to defeat the powers of darkness in this land; neither will she have the strength to avert My coming judgment.”


The infusion of His strength has helped me to yield, to agree to His directives and to start to live in a manner that will be the ‘antithesis’ to that which is selfish, worldly and devilish. I am doing it not because I m spiritual, wonderful or ‘one step above the rest’. I am doing it as an act of obedience and out of a deep love for God. I am also doing it because I want to ‘stand in the gap’ for many priests and prophets who are unable to come free of the psychic bondage to materialism. I am also doing it as an encouragement to others to follow. The Lord has given me the assurance that there will be many others who will follow as His reality enveloped us for “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power” (Psalm 110:3)

I now know what it means when I pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” God’s kingdom cannot come if His will is not done. The ‘kingdom lifestyle’ is the antithesis to the selfish, worldly and devilish order which the enemy has set up. It is wonderful to give it all to Him instead of allowing an incoming tsunami to sweep it away. Of course many still do not believe that a tsunami will ever hit the Malaysian shore or that Malaysian houses or properties will get swept off. People in Acheh and New Orleans did not think it could happen; nevertheless it did. Did people think that Subang Jaya and Shah Alam would get that badly flooded and that winds of that magnitude can hit the city? It happened and the worse is yet to come.

Is your life, up to this time just a product of an institution (the church) or is it an infusion of the life of Jesus? If it is an infusion of the life of Jesus, then you can come free of the psychic attraction to materialism and the ‘culture of death.’ You can live the ‘kingdom lifestyle’ and not listen to the ‘language of the serpent’. You can speak God’s language, ‘go against the tide’ and live the life that is the ‘antithesis’ to all that is around you so that you can heal the lacerated world … and the church.

Other articles related by Susan Tang: 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Billy Graham reveals biggest spiritual mistake Christians make



While there is nothing wrong with doing good deeds, evangelist Billy Graham says this becomes a mistake when people base it as their only hope for getting to Heaven.

"The greatest mistake anyone can ever make is to assume that they are good enough to go to Heaven. And yet countless people make this mistake every day, thinking their good deeds will somehow outweigh their bad deeds and make them eligible for Heaven," he writes on his website.

The reason why this is a mistake is because God's standard is nothing short of perfection, explains Graham. God is absolutely holy and perfect, and just even one sin would be enough to banish people from His presence. In school, Graham says it's okay for students to make several mistakes just as long as they hit the passing mark, but the same cannot be said of God.

The Bible says of Him in Habakkuk 1:13: "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing."

However, Graham says this does not mean that no one will ever get to Heaven. "The reason is because God has provided another way for us to be saved. That way is Jesus Christ. He was without sin (for He was God in human flesh)—but on the cross all our sins were placed on Him, and He took upon Himself the judgment and Hell that we deserve. He died in our place!" says the evangelist.

He is advising people to trust God and not in their own goodness for salvation. Graham says non-believers should now commit their lives to Jesus Christ as well as put their faith and trust in Him. "Then you will know that someday you will go to be with Him in Heaven forever—not because of your goodness, but because of His," he says.

Billy Graham warns the 'days of Noah are returning to the Earth'



http://www.christiantoday.com/reporter/czarina-ong

World-renowned evangelist Billy Graham warns that the "days of Noah are returning to the Earth," and should it finally happen, then it will be a "climactic event that will ring the curtain down on history."

"The Bible many times warns that toward the end of history as we know it, there will be a return to pre-flood conditions of gross sin and wickedness," Graham writes on his Decision Magazine. "The Scripture says concerning the people of Noah's day, 'Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually' (Genesis 6:5)."

Graham adds that in the last days, there will be "perilous" things happening, what with men being "lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power."

Even though the Bible did not say exactly when that judgment will come, "there are many indications that we are now living in the closing period of history."

People are called to repent and turn to Christ as the day of judgment draws near, says Graham. There are many who mistakenly assume they are already saved, but Graham warns they only have a "false notion" of what it's like to truly be a Christian since they continue living life any way they like.

"In their manner of living, they are indistinguishable from the world," he says. "It is true that they attend church with some regularity and do many good works, but they are not resting in the blood of Jesus Christ for their salvation, and they are not doing the works of faith that are required as an evidence of one's relationship with God."

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hong Kong Mafia Boss Encounters Jesus Christ : Amazing Testimony


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Sign of a True Apostle (It’s Not What You Think)

A few years ago I heard a preacher tell a room full of ministers that they couldn’t work miracles or exercise apostolic authority unless they used the word apostle as a title. So some of them ran out and printed new business cards—as if putting the word in front of their names was the magic ticket to reclaiming New Testament power.

That was a bad idea. For the past 15 years or more, thousands of people have been wounded and countless churches have nosedived because immature leaders thought they could gain apostolic status the easy way. We are so eager to qualify ourselves that we forget God alone calls, prepares and sends true apostles.

The late Arthur Katz, who was a prophetic voice to our movement for many years, wrote in his 1999 book Apostolic Foundations that nobody should be eager to step into an apostolic assignment or to treat such a task flippantly. “God is jealous over the word apostolic,” Katz wrote. “It is a word that has fallen into disuse and needs to be restored, and that restoration is not going to be cheap.”

We are so carnal, so power hungry and so enamored with status and position that we don’t have a clue what apostolic ministry really is. Most charismatics think it is about authority, and many men who claim to be apostles build top-down pyramid structures that abuse people. Others think apostolic leaders are marked primarily by sensational miracles. Yet I see something we have entirely missed when I look at the life of the apostle Paul.

Paul told the Thessalonians that love is the true hallmark of any person who is sent on an apostolic mission. Therefore, if we want apostolic power or authority (which we should), it must flow through apostolic love or it is a counterfeit. This apostolic love can be described in four ways:

1. It is incarnational. Paul brought the gospel to the Thessalonians and lived among them. He did not just drop in, preach a good sermon and leave. He said, “We were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives” (1 Thess. 2:8, NASB, emphasis added). Just as Jesus came to this earth, lived among us and died for us, true apostles give it all. If all an “apostle” does is preach a good message, he is a poor substitute for the real thing. (And if he also spends more time taking up offerings for himself, he is a hireling or a con artist.)

2. It is sacrificial. Paul risked his neck in Thessalonica, and then he told his followers that he would “suffer affliction” from his persecutors (1 Thess. 3:4). But he loved them so much that he prayed for them continually, and he longed to visit them again even though he knew it would be risky. He never mentions money. In fact, when he was with the Thessalonian church, he worked night and day “so as not to be a burden to any of [them]” (1 Thess. 2:9). That flies in the face of modern apostles who charge $1,000 an hour for their consulting fees.

3. It is relational. The word brethren appears in 1 Thessalonians 17 times. That’s because Paul viewed the church as the family of God. He saw himself in the role of a gentle, nursing mother (1 Thess. 2:7) as well as a strong father (v. 11). Paul’s affection is so thick and so slobbery that it drips off the page of his letter. He says the members of the church “have become very dear” to them (v. 8) and that they “also long to see [them]” (3:6). It’s no surprise that he ends the epistle by exhorting the people to greet one another with "a holy kiss” (5:26).

What has happened to this kind of holy affection in today’s church? Why are we so disconnected? We have replaced deep relationships with cold professionalism. Many pastors have not been properly fathered, so they don’t know how to love—nor do they have close friends. So we cover our dysfunction with busyness. We work, work, work—while sterile, loveless congregations struggle to grow. We use gimmicks and programs to get people in seats because our love is not warm enough to attract people to Jesus.

4. It is confrontational. Paul was not seeker-sensitive. He did not hesitate to confront sin. He gave the Thessalonians one of the most frank, forthright sermons on sexual sin ever written (1 Thess. 4:1-8). But he confronted them as a loving father by emploring them to stay within their God-given boundaries. He didn’t use anger, manipulation, domination or threats. He led with strong, apostolic love.

I believe God wants to pour out a new wave of apostolic power on our generation. But we can’t be trusted with this anointing if we refuse to grow up. We will have the maturity to use the word apostolic when we learn to walk in the love that was modeled by the first apostles.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of the Mordecai Project (themordecaiproject.org). You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is the author of The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and other books.

Two types of leaders. Which will you become? by Frank Viola

In our leadership-frenzied Christian culture, I've opted for a different label for leadership.

That label is influence.

Despite the unhealthy love-affair that countless Christians have with "leadership" and being "a leader," the truth is, if you're a follower of Jesus Christ, you're an influencer.

Your influence may be large or small, it may be good or bad, but it exists.

In this UNFILTERED update, I want to address two types of influencers in the body of Christ. And I'd like to do so by using an experience I had many years ago with two very different kinds of leaders.

At the time, both had considerable influence. But in terms of their character and leadership-style, they were light years apart. And so each influencer represents two very different kinds of leadership with drastically different results.

Influencer 1

The first leader was a gifted speaker and writer. He held a PhD in charm. And when he was at the top of his game, he was unparalleled in articulating certain topics about which he was passionate.

As with most gifted communicators, whenever he spoke in public, one part of the audience would descend into a "take his head off" feeding frenzy, while others who would hardly squirm, never once reaching for their smart phones.

However, this influencer suffered from a piercing narcissism to which he was completely blind. And as with most narcissistic types, he became easily jealous of others who were as gifted - or more gifted -- than he.

Even during his public talks, his megalomania would betray itself as he'd wax eloquent about himself and his accomplishments.

Despite his outward warmness, he viewed other mortals as projects to advance his own ministry rather than people made in God's image. He had no capacity to accept advice from others, even when it would have spared him lots of failure and frustration.

While he would speak compellingly about brokenness and humility, he was routinely threatened by the popularity of others. Notoriously vain and monstrously insecure, he'd often engage in petty back-biting, school-yard belittling, and even slander, all to compensate for his insecurities. He'd routinely bad mouth others just to work off his own demons.

These character defects made him toxic.

Because he never dealt with the insecurities that possessed his soul, he routinely projected the darkest parts of his heart onto others, recklessly (and wrongly) imputing evil motives to them. He was also quick to blame other people for his own failures.

Today, this man's ministry has shriveled down to nothing. Virtually all the people who once supported him bailed out long ago. He burned through secretaries, co-workers, donors, and friends like most of us go through pistachio nuts. His tissues of lies eventually shredded all around him.

His life was a study in self-sabotage.

To my knowledge, he's never come to terms with the damage he's brought to so many. Nor has he ever repented and apologized to those he hurt. Instead, he appears to remain fixated on his own legacy, whatever is left of it.

The tragedy here is that the vision for his life was struck down by his own hand. When his ship came in (and it did several times), he was found waiting at the airport.

A prominent Yankee once described the late Billy Martin (former manager of the Yanks) this way,

"Billy Martin is one of the most complex people I've ever met. Billy really is a funny guy. He's nice, he's mean. He's good and bad. He's kind and he's cruel. He's done some intelligent things and he's done some dumb things. He would be an absolutely fascinating character study for someone who knows a lot more about psychology than I do. There were times when he was as nice to me as a man could be, and there were times when he went as far as out of his way as possible to hurt me as a ball player and as a man. He's said complimentary things about me. He's said a ton of negative things. The many faces of Billy Martin."

This description fits the influencer I just described like a glove. But unlike Billy Martin, who had thousands of people show up at his funeral, unless Influencer 1 repents and apologizes to the countless people he's hurt, his funeral will be attended by a small cluster of true believers and his legacy will be rapidly forgotten.

What a man builds with his gifts, he can just as quickly destroy by his character.

Infuencer 2

The second influencer was the smartest man I've ever met. Yet one of the most humble.

He possessed amazing wit, impressing everyone he met. Especially people in ministry, including Bible scholars and theologians who held more degrees than a thermometer. Down to the man or woman, they would all walk away awed after a conversation with him.

Whenever he spoke, he held people spellbound. (This includes people like me, who has a toddler-like attention span.)

People left his presence enriched, encouraged, and inspired. (Taking my cue from this man, I strive to do the same.)

I learned more from him than anyone else. Yet despite his incredible gifting, he was more interested in others than in himself . Their lives, their heartaches, their joys, and their pain. Unselfishly, he made himself available to listen to them -- even for hours -- and offer encouragement and wise counsel.

This leader also had an uncanny ability to validate people, even the most difficult. I watched him deal with high-maintenance befuddled souls and he'd instinctively disarm their anger and emotional turbulence.

He knew how to throw a blanket of calm over smoldering fires. His quick wit and ability to use humor to disarm people in turmoil was profoundly impressive. And I credit him for teaching me how to employ this same skill.

This particular man didn't think much about his legacy. He lived in the present, and his lived-example was an example to others. Myself included.

As to having a robust knowledge of the Lord, the Scriptures, and history, he was without peer. And so was his gift to unpack lofty insights into simple language.

He existed to serve, not to show off.

He existed to inform, not impress.

He existed to do good, not look good.

He existed to make a difference, not a name or a legacy.

Recap

Two influencers. Two very different characters and styles. Two very different results.

The first leader had an unchecked ego. As a result, he has virtually no influence today, except for a small handful of fawning sycophants who don't know him very well.

The other leader still emits the fragrance of Jesus to all who come in contact with him. And even though I've never once heard him talk about his legacy, it lives on in myself and others whom he touched.

10 Take Aways

Here are ten take-aways I learned from observing both influencers. Since each one of you has influence in this world, I hope you'll seek to build each lesson into your own life.

1. Know your own limitations. The body of Christ has many functions and gifts. You don't have them all. So learn to rely on others who excel in those areas that you don't. And lay down your need for control. Delegate.

2. People aren't projects or stepping stones to advance your own ministry. Learn to love and honor others for their own sake. As Paul said in Philippians 2, look out for their interests. Great leaders want others to supersede them. Insecure leaders can't release the limelight.

3. Always have peers -- people who can speak into your life. If you consider yourself too "gifted" to have peers, you're living in a dream world. One that will eventually become a nightmare. It won't be long before the rope runs out. The first leader refused to have peers in his life. The second welcomed them.

4. Never judge the motives of others. While you are free to evaluate the actions and ideas of other people, imputing motives to their hearts only reveals what's in your own.

5. Be quick to apologize if you've wronged someone. Great leaders apologize to people even when it's not entirely their fault. Mending relationships (wherever possible) is more important to them than being right. They consistently take the high road, not just preach about it.

6. Major in Matthew 7:12. If you don't know what that text is, go read it and tattoo it on your forehead (spiritually, that is). The first leader believed the worst about others. The second leader would never speak ill of another believer. If he heard something negative about a fellow Christian, he dismissed it. If he was concerned, he'd go to the person who was gossiped about directly to inquire -- the same thing all of us would want if the shoe was sitting on our foot. So learn to live Matthew 7:12 in all situations. It's a description of the life of Jesus Christ when walked out in shoe leather.

7. People will follow your way of life more than your words, for better or for worse. The first leader's followers carved themselves into his image. They followed what he did, not so much what he said. Consequently, they were petty, insecure, judged the motives of others, become easily jealous, were given to one-upmanship and humiliating others, and trafficked in believing and spreading slander. Never forget: people will follow your bad traits more than your good ones.

8. Own your mistakes and don't blame God's people. The first leader was quick to blame his failing ministry on everyone else. Blaming others and guilt-tripping them is the mark of a poor leader. Good leaders acknowledge their mistakes and take responsibility.

9. Don't over promise and under-deliver. The first leader would often share impressive ideas, plans, and goals. He was superb at bluster. But he'd rarely follow through to the end, which eroded trust and respect. Never say things just to impress people. Make good on what you promise. Deliver.

10. Forget about leading others; make serving them your business. The first leader was more interested in leading than serving. The second leader never talked about "leadership" nor did he seem to view himself as a "leader." He was too occupied with serving. So bury your penchant for wanting to lead, and excel at serving.

This article was written by Frank Viola and was published in his exclusive Unfiltered update list which goes out every month to his email subscribers. If you enjoy this update, you can get these Unfiltered updates by signing up here. It’s FREE.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Great Ecclesiastical Conspiracy

by George Davis, Michael Clark, & Kirk Pearson

Introduction

This book was written as an expose' of an 1800 year old conspiracy. It is intended to define the conspiracy, leaving you to judge for yourself. Consider it a primer, covering only the basic elements of the subject. It is not intended to be exhaustive, since the total truth of this matter could not be told in such brevity. It is written with the utmost confidence that its readers will be its perfecters. It is the result of a million prayers, asking, "Why? Why Lord, is the Church before me so unlike the one I read about in the Bible? Why O God is there so much failure and defeat in what is supposed to be the representation of you in the earth?" This book may present more questions than answers, but questions are not to be feared.  God is not like the haggard parent who resents the seemingly unending barrage of questions proceeding from the inquisitive child. God is eager and attentive to them all.

While not written for everyone, this book is dedicated to those analytical ones who have dared to ask the forbidden question, "What is wrong with the church?" It is dedicated to all those who are willing to pay the price to see Christ's Ekklesia restored. The reformation is not over. In fact it is just begun, and this book is dedicated to all reformers everywhere. It is dedicated, as we are, to the restoration of all things. It is written to those who willingly suffer the loss of all things for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ. It is written in the deepest respect and honor for those of whom the world is not worthy, who laid down their very lives to expose this conspiracy. What qualifies us to write such a work? Nothing, except perhaps an indescribable burden, a passion that can only be characterized by the heart of a Father yearning to see His children set free from their oppressors, and a desire for the final deliverance of His family from the conspirators’ hands.

George Davis and Michael Clark

Continue reading The Great Ecclesiastical Conspiracy

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Judge See Kee Oon’s assessment over City Harvest Church case



All of the CHC six were found guilty of all charges in court on 21st Oct 2015 .



Judge See Kee Oon has published material explaining his judgments and findings.

Judge See Kee Oon

IN THE STATE COURTS OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE

District Arrest Case 023145 of 2012 and others

Between

Public Prosecutor

And

(1) Lam Leng Hung
(2) Kong Hee
(3) Tan Shao Yuen Sharon
(4) Chew Eng Han
(5) Tan Ye Peng
(6) Serina Wee Gek Yin

ORAL JUDGMENT

PUBLIC PROSECUTOR
V
LAM LENG HUNG & 5 ORS

State Courts — District Arrest Case 023145 of 2012 and others
Presiding Judge See Kee Oon

21 Oct 2015 Judgment reserved.

Presiding Judge See Kee Oon:

Overview

1 This was a 140-day trial involving 43 charges against the 6 accused persons. They were tried primarily on charges of conspiring to commit criminal breach of trust (“CBT”) by dishonestly misappropriating funds belonging to City Harvest Church (“CHC”) that had been entrusted to one or more of them. There are two broad groups of charges involving CBT. The first group comprises the first to third charges and pertains to what have been referred to in the course of the trial as the “sham bond investments”. The second group comprises the fourth to sixth charges, pertaining to what has been termed “round-tripping”. A third group of charges, the seventh to tenth, concerns falsification of accounts in CHC’s books relating to the “round-tripping” transactions.

2 I do not propose to set out the evidence as it is lengthy and voluminous. It suffices to note that the main background facts are largely undisputed or uncontroversial. I will set out my findings in relation to the elements of the offence of CBT first, leaving aside the issue of the mens rea of dishonesty. I will then focus primarily on the extent of the accused persons’ knowledge and involvement in the plans to use funds belonging to CHC for the Crossover Project (“the Crossover”) and on whether their conduct in the circumstances shows that they had acted with dishonest intent.

Criminal breach of trust – elements

3 In relation to the elements of the offence of criminal breach of trust by an agent, leaving aside the mens rea element, I shall state my conclusions briefly. First, I am satisfied that Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng (“Ye Peng”) and John Lam Leng Hung (“John Lam”) were, as members of CHC’s management board, each entrusted with dominion over CHC’s funds, whether in the Building Fund (“BF”) or the General Fund. Second, I am bound to hold that they were entrusted with such dominion in the way of their business as agents because, being board members, they were so entrusted in their capacities as agents of CHC. Third, I am satisfied that the various plans to use CHC’s funds amounted to putting these funds to unauthorised or wrong use.

“Wrong use” of CHC’s funds

4 The BF was a restricted fund that could be used only for building-related expenses or investments for financial return. I find that the Xtron and Firna bonds were not genuine investments but were a wrong use of the BF. I find also that Tranches 10 and 11 of the Special Opportunities Fund (“SOF”) were not genuine investments but were transactions designed to create the appearance that the Firna bonds had been redeemed. I find, finally, that the payment under the Advance Rental Licence Agreement (“ARLA”) was not abuilding-related expense but was a transaction designed to perpetuate the appearance that the Firna bonds had been redeemed. They were therefore all wrong uses of CHC’s funds.

5 I turn next to the accused persons’ involvement and knowledge in the various plans to use CHC’s funds.

Funding the Crossover – being discreet

6 The accused persons understood that Kong Hee’s preference to be discreet about the funding for the Crossover was for the sake of ensuring the success of the Crossover, but being discreet was also synonymous with non-disclosure and mis-statements. Kong Hee had explained that it was his preference to avoid disclosure of CHC’s involvement in Xtron to avoid any misconception that Sun Ho’s secular music career was “not real” and that CHC was (still) using its money to promote her career. But in relation to both aspects, the evidence shows that it was true that her perceived success was inflated from rather more modest levels and Xtron and the Crossover team had to rely heavily on sponsorship from CHC members or supporters to help prop up her album sales and promote her career. When these sources of financial support which did not directly flow from CHC were insufficient, they had to come up with other means.

Xtron bonds

7 Xtron was CHC’s special purpose vehicle for the Crossover, and for this purpose Xtron was clearly under CHC’s control and not independent. The plan formulated in 2007 was that CHC’s funds, specifically funds from the BF, would be channelled through Xtron to be used for the Crossover, and the use of the funds was controlled entirely by Kong Hee and his team. In truth, this was analogous to an elaborate extension of a pattern of financial assistance via “sponsorship”, lending or prepayment to Xtron that had already either been taking place or been contemplated prior to 2007. These were seen as short-term measures to put Xtron in funds and support the Crossover. The mindset was thus that the Xtron bond issues were only yet another “temporary plan” albeit one which involved borrowing from CHC’s BF, and hoping that the funds would somehow find their way back to CHC at some unspecified future point.

8 Kong Hee, Ye Peng, Chew Eng Han (“Eng Han”) and Serina Wee (“Serina”) each clearly played a substantial role in conceiving and executing this plan to channel CHC’s BF through Xtron for the Crossover. John Lam’s role was evidently less substantial, but I am satisfied that he had his own part to play as a board member and investment committee member. All of them knew that the BF was a restricted fund to be used only for specific purposes. They claim that they believed the Xtron bonds were genuine investments. They believed the Xtron bonds would bring CHC financial return. But on my evaluation of the evidence I consider that the prosecution has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they did not hold that belief.

9 I find that the accused persons were planning on the basis of Sun Ho’s planned US Crossover album being realistically capable of generating sales of

only 200,000 units, and although their projections showed that the bonds could not be redeemed by the maturity date, they were unconcerned since Eng Han assured them that the maturity date for the bonds could always be extended or fresh bonds could be issued. I am unconvinced that they could have had a genuine belief in Sun Ho’s prospects of success for the US Crossover given their consciousness that much of her earlier success was contrived and contributed to by CHC itself. Serina readily conceded that Sun Ho’s Asian Crossover albums all made losses and Xtron had thus incurred substantial accumulated net losses. Kong Hee, Ye Peng, Eng Han and John Lam also knew that CHC was involved in propping up her Mandarin album sales. I am unable to see how there can be any genuine or honest grounds for their claims that they expected far higher sales for her planned US album well in excess of the projection of 200,000 units. This was no more than an optimistic hope. It was definitely not a realistic expectation. All this strongly militates against their claims that the Xtron bonds were motivated by the realistic prospect of financial return and were genuine investments.

10 Further, the accused persons were all involved in making plans to put Xtron in funds to redeem the bonds. They knew that these plans would involve CHC paying money to Xtron under the guise of legitimate transactions, when in fact the real concern was Xtron’s cashflow difficulties and the purported transactions were mere excuses for CHC to channel money to Xtron. Thus they knew that there was a strong possibility that the apparent financial return under the Xtron bonds would come from CHC itself. This knowledge further undermines their claim that they believed the Xtron bonds were a genuine investment.

11 In addition, the accused persons hid or obscured material information from others. Eng Han and John Lam kept the truth about the Xtron bonds from Charlie Lay. All of them at various times gave the auditors the impression that CHC and Xtron were independent of each other, when they knew that Kong Hee in fact made all decisions on Xtron’s behalf in relation to the Crossover without reference to the Xtron directors, who were mere figureheads. The auditors were not told that Xtron was in fact controlled by Kong Hee and Ye Peng and that they together with their co-accused would exercise control over the use of the bond proceeds. There is no doubt that they knew that they had something to hide.

12 In all the circumstances, I am satisfied that the accused persons knew that the Xtron bonds were conceived first and foremost to support the Crossover and not for financial return. The prospect of any financial return was a secondary consideration at best and even then I do not accept that they genuinely believed that the sale of Sun Ho’s music albums would generate sufficient profit for CHC to enjoy financial return. They knew that any financial return to CHC might be illusory in the sense that it was CHC’s own money that might need to be channelled to Xtron to redeem the bonds. Given their knowledge, I cannot accept their claims that they believed the Xtron bonds were a genuine investment. Accordingly, they caused CHC to subscribe to $13 million in Xtron bonds knowing that they were not legally entitled to do so. Thus they acted dishonestly, and I find that the first and second charges have been made out against John Lam, Kong Hee, Eng Han, Ye Peng and Serina.

Firna bonds

13 In respect of the Firna bonds, the accused persons all knew that the primary purpose of the bonds was also to channel money from CHC’s BF to the Crossover. Kong Hee, Ye Peng, Eng Han and Serina knew that they, and not Wahju, were the ones controlling the Firna bond proceeds and deciding how the proceeds should be applied towards the Crossover. Yet they took the inaccurate position that Wahju was somehow “independently” supporting the Crossover using his “personal monies”, and this was what they told the auditors and lawyers. They knew that the financial return under the Firna bonds would not come from the profits of Firna’s glass factory business but depended entirely on the success of the Crossover. If the revenue from Sun Ho’s albums was not adequate, they would find alternative sources of funds for Firna, and that might include channelling CHC’s own money into Firna through various means. Given this knowledge, I do not think Kong Hee, Eng Han, Ye Peng and Serina could have believed that the Firna bonds would generate financial return for CHC, and so they could not have believed that the bonds were a genuine investment.

14 John Lam was further removed from the Firna bonds than the other accused persons. But he signed the “secret letter” that secured the signature of Wahju’s father-in-law on the Firna BSA. I am satisfied that he knew that the prospect of financial return for CHC did not depend on the success of Firna’s glass factory business. He knew that it was a very real possibility that the Crossover would not be profitable. Thus I find that he too did not believe that the Firna bonds would generate financial return for CHC, meaning that he did not think the bonds were a genuine investment.

15 Therefore, in causing CHC to subscribe to $11 million in Firna bonds, the accused persons knew that they were not legally entitled to do so. They thus acted dishonestly. As such, I find that the third charge has been made out against John Lam, Kong Hee, Eng Han, Ye Peng and Serina.

16 At the centre of the first to third charges is how the BF came to be applied for the Crossover when it was a restricted fund for specific purposes – either for building or investment. In my judgment, the Crossover was not one of these purposes. It was not an investment since by their own characterisation, it was meant to serve a “missions” purpose all along. I am not convinced that there was any “mixed motive”, “dual purpose” or “hybrid” intent behind the use of the BF. These are creative labels tacked on in an attempt to strain and stretch the plain meaning of the word “investment”. They were plainly fabricated in an attempt to justify their past conduct and misuse of the BF. I do not see how they can be said to have acted in good faith in relation to the charges they face.

17 The accused persons have of course pointed to the fact that the money did come back to CHC with interest. However, this is patently due to their efforts to put Xtron, Firna and AMAC in funds to facilitate these repayments through the round-tripping transactions. It does not confirm that there was any actual intention at the outset to invest for the purpose of maximising returns. What is more telling is that it was consistently represented to CHC’s Executive Members that investing the BF in this fashion was meant to maximise returns. There was no mention at all that the investment was in the Crossover, let alone that it was for “spiritual returns” or for both spiritual and financial return from the Crossover. The failure to mention those facts buttresses my conclusion that the accused persons knew that they were not legally entitled to cause CHC to enter into the Xtron and Firna bonds.

Round-tripping and falsification of accounts

18 As revealed by the evidence adduced at trial, there was never any financial “return” derived from any of Xtron’s and Firna’s Crossover-related activities. Instead, when the time came to deal with the auditors’ queries and to address Sim Guan Seng’s concerns, they resorted to removing more funds from the BF and also the General Fund under the pretext of making further “investments” into Tranches 10 and 11 of the SOF and purportedly for a building purchase by Xtron through the ARLA. The round-tripping transactions were crafted to create the appearance that these were genuine transactions involving the redemption of bonds when they were not. They were not genuine transactions because the accused persons controlled these transactions every step of the way, and the substance of it was that CHC was channelling money through various conduits in order to pay itself.

19 Given that Ye Peng, Eng Han, Serina and Sharon Tan (“Sharon”) were fully aware of the whole series of transactions, they could not have believed that Tranches 10 and 11 of the SOF were genuine investments, or that the payment under ARLA was a building-related expense. They say that they viewed all this as “restructuring”, but that to my mind is fundamentally inconsistent with a belief that the transactions were genuine investments or building-related expenses, and this inability to provide a coherent explanation for their conduct strongly suggests that they knew they were not legally entitled to cause CHC to enter into these transactions. They may have apprised the CHC board of an earlier version of the transactions, but they kept that knowledge from the lawyers and the auditors. Taking into account all the circumstances, I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the fourth to sixth charges have been made out against them.

20 I am also satisfied that there was falsification of CHC’s accounts following from the attempts to disguise the SOF and ARLA transactions as genuine transactions. In relation to the ninth charge, the accounting entry recording a redemption of Xtron bonds in the form of a set-off against advance rental was false, because it was not a case of CHC and Xtron making independent decisions to pay advance rental on one hand and redeem bonds on the other. I find that the accused persons knew that false accounting entries would have to be made pursuant to their plan to create the appearance of redemption of bonds, and hence I find that they each had intent to defraud. I am therefore satisfied that the seventh to tenth charges have been made out against Ye Peng, Eng Han, Serina and Sharon.

Objective evidence and inferences

21 I note that there was an extensive record which comprised an elaborate patchwork of emails, Blackberry messages, phone SMSs, hard copy documents and numerous other documented exchanges in some form or other. The fact that there was a mass of available evidence which when woven together amounted to a paper trail is not necessarily indicative of innocence. In my view insofar as much of it was incriminating, it is more suggestive of a mindset of presumptuousness or boldness, demonstrating that the accused persons were overconfident in their belief that they could replace the funds in time before suspicions were aroused.

22 The case against the accused persons depended heavily on inferences to be drawn from the objective evidence. Much of these inferences can be readily drawn as the tenor and language in the communications adduced at trial strongly point to their dishonest intent. In short, the documentary evidence goes a long way in demonstrating their subjectively guilty knowledge. I am not convinced that they have raised any reasonable doubt in this regard.

23 I find that the accused persons were variously inextricably entangled in two conspiracies to misuse CHC’s funds. One conspiracy consisted of misusing BF monies for the Crossover, and the other involved misusing CHC’s funds, a substantial portion of which comprised BF monies, to create the appearance of bond redemptions and to defraud the auditors via falsified accounts through the various roles they played. Each of them participated and functioned in their own way as crucial cogs in the machinery. Although there are distinctions in their respective levels of knowledge and participation, I am unable to discern any rational basis to exclude any of them from being implicated and characterised as conspirators.

Beliefs, motives and mindsets

24 Much of the defence centred on the beliefs and motivations of the accused persons. If it can be shown that they genuinely, honestly and reasonably held the view that what they were doing was legitimate in the sense that they were legally entitled to do it, and they went ahead to act in good faith as a result, I think there may well be room for doubt as to whether they had acted dishonestly. The weight of the evidence however points to a finding that they knew they were acting dishonestly and I am unable to conclude otherwise.

25 Where professional advice was sought, this was really mainly an attempt to seek out self-supporting confirmatory advice based on selectively-
disclosed information. They omitted mention of the crucial fact that CHC remained in control of Xtron and would correspondingly control the use of the funds. They provided leading questions for belief confirmation and support from only those advisors whom they trusted to support the Crossover vision and were quick to reject or filter out any disconfirming information.

26 The accused persons chose to support the Crossover vision and to act and participate in acts in support of it. The Crossover became a comprehensive logic for justifying their beliefs and actions, and for doing whatever was expedient for its advancement. The pervasive mindset seemed to be one of short-term expediency; the use of means involving dubious methods was worth the risk to them if there was some hope of longer-term gain.

Conclusion

27 In their defence, all the accused persons testified largely to the same effect: they love CHC and would not have wished to do harm to CHC. They never intended to cause loss to CHC. They consulted and cleared their proposals with their lawyers, the auditors and the CHC Board. They were motivated by CHC’s cultural mandate and they believed in the Crossover vision. They pointed to pure motives and a justifiable purpose in the use of CHC’s funds. Ultimately the funds which were removed were for Church purposes and were returned to CHC.

28 The crux of their defence was that there was no conspiracy and no dishonesty. All six would never intend to cause harm or loss to CHC and the ultimate objectives were in furtherance of the Great Commission. It may be arguable that all of them thought they were not acting dishonestly to cause wrongful loss since no permanent loss was intended, but this was premised on their unquestioning trust and belief in Kong Hee and their confidence that the Crossover would succeed. Thus they convinced themselves that it was both morally and legally permissible to temporarily use the money from CHC’s funds when they knew it was not.

29 The accused persons chose to engage in covert operations and conspiratorial cover-ups. They contrived to create cover stories and clever round-trips concealing their unlawful conduct. They chose to participate in the conspiracy to misuse CHC’s funds, which included siphoning off large amounts from the BF for Sun Ho’s music career and eventually for the round-tripping transactions to enable the bond redemptions. They chose to defraud the auditors with falsified accounts suggesting a series of genuine transactions for the redemption of bonds and advance rental. The evidence points overwhelmingly to a finding that they had all acted dishonestly and in breach of the trust reposed in them and they played their respective roles in a conspiracy with intent to cause wrongful loss to CHC and to defraud the auditors.

30 I am therefore satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the six accused persons are guilty of all the charges that have been brought against them. I note that all of them believed that they had acted in what they considered to be the best interests of CHC. There is no evidence of any wrongful gain – that was never the prosecution’s case in any event as the charges were premised on wrongful loss caused to CHC through the misappropriation of CHC’s funds.

31 I consider that John Lam, Eng Han, Serina and Sharon were all acting in accordance with the instructions of people they considered to be their spiritual leaders deserving of their trust and deference, and Ye Peng, although a leader in his own right, similarly trusted completely the leadership of Kong Hee. But no matter how pure the motive or how ingrained the trust in one’s leaders, regardless of the context in which that trust operates, these do not exonerate an accused person from criminal liability if all the elements of an offence are made out. In my judgment all the elements of the relevant offences have indeed been made out. Accordingly, the accused persons stand convicted as follows:

(a) John Lam is convicted on the first to third charges;

(b) Kong Hee is convicted on the first to third charges;

(c) Sharon is convicted on the fourth to tenth charges;

(d) Eng Han is convicted on the first to tenth charges;

(e) Ye Peng is convicted on the first to tenth charges; and

(f) Serina is convicted on the first to tenth charges.

Source: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3A-00dAvijTNXAyaGEyLUtZdW8/view?pli=1. (Accessed 23/10/2015.)