Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Kong Hee's Gospel

Kong Hee and the scandal that rocks the Church by Dr Paul Choo

Christians ought to stand up against deceivers that have deceived the Church with their message of prosperity and health, and we need to say what it is as it is, a Scam. Kong Hee and Sun Ho with their abuse and misuse of funds should serve as a warning to all wolves in sheep clothing to be aware that God will judge, in this life or next for the evil and greed in your heart. The video below is a great sermon by Dr Paul Choo on Prosperity Gospel and how it is NOT the Gospel or the message has for the Church but another great lie that has ensnared many people, and people who perpetrated such lies are among many like Kong Hee.

Kong Hee, City Harvest Church Members Deny Using Sham Investments to Hide Fraud

Prosecutors in Singapore have alleged that City Harvest Church founder and pastor Kong Hee and five other associates used dubious investments made to questionable companies to embezzle S$50.6 million ($41 million) from a church building fund to finance the pop music career of Kong's wife, Sun Ho.

In the fifth day of hearings on Wednesday, defense lawyers attempted to counter those claims by providing testimony that one of the alleged fake companies, Xtron Productions, was an independent business,financially successful and not under the control of City Harvest Church, according to The Straits Times.

The company's director, Koh Siow Ngea, who previously served on the City Harvest Church board and is a member of the congregation, testified in court Wednesday that Xtron Productions drew in tens of millions of dollars annually through assisting several clients. He also claimed that the church was in no way as involved in decision-making as prosecutors allege.

However, Koh testified the opposite in Tuesday's court proceedings and said he was unaware "of several of the goings-on in the company," The Straits Times reports. It was also revealed in court Tuesday that Koh was appointed director of Xtron Productions by City Harvest Church board member and pastor Tan Ye Peng, who is among the accused, according to Channel News Asia.

Kong Hee, John Lam, Chew Eng Han (Koh's brother-in-law), Tan Ye Peng and Serina Wee, all previously active board members of City Harvest Church, are accused of taking S$24 million donated to the popular Singaporean megachurch and purchasing bonds through Xtron Productions and PT the First National Glassware (Firna Glass), purchases categorized by the prosecution as "sham bond investments." It has also been alleged that Chew, Tan, Wee and Sharon Tan took another S$26 million from the church building fund to "cover up" the initial amount, Channel Asia News reports. All of these exchanges of funds, said to occur between 2007-2009, were wrongly used to promote the pop music career of Pastor Kong's wife, Sun Ho, according to the prosecution.

The defense team counters that whatever funds were transferred from City Harvest Church to the companies were for services used to support Ho's Crossover Project, the church's ministry effort to use her secular music to attract non-Christians to the faith.

Follow us 
The Crossover Project was started in 2002 and saw the release of five albums from Ho as well as concerts showcasing her music at the church. The Crossover Project also appeared in the U.S. when Ho moved to Los Angeles, where she released five albums and music videos, one "China Wine" with popular recording artist Wyclef Jean.

City Harvest Church has described the Crossover Project as "an extension of CHC's mandate to build a church without walls—to bring the Gospel to the unchurched across society, and this included the world of entertainment."

Despite suggestions that "the message of faith, hope and love of Jesus Christ" could be "repackaged" through pop music to expose young people to God, Ho's work, the foundation of the Crossover Project, "didn't typically include explicitly Christian messages," according to the Wall Street Journal. However, City Harvest Church credits the Crossover Project with giving it headway for evangelism in otherwise closed-off countries.

Prosecutors in the criminal court case, brought by Singapore's Commission of Charities and the Commercial Affairs Department, have dismissed assertions that Ho's Crossover Project broadened City Harvest Church's evangelism reach, and focused on attempting to prove that the church's official building fund was used to promote Ho's music career.

"What we are dealing with here is building-fund monies, and these monies were raised by CHC, a registered charity, for very specific purposes," Mavis Chionh, a chief prosecutor, has said. She added in court that the "theological legitimacy of using Ms. Ho's music career as a means of evangelism is not an issue."

Ho has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but her husband, Pastor Kong, 48, is facing up to 20 years in prison and fines if found guilty of conspiracy to commit criminal breach of trust. He, along with the other defendants, have pleaded not guilty.

"Sun and I thank all of you for your support and encouragement, and we hope that you will continue to keep us and CHC in your thoughts and prayers," Kong said in a statement to the City Harvest Church community last week.

City Harvest Church, founded by the couple in 1989 as a nonprofit nondenominational evangelical church, is one of Singapore's largest megachurches and home to about 30,000 members. Congregants have stood by Pastor Kong and the other defendants, with dozens lining up outside the courthouse to show their support.

Read more at Christian Post

COC considering removing 8 persons from posts in City Harvest Church by CNA

Channel NewsAsia

The Commissioner of Charities (COC) is considering removing eight individuals from their positions in City Harvest Church, including church founder Kong Hee, as part of the next stage of its ongoing inquiry into the charity.

SINGAPORE: The Commissioner of Charities (COC) is considering removing eight individuals from their positions in City Harvest Church, including church founder Kong Hee.

This will be part of the next stage of its ongoing inquiry into the charity. An inquiry into the church was instituted in May 2010.

The latest move is based on the inquiry findings of February 2011 which revealed there was misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity, particularly with regard to money in the Building Fund which had been earmarked for specific purposes. Financial irregularities of at least S$23 million was discovered.

The funds were used with the intention to finance Ho Yeow Sun's secular music career, and the inquiry found there was a concerted effort to conceal it from stakeholders.

But there is a due process which has to be observed, before any final decision on the removal can be made.

Spelling this out in detail on Tuesday, the COC said suspension orders were issued on nine church individuals in June 2012. This order is valid for 12 months.

On 28 December last year, the COC made a proposal to all nine that he would defer the next stage, should they collectively agree to a voluntary extension of their suspension orders until six months after the conclusion of the criminal trial.

This was done purely on a goodwill basis.

But there was no collective agreement on the matter. So before the lapse of the suspension order, the COC intends to proceed with the removal process against eight of them.

They are Kong Hee as well as church trustees and employees Lam Leng Hung, Tan Ye Peng, Kelvin Teo Meng How, Sharon Tan Shao Yuen, Jacqueline Tan Su Pheng, Chew Eng Han and Serina Wee Gek Yin.

As for Ho Yeow Sun, the COC says there is insufficient evidence for now to indicate she was responsible for or facilitated the mismanagement in the charity.

But before a decision on the removal can be made, those affected can make representations to the COC.

For four individuals - namely Kong Hee, Lam Leng Hung, Tan Ye Peng and Kelvin Teo Meng How - the CoC is also inviting representations from the public on the proposal to remove them.

All representations to the COC have to be made by 13 May.

The final decision on whether to remove them, would be made in consultation with the Attorney-General.

Those affected by the decision have recourse to appeal to the High Court.

Meanwhile, the COC stressed that any individual who is removed may continue with his religious duties.

These are separate from holding any governance or management positions in the charity, and that normal services of the charity can continue as usual.

Also, any action taken by the COC is separate and independent from the ongoing criminal cases.

The management board of City Harvest Church says it has been informed of the COC's intention to remove eight individuals from their office.

In a statement, the chairman of the management board Aries Zulkarnain says it is a very challenging time for the church leaders and members, their families and the church.

He adds the church will stay united to continue serving its members and community to the best of its ability.

Also, pastors Kong Hee and Tan Ye Peng will continue to perform their pastoral duties.

Separately in a statement, the Commissioner of Charities, Low Puk Yeong, emphasised that the current COC action is independent and a separate process from the criminal proceedings against six of the suspended individuals. The public should not link the COC's actions to the criminal trial.

He stressed that the COC's regulatory actions are intended to protect the property and assets of the charity following an inquiry which found mismanagement and misconduct by some individuals in the charity. The actions have nothing to do with religion or religious practices. 

- CNA/ir

Is Calvary Church’s Faith Promise Giving a Sham? by Calvary Today

For many years, Senior Pastor Prince Guneratnam (PG) has boasted to the world that Calvary Church has given away millions of ringgit to Missions and Evangelism every year.

Twice a year on Faith Promise Sunday in January and July, when new 6-month pledges are solicited from the congregation, PG and the Missions Director will show video clips of the Missions Projects which the Church has supported in the previous 6 months. And as always is the case, PG will also proudly declare to the congregation that due to their overwhelming giving towards their faith promise pledges, there is a surplus over the Missions Budget and that surplus will be channeled to the Church Building Fund.

The members have constantly been led to believe that all their Faith Promise
contributions are given away to support Bible schools, Christian organizations, missionaries and missions work throughout the world and only the surplus funds over the budget are kept by the Church for Calvary’s own building fund.

Before the Calvary saga erupted about 4 years ago with the exposure of financial mismanagement, unethical practices and abuse of power and position in the Church, Calvarites have never doubted PG and his Pastors and Deacons. Now, the members, having been wised up to PG’s true character are beginning to question the utilization of the Faith Promise funds collected from members.

Picking up on several requests from readers, CT decided to investigate this particular topic of discussion going on in the Blog and for this purpose, CT perused through the past years’ Church Annual Reports, Missions Fund Reports and the reports of the Extended Ministries of the Church.

At a glance, the Missions Fund Reports appeared to be in order. All the Faith Promise collections appeared to be properly disbursed and accounted for. It was only when CT started cross referencing and extracting various figures from all the various reports that CT discovered a shocking fact.

And the shocking fact is that from 2008 to 2012, from the total Faith Promise collection each year, less than 10% was given away to external parties. More than 90% of Faith Promise collections was kept internally to finance Calvary’s own ministries, staff payroll and the church building program, which is now, the Calvary Convention Centre (CCC).

For 2011, only
RM228,246 or 6.6% of the total Faith Promise collection of RM3.44 million was distributed to Bible schools and external Missions work.

19.3% were utilized to pay the church staff salaries and church outreach workers,
18.9% was utilized to support the church’s Extended Ministries like AIM, Communication Ministry, Prayer Tower, Calvaryland etc,
7.2% was transferred to Outreach Property Fund,
39.4% transferred to fund the CCC construction and the balance
8.5% retained in the Missions Fund.

For more click here: Calvary Today

Why You Must Kill Your Ambitions by Francis Frangipane

Spiritual fulfillment begins when we lay down selfish motives to pursue the heart of God.

When I first came to Christ, the Lord gave me a dream about my future. I was so excited! I thought everything He showed me in the dream would occur immediately. I didn't know I would have to go through a process of preparation that involved dying to self, learning patience and maintaining vision through testing before God's promise would be fulfilled.

In fact, I thought having a promise from God was the same as receiving a command from Him. I wasn't aware that I did not yet have what it took to step into His perfect plan.

Because of my desire to see God's promises come to pass, I became filled with ambition--the first motive that arises in the spiritually immature. I was like the disciples, who, a few days after Jesus' resurrection, were already asking, "'Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?'" (Acts 1:6, NKJV).

Webster's dictionary tells us that ambition is "an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as wealth or fame, and the willingness to strive for it." The word translated "ambition" in the New American Standard Bible is rendered "strife" in the King James Version.

Where there is ambition, the apostle James says, there is also "disorder and every evil thing" (James 3:16, NASB). Why? Because we try to accomplish the will of God through the strength of man. We are seeking a breakthrough, but God wants us to experience brokenness.

Ambition is very deceptive. It can seem just like obedience to us, but because we don't truly know the Lord, we find ourselves obeying our own voices rather than God's.

Ambition seeks to put to death what stands between it and spiritual fulfillment. Yet it is ambition itself that must die for us to reach fulfillment.

Today I am living in the spiritual substance of what was just a dream 30 years ago. My ambitions have suffered greatly, yet my dreams are being fulfilled. Though I have not yet stepped into the fullness of my calling, I understand the difference between ambition and ministry, and it is this: Ministry is a call, not to lead but to die.

Take Up Your Cross

Remember: A godly vision is not the same as a godly motive. Jesus preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. This is vision. But He also taught that if any man were to follow Him, he had to "take up his cross daily" (Luke 9:23, NKJV). Carrying the cross is the only way to die to the ambition that hinders us.

And it requires that our definition of success be transformed. Ambition defines "achievement" as "a well-known name and praise from man." God says success is becoming Christlike.

In order to develop the character of Christ in us, God provides opportunities for us to be transformed--opportunities for us to take up the cross. Often these challenges take the form of an offense.

When offense comes, you have the choice to pick up one of two things: either the offense or the cross. You will know you have chosen the offense if, when you look at the past, you remember more clearly how people hurt you than how God delivered you.

The Father allows offenses to come because His goal is not to start churches, take cities or have revivals; His goal is for you to become Christlike. He wants you to learn to forgive offenses and use them as an opportunity to grow in love.

"Why doesn't the Lord protect me from hardship?" you ask. He does. Your protection is to carry the cross. The cross represents the perfection of love in your life. If you don't carry the cross, you will lose your love. Jesus warned, "Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matt. 24:12).

En route to your spiritual fulfillment, there will inevitably be many opportunities for you to stumble. I have heard that out of every 40 seminary graduates, only one retires as a pastor. Few are those who carry the cross throughout their lives. But only those who do will ever find true fulfillment.

True Ministry

On occasion, ministers approach me and confess they are jealous of how the Lord has used me. They see the outward signs of ministry: churches uniting, large conferences, travel and book sales. But they do not see the cost.

I have faced death threats from satanists. I have seen satanic graffiti on the street signs of churches that hosted me and witnessed the effects of the vandalism perpetrated against them.

I have also faced persecution from other Christians, particularly those who fear the idea of unity. As a result, I've had my name maligned in books and periodicals and been pegged by misguided Christians as a "false prophet."

One time a host pastor was murdered just before I went to speak for a conference. When I heard about it, I decided to take along my associate pastors, Bill and Tim, from River of Life. Tim shared with me recently that the first night there he had to search his heart to determine whether he would be willing to step between me and an assailant or to take a knife for me if I were attacked.

I was grateful that his answer was yes. But at a hundred other conferences, where there has been no one to stand between me and a crazed assailant, I've had to prayerfully consider, "Am I willing to die for the Lord by going to this conference armed only with the gospel?"

I've had to combat fears caused by threats and the possibilities of evil more terrible than most people ever consider. I've also had to wrestle with deep concerns about my children and their safety, wondering how to deal with their vulnerability to potential physical attack.

Any volunteers for my assignment? Like Paul, I've had to say, "I die daily." I have learned through experience that a call to ministry is a call to die. In fact, I have discovered that only to the degree that we die to self do we lead others. Everything else is just religion without power.

When He was on Earth, Jesus sought to prepare His disciples for the hardships that awaited them. He warned them that a time was coming when He would be mocked, scourged and crucified. Incredibly, right in the middle of His sober warning, the mother of James and John requested that Jesus fulfill her family's ambitions! She said, "'Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom'" (v. 21).

She was thinking advancement, position and place; Jesus was thinking scourging, mocking and death. She was looking for the crown; Christ was pointing to the cross.

Jesus' answer was intended to silence not only her ambitions, but ours as well: "'You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?'" (v. 22). The disciples said they were, but they hadn't the foggiest idea of the price to be paid.

Jesus answered them: "'You will indeed drink My cup...but to sit on My right and on My left is not Mine to give,'" (v. 23). He was telling them: "'I cannot fulfill your ambitions. I can only show you how to die.'"

We too must drink the cup Jesus described. Its contents fly in the face of ambition: "'Whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many'" (vv. 27-28). What are these contents? Elements that bring about suffering for the sake of love. This is the cup that leads to destiny.

Paul wrote of the source of power in his life. He said, "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed...always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body" (2 Cor. 4:7-10).

What is this "dying of Jesus"? It is dying the way Jesus died, uttering "Father, forgive them." The only way ambition can be fulfilled is if we are ambitious to die for the redemption of others.

"For we who live are constantly delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you" (2 Cor. 4:11-12). This is the heart of the ministry every believer is called to: We are delivered over to death that the very life of Jesus, the actual substance of His character, may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Ambition will fail us, but Paul says, "Death works in us." Death of self leads to the manifest life of Jesus. And this is true success.

Francis Frangipane is the founder of River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and has traveled throughout the world ministering to thousands of pastors and intercessors from many backgrounds. His heartfelt prayer is to see established in every city Christlike pastors and intercessors, united before God, revealing the love of Christ to their communities. Since 1985, Frangipane has written 14 books plus a number of study booklets. Over the past decades, he has served on a number of other ministry boards. However, in recent years he has gradually resigned from these various boards. As of June 2009, he has also retired from his position as senior pastor of River of Life Ministries. In his more simplified life, Frangipane is devoting himself to prayer and the ministry of God's Word.

Please Don’t Worship the iPreacher

Let’s be careful of building a ministry on one man’s charisma—even if he is trendy

Thanks to amazing advancements in digital technology, pastors today can reach massive audiences. Their sermons can become overnight YouTube sensations. Some of our most gifted Christian communicators touch millions through their downloadable sermons. Others broadcast their messages to multi-site locations so that their reach is multiplied to 10 or 20 congregations instead of one.

I’m not complaining about this. I love the fact that this column (which started out as a page in a paper magazine) is now able to travel to the other side of the world in seconds. I’m glad I can preach the gospel through Twitter and Facebook. God wants us to use modern technology.

But as much as I love my iPad, and as much as I welcome all the rapid changes occurring in communications, I’m concerned about the emergence of the iPreacher.

The iPreacher is not a new phenomenon. In another era he (or she) would have been called a televangelist. But televangelists today are considered as outdated as three-piece suits and Brylcreem. Today’s celebrated communicator may still be on television, but his design is updated. His hairstyle is cool, he has a few days’ stubble on his face and his ministry has an app for your smartphone.

Please hear me. I’m not against hair gel, stubble or the latest app. Yet new technology and youthful trendiness can breed pride if we’re not careful. And pride is still pride, whether it is clothed in yesterday’s polyester or today’s distressed denim. Just as the most popular televangelists failed morally in the 1980s, we are bound to see today’s iPreachers fall if we repeat the mistakes of the past.

In Orlando, Fla., where I live, the popular young pastor of a 5,000-member church resigned a few weeks ago after he admitted to an affair with a church staff member. The church had grown rapidly in recent years, and the pastor’s sermons were broadcast in five locations. Yet when the scandal broke, parishioners learned that the pastor’s wife had accused her husband of being drunk and out of control at one point.

How does this happen? How can a minister of God with enough talent to attract big crowds to five locations live a double life of adultery? Proverbs 16:18 offers one possible answer: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling" (NASB). The Message Bible translates it this way: “First pride, then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.”

As technology continues to advance, and as ministry platforms grow larger, the potential for bigger egos grows more dangerous. So let’s remember these basic biblical principles:

1. Christians should never worship preachers. Paul rebuked the people of Lystra when they called him and his companion Barnabas gods. Paul told the people: “We are also men of the same nature as you” (Acts 14:15, NASB). True ministers of God will not allow their followers to place them on pedestals. Paul knew his proper role was to take the lowest seat, as “bond-servant of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:1). He also knew that ministers must never allow flattery or adoration to inflate their egos.

2. Preachers must know who they are and who they aren’t. When people spread a rumor that John the Baptist was the Messiah, he corrected them and said: “I am not the Christ … He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:28, 30). Even some of the most gifted Christian communicators can be seduced by the power of technology—and by the roar of a crowd—so that they actually believe they are in an elite category. No! We are nothing and He is everything. We must get out of the way so people can see Jesus!

Leaders who have not crucified the lust for self-promotion can become infatuated with the big and the sensational. They can build big churches with bigger projection screens, yet their character cannot sustain the pressure of spiritual warfare that inevitably comes. The result is disaster. Henry Blackaby said it this way: “Nothing is more pathetic than having a small character in a big assignment. Many of us don't want to give attention to our character, we just want the big assignment from God.”

3. Ministry is best accomplished with a team, not a celebrity. Paul laid the foundations of the church in the Gentile world, but he always shared the spotlight with Timothy, Silas, Barnabas, Titus, Phoebe, Priscilla and other co-workers—who suffered in prison with him and faithfully preached alongside him. He didn’t try to be five places at once; he trained people to take his place.

It is becoming popular for large churches to open satellite campuses that offer video sermons from the same preacher. If this strategy is effectively reaching more converts, that’s great. If preachers can do that and stay humble, keep it up. But let’s be careful that we are not building ministry on one man’s charisma. The ultimate goal should be for a whole new generation of people to be trained and empowered to serve, not for one man to build a show around his gift.

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. His latest book is Fearless Daughters of the Bible.

Beware of Oncoming Stupidity!

If you aspire to ministry, don’t be stupid. Decide now to avoid these obvious pitfalls so you can finish well.

I shared a pulpit with Dr. Mary Ann Brown two times. She was bold and painfully blunt. People who hate women preachers hated her even more because of her no-nonsense sermons, always delivered in her Texas twang. She would get her audience laughing and then skewer them with a hot blade of truth.

When Mary Ann died last October, I remembered the last words she said to me when we were together at a conference in Chicago in 2011. After lamenting the fact that so many ministers were failing, she locked eyes with me and said with stern, motherly authority: “Lee, please don’t ever get stupid.”

I’ve pondered her words often since her death. I don’t want to be stupid; I want to finish well. So how can we avoid spiritual stupidity? We can start by avoiding these 10 mistakes that have become common in our movement during the past decade:

Take illegal drugs. I know people who never got complete deliverance from their drug habit. When the pressures of ministry grew intense they turned to illegal substances to escape. If you allow drugs or alcohol to control your actions, you have no business in ministry. 

Reject accountability. The Lone Ranger was an intriguing comic book hero, but isolation doesn’t work in real life. Lack of accountability is stupid! If you don’t answer to people smarter than you, you are an accident waiting to happen. You have no right to be in authority if you are not under authority.

Beat or abuse your wife. The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:7 that God will not listen to your prayers if you mistreat your wife. If you are an abuser (and even if you are a master at hiding your sin from others), the Lord will oppose you until you seek help.

Surround yourself with adoring fans. Years ago, fallen PTL founder Jim Bakker said his biggest mistake was planting “yes men” around him instead of people who had the guts to challenge his bad decisions. If you aren’t willing to invite input—including criticism—from your followers, you are a weak leader headed for disaster.

Fake spiritual gifts to impress others. In our movement there is pressure to produce the sensational in order to keep people entertained. But if you stoop so low as to fake a healing or push someone to the floor, the Holy Spirit will step away and let you run the sideshow without His power. It’s stupid to mix strange fire and risk offending God!

Be lenient toward sexual sin. Many preachers celebrate “grace” but refuse to label fornication, adultery, homosexuality or pornography as sins. If you are casual about sexual sin in your own life, or if you don’t require purity among those you lead, you are stupid.

Manipulate people during the offering time. Ministers often use hypnotic mind games to raise funds on Christian television. Nobody challenges their fraud, so it seems they get away with it. Be assured that these people will answer to God for their deception. You are stupid if you try these tactics in your church.

Refuse to share power. I meet ministers who have been leading their churches or organizations for 30 years and yet have no succession plan in place. That is dumb! Train the next generation now so they will be ready to lead in your place.

Teach exotic doctrines. We charismatics tend to feed people a “flavor of the month” to satisfy the craving for angels, gold dust, gold teeth, manna, heavenly portals and indoor rain clouds. But history has proven that those who make spiritual manifestations a focus end up in deception. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing. Focus on Jesus!

Become an egomaniac. Some of America’s biggest religious stars have gone loony because of pride. They require private jets, bodyguards and personal chefs while maintaining a cold aloofness from the people they are called to serve. If you let Satan dupe you into becoming an arrogant ministry diva, you are stupid. Repent and start acting like Christ instead of a rock star.

In memory of my late friend Mary Ann Brown, I pass on her advice to you: “Please don’t ever get stupid.” Let’s grow up, reject foolishness and aim to finish well.

J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years. He now serves as contributing editor while devoting more time to ministry. You can find him on Twitter at leegrady or online at themordecaiproject.org. His newest book is Fearless Daughters of the Bible.

Don’t Be a Victim of a Church Scam

Here are four obvious ways you can avoid being bamboozled.

I cringed last week when I read the news about Michael Winans Jr., the Grammy-nominated gospel singer who was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison because he bilked gullible Christians out of millions of dollars. A judge in Detroit said the 30-year-old Winans collected more than $8 million from investors and promised them quick, 100 percent returns on their money.

As it turned out, Winans—who is the grandson of gospel legend David “Pop” Winans—was pulling the same old gimmick we’ve seen countless times before. His Ponzi scheme was as slick as the crude oil bonds he told people he was buying from Saudi Arabia. Winans took the money and spent it—or gave it to early investors—prompting one of his victims to call him “a silver-tongued con man.”

Some families who got bamboozled in the scam lost homes, retirement accounts and college savings. Others lost their marriages. The federal judge handling the case told Winans: “On more than one occasion you went into church … and perpetrated fraud on these good, decent churchgoing people.”

This is certainly not the first time a too-good-to-be-true financial scheme has infiltrated a church. Christians are nice, sweet, trusting people—so when a “brother in Christ” tells us about a financial plan that sounds too good to be true, we are prone to bite the baited hook and believe that it is the answer to all our prayers. We forget that God’s own elect can be deceived and that even preachers can steal us blind if we let them.

How do we avoid this scenario?

1. Don’t give pulpit time to financial schemes. In the case of Michael Winans, pastors actually allowed the singer to pitch his plan to congregations. Shame on them. I assume they didn’t get kickbacks from Winans (if they did, they should go to jail too), but now their members can’t trust them. We defile God’s house when we allow greedy merchants to hawk their schemes in the sanctuary.

Spiritual shepherds have been commissioned to guard their flocks. For that reason, if anybody in a church begins spreading news about a financial scheme, I make sure the pastor knows about it. This should also apply to any network marketing business. I know of churches that have been torn apart by aggressive salespeople who tried to increase their cash flow by adding all their church friends to their “downline.”

2. Apply healthy skepticism. We’ve all received emails from the infamous “Nigerian widow” who claims to have $380 million of her late husband’s money in a foreign account. She pleads: “I WANT TO GIVE YOU THIS MONEY. BUT I NEED $5,000 TO RELEZE THE FUNDS.” Yeah, right. Those emails are as silly as they are misspelled—but people still fall for them because gullible people don’t ask questions.

When someone invites you to invest in a financial scheme, especially if it promises magical profits, it is safe to assume it is bogus. Ask for paperwork. Investigate the company involved. Do a background search to see if articles have been written about it. And remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

3. Don’t be impressed by who’s involved. A line often used in church scams is the old “everybody’s in on this” hoax. Famous names are always dropped. “Even Rev. So-and-So has invested $5,000!” If you hear those words, run for your life. Several years ago a church-based scam took millions of dollars from reputable denominations and several respected ministries, all because the perpetrators told investors that “everybody” was involved. In the end, “everybody” got shafted.

4. Check your heart for greed. One of the reasons these types of scams work so well in the church is because many Christians want their money faster than God gives it. We don’t want to work for prosperity—we want it overnight, even if we get rich at the expense of others. This is called greed.

Yet because Americans have had a steady diet of the prosperity gospel—the message that says, “I want my blessings, and I want them now!”—we are prone to think that the next financial whiz kid who steps into our pulpit is on a mission from God. Actually, he just might be an agent of Satan—who is on a mission to “steal and kill and destroy” (see John 10:10).

Please don’t be a victim. Ask questions. Scrutinize. Use discernment. And if a silver-tongued con man shows up at your church, show him the door and warn your friends.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of The Mordecai Project (themordecaiproject.org). His latest book is Fearless Daughters of the Bible. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady.

When Is It Time to Leave a Church?

If you see any of these seven warning signs in your church, my advice is to run as fast as you can.

A friend of mine from England recently asked me for counsel regarding a serious dilemma. His pastor had been involved in extramarital affairs, yet the man never stepped down after the scandal. My friend grew increasingly uncomfortable. Then he became alarmed when the embattled pastor announced he was going to lay hands on every church member during a weekend service to impart “special revelation.”

This pastor had a base of loyal fans, but the Sunday crowd was dwindling because people could smell trouble. They knew it wasn’t right for this man to remain in leadership without receiving some serious personal ministry. I advised my friend to run for the door.

I’ve never found a perfect church in all my travels—and it certainly wouldn’t be perfect if I joined it. But there are some churches that deserve to be called unhealthy. While I believe we shouldn’t give up on a church too fast, there are some warning signs that should cause you to stop and ask if you’d be better off finding better pasture.

1. No accountability. There is safety in the multitude of counselors (see Prov. 11:14). There is much less safety—perhaps even danger—when a leader does not bother to seek counsel from a diverse group of his peers, as well as from gray-haired men and women who have the wisdom that comes with experience. If a pastor or church leader isn't open to correction or financial oversight, he is headed for a train wreck. If you stay in that church, you may crash with him.

2. Spiritual elitism. Healthy leaders love the entire body of Christ. Beware of any church that claims “exclusive” revelation or suggests they are superior to other Christians. This is how cults start. There is a large charismatic church in Hungary that began in revival, but the founder began teaching that their church was the only place people could truly be saved. If a pastor ever makes such claims it is time to shake the dust off your feet and move on.

3. Entrenched immorality. The apostle Paul commanded leaders to enforce biblical discipline. This must be handled with gentleness (see Gal. 6:1) but nevertheless with firm resolve, because the enemy wants to infiltrate the church with moral compromise. If a pastor has been involved in adultery or perversion and continues preaching, meanwhile refusing discipline, his unrepentant spirit will infect the entire congregation—and you can expect to see immorality spread throughout the church. Don’t be defiled.

4. An authoritarian spirit. Some leaders develop a dictatorial style and try to control people through manipulation, threats and legalistic demands. I’m amazed at how much spiritual abuse is tolerated in churches today. No pastor is perfect, and we are called to be patient with each other’s faults. But if a church leader is verbally abusive toward his staff or members of his congregation, he is in direct violation of Scripture. The Apostle Paul taught that church leaders should not be "violent" or "quarrelsome" but "self-controlled" and "gentle" (see 1 Tim. 3:2-3). It’s best to find another pastor if yours cannot control his anger.

5. Unbridled greed. Paul made it clear that a leader has no business being in the ministry if he isn’t “free from the love of money” (1 Tim. 3:3, NASB). Yet we have turned that requirement on its head today. We have given greedy charlatans access to the airwaves and allowed them to corrupt the church with a money-focused message. Your pastor does not have to live in poverty, but if he insists on living in luxury—and manipulates people during offering time to squeeze more money out of your wallet to pay for his toys—you are supporting his habit. You should leave.

6. False doctrines and manifestations. A pastor should be open to the Holy Spirit’s spontaneous work, but he or she should also protect the flock from deception. In many segments of the charismatic movement today, bizarre New Age influences have been wholeheartedly embraced—and Christians seem to have thrown away the gift of discernment. If your church is focusing on a particular prophet’s revelations, or is going off on weird tangents—at the expense of solid doctrine—then you should go elsewhere fast.

7. A culture of pride. Some church leaders are so insecure that they manufacture a sense of importance around them in order to function. They surround themselves with security guards, “armor bearers,” handlers and assistants—and never actually build genuine relationships with their church members. They think church is all about their stage performance, so they rely on volume, theatrics, clothes and a grand entrance to impress the crowd rather than just being normal, touchable, accessible servants. If your pastor is building a personality cult rather than a dwelling place for God, run for your life!

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of The Mordecai Project(themordecaiproject.org). His latest book is Fearless Daughters of the Bible. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady.

The Coming Tsunami in the Catholic Church

I believe God showed me He is sending a wave of His Spirit to bring reformation.

More than 10 years ago, I had the most vivid dream I’ve ever experienced. I told my wife about it the moment I woke up because it was so profound. The scenes are still etched in my memory.

I dreamed I was standing inside the Vatican. Keep in mind that I’ve never been a Catholic, and I’ve never visited Italy. But in my dream, I was in an ornate hall decorated with marble columns and a fancy paved floor. I walked over to a huge, arched window where I could see a panoramic view of Vatican City.

Suddenly a huge wave appeared on the horizon. A tsunami was coming. The wave got closer and closer, but I did not feel panic, even though I could hear people running and yelling as they prepared for the impact. I stood near a wall and braced myself.

When the wave hit, the palatial building began creaking and tilting. Antique tables, chairs, candelabra and statues began sliding to one side as the floor moved. Chandeliers were hanging at odd angles. Within minutes the floor was perpendicular to the ground and more furniture came crashing down. The movement continued until the floor became the ceiling. More religious icons, statues and paintings fell and broke into pieces.

In my dream, I did not feel anxious about this catastrophe. Nor did I ask the obvious questions: How could a tsunami reach that far inland since the Vatican is almost 20 miles from the Mediterranean coast? How could a tsunami turn a huge building upside down? And why was there no water anywhere? I knew in my dream that what I had witnessed was a spiritual event.

At that point I heard a commotion at the other end of the hall. When I got close enough, I discovered a group of Catholic nuns and priests who were praying in the Holy Spirit. They had their hands raised and they were worshiping God fervently, as if they had experienced another Pentecost.

The atmosphere was spiritually charged. Yet, as these people prayed, a man dressed in ornate religious garb began to shout angrily at them in Italian. He was obviously not happy with the way these Catholics were behaving. This upset me, and I began to rebuke him. I was speaking in my prayer language, so I didn’t know what I was saying. But I knew God was rebuking the leaders who were opposing His work.

At that point, I woke up. And I felt the Holy Spirit say to me: “I am going to turn the Catholic Church upside down.”

I don’t believe all dreams are from God. Sometimes our brains just think in Technicolor while we sleep. Other times a dream is simply a crazy subconscious reaction to the pepperoni pizza we ate before bedtime. But in this case, I have come to believe God was showing me something big that He plans to do in my lifetime.

Pope John Paul II was still in office when I had this dream. Pope Benedict has since come and gone, and this week, cardinals are electing a new leader—at a time when the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics have been reeling from reports of child abuse and sex scandals among clergy.

I believe a great shaking is coming to the Catholic system, and it will have both positive and negative impact. God is not pleased with man-made religious structures (in any denomination) that hinder people from knowing Him, and He is serious when He asks us to tear down the idols we have created to take His place. In the end, God always judges idolatry.

On the flip side, He also cares about the millions of people in the Catholic Church who call upon the name of Jesus and who desire His presence. For them, the coming wave of God’s power will unleash a new hunger for the Holy Spirit and God’s unadulterated Word. As corruption is exposed and structures are shaken, I expect to see Catholics around the world experience a 21st-century reformation movement. Traditionalists will fight it, of course, but dead religion is powerless when faced with genuine spiritual awakening. Young reformers from various nations will challenge the system and say, like Moses said to Pharaoh, “Let My people go” (Ex. 5:1).

I know there are many of my evangelical brothers who have written off Catholics as heretics, and they leave no room for redemption or reformation. They’d rather see the whole system crash and burn. Perhaps they forgot that we have our own idols, sex scandals and institutional corruption, and that we need a spiritual tsunami to turn us upside down as well. I’m bracing myself as I pray. Send the wave, Lord.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of The Mordecai Project(themordecaiproject.org). His latest book, Fearless Daughters of the Bible, will be released in Spanish next month from Casa Creacion. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady.

The Problem With Rob Bell’s Gospel

The controversial author says evangelical Christians are too narrow. But didn’t Jesus tell us to follow the narrow path?
When former evangelical pastor Rob Bell published his bombshell book Love Wins in 2011, his Michigan megachurch reportedly lost 3,000 members. They scattered quickly because Bell questioned the existence of a literal hell. His point was that Christians need to develop a nicer message with a lot less judgment. But his solution was to throw out 2,000 years of Christian theological tradition.
Then last month, Bell made a more stunning announcement from a pulpit in California. He told people gathered at Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal church in San Francisco, that he supports same-sex marriage. His primary reason, he said, was that culture has changed and we need to adapt.
“I am for fidelity,” Bell said. “I am for love, whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man … This is the world that we are living in, and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
I can appreciate Bell’s desire to affirm people. And I agree that some Christians come off sounding unbelievably harsh when we talk about homosexuality. But Bell didn’t have anything affirming to say to the evangelical Christians who were his support base during the early years of his ministry. He trashed us. And he was judgmental about it.
Describing evangelicals, Bell predicted our doom in his March 17 remarks: “We are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, evangelical subculture that was told, ‘We’re gonna change the thing,’ and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people.”
If Bell wants to come off as affirming and non-judgmental, he should use kinder words when describing a group of Christians who make up an estimated 30 percent of the U.S. population. Bell seems to be saying:“I’m right, and you evangelicals are irrelevant.” He’s ready to officiate at our funeral.
In response, I offer three points:
1. It’s actually OK to be narrow. Bell accuses us of being narrow. But wasn’t it Jesus who told us the way to salvation is narrow? He said: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it” (Matt. 7:13, NASB). Besides the fact that Jesus refers to hell in that passage, He also says we have to be narrow to avoid it.
Righteousness requires limitations. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for being judgmental on one hand, yet He drew lines and demanded holiness on the other. We can’t be like Jesus, nor can we demonstrate true love, if we affirm every lifestyle and embrace every behavior.
2. Our subculture is not dying. The denominations that are losing the most members today are actually the mainline groups that have lost their commitment to the Bible. I’m in a different church almost every week in this country (mostly charismatic or Pentecostal), and I see vibrant faith, growing congregations and the emergence of multiethnic leaders.
(And speaking of multiethnic, some of the most conservative Christians in America are immigrants from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Does Bell think they are irrelevant? They are the real future of our movement. Bell is out of touch if he thinks evangelicalism is just a bunch of old, white, Republican guys.)
3. We do need to change our attitude. I will agree with Bell that there is a segment of evangelicalism that is too politicized. We misrepresent Jesus when we label Him a Republican or a Democrat. He is neither. And we alienate people from Jesus when all we do is pontificate about what we are against.
It is very possible that gay marriage will become the law of the land in this country, just as the Supreme Court sanctioned abortion in 1973. Just because our government legalized the killing of an unborn baby does not mean I have to support that choice personally. But I do have to show love and extend Christ’s forgiveness to a woman who has aborted her child. Yelling at her or condemning her will not bring her to faith in Jesus.
In the same way, we are called to show love and respect to gay people. I don’t have to agree with a person’s lifestyle to love them. Jesus showed amazing compassion to the woman caught in adultery—and He rebuked the religious bullies who wanted to stone her. But when they put down their rocks and walked away, He told her: “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more” (John 8:11, emphasis added).
Jesus was totally comfortable using the word sin when He showed love to a person. And that’s the part of Jesus’ gospel that Rob Bell ignores.
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. His book Fearless Daughters of the Bible was just released in Spanish from Casa Creación.

Quit Trying to Be Big … and Just Be Faithful

Our culture says bigger is better. But in the kingdom of God, less is often more.

There’s nothing more disheartening to a preacher than to see empty seats in a church service. I’ll be honest—I like meetings where you have to pull out extra chairs and put people in the aisles. Why? Because I assume if God’s blessing is on a meeting it will be packed. I like numbers because, in my carnal thinking, crowds are more significant.

Our culture puts value on things depending on how popular they are, and we are guilty of applying this rule in the church. We like big. We even rate churches based on size. We know that the three largest churches in America in 2013 are (1) Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, (2) Andy Stanley’s North Point Ministries and (3) Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Community Church. The assumption is that these churches are leading the way in making spiritual impact.

But God doesn’t evaluate us based on numbers, nor does He rate our effectiveness by comparing us to someone else. Many pastors of small or mid-size churches get discouraged because they evaluate their ministries by counting the number of rear ends in seats or the amount of money in offering plates. But God’s ways are not our ways! Remember these kingdom principles:

Less is sometimes more. Jesus attracted big crowds, but the numbers didn’t impress Him because He knew many who were healed in His meetings wouldn’t follow Him to the cross. He even told one of His crowds that the gospel seeds He was sowing would be eaten by birds, scorched and withered, or choked by thorns (see Mark 4:3-8). Only a small percentage, He said, would bear fruit. Jesus was looking for quality, not quantity.

In the end, after thousands heard Jesus’ messages and ate His free lunches, only 120 of His followers gathered in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost. That is not an impressive number, and today’s church growth specialists might say Jesus failed to break the 200 barrier within three years of ministry!

Follow the cloud, not the crowd. There are a few crowd shots in the book of Acts. But most scenes of the early church are less impressive. An Ethiopian is converted on a desert road. The Holy Spirit falls on members of an Italian family gathered in a home in Caesarea. A woman named Lydia comes to Christ at a small prayer gathering by a river in Philippi. She becomes the first convert in Europe.

Why are these seemingly inconsequential stories highlighted in Scripture? Because God moves as powerfully in one-on-one conversations and small group gatherings as He does in big meetings. When we follow the cloud of His presence, He often leads us to the one instead of the many.

The book of Acts ends with a scene of Paul ministering quietly to people in a small apartment while he is under house arrest (see Acts 28:30-31). Paul certainly didn’t measure His impact by large buildings, big mailing lists, media exposure or book sales. (His writings didn’t become popular until he was dead!)
Make disciples, don’t entertain audiences. Every man’s work will be tested by fire, and every ministry will be evaluated not by church-growth experts but by God’s holy standards. Sitting in a church does not make a person a faithful follower of Jesus. Don’t confuse disciples with pew-warmers. He will not evaluate us by how many people were in attendance, or even by how many danced in the aisles or shouted when we preached, but by how many disciples we made.

Stop trying to be popular. The three largest concerts in history were performed by (1) Indian singer Babbu Maan, who recently attracted 4.8 million fans; (2) raspy-voiced British rocker Rod Stewart; and (3) French New Age composer Jean Michel Jarre. If you asked, “Who in the world is Babbu Maan?” then you prove my point. Crowds or fleeting popularity do not determine significance.

Justin Bieber has more Twitter followers—37.3 million—than anyone on the planet. He is followed by Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. We are supposed to be impressed, because in our culture, value is determined by star power. But you have to wonder: Is this 19-year-old pop singer the world’s most powerful man? No, because in the light of eternity the size of Bieber’s fan base is as meaningless as how frequently he changes his hairstyle.

Let’s stop evaluating our own effectiveness—and each other’s—by crowd size. Be faithful with the people you have, whether it is a home church of seven, an office Bible study of 10, a rural congregation of 30 or a megachurch of 2,000. Whether you are ministering to a handful of inmates, a roomful of Alzheimer’s patients, a dozen orphans or one depressed friend, forget your need for the spotlight. Just let Jesus use you, and make Him popular.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of The Mordecai Project(themordecaiproject.org). His latest book is Fearless Daughers of the Bible

9 Bad Charismatic Habits We Need to Break

I love the Holy Spirit’s gifts. But some of our “Spirit-filled” practices are questionable.

Anybody who has read this column before knows I’m unapologetically charismatic in my theology. I love the Holy Spirit, and I believe the New Testament calls us to make room for manifestations of the Spirit. The apostle Paul gave guidelines for the gift of prophecy; he saw dramatic healings; he experienced supernatural visions; and he told church leaders not to forbid speaking in tongues (see 1 Cor. 14:39). Paul was the epitome of charismatic spirituality.

But not everything we do today in the name of the Holy Spirit is a valid expression of His power. Over the past four decades, we charismatics have invented some lame practices that not only make us look silly but actually turn people off to our message. I figure we started these behaviors because of immaturity—and I can laugh about them because I’ve done some of them myself. But it’s 2013, and I think God expects more of us.

I realize this can be sensitive if you have one or more of these bad habits. But please pray over this list before you blast me for being critical.

1. The body slam. There are times when people feel woozy or weak-kneed when the Holy Spirit touches them. I leave room for that. But can we please stop pushing people to the floor? Any minister who hits, shoves or slaps people at a church altar is being extremely rude. He is also relying on his own swagger to demonstrate he has the power to “slay” people in the Spirit. If you pushed someone to the floor, God had nothing to do with it.

2. The courtesy drop. We’ve all done it. Many people fall while receiving prayer because they figure it’s the spiritual thing to do. But there is nothing in Scripture that says you have to fall to receive healing or an anointing. You receive by faith. It’s perfectly fine to stay standing. And you may actually protect yourself from getting stepped on!

3. The song that never ends. I used to love the chorus “Let It Rain” until some churches drove this tune into the ground by playing it 159 times in a row. After the first 30 go-rounds, I want to scream, “Change the channel!” God doesn’t listen to us more intently if we are repetitive, as if we were doing a rain dance to make Him hear us. It’s OK to end the song and start a new one!

4. The amateur flag corp. Banners and flags became a hot worship trend in the 1980s, and pageantry can still be effective when practiced and performed for an audience. But where did we get the idea that waving flags, sticks or other sharp objects within two feet of people’s faces was a smart idea?

5. The wannabe telethon offering. I have been in meetings where the preacher gave a 25-minute offering sermon (before the main message) and then asked everyone in the audience to parade to the front for the next 15 minutes. Yes, giving money to God is worship. But when the offering takes longer than any other part of the service, I start to wonder if we are being taken for a ride.

6. The sermon with seven endings. Speaking of money, I wish I had a dollar for every time a preacher has said, “I’m starting to close.” I don’t mind a long sermon, and I’ve been guilty of going over my time limit. But you are flat-out lying if you tell an audience you’re finishing when you actually still have half an hour to go.

7. The praise-a-go-go dancers. I love to dance in church—and it’s normal in many of the ethnic congregations I visit. But I fear we unleashed a monster when we encouraged amateur dance teams to hop around on stage in unitards—in front of visitors! It’s not unspiritual to ask: “Will this look goofy?”

8. The ear-shattering amp. When the early church prayed, the buildings shook. Today we shake our buildings by turning up the volume of our sound systems. You know they are too loud when church members pop in earplugs during worship. “Charismatic” does not mean “loud,” and our spirituality is not measured in decibels.

9. The "jump-start" glossalalia. I will never apologize for the gift of tongues, and I believe it is a wonderful gift every Christian can have. But someone got the idea they could “prime the pump” by asking people to repeat certain phrases in order to uncork a prayer language. Asking someone to say, “I tie my bow tie, I tie my bow tie,” is not going to prompt a miracle. Quit manipulating the Holy Spirit.

The apostle Paul, in laying down guidelines for charismatic gifts, told the Corinthians, “When I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11). As we embrace the Spirit’s work, let’s allow Him to guide us into maturity so we don’t foolishly squander His power.

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 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, 10 Lies Men Believe, The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale, Fearless Daughters of the Bibleand other books.

How Jezebel’s False Doctrine Distorts God’s Grace and Truth

Jesus clearly warned His church against Jezebel’s false doctrines, but this ancient evil has succeeded in hiding behind the mask of control and manipulation while few recognize its deeper agenda. Indeed, most do not see Jezebel as the propagator of false doctrines that give the saints a license to sin.

The Greek word for Jezebel in Rev. 2:20 is actually a synonym for false teacher. Jezebel is teaching false doctrines. I believe one of the false doctrines Jezebel is pushing is a distorted message of God’s grace.

Here’s how it works: Jezebel first seduces you into immorality and idolatry—or drunkenness or homosexuality—by telling you it’s OK. After you’ve fallen into the trap, Jezebel's doctrine eases your conscience by telling you your past, present and future sins are already forgiven—that there’s no need to repent. In fact, Jezebel would not repent (Rev. 2:21)—and neither do those who are seduced by this spirit’s false doctrine. This is a dangerous, even damnable error.

Jezebel Would Not Repent

Despite its good works, love, service, faith and patience, Jesus had a few things against the church at Thyatira because its leadership allowed a false prophetess named Jezebel to teach and seduce His servants to commit sexual immorality and idolatry (Rev. 2:20). Jesus said:

“And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works” (vv. 21-23).

Jesus went on to give an encouraging word to the rest in Thyatira: “As many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden” (v. 24). That confirms that Jezebel was guilty of teaching false doctrines. But for those who did not embrace Jezebel’s false doctrine, Jesus encouraged them, “Hold fast what you have till I come” (v. 25). In other words, don’t give into this false doctrine—don’t be deceived.

Satan’s Twisted Scripture

Some argue that the spirit of Jezebel does not exist because it is not named specifically in Scripture, but it’s clear that the same demonic force was influencing both the Thyatira Jezebel and Old Testament Queen Jezebel. A study of Scripture shows the influence of this wicked spirit running from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation. (I dive deeper into this study into my book, The Spiritual Warrior’s Guide to Defeating Jezebel.)

Suffice it to say that Jezebel has, for thousands of years, seduced God’s servants, in part, with false assurances that God’s grace is sufficient without repentance. The Bible clearly states that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). But we have to confess our sin. When we sin, we also need to repent to maintain an intimate relationship with God.

The devil doesn’t have any new tricks. The Jezebel spirit perverts God’s Word, just like Satan did when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. Satan told Jesus, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, 'It is written again, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God"’” (Matt. 4:6-7). Satan also tried to get Jesus to idolize him, and Jesus told Him, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve’” (vv. 9-10).

Much the same, Jezebel works to seduce you into sin by twisting Scripture. Jezebel’s teachings give you a license to commit immorality and idolatry. Jezebel will tell you that it’s OK to fornicate if you love one another because it doesn’t violate the one new commandment Jesus gave us (John 13:34). Jezebel will set you up to idolize your favorite preacher, possibly while working behind the scenes to seduce him into sexual immorality.

Much of the church is so fascinated with this demonic rock star’s mask of control and manipulation that it misses the subtle deceptive doctrines. And much of the church denies the existence of the Jezebel spirit. Jezebel is like the Lady of Kingdoms whom no one sees (Is. 47). But the Jezebel deception is slowly eroding, as spiritually discerning saints begin to see behind the mask of control and manipulation to the deeper agenda—false doctrines that pave a highway to God’s judgment.

Sitting Under Wrong Teaching

Jezebel would not repent—and she doesn’t want you to, either. With regard to Jezebel, the late David Wilkerson put it this way: “I want to say, in no uncertain terms, that it is dangerous to sit under the wrong teaching. False doctrine can damn you more readily than all the lusts and sins of the flesh. False preachers and teachers are sending more people to hell than all the drug pushers, pimps and prostitutes combined. That is not an overstatement—I believe it. Multitudes of blind, misled Christians are singing and praising the Lord in churches, enslaved by false doctrine. Thousands are sitting under teachers who are pouring out the doctrine of demons—and they come away saying, ‘Wasn't that wonderful?’”

Wilkerson wrote those words in relation to Jezebel’s false doctrines in 1988. It’s been 25 years since he sounded the alarm, and yet more believers today are being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine than ever before (Eph. 4:14). The Jezebel deception is real, whether you want to believe that a spirit of Jezebel exists or not. God’s people are indeed selling out to Satan with a distorted message that some so staunchly defend that they work to publicly assassinate the character of anyone who speaks against it, labeling them Pharisees and legalists—and worse.

Make no mistake: "I love the grace of God, but grace must stand on truth to be true grace".

Beloved, be not carried about with different and strange doctrines (Heb. 13:9). Set your heart to endure sound doctrine rather than heaping up for yourself teachers that tickle your itching ears (2 Tim. 4:3). Stay true to the doctrine of Christ. It’s been said that the devil’s greatest deception is convincing people he doesn’t exist. If that’s true, Jezebel’s greatest deception is convincing people she’s all about control and manipulation while she’s subtly perverting God’s grace, even as a loving God longs for them to repent. Amen.

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor at Charisma. She is also the author of several books, including The Spiritual Warrior's Guide to Defeating Jezebel. You can email Jennifer at jennifer.leclaire@charismamedia.com or visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

No More Spineless Christianity

The apostle Paul not only confronted sin but named specific sins when he preached. Why can’t we?

People often complain about angry preachers. I don’t like them either, and I agree that if a person mixes a sermon with hateful language (or if he believes God has called him to picket other churches), he’s in the wrong profession. Yet today we’ve jumped to the opposite extreme. Now we are afraid to confront sin.

We can’t preach about materialism because we might offend rich people in the audience—as well as the poor people who buy Lotto tickets every week. We can’t preach about fornication because there are people in the church who are living together. We can’t preach about domestic violence because there are deacons who sometimes hit their wives. We can’t preach about homosexuality because our culture says it’s hateful to call that a sin.

And the list goes on. In fact, some preachers are avoiding the word sin altogether because it’s too negative. And we all know that the latest polls show people want a positive message.

This temptation to dilute the gospel has produced a new recipe for a trendy sermon. We start with some great motivational speaking (“Your past does not define your future!”), add a few quarts of cheap grace (“Don’t focus on your sin!”), pour in some prosperity gospel (“Run to this altar and grab your financial breakthrough!”), flavor it with some trendy pop psychology (“It’s all about you!”) and voila!—you end up with a goopy mess of pabulum that not even a baby Christian could survive on.

I’ve often wondered how the apostle Paul would view our “positive” American gospel. Just before he was martyred, Paul gave his spiritual son Timothy clear instructions on how to keep his message on track. He said, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2, NASB).

We’ve rewritten Paul’s words today. Our rule is, “Preach what the people want to hear! Avoid controversy! Stroke, soothe and pacify the people so they will come back next week!” Is it any wonder that this low-protein spiritual diet has produced an anemic church?

Paul’s preaching in the first century was unquestionably confrontational. He didn’t hold back from addressing sin, nor was he afraid to call sin what it is. Paul knew that a spineless Christianity would produce spineless Christians. He told Timothy that biblical preaching would require three brave verbs:

Reprove. The Greek word here, elegcho, means “to convict, admonish or expose” or “to show one his fault.” The word can also mean “to scold” or “to reprimand.” Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of a mother’s discipline knows that reproof can be the purest form of love.

Rebuke. The word epitimao means “to admonish strongly” or “to charge strictly.” The English definition means “to express sharp, stern disapproval.” And the origin of the word means “to beat or strike.” I’m not talking here about a preacher who beats people with the Bible. Screaming at people is not biblical rebuke. But when was the last time you felt the Holy Spirit strike you in your conscience during a sermon?

Exhort. This is the gentlest of the three words. Parakaleo can be used to mean “to comfort” or “to call alongside.” It’s the same root word used to describe the Holy Spirit, who is our Comforter. True biblical preaching not only exposes sin and warns us of its consequences, but it calls us to reach out to God for help to overcome our weakness. When we challenge sin we must provide a means of grace for deliverance and healing.

Paul was also not afraid to name sins. I recently did a survey of all of Paul’s epistles to see how he addressed sexual immorality. I discovered that he confronted sexual sin head-on in 10 of his 13 epistles. He boldly called out adultery, fornication, sensuality and homosexuality in a culture that was saturated in hedonism.

After exhorting the Thessalonians to practice abstinence, he rebuked them sternly by saying that anyone who opposes God’s laws about sex “is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thess. 4:8). Those are strong words. They need to be repeated in our pulpits today.

Paul wasn’t trying to win any popularity contests, and his comments about sex would get him blacklisted today if he tried to buy airtime. Yet when he penned those tough words, he was speaking from God’s heart—with love—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to all of us.

It’s time for us to grow a backbone. Let’s get rid of weak Christianity, spineless preachers and jellyfish morals. Let’s preach the message of the Bible instead of a neutered version. Let’s not only point out sin but also point people to the only hope they have of overcoming it—our strong Savior, whose death on the cross was the ultimate confrontation of sin.

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.

How I Know David and Jonathan Weren’t Gay

Some “theologians” today are perverting Bible stories to promote their agenda. We can’t let them hijack the gospel.

A few weeks ago when I addressed the topic of homosexuality, a reader posted a comment on our forum suggesting that the biblical King David and his friend Jonathan were gay lovers. After a few other readers questioned this interpretation, another reader repeated the claim. “The Bible is clear that David and Jonathan were physical, sexual, gay male homosexual lovers,” this person wrote authoritatively—without citing a chapter and verse.

Most evangelical Christians would drop their jaws in bewilderment if confronted with such an odd theory. Even people with minimal knowledge of the Old Testament know that (1) David was married to Jonathan’s sister, Michal—and he had a few other wives, and (2) David’s biggest blunder was his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba—a woman he saw bathing on a rooftop. God was not happy about David’s lust or with his decision to have Bathsheba’s husband killed so he could hide his sin.

It is illogical to read homosexuality into the story of David and Jonathan because neither Jewish nor early Christian tradition ever endorses sex outside the bounds of heterosexual marriage. If you read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, you will never see a depiction of a gay relationship, ever. Nor will you see homosexuality affirmed. You cannot get around the fact that the Bible says gay sex is flat-out wrong.

But that doesn’t mean people won’t try to change the meaning of Scripture. “Theologians” from both Catholic and Protestant backgrounds have written books claiming that various Bible characters were gay. They have suggested that Ruth and Naomi were lesbian lovers; that the Roman centurion in Matthew 8 had a gay relationship with his servant; and that the disciple John had a homoerotic relationship with Jesus.

Gay-affirming theologians also have pounced on the story of David and Jonathan. They point to David’s words in 2 Samuel 1:26 when he eulogized Jonathan and Saul: “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women” (NASB).

So how do we interpret this verse? We need to keep these points in mind:

1. Old Testament morality has not changed. Our culture today is redefining sexuality. We’ve made killing babies a right, we celebrate fornication and we’re on a mad dash to legitimize gay marriage. But with all the bending, twisting and legal redefining, we cannot change what was written in the Bible thousands of years ago. It’s silly to make the Bible imply something it never said. And it’s laughable to suggest that David, the author of many of the psalms—and the biblical figure who best represents a true worshipper of the one true God—would be recast as being in a gay relationship.

Conservative Jews in our country agree. The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the nation’s largest body of Orthodox Jews, recently reaffirmed their commitment to Old Testament morality. The RCA recently stated, “The Torah and Jewish tradition, in the clearest of terms, prohibit the practice of homosexuality. Same-sex unions are against both the letter and the spirit of Jewish law, which sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony.” Jewish priests in the time of David and Jonathan held the same view.

2. David and Jonathan had a model friendship. Scripture says Jonathan loved David “as himself” (1 Sam. 18:3). Jonathan’s love was selfless and heroic. Even though he was in line to be the next king of Israel, he recognized David would step into that role—and Jonathan not only celebrated his friend as the rightful king but also protected him from his father’s spear-throwing tantrums.

Jonathan’s love was not lust. It was the ultimate in sacrifice. He laid down his rights so his friend could be promoted. He opposed his father’s self-willed ambition and instead affirmed that David should be the true king. Jonathan showed us all how to be a true friend. David’s comment that his friend’s love was “more wonderful than the love of women” was not sexual; he was praising Jonathan’s loyalty and brotherly devotion.

3. We should encourage healthy male friendships instead of sexualizing them. In our fatherless culture, men are starved for affirmation and encouragement. God wired men to need close friends, but few of us are willing to build those kinds of relationships because of insecurity, inferiority or pride. Many guys are lonely, isolated and afraid to admit they need help. Some may even struggle with sexual confusion, yet they could find healing through a combination of the Holy Spirit’s power and healthy male bonding. The church today should do everything possible to encourage male friendships.

It is incredibly perverse—not to mention blasphemous—to suggest that anything sexual was going on between David and Jonathan. Yet I suspect that leaders in the gay-affirming church movement will continue to come up with more bizarre examples of Scripture-twisting in order to promote their agenda. We can’t allow them to hijack the purity of the gospel.

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.