Saturday, June 30, 2012

Signs in the End Times Church (Part 2)


I feel like the last year or so has been a sort of rediscovery… to again understand what I previously knew but had in part unwittingly forgotten. I’ve realized that I’ve strayed slightly in my understanding. I’ve tolerated certain teachings and beliefs that quite frankly don’t line up with God’s Word. As my mind has cleared, I’ve adopted a phrase to describe a particularly nasty issue within the Church: “Christian Witchcraft”. This practice is not “Christian” in it’s orginal sense as a “follower of the Way”; rather, it has found its way into some church cultures. It’s a strong phrase and it should raise concerns, but I believe it’s scripturally sound. I’ll explain, starting first with my understanding of witchcraft. Typically, we associate the term with either devil worship or pagan rituals, but that’s not necessarily the case. There are certain characteristics of witchcraft that can be part of a “Christian” organization:

1. An intent to control others, it includes:
   1.1. Deceit with intent to manipulate
   1.2. Intimidation
2. Encouraging others to do what feels good over doing what’s right
3. Rebellion against authority, especially God’s authority
4. Self-worship (some pastors and lay leaders can easily fall into this)
5. Determined to replace God (e.g. – Jezebel)
   5.1. Being the “face of God” instead of leading others to God
   5.2. Seeking a prophet (more like a “psychic reading”) rather than seeking God

Some of these character flaws were cited by God when He fired the first king of Israel. He said through the prophet Samuel: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:23 NKJV) The New International Version translates “stubbornness” as “arrogance”. Saul, the king, was manipulating the people with what they wanted rather than obeying God.

I find it interesting that the number-one-top-witch in the Old Testament is referenced in the Book of Revelations as somehow being associated with the church in Thyatira:
Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. (Revelation 2:20)

Jezebel was the wife of Ahab, King of Israel, during the time of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. There are different verses in Scripture that lead me to believe Ahab had the potential to be a good king, but he allowed himself and the kingdom he ruled to be dominated through pleasure-seeking and intimidation. He is often referred to as the personification of what a king should not be. I could easily digress into this intriguing time in history, but to stay on topic: God warns the end-times church against tolerating “that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet.”

I interpret this verse along with all the verses addressed to the seven churches of Revelation as a warning to a “type of church” rather than a specific church in a specific time or location. So I believe this church-type is one that is open to the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, but its big stumbling block is that it too readily accepts all supernatural activity as being from God. Just as Jezebel encouraged Ahab to take whatever pleased his eye, including the property of another man, this church-type is sewn with elements of a prosperity message: God is only going to bring good things into your life… if you let Him: name-it-and-claim-it; we are to advance the Kingdom at all costs (including personal integrity and wounded brothers); etc. It takes on a militant, oppressive, entitled, prideful attitude and discards the Scripture verses that explain the glory of suffering in identification with Christ, assuming that someone suffers from lack of faith or in recompense for their sins. The grace message is perverted to licentiousness and the self-denial that enables holiness is ridiculed as either antiquated thinking or legalistic. Tragically, the wisdom of Scripture is set aside in preference to a new prophetic revelation.

I wish the above was an exaggeration, especially the part where Scripture is discarded in favor of a prophetic word. But it’s not and God has a promise for this type of church:
I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am He who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.  
Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’ (Revelation 2:21-25)

I believe the church should be open to practicing the supernatural presence of God. However, it MUST FIRST be committed to the Bible as the plumb line by which all promoted activities align. This includes the free-flowing of Spiritual Gifts. Supernatural manifestations can occur apart from God’s presence; it’s called demonic activity. Scripture warns that Satan can appear as an angel of light and his men as ministers of righteousness. But it’s all an illusion… a deception. God’s church will be known by the Fruit of the Spirit… primarily by each member’s love for one other. 

Continued... Part 3 – Intimacy with Our First Love
http://mitchellmalloy.blogspot.com/2012/07/signs-in-end-times-church-part-3.html

copyright ©2012 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/) 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Signs in the End Times Church

Part 1 – My Journey into Signs and Wonders
I’d like to be writing about God’s love – how to rest in His love and how to walk in it. And to be honest, I want and need more of His love – second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour… forever! But I feel compelled to write first about signs and wonders in the end times church. 

I believe we are either in or very near to the end times. Sure, Christians have believed this for ages, and I don’t doubt that some people will scoff at my beliefs (2 Peter 3:3), proposing other ideas (Jude 1:18). I’m not saying that we are definitely near the end times, but it’s my belief that we are… and it’s been my belief since a very young age that I would live through the end times. I don’t know the day or the hour, but I do know that the time is nearer than it has ever been and that the Church fathers warned us of its proximity (Rom 13:11, Rev 1:3, Rev 22:10). One thing is certain, we are nearer to the end times now than we have ever been before.

So if I still have your attention, I’ll tell you a little about my journey and how I’ve reached certain conclusions. I was raised as a Roman Catholic, which was a good thing for me. At the ripe old age of 25, the Lord reached out to me in the middle of the Mediterranean floating on a U.S. warship. Now, I don’t want to discount the prayers and actions of others who have played a part in my journey, but He chose to speak to me in a quiet, private fashion. He basically used a Gideon’s Bible that had been handed to me four years earlier, using it to reach me in a one-on-one discipleship program at sea. 

By the time my ship pulled into Haifa Israel, I was a newly re-committed Christian. Walking through the Holy Land, He spoke to me in both natural and supernatural ways so that I didn’t (and still don’t) question God’s ability to give spiritual gifts to His people (see http://mitchellmalloy.blogspot.com/2011/01/extraordinary-gifts.html). My sixteen years of Catholic education gave me a perspective of the Holy Land that allowed me to appreciate the places I visited through the Biblical stories I’d heard. Yes, being Catholic was a really good thing for me, and it prepared me for that special time in Israel where I could experience God’s presence in the context of scripture, history, and a reverence for His supernatural power.

So it’s in my spiritual DNA to appreciate both the natural and the supernatural, God working in both ordinary and extraordinary ways. Early in my Christian journey and continuing into the present day, Jesus has taught me through Scripture and experience, speaking to me and explaining verses that didn’t make sense, all the while showing me the importance of asking Him for understanding. In the years I’ve been walking with Him, I have not shied away from experiencing God or from weighing my experience against Scripture. So since signs and wonders are part of my personal experience, as I made my way through the Bible, a couple verses troubled me. First, was Jesus’ warning that “false messiahs and false prophets will appear, performing great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” (Matt 24:24). My second concern was His admonition that a wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign (Matt 12:39, 16:4, Luke 11:29). Because of these verses, I developed a couple principals when it comes to the miraculous: 
  1. Just because it’s supernatural doesn’t mean it’s from God
  2. I can accept God’s plan to unfold either naturally or supernaturally
 Continued... Part 2 – Christian Witchcraft
http://mitchellmalloy.blogspot.com/2012/06/signs-in-end-times-church-part-2.html

copyright ©2012 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)