Groups of Deceit

How do we get lulled into spiritually manipulative and deceitful groups? Why do we so easily trust hypocritical and deceitful leaders? They initially present a very good front or outward appearance. In essence the book cover looks very good. Once you get there things are not what you expected, the book cover is deceptive. Even if initially there seems to be some red flags, we have a general tendency to give people, groups, and institutions a second chance, which is not necessarily bad. So, even though the first chapter is not what we had hoped for, especially based on the enticing book cover, we continue to read on in hopes things get better.

The dangers becomes when we exchange ‘giving them a second chance’ for ‘letting our guard down.’ Reasons we might let our guard down could be:

-The initial front said all the right things.
-Someone you respect endorsed the person/group/institution.
-The person/group/institution might create some good memorable experiences early on.
-The person/group/institution instantly makes you feel liked or appreciated (flattered you).
-Everyone in the group presents a very happy appearance.

The book cover said all the right words and the initial experience made you feel good.

The most convincing lies are full of truth
What we forget is that the best lies are always full of truth. Not many will believe a gross and obvious lie, but mingle in a lie with a lot of truth and all of a sudden it becomes much harder to discern. The lie starts to sound better and when the lie sounds better it becomes very easy to overlook. This is probably how compromise occurs most often; much of what we see and hear is correct so we no longer take the time to test and examine everything. Slowly and surely we give way without ever realizing it. This is why it is vital to constantly check things against the truth of God’s word.

Just because an institution, group, or person can say all the right things in a doctrine or faith statement, does not mean that they are committed to living those truths out. And it goes the other way as well, just because an institution, group, or person seems genuine in how they live, does not mean that what they believe is accurate or doctrinally sound.

Do you have joy?
Serving Christ is not always easy, but it should come from a heart of gratitude. There should be joy in serving Christ. There is freedom in Christ. Any system that claims to follow Christ and yet drains and constricts, might be one to watch out for.

10 Forms of Subtle Manipulation

This issue is one of personal significance to me. My hope is that perhaps the compiling of this information will be helpful to someone else as well someday.

10 Subtle Manipulations
These 10 examples are all things I have experienced first hand. Though from an outside perspective they may not seem to be that bad, the weight and total accumulating effect of these manipulations are more devastating than I can describe in words. I pulled these examples of manipulation from a book on spiritual abuse:
(Johnson, David, and Jeffrey VanVonderen. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1991. Print.)

Forms of Subtle Manipulations:

  1. Shaming people out loud.
  2. Can’t Talk Rule – tries to keep people quiet by labeling them the problem if they notice and confront a problem.
  3. Coding – verbal manipulation where messages are sent in a way that they have to be decoded in a sense, but generally only those directly involved will get the message.
  4. Triangling – sending a message to someone through another person instead of delivering it directly.
  5. Obscured Reality – anything that could expose those in authority is denied or ignored. Interacting with people outside of the system is condemned because it is threatening to them. Problems are denied and therefore remain.
  6. Performance Based – When behavior is legislated from the outside, instead of coming from a heart that loves God, it cannot be called obedience. It is rather compliance with external pressure. This orientation squeezes people from the outside in, they are not transformed, but rather they are conformed.
  7. Unspoken Rules – you don’t find out what they are until you break them. Rules like this are never written down because if they were written down they would be easily exposed as anti-Christian.
  8. Humiliation and Scare Tactics – you can be ‘exposed’ for asking too many questions, for disobeying unspoken rules, or for disagreeing with authority. People are made public examples in order to send a message to those who remain. Many methods are used to warn their friends and others about how ‘dangerous’ or ‘divisive’ they are.
  9. Misusing or Abusing Scripture – using scripture incorrectly in order to manipulate.
  10. Double Talk – the leaders sound very religious but there is a sense of vagueness. They will give you the ‘right’ answer but rarely the ‘real’ answer. You cannot confront them or pin them down because they never truly answer the question.

How Did I Get Here?

Why do we have to be diligent in reading the Bible? Because we easily become careless and complacent in our lives, which leads us into sins that so easily beset each of us. And before long we have wondered farther off the path than we ever intended and are left thinking to ourselves; how did I get here?


The battle

“You know more about your ledgers than your Bible; you know more about your magazines and novels than what God has written; many of you will read a novel from the beginning to the end, and what have you got? A mouthful of foam when you are done. But you cannot read the Bible; that solid, lasting, substantial, and satisfying food goes uneaten, locked up in the cupboard of neglect; while anything that a man writes, a best seller of the day, is greedily devoured.” -Spurgeon


“There is not a place beneath which a believer walks that is free from snares… behind every bush there is the lion seeking to devour; under every piece of grass there lies the adder. They are everywhere.” -Spurgeon

 


The command to be diligent

You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. -Deuteronomy 6:17
You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. -Psalm 119:4


I have stored up your word in my heart, 
that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11
I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. -Proverbs 8:17


But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him -2 Peter 3:13-15


“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—
 how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ -Deuteronomy 4:9-10


And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. -Deuteronomy 6:6-8

Have You Sacrificed Relationships Because of Selfish Ambition?

Have you sacrificed relationships because of selfish ambition? I have. It may look different for each of us; possibly athletic achievements, career advancements, the pursuit of wealth and possessions, social status, online fame, etc.… Anything that so consumes us we loose sight of what is really important and of those around us. We all have to ask ourselves if our personal goals and pursuits are really worth sacrificing relationships for?

We have an opportunity to have a good relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
We have an opportunity to have a good relationship with our families.
We have an opportunity to have a good relationship with friends and others around us.

How we relate to God and how we relate to people are of utmost importance.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

If our goals hinder these relationships, maybe we should re-evaluate our goals.

Alcohol is Always a Good Time, Right?

We live in a culture that loves its wine and alcohol. Where I’m from people go to bars if they want to find a girlfriend or boyfriend. Others drink because of the stresses of life or it’s their idea of having a good time. But alcohol is a substance that can easily control a person. Whether through personal experience or through observation we have all seen this. I’ve seen women go home with guys they would have never gone home with if they were sober. I’ve had drunk people tell me things they would never tell someone in their right mind. I’ve seen drunk people act like complete fools and idiots, and I’ve seen drunk people become very angry, aggressive, and easily agitated. While drinking may not be condemned as a sin, getting drunk is. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). But the Bible says a lot more about it than just this. We would be wise to reflect on what God says about it and be willing to reevaluate our own lives.

Galatians 5:19-21
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Peter 4:3-5
For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

Proverbs 20:1
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

Proverbs 21:17
Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.

Isaiah 5:11
Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them!

Isaiah 5:22
Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink,

Proverbs 23:29-31
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
Those who tarry long over wine;
those who go to try mixed wine.
Do not look at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.

Proverbs 31:4-7
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to take strong drink,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed
and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
and wine to those in bitter distress;
let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.

Isaiah 28:7
These also reel with wine and stagger with strong drink; the priest and the prophet reel with strong drink, they are swallowed by wine, they stagger with strong drink, they reel in vision, they stumble in giving judgment.

Hosea 4:10-11
They shall eat, but not be satisfied;
they shall play the whore, but not multiply,
because they have forsaken the Lord
to cherish whoredom, wine, and new wine,
which take away the understanding.

Micah 2:11
If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,” he would be the preacher for this people!

God, Show Me A Sign

How does the Holy Spirit work in the life of Christians? Is it through promptings that are based on a feeling we might get at any given moment? Is it through an unknown and ambiguous sign? I’m sure most of us have been in situations when you get a feeling or urge that you should do something and then a few moments later you start to think better of it and question whether this is really something you should do or not; before you know it you’re on a teeter totter going back and forth in your mind. Was this a prompting from the Holy Spirit?

The Bible says God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). So, what does the Bible say about how the Holy Spirit works and leads in a Christians life?

The Holy Spirit is…
-Active in salvation.
(John 16:8-11; Titus 3:5)
-Active in assurance of salvation. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
-Active in Sanctification or the spiritual growth of a Christian. (2 Thessalonians 2:13; John 14:15-16)
-Active in guiding us in truth. (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13)
-Active in the perseverance of faith. (2 Timothy 1:13-14, Romans 8:1-17; Ephesians 3:14-19)
-Active in helping us pray. (Romans 8:14-15; Romans 8:26-27)
-Active in giving us wisdom or the practical application of our faith. (Romans 12:9-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)
-Active in promoting Christian unity. (Ephesians 4:1-4)
-Active in fighting sin and pursuing righteousness. (Ephesians 6:10-20)
-Active in reasonable and practical Christian living. (Proverbs; Isaiah 11; Philippians 4:4-9)
-Active in discernment. (1 John 4:1-6; Acts 6:10; Hebrews 5:14)
-Active in producing the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-26)

As we can see the work of the Holy Spirit is based in truth, the truth of God’s word; not in an ambiguous feeling or sense. The work of the Spirit helps us in practical daily Christian living. The Holy Spirits work is helping us actively live our faith out in a fallen, sinful, and hostile world towards God and His word. We need the Spirit to open our eyes to the truth of the gospel, to flee sin and pursue righteousness, to have the courage to share the gospel with those around us, to endure suffering and persecution, and to live with wisdom and discretion.

There is nothing ambiguous about that, rather it’s first and foremost about learning to become obedient and submissive to God and His word. And when you are living a life seeking obedience to Him, then He will guide you in His way and His time in those areas where there may be more freedom in choice; such as what job should I work, where should I live, who should I date or marry (within the Christian faith), etc…

We should not be living our Christian life based on senses, feelings, or perceived signs from God; but rather our lives should be guided by the Holy Spirit who practically helps us live out the truth found in God’s word.

A final warning about reckless living
Proverbs 14:6
One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.

Jeremiah 23:32
Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.

2 Timothy 3:1-5
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Casual Christianity

Excerpt taken from this article: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/06/23/im-pastor-and-want-to-quit-church-now.html

“Only 39 percent of active believers consider the Bible as the literal word of God. Only 5 percent have shared their faith with a non-believer. More than half of all church members attend church once a month or less.

If we quit the casual way we approach God’s principles can you imagine what would happen in our personal walks of faith and in our community of believers?

My conversations over the past several years revealed the spiritual habits necessary for personal and church growth and revealed the “why” behind disengagement in the church.

The truth is, if we don’t feel passionate about something we don’t do it. If we don’t like something that happens in the church, we find another one. If the spiritual practices don’t fit our lifestyle, then we don’t do them.

This mindset permeates our “I want it now and I want it my way” culture and is only enforced through social media, website choices, TV options and countless other platforms that have risen in prominence in our lives. This is not the way God intended the church to live.

Jesus felt the church was worth dying for – it should be our mission as Christians to value living for it.”

Christian Women are More Committed to Faith than Men

Excerpt from: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/christian-women-religious-christian-men/

“As a study conducted by the Pew Research Center finds, based on a broad range of factors, Christian women in the United States express a higher level of religiosity and religious commitment than Christian men.

For example, more than seven-in-ten Christian women (72 percent) say religion is “very important” in their lives, compared with 62 percent of Christian men.

Women are also more likely than men to read Scripture at least once a week (49 percent vs. 40 percent) and believe the Bible is the Word of God (78 percent vs. 72 percent).

While there are likely to be numerous factors that influence this gap, I suspect the most important is the difference in Bible reading habits. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers for Bible reading and prayer.

 

 

 

 

As Donald Whitney says, the most important spiritual discipline is “the intake of God’s Word. No factor is more influential in making us more like the Son of God than the Spirit of God working through the Word of God.” Whitney also adds that “of all the Spiritual Disciplines, Prayer is second only to the intake of God’s Word in importance.” Prayer is second in importance because it relies on our knowledge of God, which comes from reading his Word. Without engagement with Scripture, our prayers are lacking. It’s like having a phone conversation in which the other person can hear us but we can’t hear them.

While I don’t want to underestimate the complexity of addressing the problem, I think the core solution is to encourage Christian men to read their Bibles. What if women are more inclined to pray, attend church, and say their faith is very important to them simply because they’ve first taken the time to encounter God in his Word?”

 

 

Source: Article: “Why Are Christian Women More Religious Than Christian Men?” by Joe Carter

Sharing Faith

“When was the last time you had a conversation about God? For most people, the unfortunate and surprising answer to that question is not very often. Spiritual conversations are exceedingly rare for most Americans, and even for Christians, who are at best reluctant to have them.”

“A growing number of Christians don’t see sharing the good news as a personal responsibility. Just 10 percent of Christians in 1993 who had shared about their faith agreed with the statement “converting people to Christianity is the job of the local church”—as opposed to the job of an individual (i.e., themselves). Twenty-five years later, three in 10 Christians who have had a conversation about faith say evangelism is the local church’s responsibility (29%), a nearly threefold increase.”

“The truth is, most Christians are busy with other things: the day-to-day of normal life—jobs, kids, budgets, sports, weather and what’s premiering on Netflix this week. None of this is bad, but the unfortunate reality is that most adults don’t seem to connect their everyday experiences with their faith. Or, at least, they aren’t talking about it if they do.”

“Followers of Christ have something essential and meaningful to share with their families, neighbors, friends and those they come into contact with,” … We ought to help Christians begin to make the connections between their everyday, ordinary life—their sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life—and the faith that sustains them.”

 

Source: https://www.barna.com/research/sharing-faith-increasingly-optional-christians/