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The Persecuted Church

 

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I am a Pentecostal Christian, I believe the gifts of the Spirit are for today and for the purpose of furthering God's kingdom here on earth. But to get to that point, I had to completely lose all of my faith thanks to the teachings of "name it and claim it" theology.

I was raised to believe in Jesus. As a teen I made a personal decision for Christ, and was immediately indoctrinated into "word faith". I had not believed it made any sense prior to my salvation, and even afterwards it just seemed too good to be true that "whatever I wanted would be mine"! But that was the discipling I had. As a result, I lost my faith entirely after about five years of watching people treat God as a puppet. It never made sense to me, if these two people over here agree for thing A and another two for thing B contrary to A, who does God honor? The people with more Faith? I don't want to serve a god who isn't sovereign. The fruit that I witnessed in the lives of it's adherents were not very attractive at all.  I saw a great deal of anger, and a constant focus on beating up the devil and demanding what is their 'right' from God. 

I remember seeing people with headaches being told not to say they are hurting, but to just "calleth those things which be not, as though they were" and if they really believed they were free from pain, made a good confession, stood on the scripture "..by his stripes you were healed" they would be healed.  Well, to be in pain and say you're not is to lie. Would Jesus encourage us to lie?  We should be encouraging people in pain to seek help (as well as pray for healing), not deny their suffering.

Well then, where did that leave me? Maybe there is no God. But that can't be true either, look at a tree! There has to be a God! So I decided to research Creation Science, because everything I was taught to be "true" about God made no logical sense at all. I began to read "The Genesis Record" as a devotional.  After a year of research I was convinced of God's existence so I began to pray every morning in earnest that He would reveal Himself to me as he truly is, and also I kept asking Him "why?" "what is our purpose?". I couldn't stand the thought of simply existing for existence sake. Unless there is a higher purpose, we should be zapped into heaven upon salvation, and if we aren't, then we are here for a reason. I couldn't buy into a completely personal God to the exclusion of a bigger picture. There HAS TO BE MORE TO IT! This was my prayer every morning.

God is so faithful to answer the prayer of people who truly seek His face, not for personal gain, but to know Him.

Our cell group leaders at the time were "missions mobilizers."  People dedicated to teaching others about God's heart for the lost -- those who have not only never heard of Jesus, but have no opportunity to hear and will never have that opportunity unless someone goes to them intentionally.  I became a volunteer with them.   They provided a course called "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement" from the US Center for World Mission, an anonymous donor paid for me to take the class and it answered many of the "why" questions for me (of course as I have matured a bit, I have new questions...we never stop growing!).

What a thrill!!!!! To read the bible as a whole book, not just a collection of stories! To see the Abrahamic covenant as God's promise to mankind for redemption, repeated over and over...fulfilled in the heavens as Christ died on the cross...to be completed on earth as all nations hear the good news....so why aren't we zapped upon salvation? Because God desires that all should come to know Him and in his mercy he tarries before returning, that we should co-labor with Him to further His kingdom on earth! How he loves us and desires us to fellowship with him, and how His heart breaks for those who don't know Him!

This blows the entire word faith message completely out of the water.  God blesses us to be a blessing...and the blessing isn't always money, or creature comforts, although God does bless that way.  Our greatest blessing of all is to be adopted into God's family....and we are commanded to share that blessing over and over in scripture.

Then I read "Foxe's Book of Martyrs"....now why would a God who only desires us to be "blessed" allow such persecution? Should we tell the underground church to just have enough faith for their financial breakthrough and healing?  That if they rebuke the enemy...bind Satan...they need not suffer anymore?  That they simply don't have enough faith to escape their desperate situations?  More Christians are being martyred today than in any other previous time in history.  How can we believe that God is here to make our lives comfortable if he allows believers to suffer so?  Could it be that there is more to being a Christian than being blessed?  These are questions that you must ask yourself, and God, if you are an adherent to a prosperity gospel.  God will answer those prayers -- he loves us all and greatly desires intimate fellowship with us, He desires to share His heart with those who have ears to hear His plans -- rather than telling God what He should be doing for us.

It's so difficult to be discerning when your spiritual leaders are telling you that people will try to dissuade you and you are to stand strong (or else you aren't "spiritual"). And frankly, I don't relish the thought myself of being labeled "unspiritual" any more than the next person, but I'm becoming less and less "spiritual" (tongue firmly planted in cheek) all the time!  A major red flag with any theology being preached is when the man doing the preaching claims that if you don't believe what he says, you are not walking in the Spirit.  Just two weeks ago I heard a preacher and I was in disagreement with what he was saying -- and his next words to the congregation were "ooo I see a lot of religious spirits out there, you don't like what I'm saying."  Well, if we don't question our leaders we become blind followers -- that's never been God's intention for us.

I have learned, that I WILL NOT set my intellect aside, we are to be transformed in our minds. 

I would challenge you, brothers and sisters, to seek God for His plans and purposes, not ours.  If you find yourself spending more time fighting the devil than you do experiencing the peace and joy of the Lord....ask yourself "what's wrong with this picture?"  If Paul himself was unable to have the thorn in his flesh removed -- and I'm sure he had a great deal of faith -- and yet be content in all his circumstances, who are we to do any less?

Yes, God does have a plan for your life, his plan for your life is that you would bring glory to Him, and therefore others would come to know Him through you -- you are to be a conduit of God's blessing to others who don't yet know Him.  How you do that is the wonderful journey of discovery that the Lord is just waiting to take you on, will you join Him on that journey.....or will you insist he tag along with you as you go your own way?

 

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