Sunday, March 19, 2017


Go ahead and talk about him because he makes you doubt
Because he has denied himself the things you can't live without
Laugh at him behind his back just like the others do
Remind him of what he used to be when he comes walking through.
He's the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You got a heart of stone
 – Bob Dylan

The Pressure Cooker

The world hates us and we’re instructed to hate the world. Jesus even said:

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” - Luke 14:26.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”. - 1John 2:15

"If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” - John 15:19

Of course, Jesus didn’t mean to despise anyone, He was dramatically saying that our love for God trumps all other relationships.

However, the opposite is often the case. Relatives will indeed despise their family member who is sold out for Jesus. Once a person becomes a child of God, all earthly relationships immediately change --sometimes for the good, when their testimony touches the heart of their kin, but sadly it is more common for loved ones to turn against the new convert.

The Epistle of James says, “Friendship with the world is enmity to God.” It isn’t referring to planet earth, but to the world system that is under the power of the god of this age: the devil. Jesus said, “If you’re not for Me, you’re against Me.” You can’t use His name as a cuss word today and then expect Him to accept your praise come Sunday morning.

Starting Out

New believers in the LORD Jesus Christ have been captured by their newfound love for Him. They are so excited and optimistic; it can be seen in their faces and their smiles. They just can’t shut up about Him. This is especially true if they were not raised in the church and do not have much Bible knowledge. They’re on Cloud 9, so to speak, and are just starting out on their pilgrimage to the Celestial City. They feel invincible.

When the first fiery trial comes along, they do not see it coming – like a bolt out of the blue. This is played out in a poignant way in Pilgrim’s Progress when Pliable, from Christian’s hometown of the City of Destruction, decides to go along with him.  This is the famous scene when they both fall into the Slough of Despond. This trouble comes to a surprise to both of them, but they respond differently.

After struggling to extricate himself from the Slough, Pliable leaves the way in a huff saying, “Is this the happiness you have told me of all the while? If we have such ill speed at our first setting out, what may we expect betwixt this and our journey's end? May I get out again with my life; you shall possess the brave country alone!”

Christian was rescued by a man named “Help.” He got to the other side of the Slough, while Pliable turned tail for home. Along the way more trials and tribulations confront our protagonist. About half-way through the journey, as many others were running back to the comfort of their towns, Christian assured himself: “I must venture. To go back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life-everlasting beyond it. I will yet go forward. “

This is reminiscent of a Bible passage in the Gospel of John. As many men who had been following the Master walked away because they could not understand His hard sayings, He turned to Peter and asked him if he was going to go too. 

“But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” John 6:68

New converts to the faith are not always born-again believers. They may be quite sincere about their decision to become a Christian, but have not come into the Kingdom through the door of repentance. They might have simply responded to an emotional message to “try Jesus.” Or, they might have learned about the Bible growing up and see it as the “good book” and a valuable guide during troubled times. The church is just a building in the community where people are married and buried, some think.

Jesus’ parable of the Sower of the Seed gives the big picture. The seed represents the Word of God that is sown into hearts. The soil is the condition of the heart into which it is sown. The outcome of the crop depends on the fertility of the ground. In summary, Jesus said:

"The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word's sake, immediately they stumble. Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred." – Mark 4:14-20

This installment focuses on just one of the reasons people backslide and do not go to the end of the journey. The thorny ground “Christians” are just temporary ones. This is probably the most common kind of pew sitter there is – we used to call them “carnal Christians.” And sadly, today’s most popular mega-churches cater to them. It is said of them, “they have just tacked Jesus onto their worldly pursuits.”

Jesus said, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matt 24:13)  That does not mean that they can lose their salvation – it just means that they were not truly born-again in the first place. To those who miss the mark and say, “Lord, Lord, did we not do many good things in your name?” Jesus tells them, “I never knew you.”

These converts did not count the cost. They did not put self on the altar and put Jesus on the throne of their lives. They never turned the reins over to Him. They called their own shots. There was no major change in their lives after their supposed conversion. They merely gave lip-service to Jesus and found a church community center to attend where they could get an uplifting shot in the arm every Sunday.
These words from Romans, the epistle of grace, didn’t quite penetrate:

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” – Rom. 8:13-14

No Longer Cool

The first big surprise that awaits a new convert, regardless of their soil, is the reaction from family and friends when they tell them they’ve become a Christian. A typical response from these scallywags is “You’re not a Christian. I know you. You’re just going through a phase. You’ll get over it.” And an assortment of other colorful metaphors spouts from their lips.

The true saint will strive with them for a while, sharing their testimony and giving them an answer for the hope they now have in their heart. S/he might even get through to some, although some friends like Pliable will only go so far.

But the enemy of our souls will not delay in striking back, using those closest to them to inflict the most damage.  He will inspire the convert’s associates to remind him/her of who they used to be. If that doesn’t work, friends will invite them to events where they are sure to get the new believer doing the things they used to do – drinking, carousing, doing drugs – whatever the old habit happens to be.
The solid saint will resist these temptations. The Holy Spirit dwelling within them will make them uncomfortable in those old familiar haunts, and they will be forced to leave. If they slip up, they’ll repent, cry out to God for strength, and keep on going. Scripture reading will help them on a daily basis as they take in the manna of His Word. They know they can run to the pages of scripture for direction. They may stumble across this one that will really speak to them:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Cor 6:9-11

The Old Me

After entering the Kingdom at the ripe old age of 28, I was in for a rude awakening. My story is not unlike so many others whose born-again experience changed them instantly – overnight even.
I was raised in the Catholic Church, but rebelled from it as a teenager. I was a child of the 60s, ran off from my home in Los Angeles County to the Bay Area. I bought the whole package: free love, drugs, and rock n’roll. I dabbled in the occult; the Ouija board was my idea of a good time. I thought I was making contact with dead people from the other side.

I excelled in the art of lying. I could come up with a humdinger of a story to extricate myself from a previous lie. I learned this early in life from sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night as a teenager. When I got caught, I had to come up with a darn good story. When caught in a lie, I just lied a little better to get out of it.

My youth was cut short when I came home pregnant and my hippy boyfriend became scarce. I had only been away for a few months and was only 17. I had to go to a home for unwed mothers to give birth to my baby girl and gave her up for adoption as a newborn. 

I blocked that emotional upheaval, working all week to live it up on the weekends. I could out-cuss any sailor and was a bit of a clown – I collected dirty jokes and loved to one-up the next guy in my delivery of them. Cocaine became my recreational drug of choice in my 20s. I never did like the taste of alcohol, so I’d take a vial of coke to the nightclubs I frequented with my girlfriends. Dancing and partying was all I lived for, but deep down inside it was not a very satisfying lifestyle. I needed something to fill the spiritual void inside.

At that time, my friends would have thought me to be the least likely person to ever “turn to religion,” as they would put it. But it wasn’t religion that I was looking for. In fact, I wasn’t even thinking that deeply; I was on auto-pilot. 

Everything changed when I received a book in the mail from the Book of the Month Club. I was a voracious reader – but only of fiction. In fact, horror stories and murder mysteries were my favorite genre. Real life stuff just wasn’t my bag.  The book I received was called Michelle Remembers. It arrived right after reading a novel called The Entity that had left me feeling creeped out. It was a novel supposedly based on a true story about a woman living in L.A. who was being haunted nightly by a demon known as an Incubus. But Michelle Remembers was different because it was not a novel, but an eye-witness account of a young woman who was recalling, under hypnosis, her horrifying experience of being used by Satanists in their diabolical ceremonies when she was just a child.
What really got to me were the photos of her in the book. The shrink administering the hypnosis testified that whenever his client would recall those awful memories, big ugly red welts would appear upon her skin in the shape of a pitchfork or a devil’s tail – reminiscent of the character seen on the Red Devil Fireworks booths that would spring up everywhere before the Fourth of July.

In hindsight, it was not a very credible testimony – especially since the memories only came out of hypnotic induction. But that didn’t matter to me at the time. Both books convinced me of the existence of the devil – and I reasoned that there had to be a God because if there wasn’t then we’re all in deep you-know-what.

I fell back on my religious upbringing and ran out to the local Catholic bookstore and bought myself a St. Joseph’s Bible. I began reading the Psalms – they really spoke to me. I steered away from the gospels and epistles because I thought I knew what was in them from my years of growing up and them being read at the Catholic mass.

I had a practice of attending midnight mass every Christmas-Eve – a tradition I kept up with even in my unbelief. Baby Jesus in the manger had always appealed to me that time of year. But that Christmas of 1980, I did something different. I visited Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa instead. I had been somewhat familiar with It since a couple of my friends had attended at one time years before when they met in a tent. I was totally blown away by Pastor Chuck Smith’s message about Christmas. He talked about the pagan origin of December 25th and the pagan feast of Saturnalia. His candor about that was refreshing. I had never heard a sermon that admitted to any possible flaw in the system. No Catholic priest would dream of being that forthright!

I left without responding to the altar call. I held onto the bulletin though and put it in my Catholic Bible in my nightstand next to my bed. I didn’t know it then, but it would sure come in handy some seven months later at 3 am on the Fourth of July, 1981.

From Death to Life 

That New Year’s Eve was rather depressing. I spent it alone due to an absent boyfriend with whom I was having an affair who kept promising he would leave his wife for me. He just couldn’t seem to get up the nerve. So he would string me along, living with me during the week and going home to her on the weekend. Looking back it must have been a fine arrangement for…let’s call him ‘Frank.’
Frank was one of my supervisors at work. At some point in time during this tainted relationship, I got pregnant. He insisted that I have an abortion but I didn’t want to. He prevailed and talked me into it – he even dropped me off at a Planned Parenthood clinic. 

I was mad at him, but totally oblivious to what I had just done to my unborn baby. The personnel at the death center convinced me that I was merely wiping away a little tissue and there was as yet no form to speak of. They called it a “potential baby.”

I saw myself as the victim, and would look to the book of Psalms for comfort as I lay in bed at night feeling sorry for myself. I would run to “the book” every time some horrible self-inflicted disaster would befall me. I believed in God and thought He was on my side.

On the night before the Independence Day holiday, I was again resentful for being left alone. So I accepted a date with one of Frank’s fellow supervisors and went out drinking, dancing, and snorting coke with him. I only accepted the date, hoping to get Frank jealous. The whole thing backfired – the guy got weird on me after he got high and violently forced himself on me. I felt lucky to get home alive that night.

So at 2 a.m., after soaking in a hot tub, I reached for the Bible for comfort. As I read it, I didn’t feel comfort, I felt dirty, unclean. I blamed myself for the events of the night, knowing I brought that upon myself for trying to get back at Frank. As that thought came to me, another thought hit me between the eyes – my relationship with Frank was a sin. That hadn’t occurred to me before. Where’d that come from? 

From that realization, my entire life of sin began streaming across my mind – the lies, the partying, the drugs, the hurts I caused others, the adultery, the fornication, and on and on. I sat there alone crying and sobbing over all the awful things I had done. During all those years of debauchery I had never once stopped to think about the guilt or fault that was upon me. But now, the guilt was overwhelming me.

I desperately wanted to tell God I was sorry and beg for His forgiveness. I wanted to pray, but I just didn’t know how to. I had memorized prayers as a Catholic – the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be – but none of those prayers of rote could help me now.

I found that old Calvary Chapel bulletin, almost by miracle, there was a 24-hour prayer line phone number in it. I grabbed the phone and called. A man answered and the first words out of my mouth were, “I don’t know how to pray. I want to pray, but I don’t know how. Can you help me?”

There was silence on the other end for what seemed like an eternal minute. I think the guy was stunned and was gathering his thoughts – or else I had woken him up – it was 3 in the morning. He led me to the 6th chapter of John’s gospel and told me that the so-called Lord’s prayer was not given to recite, but given to instruct us how to petition God in our own words. He ministered to me, explaining to me the free gift of salvation and led me in a sinner’s prayer. I thanked him, and as I hung up the phone, I felt the weight of all the guilt lift right off me. It was tangible! And I immediately just knew how to pray. I had a heart-to-heart talk with Jesus and my words flowed with praise and thanksgiving and I promised Him I would always follow Him and learn to please Him. My entire life had just made a 180 degree turn. The Bible I had been reading on and off for seven months, now came alive. One revelation after another jumped off the pages as I read it with new understanding. It changed from an interesting book to the living words of Almighty God, my Savior!

Commencement of Hostilities

The first person I called the next day was my mom. At first she was delighted to hear that I had found Jesus. She thought that meant I would return to the Catholic Church. When she realized that was not the case, she expressed her disappointment. My dad, who was a convert to Catholicism, wanted to discuss our differences, but those discussions usually turned into heated arguments. Others in the family began to resent me because I was disturbing the peace when we would all come together for family gatherings. 

Things weren’t much better in my circle of friends. We used to get together at Gilbert’s house every weekend to play board games and laugh and act stupid together. My best friend Liz was a psychology major and she was the Risk champion. The next time we all got together after my born-again experience, I was shocked at Gilbert’s hostility to me. The first words out of his mouth were, “so you’ve taken sides with the enemy.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Christianity is against me; the Bible teaches that I’m going to hell for being a homosexual.” I told him I didn’t know that. He kept shouting one threatening question after another in my face, but I didn’t know the Bible well enough to answer them. Then he stormed out of the living room and walked back in and tossed me a book. “Read this,” he said. “You can take it home.” The book was called, “Contradictions in the Bible.” I put it down and said, “Gilbert, I’m not going to read this. I just started to read the Bible and I know that it is true. This book will only confuse me.” At that, I was asked to leave and not come back.

Liz tried to be more open to me and we continued to visit each other. We loved getting together just to play Scrabble and feast on munchies over at her house. She did not want me talking about it – just acted as if she was not offended, but just not interested. Liz loved dancing and nightclubbing. She was quite the lush. I would no longer go with her to clubs, so our friendship sorta soured. The last time I saw her, I got her to go with me to hear the late Walter Martin speak at Melodyland in Anaheim. He spoke against secular humanism and she was most offended. She told me that she was a humanist and he was wrong in criticizing it. I told her that maybe he meant something different by the term – to which she rolled her eyes and almost screamed at me, “No he did not.” That ended our friendship – and it had been a close one.

Of course, one of my first calls to action after committing my life to Christ was to tell Frank to stop calling me. I told him how Jesus had saved me and I was going to follow Him and I was shocked at his harsh reaction. I so much wanted him to receive the Gospel, and I gave it to him in the best way I knew how. His response? “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.” The tragedy in Jonestown was still fresh in the public eye. Frank wasn’t the only person to make that wisecrack to me.

What followed at work was similar. I won’t go into the long story here. But it didn’t take long for me to wind up at the Unemployment office. Coming to Jesus had cost me my family relations, my friends, my job, and then my condo – out of work, I could no longer make the mortgage payments. I was forced to sell my house. I was literally stripped of every area of my life and had to start over from scratch. I did not know a single Christian nearby that I could run to for solace.

The struggle to hold onto my newfound faith was only just beginning. I had lost it all – but I hung on to Jesus for dear life!

Sunday, March 12, 2017


How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

 The True Church has no Brick or Mortar

Jesus promised that He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. And yet He also said, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8b)

To reconcile this apparent contradiction, it is vital to understand what constitutes the true church and where the church fits into Bible prophecy. Jesus’ letters to the seven churches in the first three chapters of the book of Revelation illustrate how Jesus addresses each of them as “church” even though He had strong rebukes for most of them.

We want to look at how the church of the LORD Jesus Christ started, how it evolved, and where it is headed. Has the visible church lost its way? Has Satan crept in and defiled the Bride of Christ?

The One True Church

Various denominations and bible-based cults today claim to be “the one true church.” The Roman Catholic Church, in particular, lays claim to that title. Catholic dogma teaches that she is the only church founded by Jesus Himself since she is the oldest “Christian” institution and since there is only one true church. All the others must be cheap imitations.

However, Jesus sees it differently. He did not set up any institutional hybrid of a religious hierarchical centralized power that would lord it over congregations around the globe. His church - the true church, the Bride of Christ - has no headquarters or even buildings. The true Bride has no spot or wrinkle - there are no phony infiltrators in the real Bride of Christ. She is pure as the driven snow.

The real Bride is made up of the saints - the out-called ones - who are born-again, filled with the Holy Spirit, set apart in this world and have forsaken all to follow the Master. However, she is hidden among many congregations, each of which is a mixed multitude. Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares reveals this truth, and warns us that we are not in the position to separate the wheat from the tares because with the naked eye they are, for the most part, indistinguishable.

Jesus said, “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn." (Matt. 13:30)

Rather than just one institutional church, Jesus addresses the seven churches of Asia-Minor in the second and third chapters of Revelation. Each church has a unique personality and is composed of true and false converts. Even the churches that are the most far-gone doctrinally, like the Church of Thyatira, has a few true saints hidden in their midst.

As the Apostle Paul pointed out, “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’" (2 Tim 2:19)

If Jesus had put a particular institution in authority over all the others, He would only have written a letter to that one church. But these seven, each with its own lampstand and angel, are in specified locations. The Christians in each city where the early church was birthed gathered together regularly for fellowship and teaching. There were no Gideon Bibles in every inn: the appointed bishop or pastor would read from the apostles’ writings they had access to. And there were no denominational divisions - Christians were Christians and they got together. Overseers were appointed for the sake of keeping order and the gifts and calling of apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and deacons were recognized, as were those with all the gifts of the Spirit such as helps, administration, and mercy. The elders kept things in order.

But there was no hierarchy. All believers are equal in God’s sight and each must endeavor to follow the voice of Jesus and abide in the Vine. No pastor or church institution is going to do that for anybody.

Jesus was unequivocal about what He thought of a hierarchy. “But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.’” (Mark 10:42-43)

How Did We Get Here?

The decline of Christianity seen all over the world in the 21st century did not happen in a vacuum. Church history is rampant with scandals and debauchery; men vying for power and position in the institutional church. Inquisitions, Crusades, Ecclesiastical Wars and whatnot. It’s the wickedness in the visible church that gets all the attention. Individual saints in the invisible true church go unnoticed. And it seems that as soon as they get recognition, it goes to their heads and their sanctification slips when pride enters in.

The de-evolution of the visible institutional church did not surprise Jesus or His apostles.  The Apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders:

"For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” - Acts 20:29-31

Drawing disciples after themselves? Anyone who preaches their church or denomination when witnessing to the lost is doing just that. That is not being a witness, but a recruiter. They are not preaching Jesus, but their church. The Roman mother church is notorious for that. Their entire evangelization campaign is “Catholics Come Home.”

Paul could see the writing on the wall. The church he loved so much was being infiltrated by wicked men with their own agendas for greatness. Paul and the other apostles, under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had written the New Testament gospels and epistles, establishing the foundation of the faith. Soon after Paul’s martyrdom, many heresies crept into the church.

When Jude, the brother of Jesus and James, wrote his little epistle, the Christian faith had already been founded. The last New Testament book to be written, Revelation, completed the canon and contained a warning to those who would add to or take away from the book.[i] But Gnosticism and other devil-inspired ‘isms’ immediately gained a foothold to distort the truth that the apostles had delivered. He wrote:

“I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” - Jude 3b

If the faith was not under attack back in the first century, there would have been no need to pen those words of warning.

Even before the apostles died off, the visible church that was planted was already a mixed multitude. As early as 95 A.D., when Jesus gave the Revelation to John on the Isle of Patmos, Jesus had issues with the direction some of them were headed. Out of the seven, He only addressed two without a rebuke. He still acknowledged the errant ones as “churches” - probably because they confessed His name and had some wheat among the tares.

As the wise man Solomon once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” From this list of noted bad traits, the same issues are found in many church groups today:

  • “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Rev. 2:4)
  • “You have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.” (Rev. 2:14)
  • “You also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.” (2:15)
  • “You allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” (2:20)
  • “Known the depths of Satan” (2:24)
  • “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” (3:1)
  • “I have not found your works perfect before God.” (3:2)
  • “Defiled their garments” (3:4)
  • “You are neither cold nor hot.” (3:15)
  • “You are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” (3:17)
I wonder what Jesus would have to say to today’s churches were He to write them all a letter!

It seems like the older an institution gets, the further away it drifts from its roots. People often say, “Well, that ministry started out right; they just got off course along the way.” Think of the plethora of church groups, denominations, and Bible fellowships that would be true of. The Roman Catholic Church shouldn’t boast of their antiquity - they’re just further afield from their beginnings. And you can easily detect their roots when you read the LORD’s rebuke to the church of Thyatira with a little dash of Pergamos thrown in.

On the other hand, true saints of the Most High God today are not much different than the saints of old. The true called-out ones are still living and dying for their faith. They are still sharing the testimony of Jesus with others and not merely recruiting for some organization. Institutions wax and wane, but the invisible church of Jesus Christ abides and remains.

Dysfunctional Family

Although I’ll be talking a lot about the “institutional church,” made up of wheat and tares, that does not mean I am adverse to organization. The Bible lays out the way the local body should function – in decency and in order – with each saint bringing their gift to minister to the rest. That is why in 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul lays out the diversity of gifts that are given as the Holy Spirit so chooses. The offices of pastor, evangelist, deacon, bishop, teacher, and every position of leadership should function in the Body yet understand that the position does not equate to being more holy or superior than the rest.

The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) does not stand alone as the oldest institution calling itself Christian. She shares that distinction with her sisters, the Eastern Orthodox Church and her outposts, along with the Coptic Church in Egypt. Remember, Alexandria, Egypt was a major hub of Christianity in the days of the apostles.

Not only do these other bodies from antiquity share the distinction of age, but they also share many of the same attributes as Catholicism such as the use of icons, elaborate architecture, religious art and sacramentals such as candles, incense, holy water, hosts, priests, vestments, and whatnot. However, the RCC is the Mother Church historically, as she is the institution that took the prominence over the others. The rest followed her example, while maintaining their independence.

As these institutions vied for religious and secular power and importance, God still had His little lambs in pockets of believers who did not go along with the hijackers of Christianity. They do not stand out in history, because they were not the ones exerting their importance over the others. God knows who they are.

So that begins this dysfunctional family. We have the mother and the sisters. Then there are the daughters – the ones who broke off from the mother. This list would include the Church of England, also known as Anglican and Episcopalian, and the groups formed by the Reformers such as Presbyterian, Lutheran, Reformed. These churches reformed some of Rome’s errors, however they held onto some traditions that make void the Word of God. A major blunder of the Reformers was maintaining Rome’s insistence on a church-state in which they held secular power over the people. And those who opposed that power were often put to death or imprisoned. (John Bunyan for example.)

That brings us to the cousins in the institutional church. Some of these started out better, like the Methodist Church and some Baptist denominations, although they didn’t move far enough away from their ecclesiastical roots. But the power of the hierarchy – a sort of Christianized caste system – took root as men and sometimes women rose up the ranks in their chosen career as clergymen. Official ordination gave them the power to institute so-called sacraments such as a distorted ceremony they call “communion” or the ability to baptize, in some cousins even babies, claiming that water baptism is what saves a person’s soul. Cousins like the United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, American Baptist and so on, have turned liberal and given platforms to homosexual incursions. In fact, the liberal umbrella organization that many of the cousins belong to, the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, have an entire agenda of liberal/progressive and anti-Christian positions. Even odd cousins like the Quakers, Mennonites, and Moravians are members.

Today, the grandchildren institutions are on the rise. Emergent, Seeker-Sensitive, and Purpose-Driven churches have become the norm, hand-in-hand with the fallen culture to attract unsaved people, particularly the youth, watering down the Gospel to institute their church-growth principles. Spin-offs from the Assemblies of God denomination are expanding under the authority of false apostles and prophets under the banner of the NAR: New Apostolic Reformation. They are leading scores of young people into a Kundalini metaphysical baptism producing hypnotic induction with the assistance of evil spirits.

The grandparents of this institutional Church, consisting of sheep and goats, are the spirit of Antichrist and his cohort, the Queen of Heaven.

The Church Family

The first century church as seen in the book of Acts and the Epistles got along just fine without any institutional religion. It was a time of innocence before the Apostle Paul left for glory. Throughout Paul’s epistles, he spent much of his time correcting error as it crept in – nipping it in the bud before it took root. After the time of the apostles, wicked men crept in just as Paul had foretold. Paul’s second and third missionary journeys consisted of strengthening the congregations he had established, weeding out wolves and hirelings as he went.

The early church met in houses. It looked more like family gatherings than religious services. They would look out for one another. If one had a need, the others would pitch in to meet that need. They loved one another, worshiped corporately, prayed together, broke bread together and shared wine commemorating the Last Supper and the LORD’s sacrifice for their sins. They even joined together in industry – Paul worked with Pricilla and Aquila in the tent-making business. They were hospitable, entertained strangers, shared their testimonies, told others about Jesus and His Gospel of salvation as a free gift to repentant sinners. They were in unity – one body.

As many as were being saved joined their ranks. They had a love for Scriptures and hoped for the soon return of Jesus, looking for Him in joyous anticipation. It wasn’t until a century or so later that certain so-called “church fathers” came along denying His future millennial reign on the earth. According to the infiltrators, Christ was ruling now through the church hierarchy and His return would be to end the world, not to rule it.

The Parables of the Kingdom

We’ve all heard the saying, “History repeats itself.” That happens to be a biblical concept.

When God gave the Law to Moses for the children of Israel to follow, it didn’t take long for the nation to depart from it. Even while Moses was on the holy mount, the Israelites were building a golden calf and saying it was the image of the god that led them out of bondage in Egypt. By the time they inherited the land under the leadership of Moses’ successor Joshua (another way of saying ‘Jesus’), they were already starting to adopt some of the pagan practices and idolatry of the nations they were uprooting.

The fact that the same thing happened upon the establishment of the New Testament church should come as no surprise. That seems to be the nature of fallen man. And it’s not like we weren’t warned. Paul admonished the baby church to learn from Israel’s mistakes so as not to do likewise.

“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Cor. 10:11-12
Jesus especially showed us how the Kingdom of Heaven when it manifests in the earth is immediately polluted from within. Many of the parables give us clues to the condition of the church which is supposed to be His witness on earth to the Kingdom of God after His own people rejected Him and we gentiles were grafted into the same Olive Tree. 

Jesus made this interesting observation:

"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” – Matt. 11:12

He certainly wasn’t speaking complimentary of those who cause the Kingdom to suffer by invading it. Yet, believe it or not, false teachers on TV have used – or should I say misused – this passage to mean that they need to get violent to rise to position in the church. 

Jesus was obviously saying that violent men had taken over the highest position in the synagogues, referring to the high priest, Pharisees, and Herodians who eventually turned their violence on Him. This fact is illustrated in His parable of the land owner and the vinedressers.

"But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.” Matt. 21:38

That is an example of those taking the Kingdom by force. 

Jesus warned His disciples to beware of the “leaven of the Pharisees.” That leaven, the Bible says, is sin and false doctrine. The Apostle Paul identified the leaven in the same way. He told the Galatians: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Gal 5:9). And Paul said a similar thing to the Corinthians:Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.” (1 Cor. 5:7).

At Passover, Israeli wives would have to sweep through their entire house and get rid of all yeast and leavening agents as instructed by the Mosaic Law. Leaven is not a good thing in biblical typology. So why would believers think it is a good thing to be leaven. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard TV preachers telling their people to go out and be leaven – using that as a metaphor for influencing others.

They base that on a misunderstanding of the Parable of the leaven:

“And again He said, ‘To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.’" – Luke 13:20-21

That was a clarification of the Parable of the Mustard Seed He had just shared:

“Then He said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.’" – Luke 13:18-19

These “birds of the air” are birds of prey – unclean birds according to the Law. Some Bible translations call them “vultures.” The pure Kingdom looked good to them to use it to nest in. They took over the tree.

This goes back to the Letter to the Seven Churches – These churches had taken the kingdom – some rightly and some wrongly – but he addressed them all since they put themselves in Moses’ seat.

"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat,” Jesus said, “But all their works they do to be seen by men.” – Matt. 23:1,5

And just like the Pharisees and Sadducees who opposed Jesus, these leaders in the church who brought in the leaven of their false doctrines claim for themselves “the seat of Peter”. However, they will be cast out of the Kingdom when Jesus comes and dispatches His angels to separate the wheat and the tares. Jesus said we will know them by their fruit. Or as the late Walter Martin often said, “You can know a wolf by his diet; wolves eat sheep.”

Fellow Pilgrims

The true sheep of God’s Vineyard are scattered throughout these little kingdom wannabe buildings. And they’re also meeting in homes with little flocks of fellow sheep. 

The Pilgrim’s Progress is a wonderful allegory for the life of the true believer. We can’t go it alone. It would seem that the same percentage of pilgrims in the book of actual citizens of the Celestial City is the same as in the world today. They were the few. They didn’t fit in. They overcame. They were persecuted. They were attacked. They were martyred. They were reviled. They made it through to their ultimate destination.

The nature of the enemies that confronted Christian, Faithful, and Hopeful hasn’t changed. The modern dress and speech is different, but the old sleuth foot has nothing new in his bag of tricks. His time is short, but because he knows that, he is on the warpath. As Christians we are targeted as the enemy. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

“In perils of waters,  perils of robbers, perils of my own countrymen, perils of the Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils among false brethren;” 2 Cor. 11:26

But Paul told Timothy:

“And out of them all the Lord delivered me.” (2 Tim 3:11b)

To be continued

[i] Rev. 22:18-19