Culture Clashed? : An interview with Justin Holcomb of The Resurgence

20 02 2011

You may have just “Like” the Resurgence page on Facebook because your online friends did. But checking the website and reading articles is another thing. For me it’s a blessing. One author that really got me is Justin Holcomb, the director of Resurgence. He emphasizes culture and Christians should respond to it. I had the privilege to get in touch with Pastor Holcomb and ask him questions about culture, Christianity and social media.

ROCK: Hello Ptr Justin. In this post modern world who do you think gains the most influence? Christianity or culture? Do you think it’s good or bad?

Justin Holcomb: Well, I think it’s safe to say that the post-modern (western) world borrows it’s worldview from Christianity. Without the God of the universe ordering things and giving us tools like the laws of logic to understand the world, we wouldn’t have any understanding at all. This is a big statement but I believe Christianity gives us a basis for understanding but much of our culture simply doesn’t understand that. So there’s the over-arching concept of God’s created order and how we understand things. Then there is the issue of where we are in history. To me, it seems as though the church (in the west at least) is in decline. This is discouraging in a sense because we want to see more people come to love Jesus! On the other hand, it’s exciting that there is such an opportunity for us as missionaries.

ROCK: I read some of your articles and I notice how culture has this sort of spiritual side, sometimes culture has its own take on words we use as believers. Why is culture drifting that way? Is it just a fad?

Justin Holcomb: I think maybe what you’re getting at is that there is a sort of acceptable “spiritual talk” that people use that is socially acceptable? If so, I would agree. Our culture is in favor of someone being “spiritual but not religious”. The problem comes in when that “spirituality” isn’t centered on Jesus, his life, death and resurrection. If faith is devoid of that, it is an empty, self serving, false spirituality. Spirituality in America is focused on transformation and becoming a better you. And culture is obsessed with self so that concept of spirituality makes sense to people. But Christianity is saying our purpose in life isn’t to build up our own egos, accomplishments or well-being but to worship Jesus.

ROCK: Some Christians think that engaging with culture equals being worldly. What can you say to these Christians and how can we really have a sort of “balance’ between our faith and culture?

Justin Holcomb: Jesus went head-to-head on this issue with the Pharisees. The Pharisees lifted up a specific version of their Jewish culture by claiming that holiness was defined (in part) by the rituals you observe, the foods you do or do not eat, etc. Jesus said that it wasn’t the foods or lack of ritual that defiled a person but that it was the human heart that was the problem. Maybe from a contemporary perspective, some Christians say that a believer should never drink wine or watch a movie that has strong language. The problem with this outlook is that these “things” (movies, wine) are just “things”. They are not evil in and of themselves and they don’t cause people to sin. The motivation of the heart causes people to pervert these things and put sin into motion. By saying this, I am not advocating that every Christian is free to do whatever they want at any time. Every Christian needs to prayerfully use discernment in these matters and what may be okay for one person is not for another.

ROCK: This decade is define with the word “social networking” specifically Facebook. How does this phenomenon affected Christians on how they communicate to others?

Justin Holcomb: Social networking is a great tool for evangelism to be sure. But it can’t take the place of face to face conversation and evangelism or preaching. Social networking can be really helpful as an information tool but not necessarily as a way to enact transformation.

ROCK: How do we make a connection to this digital culture in terms of sharing the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

Justin Holcomb: By making good use of it for the sake of the gospel. We share our faith and good Christian resources with others in a hope that they’ll meet Jesus, repent of sin and get connected to other like-minded believers.

ROCK: Do we really have to keep up with the culture just to make our message relevant and easily understood?

Justin Holcomb: Any good missionary is going to learn the language and customs of a people group so that they can effectively communicate the truths of the gospel. It’s important to understand the culture around us for the same mission-minded reasons. But in being a good student of the culture, we never compromise on the God’s truth, or personal holiness.

ROCK: Some articles you wrote features some giants of the faith like Luther, Calvin, Edwards etc. Are their messages still relevant in this digital age?

Justin Holcomb: Absolutely. A high view of Jesus and the Bible is the great heritage these men have passed down to us. That’s always timeless! Many people aren’t prepared (or not interested) in the depth of much of this scholarship. But the great thing about the technology and social media we have at our disposal is that we’re able to share the core ideas of these great thinkers and for those that are interested in reading more in-depth, the distribution channels for books and materials is literally just a click away.

ROCK: At a personal level, how did culture shape you as a Christian and a pastor?

Justin Holcomb: My aim is not to shape culture. My response to God’s love is to worship him, love my wife and children well, and serve on God’s mission where he has me. We need more pastors doing that and stop trying to change the world.

ROCK: Pastor Justin, you have this great organization, The Resurgence and a wonderful website http://www.theresurgence.org . Please tell us about it and invite those who are reading this.

Justin Holcomb: The Resurgence is a tool that is intended to serve Christian leaders in their ministries. We publish books, provide thousands of free online articles and blogs, we host conferences and events. Our goal is to provide leaders with tools so that they can build their churches and make disciples.

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Love Hurts? An Interview About Domestic Violence with Vision of Hope Ministries

19 09 2010

Black and blue is not the color of love. But sometimes people paints it to others who they suppose to give their love. We shouldn’t  expect domestic violence in a relationship but in this fallen world we need to open our eyes to reality.  It really happens. A nightmare comes true when boy beats girl. A very painful truth.

Jason Sweeton of Vision of Hope Ministries gave us some dose of this sad reality and much more as we talk about domestic violence.

ROCK Ministry: First let me ask about your ministry and who do you minister?

Jason Sweeton: Vision of Hope Ministries is a Christian counseling ministry. We were started to minister to the victims of domestic violence. We also counsel teens in their many issues from cutting, depression, and sexual abuse. We counsel the victims of sexual abuse and post traumatic stress disorder. Our counseling centers also provide family and marriage counseling. Our centers treat much more though. We have counseled everyone from people that don’t go to church to pastors and missionaries and their families.

V.O.H.M. was started as an answer to a local problem in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area. God had been dealing with my mother Joyce Sweeton for some time to start a ministry for battered women. At the time I was serving as the chaplain of the Chattanooga Rescue Mission. C.R.M. is a emergency homeless shelter in Chattanooga. I noticed women and children being brought to the shelter by the police from domestic assault situations. The women and children would stay at the most a couple of days and return to there abusers. I realized the women felt they had no choice. C.R.M. didn’t have the facilities to help them.

In 1997 I resigned from C.R.M. and with my mother we started V.O.H.M. to help the victims of domestic violence. The ministry God called us to do has grown beyond our expectations. We have ministered to 4,745 women 23,725 children 1,265 men in the past thirteen years. God has blessed us with the opportunity to lead 14,867 people to Lord Jesus Christ. We now have ministries in four states here in the U.S.

V.O.H.M. administers counseling centers, clothing and food distributing ministries for the homeless and poverty-stricken. V.O.H.M. has three 24/7 hour mission churches in Georgia and Tennessee. We have 11 full time missionaries and 54 volunteers. God has allowed us to counsel women and men in sixty five countries by way of the internet. Men and women who need help but we would never be able to reach any other way. God has blessed us so much. Our key purpose is to help people. We know no better way to help people than to share Jesus Christ with them. Jesus is at the center of everything we do here at V.O.H.M.

ROCK Ministry: I have a straight forward question: Why do guys sometimes beat girls?

Jason Sweeton: A batterer abuses because he wants to, and thinks he has a “right” to his behavior. He may think he is superior to his partner and is entitled to use whatever means necessary to control her.

ROCK Minstry:  Why does this kind of violence commonly happens in a relationship?

Jason Sweeton: Domestic violence often occurs because men may believe:
1 they have the right to “control” their female partners in any way necessary.
2 “masculinity” is physical aggressiveness
3 they “possess” their partner.
4 they should demand intimacy.
5 they may lose respect if they are attentive and supportive toward their girlfriends.

ROCK Ministry: What are common abuse women undergoes in domestic violence
Jason Sweeton: Domestic Violence includes a wide range of abuse including:
1 Physical Assaults
2 Sexual Assault
3 Psychological abuse
4 Threats
5 Intimidation
6 Emotional abuse
7Isolation
8 Manipulation of children
9 Economic control
10 Destruction of property or pets

RM: What are the physical and emotional trauma attached to those experience?

JS: Victims of domestic violence often experience emotional systems like:
1 Having unwanted thoughts or pictures in the mind about the abuse when nothing’s happening to remind you;
2 Suddenly reliving the abuse as if it’s happening again;
3 Getting distressed or upset when reminded of the abuse;
4 Having the kinds of physical reactions when being reminded of the abuse that it’s usual for people to get when they’re frightened, like the heart beating faster, the breathing speeding up, the muscles getting tense, getting butterflies in the stomach, and other things;
5 Trying to avoid thoughts and feelings that remind you of the abuse;
6 Trying to avoid conversations, activities, people and places that remind you of the abuse;
7 Being unable to remember some important things about the abuse;
8 Losing interest in things like the job you were doing before, or the social activities or other things you used to like;
9 Feeling detached or cut off from people around you;
10 Feeling emotionally numb; so that would mean being unable to experience some feelings, perhaps loving or joyful ones, and being unable to cry;
11 Feeling as if you’re bound to die before your time or that you won’t achieve anything in life; not expecting to live to raise children to adulthood, or to be able to get a good job, and so on.
12 Having difficulty falling or staying asleep;
13 Feeling anger and grief about what happened.

RM: How can someone who says he loves a girl ever raise his hands to that girl?

JS: This one will be fairly simple, he can’t. love is not just word and feelings it is actions. Violence at it’s root is an action of selfishness and hate not love.

RM: What are the signs that most likely identify an abusive partner?

JS: Early warning signs that your date may eventually become abusive:
1 Extreme jealousy
2 Controlling behavior
3 Quick involvement
4 Unpredictable mood swings
5 Alcohol and drug use
6 Explosive anger
7 Isolates you from friends and family
8 Uses force during an argument
9 Shows hypersensitivity
10 Believes in rigid sex roles
11 Blames others for his problems or feelings
12 Cruel to animals or children
13 Verbally abusive
14 Abused former partners
15 Threatens violence

Common clues that indicate a teenager may be experiencing dating violence:
1 Physical signs of injury
2 Truancy, dropping out of school
3 Failing grades
4 Indecision
5 Changes in mood or personality
6 Use of drugs/alcohol
7 Pregnancy
8 Emotional outburst

RM:  What should a girlfriend do if she wants to get out of this relationship?

JS: Gather the support of your friends and family. Confide in your friends about your situation. Your friends and family should help for the first couple of weeks after your break up.

Make sure your mind is clear when you break up with your boyfriend.

If your afraid your boyfriend may harm you after you tell him you want to break up, take at least one friend with you, keep a cell phone by you at all times, and have another one of your friends waiting in a car outside so you can quickly escape.

If you are afraid of him harming your friends and family, do not even tell him about breaking up. Gather all your belongings ( Without him noticing of course) and leave immediately. Notify him that you have left him, and tell him that you are going to file a restraining order against him. This should be enough incentive for him to leave you alone.

File a restraining order against him. Do not answer his calls or texts.

Make sure he doesn’t know where you are. You may have to live in motels for a couple of weeks, but in the end, it will be better than having him find you. If you have children, keep your children with you at all times.

RM: There are girls who undergone this abuse and feels that no one will ever love them. What can you say to those girls who feel hopeless?

JS: The thing you need to keep in mind domestic and dating violence is an isolating experience. Let them know they are not alone. Simply put be a friend. Never push them to do anything they are not ready for. It will only make them feel more isolated and alone. Let them know you love them and will always be there for them. Above all else let them know Jesus loves them and is concerned about there suffering. When they are ready to seek help be prepared to act quickly.





Eat This Book: Basta Lovelife: Making Wise Relationship Decisions by Kuya Kevin Sanders

12 06 2010

Admit it. If you find this book at PCBS or National you’ll raise your eyebrows. The title is very catchy and very Pinoy. But the author is an American guy. So you might ask” How can this American guy give relationship advice that will cater with me a Pinoy?” Well after reading this book you’ll change your mind.

Basta Lovelife is a jam pack of essential advice from Kevin Sanders. Kuya Kevin (as he is popularly called) assembled biblical advices (with common sense) on love, sex and relationship from the Bible, his experience as campus minister, his blog and podcast show. Kuya Kevin really knows who his audiences are and I think these are the most asked issues and topics to him. He is right on target. It’s great that all of it relates to Pilipino love and courtship culture and I’m thankful that he address those things. Words like bolero, basted, live in, rebound etc. makes you easy to know the topic he is discussing (and makes it very Pinoy). You wont be lost with this book is tackling. Pinoy youth especially students shouldn’t look further to find a book that deals with homosexuality, virginity, masturbation, romantic vultures and romantic martyr; break up, soulmate, physical attraction and more.

As you know the media is having frenzy over romance. They make money about it especially on secular love advice. Tons of people are willing to give their shots on your problems. It’s a good thing there are Christian authors like Kuya Kevin who gives good and godly advice. Advice not from towering Christian leaders, but to a down to earth and honest person. We can all relate to someone who has the same struggles and problem we have but willing to be a “kuya” (older brother) to give an advice. So grab a copy of Basta Lovelife and let Kevin Sanders be your kuya. Check out Kuya Kevins blog here and his Facebook Fan Page





Sex Sold: An Interview about Prostitution with Mastering Life Ministry

12 03 2010

We always hear these stories about prostitutes in some campus. They are students by day and prostitute by night. Others go by groups to a certain beach destination and sell their bodies. Its hard to imagine the oldest profession in the world can be found in an institution that promotes morality and dignity.

ROCK Ministry recently got a privilege to interview David Kyle Foster a former prostitute, now a pastor and heads Mastering Life Ministry and Pure Passion TV. We talk this very sensitive and controversial topic and we learned a lot from this issue.

ROCK Ministry:  First why prostitute yourself? Is their no other alternative to chose from for an individual? Do these individuals count what will cost them to sell their bodies? What really goes through their minds?

David Kyle Foster: The reasons people prostitute themselves vary widely. For me, I was very angry at God and wanted to do something that would demonstrate my extreme anger at Him. I happened to be at a location where prostitution was going on and accepted an offer from someone.

Financial need drives most prostitutes to do it. They are generally people who are being propositioned often anyway, so they decide to meet their need that way because it is the quickest way. They often dot not seriously consider the dangers because their need is so great.

ROCK Ministry:  What are the reasons why some goes to prostitution? I think no one will go to the mirror one day and say “I will prostitute myself today”.

David Kyle Foster: Sometimes people are violently forced into prostitution and sometimes they are tricked into it and then fed drugs and are beaten to keep them doing it.

Others continue because they are sex addicts and it becomes a way to satiate their unquenchable sexual appetite.

ROCK Ministry: I know that you have talked to people who gone to this line of “work”. What was the first time experience for them? How did they start? Do they look for a pimp or what?
David Kyle Foster: Every story is completely different. Some people are sold into prostitution by their parents or guardians. Others are lured by pimps. No one goes looking for a pimp. Male prostitutes almost never work for pimps.

ROCK Ministry:  What are the emotional and mental effects of having sex every night and getting paid for it? Especially for students how can they live a normal life by day and be a prostitute at night?
David Kyle Foster: Emotionally it is very difficult. It makes you feel less than human, worthless, perverted and sick. It is likely that the person already felt this way about themselves which is why they even considered prostitution to begin with. But to actually do it makes you feel like dirt.

ROCK Ministry: Are their any physical abuse? Any horror story you might have heard?
David Kyle Foster:  Every male prostitute gets beaten by about 10% of those who pick them up. For females, it is probably closer to 40%. A smaller percentage also attempts to torture the prostitute. It’s only a matter of time and luck before it happens. People tried to murder me on 3 occasions during my 7 years as a prostitute.

RM: what diseases they might catch in having different sex partner? Are they curable? How about HIV? Do you have cases that got AIDS?

DF: It is guaranteed that a prostitute will contract many sexually transmitted diseases, no matter how careful they try to be. Even condoms do not prevent some diseases like HPV virus, which eventually causes cancer. HIV is also prevalent. I have had many friends and acquaintances die from AIDS.

RM: I don’t think some of them really like this kind of work. But is their a point in time that they actually enjoy what they are doing?

DF: If the prostitute is a sex addict, there are times when they enjoy the work on the surface, but the underlying self-hatred and self-disgust never goes away.

RM: Does nymphomania develop to prostitutes? What other abnormal behavior do they get in this?

DF: Some prostitutes are nymphomaniacs or sex addicts and even more male prostitutes are satyrs or sex addicts. The consequences of this behavior are very severe. Demonic spirits from customers enter the prostitutes, so they end up with a great need for deliverance, for example. Needless to say, they are rendered incapable of ever having a normal, satisfying sexual relationship once they marry without significant inner healing prayer and ministry.

RM: Can a prostitute especially students sell their bodies without being hooked into smoking, drinking or even drugs?

DF:  It is extremely rare for a prostitute not to develop smoking, drug and/or drinking problems because they need those substances to cover up the psychic pain of their lives.

RM: Do straight prostitute eventually end up being a homosexual?
DF: Male prostitutes who start out mostly straight will inevitably program their minds and bodies to respond more and more homosexually over time if they are having sex with other men.

RM: How about those who will do it “just once” and their out? I mean just to pay this one tuition fee or pay a project for the school and that’s it. Nothing to follow. What can you say to them?

DF: Prostitution is like quicksand. Once you enter it, you cannot escape consequences. There will be spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical consequences that can be quite severe from the very start.

RM: Are prostitutes still longing for a real relationship? Even if they feel dirty do they still hope to have a family? Do they think someone will get serious to them in spite of what they have done?

DF: Prostitutes desperately long to be normal and to have normal relationships. However, their behavior prevents them from having that. Just the fear of their spouse finding out – that alone can ruin the peace they otherwise might have in a marriage. It is extremely rare for someone to fall in love with someone they know has been a prostitute. It happens in Hollywood movies, but almost never in real life.

RM: For guys and even girls who found out their partner is or use to be a prostitute, how can they face this issue? How can they forgive their partner and still be with them or call it a split? How can they live out their relationship day by day thinking his or her partner is a prostitute?

DF: No one should stay in a relationship with someone who is a prostitute. You never know what day they will bring home to AIDS virus, or some other incurable disease.

If they fall in love with someone who used to be a prostitute, that is another story. They should take measures to be certain, however, that the person has truly been transformed from that way of thinking and living, and have been checked out physically by a doctor.

RM: How can a prostitute forgive that one who led them to prostitution? Maybe a partner or a family member who force them to this work.
DF: Sometimes only God can give us the power to forgive someone, but He does do that if we want Him to.

RM: What if someone wants to get out of this lifestyle? What is the first thing they have to do? Maybe someone reading this and they want to get out. Is their hope for them?

DF: A person who wants out need only turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness, cleansing, healing and transformation.

They need to get into fellowship with believers who are faithful to God’s Word and who study it together and pray for each other.

They need to find a church that practices intimate worship of God, which is spiritual warfare.

I ended up attending a large church that also had small home fellowship groups, where I got alot of prayer. I also went through various healing and deliverance sessions at conferences and at a YWAM training school.

RM: How do they get back the respect for themselves? How can they go back to society with dignity and without guilt? How do healing the wounds starts? Who can they approach?
DF: Only God can give them their self-respect back. They need to pursue an intimate relationship with God where He speaks worth and value into their hearts, and where they come to experience the fact that Jesus’ blood has cleansed them from all sin. They need to practice believing 1 JN 1:9 and operate from what God says rather than from what they feel or have felt in the past. The Bible says that they are a new creation if they have repented and made Jesus Christ truly the Lord of their life. They need to learn and practice spiritual warfare. Dean Sherman’s book, Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian really helped me.

As for who to approach, they need to carefully watch people in church and see who are the ones who pray for and care about sexually broken people, and approach them.

RM:  I remember this one story about Ravi Zacharias. He was witnessing in a red light district and a prostitute say something like” If Jesus can really get us out this, how can He help us to find our daily living?” What practical help can a Christian do for these people?

DF: Our churches need to have outreaches to people who are coming out of these kinds of highly dysfunctional lifestyles. We need outreaches to former prostitutes, and human trafficking victims, and strippers and homosexuals and you name it. Pray for God to send those who can minister to such populations as Christ would and approach your pastors and entreat them to financially support such outreaches. As I read the Bible, these kinds of outreaches were among Jesus’ favorite!

People coming out of sex trafficking, for example, often need a place to live for a year or so while being trained in job skills as well as discipled in God’s ways. The church should finance these things. It is infinitely more important than plush carpeting and all the other excesses that we too often concern ourselves with.

RM: Thank you for this interview. We learn alot from you. Can you tell us about your ministry, what does it do and how can we reach you.

DF: Our ministry (www.MasteringLife.org) does 2 things: 1. we reach out to sexually bound and broken people with the news that God can set anyone free from anything, teaching them how He does it, and 2. we equip the Church to do the same.

We are trying to reach as many people as possible and so now put all our efforts into media outreaches, whether it be our weekly TV program (www.PurePassion.us), our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/purepassiontv), our iPhone app (which should be ready in a few weeks), our multi-front internet outreaches, Google ads, and our teaching resources (DVDs, CDs, books).

Currently our Pure Passion TV program is seen on 11 TV networks around the world in English, Bulgarian, Romanian, Spanish, Arabic and Russian, and we hope that we will be seen in every country and every main language very soon.





Eat This Book: Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper

12 03 2010

Everybody got excited with this book. Not just because we gave it for free but the central theme of this book. Its rarely we see a subject about salvation dealt this way. So we gave Fifty Reasons… book five reasons why we like this book:

  1. It answers the “Why” questions. Everybody wants answers to why questions. Fifty thought provoking answers drawn from the New Testament. Some are common, some are very intriguing. John Piper opens those common answers then expounded with clarity and those intriguing answers, that we often miss, were given the magnifying glass treatment for us to zero in and intimately know more.
  2. The theme is about salvation and we only say “Wow. Jesus did all that!” You will never look at Christ redemptive act the same way again. It tackles also justification, sanctification and future glorification.
  3. An easy to read book. Because every reason or (God’s purpose as the book calls it) acts like a chapter which is just 2 pages long. You can actually finish this 127 pgs book in 1 day or so. Done in sort of a “countdown style”, you want to read it until you get to the “Top 50”.
  4. Not only is it a Christian living book but also an evangelistic one. It represents the gospel within those reasons. It mentions salvation by faith alone and eternal security to name a few.
  5. It’s not just a Christian living or evangelistic book but you can use it as a devotional book. Those fifty reasons can be use in a fifty day devotionals. Every chapter starts with Bible verses. Talk about usefulness.

My Top Five Favorite Reasons (and must read reason):

  1. Reason #5 To Show the Wealth of God’s Love and Grace for Sinners
  2. Reason #7 To Cancel the Legal Demands of the Law Against Us
  3. Reason #22 To Bring Us to God
  1. Reason #28 To Free Us from the Futility of Our Ancestry
  2. Reason #37 To Call Us to Follow His Example of Lowliness and Costly Love

Quotables:

“Imitation is not salvation. But salvation brings imitation. Christ

is not given to us first as model, but as Savior. In the experience

of the believer, first comes the pardon of Christ, then the pattern of Christ.” pg. 92-93

“When all is said and done, God is the gospel. Gospel means

“good news.” Christianity is not first theology, but news.” pg. 62

John Piper’s “Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die” will give the reader a better understanding of Jesus Christ of why He came to die. Powerful read for everyone who seeks more depth on why God send His Son for us.

This book is available for FREE to ANY one in Lyceum of the Philippines University Batangas City campus Please contact leaders and advisers of ROCK campus ministry for your copy. Also you can download this book FREE (PDF format) by clicking here:

http://www.desiringgod.org/media/pdf/books_pojc/bpojc_all.pdf





Living on Power Prayer!

12 03 2010

What is prayer and how can we have an effective prayer life? We ask Ptr. Andrew Craig to help us answer these questions.

To me, prayer is our line of communication with the Lord. It is like the supply link for an army and we need to keep the communication lines open. A husband must keep communicating with his wife for the relationship to grow. Likewise we need prayer as an important part of our growing in our faith relationship with the Lord.

Praying isn’t something that is by ritual or rote, not something mechanical or by formula or certain method. Prayer is our natural language where we talk with our Heavenly Father and seek to express our heart to Him and find His grace and forgiveness. We can ask in His will for His help and guiding power for our lives and for others.

The Bible urges us to pray and so it is important, as our Lord wants us to depend upon Him and listen to Him. We need to stop and take time to turn our thoughts towards Him. Effective prayer happens as we learn to trust the Lord Jesus as our Saviour and find the peace that comes from yielding to Him and finding the joy of living in His favour. We can take small steps to learn to pray as we, moment by moment, have a prayerful life. And especially we can become thankful, for the blessings we often take for granted, and we can grow to be more gracious in how we relate to others about us. A prayerful person will find comfort in the scriptures, and the peace that passeth all understanding will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Andrew Craig – Aussie pastor, Fair Dinkum magazine www.thedinkum.com

Recommendation: Read “Of Christ, In the School of Prayer” by Andrew Murray. The classic and most popular book about prayer can be downloaded FREE:

http://www.davidcox.com.mx/library/M/Murray%20-%20With%20Christ%20is%20the%20School%20of%20Prayer.pdf





Truth Twisting: An interview about Cults with Fran Shankey of Tower to Truth Ministry

12 03 2010

ROCK Ministry: First Lets define an important word. What is a cult?
Fran Shankey: The word cult comes from the Latin word cultus and originally carried the meaning “to worship or give reverence to a deity.” So, originally, the term cult could be applied to any group of religious believers: Southern Baptists, Mormons, Presbyterians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, Hindus or Muslims. However, as words change over the years the word cult wouldn’t be applied like this anymore but means something else.

I deal with what is sometimes referred to as non-Christian cults, which would be any group that claims to be Christian but distorts, perverts or deviates from Orthodox Christianity. It’s important to understand that a cult will deny one or more of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Essential doctrines are those that are indispensable beliefs for a true Christian because they are integral to the Person of God and the gospel message. These would be doctrines like the Deity of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth, the Trinity, salvation by God’s grace through faith apart from works, the bodily resurrection of Christ and His second coming.

Teachings that are important, but would not brand a group as a cult if they differed from your views would be, for example, the timing of end time’s events such as the rapture of the church, speaking in tongues, Calvinism, how often communion is shared in the local church, etc. Again, these teachings are important but not ones we should divide over.

ROCK Ministry: What are the marks of a cult and why are they dangerous?
Fran Shankey: The marks of a cult can vary from group to group. Not all cults will have all of the following marks, but will usually have at least 1 or more. Although the list isn’t exhaustive, some of the marks of a cult would be:
1) A deviation from essential doctrines of the Scriptures, as mentioned already.
2) An authority figure whose word is final on all matters. This could be an individual who calls himself a prophet, or an organization that governs all affairs. They often claim to be hearing directly from God, or are commissioned by Him in some way.
3) Cults may strip you of your former identity. Some cults in an effort to conform a person to their organization will go as far as replacing one’s personal clothing with the groups. We saw this in the UFO cult group Heaven’s Gate in the late 1990’s. When found dead in a house in California, all were wearing the same color sneakers. Some cults require you to give over your bank accounts and all personal possessions to the group. Some will even change your name or replace your family members with themselves. Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his wife, from the Unification Church, have done this. They’re referred to by members as their ‘True Parents’
4) Cults often use mind control on members. One form of this is information control which filters outside information away from the group, such as TV, radio, phone or internet access. A less extreme example is the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses) which warns members about reading any religious material other than its own. That’s why JWs will refuse your tracts but have no problem handing you theirs.
5) Behavior control is another make of a cult. Cult groups often keep their members so busy with the group activity that they have little time to rest and think. The Moonies (Unification Church) do this as many of their members are out early in the morning selling flowers and come home very late at night exhausted.
6) Fear tactics are often employed by cults. Most non-Christian cults claim that adhering to the group is the only way a person can be saved and will tell its members that leaving the group will result in severe disfavor, discipline or damnation from God.
ROCK Ministry: How do they differ from Protestants or Bible believing Christians? Why is it so easy for people to lump a true Christian and a cult member?
Fran Shankey: Cults generally differ from Protestant/Bible believing churches for all of the reasons I already mentioned above. They deny one or more of the essential doctrines of the faith and/or use some type of control over their members to keep them under the group’s power. A good Bible church would never challenge anyone from thinking or acting independently, reading the Bible on their own, nor would it manipulate anyone’s personal life or claim one must read its own literature as a requirement for salvation. It also will never put its own writings on par with Scripture as, for example, the Mormons and Unification church do. Also, no sound Bible church will ever claim to be the only true church and the only way a person can be saved.
The reason why people lump zealous Christians in with a cult is basically because they don’t know what a cult is, nor do they usually know what a Bible believing church is. It’s basically done out of ignorance on their part. Plus unbelievers lack the understanding that when someone gets saved, they have a profound love for Jesus that overflows into their daily life. This zealousness for God is abnormal to the unbeliever since they don’t have the Holy Spirit so they lump them together with weird religious groups they see in the news.
ROCK Ministry: What’s the difference between a cult and false religion?

Fran Shankey: Good question. The main world religions today are Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. These are not cults. They aren’t all true, of course only Christianity is true, but none of these is a cult. They’re all separate religions that don’t claim to be Christian, so they can’t be examined as such. They have their own particular doctrines, teachings and holy books that they hold to. However, there are cults within these religions. For example, a cult of Islam is the Nation of Islam. A cult of Hinduism is the Hare Krishna’s. My ministry, Tower to Truth, concentrates on exposing and evangelizing cults that would claim to be Christian, but, of course, are not.

RM: If someone handed you a cult literature say a magazine or tract, what would you initially expect to see or read from those materials?
FS: Probably a lot of truth. Remember, cults do teach truth. The problem is that it’s mixed with error. Rodent poison usually contains 98% ingredients that are harmless to the rodent. Only 2% of it is poisonous. Satan didn’t tell all lies to Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden. This is why cults are hard to detect for the average person. Unless you have good discernment and are studied up on the subject of false teaching, many cults initially come across as just another Christian denomination. It’s important to have a good knowledge of the Bible, to test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and test the spirits (1 John 4:1) because a cult will reveal itself in time by its teachings and practices.
For example, the 1st article of faith from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) is “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost”. Sounds good to me! But upon further inspection into the doctrines of Mormonism, you’ll find out that they believe in a totally different God, Jesus and Holy Ghost. Their vocabulary is the same as ours, but their definitions are much different.
RM: We use the same Bible but how come some eventually use it and turn into cults?
FS: Why groups go astray and become cults is not always clear. The Bible gives us clues. Man is inherently sinful (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12) and, because of this, likes to take advantage of others. Some people start cults because they want power and control. It feeds their flesh. They like the attention, women, money, fame. Peter talks about these people in scathing detail. For instance, 2 Peter 2:14 says these false teachers have “eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, beguiling unstable souls”.
Others start cults perhaps because they are deceived themselves and truly believe they have the truth. I have sometimes wondered if Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, really had some of the supernatural visions he claimed. Personally, I don’t know. Remember, 2 Co 11:14, 15 says that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light and his ministers transform themselves into ministers of righteousness. If Smith did have encounters with an angel, we can be sure from the angel’s message that he certainly wasn’t from God. Whether men start cults with full knowledge that they’re duping others or whether they are demonically deceived themselves is difficult to fully know. Maybe some of both is true. 2 Timothy 3:13 says that “evil men will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived”. It seems to suggest that after a while, you begin to buy your own lie.
RM: Some of the cults here in the Philippines dates from WW1 and WW2. How do these times significantly contribute to the development of cults?
FS: I would have to take a stab at this one since I never researched this. I would say that cults prey on man’s fears. Certainly fear is at its pinnacle in times of uncertainty like war. Cults promise men peace and happiness apart from the wicked ways of the world. They promote themselves as safe havens that have the blessing of God and naturally draw those who are looking for meaning, security and satisfaction in life. These groups often advertise a utopian society but never deliver the goods.
RM: Some readers might say that we are so judgmental and unloving about these people. What can you say about that?
FS: If ‘we’ is referring to Christians at large, I would have to say that, sadly, some of us are judgmental and unloving toward these people. This plays into the cult’s hand as the leaders often tell the group that the world will attack and hate them. I would hope anyone reading this interview, or anyone calling themselves a Christian, wouldn’t be like this. Jesus had compassion on the multitudes because they were weary and scattered, like sheep without a shepherd.
This can be tricky because the Bible has some very scathing descriptions and warnings about false teachers. It describes them, among other things, as beasts, dogs and wolves in sheep’s clothing. Perhaps a good way to reconcile this is that Jesus was compassionate with the multitudes but had very harsh words against the religious leaders who led them astray. It’s easy to get angry at people who pervert the gospel since its so dear to us, but we must strive, as Paul wrote, to speak the truth in love. This should be every apologist’s life verse.
But there is nothing unbiblical about calling someone’s doctrine wrong and trying to persuade them to the truth. Some Christians feel as though any negative remark against anyone’s religion is judgmental and unloving. I would like to see this verse in the New Testament since I haven’t read it yet. To say nothing or, even worse, to encourage someone in their error is perhaps the most unloving thing we can do. Sitting idly by watching others go to hell isn’t in my definition of love. The New Testament is full of verses that exhort Christians to share the truth with people in error, to correct those in opposition (2 Timothy 2:25) and to contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). The Apostle Paul didn’t go into Corinth or Athens and say “Oh, well, as long as you really believe in your religion, who am I to judge?” He traveled throughout the Grecian world telling idol worshippers they had the wrong God and that they needed to repent and put their faith in the only true Savior, Jesus Christ.
RM: Are those people in cults aware that they might be wrong? Well I think they can sense they are different from others but have this sort of skepticism to prompt them to check what is truth?
FS: People in cults are people. Real people have doubts. I think most of us would say that at some time in our walk we’ve asked ourselves if we’re sure Christianity is really true or if God truly exists. Questioning our beliefs is a normal part of being human. Although cult groups try to dissuade independent thinking, they can’t stop it altogether. So, yes, people in cults ask themselves these things too. Does their questioning lead them to seek the truth? Maybe. Hopefully. Can God send someone who knows Jesus to them at just the right time when they doubt? Definitely. Many ex-cult members began their exodus from the group by questioning the group’s teachings. The questioning is usually bottled up inside but its there.
RM: How can someone get out of cults? What are the steps in finding freedom from it?
FS: Getting out of a cult isn’t like leaving the Baptist church to go to the Lutheran church down the street. You have to understand that it’s often leaving your entire known world. If someone was in the group long enough, they often will leave many friends and close family behind, maybe forever. All they know, do, and lived for will be forsaken.
Many ex-cultists, even when out of the group for considerable time are scared to death to go to another church. The cult mentality still dictates their thinking even though they’re inactive. Depending on the length of time spent inside, leaving a cult is painful, frightening, lonely and bleak. If you know someone in this position they need a very loving and patient person to walk them through the process. There are groups online that specialize in getting former members of specific cult groups together. Sometimes they meet together once a month at someone’s house or at a restaurant. These groups can be invaluable and places where confused people can meet others who have trod down this terrifying road before them, and lived to tell about it. One thing we need to remember is that just getting someone out of a cult doesn’t mean the job is done. It’s a two-fold process. Out of the cult and into the truth.
RM: Schools here have religious freedom and are tolerant to spirituality. How can we be still maintain respect to their religious freedom and point them to truth? How do you witness to someone who is your friend or classmate or a professor? I think that’s very hard to do.
FS: Religious freedom is a good thing. We should be able to choose which religion we want to follow. Jesus never forced conversions. He invited men to Himself. I meet people in my daily life from all sorts of religious backgrounds. I’ve learned a lot about them and their beliefs by asking questions. I try to maintain an outward interest in them as individuals and show respect to them, even though I disagree with their religion. Questions are one of the best ways to witness. It shows you’re interested in the person plus it allows you to place thought provoking questions into their minds. You can ask questions to anyone whether you have known them all your life or just met 5 minutes ago. If you are witnessing to a religious person you may want to check out some books by Ron Rhodes. He has a series of books called Reasoning from the Scriptures. He has them on a variety of groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and Roman Catholicism. Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason (str.org) also does a great work regarding sharing your faith, especially with those with a postmodern worldview. Although we should equip ourselves the best we can, the best witness can be as simple as just sharing a simple gospel presentation and what Jesus did for you. The man in John 9 said “I was blind but now I see”. Simple and to the point.
RM: Some may come to you to talk about their religion. How would you graciously decline such conversations? When is the time to give them answers to their beliefs?
FS: Personally I love it when people come to me and want to talk about their religion. I just wish it would happen more! I might not ever decline, as long as the time was appropriate. Paul said to be ready in season and out of season. Think about it, there are only 2 times we need to share our faith: in season and out of season. The rest of the time we have an excuse. Ha! If someone comes to you and you don’t have the time or feel unprepared, the best way to handle that is to ask them if you could speak to them at another time that you both agree on. This will give you time to pray, prepare and become more confident in your witness.
RM: I love your radio show “Test All Things”. It’s short but very informative. Tell us about it, your ministry, website and how can we contact you for further information.
FS: Test all Things is an extension of Tower to Truth Ministries. Tower to Truth was started about 10 years ago to witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses. The name Tower to Truth is a play on the word Watchtower (from the Watchtower to the truth). The radio show began in October, 2004 and it continues airing twice a week on WVCH in the Philadelphia, PA (USA) area. Since beginning, the topics have grown considerably but the show is focused on apologetics, exposing false teachings and equipping Christians to share their faith more effectively.
My web site is at http://www.towertotruth.net You’ll find articles and a huge inventory of downloadable mp3 files of my radio show and personal testimonies of former cult members. Feel free to contact me by email at help@towertotruth.net or by phone at 610-513-5525. Thank you for this opportunity and God bless your ministry!