Sunday, August 28, 2016

056. You Cannot Serve Two Masters

Many leaders of large powerful churches are false guides who will lead you astray. Leaders of false churches will not tell you that you need to follow Christ. To the contrary, leaders of false churches will tell you that you need to follow them.

Yet, you cannot serve two masters

You must choose to follow only Jesus Christ.

If you do so, you have chosen to have fellowship with Christ.

You are then directly and only accountable to Christ, and are to be lead by the Holy Spirit.

If you choose to follow Christ and only follow Him, how can a church have any authority over you?

You will then have authority under Christ, who is your master.

True leaders and disciples of Christ know they are equal with everyone else. They are not above others. They lead others on the way of truth, to Christ. They are servants. True leaders and disciples have humility. "And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you." (Judges 8:23) 

Leaders of false churches accept the praises, honors, and titles of men. They do not turn away such praise when it comes, nor do they deflect it to God, who is the source of all goodness. They do not tell others the truth that Jesus taught, "Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God." (Luke 18:19). No one is worthy of praise and honor. The Lord said "let no man glory in man" (D&C 76:61; 1 Cor. 3:21). Praise and honors of men should be rejected by disciples of Jesus Christ. Leaders of false churches affiliate and make friends with the world. They associate with other world leaders and governments, with the wealthy and the elite. False religious leaders do not stand up for truth nor do they rebuke the wickedness around them. Instead, they try to appease the wickedness about them in order to hold onto their positions of power. 

Leaders of false churches claim to be God's only true representatives. Yet, God does His will in His own way and will call and work with whosoever He chooses. We cannot decide for ourselves that we are a leader of others or that we are a representative of God. We cannot force God to do what we want. He chooses and calls who He decides to choose and to call. All we can choose to do is to follow Christ, or to choose our own way which leads to darkness and despair. God is not limited to our programs, our decisions, our councils, or our policies. God wants to lead us back to Him which may involve a path that is totally contrary to what your church is doing. We must come to know Him so He can direct our efforts and lead us in a better way than we could dream up ourselves.

Leaders of false churches will tell you that the church is the body of Christ. The truth is that the body of Christ are those who come to know Him. The body of Christ is composed of those who obey His words and commands, and serve Him. If we wish to be a member of the body of Christ, we must leave the ways of false churches and the world (pursuing lusts of the flesh, endless entertainment, opulent luxuries, selfishness, ego, pride, etc). The assembly of God is not an earthly church. Membership in an earthly church and following church leaders are not the way to heaven. You are not saved because you have a church membership and you go to a church. Dependency on church leaders leads many true believers in Christ astray because they get entangled in false doctrines and practices that actually pull them away from Christ.

We must be lead by Christ's spirit, and have a real and living relationship with Him where He knows you. Do not let leaders of false churches rule over you and deceive you. The only way of salvation is to follow Jesus as His disciple, having repented by turning to Christ and separating yourself from all ungodliness and evil, been baptized, and then continue to pursue the light and truth that God has imparted to you. Christ frees us from sin if we repent and do these things. Christ commands us to live a clean and pure life. Seek fellowship with Jesus Christ. Seek to know Him, to abide in Him, and to follow Him. Then, assemble yourself with other people who are striving to be disciples of Christ and have also taken the Holy Spirit as their guide (D&C 45:57).

Then, you will be serving the true Master who is Jesus Christ instead of one of a multitude of false masters who will enslave you.

055. Like Gentile Kings of Old

Throughout time, leaders of religious movements or major churches have tended to drift from their humble beginnings as earnest seekers of truth into becoming major power players on the world's stage, admixing their religious "callings" with worldly "necessities" and pursuits. As they increase in the power they wield, they generally become quite wealthy and the luxuriousness of their lifestyles increases beyond that of the members they lead. Their activities become intertwined with the affairs of the world and their pursuit of God fades into the background as it blends in with many competing demands.

In most all Christian gentile nations, there has been a long tug of war between the secular and religious leaders, with kings on one side and popes on the other....competing for land, power, and wealth. Royal families and those connected to the religious power structure received many benefits not afforded to commoners. In our "modern" era, there are still kings and queens, but now we also have presidents and premieres, as well as other types of government leaders and officials. In addition, there are captains of industry and chief executives of multi-national corporations, with their own leadership hierarchies that include governing boards and administrative teams. And of course, we still have religious leaders who manage large church organizations and institutions filled with hierarchical leadership structures of their own.

It is often quite difficult to distinguish the powerful religious leaders of our day from our own secular government or business leaders, as well as from the gentile kings of old:
  • The power to make decisions is held within a small, select group, which is not transparent. While at one point decisions were made via open meetings and common consent, those practices have gone by the wayside for the sake of efficiency or to consolidate power. If religious leaders are indeed the "mouthpiece of God", shouldn't those that believe in them simply blindly obey? Members are expected to accept as abiding law their leaders' decisions, including what they do or do not believe. 
  • All expenses are paid. Using the contributions of members, every temporal need is taken care of: they have the finest clothing, live in the finest housing, eat the finest foods, have the finest means of transportation, and have the finest healthcare. They are set financially for life. 
  • Dress and grooming mimics that of the rich and powerful...expensive and conservative dark suits, white shirts, ties, dark leather shoes, etc.
  • Family members receive special treatment, job and educational opportunities, and positions in the hierarchy. 
  • They excise a heavy tax or financial burden upon their followers. They call this tithing and twist the scriptures to maximize contributions.
  • They commission expansive building projects, which they name after themselves while yet still living.
  • Leaders use fear and intimidation to control and manipulate people for the betterment of a select group. Followers dare not question or criticize their leaders for fear of being shunned, cast out, or cut off from financial, social, or other personal benefits of association with a church. Leaders cast off those who disagree, dissent, or cause trouble. Because the institution has become so large, the individual is disposable and is not as important as the larger system/church.
  • Leaders have fancy and formal titles that those lower than they are required to use when addressing them.
  • Leaders hold their positions for the rest of their lives. New leaders move up in position at the passing away of a higher-level leader. New leaders often overthrow the views and practices of former leaders and supplant them with their own.
  • Leaders point to outward signs of their righteousness and God's favor, such as prosperity, buildings, temples, wealth, and numbers of members.
  • Leaders rely on a complex set of written and unwritten rules and laws to manage people's behavior; yet, in many instances, the leaders themselves are not subject to those same rules, nor are their close associates.
  • Because they believe that they cannot lead their followers astray, leaders do not believe that there is anything that they will ever do to go against the will of God; therefore, all their actions are justified.
  • Leaders often sit upon large thrones in palatial settings, sometimes upholstered in velvet red.
Such individuals are false religious leaders. They are not leading you towards eternal life. They are using you to enrich their own lives and the lives of their families and friends. They hide behind warm smiles and endless platitudes to lull you into a false sense of eternal security. They will do all in their power to maintain control of a structure that is more business and temporal-focused than religious and spiritual-focused. All of this behavior is totally contrary to being a true servant of God.

Look at this example of righteous religious leaders:
"And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength." Alma 1:26
And the words of Christ:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him." John 13:16
Many modern church leaders are anti-Christ because what they do leads to inequality:
"Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted." (Alma 4:12)
"And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ." 4 Nephi 1:26
It is a great inequality that seems to be fully embraced and accepted as normal throughout much of the world. However, God is no "respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34), should we be? We should strive to be equal in all things:
"Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld." D&C 70:14
"For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things." D&C 78:6 
There is a great divide between the powerful religious leaders of our day and those that devotedly follow them...they are indeed like the gentile kings of old, a separate class or caste, which elevates itself above the rest. And look at what we end up doing as foretold by an inspired prophet named Samuel in the Book of Mormon (Helaman 13):
 24 Yea, wo unto this people, because of this time which has arrived, that ye do cast out the prophets, and do mock them, and cast stones at them, and do slay them, and do all manner of iniquity unto them, even as they did of old time.
 25 And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.
 26 Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.
 27 But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.
 28 Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is wellthen ye will not find fault with him.
 29 O ye wicked and ye perverse generation; ye hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light?
Yes, we throw out true prophets and enthrone false ones. We want to follow a leader or ruler who takes care of us and pacifies us with soothing messages, but whose efforts do very little to help us repent and come unto Christ.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

054. Love Your Enemies

"The religious persecution of the ages has been done under what was claimed to be the command of God. I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do to their fellows, because it always coincides with their own desires." ~ Susan B. Anthony (at a meeting of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association, 1896)

"I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of 'Admin.' The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid 'dens of crime' that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern." ~ CS Lewis (preface of Screwtape Letters, 1942)

"Every great historic change has been based on nonconformity, has been bought either with the blood or with the reputation of nonconformists." ~ Ben Shahn (Atlantic Monthly, September 1957)

"The substance and essence of Christianity, as I understand it, is eternal and unchangeable, and will bear examination forever, but it has been mixed with extraneous ingredients, which I think will not bear examination, and they ought to be separated." ~ John Adams (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, January 23, 1825)

"The patriot, like the Christian, must learn to bear revilings and persecutions as a part of his duty; and in proportion as the trial is severe, firmness under it becomes more requisite and praiseworthy. It requires, indeed, self-command. But that will be fortified in proportion as the calls for its exercise are repeated." ~ Thomas Jefferson

"Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends." ~ Isabel Peterson (The God of the Machine, 1943

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive" ~ CS Lewis (God of the Dock, 1948)

"Those who are convinced they have a monopoly on 'The Truth' always feel that they are only saving the world when they slaughter the heretics." ~ Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

"Why does it [the establishment] always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?" ~ Henry David Thoreau

"The monster, fanaticism, still exists, and whoever seeks after truth will run the risk of being persecuted." ~ Voltaire

"Many are destined to reason wrongly; others, not to reason at all; and others to persecute those who do reason." ~ Voltaire

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." 
~ Jesus of Nazareth (Matt. 5:44)