Feeble Knees

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Striking Gold?

I'm still shaking my head about Messy Christian's deliverance experiences. I'd heard about these episodes before from friends who went through them at other churches. One lady's experience was so intense she got sick, and others vomited. Thankfully, nothing like this ever happened in my former church, at least not that I ever saw. One of the reasons I initially trusted our pastors was that they explicitly spoke out against such a thing. I figured they'd always protect us from any foolishness.

So it was with increasing alarm as they began a full-court press for a revival. It seems to me that true revival is not something you can coax out of God, nor is it manifested in strange trancelike behavior or out of control worship services that never end and leave no time left for the actual preaching of the Word.

One of the straws that strained the camel's back (it took much more, sadly, before I decided to leave) was a traveling Cuban evangelist who came to speak for a week's worth of services, about five in all. From the beginning of this man's first sermon, I felt something was amiss; my heart was unsettled and the things he was saying were ringing false in my ears. He made several medical claims that just plain didn't make any sense. A woman who testified that she was going to have to have "surgery" to "remove diabetes" didn't have to have surgery once he prayed for her. Ok, so he could have misspoke, English wasn't his first language. But then he started telling of this mighty move of God, where gold dust filled the building the faithful were being given gold teeth.

Ok this got my attention. I sat bolt upright and looked around. "Dear God," I prayed, "Please don't let me yawn! Don't let him see my gold fillings!"

You see I'd had these fillings for years now, but I wasn't taking any chances. Good thing too, because I found out later that other folks with pre-existing gold dental work have been used to perpetuate this phony baloney in the past.

I waited for my pastors to intervene, to stop this man from making these outrageous and unscriptural claims. They didn't budge. They let him speak on. And on. And on. People were eating this stuff up. At the end of the service, many members went forward to be prayed over by this man. I sat stiffly in the pew, absolutely flabbergasted that no one else seemed to be skeptical of this man or his wild claims.

On my way out the door that night, I passed one of the pastor's wives and said: "Surgery to remove diabetes? Gold teeth?" She shrugged and gave me a look as if to say, "yeah, I don't know about this guy either." Well at least I wasn't the only skeptic in the house.

The following night I went back to the next service, completely expecting the senior pastor to take the pulpit and gently explain in so many words that they had sent this wacko packing, but no. He was back again, sitting on the platform and waiting to take the mic. I groaned. How could this be happening? Why are they letting this man go on?

It became my personal mission to sit there and pray for God's protection and discernment for our leaders and membership. God was merciful: there were no gold tooth sightings, no gold dust, no prosthetic limbs thrown onstage. But I was shaken up and beginning to doubt whether I should remain under this leadership. They were responsible for all of us, and for what was preached on their watch, and they were letting us down in a big way.

The scripture teaches us that all good and perfect gifts are from the Father, "in whom there is no variableness or turning". (James 1:17) Jesus taught his disciples that God is a good father who knows how to give gifts that are good (useful, beneficial) to his children. (Matthew 7:11, Luke 11:13). In Luke 11:13 specifically, Jesus refers to the giving of the gift of the Holy Spirit. This indwelling of the spirit of Christ in us is to be desired above all, not gold dust, gold teeth or gold anything. The Bible says that people will receive crowns and heaven, and guess what they'll do with them? They'll cast them at Jesus' feet (Revelation 4:10) That's how little regard we'll have for gold in the very presence of Christ. I'd pull out my own fillings and cast them down if I found myself face-to-face with the living God.

Furthermore, Jesus himself said on earth that "this generation seeks a sign" (Matthew 12:39, Mark 8:12, Luke 11:29) and that no sign would be given it (except the Resurrection). I'm sorry people, if God himself sends his Son to walk amongst us, and be crucified, and be resurrected bodily, and people still don't believe in Him, then all the gold bridge work in the world ain't gonna convince them either. Worse, it'll just convince a doubting and jaded world that all we've got is a bunch of fairytales and hocus-pocus, instead of a Treasure in earthen (not gold) vessels.
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