At the beginning of my speaking career, I was nervous, not knowing how people would react. This time, however, it was different. I felt total confidence and didn’t break a sweat. I felt completely comfortable being in front of everyone and grinned ear to ear for the opportunity.
January is that time of year when many of us gather up the reins of our lives and point them in new directions. As we do so, sometimes things like impatience and fear can stiffen our spiritual joints. We “lock up” in hopes of forcing our lives to go a certain way, or we brace ourselves in fear that it won’t.
Are We Trying to Pack in Too Much?
After I finally arrived at the sanctuary pew, and got the children settled, a sweet, teenage girl quietly slipped in the pew behind me and informed me of my predicament. If I could have crawled under the pew and slithered out, I would have. There was no option but to laugh it off and make the necessary adjustments.
Stir Up One Another
Last week I was invited to speak to the Hillsborough county Deaf and Hard of Hearing staff to kick off their school year. There are several teachers and interpreters (many of them were there to hear my speech) who have helped shape me into the person I am today.
With gratitude, I present to you a piece of my speech:
In fact, this was Satan’s goal—to destroy his relationship with God and tempt Job into the trap of sin. All Satan cares about is his own gain. He fell, and he wants to take as many with him as he can. His desire to have the power of God is what caused him to fall from heaven in the first place (Isaiah 14).
Despite Satan’s attempts to thwart Job from pursuing God, Job remained faithful and continued to worship his Maker: “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Hunger: a word of countless meanings, holding great power in good and bad ways. Hunger: something I faced last week, while so many all over the world experience this every day. No food. No water. Starvation.
Recently, due to complications of my disorder, Riboflavin Transporter Deficiency (RTD), my doctor ordered me to only take in nutrition through abnormal means. As a result, I became very hungry and longed to eat regularly again. I struggled with this unpleasant, though temporary, change. Due to my hunger and stress over the situation, I felt like falling over.
I walked into the deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) classroom on a day like any other. Yet this day was different—a sense of discomfort washed over me. I felt like an outsider; I couldn’t figure out why.
Maybe it was because of the way my hands looked. I could not sign like the rest of the kids. My skin color also stood out. One day at lunch, my classmates signed to me that I was pale, white and different.
“We are chocolate milk but you are white milk,” they taunted me with their words.
“Where in the world are we going?” my deceitful wife pressed.
I turned to her, enraged, “What! How am I supposed to know? This is ALL YOUR FAULT, EVE! You got us kicked out of our--”A deafening growl erupted behind me.
Petrified, I whipped around to see an enormous creature crouching low. A bush veiling its face, all I could see was its poise to attack. Inching back, I strained to recognize the beast that I had named.
Last week we explored Christianity as related to the characteristics of cults. Read here. This week we will finish discussing the last of the characteristics.
6. Control—Jesus took our place on the cross and set us free from our sin. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 ESV). Leaders in cults often monitor their followers and punish them if they do something wrong. They may even blackmail or spy on those who try to leave.
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:16 ESV
A little over a week ago we discovered how to identify cults by their characteristics. This week we will learn more about cults and why Christianity does not fit within this category, starting with the first five characteristics. Next week we will finish off by discussing the last five. Let’s dive in:
1. New teaching—Christianity is not a new teaching. It is solely based off the Bible which dates back to 1400 BC and was finished in 90 AD. The Bible narrates historical events beginning with the creation of the universe.
What defines a cult separate from a religion? I wondered this recently, and I would like to share my new knowledge with you all. According to Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, a religion is “an organized system of belief that generally seeks to understand purpose, meaning, goals, and methods of spiritual things, like God, people in relation to God, salvation, after life, purpose of life, order of the cosmos, etc.,” while a cult is “a group that is unorthodox, esoteric, and has a devotion to a person, object, or a set of new ideas.”
When it comes to talking to a person in a cult, show him/her respect and the love of Jesus Christ. Most importantly, pray without ceasing, because serious spiritual warfare is at play. Do not grow angry with the individual. Would you get upset at a blind person for being blind? Blind people cannot control their blindness, whether physically or spiritually. People in cults are like hostages in an enemy camp. Our job as Christians is to try to rescue them to the best of our ability through prayer, love and sharing the truth of the gospel.
Remember, anyone not firmly rooted in the Word of God is vulnerable to joining a cult. So, now that you have a basis, let’s move on to the characteristics of cults: