Category Archives: Cults

Debate Aftermath: Delighting Grace Interviews Bro. Conley of TrueIglesia.org

Standard

bibletable_zps8tfmjbivTwo weeks after the debate between Christian apologist Dr. James White and INC minister Joe Ventilacion, we can still feel the heat of it as discussions spills over the social media about this religious group in the Philippines. In this interview, we will talk to from someone who witnessed the debate first hand. Conley of True Iglesia Ministry will  fill us in with the behind the scenes on this Trinity Debate.

By the way, you might want to check my first interview with Bro. Conley about True Iglesia by clicking this link: https://delightinggrace.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/finding-the-true-church-delighting-grace-interviews-conley-of-trueiglesia-org/
Delighting Grace: First off we from the Philippines is quite clueless of this debate. So we want to know how this debate came about?

Bro. Conley: In 2011, the Iglesia Ni Cristo bought the small ghost town of [Scenic, South Dakota](
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scenic,_South_Dakota), about an hour away from [Rapid City]. It was not clear what they intended to do with the town and it remains unclear what their plans are. I’m not convinced they have clear plans; however, they have taken this venture seriously enough to send Joe Ventilacion, their principal debator, to be the resident minister at the closest locale.


As a side note, in the past, Ventilacion has gone by “Jose”, but has recently started going by “Joe”. The whole church seems to be adopting more culturally sensitive branding. In English-speaking regions, I see their banners more frequently have “Church of Christ” on them than they used to.


Continuing on, the [South Dakota Apologetics](
http://sdapologetics.com/) group encountered the INC at a yearly Christian music festival in Rapid City, spoke with them, and quickly discovered that their beliefs were way outside the pale of orthodoxy, especially in regards to the Trinity. They additionally discovered that the INC had been engaging the Native American population in the area, adding confusion about Christianity to the mission field. SD Apologetics asked Ventilacion if he would be willing to debate (he was), and they asked White if he would be willing to come debate (he was). In 2014, my friend Nic (who also works on True Iglesia) and I had asked Dr. White if he would be willing to debate the INC, and at the time, he said no. However, I think the personal appeal about the damage the INC was doing in the region spoke to Dr. White’s heart and he responded.


Delighting Grace: I see. How was the crowd before, during and after the debate? Do you feel some sort of heat in the air or is the room so quite?


Bro. Conley: Before the debate, the INC crowd was somewhat aggressive. Nic and I had banners and tracts that advertised True Iglesia, and this made many of them quite upset. Several came over to us and told us that our tracts were untruthful. We asked what was untruthful, but no on was able to produce a clear answer. One man said that the comic portrays the typical member as never reading the Bible, but he reads the Bible every day. When I asked him what book of the Bible he had been reading lately, he didn’t have an answer.


Several people stole tracts when we weren’t looking. There is a post on FB from an INC member admitting to this. Someone else saw tracts in a trashcan cut up with scissors. Many would come by and take a handful of tracts at a time. We would say “Isa lang po!”, and they might put one back, but they would run away with several.
During the debate, the atmosphere was intense as well. The recording does not pick up too much of it, but the INC audience had some significant responses at various points. In addition to answer the Ventilacion’s questions, they would say “aww” at the end of every cross examination, as though if he had had one more minute, Ventilacion would have been able to defeat White.


After the debate, unfortunately, the INC members seemed to feel that they had won. I spoke with several who said they were very happy with how it went. When I would ask people why they felt it went well, the most common answer I got was “Dr. White was not even able to find the word ‘Trinity’ in the Bible!” Of course, that wasn’t the point of the debate. The word “Bible” is not even in the Bible. I am praying that a few open minded people will have heard the truth despite this tendency of the INC to shut their ears and declare victory.


Delighting Grace: Wow. What was your first impression of JV as the debate begins? How about James White is he tense or relax?
Bro. Conley: I only encountered Dr. White before the debate, not Mr. Ventilacion. White has debated over 150 times, so he was focused, calm, and ready. During White’s opening statement, Ventilacion often made what appeared to be nervous smiles. If you listened to the debate, you will know that in the opening statement, White short-circuited all the arguments that Ventilacion would make. White very clearly said that if the focus was on proving monotheism or that there are distinctions between the Father and the Son, it would show that Ventilacion has no idea what was being discussed. Of course, this was the entirety of Ventilacion’s argument. White said that if John 17:3 were to be brought up, it would show that Ventilacion was not engaging the doctrine of the Trinity. Of course, this is where he immediately went.
Delighting Grace: In one point of the debate, JV told the crowd that INC doesn’t base their doctrine on grammar. Some of us was shocked with that. What’s your reaction with that statement as you sat there?


Bro. Conley: That was a pretty incredible gaff, but I understand what Ventilacion meant. Basically, he is saying that there are concerns to consider in addition to grammar that may require us to have some flexibility with how we read Scripture. However, it really is true that the INC’s presuppositions are so incredibly strong that they are not willing to allow the Bible to speak for itself; they demand what it must say. It is not merely that they have concerns in addition to grammar, but that at many points they are willing to entirely discard with grammar. If we don’t let God speak for himself, all we have are the words of men.

Delighting Grace: Did you get to talk to some INC members in that debate?
Bro. Conley: Yes! Because INC members believe that only a minister can explain the Bible, debates are one of the few times that they open up to discuss their faith. I was very happy for this opportunity.


Most of the members I spoke to were very hostile, especially the older ones. A lot of the conversations I had were similar to the one about Bible reading that I described earlier. Another question I would often ask is “what is the gospel”? I’ve never had an INC member—even an INC minister—provide an answer, so it gives me a good opportunity to explain that the gospel is the good news that even though we are sinners incapable of doing anything that could in any way merit salvation, God sent his Son to die so that those who trust in him alone for their salvation (not the church, not baptism, etc.) can have eternal life.


On the other hand, the younger INC members were very friendly. One commented that she liked my shirt (it has a Filipino flag design). Another discussed Nic’s camera with him. However, only one that I spoke to seemed truly open. He was a teenager who was trying to figure out whether or not he would stay in the INC. I told him an open mind is a good mind. I’ve been praying for him.

Delighting Grace: Will be praying for that teen. What’s your favorite moment of the debate and why?
Bro. Conley: I’d have to say it was the gospel presentations. Not only did White explain why the Trinity is biblical, he explained why it is essential to the gospel. If you don’t have the true Jesus, you do not have a Jesus that saves. If you do not believe that Jesus is the great I AM, you will die in your sins (Joh 8:24).


Other moments include the very memorable “we do not base our doctrine on grammar” gaff, and the discussion about Hebrews 1:10-12. The last time I spoke to you, I had mentioned that I believe this to be the most powerful passage when discussing the deity of Christ with the INC. They have no answer to explain why Jesus is said to be the eternal one who created the heavens and the earth in that passage. They have no scripted response. Ventilacion was unable to do anything except avoid the question.

Delighting Grace: I see that your ministry or website, True Iglesia is there on the location of the debate. Which is cool by the way. So how did you prepare to make your ministry presence be felt by those attending?
Bro. Conley: Nic and I coordinated with SD Apologetics in order to work alongside them as associate members. My wife (who did all the art for the comic) made a couple of banners that we could put up, and she also ordered a batch of printed versions of the comic. Nic and I also recorded [a pre-debate podcast episode]( http://www.regularreformed.com/2017/03/28/episode-40-true-iglesia/) with the Regular Reformed Guys. I was astounded at how many INC members and non-members alike had listened to that episode prior to coming to the debate. A lot of people used it in order to prepare. Even Dr. White said he listened to it multiple times in order to prepare, so I am very thankful to the Regular Reformed Guys for asking us on to their show.
Delighting Grace: Wow that so great! True Iglesia is an awesome website in reaching out INC.Also the social media accounts of True Iglesia is valuable specially during the debate. How did it do in terms views and visitors both website and social media? What are the reactions of the readers and followers of your platforms?
Bro. Conley: The traffic we received wasn’t quite what we had during the INC centennial in 2014, but it has been significant. We are still currently receiving about 8x the traffic that we normally get.


We have received a few encouraging responses from fellow Christians telling us they’ve been blessed by our efforts. From the INC, we are largely getting hostile comments, even several deceitful comments. One group published a fake quote from SD Apologetics conceding victory. Another person posted a picture of White talking to Ventilacion and claimed that Dr. White had decided to convert and wanted to sign up for INC Bible studies.

Delighting Grace: I followed those forgeries over Facebook. How important is this debate for Christians and to INC members?
Bro. Conley: For the Christians around Rapid City, they considered this a very important opportunity to engage with their neighbors whose beliefs they were unaware of. They were all very pleased to meet and speak to INC members.
For the INC, the event seemed to have a far greater importance. The way they brought so many people and hyped up the event, I am under the impression that they are using this event to give their organization some sort of legitimacy. I was told by one member that they had been teaching on the Trinity and talking about the debate for weeks. Given that all their members are required to have regular attendance, and all their worship services have synchronized content, that means that every member was hearing about this. They additionally associate Scenic, SD with some secret plan of God, so they likely see this event as a sign of something to come for that venture.
Delighting Grace: How can a Christian make much of this debate as they study God’s Word and do apologetics?
Bro. Conley: There are several takeaways I would offer:


  1. The gospel is of prime importance when defending the faith. Evangelism cannot be divorced from apologetics.

  2. Truthfulness is key to the Christian walk. Some consider it acceptable to bend the truth when defending the faith, but that gives a bad testimony to Christ. The distinction between White and Ventilacion was clear in this regard. The debate trickery of false dichotomies and interruptions was strong on the INC side.

  3. To those seriously considering apologetics or ministry in general, it is important to know the original languages. They are frequently abused, so it is good to have a firm handle on them.

  4. Beyond this, I imagine many Christian had not heard several of the arguments that Dr. White made. I would recommend going back and walking through them (2Pe 1; Joh 12; Heb 1; Php 2).
    Delighting Grace: Those takeaways are great. One last question and its a biggie. This is a burning question for us all, do you think their will be a round 2 of the debate?

Bro. Conley: I hope so! The next day after the debate, Dr. White spoke with Mr. Ventilacion, and Ventilacion said that if they would do a debate in San Diego, he could bring 3,000 people. However, it is not a simple task to debate the INC since it is not easy to study the INC. Because their clearest material is only accessible to the ministers, in order to study them, you have to wade through hundreds of magazines and videos, or attend Bible studies in person. That’s the route I took, and it consumed a large portion of my time. Dr. White is a busy man, and he said he would only be willing to consider it if they would let him have a copy of their book titled The Fundamental Beliefs of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. They refused to do so. We can pray that someone would provide him a copy anyway! Maybe we can have an even bigger round 2 then. I’m hoping for a different topic, like whether you need a messenger in order to understand the Bible, whether official church membership is necessary for salvation, or how one can have peace with God. [As of this writing, by God’s grace, South Dakota Apologetics have obtained the said book.]
Delighting Grace: Again thank you Bro. Conley for this interview. So guys check out True Iglesia at www.trueiglesia.org. Read comicbook which is awesome. And oh dont forget to watch the debate by clicking this link: https://youtu.be/ZnElgAnN414

Advertisements

Finding the “True Church”: Delighting Grace Interviews Conley of TrueIglesia.org

Standard

There have been lots of apologetics resources concerning the group Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC). But I came across at this webcomic http://www.trueiglesia.org. I find it very helpful for us Christians who wants to share the gospel to our INC friends. I had an e-mail interview with its creator, Conley, and we talk about his ministry and how to reach the INC for Christ:
Delighting Grace: First of all, its a pleasure chatting with you about your ministry that has a heart for INC members. So how did you get interested in reaching out this group?
Conley: Like the comic describes, I studied the INC while in the US and that’s also where I created the website.  There is a significant INC presence in the San Francisco Bay area and I can even walk a couple of miles to get to the nearest one here in Mountain View.  My subsequent trip to the Philippines during July was primarily to strengthen relationships with some churches I would like to partner with in future evangelistic efforts.  I hope to move to the Philippines permanently so that I can study the various sects that have sprung up there and publish resources to respond to their claims.  My trip wasn’t entirely unrelated to the centennial, but I didn’t have a chance to spend much time interacting with INC members over the course of the month.
Delighting Grace: Why a webcomic to reach the member of this church? As I read your webcomic, you made mentioned Comicon and for sure I think you love comicbooks.
Conley: A Filipino I had met on a previous trip suggested that I make a comic to keep the attention of the younger members.  It really did turn out to be a good idea.  Due to the format, I honestly think it’s one of the gentlest responses to the INC that exists on the web.  I do enjoy comic books myself, although I have never actually been to Comic Con.  Regarding the creation of the comic, I wrote the storyboard, my wife made the illustrations, a Pinoy brother at my church in California translated, and several other members of my church edited. It was a church effort, which is a huge blessing.
Delighting Grace: Is their a culture and language barrier as far as communicating to them the gospel and orthodox Christianity? Its pretty obvious that most INC followers are Pinoys. Maybe some non-Pilipino believers may have encountered this group and wants to share God’s love to them?.
Conley: Yes, there are some significant cultural and language barriers inengaging INC members at several levels. First, part of what has given INC doctrine so much success is largely that it relies on English-based equivocation, which easily goes undetected by those who speak English as a second language.  An example: the phrase “ends of the earth” refers to the distant parts of the globe while the phrase “ends of the world” refers to a future time.  The INC says that the words “earth” and “world” are synonyms, so therefore certain verses in the Bible that talk about the “ends of the earth” are referring to a future time — specifically a time when the INC would be founded.  The fact that the INC uses English translations of scripture to make these arguments makes it difficult for ESL people to catch the fallacy.

Another language barrier exists in their rhetorical vocabulary.  They don’t think that they “interpret” things, which is silly since that word simply means to ascribe meaning.  They equate “understanding” with “believing” and say that someone who doesn’t believe doesn’t understand.  I’ve had to learn how to avoid these problems words in order to avoid unnecessary hangups.

Coming from the other side of things, there’s a large cultural barrier in working with evangelical churches in the Philippines to try to share the gospel with the INC.  In the US, it’s perfectly permissible to go outside of a large event (like the centennial) and pass out tracts.  In the Philippines, that wouldn’t be considered as appropriate.  Additionally, few Filipino evangelicals are willing to engage in a polemic and speak out against false faiths.  Part of this is fear of persecution, but a lot of it is simply an eastern form of respect.  There are good sides and bad sides to that aspect of the culture.
Delighting Grace: Do you still have communication with them? How are they now?
Conley: I’ve since managed to speak with a couple of the INC members I met during my studies.  Unfortunately, not much has changed, but we can pray that God will send someone to water the planted seeds.
Delighting Grace: Can you give us tips on how to share the gospel with these friends of ours?
Conley: Here’s some tips on how to share the gospel to an INC member:
Personal preparation:
1. Read and know your Bible.  I can’t stress this enough.  INC members make the error of paying lip service to the Bible while they rarely read it.  It’s easy to think that we are better than them on this account, but ask yourself: how often do you really read and study the Bible?  Do you know it well enough that you could tell me the theme of Galatians or be able to characterize John as compared to the other gospels?  Knowing a few verses isn’t the same as reading and knowing scripture.
2. Pray for INC members.  This is an area where I fall very short.  We must acknowledge that it’s only God who can change the heart and part of acknowledging that is by going to him in prayer.
3. Be bold and have a heavenly perspective.  I know that many Filipinos are intimidated by the INC or even afraid of persecution, but if we believe the promises of Scripture, there is no reason to fear.  (Hebrews 13:5-6; Matthew 5:10)

When evangelizing:
1. Focus on helping the other party understand, not on winning an argument.  Too many times I see Christians present the truth to INC members in a way that is harsh and isn’t really focused on helping them.  We should by no means compromise on the truth, but a gentle response turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1) and causes people to listen.

2. Focus on gospel issues, not on tangential issues.  I see many Christians focus on disproving INC prophecies or criticizing the behavior of certain ministers.  There is certainly a time and a place for this if done appropriately, but I worry that people focus on these things just to tear down the other party and then are left in a situation that isn’t conducive to building a positive case for the gospel.  If instead you focus on their view of Jesus, you can give them a true Jesus.  If you focus on their works righteousness, you can give them Christ’s righteousness.  These things can cut to the heart in a way that talking about the meanings of Hebrew words or newspaper headlines cannot.

3. Focus on scripture, not on human philosophy.  Faith comes through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17), not though some other means.  Make sure your defense is based on the Bible and not own your own way of reasoning to truth.

4. A very practical tip: I personally think that Hebrews 1:10 is one of the best verses you can share with an INC member.
“8 But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
10 And,
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;”

In this verse, the Father clearly and directly says that the Son created the universe, something they reject.  The INC tends to get distracted by verse 8, where the Son is called God — they have arguments to say that’s mistranslated, but very few have ever considered Hebrews 1:10.  They will try to go to other passages, but if you can keep them focused on this one, they will have no choice but to face the fact that Jesus is the creator.
Delighting Grace: Thank you, Conley. Please invite them to you website and also your social media accounts.
Conley: You read the comic and learn more about this ministry at trueiglesia.org.  In addition to the comic, the site has nearly 100 published articles that may be helpful for anyone struggling with particular contentions that come up in INC discussions.  We also have a Facebook page with over 50,000 likes (facebook.com/trueiglesia) and a twitter account (twitter.com/trueiglesia).  During the day in the US, I’m available in our chatroom at trueiglesia.org/chat.

Delighting Grace: Any last words for our readers and of course our Iglesia ni Cristo friends?
Conley: To my brothers in Christ: be bold, regardless of how other faiths treat you.  Some people are goats and some people are sheep, but remember that Paul was a sheep even while he persecuted the church. There are many in the INC who are just like he was, a sinner destined for grace.
To my friends in the INC: I hope that as time progresses we can have some healthy dialogue that hasn’t really existed in the past.  As always, I would encourage you to read the Bible.  If you have not read the book of John before, I’d encourage you to start there.  May God bless you.

 

4 Essential Websites for Reaching Out Jehovah’s Witnesses

Standard

Recently I posted the 5 Essential Websites for Reaching Out Mormons as a response to their recent presence in the media. Now we focus on another cult, the Jehovah’s Witness (JW’s) or The Watchtower Literature and Tract Society. Unlike Mormons, they are more zealous in their belief that I think you may have encountered them as they visit your home or received their attractive (but deadly) literatures. So I handpicked the following sites for you to be aware of this group and take actions. As a matter of fact, there are lots of great JW’s websites for you to visit. I choose the following due to their free resources that I personally use to inform or to reach out JW’s. So here the 4 website that will arm you the next time a JW’s come at your door:

Witnesses for Jesus Inc. (www.4jehovah.org or http://www.4witnesses.org) – a “one stop shop” for all your Jehovah’s Witnesses needs. Features lots of sections to check out including FAQ, Ex-JW support group, testimonies,  articles etc. Tracts in business card size for witnessing JW’s are the best. You can ask an information pack by mail for free (and I encourage you to do so).

Tower to Truth Ministries (www.towertotruth.net)– Fran Shankey is the director of this ministry. This website dishes out articles, downloadable audio testimonies and witnessing tips. Don’t miss Shankey’s program “Test All Things” that you will love as he interviews ex-JW’s and debunk false teachings of that cult. A very helpful program for us to learn more about this cult.

First and Last Ministries (www.firstandlast.org.uk)- a UK based apologetics ministry that is geared in exposing the fallacies of the Watchtower Society. Now with a clean looking website, this ministry stands out because of various downloadable tracts and literatures that are free and can be ordered by mail (so you can reproduce it and give to your JW’s friend). A must read (or rather must for witnessing JW’s) is their 2 page literature called “AWARE” (a take on the Watchtower magazine “AWAKE”). You’ll surely love the materials available in this website.

Midwest Christian Outreach (www.midwestoutreach.org)- The husband and wife tandem of Don and Joy Veinot heads this ministry. Now with its recent website facelift, the website is now more useful and has more information to check out. I admire how they write about topics especially the Watchtower Society in their journal, Midwest Christian Outreach Journal. The Veinots writes with biblical, hard hitting apologetics but still the love for the people trap in cults are there. You can download for free the journal or request it by mail. I suggest picking the issues with the Jehovah’s Witness as topics. Then request the documentations mentioned on that article. They will send you a mail of the requested documentations containing JW sources (JW magazine articles, tracts, and booklets that are recent or way back a century ago!). You can study for yourself or share it to refute claims of the Watchtower. My favorite is the issue were they response to the anti-Trinity booklet of the JW. They send me an inch thick of documentation. You won’t be disappointed.

Additional Resources

The One Minute Apologist Videos

Downloadable JW Money tracts and checks

If you love the Ray Comfort money tracts well you’ll love this also. Their own version of money tracts and bank checks that are eye catching and easy to give away.Click here to view and download it.

Has a Jehovah’s Witness visited your home lately? How did you response to their teachings? Did it go well? Please post it on the comment section.

5 Essential Websites for Reaching Out Mormons

Standard

 Lately Mormons or Mormonism (LDS or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) has been in magazines, blogs and social media (especially on Facebook). They are presented in a chic, tech savvy, cool and just an ordinary Christian denomination way. You might have encountered them and find them very nice. But despite of what image they portray, they are not biblical Christians. The following are apologetic websites that will help you understand Mormonism and how we Christians reach them with the gospel. They also provide a vast number of free resources like articles, hand outs, tracts, videos, mp3, online books etc. to assist in this quest:

Mormonism Research Ministry (www.mrm.org) – according to their website MRM “is a missionary/apologetics organization that was organized in 1979 to propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to critically evaluate the differences between Mormonism and biblical Christianity”. With a clean look and how they response to issues of Mormonism you’ll find this website friendly. Sign up for their free newsletter which is a great one. Plus check out their blog “Mormon Coffee”.

SourceFlix/Living Hope Ministries (http://sourceflix.com/) – a video ministry that produced cutting edge movies geared to Mormonism (and for Christians too). Several videos they produced are DNA vs. The Book of Mormon, The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon, Called to be Free and  Lifting the Veil of Polygamy which you can watch online for free . These movies gives an honest look at LDS church from credible experts (Bible Scholars, scientist and archeologist) in and out of Mormonism. Please don’t miss the movie “The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon”. Convincing and thought provoking, their videos will become your valuable tool!

4 Mormon/ Witnesses for Jesus Inc. (http://4mormon.org/) – I love this ministry. Well organized and updated in their activities. They have special features in their website like the support group and ex-Mormon testimonies. Lots of sections to read and explore. The online materials like tracts and hand outs are awesome. You can download it or order an info packet about Mormonism by mail for free.

Utah Lighthouse Ministry (http://www.utlm.org/) – probably the most extensive and well research in the doctrine and history of the Mormon Church. The Tanners (Jerald and Sandra) are former Mormons with a deep connection to the religion. They provide their impressive researched documents on their website which the LDS tried to suppress online.

Saints Alive (http://saintsalive.com/) – Known for The God Makers book and documentary, Ed Decker, is founder of Saints Alive and his website boast with resources like tracts, podcast and his personal blog. In recent years, Decker expanded his ministry to groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam and Masonic Lodge. Nevertheless, the section on LDS is still stands out.

Additional Resources on Mormonism:

The One Minute Apologist Videos

My blog articles:

Blogging to Reach Mormons: Delighting Grace Interviews Sharon Lindbloom of Mormon Coffee Blog

5 Things to do with Cult Literatures

Are you reaching Mormons lately? Please share your experience on the comment?

Blogging to Reach Mormons: Delighting Grace Interviews Sharon Lindbloom of Mormon Coffee Blog

Standard

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another — God alone.” -Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will

I sure love how Sharon quoted Martin Luther in an e-mail prior to this interview. God is the only one who can save sinners, even those who are trapped in cults. In this interview, Sharon shares her passion to share the gospel, ministry and blogging to bring the Good News to Mormons.

Delighting Grace: Our readers may not know this, but you used to be in another ministry geared also to Mormons, Word for the Weary. I used to receive your newsletters and I’m thankful for that. What happens to Word for the Weary?

Sharon Lindbloom: Back in the late 1980s God laid the lost condition of Mormons on my heart. I wanted nothing more than to tell Mormons about Christ! But I lived in an area of the United States where very few Mormons lived. So after much prayer and seeking of godly counsel, I founded a little ministry called Word for the Weary. This ministry became a vehicle through which I could tell Mormons about Christ and also share my burden for Mormons with other Christians, equipping and encouraging them to carry the Gospel to the Mormon people. After nearly 20 years of serving God through Word for the Weary, God provided an opportunity for me to become a volunteer staff member for a different ministry to Mormons — Mormonism Research Ministry (MRM). When I went on staff at MRM, Word for the Weary became dormant. Today, my ministry focus is channeled through MRM, but all the information from the old Word for the Weary website (www.answeringlds.org) is still available online.

Delighting Grace: Is there a difference between working with Word for the Weary then and Mormonism Research Ministry (MRM) now? Are their adjustments?

Sharon Lindbloom: Serving God through Word for the Weary was an incredible blessing! I am very thankful for the time I had in that ministry. I am also very thankful for the opportunity to serve with MRM. I love being part of a full staff — something I did not experience as the lone staff member at Word for the Weary. The Bible says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 ESV). It is a true blessing to work with the people of MRM, to learn from them, to benefit from their wisdom, to be encouraged by their support, and to work together toward the common goal to “propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to critically evaluate the differences between Mormonism and biblical Christianity.”

Delighting Grace: What advice can you give to Christians who will leave or start a new ministry?

Sharon Lindbloom: The Bible says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). It is so important to know that it is God who is calling us to begin or join a ministry. When we follow God where He is leading, we know He will strengthen and equip us, and bless our efforts. In addition, I think it is important to have local support from believers. These friends will encourage, pray, and promote the ministry as it grows, enabling its reach to lengthen and touch those in need. Finally, we must be willing to step out in faith and trust that the Lord will supply every need, for if He is building the house, He will see to its completion.

Delighting Grace: I love Mormonism Research Ministry. I was happy when Bill McKeever (director of MRM) announces a few years ago that there will be a blog and you will be writing for it. I really love your works. So how do you come up with the name of the blog “Mormon Coffee” and what does it offer other than the already wealthy contents of MRM’s website (mrm.org)?

Sharon Lindbloom: Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, Nitoy. MRM’s blog, Mormon Coffee, offers readers a very different experience than that of visiting the website. The blog is an interactive venue where readers may choose to become part of a vocal community, expressing their own comments, insights, questions and criticisms in response to the new articles that are written and posted to the blog twice-weekly. The name of the blog, Mormon Coffee, was chosen with two things in mind. One was in an effort to reflect the idea of a friendly atmosphere where friends can gather, like a coffee shop. But in Mormonism, drinking coffee is against a latter-day commandment. So the name Mormon Coffee was chosen as a light-hearted way to let readers know that the content of the blog is not Mormon Church-approved.

Delighting Grace: How do you prepare articles for Mormon Coffee blog?

Sharon Lindbloom:  Many Mormon Coffee articles are based on current events. I will read something about Mormonism in the news and an idea will occur to me on how I might use the news article as a jumping off point to teach people about inconsistencies within Mormonism and how that religion differs from Christianity. At other times, someone in the Mormon Coffee online community might bring up a question or an observation that suggests a good topic for a full blog article. Sometimes ideas come to me as I do my personal Bible study or listen to sermons at church. Whatever the source of the idea, the goal is always that outlined in 2 Timothy 2:24-26: “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

Delighting Grace: For apologetics bloggers out there, what topics should matter to them and what should they give to their readers?

Sharon Lindbloom:  One thing I have learned very well over the years is that God reaches individuals in individually unique ways. That is, He chooses to use many different approaches and topics to prick the hearts and minds of the lost. The nature of a blog is that it offers readers fresh content continually. Because of this, a lot of different topics are raised and discussed in the natural course of blogging. I believe God can (and will) use every blog article that honors Him. As with any writing, the blogger’s goal is to effectively communicate truth to readers. Online readers might more accurately be called online skimmers. Many of them look over content quickly, grabbing onto a few nuggets as they go. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep any blog article concise and focused on one important point. More information can then be provided via the comment thread or in another blog article on another day. I must confess, though, that I am not good at following my own advice.

Delighting Grace: Me too Sharon :-). You’re ministering Mormons or Latter Day Saints (LDS) and you’re not a former Mormon. What are advantages and disadvantages for not being a former Mormon in reaching Mormons with the gospel?

Sharon Lindbloom:  I have noticed both advantages and disadvantages in ministering to Mormons while not having ever been a Mormon myself. Some Mormons think very poorly of ex-Mormons and will not talk to them or give their words due consideration; but they will talk with someone like me. Other Mormons hold the position that those who have never been members of the Mormon Church cannot possibly understand what Mormonism is or what it is to be Mormon. As I mentioned earlier, every person is an individual. God, in His mercy, has provided witnesses of all kinds to bring the Good News of the Gospel to those who are lost.

Delighting Grace: Sharon, please ask our readers to check out Mormonism Research Ministry, its website and blog.

Sharon Lindbloom:  Gladly! Please visit www.mrm.org to learn more about Mormonism Research Ministry and to find resources that will help you become an effective missionary to Mormons. At the MRM website you can: sign up for our free bi-monthly newsletter, Mormonism Researched; listen to MRM’s daily radio show and podcast, Viewpoint on Mormonism (both current and archived broadcasts); watch MRM.tv which offers many and varied videos for online viewing; browse recommended resources available for purchase; and, of course, access Mormon Coffee (http://blog.mrm.org/) and join in the discussion. We would love to see you there!

Delighting Grace: I wouldn’t end this interview without asking about Mormonism or The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (LDS). What one word best describe Mormonism and why it is NOT a Christian group.

Sharon Lindbloom:  I know I said we need to be concise and focused online, but one word is impossible! I would like to make a distinction between Mormons and Mormonism. God has laid the eternal fate of Mormons on my heart. My one-word descriptor for those dear people who are trying to get nearer to God by following the false prophets of Mormonism is “lost.” I plead with you all to lift these lost ones up before God and ask Him to grant them eyes to see, ears to hear, clear minds to understand, and hearts that long to know Him as He is. May God have mercy on their souls and give them abundant and joyful new life in Christ.

Mormonism is most definitely not a Christian religion, as you have said. While so many reasons for the non-Christian status of Mormonism could be listed, for the sake of brevity I offer a bottom-line reason: the god of Mormonism is a false god. You can learn more about the god of Mormonism at the MRM website (see specifically http://www.mrm.org/god-of-mormonism), but briefly summarized, Mormonism promotes a god who was once a mortal man who achieved godhood by conforming to all the laws and ordinances of the Mormon gospel — just as all gods have done before him, and all future gods will do after him. The Bible calls the worship of a false god “idolatry” and makes it crystal clear that only faith in the true God will result in eternal life (see Isaiah 43:10-11; Mark 12:29-34; John 17:3).

It is important to realize and remember that, using the analogy of Ephesians 6:12-20, Mormonism is what we wrestle against; the lost are who we wrestle for, while boldly proclaiming the precious mystery of the Gospel.

Delighting Grace: Thanks Sharon. Christians, we should all reach not only Mormons but people trapped in cults and false religions. Pray for them that they may see the truth in Christ.

Will The Real Yoga Please Stand Up!

Standard

People are now having this new wave of fitness and health revolution on which they are looking for the best diet and exercise. With this fervor, yoga has been found to be the most effective and popular way of work out. You can read it in countless books and health magazines. It has been endorse by celebrities (and sadly a actress professing to be a Christian.)

I’m not against being fit (actually I go to the gym) or being health conscious, but if it has something to do by being one by a Hindu god that’s another story. One may say, “It’s just an exercise!” But the question is: Is it just an exercise?

In his little booklet titled “The Perfection of Yoga” A. C.Bhaktivendanta Swami Prabhupada gives us the Real McCoy of yoga( underlines and comments are mine):

Back Cover: “A world-renowned yoga master cuts through the commercialism that clouds the real meaning of yoga. Beyond the postures and exercises, he explains, the ancient teaching of yoga aim at lasting, loving union with the Supreme.”

“At the utmost we can only gratify our personal whims by some pseudoadaptation (i.e. fake copycat) of this system. Thus people are paying money to attend some classes in gymnastic exercises and deep breathing, and they’re happy if they think they can lengthen their lifetimes by a few years or enjoy better sex life. But we must under that this is not the actual yoga system. “pg. 6

“There are some yogis who perform yoga for profit, but that is not real yoga. Everything must be engaged in the service of the Lord (Krisna that is).” pg. 8

“It is generally thought, at least in the western world, that the yoga system involves meditating on the void. But the Vedic literatures do not recommend meditating on any void. Rather, the Vedas maintain that yoga means meditation on Visnu (a Hindu deity) and this is also maintained in Bhagavad-gita.”pg. 13

“All of the systems of yoga are mean to disentangle the conditioned soul from this entrapment, to transfer him from false enjoyment of material things to the actual enjoyment of Krsna (or Krisna) consciousness.”pg. 26

“Actually all of the yogas delineated in Bhagavad-gita end on this note, for Krsna is the ultimate destination of all yoga systems.” pg.55

There you have it straight from the horse’s mouth. You can read the whole booklet by clicking here. Now be warned about this type of exercise. It may help you by being fit and healthy but it actually leading you to something else. For more of about yoga, I would like to refer you to Marcia Montenegro’s articles on yoga at her website.

The Glorious Hope in Prophecy: Nathan Jones of Lamb and Lion Ministries talks to Delighting Grace

Standard

It’s our joy to interview Nathan Jones of Lamb and Lion Ministries. Nathan serves as the Web Minister of this prophecy ministry which is lead by Dr. David Reagan. You can check their magazine, articles, and products over Lamb and Lion Ministries. But before you go there, enjoy this interview first:

Delighting Grace: So tell us Nathan, what is prophecy and why is it important?

Nathan Jones: Prophecy, specifically Bible prophecy, is the study of God’s word concerning future events as foretold in the Bible.

Sometimes we look at Bible prophecy that has already been fulfilled, like when Jesus came the first time to earth in fulfillment of 300 general and 109 specific prophecies. Other times we are looking at Bible prophecy as it is being fulfilled today, like Israel becoming a nation again and the Jews returning to Israel as Isaiah 11:11-12 and Ezekiel 37 and other verses said would happen. And, we also look at Bible prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled, like the 500 verses concerning Jesus’ Second Coming.

The gift of prophecy is not the same today as it was when the Apostle John completed Revelation. Today, people with the spiritual gift of prophecy have a passion to share the Good News of Jesus Christ’s salvation with others in the time we have left. They also can discern what the Bible is talking about concerning the end times. They cannot predict what the future is, as God has already given us a full account of what will occur in the Bible.

Delighting Grace: We know the trademarks of cults are false prophecies. Why do they employ prophecies and how did they eventually fall to error?

Nathan Jones: We once interviewed James Walker of Watchman Fellowship. His whole ministry is about dealing with the cults. He was actually a fourth generation Mormon until he studied and realized that Mormonism is a cult. James listed four ways to define a cult:

1. They add to God’s Word with new Scripture.

2. They subtract from who Jesus is.

3. They multiply the requirements for salvation.

4. They divide their follower loyalty.

When it comes to prophecy, cults love to make predictions. I’d say the reason being is that prophecy unites people towards a common goal, and Satan knows how to use false predictions to twist people into keeping their focus away from the one true God.

According to Deuteronomy 18:21-22, a true prophet could be discerned from a false prophet based on the accuracy of their prophecies. A prophet of God will always be 100% accurate.

Cults are formed around false prophets who use Christian terminology to sound Christian, but then redefine the terms to fit their own man-made theology. Cults are easy to spot in that they deny the Trinity, the virgin birth of Christ, that Jesus is divine as the Son of God, the resurrection of Christ, and promote a works-based salvation. They espouse prophecy and predict times that seldom result in fulfillment. They place man on God’s throne, promising man’s eventual rise to deity which is Satan’s old lie from the Garden of Eden.

Satan and his cults best method of leading people astray is to take a lie and wrap a little truth around it.  “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Mat. 7:15).

Delighting Grace: A follow up question: are their guidelines to interpret prophecy correctly without ending up like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Harold Camping?

Nathan Jones: Yes, for one, stick to the Bible and a literal interpretation. Cults love to make extra-biblical prophecies. Stick with the prophecies found in the Bible and not on any prophecies made by man today.

Secondly, take Jesus at His word in Matthew 24:36. When He says concerning His return, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” then that means NOBODY can predict the timing of Jesus’ return. Cults are notorious for predicting the day of Jesus’ return and the end of the world, and they always end up being proven false.

Delighting Grace: I love Lamb and Lion Ministries. You’re a blessing to me. You’re balanced in the treatment of different subjects. You don’t employ over the top sensationalism on prophecy. You just don’t talk about prophecies but also apologetics. How do eschatology (study of prophecy) and apologetics go hand in hand?

Nathan Jones: I’m so glad to hear Lamb & Lion can be a blessing to you. We try to stay away from anything but the Bible, so avoid sensationalism. There’s no need to sensationalize the Bible, for it’s already filled with fascinating wonders.

Eschatology is the best apologetic. There is no book – none – that has any prophecy that has come true other than the Bible. As I stated earlier, Jesus alone fulfilled 300 general and 109 specific prophecies concerning His First Coming.

 

Mathematician Peter Stoner calculated that the probability of just eight prophecies being fulfilled in the life of one person is 1 in 10 to the seventeenth power. That’s 17 zeros! That’d be like filling the entire state of Texas two feet deep in quarters. Mark one and throw it in. Next, drop in a blindfolded man. The odds would be that the very first coin he picks up, that’s the one with the mark. Impossible, right? Well, not if the Bible is truly God’s Word.

That’s the power of Bible prophecy – it proves the Bible is God’s only Word which we can base our faith and life on.

Delighting Grace: How can Christians benefit from prophecy in other aspects of their Christian life say in discipleship or evangelism?

Nathan Jones: Great spiritual riches await anyone who studies Bible prophecy. For one, we know that the Lord can return at any moment to take up – to rapture – those who have accepted Him as Savior to Heaven. How will the Lord find us when He arrives? Will He find us diligently serving Him as were created to do as Ephesians 2:10 says, or will He find us living for ourselves? The study of Bible prophecy convicts us then to live holy and productive lives.

Secondly, by knowing that Jesus is coming soon and that afterwards the world will plunge into the worst time in all of human history called the Tribulation that should motivate Christians to share the Gospel. We don’t want anyone to have to live through the Tribulation, and certainly not go to Hell. Christians need to get out there and give a desperate world the Good News of Jesus Christ. So, Bible prophecy motivates us to evangelize.

Delighting Grace: Your magazine “The Lamplighter” is awesome. I can’t wait to read the next issue. Dr. David Regan’s articles are worth reading. How did your magazine started?

Nathan Jones: It’s great to hear such positive feedback on the Lamplighter magazine. It’s truly a labor of love on Dr. Reagan’s part. The ministry originally produced the publication as a few pages stapled together, and by 1998 began running it in a 20-page magazine format.

 Delighting Grace: Also I’ve noticed how enthusiastic Dr. Reagan in writing and speaking about the subject. How does he influence you being part of the ministry and as a Christian?

Nathan Jones: Spreading the good news about Jesus’ soon return is Dr. Reagan’s passion in life. You can’t help but hear him preach and teach about it and not get excited yourself about the Lord’s soon return. That passion is infectious and has helped so many get excited about our life in Christ.

Delighting Grace: What can we look forward to Lamb and Lion Ministries? I know lots of our readers will be excited to know it.

Nathan Jones: We’re rather hoping not to be here in the coming years, anticipating the Lord’s soon return. The signs of the times show that the time is nearly here.

But, should the Lord tarry, Lamb & Lion Ministries will continue going strong preaching that message until the very last minute through our television show “Christ in Prophecy,” through the Internet, through publications, videos and conferences. We’ve even created a special message called “Jesus Came. What’s Next?” to share the Gospel with those who will be living in a post-Rapture world.

Delighting Grace: Thank you Nathan. More power to Lamb and Lion.God bless you!