Cults and why they occur

Cults and Why They Occur 

   Over 900 people died in Jonestown, Guyana when their leader Jim Jones had them drink fruit punch with cyanide mixed in. Shoko Asahara got his followers to release saran gas in a Japanese subway system that killed 12 and injured thousands. More recently the Amish communities in general were horrified at the ruckus connected to a wayward Amish bishop Sam Mullet and his followers cutting the beards off of people whom they deemed a threat. 

  Cults are nothing new. In Acts 5 we read of two different radical leaders who drew a following and then perished. And a lot of the leaders start out sincere. When Jim Jones was leading a revival in Indianapolis no one could have guessed what his end would be. So what is it that turns seemingly good men into cult leaders? I have concluded that at the very root is a very simple principle. 

   Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 

   ““But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant.”  Matthew 23:8-11

   As soon as a leader or anyone in authority departs from this principle and starts to operate according to the way of the world in the form of a hierarchy the door is wide open for authority to turn into manipulation and it can happen faster than most people imagine. That’s because when people start working by the principles of the kingdom of darkness they literally sell themselves to the prince of darkness and will more or less automatically start working for him. He is a liar from the beginning so he will feed the leaders lies and darken their understanding in order to continually increase their deception. 

   There is only one safeguard to avoid being deceived and that is to know the truth. If we know our true authority we won’t need to control others in order to protect our position. If we live in loving relationship with our Creator and consequently with all those around us we will avoid the enemy’s traps because we know the heart of God for the people around us. When we walk in perfect love we are not going to give in to fear. Then and only then can we confidently say we are not part of a cult. 

Letter by Joseph Stoll addressed to John Mark Fisher and distributed to the communities in Aylmer and Lindsay, Ontario (His reply)

June 22, 2017
Dear John Mark, etc.,

Christian greetings this fine summer morning.

Some time ago I was given a copy of an 8- page typed writing that was reportedly compiled by you. If this is not correct, I would like to be informed. The writing did contain some points that I feel led to comment on, if I may do so. I trust it can be in the Spirit in which the apostle Paul instructed Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

I feel you have been, or are being, influenced by some unscriptural emphasis, yet I sense from your writing that you are sincerely seeking the truth, hence I would like to point out the errors gently but firmly. Please forgive me if I fail to accomplish this. I may try to break down the issues point by point to make it easier to follow.

It seems to me your evaluation of today’s church situation is based on too narrow a foundation. Your conclusion is far too leak, in my opinion. I am reminded of the man who claimed, “All Indians walk single file. I am convinced of it because the one I saw did so.”

I have been around for a good many years, and from what I have observed, the Amish system (which is the Anabaptist model, which is the scriptural pattern) is working, though not without human shortcomings. The examples that are not working are the churches that have rejected the biblical structure, and have chosen individualism instead.

All churches face challenges. We need look no further than the Corinthian church of Paul’s time to see that there were major issues to deal with. There may be more unrest and trouble today than formerly, but there are also many positive and encouraging examples of discipleship in today’s Anabaptist- type churches. What are we going to focus on? The churches that are dysfunctional, or the ones that are not?

If we may compare marriages with churches, there are probably more failed marriages in the world today than ever before. One source claims 60% of the couples he counsels are divorced and remarried. This is not to mention the common-law unions, and the live-in arrangements that come and go. Does the fault lie with God’s divine institution of marriage? Or does the fault lie with humans not excepting God’s requirements? Is it not much the same if a church is dysfunctional?

The solution is not to reject God’s blueprint, weather for a marriage or for his church, the bride of Christ. The solution is to get in line with his instructions and follow them in faith for submission. Ecclesiastes 12:13, Micah 6:8,John 14:15, Matthew 7:21 etc.

There is nothing wrong with God’s blueprint. Let us not be found guilty of undermining it, or rejecting it for the council of man. It is easy to tear down a building, but before we do so, let us be sure we have something to replace it that is better, and is truly in God’s will.

2. The issue of fear and of being fear driven needs to be examined in the light of the whole Bible, and not distorted so that it becomes lopsided. True, in 2 Timothy 17, Paul writes, “for God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” And yet the Bible is full of admonition to fear the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. Christ said we are not to fear what man can do to us, but to fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28). Paul wrote to Timothy, “them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” So fear has its rightful place, and it is a normal human emotion. Let us not over react to being fear driven, nor too readily be influenced by modern teachers who make this a major issue beyond it’s biblical level. In fact, it may well be that the fear of fear and of being fear-driven is one of the wrong kinds of fear that we need to avoid.

3 Again, where are these confused and insecure young people that are supposedly out numbering the stable and serious minded Christian youth who are devoted to serving God? We have a labored all our adult life to preach and teach biblical truth, though we know our efforts leave a great deal to be desired. We have sought to teach that Bible principles must be applied in our daily lives, and that the church is central in a believer’s life. Have we totally failed? Also, that Christian homes are the backbone of the church. Our such homes nonexistent? Surely not.

4 I am really disturbed by the theory of punishment being a worldly idea, and that it reaches into the row moved out training. It is true, Christ said we must become child like if we are to be a part of his kingdom. But this does not remove the scriptural teaching, “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21.) “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

Proverbs is full of instructions to curve the evil in the heart of a child. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Is this just an Old Testament teaching? Not at all. See Hebrews 12 where corporal discipline is taught, but motivated by love. The two go hand-in-hand. The same is true in the church, not just in the home. Call it what you will, but punishment, as such, is doing New Testament concept, not a worldly one.

You write that Jesus did not condemn sinners. Please read Matthew 23 again and then look up the word “woe” in the concordance. Also look up the German word ” Strafe” and see how it was applied by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 and then read Hebrews 10:29, after which you may wish to retract your statement that punishment is not a New Testament teaching. It certainly is, but needs to be understood within the context of the entire Bible.

5 This brings us to another major subject–that of the role of the church and of the ministry in the life of the believer. You appear to have been influenced by some very liberal teaching that would strip the church of any authority and would instead exalt personal guidance by the Holy Spirit.

This, of course, is not a new teaching. I was confronted by it more than 50 years ago. Such people said, the church has no right to set up guidelines in dress and conduct. What has been the outcome? The record has been very consistent. This lack of structure and regulations simply does not work. Please, John Mark, this is a dangerous road to travel. If you go the way that others have gone, you’ll end up just where they did, either as completely out in the world, or as “wandering saints” or “loaners” who esteem their own interpretation above that of the church, whose authority they resent and reject.

Look up the word “CHURCH” in Nave’s Topical Bible and see how many pages are filled with quotes from the Bible on this subject. Study the old Anabaptist hymns and our heritage and history, to see how important our forefathers in the faith considered the church to be.

As for the ministerial structure of leadership in the church, it is clearly taught in the New Testament. The ministers have a great responsibility and accountability, and the members are admonished to respect and follow their leadership. To quarrel with this is to quarrel with the New Testament. See first Peter 5:2, Acts 20, Hebrews 13:7 and 17, 1 Thessalonians 5:12, etc.

6 You suggest the church be limited in its oversight to “scriptures that are clearly written.” Could anything be clearer than 1 John 2:15 and 16? “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

There would be more to write, but this is enough for now. We must be careful not to amplify some isolated verse to the point where we do violence to other scriptures. We must take them as a whole, and with God’s help, blend them into a true understanding of God’s will.

I have written the above with a sincere desire to help. If anything is not scriptural, I would want to know. May God be gracious to us all.

Joseph Stoll

It’s easy to lay down the law, to take a stand against something, to say we just won’t tolerate it. It’s harder to dig deeper and reach the reason behind the problem.

We can condemn divorce and remarriage. We can even condemn the people caught in it. The trouble is that unless we nurture and value strong, loving families and experience true oneness in marriages the way God intends, the problem won’t get less.

We can deplore drugs and drunkenness and make all the laws we want, but until we give people something better to live for, the problem will only get worse. In the case of drug use, the laws currently in place are actually increasing the problem tenfold because they prevent the person once caught in it from reentering and being accepted by society by branding them as criminals when they were only trying to fill a void created by perverted circumstances and an uncaring society to start with.

So before you despise a fellow human or condemn someone because of things in his life that are not right, take a moment to reflect on how you could have made things better in that person’s life. And if you had no relationship and influence on that person, or are not willing to do what it takes to build a relationship with that person, please remember that he is probably better off without your “helpful” criticism.

Haven or Fortress

Haven or fortress? Which do we aim to be and which is God’s intent for His church?
A haven is a safe place. A fortress is built to protect its inhabitants. But there is one very important difference.
Think about the two for a minute. A fortress- strong walls, watchtowers, barred gates, drawbridges,… Everything to keep evil influences out. Now picture a haven. A lovely, peaceful space where people are safe. A place so filled with goodwill that it makes you feel like doing good. A place of where the weary can rest and be refreshed for the journey.
The contrast? One is attempting to exclude evil. The other is simply filled with good.
Now which approach did Jesus take while He walked here on earth? Did Jesus ever exclude or avoid anyone? Did Jesus ever focus on someone’s sin habits? Did Jesus ever say to a sick person,”Get your life cleaned up, then we’ll think about healing for you.” He didn’t say to Zaccheaus,”You rascal up there in the tree. You’ve led quite the life. Now come down and get to work. Repent and make restitution for your cheating then we’ll look at what’s left of your life.” Jesus honored Zaccheaus by dining at his house, recognizing him as a person of value.
Jesus associated with the vilest of people. With sinners and harlots, with the unrepentant and traitors. He wouldn’t have had to put up Judas and his thieving, deceitful ways in His inner circle all those years. Surely He could have waited until the last few months or weeks of His ministry to let the traitor into their midst. But Jesus loved Judas. And loved him enough to show him that love all those years even when He knew full well that He would be disappointed in the end.
Jesus loved every person He met. He loved them in spite of what they did. But He didn’t excuse their sin. Instead He empowered people to overcome the sin. Because He experienced everything we do and never sinned, we have a powerful example.
Now let’s think about another aspect of that love. How many times have you and I disappointed our Father. And still He keeps on loving us and treasures us. What would happen to us if God would use us as we deserve to be treated? What if He would start treating us the way we treat our fellow humans, our brothers? Before God we are all as guilty as the obnoxious person whose reputation we don’t want to have associated with our name. Because we all come short in one area or another. None of us are what we should be.
But that is not what God sees when He looks at us. God sees the longing in our hearts. He sees why we do things, not how well we get them done. And He loves us because of His own goodness, not our own merits.
I am a father of two wonderfully adorable children. I love my children and I can try to imagine how our Father in heaven loves His children. The trouble is that we earthly fathers, much as we love our children, still have a hard time grasping the depth of God’s love for us. God created the world for His delight
A fortress is primarily intended to shut people out. To separate good and evil.
Jesus associated with the vilest of people. With sinners and harlots, with the unrepentant and traitors. He wouldn’t have had to put up with Judas and his thieving, deceitful ways in His inner circle all those years. Surely He could have waited until the last few months or weeks of His ministry to let the traitor into their midst. But Jesus loved Judas. And loved him enough to show him that love all those years even when He knew full well that He would be disappointed in the end.
Did Jesus ever exclude or avoid anyone? Did Jesus ever say to a sick person,”Get your life cleaned up, then we’ll think about healing for you.” He didn’t say to Zaccheaus,”You rascal up there in the tree. You’ve led quite the life. Now come down and get to work. Repent and make restitution for your cheating then we’ll look at what’s left of your life.” Jesus honored Zaccheaus by dining at his house, recognizing him as a person of value.
Jesus loved every person He met. He loved them in spite of what they did. But He didn’t excuse their sin. Instead He empowered people to overcome the sin. He didn’t come to separate good from evil. He came to enable people to be good.
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Isaiah‬ ‭59:2‬ ‭NIV.
It is our own stubbornness that hinders our relationship with our good Father, not His inability to love. If we persist in evil we will condemn ourselves. God will never withdraw from us but when we live in shame we are unable to experience His love.
Is there anything sadder in the world than to have a perfectly loving Father and live like an orphan? It must grieve His Father heart.
I wrote all that from the perspective of my own past with a father who loved his children. We were a family of ten and I’m sure we tried Dad’s patience at times, but I always knew that he loved us and wanted the best for us.
Now I’m sure some of you did not experience such a relationship with your earthly fathers. It may have been bad enough that the idea of God as a loving Father makes you cringe. If that is how you find it, l can only say that l am very sorry. My heart aches for you. I would love to put my arms around you and tell you how much you are loved and how special you are. God loves you just as you are. He doesn’t wait until you become as you should be.
It is tragic in the world today how people are valued by how they perform and what they can do. But the really tragic part is that many churches operate exactly the same way. In the church my wife and I grew up in and were a part of until just recently, that is the only way they know how to function. Get rid of the evil. Put up stronger walls to keep evil influences out. Avoid anyone who has issues with sin. But Jesus said:
“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person;” Matthew‬ ‭15:18-20‬ ‭NIV‬‬
We can never build a fortress strong enough to keep evil away. Jesus tells us right here why that approach doesn’t work. Because evil originates in the heart so the strongest walls will only be able to divide one group of sinners from the other. We need something better.
We need a new heart. We need a heart filled with the Father’s love. We need a place where we are under the protection of our Almighty Father. Jesus says:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John‬ ‭10:27-29‬ ‭NIV‬‬
That, dear friends, is true safety.
Once we experience that haven, we no longer think of building walls to keep others out. We will have a burning desire that everyone could experience that rest in the Father’s presence. A city set on a hill can not be hidden. The good news of the Gospel can not be contained. The rivers of living water have to flow outward.

It all begins with love

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬. God made and always will make the first move. We love Him because He first loved us. And it is only as we start to really realize how much He loves us that we are able to really love Him.

We don’t live a good life so we get a chance at heaven. We don’t grow in love for God by trying harder. We don’t even concentrate our energy on producing the fruit of the Spirit. Why? Because if we could live a good life by trying hard enough we wouldn’t need God. If our old man could have been fixed up Jesus wouldn’t have needed to die for us.

Our work is to believe what God says about what He has done for us. To believe Him when he says our old man is dead and buried, crucified with Christ. And to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Every thought that does not line up with what God says about us is from the old, dead man and we need to replace it with a positive one. Because God will not help us work on our old nature. It is broken beyond repair. That is why Jesus said we must be born again. While we were still dead in sin, Christ died and gave us His life. He has already done everything. All that is causing delay is for us to realize that and start believing it.

Jesus came to enable us to have exactly the same relationship with our Father that He had. God the Father never stopped loving His children. But when we fell into sin, we lost our relationship with the Father because sin cannot stand in His presence. By living on earth as a man, yet never doing anything wrong and then giving His life, Jesus opened the way to the Father. So He was the firstborn among many brothers. Christ suffered for us to restore us to a right relationship with God in spite of the fact that we make so many mistakes.

The Jews thought they knew how to please God. They thought they had the ways of God figured out, but today we look back and wonder how they could have been so blind. They had enough rules for right living to fill volumes of today’s books, but failed miserably when it came to what mattered the most. Jesus told them““Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew‬ ‭23:23‬ ‭ Another time He said,”go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”” Matthew‬ ‭9:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬. The Jews crucified Jesus and convinced themselves they were pleasing God by doing it. How is it with us? What are we doing that is just as far from reflecting the true nature of God?

Hello friends

Hello friends,

I have times when I get inspired to write and I wanted a place to bring my writings together and be able to share them with anyone who cares to read them. So here goes…

There’s not much regularity and no schedule to my writings so I can’t tell you what rabbit I may end up chasing except a common theme that is running through my whole life. I want everyone to realize to the very core of their being how much they are loved.