Friday, September 14, 2007

Marriages are arranged after a "revelation" by him

Follow up on the story I posted earlier.


Witness breaks down recalling polygamy sect wedding

By Alexandria Sage
September 15, 2007

ST. GEORGE, Utah (Reuters) - A young woman broke down in tears in a Utah courtroom on Friday as she recounted feeling trapped and overwhelmed about a marriage arranged by a polygamous sect when she was 14.

The woman, now 21, testified she had never been kissed or had a boyfriend before the 2001 wedding to her 19-year-old cousin and had locked herself in the bathroom after the ceremony.

The wedding was presided over by Warren Jeffs, 51, the leader and self-described "prophet" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, a breakaway Mormon sect that practices polygamy.

Jeffs is on trial on two counts of being an accomplice to rape, a charge he denies.

Asked how she felt during the wedding ceremony in a Nevada hotel, the woman replied: "Trapped. Extremely overwhelmed. Immense amounts of pressure -- lots of pressure. So scared and upset."

The witness, who cannot be identified, broke down in tears soon after and a short court recess was called.

Jeffs -- who faces between five years to life in prison for each charge -- has not been charged with polygamy, but the case has focused attention on the practice and his secretive, conservative sect, whose approximately 7,500 members live in an isolated desert enclave at the Utah-Arizona border.

The early Mormon church once embraced polygamy, but officially rejected it in 1890. Although polygamy is illegal in Utah, an estimated 37,000 people in western states subscribe to it. The law is rarely enforced because local authorities say prosecuting so-called "plural" marriages is impractical.

The sect believes Jeffs is a prophet whose power comes directly from God. Marriages are arranged after a "revelation" by him and women wear the long braids and dresses worn a century ago.

The accuser has said she lived with her mother, stepfather and about 15 of his other wives and 30 other children.

The case has raised such passions that Jeffs is wearing a bulletproof vest to court underneath his suit.

"GO FORTH AND MULTIPLY"

The woman testified she was horrified after Jeffs told the couple they were to "go forth and multiply." She said she did not know how babies were made, but testified she did not want to be anywhere near her husband, whom she did not like.

She described locking herself in the bathroom after the ceremony, which took place in a Nevada hotel room.

"I crumpled on the floor. I was so overwhelmed and I just started to sob," she testified.

The marriage was not consummated that night, but during the honeymoon, her husband began kissing and touching her in places she did not like.

The prosecution showed photographs of her husband with his arms wrapped around her, with one of her hands up between their two bodies. Another showed her sitting in his lap with his arm around her shoulder and hand between her breasts.

The woman said she felt "traumatized" after her husband exposed himself to her in a park. Later that night, he began to undress her, telling her that this is what married people did.

"I was begging him to please stop or just tell me what he was doing," she said.

Jeffs' attorneys have said that the case is one of religious persecution and have questioned how Jeffs would have known that rape was being committed behind bedroom doors.

Under Utah law, a person 14 or older can consent to sexual intercourse.

Spiritual vs Foolish

Extreme spirituality

by Jacob Ninan

Solomon gave a piece of advice to people that they should not be excessively righteous (Eccl.7:16). What does this mean except that we should not take righteousness to extremes? Isn’t it true that some well meaning people foolishly extend themselves beyond what God requires and, as a result, end up in an unnatural, unrealistic and impractical approach to righteousness or spirituality? Do you remember how Eve narrated to the devil how God had told Adam and Eve not to eat or touch the forbidden fruit? (Gen.3:2,3). There is no record of God having said anything about ‘not touching’ the fruit! (Gen.2:16,17). This may have been an extrapolation she made without thinking. She may have thought about herself that she was not the type to take God’s word casually and that she wanted to be quite radical about God’s commandments! Anyway, finally she not only touched the fruit, but she also ate it!

It seems that the original Pharisees, when they started as a group, were godly people who sincerely wanted to be pleasing to the Lord in every detail. But in seeking to be really godly, they went beyond what God wanted, and they got sidetracked with silly little issues (e.g., “not touching”), missing the main point (Matt.23:23-25).

A good intention is not a complete safeguard against error. Nor is a desire to be radical in following the Lord necessarily a protection against compromise. A ‘no compromise’ stance appeals to our ego, and it also seems to fetch us a great reputation. We like to think we are better and more spiritual than the others, and then we may go beyond the normal and the reasonable, and become somewhat crazy, spiritually. Once this happens we may think that anyone who tries to correct us or point out our error is blind and un-spiritual and has no revelation or understanding of the truth, or is trying to oppose or persecute us who are standing up for the truth. This is ‘spiritual psychosis’ - a disconnect with reality.

Unfortunately the Church has seen many cases of extreme spirituality. Let us look at a few of the typical ones of today, in order to get a general understanding of what it means. Let us also remember that it is not difficult for any of us to fall into such snares.

Refusing to use medicine
Does anyone doubt God’s ability to heal? Hardly any believer does. Has God promised to heal every sickness? Some people seem to believe that from verses like Isa.53:5 and Matt.8:17, even though there are other possible interpretations and examples in the New Testament of people not getting healed. Does God heal miraculously these days? He does. But does it mean that God heals every time we pray, and also that whenever He heals it is without the use of medicines? Does He always want us not to use medicines but to simply trust in Him?

While we recognise the fact that sometimes God does heal without medicines, the problem is in insisting that it should be the only way. Neither the history in the New Testament nor present experience supports such a claim. Unfortunately some people hold such a belief and suffer, and also cause others to suffer, even to the point of death, things which could have been dealt with medically. This seems to be a case of tempting God by jumping off from the pinnacle of the temple and expecting God to preserve them (Matt.4:5-7).

Refusing to use reason
The saying goes, “Reason is the enemy of faith.” There is some truth in this statement, and yet it is not the full truth. If we are willing to believe what God says only if we can first understand it by reasoning, that kind of reasoning is an enemy of faith. God wants us to believe His words because they are His words. If we believe in Him and also His words, then we can also begin to understand (Heb.11:3). If we hesitate to take some action which God clearly asks of us because we aren’t sure how it would turn out for us, that would be refusing to walk by faith (Prov.3:5). Certainly, God understands us if we are genuinely perplexed about what exactly His will is in any situation. Jesus Himself asked the Father three times if ‘drinking the cup’ was really what the Father wanted Him to do. But once it was clear, there was no hesitation at all.

Reason by itself is not wrong. It is a faculty that God Himself has given us. We find in the Bible a large number of times when God explains to people the reason why He was doing something. God says that we are not like the horse or the mule which have to physically directed (Psa.32:9). God expects us to understand, reason things out and make our own choices. It is wrong to question God as if we know better than He, but is it wrong trying to understand God better with a questioning mind? Is it wrong to analyse different choices with reference to God’s ways before we finally decide? Is it wrong to look back and try to understand where others or we have gone wrong? What about examining different possibilities of interpretation when we read the Bible before accepting the truth? If general experience doesn’t fit with our interpretation, shall we not re-examine our interpretation? Perhaps we have not understood things rightly.

If we stop using our reason, we are in danger of getting into various forms of error, based on our own lack of knowledge or ‘simply trusting’ what some ‘great’ man has said. We seem to be scared of even examining what some ‘prophet’ says because we have been taught ‘not to touch the Lord’s anointed’ in spite of the Bible telling us to judge and sift whatever prophets speak (1Cor.14:29;1Thess.5:19-21).

Isn’t leaning on God the same as making ourselves subject to Him, and letting Him have the control over our life? Even when we are analysing various options or possibilities by using our reasoning power, when we do that recognising His lordship over us and we are willing to let Him guide us to our final choice, isn’t that leaning on Him?

Denying feelings
Some people think that only our spiritual life is important, and neglect the physical part of life. But we are not spirits. Our spirit dwells within our bodies. Some other people think our life is all about our will and what we do, and that we should not give heed to our feelings. People who don’t show any emotions are considered to be mature, strong and spiritual. As a result feelings are neglected and looked down upon as a sign of spiritual weakness. It is a fact that our feelings can be very unreliable by themselves as a guide to lead our actions. But to ignore our feelings altogether is foolishness!

Feelings are things God has created us with. Good feelings are part of what helps us to enjoy life. For example good feelings are involved when we sing praises to God from our heart and worship Him, or when we are in the company of friends.

But just as pain in the body indicates that something is wrong physically, bad feelings are also good indicators of something being wrong in our thinking. When God asked Cain why his face was fallen, His implication was that getting upset was an indication that there was something within Cain’s mind that needed to be set right (Gen.4:6). Things may be wrong in themselves or we may be responding to things in a wrong way, and either way we feel bad. If we take note of these bad feelings we can then do something to set things right. But what happens if we deny or repress our feelings?

Extreme spirituality that negates feelings, and looks down on anyone who shows feelings is so unnatural and artificial! Do we forget that Jesus was angry many times, He wept, spoke sarcastically at times, spoke in humour, etc.? Didn’t He withdraw and try to be alone when He heard that His cousin John the Baptist had been killed? Didn’t He recognise that His soul was greatly troubled when He thought about what was going to happen to Him? (Jn.12:27). Wasn’t it with feeling that He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Of course we cannot afford to let our emotions control us, or lead us. But we do need to pay attention to them and keep them in their proper place. We must be aware of our feelings as well as those of people we deal with, and we must also know how to deal with them.

What about the effect our words or actions may have on other people’s feelings? Can we afford to just go ahead and do what we think is right without bothering about others? It may look as though we are free from the opinion of men. But what would happen to our relationships? How many people can we win for Christ in this way? Should we not rather take care not to offend the least of our brothers or sisters? (Mt.18:6;1Cor.10:32;2Cor.6:3). Of course there will be people who get upset with us no matter what we do. But that does not mean that we need not be careful how we conduct ourselves.

Thinking all human wisdom is foolishness
The Bible says that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God (1Cor.3:19). This is enough for extremists to denounce all wisdom that unbelieving man has as being foolishness in the sight of God. When worldly wisdom leads a man to make himself independent of God or leads him away from God, that becomes foolishness (Rom.1:21,22). Many ‘great’ men of this world think that God doesn’t exist, they don’t need God, they don’t like Him the way He is, they know better than God, etc. But to react to this and think that any opinion or idea that an unbelieving man has must be foolish is to go berserk.

There are some Christians who tear many servants of God to pieces with criticism because these people think that if a preacher or writer mentions anything outside of the Bible or gives his own opinion he is relying on ‘human wisdom.’ If he uses anything from psychology or quotes from some management guru he is gone astray! The assumption seems to be that anything that is not explicitly taught in the Bible cannot be right.

Generally speaking, people who hold to a “Bible only” view have no problem using wisdom and knowledge related to the earthly life such as science, engineering, medicine, etc., because they feel that this will not interfere with their spiritual life. But when it comes to matters related to human behaviour, such as philosophy and psychology, they tend to outright classify all such things as foolishness. Of course there is need for utmost caution in looking at worldly viewpoints, values and approaches, because Satan is the prince of this world (John.14:13), and he achieves his deception by cleverly mixing error with truth. At the same time, if we sift through things and accept what is acceptable to God and in conformity with the principles revealed in the Bible, we stand to gain.

“God spoke to me”
God does speak to us. But someone has said that while we have the best Teacher in the Holy Spirit, we are hardly the best of students ourselves. We have limitations about how clearly we are able to hear and understand, how much we are able to distinguish the voice of the Holy Spirit from other voices, how willing we are to deny ourselves and obey Him, etc.

While we are learning to listen to the Holy Spirit, we do make mistakes, thinking that our own ideas or even the ideas that Satan places in our mind have come from God. If we are aware of this possibility, we would not be adamantly confident about the so-called leading of the Holy Spirit, or simply trust every dream or vision that we have, but we would check it with the revealed truths in the Bible. The Holy Spirit can certainly guide us into new directions in which we have not travelled before. But if we are going to go into new areas it is all the more necessary to make sure that what we have heard is from the Holy Spirit. Isn’t it also helpful if we can listen with an open mind to more mature people who point out our errors?

Not recognising human relationships
When we recognise that God has caused us to be born again and become children of God, some have a tendency to go to an extreme and relate only with other “brothers and sisters” in Christ, especially in the local church. Their own kith and kin are relegated to the earthly realm and their relationship with them boils down to witnessing to them, praying for them, warning them, etc. This, of course, puts them off from coming anywhere near a church, or at least their brand of the church. And then they wonder about how blind the others are, etc.! Some even go to the extent of relinquishing their marriage partners or live with them as though they were not married, because they imagine that this is the way to become a part of the bride of Christ (Rev.14:4)!

Like in all similar cases, we can find verses to support our stand. Doesn’t Paul tell us that we should recognise no man after the flesh? (2Cor.5:16). What he meant was that whatever position a man had on earth was immaterial to his new status in the kingdom of God. A man of prominence or of lowly position in the world should not receive any distinction in the church.

But it is not that when we become children of God we cease to be children of men! We are still on the earth, doing earthly things and relating to people in earthly ways. We still get married, have children, and have many other earthly relationships. The need for us to honour our father and mother does not change even if we are born again and they are not! A husband needs to love his wife even if she is an unbeliever, or vice versa. If we do not provide for our loved ones we become worse than unbelievers! (1Tim.5:8). If we love our earthly brothers and sisters less because we now have brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to go and learn from the Good Samaritan story that a despised outcaste may be actually be more ‘spiritual’ than some so-called spiritual brothers and sisters! Even though we are not of the world we still are in the world (John.15:19;17:11). To imagine otherwise would be unrealistic in the least and spiritual fanaticism in the worst case.

Having nothing to do with the world
What do we do when we read the verse that tells us that all that is in the world is not from the Father but from the world? (1John.2:16). First of all we must note that ‘all’ is not literally referring to everything that is in the world because it was God who created the world and everything in it, but to ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.’ It is a mistake if we extend this to mean all things of this world. As a result of this type of approach, we can withdraw from the world and its activities. This is unrealistic, not to mention impossible.

Because our values and goals are higher than those of the world, we are different from people of the world. But we are still in this world, and we have to live here just like all the other people in this world, caring for our bodies, working for our living, bringing up our children, etc. What we need to avoid is not contact with the world or association with the people of the world, but allowing ourselves to be moulded into the world’s values and practices.

Earlier in church history those who wanted to live close to God used to withdraw from the world into monasteries. Nowadays such people draw back from the different activities of the world into a life of ‘Not permitted.’ They try to avoid compromise by shunning things altogether without making efforts to understand the principles behind the compromise. They avoid movies because there are many bad movies, give up TV because there are many bad programmes, avoid the internet because there are many dangers out there, avoid contemporary music because it could be from the devil, don’t read worldly novels or magazines, don’t go to parties or special occasions, etc. Their activities are only Bible studies, prayer meetings, conventions, evangelistic campaigns, worship concerts, etc. The ‘advantage’ of this approach is that it is easier to distinguish between black and white rather than among shades of grey. But the problem is that such people become na├»ve with respect to earthly matters, unable to connect with people (especially teenagers), and derided by the people around (justifiably!).

Just as salt cannot give taste to food if it will not come into contact with food, our witness to the world cannot be effective if we keep ourselves outside of the world. To be inside the world without becoming defiled by the worldly values or becoming a part of the world needs a finer level of discernment that comes only through an exercise of our spiritual senses (Heb.5:14).

Not saving anything for the future
There have been people whom God has called with a special calling, in order to make them examples of some lesson He wanted to teach the rest of us. Some of them have demonstrated how God is able to provide for all their earthly needs as they simply depended on Him. But to extend this as a doctrine to the point that it is considered a lack of faith to save anything for the future is ridiculous, especially when the Bible teaches us to learn from the ants how they save up their grain during the harvest in order to have something to eat during the winter! (Prov.6:6-8). Let us also not make this ‘faith’ an excuse for lack of discipline and carefulness in the use of money.

Equating fun with sin
I suppose it is as a reaction to the predominance of sinful pleasures that are enjoyed in the world that some Christians have learned to associate all pleasures with sin. In an apparent attempt to keep away from anything that is sinful, they have become allergic to any form of fun. This is a mistake among some believers, whose lives are so full of don’ts that they are scared of enjoying anything. Their view of God is as a hard taskmaster who jumps with glee every time He catches them slipping up somewhere, such as when they are enjoying themselves. They don’t realise that God supplies us richly with all things for us to enjoy! (1Tim.6:17). It is when our pleasure is derived from activities that are outside God-given boundaries that they become wrong.

Considering wealth as being contrary to godliness
Following up on the truth that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1Tim.6:10), and that we cannot serve God and mammon (Matt.6:24), some Christians conclude that to have money or wealth is wrong. But money in itself is not wrong, but only craving it in such a way that it becomes a strong driving factor in life. Why did Jesus refer to mammon as ‘unrighteous’? Perhaps because wealth has a tendency to corrupt. Jesus said that we need to learn to be faithful in the use of mammon (Lk.15:11). He also said that the rich find it difficult to enter the kingdom of God (Matt.19:24), because they tend to put their trust in their wealth and all that money can buy than in God. But He never asked rich men in general to give up their wealth. Paul did not tell rich people not to be rich, but only to place their trust in God instead of money, and to be generous in good deeds (1Tim.6:17,18).

Expecting all people to be prosperous and healthy
This is the opposite error to the one above. It is good to be prosperous and healthy too, and it is all right to ask God for these. But it is wrong to proclaim that God will prosper everyone on this sin-corrupted earth and downright callous to insist if believers are not prosperous or free from sickness that it must be due to lack of faith or some secret sin. This is unrealistic, and it is also not warranted from Scriptures. Jesus and His disciples were not all wealthy, and some of the believers were sick (Php.2:26,27;2Tim.4:20). Freedom from pain and sorrow is something that is promised only in heaven, even though we might get a taste of heaven even on earth (Rev.7:16,17).

Equating humility with self-abasement
In an attempt to avoid pride, people go to the extreme of considering themselves as being of no worth, allow themselves to be trodden down, tell themselves that they deserve all the insults and unjust treatment that come their way, deny every desire connected with ‘self’, take on a ‘humble’ posture, give up all attention to personal appearance and dressing, avoid going for ‘higher’ studies or well-paying jobs, etc. To talk of self-respect or dignity is like heresy to these people. The most humble Man who lived on earth never behaved in any such way. There was a self-respect and dignity about Him that even Pilate had to recognise. To be humble is to have a sober estimate of oneself first of all before God and also in relation to people (Rom.12:3;Jas.4:10;Php.2:3).

“We are the Body of Christ”
While the Church in general needs to recognise more clearly in practical terms that it is the body of Christ and we are individually its members, some churches proclaim and act as if they were exclusively the body of Christ. This is mostly based on the some special doctrine, which makes them feel that they are a cut above the others. If someone wants to be a part of the body of Christ, he has to join this church. Apart from thoroughly deceiving themselves, they also cut themselves off from the other parts of the real body of Christ and lose the blessings they could have had.

“Touch not the Lord’s anointed”
This is a common teaching among churches where the leaders are prominent because of their gifts or personality. They make themselves beyond questioning or correction by providing such veiled threats of calamities if anyone dared to question them. In this way they not only protect themselves and their position, but they also wield such authority over the people that they simply obey whatever these leaders tell them. Unfortunately neither they nor the people realise that ‘anointed’ in 1Chron.16:21,22 was referring to the people of Israel and not their leaders! They also don’t realise that only those who serve, and not those who lord it over others are the real leaders in God’s eyes.

Conclusion
Like Paul said, all these types of foolish ways look as though they will make us godly (Col.2:23). But they are deceptive. Generally speaking they make us feel superior to others around us. When we begin to go in these directions it does not look as though we are making a mistake. We think we have found a secret of godliness. But even though the deviation may be small in the beginning, ultimately it leads us far away from the goal.

-- Published in the Light of Life magazine, August and September 2007

Who is the Anti-Christ?

BALAAM and THE PROPHETIC MOVEMENT
-by Terry Somerville. (Sep 7).

"Stop believing every spirit. Instead, test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (I John 4:1)


I stopped reading the prophetic bulletins and websites several years ago. I found many of them did not "taste right", and I didn't know why. But, I still have one or two in the in box every week and I've watched the trends, and there are two trends that should concern all of us. We may not have noticed them because, like the "frog in the kettle" we adjust to the rising heat and don't realize we are slowly cooking to death. The scripture warns us about two dangers for prophets. One warning is about the "spirit of Antichrist" and the other is what I could call "the spirit of Balaam".

Now, I'm not saying God is not powerfully working in the prophetic movement. We are seeing a great transition from a church focus to a Kingdom focus, and the Lord is using many prophets to help usher this in. I've been a part of it myself. But this also means we are more vulnerable as we press into new times and seasons.


The Spirit of Antichrist Slips In

"But every spirit who does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist. You have heard that he is coming, and now he is already in the world." (I John 4:3)

The word "Anti-Christ" does not mean "against" Christ, as it would in English. The Greek word actually means a replacement, or "instead of" Christ. Christ means "the anointed one". The reason John warns the church about the spirit of Antichrist is NOT that a prophet comes speaking against Jesus, but that their attention is taken away from Him. Instead, it is given to a man, a doctrine or to something else that is anointed.


When something subtly replaces Jesus Christ as the focus, it is the spirit of Antichrist at work. In todays prophetic movement, it seems the attention has moved away from Jesus. The focus on signs and manifestations is increasing, and the signs are getting stranger. The appearances of angels, (which is biblical), has given way to gold dust, falling feathers and gemstones, glowing orbs and...whatever. A large proportion of the prophetic words now focus on the signs and the glory that's coming. Does it sound like it's all going in one direction?

I'm not saying there are not signs from God in the prophetic movement, but you can read hundreds of these prophecies and there's hardly a reference to Jesus. Also, the fruit of these signs and wonders seem to point only to themselves, personalities and meetings. We aught to be concerned that the spirit of antichrist is subtly at work, changing the temperature, and replacing Christ."

Remember, John didn't say a spirit or prophecy would speak against Jesus. Jesus is simply being replaced by a different focus. A new love develops in the heart. We are in danger of the spirit of Antichrist becoming well mixed into the prophetic movement. It's time for Jesus to once again be the main focus.





The Spirit Of Balaam Takes Over


"How terrible it will be for them! For they... rushed headlong into Balaam's error to make a profit, and destroyed themselves" (Jude 1:11)

In Numbers 22, Balaam appears to be a genuine prophet who gives the word of the Lord concerning Israel. But, he was greedy for King Balaak's reward and so he caused Israel to sin and be defeated. (See Numbers 31:16)

The "spirit of Balaam" as I have called it, is at work when the love of money overtakes a prophet. As with "the spirit of Antichrist, this Balaam spirit is subtle. A prophet could easily resist outright greed, but when expenses or financial gain is a possibility, the Balaam spirit moves in. If success and recognition comes, the desire for riches can become a very real problem. Today, there are serious indications that the "spirit of Balaam" has entered the house of the prophets.

Psychic Chat Lines Move Over

I just visited one of the most popular prophetic websites and I was astonished. The sale of "prophetic product" has truly reached an all time high. In fact it's taken over and the pages are jammed. Most of the links are about books, and quotes of prophets recommending them. I had trouble finding any ministry. When I finally clicked on some teaching and prophetic words. I got a few sentences then a "click here to buy" link! I needed to pay $3.00 to download the prophetic word. God help us! Are the prophets selling out to greed? Whatever happened to Jesus command "freely you have received, freely give." It's merchandise in the temple.

"Be clear-minded and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." (I Peter 5:8)

Conclusion

"The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet they lean upon Jehovah, and say, Is not Jehovah in the midst of us? no evil shall come upon us." (Micah 3:11)

PROPHETS WAKE UP! The word of God has a multitude of scriptures about corrupted prophets. Satan wants to derail this generation from entering the Kingdom, and will replace our focus on Jesus with anything that works. But the Lord has given us the tools to stay on track. It's time for us to use them, especially in the prophetic movement. As the Kingdom of God draws near we need to be wise.

~Terry Somerville,
"totalchange.org"

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KL … again

14 Sept 2007

Dear Prayer Partners,

1. Thank you for keeping us in prayer! And thank you for all your birthday greetings!

2. Just want to request for your prayer support for this coming 2 weeks. I will be in Kuala Lumpur to teach in a Bible school to a group of pastors on Interpreting the OT.

3. This is an important subject as it affects their preaching and teaching to their congregation. Pray for wisdom and anointing of the Holy Spirit as I teach and prepare them for future ministries.

4. Anastasia, Jessie and her mom (3 generations!) will be coming up the second week when I am there, as it coincides with Jessie’s one week break. My parents have not really seen Ana, especially now that she can run and err ... babble! Pray for mercy journey.

5. Just to follow up. In the last mail, http://global-south.blogspot.com/2007/09/rejoice.html I mentioned that a theological school conducted a course in Kuching. PTL, around 30 participants came and many were challenged to deepen their study of the Bible. Pray that this initiative will prepare more effective spiritual leaders.

6. And to follow up about the camp in the previous mail, http://global-south.blogspot.com/2007/08/he-is-amazing_30.html, a number of them who accepted the Lord during the camp are still attending the youth service in the church. We rejoice that they are responding to the work of the Spirit in their hearts.

7. And once I am back from KL, within a week I will be flying off to Miri and Kuching. Going to Miri to observe the theoloical course, which I had a hand in initiating it. Then flying to Kuching to preach in a camp during the Hari Raya holidays.

8. Then I need to be back in Spore to start mugging for my DMin module, which starts in mid-Nov. And that assignment should keep me busy for the next 2 months. Like everyone else in a globalized world, we are just too busy for our own good.

Cease from your own human wisdom. Don't wear yourself out running after earthly things. Don't make haste at any cost to be rich – the end does not justify the means. Don't love money and use people – love people and use money! Don't put your trust in money or possessions, because they are perishable and could be destroyed or taken from you, but God is incorruptible and eternal.”

Bro Ong

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rejoice!

Sept 7, 2007

Dear Prayer Partners,

1. Today I am celebrating my 21st birthday again! Apparently I am a recyled and reused teen-turned-adult.

2. There is much to be thankful to the Lord for all these years. It has been a great privilege to serve Him and to see Him touch and transform many lives. I have enjoyed the opportunities that He in His sovereignty allowed me to serve Him among the various people groups.

3. The East Malaysians (EM), especially among the tribals, whom I still keep in touch with regularly ever since I got involved with them in 1978 (seventy eight!). I remain their spiritual father and would like to see them rise up to be spiritual leaders in their churches and beyond.

4. And as an effort to fulfill parts of that vision, I have proposed and have been in discussion with a Bible School for the past few months to start an off-campus site over in EM. And PTL, this weekend (Sept 8-9), will be the beginning of the first course in a series of formal theological training to be held in Kuching. In Oct, the Miri course will begin. And sometime early next year, will be Tawau’s turn.

5. Pray that this part-time off-campus modular-style format will be used by God to equip the working professionals to be the next generation of spiritual leaders for the EM churches. I was supposed to fly there for the inaugural course (and to eat the Sarawak laksa!), but I am unable to do so as I have to finish my DMin assignment.

6. Besides the EM tribals, I also thank the Lord for the privilege to mentor the West Malaysian (WM) working professionals, some whom I knew since their undergraduate days. They are the ones that I had spent a considerable amount of time motivating them to consider part-time theological studies so that they can be further equipped for the Lord’s work. Unfortunately most of them are way too busy with their careers and family commitments, and have chosen not to make this their priority.

7. I am praying for a whole new generation of people to mentor, while still maintaining relationships with the present group. I no longer directly challenge them, preferring to commit to the Spirit to convict them. My priority has always been to mentor and develop spiritual leaders, even before the church recognizes them as such. Some time we spend more than a decade waiting with them before they decide to respond to the work of the Spirit.

8. I am also thankful for the joy to minister to the undergraduates and working professionals in Singapore. If God permits, I hope to see more harvest and fruits in the future as we keep sowing into their lives. Like most 20somethings, they need to have deeper roots in the Scriptures. They need to acquire the heartbeat of God and rise up to become all that God has for them.

9. 7 years ago (in 2000), we intentionally applied to move into the university students’ residential hall to avail ourselves to reach out to the different students. We saw that as an opportunity to make disciples of all nations. Since then, we had led several of them to the Lord and discipled those who were already believers but had no follow up.

10. I also rejoice in the Lord for the privilege to minister in Indonesia for a season. It was a great time to mentor the pastors and church leaders there, especially the various ethnic groups. They need a lot of Biblical teachings as they are confronted with many delicate situations in their society. I still have several open invitations in the various Bible Schools to go over and minister there. But due to time and finances, I have turned down a number of invitations. God willing, may be next year.

11. I praise the Lord for the privilege to minister for a season among the Unreached People Group (UPG) here in Singapore. It was most unfortunate that I was unable to develop further with them, due to their internal disunity. I trust the Lord, that in time to come, He would bring different ones so that the UPG can have a community of their own to worship the Living Word.

12. I look forward to the future, singing the song that He holds my tomorrow. As I consider Anastasia and all the ministries involvement, I can only hang on to the promise that God is the faithful Jehovah Jireh. He is my provider. Whenever I forget that truth, I get depressed and discouraged. But when He reminds me of His promises, I celebrate His goodness.

13. Pray for us that the Lord will continue to be glorified through our lives and ministries, as we avail ourselves to Him. Pray that He will rise up more regular financial supporters so that I can be further released to do other ministries. Cost of living and Anastasia’s expenses has caught up on me. L

14. Thank you for taking the time to celebrate my recycled 21st birthday by reading and praying. It has been a great joy and blast to walk this journey with you – to see all the different things that God has done, as well as to cry at all the wrong choices that individuals have made.

Thank you for your years of prayers and encouragements! Thank you for your generous and regular financial support. Thank you for releasing and empowering me to do the work of the ministry!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Be a great leader!

9 Things You Simply Must Do
By Dr. John C. Maxwell

Oprah Winfrey and Anderson Cooper are two of the most popular media personalities in America. Yet, their backgrounds hardly could be more dissimilar. Oprah was born to unmarried teenage parents in rural Mississippi. Anderson’s mother was fashionable railroad heiress, Gloria Vanderbilt, and his father was a successful writer/editor in Manhattan. Oprah grew up in poverty, spending her childhood in the inner-city ghettoes of Milwaukee. Anderson was born into wealth. He appeared with his mom on The Tonight Show when he was three, and he modeled for Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Macy’s as a child.

Yet, for all of their differences (background, race, and gender), Oprah Winfrey and Anderson Cooper have unmistakable similarities. At some level, they resemble each other. They have an aura of success that identifies one with the other.

For example, both Oprah and Anderson Cooper consistently deliver. Whether it’s a talk show, a book club, or a cause she has adopted, we can rely on Oprah’s candor, inspiring energy, and excellence. The same consistency can be attributed to Anderson Cooper. One night he’s reporting from New York, the next night from Cairo, and he’s in London the day after that. Yet, when we turn on CNN, we can count on him to be poised, polished, and deliver the news with excellence.

What is it about successful people, like Oprah and Anderson Cooper, who, although completely different in background and style, are almost identical in their approach to work and life? In his book, 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life, Dr. Henry Cloud passes along his observations of nine principles commonly practiced by the successful people he knows. The book drips with leadership application, and I would like to take this lesson to summarize Dr. Cloud’s insights.

Principle #1: Dig It Up

Each person has a treasure trove of ability inside of them. Everyone has dreams and desires lodged within their soul. Why do some people dig deep and take hold of their dreams while others let them drift away?

According to Dr. Cloud, successful people give sustained attention to what stirs within them. They find outlets for their passions. Exercising their strengths is non-negotiable.

Principle #2: Pull the Tooth

Many people I know have an irrational fear of the dentist’s office. The idea of someone poking and prodding in their mouth fills them with dread. Amazingly, some people are afraid to the point where they would rather suffer discomfort day after day rather than undergo the temporary pain of a visit to the dentist.

As Dr. Cloud has observed, successful people go to the dentist. They face their fears and make the appointment. They pull the tooth that is causing the nagging ache and, by enduring the pain, they come out better on the other side.

Successful people refuse to carry their baggage through life. They confront their hurt, disappointment, and anger early, and they seek emotional freedom from life’s injuries. Likewise, successful people quickly recover when they fail. Rather than succumbing to a downward spiral of disappointment (or even depression) they come to terms with the failure, make course adjustments to their lives, and move on.

Principle #3: Play the Movie

Dr. Cloud recommends the exercise of playing a movie of your life in which you are the hero or heroine. What traits does your character have? What happens during the plot of the movie? Who do you starring alongside you? How does your movie inspire the people in the theater?

Most people live their life and then look at it. Do the opposite. Look at your life and then live it. Envision and step toward the future you want to experience. Don’t wake up one day to realize that your life is like a B-grade movie—you don’t want to leave in the middle, but you would never want to watch it again!

Principle #4: Do Something

Dr. Cloud’s fourth principle is short and to the point: successful people do something. They initiate, create, and generate. Successful leaders are proactive as opposed to reactive. “They do not see themselves as victims of circumstances,” Cloud writes, “But as active participants who take steps to influence outcomes.” Their days and their lives are controlled by internal motivations rather than external currents.

In a similar vein, successful people take ownership for their destinations in life. They don’t assign blame; they welcome responsibility. They refuse to cede their freedom to others and live dependently. The successful person has done leadership’s toughest task—mastered the art of self-leadership. The benefit of leading yourself well is that you don’t have to rely on others to provide direction for your life. You get to plan the course.

Principle #5: Act Like An Ant

“Go to the ant, you sluggard;
Consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
No over seer or ruler,
Yet it stores its provisions in summer
And gathers its food at the harvest.”
-Proverbs 6:6-8

Dr. Cloud points to the ant to develop another principle of success. Three lessons stand out from the metaphor of the ant. First, they appreciate the ethic of hard work. Their lives are a flurry of constant activity as they tirelessly search for food. Second, ants refuse to give up. They never abandon the hunt, crawling through cracks and crevices in their pursuit of a morsel. Third, ants understand the value of compounding. Grain by grain an ant builds the hill that becomes its home, and crumb by crumb they accumulate storehouses of food.

Principle #6: Hate Well

In his writing, Dr. Cloud talks about focusing feelings of anger constructively to solve problems or end injustice. As he develops his idea of “hating well,” he distinguishes between subjective hate and objective hate.

Subjective hate is toxic. Dr. Cloud describes it as, “a pool of feelings and attitudes that resides in our soul, waiting for expression. It is not directed at anything specific or caused on any given day by any specific object. It is already there, sort of like an infection of the soul.” Subjective hate poisons and corrupts the person who houses it.

On the contrary, objective hate can be described as anger with a purpose. Objective hate protects by standing in opposition to dishonesty, exploitation, or deceit. Objective hate may spark entrepreneurship. In fact, many successful businesses have begun as a result of the founder’s hatred of poor service or shoddy quality.

Principle #7: Don’t Play Fair

Fairness says “an eye for an eye,” or “a tooth for a tooth.” Fairness weighs all actions in a balance and continuously moves to equilibrium. The rule of fairness means good actions deserve kind responses, and bad behavior deserves punishment.

In Dr. Cloud’s opinion, living in accordance with fairness will destroy every relationship in life. With everyone keeping score of favors bestowed and received, eventually someone will feel victimized when a good deed goes unreturned. As a leader, I’ve learned the high road is the only road to travel on. Don’t treat others according to what they deserve; treat them even better than you would prefer to be treated. By doing so, you’ll keep integrity and avoid sticky accusations or petty arguments.

Principle #8: Be Humble

“Pride is concerned with who is right.
Humility is concerned with what is right.”
-Ezra Taft Benson

In Dr. Cloud’s estimation, successful people have a healthy dose of humility. Humility has an internal and external component. Internally, humility comes when we admit our errors, and open ourselves to instruction. Externally, humility is gained when we show patience for the faults of others, and when we are quick to shine the spotlight on the successes of others.

Principle #9: Upset the Right People

A person’s success will always be inhibited if he or she tries to please all of the people all of the time. I like how Dr. Cloud explains the principle of upsetting the right people:

Do not try to avoid upsetting people; just make sure that you are upsetting the right ones. If the kind, loving, responsible, and honest people are upset with you, then you had better look at the choices you are making. But if the controlling, hot and cold, irresponsible or manipulative people are upset with you, then take courage!

Be likeable and be gracious, but don’t sacrifice your identity or values for the sake of harmony.

Review: 9 Things You Simply Must Do for Success

Principle #1 – Dig It Up
Principle #2 – Pull the Tooth
Principle #3 – Play the Movie
Principle #4 – Do Something
Principle #5 – Act Like an Ant
Principle #6 – Hate Well
Principle #7 – Don’t Play Fair
Principle #8 – Be Humble
Principle #9 – Upset the Right People

What is that elusive "one thing"?

Breakthrough Catalysts
by
Dan Reiland
The Pastor's Coach

I have often been asked "What is the one key thing to break through to the next level?" My answer always begins with "That is a complex, multi-layered answer that depends on the church's culture and location, the pastor's gifts and vision, the people's commitment and energy, the churches resources and the mindset of the board." (And that is a partial list.) Then the pastor says: "Yeah, but what is the ONE thing I need to work on to break through to the next level?" So I then talk about the "big three" – prayer, evangelism and leadership development. Inevitably, the pastor breaks in and says, "Yeah, but what's the ONE thing I need to focus on to break through to the next level?!!!" Against my better judgment, I'm going for it. I know you will likely say, "But what about?" Hey, I'm just trying to answer a very popular question.

If you will grant me a huge amount of contextual grace for my grand generalizations, I will attempt to give you the ONE thing. First, let me say that the real catalyst is the Holy Spirit. It is the purpose and power of God that makes it all happen. But that is a given. And keep in mind that each level builds on the previous. You don't get to forget the breakthrough catalyst that got you to your current level as you tackle the next.

  • Breakthrough Catalyst 0 - 200 Pastor

    At this stage, the pastor is the key player. The volunteers matter, resources matter, the energy level matters, etc., but nothing is more critical to breakthrough 200 than the pastor. His or her leadership is essential. Vision and communication skills are important, but candidly, I've seen hundreds of churches breakthrough this level where the pastor loved God, had great relational skills, worked hard, and loved the people but was neither a great communicator nor strong visionary. These pastors understand the Great Commission and just go for it. If they are good communicators and visionary leaders that provides all the more fuel for stages to come and helps the process move faster.

  • Breakthrough Catalyst 200 - 400 Organization

    Up to about 200 a church can function in a very organic, fluid, single-celled gathering of people. Everyone knows everyone and the pastor keeps his watchful eye on everything. This is good, in fact, I often counsel pastors not get too organized in that 0 – 200 stage. A large percentage of churches I've worked with in that stage are over-organized and under-evangelized. Don't put so much energy into lining up the ducks, focus on getting more ducks!

    But when you pass 200 you need to get organized. I don't mean organized like lots of committees, but organization in the sense of empowering volunteers to take some key roles from the pastor. I'm also referring to being organized in terms of multiple networks of service opportunities and environments for community. Volunteers serving well and small groups gaining momentum and functioning effectively are critical at this stage. A number of things must be able to function without the pastor.

  • Breakthrough Catalyst 400 - 800 Staff

    You have probably read ahead and seen that I have listed staff twice. This is not a mistake. I'm listing staff at each stage with a very different emphasis or distinctive edge. At 400 – 800 staff members are critical in terms of their ability to enlist, organize and equip volunteers for service. (I don't mean this in a demeaning way, really, but staff in churches from 200-400 often do a lot of ministry themselves. They help the pastor get things done. That's good, but not at this level.

    The ability to enlist others or recruit is the first step that separates those who get a paycheck and those who don't. Many volunteer leaders can recruit well, but most don't. It is not an option for staff to be expert recruiters. I would never give a paycheck to a pastor or ministry director who could not recruit well. From that leadership baseline, the staff members ability to equip (effectively train people for ministry) and organize people is key. Staff at this level must be able motivate volunteers to sustain meaningful, productive and enjoyable service.

  • Breakthrough Catalyst 800 - 1200 Vision

    Remember, none of the previous catalysts can be ignored, we just add the next catalytic emphasis. From 800 – 1200 the breakthrough catalyst is a compelling vision. I have seen many churches get nearly to 1000 with some vision, though not always inspiring or owned buy the whole congregation. In fact, some churches can get that far by merely sustaining a focused emphasis on the biblical mandate found in Matthew 28:19-20. I think God blesses that. But to go past that, I don't know of any church that has done so with out a crystal clear, consistent and compelling vision. They know where they are going, why they are going, and how they will get there. The vision is not easy nor is success guaranteed, but it is clear.

    I believe that God gives that to the lead pastor, and then confirms it through the key volunteer leaders and staff. The vision must be fresh, powerful, inspiring, biblical, and truly maintain the heartbeat of God. Vision can take almost any shape or form, but it must come from God.

  • Breakthrough Catalyst 1200 - 1800 Communication

    So, check it out, the pastor is a leader, the church is organized, the staff is mobilizing volunteers, and the vision is clear. Now what? The pastor's communication skills must become top notch. To get this far the pastor must be a good teacher or preacher who is articulate, biblical and practical. But at this stage, the pastor, or teaching pastors, must grow to the level of a strong communicator. The leader now rises above leveraging (in a good way) his or her beloved status as pastor and relationships with the people, and communicates as a leader who can move the people, even people that he never gets to know personally. There is quite a difference between teaching those who know and love you and inspiring a large flock with whom you cannot possibly have personal relationships with everyone.

  • Breakthrough Catalyst 1800 - 2400 Staff

    We now return to staff for a second catalytic breakthrough. At 400 - 800 the staff must be experts at recruiting, organizing and equipping. Good management skills go a long way at that stage. At 1800 – 2400 the staff must be able to empower and develop others to lead. In short, they must be leaders.

    Much has been taught on this subject, but few are really good at it. I often say if you have anyone on your staff that is a truly gifted and effective developer and can empower other leaders, then take really good care of them. It is one thing to recruit, organize and equip people to do the work of ministry. It is quite another to develop and empower leaders who can recruit, organize and equip other leaders for effective ministry. These are the most natural and gifted leaders. Few church staffs will be comprised of this caliber leader across the board, but you need to have several on staff like this to break through this level.

  • Breakthrough Catalyst 2400 - 3000 Execution

    3,000 is the new 2,000. Two thousand used to be the great divide amongst mega churches. It was the size that seemed to stop 99% of churches from going further. God has seen fit to see many churches blast through 2,000 and thrive, but only to slam into the new wall of 3,000. Personally, as one who loves the local church I look forward to the new code that helps hundreds of churches break through 3,000.

    But until that time comes, the current catalyst to move up to that stage (3,000) is world class execution. Execution is not complicated to understand, but really hard to do. It is doing what you promise you will do and doing with premier excellence – and here's the kicker – consistently, fifty-two weeks a year, year after year.

    Staying focused, keeping things simple, remaining aligned, keeping the main thing the main thing, and fighting for a lean ministry is tough at this size church. But these things are essential to world class execution. And while you are doing all that, to simultaneously raise money, cast vision, deliver world class programs and services requires mind-numbing attention to detail and relentless diligence. This is no job for the faint of heart and like all the previous stages, it requires a boat load of God's blessing.

There you have it, for better or worse, I gave it my best shot. Sincerely, I hope this is helpful to you. So find your ONE thing, and go for it.

WHAT KIND OF PREACHER AM I?

Prosperity Preaching: Deceitful and Deadly
by John Piper

When I read about prosperity-preaching churches, my response is: "If I were not on the inside of Christianity, I wouldn't want in." In other words, if this is the message of Jesus, no thank you.

Luring people to Christ to get rich is both deceitful and deadly. It's deceitful because when Jesus himself called us, he said things like: "Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33). And it's deadly because the desire to be rich plunges "people into ruin and destruction" (1 Timothy 6:9). So here is my plea to preachers of the gospel.
1. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.
Jesus said, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" His disciples were astonished, as many in the "prosperity" movement should be. So Jesus went on to raise their astonishment even higher by saying, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." They respond in disbelief: "Then who can be saved?" Jesus says, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God" (Mark 10:23-27).
My question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry focus that makes it harder for people to enter heaven?
2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.
Paul said, "There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content." But then he warned against the desire to be rich. And by implication, he warned against preachers who stir up the desire to be rich instead of helping people get rid of it. He warned, "Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs" (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
So my question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry that encourages people to pierce themselves with many pangs and plunge themselves into ruin and destruction?
3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.
Jesus warns against the effort to lay up treasures on earth. That is, he tells us to be givers, not keepers. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19).
Yes, we all keep something. But given the built-in tendency toward greed in all of us, why would we take the focus off Jesus and turn it upside down?
4. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.
Paul said we should not steal. The alternative was hard work with our own hands. But the main purpose was not merely to hoard or even to have. The purpose was "to have to give." "Let him labor, working with his hands, that he may have to give to him who is in need" (Ephesians 4:28). This is not a justification for being rich in order to give more. It is a call to make more and keep less so you can give more. There is no reason why a person who makes $200,000 should live any differently from the way a person who makes $80,000 lives. Find a wartime lifestyle; cap your expenditures; then give the rest away.
Why would you want to encourage people to think that they should possess wealth in order to be a lavish giver? Why not encourage them to keep their lives more simple and be an even more lavish giver? Would that not add to their generosity a strong testimony that Christ, and not possessions, is their treasure?
5. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can't be.
The reason the writer to the Hebrews tells us to be content with what we have is that the opposite implies less faith in the promises of God. He says, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5-6).
If the Bible tells us that being content with what we have honors the promise of God never to forsake us, why would we want to teach people to want to be rich?
6. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.
Jesus warns that the word of God, which is meant to give us life, can be choked off from any effectiveness by riches. He says it is like a seed that grows up among thorns that choke it to death: "They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the . . . riches . . . of life, and their fruit does not mature" (Luke 8:14).
Why would we want to encourage people to pursue the very thing that Jesus warns will choke us to death?
7. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.
What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. It does not offer the world anything different from what it already believes in. The great tragedy of prosperity-preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if it works, they will buy it.
The context of Jesus' saying shows us what the salt and light are. They are the joyful willingness to suffering for Christ. Here is what Jesus said, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:11-14).
What will make the world taste (the salt) and see (the light) of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering, all the while rejoicing because their reward is in heaven with Jesus. This is inexplicable on human terms. This is supernatural. But to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve.
Pastor John
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org.
Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I absolutely believed I was going to hell

International Herald Tribune

Polygamous sect ousts boys for worldly vices


Sunday, September 9, 2007


ST. GEORGE, Utah : When his parents discovered his secret stash of DVDs, including the "Die Hard" series and comedies, they burned them and gave him an ultimatum: Stop watching movies or leave the family and church for good.

With television and the Internet also banned as wicked, along with short-sleeve shirts - a sign of immodesty - and staring at girls, let alone dating them, Woodrow made the wrenching decision to go.

Ten months ago, with only a seventh-grade education and a suitcase of clothes, he was thrown into an unfamiliar world he had been taught to fear.

Over the past six years, hundreds of teenage males have been expelled or felt compelled to leave the polygamous settlement that straddles Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah.

Disobedience is usually the reason given for expulsion, but former sect members and state legal officials say the exodus of males also remedies a huge imbalance in the marriage market. (The expulsion of girls is rarer.) Members of the sect believe that to reach eternal salvation, men are supposed to have at least three wives.

"In part it's an issue of control," Paul Murphy, an assistant Utah attorney general, said of the harsh rules. But underlying the expulsions, he added, is a mathematical reality. "If you're going to have plural marriage, you need fewer men," he said.

State officials say efforts to help them with shelter, foster care or other services have been frustrated by the youths' distrust of government and fear of getting their parents into trouble.

But help for the teenagers is improving. In St. George, a nearby city where many of them end up, two private groups, with state aid, have opened the first residence and center for banished boys. It was established to offer psychological counseling and advice on things they never learned, like how to write a check or ask a girl out politely, as well as provide a transitional home for eight who will attend school and work part time.

The polygamous settlement is largely controlled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and allies of its jailed prophet, Warren Jeffs, who is about to stand trial on charges of sexual exploitation.

Woodrow, now 16 and living with a sympathetic aunt and uncle, is one of the luckier youths, though he rarely sees his parents and says, plaintively, "I really miss them." Some boys end up in unsupervised group rentals they call "butt huts" because of the crowded sleeping, while others live in cars or end up in jail.

Utah officials said they only realized four years ago that hundreds of youths from the sect were roaming on their own and often in distress. While most have construction skills to help earn a living, few have more than a junior high education.

"The house is a milestone, but it's just a start," said Murphy, the assistant attorney general who has worked with state and private agencies to muster help. "We're finally reaching out, but it's been painfully slow."

The church settlement is essentially one town crossing the border, a jumble of walled compounds, trailers and farm fields at the base of spectacular red bluffs. Nearly all of the 6,000 residents follow the dictates of Jeffs, who they believe speaks for God. Women wear ankle-length dresses, and children are taught to run away from outsiders.

Jeffs, 51, is in jail in Purgatory, Utah. His trial is scheduled to start Monday on charges of being an accomplice to rape, for his alleged role in forcing a 14-year-old girl to marry an older cousin. He faces several other sex-related charges in Arizona.

But his allies still control the church, former members say, and teenage boys continue to trickle out of the community, by force or by choice.

Andrew Chatwin, 39, the uncle who took Woodrow in, left the sect 10 years ago. He explained how the expulsions usually happen: "The leaders tell the parents they must stop this kid who is disobeying the faith and Warren Jeffs. So the parents kick him out because otherwise the father could have his wives and whole family taken away."

The sect, which has smaller outposts in other states, has no ties to the mainstream Mormon church, which outlaws polygamy. Leaders of the sect refuse to speak to the press, and the mayors of Colorado City and Hildale both declined to comment. Jeffs's defense lawyer did not respond to calls or e-mail messages.

With Jeffs and other polygamists, the authorities in Utah and Arizona have prosecuted sexual crimes, but they have not pursued cases involving the neglect of teenagers, in part, Murphy said, because the youths invariably refuse to testify.

In April, six banished teenagers who brought what became known as the lost-boys suit against church leaders agreed to a settlement in which $250,000 would be used to promote education and emergency support for expelled youths. The money will be raised by selling some of the church's large property holdings, now in receivership because church officials never appeared in court to defend against the lost-boys lawsuit and others. The court-appointed agent controlling the properties also gave each of the plaintiffs three acres, or 1.2 hectares, of church land.

One plaintiff was Richard Gilbert, now 22. He had to leave Colorado City at age 16, he said, when he refused Jeffs's order to drop out of the public high school.

"I absolutely believed I was going to hell," Gilbert recalled.

For a time, Gilbert lived in the nearby town of Hurricane, Utah, where five youths rented a two-bedroom apartment but had as many as 19 sleeping there. Some boys, he said, had literally been dropped off with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

"A lot of guys go off the deep end," Gilbert said. "For me, it meant a ton of alcohol and partying."

Now he works in construction, has been married for a year and has a child.

Gilbert estimated that 100 boys from his school class, or 70 percent of them, had been expelled or left on their own. There was no way to verify the numbers.

"There are a lot of broken-hearted parents, but you question this decision at the risk of your own salvation," Gilbert said.

The problem of surplus males worsened in the 1990s when the late prophet Rulon Jeffs, Warren Jeffs's father, took on dozens of young wives - picking the prettiest, most talented girls, said DeLoy Bateman, a high school teacher who watched it happen.

Warren Jeffs, taking the mantle after his father's death in 2002, adopted most of his father's wives and married others. He also began assigning more wives to his trusted church leaders, former members said. Forced departures increased.

Shannon Price, director of the Diversity Foundation, an educational nonprofit group near Salt Lake City, estimated that 500 to 1,000 teenage boys and young men left Jeffs's sect in the past six years, based on the hundreds who have contacted her group and another nonprofit, New Frontiers for Families.

Established by Dan Fischer, a wealthy former sect member, the Diversity Foundation has been a rare source of aid for such boys as well as girls who have left the sect to avoid polygamy, helping many go to high school and college, and raising public awareness about their plight.

The new venture, an eight-bedroom house in St. George, is being run by the two nonprofits with private grants and $95,000 from the Utah Legislature.

The one thing nearly all the youths share is a strong work ethic and experience in construction. But many, moving from total control to total freedom, get in trouble with drugs, alcohol and crime.

"These are kids, and they still need a connection with adults who can nurture them," said Michelle Benward, clinical director of New Frontiers for Families.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

And I thot only Anglicans had this problem!

Couple in same sex marriage ordered to part
2007/09/04
Cynthia Lee


The marriage of Mohd Sufian Mohamad (right) and Zaiton Aziz was not legitimate.
The marriage of Mohd Sufian Mohamad (right) and Zaiton Aziz was not legitimate.


MALACCA: Three months short of their fifth wedding anniversary, a couple has been ordered to part as the husband was actually a woman.

Syariah judge Che Saufi Che Husin yesterday ordered a farak (part forever) between Mohd Sufian Mohamad, 40, and Zaiton Aziz, 43, as the marriage was not legitimate under syariah.

The couple arrived in court together in a Perodua Kancil, wearing matching yellow attire, and looked calm when the judgment was read to them.

They walked out of court together and left in the same car.

Sufian, 40, whose birth certificate bears the name Mazinah Mohamad, married Zaiton Aziz, 43, in December 2002.

They were alleged to have committed same-sex marriage and were charged under section 11 of the Malacca Islamic Family Enactment 2002.

The marriage, solemnised by imam Ishak Juki from the Bukit Cina mosque, had been deemed legal as all procedures had been adhered to.

However, problems surfaced a few months later when the Malacca Religious Affairs Department refused to register the marriage after becoming suspicious of the bridegroom’s gender.

Sufian was also ordered to amend his gender status and name in the National Registration Department according to the original birth certificate.

In announcing his ruling, Che Saufi said: "According to the first respondent’s (Zaiton) statement, she had never seen or touched her husband’s private parts and had taken him to be a man all along and that she felt good and satisfied together.

"This is astounding and illogical. It is abnormal to go through life as husband and wife as such."

He said the couple had also failed to prove the "husband" to be a hermaphrodite as claimed by Syariah lawyer Mohd Mokhtar Karim.

Malacca Hospital gynaecologist Dr Nor Hasinah Mohd Said had said a physical examination carried out with two other specialists revealed that Sufian was not a man.

Chromosome and blood tests also confirmed that Sufian was a woman.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Taiwanese Film Taps Into Dark Side of Homosexuality

Homosexuals are at the mercy of “beasts” living within them, suggests a controversial new film by a respected Taiwanese filmmaker.

by Hudson Tsuei, Christian Today Correspondent

Posted: Monday, September 3, 2007, 9:16 (BST)


Homosexuals are at the mercy of “beasts” living within them, suggests a controversial new film by a respected Taiwanese filmmaker.

New motion picture ”I Saw a Beast” features a nightmarish rendition of the world of homosexuals, where self-destructive desires and lust consume those who inhabit it.

"This film is unlike other homosexual movies filmed before,” critically-acclaimed director Liu Yi-hong said to Taiwan-based United Daily News (UDN). "The film dwells on the darkness in the [homosexuals’] inner-being."

Liu said that the protagonist of his film can only find solutions through redemption in Christ – unlike characters in similar movies who are instead trapped by their lust.

Loosely based on the true-life testimony of a believer, the story centres around the protagonist, who must overcome both church prejudices and self-loathing to find the courage to leave the homosexual lifestyle.

Chen Yi-hua, Liu’s wife and the film’s producer, said she expects the film to generate much controversy after its release, especially from more conservative-minded Christians.

"This movie is not going to satisfy everyone, but will emphasise to people that there are more important things worth pursuing than to follow lustful desires," said Chen, who left her senior-level position at a Christian media company to help her husband with filming.

While most critics have denounced the use of nudity in the film, others have criticised the film for its prevailing dark undertones.

Generally, discussion of homosexuality is still considered taboo in Taiwan’s more traditional Chinese society, especially within Taiwanese churches.

Liu, however, is not the first Taiwan-based director to delve into the touchy subject.

In 2005, fellow national Ang Lee won best director at the Academy Awards for his controversial hit “Brokeback Mountain”, which was blasted by evangelical Christians worldwide for its sympathetic portrayal of homosexuals.

Though it was banned in China, “Brokeback” ironically received accolades from state media for its financial success at the box office.

Liu, who turned to Christianity six years ago, maintains that his upcoming film will not condone homosexuality, but rather teach about how God can heal those with homosexual tendencies.

“God is actually the real main character of this movie,” Liu emphasised to Christian Today, while pointing out that the film’s characters often call on God’s name for power.


Synopsis:

The story revolves around “Jun”, who leaves the church after spending years struggling with her homosexual tendencies.

Jun initially sees herself as liberated and openly flaunts her homosexuality while beginning a clandestine affair with her partner, Patty, who is already married and has a child.

Patty is too afraid to come “out-of-the-closet”, and chooses to remain with her temperamental and abusive husband.

After falling into depression, however, Patty confronts her husband with her homosexuality and leaves.

The two lovers begin their new lives together, but all is not well. Jun is troubled after seeing herself in a dream as a beast overcome with insatiable lust.

Wracked with guilt, and perhaps struggling with demons from the past, Jun seeks redemption with the help of a sympathetic pastor – whose prayers and gentle guidance ultimately allow Jun to overcome her struggle to leave her lifestyle behind.

Feeling betrayed, Patty does not readily accept Jun’s change of heart and silently plots revenge, which brings tragic consequences for everyone involved.

The film, which is scheduled for limited release in Taiwan, is not recommended for younger audiences due to sexually-explicit scenes, nudity and mature subject matter.

At the moment, the film has not been rated.


On the Web: Official website of "I Saw a Beast" (in Chinese) at www.isawabeast.com

Christian Today correspondents Ian Huang in Taipei, Taiwan; Joseph Leung in Vancouver, Canada; and Claudia Cheng in San Francisco, Calif., contributed to this report.