PULLED FROM THE PEW
Does your Faith have "staying power"?
She's been called the leader of the largest church in the
world. Last May millions of hungry souls participated in her
"mass trance." Thanks to the heft of her celebrity and
multi-media savvy, Eckhart Tolle's book, "A New Earth," has shown
multitudes the latest passage from suffering to peace; "A Course
in Miracles," published by the Foundation for Inner Peace,
deposits daily New Age doses on satellite radio. It's safe to say
that Oprah Winfrey is the most influential media personality
She's probably also the most misguided. When Oprah threw her
weight behind A Course in Miracles early this year, believers -
including me - rallied against her. Video clips popped up on
YouTube: Oprah in a heated exchange regarding Christ as the only
way to salvation; Oprah engaging in a few minutes of silence, led
by Tolle; Oprah exposing her claims to equality with God. These
clips helped stoke the holy fire against a woman many believers
have come to regard as Public Enemy Number One.
More disturbing, however, is what started the talk show
queen's descent into deception. In one video clip of A New
Earth's World Wide Web Event, Oprah explains that she grew up in
the Baptist church. Caught up in a charismatic worship service
one Sunday in her late twenties, she was "amening" the preacher
until he said, "The Lord thy God is a jealous God" (Deuteronomy
Oprah was flummoxed. "God is jealous of me?" If God is love
and omniscient and omnipresent, she reasoned, how can He be
jealous of anyone?
That did it for Oprah: She packed her bags and left the
church. Thus began her spiritual search to "take God out of the
box," in her words - away from the rules of Christianity to the
open range of the New Age.
If we're honest, a bit of Oprah has been in all of us at
times. Many of us have entertained questions about God and His
Word, prompting us to eye the exit. I'm one of them. It turned
out that my unsettling questions led me to dig deeper for solid
Nothing capsizes my faithboat like a perceived failure on
God's part to answer prayer. God has consistently turned a cold
shoulder to my pleas for my sister's ill health. Some time ago,
both Susan and I prayed for a treatment that could have brought
her relief. We sensed a green light from God that this would be a
But the treatment failed. Susan was left not just with worse
health problems but with more medical bills. And I was left with
my confidence in God shaken. Had we misunderstood God's
direction, or did God pull a cruel joke? The emotional toll of
watching Susan suffer compounded my disappointment in God and
made me fidget in the pew. Like Oprah, I felt something about God
didn't add up. A smirk in my spirit claimed that a loving God
wouldn't do this to one of His children.
But I persevered despite my doubts. Romans 8:28 reminded me
that God works for good. In time, I noticed He was creating
eternal things in Susan that far exceeded her health: increased
dependence on God and a deepening prayer life. Susan also began
attending a women's Bible study where she grew in her knowledge
of the Word.
I couldn't deny that God was shaping my sister into a
stronger Christian in the midst of her pain.
I'm reminded of the three Hebrew children. When they were
tossed into the fiery furnace, they told Nebuchadnezzar that
their God was able to deliver them from the fire and from his
hand (Daniel 3:17). "But even if he does not," they continued,"
...we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you
have set up" (v.18, NIV).
Even if he does not. This phrase didn't express doubt but a
contingency that these men considered. They didn't hold God to
deliverance; they trusted Him no matter what. They were prepared
to go out in a blaze of obedience if God chose not to intervene.
When something shakes my faith again, I will stay in the fire
because He stays with me (v. 25). I won't bend. I won't bow down
or give in to the voice inside me that says God failed. And I
won't leave the pew.
Disagreement over Teaching
For Oprah, it was Deuteronomy 6:15. For me, it was 1
Thessalonians 4:3: "For this is the will of God,
What did that stuffy word mean? Perfection? I didn't
qualify. A cut above other Christians? I struck out there too.
Other words spoken from the pulpit - surrender and lordship of
Christ - agitated me as well. A true believer, the pastor said,
doesn't just show up to church, as I was doing. She doesn't
cruise through life, content in carnality and insisting on her
She must give everything in her grasp over to God, palms
down. To a true disciple of Christ, Gethsemane's "Not My will but
Thine" carries as much weight as Calvary's "It is finished!"
Week after week, I squirmed in the pew and looked for a way out.
I'm glad I didn't leave. In my personal Bible study, I got to
know God more and grew in my knowledge of Christ. My desires
changed. I wanted to commit myself to Christ, palms down. I
finally saw that I didn't need more of the Holy Spirit; He needed
all of me.
I slowly made my way to Gethsemane and surrendered my
self-control, my demand that I make my own choices. It wasn't
easy; it still isn't. The death of the "old man" of sin is slow
and painful. It is not a blissful skip to the next stage of
spiritual growth but a battle just as Jesus faced on His knees in
that garden grove.
I've learned that, with Jesus kneeling beside me,
sanctification is a glorious release from the tyranny of my way.
Whenever I face the struggle of self, I will not stop praying. I
will not sidestep Gethsemane. And I won't leave the pew.
Clearly Oprah isn't alone in her reactions, according to a
recent study. Last February the Pew Forum on Religion released
its findings: "More than one-quarter of American adults have left
the faith of their childhood for another religion or no religion
at all .... Factoring in moves from one stream or denomination of
Protestantism to another, the number rises to 44 percent"
That's just what Paul said would happen in the last days. He
warned Timothy, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some
will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things
taught by demons" (1 Timothy 4:1, NIV).
This tells me that there will be many Oprah Winfreys before
Jesus returns. But by continuing in what I've learned and been
assured of (2 Timothy 3:14), I won't be one of them.
Taken from "The Bible Advocate" September 2008, a publication of
The Church of God, Seventh Day, Denver, CO. USA
There are many things that have taken some people from loving and
serving the Lord. Sometimes it has been the spiritual fall of a
close church friend. Some times the fall of a church minister.
Sometimes the corruptions of a church organization, be it local
or national. As in the above it may be a verse in the Bible that
you cannot understand, that takes a person out of fellowship with
God. Maybe it is a prayer that seems to be taking a long time for
God to answer, or a prayer that was not answered in the way the
person wanted it answered, that takes an individual from walking
with the Lord. It could be the cares of this world, or loosing a
job. Any number of things can take a person away from a
relationship with God.
To retain that personal relationship with the Father above, you
need to know the enemy, and how the enemy can come at you in
different ways. Be on guard. Be watchful. Be vigilant. Satan is
walking about as a lion looking to see who he can devour for the
next meal, and the food the Devil wants is to see people fall
away from God. You will need to be like a David, who faced many
trials and difficulties in life, yet continued to love his God.
Maybe you will need to sit and read the Psalms when trials come
along. You will at times need to remember people like David
probably had to endure more hardships and more trials in life
than you will face. But I know that everyone's trials and tests
are BIG to them, yet remember also that God has said He will not
try and test us above what we are able to bear. Remember that the
Bible gives many accounts of God's people facing many different
trials, so you with your test, is not something that is unique to
only you. Read Hebrews 11 and take comfort in the fact that
others did not always have it easy, but they did endure, they did
remain faith-full to the end, and they will have a glorious
You can be with them on that resurrection day. Do not let anyone
or anything take your crown. Fight the good fight. You can win,
with God's power in you, you were born to win!
Entered on this Website October 2008